Monday, November 30, 2009

UN expert condemns series of stonings in Somalia, urges religious groups to reflect on their actions

The above video of a 13 year old girl stoned in Somalia caused uproar in the world.

30 Nov 2009 12:14 Africa/Lagos

UN expert condemns series of stonings in Somalia, urges religious groups to reflect on their actions

MOGADISHU, November 30, 2009/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Somalia, Dr. Shamsul Bari, on Friday condemned the series of stonings that have been taking place in Somalia, and called on all parties to immediately refrain from and abolish the practice of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatments, including stoning, amputations, floggings, and other unlawful acts of torture and murder.

“I would like to extend my solidarity and sympathy to the Somali people in view of the deteriorating human rights situation in the country including the summary executions, floggings and stoning to death carried out in public by Islamist armed groups in South and Central Somalia,” Dr. Bari said.

Photo Credit: Pleion.

On November 18, 2009, according to reports from a village near the town of Wajid, 400 km north-west of the capital, Mogadishu, a 20-year-old woman divorcee accused of committing adultery was killed by Islamists in public. The woman was taken to an open area where she was buried up to her waist. She was then stoned to death in front of a crowd of about 200 people.

Earlier this month, a man was stoned to death for rape in the port town of Merka, south of Mogadishu, and in October two men are reported to have been executed after being accused of spying. Similar executions took place earlier in the year.

Under the Al Shabab group's interpretation of Sharia law, anyone who has ever been married – even a divorcee – who has an affair is liable to be found guilty of adultery and punished by being stoned to death.

"I strongly condemn these recent executions by stoning in Al-Shabab-controlled areas of Somalia, including that of the woman accused of adultery in the Wajid area, and of Abbas Hussein Abdirahman in the town of Merka," Bari said.

He urged all Islamist groups, including Al Shabaab and other armed groups and religious leaders to abide by their international human rights and international humanitarian law obligations.

"I call on all relevant parties to immediately refrain from and abolish the practice of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatments, including stoning, amputations, floggings, various other corporal punishments, and further unlawful acts of murder and torture which amount to crimes under the International Law," Bari said. "Today is the start of the Eid Al Adha, an extremely important event in the Muslim calendar. It is a good moment for all those in power who are inflicting suffering on individuals and, indeed, on the population in general, to reflect on how they can help people, in accordance with religious principles, rather than harm them."

He also urged the International Community to engage with Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to identify priorities in terms of security, humanitarian and human rights and to strengthen the capacity of the Government to investigate human rights abuses and hold the perpetrators accountable.

"On the occasion of this important religious feast, the Eid Al Adha, I express my solidarity to all the victims and their families," Bari said. "This should be an occasion of piety and celebration. Instead, for them, it is marked with great sadness and loss."

Source: Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

Cyber Monday - Busiest Online Shopping Day in the UK

30 Nov 2009 07:58 Africa/Lagos

Cyber Monday - Busiest Online Shopping Day in the UK

LONDON, November 30/PRNewswire/ --

As featured in the Telegraph, Sun and Guardian, Cyber Monday is expected to be the busiest online shopping day of the year. Shoppers spend the weekends browsing and buying in stores and upon returning to the office on Monday, turn to the Internet to start shopping for better prices than high street stores. Industry experts, including Visa, are gearing up for this Monday, 30 November to be the record busiest day, because many workers will receive their last pay cheque before Christmas. In other years, the first Monday in December, which this year falls on the 7th, was the busiest online shopping day of the year.

Richard Chapple, from online store, said: "Mondays are the busiest day online, and as we approach December people become conscious that Christmas is only around the corner. This sees more people than usual logging on, and with this weekend also being the last payday before Christmas for many, they will make the most of having money in the bank to get presents, especially after a tough year."

David Smith, director of operations at IMRG, said: "The rate of growth has slowed because of current economic conditions, but sales online are still growing." IMRG is forecasting growth of online sales of around 15% this year, compared to previous rates of 35% to 50%. "We are seeing more women shopping online and an older age group and they are the people with the disposable income."

Talya Schaeffer, co-founder of Cyber Monday UK, said: "Starting 30 November, many online retailers will be offering their best promotions of the Christmas trading season. Cyber Monday is an exciting opportunity for both shoppers and retailers alike. Shoppers save money by buying online and retailers can entice shoppers during this peak day with bespoke promotions."

Cyber Monday UK will be hosting a Cyber Monday launch party on Monday, 30 November from 1000 - 1500 GMT at Reload Internet Cafe at 197 Praed Street, Paddington, London W2 1RH across from Paddington Station. Shoppers will be able to surf the Internet for free and get advise on shopping online and saving money.

Click here ( to visit the new Cyber Monday UK site.


Talya Schaeffer of, +44-(0)-20337-18573,

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

New Study Finds Men and Women May Respond Differently to Danger

29 Nov 2009 06:01 Africa/Lagos

New Study Finds Men and Women May Respond Differently to Danger

AT A GLANCE -- An fMRI study of men and women showed that their brains respond differently to positive and negative stimuli. -- Women associate positive images with memories. -- Men may be more likely to act when confronted with danger.

CHICAGO, Nov. 29 /PRNewswire/ -- Researchers using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study brain activation have found that men and women respond differently to positive and negative stimuli, according to a study presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

"Men may direct more attention to sensory aspects of emotional stimuli and tend to process them in terms of implications for required action, whereas women direct more attention to the feelings engendered by emotional stimuli," said Andrzej Urbanik, M.D., Ph.D., chair of Radiology at Jagiellonian University Hospital in Krakow, Poland.

For the study, Dr. Urbanik and colleagues recruited 40 right-handed volunteers, 21 men and 19 women, between the ages of 18 and 36. The volunteers underwent fMRI while viewing pictures from the International Affective Picture System (IAPS), a widely used, standardized testing system comprised of several thousand slides of various objects and images from ordinary life designed to evoke defined emotional states. The images were displayed in two runs. For the first run, only negative pictures were shown. For the second run, only positive pictures were shown.

While viewing the negative images, women showed decidedly stronger and more extensive activation in the left thalamus, which relays sensory information to and from the cerebral cortex, including the pain and pleasure centers. Men exhibited more activation in the left insula, which gauges the physiological state of the entire body and then generates subjective feelings that can bring about actions. Information from the insula is relayed to other brain structures involved in decision making.

"The brain activation seen in the women might indicate stronger involvement of the neural circuit, which is associated with identification of emotional stimuli," Dr. Urbanik said. "The more pronounced activation of the insular cortex in the men might be related to the autonomic components, such as elevated heart rate or increased sweating, that accompany watching emotional material."

The autonomic nervous system controls involuntary functions, including respiration, heart rate and digestion, and helps to adjust certain functions in response to stress or other environmental stimuli. It is responsible for the body's "fight or flight" response to threatening situations.

"In men, the negative images on the slides were more potent in driving their autonomic system," Dr. Urbanik said. "This might signal that when confronted with dangerous situations, men are more likely than women to take action."

While viewing positive images, women showed stronger and more extensive activation in the right superior temporal gyrus, which is involved in auditory processing and memory. Men exhibited stronger activation in the bilateral occipital lobes, which are associated with visual processing.

Dr. Urbanik believes these differences indicate that women may analyze positive stimuli in a broader social context and associate the positive images with a particular memory. Viewing a picture of a smiling toddler might evoke memories of a woman's own child at this age. Conversely, male responses are more perceptual.

"Positive images are devoured by mens' visual and motivational systems," Dr. Urbanik said.

Co-authors are Lilianna Podsiadlo, Ph.D., Michal Kuniecki, Ph.D., Justyna Kozub, M.Sc., and Barbara Sobiecka, M.Sc. Eng.

Note: Copies of RSNA 2009 news releases and electronic images will be available online at beginning Monday, Nov. 30.

RSNA is an association of more than 44,000 radiologists, radiation oncologists, medical physicists and related scientists committed to excellence in patient care through education and research. The Society is based in Oak Brook, Ill. (

Editor's note: The data in these releases may differ from those in the printed abstract and those actually presented at the meeting, as researchers continue to update their data right up until the meeting. To ensure you are using the most up-to-date information, please call the RSNA Newsroom at 1-312-949-3233.

For patient-friendly information on fMRI, visit

Source: Radiological Society of North America (RSNA)

CONTACT: Media, RSNA Newsroom, +1-312-949-3233; Before 11/28/09 or after
12/3/09, RSNA Media Relations, +1-630-590-7762; or Linda Brooks,
+1-630-590-7738,, or Maureen Morley, +1-630-590-7754,, both of Radiological Society of North America (RSNA)

Web Site:

Saturday, November 28, 2009

INTERPOL Alerts Member Nations to Roman Polanski's Continued Fugitive Status

Roman Polanski

26 Nov 2009 19:52 Africa/Lagos

INTERPOL Alerts Member Nations to Roman Polanski's Continued Fugitive Status

INTERPOL's Red Notice remains valid - borders to be watched

LYON, France, Nov. 26 /PRNewswire/ -- Following the decision by a Swiss federal court to release Roman Polanski on bail, INTERPOL has issued an alert reminding all 188 member countries that he remains the subject of a valid Red Notice, an international wanted persons notice, issued at the request of US authorities.

The message, sent by INTERPOL's General Secretariat headquarters in Lyon, France, also requests each of its National Central Bureaus (NCBs) to ensure that border control agencies are advised of Polanski's Red Notice status, which is a request for all countries to identify or locate an individual with a view to their arrest and extradition.

"Given Mr. Polanski's history of international travel while defying a judicial order, a $4.5 million bail and an electronic bracelet does not mean that law enforcement should let its global guard down," said INTERPOL Secretary General Ronald K. Noble.

"Mr. Polanski has given us more than 30 years of proof that he does not feel bound to respect any court decision with which he does not agree."

In March 1977, a Los Angeles County Grand Jury returned an indictment against Polanski, charging him with furnishing a controlled substance to a minor, lewd and lascivious act upon a child under fourteen, unlawful sexual intercourse, rape by use of drugs, perversion and sodomy on a person.

Polanski fled from the US in 1978, after he had pleaded guilty to a charge of unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl, and has eluded arrest since that time until his recent arrest in Switzerland.

"The world law enforcement community should do all in its power to make sure that the Swiss judicial process is allowed to run its course, and if Mr. Polanski defies the conditions of his release, no country should welcome, offer safe haven to, or defend his conduct," Secretary General Noble concluded.

General Secretariat -- 200, quai Charles de Gaulle 69006 LYON, France --


CONTACT: INTERPOL, +33-(0)-4-72-44-76-01

Web Site:

Kenya's Obama Schools e mail US President on Climate Change

27 Nov 2009 12:56 Africa/Lagos

Kenya's Obama Schools e mail US President on Climate Change

NAIROBI, November 27, 2009/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Pupils and students of the Senator Obama schools in Western Kenya have today sent their first emails using solar energy to US President Barack Obama urging him to put his weight behind renewable energy in the run-up to the critical Copenhagen climate summit which is just 10 days away.

The excited pupils sent a strong message; “Please President Obama do some¬thing. We just want to ask you to help other children all the over the world access solar power. Teacher Ann sees connection of climate change and the drought in Kogelo village and said that solar power is a solution to climate change. Help protect the climate, this is our future.”

Making reference to some of the drawings of solar panels sitting at the old iron sheet roofs of their classrooms and those of Mama Sarah Obama, the grandmother of the US president, the pupils informed him that hadn't it been for solar power, they would have never afforded to reach him through email.

Their counterparts at secondary level in a separate email made a simple request asking him to use his “great office to encourage the utilization of renewable energies such as solar power,” they said. “We want other students in communities similar to ours to be able to enjoy their education like we do here in Kogelo.”

The students emphasized that renewable energy will help in solving the problem of climate change which is affecting Kenya and other countries. “Some people are dying of hunger because the rains don't come like they used to, farmers experience drought and people do not have enough food to eat. We are doing our job, please do yours,” they urged.

The Solar Power was installed by Greenpeace SolarGeneration project in August 2009.

The two schools – Senator Obama Nyangoma Primary School and Secondary School – are in Kogelo village, a stone's throw away from Obama's grandmother's house. Mama Sarah also accentuated the need for solar energy saying that it “is clean, reliable and affordable, unlike paraffin that is widely used in the area.” She also got a solar-panel on her roof - and is charging now mobile-telephones of her young neighbours.

The ability to call on world leaders to protect the environment by such under privileged children who had never seen a computer until later this year is a reminder to world leaders ahead of the UN Climate Change summit that the world needs greener energies and this is their moment to make the breakthrough that they have promised on climate change.

Bidding Obama a safe trip to Copenhagen, the students ended with “We hope you can”.


Fiona Musana, Communications Director, Greenpeace Africa, Tel: +27 79 512 9381 Joshiah Ramogi, Project Coordinator, Greenpeace Switzerland, Tel: + 41 79 815 23 22

Source: Greenpeace

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Banks 'Still Not Lending', Centric Commercial Finance Survey Reveals

26 Nov 2009 08:30 Africa/Lagos

Banks 'Still Not Lending', Centric Commercial Finance Survey Reveals

LONDON, November 26/PRNewswire/ -- 65% of corporate financial advisers have stated that the 'the banks are not lending', according to an independent survey commissioned by Centric Commercial Finance. 72% said that cash flow was proving to be their clients' biggest challenge. Disappointingly, 56% of respondents claim that banks have removed or are restricting clients' facilities.

Tim Hawkins comments: "The market needs certainty and innovation right now. Advisers are looking to the independent asset based lending and invoice discounting sectors for liquidity for their clients, which is so notably lacking from elsewhere. These facilities have not only proven to be a valuable lifeline to businesses during the recession, they will also grow with them as they emerge from it. The renaissance of invoice discounting and asset based lending has come at exactly the right time."

Described by advisers as a 'core funding solution', 80% of respondents state that asset based lending and invoice discounting offer 'improved working capital' (66%), followed by 'higher levels of finance' (66%) over and above traditional sources.

When recommending a solution, advisers look for lenders to 'deliver the deal as promised' (86%). This is followed by 'certainty of funding' (63%), 'access to decision-makers' (51%), 'business understanding' (46%), 'speed of service' (42%), 'creativity' (37%) and 'reputation' (18%).

However, financial advisers are optimistic about the UK's emergence from recession, with 65% of accountants and finance brokers expecting to see 'significant increases' in transactional activity within the next 6 to 18 months. 26% of those surveyed anticipate a resurgence of activity within 18 to 24 months. At the two opposite ends of the spectrum, 2% believe this will happen in the next 6 months and 7% predict two years or even longer.

Whilst 77% of advisers who responded to the survey stated that 'survival' is the primary focus for their clients, 70% claim that their clients are now ready to 'exploit gaps in the market'.

In addition, 76% of advisers considered that an equity release scheme for business owners considering retirement would be a highly 'appealing' option at this time. Whilst a minority of respondents felt that some owners may elect to 'hang on for better times', the vast majority felt that equity release would be appropriate where the 'valuation is not too low'.

You can find out more about Centric Commercial Finance at

Source: Centric Commercial Finance

Contact details: Michael Symes, t +44(0)20-7520-9216 m +44(0)7736-008270

Friday, November 27, 2009

Best Practice Winners Announced

27 Nov 2009 12:53 Africa/Lagos

Best Practice Winners Announced

LONDON, November 27/PRNewswire/ -- The Investor Relations Society was delighted to announce the winners of the 2009 Investor Relations Best Practice Awards at a ceremony at the Royal Hospital Gardens, Chelsea in London last night.

The winning companies are:

Best communication of strategy, performance and KPIs in the annual
Sponsored by Hugin (a Thomson Reuters Company)
Winner: Morrisons

Best communication of governance and risk in the annual report
Sponsored by Bank of New York Mellon
Winner: Marks and Spencer

Best communication of corporate responsibility in the annual report
Sponsored by Richard Davies Investor Relations
Winner: BASF

Most improved annual report

Sponsored by Precision IR
Winner: Powerflute

Best-practice corporate website 2009
FTSE 100
Sponsored by Equiniti
Winner: Imperial Tobacco

FTSE 250
Sponsored by Equiniti
Winner: Go-Ahead Group

Small Cap & AIM
Sponsored by IR Magazine
Winner: Laird

Sponsored by IR Magazine
Winner: BASF

Award for the most effective overall Annual Report (printed and online)
FTSE 100
Sponsored by Black Sun
Winner: Tullow Oil

FTSE 250
Sponsored by Black Sun
Winner: Provident Financial

Small Cap and AIM
Sponsored by Deutsche Bank
Winner: May Gurney

Sponsored by Deutsche Bank
Winner: BASF

Also announced were the winners of the Thomson Reuters Extel
Awards as follows:

Best CFO at IR
FTSE 100
Winner: Colin Day, Reckitt Benckiser

FTSE 250
Winner: Tim Score, ARM Holdings

Small Cap
Winner: Allan Watson, Optos

Best overall IR for a UK company
FTSE 100
Winner: BAE Systems

FTSE 250
Winner: ARM Holdings

Small Cap (ex FTSE 350)
Winner: Optos

Notes for editors:

The Investor Relations Society represents members working for public companies to develop effective two way communication with the markets and create a level playing field for all investors. It has almost 600 members drawn both from the UK and overseas, including the majority of the FTSE 100 and much of the FTSE 250.

For further information contact:
The Investor Relations Society
Michael Mitchell - General Manager +44(0)20-7379-1763

Source: Investor Relations Society

For further information contact: The Investor Relations Society, Michael Mitchell - General Manager, +44(0)20-7379-1763.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

The UN Secretary-General Message on the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery 2 December 2009

26 Nov 2009 16:36 Africa/Lagos

The UN Secretary-General Message on the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery 2 December 2009

NEW YORK, November 26, 2009/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- On the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, we express our commitment to the complete eradication of slavery and slavery-like practices.

Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “no one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and slave trade shall prohibited in all their forms”. Yet slavery remains a grave and unresolved problem. This is true in Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe.

In our globalized world, new forms of slavery have taken shape. The list of abhorrent practices, new and old, is now shockingly long, and includes debt bondage, serfdom, forced labour, child labour and servitude, trafficking of persons and human organs, sexual slavery, the use of child soldiers, the sale of children, forced marriage and the sale of wives, and the exploitation of prostitution.

The majority of those who suffer are the poor and socially excluded groups such as minorities and migrants. The overlapping factors of poverty, class and race create structural problems and cycles of marginalization that are hard to break.

Indigenous peoples are more exposed to bonded labour because in many countries they have limited access to land. Gender inequalities and discrimination, lack of education, desperation for work and demand for cheap labour also trap people. The global economic and financial crisis threatens to heighten vulnerability further still.

Combating slavery means not only its direct prohibition by law but also fighting against poverty, illiteracy, economic and social disparities, gender discrimination and violence against women and children. We need to enforce laws against slavery; create mechanisms to combat such practices; reinforce bilateral, regional and international cooperation, including with non-governmental organizations that assist victims; and launch awareness raising campaign.

On this International Day, let us renew our pledge to assist and protect the victims and to do our utmost to ensure the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family.

Source: United Nations - Office of the Spokesperson

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Majorities Reject Banning Defamation of Religion: 20 Nation Poll

23 Nov 2009 06:01 Africa/Lagos

Majorities Reject Banning Defamation of Religion: 20 Nation Poll

COLLEGE PARK, Md., Nov. 23 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As the UN General Assembly prepares to debate a proposal calling for nations to take action against the defamation of religion, majorities in 13 of 20 nations polled around the world support the right to criticize a religion.

On average, across all countries polled, 57% of respondents agree that "people should be allowed to publicly criticize a religion because people should have freedom of speech." However, an average of 34% of respondents agree that governments "should have the right to fine or imprison people who publicly criticize a religion because such criticism could defame the religion." conducted the poll of 18,487 respondents in 20 nations. This includes many of the largest nations -- India, the United States, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Russia -- as well as Mexico, Chile, Germany, Great Britain, France, Poland, Ukraine, Kenya, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Turkey, Iraq, Pakistan, the Palestinian territories, and South Korea. Polling was also conducted in Taiwan and Hong Kong. The margins of error range from +/-3 to 4 percentage points. The surveys were conducted across the different nations between April 25 and July 9, 2009.

Support for the right to criticize religion is strongest in the United States, with 89%, compared to just 9% support for government restrictions. Though the strongest supporters of restrictions on criticism of religions are in Muslim countries, a separate poll by WPO in 2008 showed that overwhelming majorities said it is at least somewhat important for people to have the right to express any opinion, including criticism of the government or religious leaders. In fact, clear majorities in every one of the 20 nations included in that poll took the same position, ranging from 69% in India to 98% in the United States.

The two non-Muslim countries where majorities responded to the recent WPO poll by saying governments should be able to fine or imprison people for criticizing religions are India and Nigeria. This suggests that their support of government restrictions may stem not from a popular push to defend Islam -- Muslims make up roughly half of Nigeria's population but just 13% of India's -- but from a broadly shared desire to reduce incidents of inter-religious violence.

Source: Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland

CONTACT: Steven Kull of the Program on International Policy Attitudes
(PIPA) at the University of Maryland, +1-202-232-7500

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Global Politics

Reality TV 24/7

Taiwan Reacts to Reports on “Asians are Eating a Blackman”

The office of Foreign Affairs in Taiwan has reacted to the horrifying and terrifying pictures of “Asians are eating a blackman” published and circulated on the street in Nigeria and on the Internet. The Department of African Affairs said such inhuman acts will never happen in Taiwan.

The following is the letter from the Foreign Affairs Office of Taiwan:
Mr. Chima,
In reply to your email dated 29 Oct. 2009, we wish to inform that it is much to us disgust to see those shocking series of photos been posted and circulated on internet per you indicated links. We wish to further inform that the alleged “Asians are eating a blackman” did not and will not happen in Taiwan. As far as how true the story was and when and where did it happen, we regret that we can not verify.
Best regards,

Department of African Affairs
Ministry of Foreign Affairs



Below is the text of the email sent to Nigerians Report on “Asians are eating a blackman”:


To all those who are worried about the Chinese (asian) invasion of Africa, see how Asians are eating a black African man.

The next Asian food you buy between Cairo and Cape Town, Dakar and Dar es Salam can contain the flesh of your relative, check all the four links:





Friday, November 20, 2009

US Department of State / Opening Remarks for Hearing on Counterterrorism in Africa (Sahel Region)

19 Nov 2009 13:32 Africa/Lagos

US Department of State / Opening Remarks for Hearing on Counterterrorism in Africa (Sahel Region)

WASHINGTON, November 19, 2009/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Johnnie Carson

Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs

Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Subcommittee on Africa

Chairman Feingold, Ranking Member Isakson, and Members of the Committee:

I welcome the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss our counterterrorism approach in Africa's Sahel region. I look forward to working with the Congress, and especially with this Committee, to identify appropriate tools to support the efforts of the countries in the region to improve their long-term security and constrict the ability of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and a variety of criminal networks to exploit the area's vast territory.

This hearing is very timely. While the security challenges in the Sahel are not new, several attacks in recent months against African and western targets have drawn additional focus to the situation. Key countries in the area, including Algeria, Mali and Mauritania, have intensified efforts to coordinate their activities against AQIM and address the region's short, medium, and long-term vulnerabilities. At the same time, we have consulted with African and European partners to identify areas where we can more effectively support regional efforts to improve the security environment in the Sahel over the long-term.

The United States can play a helpful supporting role in the regional effort, but we must avoid taking actions that could unintentionally increase local tensions

or lend credibility to AQIM's claims of legitimacy. First and foremost, we must be sensitive to local political dynamics and avoid precipitous actions which exacerbate long-standing and often bloody conflicts.

AQIM's ideology and violent tactics are antithetical to the vast majority of people in the region and the group's ability to mobilize significant popular support for its objectives has been largely frustrated. It has failed to build and sustain meaningful alliances with insurgencies and criminal networks operating in the region. In fact, AQIM's murder of a Malian military officer this summer, the unprecedented execution of a British hostage, and the murder of an American citizen in Mauritania may have caused some groups in Northern Mali to sever opportunistic economic arrangements occasionally established to supplement local groups' efforts to survive in the region's austere environment. By contrast, the perceptions of the United States have been generally favourable throughout the Sahel, even during periods when our popularity around the world declined. It is instructive that a 2008 poll involving 18 Muslim countries revealed that Mauritanians had the highest opinion of the United States.

The countries in the region continue to demonstrate the political will to combat terrorism and trans-national crime. They have explicitly stated that the Sahel's security is the responsibility of the countries in the region. They have not asked the United States to take on a leadership role in counterterrorism efforts and

have, in fact, clearly signalled that a more visible or militarily proactive posture by the United States would be counterproductive. We fully concur that the appropriate roles for the United States and other third countries with even more significant interests in the region must be to support regional security efforts while continuing to provide meaningful development assistance to the more remote areas. Moreover, we have emphasized that while the United States will do its part, the burden must be shared.

We recognize, however, that the security environment in the Sahel requires sustained attention to address a wide range of vulnerabilities and capacity deficits. There is insufficient capacity to monitor and protect immense swaths of largely ungoverned or poorly governed territory. The arid northern half of Mali alone covers an area larger than Texas. Niger is the poorest country in the world according to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and Mauritania and Mali rank near the bottom of the Human Development Index scale.

The vulnerability of the northern Sahel has not only led AQIM to seek out safe-havens in the region, but has also enabled the operations of a range of trans-national criminal networks. Criminal traffickers in human beings, weapons, and narcotics also exploit parts of the region. West Africa has emerged as a major trans-shipment area for cocaine flowing from South America to Europe. Narco-trafficking poses a direct threat to U.S. interests since the proceeds of cocaine

trafficked through the region generally flow back to Latin American organizations moving drugs to the United States.

The Committee has asked how our counterterrorism efforts in the Sahel relate to our long-term goals of good governance, civilian control over security forces, and respect for human rights. The first priority President Obama has identified for our Africa policy is helping to build strong and stable democracies on the continent. This is essential in West Africa. In recent years, the region has witnessed two military coups in Mauritania, deeply flawed elections in Nigeria, and an undemocratic seizure of power in Niger. Our experience in the region has underscored the urgency of improving governance, strongly promoting the rule of law, developing durable political and economic institutions at all levels of society, and maintaining professional security forces under civilian control.

Meaningful progress in these areas is crucial to the success of ongoing efforts against AQIM and other criminal networks. The groups are drawn to areas where they can take advantage of political and economic vulnerabilities to safeguard their operating spaces and lifelines, cross borders with impunity, and attract recruits. They benefit when security forces and border guards lack the necessary training, equipment, intelligence, and mobility to disrupt their activities. Their cause is advanced when human rights abuses undermine the credibility of security forces. Terrorists and criminal organizations also take advantage of weak

or corrupt criminal justice systems unable to effectively investigate, prosecute and incarcerate all forms of criminals.

Underdevelopment in key areas represents a critical security challenge in the Sahel. The region is extremely diverse and the sources of insecurity in the region vary. In Northern Mali, for example, insecurity in isolated border areas and along traditional smuggling routes is perpetuated by unmet economic expectations and the lack of legitimate alternatives to smuggling or opportunistic commerce with criminal networks. Mali is one of Africa's most stable democracies, but its efforts to address insecurity in the northern part of the country are severely hampered by poor infrastructure and the inability to provide adequate service delivery and educational and vocational opportunities to isolated areas. This dynamic can become particularly problematic in cases where AQIM has provided small amounts of food and other consumables to generate good-will or at least tolerance from groups living in their vicinity.

Although AQIM's attempts to recruit in Mali and elsewhere in the Sahel have been largely unsuccessful, its limited successes in countries such as Mauritania can largely be traced to its ability to capitalize on the frustration among the young over insufficient educational or vocational opportunities. AQIM has also attracted recruits and material support from isolated communities or

neighbourhoods in Mauritania and elsewhere that lack alternatives to schools, media or networking centers that promote violent extremism.

The United States' primary instrument to advance counterterrorism objectives in the Sahel and the Maghreb is the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP). TSCTP is a multi-year commitment designed to support partner country efforts in the Sahel and the Maghreb to constrict and ultimately eliminate the ability of terrorist organization to exploit the region. The rationale and overarching strategy for TSCTP was approved by a National Security Council (NSC) Deputies Committee in 2005. TSCTP originally included Algeria, Chad, Mali, Morocco, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Tunisia; Burkina Faso was added in 2009.

TSCTP serves two primary purposes. The program identifies and mobilizes resources from throughout the interagency to support sustained efforts to address violent extremism in the region. It was understood when TSCTP was created that sporadic engagements without adequate follow-up or sustainment would fail to achieve meaningful long-term results in a region with a multitude of basic needs. The emphasis was therefore placed on key capacity deficits that could be addressed over a period of years. The program draws resources and expertise from multiple agencies in the U.S. government including the State Department, the Department of Defense, and USAID. As the threat levels, political environments and material

needs differ substantially among the partner countries, most engagements and assistance packages under TSCTP are tailored to fit the priorities of the individual countries.

TSCTP was also designed to coordinate the activities of the various implementing agencies. The coordination takes place at several levels. Action Officers representing the various agencies meet periodically in Washington to coordinate activities and share information. Representatives from Washington and AFRICOM also meet regularly with our Embassies in TSCTP countries. The first line of coordination and oversight takes place at our Embassies. While various assessments and inputs from throughout the interagency inform decisions regarding TSCTP programming, Chiefs of Mission must concur with all proposed activities. They are best placed to understand the immediate and long-term implications of various activities and are ultimately the primary interlocutors with the host countries.

Forming a definitive conclusion at this relatively early stage regarding whether our counter-terrorism approach in the Sahel is working is difficult, but we believe that we are making important progress. For example, TSCTP resources contributed to training and equipping more capable and professional security forces in Mauritania. We believe that our work with Mali to support more professional units capable of improving the security environment in the country

will have future benefits if they are sustained. Our public affairs teams and USAID are implementing a range of beneficial exchanges and projects in Mali and promoting outreach to communities potentially vulnerable to extremism in Mauritania, Chad, Senegal, and elsewhere.

The decision in 2005 to focus on long-term capacity-building rather than search for quick fixes was clearly correct, even more so given the limited absorptive capacity of these countries. Clear victories against the underlying security and developmental challenges in the region are unlikely to clearly announce themselves in the near term, but I am confident that a steady and patient approach provides the best opportunity for success.

The recognition that we must take a holistic approach involving multiple agencies was also correct. Efforts to improve interagency coordination and the vital coordination between our Missions and program managers in Washington and Stuttgart have been crucial. We continue to seek a balance between the financial resources for the development and diplomatic pieces of TSCTP and funding devoted to military to military activities. We will continue to work toward a balanced approach envisioned when the program was created.

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, I want to thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. I will be happy to answer any questions you have.

Source: US Department of State

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Muhammad Ali Documentary Voted for the 82nd Oscars

A remarkable documentary film Facing Ali on the greatest boxing legend Mohammad Ali has been voted for an Oscar in the Documentary Feature Category of the 82nd Academy Awards coming up on Sunday, March 7, 2010, at the Kodak Theatre.

Vancouver director Pete McCormack’s Facing Ali chronicles the phenomenal life of Ali from his golden victory at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome to his great fights and victories in the ring and now that he is still showing his heroic spirit of endurance battling with Parkinson's disease.

The director interviewed ten of Muhammad Ali's great opponents, including Sir. Henry Cooper, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Larry Holmes, Earnie Shavers and George Chuvalo. They recalled their most memorable moments with Ali in and out of the boxing ring.

Facing Ali was voted most popular non-fiction film at the last Vancouver International Film Festival.

The 82nd Academy Awards nominations will be announced on Tuesday, February 2, 2010, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2009 will be presented on Sunday, March 7, 2010, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center®, and televised live by the ABC Television Network. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 200 countries worldwide.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

15 Documentary Features Continue in 2009 Oscar® Race

Teni Melidonian

November 18, 2009

15 Documentary Features Continue in 2009 Oscar® Race

Beverly Hills, CA — The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences today announced that 15 films in the Documentary Feature category will advance in the voting process for the 82nd Academy Awards®. Eighty-nine pictures had originally qualified in the category.

The 15 films are listed below in alphabetical order by title, with their production company:

“The Beaches of Agnes,” Agnès Varda, director (Cine-Tamaris)
“Burma VJ,” Anders Østergaard, director (Magic Hour Films)
“The Cove,” Louie Psihoyos, director (Oceanic Preservation Society)
“Every Little Step,” James D. Stern and Adam Del Deo, directors (Endgame Entertainment)
“Facing Ali,” Pete McCormack, director (Network Films Inc.)
“Food, Inc.,” Robert Kenner, director (Robert Kenner Films)
“Garbage Dreams,” Mai Iskander, director (Iskander Films, Inc.)
“Living in Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders,” Mark N. Hopkins, director (Red Floor Pictures LLC)
“The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers,” Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith, directors (Kovno Communications)
“Mugabe and the White African,” Andrew Thompson and Lucy Bailey, directors (Arturi Films Limited)
“Sergio,” Greg Barker, director (Passion Pictures and Silverbridge Productions)
“Soundtrack for a Revolution,” Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman, directors (Freedom Song Productions)
“Under Our Skin,” Andy Abrahams Wilson, director (Open Eye Pictures)
“Valentino The Last Emperor,” Matt Tyrnauer, director (Acolyte Films)
“Which Way Home,” Rebecca Cammisa, director (Mr. Mudd)
The Documentary Branch Screening Committee viewed all the eligible documentaries for the preliminary round of voting. Documentary Branch members will now select the five nominees from among the 15 titles on the shortlist.

The 82nd Academy Awards nominations will be announced on Tuesday, February 2, 2010, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2009 will be presented on Sunday, March 7, 2010, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center®, and televised live by the ABC Television Network. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 200 countries worldwide.

# # #

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is the world’s preeminent movie-related organization, with a membership of more than 6,000 of the most accomplished men and women working in cinema. In addition to the annual Academy Awards – in which the members vote to select the nominees and winners – the Academy presents a diverse year-round slate of public programs, exhibitions and events; provides financial support to a wide range of other movie-related organizations and endeavors; acts as a neutral advocate in the advancement of motion picture technology; and, through its Margaret Herrick Library and Academy Film Archive, collects, preserves, restores and provides access to movies and items related to their history. Through these and other activities the Academy serves students, historians, the entertainment industry and people everywhere who love movies.



Golf-a-holics Unite. Stay and Play for Free!

Ojai Valley Inn & Spa offers the Ultimate Golf Experience. (PRNewsFoto/Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, Krause, Johansen) OJAI, CA UNITED STATES

19 Nov 2009 11:06 Africa/Lagos

Golf-a-holics Unite. Stay and Play for Free!

OJAI, Calif., Nov. 19 /PRNewswire/ -- Ojai Valley Inn & Spa is offering the ultimate golf experience: stay and play for free. It's this simple: From November 29th through December 22nd, stay in a Shangri-La Room or Suite and you have completely unrestricted access to our golf course.

(Photo: )

There are no strings attached, except of course, golf course availability!

Mark Greenslit, Director of Golf explains: "Golf courses are meant to be used. Ojai Valley Inn and Spa has been host to seven PGA Senior Tour events, and numerous private and charitable tournaments. Now, it's your turn! With this program, you can book golf on day one, stay overnight, and golf the second day as well. My goodness, if two are golfing, the cost of the room is more than covered by the savings in green fees alone. There are no extras for golf carts either."

Sculpted from the natural terrain in 1923 by renowned architect George C. Thomas Jr., this 18-hole course plays 6,292 yards with a par 70, rating of 71.0 and a slope of 132.

As an added bonus, those who book a suite will receive a complimentary 50-minute spa treatment at the world-famous Spa Ojai, ranked #1 in the world by Trip Advisor.

The Unlimited Golf Program goes on sale this week. Reservations can be made by contacting Ojai Valley Inn & Spa at 1.800.422.6524, or visit by booking online at

About Ojai Valley Inn & Spa

Since 1923, vacationing guests have sought the tranquil pleasures of the historic Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, an AAA Five Diamond property located on 220 tree-shaded acres offering an incredible golf course ranked as one of the finest in North America. Located 35 minutes south of Santa Barbara, Ojai Valley Inn & Spa is approximately 90 minutes north of LAX. Affirmed by its many prestigious awards, this legendary Inn is one of North America's unique hidden treasures. For reservations, call 1-800-422-6524 or visit

AP PhotoExpress Network: PRN1
PRN Photo Desk,
Source: Ojai Valley Inn & Spa

CONTACT: Veronica Cole, Direct: +1-805-640-2080,

Web Site:

Contact Centre Services to Take Off in Nigeria by 2015, Finds Frost & Sullivan

19 Nov 2009 09:00 Africa/Lagos

Contact Centre Services to Take Off in Nigeria by 2015, Finds Frost & Sullivan

CAPE TOWN, South Africa, Nov. 19 /PRNewswire/ -- Despite industry challenges, the rising consumer demand from developing industry sectors will drive exponential growth in the Nigerian contact centre market. The outsourced contact centre segment, email and SMS services and the health and medical organisation (HMO) and the public sectors are expected to become key areas of market growth from 2009 to 2015.


New analysis from Frost & Sullivan (, Nigerian Contact Centre Market, finds that the market earned revenues of $8.29 million in 2008 and estimates this to grow more than tenfold by 2015 to reach $114.45 million. The application segments covered in this analysis are vendors and system integrators.

If you are interested in a virtual brochure, which provides a brief synopsis of the research and a table of contents, then send an e-mail to Patrick Cairns, Corporate Communications, at, with your full name, company name, title, telephone number, company e-mail address, company website, city, state and country. Upon receipt of the above information, a brochure will be sent to you by e-mail.

"Nigeria is an emerging economy and the most populous country in Africa," says Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Jiaqi Sun. "The booming telecommunications and banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) sectors are driving the demand for contact centre services, while competitive labour cost structures are attracting offshore operations."

Frost & Sullivan anticipates that the government will introduce incentives and regulatory frameworks by 2013. This will also coincide with improvements in infrastructure that will boost the market.

The main challenges faced by market participants include a poor telecommunications infrastructure and limited commercial power supply. Moreover, there is no specific industry association to regulate the market.

"The limited availability of commercial power supply increases operational costs," explains Sun. "Insufficient bandwidth also inhibits the growth of contact centre services. The key factors to succeed in this market include enhancing the quality of customer services, seeking alternative means of power supply, and initiating employee training programmes."

Nigerian Contact Centre Market is part of the Contact Centres Growth Partnership Services programme, which also includes research in the following markets: South African Contact Centre Technology Market, South African Broadband Market Update, Angolan Broadband Market, and Nigerian IT Infrastructure Outsourcing Market. All research services included in subscriptions provide detailed market opportunities and industry trends that have been evaluated following extensive interviews with market participants.

Frost & Sullivan, the Growth Partnership Company, enables clients to accelerate growth and achieve best in class positions in growth, innovation and leadership. The company's Growth Partnership Service provides the CEO and the CEO's Growth Team with disciplined research and best practice models to drive the generation, evaluation, and implementation of powerful growth strategies. Frost & Sullivan leverages over 45 years of experience in partnering with Global 1000 companies, emerging businesses and the investment community from more than 35 offices on six continents. To join our Growth Partnership, please visit

Nigerian Contact Centre Market

Patrick Cairns
Corporate Communications - Africa
P: +27 18 464 2402

PRN Photo Desk,
Source: Frost & Sullivan

CONTACT: Patrick Cairns, Corporate Communications - Africa of Frost &
Sullivan, +27 18 464 2402,

Web Site:

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

5 Facts About MTN Nigeria

LAGOS, Nigeria, November 18/Nigerians Report/ --

1. MTN Nigeria is part of the MTN Group of South Africa, which operates in 21 countries including Nigeria.

18 Nov 2009 07:01 Africa/Lagos

2. MTN Nigeria, the largest mobile operator in Nigeria with nearly 50 per cent market share.

3. MTN Nigeria has over 27 million subscribers as of June 30 2009.

4. MTN Nigeria is the most preferred GSM service in Nigeria.

5.MTN Nigeria has the best Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives and services in Nigeria.

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New Report Finds Four Forces Will Shape the Future of Mobile Banking

18 Nov 2009 08:00 Africa/Lagos

New Report Finds Four Forces Will Shape the Future of Mobile Banking

Governments, industry can make choices to increase financial inclusion in the next decade

LONDON, Nov. 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The growing use of branchless banking, including mobile phone banking, is inevitable in most countries. But it's far less certain whether large numbers of the unbanked poor will use these alternative channels for financial services beyond payments, such as savings and credit. So says "Scenarios for Branchless Banking in 2020," a new report from CGAP, a microfinance group based at the World Bank, and the U.K.'s Department for International Development (DFID).

UK Minister for Trade and Development Gareth Thomas today said:

"The fact that many of the 2.7 billion people who currently don't use a bank will have access to branchless banking methods such as mobile phones and the internet by 2020 is a huge step towards financial inclusion for people in developing countries.

"The poor are kept in poverty when they are financially excluded. This means they lack safe places to save money, the opportunity to invest in their future and cannot reduce the risk of their savings being lost in natural disasters.

"As this report shows, governments and the private sector both have a huge role to play in ensuring investment is made to deliver technology-based financial services to billions of poor people."

The report sets out four scenarios on the future of branchless banking. In all four scenarios, the adoption and use of branchless banking services is forecast to be higher in 2020 than it is today. But in two of the scenarios, bursts of rapid acceleration are followed by periods of falloff or flatter growth.

"Mobile banking pioneers give us hope that millions of poor people, especially those living in rural areas, finally might be served by the banking system. That said, new business models and partnerships that provide the right incentives to banks and banking agents are vital if we are to move beyond simple payments and transfers to being able to offer other basic banking services, especially savings, that poor people need and want," said Elizabeth Littlefield, CEO of CGAP.

The report is the product of a six month scenario-building project that engaged nearly 200 leaders from the fields of technology and finance from more than 30 countries.

Snapshot of Branchless Banking Today
-- Financial inclusion is growing in most countries. This is often as a
result of the expansion of conventional banking channels, such as
branches and automated teller machines (ATMs);
-- Bricks-and-mortar growth is inherently limited by its cost. Branchless
banking presents a cheaper option but has only modest reach to date in
most countries;
-- Where branchless banking is occurring, several of the following
factors are usually at work: (i) industry belief in future
profitability; (ii) enabling regulatory change; (iii) a dramatic fall
in connectivity costs; (iv) the creation of cash-handling agents using
existing networks; and,

-- Current hype about the potential of branchless banking is running
ahead of reality. Massive sustained success in reaching the poor
requires more accurate insights on poor people's financial needs and
adoption behaviour. This is only now starting to become available.

Four Forces Shaping Branchless Banking for 2020
-- Demographic changes -- including a greater number of younger consumers
coming into the market and greater mobility at least within countries
-- will be favourable for the adoption of branchless banking;
-- Activist governments will play a greater role as regulators of the
financial sector, providers of social safety nets, and providers or
encouragers of the rollout of low-cost bank accounts and financial
infrastructure. This expanded role may be helpful for financial
-- While security concerns about cash crime will continue to drive the
adoption of electronic transaction channels, the rise of electronic
crime will affect consumer confidence and test the risk management of
financial providers; and,

-- Internet browsing via mobile phones will reduce costs of financial
transactions and enable new players to offer financial services.

CGAP and GSMA researchers have found that across Africa, Latin America and Asia, the number of people who do not have a bank account but do have a mobile phone is set to grow from 1 billion today to 1.7 billion by 2012. These "unbanked mobiled" individuals represent a compelling market opportunity for service providers.

Notes to Editors

The report will be released today at DFID in London. There will a live webcast on the CGAP Technology Blog from Washington D.C. on Dec. 1. Learn more at

The CGAP Technology Program is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

CGAP is an independent policy and research centre dedicated to advancing financial access for the world's poor. It is supported by over 30 development agencies and private foundations who share a common mission to alleviate poverty. Housed at the World Bank, CGAP provides market intelligence, promotes standards, develops innovative solutions and offers advisory services to governments, microfinance providers, donors, and investors. More at

The Department for International Development is the UK Government's department that manages Britain's aid to poor countries and works to get rid of extreme poverty. You can find out more at

DFID recently launched a Facilitating Access to Financial Services through Technology (FAST) project to support the introduction of "branchless banking" to mass-markets in developing countries, such as Kenya, Tanzania, Pakistan, Nigeria, India, Bangladesh and Ghana. Pilot projects will be evaluated by teams of finance and technology experts and where appropriate help and promote increases in scale or spread to different countries.

Source: CGAP

CONTACT: Jim Rosenberg, +1-202-473-1084,, for
CGAP; or DFID Press Office, +44 (0) 207 023 0600

Web Site:

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New Report Finds Four Forces Will Shape the Future of Mobile Banking
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