Monday, October 22, 2007

Millennial Challenges: Racial Preujdice betrays even the brain of a seasoned scientis- the Watson Fiasco and its implication

The Path from Bacteria, to virus to DNA structure and jump to racism

Can education, science and international accolade cure the disease of inherent racism in certain tribes of the world?

This is the question many young scientists are asking as the events of this unfortunate sage unfold in the media and the scientific community.

What is the lesson of the life of James Watson?

Lab suspends DNA pioneer Watson

The Nobel Prize-winning DNA pioneer James Watson has been suspended by his research institution in the US.

Dr Watson has drawn severe criticism over remarks he made in a British newspaper at the weekend.

In the interview, he was quoted as saying Africans were less intelligent than Europeans.

The Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory had already distanced itself from the scientist's comments but its trustee board has now suspended him.

A statement from the Long Island, New York, institution said the action was being taken "pending further deliberation by the board".

Unreserved apology

Dr Watson was due to give a lecture at the Science Museum in London on Friday as part of a book tour. But the museum cancelled the event, saying the scientist had gone beyond the point of acceptable debate.

The Bristol Festival of Ideas has also cancelled an appearance by Dr Watson.

And further critical comment of Dr Watson's views has come from Dr Craig Venter, the scientist/businessman who led the private effort to decode the human genome, and who, by coincidence, is also visiting the UK to promote a book.

"Skin colour as a surrogate for race is a social concept not a scientific one," Dr Venter said. "There is no basis in scientific fact or in the human genetic code for the notion that skin colour will be predictive of intelligence."

Dr Watson helped unravel the structure of DNA

In his Sunday Times interview, Dr Watson was quoted as saying he was "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" because "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours - whereas all the testing says not really".

He was further quoted as saying that his hope was that everyone was equal but that "people who have to deal with black employees find this is not true".

The scientist has since said that the way the words were presented did not reflect properly his position.

"I can certainly understand why people, reading those words, have reacted in the ways they have," he said.

"To all those who have drawn the inference from my words that Africa, as a continent, is somehow genetically inferior, I can only apologise unreservedly.

"That is not what I meant. More importantly from my point of view, there is no scientific basis for such a belief."

Scientific endeavour

And in comments published in The Independent newspaper on Friday, Dr Watson tries to clarify his position.

"We do not yet adequately understand the way in which the different environments in the world have selected over time the genes which determine our capacity to do different things," he is quoted as saying. "The overwhelming desire of society today is to assume that equal powers of reason are a universal heritage of humanity.

"It may well be. But simply wanting this to be the case is not enough. This is not science. To question this is not to give in to racism. This is not a discussion about superiority or inferiority, it is about seeking to understand differences, about why some of us are great musicians and others great engineers."

Dr Watson was a joint winner in 1962 of the Nobel Prize for discovering the structure of DNA, the molecule that lies at the heart of heredity in living organisms.

When, some 40 years later, Dr Venter and colleagues were finally able to read all of the DNA in our cells, they concluded the concept of race could not easily be described by our genetics.

Venter and his team pointed to the fact that people from different racial groups could be more genetically similar than individuals within the same group. Genetic studies show that there is more variability in the gene pool in Africa, than outside.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2007/10/19 10:41:55 GMT

Can Scientific Achievement give one the license to denigrate others with out evidence


Nobel Prize Organization

James Watson the man who turned to churn out Racist Comments and his biography!

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1962


The Only Son Syndrome begins an early life that ends in shame!

James Dewey Watson was born in Chicago, Ill., on April 6th, 1928, as the only son of James D. Watson, a businessman, and Jean Mitchell.

His father's ancestors were originally of English descent and had lived in
the Midwest for several generations.

Sctos Clansmen Ancestry. May be the KKK and Clansmen had great influence!

His mother's father was a Scottish-born Taylor married to a daughter of Irish immigrants who arrived in the United States about 1840.

Segregated early life in Chicago.

Young Watson's entire boyhood was spent in Chicago where he attended for eight years
Horace Mann Grammar School and for two years South Shore High School. He then received a tuition scholarship to the University of Chicago, and in the summer of 1943 entered their experimental four-year college.

Chosing birds and animals to humans as a calling.

In 1947, he received a B.Sc. degree in Zoology. During these years his boyhood interest in bird-watching had matured into a serious desire to learn genetics. This
became possible when he received a Fellowship for graduate study in Zoology at Indiana University in Blooming ton, where he received his Ph.D. degree in
Zoology in 1950.

Italian microbiologists influence.

At Indiana, he was deeply influenced both by the geneticists H. J. Muller and T. M.
Sonneborn, and by S. E. Luria, the Italian-born microbiologist then on the staff of Indiana's Bacteriology Department.

Effects if Radiation on bacteria? Effects of slavery on intelligence?

Watson's Ph.D. thesis, done under Luria's able guidance, was a study of the effect
of hard X-rays on bacteriophage multiplication.

The fate of DNA on infecting viruses? No human genome study so far!

From September 1950 to September 1951 he spent his first postdoctoral year in Copenhagen as a Merck Fellow of the National Research Council. Part of the
year was spent with the biochemist Herman Kalckar, the remainder with the microbiologist Ole Maaløe. Again he worked with bacterial viruses, attempting to study the fate of DNA of infecting virus particles.

Meeting - The real Noble genius! Wilkins

During the spring of 1951, he went with Kalckar to the Zoological Station at Naples. There at a Symposium, late in May,he met Maurice Wilkins and saw for the first time the X-ray diffraction pattern of crystalline DNA.

Cavendish lab and working with real creative brains!

This greatly stimulated him to change the direction of his
research toward the structural chemistry of nucleic acids and proteins. Fortunately this proved possible when Luria, in early August 1951, arranged with John
Kendrew for him to work at the Cavendish Laboratory, where he started work in early October 1951.

DNA structure interest of Crick? So far no human genome interest!

He soon met Crick and discovered their common interest in solving the DNA structure. They thought it should be possible to correctly guess its structure, given
both the experimental evidence at King's College plus careful examination of the possible stereo chemical configurations of poly nucleotide chains.

Their first serious effort, in the late fall of 1951, was unsatisfactory.

Their second effort based upon more experimental evidence and better appreciation of the nucleic acid literature, resulted, early in March 1953, in the proposal of the complementary double-helical configuration.

Rotating Anode X-raby tube opens new opportunity!

At the same time, he was experimentally investigating the structure of TMV, using X-ray diffraction techniques. His object was to see if its chemical sub-units, earlier revealed by the elegant experiments of Schramm, were helically arranged. This objective was achieved in late June 1952, when use of the Cavendish's newly constructed rotating anode X-ray tubes allowed an unambiguous demonstration of the
helical construction of the virus.

X-ray Diffraction studies of RNA interests! no human genome yet!

From 1953 to 1955, Watson was at the California Institute of Technology as Senior Research Fellow in Biology. There he collaborated with Alexander Rich in
X-ray diffraction studies of RNA.

Back to Virus studies?

In 1955-1956 he was back in the Cavendish, again working with Crick. During this visit they published several papers on the general principles of virus construction.

Role of RNA in protein synthesis! No human intelligence geonome yet?

Since the fall of 1956, he has been a member of the Harvard Biology Department, first as Assistant Professor, then in 1958 as an Associate Professor, and
as Professor since 1961. During this interval, his major research interest has been the role of RNA in protein synthesis.

Introduction to molecular biology! No human genome yet?

Among his collaborators during this period were the Swiss biochemist Alfred Tissières and the French biochemist François Gros. Much experimental evidence supporting the messenger RNA concept was accumulated. His present principal collaborator is the theoretical physicist Walter Gilbert who, as Watson
expressed it, «has recently learned the excitement of experimental molecular biology».

A Series of recognition and awards and prestige! the beginning of his follies!

The honours that have to come to Watson include: the John Collins Warren Prize of the Massachusetts General Hospital, with Crick in 1959; the Eli Lilly Award in
Biochemistry in the same year; the Lasker Award, with Crick and Wilkins in 1960; the Research Corporation Prize, with Crick in 1962; membership of the American
Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences, and Foreign membership of the Danish Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is also a consultant
to the President's Scientific Advisory Committee.

No interest in humans, even marriage! Bird watching not human wathcing yet!

Watson is unmarried. His recreations are bird-watching and walking.

From Nobel Lectures, Physiology or Medicine 1942-1962,Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1964

This autobiography/biography was first published in the book series Les Prix Nobel. It was later edited and republished in Nobel Lectures. To cite this
document, always state the source as shown above.

For more updated biographical information, see:Watson, J.D., The Double Helix. Atheneum, New York,1968.

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1962

Friday, October 12, 2007

Lessons from Pro-Israel & US lobby

Global Strategic Enterprises, Inc for Peace and Prosperity

Interesting debate on PBS NewsHour

Dueling Books Reignite Debate Over Israeli Lobby in
United States

PBS NewsHour
Originally Aired: October 9, 2007


text link:

audio link:

Two books examining the Israeli lobby in the U.S.,
"The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," and "The
Deadliest Lies," present opposing views on Israel's
influence among U.S. policymakers. Authors John
Mearsheimer and Abraham Foxman detail their stances.

MARGARET WARNER: A year ago, two American political
scientists raised a storm with an article asserting
that Israel and its supporters in the United States
have far too much influence over American policy. The
fight is still going on now in the pages of two books.

"The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy" is the work
of John Mearsheimer, a professor at the University of
Chicago, and Steven Walt, a professor at Harvard.

They argue that Israel enjoys an extraordinary level
of U.S. support that is now proving a, quote,
"strategic liability," closed quote, to U.S. interests
in the world. And this outside support, they say, is,
quote, "due largely to the
political power of the Israel lobby, led by groups
like the American-Israel
political action committee, or AIPAC.

"The Deadliest Lies" is the title of a rebuttal book
by Abraham Foxman, director
of the Anti-Defamation League. He calls the
Mearsheimer-Walt book "explosive and
inflammatory" and says it is based on, quote,
"half-truths, distortions and

We bring the two together now, Professor Mearsheimer
joining me here, and Mr.
Foxman in New York. And welcome to you both.

John Mearsheimer, first, before we really get into
this, define your term. What
do you mean by "Israel lobby"?

JOHN MEARSHEIMER, University of Chicago: The Israel
lobby, Margaret, is a loose
coalition of individuals and groups who worked
actively to push American foreign
policy in a pro-Israel direction. It's an American
interest group along the lines
of the National Rifle Association or the American
Association for Retired People.

MARGARET WARNER: So what's your evidence that it is
distorting American foreign
policy in a way that is jeopardizing U.S. security and
that it has the degree of
influence that it can do so?

JOHN MEARSHEIMER: Well, probably the best example
would be U.S. policy on the
settlements in the occupied territories. Every
American president since Lyndon
Johnson in 1967 has opposed, at least officially
opposed, the building of
settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Nevertheless, no American president has been able to
put any serious pressure on
the Israelis to stop that settlement-building. even
though there's lots of
evidence that that has been one of the principal
reasons that the United States
is deeply disliked around the world, and it is one of
the causes -- not the only
cause -- but one of the causes of our terrorism

And the reason, of course, that no president can put
any meaningful pressure on
the Israelis is because of the Israel lobby.

Israel lobby's role in Iraq war

MARGARET WARNER: So, Mr. Foxman, what is the deadly
lie, to use your phrase, that
you believe these authors are promoting here?

ABRAHAM FOXMAN, Director, Anti-Defamation League: The
deadly lie is the concept
that Jews, wherever they are, disproportionately
control government means of
media in order to promote their interests.

Mearsheimer and Walt in their book basically say that
the lobby, which is I guess
all those American Jews and some Zionist Christians
who support Israel, distort
what is America's interest, distort what is in the
best interest of the United
States, in order to serve the interests of Israel and
support of Israel.

And they go as far as saying that -- in their magazine
article originally, they
said that it was because of the Israel lobby that
America went to war in Iraq.
They've sort of adjusted it in their book, and they
say, "If not for the Israel
lobby, America would not be at war," and basically
saying the American Jews so
control the American government, the administration
and Congress and media, that
it brought about America's entry into the Iraq war,
which is against the interest
of the United States.

MARGARET WARNER: Let me read you the exact quote, Mr.
Mearsheimer. You say that,
"The war was motivated, at least in good part, by a
desire to make Israel more
secure." And you go on to say, "The war would almost
certainly not have occurred
had it" -- the Israel lobby -- "been absent."

What is your evidence for that? Because in reading
your book, I have to say, I
didn't see any quotes from people in the
administration saying, "You know, this
was a big factor when we sat around the table."

JOHN MEARSHEIMER: Well, first of all, it's quite clear
that the government of
Israel pushed very hard for the war. Furthermore, it's
very clear...

ABRAHAM FOXMAN: It's not clear, but...

JOHN MEARSHEIMER: ... that the principal institutions
in the lobby, to include
AIPAC, pushed for the war. Now that the war has gone
south, a number of Israel's
supporters have argued that that's not the case, that
the lobby did not push for
the war. But there's all sorts of evidence that
organizations like AIPAC did push
for the war.

And, furthermore, the neoconservatives who are deeply
committed to Israeli
security, as well as American security, were among the
principal force-drivers
behind this war.

And when you add all of that up, it's quite clear that
one of the principal
reasons -- not the only reason, but one of the
principal reasons -- that the
United States went to war against Iraq was because of
the Israel lobby and Israel
itself pushing for it.

Opposition to the war

MARGARET WARNER: And, Foxman, do you dispute that?

ABRAHAM FOXMAN: That's absolute nonsense. First of
all, either it is the lobby
that forced the war or it isn't. And now we've heard
several versions of it.

If Mearsheimer and Walt were engaged in an honest
research and scholarship, they
would have found that, number one, the overwhelming
majority of American-Jews
since before the war to this day are opposed to the
war. I am part of the lobby,
the Anti-Defamation League is, and all that we did is,
after the president
declared war with Congress, we issued a statement
supporting the president's war
against terror. AIPAC did the same.

That is nothing close to the type of lobbying that
Mearsheimer and Walt claim
that the Jewish community and the Israel lobby engaged

But Israel, again, had they done their research not
selectively, not skewed, they
would have found that Prime Minister Sharon advised
this administration that he
felt that the threat is Iran, not Iraq.

And now we're being told, Margaret, this is only a
precursor. The people who
brought you the Iraq war, the Israel lobby, the Jewish
supporters, are now going
to bring you the Iran war. So this is a precursor in
terms of the canards, that
the American-Jewish community, the Israel lobby, which
is part and parcel in
their definition, are the ones who are pushing America
again to war, against
America's interest, against the best interests of the
United States.

MARGARET WARNER: Your book does, in fact, argue that
now the Israel lobby is
pushing for conflict with Iran?

JOHN MEARSHEIMER: Can I respond to a number of the
points that Mr. Foxman made?

AIPAC's involvement on Capitol Hill


JOHN MEARSHEIMER: First of all, we make it very clear
in the book that the American-Jewish community was
more opposed to the war than the American body
politic at large. We agree with what he says. He's
misrepresenting the argument

Our claim is that the Israel lobby, which is not the
Jewish lobby and is not the
American-Jewish community, was pushing for the war.
With regard to AIPAC, there
is hard evidence that AIPAC was pushing for the war.

Howard Kohr, who is the executive director of AIPAC,
told the New York Sun in
January 2003 that one of his most important
accomplishments for the previous year
was quietly pushing for the war in Iraq up on Capitol
Hill. So there is evidence
that AIPAC was in favor of the war.

ABRAHAM FOXMAN: It's bad scholarship to quote a -- one
quote in the New York Sun
by the spokesman of AIPAC. Based on that, I hardly
believe the United States
government would be convinced to go to war.

MARGARET WARNER: Can we go onto what the other point
Mr. Foxman made, which is
that now the, quote, "Israel lobby" is pushing for
conflict with Iran?

JOHN MEARSHEIMER: Well, if you look around the world,
there's only one country
that is actively pushing the United States to
seriously consider military action
against Iran, and that country is Israel. Not only its
leaders, but its
population is in favor of using military force against
Iran, if necessary.

Furthermore, if you look at who the voices are inside
the United States who are
pushing for using military force against Iran, it's
essentially the same cast of
characters who pushed for war against Iraq. And most
of those people, certainly
not all of them, but most of them are in the lobby.

Legacy of anti-Semitism

MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Foxman, I'd like to ask you about
a quote in your book. And
you say that, speaking of Mearsheimer and Walt, you
say that the book "supports
myths and beliefs that anti-Semites have peddled for
centuries, thereby giving
aid and comfort to some of the most despicable people
in our society." That's
tough stuff. What are you saying there?

ABRAHAM FOXMAN: Well, Margaret, I have, despite the
accusation, never accused
Mearsheimer or Walt of being anti-Semites, nor have we
ever tried to stifle their
debate. But when one cherry-picks and selects events
of recent history and piles
it on to prove and to show that the Israel lobby,
i.e., the Jewish community or
those in the Jewish community who support Israel, have
power beyond their
numbers, that they control, they manipulate the
American government, in fact,
bringing them to war, they control media, because you
can't debate these issues.

These are classic anti-Semitic canards, where Jews
have been accused of being
responsible for the plague, being responsible for
World War I, World War II. We
heard it from Pat Buchanan and David Duke in the first
Gulf War.

Any time that things go wrong, you scapegoat. And Jews
have been scapegoated,
especially blamed for wars and calamities. And what
this book does in a very
sophisticated manner is say, "Well, Israel is not a
moral country. It's not
really a democratic country. It really doesn't deserve
our support because of the
way they treat the Palestinians. And Israel is not
really in our interest."

So why is it that the United States continues to
support Israel? By the way, yes,
Israel gets $3 billion a year. So does Egypt get $2
billion a year. What about
the oil lobby? Nobody is asking those questions.

MARGARET WARNER: What do you say to that?

JOHN MEARSHEIMER: I think that's true, that his
description of that kind of
behavior is an old anti-Semitic canard. But the
problem is that we didn't say any
such thing in our book.

We're not talking about a cabal or a conspiracy, and
we make that point very
clear. The Israel lobby is an interest group. And it
operates in a rich American
tradition, which is built around interest group
politics. It's like the National
Rifle Association or the American Association of
Retired People.

MARGARET WARNER: All right, I'm sorry. We have to
leave it there. Thank you both.

JOHN MEARSHEIMER: You're welcome.

JIM LEHRER: Abraham Foxman and John Mearsheimer will
answer your questions about
the Israel lobby in an online forum. To participate,
go to our Web site at

Millennial Opportunities: The UN and Gore Share the Nobel Peace Prize on Climate Change
Global Strategic Enterprises, Inc For Peace and Prosperity

By DOUG MELLGREN and MATT MOORE, Associated Press Writers
1 hour, 5 minutes ago

OSLO, Norway - Former Vice President Al Gore and the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change jointly won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize Friday for their efforts to spread awareness of man-made climate change and to lay the foundations for fighting it.


Gore, who won an Academy Award earlier this year for his film on global warming, "An Inconvenient Truth," had been widely tipped to win the prize.

He said that global warming was not a political issue but a worldwide crisis.

"We face a true planetary emergency. ... It is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity," he said. "It is also our greatest opportunity to lift global consciousness to a higher level."

The win is also likely add further fuel to a burgeoning movement in the United States for Gore to run for president in 2008, which he has so far said he does not plan to do.

Kenneth Sherrill, a political scientist at Hunter College in New York said Gore probably enjoys being a public person more than an elected official.

"He seems happier and liberated in the years since his loss in 2000. Perhaps winning the Nobel and being viewed as a prophet in his own time will be sufficient," says Sherrill.

Two Gore advisers, speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to share his thinking, said the award will not make it more likely that he will seek the presidency. If anything, the Peace Prize makes the rough-and-tumble of a presidential race less appealing to Gore, they said, because now he has a huge, international platform to fight global warming and may not want to do anything to diminish it.

One of the advisers said that while Gore is unlikely to rule out a bid in the coming days, the prospects of the former vice president entering the fray in 2008 are "extremely remote."

In its citation, the committed lauded Gore's "strong commitment, reflected in political activity, lectures, films and books, has strengthened the struggle against climate change. He is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted."

Ole Danbolt Mjoes, chairman of the prize committee, said the award should not be seen as singling out the Bush administration for criticism.

"A peace prize is never a criticism of anything. A peace prize is a positive message and support to all those champions of peace in the world."

Bush abandoned the Kyoto Protocol because he said it would harm the U.S. economy and because it did not require immediate cuts by countries like China and India. The treaty aimed to put the biggest burden on the richest nations that contributed the most carbon emissions.

The U.S. Senate voted against mandatory carbon reductions before the Kyoto negotiations were completed. The treaty was never presented to the Senate for ratification by the Clinton Administration.

"Al Gore has fought the environment battle even as vice president," Mjoes said. "Many did not listen ... but he carried on."

Gore supporters have been raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for petition drives and advertising in an effort to lure him into the Democratic presidential primaries. One group,, ran a full-page open letter to Gore in Wednesday's New York Times, imploring him to get into the race.

Gore, 59, has been coy, saying repeatedly he's not running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, without ever closing that door completely.

He was the Democratic nominee in 2000 and won the general election popular vote. However, Gore lost the electoral vote to George W. Bush after a legal challenge to the Florida result that was decided by the Supreme Court.

Gore called the award meaningful because of his co-winner, calling the IPCC the "world's pre-eminent scientific body devoted to improving our understanding of the climate crisis."

Gore said he planned to donate his share of the prize money to the Alliance for Climate Protection, a bipartisan nonprofit organization that is devoted to changing public opinion in the U.S. and around the world about the urgency of solving the climate crisis.

The last American to win the prize, or share it, was former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who won it 2002.

The committee cited the IPCC for its two decades of scientific reports that have "created an ever-broader informed consensus about the connection between human activities and global warming. Thousands of scientists and officials from over 100 countries have collaborated to achieve greater certainty as to the scale of the warming."

It went on to say that because of the panel's efforts, global warming has been increasingly recognized. In the 1980s it "seemed to be merely an interesting hypothesis, the 1990s produced firmer evidence in its support. In the last few years, the connections have become even clearer and the consequences still more apparent."

"It was a surprise," said Carola Traverso Saibante, spokeswoman for the IPCC. "We would have been happy even if (Gore) had received it alone because it is a recognition of the importance of this issue."

But some questioned the prize decision.

"Awarding it to Al Gore cannot be seen as anything other than a political statement. Awarding it to the IPCC is well-founded," said Bjorn Lomborg, author of "The Skeptical Environmentalist."

He criticized Gore's film as having "some very obvious mistakes, like the argument that we're going to see six meters of sea-level rise," he said.

"They (Nobel committee) have a unique platform in getting people's attention on this issue, and I regret they have used it to make a political statement."

This year, climate change has been at the top of the world agenda. The U.N. climate panel has been releasing its reports; talks on a replacement for the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on climate are set to resume; and on Europe's northern fringe, where the awards committee works, concern about the melting Arctic has been underscored by this being the International Polar Year.

Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, said the prize would help to continue the globally growing awareness of climate change.

"Their contributions to the prevention of climate change have raised awareness all over the world. Their work has been an inspiration for politicians and citizens alike," he said in a statement.

In recent years, the Norwegian committee has broadened its interpretation of peacemaking and disarmament efforts outlined by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel in creating the prize with his 1895 will. The prize now often also recognizes human rights, democracy, elimination of poverty, sharing resources and the environment.

"We believe that the Nobel Committee has shown great courage by so clearly connecting the climate problems with peace," said Truls Gulowsen, head of environmental group Greenpeace Norway.

The Nobel Prizes each bestow a gold medal, a diploma and a $1.5 million cash prize on the winner.

Thursday, October 11, 2007
Global Strategic Enterprises, Inc for Peace and Prosperity

Dismissive Ethiopia tests US indulgence
By Barney Jopson

Published: October 10 2007 20:12 | Last updated: October 10 2007 20:12

Meles Zenawi, Ethiopia’s prime minister, sat stiffly at a table as the frontman of the Black Eyed Peas strutted to the tip of the stage with the standard swagger of a Los Angeles hip-hop star.

Below the prime minister’s balcony, several hundred young Ethiopians surged towards the dreadlocked American, who told them: “Y’know, we celebrated the millennium seven years ago.”

Ethiopia did not. The country stuck with a form of the Julian calendar when the west switched to the Gregorian version four centuries ago, so its year 2000 rolled around only last month.

“Is this the real millennium?” the rapper asked, receiving an uproarious “Yes” from the crowd. “So, basically, when I go home, I can tell America to shut up?” he asked. The affirmative answer almost lifted off the roof.

The moustachioed Mr Meles did not flinch. But the exchange – a playful introduction to a song called “Shut Up” – captured something of the US’s increasingly testy relationship with Ethiopia: despite a six-year alliance with Washington, Mr Meles appears not at all inclined to move to America’s music.

Following the attacks of September 11 2001, the administration of President George W. Bush forged an anti-terror pact with Addis Ababa. It was predicated on Ethiopia’s formidable military and intelligence capabilities and its position as a Christian-led country surrounded by Muslim and Arab states.

But the relationship has begun to resemble many of Washington’s alliances with troublesome client regimes, based mostly on geopolitical interest. Ethiopia, which received $283m (£139m, €200m) of military and humanitarian aid from Washington this year, looks increasingly like Pakistan or Egypt: an awkward bedfellow that the US has to support for security goals but one that pursues its own, sometimes brutal, agenda regardless of American pressure.

When the US objects to Ethiopian policies – such as a crackdown on political opponents that killed scores of people in 2005 and a scorched-earth campaign against separatist insurgents this year – it is ignored. When America gives implicit acquiescence – as it did over the Christmas invasion of Somalia and Ethiopia’s bitter border dispute with Eritrea – the US goes through the motions of diplomatic pressure and claims to have been rebuffed.

But the wisdom of the alliance is now under scrutiny, particularly since the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed a bill last week that would force Ethiopia to improve democracy and human rights or risk losing substantial aid.

In public, Jendayi Frazer, the US State department’s top Africa diplomat, remains staunchly pro-Ethiopian and the White House is known to be unhappy with this month’s congressional bill. But one US official says Washington has “titanic arguments” on many subjects with Mr Meles, whose star has fallen since he was hailed in the 1990s as one of a new generation of African leaders. “The Ethiopians are very proud and very independent,” the official adds. “On security, they have supported us strongly, but they also take positions which are not in line with ours.”

In consequence, Washington has become tied to Ethiopia’s local agenda and entangled in a web of mutually reinforcing conflicts, which run from Eritrea to Somalia and cut through Ethiopia’s own ethnically Somali Ogaden region.

The alliance with Ethiopia, the regional powerhouse with a population of 77m, was supposed to achieve the opposite. The US wanted to hunt terrorists, including those suspected of blowing up US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, to monitor links between al-Qaeda and local Islamists and to prevent the region disintegrating into a lawless incubator for extremism.

But the compromises Washington would have to make became evident after a disputed 2005 election, which revealed the Ethiopian regime’s authoritarian leanings. A total of 193 protesters accusing the government of rigging the election were killed in clashes with police. The violence was condemned by the US, which suspended aid temporarily, but Addis Ababa did not flinch.

The US quandary is also illustrated by Ethiopia’s invasion last year of neighbouring Somalia to oust the Islamic Courts Union, a group containing extremist elements that it saw as a threat. The US role in this invasion is still controversial, though American officials deny they encouraged the Ethiopians to act: “We specifically spoke with the government, [advising it] not to go into Somalia, because we didn’t know what the consequences would be,” says the US official.

But European diplomats dispute this account, saying the American attitude was ambiguous and was influenced heavily by those parts of the Bush administration charged with prosecuting the war on terror. The US embassy in Addis Ababa declined to comment on press reports that the US provided intelligence, military targeting and logistical support to Ethiopian forces during the invasion.

US Navy ships have since launched at least three precision air strikes inside Somalia, presumed to be targeting suspected al-Qaeda associates. But the invasion and its aftermath has done nothing to put an end to 16 years of violent chaos in Somalia.

Also going from bad to worse are Ethiopia’s relations with Eritrea. The neighbours fought a war in 1998-2000 that killed 70,000 people. Last month, Ethiopia threatened to terminate the pact that ended it, after years of intransigence over the demarcation of the two countries’ border.

The US failed – or did not try – to persuade Ethiopia to comply with the 2002 ruling of an independent boundary commission. “I think that’s when we let it slip away, when we let Ethiopia break its pledge to agree to the outcome,” says Donald Payne, a Democratic congressman who co-sponsored last week’s Ethiopia bill. “I think we could fight the war on terror and still have respectful policies from our allies if we chose to. However, taking the policy of least resistance may be easier for the Bush administration.”

An embittered Eritrea reacted by launching proxy wars to undermine the Ethiopian government inside the country, where a growing number of armed groups oppose the Meles regime. The most formidable is the Ogaden National Liberation Front, which this year escalated a campaign for self-determination.

Ethiopia responded with a crackdown, which is a source of growing concern to the US. Ethiopian armed forces have been accused of extra-judicial killings, rape, torture and the burning of villages – charges that Ethiopia denies – and a United Nations fact-finding mission to the region said last month it had heard direct accounts of “serious violations of human rights”.

Suspicions have been stoked by the expulsion of the International Committee of the Red Cross from Ogaden and a decision to exclude Médecins Sans Frontières, another aid group. Washington has refused to place the ONLF on its terrorist list or describe the crackdown in Ogaden as counter-terrorism.

This puts it increasingly at odds with Ethiopia. An alliance of convenience is becoming less convenient for both countries by the day.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007

Monday, October 8, 2007

Millennial Opportunities: Command Economy making way for free market in the Horn? Fact or Fiction!




Source: Financial Times
1. Ethiopia to exchange famine for food
Barney Jopson

October 7 2007

The government of Ethiopia, which has one of Africa’s most state-dominated economies, is stepping into uncharted territory by launching a commodity exchange to help alleviate food shortages and encourage the commercialisation of agriculture.

The Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECEX), which is due to open in December, will sit at the hub of new price dissemination and quality control systems designed to improve liquidity and transparency and reduce transaction risk.

The plan shows how a buzz around fast-growing commodity exchanges has reached Africa from Asia – particularly India and China – which is now home to six of the world’s top 10 commodities futures markets by volume.

But given the myriad weaknesses of Ethiopia’s agriculture sector and the government’s insistence on maintaining a tight grip on ECEX, there are doubts about how much and how quickly it will make a difference.

It was food shortages in 2002 – not the famous famine of 1984-85 – that led in government circles to the idea of a commodity exchange. The 1980s’ famine was caused in part by the Derg regime’s denial of food to areas loyal to anti-government rebels, who toppled it in 1991 and remain in power today.

Eleni Gabre-Madhin, who is leading the exchange project, said the 2002 shortages were purely the result of “market failure”.

The country had consecutive bumper maize harvests in 2001 and 2002. However, they triggered an 80 per cent price collapse and led to 300,000 tonnes of grain being left to rot in fields because it was not profitable to harvest. In July 2002 Ethiopia made an international appeal for emergency food aid for millions of people.

At the time Ms Gabre-Madhin was studying how to use the expected surplus. “It was like: ‘What happened?’ You can’t have huge surpluses, prices collapsing, then the grain disappearing,” she says.

ECEX and the nationwide infrastructure to be built around it, she says, should prevent a repeat of 2002 for maize as well as wheat and teff – two other staples – for which the combined domestic market is estimated at $1bn (€715m, £500m).

The exchange will create a pool of liquidity and reference prices that reflect the amalgamation of demand from across the country, thereby reducing the price volatility caused by the existence of multiple fragmented markets.

Price tickers at 200 rural sites will give farmers independent access to price information from Addis Ababa, enabling them to negotiate a fairer deal with middle-men and giving them incentives to produce.

Traders, meanwhile, will be able to profit from arbitrage opportunities by buying cheap grain in areas of surplus and selling it at higher prices closer to areas where there are shortages, which will itself facilitate food distribution.

Ms Gabre-Madhin hopes the exchange will drive a belated surge in productivity by creating a more stable environment where farmers will be able to invest in fertiliser, machinery, irrigation and new crop varieties.

In turn that should provide a more solid foundation for exports, as will a network of 10 exchange-run warehouses where produce will be independently weighed, graded and certified. The exchange will trade three cash crops: coffee, sesame seeds and haricot beans.

The government’s close involvement in ECEX is part of its agriculture-led development strategy, well-suited to a country where farming accounts for 47 per cent of gross domestic product and has helped lift economic growth by close to or beyond 10 per cent in each of the past four years.

But just as the government is suspicious of unfettered markets – it took Ms Gabre-Madhin a year to persuade ministers to allow futures contracts – traders are likely to be suspicious of the government’s 100 per cent ownership of the exchange.

“It’s a very government-driven project,” says Assefa Admassie, director of the Ethiopian Economic Association. “The private sector has to internalise the whole idea.”

Market participants who profit from price opacity will have other incentives to keep trading off the exchange. And the success of the network of price tickers will depend on the country’s telecoms infrastructure – which is unusually bad, even for Africa, and run by a state-owned monopoly.

Adam Gross, of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in Geneva, says that while commodity exchanges should not be seen as a panacea for agriculture, the Asian successes have “enlarged the bounds of the possible”.

But if farmers remain isolated by poor roads and public transport, and state-owned financial institutions remain reluctant to provide farmers loans to invest, the exchange in Addis Ababa will seem a long way away.


2. Somali breakaway republic postpones elections
Mon 8 Oct 2007
HARGEISA, Somalia, Oct 8 (Reuters) - Electoral officials and political leaders in the breakaway Somali republic of Somaliland have decided to postpone forthcoming elections to allow for voter registration to be completed.

Local government and presidential polls for the region bordering Ethiopia had been scheduled for December 2007 and April 2008, but have been postponed to July 1 and Aug 31, 2008, respectively.

"We have been demanding that registration of voters is a prerogative for holding fair, democratic and free elections," Feisal Ali Warabe, chairman of the opposition Justice and Welfare Party, said on Monday, praising the decision.

Somaliland broke away from the rest of Somalia in 1991 when warlords in Mogadishu overthrew the dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. Since then, it has been relatively more peaceful. Somaliland permits only three political parties by law. In July, the government arrested three politicians who tried to form another opposition party.

The ruling on the polls was taken by the three approved parties and Somaliland's National Electoral Commission.


Source: Reporter, Ethiopia

October 6, 2007

3. Inflation remains a serious agenda

Kaleyesus Bekele

The spiral inflation rate observed in the Ethiopian economy has been a talking point among the public as wel as government officials for quite some time now.

The much talked about millennium celebration did not deter the public from discussing the issue. Even in the new millennium the increasing cost of living remains a priority agenda. At a meeting organized by the Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Associations (AACCSA) on Wednesday, representatives of the business community and government officials deliberated on the causes of the inflation and measures that need to be taken to mitigate the problem.

Dr Haile Kibret, president of the Ethiopian Economics Professionals Association, who was a guest speaker, said that the Ethiopian economy was not hit by inflation in previous years.

Dr Haile said the inflation rate stood at seven percent for the past several years. However, he said it started to increase in 2004. The inflation rate, which was nine percent in 2004, has been increasing steadily and this year reached 20 percent. The highest inflation rate, 24 percent, was registered in April 2007.

Dr. Haile said that higher price hike was observed on agricultural products than on industrial goods. The price hike on agricultural products (food items) such as grains is as high as 33 percent. Haile said that the common cause for inflation was the gap between demand and supply.

In a bid to alleviate the impact of the increasing measures the government has been taking various measures. The government has imposed a ten percent surtax on most imported goods and the money generated from the surtax is used to control the inflation rate. The government is supplying wheat and cooking oil with cheaper prices for low income families in Addis Ababa and in the regions. The government recently made salary increments for civil servants.

Many people are skeptical about the measures taken by the government. Dr Haile believes that the salary increment and the surtax imposed on imported goods aggravates the price hikes.

In the course of the meeting, government representatives explained the measures taken by the government. Hailu Abeba, head of the promotion and public relations department with Ministry of Trade and Industry, said that an inflation rate of 3-10 percent was a moderate figure. Hailu noted that the inflation rate in Ethiopia was in double digits, adding that was a wake-up call.

Hailu said that in an effort to control the price hike the government had imposed restrictions on wheat, barely, teff and corn exports. The government is selling a quintal of wheat for 180 birr and 20 litters of imported cooking oil for 300 birr. Sugar is imported from other countries and the floor price of a quintal of sugar produced by local factories was reduced to 500 birr. To produce the price hike on cement the government allowed investors to import cement free of customs duty. This year investors imported 45,000 tons of cement.

Hailu said that though the price of fuel is revised every three months the government did not make price adjustments for the past nine months. He said the government spent 1.6 billion birr to subsidize fuel imports in the past nine months (from December 2006 to June 2007). He also said salary increment was made to enhance the purchasing capability of the public. The government allocated 1.2 billion birr for the salary increment.

Desta Lambebo, representative of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (MOFED), said that the country registered a remarkable economic growth in the past consecutive years. "When there is economic growth, inflation is inevitable," Desta said. He said that the hoarding of goods by traders was one of the factors that contributed to the price hikes.

Desta said the surtax was not imposed on all imported goods. "Basic commodities such as chemicals, fuel, fertilizers and medicines were exempted from surtax," he said. Desta noted that the Ministry of Trade and Industry and MoFED in collaboration with the World Bank was undertaking a study that would enable the government to come up with a long-term solution. He stressed the need to have a strong monetary and fiscal policy.

Eyessus W.zafu, President of AACSA, said that the government was reluctant to admit that there was inflation. "But it is good that now the issue is recognized as a problem. Various reasons are given for the inflation, "Eyessus W.zafu said. He said that the business community should not be blamed for the inflation. He said it is sad to hear business people were responsible for the price hikes. "Let us stop this campaign against business people. It is a country where business people are defamed," he added.

Eyessus said that there were huge infrastructure development projects under way. "There is a boom in the construction sector and a huge amount of money is injected. Experts of the IMF advised the government to reduce public expenditure and I think this is something that should be given due attention.

Maybe the unbalanced growth of different sectors could be one of the causes for the inflation," he said. Dr Haile shares Eyesus's view, "When one of the sectors is growing fast and the other one lags behind this will have its own shortcomings. The business people should not be blamed for the inflation. If I can make a profit by piling up stocks, there is nothing wrong with it in a free market economy," he added.

Members of the business community expressed their concern on the distribution of wheat and imported cooking oil. "This violates the free market policy. They also criticized the government's decision to impose the ten percent surtax on import goods. "This has its own impact on aggravating the inflation," they said.