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Archive for August 30th, 2008

Raila faces revolt by disgruntled MPs

Posted by African Press International on August 30, 2008

Top from left: Raila Odinga, William Ruto, Anyang’ Nyong’o and Jakoyo Midiwo. Bottom from left: Isaac Ruto, Benjamin Langat, Peris Simam and Joshua Kutuny. Photos/FILE

ByKIPCHUMBA SOME

In Summary

  • Among the dissenting MPs are Dr Kones, Mr Isaac Ruto (Chepalingu) and Mr Joshua Kutuny (Cherangany)
  • Dr Kones said Mr Odinga was using underhand tactics to undermine MPs aligned to Mr Ruto
  • While playing down the alleged rebellion, Bahari MP Benedict Gunda said there were differences of opinion
  • Leaders from the Kipsigis community complained that they had not been rewarded

The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) has called a crisis meeting to discuss simmering discontent among some of the partys MPs.

The meeting, to be held in Naivasha next Sunday, will bring party leader Raila Odinga face-to-face with a group of MPs from the Rift Valley who accuse him of high-handedness in handling party affairs.

The MPs also accuse the Prime Minister of undermining them in their constituencies.

Party secretary-general Prof Anyang Nyongo denied reports of rifts in the party while party chief whip Mr Jakoyo Midiwo accused the MPs of trying to intimidate the PM.

I am not aware of any rifts. What we have are just normal problems, Prof Nyongo said.

Speaking to the Saturday Nation this week, the dissenting MPs claimed that the partys future was threatened following a cold war between Mr Odinga and Agriculture minister William Ruto, allegedly over the ministers political ambitions.

It is an open secret that the two are no longer on talking terms, claimed Dr Julius Kones, the MP for Konoin.

Mr Ruto dismissed the claims as cheap talk and accused the rebel MPs of spreading wild allegations. That is cheap politicking and I will not be drawn into their wars, the minister said.

Among the dissenting MPs are Dr Kones, Mr Isaac Ruto (Chepalingu), Mr Joshua Kutuny (Cherangany), Mr Luka Kigen (Rongai), Mr Benjamin Langat (Ainamoi) and Eldoret Souths Mrs Peris Simam.

They accuse Mr Odinga of dividing the party through his authoritarian and exclusive leadership style.

The PM has changed a lot since taking office. He has distanced himself from the people who made him what he is today. He also disregards our opinions even on matters affecting our constituents, said Mr Langat.

Prof Nyongo said Mr Odinga was doing his job well. They should openly state their grievances instead of wrecking the party, he said.

Dr Kones claimed that Mr William Rutos political overtures had caused a lot of discomfort within the party. The Eldoret North MP was warmly received in Central Province where it was thought he was not welcome.

He had also shared the stage with Mt Kenya MPs who were thought to be his bitter critics. These overtures, said Dr Kones, had fuelled speculation that he was seeking alliances in preparation for 2012.

Mr Rutos manoeuvres have caused a lot of jitters in the party. Our colleagues from the Luo community are particularly distrustful of his political intentions and by extension those of the Rift Valley MPs. said Dr Kones.

He said that Mr Odinga was using underhand tactics to undermine MPs aligned to Mr Ruto and was employing power brokers to fund rebellions against them.

The PM is using all means to quash the rebellion. He is now clandestinely funding our opponents. But he needs to realise that the more he uses these tactics, the wider apart we become, said Dr Kones.

Blackmail

But Mr Midiwo accused the MPs of trying to blackmail the PM. He said Mr Odinga was a national leader and could not stoop to the level claimed by the Rift Valley lawmakers.

The Prime Minister cannot abandon his grassroots support simply because some MPs are dissatisfied. They should remember that they are novices who made it to Parliament because of the support of these so-called power brokers, said the Gem MP.

Mr Midiwo accused the rebel MPs of being used to destroy the party and claimed they were being bankrolled by PNU agents.

Mr Odingas detractors have found easy prey in these MPs who have sacrificed their principles and loyalty for money, he said.

While playing down the alleged rebellion, Bahari MP Benedict Gunda said there were differences of opinion between the Premier and some MPs. He urged the PM to be more inclusive when making decisions to defuse tension.

The Prime Minister is trying his best to satisfy the various interests in the party. However, he needs to hold more consultations with party MPs when making decisions affecting their constituents, he said.

Amnesty for youth in custody over post-election violence, the controversial issue of evictions from Mau forest, unfulfilled promises of jobs in the civil service and the formation of a Grand Opposition are some of the issues that have put the Prime Minister and the Kalenjin legislators on a collision course.

The disenchantment started immediately after the Grand Coalition Government was formed. Central and South Rift MPs castigated the PM for what they called skewed appointments to the Cabinet.

Leaders from the Kipsigis community complained that they had not been rewarded with ministerial positions commensurate with the support they gave Mr Odinga in the General Elections.

Three legislators from the community were appointed to the Cabinet.

Then Bomet MP Kipkalya Kones who died in a plane crash was appointed minister for Roads while his Sotik counterpart Lorna Laboso, who died in the same crash was appointed assistant minister in the Office of the Vice-President.

Belgut MP Charles Keter was appointed an assistant minister. We expected more full cabinet ministers. We gave Mr Odinga a lot of votes during the elections.

“We are not begging. So long as he does not do right by us, we shall not be happy, said Mr Isaac Ruto.

The PM and MPs have been pushed further apart by the sensitive Mau forest issue. Mr Odinga and the Kipsigis community are at loggerheads on how to conserve the area.

Plane crash

The MPs also claim the Prime Minister is not doing enough to secure the release of youths arrested for post-poll violence.

The Prime Minister does not speak about the issue unless we pressure him. It is no secret that he is not committed to seeing the youths freed, said another of the disgruntled MPs, Mr Kutuny.

The MPs also accuse Mr Odinga of failing to honour a promise to employ professionals from the community who lost civil service jobs when Narc came into power in 2002.

The rebellion comes as the party is preparing for by-elections in Sotik and Bomet to fill the seats left vacant by Mr Kones and Ms Laboso.

Although the rebel MPs have promised to support the ODM candidates during the by-elections, they say it is becoming harder to sell the party and Mr Odinga to the electorate.

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API/Source.nation.ke

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The Issues And The Constitution Obama Ignores

Posted by African Press International on August 30, 2008

By Timothy V. Gatto

29 August, 2008
Countercurrents.org

I am sick to death of the Democratic Convention and all that they have brought to the table in their feeble attempt to show that they are worth considering in this election. They have dodged the questions about the loss of our civil liberties, proposed different battlefields instead of ending these wars that have destroyed Americas credibility and wrecked our economy. In this war of words for the votes that will put them in power, these Democrats have failed to address the true concerns of those whom they court. They have played the corporate controlled media games that are supposed to enable the American people to become a knowledgeable, well-informed electorate. This has resulted in the nomination of people that dont have the American peoples best interests at heart.

The truth is that the Convention in Denver shows us how gullible and nave the majority of Democrats really are. It sickens me to see tears streaming down the faces of people that honestly believe that the first African-American to seek the nations highest office is something grand, something that will help heal the scars of racial intolerance and bigotry. While the nomination of an African-American is long overdue, to see these people put their dreams and aspirations into the hands of a corporate controlled, shameless sociopath that has turned his back on old friends and colleagues in order to seek higher office is enough to put tears on the face of many Americans. The tears I speak of are not the tears that come from joy and hope, but they are tears of anger and disillusionment that come from seeing how this man can use the hope of the peoples desire for change, into a tool that he can wield to suit his own agenda.

What is that agenda? I dont believe that there is anyone that can answer that question. I dont believe that Mr. Obama can answer that question himself. In the beginning of this, during the primaries, he seemed to desire and end to Americas military adventure in Iraq that have caused, directly and indirectly, the deaths of over 1.2 million Iraqi men, women and children. We see that now he wants to shift the war to Afghanistan and increase the size of the military by 65,000 soldiers. Where is the peace candidate that debated with the likes of Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel along with Chris Dodd? Was this just a tactic? If this was just a tactic, should the Democrats that believed in his rhetoric forgive him because he did it out of political expediency and that this is just how the game is played? In fact, is this just all a big game, a kind of national spectacle that we participate in every four years just so we can pretend that we actually have the power to change this nations direction?

Let me take a moment to address the questions that havent been asked. Whether these questions should have been asked or not, Ill leave up to you. I put these questions before you in the hope that you may find them important as to the direction that we as a people find ourselves heading.

Will there be an investigation into the numerous signing statements and the Presidential Directives that George W. Bush used during his presidency to determine whether or not they were legal, and will Mr. Obama ask that Bush be prosecuted if it is found that he violated the law?

Will the use of weapons of war such as napalm, white phosphorus, cluster bombs and depleted uranium by our military against civilian targets be investigated to determine if International Law and treaty obligations were violated?
Will the Executive Branch review The Military Commissions Act of 2006, The John Warner Defense Bill (the re-vamped Innsurection Act that does away with posse comitatus), the revamped FISA Bill and the Patriot Acts to determine if they are Constitutional?

Will a criminal investigation into the events of 9/11 be conducted?
Will the investigation into the outing of CIA covert agent Valerie Plame be continued?

Will there be an investigation of extraordinary rendition and allegations of torture that have been leveled at the CIA and other intelligence agencies? If it is determined that U.S. and/or International Laws have been broken or circumvented, will there be prosecutions for the violators?

Will there be an investigation into the allegations of the charges that Iraq held Weapons of Mass Destruction prior to the invasion of that country by the U.S.? If it is determined that the Executive Branch knew that they did not exist and used this as a pretense for the invasion and the war that followed, will the people responsible for these violations and those that covered it up be prosecuted?

Will allegations of voter fraud in the last presidential election be investigated? Will this administration review any charges of voter fraud or try to find new ways to combat it?

In the latest crisis in Georgia, the mainstream press reported for weeks afterwards that the Russians invaded Georgia without provocation. We have now learned that it was Georgia that invaded South Ossetia that started the conflict. Will Obama look into why the media in the United States either cannot get the true facts out to the people or why many events that occur in the world are not reported on by the American media?

Will your administration look into lost funds, overspending and no-bid contracts given to corporations linked to the Bush administration? If wrongdoing is found will you authorize prosecutions for the law-breakers?

These are just a few questions that come to mind. Im sure there are others that many people have that have not been asked by the media.

Why dont we hear the questions about how the Bill of Rights has been stripped away from Americans since this Global War on Terror started? Who is the Federal government at war with exactly, is it us, the American people? How many more of our freedoms will be given away to this new breed of corporate shills that have infiltrated every branch of government? Why must they be allowed to wiretap and spy on us? Who exactly are they worried about and why?

Ruby Ridge, Waco, and even the false allegations that allowed the FDLS raids in Texas and numerous other assaults on Americans have been taking place, yet everyone turns a blind eye to the bypassing of our Constitutional rights in order not to be singled out as a dissenter. Deny constitutional rights to some, and you deny them to all. No-fly lists and enemies lists are kept secret from the people. This is not just a small by product of keeping the American people safe, this is a war declared against our right to protest and to demand accountability from our government.


When a nominee for the highest office in the land is not asked questions about the loss of our freedoms, when our press no longer holds them responsible for doing anything about it, then its time we replaced that press. The media that represents a free press should not be controlled by the same corporate interests that also control our elected officials. That is the very definition of a fascist government. Sinclair Lewis said that When fascism comes to America, it will be draped in the flag and be carrying the cross. This statement unfortunately comes very close to the truth.

The American people have a large task in front of them if they wish to stop this slide into a fascist police state that looms large before us. Waving the flag and cheering on the Democrats and Republicans that have been complicit in moving us in that direction will only reinforce their belief that we are incapable of critical thought and therefore true dissent. We can continue to turn a blind eye to the treacherous game these people are playing with us and wait until our lives become regulated beyond what we can endure and revolt in a bloody struggle, or we can wake up from our slumber now and strip them of these powers that they have managed to gain through fear and deceit. This is something we must decide, and decide we must. We can either reform this government through the ballot box by rejecting both major corporate-funded and corporate controlled political parties by voting for Cynthia McKinney (the only candidate with ballot access an almost every State), or wait can wait until the boot of oppression becomes unbearable.

This is the choice we have in this election cycle.

UPDATE: I waited to publish this until after Senator Obama gave his acceptance speech in Denver. While he gave a rousing speech about caring for each other, and talked about economic freedoms and flatly contested the Republican mantra of the trickle down economic theory, he repeated the media lie about “Russian Aggression”, pandering to the right when he knows that it was not Russia that started the conflict. If they had wanted Georgia, they would have taken Georgia! He did not mention our loss of civil liberties. He did not touch upon the draconian laws passed during the Bush administrations war on the Constitution; in fact he never mentioned the document at all. We must either make him incorporate this loss of our civil liberties, or vote for Cynthia McKinney who does. There is no big choice here, either we want our freedoms restored, or we dont. We dont owe Barack Obama or the Democrats our loyalty because they are not the Republicans, rather they must earn OUR loyalty because we are the people that will or will not put them in office. The choice is Obamas to make.

timgatto@hotmail.com
http://liberalpro.blogspot.com

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Obama’s acceptance speech – Nominated as Democratic Party Presidential candidate

Posted by African Press International on August 30, 2008

Listen to Barack Obama’sacceptance speechat the end of the article below. The speechdelivered at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, USA.

Politics, spectacle and history in Denver

Convention finale was one of the most unusual sights in political history

Stan Honda / AFP – Getty Images
From the right, Sen. Barack Obama,his wife Michelle, Jill Biden and her husband, vice presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden, wave to crowd at the end of the Democratic National Convention Thursday inDenver.

DENVER – For the first time in memory, a spectator at a convention nomination speech was treated for sunstroke. Fireworks replaced the traditional balloon drop, sunlight supplanted klieg lights. Parents brought children from as far away as Africa, and delegates munched Bronco Brats and clicked cellphone pictures of a political carnival that bore no resemblance to any convention finale that had come before.

While Senator Barack Obama took the stage at the center of Invesco Field with big video screens and speakers looming overhead, the scene in the stands and concourse provided just as much of a spectacle. Senators, delegates, party bigwigs and celebrities mingled among political tourists, teenage volunteers and older voters many of them African-American bent on seeing a moment they had never thought they would witness. Some waited for five hours in baking heat in a line up to a mile long.

I have no reason to be here other than to be a part of history, said Janelle Murph, who had booked a last-minute flight from Baltimore to see the first African-American accept the nomination of a major party on the 45th anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.s I Have a Dream speech. When I realized it was on that anniversary, it just felt like fate. I had to be there.

The scene was one of the most unusual sights in the annals of American political conventions. Overnight, the familiar trappings of the convention hall were moved outdoors, with banners from every state filling the field. As the afternoon wore on, the warm-up acts went from C- to B- to A-list, and spectators passed the time taking pictures, getting autographs and throwing the occasional Obama beach ball. By the time Al Gore came on at 6:45 p.m., the home of the Denver Broncos was aflutter with flashbulbs, waving flags and Obama signs.

In a twist on the normal convention finale, the prominent figures donors, elected officials and suit-wearing media celebrities like Dan Rather looked somewhat like the interlopers. Younger people dressed in jeans and shorts many not of voting age seemed decidedly more at home, as if they were attending an open air concert and were fully versed in the festival ritual. The wave broke out in Section 338 just after Mr. Gores speech ended and spread quickly around the stadium.

Big American flags waved next to massive Obama signs above where the Broncos great Randy Gradishars No. 53 is retired.

The occasion was part coronation, part organizing meeting, part Woodstock and part very long lines at the metal detectors. Chants of Yes, we can (not Go Broncos) broke out, and big delegate hats outnumbered face paint (usually preferred at a football game). To some extent, the event resembled a Broncos game, though without beer sales, no discernible opposition and Mr. Obama in the spotlight role of John Elway (the Broncos quarterback). Prices were stadium scale: $3.50 for a small bottle of water.

Spectators well-behaved
Spectators were exceedingly well-behaved and less boisterous than a football or concert crowd as the afternoon wore into twilight and Mr. Obamas speech approached.

This is one of the greatest experiences of my life, said Jane Culkin, a 16-year-old volunteer who attends George Washington High School in Denver. Behind her, Carrie Siubutt, of Brooklyn, was eating a bowl of multicolored Dippin Dots while getting her first look at the stadium, which was filled by 7 p.m.

This makes me feel very lucky to be an American, said Ms. Siubutt, a native of Trinidad. At that moment, Mr. Obamas running mate, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., had taken the stage and was expressing his longtime dream of playing for the Broncos. The crowd had reached a new roar, but Ms. Siubutt seemed not to notice.

I feel like Im the only one here, she said a few minutes later while flags filled the field, waving in rhythm to a S, se puede chant.

The Obama campaign seemed to be trying to de-electrify the proceedings, keeping much of the focus on the grass roots instead of the rock star. A Faces of America montage flashed on a video screen in the back of a stage. There were a long procession of speakers from the military and relatively low-key musical acts and unintentionally subduing speeches from Democratic politicians.

Not everyone was sitting in the heat. Members of the Obama campaigns national finance committee got their own luxury skybox on the 50-yard line. Those with a bit more clout had access to an array of other skyboxes, including one reserved for the Obama campaigns finance chairwoman, Penny Pritzker. And major donors had their own entrance so they could avoid the long lines.

Atmosphere of historic celebration
The blue seats of the stadium gradually filled throughout the afternoon, with Democrats waiting for hours to hear Mr. Obamas acceptance speech. The atmosphere was one of historic celebration, with a resolution read into the conventions minutes stating, Martin Luther King would have been proud.

After all the lines and waits and security screenings, the first thing people found were phone banks: clusters of tables filled with phones and eager volunteers who handed out lists of names and numbers. Callers were instructed not to ask their targets for money or votes just to turn on their televisions to watch Mr. Obamas speech. The reward, or potential reward: a raffle with coveted floor seats as its prize.

The crowd was multiracial, but with a large African-American presence. Black voters, echoing one another, said they simply could not miss this moment.

Lillian Woods, 50, of Phoenix arrived at 1 p.m., seven hours before Mr. Obama would speak. I had to be here for the whole thing, she said, passing the time in the hot sun. Its history in the making.

Alycee Nelson Ruley, a retired marine from Morton, Pa., recalled watching Walter Cronkite cover Dr. Kings March on Washington as an 8-year-old.

I vividly remember watching, and I vividly remember not being able to go, Ms. Ruley said. She is a Republican, but after Mr. Obama won the South Carolina primary, she vowed to go to Denver if he won the nomination.

Speaker after speaker, from elected officials to Republicans who have recently become Democrats to retired military officers, presented different parts of Mr. Obamas argument. The crowd fell silent when a Marine veteran said he had voted for Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, eight years ago but was now supporting Mr. Obama.

Weighty substance, light mood
While the substance was weighty, the mood was light, with newly printed Obama-Biden T-shirts, bumper stickers and hats selling briskly.

Mr. Obamas speech was choreographed with a television audience in mind, with a long runway for him to walk along. His podium was near the 50-yard line, with supporters filling the field and the stadium bowl. They were asked to send text messages to their friends and make telephone calls to spread the word about Mr. Obama, a person-to-person system that the campaign employed throughout the primary.

Whos going to make 12 phone calls for us tonight? one organizer said from the stage during a lull in the program. If you are a Colorado resident, go to Level 5 to register to vote!

Audrey Johnson Thornton, a black woman who is 82 and does not walk so well anymore, has been registering voters for months, going into Philadelphias homeless shelters, nursing homes, even into a minimum security prison.

She had a wide-brimmed purple hat to go with a purple blouse, and she was beside herself. You talk about living the dream, she said. Im 82 years old, and I never thought I would see this. Never, never, never.

Jodi Kantor and Michael Powell contributed reporting.

This story, Politics, Spectacle and History Under Open Sky, first appeared in The New York Times.

OBAMA’S ACCEPTANCE SPEECH:

WATCH: http://video.msn.com/?mkt=en-us&vid=b58a74ff-77f6-4185-b566-dc26ae055248&playlist=videoByTag:tag:dnc%20speeches:ns:Gallery:mk:us:vs:1&from=MSNHP&tab=m1219955689102&GT1=42003

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Norwegian politicians accused of lying and cashing illegal income from the State: Former Prime Minister Brundtland may face pension enquiry

Posted by African Press International on August 30, 2008

The President of the Norwegian Parliament, former Labour Party Prime Minister Thorbjrn Jagland, is considering an external audit to determine whether former MPs have cheated the parliamentary pension fund.

Thorbjrn Jagland may call for an external audit of the parliamentary pension fund.

PHOTO: JORONN SAGEN ENGEN

Ordinary citizens are jailed for wrongly claiming sums smaller than the government auditors (Riksrevisjonen) discovered when checking pension fund accounts. This puts pressure on parliament to clear up questions arising from the official audit. Former Prime Minister and World Health Organization boss, Gro Harlem Brundtland is one of the former MP’s who may have to answer questions. She received a pension when she may have been ineligible because of other income.

Uncertainty about how the rules governing the pension fund are applied and disagreement between the government auditors and fund administrators, adds further room for confusion. While the regulations governing ordinary pensions are inflexible, the parliamentary pension rules are far less rigid and are open to debate.

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More Somalians outside Oslo are doing very well – Not depending on Social Welfare Assistance

Posted by African Press International on August 30, 2008

Hassan Samahle returned to the mountain village of Vinje in Telemark County after getting his degree. Somalians here are so well integrated that the community want more of them to come. Everyone completes secondary school, and no one is a passive welfare recipient.

Hassan Samahle leads the Vinje Soccer Second Team. His daughter Hibach plays on the team along with coach Grete Hgset’s daughter Randi, and Ogbad Mohammed and Anne Vle.

PHOTO: TONE GEORGSEN

The 32 year-old electrical engineer, has brought new expertise to one of the main employers in the area.

He came to Norway and Vinje when he was 15, completed secondary school with good grades, studied engineering, did a year’s national service in the military and five years as a part-timer in the Home Guard, taught mathematics for a year and then returned home to Vinje.

Government statistics show immigrants from Somalia as the group most likely to be unemployed, receiving welfare payments and with least education.

A recent book written by a Somalian woman living in Norway, with the pen name Amal Aden, claims amongst other things that her compatriots in Oslo don’t want to integrate in Norwegian society, they exploit the welfare system and teach their children to hate Norwegians.

In the wooded valleys around Vinje things are different. Mayor Arne Vinje thinks that the Somalians are so well integrated that he would like to see more of them living in his area.

Of the 40 Somalians in Vinje, only two elderly first generation immigrants receive welfare payments. All the children with Somalian background have completed secondary education and most take part in two or more after-school activities. Those who have left, have done so because of work or higher education.

Initially a number of the locals in the remote rural village were sceptical when the first Somalians arrived 20 years ago. As the local authorities gained experience, they found their recipe for success: close support in the beginning, individually tailored programs, Norwegian language tuition, giving information by word of mouth checking that the information was understood, inclusion in local hobby groups and societies, inexpensive leisure activities, a widespread use of translators other than family members and taking an interest when the new immigrants arrived.

“The Somalians in Vinje want to make something of themselves. They want to be part of the community. This is the main reason for their success in integrating here,” says Jan Petter Johansen, head of the local employment and welfare office.

“Vinje is an absolutely fantastic place,” says 18 year-old Rahma Hassan Warsame in the characteristic local dialect. She is busy with school, soccer and volleyball. She thinks Vinje has been successful in integrating immigrants, because the village is so small that theres nowhere to hide oneself away.

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McCain picks Alaska Gov. Palin as running mate

Posted by African Press International on August 30, 2008

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, here in February, will be Sen. John McCain’s running mate, a campaign official says.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, here in February, will be Sen. John McCain's running mate, a campaign official says.

(CNN) — Sen. John McCain has picked Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, a senior McCain campaign official told CNN on Friday.

Palin, 44, who’s in her first term as governor, is a pioneering figure in Alaska, the first woman and the youngest person to hold the state’s top political job.

She catapulted to the post with a strong reputation as a political outsider, forged during her stint in local politics. She was mayor and a council member of the small town of Wasilla and was chairman of the state Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which regulates Alaska’s oil and gas resources, in 2003 and 2004.

The conservative Palin defeated two so-called political insiders to win the governor’s job — incumbent Gov. Frank Murkowski in the GOP primary and former two-term Democratic Gov. Tony Knowles in the 2006 general election. iReport.com: What do you think of McCain’s VP pick?

Palin made her name in part by backing tough ethical standards for politicians. During the first legislative session after her election, her administration passed a state ethics law overhaul.

Palin’s term has not been without controversy. A legislative investigation is looking into allegations that Palin fired Alaska’s public safety commissioner because he refused to fire the governor’s former brother-in-law, a state trooper.

Palin acknowledged that a member of her staff made a call to a trooper in which the staffer suggested he was speaking for the governor.

Palin has admitted that the call could be interpreted as pressure to fire state trooper Mike Wooten, who was locked in a child-custody battle with Palin’s sister.

“I am truly disappointed and disturbed to learn that a member of this administration contacted the Department of Public Safety regarding Trooper Wooten,” Palin said. “At no time did I authorize any member of my staff to do so.”

Palin suspended the staffer who made the call.

Palin has focused on energy and natural resources policy during her short stint in office, and she is known for her support of drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, a position opposed by McCain but supported by many grass-roots Republicans.

Her biography on the state governor’s Web site says one of the two major pieces of legislation passed during her first legislative session was a competitive process to construct a gas pipeline.

Palin started Alaska’s Petroleum Systems Integrity Office, an oversight and maintenance agency for the state’s oil and gas equipment, facilities and infrastructure. She created the Climate Change Subcabinet that would forge a climate change strategy, according to the biography.

Palin chairs the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, a multistate panel “that promotes the conservation and efficient recovery of domestic oil and natural gas resources while protecting health, safety and the environment,” the biography says.

She has been named chair of the National Governors Association’s Natural Resources Committee. That panel is focused on legislation to ensure that federal policies take state priorities into account in agriculture, energy, environmental protection and natural resource management.

She is a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association and takes part in two of Alaska’s popular pastimes — fishing and hunting.

The governor’s biography says Palin’s other priorities have been “education and workforce development, public health and safety, and transportation and infrastructure development.”

The biography touts her other achievements as governor as the investment of $5 billion in state savings, overhaul of educational funding and implementation of a program to help low-income elderly Alaskans.

Born in Idaho, she is a longtime Alaskan and a Protestant. Her biography says she arrived in Alaska in 1964 “when her parents came to teach school in Skagway.”

She graduated from Wasilla High School in 1982 and received a bachelor of science degree in communications-journalism from the University of Idaho in 1987.

Her husband is Todd Palin, an oil production operator on Alaska’s North Slope. They have five children, including a son who enlisted in the Army last year.

Congressional Quarterly notes Sarah Palin’s other past occupations, including commercial fishing company owner, outdoor recreational equipment company owner and sports reporter.

Palin also made an unsuccessful run for lieutenant governor in 2002, Congressional Quarterly said.

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Kimunya wants Cockar to summon ministers, AG

Posted by African Press International on August 30, 2008

Lawyers representing former Finance minister Amos Kimunya from left Prof, Githu Muigai, Kanyi Kimondo and Samuel Kamume Gichigi confer during proceedings at the Cockar commission. Photo/ CHRIS OJOW

ByMUCHEMI WACHIRA

In Summary

  • Kimunya wants two ministers and the Attorney-General to appear before the Cockar Commission.
  • Ministers and AG made recommendations that he steps aside.

Former Finance minister Amos Kimunya wants two ministers and the Attorney-General to appear before the Cockar Commission to explain their role in the sale of Grand Regency Hotel.

The ministers, James Orengo (Lands) and Mutula Kilonzo (Metropolitan Development), Mr Kimunyas lawyer Prof Githu Muigai said had together with the AG, Mr Amos Wako made recommendations that the Kipipiri MP step aside to allow investigations on the controversial sale of the hotel.

They were members of a legal committee the lawyer explained, that sat and made a report, which came up with the recommendations.

He also said that even Members of Parliament,who led street demonstrations to put pressure on Mr Kimunya to step aside should also be summoned.

They are: Mr Ababu Namwamba (Bungalangi) and Mr Bonface Khalwale (Ikolomani)

Others who participated in the street protests, Prof Muigai said include activists, Mr Haroun Ndubi and Ms Ann Njogu.

We want all of them to come and provide evidence, he told the commission chairman Justice (rtd) Abdul Majid Cockar.

Out of all the 14 witnesses who have given evidence before the commission, Mr Kimunya has not been mentioned adversely.

At the same time, Justice Cockar revealed that his team will be seeking a mandate extension to complete its work. If the extension is granted, it will be for the second time.

The commission was appointed last month to inquire into the sale of the hotel, which was sold out to Libyan investors sparking public outcry.

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UN fails to renew mandate of envoy for Western Sahara

Posted by African Press International on August 30, 2008

Dutch diplomat, Mr. Peter van Walsum is leaving his position as United Nations envoy for Western Sahara after the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon decided not to renew his mandate, which expired on August 21.

The Polisario Front, which is seeking independence for Western Sahara, has been putting pressure for Mr. Van Walsum to be replaced after he stated that although Polisario Fronts demands were legitimate, independence was not a realistic goal, because the UN Security Council would not force Morocco to comply with the referendum plan.

According to the former UN envoy, it would be wiser for Polisario Front not to insist on total independence.

The Polisario Front has sought the independence of Western Sahara since it was annexed by Morocco after the colonial power Spain withdrew from the territory in 1975.

Mr. Van Walsum was appointed in 2005 as successor to former US secretary of state Mr. James Baker, who resigned in 2004 over the difficulties in solving the conflict.

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Over 7000 troops needed for Eastern Africa standby force by 2010, says official

Posted by African Press International on August 30, 2008

Over 7000 troops made up of both military and police personnel are needed to form a strong but effective and efficient Eastern Africa Standby Brigade force (EASBRIG), scheduled for 2010, with 13 member states contributing at least a battalion (600) each.

In an exclusive interview with APA in Kigali during the ongoing two-day ordinary Council of 13 Ministers from the Eastern Africa region in charge of defense and security, held at the Serena Hotel in Kigali, Peter Marwa, the head of political affairs, of the EASBRIG coordination mechanism said for the force to achieve its envisaged overall objective of conflict management and resolution, it will require a considerable number of troops composed of military, civilian and police personnel.

He noted that there is a need for a multi-dimensional force able to handle all types of conflicts and with capacity to contain different emergencies and disasters in the region.

We are developing a force that is strong to handle all conflict situations. This calls for enough resources in terms of human capacity, finances and equipment, Marwa said, disclosing that the brigades current operational budget is at about 2.9 million euros and is expected to more than double when all components of the brigade are operating at full capacity.

According to the official, Rwanda has already made clear that its battalion is ready for EASBRIG deployment. The operational exercise of the force will be conducted in November this year, which therefore means that all battalions from the member states should be ready by then.

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Mauritanian anti-coup group speaks against imposition of sanctions

Posted by African Press International on August 30, 2008

The National Front for the Defense of Democracy (FNDD), the coordination of Mauritanian parties opposed to the 6 August coup, Thursday spoke against the sanctions imposed by the international community on Mauritania and said it favours “a purely Mauritanian solution.”

Boidiel Ould Houmeid, vice-president of the former ruling PNDD-ADIL, made the statement before the leaders of the five FNDD member parties on Thursday afternoon during a press conference at the PNDD headquarters.

The anti-coup group has been calling for the “re-instatement of ousted President Sidi Ould Sheikh Abdallahi” since the latter was toppled.

“We have the support of the entire international community in our peaceful struggle, because our cause is right. However, we prefer a Mauritanian solution because any other situation accompanied with any type of sanctions would have negative impact on the living conditions of the Mauritanian people,” he said.

Ould Houmeid, who also chairs the FNDD for one month, said they are “willing to consider any solution which preserves the interest of Mauritania, which safeguards its cohesion and its national unity and which guarantees the return to constitutional order after the April 2007 transition.”

Ould Houmeid was a minister- secretary general at the presidents office in the ousted government.

This stance comes after the visits to Nouakchott of the African Union Commission chairperson Jean Ping and the United Nations special representative in West Africa, Said Djinnit.

The international community as a whole condemned the putsch and some countries and organisations already imposed sanctions against Mauritania.

Last week, the World Bank suspended US$175 million assistance to Mauritania.

The United States had announced the suspension of their non-humanitarian assistance in the country the day after the military takeover. France followed the same footsteps a few days later.

The European Development and Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Louis Michel had asked for “the suspension of ongoing cooperation activities except humanitarian action which directly benefits the population.”

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Gambian central bank forecasts economic growth at 6.5%

Posted by African Press International on August 30, 2008

Latest data released by the Monetary Policy Committee of the Central Bank of The Gambia indicates that the Gambian economy is forecast to grow at 6.5 percent in the year 2008.

This is premised on a strong rebound in agricultural output and the continued growth in the services and construction sectors.

Speaking at a press conference held at the Central Bank offices on Thursday, the Governor, Bamba Saho, said money supply grew by 8.5 percent in the year to end June 2008, compared to 12.9 percent a year earlier.

According to Governor Saho, preliminary data on the execution of the government budget indicates that total revenue and grants for the first six months of 2008 declined to D1.9 billion (US$97 million) or 3.6 percent compared to the corresponding period in 2007.

The decline is attributed to the lower than projected tax and non-tax revenue.

Total expenditure and net lending increased to D2.0 billion (US$100 million), or 13.6 percent compared to the first half of 2007. The overall budget balance (including grants) on commitment basis was a deficit of D113.0 million (US$5.6 million), or 1.3 percent of GDP. Excluding grants, the deficit widened to D164.4 million (US$8.2 millon), or 1.8 percent of GDP, he revealed.

The Central Bank Governor added that the inter-bank foreign exchange market continues to be vibrant as volume of transactions, measured by aggregate sales and purchases of foreign currency, increased to US$1.7 billion at end-July 2008, or 13.3 percent from a year earlier.

From end-December 2007 to July 2008, the Dalasi (local currency) strengthened by 7.1 percent, 4.9 percent, 1.9 percent and 1.5 percent against the US Dollar, Pound Sterling, Euro and CFA Franc respectively, he said.

Governor Saho was however quick to add that the Dalasi depreciated slightly against all major currencies between June and July 2008.

The banking system recorded significant asset and deposit growth as well as a strong capital base. Total assets of the banking industry increased to D11.3 billion (US$550 million) or 12.2 percent from end-June 2007. Return on assets declined from 2.1 percent in March 2008 to 1.5 percent at end-June, he revealed.

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