Brown Survives With Pledge to Improve.

June 10, 2009

The Embattled Brown

The Embattled Brown

 

Bolanle Talabi.

LoveWorld Newsroom.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown will remain at the helm of Britain’s ruling Labour Party after beating back a rebellion by members unhappy over its worst-ever defeat in voting for the European Parliament.

Confronting dissidents at a two-hour closed-door meeting in Parliament in London late yesterday, Brown won the support of most Labour lawmakers by promising to make unspecified changes to his leadership style and agenda.

“I know I need to improve,” Brown told the meeting, according to his spokesman. He shrugged off calls for his resignation, saying, “You solve the problem not by walking away but by doing something about it.”

Although Brown’s supporters warned that a leadership fight would prompt a general election that Labour would almost certainly lose, the prime minister’s hold on power remains fragile. The wounds inflicted may be reopened if the party’s poll ratings don’t improve or if Brown presses ahead with controversial plans to clamp down on welfare benefits and sell a stake in the postal service.

Tomorrow, lawmakers vote on a motion proposed by opposition parties calling on Brown to hold a general election immediately instead of waiting until the deadline a year from now. If a handful of Labour lawmakers rebel or neglect to show up, Brown, who has a 63-seat majority, could lose the vote.

Former ministers Charles Clarke, Stephen Byers and Fiona Mactaggart yesterday joined a list of 19 Labour lawmakers saying Brown should step down after the party finished third in elections for the European Parliament.

The size of the mutiny was too small to trigger a leadership contest, and the challenge unified both the Cabinet and most of the party in backing Brown. While six ministers have walked out of the government, none followed James Purnell in calling for Brown to step aside.

Unless the prime minister quits, 70 Labour members of Parliament would have to publicly call for him to go before the party could consider replacing him. More than 300 attending the meeting in a packed committee room banged tables and cheered for Brown when he arrived to speak.

Brown’s standing has withered as disclosures of lawmakers’ personal spending combined with the effects of a deepening recession and rising unemployment. The British National Party, whose constitution permits only whites to join, won its first two seats in the European Parliament.

The challenge to Brown from his allies is the toughest for a sitting premier since John Major called a leadership contest to face down rebels in his Conservative Party in 1995.

This time, the opposition to Brown centers on his personality and leadership style. Caroline Flint quit as Europe minister last week, saying Brown didn’t take her seriously and didn’t include her in Cabinet discussions.

An opinion poll by ComRes Ltd. showed that Home Secretary Alan Johnson would be more popular than Brown, 58, and could deprive the Conservatives of the votes they need to command a majority in Parliament.

With Johnson as Labour leader, the opposition would fall six seats short of a majority. Against Brown, Conservatives would have 74 seats more than all rival parties combined, according to ComRes, which finished its poll of 1,001 adults on June 7th.

 

 

 

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Nigerian Militants Claim Sabotage Of Oil Facility

June 10, 2009

Nigerian militants say they have sabotaged an oil-pumping station in the restive southern Niger Delta region.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said Wednesday in an e-mail that its strike on an installation run by Chevron Corp’s local subsidiary left the facility in flames. A company spokesman confirmed a fire at one of its flow stations.

Violence is rising in the chaotic and lawless southern oil region as the military intensifies operations to oust militant fighters battling for a larger share of government-controlled oil-industry revenues.

Sourced from AP


Air France tail section recovered

June 9, 2009

Search teams recover debris from Air France plane

Search teams recover debris from Air France plane

A Brazilian search team has recovered a large tail section of the Air France jet that crashed a week ago over the Atlantic with 228 people on board.

 

The Brazilian military released photos of divers securing the tail fin, which was painted with Air France colours.

Meanwhile the US is sending two sophisticated listening devices to help search for black boxes from the plane.

Brazilian officials said 24 bodies had now been recovered, an increase from the previous total of 16.

Bodies and debris from the plane have been found some 1,000km (600 miles) north-east of Brazil’s Fernando de Noronha islands, where the Airbus disappeared.

Sourced from The BBC


Shell settles Nigeria deaths case

June 9, 2009

Ken Saro-Wiwa, whose execution sparked a global outcry

Ken Saro-Wiwa, whose execution sparked a global outcry

Royal Dutch Shell has agreed a $15.5m (£9.7m) out-of-court settlement in a case accusing it of complicity in human rights abuses in Nigeria.

 

It was brought by relatives of nine anti-oil campaigners, including author Ken Saro-Wiwa, who were hanged in 1995 by Nigeria’s then military rulers.

The oil giant strongly denies any wrongdoing and says the payment is part of a “process of reconciliation”.

The case, initiated 13 years ago, had been due for trial in the US next week.

It was brought under a 1789 federal law which allows US courts to hear human rights cases brought by foreign nationals over actions that take place abroad.

The case alleged that Shell was complicit in murder, torture and other abuses by Nigeria’s former military government against campaigners in the oil-rich Niger Delta.

Ken Saro-Wiwa and the eight others were members of the Ogoni ethnic group from the Niger Delta. They had been campaigning for the rights of the local people and protesting at pollution caused by the oil industry.

They were executed after being convicted by a military tribunal over the 1994 murder of four local leaders.

The activists’ deaths had sparked a storm of international protest.


Gabon’s Bongo, confirmed dead

June 8, 2009

 

Late Gabon President, Omar Bongo

Late Gabon President, Omar Bongo

 Monday 8th June, 2009.

 

 

Gabon President Omar Bongo, the world’s longest-serving president whose 42-year rule was a throwback to an era when Africa was ruled by “Big Men,” has died of cardiac arrest in a Spanish hospital. He was 73.

Doctors at the Quiron Clinic in Barcelona announced Bongo’s death around 2:30 p.m. (1230 GMT, 8:30 a.m. EDT) Monday, Gabonese Prime Minister Jean Eyeghe Ndong said. Bongo was admitted to the hospital last month.

Only hours earlier, Ndong had said he saw the president and declared him “alive and well.” Gabonese officials have become increasingly belligerent with journalists, including calling a meeting with the French ambassador in Gabon in order to discuss the coverage of the president’s death by French media outlets.

Bongo, who was believed to be one of the world’s wealthiest leaders, became the longest-ruling head of government , a category that does not include the monarchs of Britain and Thailand , when Cuba’s Fidel Castro handed power to his brother last year.

The country’s constitution calls for the head of the Senate, Rose Francine Rogombe, to assume power and organize presidential elections within 90 days of Bongo’s death. But there has been speculation that one of Bongo’s sons would try to seize power upon his father’s death, as happened in nearby Togo.

Bongo had kept a tight grip on power in the oil-rich former French colony since he became president in 1967, and his ruling party has dominated the country’s parliament for decades. Opposition parties were only allowed in 1990, amid a wave of pro-democracy protests.

Elections since then have been marred by allegations of rigging and unrest.

While most Gabonese genuinely feared Bongo and there was little opposition, many accepted his rule because he had kept his country remarkably peaceful and governed without the sustained brutality characteristic of many dictators.

Bongo, meanwhile, amassed a fortune that made him one of the world’s richest men, according to Freedom House, a private Washington-based democracy watchdog organization, although nobody really knows how much he was worth.

Earlier this year, a French judge decided to investigate Bongo and two other African leaders on accusations of money laundering and other alleged crimes linked to their wealth in France.

The probe followed a complaint by Transparency International France, an association that tracks corruption. French media have reported that Bongo’s family owns abundant real estate in France, at one time owning more properties in Paris than any other foreign leader.

Born Albert Bernard Bongo on Dec. 30, 1935, the youngest of 12 children, Bongo served as a lieutenant in the French Air Force, then climbed quickly through the civil service, eventually becoming vice president. He assumed the presidency Dec. 2, 1967, after the death of Leon M’Ba, the country’s only other head of state since independence from France in 1960.


NKorea hands 12 years jail sentence to US journalists

June 8, 2009
Laura Ling and Euna Lee

Laura Ling and Euna Lee

LoveWorld News room.

Monday, June 8th, 2009.

SEOUL – North Korea’s top court has convicted two American journalists and sentenced them to 12 years in a prison, intensifying the reclusive nation’s confrontation with the United States.

The sentencing came amid soaring tensions fueled by the North’s latest nuclear and missile tests. Many believe Pyongyang is using the journalists as bargaining chips as the U.N. debates a new resolution to punish the unpredictable country for its latest military threats.

In a cryptic report, the state news agency said Laura Ling, 32, and Euna Lee, 36 were sentenced after the five-day trial ended today. They were guilty of a “grave crime” against the nation and of illegally crossing into North Korea. The court “sentenced each of them to 12 years of reform through labor,”

Ling and Lee, working for former Vice President Al Gore’s California-based Current TV, cannot appeal because they were tried in North Korea’s highest court, where decisions are final. The court “sentenced each of them to 12 years of reform through labor.”

Some analysts however believe negotiations will now begin that will likely lead to the journalists’ release. North Korea refused to release them ahead of a court ruling because such a move could be seen as capitulating to the United States, said an informed observer who is a Professor of international relations and an expert on North Korea at the University of Shizuoka in Japan.

But now “North Korea may release them on humanitarian grounds and demand the U.S. provide humanitarian aid in return,” he said. “North Korea will certainly use the reporters as a bargaining chip in negotiations with the United States.”

Tensions have been running high since the North held its second underground nuclear blast May 25th and followed it up with several missile tests. U.S. officials have said the North appears to be preparing to test another long-range missile at a new launch pad.

The circumstances surrounding the trial of the two journalists and their arrest March 17th on the China-North Korean border have been shrouded in secrecy, as is typical of the reclusive nation. The trial was not open to the public or foreign observers, including the Swedish Embassy, which looks after American interests in the absence of diplomatic relations.

The two were reporting the trafficking of women at the time of their arrest, and it’s unclear if they strayed into the North or were grabbed by aggressive border guards who crossed into China.

Another American who was tried in North Korea in 1996 was treated more leniently. Evan C. Hunziker, apparently acting on a drunken dare, swam across the Yalu River — which marks the North’s border with China — and was arrested after farmers found the man, then 26, naked. He was accused of spying and detained for three months before being freed after negotiations with a special U.S. envoy.

The North Koreans wanted Hunziker to pay a $100,000 criminal fine but eventually agreed on a $5,000 payment to settle a bill for a hotel where he was detained.

 

 


Obama’s Cairo speech lauded by UN Chief

June 5, 2009

 

   

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday commended U.S. President Barack Obama for the speech he delivered at Cairo University in Egypt.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the speech outlined Mr. Obama’s vision for reconciliation and cooperation between the Muslim world and the West.

In a statement issued at the UN headquarters in New York,

UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon

UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon

  Mr. Ban said: “President Obama’s message will herald the opening of a new chapter in relations between the U.S. and the Islamic World.”

“I am strongly encouraged by the speech and also strongly welcome its message of peace, understanding and reconciliation,” the statement quoted Mr. Ban as saying.

“The secretary-general believes that President Obama’s speech is a crucial step in bridging divides and promoting intercultural understanding, which is a major objective of the UN,” it said.

“His message reaffirms our shared commitment to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, as enshrined in the Preamble of the UN Charter.

“I hope that this will have a positive impact on the peace process in the Middle East and the resolution of a number of conflicts in the Middle East and beyond,” the statement further quoted Mr. Ban as saying.

NAN reports that quoting from the Qur’an, Mr. Obama, in his speech, called for a “new beginning between the U.S. and Muslims,” saying “together, we could confront violent extremism across the globe and advance the timeless search for peace in the Middle East.”