Jan 29, 2011

120 died, 80 percent area under disaster in S Africa


A thick stench fills the air, there is no proper sewage system in the South African township of Themba Khoza - heavy floods have destroyed all the make-shift drains and bacteria infected water is flowing through the tiny pathways between the shacks.

Eight of the country's nine provinces have been declared disaster areas after floods killed more than 120 people.

Residents of the informal settlement north of Johannesburg are bracing themselves for more floods.

The settlement is home to more than 2,000 people - many of the houses here are built near a river, the Kaalfontein.

The river burst its banks last week, flooding many shacks in the process.

Tharafosa Molapo, 92, is hard at work, trying to build a sand barrier around his home.


The old man is frail but he says he needs to do this to prevent further damage to the home he shares with his wife.

"We cannot sleep when it is rains, because we need to remove the water from our houses," he says.

"I have been up from 0100 this morning, scooping out water from inside the house," he adds, while holding a rusty shovel in his mud covered hands.

He has been living here for four years and describes this year's rain as the worst he has ever seen.

No-one has died in Themba Khoza but Mr Molapo is worried what more rains will do to their rusty shack - it has been battered by many storms.

His neighbours are no better off. Mattresses, blankets, sheets and clothes have been taken outside to dry.

Doors stand ajar to allow the air to dry the wooden planks which hold up the shacks, residents explain.

Close to 50 families have been evacuated and taken to nearby police stations for temporary shelter.

It's been a very painful experience for me. We had to throw away a lot of things because they were just covered in mud.”

Local officials have been at pains to convince people living near rivers to relocate due to the flood risk - a battle they seem unlikely to win despite the nationwide downpours.

Like many informal settlements in South Africa, Themba Khoza has little or no running water, so for the thousands of residents a river offers a regular source of water.

But the community here is worried about the threat posed by the pools of the stagnant water around.

Green flies hovering in the air serve as a reminder of the filth.

"It's very worrying because we know that we could get all kinds of diseases from the dirty water that passes through here, it has happened before and we are worried that if the flooding continues we will definitely get sick," says Siyabonga Mfeba, who has lived here for four years.

Mr Mfeba's shack is less than 100 metres from the river bank. The floor of his shack is made from mud - when the rain came in the floor was eroded.

"Everything has just been destroyed," he says.

Mr Mfeba - who is unemployed - says the floods have destroyed many of the few possessions he had managed to amass.

"It's been a very painful experience for me. We had to throw away a lot of things because they were just covered in mud. I know I'll never be able to replace all of the things that were destroyed," he says.

Courtesy: BBC

US town Oklahoma to be demolished for contamination


Most of its residents left, the school closed, the city government was disbanded and starting this week nearly every commercial building in Picher, Oklahoma, will be demolished.

But the owner of the last-remaining open business in Picher, which has been vacated over the years because of lead contamination, is not ready to go.

"It's not time for me to leave yet," said Gary Linderman, owner of Old Miner's Pharmacy in what is left of central Picher, located in the northeast corner of the state.

"I have an obligation to people. We are all creatures of habit and closing might throw them off."
In addition to providing prescriptions, the pharmacy is the only place left in town to buy snack food, beverages, over-the-counter medicine and other necessities.

Linderman declined a buyout from the federal government, which declared Picher a hazardous waste site in 1981 and has bought out about 900 homeowners and businesses. Crews demolished a funeral home, restaurant, thrift shop, apartment building and other structures this week, with more to come.

Besides lead contamination, Picher has suffered in recent years from sinkholes from old mines that threaten to swallow the community. Three years ago, a tornado destroyed about 150 homes, chasing more people away.

Picher's population has shrunk from 1,640 in 2000 to only a handful of residents today. The school district and city government dissolved in 2009 and the post office closed.

The town had more than 14,000 residents in the 1920s.

Because of historic significance, a church, mining museum, auction house and a building where mining equipment was sold will remain standing, though they are abandoned. Linderman's building will be surrounded by vacant lots in what used to be downtown, but he doesn't seem to mind.

"I'm a farm boy," he said. "I'm used to the wide open spaces." 

Video on Egypt unrest

Egypt riot hits the world's political and social thinking specially. Whether the controlled democracy will continue in the Middle East and Africa in the future.


The riot began on January 25, 2011 which is the massive blow against the regime of President Hosni Mubarak in his 30 years of ruling of the country Egypt.

President Mubarak addresses to clam down volatility

Egypt President Hosni Mubarak addressed for the nation on Friday night (January 28, 2011) to calm down the volatility continues in the coumtry demanding his resignation.



The massive protest programme against Mubarak began on January 25, 2011 demanding resignation of Egypt President Mubarak and change in the political system of the country.

Video on Protest against Egypt President Mubarak

Hosni Mubarak faces the toughest time in 30 years of leading the Egypt. Overall situation is giving a message that a change is coming forward in the ruling system of total Africa continent. We assume the change will effort positively to the development of the continent in education, good governance and democracy finally.

President Hosni Mubarak dismisses his government


Egypt President Hosni Mubarak dismissed his government on Friday and said a new cabinet would be announced on Saturday.

Mr. Mubarak also defended the role of Egypt's security forces in suppressing anti-government protests which have rocked the country.

It was his first statement since the protests - in which at least 26 have died with hundreds injured - began.

Tens of thousands took part in protests in Cairo, Suez, Alexandria and other cities.

Protesters set fire to the headquarters of the governing NDP party and besieged state TV and the foreign ministry.

At least 13 people were killed in Suez on Friday, while in Cairo, five people died, according to medical sources.

That brings the death toll to at least 26 since the protests began on Tuesday.

"I have asked the government to present its resignation today (Friday)," Mr Mubarak said, adding that he would appoint a new government on Saturday.

He also said he understood the protesters' grievances but that a thin line divided liberty from chaos and he would not allow Egypt to be destabilised.

One protester told the Associated Press news agency: "We want Mubarak to go and instead he is digging in further."

In a televised address shortly after Mr Mubarak spoke, US President Barack Obama said he had spoken at length with the Egyptian president and urged him to turn "a moment of volatility" into "a moment of promise".

The BBC's Jon Leyne in Cairo says there had clearly been a lot of discussion behind the scenes before Mr Mubarak spoke to the country.

But his comments will probably just provoke further unrest, says our correspondent - the people on the streets will be both infuriated by his accusations that they are seeking to destabilise the country and inspired that, having wrung some concessions from him, they could yet manage to oust him.

After Mr Mubarak spoke, a sustained volley was heard from central Cairo, which our correspondent said could have been either tear gas or live fire.

The Reuters news agency later quoted witnesses as saying more than 20 military vehicles rolled in to central Tahrir Square shortly after midnight, scattering protesters into the sidestreets.

After days of unrest, protests erupted again on Friday, as tens of thousands of protesters across the country turned out after Friday prayers shouting "Down, down with Mubarak" and, "The people want the regime to fall".

The authorities announced a curfew from 1800 to 0700 local time (1600-0500 GMT), but it was immediately and widely flouted.

At several locations, riot police responded by firing rubber bullets and tear gas, and by using water cannon.

The headquarters of the governing NDP party was set ablaze, while protesters also besieged the state broadcaster and the foreign ministry.

The army secured the Egyptian Museum, next door to the NDP building and home to such treasures as the gold mask of King Tutankhamen, to protect it from looters.

Internet and phone services - both mobile and land-line - have been severely disrupted, although protesters are using proxies to work around the restrictions.

The BBC said it would forcefully protest to the Egyptian authorities after a reporter for BBC Arabic, Assad Sawyer, arrested and beaten by plainclothes policemen in Cairo.

Mr Obama said he had told Mr Mubarak to respect the rights of the Egyptian people and refrain from using violence against peaceful protesters - but he said the protesters also had a responsibility to express themselves peacefully.

He urged the Egyptian leader to take "concrete steps that advance the rights of the Egyptian people" and deliver on the promises of reform in his address.

"Violence will not address the grievances of the Egyptian people. And suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away," he said.

"Surely, there will be difficult days to come, but the United States will continue to stand up for the rights of the Egyptian people and work with their government in pursuit of a future that is more just, more free and more hopeful."

The BBC's Paul Adams in Washington said there is no immediate suggestion that the White House is cutting its ties with its long-time ally Mr Mubarak.

But it is clearly giving him the chance to turn the unrest into what Mr Obama described as "a moment of promise", says our correspondent.

Earlier, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Washington would review its aid to Egypt based on events in the coming days.

Egypt is the fourth largest recipient of American aid, after Afghanistan, Pakistan and Israel.

Britain, the US and France are all advising against non-essential travel to Egypt.

The unrest follows an uprising in Tunisia two weeks ago, in which President Zinger al-Abidine Ben Ali was toppled after 23 years in power.

The Tunisian upheaval began with anger over rising food prices, high unemployment and anger at official corruption - problems which also left many people Egypt feeling frustrated and resentful of their leadership.

Courtesy: Reuters, BBC, AP. 

Jan 26, 2011

Sudan's President Omar supports for new Independent South


Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on Tuesday pledged support for a new southern state in his first public address since the south of the country voted overwhelmingly to split from the north.

Early results from this month's referendum indicate almost 99 percent of southerners voted to secede after decades of civil war which claimed 2 million lives and destabilized much of east Africa. Bashir had campaigned for unity and many feared the north would not let the oil-producing south go without a fight.

"Secession has become a reality -- 99 percent of southerners chose separation but we will not be sad ... we will go to the south and celebrate with them," Bashir told supporters during a visit to the northern River Nile state.

"We will support the new southern state and will hold onto its stability because we are neighbors and will remain friends," he added.

While oil was a factor behind the north-south war which ended with a wealth and power-sharing agreement in 2005, most believe it will enshrine peace after the split.

Around 75 percent of Sudan's 500,000 barrels per day of crude lies in the south while the export infrastructure is in the north -- a forced economic interdependency.

Provisional results on the referendum commission's web site show almost 99 percent of voters opted for separation.

But according to the commission's own figures more than 100 percent of those registered voted in seven of 76 of the south's counties. The discrepancy is unlikely to affect the overall result but unless clarified could cast doubts over the process.

On Tuesday the deputy head of the commission, Chan Reek Madut, told reporters it was a clerical error which was being investigated and corrected.

"This is utter rubbish," he said. "This is part of the problem we have faced -- we did not have enough time to train people," he added.

International observers ahead of the count had said the vote was credible and had met global standards.

But while both sides seem to have accepted secession, disputes over the border, citizenship and how to share the debilitating external debt of almost $40 billion are unresolved.

The central Abyei region, which was supposed to hold its own referendum on whether to join the north or south, remains the major point of conflict, and clashes there between rival tribes marred celebrations during the southern vote.

Officials have said a solution to Abyei will likely be part of a larger deal over other outstanding post-referendum issues.

"The commission urges the parties to seek to resolve expeditiously the outstanding... obligations -- notably Abyei," the international commission monitoring the 2005 north-south deal said in a statement on Tuesday.

Initial results of the southern referendum are due to be announced on January 30. Any appeals would mean final results declared on February 14.

Jan 25, 2011

Tunisia sets Example for bringing Reform, says US


The US is hoping that the "example" of the Tunisian uprising will bring reform to other parts of the region, Jeffrey Feltman, the country's top-ranking envoy for the Middle East, has said on a visit to the capital Tunis.

Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the Tunisian president, whom Washington considered one of its staunch allies, fled the country amid violent protests on 14 January 2011, after 23 years in power.

"I certainly expect that we'll be using the Tunisian example" in talks with other Arab governments, Feltman told journalists in the Tunisian capital.

"The challenges being faced in many parts of the world, particularly in the Arab world, are the same and we hope people will be addressing legitimate political, social, economic grievances," he said.

Feltman said he would travel to France on Wednesday for talks on the situation in Tunisia and Lebanon following the visit to Tunis.

Hundreds of people rallied for the first time in support of Tunisia's interim government on Tuesday, while thousands protested against the government in another parts of the centre of the capital.

"Yes to the government of national unity!" and "No to a power vacuum!" the demonstrators chanted on the central Avenue Bourguiba, as they were surrounded by a crowd of anti-government protesters who tried to shout them down.

"The current government is temporary, it's the only solution to this situation" and "All-for-nothing politics doesn't lead anywhere" read banners held up at the rally as scuffled with anti-government protesters broke out.

The national unity government was announced on January 17 after Ben Ali's resignation and flight to Saudi Arabia.

It has been rocked by five ministerial resignations and daily protests calling for the removal of ministers associated with Ben Ali's government.

Timeline: Palestine-Israel conflict

1999
May: Ehud Barak of the Labour Party is elected prime minister under the One Israel banner.

2000
July: The Camp David summit between Barak, and Yasser Arafat, the president of the Palestinian Authority, aimed at reaching a "final status" agreement, fails after Arafat refuses to accept a proposal drafted by the US and Israeli negotiators.

September: Second initifada begins after Ariel Sharon, the Israeli opposition leader, visits the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

2001
February 6: Sharon is elected the leader of the Likud party and refuses to continue negotiations with Arafat.

June 1: A Hamas suicide bomber attacks a nightclub, killing 21 Israelis, mainly teenagers, and injuring more than 100.

December: Sharon sends troops into Ramallah, shelling and surrounding the Palestinian Authority's West Bank headquarters; Arafat is unable to leave.

2002
March: Israeli army launches Operation Defensive Shield, the country's biggest military operation in the West Bank since the Six Day war in 1967. In the same year, Israel begins construction of separation barrier and annexes large areas of Palestinian land.

2004
March 22: Sheikh Yassin, the founder and leader of the Hamas movement, is assassinated by an Israeli helicopter gunship.

April 17: Abd al-Aziz al-Rantissi, the co-founder of Hamas and successor to Yassin, is killed by the Israeli army.

July 9: International Court of Justice rules that the Israeli separation barrier violates international law and must be removed.

November 11: Arafat dies.

2005
January 9: Mahmoud Abbas is elected president of the Palestinian Authority.

January 10: Sharon creates government of unity with Labour and United Torah Judaism parties.

August: Israel disengages from Gaza and four West Bank settlements.

November: Sharon leaves Likud to form the Kadima party.

2006
January: Sharon suffers a major stroke that leaves him in a coma.  

January 25: Hamas wins a majority of seats in the Palestinian legislative elections. The US, Israel and several European countries cut off aid to the Palestinians as the Islamist movement rejects Israel's right to exist.

March 2006: Kadima, now led by Ehud Olmert, wins the parliamentary elections and installs Olmert as Sharon's successor. 

June 25: Armed Palestinians carry out a cross-border raid from the Gaza Strip and capture Corporal Gilad Shalit, besides killing two Israeli soldiers and wounding four others.

September: Violence erupts between rival Palestinian groups, Fatah and Hamas, in the Gaza Strip. Abbas attempts to prevent civil war. Abbas's Fatah movement supports a Palestinian state alongside Israel, while Hamas rejects Israel's right to exist.

October: A number of mediation conferences are held. Egypt and Qatar send their foreign ministers to meet with both sides. Other Palestinian groups like the Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine mediate between the two sides to stop the clashes.

November 13: Following talks between Hamas and Fatah, both sides agree to form a unity government.

December 16: Abbas calls for new elections as a solution to the ongoing crisis.

2007
January 30: Fatah and Hamas reach a ceasefire agreement mediated by Egypt after a series of clashes that led to the death of 32 Palestinians. Both sides welcome a Saudi initiative to meet in Mecca.

February 8: Hamas and Fatah agree on a deal in Mecca to end factional warfare and to form a coalition, hoping this would lead Western powers to lift crippling sanctions imposed on the Hamas-led government.

February 9: The Quartet welcomes the role of Saudi Arabia in reaching the agreement to form a Palestinian National Unity government but later reaffirms that it must obey international demands to recognise Israel, renounce violence and abide by previous peace agreements.

February 15: Ismail Haniya and his cabinet resign. Haniya is re-appointed by Abbas and begins the process of forming a new Palestinian unity government.

March 15: Palestinians reach agreement on the formation of the government.

March 17: The new Palestinian unity government holds its first cabinet meeting in Gaza City, with ministers in the West Bank participating from Ramallah via video link.

March: Israel refuses to talk to the coalition, saying it fails to meet international demands - renouncing violence, recognising Israel and honouring past peace deals.

April: Israel plans Gaza invasion, a day after Olmert calls for a regional peace conference with Arab states. The US gives Abbas $60m to boost his presidential guard and for other security expenses.

May: Israel presses ahead with air raids on Gaza. The strikes came after Olmert said that Israel would continue its crackdown on Hamas following the firing of rockets from the enclave.

June: Battle of Gaza begins, resulting in Hamas taking control of the Gaza Strip from Fatah. Abbas issues new government, and announces Salam Fayyad, an economist, as the emergency government head. Abbas swears in new emergency government, bypassing Hamas.

November: George Bush, the US president, hosts peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis at Annapolis, Maryland, while Hamas still holds control over Gaza.

2008
January: Israel steps up military actions on Gaza and Hamas, killing seven Palestinians. Olmert vows to respond to continuing rocket attacks from Gaza. Israel continues incursions into Gaza, leaving Palestinians in a humanitarian crisis without fuel, power, food and water.

January 23: Palestinians blow up part of the border at Rafah, going into Egypt and thousands of Gazans cross the border to buy food and other supplies.

February: Israel launches military campaign, codenamed Operation Hot Winter, in the Gaza Strip, resulting in the deaths of 112 Palestinians and three Israelis.

May: Tony Blair, former British prime minister, announces new peace initiative based on the ideas of the Peace Valley plan.

December: Israel launches Operation Cast Lead, a full scale invasion of the Gaza Strip in response to rocket attacks by Palestinian armed groups. Some 1400 Palestinians are killed, many of them civilians. After 22 days of fighting, Israel and Hamas each declare separate unilateral ceasefires.

2009
March: Binyamin Netanyahu assumes office as Israeli prime minister following parliamentary elections.

April 3: United Nations establishes a fact-finding mission on the Gaza war, headed by Richard Goldstone, an international jurist from South Africa.

June 4: Barack Obama, the US president, calls for a "new beginning between the United States and Muslims" in a historic speech in Cairo.

September 15: Goldstone releases his report, accusing both Israel and Hamas of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during the Gaza war.

November 3: The US House of Representatives overwhelmingly passes a resolution denouncing the Goldstone report as "irredeemably biased and unworthy of further consideration or legitimacy."

November: Netanyahu announces a 10-month so-called freeze on construction in illegal West Bank settlements. The freeze does not apply to East Jerusalem.

2010
January: Israel resumes air strikes against smuggling-tunnels on the Gaza-Egypt border.

May 31: Israel violently intercepts a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, killing nine activists on board the Mavi Marmara, the lead vessel .

September 22: United Nations Human Rights Council terms the Israeli raid on the Gaza flotilla "disproportionate" and condemns its "unacceptable level of brutality."

September: Another round of direct negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian leadership begins. The talks collapse in the same month after Israel refuses to extend the freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank.

2011
January 23: Al Jazeera releases The Palestine Papers, revealing a trove of documents, e-mails and minutes of meetings, shedding light on 10 years of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

UK GDP hit by bad weather


Britain's economy shrank by 0.5 per cent in the last quarter of 2010, figures reveal, raising fears of a double-dip recession.

The Office for National Statistics said December's severe winter weather was largely to blame for the surprising figures, which show the first contraction of growth since the third quarter of 2009.

"The disruption caused by the bad weather in December is likely to have contributed to most of the 0.5 per cent decline, that is, if there had been no disruption, GDP would be showing a flattish picture rather than declining," it said in a statement.

Analysts had previously been expecting modest growth of 0.4 per cent for that quarter.

The figure is likely to spark concerns over the strength of the British economy as the coalition government brings in a raft of austerity measures aimed at curbing the country's national deficit.

The measures include dramatic cuts to public services including hundreds of thousands of public sector job losses.

George Osborne, the country's finance minister, said the figures were "disappointing" but that the country would "not be blown off course by bad weather".

``It's notable that sectors of the economy that are less affected by the poor weather, such as manufacturing, continue to perform strongly, helping to rebalance our economy," he said,

Northern Europe was badly affected by severe snow and ice last month, causing major air, road and rail disruption.

Najib Mikati elected Lebanon Prime Minister

Najib Mikati has won as Prime Minister of Lebanon in an election held today (January 25, 2011). Lawmakers in Beirut voted on Tuesday to back Najib Mikati, the candidate Hezbollah had proposed, as a prime minister. He gained 68 votes to Hariri's 60, putting the Hezbollah-led opposition in a position to form a government. 

The nomination of Najib Mikati is seen as a victory for Hezbollah, which is trying to fend off a U.N.-backed tribunal set up in 2005 to try the killers of statesman Rafik al-Hariri and which is expected to accuse members of the Shi'ite group.

Sunni Muslims loyal to outgoing premier Saad al-Hariri, Rafik's son who has Western and Saudi backing, staged a "day of rage" to protest the appointment of Sunni billionaire Mikati, a centrist lawmaker with ties to both Saudi Arabia and Syria.


Demonstrations were called across the country, with thousands gathering in the northern city of Tripoli, and on the highway linking Beirut with the southern port city of Sidon. Hariri, the caretaker prime minister, held a national address after the protests calling for calm and rejecting violence in the public demonstrations.

Hundreds of angry protesters burned tires and blocked roads across Lebanon on Tuesday after a Hezbollah-backed politician.

Hezbollah's enhanced political strength will set off alarm bells in Washington and across the region, especially in Israel which in 2006 fought a five-week war in a failed attempt to destroy the Iran-backed movement's formidable military capacity.

Israeli officials have since threatened regularly to respond to Hezbollah's arsenal of rockets in Lebanon, upgraded with help from Syria and Iran.

Mikati, a telecoms tycoon who has portrayed himself as a consensus candidate, said he would start talks to form a government on Thursday and appealed to all Lebanese factions to overcome their differences.

"All Lebanese leaders should cooperate together to face the current challenges," he said from the presidential palace after he accepted his nomination by President Michel Suleiman.

"I reiterate my position ... that my hand is extended to all factions to take part and end division...through dialogue."

Hezbollah and its allies quit Hariri's unity government earlier this month, bringing it down after the failure of a Syrian-Saudi effort to bridge a rift over the tribunal.

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah urged Mikati to form a "national partnership government."

"We have supported the nomination of ... Mikati and we call on him to form a national partnership government. The Lebanese have a chance to close ranks," he told thousands of supporters.

Oil price down to USD 86.64 per barrel


Crude futures fell more than $1 on Tuesday after an overnight rate increase in India and a surprise contraction in the UK economy fanned concerns about the pace of the global recovery, and ahead of an expected build-up in U.S. inventories due later.

By 1257 GMT, U.S. crude benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) was down $1.23 at $86.64 a barrel. Brent future prices were down $1.19 to $95.42 a barrel.

India's overnight interest rate increase was accompanied by a central bank warning that stronger inflation risks remained, renewing concerns that oil-hungry emerging economies could temper their demand growth.

"Everything is down today, not just crude," Commerzbank's Carsten Fritsch said, as copper fell more than two percent and gold fell to its lowest in ten weeks.

"We saw a similar price move already last week when there was concern about further tightening in China, but it proved to be short-lived."

A surprise contraction in fourth-quarter UK GDP also pulled the euro off two-month highs.

"The UK GDP data is very much isolated, but basically it's an illustration of the type of growth we are going to get in 2011, particularly in Europe," CA CIB's Christophe Barret said.

In the United States, a two-day U.S. Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting will get underway as the market awaits economic data including the S&P Case/Shiller Home Price Index for November due at 1400 GMT, the January reading of U.S. consumer confidence due at 1500 GMT, as well as a slew of earnings reports including Verizon, Johnson & Johnson, 3M and U.S. Steel Corp.

Gold price touches three months low


Gold fell to a near three-month low on Tuesday, putting the metal on course for its worst monthly performance in 13 months as safe-haven demand evaporated and investors booked further profits on the 2010 rally.

Spot gold fell as low as $1,322.70 an ounce and was bid at $1.327.70 an ounce at 1409 GMT, against $1,334.25 late in New York on Monday. U.S. gold futures for February delivery fell $16.80 to $1,327.70.

Spot prices are on course for a 6.4 percent decline in January, which would be the biggest monthly fall since a 7-percent drop in December 2009. Selling is largely a consequence of a current run of positive economic data.

"(We forecast gold) to have a bad first quarter," said Mitsubishi analyst Matthew Turner. "Economic data ended the year quite strongly and I thought if it carried on strongly, interest rate expectations would start to rise.

"But maybe the economic outlook isn't as rosy as people think, and maybe we will see a recovery (in gold prices) from Q2 onwards," he said.

For the moment, strong consumer demand, particularly in Asia, continues to provide a floor for spot gold prices, and a significant decline in speculative holdings of gold futures has taken some of the pressure off.

But investor sentiment toward gold has soured in the last few sessions, as evidenced by the largest one-day outflow in three months from the world's biggest exchange-traded gold fund.

Holdings in the SPDR Gold Trust fell 10.926 tonnes to 1,260.843 tonnes on Jan 24.

Adding to the case against gold was strong demand at the euro zone rescue fund's first debt offer, which pushed the euro to two-month highs.

Usually the dollar's consequent weakness would benefit gold, but the link between the two has weakened in the last year.

The European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) launched its first sale of bonds and market sources said demand, at 48 billion euros, dwarfed the 5 billion on offer.

Longer term, ongoing jitters over growth and expectations interest rates will stay low for now are buoying analysts' expectations for gold, with a Reuters poll of 65 analysts on Tuesday returning an average 2011 price view of $1,450 an ounce.

However, they see prices plateauing next year as economic conditions normalize.

"We expect gold prices to continue to climb in 2011 as the resumption of quantitative easing should keep U.S. real interest rates low," Goldman Sachs said in a report.

"However, with the current round of QE set to end in June 2011, and our U.S. economics team now forecasting strong U.S. economic growth in 2011 and 2012, we expect U.S. real interest rates to begin to rise into 2012, likely causing gold prices to peak in 2012."

Sterling-priced gold bucked the trend, meanwhile, and was on course to rise after nine consecutive sessions of losses as the pound fell after poor UK GDP data diminished expectations that British authorities would move toward higher interest rates.

Sterling gold was up 1 percent at 842.17 pounds an ounce. Spot silver fell to $26.87 an ounce, down 0.2 percent, having earlier fallen to $26.54, its lowest in nearly two months.

ETF flows have also undermined silver. Holdings of metal in the iShares Silver Trust, the world's largest silver ETF, have fallen by 425.3 so far this month, worth about $364 million at today's prices.

ETF Securities' London-listed silver product has seen an outflow of well over 500,000 ounces in less than week.

Elsewhere platinum fell for a second day by 1.4 percent to $1,786.50 an ounce, while palladium fell 3.3 percent to $782.72, set for its biggest fall since mid-November.

Intel takes USD 10 billion share buyback program

Intel Corp (INTC.O) raised its dividend by 15 percent and authorized another $10 billion in its share buyback program after posting solid results earlier this month.

The chipmaker declared a quarterly dividend of 18.12 cents per share on Monday.

Intel's board also increased its share buyback program by an additional $10 billion, increasing the overall outstanding buyback to $14.2 billion.

"Today's announcement signals confidence in our fundamental business strategies both today and looking forward," Paul Otellini, Intel president and chief executive, said in a statement.

On January 13 Intel posted better-than expected revenue and margins for the fourth quarter, defying worries about the chipmaker's minor role in the booming smartphone and tablet computer market.

Shares of Intel were up 1.4 percent at $21.12 in early trade.

Moscow blast kills at least 35 people

Moscow International Airport blast kills at least 35 people, 100 wounded

Video moments after attack in Moscow



Domodedovo airport explosion kills dozens


Moscow bomb attack worries the world

A bomb attack on Moscow’s Domodedovo airport has killed dozens and injured many more. Although the precise details may not be known for some time, the attack represents a nasty development because it underscores an unpleasant truth. Security threats in Russia have become an international problem.




The choice of target, Russia’s busiest international airport, seems calculated to cause maximum economic disruption and create high-stress political fall-out at home and abroad. News of the bombing immediately knocked 2 percent off Russia’s MICEX stock exchange and 4 percent off the share price of national airline Aeroflot.

The experience of previous bomb attacks suggests that the impact on financial markets will be temporary. Such incidents are, sadly, not new in Russia. It is less than a year since 40 people were killed in twin bombings on the Moscow metro, and previous years have seen many such attacks on civilians in Moscow and other Russian regions.

As with these other atrocities, suspicion for the latest bombing falls on Islamic insurgents from the North Caucasus, though no one has yet claimed responsibility. Whoever is to blame, the Domodedovo attack represents a worrying escalation. By bombing a major transport hub, the attackers have for the first time taken aim at a target used by foreigners as much as Russian citizens. Domodedovo is the destination for global airlines such as British Airways and Lufthansa, and is one of the main points of entry for tourists and business visitors.

It may be no coincidence that the attack on Domodedovo has taken place in the same week as the Davos Economic Forum, where President Dmitry Medvedev is due to lead Russian efforts to woo international investors. Concerns about Russia’s volatile investment already abound. These will only rise as a result of the deepening personal and business risks highlighted at Domodedovo.

Political risks are not confined to Russia, and foreign investors are likely to show resilience: just as they have when confronted by similar incidents in other countries. Russia’s economy has also shaken off past violence, but this attack is serious — in human, political and economic terms — because it raises global fears.

Courtesy: Reuters.com

Video on Bomb Attack in Russian

Jan 24, 2011

BNP tops securing 97 while ruling AL wins 93 mayors

The voting to the 242  Municipalities held on four separate dates starting on January 12, 2011 and ending on January 18, 2011 in Bangladesh under seven divisions, Rangpur, Rajshahi, Khulna, Barisal, Dhaka, Sylhet and Chittagong respectively.

Results of election to the 236 municipalities have been published till now while 6 remains suspended. Main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) bagged the highest number of municipalities 97 nos. Mayors Posts achieving support from 18,51,337 voters (41.00% voter) while ruling Awami League bagged 93 nos. of Mayors Posts getting support from 17,80,575 (39.00% voters). 



Results:
Out of 72 Municipalities of Rajshahi and Rangpur Division, BNP got 33, BNP rebel 3 while Awami League 18, Awami League rebel 6, Jamaat 5, Jatiya Party 1 and others 6. As per Media report the election was held very peacefully marking record in the electoral history of Bangladesh in the two Divisions.  

Out of 49 Municipalities of Barisal and Khulna Division, BNP got 15, BNP rebel 2 while Awami League 25, Awami Rebel 4, and Independent Candidates 3. Here, the special dissimilarity happened that Awami League got 18 out of total 19 in the Barisal Division where clashes and irregularities marked the polling centers also setting another new record of indiscipline.     

Out of 63 Municipalities of under Dhaka Division, Awami League bagged 29 and Awami Rebel 4, while  BNP got 22 and BNP rebel 3 while Independent Candidates in 4. However, EC suspended declaration of result in 1 Municipality. The election environment was moderate peaceful some where and problems in few places. 

Out of 58 Municipalities of under Chittagong Division and Sylhet Division, Awami League bagged 21, Awami League rebel 2 while  BNP got 27, LDP 1 and Independent Candidates in 2. However, EC suspended declaration of result in 5 Municipalities under the two Divisions. 

Final Result Table:                     
Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)  : 97 Mayor Posts
Awami League(AL)                            : 93 Mayor Posts
Awami League (Rebel)                      : 16 Mayor Posts
BNP (Rebel)                                      : 08 Mayor Posts
Bangladesh Jamaat Islami (BJI)         : 05 Mayor Posts
Jatiya Party (Ershad)                         : 01 Mayor Post
Liberal Democratic Party                   : 01 Mayor Post
Independent Candidates                   : 15 Mayor Posts
Total                                                : 236 Mayor Posts

Opposition gains majority in Bangladesh Municipality Election

The voting to the 242  Municipalities held on four separate dates starting on January 12, 2011 and ending on January 18, 2011 in Bangladesh under seven divisions, Rangpur, Rajshahi, Khulna, Barisal, Dhaka, Sylhet and Chittagong respectively. 

Polling Date: January 12, 2011:
The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), the main opposition party of Bangladesh has won the maximum number of Mayor Posts though their candidates could not stand in front of hoodlums of ruling Awami League in maximum areas of Barisal Division and in Feni, Laxmipur and Noakhali Districts under Chittagong Division.

However, BNP did unimaginable result in the election in Rajshahi and Rangpur Division in the election held on January 12, 2011. 

Polling 
Date: January 13, 2011:
Then the election to the Municipalities of Barisal and Khulna Division were held on January  13, 2011 where massive clash, capturing polling centers, expelling polling agents of opposition party supported candidates by ruling party candidates, snatching of ballot boxes by ruling party terrorists, fake ballot papers inclusion in ballot boxes by ruling party activists were happened. BNP boycotted election at least at four Municipalities on the incidents.

Bangladeshi media telecasted the incidents of capturing polling centers and other evil works directly.  



Polling
  Date: January 17, 2011:
Then election to the Municipalities of Dhaka Division was held on January 17, 2011 where clashes hampered  the image of election in Madaripur mainly. The election result were not declared in two municipalities where BNP men are leading as per center-wise counting of vote.

Polling
 Date: January 18, 2011:
Finally, election to the Municipalities of Chittagong Division and Sylhet Division was held on January 18, 2011. 

Election to the Municipalities of Sylhet Division was held peacefully. But clash and capturing polling centers by ruling party men through showing muscle-power and terrorism broke all previous records. The election was totally unaccepted to the people of the country as Media telecasted the seen of capturing and snatching peoples mandate clearly in the 15 Municipalities of Greater Noakhali of Bangladesh.

However election commission (EC) suspended election and voting at least at 25 centers on the back drop. EC also suspended declaration of election result at 6 Municipalities of the Chittagong Division till now.


Results:
Out of 72 Municipalities of Rajshahi and Rangpur Division, BNP got 33, BNP rebel 3 while Awami League 18, Awami League rebel 6, Jamaat 5, Jatiya Party 1 and others 6. As per Media report the election was held very peacefully marking record in the electoral history of Bangladesh in the two Divisions.  

Out of 49 Municipalities of Barisal and Khulna Division, BNP got 15, BNP rebel 2 while Awami League 25, Awami Rebel 4, and Independent Candidates 3. Here, the special dissimilarity happened that Awami League got 18 out of total 19 in the Barisal Division where clashes and irregularities marked the polling centers also setting another new record of indiscipline.     

Out of 63 Municipalities of under Dhaka Division, Awami League bagged 29 and Awami Rebel 4, while  BNP got 22 and BNP rebel 3 while Independent Candidates in 4. However, EC suspended declaration of result in 1 Municipality. The election environment was moderate peaceful some where and problems in few places. 

Out of 58 Municipalities of under Chittagong Division and Sylhet Division, Awami League bagged 21, Awami League rebel 2 while  BNP got 27, LDP 1 and Independent Candidates in 2. However, EC suspended declaration of result in 5 Municipalities under the two Divisions. 

Final Result Table:                     
Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)  : 97 Mayor Posts
Awami League(AL)                          : 93 Mayor Posts
Awami League (Rebel)                     : 16 Mayor Posts
BNP (Rebel)                                    : 08 Mayor Posts
Bangladesh Jamaat Islami (BJI)         : 05 Mayor Posts
Jatiya Party (Ershad)                         : 01 Mayor Post
Liberal Democratic Party                  : 01 Mayor Post
Independent Candidates                   : 15 Mayor Posts
Total                                                : 236 Mayor Posts


Jan 23, 2011

BGB from BDR


No more BDR! Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) has officially been named after Border Guard of Bangladesh (BGB) today, January 23, 2011. 

The renaming, though came into effect after the president signed the bill passed through parliament over a month ago, came on Sunday after prime minister Sheikh Hasina hoisted the BGB flag at its Peelkhana headquarters. 

The flag has also been changed a little bit. 

Bangladesh's 'first line of defence' went through a few changes, including its name and uniform, with a new law stipulating death for mutiny, apparently to absolve it of the bloody mutiny of Feb 25-26, 2009. 

Parliament passed the bill, which was subsequently endorsed by the president on Dec 20 last year, bringing the changes in BDR to rid it of the stigma that would invariably be attached to its name. 

But Maj Gen Mohammad Rafiqul Islam at a function on Jan 1 used his old designation as head of BDR since, according to him, 'formalities' to call him the BGB director general 'still remain incomplete'. 

But he said since parliament had passed a bill and the president signed it into law, he could well be referred to as the director general of Border Guards of Bangladesh

The 'Border Guard Bangladesh Bill -2010' was passed in parliament on Dec 8, 2010, making the change in the name following the two-day Peelkhana mutiny which killed 73 people, including 57 army officer deputed to the border force. 

Mohasthangarh: A Historical Site at Bogra in Bangladesh

Bangladesh Stock Market loses BDT 850 Billion


A total of Tk 85,000 crore have been channeled out through the Bangladesh Share Market within the last 30 working days, sources said.

The General Index was 8918 points on December 5, 2010 and it labelled down at 6312 point on January 20, 2011. 

The amount siphoned off during the last six month specially was very preplanned sources added. Total market capital was Tk 3,68,000 Crore (Tk 3680 Billion) on December 5, 2010 which now collapsed to Tk 2,83,000 Crore (Tk 2830 Billion) on January 20, 2011.

Total Capital reduces of Tk 85,000 Crore (850 Billion), which amount is channeled out by the Market Makers in the last one month, sources said. 

Regulators fail to protect investors interests in Bangladesh

The capital market regulator has failed to play its due role in protecting interests of the retail investors and handle the stock market, says a former Bangladesh Bank governor.

"It is the failure of the regulatory body [Securities and Exchange Commission] as it did not exercise its independent authority," former central bank governor Dr Salehuddin Ahmed told a discussion in the city on Sunday.

Economic Reporters' Forum (ERF) organised the discussion on monetary policy management and Bangladesh Bank.

"I do not understand why the finance minister keeps on saying that he made some mistakes. It is the duty of the regulator to maintain stability in the market. The SEC's approach is reactive rather than being proactive, and that is its main problem," he said.

He also commented: "Before taking any decision, it should have analysed the whole situation and its impact, but it has changed its policy as a short-term remedy. A policy may favour one and hurt another, and it can not be a win-win situation. And the SEC should understand that."

The recent debacle in the market could have been avoided if the manipulators of 1996 scandal had been put on trial and brought to book, he said.

"Heavy penalty is imposed on insider trading everywhere in the world, but it is absent here," Salehuddin said.

The former governor said banks should not be overexposed to the capital market as they deal with the depositors' money. "If the banks make profit, depositors will not get any benefit, but if they incur any loss then the burden falls on the depositors. This is unfair and the banks should not do it."

He advised the central bank to strengthen its supervisory and monitoring system to avert any untoward situation in the market in the future.

"The Basel III, which will come into effect in 2018, put emphasis on supervisory and monitoring system, and this is the high time for the Bangladesh Bank to start implementing this seven years ahead," he added.

Bangladesh Bank executive director Jahangir Alam said five banks invested in the share market more than their legal limit, and they had been warned for that and asked to adjust the exposure.

"We've issued a circular on July 9 in 2009 to provide all information related to investment and exposure of the banks, but a quarter outside the central bank spread a rumour that it (BB) withdrew the circular," he said.

There is enough liquidity in the market even after increasing cash reserve ratio (CRR) by 0.5 percentage point as the central bank injected about Tk 70 billion on January 6 alone. "The market has the experience of confidence crisis, not the liquidity shortage."

Former Bangladesh Bank deputy governor Khondkar Ibrahim Khaled said it was 'absolutely wrong' to say that the central bank was responsible for the recent crisis in the stock market. "If SEC cannot find out who play foul in the market, then we can say it fails to perform," he said.

"When the central bank increased the CRR it did not think of the share market. The focus was rather on containing inflation," he added.

Palli Karma Sahayak Foundation chairman Quazi Kholiquzzaman said the share market crisis did not happen on its own. "It was staged."

"If the manipulators are not identified and brought to book then it will happen again," he said.

Mentioned that a total of Tk 85,000 crore have been channeled out through the Bangladesh Share Market within the last 30 working days, sources said.

The General Index was 8918 points on December 5, 2010 and it labelled down at 6312 point on January 20, 2011. 

The amount siphoned off during the last six month specially was very preplanned sources added. Total market capital was Tk 3,68,000 Crore (Tk 3680 Billion) on December 5, 2010 which now collapsed to Tk 2,83,000 Crore (Tk 2830 Billion) on January 20, 2011.

Total Capital reduces of Tk 85,000 Crore (850 Billion), which amount is channeled out by the Market Makers in the last one month, sources said.