Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Japanese Defence Minister - "The decision to go to war against Iraq was a MISTAKE"

14:15 MECCA TIME, 11:15 GMT
Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, has warned his cabinet colleagues to "watch your mouths", issuing the warning at their regular meeting on Tuesday after two big embarrassments to his government.
Fumio Kyuma, the defence minister, angered the US last week by saying that he thought the decision to go to war against Iraq was a mistake. A few days later, Hakuo Yanagisawa, the health minister, called women "birth-giving machines"!
Hakubun Shimomura, the cabinet's deputy chief spokesman, said on Tuesday: "Abe told the ministers to be careful of what they say." But Abe has not asked either minister to step down. Shimomura said Abe was particularly concerned by Yanagisawa's remark which he described as "inappropriate".
Kyuma, one of the more liberal members of Abe's cabinet, started the ball rolling when he described the US invasion of Iraq as a "mistake", "based on an assumption that weapons of mass destruction existed". The defence minister made the comments hours after George Bush, the US president, delivered his annual state of the union address on January 23. 
Japan, the staunchest American ally in Asia, had sent several hundred troops to Iraq "on a humanitarian mission" to support the US-led invasion.
Yanagisawa's remarks on Saturday came during a speech on Japan's falling birthrate, and drew criticism from the opposition and the ruling bloc.
"The number of women between the ages of 15 and 50 is fixed. The number of birth-giving machines [and] devices is fixed, so all we can ask is that they do their best per head," Yanagisawa reportedly said.
The minister later apologised and retracted his remarks. "You can't just say whatever you please in this cabinet," Yasuhisa Shiozaki, the administration's top spokesman, said. The public gaffes come as Abe's support ratings have hit their lowest level and opinion polls show weakening support for his cabinet. Abe's administration faces crucial parliamentary elections in July.

Australian Plot to kill Solomon Island Prime Minister

AN Australian Vietnam veteran has been charged with a plot to assassinate controversial Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare for a $50,000 bounty allegedly sponsored by Australia.

William Ernest Johnson, 61, appeared in the Honiara Magistrates Court yesterday over his role in the alleged conspiracy to kill Mr Sogavare earlier this month. Mr Johnson, originally from the NSW northeastern town of Casino, is married to a Solomon Islands woman and has been living in the strife-torn country since 1992.

Police are still hunting for the four alleged co-conspirators of Mr Johnson, described by sources within the expatriate Australian community as a "happy drunk" who frequented the Honiara Yacht Club when he was visiting the capital from the nearby island of Malaita.

The arrest comes amid a simmering brawl between the Solomons Government and Canberra over Mr Sogavare's plans to form an armed police "close personal protection unit". All Solomons police were disarmed in 2003, following the arrival of the Australian-led intervention force to restore peace after years of ethnic-motivated violence. Some of the armed police were found to have been involved in the ethnic violence that tore the country apart.

In December, the Australian-dominated unit of police protecting Mr Sogavare were withdrawn at his request. Mr Johnson was yesterday charged with conspiracy to murder Mr Sogavare on January 18 and 23 for "a reward bounty payment of $50,000 sponsored by Australia". A Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman last night said he could not comment on the allegations of Australian involvement in sponsoring the alleged assassination plot.

Sources said prosecutors will allege that Mr Johnson initially approached an inspector in the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force for assistance in executing the plot to kill Mr Sogavare, who took power soon after the April riots that razed much of Chinatown in Honiara. Mr Johnson allegedly thought the senior officer was an opponent of Mr Sogavare and would be able to ensure armed killers could pass through the checkpoints set up around the parliament and offices of the Prime Minister.

The plotters are alleged to have planned their conspiracy in the mountains of Malaita, a hotbed of past ethnic violence. The police inspector is understood to have informed Mr Sogavare's office and an investigation launched. A statement was last night released by Mr Sogavare's office detailing the charging and appearance in court of "Bill Johnson" in Honiara. "The man is alleged to have made statements to police that he, in company with other people not named in court, had made plans to assassinate the Prime Minister," the statement said.

Magistrate William Seneka remanded Mr Johnson in custody till next Tuesday when the court will hear an application for bail. Mr Seneka denied bail because of the serious nature of the alleged offences and fears that Mr Johnson might abscond or interfere with further investigations.

The Australian consulate organised legal representation for Mr Johnson, as well as diabetes medication. At the time of his arrest, Mr Johnson was staying in a budget motel in Honiara. He appears on the nominal roll of Vietnam veterans as having served in four units in Vietnam - the 2nd, 5th and 8th battalions, Royal Australian Regiment as well as at Headquarters, 1st Australian Taskforce.

Mr Sogavare's office could not be contacted last night. DFAT issued a statement last night detailing the assistance given to Mr Johnson after his arrest. "The Australian consul in Honiara has been providing consular assistance to the man and attended the court hearing on January 30," she said.


Monday, January 29, 2007

Interest rates set for yet another rise!

NEW DELHI: Interest rates are likely to go further up as the central bank might resort to increase the rates at which it lends short-term funds to banks in the third quarter review of annual statement on monetary policy for 2006-07 on Wednesday.

As inflation continues to be the prime concern of the government, the Reserve Bank of India, a chairman of a public bank said, would also like to slow down the growth in the consumer loan but would maintain the fund flow to the firms involved in expansion of their existing facilities.

He said the challenge before RBI is to contain the inflation without affecting the economic growth.

Bankers feel that RBI will raise the short term interest rates, which is also known as reverse repo rate by half a percentage points to 6.5%, which would immediately lead to firming up of variable interest rates in the market.

As majority of loans in the real estate sector is given at variable rate, any hike in the reverse repo rate would lead to increase in the home loan rate.

Also, a senior banker said the impact of hike in short-term rate would not be very harsh on term loans taken by corporate.

The increase in the interest rate on long-term loan would not be directly proportionate to increase in the short-term fund, he said.

RBI is also not happy with the unbridled growth at around 40% to Rs 90,000 crore in 2006-07 in the home loans. The regulator in a statement argued that this has made the real estate a costly asset class.

The central bank in its annual credit policy had increased the provisioning requirement on advances in sectors like personal loans, residential housing loans beyond Rs 20 lakh and loan for commercial real estate from 0.40% 1.0%.

Because of these measures, the cost of funds for banks to lend to these sectors went up. This resulted into increase in the interest rates.

Source said as the growth in the consumer and home loans continued despite these measures, RBI might decide to announce more measures to contain the credit growth.

In the last one year up to January 5, 2007, growth in the credit to companies and consumer loan is 31.09% which is much more than the growth in the deposits in the banking sector at 22.5%.

This, a senior banking official said, has affected the liquidity condition in the banking sector which has resulted into firming up of the overnight inter-bank borrowing rates to around 8% against the RBI's overnight lending rate of 7.25%. RBI is the net lender of over Rs 10,000 crore in the call market.

The banker said the money market is facing liquidity tightness. But as inflation continues to be over 5.5% , which is more than the upper range of the priojected 5-5.5% for 2006-07 by RBI, fresh liquidity infusion through cut in CRR and SLR is out of question.

Therefore, RBI might not announce any measures like cut in the statutory requirements for banks to invest a minimum of 25% of their total deposits, despite the fact that government had recently brought an ordinance that empowers RBI to do so. The ordinance has already been assented by the president.

A senior banker said that RBI would wait to see the impact of the fiscal measures recently taken by the government of cutting the custom duty on imports of various items like cement, steel, copper, edible oil and maize.

He said that the central bank might take such measures of reducing the statutory requirements of investment in March when the market might face tight liquidity situation.

One percentage point cut in the stautory requirements would release around Rs 25,000 crore in the system.

Bankers feel that RBI might not touch the bank rate and CRR requirements at this point of time. The bank rate has already lost its relevance as RBI does not lend long term fund to banks any more. At the same, any increase in the cash reserve requirements would affect the credit flow to the productive sector.

India joins Russian GPS system

NEW DELHI: India's quest for a Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) system has ended. It will access the Russian Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS), ending speculation that India was considering being a part of the network, formerly a military system, now open to civilian use.

India's search for a GPS system had seen it engage in negotiations with the European project Galileo, but the deal had run into security concerns. Indian negotiators were not satisfied that the information accessible on the proposed system was adequately firewalled against individuals and possible military users. China is also part of Galileo.

Recent discussions with Russia had seen reports last week that India could be part of GLONASS. A decision has now been taken and India will be able to access the constellation of active satellites which transmit coded signals in two frequency bands.

These can be used to identify position and velocity in real time based on ranging arrangements. Access to the GPS-type system has important advantages in managing traffic, roadways and ports. It is also an important tool for police and security agencies to track stolen vehicles or those being driven by criminals. It has implications for national disaster warning and will be useful in commercial transactions dealing with sale and exchange of geographical and economic data.

Individual users can find it beneficial for navigation, from hand-held devices taken on treks to systems in cars and trucks. It is used in geo-physical studies, entering data into a geographic information system and wildlife management. In military terms, it enhances accuracy of weapons and so reduces the "fog of war".

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Palestinians students attacked in North Carolina, USA

Associated Press Sports
Updated: 9:47 a.m. ET Jan. 26, 2007
GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) -The parents of three Guilford College football players charged with ethnic intimidation defended their sons Friday, nearly a week after an on-campus fight between the players and three Palestinian students.

The parents of Michael Bates, Michael Robert Six and Christopher Barnette issued a statement Friday, asking the public to "withhold judgment" until an investigation was completed. The statement said Six was attacked with a belt by one of the accusers but didn't offer further details.

Five players face charges of assault and ethnic intimidation in connection with a fight Saturday. The charges do not reflect results of a police investigation.

The charges were approved by a magistrate judge after a complaint was filed by the victims - Guilford College students Faris Khader and Osama Sabbah and North Carolina State student Omar Awartani, who was visiting Greensboro from Raleigh.

The Palestinian men said they were taunted with racial slurs and called terrorists as they were beaten and kicked, according to court documents.

Lawyer Seth Cohen said his clients didn't do anything wrong and didn't provoke the attack.

"They were minding their own business,'' Cohen said.

The FBI is investigating to determine whether a hate crime was committed, FBI spokesman Tim Stutheit said.

Bates, Six and Barnette were arrested Monday on misdemeanor charges. Two other players, Jonathan Underwood and Jazz Favors, were charged Thursday. Underwood also faces one count of communicating threats.


An Arab-American group blamed growing bigotry against Arabs for an attack on three Palestinian students on a North Carolina college campus.

The students at Guilford College in Greensboro allegedly were kicked and beaten with brass knuckles by 15 members of the college football team last Saturday. "There is a need for national recognition that the effect of negative stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims has created a dangerous environment where incidents like this can occur," the Arab American Institute said in a statement. It particularly blamed calls by some North Carolina state officials to intern Arab Americans.

Tehelka - How They Crush Mangalore’s Muslims

An independent citizens' fact-finding team discovers that attacks on Muslims in coastal Karnataka routinely go unreported. And now, police atrocities are also being overlooked. These are excerpts from the team's report
Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy was unrepentant about the state police's style of violence-management in Mangalore, when he defiantly said, "Were they to dream of such violence?" In coastal Karnataka, the police could most certainly have foreseen communal violence if they had just been alert on duty. That wasn't the problem. In fact, during the violence in Mangalore, the police were either lost in daydreams in the face of daylight looting and atrocities, or were inflicting nightmares on unsuspecting Muslims in the middle of the night.

The Press has always suppressed the fact of violence against Muslims throughout the coastal belt: but, this time around, they suppressed police atrocities too; the non-bjp parties too have maintained complete silence. This is a new development in the bloody history of coastal Karnataka's communal violence. The administration, the police, and the media had never before worked unanimously and in tandem.

From what we saw in the violence-affected areas, wherever the Muslims had taken to destruction, it was as a response to the violence inflicted on them.


Japan carmakers to ride sales rise

By Chang-Ran Kim, Asia auto correspondent

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's top two carmakers, Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co., are likely to post double-digit profit growth for the latest quarter on strong sales and a weaker yen, while third-ranked Nissan Motor Co. is seen stalling on tepid demand.

The domestic Japanese market offered a mixed bag of sales data for October-December, with popular 660cc minicars lifting Honda while reining in Toyota, but both continued to increase sales in the more profitable Western markets.

Solid vehicle exports from Japan to meet voracious demand overseas also worked in Japanese automakers' favor as the yen slipped further, especially against the euro. "We can't expect the kind of big boost from the dollar's rise as we did in the first half, but the euro continued to strengthen," said Atsushi Kawai, auto analyst at Mizuho Investors Securities. "The rise in raw material costs also seems to have abated, so the third quarter is likely to be solid."

Dick Cheney: U.S. carrier to Gulf sends "strong signal"

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - By deploying a second aircraft carrier to the Gulf the United States has sent a "strong signal" that it is in the region to stay and working with allies to deal with an Iranian threat, Vice President Dick Cheney said.

He repeated the Bush administration's stance that the United States seeks to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear program through diplomatic means, but that all options are on the table.

"I think most of the nations in that part of the world believe their security is supported, if you will, by the United States. They want us to have a major presence there," Cheney said in an interview with Newsweek magazine, according to a transcript released by the White House on Sunday.

"When we -- as the president did, for example, recently -- deploy another aircraft carrier task force to the Gulf, that sends a very strong signal to everybody in the region that the United States is here to stay, that we clearly have significant capabilities, and that we are working with friends and allies as well as the international organizations to deal with the Iranian threat," Cheney said.

Iran plans to expand ties with Iraq: Tehran envoy

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Iran is taking steps to greatly expand military and economic ties with Iraq, Tehran's ambassador to Iraq said in an interview on Sunday with New York Times.

The ambassador, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, said Iran was prepared to offer Iraqi forces training, equipment and advisers for "the security fight" and was ready to assume major responsibility for the reconstruction of Iraq. He also acknowledged for the first time that two Iranians detained last month by U.S. forces were security officials as the United States has claimed. "They worked in the security sector in the Islamic Republic, that's clear," Qomi said in a 90-minute interview at the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad. The interview appeared in Monday's New York Times. The Iranians were in Iraq because "the two countries agreed to solve the security problems," the ambassador said. The Iranians "went to meet with the Iraqi side," he told the newspaper. Qomi said the Iranians should not have been detained and he ridiculed evidence the U.S. military said it has which proving the Iranians were involved in planning attacks on American and Iraqi forces.

Qomi also announced that Iran would soon open a national bank in Baghdad. An Iraqi banking official confirmed that Iran has received a license to open what would be the first "wholly owned subsidiary bank" of a foreign country in Iraq, the newspaper reported.

United States has accused Iran of helping arm, train and fund Iraqi militants, notably fellow Shi'ite Muslims. President George W. Bush said on Friday U.S. forces in Iraq have authority to protect themselves against Iranians attempting to launch attacks inside Iraq.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told The New York Times that the United States had a significant body of evidence tying Iran to sectarian attacks inside Iraq.

"There is a high degree of confidence in the information that we already have, and we are constantly accumulating more," McCormack said.


Saudi King Invites Fatah, Hamas Leaders to Hold Talks in Mecca

By Paul Tighe

Jan. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah invited leaders of the Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah to hold talks in Mecca to try to end fighting between their supporters in the Gaza Strip. The king issued his invitation yesterday, saying the leaders should ``discuss the issues between them in an objective manner without any interference from outsiders,'' the official Saudi Press Agency reported on its Web site.

Hamas and Fatah officials accepted the king's invitation, the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz reported on its Web site, citing spokesmen for the groups. Hamas and Fatah have failed in attempts to form a national unity government since talks began last May, leading to violence that has killed 23 people since Jan. 24. The Hamas movement won control of the Palestinian Authority from Fatah in elections a year ago. Hamas appreciates, the ``generous position'' of King Abdullah, Haaretz cited Taher An-Nono, a Palestinian Foreign Ministry official, as saying.

``We are ready to go to the kingdom and to start talks,'' said Ahmed Abdel-Rahman, a Fatah official, according to the newspaper report. The latest fighting began five days ago causing the suspension of a new round of negotiations between Hamas and Fatah officials. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas warned Dec. 16 that he may try to bring down the Hamas cabinet by calling early elections. Gunmen loyal to Hamas yesterday abducted the commander of the security forces in the central Gaza Strip, Haaretz reported, citing unidentified Palestinian security officials.