Deadly Gas Flows Add to a Lake’s List of Perils

The lake is divided between Congo and Rwanda,
often adversaries in the past

A sunrise seen from a boat on Lake Kivu
T. J. Kirkpatrick/Associated Press

 The New York Times

Goma Journal
GOMA, Congo — It was 10 p.m. in early April when
Dieudonne Masha and a neighbor were walking home
along the shores of Lake Kivu after a round of drinking.
As the neighbor tells it, the two were confronted
by a pair of soldiers patrolling the area, who asked
to see their identity cards. Mr. Masha did not have his.
"He decided to make a run for it," said
the neighbor, Innocent Rwagatore.
Mr. Masha fled to a nearby rocky ditch.
When his body was found the next morning,
in the place where he had apparently
been crouching for hours, there were no signs of violence.

The city of Goma and the surrounding area
of eastern Congo hold many dangers,
including armed rebellions, famine and volcanic explosions.

But there is another, more mysterious threat
as well: large reservoirs of methane and
carbon dioxide lying deep beneath
Lake Kivu's surface and along its shores.

While the gases can be tapped for energy,
they can also kill. Mr. Masha is believed
to have died instantly when he hid in
an invisible bubble of carbon dioxide,
known as a mazuku, or "evil wind" in Swahili.

When Flavius Josephus, a first-century historian,
referred to the Sea of Galilee in ancient Judea
as an "ambition of nature," he could also
have been speaking of Lake Kivu.

A freshwater lake split between longstanding
adversaries, Congo and Rwanda, Lake Kivu is
a hub of commerce that sits in a seismically
active region, with lava occasionally
flowing into it from nearby volcanoes.

The eruption of Mount Nyiragongo near
the lake's northern shore in 2002 stimulated
new interest in the gas fields beneath
Lake Kivu's surface: 392 billion cubic yards
of carbon dioxide and 78 billion cubic yards
of methane slowly building toward a saturation point,
or potential release.

It could take centuries, scientists say, but some experts
argue that another eruption of Mount Nyiragongo
or nearby Mount Nyamulagira — Africa's most
active volcano — could set off a devastating gas release.

Similar events have been recorded at least
twice before, both times on lakes in Cameroon
during the mid-1980s. In one case,
over 1,700 people were killed.

But Lake Kivu is many hundreds
of times bigger, and scientists say
the amount of gases trapped underwater is larger.

The lake's rare chemistry has also presented

a financial opportunity. The World Bank has

earmarked over $3 million for delicate

gas extraction that could harvest

years of energy for the countries of

the African Great Lakes region, and it has been

promoted by Rwanda and Congo as

a centerpiece of the new and shaky peace

between the former enemies.

According to Rwanda's minister of energy,

nearly 60 companies have come forward

expressing interest in extracting gases,

particularly methane, from the lake.

The likelihood of a major gas release

remains unknown. Some of the scientists studying

the lake have been hired as consultants

for the big-money deals. But war and

a lack of resources — this stunningly

beautiful region remains one of

the poorest

in the world — also make the lake and volcanoes

difficult to monitor closely.

"The problems of the lake are not just

chemical, they are political," said Dr. Dario Tedesco,

a volcano expert who is writing

the United Nations' contingency plans

for Mount Nyiragongo's next eruption.

Still, the mazukus are a chilling and

constant reminder of the power

within the earth. According to Dr. Tedesco,

nearly 100 people like Mr. Masha die

each year from the carbon dioxide vents

along Lake Kivu's northern shore.

Stories of people feeling breathless

and lightheaded when swimming

in the lake are common, which could

contribute to the many drownings there.

In the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide

in 1994, many died from mazukus that

sent clouds of gas into jam-packed

refugee camps along the lake.

"We've known for a long time," said

James Nzumuka, Goma's district mayor.

Signs displaying skulls and warning

of the mazuku danger are spread

around the area, and children have

been told to stay away from the lake.

At Goma's public beach, a rocky stretch

where motorcycles are washed and

baptisms performed, fishermen speak

of the many other perils of life by the lake,

telling stories of deadly piracy over

expensive nets used to catch sambaza,

a local sardine-size fish. Other boats,

overloaded, tip and sink. Swelling storms

have thrown others into the lake,

where, according to the National Geographic Society,

lightning strikes more frequently

than anywhere else in the world.

Many of the deaths seem preventable.

Every dry season Goma's children die,

not from thirst, but from drowning.

From June to August, when the rains stop,

so does the regular water supply to many

of the city's residents. In a summertime ritual,

children go to the lake to fetch

buckets of water. Many do not

know how to swim.

Such was the case for Marie Bazimuka's son

Abu Bakar, 11, who disappeared in July

while fetching water from the lake with a friend.

His body was found two days later,

near the spot where he had gone missing.

"During the dry season, the lake likes

to kill people," said Mrs. Bazimuka, who considers

herself deeply religious. "It's a kind of demon, a devil."

For Goma, which has struggled mightily

to form a semblance of a functioning government,

keeping track of the deaths is difficult.

A calamity division of Goma's police force,

which was established last year,

reported that nine bodies were found

in the lake last August; the mayor's office

recorded 14. Neither has a record of

Abu Bakar's death in July. According to Mrs. Bazimuka,

who said three other children died

the same day, most deaths are not reported.

"The best protection the government could give us
is to provide water," said Edward Wilondje,
whose son Fisto, 17, drowned after going
to fetch water in August 2006.
"It's always the same issue."

Link here

Sent from Kigali, Rwanda


France’s identity crisis

By  Marissa Mooers | IDS

French politics is where it's at,
my friends. Forget "E! News"
and "US Weekly".

It seems that every day there is another scandal,
some high-ranking political figure has had
the skeletons in his or her closet
exposed once more and the media is all a clamor.

What high-ranking politician admits to sleeping
with underage male prostitutes?
(Culture minister Frederic Mitterand)

Which government official falsified bank documents
to get back at his bitter rival?
(Former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin)

And what former president is facing trial
against charges of corruption, breach of trust
and misuse of public funds?
(Jacques Chirac)

Recently, President Nicolas Sarkozy decided
to shake things up, making news with
his announcement of the creation of
a new ministry of immigration and national identity.

Not the news you were expecting?
Me neither. But it seems that was exactly
the point. Look closer – things aren't always
what they seem, especially when it comes to politics.

During Sarkozy's 2007 presidential campaign,
he brought attention to the issue of defining
what it means to be French today.
The issue has been brought to the forefront
once more as congress prepares
to debate the issue during the next three months.

As globalization is an increasingly popular trend
in modern times, the diversity this brings can be
an asset in many ways. However,
it can also threaten a nation's distinctive identity.

France is having a bit of an identity crisis,
or so they say, and politicians are trying
to sort out what is at the core of France nationalism.

However, beneath the veneer of this seemingly
patriotic initiative, it seems that the heart
of the issue is more about
personal agendas than nationalistic preservation.

As the 2010 presidential campaign draws closer,
Sarkozy is attempting to steer attention away
from recent scandals and focus
on what is good for the country – or is he? 

Even members of Sarkozy's own party have
criticized his efforts, saying that this effort
to protect national identity is really
about the president securing right-wing supporters.

Other critics maintain that the debate of
France's identity is a ploy to distract the public
from the more gruesome stories
that have been frequenting the news in France.

Recently, Sarkozy has been involved
in several dealings that have
weakened his public support. 

And so the debate is heating up. What does it
mean to be French today?

How does a country with so many
immigrants maintain its culture
without being xenophobic?

It is certainly a worthwhile point
to consider, but it seems as
though politics are getting in the way once more. 

When Britney Spears had an identity crisis,
she shaved her head.
When France has an identity crisis,
Sarkozy tries to leverage the situation
for his own political gain,
and the issue at hand is becoming diluted. 

I propose that French politics take a page
from Ms. Spears' book.
What I mean is, let's get back to the basics.
Instead of getting caught up in power plays
and clashing egos,
maybe France would be better off with
a fresh start and with leaders
whose intentions are to help France,
rather than help themselves.

Link here

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Nicolas Sarkozy should apologise for French Minister Pierre Lellouche's anti-British rant

Nile Gardiner is a Washington-based foreign affairs analyst
and political commentator. He appears frequently on American
and British television and radio, including
Fox News Channel, CNN, BBC, Sky News, and NPR.

By  Nile Gardiner  

Pierre Lellouche, the outspoken French
Europe Minister, has ironically made
the strongest case yet from across
the Channel for a referendum
on the future of Britain's relationship with Europe.
His bizarre and hugely insulting rant
following David Cameron's unveiling yesterday
of the Tories' strategy on Europe underscores
exactly why the British public should
be given the ultimate say over Britain's relationship
with the EU – and the opportunity to
emphatically reject the kind of sneering
hectoring from over-zealous European officials
who are driven by a hatred
of Anglo-Saxon global dominance.

Who does Pierre Lellouche think he is
lecturing the British people over how
they should conduct their own foreign policy?
What gives him the right to dictate
the future direction of a sovereign nation?
It is exactly the kind of Gallic arrogance
displayed by M. Lellouche that has
prompted a wave of revulsion in the UK
over the prospect of the poisonous
Treaty of Lisbon coming into force.
The next Prime Minister should
take note – this is just the shape of things
to come once the revived EU Constitution
is enacted and British sovereignty
is further eroded.

Here are Lellouche's comments as

quoted by the Guardian:

"It's pathetic. It's just very sad to see Britain,

so important in Europe, just cutting itself out

from the rest and disappearing from the radar map ….

This is a culture of opposition …

It is the result of a long period of opposition.

I know they will come back, but I hope

the trip will be short…

They are doing what they have done

in the European parliament. They have essentially

castrated your UK influence in

the European parliament."

"I have told William Hague: go away for two

to three years, in your political economic situation

you're going to be all by your self and

you'll come back. Go ahead and do it.

That is my message to them …

You want to be marginalised?

Well, you go for it.

But it's a waste of time for all of us."

"It's not going to happen for a minute.

Nobody is going to indulge in rewriting

[treaties for] many, many years.

Nobody is going to play with

the institutions again. It's going to be

take it or leave it and they should

be honest and say that.

"It is a time of tumultuous waters

all around us. Wars, terrorism, proliferation,

Afghanistan, energy with Russia,

massive immigration, economic crisis.

It is time when the destiny

of Europe is being defined – whether or

not we will exist as a third

of the world's GDP capable of fighting

it out on climate, on trade, on every …

issue on the surface of the Earth."

"We need to be united, otherwise we will

be wiped out and marginalised.

None of us can do it alone. Whether you're big

or small, the lesson is the same.

And [Britain's] risk is one

of marginalisation. Irrelevance. Finally we have

institutional package, but it took 15 years of looking

at our navel and getting everybody

bored to death with sterile debate".

French President Nicolas Sarkozy should

issue an apology for the offensive

and downright rude comments of one

of his own senior ministers.

Frankly, there is something rather pathetic

about a representative of

the French government lecturing Britain

on being marginalised and irrelevant.

This from a country that refuses to send

a single additional soldier to

the battlefields of Afghanistan,

humiliatingly kowtows to the Russian bear,

and can barely make an international decision

without the permission of its larger neighbour in Berlin.

It's not hard to see why Paris is pushing

so hard for the new EU Constitution – after all

it is far easier to mask your own decline

as a nation under the cover

of a European superstate.

Tags: , ,

Link here


Carly Fiorina to announce run for U.S. Senate

Photo: Carly Fiorina in September 2008. The former
chairwoman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard Co.
will formally announce her run for
the U.S. Senate.
Credit: Paul Sancya / Associated Press


Southern California -- this just in

Former Hewlett-Packard Chief Executive Carly Fiorina
will formally announce her run for
the U.S. Senate this morning at
a news conference in Garden Grove.

"Throughout my career I've brought people together,
and I've solved problems," Fiorina said
in a statement. "And that is what is needed
in our government today.

People who are willing to set aside ego
and partisanship and instead work
to develop solutions to our problems. …

As California's senator, economic recovery
and fiscal accountability will be my priorities."

Fiorina will face off against Assemblyman
Chuck DeVore (R-Irvine) for the Republican nomination.

The GOP candidate would compete
against incumbent Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer,
who is seeking a fourth term.

"I look forward to engaging Carly Fiorina
on the issues Californians care about: out-of-control
federal debt, soaring government spending
on bailouts and stimulus, a pending
government takeover of healthcare,
and Barbara Boxer's huge energy-tax increase
disguised as cap-and-trade," DeVore said in a statement.                

-- Times staff

Column: If Fiorina opts for Senate bid,

will 'I' come before 'you'?

OC Register: Carly Fiorina: Why I'm running for Senate

Link here

Sent from Kigali, Rwanda

Bipartisan Attack on International Humanitarian Law

Dr. Stephen Zunes

Stephen Zunes

Editor: Emily Schwartz Greco
Foreign Policy In Focus

In a stunning blow against international law

and human rights, the U.S. House of Representatives

overwhelmingly approved a resolution on Tuesday

attacking the report of the United Nations Human Rights

Council's fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict.

The report was authored by the well-respected

South African jurist Richard Goldstone and

three other noted authorities on

international humanitarian law, who had been

widely praised for taking leadership

in previous investigations of war crimes in Rwanda,

Darfur, the former Yugoslavia, and elsewhere.

Since this report documented apparent war crimes

by a key U.S. ally, however, Congress has taken

the unprecedented action of passing

a resolution condemning it.

Perhaps most ominously, the resolution also

endorses Israel's right to attack Syria and Iran

on the grounds that they are "state sponsors of terrorism."

The principal co-sponsors of the resolution (HR 867),

which passed on a 344-36 vote, included

two powerful Democrats: House Foreign Relations

Committee chairman Howard Berman (D-CA)

and Middle East subcommittee chairman

Gary Ackerman (D-NY). Democratic majority leader

Steny Hoyer (D-MD) successfully pushed

Democrats to support the resolution

by a more than 6:1 margin, despite the risk

of alienating the party's liberal pro-human rights

base less than a year before critical midterm elections.

The resolution opens with a series of clauses

criticizing the original mandate of the

UN Human Rights Council, which called

for an investigation of possible Israeli war crimes only.

This argument is completely moot, however,

since Goldstone and his colleagues — to

their credit — refused to accept the offer

to serve on the mission unless its mandate

was changed to one that would investigate

possible war crimes by both sides in the conflict.

As a result, the mandate of the mission

was thereby broadened. The House resolution

doesn't mention this, however, and instead

implies that the original mandate

remained the basis of the report. In reality,

even though the report contained

over 70 pages detailing a series of violations

of the laws of war by Hamas, including rocket attacks

into civilian-populated areas of Israel,

torture of Palestinian opponents,

and the continued holding of kidnapped

Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, there's no acknowledgement

in the 1,600-word resolution that the initial mandate

had been superseded or that the report

criticizes the conduct of both sides.

In fact, despite the report's extensive documentation

of Hamas assaults on Israeli towns — which

it determined constituted war crimes

and possible "crimes against

humanity" — the resolution insists that

it "makes no mention of the relentless

rocket and mortar attacks."

The Goldstone mission report — totaling

575 pages — contains detailed accounts

of deadly Israeli attacks against schools, mosques,

private homes, and businesses no where

near legitimate military targets, which

they accurately described as

"a deliberately disproportionate attack designed

to punish humiliate and terrorize

a civilian population." In particular, the report

cites 11 incidents in which Israeli armed forces

engaged in direct attacks against civilians,

including cases where people were shot

"while they were trying to leave their homes

to walk to a safer place, waving white flags."

The House resolution, however, claims

that such charges of deliberate Israeli attacks

against civilian areas were

"sweeping and unsubstantiated."

Both the report's conclusions and most

of the particular incidents cited were

independently documented in  detailed

empirical investigations released in recent months

by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch,

and the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem,

among others. Congressional attacks against

the integrity of the Goldstone report,

therefore, constitute attacks against

the integrity of these reputable

human rights groups as well.

Equating Killing Civilians with Self-Defense

In an apparent effort to further discredit
the human rights community,
the resolution goes on
to claim that the report denies Israel's right
to self defense, even though  there was
absolutely nothing in the report that questioned
Israel's right to use military force. 
It simply insists that neither Israelis
nor Palestinians have the right to attack civilians.

The resolution resolves that
the report "irredeemably biased"
against Israel, an ironic charge given that  
Justice Goldstone, the report's principal author
and defender, is  Jewish, a longtime supporter
of Israel, chair of Friends of Hebrew University,
president emeritus of the World ORT
Jewish school system, and
the father of an Israeli citizen.

Goldstone was also a leading opponent
of apartheid in his native South Africa
and served as Nelson Mandela's first appointee
to the country's post-apartheid Supreme Court.
He was a principal prosecutor in the
war crimes tribunals on Rwanda and
the former Yugoslavia, took a leading role
in investigations into corruption in
the UN's "Oil for Food" program in Iraq,
and was also part of investigations
into Argentina's complicity in provided
sanctuary for Nazi war criminals.

Having 80% of the U.S. House of Representatives
go on record attacking the integrity of one
of the world's most respected
and principled defenders of human rights
is indicative of just how far
to the right the U.S. Congress has now become,
even under Democratic leadership.

In doing so, Congress has served notice
to the human rights community that they
won't consider any human rights defenders
credible if they dare raise questions
about the conduct of a U.S. ally.
This may actually be the underlying
purpose of the resolution: to jettison
any consideration of
international humanitarian law
from policy debates in Washington.

The cost, however, will likely be to further
isolate the United States from the rest
of the world, just as Obama was beginning
to rebuild the trust of other nations.

Indeed, the resolution calls on
the Obama administration not only
"to oppose unequivocally any endorsement"
of the report, but to even oppose
unequivocally any "further consideration"
of the report in international fora.

Instead of debating its merits, therefore,
Congress has decided to instead pre-judge
its contents and disregard the actual evidence
put forward. (It's doubtful that any
of the supporters of the resolution
even bothered actually reading the report.)

The resolution even goes so far as
to claim that Goldstone's report is part
of an effort "to delegitimize
the democratic State of Israel and deny it
the right to defend its citizens and
its existence can be used to delegitimize
other democracies and deny them the same right."

This is demagoguery at its most extreme.
In insisting that documenting a given
country's war crimes is tantamount
to denying that country's right to exist
and its right to self defense, the resolution
is clearly aimed at silencing defenders
of international humanitarian law.

The fact that the majority of Democrats voted
in favor of this resolution underscores
that both parties now effectively
embrace the neoconservative agenda
to delegitimize any serious discussion
of international humanitarian law,
in relation to conduct by
the United States and its allies.

License for War?

Having failed in their efforts to convince
Washington to launch a war
against Syria and Iran,
neoconservatives and other hawks
in Washington have now successfully
mobilized a large bipartisan majority of
the House of Representatives
to encourage Israel to act as
a U.S. surrogate: Following earlier clauses
that define Israel's massive military assault
on the civilian infrastructure of the Gaza Strip
as a legitimate defense of its citizens
and make the exaggerated assertion
that Iran and Syria are  "sponsors" of Hamas,
the final clause in the resolution puts
Congress on record supporting "Israel's right
to defend its citizens from violent militant groups
and their state sponsors" (emphasis added).

This broad bipartisan congressional mandate
for a unilateral Israeli attack on Syria and Iran
is extremely dangerous, and appears designed
to undercut the Obama administration's efforts
to pursue a negotiated path
to settling differences with these countries.

Misleading Accusations

There are other clauses in the resolution

that take quotes out of context and engage

in other misrepresentations to make

the case that Goldstone and his colleagues

are "irredeemably biased." 

One clause in the resolution attacks

the credibility of mission member

Christine Chinkin, an internationally respected

British scholar of international law,

feminist jurisprudence, alternative dispute resolution,

and human rights.

The resolution questions her objectivity

by claiming that "before joining the mission,

[she] had already declared Israel guilty

of committing atrocities in Operation Cast Lead

by signing a public letter on January 11, 2009,

published in the Sunday Times, that called

Israel's actions 'war crimes.'"

In reality, the letter didn't accuse Israel

of "atrocities," but simply noted that Israel's attacks

against the civilian infrastructure of

the Gaza Strip were "not commensurate

to the deaths caused by Hamas rocket fire."

The letter also noted that "the blockade

of humanitarian relief, the destruction

of civilian infrastructure, and preventing access

to basic necessities such as food and fuel,

are prima facie war crimes." In short,

it was a preliminary assessment rather

than a case of having "already declared

Israel guilty," as the resolution states.

Furthermore, at the time

of the letter — written a full two weeks

into the fighting — there had already been

a series of preliminary reports from

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch,

and the International Committee of the Red Cross

documenting probable war crimes

by Israeli armed forces, so virtually

no one knowledgeable of international

humanitarian law could have come

to any other conclusion. As a result,

Chinkin's signing of the letter could

hardly be considered the kind of

ideologically motivated bias that should

preclude her participation

on an investigative body,

particularly since that same letter

unequivocally condemned Hamas

rocket attacks as well.

The resolution also faults the report

for having "repeatedly downplayed or

cast doubt upon" claims that Hamas used

"human shields" as an attempted deterrence

to Israeli attacks. The reason the report

challenged those assertions, however,

was that there simply wasn't any

solid evidence to support such claims.

Detailed investigations by Amnesty International

and Human Rights Watch regarding

such accusations during and subsequent

to the fighting also came to same conclusion.

As with  these previous investigations, 

the Goldstone report determined

that there were occasions when

Hamas hadn't taken all necessary precautions

to avoid placing civilians in harm's way,

but they found no evidence whatsoever

that Hamas had consciously used

civilians as shields at any point

during the three-week conflict.

Despite this, the House resolution makes

reference to a supposed "great body

of evidence" that Hamas used human shields.

The resolution fails to provide a single example

to support this claim, however,

other than a statement by

one Hamas official, which

the mission investigated and

eventually concluded

was without merit. I contacted

the Washington offices of more

than two dozen co-sponsors

of the resolution, requesting

such evidence, and none of them

were able to provide any. It appears,

then, that the sponsors of

the resolution simply fabricated

this charge in order to protect

Israel from any moral or

legal responsibilities for the more

than 700 civilian deaths.

(Interestingly, the report did find

extensive evidence — as did

Amnesty International — that

the Israelis used Palestinians as

human shields during their offensive.

Israeli soldiers testifying at hearings

held by a private group of

Israeli soldiers and veterans

confirmed a number of

such episodes as well. This fact

was conveniently left out of the resolution.)

In another example of misleading content,

the resolution quotes Goldstone as saying,

in relation to the mission's investigation,

"If this was a court of law,

there would have been nothing proven."

However, no such investigation carried out

on behalf of the UNHRC has ever claimed

to have obtained evidence beyond

a reasonable doubt, the normal criterion

for proof in a court of law. This does not,

however, buttress the resolution's insistence

that the report was therefore

"unworthy of further consideration

or legitimacy." What the fact-finding mission

did find was probable cause

for criminal investigations into

possible war crimes by both

Hamas and the Israeli government.

Another spurious claim of bias

is the resolution's assertion that

"the report usually considered

public statements made by

Israeli officials not to be credible,

while frequently giving uncritical

credence to statements taken from

what it called the `Gaza authorities',

i.e. the Gaza leadership of Hamas."

In reality, the report shows that

the mission did investigate such statements

and evaluated them based upon the evidence.

The resolution also fails to mention

that while Hamas officials were willing

to meet with the mission, Israeli officials

refused, even denying them

entrance into Israel. The mission had to fly

Israeli victims of Hamas attacks to Geneva

at UN expense to interview them.

The mission found these Israelis' testimony

credible, took them quite seriously,

and incorporated them into their findings.

The resolution goes on to claim that

the report's observation that

the Israeli government has

"contributed significantly to

a political climate in which

dissent with the government and

its actions . . . is not tolerated" was erroneous.

In reality, it has been

well-documented  — and has been

subjected to extensive debate

within Israel — that the right-wing government 

of Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu

has interrogated and harassed

political activists as well as

suppressed criticism and sources

of potential criticism of actions by the Israeli military,

particularly non-government organizations

such as the dissident

soldiers' group Breaking the Silence.

No Accountability

The House resolution is particularly

vehement in its opposition to

the report's recommendation that,

should Hamas and Israeli authorities

fail to engage in credible investigations

and bring those responsible

for war crimes to justice, the matter

should be referred to the International

Criminal Court for possible prosecution.

The resolution insists this is

unnecessary since Israel "has already

launched numerous investigations."

However, Israeli human rights groups

have repeatedly criticized their

government's refusal to launch

any independent investigations

and have documented how the Israeli government

has refused to investigate testimonies

by soldiers of war crimes.

(At this point, the only indictments

for misconduct by Israeli forces

during the conflict have been against

two soldiers who stole credit cards

from a Palestinian home.)

The primary motivation for the resolution

appears to have been to block

any consideration of its recommendation

that those guilty of war crimes

be held accountable. Since the ICC

has never indicted anyone from

a country which had a fair

and comprehensive internal investigation

of war crimes and prosecuted those

believed responsible, the goal of Congress

appears to be that of protecting

war criminals from prosecution.

As a result, the passage of this resolution

isn't simply about the alleged

clout of AIPAC or just another example

of longstanding congressional support

for Israeli militarism. This resolution constitutes

nothing less than a formal bipartisan

rejection of international humanitarian

law. U.S. support for human rights

and international law has always

been uneven, but never has Congress

gone on record by such

an overwhelming margin to discredit

these universal principles so categorically.

This is George W. Bush's foreign policy

legacy, which — through

this resolution — the Democrats,

no less than their Republican counterparts,

have now eagerly embraced.

Stephen Zunes, a Foreign Policy in Focus
senior analyst, is a professor of politics
and chair of Middle Eastern Studies
at the University of San Francisco.

Link here

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AFRICA: Turning to traditional medicines in fight against malaria

Photo: Allan Gichigi/IRIN
Peter, a clinical officer, treats a patient at
the Gongoni health centre in Malindi, Kenya (file photo).

Malaria Cure

Photo: Stephenie Hollyman/WHO

Malaria kills a million people
across Africa every year

NAIROBI, (IRIN) - Encouraging the use of
traditional African herbal medicines could
prevent some of the one million
malarial deaths on the continent, according
to specialists attending
a conference in Nairobi.

Many poor communities, especially
in rural settings, cannot afford
modern malarial drugs and many people
die due to inaccessibility of treatment.

"Malaria kills many people in Africa,
both children and adults, despite
the availability of free treatment
in certain African countries. While it is true
many governments in Africa,
with development partners, give
free pediatric treatment for malaria,
many still cannot access this facilities
and resort to home treatment,"
says Merlin Wilcox of the Research Initiative
on Traditional Antimalarial Methods
and the University of Oxford.

Some specialists at the ongoing
5th MIM Pan African Malaria Conference
in Nairobi said medicines drawn from plants
that abound in the continent could be
utilized to save many people, especially
those in poor settings, from malaria.

BN Prakash, a researcher with
the Foundation for the Revitalization
of Local Health Traditions, based in Bangalore,
said Africa could draw on experiences
in India where medicinal plants have been
used with great success
in the control of malaria-related deaths.

"Research in India has shown
a 5-10 times reduction in
malaria-related deaths among communities
who use traditional medicinal plants
like Guduchi [tinospore coeditdia],
a local medicinal plant
found in India," said Prakash.

Preserving traditional knowledge

Another speaker, Gemma Burford
of the Global Initiative for Traditional
Systems of Health, said while there had
been increased cases of loss of knowledge
about traditional medicinal plants,
student-led research could be used
to preserve knowledge and create
a database on these plants.
Treating malaria with commercial medicine
is expensive and not always viable;
hence the need for more research
into traditional, plant-based options

"When we carried out research involving
school children in rural Tanzania about
traditional Maasai medicines, we found out
that 48 percent of these children already
had knowledge about these plants.
We used [this knowledge] to create
a database for the purposes of preserving
the knowledge and these plants too," said Burford.

"It is important to note that many
malarial drugs are still bought from
commercial pharmaceutical shops
and not many of them are that cheap.
Costs also involve how easy or not it is
to access these government facilities,
especially in Africa where medical facilities
are far-flung," Burford said.

Educating the youth

Speakers at the conference called
on African governments to introduce
educational programmes that would
teach the younger generations
about the traditional methods
of treating malaria and other
diseases plaguing the continent.

"The biggest obstacle to use
of traditional medicines is lack of interest
from the youth and teaching them
about these medicines would be
the best way to let them appreciate their values.

Evangelical churches and development agencies
must also be persuaded to stop
fighting traditional African medicine
because modernity and tradition
can be married to provide
 a formidable force against malaria," added Burford.

Effectiveness and dangers

Doumbo Ogobara, director of the
Mali Malaria Research and Training Centre,
and a lecturer at the University of Bamako,
said there should be more research
to ensure the effectiveness
of traditional medicinal plants
in the treatment and management of malaria.

"More research must be directed
towards finding out the effectiveness
of these traditional medicinal plants
and their safety and efficacy
because initiatives on using them
could be counter-productive if this
is not done.

More emphasis therefore must be laid
on research for plant-based
prophylactics for malaria," said Ogobara.

Mahamadou Sissoko of the Centre
called for caution in taking
the traditional medicinal route, arguing
that many malaria-related deaths
have occurred even among communities
that have relied heavily
on traditional plants for treatment.

"People are dying even in places
where there is still widespread use
of traditional medicinal plants and
unless the efficacy of a traditional plant
on malarial treatment can be ascertained
through vigorous research,
we could have our backs against the wall.

Many traditional healers will abuse
this and give anything as medicine
so long as it is a plant - we must
urge caution," said Sissoko.


Link here

Sent from Kigali, Rwanda


Africa: China, Continent to Strengthen Cooperation

Kizito Sikuka
The forthcoming ministerial meeting of
the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation will review
the implementation of various agreements
signed since 2006 and outline
a plan of action for the next three years.

The meeting set for Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt
on 8-9 November "will give an overall review
of the implementation of various
cooperative agreements since the Beijing Summit,
and will chart the course for the development
of China-Africa relations," the Chinese Foreign
Affairs Ministry said in a statement.

The statement said that a number
of bilateral agreements will be signed
to boost economic and trade cooperation,
and new measures are expected to help
Africa develop as well as to deal
with the global economic crisis.

The meeting is expected to issue
the Sharm el-Sheikh Declaration and also
the Sharm el-Sheikh Action Plan
for 2010-2012 as "a blueprint for bilateral
cooperation in various areas
in three years to come."

The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC)
is one of three high-level meetings established
by Chinese and African leaders at
their inaugural Summit in 2000.
The other two meetings to take place between
the Asian nation and African countries are
a senior officials meeting and
a conference of the Chinese follow-up
committee with the African diplomatic missions in Beijing.

At the last FOCAC Summit in 2006, attended
by 48 of the 53 members of the Africa Union,
China and Africa adopted a number
of resolutions, which proclaimed
the establishment of "a new type
of strategic partnership".

The partnership is based on "political equality
and mutual trust, economic win-win cooperation
and cultural exchanges," and calls
for the promotion of two-way trade
and investment and exploration
of new modes of cooperation.

Priority is placed on different areas
of the economy such as agriculture,
infrastructure, industry, fishing,
information technology,
public health and personnel training
to draw on each other's strengths
for the benefit of the two peoples.

On trade development, China and Africa
pledged to increase volumes to about
US$100 billion by 2010 with Chinese President
Hu Jintao announcing a package of aid
and assistance measures to Africa
including US$3 billion of preferential loans
in the next three years, and the exemption
of debt owed by some African countries.

China made an undertaking to establish
a US$5 billion fund to encourage
Chinese investment in Africa.

Significant progress has been made
in the past three years to meet
some of the targets set at the 2006 summit.
By the first quarter of 2009,
China had successfully cancelled
150 mature debts of 32 African countries.
Trade between China and Africa has
also increased -- in 2008 the volume was about
US$160 billion, a year-on-year increase
of 45 percent, surpassing the
US$100 billion target set by 2010.

Of the total volume, the imports from
Africa amounted to US$56 billion,
up by 54 percent over the previous year.

Chinese companies have been active
in building infrastructure and providing
loans and assistance to many African countries.

Exchange visits of top government officials
between China and Africa have expanded
to include more people-to-people visits.
The fourth meeting of the FOCAC is thus
viewed with great importance
to promote China-Africa relations.

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao
and his Egyptian counterpart are expected
to co-chair the meeting and
some African Heads of State have been
invited to attend, including President
Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

The first FOCAC ministerial conference
was held in Beijing in October 2000.
This was followed by a meeting
in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 2003.
Beijing hosted a full China-Africa Summit in 2006.

Link here

Sent from Kigali, Rwanda

Rich countries call on African bloc to keep climate talks on track

Poor countries forced to make a stand over lack
of commitment from rich nations
on emissions cuts, claims African delegate
Tck tck tck clocks Barcelona
Clocks are displayed outside UN climate talks
in Barcelona, Spain Photograph: MANU FERNANDEZ/AP

Rich countries today piled pressure on Africa not
to derail climate talks after the poorest countries
in the world shocked the UN by walking out
of the official negotiations, demanding
that their concerns be met.

The chair of the Africa group of nations,
Kamel Djemouai, was recalled from Barcelona
by the Algerian government and
other African delegations reportedly received
"strong" phone calls from their capitals
urging them not to imperil
the last negotiations before Copenhagen.

Algeria admitted that its negotiator had been
recalled but it was denied that
this had anything to do with Africa's stand.

The African bloc complained that
rich nations' carbon cuts were far
too small to avoid catastrophic climate change,
and refused to participate until more was done.

The move forced the UN to abandon
several sessions and reschedule others
to give rich countries more time
to debate emissions cuts.

Countries have agreed to devote
60% of the remaining time to those discussions.

France has been supportive of Africa's position
ahead of the climate change talks in Copenhagen.
But French negotiators are known to have been
angered and dismayed by the African move.

"They are shooting themselves in the foot,"
said one French diplomat.

The Guardian has learned that Africa's intervention
was not a spur of the moment decision by negotiators.
The decision to make a stand to try
to force rich countries to increase
their commitments was taken in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia,
last month when African heads of state
met to coordinate their positions before the talks.

"It was a political act, not a negotiating stand.
The negotiators here in Barcelona were told
to make a dramatic action," said
one source close to the group.

"We took a risk and it worked. We are very pleased
with the reaction," said Bruno Sekoli, head of
the Lesotho national climate office and chair
of the least developed countries group
of the world's poorest nations.

"Africa had no choice because of the reality
of climate change. The negotiations have been
going a long time and have not
shown much progress.

It's not about money. Climate change is
an issue of life or death for us. The developed
countries have to shift policies.

A bad deal is not good for Africa
or vulnerable countries," said Sekoli.

"The impacts of climate change have come
too soon, so soon.

I am scared to think of
the consequences," he said.

He added that the reaction from other
developing countries had been heartening.

The G77 group of 130 countries, the Alliance
of Small island states and others
in Latin America all supported the African stance.

Their move was credited with reminding
delegations that the ultimate point
of the talks is to reduce emissions.

Until now the negotiations have been
dominated by concerns of the US
and China and have seemed irrelevant
to many of the poorest countries
which are already feeling
the effects of climate change.

"Their move leaves Africa in
a much stronger position. So far Africa
has not been recognised
in the talks at all," said Saleemul Huq,
head of climate change at the London-based
International Institute for Environment
and Development (IIED).

"It's a moral stance, it points out
the difference between a good
and a bad deal. A good deal is defined
by what is good for the planet.

Africa will feel the consequences
most of a bad deal," said Huq. "If you are
an African country you have
much more at stake than a rich country.

They are rightly confused by the talks and angry."

Hugh Cole, climate adviser for Oxfam
in Southern Africa: "African countries
have drawn a line in the sand this week.

They are not willing to accept
a bad deal in Copenhagen which will
spell disaster for millions of their poorest people.

Rich countries must now stop
trying to dodge and delay
their responsibilities — deliver
the emissions cuts the science demands
and the climate finance
poor communities desperately need."

The Africa group of nations is
a new political grouping in
the UN climate talks, reflecting
the continent's increased unity, and desire
to work together.

It is led by President Meles of Ethiopia,
but is negotiating separately in the talks
even though many of its members
are part of larger political groupings
like the G77 plus China,
and the Least Developed Countries (LDC).

Link here

Sent from Kigali, Rwanda


Congolese envoy arrives in Kigali


KIGALI - The newly appointed Congolese envoy

to Rwanda, yesterday, arrived in the country

to begin his official diplomatic duties.

Norbert Nkulu Kilombo Mitumba, was received at

the Kigali International Airport

by officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Mitumba, who one time served as

State Minister in the Office of the President,

was appointed last July.

Upon arrival at the airport, Ambassador Mitumba

was welcomed by a mammoth crowd

of mainly Congolese nationals

living and working in Rwanda.  

The former Permanent Secretary

in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Amandin Rugira,

has also reported to Kinshasa

as Rwanda's Ambassador to the DRC.

The move marks a milestone in restoring

diplomatic ties between the two countries

that had been strained for the past decade.

Despite past conflicts and suspicion between

the two countries, last year saw senior government

officials from both sides shuttle between both capitals.

The revived relations between the two countries

resulted into an operation jointly mounted

by both armies against insurgents of

the Democratic Forces for

the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

Link here

Sent from Kigali, Rwanda


Les biens virtuels, source de revenus bien réels

L'application Farmville, de Zynga, compte plus
de 60 millions d'utilisateurs mensuels.
Photo cc/Stan1ey

Grains de blé virtuels, vêtements pour les avatars
des mondes numériques ou objets en 3D
pour agrémenter l'intérieur d'une villa imaginaire…
Les biens virtuels se déclinent désormais de toutes
les manières, et sur toutes les plates-formes
de jeu en ligne. "Nous estimons que le marché
de ces biens s'élève à 1 milliard de dollars
(678 millions d'euros) aux États-Unis, et
nous pensons qu'en 2010, il atteindra
1,6 milliard de dollars (1,1 milliard d'euros)",
explique au Monde.fr Justin Smith,
coauteur de l'étude Inside Virtual Goods.

Sur le continent asiatique, le marché oscille déjà
en 2009 entre 5 et 7 milliards de dollars
(3,4 et 4,7 milliards d'euros).
Des sommes non négligeables, alors que
le marché mondial du jeu vidéo
est estimé en 2008 à 51,4 milliards de dollars
(34,67 milliards d'euros).

Pionnière, l'Asie propose depuis la fin
des années 1990 des jeux "free to play",
dont l'accès est gratuit, mais avec
des contenus d'agrément payants.
L'idée des concepteurs était de trouver
une manière d'assurer des revenus,
tout en évitant le piratage. Sorti en 2002,
le jeu de rôle en ligne Maple Story,
du sud-coréen Nexon, a été l'un
des premiers à rencontrer le succès.

L'industrie du jeu s'est toutefois montrée
sceptique sur la capacité à exporter
ce modèle dans les pays occidentaux.

D'abord uniquement présents dans les jeux
en ligne massivement multijoueurs,
puis dans les univers de synthèse,
tels que Second Life, les biens virtuels
prospèrent aujourd'hui sur tous les continents
et touchent un public plus vaste et plus féminin.
"Les objets virtuels continuent de croître
dans les mondes virtuels, mais ils le font
encore plus rapidement dans les réseaux sociaux.

Facebook, par exemple, a créé
un environnement sain pour les développeurs,
qui peuvent créer des applications pour
les 300 millions d'usagers du site",
poursuit Justin Smith, estimant que
le marché sur Twitter demeure encore marginal.


Pour quelques dollars, Facebook propose
ainsi l'achat de cadeaux virtuels,
que l'usager peut envoyer à ses amis.
Mais 80 % des revenus sur Facebook
reviennent en réalité à des entreprises tierces.
Basée à San Francisco et fondée en 2007,
l'entreprise Zynga compte ainsi
61 millions d'utilisateurs par mois
à son application Farmville, simulation
de vie agricole sur Facebook.

L'accès au jeu est gratuit, mais il faut
verser quelques centimes pour obtenir
de nouvelles graines ou du bétail.
Avec son catalogue de jeux, Zynga devrait
engranger 200 millions de dollars (135 millions d'euros)
cette année. Son concurrent direct, Playdom,
dont le siège se trouve à Mountain View,
en Californie, mise pour sa part sur
une stratégie multiplates-formes,
à la fois présent sur Facebook et Myspace.

Face au succès de ces entreprises, les acteurs
du jeu vidéo tentent de réagir. "Il existe
de nombreuses rumeurs, selon lesquelles
les entreprises traditionnelles doivent entrer
en concurrence, ou acheter ces sociétés",
souligne Justin Smith. Le britannique Playfish,
autre acteur éminent dans le domaine
des biens virtuels, serait en discussion
avec le groupe Electronic Arts.
Le leader mondial du jeu vidéo lance
parallèlement des extensions de ses licences
sur les plates-formes sociales. Avec Legends of Zork,
le groupe Activision, connu notamment
pour la série des Guitar Hero, tente également
de drainer une partie des revenus
provenant des biens virtuels.

Après avoir conquis les réseaux sociaux,
les biens virtuels, dont certains prédisent
qu'ils devrait atteindre un marché
de 17,3 milliards de dollars (11,67 milliards d'euros)
en 2015, devraient migrer vers
d'autres plates-formes pour atteindre
d'autres niches de croissance.
Les consoles portables et les smartphones
sont les marchés les plus prometteurs.

Laurent Checola (twitter.com/laurent_checola)

Link here

Sent from Kigali, Rwanda

Sur Internet, le succès des ventes privées fait des envieux

Combien de consommateurs se précipitent le matin
sur leur messagerie électronique pour découvrir
les bons plans des marques de mode
dégriffées sur le Net ?
Difficile de donner un chiffre exact. Mais ils sont des millions
à recevoir chaque jour des propositions
dont le flot ne cesse de se densifier.

Il est vrai que le concept de vente en ligne de vêtements,
de maroquinerie ou de jouets à prix cassés,
inventé avec succès par le français Vente-privée,
a fait des émules.
En France, où des dizaines de sites se sont lancés
à l'assaut de ce marché du déstockage en ligne,
mais aussi dans plusieurs pays européens
et, depuis peu, aux États-Unis.

Ce soudain intérêt américain s'est traduit récemment
par des rumeurs de rachat de Vente-privée
par des géants comme eBay ou Amazon.
Autre signe récent de l'engouement suscité
par cette activité
outre-Atlantique : la société américaine GSI,
prestataire de solutions de commerce en ligne,
a annoncé, le 28 octobre, l'acquisition
de l'éditeur du site de ventes privées
Rue La La (Ruelala.com) et de celui
de discompte SmartBargain pour
350 millions de dollars (235 millions d'euros).

Rue La La, comme ses rivaux américains
Gilt ou Ideeli, veut bénéficier de ce marché
en forte croissance. Le site, créé en avril 2008,
revendique déjà un chiffre d'affaires
de 66 millions de dollars sur les neuf
 premiers mois de 2009.
Un départ en fanfare qui doit beaucoup
aux recettes éprouvées par
le pionnier Vente-privée.
Comme son homologue, Rue La La a convaincu
des marques de mode de lui céder
des stocks de vêtements, de chaussures,
de bijoux, de lunettes ou
de sacs prêts à être soldés.
Pour accéder à ces ventes, les internautes
doivent s'inscrire pour devenir membres.
Surtout, la braderie se déroule
en un temps limité, de deux à trois jours.

Un cocktail gagnant. Les marques sont
satisfaites d'écouler des stocks,
tandis que les clientes, qui après avoir
hésité à dépenser 400 euros pour un sac
quelques mois plus tôt, "craquent" pour
le même objet vendu deux fois moins cher.

Reste que le métier de ventes privées
en ligne ne s'improvise pas. La formule n'est
pas toujours gagnante. "Il est difficile
de rivaliser avec le leader", juge Thierry Petit,
PDG du site Showroomprivé, un des challengers.

La machine Vente-privée tourne à plein régime.
Avec un chiffre d'affaires prévisionnel
de 650 millions d'euros en 2009,
90 000 commandes par jour et un total
de 25 millions de pièces vendues par an,
elle dispose d'atouts maîtres
face à ses poursuivants. Comme la capacité
d'écouler de grandes séries de produits,
des lots de plus de 100 000 pièces,
de négocier des accords d'exclusivité
avec des marques, mais aussi de bénéficier
de la clause de vente conditionnelle.

En clair, le site n'est pas obligé d'acheter
les stocks des marques, il ne prend à sa charge
que les produits qui ont trouvé preneurs.
Une façon de limiter les risques, même si,
en contrepartie, les délais de livraison sont plus longs.

Le Web, canal de distribution

Certains jettent l'éponge. Comme 24h00,
qui a effectué sa dernière vente privée fin octobre.
"Nous n'arrivions pas à accéder aux bonnes marques.
Or, plus on a de bonnes marques, plus on attire
les clients, plus on fait du volume et plus
on attire les marques", affirme Patrick Robin,
le PDG de 24h00. Il estime à 1 500 le nombre
de marques de mode et de décoration
intéressées par les ventes dégriffées en ligne,
mais à 200 celles qui sont réellement vendeuses.
M. Robin a préféré repositionner 24h00
en un portail destiné au shopping,
avec sa base de données
de 2,5 millions d'"e-shoppeuses".

D'autres adaptent leur modèle,
comme BrandAlley. Là, si la vente privée
est toujours le produit d'appel du site,
les clientes sont orientées vers
des boutiques en ligne. Les marques y vendent
leurs anciennes collections dégriffées
et depuis peu leurs nouvelles collections.
Une façon de détourner les accords
d'exclusivité signés par les marques
avec Vente-privée. Et de s'adresser,
selon Sven Lung, le PDG de BrandAlley,
"à deux typologies de clients : les chasseurs
de bons plans et les fashionistas
qui n'achètent pas forcément le prix".

Une évolution qui correspond aussi à
une plus grande maturité des marques
de mode vis-à-vis des ventes en ligne.
"Elles sont parties plus tard,
mais ont de moins en moins
de réticences", juge M. Lung.

Les acteurs français qui restent focalisés
sur les ventes privées, à l'instar
de Showroomprivé, EspaceMax,
BazarChic ou Private Outlet,
sont issus de spécialistes du déstockage physique.
Vente-privée revendique cette origine.
Internet n'est qu'un nouveau canal
de distribution pour un métier qu'ils maîtrisent.
Reste à ces sociétés à réussir
leur internationalisation face à des consommateurs
de plus en plus exigeants en termes
de délai de livraison, de qualité et de prix.

Laurence Girard

Link here

Sent from Kigali, Rwanda

Does Afghanistan Offer Lessons?

Author, Wirth Chair professor at the University of Colorado

We do not have to wait for the final resolution
of the American military presence in Afghanistan
to begin to see what, if anything,
we have learned from our checkered experience there.

Very soon President Obama will
announce a new strategy.  Very likely it will include
the following features: a troop increase
of some 15-20,000; troop presence
focused on population centers; an increased
training mission for new Afghan military
and police forces; and intensified cooperation
with Pakistan to root out radical Taliban
and al Qaeda elements on that frontier.

This will represent an altered, but not
a fundamentally changed, mission. 
Presumably we will still have as our
ultimate goal a stable, democratic,
and increasingly Westernized Afghanistan. 
If so, unless we strike some grand bargain
with less radical Taliban elements (as we did with
some Sunnis in Iraq) this is still
the work of decades, not to say
also tens of billions of dollars.

However this turns out, there are lessons
to be learned in the meantime
for future Afghanistans. 
The first is: Do not interrupt a surgical
counter-terrorism operation
until it is completed. 

With the possible exception
of George W. Bush and Richard Cheney,
virtually everyone agrees that
the 2002 pull-out of Tora Bora, where
bin Laden & Co. had their backs
to the wall, was a mistake
of epic proportions. 

Don't suspend a fixed military objective midway.

The second lesson is: Know the history
of the country you are invading. 
As we did not study the French
experience in Vietnam, we did not study
the British or Russian experiences
in Afghanistan. 

It is one thing to invade a country
to find and exterminate a villain. 
It is quite another to launch
a long-term occupation. 
Almost nine years later we are still trying
to figure out who our friends
and enemies are there. 
And the Afghans, given our
flighty on-again, off-again
operations there, are justly skeptical
about our long-term reliability.

The third lesson is: Do not expect to defeat
an enemy militarily which has the advantage
of cross-border sanctuary. 

This lesson is as old as Sun Tzu. 
Anyone who can hide across
a nearby border cannot be defeated
in any literal sense of the word. 

Drones are no substitute for combat forces. 
Pakistan is a sovereign nation that
will not forever tolerate
the death of its citizens at our hands.

The fourth lesson is: Do not try to occupy
or pacify a nation whose men are not ready
and willing to fight and die
to protect their wives and families. 

Too many Afghan men are willing to let
U.S. troops try to provide their security and,
if we don't achieve it quickly and permanently,
strike their bargains with Taliban thugs. 
To create the Afghan army and police force
of 400-425,000 that experts believe necessary
to achieve internal security is the work
of another decade or two and, even then,
not financially sustainable by the Afghan government.

There are many other lessons as well. 
Nation building in an economy dependent
on narcotics is virtually impossible. 
Democratization of a corrupt political culture
is almost equally impossible. 
And so forth and so on.

President Obama is going to deliver a policy
for his administration's near term. 
Whether it will have time limits
remains to be seen.  Still, years from now,
however this adventure turns out,
the question will be: What did we learn. 
Because history does repeat itself.

Posted from Senator Hart's new blog
at Matters of Principle

Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

Link here

Sent from Kigali, Rwanda


France's LBJ in the dock

"Old age is a shipwreck".

-- Charles de Gaulle

Revolutions notoriously eat their children.
But France's political system reserves
its sharpest cruelties for elderly politicians
as they fall from favor, as de Gaulle
learned in 1968.

Now it is the turn of former president Jacques Chirac,
who was ordered on Friday at age 76
to stand trial on corruption charges.

Let's be honest. Many Americans will be delighted.
They remember only Chirac's final,
bitter years in power, when he fought the U.S.-led invasion
of Iraq and set out to build "multipolar" coalitions
of nations to reduce U.S. "hegemony" now and forever.

But this is far from being the whole story
of Chirac, a truly likable man who was
a bundle of debilitating contradictions
and worthy impulses.

Despite his political war with Washington
and George W. Bush, Chirac is also the most
 American of all the French politicians I have ever met.

His gregarious nature, big, rubbery features
and boisterous embrace of friends always made me
think of Lyndon Johnson working a room of rivals
in Washington or John Wayne
striding through the saloon doors.

Often, whether we met at the Paris City Hall,
the presidential palace or the United Nations,
Chirac would talk about how he had fallen
in love with my country, and one of its
pretty young girls, when he was a teenager.

He worked one summer as a soda jerk
at a Howard Johnson's. The romance with
the young lady did not last, but his American
tastes endured.
He once asked me at a group luncheon
in a New York restaurant to order
the wine since he was sticking with Budweiser.

So perhaps it should come as no surprise
that he faces trial on allegations that he ran
the Paris mayor's office from 1977 to 1995 much like
Tammany Hall or the Daley machine in Chicago.

The prosecutor, who was constitutionally prohibited
from going after Chirac during his two presidential
terms from 1995 to 2007, now alleges that
the ex-president's party machine
created 21 -- yes, 21 -- fictitious jobs for
its workers with Chirac's knowledge.

For all its American echoes, the historic first
prosecution of a former French president
is an indelibly Gallic affair.

It is a shipwreck not just of an aging politico
who has lived rent-free in a Lebanese politician's spacious
Paris apartment since leaving office,
but also of the country's campaign finance system
and the clans that manipulated it for personal gain.

It is a tale of brutal personal conflicts over money,
power and pride out of Balzac or,
had he been French, Shakespeare.

The trial of Chirac could still be blocked
by a procedural appeal. But his legacy is already
being tarnished in other courtroom brawls.

His former right-hand man, Charles Pasqua,
was sentenced to a year in jail last week
for taking bribes while interior minister.

Pasqua immediately suggested that Chirac
had secretly initiated the prosecution years ago
to block him from running against Chirac for president.

At almost the same time, prosecutors were
demanding the conviction of Chirac's former
prime minister and political heir,
Dominique de Villepin, on charges of having
conspired to falsify documents intended
to end the political career of Nicolas Sarkozy,
who succeeded Chirac as president two years ago
and who has vowed to hang "on a butcher's hook"
those who plotted against him.

It does not, if you can believe it, end there: Chirac
is known as "le grand absent" of the Clearstream
trial (named after the Luxembourg bank where
Sarkozy and others were falsely alleged
to have their secret accounts) since
the ex-president's fury at Sarkozy is widely
assumed to have been the driving force
behind Villepin's alleged campaign of calumny.

Sarkozy was originally a Chirac political protege
and was romantically linked with Chirac's daughter.
He dumped both to pursue his own career,
and Chirac is said to have never forgiven him.

Politics is even more personal in France
than in many other countries. The French, bless them,
never really outgrow the drive to demonstrate
that they are the smartest, or at least
the cleverest, kids in the classroom
and then in the office.
Challenge that core notion,
and you are in for friction or more.

I told Chirac and Villepin in late January 2003
that their hopes of stopping the Bush administration
from invading Iraq would be too little, too late.
They scoffed at my lack
of sophistication: The invasion would produce
disaster and therefore would not be launched.

Unfortunately, I was right, and they
were only half right.


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London and Paris were shocked by German reunification

OCTOBER 30: Tourists from Israel kiss in front

of the mural by Russian artist Dmitry Vrubel

of former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev

kissing his East German counterpart

Erich Honecker, painted on a segment

of East Side Gallery, the largest

remaining part of the former Berlin Wall, in Berlin.

Photograph by: Fabrizio Bensch, Reuters

By Anne-Laure Mondesert, Agence France-Presse

PARIS - Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall,
newly released diplomatic files reveal the extent
to which Germany's supposed friends in London
and Paris were fearful of the country's reunification.

France's then president Francois Mitterrand

and Britain's prime minister Margaret Thatcher

were both caught out by the speed with which

the Germans remade their country

in the wake of Communism's collapse.

While Thatcher's supporters would go on

to portray her as the heroine of the West's victory

in the Cold War, a victory symbolised

by the Wall's collapse, at the time the prospect

of German reunification "horrified" her.

And, while Mitterrand has been seen as

a great friend and ally of Germany's then

chancellor Helmut Kohl in the campaign

for European integration, in 1989 he neither

foresaw nor supported the re-integration of Germany.

"In 1989 we gave the impression of wavering

in the face of history. Twenty years on, let's

do it justice," said Pierre Lellouche, French European

affairs minister, as he followed Britain

in opening the 1989-90 diplomatic archive.

Given the subsequent success

of the reunification project, and the warm ties

that Paris in particular now has with Berlin,

the files will make uncomfortable reading

for some French and British political veterans.

"France and Great Britain should pull

together today in the face

of the German threat," Thatcher told

the French ambassador to London

in March 1990, according to a French diplomatic

telegramme released for the anniversary.

"Kohl is capable of anything. He has become

another man. He doesn't know himself any more.

He sees himself as the master and

is starting to act like it," she warned,

according to the French translation of her remarks.

French historian Maurice Vaisse,

who helped supervise the release of the files,

said that Thatcher appeared "horrified" by

the prospect that German reunification

would make Berlin the dominant force in Europe.

According to the British archive, two months

before the fall of the Wall, Thatcher told

the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev

that "neither Britain nor Western Europe

wanted the reunification of Germany.

"This would lead to a change

to postwar borders, and we cannot allow that

because such a development would

undermine the stability of the whole

international situation and could

endanger our security," she said.

In effect, she was asking the Britain's former

Cold War enemy to help her

thwart German ambitions of one

of the West's staunchest allies.

Mitterrand adviser Jacques Attali — who in

another irony of fate would go on

to head the European Bank of Reconstruction

and Development set up to fund

post Cold War reform in Eastern

Europe — also opposed reunification.

The British archive records him meeting

Gorbachev aide Vadim Zagladin in Kyiv

one month after the wall came down

and complaining that Russia had not

intervened in East Germany

to head off reunification moves.

"This has caused a fear approaching

panic," he said, according the files.

Four months later, in April 1990 and

with reunification imminent, Attali reportedly

told Mitterrand that he would

"fly off to live on Mars" if the inevitable happened.

Mitterrand and Thatcher also

shared their concerns in person.

In January 1990, the French leader

told his British counterpart at a Paris dinner

that a united Germany could "make more ground

than even Hitler had" according to a note

by Thatcher aide Charles Powell.

Shortly after the fall of the wall, in

December 1989 — when his foreign ministry

was telling him reunification was

"not a realistic possibility" — Mitterrand even

visited East Germany's moribund Communist regime.

Trapped in a Cold War mentality, and mindful

of their countries' suffering at the hands

of a powerful Germany during World War II,

the leaders of the day had difficulty

envisaging such a rapid sea change in European politics.

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