Monday, June 30, 2008

Anglican church splits over homosexuals

JERUSALEM - The Anglican provinces in Africa, South America and Australia have formed a new movement and broken ties with the authority of Canterbury.

The Archbishops of Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, Rwanda, Tanzania, South America and Sydney, together with evangelical Anglican bishops from the UK and the US made the declaration at the end of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in Jerusalem, Israel yesterday. “While acknowledging the nature of Canterbury as an historic see, we do not accept that the Anglican identity is determined necessarily through recognition by the Archbishop of Canterbury,” Christian leaders and the laity declared during the meeting. The new group will be led by a Primates Council that will administer and offer orthodox oversight to Anglican jurisdictions, the clergy and congregations that are opposed to the recognition of gay clergy.

The Christian leaders declared that they would remain in the Anglican Communion, but be independent of Canterbury, the seat of Anglicanism currently under the leadership of Dr. Rowan Williams. “Our fellowship is not breaking away from the Anglican Communion. We, together with many other faithful Anglicans throughout the world, believe in the doctrinal foundation of Anglicanism. We intend to remain faithful to this standard and we call on others in the Communion to reaffirm and return to it,” they declared.

The conference, which ended yesterday, was aimed at deliberating on the crisis that had divided the Anglican Communion. It brought together over 1,140 lay and clergy, including 291 bishops representing millions of faithful Anglican Christians, mainly from developing nations. A total of 107 delegates represented Uganda. The Conference adopted the 14-point Jerusalem Declaration to offer future guidance to the movement. The meeting called for the formation of another Anglican Province in North America. This would include the 44 churches in the US, which are now part of the Church of Uganda.

Last September in Mbarara, the Church of Uganda consecrated the Rt. Rev. John Guernsey, an American, to serve these churches in the US. “We believe that the Anglican Communion should be reformed around the biblical Gospel,” concluded Orombi as delegates cheered and sang songs of worship, including the Luganda hymn Tukutendereza Yesu.

After the meeting the Most Reverend Henry Luke Orombi, the Bishop of Kampala, sent a message to Uganda: “GAFCON is not just a moment, but a movement. The Church of Uganda will move forward with GAFCON because it is the faith we have always known. Jesus is Lord of His Church and woe to us if we stand in the way of the movement of His Holy Spirit.” The conference criticised Dr. Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, for failing to discipline the errant Episcopal Church of the US and the Anglican Church of Canada, which promote same-sex marriages. The two churches supported the consecration of a homosexual, Gene Robinson, as bishop in 2003.

GAFCON noted that there were false interpretations of the Bible that undermine the authority of God’s Gospel and promote homosexuality and immoral behaviour as a human right. “We acknowledge God’s creation of humankind as male and female and the unchangeable standard of Christian marriage between one man and one woman as the proper place for sexual intimacy and the basis of the family. “We repent our failures to maintain this standard and call for a renewed commitment to lifelong fidelity in marriage and abstinence for those who are not married.”

Raila urges AU troops to resolve Zimbabwe "embarassment"

Kenya's Prime Minister Raila Odinga has called for African Union (AU) troops to be sent in to Zimbabwe after President Robert Mugabe's "victory" in an uncontested presidential run-off.

The AU should deploy troops in Zimbabwe to resolve a crisis that has become an "embarrassment" to the continent, Mr Odinga was quoted as saying. "What is happening in Zimbabwe is a shame and an embarrassment to Africa in the eyes of the international community and should be denounced," he said in Swahili during a visit to his home province Nyanza in west Kenya. "So we are saying we want the African Union to send troops to Zimbabwe. The time has come for the African continent to stand firm in unity to end dictatorship," he added in the speech. Mr Odinga - a former opposition leader whose power-sharing agreement with President Mwai Kibaki after Kenya's disputed election is touted by some as a possible model for Zimbabwe - has been one of the most vocal critics of Mr Mugabe in Africa.

International critics are calling for action to end Mr Mugabe's 28-year rule after he went ahead with Friday's presidential run-off despite opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai's withdrawal because of killings of his supporters. Mr Tsvangirai says he will be pushing for talks with Mr Mugabe on a new constitution and fresh elections. In an interview with Britain's Mail on Sunday newspaper Mr Tsvangirai said his party had the power to control parliament and it must force a transitional agreement for a set time frame and work towards a new constitution.

He said it would be achievable if international pressure were kept up.

In a separate interview with Britain's Sunday Telegraph Mr Tsvangirai raised the possibility of Mr Mugabe remaining as a figurehead president. He also took aim at South African President Thabo Mbeki, saying he wanted fellow African leaders to recognise his old ally Mr Mugabe as Zimbabwe's legitimate leader to ensure his widely-criticised mediation efforts could make progress. Although Western leaders have dismissed Friday's run-off election as a sham, Mr Mbeki has so far made no comment since the ballot and flew on Saturday to Egypt ahead of an African Union summit which Mr Mugabe is also set to attend. "I have received information that President Mbeki is lobbying at the African Union to have that position (that Mugabe is president) taken," Tsvangirai told the Sunday Times newspaper in South Africa.

Mr Odinga has been strident in his criticism of Friday's poll. "President Mugabe went ahead with the fake elections in which he competed against himself. That was a fake election and we do not recognise it," Mr Odinga said. "You can not say you have won an election in which you arrest your opponents, where you beat and kill your opponents, where people cannot campaign because you have locked them in jail."

Mr Odinga also responded to media reports that Mr Mugabe had said the Kenyan premier was persona non grata in Zimbabwe. "Mugabe says that Raila is his enemy number one. I do not need to go to Zimbabwe ... I don't intend to do so under Mugabe's leadership," he said in the comments carried by Kenyan newspapers and broadcasters.

Zimbabwe "is an embarrassment to Africa"

President Mwanawasa is worried about neighbouring Zimbabwe.

Dr Mwanawasa said Zimbabwe is a gross embarassment to the SADC region and Africa at large. Dr Mwanawasa in the past also described Zimbabwe as a sinking titanic. Kenya's Prime Minister Raila Odinga last week said Zimbabwe was an eyesore on the African continent.

During the presse conference at State House, Dr Mwanawasa indicated that the SADC was divided on Zimbabwe. He also expressed idssapointment at Zimbabwe mediator and South African President Tabo Mbeki's failure to avail him with information about his assignment on Zimbabwe. "I have been relying on intelligence information and media reports," Dr Mwanawasa said.
Dr Mwanawasa called for the postponement of the election re-run because the environment fell short of minimum standards to hold such crucial polls.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Zimbabwe's one-candidate presidential runoff

HARARE - Zimbabwe's one-candidate presidential runoff got off to a slow start Friday, with the vote seen as an exercise that won't solve the country's political crisis — and may even deepen it.

World leaders have dismissed the runoff, which follows a campaign of state-sponsored violence so intense the opposition candidate declared he could not run, leaving a defiant Robert Mugabe as the only candidate. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, in a voting day message to supporters distributed by e-mail, said the results of the balloting would "reflect only the fear of the people of Zimbabwe."

During the first round in March, hundreds of people were at polling stations by the time they opened at 7 a.m. On Friday, 10 people were at Harare's main polling station at opening time and even fewer were seen at other stations. Observers expected Mugabe to ensure his supporters would turn out in large numbers and use violence and intimidation to get others to the polls to vote for him. There was no sign of that in the capital early Friday, but groups of the young men who have been the ruling party's enforcers were on the streets. While some polling officials were still getting ready at 7 a.m., the station opened on time in Mbare, a crowded Harare neighborhood that is an opposition stronghold. Eight people at the Mbare station at opening time were quick to vote.

On the campaign trail Thursday, Mugabe said he was "open to discussion" with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, but only after the vote. Mugabe had shown little interest in talks and his government had scoffed at Tsvangirai's call Wednesday to work together to form a transitional authority. Citing the violence, Tsvangirai withdrew from the runoff Sunday, leaving longtime President Mugabe the only candidate. Tsvangirai's name remained on the ballot — electoral officials say Tsvangirai announced his withdrawal too late.

Tsvangirai, in his voting day message, also said he expected voters to be threatened, to be told to record their ballot paper numbers and to have their votes recorded by cameras. He advised them not to resist. "God knows what is in your heart. Don't risk your lives," he said in the message.

Tsvangirai was first in a field of four in the first round of elections. The official tally said he did not gain the votes necessary to avoid a runoff against the second place finisher, Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe for nearly three decades. Tsvangirai's party and its allies won control of parliament in the March elections, dislodging Mugabe's party for the first time since independence in 1980.

Mugabe was once hailed as a post-independence leader committed to development and reconciliation, but in recent years has been denounced as a dictator intent only on holding onto power.

Efforts to dislodge him at the ballot box have repeatedly been stymied by fraud and intimidation. Kubatana, a Web site forum for independent Zimbabwean human rights groups, said Mugabe appeared ready to use force to stage-manage a large turnout in his favor Friday. It reported supporters were manning illegal roadblocks on main streets and highways where police were not present.

Witnesses reported nine checkpoints on a 120-mile stretch of highway from the eastern city of Mutare, five of them manned only by militants. Kubatana reported witnesses saying Mugabe supporters told voters to turn out for Friday's poll in large numbers to give Mugabe a landslide win and those without indelible ink stains from polling stations on their fingers would be seen as opposition supporters boycotting the vote in support of Tsvangirai's withdrawal from the runoff. As during the first round, individual polling stations will have to post tallies, an innovation hammered out in talks between the opposition and Mugabe's party mediated by South African President Thabo Mbeki. That allowed the independent Zimbabwe Election Support Network and the opposition to compile their own results, making fraud difficult. But this time, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network said it was unable to field monitors because they had not been accredited by the government. And the opposition, boycotting the vote, also will not be monitoring results.

The African Union; the Southern African Development Community, the main regional bloc; and African parliamentarians were observing the runoff, but many believe they would not have sufficient people on the ground to make a difference.

Sex Fabregas

Spain 3-0 Russia: Fabregas proves the inspiration
Superb Spain stormed into their first final in 24 years by rolling over in-form Russia at Euro 2008 in Vienna. On another wet night in Austria, Luis Aragones' men attacked throughout and scored second-half goals through Xavi, substitute Daniel Guiza and David Silva to claim their fifth win in as many games and set up a title showdown with Germany on Sunday.

The outcome prevented the Russians, who lost 4-1 to Spain in their opening game, from making their first appearance in the final since the break-up of the Soviet Union. Spain were on top at the Ernst Happel Stadion in the first half but had no goals to show for their efforts and, after losing the tournament's leading goalscorer David Villa to injury in the 34th minute, their prospects did not look bright.

Arsenal playmaker Cesc Fabregas, who converted the winning spot-kick to beat Italy in a penalty shootout in the quarter-final, came on and excelled just as Guiza did when he replaced Fernando Torres. Russia coach Guus Hiddink made one change to his starting XI with Vasili Berezutski replacing suspended defender Denis Kolodin. Spain boss Luis Aragones fielded his strongest line-up with Torres playing alongside Villa.

Spain came flying out of the traps and almost took the lead after just five minutes when Villa fed Torres inside the area but the Liverpool striker's close-range effort was parried away by goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev. Russia meanwhile, struggled to get past the Spanish defence. With 10 minutes played, Villa's right-footed effort from the edge of the area was saved by Akinfeev.

The Russians weathered the early storm and began to grow in confidence, with Roman Pavlyuchenko hitting a powerful strike that went straight into the hands of Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas. Andres Iniesta missed a golden chance to put Spain in front in the 26th minute when he was unable to control Xavi's clever pass into the area. Casillas came to the rescue for Spain on the half-hour mark, diving full length to palm away Pavlyuchenko's curled effort from the edge of the area. The Spanish were rocked shortly after, when star striker Villa limped off and was replaced by Fabregas. And the Russians almost took the lead seconds later.

Pavlyuchenko chested down Ivan Saenko's cross inside the box but fired wide, much to the relief of Casillas. But back came Spain and Ramos got past his marker before firing just wide of the near post. Torres should have put Spain in front before half-time. Having perfectly controlled Fabregas's pass, the striker could only manage a weak effort that proved an easy save for the keeper.

Spain picked up where they left off after half-time, and their efforts were rewarded five minutes into the second half. Xavi played in Iniesta down the left, before finishing his team-mate's cross from inside the box with a well-timed run into the box. Torres almost made it 2-0 shortly after, with his curled angled effort from Fabregas' assist going just high over the bar. Hiddink reacted to going a goal behind by making a double substitution with Bilyaletdinov and Vladimir Bystrov replacing Igor Semshov and Saenko.

But it was Spain who looked more dangerous.

Torres twice had the opportunity to double Spain's lead thanks to two sensational Ramos passes but the Liverpool striker could not hit the target. Aragones made Torres pay for those mistakes as he brought on Guiza to replace him. And the move was an inspired one as Guiza made it 2-0 in the 72nd minute. Fabregas played in Guiza inside the area who lobbed Russia keeper Igor Akinfeev.

With Russia offering little opposition, Spain continued to surge forward and put the game beyond their rivals' reach with nine minutes remaining. Fabregas' perfect ball found Silva inside the area, who fired past Akinfeev to start the fiesta for the Spanish fans. With two minutes left, Russia almost got a consolation goal but Casillas made a stunning save to deny Bilyaletdinov's header from Andrei Arshavin's cross.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Hilary Clinton: now accepting hand-outs

In a show of integrity and good faith, Barack Obama is attempting to help Hillary Clinton crawl her way out of the hole that she foolishly dug herself into.

Sen. Barack Obama has asked top contributors to help former rival Sen. Hillary Clinton retire the debt from her failed presidential campaign, an Obama campaign source said. Obama and Clinton ran a protracted race for the Democratic presidential nomination that left Clinton with a campaign debt of more than $22 million when she bowed out this month. About $12 million of that amount is money the senator from New York loaned to the campaign herself.

Obama asked members of his National Finance Committee to contribute to Clinton's campaign if they were so inclined, but he did not direct them to do so, the Obama campaign source said Tuesday. Individual donors can contribute $2,300 to individual candidates. It would take 4,500 contributors donating the maximum $2,300 to pay off Clinton's $10.3 million in debt owed to vendors. Some of Clinton's biggest debts include $4.6 million-plus she owes to consulting firm Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, $921,408 to MSHC Partners for printing and mail, and about $500,000 to Electrum Productions for equipment costs.

Speaking about the Clintons, Obama said Tuesday night that "I am going to need them." Also Tuesday, former President Clinton's office issued a statement saying he is "committed to doing whatever he can" for Obama. Obama said he and the Clintons will be "working closely together over the next couple of weeks to put together a plan."

"They're going to want to campaign actively on behalf of the Democratic ticket," Obama said. "Bill Clinton is one of the most intelligent, charismatic political leaders that we have seen in a generation, and he has got a lot of wisdom to impart." The former president was sharply critical of Obama on the campaign trail earlier this year, and he has yet to endorse the senator from Illinois publicly, even though his wife threw her support to him when she suspended her campaign on June 7. "[Sen. Clinton's] going to be a force to be reckoned with, not only in the Senate, but hopefully if I'm successful in the White House, she's going to be one of my key partners in making sure that we're moving forward on issues like health care that she cares so deeply about," Obama said. Obama spoke with his former rival Tuesday and said he looked forward to speaking with her husband soon. He is teaming up with the former first lady for a campaign appearance Friday in Unity, New Hampshire, where they both got 107 votes in the January primary.

Now can you imagine Hillary doing such a thing if the shoe was on the other foot? You’ll find no sympathy for Hillary from us. It serves her right for continuing with her campaign despite the fact that she was getting stomped. This sounds very peculiar indeed.

'Brothel On Wheels' unveiled

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. - A sleek, black limousine bus parked just a block from Miami Beach Police Department headquarters was being used as a brothel on wheels, a place where clients could come to solicit sex from prostitutes, police said. "It was brazen," said Miami Beach police Detective Juan Sanchez.

Brazen not just for where the bus was parked, police said, but for how the bus' owner got prospective clients aboard -- by walking up to them on the street and describing the various sexual services available onboard. One of those prospective clients, said Sanchez, was an undercover police officer.

"They were told what services they were providing on there and our undercover detectives went with it," said Sanchez.

According to an undercover detective who went on the bus, lap dances and sexual acts were offered for prices up to $125. Police said they recovered more than $2,000 in cash. It was not clear how long the bus and its operators were soliciting on South Beach.

Police arrested the bus' driver, Clyde Scott, 41, and the bus' registered owner, Christine Morteh, 29. Three other women were also arrested: Leighann Redding, 24, Kimberly Daniels, 23, and Leah Harriss, 25.

The bus was impounded.

Obama makes Rolling Stone... again

Barack Obama is on the cover of the upcoming issue of Rolling Stone Magazine. This is his second cover to date.

Bob Dylan. Yo-Yo Ma. Sheryl Crow. Jay-Z. These aren't musical acts in a summer concert series: they're artists featured on Barack Obama's iPod. "I have pretty eclectic tastes," the Democratic presidential contender said in an interview to be published in Friday's issue of Rolling Stone. Growing up in the '70s, Obama said, he listened to the Rolling Stones, Elton John and Earth, Wind & Fire. Stevie Wonder is his musical hero from the era. The Stones' "Gimme Shelter" tops his favorites from the band.

The Illinois senator's playlist contains these musicians, along with about 30 songs from Dylan and the singer's "Blood on the Tracks" album. Jazz legends Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Charlie Parker are also in the mix. "Actually, one of my favorites during the political season is 'Maggie's Farm,' " Obama said of one of Dylan's tracks. "It speaks to me as I listen to some of the political rhetoric."

In the song, Dylan sings about trying be himself, "but everybody wants you to be just like them."

Several musicians on Obama's iPod support his bid for the White House, including Bruce Springsteen. Earlier this month, Dylan told a British newspaper that he believes Obama is redefining politics in the United States and could deliver change to a nation in upheaval. "I've got to say, having both Dylan and Bruce Springsteen say kind words about you is pretty remarkable," Obama said. "Those guys are icons."

Obama said he hasn't met Springsteen, but the two have talked over the phone. "Not only do I love Bruce's music, but I just love him as a person," Obama said. "He is a guy who has never lost track of his roots, who knows who he is, who has never put on a front."

And did he address him as the Boss?

"You've got to," the candidate said.

Asked what he thought of rap, Obama said the genre has broken down barriers within the music world, though he's concerned about his daughters - Malia, 9, and Sasha, 7 - listening to it. "I am troubled sometimes by the misogyny and materialism of a lot of rap lyrics," he said, "but I think the genius of the art form has shifted the culture and helped to desegregate music."

He said hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons and rappers Jay-Z and Ludacris were "great talents and great businessmen."

"It would be nice if I could have my daughters listen to their music without me worrying that they were getting bad images of themselves," he added.

Obama appears on the cover of the magazine, which endorsed him for president in March.

Akon's con job - part 3

Either way, the felony case against Akon was dropped in its entirety in late-April 1999. He spent five months in jail before prosecutors decided not to make a grand jury presentment. The singer was immediately sprung from the DeKalb jail, departing at 1:27 on a Wednesday morning, according to county records. Somehow, in the intervening years, those few months in custody morphed into three years in prison, the majority of Akon's purported total of four-and-a-half years behind bars.

In June 1999, Akon pleaded guilty in New Jersey to a weapons possession count. In return, Burlington County prosecutors agreed to drop a second felony charge stemming from the singer's possession of an allegedly hot car. He was later fined $1000 and sentenced to three months probation, the supervision of which was immediately transferred to Georgia, where Akon resided. In opting for a probationary--and not custodial--sentence, Judge Donald P. Gaydos noted that Akon had "no history of prior delinquency or criminal activity or has led a law-abiding life for a substantial period of time before the commission of the present offense."

Gaydos also concluded that Akon would likely "respond affirmatively to probationary treatment." This was an accurate prediction on the judge's part, as Georgia officials requested, in late-2001, that the performer's supervision be terminated early since he had been a model probationer. That request was granted by a New Jersey judge on September 20, 2001.

Of course, this was during the exact period of time (1999-2002) that Akon claims he was imprisoned in Georgia for his supposed "Gone in 60 Seconds" handiwork. It was during that fabricated prison stretch, of course, that he supposedly wrote much of "Trouble," his first album. In that CD's liner notes, the acknowledgements end with this purposely vague salute: "Last but not least, thanks to the jailhouse in which I was confined--which made me a better, stronger and wiser man."

The album's autobiographical centerpiece, "Locked Up," is Akon's lament about being warehoused and forgotten in prison, where "They won't let me out/They won't let me out." He never actually served those three years, so these observations lose a bit of their authoritativeness. Additionally, a check of United States Copyright Office records reveals that when Akon's publishing company registered the song they listed its "Date of Creation" as 2003. So "Locked Up" was not even created during the three-year period in which Akon was not even in prison.

And as if there needs to be further evidence to rebut the singer's claims about being imprisoned from 1999-2002, Akon's own son Tyler could serve as Exhibit A. According to a paternity action filed late last year in Fulton County, Georgia, the boy was born on July 26, 2001, which roughly puts his date of conception in late-October 2000 (again squarely in the middle of a prison term that Akon never served). As part of the amicable paternity action, the singer was ordered to pay the boy's mother, a former Alpha Delta Pi sorority girl at Eastern Kentucky University, $2795 in monthly child support.

Curiously, Superior Court filings in the paternity case--in which both sides appear to have been represented by the same attorney--list Akon's monthly gross income as a relatively paltry $15,900, or $190,800 annually (child support payments are based, in part, on this figure).

In reality, Akon likely makes 20 or 30 times that amount monthly via record sales and touring income. His Atlanta-area real estate portfolio alone is worth about $5 million. In January, he paid $1.65 million for an 8697-square-foot McMansion on 4.96 acres adjacent to the Atlanta National Golf Club. In February 2007, Akon and "Devyne" Stephens paid $2.65 million for a 13.29 acre Fulton County estate. Photos of the two sprawling properties can be seen below.

Though it had been less than a year since the property was purchased (and despite the housing market being in distress, especially in the Atlanta area), Akon assured VH1 during a recent tour of the estate that his home was "already appraised for $25 million." Fittingly, the R&B star has dubbed his home "Dream Land."

He also told VH1 of his desire to house lions and tigers on the grounds and how he "flew in an African crocodile" that will live in a glass-enclosed chamber that can be peered into through a transparent panel on the home's ground floor. Oh, and near the indoor waterfall he is going to install a retractable stripper pole.

Which will come as no surprise to anyone who has listened to his albums. While his lilting, nasal voice and hooks are distinctive and contagious, Akon's lyrics are pedestrian and filled with standard-issue hip-hop boasts and references to strippers, bitches, girls "dropping it to the floor," and sex acts performed atop furniture. Women are said to be "looking bootylicious and jingling," and a worked-up Akon notes that he might even ask a gal if he could "bust all over your anatomy."

In "Smack That," Akon's Top Ten collaboration with Eminem, the R&B star sings of a possible romantic encounter:

Maybe go to my place and just kick it like Tae Bo
And possibly bend ya over/Look back and watch me smack that
All on the floor/Smack that
Give me some more/Smack that
Til you get sore/Smack that

Leonard Cohen he is not.

Germany 3-2 Turkey: Late heartbreak for Turks

BASEL - Philipp Lahm's last-minute winner sent Germany into the Euro 2008 final and sank a desperately unlucky Turkey.

Lahm stole in on Thomas Hitzlsperger's pass to beat Rustu Recber and give the Germans victory after a thriller in which Turkey were the better side. Ugur Boral scrambled Turkey ahead after 22 minutes, but Bastian Schweinsteiger equalised quickly from close range. Miroslav Klose headed Germany in front after 79 minutes, but Semih Senturk levelled before Lahm's late strike. Germany barely deserved the victory, but once again they have reached a major final despite being unconvincing, where they will face either Russia or Spain in Vienna on Sunday.

Ravaged by injuries and suspension, Turkey defied all expectations to produce an outstanding performance full of grit, desire and no little quality and they should have been well in front by half-time. Former Sheffield United forward Colin Kazim-Richards held his head in anguish in the 12th minute when he rattled the bar with a powerful shot that left German keeper Jens Lehmann well beaten.

He was denied by the woodwork again with a looping finish 10 minutes later - but this time Ugur was lurking to scramble in the rebound through the legs of the despairing Lehmann. Stunned by the speed of Turkey's opening, Germany responded to equalise after 27 minutes. Lukas Podolski was the creator with a run and cross from the left flank, but it needed a sweet finish with the outside of Schweinsteiger's right foot to beat Rustu.

Lehmann was having a nightmare and he had to scramble back hurriedly after misjudging Hamit Altintop's free-kick to turn the ball over the bar. It was a superb spectacle, and Podolski escaped the attentions of the Turkish defence only to shoot over the top with Klose waiting unmarked in front of goal. Lehmann was then forced to punch Ugur's powerful free-kick away after 39 minutes as Turkey continued to show the greater ambition.

Germany coach Joachim Low made a change at the interval, replacing Simon Rolfes, who had suffered a head wound in a clash with Ayhan Akman, with Torsten Frings. The Germans were furious after 50 minutes when Lahm was clearly felled by Sabri Sarioglu, only to see Swiss referee Massimo Busacca ignore their appeals.

But Turkey, under the inspirational leadership of coach Fatih Terim, were continuing to set the pace and Ugur tested Lehmann once more with a shot at the end of a fine run. Hitzlsperger showed the shooting power that marked his time at Aston Villa with 18 minutes left, shooting just wide from 30 yards with Rustu beaten.

But it was a calamitous error by the veteran Rustu that gifted Germany the lead with 11 minutes left, when he came for Lahm's cross but got nowhere near it, leaving Klose to head Germany in front. If this tournament has told us one thing, it is that Turkey's refusal to accept defeat means they are at their most dangerous when behind and so it proved again as they drew level again with four minutes left.

Sabri rounded Lahm superbly on the flank, and the poacher Semih stole in to beat Lehmann at the near post.

Turkey looked to have taken the game into extra time, which was the very least they deserved, but their campaign ended in heartbreak in the closing moments. Lahm raided forward and exchanged passes with Hitzlsperger before firing high past Rustu. Germany celebrated the victory, but so much credit must go to Turkey for a magnificent effort that deserved so much more.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Obama expresses admiration for Tsivangirai

HARARE - US Democratic candidate Barack Obama on Tuesday held a conversation with opposition MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai on the way the ruling Zanu PF party has treated him and his party during the presidential run off campaign and on his decision to pull out of the race.

“I have spoken with MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai to share my deep concern for the way his supporters are being targeted by the regime, and to express my admiration for his efforts to ensure that the will of the Zimbabwean people is finally respected,” Obama said in a written statement.

“The Zimbabwean government’s campaign of repression and brutality has made it impossible for the June 27 elections to be free and fair,” Obama said, echoing a position taken by the United Nations on Monday.

Obama said the SADC region and other African leaders should call for president Mugabe to leave office and respect the will of the people. Mugabe has on his campaign rallies declare war if he loose the presidential election adding that only the Almighty God would remove him from power and not Tsvangirai and his western allies.

“If fresh elections prove impossible, regional leaders backed by the international community should pursue an enforceable, negotiated political transition in Zimbabwe that would end repressive rule and enable genuine democracy to take root,” he said.

The opposition leader Tsvangirai also said he welcomes any decision that will enable Zimbabwe to rebuild its economic and political status which has been destroyed by the Mugabe policies since 2 000 when the government embarked on the political programme dubbed the land reform programme.

Obama's sentiments comes at a time when the SADC and other African countries and the U.N. Security Council unanimously condemned the Zimbabwean government of unconstitutional misconduct in the presidential run off while neglecting the will of the people.

The Zimbabwean electorate had been subjected to acts of torture, intimidation, arson and killings for voting for MDC party in the march 29 harmonised elections.

Zimbabwe election update

2008 Tusker Safari Sevens in pictures

Photographs ⓒJohn Alogo, aka Aguardo. Ⅽheers baba!

Kenya runs out of maize supplies

HAMBURG - The Kenyan government is preparing a tender to purchase 270,000 tonnes of maize and is now pre-qualifying trading houses to bid, European traders said on Tuesday.

Pre-qualification will end on June 26 and bidding will start at an unspecified period in July, traders said. White maize is being sought for an unspecified shipment date. On May 20, the Kenyan government said it would undertake major maize imports this summer to avert a looming food shortage caused by post-election ethnic violence late last year which forced thousands of farmers to flee their farms.

Violent mobs protesting against the "re-election" of President Mwai Kibaki in December destroyed large volumes of maize in stores during violence in which hundreds of people were killed.


M7 demonstrates combat skills

ARUA - UPDF soldiers who had been undergoing combat training in West-Nile were thrilled seeing their Commander-in-Chief take part in range shooting during the closing ceremony.

“The soldier’s morale was very high seeing the President joining them. We can say it was a very successful ending for us all,” said the army spokesman in the region, Capt. Robert Kamara. The drills, conducted at the military training camp at Bondo, about 25km from Arua town, were meant to equip the soldiers of the 11th and 45th battalions with fighting skills supported by the air force.

Earlier, panic broke out among residents and business came to a temporary halt as several helicopter gunships and other warplanes hovered over the town at low altitude. Residents were particularly captivated by the display and supersonic speed of the warplanes. In his remarks, Museveni repeated his call to avoid drinking alcohol and contracting the HIV virus. He noted that the two were human killers that could be easily prevented.

Referring to himself, Museveni also encouraged the troops to always remain fit.

He hinted that under the new budget, apart from acquiring more military equipment, soldiers’ salaries would be increased from sh180,000 to at least sh200,000. On the faulty Juba peace talks, Museveni said Joseph Kony would be safer signing the final agreement than seeking to prolong the negotiations.

The function that marked the end of about three months training was attended by the Chief of Defence Forces, Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, the commander land forces, Lt. Gen. Katumba Wamala and his air force counterpart, Gen. Jim Owesigire.

The genesis of Zimbabwe's problems

Monday, June 23, 2008

Toto 6/49 yet to give out jackpot 7 years later

NAIROBI - Kenyans hoping to win the Sh20 million jackpot in the Toto 6/49 lottery are in for a rude shock: they have little or no chance of laying their hands on the coveted prize.

The odds of someone who pays on average Sh65 a week to play a combination of 18 numbers winning the top prize are one in 14 million, according to the government agency that regulates gambling.

Seven years after the First Lotto lottery was set up in Kenya by three Bulgarian nationals, it has yet to pay out the top prize, according to the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB).

First Lotto, which has offices in all major towns in Kenya, says about 20,000 players enter the lottery each week paying between Sh1 million and Sh1.5 million.

Toto 6/49 has so far raised at least Sh500 million and claims to have paid out Sh20 million to charity since 2002 when the company was set up. This is contrary to official gaming rules that stipulate that 25 per cent of total earnings go to charity.

According to the company, on average the lottery raises between Sh1 million and Sh1.5 million across the nation every week or Sh6 million a month.

Changed hands
Last year ownership of First Lotto changed hands; the new owner, Club of Clubs, is registered in the Pacific island nation of Papua New Guinea.

This transfer came on the heels of the collapse over a Sh70 million debt of another lottery firm operating in Kenya. Playwin, known by its popular name Je Ukipata?, went under in April last year after a foreign investor pulled out of a Sh500 million deal to keep it afloat. While Playwin had promised to dish out Sh10 million every week, it collapsed without anyone ever winning the advertised money.

When the firm went under, the BCLB promised to issue a statement regarding the status of lotteries in the country; the statement was not forthcoming.

A Singapore-based company, together with a local entity Ansellia Holdings, owned that lottery.

Like Playwin, First Lotto has links to the Far East; one of the registered directors of Club of Clubs is listed as Tyng Lee (Chinese). The other is Eekbal Rayani (Kenyan).

First Lotto, which is a subsidiary of Club of Clubs, is owned by Eekbal Rayani, Amin Rayani and Zakir Rayani, who also serves as the chief executive.

Last week Charles Wambia of the BCLB said the body was concerned that no one had won the First Lotto jackpot.

“We are working on modalities to have the jackpot won,’’ he said without explaining how the board planned to do this.

Zakir Rayani, who spoke to the Sunday Nation, was at pains to explain why the jackpot had never been won.

Game of numbers
“This is a game of numbers,’’ he said, noting that the number of players in First Lotto was so low that it was impossible to win the ultimate prize.

“We only have 20,000 players,” the First Lotto chief executive said, agreeing with the BCLB that the odds are impossible for so few participants to win the jackpot. This requires that the winner has marked the combination of all six numbers resulting from a weekly draw.

There are 49 numbers to choose from. Betters can play from a minimum Sh25 for six numbers to more than Sh100,000 for 5,005 numbers.

For anyone to win the First Lotto jackpot, the number of participants would have to rise to at least 1 million, Zakir Rayani said.

Nevertheless, the lottery would appear to have become a cash cow for the owners.

The BCLB requires that at least 50 per cent of the money collected be paid out in prizes, while another 25 per cent must go to charity. If a lottery firm takes in Sh6 million a month, then at least Sh3 million should be paid out in prizes and another Sh1 million to charity.

The highest prize First Lotto has ever paid is Sh457,000 in 2006. The June 15 draw came up with a prize of Sh302,000. Mr Rayani said it has yet to be claimed; the winner has 30 days from June 15 to collect it.

While Britain’s national lottery boasts of creating more than 2,000 sterling millionaires since its inception 14 years ago, First Lotto is yet to claim its first shilling millionaire.

Since March 2007, First Lotto has given Sh350,000 to charity against an income of Sh66 million.

A memorandum of understanding signed between the Association of the Physically Disabled of Kenya (APDK) and First Lotto had been accumulating dust until the Sunday Nation made inquiries last week.

It was then that Duncan Ndegwa, the Nairobi branch chairman of APDK, was summoned to First Lotto offices in Parklands and given a cheque for Sh50,000.

Disabled people
According to the MoU, First Lotto was supposed to employ at least 200 physically disabled people. But since the Rayanis took over the lottery in March last year not a single person from APDK has been employed, Mr Ndegwa said.

“In fact, the number of APDK people working with First Lotto has dwindled to 15 from 60 who were initially employed by the Bulgarian owners,” he said.

Mr Zakir confirmed the existence of the MoU with APDK but said some of the employees from APDK had left for “greener pastures.”

He blamed the post-election violence for the company’s inability to give to charity as stipulated by the BCLB. The chief executive claimed that the money collected by First Lotto was only enough to run its operations.

He declined to divulge details regarding the use of the money meant for prizes in the lottery.

What is the government's (Kibaki's) position on Zimbabwe?

A few weeks ago, Prime Minister Raila Odinga rebuked African leaders for turning a blind eye to poor governance and disrespect of democracy. Said Raila: "The mediocrity with which Africa has been ruled is what is responsible for African underdevelopment." To more applause, he also attacked Zimbabwe's government: "Still today, it is unfortunate that in an African country elections can be held and no results are announced for more than one month, and African leaders are silent about it. It would not happen in Europe."

Later, he clarified that those views were not GoK policy, but rather his own personal position (and by extension ODM's stand?) because Zimbabwe has not been discussed at Cabinet level.

The circumstances which generated Kenya's recent post-election crisis – in which 1,500 people died and 350,000 were displaced – were not unique to Kenya, he told the opening plenary session of the forum. "It is a continental problem and it is a problem of bad governance that Africa has witnessed since independence," he said. To applause, he added: "The mediocrity with which Africa has been ruled is what is responsible for African underdevelopment." He appeared on the panel with Presidents John Kufuor of Ghana, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi and Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi. Raila told the forum that the post-election crisis and ensuing violence in Kenya had shown "the soft underbelly of our society… For over 40 years of our independence we lived the lie that we were a united country. But deep down there were ethnic tensions running very deep, and society was very fragile and fragmented."

These remarks were made in front of six African Heads of State including Thabo Mbeki of South Africa who many hold directly responsible for sustaining the dictatorship of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe. No other African leader, even within the SADC, has ever told-off Mbeki to his face on his preferred and obviously unworkable method of ‘quiet-diplomacy’ while the majority of Zimbabwean citizens languish in poverty and widespread hunger.

Three weeks later, GoK still has not taken a political position on Zimbabwe. As much has Raila is part and parcel of the same government, he has slyly "absolved" himself by way of that scathing attack at the WEF, and consequent classification of them as personal views. As Cabral Pinto observes (What is Kenya's position on Zimbabwe, Mr Wetangula, Saturday Nation, 21 June 2008) - "Kenya's foreign policy appears to dwell in the head of State, an aspect of imperial presidency. To know what dwells in his head, Kenyans have to wait and see." So what is the head of State's position on Zimbabwe? I agree with Pinto; Wetangula should come forward and tell Kenyans and the world the political position the Government of Kenya has taken on the issue. What position will Kenya push at the next AU meeting that will more likely than not discuss the situation in Zimbabwe? Even if a "Grand coalition position" may not be available, Wetangula should be able to clarify whether his masters support leaders who deny their citizens their human rights. Does Kenya support the butchering of citizens by any member of the AU? Does Kenya support elections that are not free, fair and peaceful?

In the end, Kibaki is silent because he has no moral platform from which to condemn Mugabe.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Akon's con job - part 2

We began examining Akon's criminal record after he was arraigned last December on criminal charges stemming from an incident during a June 2007 concert at Dutchess Stadium in Fishkill, N.Y. During that show, Akon, whose given name is Aliaune Thiam, lifted a 15-year-old boy over his head and tossed the child into the crowd. As seen on a popular YouTube video, Akon dispatched a security guard to bring the young fan, Anthony Smith, on stage after a pretzel had been thrown at him from the audience (fellow concertgoers apparently fingered the teenager as the culprit). "He made a big mistake today, boy," Akon announced before flinging Smith several rows into the crowd.

With the incident on tape, the singer was charged with harassment and endangering the welfare of a child. Following a December 3 court appearance, Akon was released without bail after a computer check turned up no outstanding warrants or, for that matter, any prior criminal history. This seemed peculiar considering the singer's frequent mentions of his prison time and assorted arrests.

A second check was performed, with investigators submitting Akon's fingerprints to the FBI for a more thorough search for warrants and priors. This time, bureau records turned up six arrests for Akon, who previously used several aliases and birthdates when being processed by law enforcement agencies in New Jersey and Georgia. In light of the discovery of the previous arrest history, prosecutors asked a town judge to set Akon's bail at a nominal $5000, a request the jurist denied.

Though he has claimed to have been frequently arrested while growing up in a middle class household in New Jersey, Akon's rap sheet (and court records) reflect no such cases. He told Vibe last year that he sold marijuana and test questions from his high school locker and that a friend named Tito got him his first gun, a .22. Which, Akon claimed, he rented out for $100 a day. As he explained to VH1 in 2005, he was a big deal back then: "I got accepted by the gangster crowd because they saw that I wasn't afraid of nobody and I would fight anybody...Before I knew it, I became the most popular kid in Jersey City as a good bad guy." Though he lived in the suburbs, Akon told Vibe he "hung out in the ghetto. The suburbs were just boring. We couldn't make any noise."

Born in Missouri, Akon reportedly spent some of his youth is Senegal, where his father, Mor Thiam, was a well-known percussionist. Akon apparently moved with his family to Georgia in the mid-90s, though he would often return to New Jersey, where he hung out with members and associates of the Fugees. At the time, the singer was signed to Elektra Records and was, according to copyright records, writing songs with Fugee Wyclef Jean and Stephens, a choreographer and "image consultant" who would later play a central role in Akon's platinum success.

It was after his deal with Elektra cratered that Akon ran into his first serious criminal trouble. In September 1998, he was named in a felony indictment charging him and codefendant Terrence Taylor with handgun possession and receiving stolen property (specifically, a 1998 BMW).

Burlington County Superior Court records indicate that Akon--who was originally charged under the name Abou Thiam--was released from the county lockup in Mount Holly after posting $3500 bond.

While free on the New Jersey case, he was arrested in mid-November 1998 in Stone Mountain, Georgia. According to a police report, a DeKalb County auto crime investigator happened to be on a stakeout when Akon had the misfortune to drive past him. It probably didn't help that, as the police report notes, Detective R.L. Brewer "observed a white BMW vehicle being driven by a B/M subject." During a prior court case, Akon listed a home address in Stone Mountain that was slightly more than a mile away from where Brewer spotted him.

In an interview, Brewer recalled that he was positioned outside a shopping center and that his stakeout had nothing to do with Akon; the singer was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. The performer happened to be driving a car whose license plates triggered a "stolen vehicle response" when the auto's tags were typed into a police computer. Brewer followed Akon until two uniformed backup officers arrived and pulled over the BMW 740 near Highway 78, according to a police report. He was taken into custody "without incident." A passenger, Willie Ashley, was detained on unrelated traffic charges.

[Years later, as he recounted his purported "ringleader" arrest in an interview for a DVD, Akon said that he was "going up 78 headed toward DeKalb" when he was surrounded by police cars. With their weapons drawn, officers began simultaneously barking at him to get out of his car. One cop, the singer recalled, remarked that, "You was caught in a car once before and they said it was a hot pursuit or something. But your name popped up in the computer." So, the singer added, "He locked me up." The arrest left the imaginary kingpin perplexed and wondering if he had been framed by someone who "planted something," since he knew how "clean" his work was.]

[In a November 2006 Rolling Stone interview, Akon took a similar fact-free flight of fancy, claiming that he was "driving a BMW 325, on my way to the chop shop" when he was apprehended. "That's the slowest car in the whole fleet...I'd been in high-speed pursuits before and always got away, but this time I didn't because the car was too slow. I didn't even want that car, it was a favor to someone else. And I wound up getting locked up for three years."]

While searching the BMW, Brewer discovered title and registration documents purporting to show that Akon was the rightful owner of the $70,000 vehicle. But the detective believed the paperwork was fraudulent and called in FBI Agent Peter McFarlane for a consultation. McFarlane, who has worked auto crime cases in Atlanta since 1972, examined the documents and concluded that the title papers were bogus.

Brewer obtained warrants charging Akon with possession of stolen property, forgery, and possession of an auto with an altered vehicle identification number. The singer was booked into the DeKalb County Jail, where bond was set at $20,000 (an amount Akon could not raise).

Nearly a decade after the arrest, McFarlane, who retired from the FBI in late-2002 after 31 years, could still recall some details of the case, due to one memorable fact regarding the BMW's theft in August 1998.

Three months before Akon was arrested driving the car, the vehicle had been stolen from in front of the Columbus, Georgia office of Robert Schiffman, a wealthy financier. Schiffman also was a collector of valuable guitars, one of which happened to be in the trunk of the sedan when it was taken. The car thieves, though, were unaware that the instrument, a 1931 Herman Hauser that once belonged to the classical guitar virtuoso Andres Segovia, was worth more than the BMW itself. The guitar, then valued at $100,000, was one of only two instruments that Hauser built for Segovia (the other guitar, made in 1937, is part of The Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection).

Along with everything else in the car that could trace back to the BMW's owner, the guitar was discarded by the thieves. The instrument, still in its $1,200 case, was eventually discovered in a roadside bush by a BellSouth lineman. Five years later, the Hauser guitar finally found its way back to Schiffman, who is now seeking to sell the guitar for upwards of $250,000.

McFarlane, 62, who has worked auto crime cases for Georgia's Department of Revenue since his FBI retirement, laughed out loud when told of Akon's claims about running a "notorious" auto theft ring, owning chop shops, and being brought down by turncoat underlings. "Ah, this is bullshit. This guy is so phony. He's an arrogant SOB," said McFarlane. Asked about Akon, Brewer said, "I don't think he had any role besides [wanting] to drive a high-dollar vehicle. And I say this because we didn't link him to any other cars."

Nobody was arrested for the actual theft of the BMW, and it is unclear how Akon obtained the auto. Though both McFarlane and Brewer recalled how a member of Jagged Edge, an Atlanta-based R&B group, opted to purchase stolen cars at a deep discount.