Thursday, November 30, 2006


## Charles Dickens ##


Iran issues fatwa on Azeri writer
By Frances Harrison BBC News in Teheran .

One of Iran's most senior clergymen has issued a fatwa on an Azeri writer said to have insulted the Prophet Muhammad.
The call on Muslims to murder Rafiq Tagi, who writes for Azerbaijan's Senet newspaper, echoes the Iranian fatwa against Indian writer Salman Rushdie.
It was issued by the conservative Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Fazel Lankarani.
The writings of Rafiq Tagi sparked recent demonstrations outside the Azerbaijani embassy in the Iranian capital, Teheran.
The Iranian media is reporting that Grand Ayatollah Lankarani's followers inside the republic of Azerbaijan wrote to him asking for advice about what they called "the apostate writer".
They accuse the Azeri writer of portraying Christianity as superior to Islam and Europe as superior to the Middle East.
They allege that he has ridiculed all the sanctities of Islam and done it knowingly, fully aware of the consequences of his action.
In response, Grand Ayatollah Lankarani is said to have issued a fatwa calling for the death of the writer and also the person responsible for publishing his articles.
Earlier, an Iranian cleric had offered his house as a reward to anyone who killed the Azeri writer.
But this latest fatwa comes from one of the dozen or so Grand Ayatollahs in Iran, who has a large following.
An Azerbaijani court sentenced the writer Rafiq and his publisher to two months in jail for an article which was illustrated by the same cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad originally published in Denmark that caused outcry in the Muslim world.


Drug disgrace for Nollywood star
By Senan Murray BBC News website, Abuja.

The scandal is said to have boosted interest in her films. Fans of popular Nigerian actress Hassanat Taiwo Akinwande are still shocked by her fall from grace.
The star of Nigeria's film industry, known as Nollywood, appeared in court last week charged with trying to smuggle drugs to the UK.
Some of them say they will now boycott films she has starred in "because she has disgraced her fans and country".
Miss Akinwande, who uses the stage name Wunmi, was arrested in September by officials of the Nigerian National Drug Law Enforcement Agency while trying to get on board a London-bound Virgin Atlantic flight from Lagos.
After a few days in detention Wunmi, who is famous for her roles in Nigerian movies that preach morality, had excreted 92 wraps of high-quality cocaine weighing in at 1.214 kg, according to the prosecution.
"I am really disappointed in her," Jide Osinowo, a taxi driver in Abuja told the BBC.
It's the work of the devil
Fan Kemi Makoju
"I and my family used to watch her films because they taught children lessons about how to grow up and become responsible citizens and now this! I even heard that she was crying in the court and saying she was not guilty. Well, we shall see."
"With this whole cocaine business, I have no reason whatsoever to watch any of her movies," Nollywood film buff Sola told the BBC.
But some of Wunmi's fans are sympathetic.
"It's the work of the devil," Kemi Makoju, a self-confessed Wunmi fan said at a video rental store in Abuja.
"She is not the kind of person to do something like this. I'm not going to stop watching her films just because of this small thing."
Wunmi's colleagues in Africa's fastest-growing film industry were not so sympathetic.

Nollywood films are usually distributed by video and DVD
Following her arrest, the Association of Nigerian Theatre Practitioners quickly suspended Wunmi from its ranks saying her conduct had brought the industry into disrepute.
Wunmi's fans and fellow actors now appear to be avoiding her.
When she was charged before Lagos high court last week, her fans and colleagues uncharacteristically avoided the court premises.
Abandoned and alone, Wunmi wept freely and told the judge she did not speak any English.
Her confession was greeted with subdued sniggers from the gallery who clearly thought Wunmi had taken her acting to the court room.
"Mi o jebi, sir" - Yoruba for 'I'm not guilty, sir' - she responded when the one-count charge of illegal drug possession was read to her.
Wunmi, a single mother of two was a Nollywood pioneer with a career that dates back to the 1980s when she first appeared in a popular Yoruba language soap opera called Feyi Kogbon, Yoruba for 'Learn from this'.
It's a good advert for us because more people are now asking for her films
Pirated film seller
She's starred in over 50 low-budget Nigerian home videos which are usually shot in six weeks or less.
One of the Yoruba language movies Wunmi starred in is Ajeniyonu, Yoruba for 'making money is a risky venture.'
It is indeed a big risk Wunmi may have taken, for if convicted she faces spending the rest of her acting career in jail.
However, her arrest, ironically, has reportedly led to a renewed interest in movies she starred in.
"It's a good advert for us because more people are now asking for her films," Uchenna Obiefuna who sells pirated CDs and DVDs in Abuja's central Wuse Market told the BBC.
"Yes, I feel sorry for her, but our people also say one man's downfall may be the opportunity another is waiting for to rise."
"No be my fault, na God - it's not my doing, it's God's," he adds in Nigerian Pidgin English, shrugging.
Nigeria is reputed to be the hub of African drugs trafficking.
Although marijuana is the only drug cultivated in the country, Nigerians have been caught in the past smuggling South American cocaine to Europe and other parts of Africa.
A recent United Nations report which studied drug trafficking in West Africa found that Nigerians were responsible for most of the cocaine smuggled into the UK by the so-called "stuffers and swallowers" who swallow drugs wrapped in condoms for later retrieval.


Somalia is worst affected by the floods. Dozens of people are reportedly killed, as floods across East Africa spread to Rwanda and Malawi.
There are also reports of 24 deaths in Somalia - from acute diarrhoea and crocodile attacks, while 24 people have also died in Rwanda, local radio says.
Five people have died in Malawi and four in Kenya, including one killed by a crocodile.
Aid agencies have launched an appeal for 1.8 million people following the floods, which have also hit Ethiopia.
The aid effort in Somalia is especially difficult because of the lack of infrastructure following 15 years of conflict and the absence of a central government.
Aid agencies report that at least 34 people have died from the flooding in Kenya and have urged the government to declare a national emergency.
But the government says the situation is not that serious.
"It is something we are managing. We are not in the habit of declaring anything a national emergency," said government spokesman Alfred Mutua.
Twenty people have died from diarrhoea in Somalia's semi-autonomous Puntland province, the AFP news agency reports the UN humanitarian affairs agency, Ocha, as saying.
In central Somalia, AFP quotes aid worker Hussein Nur Adan as saying a rickety wooden boat capsized, exposing three people to crocodiles.
"I saw the remains of three people after they were attacked by two crocodiles," he said.
Some 8,000 people have been left homeless in Malawi after the River Shire burst its banks.
Four women and a child were drowned, the district commissioner said.
Heavy rains also led to 24 deaths in Rwanda's Northern Province, national radio reports.
The floods in the Horn of Africa follow last year's droughts in the region.
That left the earth unable to absorb the heavy rains, leading to flash floods in Ethiopia, as well as Somalia and Kenya.
The UN has said the floods could be the worst in the region for 50 years.
The rains are expected to continue for another month.


JUST VISIT NOW AND THEN" ! ............


It is unclear if combat troops will remain in bases inside Iraq. An American cross-party group charged with reviewing policy on Iraq will recommend a US troop pullback and a new diplomatic offensive, reports say.
The report calls for US troops in Iraq to be switched from a combat to a support role, according to sources quoted by the New York Times newspaper.
It also recommends direct talks with Syria and Iran, the paper says.
The Iraq Study Group's chairman said it had reached a consensus and would announce its findings next Wednesday.
Lee Hamilton did not give further details.
Washington is considering radical options to find a way out of the growing crisis in Iraq, the BBC's Jon Leyne reports from Amman.
Details of the ISG report, which was compiled by both President George W Bush's Republicans and members of the Democratic Party, leaked out as the US leader was in the Jordanian capital to meet Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki.
According to the New York Times website, the ISG is calling for the gradual withdrawal of 15 US combat brigades - each numbering between 3,000 and 5,000 troops - currently in Iraq, but stops short of setting a timetable.
Citing unnamed sources, it says the report does not say whether the brigades should be pulled back to bases in Iraq or in neighbouring countries.
Some 70,000 US troops would, the paper adds, stay in Iraq as trainers or in other roles.
"It's basically a redeployment," an unnamed source was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.
"There is a kind of indication in the report as to when that ought to be completed... some time within the next year," the source added.
Just this week, Mr Bush promised troops would stay in Iraq until "the mission [was] complete".
The other main proposal of the ISG report is reportedly a proposal for a regional conference on Iraq which could lead to direct US talks with Iran and Syria - previously linked by US officials to violence in Iraq.



The Islamists have made rapid advances this year. An Ethiopian military convoy in Somalia has been ambushed by fighters loyal to the powerful Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), witnesses said on Thursday.
It happened on Tuesday 35km south-west of Baidoa, seat of the weak interim government, who deny it took place.
Eyewitness said a truck was blown up and there was an exchange of fire. The UIC claim about 20 Ethiopians died.
Meanwhile, the UN Security Council has urged its members to comply with an 1992 arms embargo imposed on Somalia.
The council adopted unanimously a resolution condemning what it described as a significant increase in the flow of weapons to and through Somalia.
The decision came as some council members, including the United States, were expected to present a draft resolution calling for a partial lifting of the embargo to allow East African peacekeepers to be deployed in Somalia.
On Thursday, the Ethiopian parliament has passed a resolution authorising the government to take all legal and necessary steps against what it terms as any invasion by the UIC.
Last week, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said the Islamists represented a "clear threat" to his country which he said was prepared for conflict following repeated Islamist calls for a holy war.
The UIC, which is backed by Ethiopia's rival, Eritrea, and now controls much of southern Somalia, has denied claims by Ethiopia and the weak Somali transitional government that it has links to al-Qaeda.
The BBC's Mohamed Olad Hassan in the capital, Mogadishu says the ambush was 5km from the military training camp at Manaas.

Ethiopia has denied having thousands of troops backing government forces in Somalia, but has admitted to having hundreds of military trainers there. It has not commented on the incident so far.
It happened the day after the Islamists said Ethiopian forces had shelled the northern town of Bandiradley.
"The Ethiopian convoys were targeted with a remote controlled bomb, then one of their vehicles exploded," said Abdullahi Gaafaa who was travelling along the Gedo-Baidoa road at the time.
He said both sides then opened fire on each other before the Islamic fighters disappeared into the surrounding areas.
Senior UIC member Mohamed Ibrahim Bilaal says about 20 Ethiopian died in the explosion.
Somalia's interim government only controls a small patch of territory around the town of Baidoa.


This Liberian teenager claims she became pregant following abuse. Children have been subjected to rape and prostitution by United Nations peacekeepers in Haiti and Liberia, a BBC investigation has found. Girls have told of regular encounters with soldiers where sex is demanded in return for food or money.
A senior official with the organisation has accepted the claims are credible.
The UN has faced several scandals involving its troops in recent years, including a DR Congo paedophile ring and prostitute trafficking in Kosovo.
The assistant secretary-general for peacekeeping operations acknowledges that sexual abuse is widespread.
"We've had a problem probably since the inception of peacekeeping - problems of this kind of exploitation of vulnerable populations," Jane Holl Lute told the BBC.
"My operating presumption is that this is either a problem or a potential problem in every single one of our missions."
The UN is scheduled to hold a special conference in New York on Monday 4 December, to address the issue.
The BBC inquiry was commissioned as part of Generation Next - a week of programmes focusing on people under 18.

The BBC's Mike Williams with a teenager who claims she was raped by a Brazilian serviceman
In Haiti, a street girl as young as 11 reported sexual abuse by peacekeepers outside the gates of the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince.
A 14-year-old described her abduction and rape inside a UN naval base in the country two years ago.
Despite detailed medical and circumstantial evidence, the allegation was dismissed by the UN for lack of evidence - and the alleged attacker returned to his home country.
In Liberia, meanwhile, a 15-year-old said she had been attacked by a UN officer on 15 November.
In May this year, another BBC investigation discovered systematic abuse in Liberia, involving food being given out to teenage refugees in return for sex.
The UN responded by heightening policing measures, appointing 500 monitors across the country, and introducing mandatory training of all personnel on appropriate conduct.
A local NGO worker said reports of sexual abuse involving peacekeepers were "still rampant, despite pronouncements that they have been curbed".
'Culture of silence'
UN chief Kofi Annan has pledged a policy of "zero tolerance".
To prey upon the very populations that you are sent to protect is one of the worst forms of violation and betrayal that there is
Sarah Martin Refugees InternationalThe UN's own figures show 316 peacekeeping personnel in all missions have been investigated, resulting in the summary dismissal of 18 civilians, repatriation of 17 members of Formed Police Units and 144 repatriations or rotations home on disciplinary grounds.
However allegations remain that measures to police and curb misconduct are nowhere near as strong as they should be.
Refugees International says there remains a "culture of silence" in some military deployments, and fear of punishment is not enough to ensure compliance with UN rules.
"They may be military men but they are also humanitarian workers," Sarah Martin told the BBC.
"To prey upon the very populations that you are sent to protect is one of the worst forms of violation and betrayal that there is."
Under UN regulations, military personnel cannot be prosecuted in the country where they are serving, and it is up to the courts in their home countries to prosecute crimes committed.
The UN said it had firm knowledge of only two concrete examples of sex offenders being sent to jail, although it believed there could be others it did not know about.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Sophistication behind spy's poisoning
By Paul Rincon Science reporter, BBC News

Mr Litvinenko was a former KGB agentThe poisoning of the former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko would have required considerable scientific know-how, according to experts.
Mr Litvinenko's death on 23 November was linked to a "major dose" of radioactive polonium-210 found in his body.
Traces of radiation have since been found at five locations around London, including a sushi restaurant and hotel visited by the dead man.
But the radioactive substance implicated is as difficult to obtain as it can be to detect.
Polonium-210 occurs naturally in the environment and in people at low concentrations. But acquiring enough of it to kill would require individuals with expertise and connections.
Professor Nick Priest, one of the few UK physicists to have worked with polonium-210, told BBC News that just one milligram (a thousandth of a gram) of the radioactive substance could have been responsible for Mr Litvinenko's death.
To produce the amounts required you would need to use a nuclear reactor
Professor Nick Priest, University of MiddlesexHigher doses than that would have killed the former KGB officer more quickly.
Polonium-210 emits intense radioactivity in the form of alpha particles. These are unable to travel very far; penetrating about 60 micrometres through biological tissue - equivalent to the thickness of a few cells.
But because alpha particles deposit their energy in a rush, they can cause terrible damage to those cells if they get inside the body through swallowing or inhalation.
Polonium is also particularly harmful because it is taken up by an even spread of the body's tissues, whereas other radioactive elements might bind to certain tissues - such as bone - preferentially.
Lethal dose
"If you had it in a glass or tin vessel, you wouldn't be able to detect it outside. Which makes it rather ideal as a poison," said Dr Frank Barnaby, a nuclear consultant to the Oxford Research Group.
But once that container is open, polonium-210 particles have a tendency to creep out and contaminate the surrounding environment.
Professor Priest, now at Middlesex University, said the polonium could, in theory, have been dissolved in a liquid: "It could have been any volume from a litre down to a few drops," he said. Equally, it could have been bound to another material such as chalk.
The amount of polonium thought to have been used was hardly enough to see with the naked eye.

Radiation has been found at several sites around LondonThere are at least three ways to make polonium-210. It can either be extracted from rocks containing radioactive uranium, produced in a nuclear research reactor, or separated chemically from the substance radium-226.
The element was discovered in 1897 using the extraction method. Marie Curie isolated polonium from the uranium-rich mineral pitchblende, later naming it after her native country of Poland.
But according to Nick Priest, this method could not have produced enough of the material to kill Alexander Litvinenko.
"To produce the amounts required you would need to use a nuclear reactor," he told BBC News.
Nuclear research reactors are used primarily for the production of so-called radioisotopes (the radioactive forms of elements in the periodic table) and differ from the power reactors used to generate electricity.
Professor Priest has worked for the UK's National Radiological Protection Board - now part of the Health Protection Agency - and the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) at Harwell.
Contact with carrier's sweat or urine could lead to exposure
But polonium-210 must be ingested to cause damage
Radiation has very short range and cannot pass through skin
Washing eliminates traces He says the most likely way of producing the required polonium-210 is to bombard the element bismuth in a reactor with neutron particles in order to change it into a radioactive form called bismuth-210.
This undergoes radioactive decay, yielding polonium-210 and a smaller amount of radioactive thallium-206 as "daughter products".
"Early on, there was a suggestion of radioactive thallium present [in Mr Litvinenko]. That might be consistent with reactor-produced polonium," said Professor Priest.
"Thallium-206 has a very short half-life, so you would have to have some bismuth-210 left in the polonium to produce thallium."
This might occur if the chemical separation of bismuth from polonium - carried out in the final stage of the process - was incomplete.
Production of polonium from radium-226 would need sophisticated lab facilities because the latter substance produces dangerous levels of penetrating radiation.
Research reactors
Experts estimate the number of reactor facilities around the world capable of producing polonium-210 are in the region of 40-50 - and the available evidence points to a source for the poison outside the UK.

Alpha particles are stopped by a sheet of paper and cannot pass through unbroken skin
Beta particles are stopped by an aluminium sheet
Gamma rays are stopped by thick leadThese include several facilities throughout the former Soviet Union, along with other countries such as Australia and Germany.
"There is only one reactor in the United Kingdom that could produce it, and I'm pretty sure they didn't," said Nick Priest. He explained that it was unlikely that polonium-210 could be produced in a reactor without administrators knowing about it.
Alternatively, the radioactive substance could have been purchased from a commercial supplier. Polonium-210 is used commercially in devices used to control static electricity.
Chris Lloyd, a radiation protection adviser, said the polonium-210 in anti-static devices was not in a form that was easily removed.
Polonium, along with the element beryllium, was once used as a neutron trigger in atomic bombs produced by the US, the UK and Russia. It was also used as a heat source in the Soviet Lunokhod Moon rovers during the 1970s.
Stolen goods?
The Litvinenko affair also placed the black market trade in radioactive materials under renewed scrutiny.
Since 1995, the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has maintained a database on the illicit trafficking of nuclear and radioactive materials.
As of last year, the database contained 827 confirmed incidents. Of these, 224 incidents involved nuclear materials and 516 involved radioactive materials.
The IAEA said it had not received confirmation of polonium finding its way into this underground market, but there have been a number of unconfirmed reports.
On Tuesday, Russia's nuclear chief rejected suggestions that the polonium-210 linked to Mr Litvinenko's death could have been stolen from the country.
Sergei Kiriyenko said Russia exports 8g of polonium-210 each month, all of it to the US. Exports to Britain ended about five years ago.
While he stressed the tough export controls on polonium-210, the nuclear chief said the final products in which polonium is used worldwide are outside official controls.
Nuclear forensics
In theory, it might be possible for investigators in the Litvinenko case to trace the origin of the polonium-210. But this would probably depend on finding trace amounts of other substances.
"In general, different types of [radioactive] materials pick up characteristics during their production," said Ian Hutcheon, an expert in nuclear forensics at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California.
"If you have samples of the material, you can gather information about where they were or were not produced by analysing trace constituents."
He told BBC News: "There aren't many places around the world that make polonium. I was able to find only two or three, so I don't think we are looking at 50 different places."
Klaus Luetzenkirchen, director of nuclear chemistry at the Institute for Transuranium Elements in Karlsruhe, Germany, said: "If there was only polonium-210 and nothing else then I presume it would be extremely difficult - if not impossible - to trace it back.
"All you have is a certain kind of element or isotope, which, in principle, could come from anywhere."
Even if the origin of the polonium could be tracked down, commentators point out that there is no guarantee it would lead to a suspect, especially if the material was stolen.
Professor Alistair Hay, from the University of Leeds, told BBC News 24 that those responsible had carefully chosen polonium-210 for its toxicity and difficulty of detection.
"Where the substance has come from is highly important, of course, and that's now the job of Scotland Yard," he said.


The case shocked the Hong Kong community. A Hong Kong woman has been found guilty of ordering the chopping off of her seven-year-old stepson's right hand.
Hung Man-yee, 20, was convicted of wounding after she paid an ex-boyfriend to arrange the attack.
Judge Peter Line said her "deep hatred" of the boy was prompted by jealousy. She wanted the boy's father to give preference to their new-born son.
Sentencing was deferred for psychiatric reports, in a case that has shocked Hong Kong.
Five other people on trial received sentences of between two and 18 years.
The boy, Shum Ho-yin, was attacked by two masked men in August 2005 as he walked home with his grandmother.
While one held the grandmother, the other chopped at the boy's wrist several times in an attempt to sever his hand. He was left with broken bones and severed tendons and nerves.
'Deep hatred'
Judge Peter Line called it "one of the most wicked woundings with intent to cause grievous bodily harm in many years".
He said Hung had been motivated by "deep hatred" of the boy, who she reportedly wanted her husband to give up following the birth of her own son.
Hung's former boyfriend Tsang Ho-wai was found guilty of recruiting three others - two of them 16 - to help in the attack.
The judge condemned Tsang - who he sentenced to 18 years in prison - for showing no remorse.
The boy is reported to have since recovered, though he still has restricted movement in his hand.


Castro appeared frail in his last TV appearance. Frail Cuban leader Fidel Castro has stayed away from the opening ceremony of his 80th birthday celebrations in Havana on doctors' orders. A message apparently written by Mr Castro was read out saying he was not yet strong enough to attend the event.
President Castro underwent emergency intestinal surgery at the end of July and has not been seen in public since.
He then temporarily handed over power to his brother Raul, and was last seen in a video on 28 October.
Since falling ill, he has only been seen in officially-sanctioned photographs and videos.
Reports in the US suggest that officials in Washington now believe Mr Castro is suffering from terminal cancer and may never recover.
Parade hope
The birthday festivities had been originally scheduled for August but were postponed.
I sign off with the great pain of not having been able to personally give you thanks
Note by Fidel CastroThey were rescheduled around 2 December, the 50th anniversary of the day Mr Castro and others landed in Cuba to start a guerrilla movement and eventually seize power in 1959.
There is speculation that he will attend a military parade in the capital on Saturday to mark that anniversary.
Bolivian President Evo Morales and the Colombian Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez are among some 1,500 notable guests heading to Cuba for the celebrations.
But if Mr Castro does not appear, many will wonder whether the president will ever return to power, says the BBC's Stephen Gibbs, in Havana.
'Challenging engagement'
Up to 5,000 people were packed into Havana's Karl Marx theatre when the president's note was read out.
In a note read from the stage to widespread applause, Mr Castro said his doctors had advised him not to appear before such a large crowd.

Saturday's parade marks 50 years since Castro landed in Cuba"It was only in the Karl Marx theatre that all guests could be seated but, according to the doctors, I was not yet ready for such a challenging engagement," he said.
The note did not rule out the possibility that he might appear at other events planned for later this week.
But it did veer off onto a range of other subjects, including a brief criticism of US President George W Bush and the voicing of concerns over the state of the global environment.
Those in the hall gave the absent author of the note a rapturous round of applause.
"I sign off with the great pain of not having been able to personally give you thanks and hugs to each and every one of you," the note read.


Nicholas Biwott: Kenya's comeback king.
By Gray Phombeah BBC News, Nairobi .
For many Kenyans, there has always been something of the night about Nicholas Biwott - a long-time politician fond of describing himself as a "total man".

Mr Biwott was Kenya's most powerful politician under Mr Moi.
Taking control of Kenya's oldest party that ruled the country for almost four decades, he has achieved one of the most stunning political comebacks in Kenya's history.
He secured this coup with the backing of President Mwai Kibaki and former President Daniel arap Moi.
After months of bickering over whether the Kanu party, which lost the 2002 general elections, should join a loose coalition of political parties known as the Orange Democratic Movement and compete in presidential elections due next year against President Kibaki's ruling coalition, Mr Biwott finally ousted leader Uhuru Kenyatta, who was installed by Moi himself as his successor to run Kanu.
It also comes at a time when President Mwai Kibaki - who replaced Mr Moi four years ago - has been trying to woo the former power broker into his coalition government.
The president has failed to hold together his fractious coalition - a political crisis that is threatening his survival almost at the end of his current term of office and also his bid for 2007 if he chooses to go for a second presidential term.

The two men fell out before Moi retired in 2002.
Since coming to power in 2002 on a pledge to clean up government, deepening disputes between his allies and dissidents in his own coalition government have pushed his administration to the brink of collapse.
And so, desperate to win new political friends, President Kibaki is knocking at some unlikely doors.
Perhaps unfairly, Mr Biwott's name was linked to most of the major scandals in the country under Mr Moi's 24-year rule, including ethnic clashes in1992 and 1997.
None of the allegations were ever proved and most of his supporters maintain that he had been made the scapegoat just because he had Mr Moi's ear.
But his silence - seen by many as arrogance - over such allegations did not help matters.
Private man
Mr Biwott is an MP of the opposition Kenya African National Union (Kanu), the party that ruled Kenya for almost 40 years since independence in 1963, before losing to the National Rainbow Coalition, a loose alliance of opposition parties, in 2002.
Standing at five-feet tall and grey, he is almost deceptively shy
The most private of men, not much is known about Mr Biwott's early days or personal life.
He is known to have received his university education in Australia, but there is no mention about his early education in Kenya.
A fellow member of Mr Moi's Kalenjin tribe, Mr Biwott entered politics in 1974 - almost 10 years after Kenya became independent from British rule - and later became personal assistant to Mr Moi when he was vice-president.
It was this kind of association that prepared him for bigger things when Mr Moi assumed the presidency in 1978.
Dracula image
Standing at five-feet tall, grey and almost deceptively shy, Mr Biwott's demeanour in public is in sharp contrast to his unpopular image.

Kibaki is grappling with political infighting.
He has been described as a man obsessed with security, frequently switching cars when travelling and never accepting drinks brought to him in restaurants. And he has always refused to tell his age, which is believed to be about 66.
It hasn't, however, always been smooth-sailing for Mr Biwott.
When he was named as a prime suspect in the 1990 murder of the Kenyan foreign minister, Robert Ouko, Mr Moi fired him and later ordered his arrest.
But after a short stint in jail and a slightly longer stay in the political doghouse after the charges were dropped, Mr Biwott returned to the good graces of Mr Moi.
But even after a remarkable comeback, he appeared to have entirely failed to shift his popularity off the floor.
By the time Mr Moi bowed out in 2002, the two had already fallen out and he also failed spectacularly to capture the top position Mr Moi occupied in the Kanu party.
True or not, Mr Biwott has continued to be seen by many Kenyans as a symbol of the darkest days of former President Moi's rule - even as he seems to edge closer to the administration of President Kibaki, now with the backing of his former boss.


David is currently living with Madonna and her family in London. A judge in Malawi has allowed a coalition of human rights groups to proceed with a legal challenge to pop star Madonna's adoption of a baby boy.
The alliance of 67 Malawian groups lodged a petition before the court last month, saying existing legislation did not allow for intra-country adoptions.
Madonna was granted an 18-month interim custody order which enabled her to take one-year-old David Banda out of Malawi.
The adoption of the boy sparked heated debate around the globe.
Judge Andrew Nyirenda in the Malawian capital, Lilongwe, ruled that the groups could be regarded as "friends of the court" and so could pursue their application for a full review of the interim custody order.
"The applications from both applicants are accordingly granted and they are both joined as amicus curiae," said the judgement, according to the AFP news agency.
The 67 groups wanted to be party to the assessment of the singer's fitness as a mother.
They had argued that the government cut legal corners to "fast-track" the adoption, and said regulations must be followed to protect children.
David is currently living with Madonna and her family in London after she was granted the temporary custody order.
Madonna has denied using her wealth to fast-track the process.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Mr Annan's verdict came after one of Iraq's bloodiest weeks. Iraq is teetering on the brink of civil war, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has said publicly.
Mr Annan said concerted action to dampen the vicious sectarian violence gripping Iraq was urgently needed.
The continuing and escalating violence in Iraq has prompted a flurry of diplomatic activity this week.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is due to meet Iran's supreme leader, while US President George W Bush goes to Jordan a day later to meet the Iraqi PM.
'New phase'
Speaking at the UN, Mr Annan said the increasingly brutal attacks by Shias and Sunnis in Iraq were dragging the country towards a dangerous level of violence.

Mr Ahmadinejad (right) said Iran would offer what help it could"I think given the developments on the ground, unless something is done drastically and urgently to arrest the deteriorating situation, we could be there. In fact we almost are there," he told reporters.
But Mr Annan's analysis was not fully backed up by the US.
Speaking en route to the Baltic for the Nato summit, national security adviser Stephen Hadley admitted that the conflict in Iraq was entering "a new phase".
But he added: "The Iraqis don't talk of it as civil war."
"We're clearly in a new phase characterised by this increasing sectarian violence that requires us obviously to adapt to that new phase," he said.
Mr Hadley said he expected Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to raise the issue of possible talks with Iran and Syria when he meets Mr Bush in Jordan.
Iranian concern
Given a red-carpet welcome in Iran, Mr Talabani called on Iran to provide "comprehensive help" to improve his country's security situation.
Iranian television quoted the Iraqi president as saying: "We are in dire need of Iran's help in establishing security and stability in Iraq."

Deadly attacks killed more than 200 in Baghdad last Thursday
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told him Iran would do what it could.
The US and UK have repeatedly accused Iran of impeding efforts to stabilise Iraq.
But Mr Ahmadinejad said a secure, progressive and powerful Iraq was in the interests of Iran and the whole region.
He said the situation inflicted on Iraq by its enemies pained all Iranians and Muslims.
Iranian officials said Iran had been trying to organise a summit including Mr Ahmadinejad, Mr Talabani and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad but that Damascus had not responded to the invitation.
The BBC's Frances Harrison in Tehran says some have suggested Iran wants to keep the US bogged down in Iraq to prevent it attacking Iran in the future over its nuclear programme.
But she says it seems Iran is increasingly concerned about the uncontrollable level of violence in Iraq.
Last week's multiple car bomb attacks in Baghdad's Sadr City - in which more than 200 people were killed - were the deadliest in Iraq since the US-led invasion of 2003.
Last week, the UN said violent deaths among civilians hit a record high in October, with more than 3,700 people losing their lives - the majority in sectarian attacks.


A three-storey unfinished building has collapsed in the Nigerian city of Lagos with at least two construction workers trapped inside, helpers believe. Rescue workers are complaining of a lack of equipment to move the rubble.
A doctor at the scene who has been helping survivors told the BBC's Alex Last in Lagos that 12 people have been rescued unhurt from the building.
The cause of the collapse is unknown, but many buildings in Nigeria are constructed with substandard materials.
Building regulations are also weak. In July, at least 20 people died when a Lagos apartment building collapsed.
"We are still waiting for mechanical equipment to help us excavate the people left in there. But we don't know how many there are," said Dr Osa Myintolu.
Dr Sikuade Jagun, director of the Lagos ambulance service, told AP news agency that two of the construction workers are unaccounted for.
Attah Benson of the Nigeria Red Cross who has been helping with the rescue efforts at the site said the collapsed building was still being built and those inside would have been construction workers.
"There was no light, so we couldn't do much. We worked with our hands till 0230 am," Mr Benson said, adding that the collapsed building was intended for use as a bank.
Soldiers and rescue workers are struggling to hold back crowds of people that have gathered at the collapsed building site.
Eyewitnesses say the building's floors were compressed on top of each other, surrounded by bamboo scaffolding and cement blocks.


The rally in the capital back calls for holy war or jihad against Ethiopia. Ethiopian forces have exchanged fire with Islamists in a strategic town north of Somalia's capital, officials of the powerful Islamic movement say. The Union of Islamic Courts chairman Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed told a rally in Mogadishu that Ethiopian forces began shelling Bandiradley at 0300 GMT. Earlier this month, Islamists captured the town near semi-autonomous Puntland, which has strong ties to Ethiopia. There is no independent confirmation of the fighting and no Ethiopian reaction.

Last week, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said the Islamists represented a "clear threat" to his country which he said was prepared for conflict following repeated Islamist calls for a holy war.
The UIC, which is backed by Ethiopia's rival, Eritrea, and now controls much of southern Somalia, has denied claims by Ethiopia and the weak Somali transitional government that it has links to al-Qaeda. The UIC chairman told the rally that Ethiopian soldiers had massed around Bandiradley and started firing missiles.

"Their tanks are trying to surround the area and now they are about 10km (six miles) away from the town where our fighters are based," he said.
"We will never accept surrender to Meles, we are devoted to our religion and will fight until we die. That is our promise."
The rally was held to condemn United States support for the deployment of a regional peacekeeping force in Somalia.
The US is expected to propose a United Nations Security Council resolution this week calling for African Union peacekeepers to support the interim government, and for the partial lifting of the international arms embargo on Somalia.
Regional concern
A Brussels-based think-tank, the International Crisis Group, warned that this move could easily trigger a regional conflict.
It says that the UN Security Council - rather than back one side in Somalia over the other - should apply equal pressure on the transitional government and the UIC to resume political negotiations.
Another Islamic official at the rally told the crowd they would invite foreign fighters into Somalia to fight alongside them if the UN resolution was passed.
Ethiopia denies having thousands of troops backing government forces in Somalia, but has admitted to having hundreds of military trainers there.
Eritrea equally denies claims that it has sent troops and weapons to the UIC.
Somalia's interim government only controls a small patch of territory around the town of Baidoa.

Monday, November 27, 2006


Tony Leon has struggled to win over black voters. The leader of the main opposition party in South Africa, Tony Leon, is to step down after 13 years at the helm. The Democratic Alliance leader has said he will not be seeking re-election at his party's congress next May.
It holds 50 out of the 400 parliament seats, but it has never won over a sizeable proportion of black voters.
It is still seen as largely "white", and observers say it desperately needs a larger black membership if it is to be an effective opposition party.
Mr Leon became leader of the Democratic Alliance (DA) in 1994 - the year of South Africa's first non-racial elections.
The DA has gained in strength, but it still only had 12% of the vote at the last general election in 2004.
The governing African National Congress (ANC) which dominates politics has a huge 70% majority in parliament.
The DA represented the country's liberal opposition during the days of apartheid, but under Mr Leon, the DA - controversially - drew in many members of the now defunct National Party which ran the country for 46 years.
[The DA must] care as deeply about the delivery issues that effect black South Africans as we do about those that effect whites
Ryan CoetzeeDA's chief strategist

Profile: leading contenders

There is no obvious successor to Mr Leon at present, says the BBC's Peter Biles in Johannesburg but Joe Seremane, the current national chairman, and one of the few senior black figures in the party, has been tipped as a possible leader.
So too has Helen Zille, the mayor of Cape Town, our reporter says.
This year she was involved in a bruising political battle with the ANC for control of the city of Cape Town, which is the only major centre the DA governs.
A report drawn up by the DA's chief strategist Ryan Coetzee and published in The Star newspaper on Monday said the party needed to do two things to become a party that is attractive to South Africans of all races.
"First care as deeply about the delivery issues that effect black South Africans as we do about those that effect whites," said the document.
"Second, find a way to bridge the racial divide on identity issues."


Three teenagers who burgled and vandalised a church in the US state of Montana will be given "love baskets" of electronic games by the congregation.
The three youths broke into Missoula's South Hills Evangelical Church two weeks ago, stealing money and smashing windows and computers, police said.
Officers caught them still in the church and charged them with burglary.
Church pastor Jason Reimer said the congregation wanted "to reach out and extend love and mercy to them".
"A lot of us, whether we're churchgoers or not, have been in their shoes before and have made some bad choices," Mr Reimer said. "But God forgives us."
Marijuana and pills
The teenagers are accused of breaking into the South Hills Evangelical Church (SHEC) just before midnight on 12 November and causing several thousand dollars' worth of damage.
"They did smash some stuff, like computer monitors, windows, televisions and sprayed a fire extinguisher in the gym," Mr Reimer said.
Cannabis, a pipe and some pills were found on the teenagers, he said.
The following Sunday, the church's main pastor, John Erbele, used the incident in his sermon to preach about the Christian virtues of mercy and forgiveness.
Church members began to collect donations for "love baskets" to present to the youths.
"We've collected several hundred dollars' worth of gift cards, Xboxes and controllers, a DVD, a VCR," said Mr Reimer.
If the teenagers escape a jail sentence, the church hopes the gifts will help keep them off the streets and out of trouble.
If the gadgets are not enough, the SHEC also offers a skateboard park, a centre for teenagers, a weight room and an addiction recovery service.
In addition, the church hosts a band, Goofyfooted, which features rock-and-roll pastor Erbele on guitar.
"We want to help them get their lives straightened out," said Mr Reimer.



Mr Litvinenko was a fierce critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Three people have been sent to a special clinic for radiological tests following the death of the Russian former spy Alexander Litvinenko.
The 43-year-old's death last week has been linked to the discovery of radioactive polonium-210 in his body.
The three had contact with either the London hotel or the sushi bar which he visited on 1 November and have been referred as a precautionary measure.
Home Secretary John Reid is due to make an emergency statement in the Commons.
He told BBC News: "This is a precautionary measure, it's reassurance, and we're trying to do this in as open a fashion but as organised and calm a fashion as possible."
Anyone at Itsu or the Pine Bar on 1 November should call NHS Direct on 0845 4647
They will be asked a series of questions and may then be asked to take a urine test.

Mr Reid earlier chaired Tuesday's meeting of the special emergency "Cobra" committee, which brings together ministers, officials and experts, to assess the risk.
The Health Protection Agency said more than 450 people had called a government hotline, with 18 passed on to them.
Three were referred to a special clinic because they had symptoms which may indicate radiation poisoning.
It is thought they contacted the NHS helpline and answered detailed questions about their condition before referred for the face-to-face consultation and possibly a urine test. Results are expected later in the week.
An inquest into Mr Litvinenko's death will be held on Thursday.
The hearing will be opened then adjourned at St Pancras Coroner's Court, said a Camden Council spokesman.

The restaurant is being decontaminated
Mr Litvinenko, 43, became a British citizen after coming to live in the UK.
Friends have suggested Russian top-level involvement in his death because Mr Litvinenko was a critic of Russia President Vladimir Putin.
And on Sunday Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain said "murky murders" cast a shadow over Putin's achievements.
But the Kremlin has repeatedly dismissed allegations of involvement in the poisoning as "sheer nonsense".
Asked about Mr Hain's comments, the prime minister's official spokesman said Mr Blair had made clear his concerns about some aspects of human rights in Russia but this case required caution.
"There is a police investigation ongoing and we have to await the outcome of that investigation," he said.

"Therefore, I think it is premature to be drawing any conclusions at this stage."
Mr Blair had not spoken to Mr Putin about the death but Foreign Office officials had met the Russian ambassador to ask for co-operation with the inquiry.
Mr Litvinenko had been investigating the murder of a prominent Russian journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, before he fell fatally ill.
Radioactive traces were found at the Itsu restaurant in Piccadilly and the Millennium Hotel's Pine Bar, both visited by the Russian ex-spy on 1 November. Decontamination work has begun.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


Women are being warned that they may be being filmed. Iranian women have been warned to be on the look-out for cameras hidden in places where they undress, such as fitting rooms, gyms and swimming pools.
The chief of Iran's police, Esmail Ahmadi Miqadam, said some shop owners were fitting spy cameras themselves.
Iranian authorities want to stop a wave of secretly-filmed pornographic DVDs hitting markets and internet sites.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been championing a drive to banish unwanted Western cultural influences from Iran.
Last year, Western and "indecent" music was banned from state-run TV and radio stations.
Correspondents say the release of pornographic DVDs of privately-filmed events is a growing trend in Iran.



Did Biros really revolutionise writing?
By Megan Lane BBC News Magazine.

Happy birthday, one and allFifty-seven Bic Biros are sold every second (and then "borrowed" by passing colleagues) - not bad for a 60-year-old product. But did the pens really make that much of a difference?
It was a familiar frustration that led to the invention of the modern ball-point pen - leaky ink.
In 1938, Hungarian newspaper journalist Laszlo Biro noticed the ink used on the printing presses dried quickly and so tried using it in a fountain pen to avoid the problem of leaks, blots and smudges.
But the ink was too thick to flow into the nib. So Biro, with the help of his brother, a chemist, devised a pen tipped with a metal ball bearing that used capillary action to draw ink through the rotating ball.
They brought their invention with them when they fled to the West during a crackdown on Jews later that year. A British firm took over the patent to produce pens for the RAF, and the first Biros went on sale in the UK 60 years ago this week.
Barring tweaks and improvements, the pen is still recognisable as the ball-point Biro devised to make writing easier, and it regularly features in top 100 design lists, says Libby Sellers, the curator of the Design Museum.
"It has worked so well for so long that you stop noticing it. It does what it says it should be doing, like the paper clip and the Post-It note."
But was it revolutionary? "That's a big word, but it made writing easier. No longer did you need to worry about ink spills or refills. To be mobile and reliable are two amazing things to be able to accommodate into such a small and humble object.
"What is remarkable is Biro's lateral thinking in bringing existing technologies together to create an everyday object that everyone could write with. Ball bearings already existed. Quick-drying ink already existed. And so did roller-balls, in deodorants."
Pen or pencil?
Among the first Britons to use the pens were the RAF's fighter pilots, for whom the pens proved something of a revelation.
"Fountain pens can explode or at least leak at high altitudes, so to have a reliable pen with you in the cockpit to note down important markers helped win the war," says Miss Sellers.
What about pencils? "You have to sharpen pencils, they're not as user-friendly."
There is an old and oft-repeated rumour that because standard pens don't work in zero-gravity, Nasa spent millions devising a space pen, while the Russians used pencils.
But this has been debunked, not least because - strange to say - pencils pose dangers in space, from broken-off tips floating about and graphite and wood being flammable in a pure oxygen atmosphere. And it was not Nasa which developed the space pen, but inventor Paul Fisher, and it was adopted by both sides in the space race by 1968.
Fit for purpose
While not the first everyday object in which manufacturers made a priority of user convenience, the Bic Biro is a fine example of what happens when an object is designed to make something that is easy to use.
I get asked to do artworks on trainers and T-shirts, so it's great that it doesn't wash off
Artist Jon Burgerman"If a designer thinks about how it works and what are all the qualifications that might entail, they're asking the right questions," says Miss Sellers.
Nor does she see the pens being superseded by technology. Yes, a passing thought can easily be typed into a handheld device or a text message, but a ball-point doesn't need batteries to work. It needs ink, but most have long since been lost, borrowed or stolen before running out.
The one thing that hasn't been cracked is washable ink - as anyone who has inadvertently left a ball-point pen in a pocket will attest. For artist Jon Burgerman, who specialises in Biro works (see Internet links, right), that is part of the pen's charm.
"It's the ingenious rolling of that little ball. If you put one in your bag without a lid, you're asking for it.
"I like that the ink's indelible - I get asked to do artworks on trainers and T-shirts, so it's great that it doesn't wash off. It's easy to customise stuff without bothering with fabric paints. That's invaluable for me, as a poor artist. I like Biros, pens are my friends."



Showdown time in Lebanon
By Kim Ghattas BBC News, Beirut.

Factories, banks and many shops in Lebanon have remained closed as a mark of protest at the killing of the industry minister, Pierre Gemayel. The two-day strike has been called by business leaders amid fears that the political crisis in Lebanon could throw the country into turmoil.
The line of people in black is interminable. For hours on end, since Tuesday, they have been filing past the relatives of Pierre Gemayel to pay their condolences at the family home.

Has Lebanon reached a point of no return?Some of them are crying while others approached the family to talk or to offer them poems they had written.
Mr Gemayel was the fourth opponent of the Syrian government to be killed since the murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri last year.
The attack on Mr Gemayel's motorcade was a brazen one. It came in broad daylight and the killers got away.
The day after, one of Mr Gemayel's cabinet colleagues came to the BBC television studio and, for the first time, she was surrounded by bodyguards.
Standing next to her was slightly nerve-wracking.
People here are frightened; several cabinet ministers have now moved into the well-fortified prime minister's offices just down the road.
Foreboding atmosphere
Mr Gemayel's killing was not a total surprise though.
For weeks now, politicians have been trading all sorts of accusations and one journalist told the BBC the atmosphere was similar to that which preceded the death of Mr Hariri.


Feb 2005: Former PM Rafik Hariri
June 2005: Anti-Syria journalist Samir Kassir
June 2005: Ex-Communist leader George Hawi
Dec 2005: Anti-Syria MP Gebran Tueni
Nov 2006: Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel

Mr Gemayel only began his political career six years ago.
The Christian politician was the youngest minister and legislator and not particularly high profile even if his family is a well-known one here: his grandfather founded the Christian right-wing Phalange party, in 1937, modelling it on the Nazi youth movement.
And the group's military wing was one of the most powerful militias during the Lebanese civil war in the 1970s and 1980s.
One person whose family suffered at the hands of the Phalangists told the BBC it was sad to see several hundred thousand people turn up on Thursday to mourn a man whose family is associated with some of the worst violence in Lebanese history.
But many of the country's political leaders have a tainted past. Others are sons, or widows, or sisters of politicians; the same people have held power for decades.
One young Christian girl at the funeral, waving her white, red and green Lebanese flag, told the BBC though that she felt her country was changing: she pointed out that all around her, Christians and Muslims had come together to pay their respects to a Maronite Christian.
Political divide
So the divide now seems not so much sectarian, but a question of politics: supporters of Syria, a country which has long wielded influence in Lebanon, against its opponents, with Christians and Muslims on both sides.
But religious sensitivities are still easy to exploit here and whoever killed Mr Gemayel may have hoped it would provoke the Christian community.
At the site of the assassination on Wednesday evening, there was a group of seething women, wearing large crucifixes.
One of them was screaming: "They're killing us in our neighbourhoods, they have no shame, I will kill them myself if I have to."
In the past, assassinations have often led to bloody reprisals.
After the funeral, Shia Muslims from the pro-Syrian Hezbollah movement briefly took to the streets and blocked roads.
They said they were angry because some mourners had accused Hezbollah of being involved in the killing.
High stakes
I was in Damascus on Tuesday when news of the murder reached me by text message from Beirut.
I was in the middle of an interview with a political analyst who rather presciently had just been sharing his fears about the situation in neighbouring Lebanon.
It feels like showdown time in Lebanon - winner takes all
The next few days would be dangerous, he said.
The Syrians were furious about the international tribunal being set up to try the suspects in the murder of Rafik Hariri, he added.
A UN investigation into that murder has already pointed the finger at Syria.
The country's leadership wanted to stop the tribunal at all costs, the analyst added.
His view was that Damascus was trying to convince the world that it was helping the United States by making overtures towards Iraq.
This, he said, would distract international attention from the fact that Syria was really engaged in bringing down the pro-Western government in Beirut.
And just a couple of hours before that, another figure close to the Syrian leadership, told me that in the last few days, the leaders of the ruling Syrian Baath Party had decided that in return for helping the Americans in the Middle East, Syria would ask for what he described as "the jackpot".
This is not only the return of the Golan Heights, which have been occupied by Israel since 1967, but also a clear timetable for an American withdrawal from Iraq and an end to the work of that UN investigation into the Hariri killing.
So who did it? Was it the Syrians? Or the Americans, the Israelis, al-Qaeda, political rivals, disgruntled businessmen?
Who knows?
But as I drove back into Beirut from Damascus that evening, with tyres burning at street corners and the army deploying troops with armoured personnel carriers, I felt that the killing may have crystallised the divisions between the rival camps to a point of no return.
It feels like showdown time in Lebanon - winner takes all.
And the Lebanese can only hope that the final battle will be a political one.



London won the right to stage the 2012 Olympics last year. Confidence in the 2012 London Olympics is "ebbing away" amid rows between ministers and the city's mayor about funding, the Lib Dems have said.
Culture spokesman Don Foster said he wished those involved would "shut up" until the budget was finalised.
Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell has said the cost of the Games will rise by £900m to £3.3bn.
But London mayor Ken Livingstone called it a "mistake" to give a figure before the budget is published next spring.
The government has insisted the Olympics will be a success.
Last week, Ms Jowell told the Commons culture, media and sport committee that the expected cost had risen 40% from £2.4bn since the right to stage the Games was won in July 2005.
'Ludicrous situation'
The extra £900m was likely to be funded by London council tax payers and lottery funds, she suggested.
But Mr Livingstone said any increased costs were to do with infrastructure for new homes and that Ms Jowell had failed to take into account changes which had cut back the overall bill
Mr Foster told GMTV: "There's this ludicrous situation we're got into with all these figures flying around.
"We haven't got a finalised budget, so everybody's speculating.
"Different government departments are arguing with each other and so nobody knows where we stand. And confidence in our ability to deliver the Olympics is sadly ebbing away when it's going to be fantastic.
"We should be celebrating it; I wish people frankly would shut up."
Council tax surcharge
A row over the size of an Olympics contingency fund and an unexpected VAT bill have not yet been resolved.
The Olympic Park is being funded publicly, through a £20-a-year surcharge on each of London's council tax payers for 12 years, and the National Lottery.
Regeneration is being funded through central government, while staging the Games is being privately funded.
The Lib Dems and the Conservatives have said Parliament needs to scrutinise the costs - which they expect to rise further.
A revised financial plan is expected early next year.



Dissident soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo have attacked army positions in the east of the country, the government says. The attacks, close to the Rwandan border, ended months of relative calm in the region.
The army said troops loyal to dissident general Laurent Nkunda bombarded the town of Sake for several hours.
United Nations officials said thousands of civilians had fled their homes to escape the violence.
The fighting comes amid heightened tension in the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, where the former rebel leader, Joseph Bemba, is challenging his defeat in last month's presidential elections.
Rebels 'repulsed'
At least two soldiers are reported to have been killed by in the attacks, in which the dissident troops used machine-guns, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.
Army commander Col Delphin Kahindi, speaking from Sake, said 15 people, including eight civilians, had been wounded in five hours of clashes in which his troops repulsed Mr Nkunda's fighters.
Sake is a small town about 25km (15 miles) west of the provincial capital of Goma.
Maj Ajay Dalal, a spokesman for the Indian UN peacekeepers in the area, said rebel forces appeared to be pulling back into the bush
"For now, the firing has stopped. We are deployed all around and are supporting the Congolese army but we haven't had to engage yet," he said.
Mr Nkunda left the army and launched his own low-level rebellion after Congo's war ended, saying that the country's transition to democracy was flawed and had excluded the minority Tutsi community.



Bolivia goes back to the whip.
By Lucy Ash Crossing Continents, BBC Radio 4

Native American community justice is making a comeback under Bolivia's first indigenous president with the emphasis on the whip. Certain village elders are equipped with whips to punish offendersIn Wilicala, a remote village in the Andean highland, a group of men were on their way to a meeting.
As they walked through the market square I noticed some coloured ropes slung around their chests.
The ropes were chicotes or whips and the men wearing them were mallkus - the word for prince or leader in the Aymara language.
Francisco Espejo, an elderly man whose teeth were stained green from chewing coca leaves, was one of them.
He said he was delighted that whipping is now an officially sanctioned punishment.
It's much better to give someone a few lashes and be done with it
Francisco Espejo, village elder
"When we had attorneys from the Western justice system, they put people behind bars for 20 years," he said.
"Those with money bought good lawyers and didn't go to jail so what kind of justice was that?
"It's much better to give someone a few lashes and be done with it."
One of President Evo Morales's biggest campaign promises was to revolutionise the justice system.
He vowed to promote pre-Columbian community-based courts in which village elders try wrongdoers and determine how they should be punished.
This practice, which predates the Incas, has three main rules which are: Amu Sua - Don't Steal; Amu Llulla - Don't Lie, and Ama Quella - Don't Be Lazy.
Native American law
Most of the mallkus were reluctant to talk to outsiders.

Some people are still afraid to talk about these things
Professor Wascar AriAymara academic
"Community justice was a very secretive practice," explained Wascar Ari, an Aymara Indian and university professor.
"When the Bolivian state was controlled by whites they used Western justice as a way of subordinating the Indians and the memory of that is still strong in some parts.
"That is why some people are still afraid to talk about these things."
But under President Morales the underground is going mainstream.
Granting traditional justice official status alongside national laws is a vital part of what he calls his "decolonisation" strategy.
There is a new department devoted to Native American law inside the justice ministry and the law faculty of San Andres University in La Paz recently started a three-year community justice course for people from indigenous backgrounds.
The recently appointed head of Bolivia's penal system, Ramiros Llanos, says the old methods are the best way to handle small crimes like the theft of some cattle in a village.
Overcrowding in prisons, he adds, has reduced them to "human garbage tips".
Mob fury
A massive backlog of court cases and the snail-like speed of Bolivia's justice system can drive people to desperate acts.

They threw lighted matches at us
William Villcalynching survivor
William Villca, a tailor, was nearly killed last summer when he was mistaken for a thief by an angry crowd in the city of Cochabamba.
"Suddenly we were surrounded by about 40 people all screaming 'we don't want criminals here! We will burn you, hang you, and kill you!' he said.
"They tied us up and poured petrol all over our clothes. Then they threw lighted matches at us and one landed on my arm."
Today Mr Villca wears a bandage which covers his neck and chin; he has lost one of his earlobes and has trouble moving his fingers.
Despite dozens of skin grafts and operations, he can no longer use a sewing machine or hold a pencil.
Cochabamba, the city where Mr Villca was attacked, is notorious for similar incidents, according to human rights lawyer Rose Gloria Acha.
"Lynching is a distortion of community justice - the Indian courts have never sanctioned the death penalty - but, in their minds, people sometimes make a connection," she says.
"Victims of crime in poor neighbourhoods feel abandoned by the state. They say no police officers will help unless you pay bribes."
Police under pressure
Grover Zapata, a police major in Cochabamba, flatly denies his officers are corrupt.

Sometimes we don't have enough money for petrol to get to the scene of a crime
Grover Zapatapolice major
"We have one policeman for 5,000 citizens and we lack resources," he says.
"Sometimes, we ask the public for help with our expenses. It's true sometimes we don't have enough money for petrol to get to the scene of a crime, for example."
The new justice minister, Casimira Rodriguez, says the lynchings were not about community justice but rather a total absence of justice in a country which spends just 1% of its national budget on its judiciary.
A Quechua Indian from the countryside around Cochabamba, the minister spent her teens in virtual slavery as a maid before escaping and founding a domestic workers union.
Her own experience of corrupt judges has made her wary of the Western justice system.
The minister described community justice as free, quick and transparent but she said the punishments must be measured and did not fit all crimes.
Serious offences like rape or murder, she said, should go through the ordinary system because village courts do not have the resources for fingerprints, and other forensic evidence.
"Both types of justice have to complement each other," she said.
Crossing Continents was broadcast on Thursday, 23 November 2006, at 1102 GMT and repeated on Monday, 27 November 2006, at 2030 GMT.


Saturday, November 25, 2006


Rights groups have accused Beijing of harassing Aids activists. A prominent Chinese Aids campaigner, Wan Yanhai, has gone missing after being questioned by police in the capital, Beijing, his office has said.
Mr Wan has not been heard from since Friday, his advocacy group Aizhi, said in a statement.
Mr Wan is one of China's best-known Aids campaigners and has criticised the government's response to the spread of the disease.
In 2002 he was held for three weeks and accused of disclosing state secrets.
Phone call
Aizhi said police questioned Mr Wan at its offices in Beijing on Friday.
He ordered workers to cancel plans for an Aids symposium scheduled for Sunday, and has not been heard of since a brief telephone call to a colleague on Friday night.
"The colleague asked Wan Yanhai his whereabouts, and Wan Yanhai replied that he was being questioned," the statement said.
"Since then, his colleagues and family have lost contact with Wan Yanhai."
The group said Wan Yanhai had told colleagues on Friday to ensure than any participants who had come to Beijing for the symposium returned home.
Human rights groups have accused the Chinese government of harassing Aids activists working in the country.
In the past couple of years, Beijing has taken a more open approach to the fight against Aids after years of denying there was a problem.
China is thought to have about one million people with HIV.
The United Nations says that without immediate action to educate the public, China could have 10 million people with HIV by the end of the decade.


China's ambitions in Africa
By Mark Ashurst BBC News, Tanzania

Beijing has signed more than 40 free trade deals in Africa.
China has stepped up its business presence in Africa, but is being criticised for not pushing for improvements in human rights and governance in some countries.
There has never been a better time to buy flip flops in Dar es Salaam.
At the Kariokoo street market they come in all shapes and sizes: wedge heels, sequins, buckles.
Flip flops for work, and for fashion.
But at Tanzania's only flip-flop factory, these are dog days.
A few years ago 3,000 people worked at OK Plast and their wares were exported to 22 countries across the region.
Today the factory employs just 1,000 and Fadl Ghaddar, the Lebanese general manager, told me it was struggling to break even.
All but a few varieties of Africa's flip flops now come from China and local companies cannot compete.
Mr Ghaddar claims end of line stock from Chinese factories is "dumped" here, sold for less than the cost of materials, dodging customs and import duties.
African socialism
Some Tanzanians object that Chinese imports are shipped to the Chinese embassy in diplomatic containers from Beijing - but no-one can prove it.

Former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere visited Beijing 13 times
Outside, Chinese digger trucks are at work in the street - a Chinese company has won a government tender to renovate the sewage system.
And foundations have been laid for the new Julius Nyerere National Stadium, named after Tanzania's founding president.
The raw materials, machines, the pipe work and the scaffolding, come from Beijing.
Julius Nyerere visited Beijing 13 times - a record for an African leader.
What he saw in China inspired "ujamaa", the policy of self-reliance and collective farming announced in the Arusha Declaration - Nyerere's audacious statement of African socialism in February 1967.
Chairman Mao returned the compliment, sending Chinese engineers to build Tazara - the Tanzania Zambia Railway - to carry exports of Zambian Copper.
Many of those Chinese engineers are buried in a neatly tended graveyard, set behind a low white-washed wall on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam.
A marble plinth, inscribed with Chinese characters, reads: Cemetery for Memorable Deceased Chinese Experts Assisting Tanzania.
An official who visited recently from Beijing claimed Tazara is still a household name in China and more Chinese experts are on their way.
Donor's favourite
Hu Jintao, China's president, has announced a doubling of state aid to Africa: £2.6bn in trade credit and loans, new schools and hospitals, professional training for 15,000 Africans in Beijing.

Hu Jintao announced a doubling of state aid to Africa
Some Western observers are sceptical.
Already, Africa supplies a third of the oil fuelling China's economic boom.
Paul Wolfowitz, the American neo-conservative who is now president of the World Bank, says Beijing ignores human rights, corruption and environmental standards.
But there is no oil in Tanzania and few of the commodities China craves.
East Africa's poorest country is also the donors' favourite.
In the past six years, Western aid agencies have spent almost £3bn here - more than Hu Jintao promised over three years for the entire African continent.
If that is cheque book diplomacy, China's cheque book does not look big enough.
Chinese exports, on the other hand, seem almost limitless and now that China, like Africa, is capitalist, their relationship is more self-interested than sentimental.
Not far from the spot where Mr Nyerere made his famous declaration of African socialism, I visited a factory making generic anti-retroviral medicines for people with Aids.
Cheap chemicals from a private company in China enable Tanzania Pharmaceutical Industries to manufacture these life-saving drugs at a cost of US$11.5 (£6) per patient per month.
Even a few years ago, that would have been wishful thinking.
Chinese imports
Back in Dar es Salaam, I meet Yang Lei owner of the Dong Fang Development Company Chinese Shop on Samora Avenue, a busy downtown shopping street.
Mr Yang is the 31st member of his family to settle in East Africa.
His uncle opened the first of their seven shops in Nairobi, a decade ago.
But after three years here, Mr Yang - who wears a sweatshirt with a picture of an American footballer and the logo "Top Class" - has learned neither English nor Swahili.
His showroom is draped with silks, curtains and upholstery fabrics and is crammed with furniture such as dining suites, reclining chairs and an emperor-sized bed with adjustable headrest.
Mr Yang, his wife and his teenage son sit at the back of the shop munching snacks - Chinese snacks - from a jumbo-sized packet on his desk.
Yes, Mr Yang admits, through his translator, he has heard about local businesses swamped by Chinese imports.
Then he shrugs and says: "Africans love my shop."

From Our Own Correspondent was broadcast on Saturday 25 November, 2006 at 1130 GMT on BBC Radio 4. Please check the programme schedules for World Service transmission times.



Dear Family and Friends,

The prolonged effects of trying to survive the highest inflation in the world are grinding us down. When you ask people how they are, I mean how they really are, they say they are tired, they can't sleep, the worries just go round and round and there is no relief in sight.

Almost every day the propaganda machine here cranks out the usual rant and rave about how private companies and businesses are putting their prices up. Thes tate media say that these people are "sabotaging the economy" and "fuelling inflation" and they keenly name names of who has been arrested or fined that day. No sensible or even rational explanations are given as to how a businessman can stay afloat when he is ordered by the state to sell goods for a lower price than he paid for them. Blind adherence to government stipulated prices is dictated and common sense does not seem to enter into it. The state media says nothing, however, about the price rises and complete lack of ethics and fair trading in government organizations and companies. It seems they are exempt from obeying their own rules.

You don't ever post a letter here now without first checking how much postage rates are. They change - every month! Last month it cost 60 dollars to post a local letter, this month that same stamp costs 100 dollars and no one arrests the Postmaster! (And please remember that you have to add three zeroes onto every price in order to get the real costs - before the convenient removal of digits a couple of months ago ) Postage rates now go up so often that it is very rare to buy a local stamp which actually has a price printed on it. Local stamps these days just bear the words: 'Standard Postage.' It is not clear what standard is at hand, so we just take it to mean 'inflation standard.'

Parents all around are already beginning to panic about how they are going to afford government school fees in January. One friend I spoke to said his daughters fees at a government school were two and half thousand dollars this term and were increasing to 15 thousand for the January term - an increase of six hundred percent.
Then we come to water. In my home town on the same day that the water billswere hand delivered there was a national news report on the colour and qualityof the water in the area. Actually, to say the bill is "hand delivered" is a bit silly because in reality the flimsy bit of paper, not stapled closed or even folded in half, is just thrown through the gate onto muddy ground! The news report said, yes - it was true that raw sewerage was flowing into the dam which supplies the town with water and yes, it was true the pump was also broken. Appropriate film footage of foul brown slush pouring into our only source of drinking water and a man kicking the broken pump, illustrated the report. For this disgusting service there are no apologies or medical assistance, refunds have not been given and the costs for deteriorating service continues to go up and not down.

Then comes the mess that is called electricity. It is now not unusual to see factories working at night. They do so, not because they are working double shifts to keep up with demand, but because at night there is less chance of machines shutting down in the incessant power cuts. This week a notice appeared in the state run Herald newspaper advising people to conserve electricity promising that if they did: "the streets will be safer with better lighting." Oh Right, you say, what street lights! In a four kilometre journey in a built up residential area, passing one church, one hospital, one nursery school, one junior school and scores of private homes, just six street lights are working. It has been like this for over a year. Knowing that less than five percent of our street lights presently work, does not offer much of an incentive to save power. I am sure the fifty or so families near me who had no electricity for three days this weeks, feel likewise!

There is good news from Zimbabwe this week. It is raining, our vegetable gardens are growing and so are the sounds of protest. For the next fifteen days people are being called on to bang pots and make noise for a few minutes at exactly 8 pm every night. This week there were five minute noise protests during the lunch hour in Harare and Bulawayo and prayer protest gatherings too. Stormclouds are gathering. Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy.

Copyright cathy buckle 25 November 2006.My books: "African Tears" and "Beyond Tears" are both available at:orders@africabookcentre.comRecent letters can be read at:http:/

Friday, November 24, 2006


The death of the Russian ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko has been linked to the presence of a "major dose" of radioactive polonium-210 in his body.
What is polonium-210?
It is a naturally occurring radioactive material that emits highly hazardous alpha (positively charged) particles.
It was first discovered by Marie Curie at the end of the 19th century.
There are very small amounts of polonium-210 in the soil and in the atmosphere, and everyone has a small amount of in their body.
But at high doses, it damages tissues and organs.
However the substance, historically called radium F, is very hard for doctors to identify.
Philip Walker, professor of physics, University of Surrey said: "This seems to have been a substance carefully chosen for its ability to be hard to detect in a person who has ingested it."
What is the risk to other people from the dose Mr Litvinenko received?
It cannot pass through the skin, and must be ingested or inhaled into the body to cause damage.
And because the radiation has a very short range, it only harms nearby tissue, so those who came into contact with him are at very little risk.
William Gelletly, professor of physics at the University of Surrey, said: "Polonium-210 is very unlikely to have contaminated any staff who treated Mr Litvinenko or anyone who came in contact with him since they would have had to ingest or breathe in the contaminated fluids from his body."
Where does polonium-210 usually occur?
It has industrial uses such as static control and as a heat source for satellite power supplies, but is not available in these areas in a form conducive to easy poisoning.
It is also present in tobacco.
Professor Dudley Goodhead, Medical Research Council Radiation and Genome Stability Unit, said: "To poison someone much larger amounts are required and this would have to be man-made, perhaps from particle accelerator or a nuclear reactor."


The victims of Thursday's bombings were being buried during the day. Gunmen have attacked a Sunni Arab area of Baghdad, burning mosques and homes, with at least 30 people reported killed, according to police officials.
The attacks were in apparent revenge for Thursday's bombings that killed more than 200 people in the Shia Sadr City district of the Iraqi capital.
Fleets of vans left Baghdad to take the coffins of those victims for burial in the ancient Shia holy city of Najaf.
The latest violence came despite a city-wide curfew and appeals for calm.
To add to the Iraqi government's woes, a key Shia group threatened to quit parliament and the cabinet if Prime Minister Nouri Maliki goes ahead with a planned meeting with President Bush next week.
It is an outrage that these terrorists are targeting innocents in a brazen effort to topple a democratically elected government
White House spokesman
There is a real feeling that the situation is moving to the brink amid the cycle of attacks, says the BBC's David Loyn in Baghdad.
Thursday's bombing and retaliatory attacks were "deplorable", the White House said.
"It is an outrage that these terrorists are targeting innocents in a brazen effort to topple a democratically elected government. These killers will not succeed," White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said.
Mosques torched
A Sunni area in the once-mixed Hurriyah neighbourhood came under attack on Friday when gunmen rampaged through the area, setting four mosques and several houses alight.

In pictures: Iraq funerals
Who are the armed groups?
Iraqi police said some 30 people had been killed, but a defence ministry officials told the French news agency, AFP, that the clashes were so intense that precise information was difficult to obtain.
Clashes also erupted in Sadr City on Friday, where residents said a US helicopter fired on militiamen who were launching rocket attacks.
Violence was also reported in other parts of Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq, including in the northern town of Talafar where a suspected double suicide bombing killed at least 22 people.
Baghdad has been under an indefinite curfew since Thursday's bombings and the airport remains closed.
The security situation has forced Iraqi President Jalal Talabani to postpone a visit to Tehran on Saturday for talks with his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
During the curfew, the only people and vehicles officially allowed on the streets of Baghdad were the residents of Sadr City who began the journey to bury their dead.
Thousands of mourners came out onto the streets, walking alongside a seemingly endless fleet of mini-buses, each carrying a coffin on its roof.
The bodies were then driven to an ancient cemetery in the holy city of Najaf, the traditional burial place for Shias, 160km (100 miles) south of Baghdad.
Political impact
Thursday's multiple car bomb attacks in Sadr City - in which 250 people were also wounded - were the deadliest in Iraq since the US-led invasion of 2003.

Moqtada Sadr's group is calling for US forces to leave
Sadr City is largely controlled by the Mehdi Army, a Shia Iraqi militias accused of carrying out many sectarian attacks on Sunni areas.
Thursday's bombings could have a deep political impact, with the group led by radical cleric Moqtada Sadr calling on Mr Maliki to call off his planned talks with President Bush.
People in Sadr City faced insurgent attacks as well as repeated raids by US forces, the group said in a statement.
Mr Sadr's followers hold six cabinet posts and have 30 members in the 275-seat parliament.
The withdrawal of the group headed by Mr Sadr would be a major blow to an already unstable government, the BBC's Andy Gallacher in Baghdad says.
The meeting with Mr Maliki is due to take place in Jordan, and a White House spokesman said on Friday there had been no changes to Mr Bush's schedule.



Legacy of famine divides Ukraine
By Helen Fawkes BBC News, Kiev
A row of emaciated Ukrainian children stare out of a photograph. Their gaunt faces are full of despair and their bodies are little more than skeletons.

Ivan Leschenko says some resorted to cannibalism in the famine.
It is one of many images being shown on Ukrainian television in the run-up to Memorial Day, which is being held this weekend to mark the Soviet-era famine.
It was one of the bleakest moments in Ukraine's history. The famine which happened between 1932 and 1933 killed up to 10 million people.
It is widely believed to have been caused by the actions of the communist regime. The harvest was confiscated and people starved to death.
It was part of a brutal campaign by the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin to force Ukrainian peasants to join collective farms.
Ukraine is now trying to get this mass starvation recognised by the United Nations as an act of genocide.
But the issue is highly controversial and Russia is strongly against the move.
Now in his eighties, Ivan Leschenko was a child during the famine. He remembers how some people resorted to cannibalism.

A quarter of Ukraine's population was wiped out in just two years
"Such things really did happen. I know that one of my relatives ate human flesh. Just imagine how bad the situation was that people were forced to do that."
On the eve of Memorial Day, Ivan visited the capital's monument to the victims of the man-made famine to pay his respects.
"I remember walking the streets and seeing dead, bloated bodies of children and adults all over the place. I went up to one boy, he was saying something and suddenly he started shaking and then passed away," Ivan says.
"I was so scared; it was the most frightening experience of my life."
'Dancing on graves'
The famine had a devastating impact on villages across Ukraine. It is thought that around a quarter of the population was wiped out.
Called Holodomor in Ukrainian - meaning murder by hunger
About a quarter of Ukraine's population wiped out
Seven to 10 million people thought to have died
Children disappeared; cannibalism became widespread
At the KGB archive in Kiev, recently released files are piled up on an old-fashioned desk. These are said to demonstrate how the famine was artificially engineered.
One document is an order from Moscow to shoot people who steal food. It is signed by Stalin in red ink.
Now Ukraine's president wants what happened to be recognised as an act of genocide.
Russia admits this was an awful tragedy but is angry at claims that it was an attempt to destroy the Ukrainian nation. It says that other parts of the former USSR were affected.
This issue has also divided Ukraine's parliament. Last week MPs refused to vote on a law proposed by the president.
He wanted parliament to declare that the famine was an act of genocide.

Old KGB files allegedly show the famine was engineered
The ruling coalition which includes the Communist Party is pro-Russian.
It is led by the president's rival, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych - the man who was defeated by mass protests in the 2004 "Orange Revolution".
"This is like dancing on the graves of the dead. Before it's been proved this was an act of genocide, the Orange authorities are doing their best to persuade everyone that it was," says Sergei Gmyrya, a historian for the Communist party.
"I am furious that this is being used by the politicians in their games," he says.
Fragile relations
For Ukraine's pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko this is personal. "In my family we remember my grandfather Ivan, a strong and hard-working man who died. In my local village alone 600 people died," he says.
"It is important to realise that politics were behind the genocide. It's terrifying to know that the only aim of that experiment was to exterminate Ukrainian people."
Last year the president initiated the first ever Memorial Day to honour the victims. This Saturday, Ukraine will once again pause to remember the tragedy.
Kiev is determined to push for a UN resolution on the issue. But this could put the president on a collision course with his pro-Russian opponents.
It also threatens to damage the country's fragile relations with Moscow.



More than 3 million Harbin residents were left without fresh water. China has punished officials responsible for a toxic river spill which threatened the water supplies of millions of people in China and Russia.
An explosion at a PetroChina chemical plant in Jilin province in November 2005 caused about 100 tonnes of benzene to enter the Songhua river.
Administrative punishments were handed down to the province's state environment protection chief as well as senior PetroChina executives.
No criminal charges have been brought.
Water supplies to 3.8 million people in China's north-eastern Harbin city were cut off for five days after the leak.
'Administrative punishment'
Duan Wende, the vice president of the China National Petroleum Corp, which owns PetroChina, received an "administrative demerit" from China's state council, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
The director of the Jilin provincial environmental protection department Wang Liying received a major demerit which could result in demotion or removal from office.
Other PetroChina employees, including the general manager of the Jilin branch of the company and the plant manager, also received administrative punishments.
Such punishments in China usually damage officials' chances of promotion and put an end to political careers.
Earlier this week a state council investigation chaired by premier Wen Jiabao promised "severe punishments" for those responsible for the Songhua spill.
In December the head of China's environmental agency Xie Zhenhua resigned over the toxic leak.
Analysts suggest that the punishments are part of the Chinese government's attempts to improve the country's reputation for tackling industrial pollution, and for making officials more accountable.
Polluted water is a growing problem for the rapidly industrialising country.
Correspondents say that 300 million people in China do not have access to safe drinking water.
In July Chinese authorities pledged to spend 1.4 trillion Yuan ($175bn) over the next five years to improve water quality, and cut air and land pollution.