Tuesday, March 31, 2009

President Chavez of Venezuela Opposes Arrest Warrant For Sudanese Leader Omar Hassan al-Bashir

Chavez opposes arrest warrant for Bashir

2009-03-31 18:28:20

DOHA, March 31 (Xinhua) – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez here Tuesday voiced objection to the arrest warrant of the International Criminal Court (ICC) for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for alleged war crimes in Darfur.

Upon his arrival at the Doha International Airport to attend the 2nd Arab-South American Summit scheduled for Tuesday, Chavez told reporters that the ICC should be requested to prosecute former U.S. President George W. Bush and Israeli President Shimon Peres, according to Spanish EFE news Agency.

"Why (the ICC) not order the capture of Bush? Why not order the arrest of the president of Israel?” he was quoted as asking.

Leaders of the 22-member Arab League who held a summit on Monday passed a communiqué on rejecting the ICC’s arrest warrant for Bashir.

Chavez said the ICC “has no power to make a decision against a sitting president, but does so because it is an African country, the third world,” said Chavez, whose country is a signatory to the ICC.

The ICC has requested all its signatory members to arrest Bashir.

The Second Summit of Arab-South American countries will be held in the afternoon, with the participation of leaders and senior officials from 12 South American countries and 22 Arab states, plus delegates from the Arab League.  

Seymour Hersh Says Secret US Forces Carried Out Assassinations

Seymour Hersh: Secret US Forces Carried Out Assassinations in a Dozen Counties, Including in Latin America

Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh created a stir earlier this month when he said the Bush administration ran an “executive assassination ring” that reported directly to Vice President Dick Cheney. “Under President Bush’s authority, they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or to the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving,” Hersh said. Seymour Hersh joins us to explain.

Seymour Hersh, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist for The New Yorker. His latest article is titled “Syria Calling.”

AMY GOODMAN: Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh created a stir last month when he said the Bush administration ran an executive assassination ring that reported directly to Vice President Dick Cheney. Hersh made the comment during a speech at the University of Minnesota on March 10th.

SEYMOUR HERSH: Congress has no oversight of it. It’s an executive assassination wing, essentially. And it’s been going on and on and on. And just today in the Times there was a story saying that its leader, a three-star admiral named McRaven, ordered a stop to certain activities because there were so many collateral deaths. It’s been going in—under President Bush’s authority, they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or to the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving.

AMY GOODMAN: Yesterday, CNN interviewed Dick Cheney’s former national security adviser, John Hannah. Wolf Blitzer asked Hannah about Sy Hersh’s claim.

WOLF BLITZER: Is there a list of terrorists, suspected terrorists out there who can be assassinated?

JOHN HANNAH: There is clearly a group of people that go through a very extremely well-vetted process, inter-agency process, as I think was explained in your piece, that have committed acts of war against the United States, who are at war with the United States, or are suspected of planning operations of war against the United States, who authority is given to the troops in the field and in certain war theaters to capture or kill those individuals. That is certainly true.

WOLF BLITZER: And so, this would be, and from your perspective—and you worked in the Bush administration for many years—it would be totally constitutional, totally legal, to go out and find these guys and to whack ’em.

JOHN HANNAH: There’s no question that in a theater of war, when we are at war, and we know—there’s no doubt, we are still at war against al-Qaeda in Iraq, al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and on that Pakistani border, that our troops have the authority to go after and capture and kill the enemy, including the leadership of the enemy.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s John Hannah, Dick Cheney’s former national security adviser. Seymour Hersh joins me now here in Washington, D.C., staff writer for The New Yorker magazine. His latest article appears in the current issue, called “Syria Calling: The Obama Administration’s Chance to Engage in a Middle East Peace.”

OK, welcome to Democracy Now!, Sy Hersh. It was good to see you last night at Georgetown. Talk about, first, these comments you made at the University of Minnesota.

SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, it was sort of stupid of me to start talking about stuff I haven’t written. I always kick myself when I do it. But I was with Walter Mondale, the former vice president, who was being amazingly open and sort of, for him—he had come a long way in—since I knew him as a senator who was reluctant to oppose the Vietnam War. And so, I was asked about future things, and I just—I am looking into stuff. I’ve done—there’s really nothing I said at Minnesota I haven’t written in the New York Times. Last summer, I wrote a long article about the Joint Special Operations Command.

And just to go back to what John Hannah, who is—was—I think ended up being the senior national security adviser, almost—if not the chief of staff, deputy chief of staff for Dick Cheney in the last three or four years, what he said is simply that, yes, we go after people suspected—that was the word he used—of crimes against America. And I have to tell you that there’s an executive order, signed by Jerry Ford, President Ford, in the ’70s, forbidding such action. It’s not only contrary—it’s illegal, it’s immoral, it’s counterproductive.

The evidence—the problem with having military go kill people when they’re not directly in combat, these are asking American troops to go out and find people and, as you said earlier, in one of the statements I made that you played, they go into countries without telling any of the authorities, the American ambassador, the CIA chief, certainly nobody in the government that we’re going into, and it’s far more than just in combat areas. There’s more—at least a dozen countries and perhaps more. The President has authorized these kinds of actions in the Middle East and also in Latin America, I will tell you, Central America, some countries. They’ve been—our boys have been told they can go and take the kind of executive action they need, and that’s simply—there’s no legal basis for it.

And not only that, if you look at Guantanamo, the American government knew by—well, let’s see, Guantanamo opened in early 2002. “Gitmo,” they call it, the base down in Cuba for alleged al-Qaeda terrorists. An internal report that I wrote about in a book I did years ago, an internal report made by the summer of 2002, estimated that at least half and possibly more of those people had nothing to do with actions against America. The intelligence we have is often very fragmentary, not very good. And the idea that the American president would think he has the constitutional power or the legal right to tell soldiers not engaged in immediate combat to go out and find people based on lists and execute them is just amazing to me. It’s amazing to me.

And not only that, Amy, the thing about George Bush is, everything’s sort of done in plain sight. In his State of the Union address, I think January the 28th, 2003, about a month and a half before we went into Iraq, Bush was describing the progress in the war, and he said—I’m paraphrasing, but this is pretty close—he said that we’ve captured more than 3,000 members of al-Qaeda and suspected members, people suspected of operations against us. And then he added with that little smile he has, “And let me tell you, some of those people will not be able to ever operate again. I can assure you that. They will not be in a position.” He’s clearly talking about killing people, and to applause.

So, there we are. I don’t back off what I said. I wish I hadn’t said it ad hoc, because, like I hope we’re going to talk about in a minute, I spend a lot of time writing stories for The New Yorker, and they’re very carefully vetted, and sometimes when you speak off the top, you’re not as precise.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what the Joint Special Operations Command is and what oversight Congress has of it.

SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, it’s a special unit. We have something called the Special Operations Command that operates out of Florida, and it involves a lot of wings. And one of the units that work under the umbrella of the Special Operations Command is known as Joint Special Op—JSOC. It’s a special unit. What makes it so special, it’s a group of elite people that include Navy Seals, some Navy Seals, Delta Force, our—what we call our black units, the commando units. “Commando” is a word they don’t like, but that’s what we, most of us, refer to them as. And they promote from within. It’s a unit that has its own promotion structure. And one of the elements, I must tell you, about getting ahead in promotion is the number of kills you have. Of course. Because it’s basically devised—it’s been transmogrified, if you will, into this unit that goes after high-value targets.

And where Cheney comes in and the idea of an assassination ring—I actually said “wing,” but of an assassination wing—that reports to Cheney was simply that they clear lists through the Vice President’s office. He’s not sitting around picking targets. They clear the lists. And he’s certainly deeply involved, less and less as time went on, of course, but in the beginning very closely involved. And this is the elite unit. I think they do three-month tours. And last summer, I wrote a long article in The New Yorker, last July, about how the JSOC operation is simply not available, and there’s no information provided by the executive to Congress.

AMY GOODMAN: What countries, Sy Hersh—what countries are they operating in?

SEYMOUR HERSH: A lot of countries.

AMY GOODMAN: Name some.

SEYMOUR HERSH: No, because I haven’t written about it, Amy. And I will tell you, as I say, in Central America, it’s far more than just the areas that Mr. Hannah talked about—Afghanistan, Iraq. You can understand an operation like this in the heat of battle in Iraq, killing—I mean, taking out enemy. That’s war. But when you go into other countries—let’s say Yemen, let’s say Peru, let’s say Colombia, let’s say Eritrea, let’s say Madagascar, let’s say Kenya, countries like that—and kill people who are believed on a list to be al-Qaeda or al-Qaeda-linked or anti-American, you’re violating most of the tenets.

We’re a country that believes very much in due process. That’s what it’s all about. We don’t give the President of United States the right to tell military people, even in a war—and it’s a war against an idea, war against terrorism. It’s not as if we’re at war against a committed uniformed enemy. It’s a very complicated war we’re in. And with each of those actions, of course, there’s always collateral deaths, and there’s always more people ending up becoming our enemies. That’s the tragedy of Guantanamo. By the time people, whether they were with us or against us when they got there, by the time they’ve been there three or four months, they’re dangerous to us, because of the way they’ve been treated. But I’d love to move on to what I wrote about in The New Yorker.

AMY GOODMAN: One question: Is the assassination wing continuing under President Obama?

SEYMOUR HERSH: How do I know? I hope not.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Sy Hersh. We’re going to go to break, and then we’ll be back with him, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. His piece in The New Yorker is called “Syria Calling: The Obama Administration’s Chance to Engage in a Middle East Peace.” Stay with us.

Global Economic Crisis Affects Women, Children

PRETORIA 30 March 2009 Sapa


The current global financial crisis will have harmful effects on the well-being of women and children, Minister in the Presidency Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said on Monday.

It was widely acknowledged that economic inequality was a cause of violence against women and children, she told a Convention for the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women seminar in Pretoria.

Economic trends created or exacerbated the enabling conditions for violence.

"Women's poverty and economic inequalities, concomitant with the discrimination and gender inequalities they face, reduce women's capacity to act and take informed and considered decisions."

She said this also correlated with their increased vulnerability to harmful traditional practices.

"This [economic crisis] will impact negatively in the sense that it will increase their vulnerability to acts such as abductions, forced and early marriages, trafficking in women and girls for sexual and economic exploitation, among others."

She said harmful traditional practices were recognised as the
manifestation of gender inequality and this was deeply entrenched and rooted in social, economic and political structures and practices.

It perpetuated normative gender roles that were unequal and harmful to women.

DPRK to Prosecute US Journalists For Illegally Crossing Into Territory

N Korea to try US journalists

Two female US journalists, recently arrested in North Korea, will be put on trial for "hostile acts" and for illegally entering the country.

"The illegal entry of US reporters into the DPRK (North Korea) and their suspected hostile acts have been confirmed by evidence and their statements," the official Korean Central News Agency said.

It said "a competent organ" was continuing an investigation and "at the same time, making a preparation for indicting them at a trial on the basis of the already confirmed suspicions."

Euna Lee, a Korean-American, and Laura Ling, a Chinese-American, were detained before dawn on 17 March along the Tumen River border with China while working on a story about refugees fleeing the hardline communist state.

Tried for spying?

The news agency said the pair, who work for Current TV in California, would be allowed consular access and would be treated according to international law.

It did not specify what was meant by "hostile acts" or say when they might appear in court, but media reports in South Korea have said they could be tried for spying.

The announcement of a trial comes amid high tensions in the region over Pyongyang's plans to launch a communications satellite, possibly this weekend.

Washington and its allies say the launch is a pretext to test a long-range missile in violation of UN resolutions.

"The United States continues to work on this matter through diplomatic channels," said a senior White House official who asked not to be named.

"We have seen the brief North Korean press report (on the trial)," the official told AFP. "We have no higher priority than the protection of American citizens abroad."

The State Department said earlier on Monday that a Swedish envoy acting on behalf of Washington, which has no diplomatic relations with Pyongyang, had visited the journalists over the weekend.

"A representative of the Swedish embassy met with each one individually," spokesperson Gordon Duguid said, giving no details of their condition.

US officials said it was the first time that Sweden had been given consular access to them.

N Korea raising the stakes

The State Department said last week the North Koreans had assured US officials that the pair would be treated well.

South Korean daily JoongAng Ilbo has said the pair were taken to a top-security guest house on the outskirts of Pyongyang a day after they were seized.

"The questioning is likely to focus on having the two journalists confess to committing espionage," the paper quoted a Seoul intelligence source as saying.

Kim Yong-Hyun, a North Korea studies professor at Dongguk University, said Pyongyang appears to be raising the stakes before its missile launch.

He told AFP the latest move against the journalists, and the detention of a South Korean at a joint industrial estate, "are seen as an indirect message asking the US to come out aggressively for talks.

"By starting legal action officially (against the journalists), North Korea revealed its intention to use them for negotiations with the US after the missile launch," Kim said.

"North Korea will release them anyway. However it may use them as virtual hostages to deter punitive measures by the US over its launch."

In a separate case, the North detained a South Korean at the Kaesong joint industrial estate in the communist state for allegedly criticising its political system and encouraging a local worker to defect.

North Korea has in the past freed Americans it has detained but only after diplomatic intervention.

In 1996 US congressman Bill Richardson negotiated the release of US citizen Evan Hunziker, who had been detained for three months on suspicion of spying after swimming the Yalu river.

Richardson, who is now the governor of New Mexico, in 1994 helped negotiate the release of a US military helicopter pilot shot down after straying into North Korea.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Hong Kong Defers to PRC Government on Grace Mugabe Immunity

Hong Kong defers on Grace Mugabe immunity

MIN LEE | HONG KONG - Mar 30 2009 16:36

Hong Kong must defer to China's decision to grant immunity to Zimbabwean first lady Grace Mugabe over her alleged attack on a British photographer because Beijing is in charge of foreign affairs, the territory's justice secretary said on Monday.

Legislators in this former British colony expressed frustration at Hong Kong's lack of recourse against the alleged assault in January by the wife of Zimbabwe's authoritarian leader.

Britain returned Hong Kong to China in 1997. The territory retains separate political, legal and economic systems from the mainland, but its Constitution states that Beijing handles its foreign relations.

Photographer Richard Jones alleges that Mugabe punched him in the face repeatedly when he was taking pictures of her near a luxury hotel on January 15 for London's Sunday Times, inflicting at least 10 cuts with the diamond-encrusted rings she was wearing. Mugabe was reportedly vacationing in the Chinese-ruled territory.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry's Hong Kong office told the local government that Mugabe enjoys immunity in the territory as the wife of a foreign head of state, Hong Kong Secretary for Justice Wong Yan-lung told a legislative hearing on Monday.

"The issue of privileges and immunities is a matter of foreign affairs, which is the sole responsibility of the Central People's Government," Wong said.

Wong added that he had relayed outrage in Hong Kong about the attack to the Chinese government. But lawmakers questioned if that was enough.

"You say the consequence is that you relayed Hong Kong's concerns about this matter to the Chinese government. Is that it? Even if someone dies, do you just report it to the teacher like a good student? Is that it?" legislator Miriam Lau asked.

"The crux of the problem is what Hong Kong can do. If the answer is the only thing Hong Kong can do is express its concerns to the central government, Hong Kong citizens will think that's insufficient," pro-democracy lawmaker Margaret Ng said.

Legislators earlier had urged the local government to ban Mugabe from visiting Hong Kong again, but Wong said on Monday that the territory doesn't have the right to impose a ban without China's approval.

Asked by the Associated Press after the meeting, Wong also declined to say if the government had enough evidence to prosecute Mugabe if it were permitted to do so.

Calls to the Chinese Foreign Ministry's Hong Kong office late on Monday went unanswered.

Mugabe's 85-year-old husband, Robert Mugabe, has been accused of overseeing his country's economic collapse, trampling democratic rights and killing opposition supporters.

The United States, the European Union and Britain have imposed sanctions on Mugabe's ruling clique, including asset freezes and travel bans.

China has been criticised for supporting corrupt African regimes, including those in Sudan and Zimbabwe, amid its growing presence there.

In July Beijing, along with Russia, vetoed a US-sponsored resolution in the United Nations Security Council that proposed worldwide sanctions against Mugabe and 13 officials. -- Sapa-AP

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
Web Address: http://www.mg.co.za/article/2009-03-30-hong-kong-defers-on-grace-mugabe-immunity

Venus Williams Advances at Key Biscayne; Serena and Sister Lone Remaining Players in Top Seven

Venus Williams advances at Key Biscayne

Miami Herald

Despite a sluggish start and wobbly finish, Venus Williams advanced Monday to the quarterfinals at the Sony Ericsson Open.
The three-time champion double-faulted three times in the last game before finishing with an ace to beat No. 10-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska 4-6, 6-1, 6-4.

Williams, seeded fifth, avoided the wave of upsets that has eliminated six of the top 10 women. She and her sister, top-ranked Serena Williams, are the lone remaining players in the top seven. The sisters could renew their rivalry in the semifinals Thursday.

On the men's side, where there have been no big upsets, top-ranked Rafael Nadal reached the fourth round by beating qualifier Frederico Gil 7-5, 6-3.

Williams was playing for the third day in a row, and she looked weary in the warm, sunny weather. After dropping the first set, she began to move better and won 11 of the next 13 games.

Radwanska nearly overcame a 5-1 deficit in the final set, but she failed to convert three break points that would have made the score 5-all.

Williams finished with 40 unforced errors but also had 43 winners, hitting 11 aces. She's seeking her first Key Biscayne title since 2001.

No. 4-seeded Elena Dementieva lost her fourth-round match to 18-year-old Caroline Wozniacki 7-5, 6-4. Two-time Grand Slam champion Amelie Mauresmo was eliminated by unseeded Samantha Stosur 6-4, 6-4. No. 8 Svetlana Kuznetsova beat Alisa Kleybanova 6-2, 6-1.

Who's Sari Now? Naomi Campbell Steals The Show In Indian Debut For Fashion Charity Event

Who's sari now? Naomi Campbell steals the show in Indian debut for fashion week charity event

By Daily Mail Reporter
4:39 PM on 30th March 2009

She may be attempting to abate her fiery temper, but in India, Naomi Campbell seems to have gone down a storm.

The supermodel took to the catwalk in a succession of saris and local outfits for Lakme Fashion Week - and stole the show.

Showing off her trademark physique, the British clothes horse modelled a stunning set of Indian outfits including a gold-embroidered, six-yard-long black sari designed by Sabyasachi Mukherjee.

The exposé incorporated designs by a host of international fashion houses including Yves Saint Laurent, Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace and shoes by Manolo Blahnik.

It may have been her first time in India, but so impressed was Bollywood by Naomi's winning performance, she was reportedly approached by film executives to carry out a screen test.

Naomi has been actively involved in the charity show, Mai Mumbai, which will help raise funds for the city's emergency medical services in light of the attacks there last November.

She created some of the clothes featured on the catwalk, working with many designers and Indian actors who modelled at the event.

Naomi said: 'At times you have to join hands to show solidarity to this great country.'

Through Mai Mumbai, the supermodel brought her philanthropic initiative - 'Fashion for Relief' - to India, which had raised more than £700,000 in 2005 at the New York Fashion Week for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

Naomi's next stop is South Africa, where she is to meet Nelson Mandela and help out with an orphanage in Cape Town.
Perhaps she is taking some time out from her latest role as 'Moscow housewife'.

Naomi has reportedly settled down with wealthy lover Vladislav Doronin, 46, and has been spending an increasing amount of time in his city centre penthouse and out-of-town mansion in a prestigious Russian district favoured by the oligarchs.

The couple have been seen regularly on the party circuit in Moscow and it is also reported that Campbell is ready to embrace the Orthodox Church with speculation that a ring she is wearing is a sign of forthcoming nuptials.

President Obama Grants Exclusive Interview With The Financial Times

A fine balance for Obama to strike

By Edward Luce, Lionel Barber and Chrystia Freeland
Financial Times
March 30 2009 00:30

American presidents sometimes give interviews in the Oval Office. On this occasion Barack Obama chooses the nearby Roosevelt room, named after Teddy Roosevelt and his distant relative Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the last American president to be faced with a global economic crisis of this magnitude.

Then, like now, the president inherited a world economic summit in London that was scheduled just a few weeks after he took up residence in the White House (FDR came to office in March 1933, the summit was in April). Fatefully, Roosevelt chose not to attend.

Then, like now, the politics of domestic economic collapse crowded out much time for the rest of the world. Yet this time the crisis is even more global. Mr Obama also inherits an April crisis summit in London, the meeting this Thursday of the leaders of the group of 20 industrialised and developing nations.

Mindful, perhaps, that posterity blames FDR’s absence as the chief reason the 1933 summit failed to arrest global depression, Mr Obama emphasises the need for G20 leaders to be singing from the same song sheet: “The most important task for all of us is to deliver a strong message of unity in the face of crisis,” he says.

But his biggest challenges are probably at home. Dressed in a dark suit and a tie in the ruby-red he often favours, Mr Obama discloses that he reads global newspapers – an option not available to FDR: “I read the Financial Times before other people read the Financial Times [in Chicago in the 1980s],” the president says. “Now it’s trendy and everybody carries around a Financial Times.”

Seated opposite an imposing portrait of FDR and flanked by the famous “Rough Rider” portrait of Theodore Roosevelt, Mr Obama betrays few signs – other than a hint of fatigue – that the economic and political maelstrom around him has induced personal stress. Speaking without notes, props or assistance from aides, the president answers in the professorial “no drama Obama” manner which helped persuade America’s voters last November he had a better temperament than John McCain to cope with this multiplicity of emergencies.

These are immediate and tangible. Just 66 days into his new job, Mr Obama enters the interview having just unveiled a new strategic policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan, including sending another 4,000 American troops into the field on top of the 17,000 he announced last month.

Earlier he had also hosted a meeting with a group of Wall Street executives, including Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs and Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, who seemed grateful simply to be invited rather than pilloried by legislators on Capitol Hill.

Mr Obama speaks of the Wall Street executives with disapproval rather than resentment, in a clear moderation of some of the rhetoric he was employing until recently. “It was a constructive conversation,” he says. “But one of the points that I made is that at a time when everybody is needing to sacrifice there has to be a similar sense of sacrifice on the part of those various sectors of the economy that helped to precipitate this crisis.”

Shortly after his election, Mr Obama promised to “hit the ground running”. Even the highly ambitious president-elect could not have anticipated just how much running that would entail. Or how many opportunities there would be to trip up, one or two of which he has taken, such as the succession of nominees for senior posts who had to withdraw.

Following the failure of the first attempt last month by Tim Geithner, Treasury secretary, to announce guidelines for the removal of toxic assets from bank balance sheets, critics fear that Mr Obama still lacks a full strategy to revitalise the financial system.

Last week Mr Geithner unveiled the latest initiative to deal with toxic assets. The plan was attacked by some as insufficiently radical, but the president points to the stock market rally that followed. “Tim Geithner’s efforts to provide a market for asset-backed securities has helped [but] we still have a long way to go,” he says.

The president is also in the midst of increasingly tense negotiations with Capitol Hill over the White House’s breathtakingly ambitious $3,600bn (€2,700bn, £2,518bn) budget – incorporating the biggest pledges, notably universal healthcare and a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions, on which Mr Obama campaigned before the economy started collapsing.

His budget could yet unravel amid outrage over the kind of double digit fiscal deficits last seen in the second world war when FDR was in the closing stages of his life. Then there is the small matter of managing a drawdown of US combat troops in Iraq, their redeployment to Afghanistan – the “graveyard of empires” – a continued global terrorist threat and, closer to home, the possibility of neighbouring Mexico being torn apart by a drugs war.

Much like FDR, who believed presidents should try everything, junk whatever fails and move swiftly on, Mr Obama conveys a pragmatic approach to the economic emergency, suggesting it is still a work-in-progress.

Nor, perhaps, can Mr Obama have anticipated the degree of high-wire balancing that is required of him – between the demands of increasingly populist politics and the need to take steps that will dig America and the world out of the economic crisis as quickly as possible.

Here the president faces an Everest. He concedes there is a gulf between what is politically possible and what may prove to be economically necessary. Ten days ago the House of Representatives voted to impose a 90 per cent tax retroactively on bonuses for those earning more than $125,000 who work at taxpayer-aided firms – the same firms who may now be deterred from participating in future government rescues.

The final version is likely to be diluted in the Senate next month. “That is one gap,” says Mr Obama. “Then there is a gap in ideas about how to approach a crisis like this, especially among economists – although on the issue of the stimulus there seems to be a much broader consensus [Mr Obama signed a $787bn two-year stimulus bill into law last month].”

He admits there is much less unity on how to repair the financial sector. Some, including liberal critics such as the Nobel-prize winning economists Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz, argue for all-out bank nationalisation. Conservatives, meanwhile, believe the White House bail-out plan is the road to socialism.

Where consensus does reign is in the outrage felt across the political spectrum over the bonuses that recipients of US taxpayer largesse, such as AIG and Citigroup, have been awarding senior employees. There is also the balancing act of pumping lots of new spending into the economy while reassuring Treasury bond investors, particularly the Chinese, that the US remains committed to medium-term fiscal discipline. “In all countries there is an understandable tension between the steps that are needed to kick-start the economy and the fact that many of these steps are very expensive,” says Mr Obama.

This also requires balancing. The president is trying to share the public’s outrage over Wall Street’s runaway culture of over-remuneration without alienating the financiers whose co-operation would be integral to the success of his bail-out plans.

If it’s Tuesday...

Barack Obama embarks on Tuesday on an eight-day visit to Europe – his first major overseas trip as US president. The busy itinerary includes:
●Tuesday evening: the president arrives at Stansted airport, north of London
●Wednesday: breakfast with Gordon Brown, UK prime minister, at Downing Street; bi-lateral meetings with Dmitry Medvedev of Russia and Hu Jintao of China; private meeting with Queen Elizabeth II
●Thursday: G20 meeting, London
●Friday: flight to Strasbourg, meeting with President Nicolas Sarkozy of France; helicopter to Baden-Baden, meeting with Angela Merkel, German chancellor
●Saturday: meeting with Nato leaders in Germany and France
●Sunday: Prague, EU-US summit
●Monday: Turkey, two-day visit to Istanbul and Ankara
The admonition is calibrated. “To the extent that they [the Wall Street bosses] are showing restraint that compensation packages are structured so that there is some deferral until money is returned to taxpayers, that will be good for everybody,” he says. “That will put me in a stronger position to help them.”

Mr Obama has tried, with limited success, to persuade the US public that what is good for Wall Street is good for Main Street. Until bankers show serious restraint, it will be hard for him to return to Capitol Hill to ask for the hundreds of billions more that most economists believe will be needed to recapitalise the US banking sector. There is a limit to public largesse.

“If voters perceive that it is a one-way street, that we are just pouring more and more money into institutions and seeing no return other than avoiding catastrophe, then it is harder to make an argument for further intervention,” he says.

Moreover, the steps the White House has taken since Inauguration Day will take time to show results, assuming, that is, they ever do. The president believes they already are. He cites “glimmers of stabilisation” in the US property market, where housing starts recently rose, and in the markets for cars and student loans.

Only a handful of economists forecast a return to strong growth next year. Some fear that a contraction of between 3 and 6 per cent in gross domestic product this year could be followed by more of the same in 2010. “What is also difficult is the fact that the policies we initiate all take time to take effect and by its very nature politics looks for more instantaneous gratification,” the president says.

Then there is the international balancing act. Mr Obama wants to unite America’s potentially fractious partners behind a co-ordinated stimulus and new financial regulation in London this week while also arresting the threat of protectionism. Unlike FDR, Mr Obama does not inherit the Smoot-Hawley Act, which erected steep trade barriers that entrenched the Great Depression and helped pave the way to world war two.

However, the US and its partners broke their promise at the first G20 summit last November to restart the Doha round of world trade talks. According to the World Bank, which has accumulated 73 examples of protectionist measures since then, many countries are moving in the opposite direction.

The president is understanding towards his partners, not least perhaps because he recently signed into law “Buy American” clauses that discriminate against foreign suppliers. While pointing out the “Buy American” provisions are consistent with World Trade Organisation rules, he observes: “I think in a democracy there are always going to be some loose ends out there. That is true here and true around the world but overall I don’t think that we have seen a huge rush to protectionism,” he adds. “To the extent that the American people [and others] feel confident their leaders are doing everything they can to encourage and promote economic growth, I think we are going to be able to hold the line on any significant slippage.”

The modulated phrasing strikes a clear contrast to the stentorian tone favoured by many of the president’s predecessors, George W. Bush in particular. Yet there is still an underlying message. On the need for a co-ordinated stimulus, with which many European leaders – most recently Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, in an FT interview – disagree, Mr Obama says: “Each country has its own constraints, its own political rhythms and what we want to make sure is that everybody is doing something...and that we are prepared to step into the breach should current efforts prove inadequate.”

Likewise, time would convince Washington’s partners of the necessity of stronger steps. “You know the financial crisis hit the United States first...Not surprisingly we took some very aggressive action earlier than some other countries...I think the sense of urgency has grown and you are going to start seeing a convergence.”

At home Mr Obama has been criticised for displaying an allegedly light-hearted attitude towards the crisis. One interviewer even accused him of being “punch drunk”. Supporters say that while Mr Obama may not be able to “feel your pain” in the manner of Bill Clinton, for example, America’s 44th president is good at reducing your fever.

Mr Obama conveys a degree of pragmatism that may strike a contrast to Mr Bush with some of his counterparts this week– notably Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, and Hu Jintao, his Chinese counterpart, who will hold one-to-one meetings with Mr Obama in London. Neither has yet met him.

Along with the pragmatism, Mr Obama also shows an occasional flash of humour. “Obviously I admire economists – I have a whole bunch of them on my staff,” said Mr Obama, whose senior economic adviser, Lawrence Summers, is arguably the most powerful of that profession in the world. “But to start to make a whole host of plans about next year, without having better information on how the current stimulus efforts are working, is something that I think is of concern.”

Following the London meeting, Mr Obama will travel to Strasbourg for a Nato summit where he will attempt to drum up support for the expanded US operations in Afghanistan, then on to Prague for a meeting with the heads of the European Union and finally on Sunday to Turkey where he will deliver a set-piece address – his first visit as president to a majority Muslim country. It is an ambitious itinerary. Everywhere he goes, thousands of anti-globalisation protesters await him along with tens of thousands of celebrity-watchers hoping to catch a glimpse of America’s most popular leader since John F. Kennedy.

Many believe that the G20 summit will prove a vacuous waste of time and that the world economy will continue to be sucked into the recessionary vortex. Mr Obama, however, projects a Zen-like calm towards the emergencies that he faces. If his rescue operations fail to arrest the tide, history may show him to have been too unfazed. If things started to stabilise and improve, Mr Obama could be hailed as the new FDR.

On the eve of the most important world economic gathering in decades, Mr Obama is still keeping the drama at arm’s length. “I am confident that the American people, and I think people around the world, are looking to its leaders to lead and that some of the steps we have already taken are starting to bear fruit,” Mr Obama says with the same tone he has struck at home in recent weeks.

Politics demands that Mr Obama continues to rally the support of America’s increasingly impatient – and economically beleaguered – electorate. Governance requires he keeps trying to lower its pulse.

In the meantime, Mr Obama may yet to have settled on a lasting plan to revive the financial sector. “I am confident that if we are persistent and we don’t approach this with a thought that there is a silver bullet out there but instead we are willing to try a range of methods...that we will get out of this current crisis,” he says.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

'Awakening' Group in Baghdad Battle With US Troops

'Awakening' group in Baghdad battle

Several arrests were made by US and Iraqi forces amid the fighting in Baghdad's Fadel district

Iraqi and US troops have clashed for a second straight day in Baghdad with so-called Awakening Council fighters opposed to the arrest of a local militia leader.

The fighting in the Fadhil district of the Iraqi capital, in which four people were killed, came after Iraqi forces arrested Adel Mashhadani, the local chief of the Sahwa Council trained and financed by the US and Iraq to battle al-Qaeda fighters.

American troops assisting Iraqi forces on Sunday ordered Sahwa members to surrender their weapons or face reprisals, while Iraqi soldiers blocked access to the area and made several arrests.

"We captured 14 people wanted by Iraqi justice in al-Fadhil district and we found weapons," Qassim al-Moussawi, Baghdad security spokesman, said.

More than 20 people have also been wounded during the fighting, officials said.

The fighting is the most severe seen in central Baghdad since US and Iraqi forces, aided by Sahwa loyalists, battled against al-Qaeda-linked fighters in 2007.

Civilian casualties

The clashes in Fadhil came after Iraqi forces arrested Mashhadani on Saturday, Iraq's interior ministry said.

Mashhadani was detained over allegations of murder and extortion and "violating the constitution", major general Qasim Atta, Baghdad’s military command spokesman, said.

"We also have information that Mashhadani heads the military branch in Fadel of the [banned] Baath party [of Saddam Hussein, the executed former Iraqi president], Atta said.

Iraqi troops "are not hunting-down the Sahwas but carrying out a search operation for suspects wanted by the judicial authorities and gangsters who are firing on our forces," Atta said.

While Mashhadani helped Iraqi and US troops force al-Qaeda from the Fadhil district, he is accused of turning the area into his own stronghold.

Iraq’s Shia-Muslim-led government, which has in the past expressed concerns over the Sahwa fighters' long-term aims, has said that 20 percent of all Sahwas will be integrated into the Iraqi security forces.

Source: Agencies

Sudan President Omar Hassan al-Bashir Welcomes Arab League Rejection of ICC Warrant As Unjust

Monday, March 30, 2009
22:12 Mecca time, 19:12 GMT

Arab leaders snub al-Bashir warrant

Al-Bashir welcomed the Arab League's rejection of the "unjust" arrest warrant

Arab leaders meeting in Doha, the Qatari capital, have rejected an international arrest warrant for Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president accused of war crimes in Darfur.

In a final communique issued at the end of the first day of the 21st Arab League summit on Monday, the leaders expressed soldarity with al-Bashir, who is accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan's western Darfur region.

"We emphasis our solidarity to the Sudan and our dismissal and rejection of the decision handed down by the International Criminal Court [ICC]," Amr Moussa, the Arab League secretary-general, read from the communique.

He said that that the decision to arrest al-Bashir was aimed "at undermining the unity and stability of Sudan".

Ibrahim al-Faqir, the Sudanese ambassador in Doha, told Al Jazeera: "We are very pleased at the Arab support to President al-Bashir and we are hopeful to have the solidarity with the president in the final statement.

'Fight to the end'

"We are also hopeful that no Arab president will be let down. We are going to fight until the end."

The United Nations says at least 300,000 people have died, many from disease and hunger, since fighting broke out in Darfur between black Africans and Arab militia alleged to have links to the Sudanese government in 2003.

Khartoum has dismissed the UN's account of deaths in Darfur, saying about 10,000 people have died.

Al-Bashir told the delegates that he appreciated their "dismissal of the unjust decision" of the ICC.

The communique also set conditions for the future direction of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

"They say that the Arab Peace Initiative is still there but it won't be there for long," Al Jazeera's Amr el-Kahky, reporting from the summit, said.

Prosecution sought

He said they set two conditions for the future of peace talks; that Israel halts settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank and agrees to a time limit to fulfill its obligations towards peace.

"We call for an end to Israeli aggression, ending the siege, reopening the crossings and emphasise that we hold Israel accountable and legally liable for all the crimes perpetrated," Moussa said.

The summit statement said Arab leaders had agreed to establish a legal committee to seek to prosecute Israeli leaders over Israel's 22-day offensive in Gaza which ended in January, leaving more than 1,300 Palestinians dead.

Earlier Bashar al-Assad, Syria's president, said that, while the Arab Peace Initiative was still on the table, the new incoming Israeli government under Benyamin Netanyahu was "not a peace partner".

"Israel sees its future in removing the Palestinians to an alternative homeland," he said. "Israeli society is becoming more extremist and aggressive."

The Arab nations also called for the international community to help prevent the spread of nuclear weapons in the region and work towards a "weapons-free zone".

Moussa said that this would obligate Israel, which is widely believed to have a nuclear weapons programme but has never acknowledged it, to sign the non-proliferation treaty and open its facilities to inspection.

Al Jazeera's el-Kahky said the comments on the nuclear issue also addressed some Arab nations' fears over Iran's nuclear ambitions, which Tehran says are entirely peaceful but many Western nations believe are aimed at producing atomic weapons.

Moving forward

Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera's senior political analyst, said that the atmosphere between the various Arab nations, who have been deeply divided over relations with Iran and the response to Israel's 22-day assault on the Gaza Strip, seemed to have improved during the summit.

"What we heard today was more or less a very mild common denominator on some of the issues ... such as supporting Sudan," he said.

"It is a mild statement, but there is a sense that things have moved forward a bit."

Al-Bashir attended the summit in defiance of the warrant issued by ICC, but Qatar is not obliged to arrest al-Bashir as it is not a signatory to the ICC.

He criticised the UN security council, the body that mandated the ICC prosecutor to investigate the situation in Darfur, on Monday saying that its credibility was at stake with "some countries having hegemony".

He called it an "undemocratic institution that ... applies double standards, targeted the weak and gave a blind eye to the criminals".

'Extremely concerned'

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, had criticised Sudan's decision to expel 13 international aid agencies from the Darfur region after the ICC arrest warrant was issued.

"I remain extremely concerned by the government's decision to expel key international non-governmental organisations, and suspend the work of three national NGOs [non-governmental organisations] that provide life-sustaining services for more than one million people," he said.

Jamie Balfour-Paul, the Middle East policy adviser for Oxfam, rejected Sudanese allegations that the UK-based charity was spying for the ICC.

"We don't have an agreement with the ICC, we are a humanitarian organisation and we are impartial," he said. "We don't have anything to do with the ICC and we don't have a position on its decision."

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Sudan's leader, UN chief face off at Arab summit

By BRIAN MURPHY Associated Press Writer
Associated Press
March 30, 2009, 1:49PM

Qatar — The U.N. chief confronted Sudan's embattled president Monday with demands to allow the return of expelled aid groups to Darfur — and was met with a defiant response from the Sudanese leader who dismissed war crimes charges against him and thanked Arab allies for rallying to his side.

The starkly different views — coming in nearly back-to-back speeches at an Arab summit — showed the increasing willingness by Omar al-Bashir to challenge the West and flaunt his wide support among Arabs in opposing the arrest order by the International Criminal Court.

Al-Bashir's attendance among other Arab League leaders was his boldest public snub of the ICC's decision, bringing him to the same conference hall as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for the summit's opening speeches. Ban's spokeswoman, Michele Montas, said the two men were in the same room, but did not speak or interact.

"Relief efforts should not become politicized," Ban said. "People in need must be helped irrespective of political differences," he added in an appeal to resume relief efforts to Darfur.

There was no risk of arrest at the summit for al-Bashir, who had full backing of the 22-nation Arab League. The group later issued a formal declaration rejecting the ICC charges.

But it gave al-Bashir a forum to swipe at the court and the U.N. Security Council, which asked the ICC to open the probe into war crimes in Darfur.

In his speech, al-Bashir called the Council an "undemocratic institution that ... applies double standards, targeting the weak and turning a blind eye to the (real) criminals."

He also offered no sign that he would permit the return of international aid groups to Darfur, where Sudan's Arab-led government has battled ethnic African rebels for six years. The conflict, according to U.N. estimates, has killed up to 300,000 people and driven 2.7 million from their homes.

Later, al-Bashir expressed "gratitude and thanks" for the public rejection of the ICC charges.

The ICC was established at a U.N. conference in Rome in 1998. The court is independent from the world body and relies on nations backing the ICC charter to carry out its decisions.

Although Sudan dominated the summit, the opening addresses also reflected underlying tensions about the Arab approach to Israel with Benjamin Netanyahu's right-leaning government coming to power.

Syria's president, Bashar Assad, said he still favors pursuing a peace pact with Israel, but insisted that Arabs have a "moral duty" to support militants to force Israel to negotiate. The appeal is apparently part of Assad's attempts to become a leading voice in any new peace initiative with Israel.

Assad also urged the summit to "take a daring, clear and direct stance that rejects and doesn't compromise" on the ICC charges against al-Bashir.

Only Jordan and two other tiny Arab League members, the Comoros and Djibouti, are parties to the ICC charter, but they can take no action on Qatari soil.

Before the opening of the summit, a coalition of Middle East human rights groups urged leaders not to protect Sudanese officials accused of atrocities in Darfur — a direct jab at support for al-Bashir.

"There should be no immunity for those who have committed crimes in Darfur," said the declaration by the Arab Coalition for Darfur, signed by 15 groups from across the region.

The Doha Center for Media Freedom, a watchdog group, called al-Bashir's presence at the summit a "double standard" by Arab leaders, who have widely backed appeals for an ICC probe into possible war crimes during

Israel's offensive in Gaza in January.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stayed away from the summit because Qatar has been at odds with Cairo over rival approaches to Darfur and the Palestinian power struggle between Iranian-backed Hamas and Western-backed leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, assured delegates that his nation will retain its Arab identity — an apparent reference to worries among Iraq's Arab neighbors about the growing influence of Persian Iran.

The summit also includes a separate outreach to South American nations, including efforts to expand the rapidly growing trade between the two regions.
Associated Press Writers John Heilprin at the United Nations and Salah Nasrawi in Doha contributed to this report.

Ivory Coast Football Fans Blame Police Teargas For Stampede That Killed 19; FIFA Demands Probe Into Incident

Ivory Coast fans blame police tear gas for stadium stampede that kills 19; FIFA demands probe

By BENOIT HILI , Associated Press
March 30, 2009 - 12:39 PM

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast - Fans who survived a deadly stadium stampede in the Ivory Coast blamed police Monday for the tragedy, saying security forces provoked the panic by tear gassing people who had nowhere to run.

World soccer body FIFA called for a prompt investigation into the stampede Sunday at Abidjan's Felix Houphouet-Boigny arena, which killed 19 people and injured over 130.

Tens of thousands of fans turned out to see Chelsea striker Didier Drogba — a native of Ivory Coast — as the home team squared off against Malawi at a World Cup qualifying match.

Interior Minister Desire Tagro said on state TV that fans outside the stadium before the game began pushing and shoving, setting off the panic. But witnesses said as fans tried to get into the stadium, police fired tear gas into the crowd, setting off the stampede.

The weight of the fans pushing forward caused a wall to come crashing down, according to an AP photographer and other witnesses. An Abidjan morgue listed 19 dead, and Tagro gave the number of injured as 132.

"We saw people falling from the top bleachers," said Diarassouba Adama, who was inside the stadium. "The stampede was provoked by the security forces who threw tear gas canisters at us. I don't know why they fired on us."

Relatives of the dead outside one of the capital's morgues agreed.

"My brother left to go to the stadium with his friends. At the entrance, they were attacked by security forces. That's what set off the stampede," Momodou Kamara said after identifying the body of his brother.

Women fainted with grief outside the morgue Monday and others sobbed as they held each other. Fathers and brothers stood, their eyes red with sorrow.

Morgue officials released the names of the 19 dead — including two children, one of whom was age 10. There was no immediate word Monday on the condition of the injured.

State TV announced that Prime Minister Guillaume Soro was holding an emergency cabinet meeting Monday to deal with the national tragedy.

The game took place Sunday despite the deaths and Ivory Coast won 5-0. It was the first match in the final stage of African qualifying for the 2010 World Cup.

"We are all so sad about what happened and can only send our condolences to the family and friends of all those who died," said Drogba, who scored two goals for the Ivory Coast in the match.

The organizer of the next World Cup, meanwhile, pledged Monday there will be no stadium stampedes during Africa's first World Cup in 2010 or during the 2009 Confederations Cup, both being held in South Africa.

Danny Jordaan told reporters in Johannesburg that many African fans buy their tickets only when they reach the stadium, and delays often create impatient crowds outside.

"It triggers a stampede that leads to disaster," Jordaan said. "Those things will not occur in the Confederations Cup or the World Cup. It is impossible."

Jordaan said World Cup and Confederations Cup tickets will have to be purchased well in advance and those without tickets will be stopped far away from the stadiums.

He said stadium gates will open early, three hours before kickoff, and public transportation to stadiums will be improved — all to reduce anxious crowds.

Both he and FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter offered their condolences to the families.

If tear gas was to blame in Abidjan, it would be the fourth time since 2001 that police firing tear gas have set off deadly stadium stampedes in Africa.

In 2000, 13 fans died at a match in Zimbabwe after police fired tear gas into the crowd. A year later, at least 123 people died in Accra, Ghana, after security forces fired tear gas and seven other fans were crushed to death in a stampede in Lubumbashi, Congo, after police fired tear gas.

The worst stadium disaster in Africa was the Ghana stampede in 2001. The deadliest stadium disaster worldwide took place in Moscow in 1982, when 340 people were reportedly killed in fan stampede at a European Cup match.
Associated Press Writer Stuart Moir in Johannesburg and Graham Dunbar in Geneva contributed to this report.

Zimbabwe New Age of Boredom Amid Inclusive Government

Zim's new age of boredom

JASON MOYO - Mar 28 2009 06:00

Life is terribly boring in Harare since people have decided to start being so nice to one another.

Ask Daves Guzha, theatre producer. On Tuesday evening he gathered a group of about 50 theatre lovers to his newly reopened Theatre in the Park in central Harare to watch the premiere of the first play to open in the capital this year.

The audience seemed as excited about being at the theatre as they were by renowned local playwright Steven Chifunyise's new work, Dependence -- a drama with a dash of comedy about a dysfunctional Zimbabwean family. The curtain came down to loud cheers.

Years of deepening national crisis provided work for many, including assorted rights groups, journalists and lawyers. For the arts, it yielded the fruit of biting political satire that led to bans and arrests. But now, in this new era of national unity, hugs and kisses, we're all a bit stranded.

Guzha said Zimbabwean artists have been "love"stuck like this before; at independence in 1980 and again after the fall of apartheid.

"We're at a crossroads in terms of new material. All material written before the unity government no longer has relevance.

"This is why we've had no new plays. We just couldn't respond to the fast pace at which the political environment moved," Guzha said.

The crisis is far from over, but Zimbabwe is taking small, shaky steps out of a decade of beatings, killings, hatred and eye-popping inflation. We had become safe in that misery, living off it. It had become our norm. This new era is just not "normal".

The nation is still trying to get over images of Grace Mugabe weeping over Morgan Tsvangirai as he lay injured in hospital earlier this month. Days later, Robert Mugabe himself gave a touching eulogy at Susan Tsvangirai's funeral. His long-time foe -- bludgeoned to near death at one point and tried for treason -- was "one of our own".

Mugabe's words had "changed my understanding of him", said Tsvangirai's own son in front of thousands of shocked MDC supporters.

Then came the sight of Zimbabwe's two most powerful women, Tsvangirai's deputy, Thokozani Khupe, and Mugabe's number two, Joice Mujuru, exchanging party regalia at a sports arena last Friday.

Compare this with last year; a pulsating campaign leading to the March election, five weeks of guessing who actually won, the June one-man election, mind-boggling inflation, the opposition leader camping out in a foreign embassy and the seemingly endless talks that finally thrust this unfamiliar new spirit of peace and love upon us.

There is still a lot to point and jeer at, such as the size of the new government and its penchant for luxury SUVs and shiny Italian suits.

But despite the frustration over the failure to win financial aid and continuing farm violence there just isn't enough animosity to lift the boredom. Last Saturday, at the Mannenberg club, "Cde Fatso" went on stage to complain that there just wasn't enough violent crime around.

Currency reforms have killed off Harare's roaring dealer culture. The hundreds of currency dealers who owned the streets are out of work and the many street chases between the police and dealers -- and the adrenalin rush we got when changing money in some seedy alley -- are gone.

Harare's nightlife has lost some of its buzz since the diamond dealers went bust. They now spend their days at car lots desperately trying to flog their luxury vehicles and other bling, contemplating the horror of being forced to find regular jobs.

With the supermarkets choking with goods and the garages competing for customers, we miss the excitement of negotiating with back-street dealers for anything from bread to petrol.

The multimillion-dollar anti-Mugabe industry is in recession, and often lashes out against Tsvangirai's betrayal.

At one press conference, Tsvangirai chastised a reporter who asked why he "trusts Mugabe". The prime minister snapped. "It is President Mugabe," he shot back, emphasising the "president" part.

State media are lost in a grey area. The ZBC no longer comes up with its comical conspiracy theories. The Herald has had to tone down its rhetoric, even banning its most acerbic columnist, "Nathaniel Manheru", who heaped vulgar insults on opponents every Saturday in Chaucerian English. Many hated him, but everybody read him.

Now, The Herald runs lengthy odes to "unity of purpose". It even called the MDC leader "Cde Tsvangirai"!

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
Web Address: http://www.mg.co.za/article/2009-03-28-zims-new-age-of-boredom

Hundreds of South Africans Return Back to the African National Congress From COPE Ahead of the April 22 Elections

Hundreds back to ANC?

By Gia Nicolaides
Mon, 30 Mar 2009 08:46

Deputy President Baleka Mbete revealed at the weekend that hundreds of Congress of the People members are expected to leave the party and return to the African National Congress.

Former Cape Town mayor Peter Marais left Cope over the weekend, blaming internal conflict for his departure.

On Thursday, Mlungisi Hlongwane, who was Cope's head of elections, defected back to the ANC.

Mbete said more Cope members had told top ANC officials they were thinking of jumping ship.

"They are saying they are on their way back," she said.

She said the ANC spoke with a few hundred people who indicated they were not going to stay with Cope, adding this proved the grass was not always greener on the other side.

"Even some of the leaders of Cope are very disillusioned," she said.

Mbete said Cope members were welcome to return to the ANC because that was where they belonged.

Eyewitness News

Continuing Sanctions Against Zimbabwe Is Counter-Productive

Sanctions counter-productive

By Mukanya Makwira
Zimbabwe Herald

For those who for what so ever reason had given United States of America President Barack Obama the benefit of the doubt have to think again especially with regards to his recent pronouncements on Zimbabwe.

On Wednesday, March 4, the United States president, in perpetuation of the old George W. Bush regime change drive, decided to extend the almost decade-old sanctions against the country.

"I am continuing for one year the national emergency with respect to the actions and policies of certain members of the Government of Zimbabwe," Obama said in a statement.

This was in line with the claim by George W. Bush earlier on that tiny Zimbabwe somehow posed "a continuing unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States".

The action by the new United States president only cemented the broader view that the United States’ interest in Zimbabwe has always been aimed at furthering a narrow neo-colonialist policy that seeks to enchant white dominance.

For all his black pigment, African roots and good oratory, he remains a pawn in the centuries-old Western imperialist wars and schemes of conquest.

Not that Zimbabwe expected to reap anything out of his pigmentation.

The fact that the political environment in the country is currently undergoing a makeover with the recent consummation of an all-inclusive Government seems to have escaped the United States government.

This is not to imply that the basis upon which the punitive Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act was correct.

The matter has not been helped by the fact that some former opposition functionaries, who earlier on supported the sanctions, have to date failed to soundly condemn them for reasons better known to themselves.

How Zimbabwe is posing a continuing unusual and "extraordinary threat" to the United States baffles the mind, unless of course Washington is opposed to the right to self-determination for the people of Zimbabwe.

The United States foreign policy is generally vague in what it purports to seek to achieve.

The US promotes itself as the world’s foremost proponent of human rights and they would want everyone to believe that the sanctions have been targeted at a selected few individuals within the Zimbabwe Government and Zanu-PF.

Deputy Prime Minister Professor Arthur Mutambara recently echoed the widely acknowledged sentiment that sanctions, call them targeted or not, tend to affect the most vulnerable of the society.

Article 4 of ZIDERA stipulates that neither the United States government, its agencies and agents, nor any international institution where America has a vested interest should give Zimbabwe any form of credit or financial support.

The list of such institutions includes the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and even the African Development Bank.

Where then is the affection of the United Sates government towards ordinary Zimbabweans when President Obama continues perpetuating the discredited Bush legacy?

How is the country going to recover when lines of international credit and balance of payments support continue to be blocked by countries like the United States through ZIDERA?

The most crippling feature of the US human rights policy in Zimbabwe as well as other countries has been its unabashed selectivity.

Nowhere is this more pronounced as in the Middle East.

Is it not ironic that as Obama was issuing his statement in Washington, his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was endorsing the continued violation of the Palestinian people’s rights by pledging unwavering support to Israel genocide and human rights abuses?

By continuing the sanctions regime, the United States and their European cousins have proved beyond any iota of doubt that the issue at hand has nothing to do with democracy.

At a time when there has been a growing chorus from Sadc, the African Union and many other international bodies like Comesa and the Non- Aligned Movement for the world to support Zimbabwe and remove the illegal sanctions, America is trying its level best to torpedo all efforts to rebuild this country.

Seemingly oblivious to the true situation prevailing in the country, the United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee has continued to advocate for regime change while discrediting the inclusive Government simply because Washington never wanted to see this happening.

Addressing members of staff at Africa University in Mutare recently, McGee poured cold water on the Global Political Agreement and urged the two Movement for Democratic Change parties to pull out of the arrangement.

So the collective wisdom of the country’s political parties, regional bodies, continental organisations and even the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that resulted in the charting of this path is warped, at least in the eyes of the Westerners?

Are they questioning the intelligence of the rest of the world and claiming that they are the only ones who think?

What is operating here is a blatant case of double standards of the worst order.

How else would one explain the fact that countries such as Israel and Saudi Arabia, that account for more than 70 percent of global United States military aid, are insulated from even the mildest and most indirect forms of rebuke despite the widely publicised allegations of human rights violations?

The differences between Zimbabwe and the West over the last decade have not been about human rights but control over resources.

Zimbabweans are a hardworking people and all being equal are very ashamed of surviving from handouts and very much want to be in control of their own destiny.

As the Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, pointed out in his inaugural address to Parliament earlier this year the relationship between the country and the Western donors should be "respectful of our sovereignty, not a relationship essentially based on humanitarian assistance".

The United States government owes it to the people of Zimbabwe that the sanctions be removed.

The success of the inclusive Government hinges on the unblocking of the economic lines of credit more than in their selfish attempt to protect the unjustifiable control of a nation’s resources by a few individuals.

The continued existence of sanctions on the country is extremely counter-productive and will certainly not achieve anything positive for the people of Zimbabwe.

SADC Summit Opens Today in Swaziland

Sadc summit opens today

From Caesar Zvayi in MBABANE, Swaziland
Zimbabwe Herald

A SADC Extraordinary Summit to consider an economic recovery package for Zimbabwe and the political situation in Madagascar begins here, today with the full complement of Sadc leaders expected to be in attendance.

President Mugabe, who left for the summit yesterday afternoon, was met at Matsapa International Airport by Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to Mozambique Agrippa Mutambara, Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi and senior Swazi government officials.

President Mugabe joins other heads of state and government at the Swazi Royal Villas for the one-day Extraordinary Summit.

The summit is very significant in that Sadc leaders, who have condemned the illegal economic sanctions on Zimbabwe, are taking practical steps to mitigate their effects.

Minister Mumbengegwi, Finance Minister Tendai Biti and Industry and Commerce Minister Welshman Ncube were already in Swaziland as part of the advance team that attended the Council of Ministers meeting.

Sources who attended the meeting said the outlook on the US$2 billion package was bright as most countries had pledged assistance to Zimbabwe.

Analysts, however, say the value of the package does not lie in monetary terms, but in the political statement Sadc will make by unveiling a package to fight the illegal sanctions.

At the Extraordinary Summit held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, two years ago — which began the process towards an inclusive Government in Zimbabwe — Sadc leaders pledged an economic rescue package to help Zimbabwe undo the damage wrought by the illegal economic sanctions imposed by some Western nations.

The Sadc Council of Ministers, who met in Cape Town, South Africa, earlier this month, endorsed Zimbabwe’s request for a US$2 billion package split into two disbursements of US$1 billion each.

The first US$1 billion, which the finance ministers immediately pledged to mobilise after their Cape Town meeting, aims to stimulate retail and related industries; while the second tranche aims to boost social service delivery by addressing the dire situation in education, health, local authorities and infrastructure development.

The Government said it needed the US$2 billion — half of it in the form of credit and the other half in the form of development budget support — to jump-start the economic recovery programme.

The regional bloc has also expressed readiness to assist Zimbabwe normalise relations with the Bretton Woods institutions — the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund — which cut off lines of credit to Zimbabwe as part of the illegal Western economic sanctions.

The IMF has since commended Government for taking positive steps towards restoration of relations with the multilateral lending institution.

In its report released last week after an Article IV Consultative Mission held from March 9 to 24, the IMF Mission led by Mr Vitaliy Karamenko hailed Zimbabwe for taking steps towards re-integration into the international financial system: a development that might culminate in new loans for reconstruction and restoration of voting rights.

To this end Sadc, along with the African Union, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa and Non-Aligned Movement, has called for the lifting of the sanctions.

The Extraordinary Summit will also be seized with the turmoil in Madagascar where illegal regime change occurred two weeks ago.

Sadc, through its chair, President Kgalema Motlanthe of South Africa, has since condemned the unconstitutional transfer of power in Madagascar saying the bloc does not recognise the new leader, 34-year-old ex-DJ Andry Rajoelina.

Ousted Madagascan leader Marc Ravalomanana has been invited to the summit in the clearest indication yet that Sadc has rejected Rajoelina’s unconstitutional regime.

The Council of Ministers proposed imposing sanctions against Rajoelina and the military top brass who helped him oust elected leader Mr Ravalomanana, who is exiled in Swaziland.

President Mugabe was yesterday seen off at Harare International Airport by Vice President Joice Mujuru, State Security Minister Sydney Sekeramayi, the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Dr Misheck Sibanda and service chiefs among other senior Government officials.

Dr. King's Anti-War and Economic Justice Legacy of Struggle Must Not Be Forgotten

Dr. King's Anti-War and Economic Justice Legacy of Struggle Must Not Be Forgotten

Over four decades later we must honor his work

By Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor
Pan-African News Wire

"So far, we may have killed a million of them--mostly
children. They wander into the towns and see thousands of
children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the
streets like animals."
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking on the U.S. war in
Vietnam during 1967.

April 4, 2009 marks the 41st anniversary of the martyrdom of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee.

The son and grandson of Black Baptist ministers, Dr. King was destined for a career of public service and leadership in his southern community. However, the rapid developments of political events during the 1950s propelled him and thousands of others into the forefront of social struggles against legalized segregation and institutional racism in the United States.

What is often ignored by the federal government and the mass
media who pay tribute to Dr. King annually, is the tremendous anti-war and social justice legacy that the civil rights leader left during the critical years of American military involvement in Vietnam and south-east Asia.

With the influence of Mahatma Ghandi during the Indian independence struggle as well as other mass liberation movements of the post World War II era, King adopted a non-violent, civil disobedience approach to waging war on the system of racial exploitation and degradation in the American South. King's commitment was always geared towards the alleviation of suffering and the upliftment of humanity from oppression and poverty.

Although he recognized many years before that there was a direct link between the fight against American militarism and the movement for civil rights and economic justice, it was not until early 1967 that Dr. King placed his full weight behind the anti-war movement designed to bring about the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Vietnam.

In a story recounted by a Southern Christian Leadership
Conference colleague Rev. Bernard Lee of Atlanta, he says
that: "Martin and I were traveling to Jamaica. He was going
to finish a book that he had been working on. Martin always
carried a couple of really heavy suitcases. Never had any
clothes in them, really. They were filled with books and
magazines and various kinds of documents that he would study."

According to Rev. Lee, while they had dinner before boarding
the plane, Dr. King looked through an issue of Ramparts
magazine that featured photographs of Vietnamese civilians
victimized by the American bombing of the country in early
1967. Lee said that King "froze as he looked at the pictures
from Vietnam. He saw a picture of a Vietnamese mother
holding her dead baby, a baby killed by our military. Then
Martin just pushed the plate of food away from him. I looked
up and said, 'Doesn't it taste any good?' and he
answered, 'Nothing will ever taste any good for me until I do everything I can to end that war.'"

In March of 1967 Dr. King participated in the first massive
anti-war demonstration of the era in Chicago where he marched alongside Dr. Benjamin Spock, Stokely Carmichael, then chairman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and others who had already taken a firm stand against U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Two weeks later King was to deliver his definitive position against the war in Vietnam with an address at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist in Atlanta, and at Riverside Church in New York City.

In these addresses, delivered one year to the date before his death, Dr. King said that Americans should "watch as we
poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their area preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the hospitals, with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for one Vietcong-inflicted injury."

Dr. King's call for an immediate cessation of U.S. military
action in Vietnam was denounced by the leading media outlets
and established organs of power of 1967 and 1968. Reader's
Digest magazine published an article stating that Dr. King
had created "doubt about the Negro's loyalty to his
country." He also became a pariah to the administration of
President Lyndon B. Johnson, who had signed the Civil Rights
and Voting Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965.

Yet Dr. King remained steadfast in his position of linking
the civil rights movement with the anti-war struggle. In
late 1967 in a radio broadcast over the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's (CBC) annual Massey Lecture Series, he said that: "The war in Vietnam is just a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit. And if we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing clergy and layman concerned committees for the next generation. They will be concerned with Guatemala and Peru; they will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia; they will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and politics."

These words were not only visionary but prophetic. Four decades later, the American political economy is still driven by war and economic exploitation. Today the focus of attention for American militaristic and imperial ambitions centers on Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and North Korea, as well as other areas of interests which include Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Sudan, Zimbabwe, the Horn of Africa and Cuba.

Dr. King's assassination on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, amid
the ongoing sanitation workers’ strike which had paralyzed
the city, illustrated the inability of the U.S. ruling
class to come to grips with the necessity of reforming its
own system that is rooted in racism, genocide, greed and class dominance. As we move further into a new century and
millennium, we are faced with the continuation of many of the same ills that Dr. King fought against during the late 1960s. It is this challenge that we must take up in order to make his dream of a truly just society a reality.

April 3-4 mobilizations represent a fitting tribute to King

As thousands of people demonstrate in New York City on April 3-4 against the current bailout of Wall Street and the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is important to reflect on the significance of this year's anniversary of the martyrdom of Martin Luther King, Jr. We must continue the true legacy of Dr. King by opposing U.S. militarism and the continued exploitation of the poor and working people of the United States and the world.

Corporate media pundits and the U.S. administration will of
course make mockery of Dr. King's legacy through the
utterance of false platitudes and outright falsehoods as it
relates to this great civil rights and human rights leader of the 20th century.

Despite these distortions, the modern-day disciples of peace
and social liberation will continue through the anti-war
movement and the struggle against the ruling class imposed economic crisis to reclaim and honor the genuine legacy of Dr. King and the movement he led.

Some Related Theories on the Assassination of King

Forty-one years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. King, the leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and recognized as the most prominent leader within the U.S. based civil rights movement, was killed as he granted support to an African American sanitation workers' strike that had lasted for two months.

King was the target of the federal government's counter-intelligence program (COINTELPRO) and was subjected to several previous attempts aimed at neutralization and liquidation carried out by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) under the leadership of the late J. Edgar Hoover.

King at the time of his murder was estranged from the American government for several reasons. One main bone of contention between Dr. King and the Johnson administration was his complete opposition to the U.S. military intervention and occupation of Vietnam. Dr. King declared in 1967 that the U.S. government was the largest impediment to the realization of national self-determination and world peace on the international scene.

He called for a radical re-distribution of wealth in the United States which would involve the adoption of policies that would require a guaranteed annual income for all peoples in the country. At the time of his murder, Dr. King was poised to take several thousand people to Washington, D.C. in order to demand immediate congressional action aimed at the alleviation of the suffering of poor people in America.

Although King never abandoned his commitment to non-violent social change, he was clearly moving towards an internationalist position that could have brought him to see the relevance and effectiveness of armed revolutionary struggle as a tactic designed to achieve the larger strategic goals of total emancipation from institutional racism, national oppression and economic exploitation.

However, we will never know what may have been because of the machinations of the assassins in 1968. Did King's murder result from a broad conspiracy involving the FBI, racist business elements, army intelligence and the local government and law-enforcement officials in Memphis? This has been the contention of several writers who have advanced this thesis in print over the last thirty years.

There are three books worth mentioning which have set out to shed light upon the notion of a grand conspiracy involving the murder of Dr. King.

The first being "Code Name Zorro", by Mark Lane and Dick Gregory, which suggests that the federal government was behind the assassination thirty years ago. Another book is by Philip Melanson entitled, "The MURKIN Conspiracy". This work attempts to draw a link between the military intelligence apparatus in the U.S. and the killing of Dr. King.

A Canadian connection to the assassination is drawn through the acquisition by James Earl Ray of false identities of residents of Toronto who bore a striking resemblance to himself. Ray was able to obtain a Canadian passport after he allegedly escaped from prison one year before the murder of Dr. King.

The final publication that will be mentioned here is "Orders to Kill" by Attorney William F. Pepper, whose thesis attempts to place responsibility for the murder on military intelligence units operating under the orders of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

All of these books make for interesting reading and analysis despite the absence of key material and documents that would conclusively prove the theories behind each argument.

Although government documents have been released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), one can never be certain that the most essential and relevant ones have not been destroyed or are still being withheld.

Another possibility is that the lack of trained investigators who could comb and probe the existing government documents and witnesses to glean new and more pertinent information related to a government conspiracy is preventing the revelation of a version of the murder that would be much closer to the actual truth of what occurred.

This lack of documentation and concrete analysis has resulted in questionable speculation and inferences by the above mentioned writers, with specific reference to the book by William F. Pepper (Orders To Kill).

Perhaps the most objective of these accounts would be the work by Melanson- who is very cautious in his inferences and conclusions based upon his collection of what he perceives as relevant data on the murder case.

These theories should be examined, in addition to the FBI files on the assassination which are available now on microfilm. Despite the redactions in the documents, one can see clearly that the government was more concerned about minimizing Dr. King's legacy and curtailing violent activity after his assassination than with arresting the culpable forces behind the conspiracy.

Even the House Committee on Assassination (HCOA) in the late 1970s concluded that there was a conspiracy in the death of Dr. King, although they refused to draw a viable link to the intelligence apparatus of the United States at the time.

A Worldwide Movement Opposing War, Exploitation and Racism

Just prior to the April 3-4 mobilizations in New York, tens of thousands gathered in London to protest the G20 summit. The G20 became a focal point of anti-war, environmental, social justice and economic rights organizations and coalitions. People outside this international gathering were raising the same issues as the mass organizations in the United States are addressing.

The growing impoverishment of not only the oppressed African American, Latino, Asian and other people of color and women has become a source of renewed struggle, but the worsening conditions of the white working class is also raising contradictions in the U.S. to new levels. Millions of people of all races have been evicted from their homes, thrown out of their jobs, robbed of their health care benefits and pensions. These broad population groups within the country must mobilize and organize into a coalition that can effectively change the nature of the debate and political struggle in the coming period.

The failure of U.S. imperialism to accept and come to grips with its racist past has come to light with the refusal of the administration to participate in the Durban Review Summit in Geneva. However, this denial of the racist past cannot obscure the continuing phenomena of national oppression inside the country and throughout the world. The oppression of the Palestinian people and their struggle for liberation and statehood will not go away simply because the imperialist nations refuse to attend an international conference.

People of conscience in the U.S. have no other choice but to link up with the working class, poor and oppressed masses of the world in a common struggle for a new system. The crisis in the western capitalist system stems from its long tradition of class warfare against working people and oppressed domestically and the attempted military domination of the peoples of the developing countries throughout the world.

With the economic crisis spreading throughout the planet, it provides excellent opportunities for the building of larger and more effective movements aimed at genuine social change. Together, the people of the U.S., in alliance with the struggling masses throughout the globe, can forge a new era of peace, prosperity and social justice.
Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of the Pan-African News Wire and has been a researcher on the history of the civil rights movement in the United States.