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Nine Chinese Workers Die: Role in Africa Criticized April 24, 2007

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China is a resource hungry economy with interests all over Africa, and stories like this one are bound to become more common as the Chinese post nationals to out of the way but highly contested spots in the world.

Nine Chinese oil workers and 65 Ethiopians were killed in the incident early on Tuesday, Chinese and Ethiopian officials said.

The attack took place at an oil field in Abole, a small town about 120km from the state capital, Jijiga.

Source: news.bbc.co.uk

The workers were there on behalf of the Zhongyan Petroleum Exploration Bureau, in turn part of China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the massacre.

Chinese-African trade has grown by an astonishing amount since around 2000, although China has maintained a presence in parts of Africa dating from the time of Mao. Last year, trade increased an astonishing 35% over the year before. The Chinese President recently completed an African tour that one BBC story calls the “diplomatic equivalent of speed dating.”

China has been at the forefront of debt forgiveness and is making inroads on a number of other humanitarian ventures in an effort to convince skeptics that there is more to the Chinese presence than simple economic advantage. Projects include anti-malarials, new schools in Tanzania, tourist industry aid in Uganda, and railway construction in Angola. As wide as the aid net is, critics feel that the efforts so far are a thin cover for economic exploitation and resource extraction. The focus appears to be on oil and other materials for China’s exploding energy requirements:

n the past fifteen years, China’s foreign investment in Africa has risen to $850m, while since 1995 China’s share of total African exports has risen from just 1% to nearly 10%.

“China’s policy is driven by the search for energy security and secure energy assets,” Dr Martyn Davies, head of the School of Chinese Studies at South Africa’s Stellenbosch University, told the Mail & Guardian newspaper.

“The concentration is on Nigeria, Angola and Sudan. Most of Angola’s exports, particularly oil, go to China and Sudan is also moving in this direction.”

Source: news.bbc.co.uk

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“Green Nobel” to Zambian April 23, 2007

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The Goldman Environmental Prize was awarded this year to a Zambian whose lifework is protection of elephant populations from poachers. Through an innovative program combining health care, loans, and showing the population that they can profit by keeping elephants alive, Hammerskjoeld Simwinga helps to curb an epidemic of poaching.

The programs have been particularly empowering for women:

“We deliberately pushed our resources to the womenfolk in the community because we knew that working with the women was the strongest part of persuasion,” he told Reuters news agency.

Source: news.bbc.co.uk

The Goldman Prize is the richest environmental award in the world and pays $125,000.

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Mogadishu Turns Toward Chaos April 23, 2007

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Ethiopia invaded Somalia last December  to rid the land of the Islamic Courts Union, a group accused of harboring al-Qaeda  The Ethiopians thought they would be out in two weeks, replaced by an African Union peacekeeping force.

None of that has happened. Five months later, the Islamic Courts Union movement has morphed into a larger coalition of Union members and disaffected nationalsts, distrustful of Ethiopia and vowing to fight its purportedly imperial ambitions in Somalia. Mogadishu is a scene of chaos.

[q url=”http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/6583095.stm”%5DMany bodies are lying around Mogadishu and hundreds of people are fleeing towards the Kenyan border, says the BBC Swahili reporter Khadra Mohammed said.

Some have serious injuries and need urgent medical attention, she says.

Only people with money are able to move out of the capital on public transport vans, most of the dead are poor people, our correspondent says.

War punishes the poor, as always.

Tags: ethiopian | Islamists | Kenyan | Mogadishu | Mohammed | Politics | shelling | Somalia | somalis | SWAHILI | BODIES | border | fleeing | hundreds | INSURGENT | lying | reporter | says | stronghold | traps | Khadra

Zimbabwe Protestors Stripped, Jailed April 23, 2007

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Robert Mugabe has appeared to survive, once again, a number of prophecies predicting his certain demise. But protests in the country are spreading, with the churches now aligned against the government. The police are responding with increasingly questionable tactics.

Women arrested at a protest organized by a pro-democracy group were stripped of their clothes and jailed naked for hours, the group said Sunday, accusing police of violating Zimbabwe’s traditional moral values.

Source: forbes.com

82 members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise were arrested for holding an “illegal political rally” in the second largest city, Bulawayo. Of those:

18 were stripped and jailed “the whole day in a state of undress

Source: forbes.com

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Bloggers : Pope Fallible April 19, 2007

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Pope Benedict’s book, Jesus of Nazareth, sold more than 50.000 copies on its first day. Published in a new edition on the pontiff’s 80th birthday, the book is the Pope’s personal view of the life of Jesus and as such does not represent Church doctrine. With  tongue slightly deviated toward cheek, bloggers are taking the Pontiff on, claiming that his own words show him fallible.

“The Pope is not infallible – there’s a little mistake in his last book,” Italian journalist Sandro Magister said in his blog Settimo Cielo (Seventh Heaven).

Source: books.guardian.co.uk

The Pope says “everyone is free to contradict me”.

The Pope Blog 

Tags: Theologian | Shows | publisher | printing | PONTIFF | infallible | edition | criticise | copies | Rizzoli | Pope | Politics | Jesus | ITALIAN | BENEDICT

Zambia Benefits from Zim’s Woes April 16, 2007

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While South Africa absorbs thousands of penniless fleeing refugees from Zimbabwe, its northern neighbor, Zambia, is reaping some unexpected economic benefits. Until quite recently considered a basket case in its own right, fiscal and policy reforms have made Zambia look like a comparative economic safe haven.

Despite the disruption to trade, Zambia has seen significant benefits from Zimbabwe’s troubles, Finance Minister Ng’andu Magande said at a briefing during this weekend’s meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Source: iht.com

Zimbabwe has the world’s highest inflation rate and has recently come under scrutiny from human rights groups for continued violent repression of the political opposition. The primary boon to Zambia has been in the form of fleeing white farmers, who have been subjected to draconian land reform measures that have left Zimbabwe suffering from severe food shortages. The agricultural sector in a more stable Zambia has been able to capitalize on the skills brought to the country by exiled Zimbabweans.

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Canada Joins Wildlife Coalition April 14, 2007

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The U.S. State Department reports that Canada is the newest nation to join an international effort to prevent trafficking in illegally trapped or sold wildlife. The broad based intent of the coalition is to establish worldwide standards and sanctions to define and limit the trade in live beings.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans, Environment and Science Claudia McMurray and Canadian Minister of the Environment John Baird, during an event at Washington’s National Zoo, said Canada is joining the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking (CAWT), a U.S. initiative launched in September 2005. CAWT, whose members include the United States, India, the United Kingdom, Australia and 14 conservation and industry organizations, seeks to focus attention and resources on ending the illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products.

Source: allafrica.com

Relevant Link: CAWT

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Hostile Intent Technology April 14, 2007

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The Department of Homeland Security is developing new biophysical sensors and detectors designed to detect “hostile intent” on the part of people crossing borders.

The novel program, named “Hostile Intent,” is geared towards detecting and gauging physiological and behavioral indications of deception and bad intentions. These include signs of nervousness, such as body head, perspiration and certain facial movements.

Source: prisonplanet.com

It is not clear what part the new screening technology will play in the overall decision on whether a person would be allowed to enter the country. It is worth noting that a number of physiological conditions, such as hypo- and hyperglycemia could mimic some of the symptoms of “hostile intent.”

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Ethiopia Accused of Genocide in Somalia April 14, 2007

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The Deputy Prime Minister of Somalia’s transitional government today accused Ethiopia of genocide through its intervention in Somalia.

The accusations came from Hussein Aideed – a former Somali warlord who is the deputy prime minister of the transitional government.

Ethiopia dismissed Mr Aideed’s comments as an absolute fabrication.

Source: news.bbc.co.uk

Aideed is highly placed in the transitional government and as Robert Walker notes in this report, his statements are in effect a measure of the dissatisfaction and disunity within the provisional government. Ethiopia invaded Somalia in December to dislodge the Union of Islamic Courts. But the opposition is growing and now it includes:

militias from the Hawiye clan – and they are supported by a groundswell of popular anger towards the Ethiopians.

Many in Mogadishu are opposed to any foreign military presence – and view neighbouring Ethiopia in particular as a longstanding rival.

An offensive by Ethiopian troops in Mogadishu last month has only increased that opposition.

Source: news.bbc.co.uk

The Ethiopians promised to be out in a matter of weeks, but show no signs of drawing down troops after five months of gritty urban warfare.

Tags: warlord | transitional | opposition | Minister | Government | genocide | ForeignAffairs | Deputy | Comments | arrived | accused | Somalia | somali | Politics | Mogadishu | HUSSEIN | Foreign Affairs | ethiopian | ethiopia | Aideed

Chavez: Castro Nearly 100% April 13, 2007

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Like the rumors of Mark Twain’s death, the early reports of Fidel Castro’s demise appear to have been exaggerated. Reports from Hugo Chavez and Cuba’s Foreign Minister indicate that the chief is almost well, although they are not too specific as to what that means.

Almost totally recovered is the very reliable information that I keep receiving,” Mr. Chavez said.

Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Roque, travelling in Vietnam, said Mr. Castro had improved steadily

Source: theglobeandmail.com

It is important to consider the source here, but the Cuban transition cannot come fast enough for Castro’s enemies, and will not be as abrupt as his friends might have feared.

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