Saturday, 29 August 2009

Dambisa Moyo on the problems of aid dependency

Dambisa Moyo's talk at the Commonwealth Club of California. She outlines the thesis in her book "Dead Aid" and explains why business and trade are better than aid dependency .

Friday, 28 August 2009

ZAMBIA: NGOs in uproar after president signs new law

LUSAKA , 28 August 2009 (IRIN) - Zambian president Rupiah Banda has signed legislation regulating the operations of civil society, sending shock waves through the sector, which fears its independence will be severely compromised.

Presidential assent means the 2009 NGO Bill, withdrawn in 2007 after widespread protests by civil society and opposition parties, now only needs gazetting to become legislation that will require "the registration and co-ordination of NGOs" and can "regulate the work, and the area of work, of NGOs operating in Zambia".

Dickson Jere, a special assistant to the president for press and public relations, confirmed in a statement: "His Excellency the President Mr Rupiah Banda has assented to 13 Bills, which were recently passed by the National Assembly, including ... the Non-Governmental Organisations Bill."

The new stipulations will compel NGOs to re-register every five years and submit annual information on their activities, funders, accounts, and the personal wealth of their officials; failure to comply could result in the suspension or cancellation of registration.

On 28 August civil society organizations held an emergency meeting in the capital, Lusaka, to plan a response to the looming regulations, which the NGOs have termed "unconstitutional".

"We have already resolved to carry out a peaceful demonstration next week on Friday [4 September 2009] in Lusaka, and there are arrangements going on so that people in the provinces also carry out the protests. I think the court action [a proposed injunction] is a definite intervention as well, but we are still talking," an NGO worker, who declined to be identified, told IRIN.

Unconstitutional

Engwase Mwale, executive director of the NGO Co-ordinating Committee [NGOCC], an umbrella body for civic organizations promoting gender issues, told IRIN after the emergency meeting: "We wish to register our dismay and shock at President Rupiah Banda's assent to the NGO Bill.

We still find it upsetting and retrogressive that in a democratic society such as Zambia, the president could see it fit to assent to a proposed law that has brought constitutional encroachments on our well-entrenched constitutional rights of freedom of association and expression"Although we appreciate the constitutional obligation that he has to assent to any proposed bill that he wishes, we still find it upsetting and retrogressive that in a democratic society such as Zambia, the president could see it fit to assent to a proposed law that has brought constitutional encroachments on our well-entrenched constitutional rights of freedom of association and expression," she said.

Mwale said the law was conceived without consultation with civil society, and government's "micro-management" of the sector would impact negatively on Zambia's social development.

"As NGOs, we recognize the legality of our existence and therefore we are resolved not to allow any unconstitutional means, let alone illegal legislation, to regulate the existence of NGOs ... and have requested an audience with the president so that we can put before him some of the development challenges as well as constitutional deviations of the NGO law that he has just assented to," Mwale said.

"As president, he's still got an opportunity to reconsider his decision ... before it finds its way into the gazette," she said. A bill can take from a few days to a few weeks to come into effect after the president has signed it.

Chid refugees held in shocking conditions, says UNHCR

Refugee agency says children are being kept in appalling conditions on a Greek island. Amateur video captures the kids shouting for freedom.

LESVOS, GREECE(AUGUST 21 2009)- The United Nations' refugee agency UNHCR said on Friday (August 28) more than 850 people, including 200 unaccompanied children, are being held in shocking conditions at a detention centre for illegal immigrants on the Greek island of Lesvos.
The report on the centre at Pagani adds to concern already expressed by UNHCR about Greece's treatment of migrants.

UNHCR's spokesperson in Greece, Ketty Kehayioglou, said the conditions at Pagani were "unacceptable" and "offend human dignity."

The agency had visited several times and found the situation "really, really bad" she said.

Most detainees are from Afghanistan, many seeking political asylum.

Inspectors found overcrowding and unsanitary conditions.

"There were about 150 women with 50 babies and they only had two toilets and one shower. The babies were sick for many days and had high temperature and there was no doctor to treat them." said Kehayioglou.

Recent amateur video footage from inside Pagani showed men women and children cramped in rooms like sardines.

It was filmed by members of the "NoBorders" movement, an alliance of anti-racist organizations from across Europe that work for the human rights of illegal immigrants and the end to immigration controls.

Greek health and social solidarity ministry officials have assured the UNHCR that all unaccompanied children at Pagani will be transferred to special reception facilities by the end of the month.

But Greece has failed to implement recommendations presented last year by UNHCR with the support of the interior ministry to overhaul the asylum system, with special measures to protect children.

The UNHCR argues that neither children nor asylum-seekers in general should be held in detention, and says that Greece has a much lower rate of recognising asylum-seekers than other states.

Last year, close to 20,000 requests for asylum were made, while in the same year 358 asylum requests were accepted.

Greece has been struggling under the weight of tens of thousands of immigrants that arrive each year, mainly through Turkey.

U.N. Official defends his remarks on Australian indigenous "Intervention"

U.N. envoy James Anaya defends his condemnation of the Australian government over it's treatment of indigenous Australians.


BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA (AUGUST 28, 2009) SBS - James Anaya, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Indigenous People, has been forced to defend his condemnation of Australia's controversial intervention into remote Aboriginal communities.
The senior U.N. official made the findings after a 12-day visit to Australia, where he visited indigenous communities and held talks with the Australian government.

He described the measures taken by the Australian government as discriminatory and spoke of entrenched racism in Australia.

His statements were not welcomed by all in Australia, with one politician calling his findings "nonsense" from an "arm-chair critic".

"I've gotten since my statement yesterday providing my preliminary observations on the situation in Australia, I've gotten 70-something E-mails from people in Australia. Most of them not very admiring, I must say," Anaya said on Friday (August 28) at a speaking engagement in Brisbane.

Australia's former conservative government sent police and troops to remote Aboriginal communities in June 2007, and made special bans on alcohol and pornography, to stamp out widespread child sex abuse fuelled by chronic alcoholism.

Anaya said in his statement that these measures "overtly discriminate against aboriginal peoples, infringe their right of self-determination and stigmatize already stigmatized communities."

Some see the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples itself as divisive.

"And this is an instrument that just can't work because it creates special rights for people and it's going to divide this E-mail tells me. It seeks to divide countries by classifying this group as against others. But that's not the case. That's not the case at all. That's a mistaken view of the declaration. The declaration is an instrument of reconciliation. It calls upon the world community and governments to reflect upon the past but in a constructive sense," Anaya added.

Anaya is the first U.N. Rapporteur on Indigenous People to visit Aboriginal communities in Australia.

Next Step after Twitter and Facebook

New Social Network Lets You Carve Your Own Niche on the Web

BONITA, Calif., Aug. 26 /PRNewswire/ -- What is the next thing for Social Networking? Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and their competitors let you find friends, build brands, and form groups. But a newer site lets you do those things, plus monopolize a chunk of the Internet around a social issue, philosophical question, research problem, niche art form, or environmental challenge that you are passionate about. And all for free. The rationale for the World Mind Network (WMN) stems from events over the last five years or so - the advent of new Web 2.0 tools which have hit society like waves, one after another: MySpace, Skype, Facebook, YouTube, all the various iPhone and Blackberry applications, and now Twitter.

But to a large degree, Web 2.0 tools have been used historically for rather trivial purposes such as games, gossip, silly videos, and inconsequential chatter.

The WMN wants to help people use these tools for grander purposes. Members can use these vastly expanded powers of networking to improve education, do research, build community across political divides, and utilize collaborative online mind-mapping to address common problems. Equally important, their tools allow an individual or small group to attract so much search engine traffic that they may become almost synonymous with their favorite cause.

The WMN Board of Trustees includes five Nobel Laureates.

The first project was helping a multimedia ICT Education center in Kenya receive funding through donation of unused cellphone minutes (SambazaGroup.com).

Joining the World Mind Network is like having a Facebook or Twitter account, but it assumes that one is interested in improving the world somehow. Participants can join a forum devoted to improving science education co-moderated by a Nobel Laureate (Peter Doherty), start a psychological research project, or contribute to an interactive blog on the world economic crisis co-hosted by another Nobelist (Edmund Phelps).

A new project, Twit Lit, invites users to create poems in classic forms short enough to become Twitter feeds (TwitLit.net).

Members are setting up live webcam links between secondary classrooms in South Africa, Macedonia and Japan.

In the works is a program using solar powered cell phones recently invented by Samsung to track the spread of the Aedes mosquito that carries the deadly Dengue fever in East Africa.

The new Institute for Digital Music (Institutefordigitalmusic.ning.com) invites visitors to compose, perform and collaborate with others in creating music through elements such as iPhone apps, Leaf Trombone and Ocarina.

One WMN member is starting a contest to award the best Keitai Shoushetsu, or cell phone novel, a cultural phenomenon that has taken Japan by storm.

A wiki devoted to the psychological effects of H1N1 influenza is at emotionalcontagionandswineflu.wetpaint.com.

For more information, including how to start or co-moderate a project, write to worldmindnetwork@gmail.com, or visit www.theworldmindnetwork.net.


SOURCE World Mind Network

World Mind Network

CONTACT: John Toomey of World Mind Network, +1-626-230-8862, Skypejohnatoomey, fixxer@prodigy.net

Web site: http://www.theworldmindnetwork.net/

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

A plan to store carbon dioxide in gas fields beneath homes sparks anger

BARENDRECHT AND ROTTERDAM PORT, THE NETHERLANDS AND AT SEA, NORWAY - A Shell plan to store carbon dioxide in gas fields beneath people's homes in a small Dutch town has angered residents who believe it is dangerous and say they will fight the move all the way to the courts to avoid becoming a European 'waste basket' for CO2. Carbon storage is a major tool in the government's plan to cut down CO2 emissions.

Pink Floyd frontman narrates U.N. documentary on West Bank barrier

The former pink floyd frontman Roger Waters, has narrated a United Nations film, documenting the predicament of Palestinians after the erection of the controversial barrier by Israel.
Waters, who wrote the album "The Wall" in 1979, is featured in the first shots of the movie walking alongside the concrete Bethlehem section of the barrier.

"The wall (film) focuses on the humanitarian impact of the West bank barrier on Palestinians. It also features Israeli security officials who built the wall and shows, explains why they built the wall and the reason for the route," Allegra Pacheco, head of the advocacy unit at the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - occupied Palestinian territory (OCHA oPt) told Reuters Television.

The 15 minute U.N. film "Walled Horizons" is to mark five years since the International Court of Justice ruled that the barrier was illegal and should be taken down because it crossed occupied territory.

The film's Finnish director Johan Eriksson said that it focuses on the direct affect of the fence on Palestinians' lives.

"It was made because this summer it's five years since the international court of justice made an opinion saying that the route of the wall is violence international law, they basically said that you can't build a fence on your neighbours yard," Eriksson said.

The film features Palestinians who lost their lands and livelihoods because of the barrier, with Israeli officials speaking about the aftermath.

Water narrates over footage of Palestinians who are waiting in a fenced corridor at an Israeli checkpoint.

The documentary ends with scenes from a Water concert in Israel in 2006, where he told the audience, "I believe we need this generation of Israelis to tear down the walls and make peace with their neighbours."

Work on the barrier began in 2002, the height of a Palestinian uprising. Israel said the project was necessary to stop suicide bombers from reaching its cities. Palestinians called it a land grab that could deny them a viable state.

The World Court declared the planned 600-km (370-mile) barrier, more than half of which is completed, illegal but Israel has ignored the non-binding ruling.

Source - REUTERS/UNITED NATIONS

Eviction protest, Ramadan feast

A Palestinian family protest the eviction from their East Jerusalem home, with their Ramadan feast on the street.

The al-Ghawis family set a table for the Ramadan 'Iftar', the breaking of the fast meal.

Unsually the meal is served inside, but the Palestinian family was evicted on Aug 2.

Their stone house in Arab East Jerusalem, is now home to Jewish settlers, who's land claim

was backed by an Israeli court.

The al-Ghawis though, refuse to go away. They are camping and serving their Ramadan meal outside

the former family home.

FORMER HOMEOWNER MAYSOON AL-GHAWI SAYING:

"I am having the iftar next to my house because I cannot easily give up my house. Even though I am living on the pavement, and that's very painful - I will bear the pain and sacrifice for the sake of my home."

The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammed Hussein attended to bring attention to the family's plight.

GRAND MUFTI OF JERUSALEM, MOHAMMED HUSSEIN, SAYING:

"We would like to send a clear message to the world. The time has come for the entire world to raise their voices, and to do everything possible to pressure this right-wing extremist Israeli government that encourages settlers on the account of the Palestinian people."

With no resolution at hand, this dispute will only add to the strained situation of Israeli settlement activities in the

occupied West Bank.

Iranian prosecutor calls for maximum punishment of leading reformer

An Iranian prosecutor called on Tuesday for "maximum punishment" of those accused of acting against national security, a crime punishable by death in the Islamic Republic, an official news agency reported.

TEHRAN, IRAN (AUGUST 25, 2009) IRIBB - The fourth trial session was initially scheduled for Wednesday (Aug 19), but was postponed due to a request by lawyers of the defendants.
After the disputed election Tehran and some other Iranian cities became the scene of rallies with some of them turning violent and resulting in the death of at least 30 people.

Those tried in the Revolutionary Court included former Deputy Interior Minister Mostafa Tajzadeh, former Deputy Foreign Minister Mohsen Aminzadeh, former government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh and Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh, Iranian news agencies said.

Analysts regard the trials as an attempt by the authorities to uproot the moderate opposition and put an end to the street protests that erupted after the poll.

Saaed Hajjarian, disabled after an assassination attempt against him in 2000, was among several prominent reformers who were in the dock.

"The prosecutor ... called for maximum punishment for Hajjarian considering the importance of the case," the official IRNA news agency reported from the trial.

U.S releases Afghan Guantanamo detainee after six years in jail

Former Guantanamo detainee, Mohammad Jawad, returns to his family in Afghanistan after being released by the U.S.

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN (AUGUST 25, 2009) REUTERS- The Obama administration on Monday (August 24) released a detainee from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and sent him home to Afghanistan, the latest departure from the controversial prison that is set to close in five months.
Mohammed Jawad was accused of throwing a grenade that injured two U.S. soldiers and their interpreter in Kabul in 2002.

In the Jawad case, he was arrested in 2002 and his lawyers argued that he was only 12 years old. The Pentagon disputed that and has said bone scans suggested he was 18 when he was sent to Guantanamo in early 2003.

His situation was particularly difficult for the Obama administration not just because he was so young, but also because much of the evidence against him had been thrown out because two judges said it was obtained through torture.

In July this year, Judge Ellen Huvelle ordered him released from Guantanamo, where he was held for more than six years. U.S. Justice Department officials have said they were considering trying to prosecute Jawad in a U.S. federal court, but no charges have been filed.

While prosecutors have said they have new evidence against him, Jawad's lawyers dispute that.

Jawad was reunited his family in Kabul and spoke about his ordeal in Guantanamo Bay.

"There was a lot of oppression when I was in Guantanamo and this inhuman action was not for one day, one week or one month. I was oppressed for all the time I was there, until I was released, They humiliated all the prisoners very badly. They would insult our religion and our holy Koran, they were insulting us and behaving in quite an inhuman way. They tortured prisoners very badly and did not allow prisoners to sleep and did not give enough food. A lot of prisoners got sick, the treatment was very inhuman which is against the laws of all countries, though they knew that I was under age and they did not care about my age either."

Jawad is the latest detainee to be released from the facility, which President Barack Obama has promised to close by mid-January 2010. However, some lawmakers question whether he can deal with the remaining 228 prisoners there by then.

"I remember that the U.S. government lawyer provided all the evidence against, me but could not prove anything and at the end the judge said no charge had been proven on Mohammad Jawad and he is innocent," said Jawad.

According to one of his lawyers, Air Force Major David Frakt, Jawad is scheduled to meet with President Hamid Karzai later on Tuesday.

Jawad's family and relatives expressed gratitude for his release and thanked the government of Afghanistan for the efforts made to release him.

"We are all happy that he is released now from Guantanamo," said Gull Nik, Jawad's uncle.

The Obama administration expects to put some of the detainees on trial in U.S. courts or military commissions. But many are expected to be sent home or resettled in other countries because they could face persecution in their home countries.

In June, three detainees were sent to Saudi Arabia, one went home to Chad and another to Iraq. Four Chinese Muslim Uighurs held at Guantanamo were resettled in June in Bermuda because they feared persecution back home in China.

Air India employees go on a three day hunger strike

Employees of India's flagship carrier Air India went on a three-day hunger strike on Tuesday (August 25) in the national capital New Delhi over delay in payment of their salaries.

NEW DELHI, INDIA (AUGUST 25, 2009) ANI- Employees of India's flagship carrier Air India went on a three-day hunger strike on Tuesday (August 25) over delay in payment of their salaries in the national capital New Delhi.
As many as 20,000 employees Aviation Industry Employees Guild (AIEG) and Air Corporation Employees Union (ACEU) and some other unions from across the nation are protesting against the delay in their salary for the past two months.

Earlier, employees had gone on a two-hour-long protest over non-payment of wages.

"Workers haven't been getting their salaries. Past two months we haven't received our salaries. We agitated some time back because of which we got 40 percent of our salaries but the rest 60 percent is still due. The management had issued an order stating to release our salaries by 20th August but we still haven't received anything. The workers are agitated and disappointed," said J B Kadian, general secretary, Air Corporation Employees Union (ACEU).

Last Friday, the meeting of the unions with the Air India CMD (Chairman and Managing Director) in Mumbai failed to reach any conclusion. The next round of meeting is scheduled to be held here this afternoon.

The employees threatened that they would again go on strike on August 31 if their negotiations with the management fail.

"If our salaries are not disbursed today then we will carry on the strike for the next three days," said Shruti, an employee of Air India.

Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel had said the government cannot bail out Air India every time, and it is time for the flagship carrier to tighten its belt and resolve its financial woes.

Air India's borrowings have risen from rupees 6, 550 crore in November 2007 to rupees 15, 241 crore in June this year.

Fires leave behind ecological disaster and destroy livelihoods

Raging fires create an ecological disaster and devastate people's homes and livelihoods around Athens.

PENDELI, GREECE (AUGUST 25, 2009) REUTERS - For as far as the eye could see only charred black landscapes could be seen around Athens on Tuesday (August 25) after raging wildfires burning for three days had abated.
Often referred to as the "lungs of Athens" the lush forests on the hills around the city - like the Pendeli Mountain - provided clean air for the congested capital, but now only several kilometres of smouldering ash circled the wider Athens area in what was being called an ecological disaster.

The forests were also full of wildlife, such as turtles, wild birds, and hares. Partridges could be seen scavenging for a piece of green in the charred remains.

About 37,000 acres (15,200 hectares) of forest, farm fields and olive groves were flattened. It was estimated that some 150 permanent and summer houses were damaged. Homeowners began to survey the damage and clear out the burned debris.

In Rodopolis, in the Attica prefecture, large villas could be seen gutted out by the fire.

The Athens mayor offered to set up tents for anyone who was left homeless by the fire but so far there had been very few takers, as residents tend to find shelter with relatives or have second homes.

An assessment of the damage by local government authorities will now take place and should outline what type of damage houses and farms have suffered in order to allocate compensation and restore power lines and flood breakers. The loss of so many trees now raises the risk of unhindered floods when rains comes in the autumn.

The fire brigade announced officially on Tuesday the fires in the Attica prefecture and Athens suburbs had now been contained but the press and opposition parties have attacked the government's handling of the fire, citing a lack of coordination.

The battle against the fire, the biggest since Greece's worst wildfires in living memory killed 65 people in 2007, will

be crucial to Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, who has been mulling a reshuffle before an early election this autumn.

Karamanlis's government is clinging to a one-seat majority and the socialist opposition, ahead in opinion polls, has made clear it will force a snap poll and use a March parliamentary vote, when a new president will be chosen, to achieve that.

mnesty says increase in rights abuses in Philippines Muslim south

Amnesty International reports alarming levels of human rights abuses in the decades-old conflict in the southern Philippines, which has displaced hundreds of thousands and killed hundreds in the past year.

PIKIT, COTABATO, PHILIPPINES (FILE - AUGUST 2008) OMI MEDIA - Dozens of people have disappeared and have been found murdered in the marshland in the southern Philippines where soldiers had battled Muslim rebels in the past year, Amnesty International (AI) said in a report issued on Tuesday (August 25).
Aurora Parong, head of AI in the Philippines, said they were getting more worried over reports that the military has labeled the displaced communities as potential rebel bases, where Muslim guerillas could stage attacks on military targets.

The London-based watchdog released a 74-page report that documents cases of rights abuse in Muslim areas on the southern island of Mindanao.

Civilians suspected of supporting or fighting with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are subjected to enforced disappearances, torture, and other physical abuse, the AI report said.

"In a 40-year-old conflict, the cumulative numbers of victims of human rights violations is really increasing, and it has reached very very alarming levels," Parong said.

Civilians have reported instances of soldiers forcibly entering their houses, pointing guns at them and destroying their possessions.

AI has documented cases of abduction, torture and killings of civilians by government soldiers.

"We're not just talking now of individuals being traumatised. We're talking of families, communities being traumatised," Parong said.

The Philippines human rights commission has counted more than 300 victims of extra-judicial killings, over 100 victims of enforced disappearances, and nearly 50 torture victims in Mindanao since 2001.

"We also call on the international community, particularly the European Union and Organisation of Islamic Countries to look into the possibilities of international monitors that can give credible reports on the human rights abuses and violations of IHL (international humanitarian law) in the ongoing conflict in Mindanao," Parong said.

Around 700,000, who have also been displaced from their homes due to heavy fighting in the past year, rely on limited food aid and suffer from various diseases, the report said. Diarrhea is common, with a short supply of clean water.

Last July both the government and MILF announced unilateral truces, ending nearly 12 months of violence that has killed 600 people in six towns in Mindanao.

The two sides agreed on a mechanism to help hundreds of thousands return to their homes and farms in time for Ramadan, a spokesman for the government peace panel said.

The Philippines government has been engaged in a 40-year-old battle against the MILF, which clamours for self-determination.

The past year's fighting sparked when the government ended peace negotiations in August last year after a deal to expand the existing Muslim autonomous region on Mindanao was stopped by the court.

Rogue elements of the MILF attacked largely Catholic communities, and the military responded with force.