Thursday, February 28, 2013

DPRK, U.S. Basketball Players Have Joint Players

DPRK, U.S. Basketball Players Have Joint Training

Pyongyang, February 27 (KCNA) Basketball players of the DPRK and the U.S. conducted a joint training in Ryugyong Jong Ju Yong Gymnasium here on Wednesday.

Participating in it were U-18 players of the DPRK and ex-player of the NBA of the U.S. Dennis Rodman and his party.

Match tactics, training mode and technique movement of the players of the two countries were exchanged at the joint training.

A workshop on basketball technique took place that day.

February 27. 2013 Juch 102

Kim Jong Un Has Photo Session with Contributors to Successful Nuclear Test

Pyongyang, February 27 (KCNA) -- Marshal Kim Jong Un, first secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea, first chairman of the National Defence Commission of the DPRK and supreme commander of the Korean People's Army, had a photo session with the scientists, technicians, workers, soldier-builders and officials who contributed to the successful third underground nuclear test.

Kim Jong Un appeared in front of the building of the WPK Central Committee.

He highly praised those who successfully conducted the underground nuclear test as part of the practical countermeasure to defend the security and sovereignty of the country, thus fully demonstrating once again that Korea does what it is determined to do and instilling faith in sure victory and optimism into the army and people of the DPRK.

He had a photo taken with them, expressing expectation and conviction that they would achieve greater successes in their scientific researches to further bolster up the nuclear deterrent for self-defence by waging a dynamic drive for breaking through cutting-edge science and technology with the same vim and vigor with which they succeeded in the nuclear test.

Present there were Kim Yong Nam, Choe Yong Rim, Choe Ryong Hae, Jang Song Thaek, Kim Kyong Hui, Choe Thae Bok, Pak To Chun, Kim Yong Chun, Kim Yang Gon, Kim Yong Il, Kim Phyong Hae, Kwak Pom Gi, Mun Kyong Dok, Jo Yon Jun and Hong Sung Mu.

February 27. 2013 Juch 102

Contributors to Successful Nuclear Test Leave Here amid Warm Send-off

Pyongyang, February 27 (KCNA) -Scientists, technicians, workers, officials in the field of national defence science and soldier-builders left here Wednesday after wrapping up their significant itineraries in Pyongyang. They contributed to succeeding in the third underground nuclear test.

They were sent off by Kim Yong Nam, Pak To Chun and Jo Yon Jun and other officials of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea.

Service personnel of the Korean People's Army and Pyongyangites warmly sent them off along the route between Pyongyang Railway Station and the plaza in front of the April 25 House of Culture, via Chollima Street, Pothong Gate, Yongung Street, Jonsung Square and Pipha Street.

February 27. 2013 Juch 102

National Meeting of Active Three-Revolution Team Members Held

Pyongyang, February 27 (KCNA) -- A national meeting of active three-revolution team members was held here on Wednesday.

Present there were Choe Yong Rim, Choe Thae Bok, Pak To Chun, and leading officials of party organizations in provinces, cities and counties, and exemplary three-revolution team members from across the country and.

The meeting reviewed the successes and experience gained in the work of the three-revolution teams and discussed measures to thoroughly carry out the important tasks in the work "Let Us Bring About Fresh Turn in Work of Three-Revolution Teams as Required by New Situation" published by the dear respected Marshal Kim Jong Un on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the start of the three-revolution team movement.

His work was read out at the meeting.

He in the work said that President Kim Il Sung kindled the flame of the movement in February 1973, 40 years ago, adding that this was an important step of historic significance in vigorously conducting the three revolutions, ideological, technical and cultural, and thereby successfully carrying out the cause of modeling whole society on the Juche idea.

The three-revolution team movement has developed to be a powerful engine promoting the ideological, technical and cultural revolutions under the wise guidance of President Kim Il Sung and general secretary Kim Jong Il and fully displayed its vitality in the efforts for building socialism, he noted.

He specified tasks and ways for bringing about a great turn in the work of three-revolution teams as required by the new situation and expressed belief and conviction that the team members would positively contribute to accomplishing the cause of building a thriving nation, bearing deep in mind the trust of the party.

Choe Thae Bok, member of the Political Bureau and secretary of the C.C., the Workers' Party of Korea, made a report at the meeting.

Then followed speeches.

The reporter and speakers said that the publication of Kim Jong Un's work provided important guidelines for dynamically promoting the three revolutions as it newly clarified the significance and importance of the movement and set forth tasks and ways for waging it.

They called for setting bold and ambitious targets for putting the national economy on a Juche-oriented, modern and IT basis and doing everything with wisdom and enthusiasm by learning from the mettle and spirit of space conquerors and those who developed nuclear weapons.

They underscored the need to bring about a new turn in the work of the three-revolution teams under the leadership of Kim Jong Un and fulfil their duties in opening up a turning phase of building a thriving socialist nation.

Bradley Manning Pleads Guilty to 10 Lesser Charges, Explains Motive

Bradley Manning pleads guilty to 10 lesser charges, explains motive

By Julie Tate, Updated: Thursday, February 28, 2:48 PM

The Army private charged with the biggest leak of classified material in U.S. history pleaded guilty to 10 charges Thursday, saying he acted to start a debate over a U.S. foreign policy obsessed with “killing and capturing people.”

Pfc. Bradley Manning, 25, entered guilty pleas in a hearing at Fort Meade before Col. Denise Lind, the military judge in charge of his trial. Manning still faces more serious charges, including aiding the enemy and espionage.

“I believed that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information . . . this could spark a domestic debate over the role of the military and our foreign policy in general,” Manning said in a statement that he read while seated next to his lawyers in court.

Manning turned over hundreds of thousands of classified cables, military incident reports and other documents to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks. The group and its founder, Julian Assange, publicized the material worldwide. At the time, Manning was a low-level intelligence analyst at an Army base outside Baghdad.

U.S. officials have said the leaked information exposed intelligence sources and embarrassed key officials of foreign governments. Intelligence assessments of the damage caused by the leaks will not be presented until the sentencing phase of Manning’s court martial.

In a plea with prosecutors, he will serve 20 years for pleading guilty to the 10 lesser charges covering misuse of classified information. He pleaded not guilty to more serious charges of espionage and aiding the enemy, which could send him to prison for life. He is scheduled to stand trial on 12 remaining charges in June.

Manning described his motives in a 35-page statement that he read briskly in court. Thin and bespectacled, he paused occasionally to sip water but maintained his composure as he explained how he decided to leak the material and how he connected with Assange.

While working at a forward operating base outside Baghdad, Manning read diplomatic cables and other material on a classified government network. The cables contained often blunt and sometimes uncomplimentary assessments by U.S. diplomats of officials in dozens of foreign countries.

Manning said he was fascinated by what the exchanges revealed about U.S. interactions with other countries. “The more I read the cables, the more I came to the conclusion that this type of information should become public,” he said.

Manning said that he downloaded hundreds of documents to a disk that he carried back to the United States while on leave in January 2010. Intending to leak the material, he said he telephoned The Washington Post, where he spoke to an unidentified reporter. He said that he did not provide details and that the reporter didn’t appear to take him seriously. He said he also left a message on the phone of the public editor at the New York Times. The Times did not return his call, Manning said.

But he soon found his outlet. In February 2010, Manning said he submitted the first set of leaked documents to the WikiLeaks Web site. He said he had been impressed with the group’s efforts to expose U.S. military and diplomatic operations.

Manning said he also struck up a relationship in Internet chat rooms with Assange, the flamboyant founder of WikiLeaks. He said Assange never pressured him to provide the thousands of pages of cables, Army logs and other material that Manning downloaded from secure computers and transferred to WikiLeaks. “I take full responsibility,” he said.

He said he did not believe the cables would damage the United States, “but I thought they might be embarrassing.”

WikiLeaks published the first batch of material from Manning on Feb. 18, 2010. Later that year and into 2011, hundreds of thousands of cables dealing with diplomatic relations between the United States and other countries from late 1966 to February 2010 were published in newspapers worldwide and posted by WikiLeaks on its Web site.

Manning was arrested in Iraq in May 2010 after he was identified as the leaker by a former hacker in whom the young soldier had confided over the Internet. He was later transferred to the military jail at Quantico, where his lawyers say his long solitary confinement was abusive.

Imperialists to Send Syrian Rebels More Aid

West to send Syrian rebels aid, not arms

2:43pm EST
By Arshad Mohammed and Khaled Yacoub Oweis

ROME (Reuters) - Western powers pledged aid for Syrian rebels on Thursday but stopped short of offering them weapons, disappointing opponents of President Bashar al-Assad clamoring for more arms.

More than 70,000 Syrians have been killed in a fierce conflict that began with peaceful anti-Assad protests nearly two years ago.

Washington has given $385 million in humanitarian aid for Syria but U.S. President Barack Obama has so far refused to give arms, arguing it is difficult to prevent them from falling into the hands of militants who could use them on Western targets.

The United States said it would for the first time give non-lethal aid to the rebels and would more than double its support to Syria's civilian opposition, casting it as a way to bolster the rebels' popular support.

The help will include medical supplies, food for rebel fighters and $60 million to help the civil opposition provide basic services like security, education and sanitation.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced the new steps after a meeting of 11 mostly European and Arab nations within the "Friends of Syria" group.

The European Union, acting on a decision this month to send direct aid to the rebels, said it had amended sanctions on Syria to permit the supply of armored vehicles, non-lethal military equipment and technical aid, provided they were intended to protect civilians.

If the provision of non-lethal assistance goes smoothly, it could conceivably offer a model for providing weaponry should Western governments ultimately decide to do so.

The aid offered for now did not appear to entirely satisfy the Syrian National Council opposition, a fractious Cairo-based group that has struggled to gain traction inside Syria, especially among disparate rebel forces.

"Many sides ... focus (more) on the length of the rebel fighter's beard than they do on the blood of the children being killed," Syrian National Coalition President Moaz Alkhatib said at an appearance with Kerry and Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi.

A rebel commander in Aleppo, Syria's second city left devastated by several months of heavy fighting, said the lack of arms was the main obstacle to victory for his forces.

"We hope ... that weapons will flow and things will change but we are not waiting for them - we are going ahead with our fighting plans on the ground," the commander, Abdel-Jabbar Oqaidi, told Reuters by Skype.

He estimated that four fifths of the city was now under rebel control and the insurgents had taken over Aleppo's historic Umayyad mosque and the Palace of Justice. The claim could not immediately be verified.

A picture posted on the Internet showed what activists said was a rebel fighter prostrate in prayer in the Umayyad mosque's courtyard, its blackened archways still bearing signs of a fire which damaged the 13th century complex last year.

The rebels were still fighting for control of three airports in the Aleppo region, Oqaidi said.


In what analysts described as a sign of disappointment at the West's reluctance to send arms, Syria's political opposition postponed talks to choose the leader of a provisional government, two opposition sources told Reuters in Beirut.

Opposition leaders hoped a Saturday meeting in Istanbul would elect a prime minister to operate in rebel-controlled areas of Syria, threatened by a slide into chaos as the conflict between Assad's forces and insurgents nears its second anniversary.

While one source said the meeting might happen later in the week, a second source said it had been put off because the three most likely candidates for prime minister had reservations about taking the role without more concrete international support.

"The opposition has been increasingly signaling that it is tired of waiting and no one serious will agree to be head of a government without real political and logistical support," said Syrian political commentator Hassan Bali, who lives in Germany.

Bali said the United States and other members of the core "Friends of Syria" nations appeared intent "on raising the ante against Assad but are not sure how."

A final communiqué said participants would "coordinate their efforts closely so as to best empower the Syrian people and support the Supreme Military Command of the (rebel) Free Syrian Army in its efforts to help them exercise self-defense".

Kerry said the United States would for the first time provide assistance - in the form of medical supplies and the standard U.S. military ration known as Meals Ready to Eat, or MREs - to the fighters.

A U.S. official told reporters it would give the aid only to carefully vetted fighters, adding that the United States was worried that "extremists" opposed to democracy, human rights and tolerance were gaining ground in the country.

"Those members of the opposition who support our shared values ... need to set an example of a Syria where daily life is governed neither by the brutality of the Assad regime nor by the agenda of al Qaeda affiliated extremists," the official said.


The continued U.S. refusal to send weapons may compound the frustration that prompted the coalition to say last week it would shun the Rome talks. It attended only under U.S. pressure.

Many in the coalition say Western reluctance to arm rebels only plays into the hands of Islamist militants now widely seen as the most effective forces in the struggle to topple Assad.

With fighting raging on largely sectarian lines, French President Francois Hollande said at a Moscow summit that new partners were needed to broker talks on ending the crisis, winning guarded support from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"We think that this dialogue must find a new form so that it speaks to all parties," said Hollande, giving few details of his proposal.

Putin said Russia - one of Assad's staunchest allies - would look at Hollande's proposal, "which I think we could consider with all our partners and try to carry out."

Russia has said Assad's departure must not be a precondition for talks and a political solution, while the West has sided with Syria's opposition in demanding his removal from power.

Kerry's offer of medical aid and food rations fell far short of rebel demands for sophisticated anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons to help turn the tables against Assad's mostly Russian-supplied forces.

It also stopped short of providing other forms of non-lethal assistance such as bullet-proof vests, armored personnel vehicles and military training to the insurgents.

Last week the European Union opened the way for direct aid to Syrian rebels, but did not lift an arms embargo on Syria.

Kerry said the U.S. role should not be judged in isolation but in the context of what other nations will do.

"What we are doing ... is part of a whole," he said. "I am absolutely confident ... that the totality of this effort is going to have an impact of the ability of the Syrian opposition to accomplish its goals."

(Additional reporting by Mariam Karouny; Writing by Alistair Lyon; Editing by Roger Atwood and Tom Pfeiffer)

Rebels in Libya Deny Former Prime Minister Is Being Tortured

Libya PM denies Gaddafi premier in "critical condition"

2:02pm EST

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libya's prime minister dismissed on Thursday reports that Muammar Gaddafi's former premier was in a critical condition after being tortured in prison while a United Nations team visited him in jail and said he appeared in "decent" shape.

Al Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi was extradited from Tunisia in June, making him the first senior Gaddafi official to be returned for trial under Libya's new leadership.

He went on trial in November charged with corruption and ordering mass rape during the 2011 conflict that toppled Gaddafi and is being held in a Tripoli prison.

On Tuesday, his Tunisian lawyer, Mabrouk Khorchi, said Mahmoudi was in critical condition and "risks dying" after being tortured in jail.

"Al-Mahmoudi is in good health, and is being treated humanely," Libya's present Prime Minister Ali Zeidan told a news conference.

"Our duty is to preserve his dignity ... The Mahmoudi trial is in the hands of the Libyan judicial system. The court will decide whether he is guilty or innocent."

The U.N. Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said a team of its representatives had visited Mahmoudi at his detention center on Thursday following Khorchi's statement.

"While most of the visit took place in the presence of the prison director, UNSMIL had the opportunity to talk to him privately for some time and asked whether he was mistreated. He unequivocally said he was not," UNSMIL said in a statement.

"Mahmoudi appeared in decent physical and psychological condition and his general demeanor was relaxed. He stated that he is being treated well, and although he suffers from various medical conditions, he has adequate access to medical care."

UNSMIL quoted Mahmoudi as saying he was being represented by a team consisting fully of Libyan lawyers and denied having any non-Libyan lawyers on his legal team.

"He expressed his wish to have more access to his lawyers and that they should be granted more access to the prosecution file against him. He said he has received some family visits, but not by his wife and children who are outside the country."

Mahmoudi served as Gaddafi's prime minister from 2006 until he fled to neighboring Tunisia in August 2011 around the time rebel fighters took Tripoli. He could face life in jail or execution if convicted.

Human rights groups have questioned whether former officials can get a fair trial in a country where bitterness over Gaddafi's rule runs deep and the militias that helped unseat him have influence. But Libya's new leaders have said they are determined to show their state institutions are up to the job of conducting such trials.

(Reporting by Ali Shuaib and Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Michael Roddy)

Clarksdale, Mississippi Stunned by Killing of Gay Mayoral Candidate

Miss. town stunned by killing of gay mayoral candidate

By Emily Le Coz, Clarion Ledger
8:50a.m. EST February 28, 2013

34-year-old Marco McMillian body found
Authorities investigating his death as a homicide

Police: Person of interest in custody

Law enforcement agents on Wednesday afternoon confirmed that the body found near the Mississippi River is that of Clarksdale mayoral candidate Marco McMillian, who had been missing since early Tuesday.

Coahoma County Sheriff's Department made the announcement at a news conference.

The body was found around 8:30 a.m. Wednesday near the levee between Sherard and Rena Lara.

A person of interest has been taken into custody, but sheriff's officials didn't provide the name or where the person is being held. Other authorities, though, have identified the suspect as Lawrence Reed, 22, of Clarksdale.

Charges haven't been filed.

Condolences started pouring into McMillian's Facebook page and Twitter account on Wednesday, mourning his loss.

"Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Marco McMillian, one of the 1st viable openly LGBT candidates in Mississippi," tweeted the Victory Fund, a national organization that supports gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender candidates.

Jarod Keith, McMillian's campaign spokesman, confirmed the candidate was openly gay but said it never came up during the campaign. Keith said he was in shock over the incident.

"We remember Marco as a bold and passionate public servant, whose faith informed every aspect of his life," Keith said in a statement issued after the news conference. "Tragically, that life has been cut short."

McMillian was discovered absent after an accident involving his SUV happened around 8:30 a.m. Tuesday near the Coahoma County-Tallahatchie County line. Reed, who was driving McMillian's SUV, had collided head-on with another vehicle.

McMillian wasn't in his SUV at the time of the accident, thus prompting a search for his whereabouts.

The two drivers each were taken to different hospitals. Reed was airlifted to the Regional Medical Center at Memphis.

The other driver was taken to a local hospital and since has been released.

A spokeswoman for The Med said Reed was in good condition as of Wednesday afternoon.

McMillian had entered the highly contested mayoral race earlier this year, saying he wanted to combat crime and high unemployment. Politics likely wasn't a factor in McMillian's death, said Coahoma County Coroner Scotty Meredith.

A graduate of Jackson State University with a master's degree from St. Mary's University in Minnesota, McMillian was CEO of MWM & Associates. The firm provides professional consultations to nonprofit organizations.

He also had served as international executive director of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, executive assistant and chief of staff to the president of Alabama A&M University, and assistant to the vice president for institutional advancement at Jackson State University, according to his bio.

McMillian was living in Memphis before returning to his hometown of Clarksdale several months ago to run for mayor. He graduated from Clarksdale High School in 1997, and his family still lives in the Delta city where he grew up.

Family members couldn't be reached for comment.

The Coahoama County Sheriff's Department listed McMillian's age as 34, but his Facebook page lists him as 33.

Longtime friend Damon Ray called McMillian a mentor and the kind of person who would help anybody.

"He always believed in helping," said Ray, an Indianapolis-based event planner. "He told me he wanted to do the same in Clarksdale, to help out with crime and unemployment."

Also running for mayor are attorney and former gubernatorial candidate Bill Luckett and state Rep. Chuck Espy, whose father currently serves as mayor. Both are Democrats.

Espy, who has known McMillian casually for many years, called him a dynamic and energetic candidate with numerous ideas about how to change Clarksdale.

Espy offered his thoughts and prayers to McMillian's family.

Luckett had met McMillian for the first time at a "Beans and Greens" Democratic Party function in Clarksdale Saturday.

"He was a very articulate, clean-cut young man," Luckett said. "It's a bizarre and tragic situation."

Other candidates include Democrat Dorris Miller and independent Brad Fair.

Sheikh Hails First Lady Amai Mugabe of Zimbabwe

Sheikh hails Amai Mugabe's work

Wednesday, 27 February 2013 17:43
Zimbabwe Herald

Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi has hailed the work being done by the First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe at the Grace Mugabe Children’s Home in Mazowe. Sheikh Saud, who is in the country on a four-day State visit, today also visited the National Heroes Acre, the Alpha Omega Dairy farm in Mazowe and Boka Auction Floors.

He was accompanied by Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi and Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made.

Sheikh Saud said there were plenty of business opportunities in Zimbabwe which his country was considering pursuing.

“I am very impressed by what I saw. I saw the care she (Amai Mugabe) is giving to the little children she has adopted.

“I saw they are always smiling,” he said.
Sheikh Saud said the Alpha Omega Dairy was a world class dairy adding that Zimbabwe had great potential to do better.

Amai Mugabe said she was planning to build a hospital at the Children’s Home if she got enough resources.

“I do not like to call this Children’s Home an Orphanage. The intention is to bring children who are disadvantaged and those who have been abandoned by their mothers for them to have a place to call home.

“Funds permitting we want to have a hospital,” she said.
Amai Mugabe said in the long run she wanted to build a university in Mazowe as part of the project.

She said it was difficult to develop the Mazowe project as it relied mostly on donations.

“We have a primary school here and it is not only for our children here. We will also accommodate children from outside but they will have to pay. This will enable us to run and sustain our operations including provision of food, clothing and paying teachers.

“We plan to have a university in the same area. The governor has given us some more land for our project,” she said.

Amai Mugabe said human beings were equal and it was bad to ill-treat orphans. At Boka Auction Floors, chairperson of the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board Mrs Monica Chinamasa said Zimbabwe had great potential especially in the agricultural sector.

Sheikh Saud Expresses Interest In Zimbabwe Business

Sheikh Saud expresses interest in Zim businesses

Thursday, 28 February 2013 00:00
Zimbabwe Herald
Tendai Mugabe Senior Reporter

VISITING Ras Al Khaimah ruler Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi has expressed interest in pursuing various business opportunities here.

He is in Zimbabwe on a four-day State visit.

The Sheikh yesterday visited the National Heroes’ Acre, Alfa Omega Dairy Farm in Mazowe and Boka Tobacco Auction Floors.

He was accompanied by Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi and his Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development counterpart Joseph Made.

Sheikh Saud said there were plenty business opportunities in Zimbabwe which his country was considering to pursue.

He praised the First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe’s work at her children’s home.

“I am very impressed by what I saw. I saw the care she is giving to the little children she has adopted. I saw they are always smiling,” he said.

Sheikh Saud said Alpha Omega Dairy was a world class dairy. He said Zimbabwe had potential to do better.

The First Lady said she intended to build a hospital at the children’s home should resources permit.

“I do not like to call this children’s home an orphanage. The intention is to bring children who are disadvantaged and those who have been abandoned by their mothers to have a place to call home. Funds permitting, we want to have a hospital.”

Amai Mugabe said in the long run, she wanted to build a university in Mazowe as part of the project.

She said it was a challenge to develop the project as it relied mostly on donations.

“We have a primary school here and it is not only for our children here. We will also accommodate children from outside, but they will have to pay. This will enable us to run and sustain our operations, including provision of food, clothing and paying teachers.

“We plan to have a university in the same area. The governor has given us some more land for our project,” she said.

Amai Mugabe said human beings were equal and it was bad to ill-treat orphans. At Boka Tobacco Auction Floors, Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board chairperson Mrs Monica Chinamasa said Zimbabwe had great potential, especially in the agricultural sector.

She, however, said efforts to develop the sector were being impeded by illegal sanctions imposed by the West.

“We can do much more in the this sector but our country is under sanctions,” said Mrs Chinamasa.

She said Zimbabwe fought the liberation struggle to reclaim its land from British colonialists.

South Africa Major Export Market for Zimbabwe Tobacco

SA now major export market for Zim tobacco

Thursday, 28 February 2013 00:00
Agriculture Reporter

SOUTH Africa has displaced China as the dominant export market for Zimbabwean tobacco, the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board has said.

Information from the TIMB indicates that as at February 27, South Africa maintained the top position having bought 7,5 million kilogrammes of the golden leaf valued at US$22,8 million.

The tobacco was sold at an average price of US$3,02 per kilogramme.

South Africa has been dominating the regional market.

The country has since overtaken China, which has dropped to third position.

The United Arab Emirates occupies second spot having maintained its place among the top buyers of the golden leaf.

The top five tobacco export markets for Zimbabwe’s tobacco are South Africa, UAE, China, Hong Kong and Sudan.

Last year, China, Belgium, Indonesia, South Africa and Russia were among the top five during the same period.

Zimbabwe has so far earned US$82 million from tobacco exports to different destinations.

The country produces tobacco and exports semi-processed leaf.

Japan is offering the highest price for tobacco at US$10, 03 per kilogramme, followed by China offering US$9,20 per kilogramme and India offering US$8,86 per kilogramme.

In 2012, agriculture grew by 4,6 percent with tobacco being the main component behind this growth.

The crop accounted for 10,7 percent of the GDP in 2012 and constituted 21,8 percent of all total exports, compared to 9,2 percent for other agriculture commodities.

This compares favourably with the 61,1 percent contribution by all minerals combined.

The economic benefits of tobacco are expected to increase in view of more and more growers increasing their production or, diversifying or switching to the crop.

'Increased Insecurity' After 10 Years of War In Darfur Region of Sudan

Sudan: 'Increased Insecurity' After 10 Years of War in Darfur - U.S

27 FEBRUARY 2013
Radio Dabanga

Washington — The United States expressed its deep concern that the people of Darfur continue suffering from increased insecurity, human rights abuses and sexual violence 10 years after the outbreak of war in the region.

In a press statement from 26 February, the White House noted that nearly 300.000 people have died in the conflict so far, being "unarmed civilians" the vast majority.

Additionally, over two million Darfuris remain internally displaced or as refugees in neighboring countries, the US as quoted as saying.

Washington attributed the deaths and displacement to the "brutal conflict among Sudanese Government forces, rebels, and militias, and continued aerial bombardments and indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas by the Sudanese Armed Forces, in violation of UN Security Council Resolutions".

In order to avoid another decade of war and address the crisis of governance that fuels Sudan's civil wars, the White House is calling for an "effective and inclusive political process".

"We call on the Sudanese Government and all rebel groups to engage without preconditions in such a process, using the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur as a basis to achieve a peaceful resolution to the conflict", a part of the statement read.

The US has also expressed its unequivocal support to UNAMID and its commitment to the people of Darfur and to those working for a more peaceful and stable future.

Rosa Parks' Statue a Sign of Progress, Problems

February 27, 2013 at 8:04 PM

Rosa Parks’ statue a sign of progress, problems

The widening black-white wealth gap calls for systemic solutions.

By Jerry Large
Seattle Times staff columnist

A statue of Rosa Parks was unveiled Thursday in the U.S. Capitol, then a couple of hours later another study came out exploring the wide wealth gap between white and black Americans.

If Rosa Parks in bronze reminds us how far we have come, it should also inspire us to keep moving because we haven’t arrived at the promised land yet.

The work of Rosa Parks’ generation gave black Americans (and other American minority groups) a handhold on the ladder up, but because most black Americans were making up for the injustices of the past, that hold was less firm than for white Americans.

The Great Recession that swept so many Americans of all races off the ladder hit black people especially hard.

People who were new to homeownership, people who didn’t have much money saved, people who were trying to get into college got swept backward. Black people were more likely to be in those categories than were white Americans.

The new report, “The Roots of the Widening Racial Wealth Gap: Explaining the Black-White Economic Divide,” comes from the Institute on Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis University. Researchers lead by Tom Shapiro looked at data on the same 1,700 households over 25 years and found that the racial wealth gap nearly tripled.

Gaps persist even when researchers compare people whose behaviors are similar, graduating from college for instance or getting married — both are more economically beneficial to white Americans.

Two-thirds of the difference in wealth accumulation was explained by factors other than choices or behavior. The biggest factors were length of homeownership, household income and unemployment. College education and differences in inheritance made smaller differences.

The gap could be made smaller by changes in public policies and private-sector practices. The gap would decrease if there were less neighborhood segregation, which affects home values and the ability to get loans; less discrimination in the job market and in the workplace; and improved access to high-quality K-12 education, according to the report.

Many of the findings could apply to groups not included in the data, Latinos in particular, but the original data was collected to track black progress post-Civil Rights.

Rosa Parks would have been 100 this month. When she was born there were still many people alive who had been enslaved and who knew the rush of sudden freedom. Equality did not quickly follow.

We know Mrs. Parks because she chose to assert her equality in 1955 when black people in her city, Montgomery, Ala., were required to sit at the back of city buses and to stand if white people wanted their seats.

One evening Rosa Parks chose to be arrested rather than surrender her seat to a white man. Her arrest was followed by a black-citizen boycott of the bus system that would last more than a year and lead to the end of Montgomery’s law.

Over the next decade, discriminatory laws fell in community after community, state after state and nationally — brought down by people who were determined to make equality and justice for all a reality.

Each generation we get a little closer and the nature of the work that needs to be done, from ending slavery, to tearing down Jim Crow (the system of legal discrimination common across the South well into the 1960s), and now addressing policies and practices that increase inequality.

In announcing the report, the researchers said that stifling the human potential of any group hurts economic growth for the country as a whole.

It’s also, as that statue of Rosa Parks reminds us, about justice and equality.

Jerry Large’s column appears Monday and Thursday. Reach him at 206-464-3346 or Twitter @jerrylarge

AMISOM Gender Units Conducts Training in Somalia

Monday, February 25th, 2013 at 12:27 am

Somalia: AMISOM Gender unit conducts training in Baidoa, Beletweyne


AMISOM Gender unit conducts training in Baidoa, Beletweyne

Mogadishu, February 23rd 2013; The Gender Unit of the African Union Mission in Somalia this week conducted training of AMISOM uniformed personnel in Baidoa and Beletweyne.

The training sessions were held for Burundian and Djiboutian officers and focused on cultural awareness and gender issues.

AMISOM is engaged in strategic gender mainstreaming in all area of operations and similar training is planned for troops in Kismayo and Mogadishu.

The training is part of an ongoing effort by the AMISOM Gender Unit to reinforce the troops’ understanding of good Gender practice. AMISOM personnel receive pre-deployment and continuous in-theatre training on issues of gender equality and the rights of women and girls.

The Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia (SRCC), Ambassador Mohamet Annadif, praised the work of the Gender Unit and said that AMISOM was committed to the protection of the rights of all Somalis, especially those of the most vulnerable. “A secure environment free of hunger, violence and intimidation is a necessary precondition for the full enjoyment of human rights. AMISOM is today helping the Somali government and security forces create such an environment within Somalia,” he added.

Puntland Sentences 12 Al Shabaab Members to Death

Garowe Online (Garowe)

Somalia: Puntland Court Sentences Al Shabaab Chief Godane and 11 Others to Death

27 FEBRUARY 2013

Bossaso — Twelve people charged with the murder of Sheikh Ahmed Haji Abdirahman including Al Shabaab leader Ahmed Godane, were sentenced to death after a court found them guilty in Bossaso on Wednesday, Garowe Online reports.

Puntland's North Eastern regional Military Courts Judge, Abdifatah Haji Adan, sentenced the 12 people including Al Shabaab Chief Ahmed Abdi Godane to death by firing squad.

Only 6 of the 12 were captured while the other 6 people are being actively pursued. The 6 people including 1 female had their hearing at a military court where they were found guilty and sentenced to death by firing squad. According to Puntland law, all terrorism cases are held at military courts.

Some of the convicted Al Shabaab members.

The 6 people were caught 14 months ago, however a 6 month investigation was carried out. Following that, the Puntland government formed an independent investigative committee to assess the information retrieved from the investigation by Puntland authorities. Some of the 6 detained people admitted their participation in Sheikh Abdirahman's assassination on video, which immediately went viral.

Sheikh Abdirahman a prominent Somali Islamic scholar, professor and doctor was shot and killed as he was leaving a mosque near his home in Bossaso on December 5, 2011. The killing sparked an international outcry from scholars, intellectuals and Somalis as a whole, against Al Shabaab.

The 12 people all played different roles in the killing of Sheikh Abdirahman from aiding and abetting to financing and organizing, some of the 6 captured convicts admitted working in the terrorist assassination unit.

The convicted persons will have a month to appeal the verdict before an execution date is scheduled.

The deceased Sheikh Abdirahman's friend and colleague Sheikh Abdiqadir Nur Farah - who spoke out against Al Shabaab after Sheikh Abdirahman was killed - was recently killed in Garowe while praying at a mosque.

The brutal assassination resulted in an uproar from Somalis and non Somalis abroad and in Somalia condemning Al Shabaab. On Sunday, citizens in Garowe held a massive demonstration against Al Shabaab that was attended by Puntland President Abdirahman Mohamed Farole, Vice President Abdisamad Ali Shire, scholars and community leaders.

President Farole went on the record at the rally accusing Godane of arranging the killings of Sheikh Abdiqadir and others in Puntland.

The Puntland authorities stated that they captured 50 perpetrators including foreign fighters that are linked to the assassination of Sheikh Abdiqadir, adding that they will be brought to justice by trial.

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013 at 01:07 am

Somalia: Puntland accused Somali Federal Government Violation of Constitution

PRESS RELEASE 26 February 2013

The Federal Government (FG) of Somalia is violating the country’s Provisional Federal Constitution (PFC), which the elected leaders were sworn to uphold. The FG has actively interfered with the formation of emerging Federated States, such as Jubaland in southern Somalia, directly contradicting the principles and provisions of the PFC and abandoning the aspirations of the Somali people, who hope for responsible and accountable governance that paves the way for peace, stability and development, and promotes justice, political cohesion, outreach and national reconciliation.

Instead of focusing on principal priorities, the FG has adventured illegitimately on resource exploitation by hiring foreign advisers to build the ‘Somalia Petroleum Company’ and actively pursue oil companies – former concession holders as well as new companies – to renegotiate old concession or sign new Production Sharing Agreements (PSAs) to areas that are not under FG’s control. This is contrary to the PFC and the FG should refrain from such broker activities until all Federated States are formed, so the Somali people have a role in the fundamental decisions of their future.

This unilateral move is a dangerous ploy that threatens to unravel political cohesion and potentially imperil stabilization progress in Somalia. The FG is advised to invest its time and energy on repairing and rebuilding the disintegrated Federal Republic, instead of attempting to sell what little remains of Somalia. The PFC clearly defines power belongs to the people, as represented by the Federated States, and defers political power distribution, revenue sharing, and natural resources management, until the Federated States of Somalia is completed and a negotiated settlement is reached between the Federal Government and the Federated States. Until such time, Puntland State shall retain and exercise powers endowed in the Puntland Constitution.

Puntland calls on the FG to adhere to the country’s Federal Constitution, to support the formation of the remaining Federated States, to speed up establishment of the Upper House of Federal Parliament, to promote national reconciliation and justice, and to shun unreasonable maneuvers that trigger political crises in Somalia.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Voting Rights Law Draws Skepticism From Justices

February 27, 2013

Voting Rights Law Draws Skepticism From Justices

New York Times

WASHINGTON — A central provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 may be in peril, judging from tough questioning on Wednesday from the Supreme Court’s more conservative members.

If the court overturns the provision, nine states, mostly in the South, would become free to change voting procedures without first getting permission from federal officials.

In a vivid argument in which the lawyers and justices drew varying lessons from the legacies of slavery, the Civil War and the civil rights movement, the court’s conservative wing suggested that the modern South had outgrown its troubled past and that the legal burdens on the nine states were no longer justified.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. asked skeptically whether “the citizens in the South are more racist than citizens in the North.” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, whose vote is probably crucial, asked whether Alabama today is an “independent sovereign” or whether it must live “under the trusteeship of the United States government.”

Justice Antonin Scalia said the law, once a civil rights landmark, now amounted to a “perpetuation of racial entitlement.”

That remark created the sharpest exchange of the morning, with Justice Sonia Sotomayor on the other end. “Do you think that the right to vote is a racial entitlement?” she later asked a lawyer challenging the law, with an edge in her voice that left little doubt she was responding to Justice Scalia’s statement. “Do you think that racial discrimination in voting has ended, that there is none anywhere?”

The outcome of the case will most likely remain in doubt until the end of the court’s current term, in June. Many legal observers predicted that the justices would overturn part of the voting law in 2009, when the court had the same conservative-leaning majority, only to be proven wrong.

One important change, however, is that Chief Justice Roberts suggested in the 2009 ruling that Congress update its formula to determine which parts of the country should remain subject to the law. Congress has not done so.

The question at the heart of Wednesday’s argument was whether Congress, in reauthorizing the provision for 25 years in 2006, was entitled to use a formula based on historic practices and voting data from elections held decades ago.

Should the court strike down the law’s central provision, it would be easier for lawmakers in the nine states to enact the kind of laws Republicans in several states have recently advocated, including tighter identification standards. It would also give those states more flexibility to move polling places and redraw legislative districts.

The four members of the court’s liberal wing, citing data and history, argued that Congress remained entitled to make the judgment that the provision was still needed in the covered jurisdictions. The law passed the Senate unanimously and House overwhelmingly, by a vote of 390 to 33 in 2006.

“It’s an old disease,” Justice Stephen G. Breyer said of efforts to thwart minority voting. “It’s gotten a lot better. A lot better. But it’s still there.”

Justice Kennedy said that history taught a different lesson, referring to the reconstruction of Europe after World War II. “The Marshall Plan was very good, too,” he said. “But times change.”

Justice Breyer looked to a different conflict.

“What do you think the Civil War was about?” he asked. “Of course it was aimed at treating some states differently than others.” He also said that the nation lived through 200 years of slavery and 80 years of racial segregation.

Debo P. Adegbile, a lawyer with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which joined the government in defending the law, echoed that point. “This statute is in part about our march through history to keep promises that our Constitution says for too long were unmet,” he said.

The law was challenged by Shelby County, Ala., which said that its federal preclearance requirement, in Section 5 of the law, had outlived its usefulness and that it imposed an unwarranted badge of shame on the affected jurisdictions.

The county’s lawyer, Bert W. Rein, said that “the problem to which the Voting Rights Act was addressed is solved.”

In any event, he added, the unusual requirement that a sovereign state’s law did not count until blessed by the federal government required substantial justification. The law, he said, was “an unusual remedy, never before and never after invoked by the Congress, putting states into a prior restraint in the exercise of their core sovereign functions.”

It was common ground among the advocates and justices that the act was important and necessary when it was first enacted.

“There is no question that the Voting Rights Act has done enormous good,” Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said. “It’s one of the most successful statutes that Congress passed in the 20th century and one could probably go farther than that.”

There was agreement, too, that the nation and the South in particular have taken great strides toward equality.

“There isn’t anybody on any side of this issue who doesn’t admit that huge progress has been made,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said.

Most of the argument instead concerned the formula for determining which states the law covered.

Chief Justice Roberts reeled off statistics to suggest that the coverage formula no longer made sense. Massachusetts, which is not covered, “has the worst ratio of white voter turnout to African-American voter turnout,” he said. Mississippi, which is covered, has the best ratio, he said, with African-American turnout exceeding that of whites.

The more liberal justices responded that the nine states were responsible for a sharply disproportionate share of federal voting-rights violations, adding that Alabama was in a poor position to challenge the choices Congress made in deciding which parts of the country to cover.

“Under any formula that Congress could devise,” Justice Elena Kagan said, citing data about voting rights suits, “it would capture Alabama.”

The point seemed to interest Justice Kennedy, in one of his few questions skeptical of the law’s challenger. “If you could be covered under most suggested formulas for this kind of statute,” he asked Mr. Rein, “why are you injured by this one?”

Should the court strike down the coverage formula when it decides the case, Shelby County v. Holder, No. 12-96, Congress would be free to take a fresh look at what jurisdictions should be covered. But Congress seems unlikely to be able to agree on a new set of criteria, given the current partisan divide, meaning the part of the law requiring federal pre-approval of election changes would effectively disappear.

Justice Kennedy asked whether it would be proper to make the entire country subject to the provision. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. said no, at least based on the information compiled by Congress in connection with the 2006 extension of the law.

Justice Kennedy seemed to view the response as a concession. “And that,” he said, “is because that there is a federalism interest in each state being responsible to ensure that it has a political system that acts in a democratic and a civil and a decent and a proper and a constitutional way.”

Congress has repeatedly extended the preclearance requirement: for 5 years in 1970, 7 years in 1975, and for 25 years in both 1982 and 2006.

But it made no changes after 1975 to the list of jurisdictions covered by Section 5, relying instead on a formula based on historical practices and voting data from elections held decades ago.

It applies to nine states — Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia — and to scores of counties and municipalities in other states, including the boroughs of Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx.

U.S. Government Refuses to Comment on DPRK Visit by Basketball Players

U.S. gov't refuses to comment on DPRK visit by American basketball players
2013-02-27 09:58:09

WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. State Department on Tuesday refused to comment on an ongoing visit by a delegation of U.S. basketball players to Pyongyang, capital of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

"We don't vet U.S. citizens' private travel to North Korea (DPRK)," State Department deputy spokesman Patrick Ventrell said. "In terms of this private travel to do basketball with kids, we just don't take a position on this private travel."

"But we do urge U.S. citizens contemplating travel to North Korea to review our travel warnings on North Korea, as well as country-specific travel information available on our website," he added.

The 13-member Harlem Globetrotters delegation, led by retired U.S. basketball player Dennis Rodman, arrived in Pyongyang Tuesday for a week-long visit, which is expected to include running a basketball camp for the DPRK's children and engaging in community-based games.

"I think most of guys are first time here so hopefully everything is OK and hopefully kids have a good time for the game," Rodman, 51 and five-time NBA champion, told DPRK's official news agency KCNA.

The Asian country is the 122nd stop among the countries and regions visited by the Harlem team, which received the invitation around one month ago.

It remains unclear whether DPRK's top leader Kim Jong Un, believed to be an avid basketball fan, will watch a match between the two sides. "It is only a communication between the two countries' sports fields," a DPRK official said.

The visit follows a trip last month by Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, which the U.S. State Department characterized as unhelpful.

Washington and its allies are pressing for stricter sanctions against Pyongyang at the UN Security Council following its latest nuclear test on Feb. 12 in defiance of international opposition.

"You know where we are in terms of the track with the DPRK and their threatening and provocative behavior, and how we're working very hard in New York for a very credible and strong response," Ventrell said.

130 Injured In Clashes Between Guinean Police and Protesters

130 injured in clashes between Guinean police, protesters

Wed Feb 27, 2013 9:52PM GMT

At least 130 people have been injured in clashes between the Guinean police and opposition protesters, demanding a free and fair legislative poll in May.

On Wednesday, demonstrators took to the streets in the capital Conakry to demand a graft-free parliamentary election, AFP reported.

The protest turned violent after angry demonstrators hurled stones at police officers. In response, Guinean security forces used teargas canisters to disperse the protesters.

Reports say the injured included 68 police officers.

On February 19, a similar rally took place in the capital where protesters carried signs that read, “Yes to a Free and Transparent Election.”

The election should have taken place in 2011 but was repeatedly delayed until Guinea's National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) announced in December 2012 that the legislative vote would go ahead this year.

The delays have deepened a political deadlock and led to intermittent violence in the country. In April, 2012, 20 people were injured in clashes with police during an opposition protest. In another such incident in December 2011, one person died and a number were injured.

The parliamentary election, slated for May 12, is intended to be the last stage in the mineral-rich West African nation's transition to civilian rule after a military coup in 2008.

- See more at:

Brazil President Dilma Rousseff Visits Nigeria; Joint Communique Calls for Security Council Reform

Nigeria: Jonathan, Rousseff of Brazil Back UN Security Council Reform

24 FEBRUARY 2013

Abuja — Presidents Goodluck Jonathan and Dilma Rousseff of Brazil on Saturday called for an urgent reform of the UN Security Council to make it more democratic and reflective of the changes in the international architecture.

Both leaders made the call in Abuja when Rousseff paid a State visit to Nigeria at the invitation of the Nigerian President.

In a joint communiqué issued by both leaders after a closed-door meeting, they said that the on-going effort at reforming the UN was a welcome development.

They noted that the reform would equip the global organisation better to meet the current challenges in the maintenance of international peace.

The two presidents spoke highly of the friendly relations and cooperation between Africa and South America.

They also expressed their appreciation for the convening of the seventh Ministerial Meeting of the Zone of Peace and Cooperation of the South Atlantic in January.

The two presidents exchanged information about Nigeria's candidature for election as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the period of 2014 to 2015.

They also exchanged information about Brazil's Ambassador Roberto Azevedo's candidacy for the post of Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

They agreed in principle to consider favourably the candidatures, as well as other candidatures from both countries in the light of their excellent bilateral relationship.

The two presidents noted the importance of energy to the development and industrialisation efforts of the two countries.

They restated their commitments to collaborate in the energy sector for a mutually beneficial partnership.

They, therefore, pledged to work together for the prompt implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in the field of energy, signed in 2009.

The MoU covers initiatives in the areas of power generation, transmission and distribution as well as the production and commercialisation of bio-fuels.

The two leaders agreed to actively collaborate in the other sectors including agriculture and aviation.

They noted the importance of implementing Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA), and agreed that the facility of direct air links between the two countries would encourage people to people exchanges and enhance trade between Brazil and Nigeria.

The leaders agreed to encourage exchange of visits by officials in the Defence and Security sectors with a view to boosting cooperation in these areas.

They agreed to promote training cooperation involving military officers of both countries by encouraging participation of Brazilian and Nigerian military officers in training programmes at the staff colleges of both countries.

The two leaders expressed satisfaction with the steady growth of friendly relations and co-operations between Nigeria and Brazil in the past 56 years since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1961.

Both sides expressed their readiness and strong commitment to expand cooperation in various fields and promote the growth of the partnership between the two countries in line with the principles of mutual benefits, mutual respect and mutual interests.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Rousseff who arrived at the Presidential Villa at about 11 a.m., was received by Jonathan, ministers and other presidential aides.

The visiting President inspected a guard of honour mounted for her, followed by a 21-gun salute before the closed-door meeting. (NAN)

Nigeria, Brazil trade volume hits $9 billion

Posted by: Augustine Ehikioya, Abuja on February 24, 2013

Nigeria and Brazil yesterday in Abuja signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) covering agriculture and food security, petroleum, power, bio-fuel, trade and investment, mining, education, aviation, infrastructure management, finance and culture.

It was the high-point of the visit of President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil to Nigeria.

President Goodluck Jonathan said at the end of bilateral talks between the two countries that a bi-national commission will be set to implement the MoU.

The MoU, according to him, will be used to “leverage on the economy of our people, improve the lot of unemployed young men and women and make sure Nigerians and Brazilians are happy people.”

Also speaking, President Rousseff said: “Our exchanges have actually outgrown significantly between 2009 and 2012, years marked by crises. Our trade exchanges have grown and for 2012 the figures come to $9billion.”

“We agreed that we must diversify and make it a more balanced trade.”

Later in a communiqué, the two leaders directed their ministers of foreign affairs to commence the immediate implementation of the agreement.

It said:”Both sides expressed their readiness and strong commitment to expand cooperation in various fields and promote the growth of the partnership between the two countries in line with the principles of mutual benefit, mutual respect and mutual interest.

“The two leaders instructed that the joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation between Nigeria and Brazil should convene the 7th meeting scheduled to hold in Abuja as soon as possible to follow up the outcomes of President Rousseff’s visit to Nigeria.

“Both Presidents welcomed the positive trends in the development of their bilateral trade and pledged to work together towards attaining a more balanced, diverse and mutually beneficial trade relationship.

“The two presidents noted the importance of implementing bilateral air services agreement (BASA) and agreed that the facility of direct air links between the two countries will encourage better people to people exchanges and enhance trade between Brazil and Nigeria. They therefore underscored the need to take appropriate measures to promote the re-establishment of direct air links between the two countries.

“The two leaders noted the significant roles played by the two countries in the maintenance of peace and security in their respective regions and expressed readiness to work together to promote international peace and security, democracy as well as development.”

In the area of Political and Security Cooperation, the Presidents agreed to “encourage exchange of visits by officials in the Defence and Security sectors with a view to boosting cooperation in these areas; to promote training cooperation involving military officers of both countries by encouraging participation of Brazilian and Nigerian military officers in training programmes at the staff colleges of both countries.”

On the crisis in Guinea-Bissau and Mali, they pledged their support for “the global approach to the solution of the Malian crisis, as set out by the ECOWAS, African Union and the United Nations Security Council.

“They commended the efforts of the international community, the ECOWAS and the neighbouring countries aimed at supporting the Malian people in restoring its national unity and territorial integrity, building democratic institutions and fighting the twin scourges of terrorism and organised crime.”

They also expressed serious concern on the present political and institutional crisis in Guinea Bissau and the deterioration of the socio-economic and humanitarian situation of its people”.

The leaders also discussed the importance of cultural and educational exchange programs in solidifying closer ties and friendship between Nigeria and Brazil as they instructed the Ministers of Education of both countries to work through existing MoU or establish a relevant one on cultural and education exchange cooperation.

The Brazilian President was coming from Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, where she attended the just concluded Africa-South America Summit.

President Jonathan also attended the Malabo summit.

Nigerian National Judicial Council Conundrum

OrafidiyaL: NJC, Naron and Salami conundrum

Nigerian Guardian

THE recent decision of the National Judicial Council (NJC) to suspend some judicial officers for misconduct has been well received as a long awaited first step in the quest for the sanitisation of the acknowledged rot in the judiciary. While the current Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman of the NJC, more than her predecessors, has shown within her short tenure, the eagerness to stem the rot, one would be quick to say that this step has become more eloquent for its tokenism and double standards.

The case for which Justice Charles Archibong of the Federal High Court, Lagos Judicial Division was recommended for dismissal is so widespread on the bench at both Federal and State High Courts that, if the public and practicing lawyers were to have an input, a countless number of judges should be kissing the bench goodbye.

However, the similarities in the cases of Justice T.D Naron of the High Court of Justice, Plateau State and the suspended President of the Court of Appeal (PCA), Justice Isa Ayo Salami are compellingly noticeable. The devil in the detail though, is that while Justice Naron was indicted for interacting with Counsel who had a matter before him, the suspended PCA, who was “discharged and acquitted” by the Special Investigative Panel of the National Judicial Council in 2011, not only interacted with legal representatives, but also liaised with litigants (more on the proof of this assertion shortly).

I enjoin those who may be minded to celebrate the tokenism of these two recommendations for compulsory retirement as signifying a new day, a new dawn in the annals of the Nigerian judiciary, to advert their minds to the fact that the current Chief Justice Aloma Mariam Muktar chaired a three-man committee, which adopted the position of the Auta Panel that had earlier reviewed the report of the Justice Umar Abdullahi Special Investigative Panel (so many panels!). The interesting bit is that the Justice Umar Abdullahi panel posited in its report (a report which, to employ a classic oxymoron, is as clear as mud) that it saw nothing wrong in the unethical practice of so-called senior lawyers communicating with members of the Bench; even when they have matters pending before them. So, what has now radically changed the view of the National Judicial Council? Or, is it that the Council acts ‘as the spirit leads’?

Not being a court of law, if the Umar Abdullahi-led Special Investigative Panel did not want to be perceived as acting out a script to protect one of its own, it ought not to have dismissed the lawfully obtained MTN call logs (incidentally now confirmed as authentic) tendered in evidence against Justice Ayo Salami with a wave of the hand, just because they were not certified. The panel should have taken the time to probe whether the calls on the logs were made and received and if so, were they (the calls) appropriate, licit or defensible in the circumstance? What makes NJC’s position desperately awkward is that none of the individuals mentioned on the call data records of Justice Ayo Salami have come out to categorically deny interacting with him and his close friend, Tunji Ijaiya, whose voice calls and text messages were like Siamese twins with those of Ayo Salami – whether they were put through (in the case of voice calls) or sent (in the case of text messages) to ACN chieftains, its legal representatives or other members of the Bench.

One lone voice of reason, Joseph Otteh, a director of Access to Justice, writing in The Guardian of Tuesday, August 16, 2011, opined in his reaction to the NJC Panel report thus: “The precedent set by the NJC’s austerely legalistic approach to fact-finding is that it would be extremely difficult to hold judicial officers accountable for judicial misconduct when they hold illicit, unethical communication with parties involved in a case before them. If there are reasonable fears that a judicial officer is involved in suspicious, inappropriate communication with parties or their legal representatives during the trial of cases before them, no effort ought to be spared to resolve the concern and establish whether such communication took place.” I could not agree more. As to the appropriateness or otherwise of Justice Ayo Salami’s liaisons, I refer to the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers:

“In performance of his duties, a Judicial Officer should observe the following rules:

Rule 1 (2) (a): A Judicial Officer must avoid social relationships that are improper or give rise to an appearance of impropriety; that cast doubt on the judicial officer’s ability to decide cases impartially, or that bring disrepute to the judiciary.

Rule 2 (A) (1): A Judicial Officer should be true and faithful to the Constitution and the law, uphold the course of justice by abiding by the provisions of the Constitution and

Rule 2 (A) (9): A Judicial Officer shall be bound by professional secrecy with regard to his deliberations and to confidential information acquired in the course of his duties other than in public proceedings.

Rule 2 (C) (1): A Judicial Officer should disqualify himself in a proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned, including but not limited to instances where...

Rule 3: A Judicial Officer should regulate his extra-judicial activities, to minimise the risk of conflict with his judicial duties.

Explanations (iii): Violation of any of the rules contained in this Code shall constitute judicial misconduct or misbehaviour and shall entail disciplinary action.”

Here, then, is the conundrum for the National Judicial Council: If Justice T.D Naron could be recommended for compulsory retirement based on proven allegations of interacting with Counsel in a matter before him, it is my well considered view (without prejudice to the shipload of cases in which the suspended PCA is mired) that Justice Ayo Salami ought to have been indicted long before now, for violating virtually all the provisions of the code of conduct for judicial officers.

To drive the point home: a juror (not a judge), Joanne Frail, 43, of Blackley (UK) was jailed for eight months because she contacted a defendant on the social networking site, Facebook, after he (the defendant) had been cleared in a drugs case. Sentencing Frail, the Lord Chief Justice said in a written ruling “Her conduct was directly contrary to her oath as a juror, and her contact with the acquitted defendant constituted flagrant breaches of the proper conduct of the trial.” Why is our case different? Why do we not overlook age, status or influence and do what is right by ensuring in every case that “the punishment fits the crime”? This is the reason well-ordered United States of America would have no compunction in sentencing a 74-year-old (at the time) Bernard Madoff to 150 years in prison in June, 2009 on one count of securities fraud (Ponzi scheme).

And to be sure, perverting/obstructing the course of justice is, to my mind, the greatest Ponzi scheme of all. Just why we continue to slap errant members of the Bench on the wrist with retirement – compulsory or not- (in which case they are entitled to claim gratuity and continue to draw pension for as long as they live) beats the imagination. Is there no provision for dismissal and trial in NJC’s rule books? I just wonder.

Putting MTN’s role in proper perspective, the NJC said it found that Justice T.D Naron was in constant contact with a Senior Advocate who had a matter before a panel the jurist headed – by voice calls, SMS and MMS.

Considering that the law enforcement and security agencies had a hard time extracting confirmation of the authenticity of Justice Salami’s call data record from the service provider, how then, did it happen that Justice T.D Naron’s call logs were released and in all probability, certified, by the same telecoms company without much ado? When were the call logs critical to the indictment of Justice T.D Naron obtained? Did they span longer than the three months which MTN claims is the limit of its storage capacity? Did the logs (of Justice Naron and the Counsel in question) contain incoming and outgoing components as opposed to the single-component call logs supplied in the Justice Salami case?

There is no gainsaying the fact that the Nigerian judicial system is in a shambles. But we can still pull it back from the brink by unearthing the extent of and dealing decisively and holistically with, the obvious rot that has permeated this extremely important arm of government.

Appointments to the Bench should be given more vigorous scrutiny to ensure that only individuals who have been found worthy in learning and character make it there. The judiciary, and indeed, our entire legal system is at a crossroads, and because we all stand to lose as stakeholders in the Nigerian project (of which our legal system is an important part), it behoves us all to rise as one and ensure that those who are bent on further destruction of our justice administration and delivery system are checkmated.

The Nigerian judiciary’s stature and prestige has sunk to an all-time low, while its authority has waned considerably. A corrupt judiciary will certainly not deepen democratic ethos in our land. Perverting the course of justice is a high crime and ought to be dealt with as such. The National Judicial Council needs to do much more than just scratch the surface. Two rhetorical questions are relevant here: Can the National Judicial Council be said to be acting in an even-handed manner? Is MTN non-partisan?

• Orafidiya, a barrister, wrote from Wuse, Abuja.

Wealth Inequality Between Black and Whites Worsens in the United States

Wealth inequality between blacks and whites worsens

By Tami Luhby @CNNMoney February 27, 2013: 12:09 AM ET

Whites have accumulated far more wealth than blacks, according to a new Brandeis University study.

The wealth gap between blacks and whites has nearly tripled over the past 25 years, due largely to inequality in home ownership, income, education and inheritances, according to a new study by Brandeis University.

That type of inequality can be a drag on economic growth for everyone, said Thomas Shapiro, director of the university's Institute on Assets and Social Policy, which conducted the research.

The difference in wealth between typical households in each racial group ballooned to $236,500 in 2009, up from $85,000 in 1984, according to the study, released Wednesday.

By 2009, the median net worth of white families was $265,000, while blacks had only $28,500.

Brandeis researchers looked at the same set of 1,700 families over the 25-year period to see how their actual work and school experiences affected their wealth accumulation.

What they found is that home ownership is driving the growing gap. Price appreciation is more limited in non-white neighborhoods, making it harder for blacks to build equity.

Also, because whites are more likely to have family financial assistance for down payments, they are able to buy homes an average of eight years earlier than black families and to put down larger upfront payments that lower interest rates and mortgage costs.

The home ownership rate for whites is 28% higher than that of blacks.

"How housing wealth is created in different communities is clearly what's driving this," Shapiro said.

Income gains are also a major differentiating factor, even when whites and blacks have similar wage increases. Whites are typically able to put more of their raises towards accumulating wealth because they've already built up a cash cushion. Blacks are more likely to use the money to cover emergencies.

Inheritances also make it easier for some families to build wealth. Among the families studied, whites were five times more likely to inherit money than blacks, and their typical inheritances were 10 times as big.

When it comes to education, black graduates are often more saddled with college loans, making it harder for them to start socking away savings than their white peers. Four in five black students graduate with debt, compared to 64% of whites.

The growing wealth gap has wider ramifications, Shapiro said. If the pattern continues, people could start believing the deck is stacked against them.

"Our economy cannot sustain its growth in the face of this type of extreme wealth inequality," he said.

South African Women's Affairs Minister Speaks on Pistorius Case

Xingwana shows a glimmer of a clue on Pistorius, Steenkamp, and guns

26 Feb 2013 19:15 - Phillip De Wet

Had Oscar Pistorius not had a gun, there may have been no world-famous Valentine’s Day killing, the minister for women, children and people with disabilities, Lulu Xingwana, believes.

"Domestic violence is exacerbated by easy access to guns. We are making a call for stricter gun control," she said at a media briefing on violence against women on Tuesday. "As a country we need to wage a sustained and effective campaign against the availability of guns in our homes and streets."

Xingwana previously tried to make political hay while the Pistorius sun shone, briefly sitting in on the bail hearing for the Blade Runner before joining a small contingent of ANC Women’s League demonstrators outside the court to call for Pistorius to be kept in custody for the duration of his trial.

Besides being a troublesome attempt by the executive branch of government to influence a judicial decision, the call for bail to be denied also held no value in terms of Xingwana’s mandate to protect women.

There is some evidence that rapid and harsh sentencing of murderers may deter others from committing such crimes, and the release of accused rapists on bail is a known problem. But there is no scientific evidence to even remotely suggest that denying bail to the killer of an intimate partner will in any way reduce the staggeringly high rate of such crimes in South Africa.

In fact, extrapolating available data suggests that the biggest impact of denying bail to accused in cases of intimate femicide may be in keeping them alive: a 2008 study found that nearly a fifth of men who kill their female partners commit suicide within a week of doing so.

However, in calling for the number of guns in homes to be reduced, Xingwana may have the beginnings of a point.

“Reducing the number of firearms is a proper preventative strategy,” says gender activist Lisa Vetten, who has been involved in several studies on femicide, or the murder of women by intimate male partners, in South Africa. “It is certainly a way more intelligent intervention than dishing out life sentences all around.”

'Male phenomenon'

The picture on how guns relate to violence against women in South Africa is pretty clear. For starters, men tend to own guns, often for the wrong reasons. “Gun ownership is mainly a male phenomenon, a means to demonstrate manhood, particularly among young men,” wrote a team from the Medical Research Council in a 2010 paper on firearms and gender violence published in the South African Medical Journal. “While men are the predominating victims of gun violence, women are most vulnerable behind closed doors, where guns are used to intimidate, control, hurt and kill intimate partners.”

Anecdotal evidence suggests that, sometimes, women die absent of clear intent when guns are involved in arguments, in something approaching (though not quite qualifying as) a manner accidental. But with only two people in the room, most often, and only the perpetrator surviving, that evidence will always be suspect.

What is objectively clear, however, is that men far more often kill intimate partners with licensed firearms rather than with illegal guns – even though surveys show that nearly twice as many people have access to illegal guns than to licensed ones. Based on available statistics, removing illegal firearms from circulation would have only a slight impact on the number of women killed in the home, but stricter licensing and programmes for the voluntary relinquishing of legal weapons could, perhaps, save the lives of many people.

Combined with research that has consistently shown that guns in homes are more likely to be turned on an inhabitant than be used in defending against an intruder, then, it would seem that Xingwana is right: fewer guns would mean fewer dead women, and statistically, ignoring the still-contested details of the death of Steenkamp, she may have been among them.

Recent data takes that beyond just theory; with stricter gun control there has, indeed, been a decrease in the number of women killed by the men in their lives, and no other factor seems to account for that decrease.

But while controlling guns represent a low-hanging fruit that could see an immediate impact on statistics, research has also shown that it is far from the full picture. It’s just that every other intervention would require doing things that the government and the criminal justice system has failed to do, magnificently so, and for decades.

Domestic abuse goes unreported

Through piecemeal numbers, it appears that femicide rarely comes out of the blue. In some cases that have been extensively studied, researchers have found a considerable history of domestic disturbance, and even physical abuse, as a leading indicator. In South Africa, analysts say, police investigation of reports of domestic disturbances are desultory if they happen at all, and such events are almost never reported to social workers, who theoretically have the ability to intervene and help defuse troubled relationships. Domestic abuse, meanwhile, goes unreported, with society’s tendency to look away rather than risk confrontation cited as the root problem.

Research has also shown a strong, nearly overwhelming, correlation between alcohol use and femicide – including in the victims, to the acute discomfort of even the researchers.

“A high [blood alcohol concentration] may represent a self-destructive element in a risk-taking situation amongst female homicide victims,” concluded a 1992 study out of the University of Cape Town. A similar study, in the Western Cape in 2009, found that 62% of murdered women had high levels of alcohol in their systems at the time.

The alcohol consumption of perpetrators is harder to determine, through a combination of lack of samples drawn, over-burdened testing facilities and poor reporting, but it is generally assumed that drunk men are more likely to kill women.

Yet limiting alcohol consumption is difficult, an issue loaded both politically and economically, and any suggestion that victims could have prevented their own murders nearly unthinkable.

Then there is research that shows that men drawn to guns may simply be more violent to begin with, and that men are quite prepared to kill women by other means (mostly blunt-force beatings, with strangulation less preferred but not unknown).

“The use of firearms [in femicide] have a lot to do with whether you can afford a gun,” says Vetten. “If can't afford a gun you will probably use something else.”

This time, it seems, Xingwana is right: fewer guns would mean fewer dead women in South Africa. It would not, however, solve the problem of femicide, not by any stretch of the imagination.