Monday, June 30, 2008


A Chinese businessman has won the right to have lunch with Warren Buffett after bidding $2.1m (£1m) for the privilege of dining with the legendary investor.
The proceeds of the lunch at the Smith and Wollensky steakhouse in New York will go to a non-profit foundation which fights poverty and homelessness.
Zhao Danyang topped the bids after an auction on the eBay website.
Mr Buffett has raised $4m in charitable donations by selling annual dinner invitations since 2000.
Mr Buffett's appeal shows no sign of waning since this year's successful bid is more than three times as high as the $650,100 sum paid by Mohnish Pabrai last year.
Known as the Sage of Omaha for his shrewd business acumen and ability to spot winning investment opportunities, Mr Buffett is one of the world's richest men.
Investors travel thousands of miles to attend the annual meeting of his Berkshire Hathaway company, where Mr Buffett holds forth on his investment philosophy and market trends.
Mr Buffett recently emerged as a key figure in the planned merger of iconic US businesses Mars and Wrigley and will take a stake in the business after the deal is completed.
He has agreed to leave the bulk of his fortune to the charitable foundation set up by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda.



South African writer Heidi Holland is one of the last non-Zimbabwean journalists to have interviewed Robert Mugabe. She spent two hours with him last December after pursuing the Zimbabwean president for months. This is her description of that encounter.

While I waited outside Robert Mugabe's office in the foyer of State House, his spokesman hissed at me to get to my feet.
Jumping up, I followed the frozen gaze of a dozen officials who stood to attention suddenly.
Behind my chair, Zimbabwe's president had appeared in a doorway, motionless and staring straight at me.
I smiled but he stared passively back. His eyes never left my face.
I felt he was trying to get the measure of me. I had heard from his niece how he used silence as a weapon to unnerve his enemies and ensure that nobody knew what he was thinking.
Once facing Mr Mugabe across his big desk, he apologised for keeping me waiting in a Harare hotel for five weeks.
His face remained expressionless, which is presumably why, having neither frown nor laughter lines, he looks so much younger than his 84 years.
As one of the world's most reviled leaders continued to study his visitor silently, I realised Mr Mugabe was almost as wary of me as I was of him. The six officials in attendance did not move a muscle.
The tension in the room remained suffocating until I was invited by his spokesman to describe the book I was writing.
Mr Mugabe laughed uproariously when I related an anecdote from my interview with Lady Mary Soames, widow of Britain's last governor in Rhodesia.
She told me how her English friends had urged her to send a disapproving letter to Mr Mugabe, with whom she once socialised, and how she explained to them that, having taken Zimbabwe's president off her Christmas card list, she could do no more.
Lonely child
Earlier, I had spotted a massive banner inside the presidency on which the words 'Mugabe is right' were emblazoned.
His staff's obsequious laughter each time he made a sarcastic remark confirmed that their conditions of service included internalising the idea that he can do no wrong.
Mr Mugabe admitted having no lifelong friends and, as a lonely, bookish child, he recalled "talking to myself, reciting little poems and reading things aloud to myself."
Tears gleamed in his eyes when he recalled the cordial relations he once enjoyed with Britain's Royal Family.
He talked a lot about his "sacrifice and suffering", words reminiscent of the Christian concepts he imbibed as a child in a Catholic mission school.
He told me that his granny was regarded as a heathen, explaining that he could only visit her when the European priests allowed it.
One of them became a surrogate parent after his own father abandoned the family.
I first met Mr Mugabe in 1975, shortly before he crossed the border from what was then Rhodesia into Mozambique to wage war against white minority rule.
He came to dinner at my house, not to meet me but to talk to a constitutional expert, who was my friend.
He was quiet and pleasant, though he became agitated when his lift did not arrive and he thought he would miss his train at 2100.
Seeing my friend could not drive, I decided to take Mr Mugabe to the station myself, leaving my baby at home alone.
Driving fast and in a panic, I told him that I had left my son unattended.
The next day, he phoned from a public call box to thank me for dinner and to ask if my baby was okay.
In contrast to his vitriolic public speeches, underneath there is a shy, softly-spoken man.
When I met him again last year, he remained the same, albeit more severe and distilled.
Bubble of denial
When discussing his infamous land grab, he referred pointedly to the country's dispossessed land owners as "British farmers" and made it clear that he held Britain responsible for the bloody 15-year-long war with his predecessor Ian Smith.
Mr Mugabe is obsessed with his sense of betrayal by the British. "It was the British who spoilt things for the whites," he told me.
On his reasoning behind the land invasions, he said: "We had hoped that the British would take notice of it and that they would say: 'Let's meet and discuss this'"
It became clear that Mr Mugabe has arranged himself in a bubble of denial to avoid facing what he has done in Zimbabwe.
When I suggested that his policies had caused the economy to collapse, he sat up straight, his eyes flashing.
"Our economy is a hundred times better, than the average African economy. Outside South Africa, what country is [as good as] Zimbabwe?...What is lacking now are goods on the shelves - that is all."
It seemed to me that Mr Mugabe was showing he was completely out of touch with reality.
Heidi Holland is the author of Dinner with Mugabe



African Union (AU) leaders have begun a summit in Egypt that looks set to be overshadowed by the crisis in Zimbabwe.
President Robert Mugabe entered the hall in Sharm el-Sheikh with the Egyptian and Tanzanian leaders.
Mr Mugabe, 84, was sworn in on Sunday after his election victory but observers said pre-poll violence had undermined the vote's credibility.
There have been calls for the AU not to recognise Mr Mugabe, but it may urge talks with the opposition instead.
Mr Mugabe claimed a landslide victory as the sole candidate after the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Morgan Tsvangirai, withdrew.
Draft resolution
The two-day AU meeting was declared open by the current chairman, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, who introduced host President Hosni Mubarak for the first speech.
It will be none of this summit's business to choose the titles for leaders
Bernard Membe,Tanzanian Foreign Minister

After other opening speeches, the 53-nation bloc will begin closed-door talks, with Zimbabwe expected to be high on the agenda.
The AU has a rule not to accept leaders who have not been democratically elected - but observers say it is unlikely to take such strong action against Mr Mugabe so quickly.
"It will be none of this summit's business to choose the titles for leaders, it is the business of this summit to see what we are going to do for the suffering people and masses in Africa," Tanzanian Foreign Minister Bernard Membe said at a media briefing, when asked if he would address Mr Mugabe as president.
A draft resolution written by African foreign ministers during talks ahead of the summit did not criticise the elections or Mr Mugabe, but condemned violence in general terms and called for dialogue.
Independent observers have criticised the poll.
The head of a 400-person observer mission from the Southern African Development Community (Sadc), Angolan Sports Minister Jose Marcos Barrica, was quoted as saying: "The pre-election phase was characterised by politically-motivated violence, intimidation and displacements."
Another observer team, from the Pan-African Parliament, has called for fresh elections to be held, saying the vote was not free or fair.
African leaders are expected to urge Mr Mugabe to enter into talks with Mr Tsvangirai, and engage in some sort of power-sharing agreement.
South African President Thabo Mbeki, the regionally-appointed mediator for Zimbabwe, has called for a negotiated solution.
On Monday, the MDC called for an additional mediator to be appointed to work alongside Mr Mbeki.
On the eve of the summit, Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa was rushed to hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh suffering chest pains.
Mr Mwanawasa, who is said to be in a stable condition, has taken a tough line against Mr Mugabe's regime, calling the election undemocratic.
Mr Mugabe was sworn in during a quickly convened ceremony on Sunday, about an hour after the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission announced the results of the presidential election run-off.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew from Zimbabwe's election
The commission said Mr Mugabe won 85.5% of the vote, but many ballots were spoiled.
In a speech that followed the swearing-in ceremony, Mr Mugabe said he was committed to talks with the opposition to find a solution to the political crisis.
However, BBC Southern Africa correspondent Peter Biles says the opposition may reject any notion of a government of national unity in which Mr Mugabe is still in a key position.
The MDC said some 86 of its supporters were killed and 200,000 forced from their homes by militias loyal to the ruling Zanu-PF party in the weeks preceding the run-off.
The government has blamed the MDC for the violence.
Mr Mugabe has been in power since Zimbabwe gained independence from Britain in 1980.


Sunday, June 29, 2008

Cathy Buckle's Weekly Letter From Zimbabwe !


Sunday 29th June 2008

Dear Family and Friends,

We woke to the sound of shouting on the 27th of June as four young men, wearing Zanu pf scarves, stretched out across the width of the road and roused the neighbourhood. It was ten past six in the morning, the sun was hardly up and a cold sheet of frost lay across gardens and along roadsides. "Hey, hurry up, hurry up," the Zanu PF youths shouted; "time for voting! Let's go, let's go to vote," they yelled.

The arrogant calls were met with silence. Even in urban Zimbabwe people are deeply traumatized by the events of the past few weeks and so we stay behind closed doors. The progress of the four men could be tracked by the barking of dogs and the thought that just four young men could intimidate hundreds is a chilling reality.

The 27th of June will be remembered as a dark day in our history. How will we explain to our grandchildren that in the depth of Zimbabwe's crisis there was a Presidential election in which only one candidate was contesting? As he prepared to step into his official limousine after casting his vote for the only contesting Presidential candidate, Mr Mugabe smiled for the cameras."How are you feeling Mr President?" someone asked."Fit, very fit," he replied. "And very optimistic." Optimistic? Of winning an election without an opponent? Walking round my home town the morning after the election, there was a sombre and dejected feeling in the streets. There was no excitement or expectation and no point talking about results. With only one candidate the outcome was obvious.

One man held up his red stained finger to show that he'd voted - under protest but for his own safety. With dry sarcasm he said he'd spoiled his paper: he said he loved both candidates equally and so he'd given them both an X ! Moments later he shook his head sadly and said: "so many people will die now - there is already such hunger everywhere. Now it will be worse."

Another man lifted his red finger but said angrily: "For What?" His daughter had been told to bring 'top -up' school fees of one hundred billion dollars when schools re-opened after the elections. This amount is five times the man's monthly salary. It is his daughter's O Level year so he said he would sell yet more of his possessions to raise the money - in order to give his daughter a future.

Two young men stood on the roadside desperately trying to flag down a lift for their friend who had just come out of hospital after a severe asthma attack. Because there is virtually no public transport anymore a group of friends had clubbed together and raised the 90 billion dollars needed for a private car. 90 billion dollars to travel one way - less than ten kilometres to the hospital to save their friend's life. As the youngsters moved on, one said:" We cry for our fair country."

It took five weeks to count the votes cast in the March 29th election. It took just forty four hours to count the votes of the June 27th ballot. The results have been officially stated as follows: Robert Mugabe: 2,150,269 votes Morgan Tsvangirai : 233,000 votes Spoilt papers 131,481.At 4.17 pm on the 29th June 2008, 84 year old Mr Mugabe was declared the duly elected President of Zimbabwe.

Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy.



The lawsuits say a ban on handguns violates the Second Amendment.
A powerful pro-gun lobby group in the United States has filed legal challenges to handgun bans in San Francisco and Chicago.
The lawsuits come a day after the US Supreme Court ruled that a ban on the private possession of handguns in Washington DC was unconstitutional.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) says it wants similar bans in other states and cities overturned as well.
San Francisco's mayor says he plans to fight the NRA challenge.
The NRA lawsuit in San Francisco challenges the city's handgun ban in public housing; while in Chicago it challenges a ruling that makes it illegal to possess or sell handguns in the city.
"In Washington DC, or in any state, whether you live in the housing projects or a high end suburb, you have the right to defend yourself and your family at home," said Chris Cox, from the NRA.
"These laws all deny that right."

The NRA is joined in the San Francisco suit by a gay man living in a government-owned housing development who says he needs a gun to protect himself from potential hate crimes.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said the city would "vigorously fight the NRA" and said the ban was good for public safety.
"Is there anyone out there who really believes that we need more guns in public housing? I can't for the life of me sit back and roll over on this. We will absolutely defend the rights of the housing authority," Mr Newsom said.
The Supreme Court's ruling says that the constitution "protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defence within the home".
The ruling enshrines for the first time the individual right to own guns and limits efforts to reduce their role in American life.
"The Supreme Court's decision was very encouraging, but it is just a start," NRA lawyer C D Michel said.



Angry crowds have attacked government buildings in south-west China in protest at the death of a teenage girl.
Reports said several thousand people took part in the riots, setting fire to police stations and cars in Wengan county in the province of Guizhou.
Local residents were angered after a police inquiry concluded that the girl, found dead in a river earlier in June, had committed suicide.
Her family accused the son of a local official of raping and killing her.

"Local residents were very angry about the injustice exercised by local authorities," one resident, who is a local official, told Reuters news agency.
"About 10,000 people rushed to the site and totally burned down the county party office building, and burned other offices in the county government.
"They also burned about 20 vehicles, including police cars," the official said.
AFP news agency said riots had erupted on Saturday when the girl's uncle was pronounced dead in hospital after seeking justice for his niece.
It quoted locals saying he had been badly beaten - it is not clear by whom.
Chinese news reports said provincial leaders had gone to the area to deal with the unrest.
Xinhua news agency said order began to return after crowds dispersed early on Sunday morning local time.



The case has sparked a debate in Sweden about civil liberties.
An eight-year-old boy has sparked an unlikely outcry in Sweden after failing to invite two of his classmates to his birthday party.
The boy's school says he has violated the children's rights and has complained to the Swedish Parliament.
The school, in Lund, southern Sweden, argues that if invitations are handed out on school premises then it must ensure there is no discrimination.
The boy's father has lodged a complaint with the parliamentary ombudsman.
He says the two children were left out because one did not invite his son to his own party and he had fallen out with the other one.
The boy handed out his birthday invitations during class-time and when the teacher spotted that two children had not received one the invitations were confiscated.
"My son has taken it pretty hard," the boy's father told the newspaper Sydsvenskan.
"No one has the right to confiscate someone's property in this way, it's like taking someone's post," he added.
A verdict on the matter is likely to be reached in September, in time for the next school year.



US presidential rivals Barack Obama and John McCain have clashed over their commitment to immigration reform.
Addressing a conference of Hispanic officials in Washington, Mr McCain, the Republican candidate, said the US must secure its borders.
Mr Obama, the Democratic Party candidate, said he admired Mr McCain's attempt last year to get an immigration reform bill approved by Congress.
But he said that Mr McCain had since walked away from that commitment.
Mr McCain was one of the few Republican senators to back President Bush's comprehensive immigration plan which contained an amnesty for some illegal immigrants.

Speaking before some 700 Hispanics attending the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials conference Mr McCain paid his respects to Hispanic-Americans.
"I know this country... would be the poorer were we deprived of the patriotism, industry and decency of those millions of Americans whose families came here from Mexico, Central and South America," he said.
He added that his primary focus regarding immigration reform was to secure the United States border with Mexico.
"We will not succeed in the Congress of the United States until we convince a majority of the American people that we have border security," he said.
"But that does not have to be done in an inhumane or cruel fashion," he added.
Mr McCain's speech was disrupted several times by hecklers from an anti-war group.
'Nation of immigrants'
Appearing later before the same audience, Mr Obama accused Mr McCain of walking away from comprehensive immigration reform.
"When he was running for his party's nomination, he walked away from that commitment. He said he wouldn't even support his own legislation if it came up for a vote," Mr Obama said.
"If we are going to solve the challenges we face, we can't vacillate, we can't shift depending on our politics."
"We must assert our values and reconcile our principles as a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws. That is a priority I will pursue from my very first day," he added.
Mr McCain's campaign team later issued a statement saying Mr Obama had worked to defeat last year's reform attempt by voting for amendments that the bill's Democratic sponsors opposed.
Hispanic votes are concentrated in several key states, including Florida, Arizona, Nevada and Colorado.
In 2004, President Bush won about 40% of the Hispanic vote, a Republican record. But recent elections have shown that the Hispanic vote has returned to its Democratic leanings.


Saturday, June 28, 2008


Zimbabwe's opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has pulled out of Friday's presidential election run-off, saying he does not want to risk more of his supporters losing their lives.
The first round in March was relatively peaceful but the mood has changed since then. Mr Tsvangirai gained more votes than Mr Mugabe, and the opposition says its supporters have subsequently been targeted, assaulted and killed in a bid to ensure the president remains in power.
Why did Tsvangirai pull out?
Firstly to save the lives of his supporters.
Mr Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says that more than 80 of its supporters have been killed and 200,000 displaced in a state-sponsored campaign of violence designed to prevent it repeating its first-round victory.
He fears that the violence would only increase in the final days of the campaign.
Secondly, he says he does not want to be part of an illegitimate process.
Mr Mugabe has said "only God" can remove him, so what is the point of going through the motions?
So what happens next?
Mr Mugabe and the authorities insist that the election is still going ahead as normal.
The head of the electoral commission said Mr Tsvangirai withdrew too late to cancel the elections.
There have been reports of people being forced to vote - to try and make turnout as high as possible.
Mr Mugabe will no doubt proclaim victory and try to carry on as normal.
But Mr Tsvangirai will be hoping that the international community, in particular Zimbabwe's neighbours, will increase pressure on Mr Mugabe to step down, or at least form a government of national unity.
South Africa and China are the countries with the most influence, by helping to keep Zimbabwe's moribund economy afloat.
South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki has been trying to mediate in the political crisis but has so far refused to criticise Mr Mugabe in public.
Some other African leaders have, however, started to break ranks, showing that Mr Mugabe's claims to be fighting for African nationalism against colonialism may be wearing thin.
He may have to take notice if Africa's regional institutions, such as the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) and the African Union (AU), refused to accept him as Zimbabwe's leader.
But he has ignored calls from Sadc leaders to postpone the run-off, after their observers witnessed the violence first-hand.
Would the run-off have been free and fair?
It didn't look like it.
There are numerous, credible reports that opposition activists have been assaulted and some killed by ruling party militants.
Mr Tsvangirai says MDC structures have been systematically targeted in some parts of the country - starting in rural areas which have switched away from Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party and then coming to Harare.
The MDC says the results of the first-round were deliberately delayed for several weeks to give ruling party militants time to carry out these attacks.
By the end, he says he was denied access to three-quarters of the country.
The MDC was also prevented from holding rallies, while its adverts were banned from state media, in contrast to the first round on 29 March.
Mr Tsvangirai was detained on several occasions and MDC Secretary General Tendai Biti has been charged with treason.
Election observers and officials were also targeted for beatings.
The MDC says that Zanu-PF militants were being recruited as polling agents for the run-off, to ensure Mr Mugabe would win.
Zanu-PF, however, denies this, saying Mr Tsvangirai pulled out because he would lose.
It says the scale of the violence has been exaggerated and accuses the MDC of being behind some attacks.
Who would have won the run-off?
Mr Tsvangirai gained most votes in the first round, so he started the campaign favourite.
President Mugabe has been in power in Zimbabwe since 1980, and so many Zimbabweans cannot imagine another leader.
His first round defeat damaged this aura of invincibility, and this could have led more people to vote against him.
But the difference between the two men in the first round was only 120,000 votes, according to the official results.
What happened in the first round?
The 29 March elections were the most peaceful since the MDC emerged to challenge Mr Mugabe in 1999.
Opposition candidates were able to campaign around the country, even in previously no-go areas - although this has since changed.

It is not clear if the first round results were tampered with. The MDC said Mr Tsvangirai gained 50.3% - not a massive difference from the official tally of 47.9%, but a crucial one.
Projections by independent monitors were pretty close to the official results, which show that Mr Mugabe gained 43.2%.
However, one MDC official says he has doubts about a block of 120,000 votes for Mr Mugabe, which he says were enough to prevent Mr Tsvangirai winning outright.
Before polling, MDC complained about the electoral roll, saying there were many thousands of "ghost voters".
These are the names of dead people or people who have registered from addresses where there are no buildings.
It was not possible to update the roll in time for the run-off, so the "ghost voters" could have emerged as an issue again.
What happened in the other elections?
Election officials say the long delay in publishing the results of the presidential poll was because four elections - presidential, House of Assembly, Senate and local councils - were held on the same day.

Senate results:
Zanu-PF: 30
MDC: 24
MDC breakaway: 6
Source: ZEC

In the House of Assembly, President Mugabe's Zanu-PF party lost its majority for the first time since independence in 1980, with 97 seats against the MDC's 90 in the 210-seat chamber. The smaller MDC faction won 10 seats.
In the Senate, Zanu-PF and the combined opposition have 30 seats each.
How significant is the parliamentary result?
It is significant, as it loosens the ruling party's hold on power - but the presidency is a far more powerful institution.
The president can veto any legislation passed by parliament and can rule by decree in some instances.
So, if Mr Mugabe is proclaimed the victor, he would be badly weakened but still be the most powerful figure in Zimbabwe.



North Korea has demolished the cooling tower at its Yongbyon nuclear reactor, in a symbol of its commitment to talks on ending its nuclear programme.
International television crews were invited to witness the tower being blown up.
The move comes a day after the isolated state handed over long-awaited details of its programme, but no account of the weapons many fear it has stockpiled.
In return, the US has agreed to lift some of its economic sanctions.
State media reported North Korea's Foreign Ministry had welcomed the US move on sanctions, regarding it as a "positive step".
The Yongbyon reactor was shut in July last year as part of a six-party agreement reached 16 months ago, when the North said it would scrap its nuclear ambitions in return for aid and diplomatic concessions.

It was 20m (65ft) high
In operation since March 2003
A key element of the reactor, although Yongbyon was already in the process of being decommissioned
Cooling tower is a simple piece of equipment that could easily, though not invisibly, be rebuilt.

Analysts say that while the destruction of the tower is not, in itself, a huge step forward, it is still being seen as an important gesture.
"It was a significant and very important step," said US state department official Sung Kim, who witnessed the event.
"As I saw it, it was a complete demolition."
The US has agreed to scrap sanctions under the Trading with the Enemy Act, and will begin the process of removing the state from its list of terrorist sponsors in August - but only if North Korea's nuclear declarations are verified.
"We assess this as a positive step and welcome it," a foreign ministry spokesman told the North's official Korean Central News Agency.
The reactor, 96 km (60 miles) north of Pyongyang, produced plutonium for the North's nuclear weapons test in 2006.
The BBC's world affairs correspondent said that blowing up the cooling tower meant it would take North Korea about a year to revive its plutonium production, and it would be obvious if it was doing so.
However, he added that "bigger hurdles remain" - including the critical issue of actual weapons stockpiles, as well as suspected North Korean proliferation activities - particularly the supposed Syrian connection.
South Korea said on Friday it hoped a new round of six-party talks - which also include North Korea, Japan, Russia, China and the US - could begin next month.
Meanwhile, the negotiating team has been poring over Pyongyang's 60-page declaration, submitted on Thursday.
Six months overdue, the account is expected to cover the North's plutonium production activities.
But the dossier omits any tally of its nuclear arsenal, any mention of a suspected uranium enrichment programme or claims it helped Syria build a nuclear facility, all denied by Pyongyang.
Mr Bush has emphasised moves to take the North off the US terror list would not begin for 45 days, and only if its nuclear declaration was verified.
But former US envoy to the UN John Bolton labelled the decision "shameful" and the "final collapse of Bush's foreign policy".



Reports from across the country indicated low voter turnout.
The UN Security Council has said it deeply regrets Zimbabwe's decision to go ahead with the presidential poll.
It said conditions for a free and fair election did not exist, but stopped short of saying it was illegitimate.
President Robert Mugabe is assured of victory after opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai boycotted the poll. Vote counting has started.
A top African Union diplomat said African leaders could find a credible solution to Zimbabwe's problems.
AU commission chairman Jean Ping emphasized that democracy and human rights were shared values of all the AU countries.
"We are here playing the role of guardian of these values, so when we see there has been violations of some of these shared values, it is our duty to react and call some of our members to order," he said.
Mr Ping was speaking in Egypt ahead of next week's AU summit.
Mr Mugabe is expected to attend the summit and the BBC's Peter Biles in Johannesburg says he will want to declare victory before leaving.
'Mass intimidation'
The European Union and the US earlier dismissed the vote as meaningless.
Foreign ministers for the Group of Eight nations (G8) meeting in Japan said they could not accept the legitimacy of a government "that does not reflect the will of the Zimbabwean people".

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said they would consult other members of the UN Security Council to see what "next steps" might need to be taken.
"There was a strong sentiment... that what is going on in Zimbabwe is simply unacceptable in the 21st century and it can't be ignored by the international community," she said.
The US ambassador to the UN, Zalmay Khalilzad, read out a statement by the Security Council which said members "agreed that conditions for free and fair elections did not exist and it was a matter of deep regret that the election went ahead in these circumstances."
The statement, backed by all 15 council members including South Africa, China and Russia, stopped short of declaring the election illegitimate because of South African opposition.

People will not feel safe moving about with an unmarked finger - Zimbabwean citizen.

Harare cowed for one-man poll
Election: At a glance
In pictures: Mugabe election

Mr Khalilzad added that the council would return to the issue in the coming days:
"We have already started discussions with some colleagues on a resolution that would impose appropriately focused sanctions on the regime, assuming conditions continue as they have during the last period," he said.
However, diplomats said that because of resistance from South Africa, China and Russia, any sanctions were unlikely to be imposed by the council.
At a news conference held in Harare before polls closed, Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai described the election as "an exercise in mass intimidation".
Mr Tsvangirai, who boycotted the poll because of violence, said people across Zimbabwe had been forced to take part and urged the international community to reject the vote.

Zimbabweans explain why they are voting in the election"Anyone who recognises the result of this election is denying the will of the Zimbabwean people," he said.
The MDC leader has been taking refuge at the Dutch embassy for most of the past six days.
The Zimbabwe Election Support Network, a monitoring group, reported that people had been forced to vote in most rural areas.
Fear of retribution
A Zimbabwean journalist said militias loyal to Mr Mugabe had gone door-to-door in townships outside the capital, Harare, to coerce people.
Despite the pressure, Marwick Khumalo, who heads of the Pan-African parliamentary observer mission, told the BBC that overall turnout had been low and the mood sombre.
But the state-owned Herald newspaper said there had been a huge voter turn-out in the election.
Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said that people were aiming to preserve Zimbabwe's independence.

African voices on Zimbabwe's poll crisis
In pictures

Mr Mugabe came second to Mr Tsvangirai in the first round of the presidential vote in March.
Since then, the MDC says some 86 of its supporters have been killed and 200,000 forced from their homes by militias loyal to Zanu-PF.
The government blames the MDC for the violence, but Mr Mugabe has suggested negotiations with the MDC were possible - "should we emerge victorious, which I believe we will".
Mr Tsvangirai has said negotiations would not be possible if Mr Mugabe went ahead with the run-off.


Friday, June 27, 2008


Professionals like judges have been targeted in the bitter sectarian fighting.
A leading Iraqi judge has been ambushed and shot dead by gunmen in Baghdad.
Kamil al-Showaili, head of one of the capital's two appeals courts, was driving home in the east of the city when the attack happened.
Police said masked assailants used two vehicles to block the judge's path, before opening fire and driving away.
Mr Showaili, who was in his 50s, was one of the country's most important judges, charged with handing criminal cases for eastern Baghdad.
"He was one of the best judges in Iraq," Abdul Satar al-Birqadr, a spokesman for the Iraqi Supreme Judicial Council, told Reuters news agency.
"He worked in this field for more than 20 years. It is very difficult to replace him," said Mr Birqadr, adding that the shooting was one of a series of killings of Iraqi professionals.
In January, gunmen killed Appeals Court Judge Amir Jawdat Naeib as he was driven to work in the west of the city.
Both judges were members of the Iraqi Supreme Judicial Council which supervises the judiciary and nominates senior judicial officials.
Correspondents say professional people, such as judges, lawyers, and doctors, have often been singled out for attack in bitter sectarian fighting between Shia and Sunni Arabs.
Assassinations of prominent individuals have, however, decreased in recent months as US and Iraqi forces have cracked down on insurgents and lawlessness.






Taleban supporters in parts of Pakistan are not afraid to appear in public.
Militants in Pakistan have carried out what officials have called a "public execution" of two Afghans before thousands of cheering supporters.
The pair were alleged to have helped an American missile strike that killed 14 people in a border village last month.
Correspondents say that the brazen nature of the killings - one man was decapitated and another shot - show the Taleban's growing power.
The deaths took place in the Bajaur tribal agency near the Afghan border.
Spying charges
The BBC's M Ilyas Khan says that such killings before large crowds are unusual - but not unprecedented - in the tribal areas.
An AFP correspondent who witnessed the executions said more than 5,000 people watched on open ground 10km (six miles) west of Khar, the main town in Bajaur.

The authorities have little control in much of the north-west.
Local security officials say that the two condemned men were kidnapped two days ago by the Taleban.
The AFP reporter said that the Taleban announced the spying charges against the men on megaphones.
They alleged that their spying activities led to the US missile strikes in the Damadola area of Bajaur.
The houses of two militant leaders were targeted on 14 May and 14 people were killed.
"The men's faces were covered and their hands were tied. One was slaughtered with a knife amid shouts of Allahu akbar (God is great), while the other was shot with a burst of fire from a Kalashnikov," the AFP correspondent said.
Correspondents say that after the two Afghans were killed, celebratory gunfire broke out. Two bystanders were shot dead. It is unclear whether they died from stray bullets or whether they were caught up in an argument.
Violence has escalated in north-western Pakistan in recent days, despite peace negotiations between militants and the government.
The killings came a day after US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said Pakistan's failure to put pressure on Taleban forces on the border was a "concern".



Voting has been slow in Zimbabwe's run-off presidential poll in which Robert Mugabe is the sole candidate.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew from the contest because of violence against his supporters and has urged them to stay away if possible.
The European Union dismissed the vote as a "sham" and the US and Germany say the UN will consider sanctions.
Turnout has been noticeably less than during the first round in March and concerns about violence remain.
A Zimbabwean journalist said militias loyal to Mr Mugabe were going door-to-door in townships outside the capital, Harare, forcing people to vote.

Robert Mugabe casts his vote and says he feels 'optimistic'.
An observer for the South African Development Community (Sadc) - among the few monitors permitted - said the elections "were worse than those we witnessed in Angola in 1992 after decades of war and are not credible''.
Foreign ministers for the Group of Eight nations (G8) meeting in Japan have said they could not accept the legitimacy of a government "that does not reflect the will of the Zimbabwean people".
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said they would consult other members of the UN Security Council to see what "next steps" might need to be taken.
Earlier, Mr Mugabe brushed aside calls for the election to be postponed or called off and said his Zanu-PF party would continue to rule the country as it believed it should be ruled.

People will not feel safe moving about with an unmarked finger - Zimbabwean citizen.

The BBC's John Simpson, in Zimbabwe despite a reporting ban, says he had never seen an election as frightening - where people know that if they fail to turn out to vote and do not have the ink stain to prove it, they are liable to the most ferocious retribution from Zanu-PF thugs.
He adds that if someone does summon up the courage to vote for Morgan Tsvangirai, whose name is still on the ballot, then there are fears their identity could be discovered.
State-owned newspapers said "massive voter turnout" was expected in Friday's poll but Zimbabwean journalists in Harare and Bulawayo told the BBC voting had got off to a slow start - especially compared with the high turnout in the first round.
Themba Nkosi, in Bulawayo said officials for Mr Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) had told supporters in rural areas to vote if they felt their lives were in danger - and to vote for Morgan Tsvangirai or spoil their ballot.
One-man race
A woman in Muture told the BBC's Network Africa programme she thought the result would not be legitimate.

Zimbabweans explain why they are voting in the election.
"I haven't been out and about but I have phoned a few friends and most of them say they are going to vote and exercise their democratic right," she said.
"Some people will vote out of fear because even in the urban areas because there is that ink they put on your finger when you vote and people will not feel safe moving about with an unmarked finger."
Another, in Manicaland Province, said: "I am not going to vote in a one person race.
"I will not vote for a dictator and for hunger while my brother was killed in cold blood."
Zanu-PF supporter Richard Munsaka, in Hwange, Matebeland North Province said the question of a free and fair election "depends on the eyes of the beholder".
"I'm not saying there is no violence in the east of the country... but not on a massive scale and that in itself cannot stop the whole country from going to vote just because a few individuals are kicking themselves."
A woman in Harare said: "I will be exercising my right. We as Zimbabweans need to decide the direction that we want the country to take - so we can only do that by voting."
Reports suggested Zanu-PF membership cards were selling for huge sums of money on the black market. Those buying the cards believe they will offer some protection from attack by militias, a BBC correspondent reports.
Zimbabwe's police said the MDC were planning to disrupt the elections and have warned that any criminal activity will be met "head on, and with the full force of the law".
Polling stations are due to close at 1700 GMT.
Mr Tsvangirai condemned the election as "another tragic day in our nation's history".
"My fellow Zimbabweans, we know what is in your heart. If possible, we ask you not to vote today. But if you must vote for Mr Mugabe because of threats to your life, then do so."

The MDC is contesting three by-elections that are also taking place on Friday following the deaths of three candidates - in circumstances not related to the political violence.
The MDC won the parliamentary elections - also held in March - but the presidency is a far more powerful institution.
Mr Mugabe came second to Mr Tsvangirai in the first round of the presidential vote in March.
Since then, the MDC says some 86 of its supporters have been killed and 200,000 forced from their homes by militias loyal to Zanu-PF. The government blames the MDC for the violence.
Regional leaders - including from Nigeria, the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) and the African Union - had called on Mr Mugabe to postpone the vote and negotiate with the opposition.
While Mr Mugabe said he planned to attend an African Union summit in Egypt next week, Mr Mugabe said the AU had "no right in dictating to us what we should do with our constitution, and how we should govern this country".
He has suggested negotiations with the MDC were possible - "should we emerge victorious, which I believe we will".
Mr Tsvangirai has said negotiations would not be possible if Mr Mugabe went ahead with the run-off.
He said Zimbabwe's army was preparing to force people to vote in massive numbers for Mr Mugabe.


Thursday, June 26, 2008


By Matt Frei - BBC News, Washington.

Look around the world and what you see is one nasty regime after another getting away with it.

How will the international community tackle Robert Mugabe?
The generals of Burma thumbed their nose at the global community, first by gunning down monks in the streets, then by watching their own citizens die rather than accept urgently needed aid after the cyclone.
The government of Sudan happily continues to sponsor what President George W Bush has called "genocide", and a phalanx of outrage from Hollywood to The Hague has been powerless to stop it.
Iran continues to enrich uranium - and its own coffers thanks to the soaring price of crude oil - while the Israelis are wondering whether they should put a stop to Tehran's alleged nuclear programme with a unilateral strike sanctioned by the US.

And now it is Zimbabwe's turn to proffer two fingers.
As he prances around the campaign trail in his colourful jackets, the still-sprightly 84-year-old Robert Mugabe reminds me of the Joker in Batman, laughing at a disapproving world.
His opponent Morgan Tsvangirai has been forced to hide in the Dutch embassy.
The wife of the mayor of Harare, a regime opponent, has been beaten to death.
Zimbabwe is a country of destitute, frightened billionaires
There is consistent evidence of systematic harassment and murder of anyone who dares to support the opposition.
And a ham sandwich now costs 3.8 billion Zim dollars, when we last checked.
Zimbabwe is a country of destitute, frightened billionaires. And yet there seems very little that a disapproving world can do about it.

Call it the axis of impunity. It is a club that speaks volumes about the state of the world.
There is no shortage of moral outrage about the members of this club. What is missing is the moral high ground.
When America points a justly accusing finger at Burma's generals, it no longer has the same clout as it did a decade ago.
The double standards of Guantanamo Bay are one reason.
The other is the concept of "the coalition of the willing", the phrase used by President Bush to describe a fairly reluctant bunch of fellow travellers on the regime change express.
This further eroded the weak authority of the United Nations and introduced an air of voluntary laxity into matters of global urgency.

When I put it to Jendayi Frazer, the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, that Zimbabwe might be a case for "regime-change", she almost reacted as if she had never heard the phrase.
Diplomacy has replaced the 101st Airborne Division as the administration's tool of influence.
The trouble is that it is firing blanks.
Just when you actually want Uncle Sam to throw his weight around a bit, he says he is bogged down, busy, otherwise engaged - call back later.
The UN is toothless, the EU is gormless and the US has had 'the willing' kicked out of it by Iraq and Afghanistan
Then there is good old fashioned economic self-interest.
Why would the Chinese rein in their clients in Sudan if they need to buy all the oil and copper they can get their hands on?
And what hope is there for Europe to speak with one thunderous voice when its 27 members cannot even agree on a basic common constitution?
And if you're Russia, Iran or Venezuela - the axis of crude - and you can rake in $145 for a barrel of oil, why should you be listening anyway? You're laughing all the way to the refinery.
The UN is toothless, the EU is gormless and the US has had "the willing" kicked out of it by Iraq and Afghanistan.

The emphasis now seems to be on regional bodies that most of the world barely even knew existed until recently.
Asean has tried to grapple politely with Burma.
The African Union is sending peacekeepers to Sudan.
And Zimbabwe awaits the stinging sanction of the Southern African Development Community. Take cover!
The good things about these neighbourhood watchdog schemes is that they are regional.
If his African neighbours berate him, then Robert Mugabe can no longer claim that he is being hounded by Rhodesia's former colonial masters.
Unfortunately the neighbours also need to shed their milk teeth.
Jacob Zuma, South Africa's president-in-waiting, may have called the actions of Zimbabwe's ruling party Zanu PF "unacceptable".
The President of Namibia has chimed in.
But the man who really counts - President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa - has remained mutely on the fence, apparently unwilling to ruffle the feathers of his former comrade-in-arms.
But whatever debt the ANC leadership owes Mr Mugabe from its days in opposition against apartheid, it must know that it would probably never have come to power if the international community had not imposed stringent sanctions against the Pretoria regime.
This crisis is about Zimbabwe's future and South Africa's reputation.
There is clearly more work for sanctions to do.
The British bank Barclays, for instance, opted out of business in apartheid South Africa but continues to function in Zimbabwe, which has made a mockery of human rights as well as the value of money - both of which are surely good reasons to cut ties.
The crisis in Burma, Darfur and Zimbabwe illustrate how messy the global picture has become.
We are living in an age of non-intervention, where the stage is crowded with fuming ringside observers.
It is time to get back to the drawing board.

Matt Frei is the presenter of BBC World News Americawhich airs every weekday at 0030 BST on BBC News and at 0000 BST (1900 ET / 1600 PT) on BBC World News and BBC America (for viewers outside the UK only).



China has denied politicising the Olympic Games following a rebuke by the International Olympic Committee over remarks made by an official in Tibet.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) sent a letter "regretting" remarks made during a ceremony marking the passage of the torch through Tibet.
The Communist Party boss there spoke of "smashing the separatist plot of the Dalai Lama clique".
China said it had a "solid position against politicising the Olympics".

The IOC said in its letter it "regrets that political statements were made during the closing ceremony of the Torch Relay in Tibet".
"We have written to [the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games] to remind them of the need to separate sport and politics and to ask for their support in making sure that such situations do not arise again."
The torch passed through Lhasa in Tibet last Saturday.
During his speech, Communist Party boss Zhang Qingli said: "The sky above Tibet will never change. The red five-star flag will always fly above this land.
"We can definitely smash the separatist plot of the Dalai Lama clique completely."
China's foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said he was unaware of the details of the IOC letter.
But he insisted Mr Zhang was trying to foster a "stable and harmonious environment for the Olympics".
"China's solid position is against the politicising of the Olympics," Mr Liu said.
There was a wave of violent anti-China protests in Tibet three months ago.
Although there have since been talks between Chinese officials and envoys of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, Beijing still accuses him of orchestrating the violence.
He says he wants meaningful autonomy, not independence.
Some of the international legs of the torch relay suffered violent protests over Chinese rule in Tibet.



By Nick Bryant - BBC News, Sydney

Jayant Patel faces allegations of malpractice.
In Australia, former patients of an Indian surgeon accused of manslaughter have welcomed his decision not to fight extradition from the US.
Dr Jayant Patel was arrested by FBI agents at his home in Oregon in March.
Serving as the head of surgery at a Queensland hospital between 2003 and 2005, he was linked in a government inquiry to the deaths of 17 patients.
The inquiry said these deaths were a result of alleged medical malpractice on the part of Dr Patel.
He was subsequently charged with 16 offences, including manslaughter, grievous bodily harm and negligence.
Since his arrest, Dr Patel has been detained in a high-security prison in Portland, Oregon, and was expected to wage a lengthy court battle to avoid extradition.
But in a surprise move, his legal team has filed a motion to a US court expressing his "willingness, desire, and intent" to confront the allegations.
According to the motion, he accepted that he must return to Australia to contest the allegations.
The news has been met with delight by some of his former patients, many of whom firmly believe they were adversely affected by his care.
They have fought a three-year campaign to bring him to trial in Australia, and one former patient wept with relief after learning he would be brought back to Queensland much sooner than was thought.



Detectives said they found half-naked young women on board.
An alleged mobile brothel in the US state of Florida has taken its last ride following a police sting.
Undercover detectives in Miami Beach allegedly paid a $40 entry fee to board the vehicle and found women offering sex acts and lap dances for money.
Six people, including the driver of the stretch limousine bus, were detained.
They face a range of charges, including transportation for the purpose of prostitution and conducting business without a licence.
The sleek black bus had allegedly been cruising the South Beach neighbourhood, popular among tourists and clubbers.
When they boarded on Sunday, detectives said they found a fully-stocked bar and several young women who stripped down to reveal G-strings stuffed with cash.



Nelson Mandela makes his first public remarks criticising Robert Mugabe.
Former South African leader Nelson Mandela has added his voice to the growing international condemnation of the political violence in Zimbabwe.
In his first public comments about the crisis, he noted "the tragic failure of leadership" of President Robert Mugabe.
Southern African leaders earlier called for Friday's run-off presidential vote to be postponed because conditions did not permit a free and fair election.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has urged foreign help to end the crisis.
Speaking at a dinner in London to mark his 90th birthday, Mr Mandela said:
"We watch with sadness the continuing tragedy in Darfur. Nearer to home we have seen the outbreak of violence against fellow Africans in our own country and the tragic failure of leadership in our neighbouring Zimbabwe."
Mr Mandela had held his silence until now, says the BBC's diplomatic correspondent James Robbins, to avoid undermining South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki's efforts as chief mediator on Zimbabwe.
Mr Mbeki's policy of "quiet diplomacy" has been criticised for its failure to resolve the crisis in Zimbabwe.
Nelson Mandela spoke few words but they will carry immense weight simply because of who he is, says our correspondent.
I am asking the AU [African Union] and Sadc to lead an expanded initiative supported by the UN to manage what I will call a transitional process - Morgan Tsvangirai.

Earlier on Wednesday, southern African leaders holding an emergency summit in Swaziland called for the run-off vote to be postponed.
The governments of Swaziland, Tanzania and Angola said conditions would not permit a free and fair election.
The three countries from the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) are responsible for overseeing peace and security in the region.
The leaders said they were concerned and disappointed by Morgan Tsvangirai's withdrawal on Sunday from the vote.
But they said that holding the election under the present circumstances might undermine the credibility and legitimacy of its outcome.
They also said the people of Zimbabwe deserved a "cooling-off period".
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), says some 86 of its supporters have been killed and 200,000 forced from their homes by militias loyal to the ruling Zanu-PF party. The government blames the MDC for the violence.
Mr Tsvangirai said he withdrew from the election over fears for the lives of his supporters.

President Robert Mugabe has vowed to go ahead with Friday's vote.
The government and Zimbabwe's election authority insist Friday's vote will go ahead because Mr Tsvangirai's withdrawal came too late to prevent his name appearing on the ballot paper and was therefore invalid.
Mr Mugabe officially came second to Mr Tsvangirai in the first round in March.
The governing Zanu-PF party, led by Mr Mugabe, also lost its parliamentary majority for the first time since independence in 1980.
'Sham vote'
The crisis has drawn growing international condemnation of Mr Mugabe and his government.
Britain has said it will withdraw an honorary knighthood granted to President Robert Mugabe.
Mr Mugabe is the first foreigner to be stripped of the award since Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989, the day before his execution.

Morgan Tsvangirai speaking at a news conference at his home in Harare.
US President George W Bush said Friday's vote appeared "to be a sham" because the opposition had not been able to campaign without fear of intimidation.
The US has said it will not recognise the results of the vote.
Mr Tsvangirai has appealed for the African Union and Zimbabwe's neighbouring states to intervene to resolve the situation.
"I am asking the AU [African Union] and Sadc to lead an expanded initiative supported by the UN to manage what I will call a transitional process," he said at a news conference in Harare.
Dismissing Friday's planned election as pointless, he said Zimbabwe should work out a political settlement based on genuine and honest dialogue.
Mr Mugabe has said his government was open to negotiations with "anyone" but only after the elections.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Saudi Arabia is holding 520 suspected militants following raids across the kingdom this year, its interior ministry says.
They are accused of links to what it called the "deviant group" - a term used for al-Qaeda by Saudi officials.
They said the accused were of various nationalities and had been plotting attacks in and outside Saudi Arabia.
Officials said a further 181 suspects detained in 2008 had been released because of a lack of evidence.
The militant arrest figures are thought to be the largest and most comprehensive ever released by the Saudi authorities.
The ministry said one group of suspects was detained close to an oil export terminal and major petrochemical plants in Yanbu, on the Red Sea coast.
The authorities said another alleged cell, which included Africans, was broken up in eastern Saudi Arabia after trying to gather information about oil facilities.
The oil-rich kingdom - the birthplace of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden - has been waging a crackdown on militants since a 2003 wave of attacks on foreign compounds.






By Jonathan Fildes Science and technology reporter, BBC News.

More than two million people are thought to have been affected.
Two teams of foreign aid workers dedicated to delivering emergency telecoms in disaster areas have been forced to leave cyclone-hit Burma.
The members of Telecoms Sans Frontieres (TSF) left the country after attempts to reach affected areas were blocked.
The charity, which described the situation as "unprecedented", said it had no other choice but to leave.
TSF finally reached Burma on 1 June after waiting nearly a month to be granted visas to enter the country.
"The frustration is that we were allowed into the country but not allowed to deploy," TSF spokesman Oisin Walton told BBC News.
Many international charities were allowed into Burma following a visit to the area by UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon.
But repeated attempts to get the necessary authorisation to visit affected areas such as the Irrawaddy Delta, were met with a wall of silence.
"We got no reply at all," said Mr Walton.

TSF is a specialist agency which works with the UN to provide communication support to aid agencies and local people. Its presence was requested by Unicef following Cyclone Nargis on 2 May.


BGan satellite link (data and voice: 496kbps). Primary connection
Gan M4 satellite link (data and voice: 64kbps). Used as backup
Large VSAT satellite dish for long term deployments
At least two satellite phones including a mobile device
Mobile phones and local sim cards if GSM infrastructure intact
Routers and access points for communication centre
Wireless relays to extend coverage
PCs, printer and scanner
Power packs including car batteries and solar panels

But despite being granted visas to enter the country - one month after the event - the teams were held in Rangoon.
In the meantime other charities were given the go ahead to deploy to the worst affected regions.
Mr Walton believes that TSF was blocked because of the nature of its work.
"They obviously didn't want us in the affected areas with telecommunications equipment," said Mr Walton.
Some charities have had communications equipment held at the border, he said. Limited facilities are currently being provided by Unicef and the World Food Programme (WFP).
"Aid agencies are doing a wonderful job but the government is not helping," he said.
Had the charity reached the disaster, teams would have set up communications centres for other charities and organisations.
These contain all the telecoms and IT equipment found in a normal office - including printers, scanners, laptops and phones - housed in a tent or temporary shelter.
Connections are made via satellite links.
In addition, it offers "welfare" calls to affected people, allowing them to make contact with friends and family.
The charity has a commitment to the UN to deploy within 48 hours but is generally in the field within just 24 hours.
"We are an emergency response NGO," said Mr Walton. "But it's not really an emergency response two months after the event."



Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has declared that the second round of presidential elections will be held as planned on 27 June. The opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has withdrawn from the election. We look at the possible scenarios ahead for Zimbabwe.

Mugabe wins election and remains as president
Given Robert Mugabe's determination to stay on and to use the instruments of the state and his party Zanu-PF to support him, this is the most likely scenario, at least in the short term.
The second round will be held on Friday 27 June and, in the absence of Morgan Tsvangirai, of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Mr Mugabe will win.

Mugabe isolated internationally and regionally
The US and UK governments have said they now do not recognise Mr Mugabe as the president of Zimbabwe. They would campaign for a similar decision to be taken by the regional Southern Africa governments, especially South Africa, and by the EU. This could prevent Mr Mugabe from attending international meetings. The African Union would be called on not give him a seat, based on its rule not to accept leaders who have not been democratically elected.

Sanctions increased
Sanctions might be increased. At the moment, the EU has imposed travel bans and asset-freezing measures against Mr Mugabe and 130 of his leading supporters. This list would be extended and would apply to their families as well, including children at schools and universities abroad. The US and Australia have similar targeted measures and could increase them.
The government of Zimbabwe relies heavily on its earnings from mining and there could be EU and US restrictions on companies doing business with state enterprises in Zimbabwe. Care would have to be taken not to hurt the poor, already suffering from huge inflation. The loophole is that China or other countries might step in the fill any gap.
The UN has no sanctions on Zimbabwe. Whether the Security Council would impose any must be doubtful at the moment.

Government of national unity
The MDC would offer negotiations and, realising that his position internationally and regionally is weakened, Mr Mugabe agrees to form a coalition government. New elections would follow.
The key question here is whether Mr Mugabe would remain president. If he did, would the MDC agree? If not, would he agree? Any agreement would also need pressure on Mr Mugabe from South Africa and other regional governments and the African Union. Also, there would need to be guarantees that the new elections would be free and fair.

Collapse of Zanu-PF leadership
Mr Mugabe's close associates would break into factions, with some wanting to find a safe way out for themselves (through an immunity deal with the MDC, for example). Others might fight on, but in the end, even they might realise it was over, would turn on Mr Mugabe and tell him to go. Without support from the powerful security force elements, Mr Mugabe could not enforce his will. Despite reports of splits within Zanu-PF, the campaign of violence shows they remain united.

Civil unrest and economic deprivation
This is the more of the same scenario. There could be violence as Zanu-PF seeks to establish total control under a renewed Mugabe presidency. Economically, the country falls into subsistence living. The chances of a full-scale civil war look remote at the moment, given the weakness of the MDC and the intimidation used by Zanu-PF.

Military intervention
Mr Tsvangirai has called for an international military force to be sent to Zimbabwe, but no government has shown any desire to send in troops to invade and remove Mr Mugabe from power. It would need a UN Security Council resolution to authorise such an invasion and this would be very difficult to get, even if anyone proposed it, which is unlikely at the moment.
A humanitarian intervention, with the aim of protecting and feeding people, is a possibility if things get totally out of control. A UN authorised force might be assembled but it would be difficult to do anything if there was opposition from the Zimbabwe authorities.

International Criminal Court prosecution
The problem with this is that Zimbabwe has not signed up to the court and therefore proceedings cannot be taken against its leaders. Any legal action would need authorisation from the Security Council (along the lines of the tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda).



Palm oil is one of the biofuel crops stirring controversy.
The replacement of traditional fuels with biofuels has dragged more than 30 million people worldwide into poverty, an aid agency report says.
Oxfam says so-called green policies in developed countries are contributing to the world's soaring food prices, which hit the poor hardest.
The group also says biofuels will do nothing to combat climate change.
Its report urges the EU to scrap a target of making 10% of all transport run on renewable resources by 2020.
Oxfam estimates the EU's target could multiply carbon emissions 70-fold by 2020 by changing the use of land.
The report's author, Oxfam's biofuel policy adviser Rob Bailey, criticised rich countries for using subsidies and tax breaks to encourage the use of food crops for alternative sources of energy like ethanol.
"If the fuel value for a crop exceeds its food value, then it will be used for fuel instead," he said.
"Rich countries... are making climate change worse, not better, they are stealing crops and land away from food production, and they are destroying millions of livelihoods in the process."
Opportunity - or crime?
Biofuels are a divisive issue with strong arguments on both sides.
Leaders such as Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva have suggested the biofuel boom provides developing nations with a great opportunity.
He says it creates a profitable export for energy crop producers in Africa, Central America and the Caribbean that could enable them to claw their way out of poverty.
But several aid agencies and analysts have warned of the possible downside of biofuel crop cultivation.
One UN adviser went as far as describing biofuels as a "crime against humanity".



In a historic settlement, the New Zealand government has signed over huge tracts of forest land to the ownership of seven Maori tribes.
The NZ$420m ($319m) agreement transfers ownership of nine forests - covering 435,000 acres (176,000 hectares) of land - in the central North Island.
Hundreds of Maori, some in traditional dress, thronged parliament to witness the signing of the accord.
"It's a historic journey we are on," Prime Minister Helen Clark said.
"We came into politics to address injustice and seek reconciliation. Thank you for walking that road with us on this historic day," she added, according to AP news agency.
The settlement - the largest single deal between the government and Maori tribes - seeks to address grievances dating back to the Waitangi Treaty of 1840.
The treaty guaranteed the indigenous Maori people use of their land and resources in return for ceding sovereignty to the British crown. But land seizures and ownership breaches followed.

The forests signed over are mainly large commercial pine plantations, generating about NZ$13m a year in rents.
The settlement also hands over rents that have accumulated on the land since 1989.
Between them, the seven tribes or iwi include more than 100,000 members. They will manage the land collectively, setting up a holding company structure and forestry management structure.
The chairman of the collective, Maori paramount chief Tumu Te Heu Heu, said the objective was to provide tribes with "a strong, durable and sustainable economic future", in particular young members and the coming generations.
"This is our legacy to them," he said, according to AP.
Maori make up about 15% of New Zealand's 4.2 million population, but are among the country's poorest citizens, experiencing high unemployment, and poor health, education and housing compared to other New Zealanders.



Robert Mugabe says he is open to talks - after the elections
An emergency meeting of southern African leaders is seeking to address the Zimbabwe crisis, ahead of Friday's presidential election run-off.
The summit involves leaders from Swaziland, Tanzania and Angola - but does not include the region's chief mediator, South Africa's Thabo Mbeki.
It comes as UK-based mining giant Anglo American defended a large investment in a Zimbabwean platinum mine.
The UK government said it was planning further sanctions against the regime.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the financial and travel restrictions would target specific individuals in Mr Mugabe's government.
The politically-motivated violence, intimidation and torture have made a just and fair run-off presidential election virtually impossible - South African Catholic Bishops' Conference.

Asked about Anglo American's reported $400m (£200m) investment in a Zimbabwe platinum mine, Mr Brown told parliament he did not want to see anything that would "prop up" the Mugabe regime.
The project, in the central district of Unki, would be the largest foreign investment in the country, the London Times reports.
Separately, the England and Wales Cricket Board said it had severed ties with the Zimbabwe Cricket team, cancelling a tour to England due for next year.
Run-offEmbassy Harare
Zimbabwe's presidential election run-off is due to go ahead on Friday, despite the opposition's withdrawal.
The leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Morgan Tsvangirai, pulled out of the contest on Sunday, citing government-backed violence against his supporters.
Mr Tsvangirai, who is taking refuge in the Dutch embassy in Harare, says his party is open to suggestions from the emergency meeting of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) peace and security committee being held in Swaziland.
The UK-based Guardian newspaper ran an article on Wednesday purportedly by Mr Tsvangirai, saying Mr Mbeki's "quiet diplomacy" had failed and calling for UN peacekeepers to go into Zimbabwe.
But MDC officials later contacted the BBC to disown the article, insisting neither Mr Tsvangirai or any other MDC member had written it - claims rejected by the paper.
Mr Mugabe, who blames the opposition for the violence, says he is open to discussions - but only after the vote, the Herald newspaper quoted him as saying.
Police raided an MDC building in the eastern city of Mutare on Wednesday, the AFP news agency reports, demanding ID cards and posting guards outside the premises.
The BBC's David Bamford says Sadc was assigned to oversee the election in Zimbabwe on behalf of Africa, and for that reason its opinion counts as to whether it believes Friday's election should go ahead if the opposition does not take part.

But that is not to say President Mugabe will necessarily pay any heed to its opinion, he adds.
The Swazi foreign minister, Mathendele Dlamini, told the BBC that the Sadc meeting was likely to offer advice to Mr Mugabe rather than issue any rebuke.
But the general secretary of the Confederation of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), Zwelinzima Vavi, said he hoped they would tell Mr Mugabe his presidency was over.
"The Sadc government must not drag themselves into recognising what everybody now agrees to be an illegitimate Robert Mugabe government," he said.
"We don't want Mugabe to be recognised at all, that should be the starting point."
Kenya's leaders have also joined international condemnation of Mr Mugabe and his government.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga said Mr Mugabe had no right to call himself president and said Friday's vote would have no legitimacy and should be postponed.
"He lost an election and if he now proceeds to go and conduct a sham election and declare himself as a president that is not going to be acceptable," he said.
Unified effort
The US has said it would not recognise the result of any vote held on Friday because of the violence being waged against the opposition.
The MDC says some 86 of its supporters have been killed and 200,000 forced from their homes by militias loyal to the ruling Zanu-PF party. The government blames the MDC for the violence.
The Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference issued a statement on Wednesday saying "the politically-motivated violence, intimidation and torture have made a just and fair run-off presidential election virtually impossible".
They urged a unified effort from the international community and southern African countries to help resolve the situation and avoid a "vast humanitarian crisis that will engulf the whole Southern African region".
The MDC won the parliamentary vote in March, and claims to have won the first round of the presidential contest - held on the same day - outright.
According to official results, Mr Tsvangirai was ahead of Mr Mugabe but failed to gain enough votes to avoid a run-off.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008


By Molly Levinson.

It is less than a month into the general election and Michelle Obama is already in the midst of a makeover. Michelle Obama could help court the all-important female vote.
A tough primary campaign put some dents in her image. She weathered a storm of criticism following a comment she made about her husband's candidacy, saying that "for the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country, and not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change".
Immediately, Republicans and her Democratic rivals piled in, including Republican presidential hopeful John McCain's wife Cindy McCain, who has alluded to Mrs Obama's comment on more than one occasion.
The conservative magazine National Review dubbed her "Mrs Grievance." Conservative commentators have called her Barack Obama's "bitter half." Fox News was rebuked for referring to her with the racial slander "Baby Mama," and talk among political pundits escalated about her "angry" side.
The politically motivated rumour mills that have plagued Mr Obama have not spared Mrs Obama either. Whisper campaigns on the internet have alluded to racist comments in her past that she says she has never made (and the evidence is solidly in her court, as so far no one has produced any evidence of the comments).
Still, the Obama campaign is actively trying to refresh Mrs Obama's image. Appearing on ABC's The View last week, Mrs Obama used the opportunity to address her critics, but also to present a picture that those close to her say is more true to herself than the caricature her critics are painting.
During the course of the show she was able to talk about her background, growing up in humble circumstances on the South Side of Chicago, attending Princeton for college, and Harvard law school, becoming a wife and a mother.
She addressed her "proud" gaffe directly, saying "I think when I talked about it during my speech, what I was talking about was having a part in the political process. People are just engaged in this election in a way that I haven't seen in a long time and I think everybody has agreed with that, that people are focused, they're coming out."
She also appeared this week on the cover of US Weekly Magazine above the title Why Barack Loves Her. The article pointed out that she shops at the US store Target, loved the television show Sex and the City, and included a quote from Mr Obama, who told the magazine, "Nothing is more important to Michelle than being a good mother."
It is no surprise that the Obama campaign chose The View and US Weekly for their re-introduction of Mrs Obama; those outlets are extremely popular among women, who are up for grabs in this election.
Hillary Clinton's loss in the Democratic primary, combined with Republican competition for important female demographics including married and Hispanic women, makes winning women all the more important for Mr Obama.

Mrs Obama could be quite an asset when appealing to these voters.
Her background is another electoral asset. Her roots on Chicago's historically black South Side and the fact that she is a descendant of American slaves served as an important counter-point to early questions among African American voters over whether Mr Obama is "black enough."

Her conversations with African Americans about her background and the fact that she has family from South Carolina were a key piece of the Obama primary strategy in the state, and contributed to Mr Obama's win there.
She is also well-positioned as a bold counterpoint to the GOP's favourite charge when it comes to Mr Obama: "elitism". Her modest roots in a one-bedroom apartment, with a shift-working father, are anything but "elite".
Further, as she said herself on last week's The View, she "wears her heart on her sleeve," a potentially powerful contrast to Mr Obama, who, at times, has come across as more guarded.
She is able to speak for the candidate in a way that no one else can. Mrs Obama has talked about what her husband was like as a younger man, the qualities that she loves about him and the reasons she thinks he should be president.
All this is in the hope that voters can connect to her stories, and increase their trust in him. If she can do that, she will be enormously successful in her role.
The downside to all of this, as the Obama campaign is all too aware, is that she runs the risk of being an enormous liability. If rumours about Mrs Obama being anti-white or unpatriotic persist, they could have a very negative impact on Mr Obama's chance to win the White House.
Not only do these stories steal the spotlight from the message that the campaign is trying to convey, but they contribute to voters' doubts about Mr Obama.
Whether true or completely unfounded, as many of these rumours are, they have a danger of becoming a distraction, and chipping away at Mr Obama's trustworthiness rating, which would, in turn, diminish his ability to win the White House.
At the end of the day, voters vote for the candidate they most want to be president of the United States, and not for his wife. But in the months between now and election day, Michelle Obama can have a huge impact on how voters feel on 4 November.
Molly Levinson is a political analyst and former CBS News Political Director.



Forty-fifteen might be the numbers you usually hear during the two weeks of the Wimbledon Championships.
But other figures of interest might be the £91 price for a centre court ticket for the final or £25m made for the development of tennis in Britain.
Other visitors might want to know that strawberries and cream have gone up in price from £2 to £2.25 for a punnet of no fewer than 10 prime berries.
About 450,000 people will attend the Championships which started on Monday.
The Wimbledon Championships are a huge business and merchandising opportunity with hundreds of millions of people around the world watching the matches.
Last year, 9,739 men's championship towels, 9,912 women's towels and 16,712 mini tennis ball keyrings were sold at the event.

There are no fewer than 10 strawberries in each £2.25 punnet.
Another significant source of revenue comes from ticket sales. Prices start at £20 for a ticket for the outer courts during the first week. Centre court tickets start at £38.
As well as the strawberries, picked from farms in Kent at 5.30am each morning, the spectators get through 300,000 cups of tea and coffee, 190,000 sandwiches, 150,000 glasses of Pimm's and 30,000 portions of fish and chips at the event.
But the All England Lawn Tennis Club is a not-for-profit organisation, and the funds generated by the Championships, less tax, are used by the Lawn Tennis Association to develop tennis in Britain.



Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai says he will leave the Dutch embassy in Harare in the next 48 hours.
He was speaking to Dutch radio from the embassy, where he took refuge on Sunday night after pulling out of a run-off election, citing widespread violence.
He said the Dutch ambassador had received assurances from the Zimbabwe authorities about his safety.
Meanwhile, an African election observer told the BBC torture was "the order of the day" in Zimbabwe.
BBC Southern Africa correspondent Peter Biles says the observer interviewed opposition supporters in hospital and found that "everyone was utterly terrified".
BBC world affairs editor John Simpson, who is in Harare, says critics of Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader have been lambasting him for seeking refuge in a European embassy, rather than an African one.

Five permanent members: US, China, France, Russia, UK
10 non-permanent members: Belgium, Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Croatia, Indonesia, Italy, Libya, Panama, South Africa, Vietnam

He says few people in Zimbabwe know that Mr Tsvangirai has withdrawn from the race, because official media barely ever mention him.
He adds that Mr Mugabe is on course for a remarkable victory, when only three months ago he seemed to be on the ropes.
Zimbabwe's Police Commissioner, Augustine Chihuri, labelled Mr Tsvangirai's move to the Dutch embassy as an "exhibitionist antic", intended to provoke international anger.
He said Mr Tsvangirai, who was detained briefly on five separate occasions during recent election campaigning, had been making a desperate attempt to besmirch the election.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe's UN ambassador Boniface Chidyausiku told the BBC's Network Africa programme: "We have never prevented [Mr Tsvangirai] from campaigning.
"He's a cry baby…. He has been free to move wherever he wanted to move."
Mr Chidyausiku has said Friday's presidential run-off would go ahead despite Monday's unanimous statement by the UN Security Council that said a free and fair vote would be "impossible".

President Mugabe blames the opposition for the election violence. The British-drafted statement was toned down from an earlier draft but was the first time that South Africa, Russia and China had agreed to criticise President Robert Mugabe's government.
It said the campaign had "resulted in the killing of scores of opposition activists and other Zimbabweans, and the beating and displacement of thousands of people, including many women and children.
"The Security Council regrets that the campaign of violence and the restrictions on the political opposition have made it impossible for a free and fair election to take place on 27 June."
Earlier on Monday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on Zimbabwe to postpone the run-off.

On Monday, more than 60 MDC supporters were arrested at the party's Harare headquarters.
The MDC won the parliamentary vote in March, and claims to have won the first round of the presidential contest outright. According to official results, Mr Tsvangirai was ahead of Mr Mugabe but failed to gain enough votes to avoid a run-off.
South African President Thabo Mbeki has been leading efforts by Zimbabwe's neighbours in the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) to mediate an end to the crisis.
Mr Mbeki is reported to be trying to arrange a meeting between Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai for talks on cancelling the election run-off and forming a government of national unity.
Mr Mugabe has hit back at his international critics, accusing Western countries of lying about Zimbabwe in order to justify an intervention.
"Britain and her allies are telling a lot of lies about Zimbabwe, saying a lot of people are dying," Tuesday's edition of the pro-government Herald newspaper quoted Mr Mugabe as saying.



By Greg Wood Business Correspondent, BBC News, Washington DC

The US Justice Department says the frauds have cost victims $1bn.
A senior FBI officer has told the BBC that more arrests will be made as part of its probe into mortgage fraud and the credit crunch.
Section chief for Financial Crimes, Sharon Ormsby, said hundreds of arrests already made were just a "good start".
More than 400 US real estate brokers have been arrested and charged with fraud in the past few months.
And two former Bear Stearns executives have been charged over the collapse of two hedge funds.
They are the first executives to face criminal charges related to the collapse of the value sub-prime loans which triggered the credit crunch.

"It's a good start for us in our push to begin further investigations into corporate and mortgage related fraud" said Ms Ormsby, who is overseeing the FBI's Operation Malicious Mortgage.
"We wanted to put forth a statement that we are serious about these frauds and that we understand that if we don't take action against them it will create further problems for our economic future."
She refused to say how many more arrests the FBI expects to make in one of its biggest financial investigations, involving 200 full-time agents and more than 30 task forces across the US.

Sharon Ormsby on tackling corporate and mortgage related frauds.
But she confirmed that the Bureau was looking at every aspect of mortgage fraud, from the granting of individual loans to their bundling up and sale on Wall Street as investments.
"We've initiated investigations into 19 corporations. We are precluded from talking about them. But we are looking at individuals related to mortgage lenders, investment firms, brokerage houses, hedge funds, due diligence firms, rating agencies - the whole gamut."
UK co-operation
Some of the leading investment banks on Wall Street and their senior executives are now thought to be in the frame over the collapse in the market for mortgage-backed securities which has left them with hundreds of billions of dollars in losses.
Ms Ormsby said the problem of mortgage fraud could be even bigger than expected and forecast that the FBI would be working on it for at least the next two years.
"I don't know that I ever put into consideration as to how extensive it is," she said.
"I think at this point we're looking at economic trends, intelligence collection and analysis to tell us exactly how large this could potentially be and we haven't determined that at this point."
She said that the FBI had been in contact with law enforcement agencies in other countries as part of its investigation into mortgage industry fraud, including the UK's Serious and Organised Crimes Agency, "but not about a particular corporation", she added.
The FBI estimates that homeowners in the US have lost more than $1bn because of mortgage fraud.
But Ms Ormsby held out little hope of compensation for the victims of the sub-prime collapse.
"A lot of times in these kind of cases the perpetrators will take the ill-gotten gains and purchase homes or cars or other material items," she said.
"They may no longer have them in their possession or they may have used them for their own lifestyle. By the time we conclude the investigation the best we can do is forfeit those items, and some of that money can be turned over back to the victims.
"If we can identify the victims we will do that but many times unfortunately very little money comes back to them. In the vast majority of cases there's not much hope of them getting compensation."
Some of cases involve the alleged use of false employment records or the inflation of property values.
Others are looking into alleged foreclosure rescue scams which target struggling homeowners offering to help prevent them losing their home for a fee.
Reports of mortgage fraud have increased significantly over the past year. According to the US Treasury Department, banks reported almost 53,000 cases of suspected mortgage fraud in 2007, up 37,000 a year earlier.


Monday, June 23, 2008


By Darren Waters Technology editor, BBC News website

The net could see its biggest transformation in decades if plans to open up the address system are passed.
The net's regulators will vote on Thursday to decide if the strict rules on so-called top level domain names, such as .com or .uk, can be relaxed.
If approved, it could allow companies to turn their brands into domain names while individuals could also carve out their own corner of the net.
The move could also see the launch of .xxx, after years of wrangling.
Top level domains are currently limited to individual countries, such as .uk (UK) or .it (Italy), as well as to commerce, .com, and to institutional organisations, such as .net, or .org.
To get around the restrictions, some companies have used the current system to their own ends.
For example, the Polynesia island nation Tuvalu, has leased the use of the .tv address to many television firms.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann), which acts as a sort of regulator for the net as well as overseeing the domain name system, has been working towards opening up net addresses for the last three years.
The plan would also allow for the new domain names to be internationalised, and so could be written in scripts for Asian and Arabic languages.
Dr Paul Twomey, chief executive of Icann, told BBC News that the proposals would result in the biggest change to the way the internet worked in decades.
"The impact of this will be different in different parts of the world. But it will allow groups, communities and business to express their identities online.
"Like the United States in the 19th Century, we are in the process of opening up new real estate, new land, and people will go out and claim parts of that land and use it for various reasons they have.
"It's a massive increase in the geography of the real estate of the internet."

Hundreds of new domain names could be created by the end of the year, rising to thousands in the future.
Icann says any string of letters can be registered as a domain, but there will be an independent arbitration process for people with grounds for objection.
The openness of the new system could pave the way for a .xxx domain name, after more than half a decade of wrangling between its backers and Icann.
The latest attempt to launch .xxx was rejected by Icann last year on the grounds that approval would put the agency into the position of a content regulator.
When asked about the possibility of a .xxx domain name, Dr Twomey repeated only that the new system would be "open to anyone".
The move could yet be blocked as the independent arbitration panel can reject domains based on "morality or public order" grounds.
Dr Twomey said Icann was still working through how much the application fee to register a domain name will be, but it is expected to be at least several thousand dollars.
'Cost recovery'
"We are doing this on a cost recovery basis. We've already spent $10m on this," he said.
Individuals will be able to register a domain based on their own name, or any other string of letters, as long as they can show a "business plan and technical capacity".
While companies will be able to secure domain names based on their intellectual property easily, some domain names could become subject to contention and a bidding war.
Dr Twomey said: "If there is a dispute, we will try and get the parties together to work it out. But if that fails there will be an auction and the domain will go to the highest bidder."