Thursday, May 31, 2007


About 380 prisoners are held at the US prison in Guantanamo Bay. A Saudi Arabian prisoner has died in an apparent suicide at the US detention facility at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, the US military has said.
A statement by the US Southern Command said the inmate was found unresponsive and not breathing by guards, and attempts to revive him failed.
Two Saudis and a Yemeni prisoner were found hanged in an apparent suicide at the camp in June last year.
There are about 380 prisoners at the camp, some held for five years.
'Appropriate care'
There were no details as to how the prisoner died. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service has begun an inquiry into the incident.
You have five-and-a-half years of desperation there with no legal way out -Michael RatnerUS Center for Constitutional Rights.
"The detainee was found unresponsive and not breathing in his cell by guards," the statement said.
"The detainee was pronounced dead by a physician after all lifesaving measures had been exhausted."
A cultural adviser was working with the military to ensure that the prisoner's remains were handled "in a culturally sensitive and religiously appropriate manner", Southern Command said.
The president of the US Center for Constitutional Rights, Michael Ratner, told the Associated Press news agency the death was likely an act of desperation.
"You have five-and-a-half years of desperation there with no legal way out," Mr Ratner said.
'Unfair' trials
The death came just days before two detainees - Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Yemeni, and Omar Khadr, a Canadian - were due to face trial before a US military tribunal on charges of war crimes.

Q&A: US military tribunals

On Wednesday, Mr Khadr fired his American lawyers, leaving him without representation for Monday's hearing.
Mr Khadr's former lawyer, Marine Lt Col Colby Vokey, said his former client was being held under a process that was "patently unfair".
"He doesn't trust American lawyers, and I don't particularly blame him," Lt Col Vokey said.
Mr Hamdan won a landmark case last year when the US Supreme Court ruled the military tribunal system illegal.
The decision forced US President George W Bush to return to Congress to authorise the tribunals.
Inmates at the Guantanamo Bay facility are not protected by the Geneva Conventions covering prisoners of war, the US says, as it describes them as "unlawful enemy combatants".



The militants' activities have led a 25% cut in oil production. The main militant group in Nigeria's Niger Delta says it is willing to stop its violent campaign only if the new government frees its jailed kinsmen.
Newly sworn-in President Umaru Yar'Adua has said the crisis in the oil-rich region will be his priority and has called for a ceasefire.
But the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said he must show "genuine willingness" for dialogue.
The government must prepare for more violence if it fails to act, Mend said.
The militants have waged a sabotage campaign for more than a year in the under-developed region, including kidnapping dozens of foreign oil workers.
The activities of the militants have led to a more than 25% cut in oil production.
Criminal gangs in the region have used similar tactics to obtain ransoms for the release of captives.
Standing firm
Mend said that people were tired of words and wanted urgent action to end their impoverishment.

The shadowy militants in Nigeria's Delta

"Only time will tell if Mr Yar'Adua is not just another politician," Mend leader Jomo Gbomo said in an email to the media.
"The most important requirement of the Niger Delta people is justice. Genuine negotiations towards a just resolution are sufficient hope for the people of the Delta."
The BBC's Abdullahi Kaura in the Niger Delta says the militants want to make it clear to Mr Yar'Adua that they are standing firm.
Mend militants have always demanded the release of a militant leader Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, who is charged with treason, and former Bayelsa State governor Diepreye Alamieseigha, who standing trial for alleged money laundering.
Analysts say putting an end to the Niger Delta violence will be a slow and frustrating as hostage taking has become a very profitable business and the proliferation of arms in the region all combine to make the militants very powerful.
Although Mend appears to be the most prominent militant group in the region, analysts say there are other copycat criminal gangs that may not be interested in negotiations with the government.
Some of the militants are also believed to be involved in "bunkering", a term used to describe the breaking of pipelines and stealing fuel which is then sold illegally.
Insiders say it would be difficult for the militants to willingly give up this lucrative lifestyle.
Although Nigeria's oil money comes from the Niger Delta, the majority of the region's people remain deeply impoverished.
Nigeria is Africa's largest oil producer and fifth largest supplier of crude to the US.



South Africa's unions want a 12% wage increase. Wage negotiations between the South Africa government and trade unions have broken down and mass action is planned, the country's main union group says.
The government improved its offer to a 6.5% rise, but the Congress of South African Trade Unions is demanding 12%.
It says more than 1m workers, including police, nurses and teachers, will go on indefinite strike from Friday.
Last week, tens of thousands of workers marched through cities demanding a pay rise bringing services to a standstill.
The BBC's Mpho Lakaje in Johannesburg says the government improved its offer by 0.5%, to 6.5%, but employees vehemently refused to accept it and talks broke down.
The labour federation called on the government to drastically revise its offer, contradicting a statement made by the Public Service Minister, Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, that there had been a breakthrough in the negotiations.
Our correspondent says that union leaders have announced that even if a wage deal is struck before Friday - the rolling mass action will still commence on the set date.
This follows public servants promising to intensify their industrial action - bringing the South African government to its knees.



Security agencies have been accused of illegal phone tapping. The opposition in Uganda has condemned a government move to legalise phone tapping by the security agencies.
The bill, which is to be tabled before parliament, seeks to allow the lawful interception and monitoring of communication in Uganda.
The Uganda People's Congress (UPC) party claims the move is intended to suffocate the opposition.
Relations between the government and the opposition have been acrimonious following disputed polls in 2006.
?It is a bad thing to entrench telephone tapping into our laws. It will jeopardise people's freedom,? UPC youth leader Benson Obua-Ogwal said during a press briefing.
Security Minister Amama Mbabazi presented the draft bill to a ruling party meeting where the government was canvassing MPs to ensure the bill sails through parliament.
President Yoweri Museveni, who was at the meeting, said that the bill was intended to monitor communication between suspected terrorists.
It would also protect the country from criminals such as Lord's Resistance Army rebel leader Joseph Kony, he said.
The bill, which has cabinet approval, also seeks to legalise the interception and monitoring of postal letters and money transfers.
Correspondents say security agencies in the country have been accused of illegally tapping the phones of prominent opposition leaders in the past.
Mr Mbabazi said the bill would reinforce the provisions of the anti-terrorism act.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007


US actress Lana Clarkson's death was a homicide, a coroner has told the murder trial of music producer Phil Spector.
Dr Louis Pena said bruising suggested the barrel of a gun may have been forced into Ms Clarkson's mouth before she was fatally shot in 2003.
Ms Clarkson was a hopeful person with no history of depression or suicide attempts, he told the court.
Mr Spector, 67, is accused of killing Ms Clarkson at his Hollywood mansion. The defence says she shot herself.
It says she placed the gun in her mouth and pulled the trigger.
'Blunt-force trauma'
Dr Pena also told the court that there were bruises on Ms Clarkson's right arm and wrist but could not confirm the cause of the marks.
Referring to the bruise on her tongue, he said it was "very unique and is consistent with blunt-force trauma. Something struck the tongue".
Dr Pena said there was no evidence that Ms Clarkson had been preparing to kill herself and that she died with a purse on one shoulder, which, he said, was not typical of a suicide.
"I found her to be a hopeful person from the notes I read," he said.
Ms Clarkson had been taking two drugs generally given for depression at the time of her death, but her neurologist had prescribed them for her chronic headaches, Dr Pena said.

Lawyers for Mr Spector say Clarkson killed herself. In cross-examination, Mr Spector's lawyer Christopher Plourd sought to show that the coroner had relied heavily on the work of others in analysing the forensic evidence.
Dr Pena conceded he was not an expert in gunshot residue or blood spatter and acknowledged he consulted textbooks in coming to his conclusions.
Mr Spector pioneered the "Wall of Sound" recording technique in the 60s, working with stars such as The Beatles, Tina Turner and The Righteous Brothers.
He is accused of killing is Ms Clarkson, 40, on 3 February 2003, hours after meeting her at the Sunset Strip nightclub House of Blues where she worked.
If convicted, Mr Spector faces between 15 years and life in prison.



The CIA is believed to have flown more than 1,000 flights over Europe. A US civil liberties group is suing a subsidiary of Boeing for allegedly helping the CIA fly suspects to secret overseas jails where they were abused.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed the lawsuit against Jeppesen Dataplan on behalf of three men allegedly abducted by the CIA.
The Bush administration acknowledges its policy of "extraordinary rendition" but denies any suspect is tortured.
Jeppesen has said it cannot confirm whether or not the CIA is a customer.
A spokesman for the Colorado-based firm told the BBC News website: "We have thousands of customers who fly tens of thousands of flights every day and with each one of them they have a reasonable expectation that their operations will be kept confidential."
A report approved by a European Parliament committee earlier this year said more than 1,000 covert CIA flights had crossed European airspace or stopped at European airports in the four years after the 9/11 attacks.
'Main provider'
The ACLU's lawsuit, filed in California, accuses Jeppesen of knowingly providing direct flight services to the CIA that enabled the clandestine transfer of the three suspects to foreign prisons.
The cases involve the alleged abuse of Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian citizen currently held in Guantanamo Bay; Elkassim Britel, an Italian citizen now held in Morocco; and Ahmed Agiza, an Egyptian citizen taken from Sweden to Egypt where he remains in jail, the ACLU says.
American corporations should not be profiting from a CIA rendition programme that is unlawful and contrary to core American values
Anthony Romero, ACLUIt claims Jeppesen, through the travel service provided by Jeppesen International Trip Planning, has been a "main provider of flight and logistical support services for aircraft used by the CIA in the US government's extraordinary rendition programme".
These services include preparing route, weather and fuelling plans for flight crews, gaining over-flight and landing permits, and facilitating customs clearance, the ACLU says, as well as providing security for crews and aircraft.
Since December 2001, Jeppesen has provided flight and logistical support to a total of 70 rendition flights made by at least 15 aircraft, it concludes.
"American corporations should not be profiting from a CIA rendition programme that is unlawful and contrary to core American values," Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU, said in a statement.
The US administration has faced criticism from legal experts and human rights activists over its policy on detentions of terrorism suspects.
US President George Bush admitted in September 2006 that terror suspects had been held in CIA-run prisons overseas, but he did not say where the prisons were located.
He said no detainees were now held under the CIA programme and that the CIA treated detainees humanely.



What is Blair's Africa legacy?

Prime Minister Tony Blair has attacked UK critics of his week-long trip to Africa, after receiving a warm welcome on his arrival in Sierra Leone.
Mr Blair's trip, just before he steps down as PM, has been dubbed a "vanity tour" by some UK newspapers.
But Mr Blair said: "The one thing I have come to despise more than anything else in my 10 years is cynicism".
He said there had been real progress in Sierra Leone where he sent peacekeeping troops during his first term of office.
The move made him a popular figure in the West African state, as it proved decisive in preventing rebels from taking over.
Paramount chief
He is due to be made a paramount chief later - a mark of respect in the country - during a ceremony in the village of Mahera.
Speaking after talks with the country's President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah and Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Mr Blair said: "However ferocious the challenges are in this part of Africa it's better to intervene and try to make a difference than stay out and try to cope with the consequences at a later time."
All I'm saying to cynics back home is if we care it might make a difference -Tony Blair.
Asked about criticism of his visit, Mr Blair said just a few years ago Sierra Leone had been in danger of being taken over by gangsters - while today it was approaching elections.
"I don't say that is perfection, but I say it's a darned sight better than it was before," he said.
"All I'm saying to cynics back home is if we care it might make a difference and making a difference is what politics should be about."
Corruption problem
During his visit he saw a display by the new army and police force. British troops have led efforts to rebuild the national army since 2000.
Sierra Leone is expected to hold presidential elections in August - the first poll since UN peacekeepers left in 2005.
It is now stable but it remains desperately poor and high levels of corruption are a major problem.

Mr Blair inspected a guard of honour at Lungi airport.
Many people would like to see donor countries like Britain put more pressure on the government of Sierra Leone to ensure aid reaches the people who need it.
Asked by local reporters about allegations of poor governance in Sierra Leone, Mr Blair admitted development was "painfully slow" but said he was sure President Kabbah would do everything he could to make the forthcoming elections free and fair.
The prime minister had said he hoped his tour would help to focus attention on Africa and climate change in the run-up to the G8 summit.
I'm really sorry I couldn't come to Freetown but I say to you, next time I come back I will certainly come to Freetown and other parts of the country
Mr Blair on local radio
He is also calling for a strengthened African Union peacekeeping force, to intervene in the continent's conflicts, backed by a £25m reserve fund from the EU.
He added: "Yes it's Africa's responsibility for peacekeeping, but we in the West have a responsibility to fund it, to help to train the force and with logistics. If we do not do that, the impact is faced not just here but in the wider world."
He also apologised for not visiting Freetown - which is a helicopter trip away from Lungi airport - which left some residents of the capital disappointed.
He told a local radio station: "I'm really sorry I couldn't come to Freetown but I say to you, next time I come back I will certainly come to Freetown and other parts of the country.
"It's just been a little difficult in terms of time today."
On his last major tour before he steps down as prime minister at the end of June, Mr Blair has already held talks with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.



FBI reopens file on race hate murders.
By James Coomarasamy BBC News, Louisiana.

MaeVella Moore has never given up hope of finding her husband's killer.
Forty-two years after the event, MaeVella Moore still remembers the tiny details of the night that her husband, Oneal, was killed.
"I was preparing catfish," she told me, in her vibrantly coloured house in the rural Louisiana town of Varnado, "when they called me and said he'd been hurt.
"I went to the hospital and as I got there, I saw his arm flopping over the gurney. And I knew he was dead."
Oneal Moore was one of the first black sheriff's deputies in Louisiana. He had been in the job for a year and a day when shots were fired at his patrol car, from a pick-up truck bearing a confederate flag.
The car crashed into an oak tree at the end of the road where Oneal, MaeVella and their four young daughters lived.
His African-American partner, Creed Rogers, was blinded in one eye. Oneal was killed. He was 34.
'Makes you bitter'
In a room festooned with photos of her late husband, their four daughters, and the grandchildren whom Oneal was destined never to see, MaeVella showed me a scrapbook filled with frayed and fading newspaper cuttings from the time.

Oneal Moore was one of the first black sheriff's deputies in Louisiana.
According to the reports, there was little doubt that the Ku Klux Klan was responsible for the killing, but - despite a handful of arrests - no one was ever convicted. The case of Oneal Moore became just another one of the racially-motivated murders in America's Deep South that went unsolved.
"It's hard to hate when you don't know who to hate," MaeVella, now 71, told me. "It makes you a bitter person."
Soon after the murder she had thought about getting her revenge, by putting a pistol in her handbag and going to a "whites only" day at the local fair. She had planned to wait for someone to say something to her about her husband, then retaliate.
But nothing was said and the gun was never used.
She has remained determined though. She has never moved away from the town and never given up hope of a conviction.
"I'm not going to give up trying to find out who did this to my husband and my children's father," she said. "Some say 'It's 40 years, let it go,' but if my kids' grandchildren have to pick it up, we need to know a name. A true name."
Cold cases
Oneal Moore's case is one of a raft of unsolved murders from that era that the FBI is now re-examining, to see whether there is enough evidence to reopen an investigation.


Aug 1955: Emmett Till, 14, from Chicago, is murdered and mutilated while on holiday in Money, Mississippi after whistling at a white woman. Two white men were acquitted of murder by an all-white jury.

Jun 1963: NAACP field secretary Medgar Evers murdered in Jackson, Mississippi. White supremacist Byron De La Beckwith was jailed for life in 1994 but died seven years later.

Sep 1963: Four black girls killed in bombing at a church in Birmingham, Alabama. Three men were convicted of murder, the last of them in 2002.

Aug 1964: Three civil rights activists murdered in Mississippi - Edgar Ray Killen convicted of the killings in 2005.

It is a decision that follows a handful of well-publicised convictions, such as that of a former Baptist preacher, Edgar Ray Killen. He was found guilty in Mississippi, two years ago, of the killings of three civil rights workers in 1964. The FBI is also under pressure to act from Congress, which is preparing to draw up legislation that would mandate the FBI to reopen all of these civil rights era cases - and to give an annual progress report.
It will not be easy, though, according to Ken Kaiser, assistant director of criminal investigations at the FBI.
"You go through the state files and you might find they have legitimately destroyed the evidence. Or you'll find that the witnesses are growing old, and in some cases, dying. And then there are those who are still afraid to come forward and give evidence."
Tensions remain
That fear may well exist in Varnado, a sleepy village where, according to local white people such as Clarice Lang Fitzgerald, race relations have not moved on much since the 1960s.
They've changed their white hoods for black suits, white shirts and black ties
MaeVella MooreShe was a young girl at the time of Oneal Moore's killing, living just a few houses from where the shooting took place.
She remembers rushing out and seeing the car with the policeman's body inside.
"People don't really want these cases investigated," she told me
"There is a lot of speculation about who did it, but you'll find it hard to find people who feel remorse for what happened. I think they need to examine the case, for the sake of the family."

Not everyone wants the FBI to reopen civil rights era casesHer next door neighbour disagreed. "It's a waste of taxpayers' money, opening up these cases," he told me. "As far as I know, all the people involved are dead now."
MaeVella is not surprised by such attitudes.
"They've changed their white hoods for black suits, white shirts and black ties," she said, tending the flowers on Oneal's grave.
"They're more respectable, more intelligent, but they still look down on us. I don't understand why it happened. You may not love us, but you don't have to kill us."



As Umaru Yar'Adua is ushered in as president of Nigeria, the BBC News website looks at a campaign mounted by Nigerian bloggers to express their disappointment at recent political events and the April elections.
Solomonsydelle on Nigerian Curiosity called on the Nigerian blogosphere to make a statement about Yar'Adua's inauguration.

Vera Ikeji is impressed by Nigeria's first civilian handover of power
"My people, let us join together to show our rulers and leaders that we are watching, that they are accountable to the people and that we will not let them forget."
She drafted "The Nigerian Proclamation" to reflect Nigerians' "disappointment over the recent polls and expressing expectations in the future" and urged bloggers to post it on their blogs on the day of Mr Yar'Adua's inauguration.
Solomonsydelle went on to say that while the proclamation might not achieve immediate change "it gives us all an opportunity to 'do something' and not just watch from the sidelines".
The Nigeria Proclamation reads in part:
"In recent history, Nigerians have been overwhelmingly betrayed by those charged with addressing their needs. Instead of serving the people, public servants have served themselves to the detriment of the masses. The result is a nation lacking adequate infrastructure, organization and security.
"The ineffectiveness of Nigerian leaders indicates a lack of accountability to the constituents. Nigerians are no longer relevant to the leaders, thus, leaders do not feel responsible to them."
'One voice'
Several Nigerian bloggers took up Solomonsydelle's challenge.

A wise man once said that evil triumphs when good men do nothing
One of them - Omodudu - describes himself as "an economist with Nigeria on the brain".
He praises Solomonsydelle's initiative as "a one of a kind opportunity for bloggers in the Nigerian blogspace to make a mark" and noted that blogs could one day become a voice for the Nigerian people.
"Let us speak with one voice. Let us make demands," Omodudu implored.
"A wise man once said that evil triumphs when good men do nothing," Olawunmi began a posting on his Silent Storms in an Ocean of One.
Blogging from the UK, Olawunmi confessed that his first reaction to the Nigerian Proclamation was one of scepticism, but he soon realised its value.
"It's not only to call for action, but to remind us (you and I), what is wrong, so that we can watch out for it in future and seize the opportunity to fight it any way we can," he wrote.
"What this statement, this manifesto, represents, is a call for people to be vigilant to their rights as a nation," he said.
"We will achieve nothing if we sit still, if we hang our chins on our shoulders and complain quietly, while our 'leaders' drag our country to hell in a hand-basket."
'Cheating referee'
Not all Nigerian bloggers are supportive of the campaign.
Commenting on Ugo's Nigerian Blogger in Cyprus , Donzman doubts the campaign will achieve much.

Pardon my cynicism, but isn't it a little too late for this?
"Pardon my cynicism, but if this rises to the top of Google search, then what? Google will evict Yar'Adua from Aso Rock with missiles painted in the different colours of the rainbow?," poses Donzman - a contributor to Lagos blog!.
"What exactly do you expect to achieve, for Yar'Adua to type 'Nigeria' into his Google search bar, see all the complaints and proceed to pack his bags?"
Chxta of Chxta's World , also commenting on Ugo's blog, suggested that the campaign was coming a bit late in the day.
"Pardon my cynicism, but isn't it a little too late for this? Where were we when the events that led us to this pass were occurring?" Chxta wondered.
"This kind of thing is a little like a football match in which the referee cheated. The best that would happen afterwards is that Fifa would acknowledge that the referee cheated (and maybe suspend the ref), but the result would still stand."
But some bloggers supported Mr Yar'Adua's victory and ascension to the presidency.
Vera Ikeji was elated about Mr Yar'Adua's inauguration.
"Yay!!!!," she exclaimed. "We have a new president.
Some idiots are planning to spend almost a billion naira to swear in an illegitimate government.
Thy Glory O Nigeria!
"The swearing in ceremony was done with all pomp and pageantry. There were some displays and stunts by the Nigerian Police Force." Although Thy Glory O Nigeria! took issue with the cost of the inauguration ceremony, which reports say will come to a some 820m naira ($6.2m).
"Some idiots are planning to spend almost a billion naira to swear in an illegitimate government. Wonders shall never end in Nigeria. This country is run by mad men. This country is obviously sick," the unnamed blogger wrote in a post titled "Nigerian leaders are fools!".
The blogger blames Nigerians for the conduct of politicians.
"One thing is sure, all Nigerians are to blame for this stupid acts played out by the useless leaders and politicians everyday. These politicians are just crazy, they are insane."
The post ends by suggesting that the time has come for Nigerians to take matters into their own hands.
"Nigeria needs nothing short of something similar to the Orange Revolution. The time is over-ripe."


Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Zheng Xiaoyu was accused of accepting some $850,000 in bribes. China has sentenced the former head of the State Food and Drug Administration to death after he was convicted of corruption, state media has reported.
Zheng Xiaoyu was convicted on charges of taking bribes and of dereliction of duty, Xinhua news agency reported.
The sentence is unusually harsh for a senior figure, but Zheng could have his sentence reduced to life on appeal.
The verdict came as the government announced plans for the first ever recall system of unsafe food products.
Beijing has been under pressure to act over increasing concern both at home and abroad about the poor standards of Chinese-produced food and medicines.
Name poisoned
State television showed footage of a grey-haired Zhang - who was expelled from the Communist Party earlier this year - appearing in court in Beijing flanked by police officers.
He had been accused by an official investigation last month of accepting more than 6.5m yuan ($850,000) in bribes to approve hundreds of drugs.
One company, Kongliyuan Group, allegedly paid Zhang bribes in return for approving 277 drugs, mostly antibiotics.
Zheng's former secretary, Cao Wenzhuang, also faced trial, accused of accepting bribes.
Thirty-one other people were also alleged to have been involved in the scandal, including Zheng's wife, Liu Naixue, and his son, Zheng Hairong.
Following Zheng's sacking in 2005, the Chinese government announced a review of about 170,000 medical licences that were awarded during his tenure at the agency.
Dozens of people have died in China because of poor quality or fake drugs.
Last year, a sub-standard antibiotic, Xinfu, which was not properly sterilised, caused the deaths of 11 people.
Thirteen babies died of malnutrition in 2005 after being fed powdered milk that contained no nutritional value.
The Chinese government recently announced an urgent review of industry food standards after public alarm over a recent spate of cases.
US inspectors blamed exported Chinese pet food ingredients, contaminated with melamine, for the deaths of cats and dogs in North America.
And they recently halted shipments of toothpaste from China to investigate reports that they may be contaminated with toxic chemicals.
On Tuesday, as Zheng was sentenced, the government said a new recall process targeting "potentially dangerous and unapproved food products" would be brought in by the end of the year.
"All domestic and foreign food producers and distributors will be obliged to follow the system," Wu Jianping, of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, was quoted as saying.



Some two million people have fled their homes in the conflict
The refugee camps

US President George W Bush has announced fresh sanctions against Sudan over the four-year Darfur conflict.
Mr Bush said more Sudanese companies and individuals involved in the violence in Darfur would be barred from trading or banking with the US.
He also said he would push for a new UN Security Council resolution to put more pressure on President Omar al-Bashir.
More than 200,000 people have died in the four-year conflict between rebels and pro-government militias in Darfur.
"For too long the people of Darfur have suffered at the hands of a government that is complicit in the bombing, murder and rape of innocent civilians," Mr Bush said.
"My administration has called these actions by their rightful name: genocide.


30 Sudanese firms targeted
Mostly firms in oil business
Three individuals listed
Barred from US banking system
Barred from business with US

Americans take up cause

"We're targeting sanctions against individuals responsible for violence."
It is unclear how much extra leverage the new US sanctions will bring, says BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus.
Mr Bush wants Sudan to allow more UN peacekeepers into Darfur and to stop backing the Janjaweed militias.
Sudan denies supporting the armed groups and says the suffering in Darfur has been exaggerated for political reasons.
The Sudanese government criticised the new sanctions as "unfair and untimely" and urged the rest of the world to ignore them.
"I think it [the US] has revealed its intentions and that it does not want stability," Majdhoub al-Khalifa, an adviser to the Sudanese president, told al-Jazeera television.
US sanctions imposed in 1997 mean Sudanese companies cannot use US dollars, making international trade more difficult.
But the effects of these measures have been limited as China has become one of Sudan's major trading partners, supplying arms to Sudan and buying more than half of its oil. It has also spent millions of dollars investing in Sudan's oil infrastructure.
'Not timely'
Even before Mr Bush spoke, China condemned the fresh US sanctions and said investing in Sudan was a better way to stop the violence.

Q&A: Darfur crisis

US officials said 30 companies controlled by the Sudanese government, mostly in the oil business, are now barred from the US banking system or from doing business with US firms or individuals.
Another company suspected of shipping arms to Sudan has also been added to the sanctions list.
Also targeted are three individuals, including a rebel leader, who are suspected of involvement in the violence in Darfur.
The AP news agency says these are:
Ahmad Muhammed Harun, state minister for humanitarian affairs, accused of war crimes in Darfur by the International Criminal Court
Sudan's head of military intelligence and security, Awad Ibn Auf
Rebel Justice and Equality Movement leader Khalil Ibrahim.
Arms ban
After Mr Bush's announcement, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said the bloc was open to considering new sanctions against Sudan.
He said the matter would be discussed on Wednesday at a meeting of G8 foreign ministers in Berlin.
Having given new UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon some space, President Bush's patience has now run out, our correspondent says.
China - which wields a veto on the UN Security Council - has not agreed to support the tougher UN resolution wanted by the US.
On Friday, the Security Council endorsed proposals to let a combined UN-African Union peacekeeping force protect civilians and use force to prevent violence.
The existing AU force has been unable to stop the conflict.


Monday, May 28, 2007


Ex-Uganda health minister charged
By Sarah Grainger BBC News, Kampala

Jim Muhwezi cannot apply for bail until Tuesday. Uganda's former Health Minister Jim Muhwezi has been charged with embezzlement and abuse of office.
He presented himself voluntarily to police on Monday after arriving back in the country and denied the charges.
Three other former officials were arrested and charged last week, but retired Major General Muhwezi was in the UK at the time.
The charges against all four relate to the alleged gross misuse of a $4.3m fund for children's vaccinations.
Gen Muhwezi is to spend the night in custody as he cannot apply to the High Court for bail until Tuesday.
He left Uganda a week ago, saying he needed medical treatment in London.
That was just a day before his two former colleagues, Captain Mike Mukula and Dr Alex Kamugisha, were arrested and charged with embezzlement and abuse of office.
Former state house official Alice Kaboyo was also arrested and charged last week.
The other three also denied the charges.
The case against all four follows an investigation by the Inspector General of government into the alleged gross misuse of a $4.3m immunisation fund given to Uganda by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (Gavi).

Uganda has been praised for its fight against Aids. But the three former ministers have also been implicated in the mismanagement of money granted to Uganda by the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Investigations into that issue are continuing.
Many people in Uganda have been surprised that Gen Muhwezi has been pursued so vigorously over the Gavi issue.
He has long been a close ally of President Museveni who has survived controversy in the past.
While state minister for primary education in the 1990s, he was questioned in parliament over his personal wealth, and eventually lost his ministerial portfolio.
He bounced back in 2001 as minister of health, but after investigations began into the fate of the Global Fund money granted to Uganda, he was dropped from cabinet.
Now he will have to answer questions in court.



Nigerian trade unions have started a two-day general strike in protest at last month's elections, on the eve of the inauguration of the new president.
A BBC reporter in Lagos says offices and banks are closed, with few vehicles or people on the streets.
There is more activity in the capital, Abuja but government offices are shut.
A senior union official told the BBC the new government had been brought to power by fraudulent means. Umaru Yar'Adua is to be sworn in on Tuesday.
The BBC's Fidelis Mbah in the commercial capital, Lagos, says the heavy traffic you would normally see on a Monday morning is absent.
But he says some people may have stayed at home because of local media reports that Monday and Tuesday had been declared public holidays because of the inauguration.
We want to tell the world, we want to tell Nigerians that the elections were massively rigged -
Nuhu ToroDeputy NLC leader.
The government has denied these reports.
However Reuters news agency reports that many Nigerians are apathetic about the protest.
"Tomorrow is the handover, so what difference will it make?" said Daniel Legunsen, who was at work selling photocopiers in Abuja.
This is to be the first time in Nigeria's history that one elected leader has handed power to another.
'Perilous time'
Nigerian Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka has told the BBC the country needed a revolution to break the cycle of incompetent and inhuman leadership.
"I think what a country like Nigeria needs is a genuine, authentic but humane revolution," he said.

Umaru Yar'Adua won by a landslide, according to official results. Mr Soyinka said Mr Yar'Adua was "an unknown quantity" who was taking power at a "perilous time".
Previous opposition protests over the elections have not succeeded but our reporter says the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has the organisation to ensure that its call for workers to stay at home for two days is heeded.
"We want to tell the world, we want to tell Nigerians that the elections were massively rigged," deputy NLC leader Nuhu Toro told the BBC's Network Africa programme.
Local and international observers also condemned the poll as a "charade" and "not credible".
Observers say that results were announced even in areas where no elections were held, either because of violence, or because voting materials were not delivered to polling stations.
In most such areas, candidates from the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) were credited with massive victories.
The election commission, Inec, has denied charges that it favoured the PDP.
Mr Yar'Adua has promised to introduce electoral reforms.
The two main opposition candidates have challenged the results in court.



The police are accused of favouring the ruling party. Zimbabwe has started a massive recruitment drive to almost double numbers ahead of next year's election, a senior police officer says.
Faustino Mazango told the state-owned Herald newspaper that he wanted to have 50,000 officers for the elections, up from 29,000 at present.
Correspondents say this will be seen as the start of preparations for a crackdown on the opposition.
President Robert Mugabe has said he intends to stand for re-election.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) often accuses the police of harassing and beating its members.
Almost 200 MDC activists were arrested on Saturday but have been released without charge.
A police spokesman had said Saturday's arrests were in connection with recent bombings around the capital, Harare.
MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa says that some of those arrested were beaten and have gone to hospital.
The government accuses the MDC of stirring up election violence.
It denies these charges and says they are a pretext to justify clamping down on its activities.
"We have started a massive recruitment exercise so that we have a minimum of 50,000 police officers by the time we have elections," The Herald quotes Senior Assistant Commissioner Mazango as saying.
The AFP news agency reports that many police officers are leaving the force to seek better paid work elsewhere.
In March, scores of MDC activists, including party leader Morgan Tsvangirai, were severely assaulted in police custody, sparking international condemnation.
President Mugabe has said Mr Tsvangirai deserved to be assaulted for ignoring police warnings not to go ahead with a banned rally.


Sunday, May 27, 2007


The six medics still face the death penalty after their earlier conviction. A Libyan court has dismissed defamation charges against five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor already sentenced to death in a separate trial.
The six have been convicted for infecting 426 Libyan children with HIV, the virus that causes Aids.
They had also been charged with defaming police officers and a doctor by accusing them of torture during investigations into their case.
The foreign medics say their confessions were given under duress.
The six have already spent eight years in prison. During a retrial in 2006, they said prosecution evidence had been obtained under torture.
They said they had been mistreated by several police officers, including a police officer, Juma al-Mishri and a doctor, Abdulmajid al-Shoul.
The two men then sued, claiming 5m Libyan dollars ($4m) in compensation.
The six medics had denied the defamation charges.
The court did not give any reason for its ruling in a short hearing at which the medics were not present.
Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov described the latest verdict as a good sign.
The six are due to launch a final appeal against their death sentences shortly.


Cathy Buckle's Weekly Letter from Zimbabwe !

Saturday 26th May 2007
Dear Family and Friends,

A friend phoned recently with the news that her grand-daughter had just had a baby. The words of congratulations for the great grandmother froze when I heard that there were serious complications. The baby had been born with her bowel and intestine outside of her abdomen. Under normal circumstances in a fully functioning country this would be dire news. In Zimbabwe it sounded like an almost certain death sentence. Doctors and nurses strikes, chronic shortages of drugs, ten to twelve hour electricity cuts, interrupted water supplies and worst of all, the brain drain. Seven years of political turmoil, oppressive laws dictating every facet of our lives and the devastating economic collapse has seen professionals pour out of the country in hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions.
Every single step of the way in saving my friends newly born great grand daughter was littered with problems. Nothing at all was guaranteed from fuel for the ambulance to doctors not on strike, electricity being on and water coming out of the taps. From the University of Zimbabwe where we normally hear that the lecturers are on strike, the students are protesting or the student leaders are being arrested - out of this came one professor. A fortnight of delicate operations and proceedures, highly professional expertise and care and then came the wondrous news that the baby girl can go home. By now no one is calling the baby by her name, she is known as 'the miracle baby' and every one knows that without the 'Professor', this little Zimbabwean girl would not have made it. On Africa Day, a public holiday, I had no water at home and the electricity was off for just over ten hours and I found myself thinking about this little miracle baby and the Professor who had saved her. It is very hard to stay in Zimbabwe when everything around you is collapsing. It is even harder for the young, highly educated professionals to stay. Without a doubt these men and women could get work anywhere in the world and the temptation to leave is very high. Those few who have been able to stay are doing so at great sacrifice to themselves and I don't know how we ordinary Zimbabweans can thank them - but we do.
It would be unrealistic to believe that all the hundreds of thousands of professionals who have left Zimbabwe these past seven years will come home, but we hope some will. The load on Zimbabwe's professionals is very heavy but for many of us it is because they have found a way to stay they have ensured that we too are able to stay. It was a bleak Africa Day for many Zimbabweans but for the family of the miracle baby, it was a day of peace and love and one filled with gratitude.
Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy.



William Oefelein admitted to having had an affair with Ms Nowak. The space shuttle pilot involved in a love triangle that led to a bizarre show-down between a female astronaut and her rival is to leave Nasa.
William Oefelein, 42, has been reassigned to the navy, his original corps, the US space agency said.
Astronaut Lisa Nowak, who had an affair with him, is awaiting trial on charges of attempted kidnapping and assault.
In February she drove across five states to confront her love rival and pepper-sprayed her car.
On her 1,600km (1,000 mile) journey from Texas to Florida, Capt Nowak wore a wig, as well as a nappy so she would not have to stop to use the toilet.
She was stopped allegedly carrying an air rifle, a steel mallet and a knife.
Capt Nowak, 44, denies attempting to kidnap her rival - Air Force Capt Coleen Shipman.
She has been sacked by Nasa.
Mr Oefelein admitted having had an affair with her, but said it had been ended before he began dating Capt Shipman.
Nasa gave no reasons for reassigning Mr Oefelein to the navy.
A spokesman said: "Nasa has determined that Cmdr Oefelein's detail is no longer required for the purposes it was originally granted."



Leading Muslim calligrapher shot
By James Shaw BBC News, Baghdad.

One of the Muslim world's leading calligraphers has been shot dead by gunmen in Baghdad. Khalil al-Zahawi was the most famous practitioner in Iraq of the art of writing classical Arabic script.
He was outside his house in the New Baghdad district of the city on Saturday when he was ambushed by gunmen and killed.
The art of writing classical Arabic script is highly regarded in Iraq and the rest of the Muslim world.
Attack on culture
Mr Zahawi's body has been taken to his home in Diyala province for burial.
In the 1990s, he taught students from all over the Middle East.
It is said that anyone in Iraq who wanted to be considered proficient in Arabic calligraphy had to have his seal of approval.
His death will be seen as another attack on culture and learning by insurgent groups and militias in Iraq who in the past have targeted scientists, doctors and academics.
In a separate incident, police say they have found 12 bodies in Dora in south-east Baghdad.
The victims, aged between their 20s and 40s, had been blindfolded and shot in the head. They also showed signs of torture.


Do elephants intentionally kill their young?
WHO, WHAT, WHY? The Magazine answers...

Pori and Dumbo have now bonded.

The mother and calf

Pictures of an elephant calf being rescued after his mother appeared to try to crush him made headlines. So, do elephants intentionally kill their young?
Poor old Dumbo, it's hardly the display of loving motherly devotion most newborns receive.
The 250lb elephant calf made headlines on Wednesday when he was rescued after his mother appeared to try to crush him, then drown him in their enclosure at Friedrichsfelde Animal Park in Berlin.
The incident turned the new arrival - nicknamed Dumbo but officially still nameless - into Germany's top animal celebrity overnight and also made headlines around the world.

Some have been known to kill their calves in captivity, but there is no conclusive reason why
Staff played down the incident, saying it is a natural reflex action of elephant mothers to stimulate their newborns to stand by nudging them.
But while African elephant Pori may have been lovingly, yet clumsily, trying to do this, she has history - she crushed her first baby to death.
Ian Redmond, wildlife consultant with the Born Free Foundation and elephant expert, says Pori's behaviour will be influenced by what she learned about motherhood when she was growing up.
"Elephants don't work on instinct," he says. "They are flexible in their behaviour and are cultural animals. Whatever they learn in their formative years will influence the way they act."
Quality of life
In the wild, elephant calves are looked after by the females in the group, who are all involved in their protection, education and discipline.
From an early age young females babysit the calves. This is known as allo-mothering. As a result they have a lot of experience and knowledge of calves before becoming mothers themselves, which stands them in good stead.
When they do give birth, they also have another female with them who acts as a midwife.
If Pori has spent a long time in captivity she may have little experience of rearing young, so giving birth and dealing with her newborn could have been a frightening experience, says Mr Redmond.

A regular part of the BBC News Magazine, Who, What, Why? aims to answer some of the questions behind the headlines"In captive elephants it is common for them not to know about looking after their young."
She may also have gone through birth without another female to help and comfort her.
Elephants in zoos have been known to intentionally kill their young, but there is only speculation as to why this is.
"Some people think it could be a conscious decision," says Mr Redmond. "If their quality of life is poor and they are faced with just a concrete yard, they don't want their offspring to face the same and kill them. But it's just a theory."
This incident ended happily. Pori was given a mild sedative and placed with Dumbo in the elephant house under observation.
According to the latest from the zoo, mother and son are getting along "magnificently".



Snippets from the week's news, sliced, diced and processed for your convenience.

1. Pizza was known as “Italian Welsh rarebit” in 1950s Britain. More details

2. Using a gas-fired patio heater for just one hour can waste enough energy to make 400 cups of tea, according to Friends of the Earth. More details

3 Laurence Olivier and Tintin's creator Herge were born on the same day. More details More details

4. A swarm of bees can ground a Boeing 737. More details

5. On the first day of filming Star Wars in the deserts of Tunisia, the country experienced its first major rainstorm in 50 years and a rest day had to be called. More details

6. Sharks have virgin births. More details

7. Articles of 50,000 words - parliamentary reports in particular - were common in the Times in the early 1890s, just as the first tabloid newspapers came into being.

8. Japanese whalers in the 17th Century buried the foetuses of the pregnant whales they caught in a special graveyard facing out to sea.More details

9. One in four house sales fall through.

10. Captive elephants often don’t know how to look after their young because they don’t work on instinct – in the wild, calves are looked after by the herd and this is how young females learn mothering skills. More details

(Sources, where not linked: 7. A Tabloid is Born, BBC Four, 23 May; 9. Which? online.)



The police in March said these arms belonged to MDC members. Zimbabwe police are holding 84 activists without charge a day after they were arrested in party offices, an opposition spokesman has told the BBC.
Nelson Chamisa said that most of the 200 people detained on Saturday were freed later in the evening.
A police spokesman said the arrests were in connection with recent bombings around the capital, Harare.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has denied any links to bombings and has condemned the arrests.
Mr Chamisa said the police did not have a search warrant when they raided the MDC headquarters in central Harare.
He told the BBC that the meeting was held in party offices to discuss civil issues and insisted the MDC was doing nothing illegal.
The arrests came a day after police extended a ban on political rallies.
In March, scores of MDC activists, including party leader Morgan Tsvangirai, were severely assaulted in police custody, sparking international condemnation.
The Zimbabwe government accused the MDC of being behind the bombing of several police stations.
Following Saturday's arrests, police spokesman Supt Andrew Phiri told the state-owned Sunday Mail newspaper:
"Some suspects arrested in connection with recent petrol bombs have given us leads we are following up."
Mr Chamisa said those detained had been taken to the notorious Law and Order division of the Central Police Headquarters.
South Africa is currently trying to negotiate a political solution to Zimbabwe's escalating crisis.
The BBC's Peter Greste in South Africa says diplomats say Zimbabwe is in danger of breaking into open conflict.
Mr Chamisa said the police raid showed the government's disdain for the diplomatic efforts.


Saturday, May 26, 2007


The McCanns say they are pleased with the new information.
The father of Madeleine McCann has described the sighting of a man seen on the night of her disappearance as being "significant" to his daughter's case.
Gerry McCann said he and his wife Kate welcomed the release of the information by the Portuguese police.
He said the sighting of a man "with what appeared to be a child in his arms" was both "significant and relevant to Madeleine's abduction".
The man is said to be white, 5ft 10ins, medium build with short hair.
He was seen on the night Madeleine was taken from the Praia da Luz apartment in the Algarve, Portugal.
Portuguese police went public with the description of the man seen on the night after pressure from the McCann family to move the investigation on.


5ft 10ins
Medium build
Short hair
Wearing a dark jacket, beige trousers and dark shoes
Carrying "a child or an object that could have been taken as a child"

In a statement made to the press, Mr McCann said he and his wife welcomed the release of the "important" information which had come following an amicable and very constructive meeting with Portuguese police.
"We feel sure that this sighting of a man with what appeared to be a child in his arms, is both significant and relevant to Madeleine's abduction," he said.

Map of locations

The couple also appealed for more information about the man spotted by witnesses.
"Was this man seen anywhere else in or near the town with a child, or what appeared to be a child? What direction was he headed in? Did he have a vehicle?"

Madeleine with her father and brother Sean
'Nightmare' of parents

BBC correspondent Steve Kingstone in the Algarve said it was the first time the police had given a detailed description of a man they wanted to speak to.
But it is not known how long detectives had known this information or whether they believed the man abducted Madeleine, he added.
The BBC's correspondent said police were publicly playing down the similarities between the man described and the only official suspect in the case, Robert Murat.
Mr Murat denies any involvement in Madeleine's disappearance.
A family spokesman has also revealed Chancellor Gordon Brown has had several telephone conversations with Mr McCann.
Mr Brown offered both parents "his full support" in their efforts to find the four-year-old, who vanished on the night of 3 May.

Gordon Brown offered to support the search for Madeleine.
The spokesman said: "Brown offered both Gerry and Kate his full support in their efforts to find Madeleine, although details of the conversations will remain private."
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall also said on Saturday they had been following the case "closely and with deep concern" and "fervently hoped" Madeleine would be reunited with her family.
Madeleine, from Rothley, Leicestershire, was abducted from her bed in the Algarve resort as her parents ate dinner at a nearby tapas restaurant.

Back to link



Anglicans 'obsessed' by gay issue.
By Mike Lanchin BBC News religious affairs correspondent.

Archbishop Tutu said there were more pressing issues. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has called on Africa's Anglican church to overcome its "obsession" with the issue of gay priests and same-sex marriages.
He said they should spend time on more pressing issues in the region.
Speaking to the BBC World Service, the South African bishop said Zimbabwe, HIV/Aids and the crisis in Darfur were not getting sufficient attention.
Zimbabwe's Anglican church also lacked courage to stand up to President Robert Mugabe's regime, he said.
'So many issues'
This was the 76-year-old Nobel peace laureate touching raw nerves for the Anglican church in Africa on very sensitive subjects.
In his usual forthright manner, Archbishop Tutu told the BBC that the Anglican communion was spending too much of its time and energy on debating differences over gay priests and same sex marriages - a subject, he said, that had now become "an extraordinary obsession".
He said: "We've, it seems to me, been fiddling whilst as it were our Rome was burning. At a time when our continent has been groaning under the burden of HIV/Aids, of corruption.

The church had "kow-towed" to Mr Mugabe's regime, he said. "There are so many issues crying out for concern and application by the church of its resources, and here we are, I mean, with this kind of extraordinary obsession."
For Archbishop Tutu, the crisis in Zimbabwe was one such issue that had been eclipsed by the sexuality debate. He said he was saddened by the muted response other African governments had shown to the Mugabe regime.
Growing tensions
But he also said that leaders of his own Anglican Church in Zimbabwe had failed to show more courage in dealing with the Zimbabwean president.
"One seems to have to say they have kow-towed to President Mugabe. Certainly there's not been anything like the same kind of standing up to the evil and exercising the prophetic ministry that one would have expected from the church, and that has been very distressing."
There are growing tensions within the worldwide Anglican communion - pitching liberals against conservatives - mainly over the issue of sexuality.
But as Archbishop Tutu recognised, there are other points of contention that need to be resolved and other issues that the church, especially in Africa, needs to turn its attention to.


Friday, May 25, 2007


The Mungiki sect has a violent reputation. A Kenyan court has dropped charges against a former leader of the banned Mungiki sect for lack of evidence linking him to the gang.
A court in the capital said that police failed to prove that Maina Njenga administered oaths for the group.
Security Minister John Michuki blames the judiciary for thwarting efforts to rein in the secretive and violent sect.
Mungiki claims to have two million members and is linked to the gruesome killings and crime in central Kenya.
The group promotes female circumcision and oath taking and was banned in 2002.
I acquit Njenga and others because prosecution has failed to prove its case to sustain a conviction,? Magistrate Teresia Ngugi said in her ruling.
Mr Njenga was charged along with 28 other suspected members of the sect who were also freed. He however faces other charges of having a gun illegally.
The judiciary is letting us down on its role of containing these criminal gangs like Mungiki, Mr Michuki told reporters this week after announcing a crackdown on the gang.
Police have so far arrested more than 200 people suspected followers of the outlawed sect.
The judiciary spokesman Dola Indidis has urged the minister to desist from making statements that imply he wants to control the courts.
There are several cases involving Mungiki pending in court and commenting on them amounts to contempt,Mr Indidis said.
This week, six people were beheaded and their bodies dismembered in central Kenya by people believed to be the sect members.
Mungiki followers have been battling with public transport operators who have refused to pay protection fees to them.



Mukhtar Mai says her goal is to fight injustice with knowledge.
Pakistani gang rape victim Mukhtar Mai has resigned as head of a women's crisis centre in her village.
She told the BBC she did so because she was about to be replaced by a woman from the ruling PML-Q party.
The local administration in her village of Meerwala in Punjab province say she was nearing the end of a maximum one-year term of office.
Mukhtar Mai has become known around the world after she was raped, allegedly on the order of a village council.
The council gave the order because her brother was reported to have behaved inappropriately with a woman from another tribe.
Mukhtar Mai ignored taboos about her ordeal and fought to have her attackers convicted.
Since then she has become a champion for women's rights in Pakistan and an internationally recognised figure.
The developments at the Meerwala women's crisis centre, where she has been chairwoman, happened while she was away on a lecture and fundraising trip to the US.
She has been replaced by Umme-Kulsum Siyal, the general secretary of the local women's wing of the ruling PML-Q political party in Meerwala.

Life in Ms Mai's home village is tough.
Mukhtar Mai told the BBC that when she learned that the board of the crisis centre had met to find a replacement, she sent in her resignation as she no longer wanted anything to do with the centre.
She said that the local administration officials had done their utmost from the beginning to undermine the work being done by the centre.
She said that, because of their obstructive attitudes, the crisis centre was still not fully operational despite being launched a year ago.
She also complained that although she insisted the women's centre be run only by women, a majority of men had become involved.
The local administration, however, say that they acted by the rules of the centre.
The chairperson can only serve for a year, they say and Mukhtar Mai's term was coming to an end.
Correspondents point out that some local administration officials and some members of the federal women's affairs ministry have been opposed to Mukhtar Mai's involvement in the centre.
The women's crisis centre was originally going to be in nearby Muzaffargarh city.
But Mukhtar Mai persuaded the then Women's Affairs Minister, Nilofer Bakhtiar, to shift it to rural Meerwala, where she said it was needed more.



Madeleine has been missing for more than three weeks.

Parents' interview

Police searching for Madeleine McCann have issued a description of a man seen walking close to her apartment on the night she disappeared.
The white man, said to be 35 to 40 years old, was seen at about 9.30pm on 3 May in Praia da Luz, Portugal.
He is said to be 5ft 10in, medium build with short hair, and wearing a dark jacket, beige trousers and dark shoes.
Police told a news conference the man was "carrying a child or an object that could have been taken as a child".
Ch Insp Olegario de Sousa urged the man or anyone who had seen him to come forward.
The description of the man was given by one witness involved in the case, he said, but would not elaborate.
Mr Sousa said witnesses were interviewed on Thursday and Friday "to confirm or invalidate" certain details.
Dozens of possible sightings of four-year-old Madeleine were still being investigated, but none had so far proved positive, Mr Sousa added.
'Worst nightmare'
A spokesman for Madeleine's parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, said they were pleased that there "appeared to be a new development".
"They will be taking time to consider what the police have said before making any comment," he added.

'Nightmare' of Madeleine parents

Earlier, the McCanns told the BBC of their guilt at not being with their daughter when she was abducted.
They said they were experiencing "every parent's worst nightmare" and loved her "more than anyone could imagine".
Madeleine was abducted from her bed in the Algarve resort on 3 May as her parents ate dinner at a nearby restaurant.
The McCanns said criticism of them for leaving her was "hard to deal with", but insisted that thousands of other people would have done the same "in such a safe resort".




Sierra Leone's poems of war
By Penny Boreham BBC African Performance, Freetown.


When I die
Don't bury my poetry.
In the prison of yourShelves under your beds.
In your cockroachInfested boxes for mice
And cockroaches to dine.
Dont pluck the pages of My poetry to wrap crumbs

An important document of the tragic 10-year-long war in Sierra Leone exists and yet, until now, has had no international recognition.
It is a collection of poems produced by a group of Sierra Leonean writers who met regularly throughout the war.
They came together, wherever and whenever they could, to share their writing and also for companionship in the direst of circumstances.
One, Oumar Farouk Sesay, recalls that at the time, every individual in Sierra Leone was confronted with his or her own mortality.
"No-one escaped," he says.
"Status did not matter. I began to realise that soon we all would exit and then I began to consider what would be left behind. This is why I wrote My Will."
Dark days
The 10-year war was marked by horror difficult to comprehend.
Some of the atrocities included mass rape, brutal amputations, and the widespread use of child soldiers - many of whom were abducted and forced to commit these atrocities against their own families.


I hear your plea but now I'm losing
The spirit to forgive,
Just when it moves through me
And enters right into my thinking lobe.
I sense it fail to instruct the bits in me
Which respond to acts of love,
And keep me trying to forgive.

In the early stages of the long war, the physical fighting was one stage removed from these writers, as the capital Freetown was not affected.
But in the latter stages of the war Freetown was invaded and ransacked by the rebels.
This put the war on these writers' own doorsteps.
Dark days followed. All of the writers encountered violence.
One, Tom Cauuray, remembers being stripped naked by a group of rebels in the centre of town.
He says they were ready to kill him, accusing him of being Nigerian; the rebels had a particular hatred of the Nigerians, who made up the West African peacekeeping force, Ecomog.
Mr Cauuray describes how a group of evangelists, who happened to be passing, called on the rebels to pray and as the rebels were distracted, and some of them prayed, he escaped.
Aftermath of war
Five years after the war ended, Sierra Leoneans are trying to move on - but are still reeling from the war's dire effects.
Kosonike Kosso Thomas sums up the tension of the war's aftermath in the poem Trying To Forgive.


The bed Is workbenchwide
The room twice that
And my woman pregnant
will our child lie?

In their poetry, the writers all contemplate the way that poverty in the aftermath of war is restricting the lives of the population.

Mohammed Gibril Sesay's short poem Where Will Our Child Lie deals with this.

He says that a poem is "a rainbow," and about "controlled emotion."
"You can tell the individual has experienced pain but right now it is not overwhelming him," he adds.
"The poet is in the driving seat of his emotions."
Oumar Farouk Sesay believes that most Sierra Leonean writers feel an immense responsibility to their country, and want to use their words and their voices to tackle fundamental and ethical issues and problems in their country.
"We are the voice of the people," he says.
"We try to articulate what the illiterate in our society would like to say if they had our access to the written word."
Listen to the programme



China is launching a new class of nuclear submarines. The United States has expressed concern over China's growing military might, in a Pentagon report given to Congress.
It particularly highlights China's new Jin-class nuclear submarines and what it believes are increasingly accurate air-to-ground missiles.
These capabilities could lead to a change in China's no-first-use policy for its nuclear weapons, analysts say.
China announced in March that it was increasing its military spending by 17.8% this year.
Speaking before the report was released, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said: "We wish that there were greater transparency, that (the Chinese) would talk more about what their intentions are, what their strategies are.
''It would be nice to hear first-hand from the Chinese how they view some of these things," he added in comments reported by the Associated Press news agency.
One issue that appears to be of concern to US officials is China's development of a new fleet of nuclear-powered submarines equipped with ballistic missiles with a range of around 8,000km (5,000 miles).
Andrew Yang, chairman of the Chinese Council for Advanced Policy Studies in Taiwan, said these Jin-class vessels could carry 12 missiles, with each rocket armed with three nuclear warheads.
'Gradual build-up'
One of these Chinese-built submarines is currently undergoing tests, and five more are planned, according to Mr Yang, an expert on China's military.
Previously, China had just one nuclear-powered submarine, which had been so unreliable it rarely travelled far from its base, Mr Yang said.
He added: "The Americans are concerned about whether a gradual build-up of nuclear forces implies China will change its nuclear policy of no first use."
The report adds that training focusing on no-notice, long-range air strikes could "indicate planning for pre-emptive military options in advance of regional crises".
Also highlighted in the 2007 Department of Defense Report to Congress on the "Military Power of the People's Republic of China" was a space test carried out by China in January.
It destroyed a defunct weather satellite with a missile fired from Sichuan province.
"The test put at risk the assets of all space-faring nations and posed dangers to human space flight due to the unprecedented amount of debris," AP quoted the report as saying.
International pressure
Over the last decade, China has embarked on a programme to upgrade its military capabilities.
It plans to allocate 350.9bn yuan ($45.9bn) to its military this year, although many analysts believe it spends two or three times more than this.
China has also come under increasing pressure from the US, Japan and others to be more open about what it is spending its money on.
But despite the US concern, there are those who believe the US is exaggerating China's military threat in order to make a stronger case for an upgrade of US military capabilities.
This was the main finding of a report published last November by the Federation of American Scientists and the US-based Natural Resources Defense Council.
"The Pentagon has been sounding the alarm about China's nuclear intentions for a long time, but our analysis shows that they are overstating the threat," said Robert S Norris, an NRDC nuclear analyst and co-author of the report.



Huge Moroccan terror trial starts
By Richard Hamilton BBC News, Rabat.

Authorities in Morocco are on high alert after recent suicide bombings. One of Morocco's biggest terror trials has started in the city of Sale.
Fifty defendants belonging to a group called Ansar al-Mehdi are accused of plotting attacks on politicians, diplomats and tourists.
The trial has been adjourned three times over several months. The defendants deny the charges.
The prosecution says the plot, if carried out, would have eclipsed the 2003 suicide bombings in Casablanca, in which 45 people died.
High alert
The judge read out the charges separately to each of the 50 defendants.
He said they were accused of participating in a terrorist plot, being members of an illegal organisation and holding an unauthorised meeting.
The security services have alleged that Ansar al-Mehdi was planning to kidnap Moroccan government ministers, attack the United States embassy in Rabat and target tourists.
The wives of two pilots with the national airline Royal Air Maroc are among the accused, some of whom have alleged they were tortured.
The authorities in Morocco are on high alert after five suicide bombers blew themselves up in Casablanca last month.



Judith Melby, an Africa specialist with aid agency Christian Aid, says that Zimbabwe's economic and political crisis has also led to a moral decline.
Many workers are unable to afford to get buses to work"How do you tell your children it is important to get an education when jobs - if you are lucky enough to get one - have worthless salaries," asks one Zimbabwean mother.
"They know that a quick deal on the black market can give them the same amount as a month's salary."
Like many people in Zimbabwe, she did not wish to be identified.
Students milling about in the sunshine at the University of Zimbabwe don't have much faith in degrees either.
Tuition fees increase every term and students find it impossible to pay even for notebooks, much less books.
You have to go on the black market in order to pay for all this.
"It is so hypocritical," said one young student.
"All those people in power received free education under [former white minority leader] Ian Smith or from the missionaries. They don't care that we can't afford the education; also all the good teachers have left. Is it any surprise we look for other ways to get money?"
Worthless currency
The government has warned there will be wheat shortages in the coming months because farmers have only planted 10% of the required winter wheat crop.
Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation of 3,700% is destroying the economy.
We have lived in a society for a long time now that has tended to reward political criminals -Jonah Gokovah, Christian Alliance.
Unemployment is already more than 80%, while average incomes are less than $1 a day and life expectancy is just 36 years.
The official rate for $1 is 250 Zimbabwe dollars but on the black market $1 can net you more than 40,000 Zimbabwe dollars.
That's fine if you can get your hands on foreign exchange, but what happens if you can't?
"I earn 200,000 [Zimbabwe] dollars a month," said a security guard.
"But cooking oil costs 90,000 and I still haven't paid for food, rent, clothes, school fees and transport to work. How am I supposed to live?"
The worthless currency is also one of the reasons people are fleeing the country; by some estimates up to one-third of Zimbabweans now live abroad.
"It is impossible to find farm workers," complains a farmer outside Bulawayo in the south of the country.
"They prefer to chance their luck in South Africa where at least the money is worth something. Even if it is dangerous crossing the border and they risk being deported back home."
'Divided society'
The Christian Alliance is an organisation, supported by Christian Aid, which is seeking to find a peaceful transition to democracy.
It wants to participate in the mediation efforts by South African President Thabo Mbeki.

Those without jobs, or family support, have few other options. In March, the governments in southern Africa entrusted him with the job of opening a dialogue between the government and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
But the alliance sees the restoration of traditional values as just as important as the reform of government institutions.
"We are a very divided society," said Christian Alliance coordinator Jonah Gokovah.
"As a result we have become very suspicious of each other. People are finding all kinds of ways of surviving and that is turning a large number of our people into criminals."
This struggle for survival corrupts everyone.
The security services have infiltrated opposition groups and informing on others is common.
"We have lived in a society for a long time now that has tended to reward political criminals," Mr Gokova said.
"Those who engage in violence need to be punished openly and those who are seeking to promote peaceful coexistence need to be rewarded for those actions."
The director of an aid agency, who also did not want to be identified, said she felt she was ridiculed when she travelled abroad.
"They think that if you are still in Zimbabwe you must be stupid; they say anyone intelligent would have left long ago."
And she worries any change may come too late for a return to the Zimbabwe she knew when she was a child, a Zimbabwe that cherished and rewarded education and hard work.
"The warmth of the people's hearts is slipping away."



South Africa's unions want the government to ease poverty. Tens of thousands of South African workers are marching through cities across the country to demand pay rises.
Unions say 30,000 people have taken to the streets in the town of Nelspruit alone, although there is no independent confirmation of this figure.
The unions want a 12% increase for all public sector workers, while the government has offered 6% to everyone, with more for teachers and nurses.
The unions are threatening to call a general strike next Friday, 1 June.
The government has said it is ready to hold further talks on Monday.
Police say 12,000 workers gathered outside parliament in Cape Town.
"This is notice of very serious and militant actions by the workers of our country - unless government moves... there will be problems," said Willie Madisha, president of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), which has more than 1m members.
"We are not baboons, we cannot be given peanuts."
Cosatu spokesman Patrick Craven said the government claimed South Africa's economy was booming and tax receipts were rising, so it could afford a pay rise of more than 6%.
I don't think the message has got out to grass-roots teachers -Kenny Govender, Government negotiator.

How the unions fell out with the ANC

South Africa's inflation rate has risen to 5.5%.
"The [ruling party] ANC seems to have lost touch with the people they represented through the anti-apartheid years," he told the BBC.
"Lots of well qualified people like teachers and nurses are leaving the country, yet the government still refuses to improve their pay and conditions."
Chief government negotiator Kenny Govender told the BBC that the government's offer included pay rises of 15-40% for teachers and nurses.
But he said if all public sector workers were given a 12% rise, there would be less for teachers and nurses.
"I don't think the message has got out to grass-roots teachers," he said.
Cosatu is officially part of a governing alliance but the unions have become increasingly critical of the government, which they accuse of not doing enough to relieve poverty.


Thursday, May 24, 2007


The violence in Nigeria has shut down a fifth of its oil production. Staff at Nigeria's state oil company have started an indefinite strike over welfare benefits and in protest at the privatisation of a major oil refinery.
Deliveries to Nigeria's four refineries have been halted by striking workers, with a long queue of tankers outside.
A BBC reporter in the oil capital, Port Harcourt says the strike is remarkably effective.
A trade union spokesman said talks with the government to try to resolve the dispute were due to be held later.
Recent attacks on Nigeria's oil facilities and the threat of this strike are factors in the latest oil price rises.
Peter Akpatason, president of the junior oil workers' union Nupeng said that if their demands are not met soon, they would also stop work in oil production facilities.
"We will wait for two or three days and see what happens. If we don't get the desired results, we will then extend it to the upstream sector where the impact will be immediate," he said, according to Reuters news agency.
The oil workers' strike comes just days before the scheduled inauguration of Umaru Yar'Adua as president of Africa's most populous nation.
Similar strikes have led to widespread fuel shortages - including aviation fuel - in the past in Africa's biggest oil producing country.
A separate two-day strike by all unions is planned to coincide with Mr Yar'Adua's inauguration next Tuesday.
Nigeria's Bureau of Public Enterprises last week sold the Port Harcourt Refinery to two prominent businessmen as part of its privatisation exercise, an action that has not gone down well with the company's employees, who fear possible job losses.
Oil workers have recently lost some of their allowances, as the government decided that all state workers should enjoy the same benefits.



South Africa is struggling to cope with the Aids pandemic. A critical shortage of doctors and nurses means people are dying unnecessarily from HIV/Aids in southern Africa, according to a report.
In some areas, drugs are available but there is nobody to administer them, the Medecins sans Frontieres report says.
A BBC correspondent says this is a reality check for those who thought the fight against HIV/Aids was simply a matter of more anti-retroviral drugs.
MSF criticises donors who fund new health clinics but not nurses' wages.
MSF praises efforts to roll out ARVs and build health clinics, but its head of mission in South Africa, Eric Goemaere, says that is only half the solution.
"We see across Africa too many empty clinics - empty because at the end of the day there is no real treatment available there, so patients, people, prefer to stay at home and die there."
'No choice'
The BBC's Peter Greste in South Africa says doctors and nurses are underpaid, overworked and disillusioned, and they are leaving in droves.
In 2005, for example, 44 nurses graduated in Malawi while 86 left the country.
The solution, says Dr Goemaere, is to improve working conditions and give nurses the power to prescribe drugs - something that until now has been the exclusive responsibility of doctors.
"Of course, you take risk in using nurses to do what in the UK would be only an issue not even from a medical practitioner but a specialist," he said.
"In this case, we have no choice."
The World Health Organization's minimum standard is 20 doctors for every 100,000 patients.
Lesotho has five, Malawi has two and Mozambique has 2.6, MSF says.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Analysis: Lebanon's new flashpoint
By Roger Hardy BBC Middle East analyst.

Thousands of Palestinians have been fleeing the refugee camp. This week's heavy fighting between the Lebanese army and a shadowy radical Islamist group is adding a new flashpoint to a region in crisis.
Fatah al-Islam - a small group said to number no more than a few hundred fighters - might not sound like a serious threat to the Middle East. But the nature and timing of the challenge posed by the group mean it is more than just a Lebanese problem.
To be sure, the origins of the three days of fighting seem to have been local.
Four gunmen of Fatah al-Islam robbed a bank near the northern city of Tripoli and made off with $125,000 ($63,000). The next day, when the Lebanese security forces tried to arrest the suspects, they were met with a hail of bullets from the Tripoli apartment where they had sought refuge.
From there the fighting spread to the nearby Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared which the group had made its base.
'Syria's hand'
Fatah al-Islam, small though it is, has shown it can cause serious trouble for the weak and beleaguered Lebanese government of Fouad Siniora.


Split from Palestinian group Fatah al-Intifada in late 2006
Believed to have 150-200 armed men, based in Nahr al-Bared camp
Denies al-Qaeda links but says it endorses its ideas
Has links with Syrian intelligence, Lebanon says
Leader is Shaker al-Abssi

Profile: Fatah al-Islam

No sooner had last summer's war between Israel and Hezbollah ended, Lebanon was plunged into political turmoil.
A powerful Syrian-backed opposition movement threw down a direct challenge to the legitimacy of Mr Siniora's anti-Syrian, Western-backed government.
The government regards Fatah al-Islam as an instrument of Syrian intelligence. It believes the timing of the current crisis is linked to efforts to set up an international tribunal into the killing in 2005 of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Syria denies involvement in the assassination, but its critics suspect it is trying to destabilise Lebanon in order to block the creation of the tribunal.
In the murky, complex world of Lebanese politics, Syrian manipulation of Fatah al-Islam cannot be ruled out.
Al-Qaeda links
But equally plausible - and no less worrying from a Lebanese point of view - is that the group is following a radical Islamist, rather than a Syrian, agenda.
Over recent years, Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon have been infiltrated by small groups of the al-Qaeda type. This has eroded the authority of the main Palestinian faction Fatah, which has traditionally run the camps and acted as a bridge between the refugees and the Lebanese authorities.
The militant groups, though small, are well funded and highly motivated. They reject the old-style nationalism of Fatah and identify with the new global jihad of al-Qaeda. They have ties to radical networks inside and outside the Middle East.
The leader of Fatah al-Islam, Shaker al-Abssi, had reported links with Abu Musab Zarqawi, who led al-Qaeda in Iraq until he was killed last year. Another member of the group seems to have been involved in attempted train bombings in Germany last year.
The implications for Lebanon are grim. It may have joined the list of failed or failing states which provide ideal terrain for the new global jihadists.



Kenyan smokers flock to toilets
By Noel Mwakugu BBC News website, Nairobi.

Several arrests have been made since the ban came into force. Public toilets and the bathrooms in restaurants have never been so popular in Nakuru, Kenya's fourth largest town as they are today.
At lunchtime most cubicles are jam packed and on occasions people have to queue to access them, but most though are there for the wrong reason - smoking.
Since the council authorities passed a by-law banning smoking in public places, the toilets have become an "acceptable" safe haven for cigarette consumers.
Lighting up a cigarette on the streets of the town - famous for its generous population of flamingos on the nearby lake - can land you in jail or lead to a fine of up to $140.
"The threat is real, several people have been arrested here at the bus terminus this week for just lighting up a cigarette and I have to take precautions," said Mike Gaithuma, one of the residents now using public toilets as a smoking venue.
Mr Gaithuma is however unhappy that the new by-law was passed without wide consultations and now wants its implementation put on hold.
"We may be a few smokers but it is only fair that the council designates areas where we can smoke freely before introducing such a law," Mr Gaithuma said.
Last year, the High Court suspended a controversial ban on smoking in public places across Kenya by the Ministry of Health.
Health Minister Charity Ngilu who issued the directive said it was aimed at reducing the number of tobacco-related deaths.
Anyone found smoking in offices, bus stations, airports and sports venues would be fined $700 (£375) or face six months in jail, according to the suspended law.
Nakuru Municipal Council however argues that it is within their right to implement a by-law that bans smoking in public.
"We received lot of complaints from people about smoking at social places and they called on us to put in place regulation that will address their concerns," Simon Kiarie, the Director of Environment at the council told the BBC News website.
Mr Kiarie said the by-law which came to effect in April this year, will target offenders at markets, bus stations, cinema halls and within public offices.
"We hope that people will co-operate with the council so that we avoid unnecessary conflict," Mr Kiarie said.
Plans are under way to involve stakeholders who include cigarette manufacturers and hotel industry players who will be required to provide secluded places.
We received lot of complaints from people -Simon Kiarie.
But residents in Nakuru are divided on plans to provide the special areas within the town.
"I think our taxes should not be wasted to erect these areas, most smokers do not respect the rights of other people, and they should just smoke in their homes" Alice Karimi an expectant mother said.
But Cyrus Maina, tout at the main bus station says that it only fair that the smokers were also allowed to exercise their freedom but in an orderly manner.
"I used to smoke but stopped after I developed health problems. However it is an individual's choice to smoke, it is only fair that special areas are provided for them" Mr Maina said.
Hawkers within the central business district report that cigarette sales have reduced since the by-law came to effect.
"I used to sell at least 10 packets of cigarettes in a day but in the past two weeks I hardly sell three packets. Something should be done otherwise we will suffer due to loss of income," said George Juma, who runs a kiosk on Nakuru's Kenyatta Avenue.
Mr Juma says many people are afraid of buying cigarettes since they are convinced that it is now illegal.
But the by-law is not aimed at totally banning smoking, according to Mr Kiarie, the council's director of environment.
British American Tobacco Company (BAT), the largest cigarette manufacturer in Kenya, says it is watching the developments in Nakuru.
BAT's communications manager Maureen Sande said since Kenya is in the process of reviewing tobacco regulations, the company does not wish to react to the move taken by Nakuru Municipal council.



Thousands of people's homes and livelihoods were destroyed. The forcible eviction of 700,000 people from slums in Zimbabwe in 2005 was "a crime against humanity", according to independent legal opinion.
The human rights groups that sought the legal advice, say the issue could now be referred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Zimbabwe's government called Operation Murambatsvina an urban clean-up campaign to remove illegal structures.
But the United Nations condemned the demolitions of shops and homes.
The Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions and another group, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, sought independent legal opinion.
This concluded that the evictions in Zimbabwe were a widespread and systematic attack against a civilian population, as part of state policy.
"What happened in Zimbabwe was akin in magnitude to the Asian tsunami," Zimbabwean human rights lawyer Alec Muchadehma told reporters in The Hague.
The finding is that Operation Murambatsvina was a crime against humanity, and the UN Security Council therefore has authority to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court.
"We believe it is now time for the Security Council to take up this issue and we are calling on all 15 members ... to put it on the agenda and officially debate it," said Malcolm Langford, of the Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions.
The programme to build new homes to replace those demolished has faltered, says Amnesty International in its 2007 annual report.
"By May (2006) one year after the programmes launch, only 3,325 houses have been built, compared to 92,460 housing structures destroyed in Operation Murambatsvina," it said.
In recent years, millions of Zimbabweans have left the country as it grapples with runaway inflation, high unemployment and food shortages.