Third World News:


What images of the "third world" are presented in the western media?
What inspires them -and what effect do they have on the people who read them?

Are these images fair to the people who live in these countries?
In what way are they useful (and to whom)?

Can one really divide the world up in terms of one bunch of highly successful people, who know all the answers -and another bunch struggling to catch up?

Is the "Third World" really nothing more than enclaves of amazing riches and grinding poverty -with (internal and external) corruption linking the two?

Why is the "advanced" world so advanced -and the other world so far behind?

Is it entirely because of natural inclinations and habits?
Is it the effect of climate?
Or is it the result of a long history of exploitation by the more "advanced" nations?
Is the "corruption" a purely local matter -or has it been created, sustained and exploited by powerful forces in the "developed" world?

Where would the rich go for their cheap holidays, if there was no poverty in the world?
How could the rich afford so many relatively cheap goods and services if they were not provided by people in low income countries?

Could giant global companies continue to make extremely profitable mega-deals in poor countries without a corrupt system providing ways to manipulate the system for the benefit of the rich and powerful?
Or is the web of local corruption too complex -so "a level playing field" is necessary for the victory of the efficient and well trained teams found in modern business?

How much damage has the colonial and neo-colonial process done to much of the world?

How much are the existing conditions the result of invasion by foreign powers, the struggle for liberation against the invaders -and the post independence conditions imposed upon the "liberated" countries when "freedom" has been won?

Indeed, how "free" are the people of the "advanced" world -who are increasingly dependent on a globalized socio-economic system based on technologies which few understand.

How much "freedom" is there for anybody within the current system?

With the American "War on Terrorism" unleashing a chain of invasions, interventions and unrest across the "Middle East" -what will happen when the US  focuses its attention more on Asia?

Assuming there is a choice, what other systems might offer a better alternative?

There is not much point in focusing on the negative effects -if there is no way to turn them into a more positive approach: So how can the system be changed without causing too much disruption and further suffering?

What are the cultural habits that need preserving, perhaps even reviving -and which are the bad habits that need to be changed?
What kind of societies need to be developed to keep humanity sustainable in a dangerous, complex and fully armed world?
What kind of educational and cultural systems can help provide the skills and the wisdom to develop a more balanced approach?

Is it perhaps in the interests of the whole world to develop a more diverse and more just system of cultural and economic diversity and co-existence?

On the other hand, is it possible for people from widely divergent cultural traditions, diverse environments and climates -and even educational backgrounds to live harmoniously in a single system?
Do we need to impose homogeneity -or can we find some way for all to enjoy the benefits of diversity?

Is any  socio-economic system sustainable without diversity?


From: Trevor Batten <>
To: Justin Rowlatt <>
Subject: Emerging economies rise to prominence
Date: Sun, 6 May 2012 13:26:05 +0800
X-Mailer: Sylpheed 3.0.3 (GTK+ 2.24.4; x86_64-slackware-linux-gnu)

Dear Justin Rowlatt,

In your article Emerging economies rise to prominence <>  you wrote: "But what was clear from that sun lounger in a Kenyan holiday hotel was that, for the middle classes at least, the world is rapidly becoming a much more equal place."

I guess it was good of you to mention that your article was specifically referring to the (globalised?) middle classes.

Other articles on the BBC website suggest that the gap between rich and poor is actually increasing -presumably in both "developed" and "developing" countries. Certainly increases in income are not distributed evenly -either between classes within a country, between countries -or indeed perhaps not even between different occupational or professional categories globally or nationally.

We also read of an increase of poverty in Greece and America -and we read of banks getting bailouts while the rich remain rich (despite the loss of few millions here or there). There is also a stagnating Eurozone and increasing poverty -as belts are tightened to pay of the debts incurred, more by rich (and perhaps corrupt) politicians than by those who have to pay the price right now.

So, from a hotel lounger, the globalised world looks a rosy place. However, just around the corner, out of sight from the lazy tourist, may well be the ghettos of the poor who were displaced to build the hotel. The hotel itself provides income for the lucky few who work there (and of course the investors) but how much benefit does it bring to the rest of the country? Do hotel profits benefit the entire population (does trickle down really work?) or do these profits benefit mostly the (already) rich investors?

Once upon a time, local profits were taxed locally and local communities benefited from the taxes raised. This money could be invested in infrastructure (health, eduction, transport, etc.) that could benefit the whole community because the income generated would be fed back into the local economic system.

In a post Reagan/Thatcher world this has changed: Globalisation means the free movement of goods, services and funds -and it seems that it also means that profits can be skimmed off before benefiting the local economy too much. Indeed, it seems that much "world trade" is not exactly trade between different national companies -but actually global companies moving around their stock among their various subsidiaries in different countries. Production, research, materials, etc. can often be obtained in the cheapest possible local market and sold at international prices (to the rich rising middle classes) globally -with (one suspects) very little advantage to the local economy. At the very best, locals are encouraged to accept a neo-colonial attitude towards the giant international companies.

Sorry to spoil your holiday -but I believe the majority of people around the world are living in a dual system:  Aldous Huxley's false utopia "Brave New World" for the rich elite and  George Orwell's dystopic "1984" for the poor majority. A consequence of living in a middle class world, run by the middle classes for the middle classes and with total disdain for the rest.

Personally, I don't believe that globalism is increasing the quality of life for the majority of people around the world -indeed the opposite. Unequal economic development makes poverty even more unbearable for those who are squeezed out by the wealth of others.

If one looks a little closer, then I believe one will find that we are not exporting an increase in wealth -but spreading the inherent crisis we have built to sustain the lifestyle of the rich. Indeed, it is only the continuing expansive exportation of the system that prevents it from collapsing -because, like any Pozni scheme -only as long as the system can continue to expand, can it maintain the illusion of sustainability. Unfortunately, we may be running out of room for expansion.

Your comfortable lounger may come at a very high price. Please be careful not to be fooled into believing that places like Kenya are just like the UK -only with cheaper loungers.

Yours sincerely,
Trevor Batten

See Dystopian Literature for Notes on Brave New World, etc.

The texts below are provided as a convenience for those with slow internet connections.
They are not always  "printer friendly" versions and so may be difficult to read.
Due to time constraints they may not have been edited properly.
It is therefore advisable to consult the original texts if possible

Page last updated at 01:08 GMT, Monday, 23 January 2012

 China's appetite for work and wealth


Jeremy Paxman in China
Jeremy Paxman reports from China for the BBC's  Newsnight  programme
Watch at 22:30GMT on BBC Two on Mon 23, Tue 24 and afterwards on the BBC iPlayer

  China's huge population and booming economy is turning into a new world power, but what is creating that success, how secure is it, and what does it mean for the UK and other Western economies, asks Newsnight's Jeremy Paxman.

There was a minor riot in Beijing last week. The Apple store was attacked.

Its offence? Not being willing to sell sufficient numbers of the iPhone 4S.
Buyers had queued all night and things turned ugly when it became clear that many of those in line had not the faintest idea what an iPhone was.
They belonged to teams hired by middlemen who knew that every handset bought was immediately resalable for an additional hundred pounds.
The teams of the tech-unsavvy were identifiable to each other by home-made armbands, and when the store realised what was happening it suspended sales. That was when the eggs started flying.
In London they riot to steal things. In Beijing, they riot because they cannot buy them.
China proclaims itself a secular country. But that is not what it looks like. For a first-time visitor to China, the most astonishing aspect of the country is the worship of wealth.
   The whole economy floats on a sea of migrant workers willing to go anywhere for a day's pay
  The mayor of London may like to be seen riding around on a bicycle. The mayor of Beijing - once the greatest concentration of cyclists in the world - wouldn't be seen dead on one.
Even China Daily, a sort of hymn-sheet to the Communist Party, reads like the FT much of the time.
Flaunting wealth
It reported last Monday (16 January) that there were more Rolls Royces bought in China last year than anywhere else on earth.
Audi now sells more of its brand here than in Germany. The company confidently expects to exceed its target of one million sales between 2011 and 2013, "as long as we can grow annually at 8 percent", as a senior executive asserted blithely. The target was set less than a year and a half ago.
Street scene at night
Chinese cities are matching Western rivals for conspicuous consumerism
  It is all surface froth, of course. There will still be one billion, two hundred and ninety-nine million Chinese who do not buy an Audi. But it is the flaunting of wealth that is so shocking, because the whole economy floats on a sea of migrant workers willing to go anywhere for a day's pay.
You can hear them hammering on the construction sites and see them clambering across the half-built highway towers from dawn until long after dusk.
Victorian Britain was perhaps rather similar, and the smog of Charles Dickens' London finds its counterpart in the murk which envelopes Beijing on windless days and tears at your throat like sandpaper.
Work ethic
Beijing itself - once, apparently, a charming ancient city - has been torn down and replaced with a traffic-jammed assortment of functional concrete blocks interspersed with the occasional quite stunning pieces of modern architecture.
   China is the great emerging force in the world, and the sense of apprehension everywhere else must be good
  The old men of the politburo must look out on it all from the backs of their limousines and smile. Chairman Mao's Cultural Revolution sent intellectuals to live as peasants. Embracing capitalism has created a class of urban plutocrats.
China is the great emerging force in the world, and the sense of apprehension everywhere else must be good.
It is customary to attribute China's new wealth solely to its abundance of cheap labour. But it would have been impossible if the country's potential entrepreneurs had not possessed the sort of work ethic which drove the captains of Victorian industry.
People seriously want to get rich. It may not be especially attractive. But it is more than enough to see off soft, Western welfare states which have sold their future for the sake of cheaper televisions and trainers.
Computer animation work
China is moving into hi-tech industries such as animation
  Dozy Western governments seem to believe that it does not matter much, because somehow their comfortable democracies will coast along on the fruits of intellectual invention.
These governments bask in the belief that we can outsource metal-bashing and shirt-stitching because the brains which devise the products nestle inside Western heads.
How much longer can this complacent illusion last? In the 1960s there was a common belief among the English middle class that things made in Japan were "Japanese junk". The Sony Walkman and infinitely more reliable televisions than any manufactured in the country that invented the damn things soon ended that complacency.
The main television station in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, has a spanking new news studio infinitely superior to any the BBC can boast.
Chinese airlines (many of which know a great deal more about service than their western counterparts) fly Airbus and Boeing, but soon, the country will be making its own passenger aircraft.
What reason is there to assume that banking or any of the creative industries are beyond their ability?
Predicting the future is a job for clairvoyants, not journalists. But I cannot see any easy way for the current imbalance of trade to be equalised. Rather the reverse.
Untouchable elite
There is, though, one worry the so-called communists in the Chinese government might want to trouble themselves with.
   The overseas bank accounts of the mega-rich are an open secret. Stories of corruption... are legion
  One night, while eating in a smart Beijing restaurant I teased my host by asking whether the other diners were party officials. His instant - and serious - reply caught me out.
"Oh no," he said, "they always eat in the private rooms at places like this."
All the best restaurants have these private rooms, so the rich and powerful do not have their meal spoiled by the offensive sight of their fellow citizens.
Many of these private rooms serve delicacies the Chinese people can only dream of. Come to think of it, they probably do dream of them. I'm talking abalone, sea slug and puffer fish.
I certainly don't know enough about China to assert that this sort of behaviour cannot last. But I do know that it would not be tolerated in western Europe. Revolutions have been sparked by less.
The vast majority of the Chinese people do not yet seem even to have their noses pressed to the window-panes. They are too busy hoping to get rich, or just trying to make ends meet.
But the one-child policy is openly flouted by the rich, who simply pay the fine or arrange for the birth to take place in Hong Kong. If a poor person's child falls ill and the parents cannot afford health insurance, they will not get hospital care.
The overseas bank accounts of the mega-rich are an open secret. Stories of corruption, even of car accidents in which young people run someone over and expect to get away with it because their parents are senior in the party, are legion.
Having said which, everyone we met was charming, friendly and helpful. Not a single young person talked, even in their cups, of revolution
Right now, there are too many people doing too well for such thoughts. But it does not take a clairvoyant to ask how long it can last.


5 March 2012 Last updated at 06:17 GMT

Lockerbie bomber Megrahi 'visited Malta for sex'


Reevel AldersonBy Reevel AldersonHome affairs correspondent, BBC Scotland
Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi Megrahi, pictured in 1992, is said to have travelled to Malta secretly to see his mistress
Continue reading the main story
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The Libyan jailed for life following the 1988 Lockerbie bombing told investigators he travelled to Malta regularly to have sex.

Prosecutors said the bomb which destroyed Pan-Am Flight 103 was in a suitcase loaded on the island.
Previously secret documents, seen by BBC Scotland, detail the explanations of Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, 59, for his presence on Malta.
They also suggest he could travel there without a passport or identification.
The Mediterranean island was key to the case which saw Megrahi convicted, in January 2001, of murdering 270 people in the bombing.
Megrahi was returned to Libya on compassionate grounds in August 2009 after serving 10 years of a life sentence; he has inoperable prostate cancer.
He has always maintained his innocence, and an investigation by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) found he may have suffered from a miscarriage of justice.
Its 821-page report has never been published, but it has now been seen by BBC Scotland.
It details Megrahi's statement, known as a precognition, given to defence lawyers before his trial in which he talked about how easy it was for him to travel between Libya and Malta.
"As a Libyan Arab Airlines employee and as someone well known, both at Tripoli airport and at the airport in Malta," he told the lawyers, "I could get away with not using a passport or an identification card at all, but simply by wearing my Libyan Arab Airlines uniform.
"This may sound ridiculous but it is true.
"If I wanted to do something clandestine in such a way that there would be absolutely no record at all of me going from Tripoli to Malta and back again, I could do it."
A Maltese shopkeeper, Tony Gauci, identified Megrahi as the man to whom he sold clothes which were later found in a suitcase which had contained the bomb.
He said Megrahi visited his shop, Mary's House, on 7 December 1988.
Controversy has surrounded that date - and was one of the reasons why the SCCRC sent the case back to the Appeal Court.
But defence lawyers realised if the original trial had known how easily Megrahi could travel undetected to Malta it could have strengthened the prosecution case.
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote
If I wanted to do something clandestine in such a way that there would be absolutely no record at all of me going from Tripoli to Malta and back again, I could do it.”
Abdelbaset Ali al-MegrahiLockerbie bomber
The SCCRC document says: "If the applicant (Megrahi) had spoken to this in evidence it would have removed the need for the Crown to establish the date of purchase of the items from Mary's House as 7 December 1988."
SCCRC investigators who interviewed Megrahi in Greenock Prison discovered he had a mistress in Malta whom he may have visited twice in December 1988 - including the night before the bombing.
He told them he could not have sex with his wife.
"It was possible therefore that the reason for his visit to Malta on 20 December was to meet a woman for this purpose," the SCCRC report said.
"The woman in question was the same one that he had suggested he might have met during his visit to Malta on 7 December.
"He had had sexual relations with her on a number of occasions over several years, until 1989 or 1990."
Megrahi was given just three months to live when he was released from prison in Scotland in August 2009.


3 March 2012 Last updated at 11:29 GMT

Adventure travel in the age of the online connection


By Huw CordeyCosta Rica
Turtle on beach, in Costa Rica
Continue reading the main story
In today's Magazine
Can Limbaugh survive advertiser boycott?
How France helped Argentina in the Falklands
How Pakistani city of Mirpur became 'Little England'
Is the Republican Party ready to lead?

Some of the most remote places in the world are starting to feel less isolated thanks to new technology. This may be good for people who live in them, but for travellers it's a mixed blessing.

Playa Nancite in the Santa Rosa National Park is a bit different this year. It is still one of Costa Rica's most remote spots but it no longer has the same sense of isolation.
The change is certainly not obvious.
Getting here requires the same effort - an hour's drive along a deeply rutted and muddy track, only passable in a four-wheel-drive with a winch, followed by a 40-minute hike over a very steep hill.
The beach itself is also unchanged.
Olive ridley turtles still nest here in their thousands, undisturbed by poachers but hunted by jaguars, which often patrol the beaches at night.
Sadly, there is also little difference to the huge quantity of plastic strewn across the high-tide mark, which washes up on to the golden sands from distant South Pacific islands.
Beach in Costa Rica 
No. Change has come invisibly - through the airwaves.
Last year, you could just about get a mobile signal if you were standing in the right spot but now you can sit on Nancite's beach and connect to the internet.
Don't get me wrong, I am as much a slave to the world-wide-web as the next person but I cannot help feeling a little sad at this development.
Continue reading the main story
Costa Rica's sea turtles
Olive ridley sea turtle Groups of hundreds or even thousands of female Olive ridley sea turtles come ashore to nest in what is known as an "arribada"
 Leatherbacks, the largest sea turtles, are champion divers that can reach depths of 3,900ft
 The Green sea turtle's diet changes significantly during its life - hatchlings feed on small fish and crustaceans, but adults are herbivorous
 The Hawksbill turtle, with its narrow head and hawk-like beak, inhabits tropical and subtropical parts of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans
Watch a baby turtle dash
Olive ridley mating marathon
It may be a cliche but there is no doubt that technology makes the world feel a smaller - and less interesting - place.
It has the habit of shrinking the distances between countries and merging cultures.
For me, real adventure travel does not just come from the journey itself but from feeling cut off from one's normal way of life - a situation that forces you to accept what you find and become absorbed by it.
And being isolated can also be exciting since it often brings a frisson of risk.
Unfortunately, with the unseen umbilical cord of a mobile or internet connection, it is much more of a challenge to experience the unfamiliar and leave the familiar behind.
In short, adventures are not quite so, well, adventurous.
Take Ernest Shackleton's heroic Antarctic feat - one of the greatest adventure stories of all time.
One wonders whether it would even have happened had the internet been around in his day.
He and his men certainly would not have embarked on one perilous journey after another, if they had been able to let someone know where they had been stranded.
Back on Nancite, the internet had an immediate impact on me.
Continue reading the main story
From Our Own Correspondent
 Broadcast on Saturdays at 11:30 GMT and Thursdays at 11:00 GMT on BBC Radio 4, and weekdays on BBC World Service
Listen to the BBC Radio 4 version
Download the podcast
Listen to the BBC World Service version
Explore the archive
Every day I found myself repeating that well known mantra of the 21st Century, "I must check my emails."
When I could have been walking through the forest looking for wildlife, beach combing, or even swinging gently in a hammock under sunbathing iguanas, I was huddled over my computer trying to keep sand out of the keyboard and glare off the screen as I communicated with people back home and - more often than not - cursing the connection speeds.
It is a funny old thing - last year, I was perfectly content without any internet. This year, it is annoyingly slow.
Not everybody feels the way I do about the developments on Nancite.
Wilberth Matamoros, for one, is delighted.
He has spent over a year in Nancite, mostly on his own, logging the comings and goings of the nesting olive ridley turtles.
Map of Costa Rica
Each night, he walks up and down Nancite's half-mile of beach counting, measuring and tagging them.
Recently he came across a jaguar eating a turtle.
Rather than back away, he crept closer and videoed the action using his torch as a light.
It was an exciting moment and one he was keen to share with his girlfriend who was more than 5,000 miles (8,000km) away.
With the new internet, he had uploaded pictures of the event before dawn.
For the last five years, Wilberth from Costa Rica has been going out with Jenny Neeve from Essex, in the south-east of England.
They met while working on another turtle project and have stayed together despite only seeing each other for between two and six months a year.
Huw Cordey, a 4x4 and a lot of mud Real adventure travel is not just the journey itself but feeling cut off from one's normal way of life
When I ask Wilberth what the secret of their success is, he says "talking".
Until the internet arrived, he talked to Jenny virtually every day from his mobile. Half the time she would call him, the other half he phoned her.
Unfortunately that sort of love did not come cheap. Wilberth was spending nearly half his $500 (£300) a month salary talking to Jenny.
Now with the internet and Skype, communication is free which means that they can talk for as long or as often as they like, and the money he saves he can spend on flights to actually see Jenny.
Of course, I do not begrudge Wilberth and Jenny their new-found freedoms but - romance aside - Nancite's internet highlights the paradox of this kind of technology.
You crave more of it but, deep down, you know you would be happier with a lot less.
 How to listen to From Our Own Correspondent:
BBC Radio 4: A 30-minute programme on Saturdays, 11:30 GMT.
Second 30-minute programme on Thursdays, 11:00 GMT (some weeks only).
Listen online or download the podcast
BBC World Service:
Hear daily 10-minute editions Monday to Friday, repeated through the day, also available to listen online.
Read more or explore the archive at the programme website.
Your comments (236)


5 March 2012 Last updated at 07:42

Up to 900 tropical bird species could 'go extinct'


By Anna-Louise TaylorReporter, BBC Nature News
Wire-tailed manakin (c) P Oxford  / The wire-tailed manakin faces an uncertain future
Continue reading the main story
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Up to 900 species of tropical land birds around the world could become extinct by 2100, researchers say.

The finding is modelled on the effects of a 3.5C Earth surface temperature rise, a Biological Conservation Journal paper shows.
Species may struggle to adapt to habitat loss and extreme weather events, author Cagan Sekercioglu says.
Mountain, coastal, restricted-range, and species unable to get to higher elevations could be the worst affected.
Continue reading the main story
Birds at risk:
Venezuela's scissor-tailed hummingbird (c) C Sekercioglu Some tropical mountain birds such as Venezuela's scissor-tailed hummingbird and East Africa's regal sunbird are endemic to their habitats and have limited capacity to move, which could make these species especially vulnerable.
 Loss of land due to rising sea levels is one of the threats faced by tropical island species. The mangrove finch on the Galapagos Islands, the Abbott's booby on Christmas Island and Mexico's Cozumel thrasher are at risk.
 Hundreds of restricted-range species could be under threat, including the horned guan, the Cochabamba mountain-finch, the red-fronted parrotlet and the blue-eyed ground-dove.
 Physiological responses to climate change may play a vital role in survival. Open habitat sunbirds in Uganda, like the scarlet-chested sunbird, have a greater ability to tolerate fluctuating temperatures than forest sunbirds.
Depending on future habitat loss, each degree of surface warming could affect between 100-500 species, says Mr Sekercioglu, assistant professor of biology at the University of Utah.
"This gives us a clear big picture. The problem is most species in the world are highly sedentary... the public perception is most birds are migratory and so climate change is not a problem for them," he says.
Mr Sekercioglu says tropical mountain species are among the most vulnerable. He says bird species will need to be able to adapt physiologically to changes in temperature and be able to move to higher altitudes if they are to survive.
He says cooler, more humid forests could recede higher up mountains and combined with human settlements at higher altitudes, forest habitat could "get pushed off the mountain".
This would create "an escalator to extinction" he says.
"Coastal species are also vulnerable - as coastal forest can be sensitive to salinity, and these forests can get hit harder by hurricanes and typhoons, and these events are also expected to increase."
Birds in extensive lowland forests with few mountains in places such as the Amazon and Congo basins - may have trouble relocating, while tropical birds in open habitats such as savanna, grasslands, scrub and desert face shrinking habitats.
Tropical birds in arid zones are assumed to be resilient to hot, dry conditions, but they could suffer if water sources dry out.
Mike Crosby, senior conservation officer in Asia at Birdlife International says: "We know that quite a lot of tropical birds are not very good at dispersing so this could be a big issue in the future if the suitable climate moves several hundred kilometres or even tens of kilometres, some of the birds might not be able to move their ranges sufficiently quickly in response to that.
"We might have to take novel conservation measures in the future such as translocation of birds from one site to another."
Best case scenario
Continue reading the main story
More about manakins:
Araripe manakin (c) Araripe manakin project / Birdlife There are around 45 species of manakins (Pipridae). They are found almost exclusively in tropical forests.
 Male club-winged manakins vibrate their wing feathers to create a sustained tonal sound to impress females.
 Manakins are polygynous birds. Male manakins spend most of their time at leks (groups of males gathering for mating displays), which females visit to choose mates.
 Male manakins are known for their elaborate courtship displays where they show off their bright plumages.
Watch a manakin courting disaster
The study looked at how manakins, of which there are 45 species in the neotropical region, would cope. Results showed that manakins limited to the lowland habitats of the Amazon and Cerrado in Brazil, would be most affected as they could lose up to 80% of their habitat; as many as 20% of the Cerrado manakin species are expected to go extinct.
Cagan Sekercioglu says: "Manakins show the importance of having a wide tropical area of mid-elevation forests, and being able to move to higher elevation forests."
He says while overall "birds are one of the least threatened groups of animals" by climate change, "they are the 'best case' scenario".
"The findings are likely to be much worse for all other groups of animals," he says.
"We need to be planning protected areas with higher elevations in mind and leave breathing room for endangered species in higher elevation areas," says Mr Sekercioglu.
Mr Crosby says: "We've got to prepare ourselves to be measuring temperature in protected areas, and measuring rainfall, and monitoring what's happening to species, so that we can respond in the appropriate way. It's very difficult to predict very precisely what's going to happen."
He adds that visitors to the region could help protect the birds they travel to see.
"People who go bird watching in the tropics can gather very useful data, given that the current data that we have is basically pretty poor in many parts of the world. Amateur bird watchers can really make an important contribution."


5 March 2012 Last updated at 20:39 GMT

Netanyahu talks tough in Obama Iran meeting

Benjamin Netanyahu: "My supreme responsibility as Prime Minister of Israel is to ensure that Israel remains the master of its fate"
Continue reading the main story
Iran nuclear crisis
Analysis: How Israel might strike at Iran
Oil embargo impact
Q&A: Nuclear issue
Key nuclear sites

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told US President Barack Obama that Israel must always remain "master of its fate".

Meeting the Israeli leader at the White House, Mr Obama said a nuclear Iran would be an "unacceptable" development.
On Sunday, Mr Obama told a pro-Israel conference in Washington there had been too much "loose talk" of war with Iran.
Israel fears Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons, although Tehran insists its nuclear plans are peaceful.
"The bond between our two countries is unbreakable," Mr Obama said, as the two leaders sat side-by-side in the Oval Office.
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote
If President Obama sticks to his current position... Prime Minister Netanyahu might decide to take a shot at Iran sooner”
image of PJ CrowleyPJ CrowleyFormer US Assistant Secretary of State
Crowley: Obama, Netanyahu and Iran
The president emphasised: "We believe there is still a window that allows for a diplomatic resolution," but added that the US would consider "all options" in dealing with Iran.
Meanwhile, Mr Netanyahu said Israel "must have the ability to defend itself, by itself, against any threat".
'Mutual concern'
After years of international pressure and the repeated failure of negotiations and offers of talks with Tehran, talk has grown in recent months of a pre-emptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.
The US has pushed for the imposition of ever-stricter sanctions against Iran, including recent curbs on its central bank and its ability to export oil to the West.
Yet despite the ratcheting up of sanctions, speculation has been mounting that Israel might choose to attack Iran sometime during 2012.
Continue reading the main story
image of Mark MardellMark MardellBBC North America editor
Both men know that a lack of unity can only benefit a common enemy. But the disagreement between them is profound. In one sense it boils down to their different red lines - what they will not allow.
President Obama has said Iran must be stopped from "possessing" a nuclear weapon. That probably will not happen for a couple of years. The Israeli government's red line is apparently when Iran has enough enriched uranium to make a bomb (and when they hide it deep underground). That could be later this year.
One Israeli journalist has written that the plan is to drag the US into a war just before the presidential elections in November. But this is not just about when to go to war. President Obama has stressed his reluctance to go to war at all. The US military feel this even more strongly.
Read Mark's thoughts in full
Hours before the two leaders held bilateral meetings the head of the UN nuclear agency, Yukiya Amano, reiterated that the organisation had "serious concerns" that Iran could be hiding secret work on developing atomic weapons.
Reiterating concerns detailed in an agency report, he said the organisation was unable "to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities".
Mr Obama and Mr Netanyahu - who have disagreed on Middle East policy in the past - were due to spend the morning in meetings at the White House.
A first session, in the Oval Office, would be an opportunity to discuss "a range of strategic issues of mutual concern", the White House said.
Next, the two leaders are scheduled to meet for a private working lunch at the White House.
At the end of the day Mr Obama is scheduled to meet US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta.
Mr Obama and Mr Netanyahu are said to have a famously cool relationship. In May 2011, during a visit to Washington, correspondents widely noted the frosty body language between the two leaders.
In November 2011, at a G20 summit, journalists overheard a private exchange between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Mr Obama in which Mr Sarkozy called the Israeli leader a "liar".
Mr Obama replied: "You may be sick of him, but me, I have to deal with him every day."
'No hesitation'
In his speech on Sunday to the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac), Mr Obama said the US "will not hesitate" to use force to stop Iran obtaining nuclear weapons.
But he stressed that diplomacy could still succeed.
"Iran's leaders should know that I do not have a policy of containment - I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," Mr Obama told the annual Aipac conference.
"And as I've made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests."
Obama: "The United States will always have Israel's back"
However, he said Iran was isolated and there was an opportunity "for diplomacy - backed by pressure - to succeed".
"Already, there is too much loose talk of war," Mr Obama added.
"Over the last few weeks such talk has only benefited the Iranian government, by driving up the price of oil which they depend upon to fund their nuclear programme."
Mr Netanyahu is due to make a keynote address to the Aipac conference on Monday night.


5 March 2012 Last updated at 18:47 GMT

Sri Lankan man dies trying to win burial-alive record


Janaka Basnayake Police said that Mr Basnayake was a member of a police unit that fought in Sri Lanka's 25-year civil war

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A Sri Lankan man has died while trying to break an informal local record for the longest time spent being buried alive, police say.

Janaka Basnayake, 24, allegedly buried himself with the help of family and friends in a trench sealed with wood and soil in the town of Kantale.
The government has urged the public not to attempt similar "high risk events".
Mr Basnayake went underground on Saturday morning, and was pronounced dead the same afternoon, police say.
Doctors say that a post-mortem examination has not determined the cause of death and further medical investigations are being conducted.
Local newspapers say that the trench in which Mr Basnayake was buried was 10ft (3m) deep.
His family say he was buried alive on two previous occasions - for two and a half hours and six hours respectively.
Correspondents say it is unclear whether there is an official world record for the longest time buried alive.


6 March 2012 Last updated at 04:11 GMT

Maids in Singapore to get a weekly day off from 2013


File picture of maids in Singapore on a day off in the park 27 July 2003 There are more than 200,000 foreign maids working in Singapore
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The Singapore government has announced that maids working in the country must get a weekly rest day.

The new regulation will take effect from 1 January 2013 and apply to all foreign maids whose work permits are renewed or issued after the date.
The move came after a longstanding campaign by activists and governments of the maids' countries.
There are more than 200,000 maids in Singapore, mostly from the Philippines, Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka.
"A weekly rest day is regarded internationally as a basic labour right," said Minister of State for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin, who announced the new rule in parliament on Monday.
He added that from 2007 to 2010, a "significant majority" of maids who had suffered injuries at work or committed suicide did not get off days.
However, employers will be allowed ''time and flexibility'' to adjust to the new requirement, according to a statement from the ministry.
Employers in the South East Asian nation also have the ''alternative option'' of offering compensation in lieu of the off-day, if mutually agreeable with their maids.
The calls for a mandatory rest day for maids working in the island nation have been going on for a decade.
One non-profit organisation that has been at the forefront of the debate, Transient Workers Count Too, welcomed the ''long overdue'' move in a statement.
However, the group urged the government to consider applying the legislation to all maids currently working in the country, and not only to new hires and those who renew their work permits from next year.
''Otherwise, there will be quite a significant population of domestic workers who will have to wait for a considerable amount of time before they have access to this basic labour right,'' said Dr Noorashikin Abdul Rahman, the group's vice president.
Maids in Hong Kong, another country in Asia that employs a large number of foreign domestic helpers, already enjoy a rest day each week.


6 March 2012 Last updated at 17:49 GMT

Brazil 'overtakes UK's economy'


Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff joins workers to celebrate the construction of a new oil rig The Brazilian economy is still booming, despite the global economic slowdown
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Brazil has become the sixth-biggest economy in the world, the country's finance minister has said.

The Latin American nation's economy grew 2.7% last year, official figures show, more than the UK's 0.8% growth.
The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) and other economic forecasters also said that Brazil had now overtaken the UK.
The Brazilian economy is now worth $2.5tn (£1.6tn), according to Finance Minister Guido Mantega.
But Mr Mantega was keen to play down the symbolic transition - which comes after China officially overtook Japan as the world's second-biggest economy last year.
"It is not important to be the world's sixth-biggest economy, but to be among the most dynamic economies, and with sustainable growth," he said.
Brazil is enjoying an economic boom because of high food and oil prices, which has led to rapid growth.
In 2010, the Brazilian economy was worth $2.09tn, compared with the UK's $2.25tn total output, in current US dollars, according to the International Monetary Fund.
However, according to NIESR, using the IMF's figures at current exchange rates, Brazil's economy is now $2.52tn and the UK's is $2.48tn.
The larger increase in the nominal size of both economies is explained by domestic inflation.
The Centre for Economics and Business Research has also said that Brazil's economy has overtaken the UK's.
A UK Treasury spokesman said: "Strong economic growth and large populations in the big emerging economies mean that some will catch up with advanced economies like the UK. This shows why the government is right to place high importance on its economic ties with large emerging economies."
Oil production
In the fourth quarter of last year, Brazil's economy grew by 0.3% from the previous quarter, according to Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia de Estatistica.
Will Landers, BlackRock Latin American Fund says "more and more people are investing in Brazil"
Both the annual and quarterly figures were less than analysts had predicted.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has attributed the slowdown in growth last year mainly to the weak global economic situation and the need to fight rising inflation.
Brazil, the largest Latin American economy and one of the so-called Bric nations together with Russia, India and China, has seen its economy soar in recent years, with growth far outpacing the US and western Europe, but sending inflation higher.
The currency, the real, fell 11% against the US dollar last year.
That is after two years of huge gains - up 5% in 2010 and 34% in 2009. The currency is worth more than double what it was 10 years ago.
With substantial oil and gas reserves continuing to be discovered off Brazil's coast in recent years, the country is now the world's ninth largest oil producer, and the government wishes to ultimately enter the top five.
Brazil has about 190 million people, in contrast to the UK's 60 million people.
And the country has struggled with inequality. The country's Gini coefficient, a measure of income inequality, peaked at 0.61 in 1990 - but 2010's figure was a historic low of 0.53.
Absolute and relative poverty have declined in recent years, especially in the past decade, during which the poorest 50% saw their incomes go up by 68%, according to the Getulio Vargas Foundation.
The country will host the 2014 World Cup, and Rio de Janeiro will be home to the 2016 summer Olympics.


8 March 2012 Last updated at 02:10 GMT

Colombia's Santos: Cuba not invited to Americas Summit


Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos embracing his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro Mr Santos (r) said President Castro understood the situation
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Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos says Cuba will not be invited the Americas Summit in Colombia next month.

Some left-wing nations had been threatening to boycott the meeting in Cartagena unless Cuba was admitted.
But speaking after talks with Cuban President Raul Castro in Havana, Mr Santos said that - without a consensus - he could not make the invitation.
The US had opposed Cuba's participation, saying the meeting should only be open to democracies.
The Americas Summit usually involves only members of the Organisation of American States (OAS), and Cuba was suspended from the organisation in 1962 because of its communist system.
Juan Manuel Santos was making the first visit to Cuba by a Colombian president in a decade.
He said Raul Castro had understood the situation and had made clear that he did not want to complicate matters for Colombia.
"We told President Castro that we really appreciate his desire to take part in the meeting, but that as we have not been able to find a consensus, it is very difficult to make an invitation," Mr Santos said.
He added that he hoped that Cuba would be able to take part in the next Americas Summit in Panama.
Colombia is a close ally of the US, but correspondents say Mr Santos was anxious to avoid a boycott of the Cartagena summit on 14-15 April by nations such as Ecuador and Venezuela.
During his visit to Cuba, Mr Santos also met Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who is recovering in Havana after surgery for cancer.
He said Mr Chavez told him he was recovering well and hoped to return to Venezuela next week.


8 March 2012 Last updated at 02:43 GMT

Uganda rebel Joseph Kony target of viral campaign video


LRA rebel leader Joseph Kony. File photo LRA rebel leader Joseph Kony is wanted by the International Criminal Court
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A campaign by US activists to capture alleged Ugandan war criminal Joseph Kony has gone viral on the web.

Invisible Children's half-hour film on the use of child soldiers by Kony's Lord's Resistance Army has been viewed nearly 10m times on YouTube.
The group aims to bring Kony to justice at the International Criminal Court, where he is charged with crimes against humanity.
Critics, however, have questioned the methods of the non-profit group.
The hashtags #stopkony and #kony2012 were among top trending topics on Twitter on Wednesday as the campaign took off.
A number of celebrities, including P Diddy and Rihanna, tweeted links to the video.
Kony's forces are accused of atrocities in four African countries: Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and South Sudan.
US President Barack Obama in October 2011 announced he was sending 100 special forces soldiers to Uganda to help track down Kony.
However, Invisible Children was accused of spending most of its raised funds on salaries, travel expenses and film-making.
Bloggers also pointed out that NGO watchdog Charity Navigator had given the group only two out of four stars for financial accountability.
And an article in Foreign Affairs which accused Invisible Children and other non-profits of having "manipulated facts for strategic purposes" was circulated on the web.
Invisible Children posted a blog to answer the criticism.
Jedediah Jenkins, of Invisible Children, told the Washington Post that criticism of the group was "myopic".


12 March 2012 Last updated at 12:14 GMT

China's death row TV hit: Interviews Before Execution


By James JonesThis World
Ding Yu interviews prisoner
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In Henan Province, in central China, millions of people have been tuning in every week to watch an extraordinary talk show called Interviews Before Execution, in which a reporter interviews murderers condemned to death. The show ran for just over five years, until it was taken off air on Friday.

Every Monday morning, reporter Ding Yu and her team scoured court reports to find cases to cover on their programme. They had to move quickly, as prisoners in China can be executed seven days after they are sentenced.
To Western eyes the show's format may seem exploitative, but Ding disagrees.
"Some viewers may consider it cruel to ask a criminal to do an interview when they are about to be executed.
"On the contrary, they want to be heard," she says.
"Some criminals I interviewed told me: 'I'm really very glad. I said so many things in my heart to you at this time. In prison, there was never a person I was willing to talk to about past events.'"
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“Start Quote
I witness the transition from life to death”
Ding Yu
Interviews Before Execution was first broadcast on 18 November 2006 on Henan Legal Channel, one of 3,000 state-owned TV stations in China. Ding interviewed a prisoner every week until the programme was taken off air.
The move follows a handful of reports about the show in foreign media, which were triggered by a documentary to be screened on the BBC tonight and on PBS International in the near future.
The aim of Interviews Before Execution, the programme-makers say, was to find cases that would serve as a warning to others. The slogan at the top of every programme called for human nature to awaken and "perceive the value of life".
In China, 55 crimes carry the death penalty, from murder, treason and armed rebellion to bribery and smuggling. Thirteen other crimes, including VAT fraud, smuggling relics and credit fraud, were only recently removed from the list of capital offences.
Interviews Before Execution, however, focused exclusively on cases of violent murder.
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Bullet or injection
 There are thought to be more executions than in any other country, although the exact number is a state secret
 There is no presumption of innocence in Chinese law and confessions are sometimes taken before the suspect has had access to a lawyer
 Convicted prisoners are killed by a single shot to the back of the head or by lethal injection inside a mobile execution truck
It never interviewed political prisoners or cases where the crime was in question, and the team received the Henan high court's consent in every case.
"Without their consent, our programme would end immediately," Ding told the BBC documentary team.
Broadcast every Saturday night, the programme was frequently rated one of Henan's top 10 shows, with nearly 40 million viewers out of the 100 million who live in the province.
It made Ding Yu a star, known to many as "Beauty with the Beasts".
If people failed to heed the warnings the programme offered, she says, then it was right that they should face the consequences.
"I feel sorry and regretful for them. But I don't sympathise with them, for they should pay a heavy price for their wrongdoing. They deserve it."
Many of the cases featured in the programme were motivated by money and one case in particular stands out for Ding.
The perpetrators were boyfriend and girlfriend - young, educated college graduates.
Bao Ronting Bao Ronting was the first openly gay man Ding Yu had ever met
The couple planned to rob her grandparents but it went wrong and the young man, 27-year-old Zhang Peng, ended up killing them both.
"They are so young. They never had the chance to see this world, or to enjoy life, a career, work, and the love of family.
"They've made the wrong choice, and the price is their lives," Ding says.
But after more than 200 interviews, little surprises her.
"I've interviewed criminals even younger than that young student, some just 18 years old. That is the minimum age you can be sentenced to death."
Homosexuality is still a huge taboo in China, and when in 2008 the show covered the case of Bao Ronting, a gay man who murdered his mother, ratings soared.
It was the first time Ding had ever met an openly gay man.
"I had never come close to a gay man, so I really couldn't accept some of his practices, words and deeds.
"Though he was a man, he asked me in a very feminine tone, 'Do you feel awkward speaking to me?' Actually I felt very awkward," she recalls.
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Find out more
Ding Yu interviews prisoner Interviews Before Execution is part of the latest This World series, broadcast on Monday 12 March at 23:20 GMT on BBC Two.
Watch again on iPlayer (UK only) using the link.
She and her team made a further three episodes on the case of Bao Ronting and followed him until the day he was executed in November 2008.
During one of these meetings, Bao asked Ding: "Will I go to heaven?"
Remembering these words, she reflects: "I witness the transition from life to death."
Bao Ronting was paraded in an open top truck on the way to his execution with a placard around his neck, detailing his crime. The practice is illegal in modern China - but the law is not always observed.
Judge Lui Wenling, who worked closely with the programme-makers, says things are changing in the Chinese legal system.
"The present criminal policies in China are 'To kill less and cautiously' and 'Combining lenience and strictness'.
"It means, 'If the case is fit for lenient treatment, give it lenience,' and, 'If the case should be strictly treated, give it a strict punishment,'" he says.
Ding recently covered the case of Wu Yanyan, a young mother who murdered her husband after allegedly suffering years of abuse.
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“Start Quote
Since the death sentence for criminals is itself a violent act, then we should abolish it”
Judge Pan
She was initially sentenced to death for the murder. But since 2007, every execution verdict in China has to be approved by the Supreme Court, and in this case it took the view that the abuse provided mitigating circumstances.
The higher court kept returning the case to the local court until the death sentence was suspended.
Ding visited the prison with Wu Yanyan's daughter for an emotional reunion. If the young mother continues to behave well in prison, after two years she could ultimately be released - a small sign of changing attitudes in China.
One of China's more liberal judges, Judge Pan, along with some other senior figures in the justice system, foresees more far-reaching reforms in future.
"A life could end in the twinkling of an eye after a trial. I'd say this is also very cruel," he says.
"It's also a means of getting rid of evil deeds through an evil deed.
"Should we abolish the death penalty? Since the death sentence for criminals is itself a violent act, then we should abolish it. However, I don't think our country is ready yet.
"But in the future, it would be good to abolish it."


11 March 2012 Last updated at 00:49 GMT

Ecuador director's homage to her abducted brothers


By Irene CaselliQuito
Trailer for With My Heart In Yambo
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Maria Fernanda Restrepo was 10 years old when her brothers, Santiago and Andres, disappeared in Ecuador's capital city Quito. More than two decades later she has released a powerful documentary film, which has prompted a new investigation.

The two boys, aged 17 and 14, had been left in charge of their little sister while their parents were on holiday.
On 8 January 1988, they took her to school and told her they would pick her up at a party that afternoon.
She never saw them again.
Santiago and Andres were kidnapped, tortured and murdered by police officers. Their bodies were allegedly dumped in Lake Yambo, two hours south of Quito, but have never been found.
Restrepo, now 34, had little more than a few family pictures and videos to remind her of her brothers. She describes the film as "a personal necessity" to help her get to know the family's history - "not to deny the pain, but to confront it", as she puts it.
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“Start Quote
Maria Fernanda RestrepoWhen my brothers disappeared, I was only 10 years old, I thought they were going to come back”
Maria Fernanda Restrepo
While many books have told the story of the disappeared children before, Con mi corazon en Yambo (With my heart in Yambo), provides an intimate picture of the effect of the disappearance on the family.
Restrepo tells the story in the first person, remembering her mother crying inconsolably for days, and the tension and expectation that rose every time the phone rang.
As the camera slowly goes through the family home, where the boys' rooms remain untouched, viewers are drawn into their world.
The documentary also uses TV footage from the time, to document how images of Santiago and Andres were reproduced across the country, and how increasing numbers of people joined the family's weekly marches to call for justice in Quito's old town.
"This film is part of my life," says Restrepo. "It came out to tell the story of my 24 years of emptiness, without my brothers.
"When my brothers disappeared, I was only 10 years old; I thought they were going to come back. When there are no bodies, you have no funeral, and no time to cry.
"I learnt how to cry through this story."
Santiago and Andres were on their way to Quito's airport to say goodbye to a friend when they disappeared. It is believed that police officers stopped their car for an inspection, but it is unclear what happened next.
The police put forward different accounts, which were later dismissed.
Maria Fernanda Restrepo filming above Lake Yambo Restrepo filmed a new search for the bodies in Lake Yambo, in 2009
According to one, the boys died in a tragic car accident. The police also suggested that the boys had run away from home, because - they alleged - Santiago was involved with guerrillas.
In 1991, as pressure grew, an international commission was set up to investigate the case. It found several agents of the National Police Criminal Investigative Service (SIC) responsible for the kidnapping, torture and death of the boys.
The SIC was eventually dismantled, and in 1995 seven police officers were convicted and sentenced.
The scale of state-sponsored human rights abuses in Ecuador does not compare with that in other countries in the region, such as Chile and Argentina, where thousands of people were tortured and disappeared under military dictatorships in the 1970s and 1980s.
However, according to Ecuador's Truth Commission, which released its findings in 2010, state-sponsored violence took place under the democratically elected government of Leon Febres-Cordero (1984-88). During that period, nine people disappeared, including the Restrepo brothers, and there were 310 victims of human rights abuses.
The SIC, which was established in 1986 to lead a crackdown on a guerrilla group active at the time, was responsible for many of those abuses.
Maria Fernanda's parents demonstrating to find out what happened to their children with placards reading: "To the very end for our children" and: "With my heart in Yambo" (Photo courtesy Dolores Ochoa) Restrepo's parents held weekly protests outside the presidential palace
Central to the findings on the Restrepo case was the testimony of a former SIC agent, who said that he collaborated in dumping the boys' bodies in Lake Yambo, after others had tortured them.
The lake was searched twice - the second time in 2009 with Ms Restrepo and her father present.
The footage of that visit to the lake features in the documentary, with close-up shots of the murky waters as the sonar and the underwater camera go in.
The film took seven years to make.
Since it opened at cinemas in Ecuador in October it has been seen by more than 160,000 people, making it the most successful documentary in the country's history. Such has been its impact that the interior ministry has promised to show it to police officers as part of their human rights training, and the attorney general has begun a new investigation.
Yellow posters have gone up across the country offering a $200,000 (£125,000) reward in exchange for more information.
"There are many questions that still need to be answered," says Restrepo.
"A family can do some things, and we've done a lot. But what's needed is the political interest to solve this and other cases.
"Finally there is a government interested in this case, and we hope it's a real interest."


9 March 2012 Last updated at 10:22 GMT

Sudan's hidden conflict: Rebels, raids and refugees


Women carry water bottles across their shoulders at a refugee camp in South Sudan
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Largely hidden from the world's media, a conflict is raging in the border area between Sudan and the new nation of South Sudan. The BBC's Martin Plaut reports from the border on the plight of the thousands who have fled their homes and the rebels' motives.

"I clutched my children to my bosom, when the Antonov bombers came," says one grandmother, who crossed into South South with her 29 children and grandchildren.
We cannot name her, since she hopes one day to go home.
A scattering of refugee camps along the borders have been erected by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) to serve their needs.
Just one - Jammam refugee camp, in Maban county of Upper Nile state - is home to some 34,000 people.
Col Abdildem Dafalla  Col Abdildem Dafalla said he had between 8,000 and 9,000 men fighting across the border in Blue Nile
It is estimated that around 100,000 people have fled their homes since the second half of 2011, when the Sudanese government launched an offensive against rebels in Blue Nile and South Kordofan, in the south of Sudan.
Most set off with nothing but the clothes they wore.
Families we spoke to say many of their children and elderly were too weak to make the journey, and died along the way.
First estimates of the scale of the crisis by aid agencies proved inadequate, and the United Nations had to rapidly increase the scale of its operations.
Now a route has been opened through the port of Djibouti and on through Ethiopia and into South Sudan.
It is a journey of six to seven days, but the trucks towing trailers of basic supplies are now arriving to feed these huge camps.
Rebel alliance
The rebels who are taking on the government in Khartoum are the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-North).
They see themselves as continuing in the footsteps of the movement from which they sprang, the SPLM of the late John Garang, which now runs the newly independent state of South Sudan.
When independence came in July last year, many SPLM forces in Blue Nile and South Kordofan were left stranded in Sudan.
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“Start Quote
We have not even requested support or ammunition from any other country because we know we can win this fight”
Abdildem DafallaSPLM-North colonel
These areas were supposed to have been allowed a vote to choose autonomy, but this was blocked by Khartoum.
Neroun Philip Aju, the SPLM-North's humanitarian co-ordinator in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, says the aim is to change the government in Khartoum - not to form another new state.
Fighting is vicious, with refugee after refugee explaining how they have been bombed from the air, with markets being a particular target.
This is likely to intensify as the SPLM-North has concluded an agreement to link up with three rebel movements fighting in Darfur.
A conflict that brings together South Sudan and the west of Sudan could prove a real headache for the authorities in Khartoum.
Until now the SPLM-North has been a somewhat unknown quantity. There are few hard facts about its operations in Blue Nile state and no independent sources of information.
Boxes of ammunition Rebel ammunition in border area waiting to be walked up to front line positions
But visiting the border area in Maban County, South Sudan, we pieced together a picture of the movement.
We saw no training bases or rebel camps.
This is a military zone and there were plenty of men in uniform from the South Sudan government forces - the rebels we did meet were in civilian clothes.
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“Start Quote
Neroun Philip AjuIf nothing is done we will have a humanitarian disaster”
Neroun Philip AjuSPLM-North
In a border village, we ran into Col Abdildem Dafalla of the SPLM-North, who told us he has between 8,000 and 9,000 men fighting in Blue Nile.
"We are moving around. If a specific place is attacked, we move away and then return to it when the Sudan government forces have left."
Asked whether his forces could win, he was confident: "100%, we'll win."
"We have not even requested support or ammunition from any other country because we know we can win this fight," he said.
The SPLM-North routinely denies receiving support from South Sudan, and the government denies any connection with the rebels.
Juba signed an agreement with Khartoum not to support rebellions in each other's states, but there are strong suggestions that both sides flout this pact.
Help from outside
Daily life for people in the Sudanese states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan is reported to be dire, with hundreds of thousands of displaced - many living in caves in the hills to avoid aerial bombing which happens day and night.
Aid arriving at a refugee camp on the border in South Sudan Supplies are now arriving in South Sudan's refugee camps, but not in conflict zones across the border
Former UN official, Mukesh Kapila, who has just visited the area, told the BBC it reminded him of the "terror tactics" he had seen in Darfur.
"We saw whole tracts of deserted countryside and smoke rising from fires where fields of seeds that had been planted had been burnt off, " he said.
"We saw churches destroyed where people had run to take shelter. And we saw fear, hurt and anger in the eyes of the people we met."
Mr Aju showed the BBC a document signed by the UN, the African Union and Arab League calling for international aid to be allowed to flow directly into these areas of conflict.
"We have accepted that proposal for the delivery of aid to the affected population and we are waiting for the Sudan government to do the same," he says.
"March is a deadline. If nothing is done we will have a humanitarian disaster in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
"If the Sudan government does not accept the proposal, we would ask the international community to put the food in anyway."
This might mean sending aid in without government approval - something the UN appears to be considering.
This could put the aid agencies in an extremely awkward position, caught between serving the needs of the people and the demands of the states in which they are operating.


9 March 2012 Last updated at 13:10 GMT

The rise of the $1-a-day statistic


By Ruth AlexanderBBC News
Haitian mother and child
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In today's Magazine
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China's death row TV hit
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It's shocking to learn how many people live on less than $1 day - and regular publication of the figures over the last two decades has helped fuel anti-poverty campaigns. But could the statistic actually have done more harm than good?

In the late 1980s, a group of economists at the World Bank in Washington DC noticed that a number of developing countries drew their poverty lines at an income of about $370 a year.
This reflected the basic amount that a person needed to live. Each country had a different sense of what the essentials were, but the figure of roughly $370 was common to all, so the World Bank team proposed it as a global poverty line.
Some time later one of these economists, Martin Ravallion, was having dinner with his wife and, as they chatted, he had what he described as a kind of "epiphany".
If you divide that $370 by 365 days, you get just over $1. And so the catchy "$1-a-day"' concept was born.
Simple, powerful and shocking.
"We intended to have some impact with it," Martin Ravallion recalls. "Make well-heeled people realise how poor many people in the world are."
But it's a lot more complicated, and controversial, than it at first appears.
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More or Less: Behind the stats
You can listen to More or Less on BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service or by downloading the free BBC podcast
Download the More or Less podcast
For a start, Ravallion and his colleagues at the World Bank were not talking about what you could buy if you took an American dollar to a bank and converted it into Indian rupees or Nigeria naira.
A US dollar does go quite a long way in some developing countries.
Instead, the economists calculated a specially-adjusted dollar using something called Purchasing Power Parity, or PPP.
They looked at the price of hundreds of goods in developing countries. And then with reference to national accounts, household surveys and census data, they calculated how much money you would need in each country to buy a comparable basket of essential goods that would cost you $1 in the USA.
You were under the global poverty line if you couldn't afford that basket.
It's still a reality of life for 13% of people in China; 47.5% in Sub-Saharan Africa; 36% in South Asia; 14% in East Asia and the Pacific; 6.5% in Latin America and the Caribbean. Almost 1.3bn people in total.
And surprisingly perhaps, people who live on $1 a day do not spend all of it on that basket of food - on staying alive. They typically spend about 40 cents on other things, says Professor Abhijit Banerjee of MIT.
Beggar with coins, Manila The first UN Millennium Development Goal focused on halving the number of people living on $1 a day
"Even though they could actually buy enough calories, the fact is they don't. If you look at the people especially in South Asia who live on $1 a day - huge malnutrition.
"They sacrifice calories to buy some entertainment, some pleasure.
"It's a balance between survivalist behaviour and pleasure-seeking behaviour. I think as human beings we need both."
The $1 figure is also an average.
"Poor families… may earn $10 a day and then nothing for two weeks," says Professor Jonathan Morduch of the Wagner School at New York University.
"One season they may earn a lot, one season they may earn very little."
The World Bank's first report on people living on $1 a day came out in 1993. Regular updates since then have played an important role in focusing attention on the world's poor.
But one major reason the number took off and gained a life of its own, was the adoption as the first UN Millennium Development goal to "halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than $1 a day".
This high-profile target was agreed by the UN General Assembly and embraced by most of the world's development institutions.
Ten days ago, the World Bank declared the goal had been met early.
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Dollar income levels
 The World Bank says using the $1.25 figure as a measure is judging the world by "what 'poverty' means in the world's poorest countries"
 Better-off countries have higher poverty lines
 The median poverty line among developing countries is $2 (ie if national poverty lines are put in order, it's the mid-point)
 The number of people living between $1.25 and $2 has almost doubled between 1981 and 2008
In 1990, 31% of the population of the developing world lived on less than $1 a day - close to 1.4 billion. In 2008, half that proportion did - 14%, or about 800 million.
However, once again, things are more complicated than they may at first appear.
Over the years since the Millennium Development Goal was set, the $1 a day poverty line has been recalibrated. The World Bank's global poverty line measure is now not $1, but $1.25 per day.
When the phrase was first coined in 1993, the purchasing power parity calculations were based on price and consumption data from the 1980s.
But by 2008, the World Bank economists had more and better data on price and consumption, enabling them to refine these calculations - and more developing countries had calculated poverty lines.
So the poverty line was re-set at $1.25, at 2005 PPP calculations. This represented an average of the poverty lines set in 10-to-20 developing countries.
The job of halving the proportion of people whose income is less than $1.25 a day has almost been done, but not quite.
In 1990, 1.9bn people - 43% of the developing world - lived on less than $1.25. In 2008, about 1.3bn, or 22% did.
Numbers living on less than $1.25 a day
Despite its success at driving home just how many people are living in extreme poverty, some critics think the $1-a-day benchmark has done more harm than good.
It's a "successful failure", according to Lant Pritchett, an ex-World Bank economist who is now Professor of the Practice of International Development at Harvard University's Kennedy School.
"It's a wildly successful PR device that I think has been a failure in terms of achieving the objectives of improving human well-being in the world," he says.
He argues that it has put a focus on philanthropy more than long-term development - applying a sticking plaster rather than solving the problem.
"Instead of promoting prosperous economies, it's about 'How do we identify and target and get transfers to the few people under this penurious line?' which just isn't the way, historically, anybody has ever eliminated poverty."
And even at $1.25 it is set too low he says - because someone earning $1.25 or $1.50 is still in dire poverty.
Martin Ravallion Martin Ravallion: The poorest must be the highest priority
Pritchett proposes an additional $10 poverty line be created.
But Ravallion rejects the criticism.
Progress on reducing the numbers living on less than $1.25 a day has mostly occurred thanks to economic growth, he says, rather than handouts.
And while he accepts that people who make it above the $1.25 poverty line remain vulnerable, and that there has been a "bunching up" of people just above the threshold, he says he has always argued that "we should look at multiple poverty lines", not just the $1.25 figure.
"We should look at the whole distribution. That's what I've said from day one," he says. "What I'm also saying is that our highest priority must be the poorest first."
It's is an argument that divides experts in the field.
Professor Banerjee agrees that the $1.25 a day figure plays a useful role, because there is a finite amount of aid that rich countries are prepared to give and it makes sense, he says, for it to be given to the poorest people.
But Professor Morduch says the figure is so low, it has encouraged the idea that people in this minimal income bracket must lead passive, helpless lives, when this is not the case.
In fact, he says, they are keen to save and need tools, such as bank accounts, to help them do so.
"The whole condition of living on $1 a day has much less to do with that average than with the ups and downs. So it's not surprising that households are very actively trying to save," he says.
"They are not living hand to mouth; they are thinking about the future."
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12 March 2012 Last updated at 03:28 GMT

China reports large trade deficit as imports surge


A petrol pump in China Demand for fuel in China has been rising as its economy continues to expand
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China posted its largest trade deficit in at least a decade in February, after imports of commodities jumped as companies built up supplies.

The deficit was $31.5bn (£20bn) after imports rose 39.6% from a year earlier and exports rose 18.4%, the customs bureau said.
Analysts said the widening trade gap may signal deeper economic issues that China will need to address.
China has an export-led economy, but global economic growth remains slow.
Meanwhile, prices for many of the raw materials that China needs to fuel its growth are climbing.
Faced with these problems, many analysts are now predicting that China will have to do something to stimulate its domestic demand.
Last week, China said it was expecting its economy to grow by 7.5% in 2012, the lowest target it has set since 2004.
At the same time, it set an inflation target of 4%.
Price growth has been one of the biggest problems facing China over the past few years, not least because it imports most of the oil and commodities it consumes.
That is why, with crude oil climbing to close to $125 per barrel on the international exchange, many companies are stockpiling fuel in order to protect themselves from future price rises.
According to the trade figures released over the weekend, crude oil shipments hit a record-high of 5.95m barrels per day. China's imports of copper and iron ore also rose during the month.
"Imports were strong in February partly due to restocking among manufacturers in anticipation of rising commodity prices," said Hua Zhongwei of Huachuang Securities in Beijing.
'Slowly recovering'
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“Start Quote
Europe and the US are slowly recovering. We should not be too pessimistic about China's exports”
Hua ZhongweiHuachuang Securities
While China is looking to stoke domestic demand and give its economy better balance, it still relies heavily on its export and manufacturing sector.
But problems in its key markets such as the US and eurozone have raised fears about whether Beijing can sustain its export-led growth.
There have been concerns that the debt crisis in the eurozone and the high rate of unemployment in the US may hurt consumer sentiment and dent demand for Chinese goods.
However, analysts said while those fears still exist, there were signs that things were improving.
Data released last week showed that the US economy created 227,000 jobs in February, while the unemployment rate stayed at 8.3%, the lowest level in nearly three years.
At the same time, Greece struck a deal with banks and other lenders on Friday to restructure its debt, an important step in winning a final approval of its second bailout.
"Europe and the US are slowly recovering. We should not be too pessimistic about China's exports," said Mr Hua of Huachuang Securities.
"We will have a trade surplus for the whole year."


10 March 2012 Last updated at 11:30 GMT

Nagasaki: One Square Mile of Japan


Mariko OiBy Mariko OiBBC News, Nagasaki
WATCH: Nagasaki's culture has been influenced by the Dutch, Portuguese and Chinese

Like Hiroshima, Nagasaki is known around the world as one of the two cities destroyed by an atomic bomb during World War II.
It happened just after 11:00 on 9 August 1945. The blast killed 40,000 people instantly. Another 34,000 died before the year ended.
Many more suffered and died from illnesses caused by exposure to radiation. The city's people feared no plants or grass would grow for decades.
But Nagasaki came back to life much more quickly than expected, and its history and culture are rich and colourful.
Trading gateway
It is a port city on the southern island of Kyushu. Nagasaki's outlook has been coloured by its position; the city is closer to the Korean peninsula or the Chinese city of Shanghai than it is to the Japanese capital, Tokyo.
Ever since the 16th century, the city was Japan's front door for foreign trade.
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First, there were the Chinese from the neighbouring Qing Dynasty, then the Portuguese who came to preach Christianity.
Authorities soon banned the religion as they feared a possible invasion by the European power.
But even during the two centuries in which foreign diplomacy was banned, Dejima in Nagasaki remained open as the single port of direct trade between Japan and the Western world - mainly the Dutch.
As a result, within the one square mile, there is not only Japan's oldest Chinatown but also well-preserved Western-style mansions and a clutch of churches.
View of Nagasaki Nagasaki was Japan's window to the world
To me, the city also has personal history. This is my grandfather's home town and where my beloved grandmother is buried.
I also find Nagasaki to be one of the most multi-cultural and religious cities in Japan.
The Lantern Festival which celebrates Chinese New Year is treated by locals as the festival of Nagasaki.
Locals join members of the Chinese community for major events such as the city's Emperor Parade.
At the main stage at the city's Minami Park, there are messages - written in both Japanese and Chinese - to the victims of the earthquake and tsunami which struck the northeast of Japan a year ago.
'Collective consciousness'
With ongoing political issues between the two nations often straining relationships, the close ties between Nagasaki's Chinese community and the local population is particularly noticeable.
"People say if you live in Nagasaki for three generations, you're from here - wherever your ancestors are from," says Masatsugu Chin, who is a fourth-generation Chinese resident.
Mr Chin's great-grandfather came here 120 years ago and opened a Chinese restaurant called Shikairo. His signature noodle dish champon became one of the distinctive regional cuisines of Nagasaki.
"I think people of Nagasaki have a collective consciousness almost in their DNA, an attitude of tolerance, diversity, cooperation with foreigners," says historian Brian Burke-Gaffney who has lived here for 30 years.
"It definitely continues as a kind of a residue in the city."


14 March 2012 Last updated at 00:42 GMT

Sri Lanka's sinister white van abductions


Ramasamy Prabagaran's wife, Shiromani, and daughter Ramasamy Prabagaran's wife and daughter have had no news of his fate
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Almost three years after the end of the civil war, Sri Lanka is still dogged by allegations of human rights violations.

Amid fresh moves in the UN's Human Rights Council to hold Sri Lanka to account, the BBC's Charles Haviland in Colombo reports on a rise in sinister abductions by anonymous squads in white vans.
At a small shrine in her home, Shiromani lights a candle and rings a bell, offering prayers to the Hindu deities. She has few consolations now.
Her life has been a nightmare since her husband, Ramasamy Prabagaran, a Tamil businessman, was snatched by eight men outside their front door last month, in front of Shiromani and their three-year-old daughter, and taken away in a white van.
"He was screaming, calling for help, hanging on to the gate," Shiromani said tearfully.
"There were people and vehicles in the street but no-one came to help as they had T56 guns and pistols. They pushed me down. I pleaded: 'Sir, don't do anything'."
But the vehicle disappeared and she was unable to follow in her own car.
Mr Prabagaran was abducted shortly before his case accusing the police of torture was due to be heard. He had been held for two-and-a-half years by them and, he claimed, badly tortured before being released without charge.
Unidentified bodies
Human rights campaigners say there were 32 unexplained abductions between last October and this February, mostly in Colombo or northern Sri Lanka, the victims a mix of Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim.
Lalith at a demonstration Lalith Weeraraj campaigned against disappearances, before he too vanished
In addition, 10 mostly unidentified bodies were found in February alone. It's not clear how many of these, if any, are linked to the disappearances - but their discovery has added to a heightened sense of unease here.
Of the kidnappings that were witnessed, most were said to have taken place in white vans - which for years have been the vehicle of shadowy gangs behind enforced disappearances.
One victim was seized right outside the Colombo law courts - snatched from prison guards bringing him for a bail application. Five of the 32 escaped but seven bodies have been found, including a woman in her 60s. The other 20 have simply vanished.
The witnessed disappearances include the case of two young activists, Lalith Weeraraj - half Sinhala and half Tamil - and a Tamil, Kugan Muruganathan. They spent 2011 organising a number of demonstrations, bringing to Colombo people from the former war zone whose family members disappeared as the war ended - mostly, they claim, at the hands of the security forces.
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“Start Quote
Superintendent Ajith RohanaThere are abductions - it happens, we are conducting investigations”
Ajith RohanaPolice Superintendent
Sri Lanka 'post war abuse' claim
In a sinister development in December, Lalith and Kugan themselves vanished in northern Sri Lanka, seemingly abducted as they prepared another demonstration.
Death squads?
All sorts of people are disappearing, but many of them appear to have been at loggerheads with the authorities.
As well as human rights workers and ordinary businessmen, those who have disappeared include some accused of being part of organised crime networks or the so-called "underworld".
 Campaigners are privately pointing the finger at pro-government forces and security personnel. But the government and security forces deny being responsible for disappearances.
In fact the police spokesman, Superintendent Ajith Rohana, says special police teams have been deployed to investigate them.
"There are abductions. It happens. But generally we are conducting investigations into the matter," he told me.
I put it to him that, in effect, death squads are operating in Sri Lanka despite the end of the war.
"No. Not at all," he responded.
"We don't have them. We totally deny that allegation. We don't have any type of squads like that."
Meanwhile, the disappearances continue. At least one more person, a Colombo restaurateur, disappeared this week.
Mr Prabagaran was a successful businessman with an electronics business based in a well-known Colombo mall, Majestic City.
Van On Saturday, a white van raid was foiled - and filmed
In 2009, he was picked up by police when his name was found in the phone of an army officer accused of links with the Tamil Tigers. He denies any links.
In a report by the Judicial Medical Officer in October 2009, Mr Prabagaran said he had been beaten with a pole all over his body, stripped naked, assaulted on his genitals, immersed up to his neck in a barrel, had his fingernails removed and more.
'Law of the jungle'
One of the few parliamentarians who regularly speaks out on human rights issues is Jayalath Jayawardana of the opposition United National Party.
"The human rights situation in Sri Lanka is deteriorating day by day and there is no rule of law in this country," he told me at his office in Colombo.
"Jungle law is prevailing... Without the protection or blessings of the government in power or the security forces these type of things cannot take place," he said.
And recent days have seen some unexpectedly revealing remarks from within the government.
An unnamed senior police officer in Colombo told a Sinhala-language newspaper that, as a precaution against possible street protests, "we have arranged to bring tear gas, and we have plenty of white vans in Sri Lanka".
And a cabinet minister, Vasudeva Nanayakkara, told the same paper: "The government should answer for this [missing people]. They can't say we don't know about it."
He said the military was getting excessively involved in civil affairs, stopping the country from being democratic and inviting international criticism.
Unusually, last Saturday a man publicly said he had foiled an attempt to abduct him - just weeks after his own brother disappeared.
With the help of a crowd the intended victim, the mayor of a Colombo suburb, Ravindra Udayashantha, confronted the would-be abductors who were in a white van. They were soldiers.
The military denied plans to kidnap anyone.
Whatever the facts behind that incident, the rule of law is being flouted in Sri Lanka and disappearances are continuing.


19 March 2012 Last updated at 06:07 GMT

Lagarde says China must reform economy and yuan


IMF Managing Director Lagarde speaks in Beijing Christine Lagarde said the yuan could become a global reserve currency if reforms were implemented
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International Monetary Fund (IMF) head Christine Lagarde has said that China must stop its economy being too dependent on exports and investment.

She also said the yuan could become a global reserve currency if China implemented market-oriented changes.
Ms Lagarde is on a visit to China and India that began over the weekend.
Speaking to politicians and business leaders in Beijing she said there were signs the global economy was stabilising.
Yuan changes
Ms Lagarde stressed that at the highest levels, China leadership appears to be willing to make the changes needed to ensure that the world's second-largest economy remains a main driver of global growth.
However, she said that as well as financial reforms, authorities needed to boost household incomes and make sure that the benefits of growth were reaching more people.
She backed, in principle, China's hope of turning its currency into a global reserve currency.
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“Start Quote
The global economy may be on the path to recovery, but with not a great deal of room for manoeuvre, and certainly no room for policy mistakes”
Christine LagardeDirector, IMF
However, she said that would only happen if certain conditions were met.
"What is needed is a roadmap with a stronger and more flexible exchange rate, more effective liquidity and monetary management, with higher quality supervision and regulation, with a more well-developed financial market, with flexible deposit and lending rates, and finally with the opening up of the capital account," Ms Lagarde said.
"If all that happens, there is no reason why the renminbi will not reach the status of a reserve currency occupying a position on par with China's economic status."
The IMF and others have said in the past that China keeps its currency undervalued, giving its exporters an unfair advantage.
Positive outlook
As part of her short visit, Ms Lagarde met Vice Premier Li Keqiang - who is expected to become the China's premier when Wen Jiabao steps down in a leadership change - Vice Premier Wang Qishan and Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the central bank.
She said the world economy has "stepped back from the brink, and we have cause to be more optimistic".
Last week, the IMF approved a 28bn euro ($36.8bn; £23.2bn) loan for Greece as part of second bailout by the European Union. Ms Lagarde said the US economy was also showing signs of recovery.
"We have made important steps forward," said Ms Lagarde.
However, she added a word of caution.
"The global economy may be on the path to recovery, but with not a great deal of room for manoeuvre, and certainly no room for policy mistakes."


China 'concerned' over North Korea rocket launch plan


  The last time North Korea launched a rocket-mounted satellite, the UN imposed sanctions
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China has expressed its concern over North Korea's plans to launch what it called a rocket-mounted satellite.

North Korea will launch the rocket to mark the 100th birthday of its late Great Leader Kim Il-sung in April, state media reported.

Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua said Deputy Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun met Pyongyang's ambassador to express Beijing's "worry".

Any launch would be seen as violating UN Security Council resolutions.

Mr Zhang said all sides were obliged to maintain peace on the Korean peninsula.

"We sincerely hope parties concerned stay calm and exercise restraint and avoid escalation of tension that may lead to a more complicated situation," Zhang was quoted as saying, in a report released on Saturday.

North Korea says the launch will take place between 12 and 16 April.

On Saturday, it said it had told the relevant international bodies about the launch, and would invite foreign experts and journalists to watch.

The US has said the launch is a threat to regional security and Russia has described the plan as a "serious concern".

Call for restraint

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called North Korea's announcement "highly provocative" and urged the country to abide by its international obligations.

"Such a missile launch would pose a threat to regional security and would also be inconsistent with North Korea's recent undertaking to refrain from long-range missile launches," she said in a statement.

A US state department spokesperson said it would be "hard to imagine" giving food aid to North Korea, as previously agreed, if Pyongyang went ahead with the rocket launch.

Neighbour South Korea said such a move would be a "clear violation" of UN Security Council Resolutions passed after a similar launch in 2009.

"It would be a grave provocation threatening the peace and security of the Korean peninsula and north-east Asia," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Japan is particularly concerned as North Korea's April 2009 rocket was launched over the country.

The country's chief cabinet secretary, Osamu Fujimura, told a news conference on Friday that Japan had set up a crisis management taskforce to monitor the situation and was co-operating with the US and South Korea.

"We believe a launch would be a move to interfere with our effort toward a dialogue, and we strongly urge North Korea not to carry out a satellite launch," he said.

'Peaceful purposes'

Last month, Pyongyang agreed to suspend long-range missile tests.

The agreement was part of a deal for the United States to supply 240,000 tonnes of food aid to North Korea.

It also agreed to suspend uranium enrichment and to allow back UN weapons inspectors as part of the deal.

In the launch three years ago, Pyongyang said the satellite made it into orbit and characterised it as a test of its satellite technology.

The move drew condemnation from the US and South Korea and led to the UN resolutions prohibiting the North from nuclear and ballistic missile activity.

Foreign officials said there were no indications that a satellite had reached space and that the launch was a cover for Pyongyang to test long-range missile technology.

The launch next month of a ''working satellite'', the Kwangmyongsong-3, is an opportunity for ''putting the country's technology of space use for peaceful purposes on a higher stage'', said a North Korean spokesman.

The rocket would be launched from the Solace Satellite Launching Station in Cholsan county, North Pyongan province on the country's west coast.

State media also reported that the North has already launched two experimental satellites.


21 March 2012 Last updated at 09:46 GMT

Jaguar Land Rover agrees joint venture with Chery in China


Jaguar in China: Jaguar believes there is great appetite for its models in China

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) and Chery Automobile have agreed a joint venture that should pave the way for production of Jaguar and Land Rover cars in China.
A new, jointly owned company will be formed, with a view to also establish a research and development facility.
The company will also aim to develop and manufacture new models, as well as set up engine manufacturing operations and create a sales network in China.
The two firms said they wished to "leverage" their respective strengths.
"Demand for Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles continues to increase significantly in China," JLR's chief executive Ralf Speth and Chery's chief executive Yin Tongyao said in a joint statement.
"We believe that JLR and Chery can jointly realise the potential of these iconic brands in the world's largest car market."
Chery predominantly makes smaller, less luxurious cars than JLR, but has good knowledge of the Chinese market.
JLR is owned by Indian Tata Motors.


22 March 2012 Last updated at 02:23 GMT

Lawyers in China to swear allegiance to Communist Party


Lawyer Gao Zhisheng, seen here in 2005, has defended human rights activists and minority groups in China China has increased pressure on lawyers such as Gao Zhisheng who take on politically sensitive cases

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The Justice Ministry in China says lawyers are now required to swear allegiance to the ruling Communist Party for the first time.
All lawyers obtaining or renewing their professional licence will have to pledge their loyalty to the country and the leadership of the party.
Critics see the move as lacking legal basis and ''inappropriate''.
The oath was necessary to raise lawyers' political, professional and moral standards, said the ministry.
It has also named institutions to organise the oath-taking ceremonies and specified that lawyers need to take the pledge within three months from the date on their certificates, state media Xinhua news agency reported.
The new requirement comes at a sensitive time of political transition, with the Communist Party preparing for a once-in-a-decade leadership transfer later this year.
In recent years, the Chinese authorities have increased pressure on lawyers who take on politically sensitive cases.
'Inappropriate, baffling'
Last year, authorities suspended or revoked licenses to deter lawyers from taking on cases defending government critics and human rights activists.
Some lawyers, such as the high-profile dissident Gao Zhisheng and blind activist Chen Guangcheng, were secretly detained or put under house arrest.
Mr Gao, who was arrested in February 2009, was released briefly in March 2010 and disappeared soon after. His family was told in January this year that the lawyer, known for defending religious minorities and activists, was in a jail in the remote Xinjiang area.
Mr Chen, known as the "barefoot lawyer", clashed with the authorities over the enforcement of China's one-child policy. He defended women whom he said were being forced into late-term abortions and being sterilised by over-zealous health officials in Linyi city, Shandong Province.
Several lawyers have already expressed concern at the announcement, describing it as inappropriate, baffling, without legal basis and harmful to the rule of law.
Jiang Tianyong, a lawyer for Aids activists, was detained for two months last year. He said the measure was ''ridiculous in a modern society'' and ''unimaginable in any other country''.
"As a lawyer, you should only pay attention to the law and be faithful to your client," another well-known rights lawyer, Mo Shaoping told Reuters news agency.
 "The oath will hurt the development of the Chinese legal system."


22 March 2012 Last updated at 00:22 GMT

The man who helped 'simplify' Chinese


By Michael BristowBBC News, Beijing
Zhou Youguang Mr Zhou has remained optimistic about life despite going through tough times
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Students struggling to learn Chinese might not know it, but their task has been made easier because of the work of one man.

Zhou Youguang helped invent Pinyin, a writing system that turns Chinese characters into words using letters from the Roman alphabet.
This makes it easier to learn how to pronounce Chinese words, and is credited with helping raise literacy rates in China.
Despite his achievements, Mr Zhou remains largely unknown in his home country.
Perhaps that is because the 106-year-old is a defiant character, refusing to take much credit for his work or pander to the Chinese Communist Party.
He is critical of the party that governs China - and old enough not to care who is listening to what he has to say.
"What are they going to do, come and take me away?" he said in an interview with the BBC in his sparsely furnished Beijing home.
Positive outlook
Mr Zhou's life has coincided with most of the momentous events of China's recent history, as it has moved from imperial dynasty to peoples' republic to capitalist powerhouse.
He was born in 1906 into a wealthy family that managed to lose its money three times: first in the Qing dynasty, then during World War II and finally during the Cultural Revolution, a political campaign launched by Mao Zedong.
Nevertheless, he managed to get a good education, studying economics at St John's University, one of the best educational institutions in Shanghai in the 1920s when he was there.
Several years of his early life were spent working in the US for a Chinese bank. "It was at No 1 Wall Street - the centre of imperialism," he said, laughing.
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“Start Quote
China will have to release itself from communism - the future will be dark if it doesn't”
Zhou YouguangLinguist
Mr Zhou laughs a lot, a result of an optimistic outlook. "There are good aspects to even bad things," he said.
That does not mean everything in the centenarian's life has gone his way.
His daughter died of appendicitis just before her sixth birthday and, like many intellectuals, he was persecuted during the Cultural Revolution.
A common form of punishment at the time - in the late 1960s - was to send educated city professionals to the countryside to "learn from the masses".
Mr Zhou spent several years working in the fields of Ningxia, a poor region in western China.
"It was a waste of time and stopped me doing other things," he said, unable to stop himself laughing again.
Mr Zhou in his younger days Mr Zhou. seen here in 1948, met China's last emperor at a government-run canteen in Beijing
Despite hardships, Mr Zhou did have one enormous stroke of luck.
When the Communist Party took over in China in 1949, he was in the US. He decided to return, along with many others, to build a new country.
He initially become an economics professor at Shanghai's Fudan University, but in 1955 was invited to join a committee in Beijing looking at simplifying the Chinese language.
At first he resisted, saying he had no professional experience in this field. He was finally persuaded to join the project by a friend.
It was a decision that probably saved his life.
A few years later, Chairman Mao launched one of his first purges, and many of those caught in the mayhem were those who had gone back to China from abroad.
"All university professors who'd returned from the US were labelled 'Rightists'. Many committed suicide, including some good friends. I luckily missed it," he said.
It was one of the few moments that Mr Zhou did not laugh.
Dark future?
The work he did on the committee not only saved him, it allowed him to make a major contribution to the Chinese language.
When he started work on developing Pinyin, 85% of Chinese people could not read or write. Now, that is just a few percent.
There had been previous attempts to Romanise Chinese characters, but the system developed by Mr Zhou and his colleagues is the one that most people now use, and is recognised internationally.
"We spent three years developing pinyin. People made fun of us, joking that it had taken us a long time to deal with just 26 letters," he said.
Having lived so long and done such high-profile work, the linguist has met more than his fair share of historical characters.
One of his favourite stories is about Puyi, China's last emperor, who became an ordinary citizen under Chairman Mao.
Mr Zhou once belonged to a Chinese body that advises the government, work that allowed him to dine at the organisation's canteen in Beijing.
During one of the country's periodic food shortages, he ate there daily, taking his wife along too. This meant more food at home for Mr Zhou's relatives.
"Everyday when I went to eat, there was an old man sitting next to me. He was also there with his wife," he said.
"It was Puyi - the last emperor. Imagine, even the emperor had to eat there because he didn't have enough food."
Mr Zhou's age has also given him a long view of history. He believes the Chinese Communist Party will not always rule the country.
"China will have to release itself from communism. The future will be dark if it doesn't," said Mr Zhou, who retired at 85, but is still writing books.
It is a damning comment from a man who came back to China because he believed the Communist Party when its leaders said they were democratic.
Does he ever regret that decision?
"We believed Mao's words. We didn't know that when he got into power he would become the worst kind of dictator," said Mr Zhou.
"But I don't regret coming back - there's no point," he added, laughing again.


2 April 2012 Last updated at 23:02 GMT

Who, What, Why: Why do we know Timbuktu?


Mosque in Timbuktu
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Rebels in Mali have taken the historic city of Timbuktu, a place that has become shorthand in English for anywhere far away. How did this metaphor come about?

"Omg! Just found out Timbuktu is a real place!"
The news that the city of Timbuktu has been seized by ethnic Tuaregs has had some tweeters scratching their heads, unaware up to now that it even existed.
While some people will be familiar with the Tuareg people, almost everyone will recognise the place name Timbuktu, even if they think it's mythical.
Once spelt as Timbuctoo, the city in northern Mali has come to represent a place far away, at the end of the world.
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The answer
 It has been, and still is, relatively inaccessible
 Its immense wealth in the Middle Ages made it famous
 But for hundreds of years it remained out of reach to European explorers
 The word itself sounds very exotic to native English speakers
As the Oxford English Dictionary puts it, "the most distant place imaginable".
Its first documented use in this sense is dated to 1863, when the English writer Lady Duff-Gordon drew a contrast with the familiarity of Cairo.
In one of her Letters from Egypt, while in the Egyptian capital, she wrote:
It is growing dreadfully Cockney here. I must go to Timbuctoo.
Writers as diverse as DH Lawrence, Agatha Christie and Mr Men creator Roger Hargreaves further strengthened this association by references in their books.
Map locator
In one of his final works, Nettles, in 1930, Lawrence wrote:
And the world it didn't give a hoot
If his blood was British or Timbuctoot.
Phrases that develop this idea include "from here to Timbuktu" when describing a very long journey, or "from Timbuktu to Kalamazoo" (a city in Michigan, US).
So why Timbuktu?
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Timbuktu, then and now
Mary HarperBBC News
Located on the southern edge of the Sahara, and just north of the River Niger, Timbuktu is nearly 1,000 years old. Famous writers have contributed to its mythical status. The Moorish author, Leo Africanus, described how the king of Timbuktu was so rich that some of his golden objects weighed hundreds of kilos.
The town made its fortune through trade, where salt brought in from the Sahara was worth its weight in gold. Slaves and ivory were also traded.
With its distinctive mud mosques rising from the sand, the town is a centre for Islamic scholarship. About 700,000 ancient manuscripts are held in the town's approximately 60 libraries.
But the Timbuktu of today is very different from the golden age. It is poor and parts of it are sinking under the encroaching desert sands. It has until recently attracted tourists but they have been put off by a spate of kidnappings by a group with links to al-Qaeda.
Mali neighbours impose sanctions
It was founded by Tuareg nomads in the 12th Century and within 200 years had become an immensely wealthy city, at the centre of important trading routes for salt and gold.
Through writers such as Leo Africanus, tales reached Europe of its immense riches, which stoked an acute curiosity on the part of European explorers.
This mystery was enhanced by its inaccessibility and many European expeditions perished, leaving it tantalisingly out of reach for centuries.
Before it was discovered by Europeans in 1830, all documented mentions of Timbuktu are about the efforts to get there, says OED revision editor Richard Shapiro.
"In 1820, people were talking about it taking 60 days from Tripoli and there were only six days without water.
"It was this legendary wealthy city, and the British hoped they could get from Africa the kind of riches Spain had got from South America."
In 1829, Alfred Tennyson described it as "mysterious" and "unfathomable" in his poem entitled Timbuctoo, and compared it to El Dorado and Atlantis.
It was not until 1830, long after the city had fallen into decline, that the first European went there and back again, Frenchman Rene Caillie.
Camels outside Timbuktu
"The Europeans came very late to Timbuktu," says Marie Rodet, lecturer at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.
"For centuries, they tried to reach the place because it was a mythological place of trade and Islamic scholars.
"It had been described in Arab manuscripts in the Middle Ages so they knew about the history but they never reached it because the population never allowed them."
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Twinned with:
 Chemnitz, Germany
 Hay-on-Wye, Wales
 Kairuan, Tunisia
 Marrakech, Morocco
 Saintes, France
 Tempe, Arizona, US
 Tifariti, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (Western Sahara)
Locals regarded it as the holy city of 333 saints, she says, and Christians were the enemy, so Caillie went disguised as a Muslim. A Scot, Alexander Gordon Laing, beat him to it by four years but is thought to have been murdered before he could leave.
Even today, when the world has become a much smaller place, it remains relatively remote.
"You can get anywhere but Timbuktu is still very difficult to get to," says Richard Trillo, author of Rough Guide to West Africa. There is still no tarmac road to take travellers there.
The first time he went, he hitch-hiked from Hampshire in England in 1977, aged 21.
"We wanted to go to a place no-one else had been. Like many others, we had thought it a mythical place and when we realised it wasn't, it seemed like a good place for two guys to go on a gap year."
Continue reading the main story
'The crossroads of the world'
I've been to Timbuktu many times. It is of course the ultimate journey, reached either by crossing the great Sahara desert or coming down the great River Niger. Actually, rather than being at the end of the world as its mythology has it, Timbuktu is really the crossroads of worlds. When you reach Timbuktu you have either crossed the great Sahara desert or you have the whole thing ahead of you. It is where Saharan Africa meets sub-Saharan Africa, the desert meets the river, north Mali meets south. It is in Timbuktu that these worlds have always traded - salt, gold and knowledge.
Guy Lankester, fromhere2timbuktu
The journey was tough and took nearly six weeks, ending with a four-day boat trip on the River Niger and a truck ride supplied by a local police chief.
"Sub-Saharan Africa was so very different from the Arabic-speaking north. It felt like we had crossed an ocean, like we had skirted the edge of this huge continent. Timbuktu felt extraordinarily remote."
Trillo explains the endurance of the myth by the fact the city disappeared off the map when it fell into decline in the 17th and 18th Centuries, after the Moors deserted it and trade went elsewhere.
"For 200 years it was a city living on the sand but completely disconnected from the rest of the world and that was why it has such a mythology.
"Imagine New York suddenly under water for 200 years, and people still talking about it.
"That's when this explorer race started and everyone wanted to be the first to get to Timbuktu."
Reporting by Tom Geoghegan


04 April 2012 |  By Julie Schwietert Collazo, Lonely Planet

Mexico City's ultra-niche museums


Museum of Tequila and Mezcal
The Museum of Tequila and Mezcal opened in December 2010. (Museo de Tequila y Mezcal)

With good reason, guidebooks extol the virtues of the museums in Mexico's capital, including the world-famous Palacio de Bellas Artes (Fine Arts Museum) and the Museo Nacional de Antropologia (National Anthropology Museum). These institutions house some of the country's finest art and exceptional collections of artefacts.

Related article: Narco-tourism in Mexico City
But this megalopolis of almost nine million people has far more to show than Diego Rivera murals and Aztec totems. Mexico City ranks second after Paris as the city with the greatest number of museums, with more than 150 at last count.
How can one city -- even one with such a rich history and such a large population -- sustain so many museums? The answer lies, paradoxically perhaps, in the burgeoning number of ultra-niche museums. Whatever your interest, there is probably a museum dedicated to it, and these museums' very existence inspires admiration and loyalty among aficionados and travellers alike.
Try the Museo del Juguete Antiguo Mexico (MUJAM), or Mexican Antique Toy Museum. If Willy Wonka had had a soft spot for toys rather than sweets, his factory would have looked a lot like this museum. It houses the million-strong toy collection of local architect Roberto Shimizu, who spent decades amassing the pieces on display.
The space is packed wall to wall and practically floor to rafters with displays of dolls, tin cars, action figures, board games and thousands of other toys, including masks from Mexico's indigenous cultures. The museum is an homage to the golden age of Mexican toy making, before the mass-produced toys of the globalised era came into being, and visitors of all ages come for a glimpse into the playful side to Mexico's history;
Akin to MUJAM in its celebration of Mexican products, the Museo del Objeto del Objeto (the Museum of the Purpose of the Object) is a collection of more than 30,000 quotidian objects, some more than two centuries old. From shoeshine boxes encrusted with aluminium religious icons to political campaign buttons and soda bottles, the objects reflect popular culture over the years and serve as a visual history of Mexican design and advertising
Some of the city’s niche museums are not quite so light-hearted. The Museo de la Policia Preventiva del DF (Museum of the Preventive Police of Mexico City) has a few permanent, no-holds-barred exhibitions about assassins and the history of the death penalty, which was abolished in Mexico in 2005. Rotating exhibits like “Women Who Kill” and “Vampires and Wolfmen: Myths and Realities”, are intended to discourage crime and help visitors learn about the “warning signs” of sociopaths and psychopaths. Sound like a must-miss? Not for the dozens of people who queue up in lines snaking down the block!
Another curious museum, and one that is much harder for the general public to access, is a collection of paraphernalia seized from the country's drug cartels. The Museo de Enervantes (Narcomuseum) is housed inside the city's National Security department and displays the ostentatious possessions of Mexican kingpins. The 10-room museum contains gold-handled pistols with jewel inlays and cars with false compartments. But you will be hard-pressed to gain entry. National Security forces strictly control visitors, and those who have seen the collateral are mostly people with press passes, or police and military badges.
If the thought of drugs and violence makes you want to drink away the world's troubles, there is of course a museum for that too. The Museo de Tequila y Mezcal (Museum of Tequila and Mezcal) opened in December 2010. Though you can certainly wander through the exhibits that explain and honour these two Mexican liquors, you could also be forgiven if you headed directly to the museum's shop for a souvenir -- such as an artisanal, small-batch spirit. Either way, time your visit right and you will be serenaded by the mariachi groups that frequent the museum’s plaza each evening. It is be a fitting way to end your whirlwind visit through the city's niche museums -- from the kitsch to the killer.


10 April 2012 Last updated at 23:00 GMT
Article written byDamian Grammaticas Beijing correspondent

Exploring North Korea's contradictions


The BBC's Damian Grammaticas inside North Korea
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North Korea says it is ready to put a satellite into space this week in a move that has been condemned by America as a clear violation of UN resolutions. The launch is part of celebrations for the 100th birthday of the country's founding President Kim Il Sung, now dead, and is meant to showcase North Korea's achievements.

 Our correspondent Damian Grammaticas is the only British broadcaster in the usually closed country, invited by the North Korean authorities.
Today we sped, down long, half-empty avenues. Our North Korean minders were taking us out of the capital Pyongyang to the countryside.
Being here, in the world's last Stalinist state, feels like being transported back in time.
North Korea often looks like a place marooned, a survivor from an age when Soviet republics, with their strongmen rulers, were common.
The streets of the capital are lined with rows of towering concrete blocks. But there's not a shop with a window display or advertising hoarding to be seen.
From inside the goldfish bowl of our tour bus we catch glimpses as we are whisked to destinations not of our choosing.
All across Pyongyang, final preparations are being made for the huge celebrations planned for the coming days.
Groups of soldiers work to fix broken pavements, women wash the walls of buildings by the roadside, displays of flowers are being readied.
Huge paintings of North Korea's founding and eternal President Kim Il Sung, head of the dynasty that has ruled the country ever since, dot the streets.
Grim villages
The party is to celebrate his 100th birthday, though he died nearly two decades ago. Like much about North Korea, it seems contradictory.
We were soon out of the city, being whisked past grim-looking villages, and people toiling by hand in bare fields. Lines of tents were pitched on the hillsides where squads of soldiers were camping out.
Our destination, though, was a model project, the Daedonggang Fruit Farm, a thousand hectares of apple trees, all in perfect rows.
A North Korean woman works on an apple farm near Pyongyang on April 10, 2012 The North Korean government is keen to show off large fruit farms as a symbol of its success
It's the way North Korea wants to be seen - ordered, efficient, a modern socialist miracle. The farm, we were told, was made under the instructions of Kim Il Sung's son, the Dear Leader, Kim Jong Il, and is now being guided by his son, Kim Jong Un, the third of the Kims to rule over North Korea.
Kim Dal Hua, one of the workers tending to the apple trees, told us: "I'm very happy working here, it's thanks to Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un who ensure we have everything we need."
Everyone here keeps telling us how wise and benevolent the ruling Kim dynasty is.
But somehow there's often a feeling things may not be quite what they seem. When we entered the giant and ultra-modern fruit-processing factory at the farm, gleaming machines were producing cartons of apple juice.
But many of the workers didn't actually look to be doing much, and at one machine the women were picking up the boxes full of juice as soon as they reached the end of the production line and putting them back on the start, juice going round and round in circles.
Turtles for all
Doubts linger too over the centrepiece of the planned celebrations this week, the rocket launch to put a satellite in space. North Korea says the rocket is ready to go. But America insists it will actually be a test of missile technology, and the rockets might, one day, be used to carry nuclear warheads and threaten US cities.
Murals of the two leaders, 9 April 2012 The giant murals of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong-il are designed to cement the dynasty
But North Korea insists it is misunderstood. That's why it invited our group of journalists in to witness the launch and the celebrations, so it can trumpet its achievement and say it has nothing to hide.
We were shown another brand new farm. This one was also, we were told, built very recently on the instructions of Kim Jong Il. Huge sheds held lines of water tanks to breed turtles, an expensive delicacy when eaten, and an ingredient in traditional medicine too.
The manager Bang Dok Son said the farm had cost "millions" to build, so I asked when it would start to make a profit.
"It is hard to explain if you have a capitalist mindset," said Mr Bang.
"Our leaders built this, instructing us to provide turtles for the people - to us profit doesn't matter."
 But as we headed back to the city, we passed stretches of bare fields, then a theme park under construction, and more lines of shabby huts, the contradictions of a country that struggles to feed its people, yet whose leaders dream grandiose dreams.
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12 April 2012 Last updated at 10:29 GMT

Transsexual artist Titica takes Angola by storm


By Louise RedversLuanda
Clip from Titica - Olha o Boneco. Courtesy of Stocktown and Geracao 80.
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She is bold, she is bright, she is beautiful and she is taking Angola by storm. Not bad for a transsexual in a Catholic African country where homosexuality is illegal and punishable by hard labour.

Born in Luanda as Teca Miguel Garcia, singer and dancer Titica adopted her female persona four years ago following a breast enhancement operation in Brazil.
Titica Titica adopted her female persona four years ago
Now, at 25, Titica is the new face of Angola's unique urban rap-techno fusion music style known as "kuduro".
By day her songs boom from minibus taxis, by night they fill Luanda's dance floors and at the weekends she has become the essential soundtrack for children's parties.
Named best kuduro artist of 2011, she is a regular on television and radio, and has even performed at the annual Divas concert, attended by President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, where she herself was named a diva.
With a training in ballet, she first got involved in kuduro as a backing dancer, supporting popular acts such as Noite e Dia, Propria Lixa and Puto Portugues.
Last October she released her first song, Chao, which to date is one of the most-played kuduro tracks in Angola and its diaspora.
This month Titica will embark on her first international tour with dates so far fixed for Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States.
'A lot of sacrifice'
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“Start Quote
I've been stoned, I've been beaten, and there is a lot of prejudice against me, a lot of people show that. There is a lot of taboo”
Speaking to the BBC during a make-up session before filming the video for her current hit Olha o Boneco, which features popular Angolan kizomba singer Ary, Titica said she was overcome with her success.
"Thanks to God, I am very happy, it has taken a while to get here and involved a lot of sacrifice but thanks to God, everything is going well for me," she said.
Surprisingly shy for such a flamboyant and raunchy performer, Titica declined to comment on her sexuality when asked, but said her new-found stardom had not all been plain-sailing.
"I've been stoned, I've been beaten, and there is a lot of prejudice against me, a lot of people show that. There is a lot of taboo," she said.
Despite that taboo, Titica appears to have no shortage of fans and most seem more interested in her music than in her sexuality.
"I like Titica, I really like her. Some say that she's a girl, some say that she's a boy, I don't really know, we just like her music," said one young boy who had come to watch her video shoot on Luanda's strip of beach known as the Ilha.
His friend added: "Before she was a man, but now, according to the information, she's a woman. Angolans can be quite discriminatory but no, we really support her and we like her a lot, and we really like the work that she is doing."
'Breaks taboos'
Angolan man with a crucifix during the Pope's visit to Luanda in 2009 Angola is a deeply religious country and the majority of its citizens are Catholic
Angolan creative Hugo Salvaterra, who has been involved in the filming of a documentary about kuduro for Swedish television, said Titica was a musician first and a transsexual second.
"Titica is talented, she is making good music and she has a fantastic live show, that is why people like her," he said.
"Kuduro has definitely opened the door for Titica's acceptance. Her music is good, she entertains us, and so we accept her.
"Throughout the whole history of music, that's what art does, it transcends and it breaks taboos," he added, comparing her to Chuck Berry who won over black and white audiences in segregated 1960s America.
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote
In countries like Angola that had war for so long, people got used to a certain spontaneity; every day you had to improvise in a particular context so that spirit of improvisation is under the skin of the Angolans ”
Hugo SalvaterraGeracao 80 Productions
As well as Titica's full integration into the local music scene, which has seen her share the stage with internationally acclaimed Angolan artists such as Anselmo Ralph, she has been invited to perform for the Angolan consulate in Houston, Texas, as part of the celebrations of 10 years of peace.
Mr Salvaterra said that while Titica's profile was growing, he knew there was still resistance among some sectors of society.
"I think we have to separate the state and the people," he said, but explained that the country's independence from Portugal in 1975 and then the 27-year civil war that followed until 2002 had made Angolans more open to embracing new ideas.
"In countries like Angola that had war for so long, people got used to a certain spontaneity; every day you had to improvise in a particular context so that spirit of improvisation is under the skin of the Angolans and that make us extremely creative people."
The London-based documentary maker said that the same creativity that gave birth to the uniquely Angolan Kuduro had also welcomed its first transsexual star.
"Angola is a relatively new country. We have so many things that are going on right now in terms of development and so many changes," Mr Salvaterra.
"Because everything is immediate and everybody is on this big learning curve, I think that opens space for some of these taboos to be broken."
Homophobic editorials
It is hard to imagine however that Titica would be so welcomed in other African countries such as Uganda, Nigeria, Malawi, Kenya and Cameroon, where homosexuals are regularly victims of intolerance, violence and legal proceedings.
Luanda The country is experiencing many changes - not only physically
While homosexuality is illegal in Angola, there are no records of any convictions and a new penal code due to go before parliament in fact criminalises discrimination for reasons of "sexual orientation".
This sets the country far apart from its continental neighbours, a number of whom have in the past months reiterated their opposition to gays and lesbians - a call even backed by Nobel Peace Prize winner Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
However, although Titica appears to have been warmly embraced and Angola's capital Luanda does have a small and open gay social scene, there is still an unspoken resistance to homosexuality and the country is not quite the tropical gay-friendly paradise some people imagine.
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote
There aren't incidences of homophobic violence but I wouldn't say either that people here were totally OK with homosexuality”
Nana FrimongHealth worker
A lesbian wedding which took place in December was openly reported but there was still plenty of behind-door sniggering and some private newspapers - that have also been less than pleasant to Titica - carried strongly homophobic editorials.
According to Nana Frimong, former Angola director of the health organisation Population Services International (PSI) which has been surveying Luanda's gay community about HIV, there is still quite a strong disapproval of homosexuality.
"There aren't incidences of homophobic violence but I wouldn't say either that people here were totally OK with homosexuality," he said.
"It's something you see on television and in social spaces, and there are people who are comfortable enough to openly be themselves, but there are also a lot of people hiding their homosexuality."
Mr Frimong said the government was largely muted on the subject.
Despite requesting an audit of homosexual numbers to help inform future HIV policy, the Health Ministry, he understood, had since decided not to publish the results and focus on other campaign areas instead.
Regardless of the politics, there is no doubt that Titica has won a place in the country's heart and she is only likely to grow in popularity.
"This is a baby step but I believe that it will help immensely in breaking stereotypes. We are still a very conservative society, but I feel that the ice is breaking," Mr Salvaterra said.


12 April 2012 Last updated at 00:19 GMT

Uzbekistan's policy of secretly sterilising women


By Natalia AntelavaBBC World Service
An Uzbek woman and child
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The BBC has been told by doctors that Uzbekistan is running a secret programme to sterilise women - and has talked to women sterilised without their knowledge or consent.

Adolat has striking looks, a quiet voice and a secret that she finds deeply shameful.
She knows what happened is not her fault, but she cannot help feeling guilty about it.
Adolat comes from Uzbekistan, where life centres around children and a big family is the definition of personal success. Adolat thinks of herself as a failure.
"What am I after what happened to me?" she says as her hand strokes her daughter's hair - the girl whose birth changed Adolat's life.
"I always dreamed of having four - two daughters and two sons - but after my second daughter I couldn't get pregnant," she says.
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote
Every doctor is told how many women are to be sterilised - there is a quota”
Uzbek gynaecologist
She went to see a doctor and found out that she had been sterilised after giving birth to her daughter by Caesarean section.
"I was shocked. I cried and asked: 'But why? How could they do this?' The doctor said, 'That's the law in Uzbekistan.'"
Sterilisation is not, officially, the law in Uzbekistan.
But evidence gathered by the BBC suggests that the Uzbek authorities have run a programme over the last two years to sterilise women across the country, often without their knowledge.
Foreign journalists are not welcome in Uzbekistan, and in late February of this year the authorities deported me from the country. I met Adolat and many other Uzbek women in the relative safety of neighbouring Kazakhstan. I also gathered testimony by telephone and email, and in recordings brought out of the country by courier.
None of the women wanted to give their real names but they come from different parts of Uzbekistan and their stories are consistent with those of doctors and medical professionals inside the country.
"Every year we are presented with a plan. Every doctor is told how many women we are expected to give contraception to; how many women are to be sterilised," says a gynaecologist from the Uzbek capital, Tashkent.
Like all doctors I interviewed, she spoke on a condition of anonymity. Talking to a foreign journalist could result in a prison term, in a country where torture in detention is the norm.
"There is a quota. My quota is four women a month," she says.
Two other medical sources suggest that there is especially strong pressure on doctors in rural areas of Uzbekistan, where some gynaecologists are expected to sterilise up to eight women per week.
Continue reading the main story
Find out more
Uzbek women working in a fieldListen to the full report on Crossing Continents on BBC Radio 4 on Thursday, 12 April at 11:00 BST and on Assignment on the BBC World Service
Listen to Assignment on the World Service
Explore the World Service Assignment archive
Download the Crossing Continents podcast
"Once or twice a month, sometimes more often, a nurse from the local clinic comes to my house trying to get me to the hospital to have the operation," says a mother of three in the Jizzakh region of Uzbekistan.
"Now it's free, but later you will have to pay for it, so do it now," the nurse tells the mother.
Another mother says she experienced months of mysterious pain and heavy bleeding following the birth of her son. Then she had an ultrasound check and discovered that her uterus had been removed.
"They just said to me, 'What do you need more children for? You already have two,'" she says.
The BBC gathered similar testimony from the Ferghana Valley, the Bukhara region and two villages near the capital Tashkent.
According to a source at the Ministry of Health, the sterilisation programme is intended to control Uzbekistan's growing population, which is officially held to be about 28m people. Some demographers are sceptical, however, pointing to the large numbers of people who have emigrated since the last census in 1989, when the population stood at around 20m.
"We are talking about tens of thousands of women being sterilised throughout the country," says Sukhrob Ismailov, who runs the Expert Working Group, one of very few non-governmental organisations operating in Uzbekistan.
In 2010, the Expert Working Group conducted a seven-month-long survey of medical professionals, and gathered evidence of some 80,000 sterilisations over the period, but there is no way of verifying the number and some of the procedures were carried out with the patient's consent.
The first cases of forced sterilisation were reported in 2005, by Gulbakhor Turaeva - a pathologist working in the city of Andijan who noticed that uteruses of young, healthy women were being brought to a mortuary where she worked.
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote
On paper, sterilisations should be voluntary, but women don't really get a choice”
Uzbek doctor
After gathering evidence of 200 forced sterilisations, by tracing women from whom the uteruses were removed, she went public with her findings and asked her bosses for an explanation. Instead they sacked her.
In 2007 Turaeva went to jail, accused of smuggling opposition literature into the country. Like many others, she refused to be interviewed for this report because of fears for her and her children's safety.
In 2007, the United Nations Committee Against Torture also reported forcible sterilisations and hysterectomies in Uzbekistan, and the number of cases of forced sterilisation appeared to fall.
But according to medical sources, in 2009 and 2010 the Uzbek government issued directives ordering clinics to be equipped to perform voluntary surgical contraception. In 2009, doctors from the capital were also despatched to rural areas to increase the availability of sterilisation services.
There is evidence that the number of sterilisations then began to rise again.
"On paper, sterilisations should be voluntary, but women don't really get a choice," says a senior doctor from a provincial hospital, who wished to remain unnamed.
"It's very easy to manipulate a woman, especially if she is poor. You can say that her health will suffer if she has more children. You can tell her that sterilisation is best for her. Or you can just do the operation."
Several doctors I spoke to say that in the last two years there has been a dramatic increase in Caesarean sections, which provide surgeons with an easy opportunity to sterilise the mother. These doctors dispute official statements that only 6.8% of women give birth through C-sections.
"Rules on Caesareans used to be very strict, but now I believe 80% of women give birth through C-sections. This makes it very easy to perform a sterilisation and tie the fallopian tubes," says a chief surgeon at a hospital near the capital, Tashkent.
Continue reading the main story
Uzbekistan: Infant and maternal deaths
 Uzbekistan ranked 140th out of 194 countries in terms of infant mortality in 2005-2010, according to data from the UN Population Division
 This put it just behind Laos, Madagascar and Bolivia, and just ahead of Bangladesh, Ghana and Papua New Guinea
 Figures from the UN Population Fund indicate that Uzbekistan had a maternal mortality ratio of 30 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2008 - a 44% improvement on 1990
 This ratio put it level with Iran, just ahead of Albania and Malaysia (31) and just behind Armenia (29), Romania and Uruguay (27)
Several doctors and medical professionals said forced sterilisation is not only a means of population control but also a bizarre short-cut to lowering maternal and infant mortality rates.
"It's a simple formula - less women give birth, less of them die," said one surgeon.
The result is that his helps the country to improve its ranking in international league tables for maternal and infant mortality.
"Uzbekistan seems to be obsessed with numbers and international rankings," says Steve Swerdlow, Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
"I think it's typical of dictatorships that need to construct a narrative built on something other than the truth."
Swerdlow believes foreign governments could do more. Until recently Uzbek President Islam Karimov was a pariah in the West, but in recent years both the US and the EU have lifted sanctions, including a US ban on arms sales.
This is apparently related to America's worsening relationship with Pakistan and Nato's increased use of routes through Central Asia, including Uzbekistan, to get supplies and troops in and out of Afghanistan.
Continue reading the main story
Islam Karimov
President Islam Karimov Born 1938, became first secretary of the Uzbek Communist Party in 1989 and president of the Uzbek Socialist Republic in 1990
 Elected president of independent Uzbekistan in 1991 with 86% of the vote, re-elected in 2000 with 92%, and again in 2007 with 88%
 Mr Karimov has been accused of using the threat of Islamic militancy to justify authoritarianism
Uzbekistan country profile
A number of Western dignitaries have visited Uzbekistan in recent months, but few have made any public comment on the country's human rights record.
"Karimov has managed to get to the point in his relationship with the West when there are no consequences for his actions and human rights abuses," says Swerdlow.
"There is a deafening silence when it comes to human rights. Reports of forced sterilisation add urgency to breaking this silence."
In a written reply to the BBC's request for comment, the Uzbek government said the allegations of a forced sterilisation programme were slanderous and bore no relation to reality.
The government also said that surgical contraception was not widespread and was carried out only on a voluntary basis, after consultation with a specialist and with the written consent of both parents.
The Uzbek government stressed that Uzbekistan's record in protecting mothers and babies is excellent and could be considered a model for countries around the world.
However, Nigora is among many for whom forced sterilisation is a reality. She had an emergency C-section. A day later she was told she had been sterilised. On the same day, her newborn died.
Nigora is 24 and will never have children.


18 April 2012 Last updated at 22:32 GMT

Honduras farm workers stage mass land occupations


Honduran soldiers on patrol on 19 August 2011 Police and troops have been struggling to control land conflict in Honduras
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Honduras country profile

Thousands of rural workers in Honduras have occupied land as part of a dispute with large landowners and the government.

The coordinated invasions took place in several locations across the country, activists and officials say.
Farmers groups say the areas taken over are public lands where poor farmers have the right to grow food under Honduran law.
The government said the seizures were illegal and targeted private holdings.
The director of the National Agrarian Institute, Cesar Ham, said the coordinated occupations were politically motivated and aimed at destabilising the government of President Porfirio Lobo.
Violent disputes over farmland are common in Honduras, with dozens of rural workers killed in recent years.
Organisations representing rural workers say successive governments have failed to fulfil promises to distribute farmland using agrarian reform legislation.
They also accuse the authorities of acting in the interests of large landowners.


20 April 2012 Last updated at 10:48 GMT

'Huge' water resource exists under Africa


By Matt McGrathScience reporter, BBC World Service
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Mapping future water stress

Scientists say the notoriously dry continent of Africa is sitting on a vast reservoir of groundwater.

They argue that the total volume of water in aquifers underground is 100 times the amount found on the surface.
The team have produced the most detailed map yet of the scale and potential of this hidden resource.
Writing in the journal Environmental Research Letters, they stress that large scale drilling might not be the best way of increasing water supplies.
Across Africa more than 300 million people are said not to have access to safe drinking water.
Demand for water is set to grow markedly in coming decades due to population growth and the need for irrigation to grow crops.
Africa aquifer map
Freshwater rivers and lakes are subject to seasonal floods and droughts that can limit their availability for people and for agriculture. At present only 5% of arable land is irrigated.
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What is ground water?
When water falls as rain or snow, much of it either flows into rivers or is used to provide moisture to plants and crops. What is left over trickles down to the layers of rock that sit beneath the soil.
And just like a giant sponge, this ground water is held in the spaces between the rocks and in the tiny inter-connected spaces between individual grains in a rock like sandstone.
These bodies of wet rock are referred to as aquifers. Ground water does not sit still in the aquifer but is pushed and pulled by gravity and the weight of water above it.
The movement of the water through the aquifer removes many impurities and it is often cleaner than water on the surface.
Now scientists have for the first time been able to carry out a continent-wide analysis of the water that is hidden under the surface in aquifers. Researchers from the British Geological Survey and University College London (UCL) have mapped in detail the amount and potential yield of this groundwater resource across the continent.
Helen Bonsor from the BGS is one of the authors of the paper. She says that up until now groundwater was out of sight and out of mind. She hopes the new maps will open people's eyes to the potential.
"Where there's greatest ground water storage is in northern Africa, in the large sedimentary basins, in Libya, Algeria and Chad," she said.
"The amount of storage in those basins is equivalent to 75m thickness of water across that area - it's a huge amount."
Ancient events
Due to changes in climate that have turned the Sahara into a desert over centuries many of the aquifers underneath were last filled with water over 5,000 years ago.
The scientists collated their information from existing hydro-geological maps from national governments as well as 283 aquifer studies.
The researchers say their new maps indicate that many countries currently designated as "water scarce" have substantial groundwater reserves.
However, the scientists are cautious about the best way of accessing these hidden resources. They suggest that widespread drilling of large boreholes might not work.
Dr Alan MacDonald of the BGS, lead author of the study, told the BBC: "High-yielding boreholes should not be developed without a thorough understanding of the local groundwater conditions.
"Appropriately sited and developed boreholes for low yielding rural water supply and hand pumps are likely to be successful."
With many aquifers not being filled due to a lack of rain, the scientists are worried that large-scale borehole developments could rapidly deplete the resource.
Man filling jerry can African water supplies may be more resilient to climate change than was thought
According to Helen Bonsor, sometimes the slower means of extraction can be more efficient.
"Much lower storage aquifers are present across much of sub-Saharan Africa," she explained.
"However, our work shows that with careful exploring and construction, there is sufficient groundwater under Africa to support low yielding water supplies for drinking and community irrigation."
The scientists say that there are sufficient reserves to be able to cope with the vagaries of climate change.
"Even in the lowest storage aquifers in semi arid areas with currently very little rainfall, ground water is indicated to have a residence time in the ground of 20 to 70 years." Dr Bonsor said.
"So at present extraction rates for drinking and small scale irrigation for agriculture groundwater will provide and will continue to provide a buffer to climate variability."
The publication of the new map was welcomed by the UK's secretary of state for international development, Andrew Mitchell.
"This is an important discovery," he said. "This research, which the British Government has funded, could have a profound effect on some of the world's poorest people, helping them become less vulnerable to drought and to adapt to the impact of climate change."
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20 April 2012 Last updated at 23:04 GMT

'Enforced disappearances' haunt Bangladesh


Ethirajan  AnbarasanBy Ethirajan AnbarasanBBC News, Dhaka
Sabira Islam Sabira Islam's husband was abducted and strangled last year
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Over a few horrifying hours one night last December Sabira Islam went from dancing with her husband at a party to frantically searching the streets of Dhaka after he had been abducted.

His body was found on the outskirts of the Bangladeshi capital early the next morning - he had been strangled.
Nazmul Islam was a local leader of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and his wife is convinced his death was politically motivated.
But she says she has lost her faith in Bangladeshi justice: "On the night when my husband was abducted, I went to the police and pleaded with them to find him. But no-one helped us.
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“Start Quote
Commander Mohammad Sohail of the Rapid Action BattalionIf you see the profile of some of those abducted or who are missing, you will find that they had lots of opponents and were involved in crime themselves”
Cmdr Mohammad SohailRAB spokesman
"Even two months after... we don't have any clue regarding his murder," Mrs Islam says.
Nazmul Islam's murder was not an isolated incident. Human rights groups say it is just one of a growing number of "enforced disappearances and secret killings" in Bangladesh.
Almost four months on and the anger over disappearances is intensifying in Bangladesh.
The main opposition has called for a countrywide strike on Sunday to protest against the disappearance of a senior leader in Dhaka a few days ago.
Who is to blame?
The wife of another activist in Dhaka has a similar tale to tell.
"My husband was taken close to our house last year. Eyewitnesses say he was bundled into a van by people who said they were from law enforcement agencies. Even now we don't know his whereabouts," Jhorna Khanum, who works for a human rights group in Dhaka, said.
She also believes politics is behind Shamim Akhter's disappearance because he belonged to a left-wing party and had been involved in student politics for years.
Shamim Akhter Shamim Akhter has become one of the latest in a long line of disappearances
Many of the families of those who have gone missing say that the security agencies are responsible for abducting their relatives. Concern is growing because these disappearances appear to be on the rise.
According to Dhaka-based human rights group Odhikar, only two people disappeared in 2009, compared with 18 in 2010. And in 2011 the number of disappeared shot up to 30. Nine people have disappeared since January 2012. The group says many more disappearances have not been officially recognised.
"This pattern used to exist during previous regimes. Now it is coming back and it's alarming," Odhikar secretary Adilur Rahman Khan says.
The victims have been opposition activists, local traders, workers and some who were abducted because of criminal feuds or business rivalries. Some of these people have been found dead - the whereabouts of all the others are unknown.
So what unites this varied group of people? Rights groups argue that the disappearances are down to a culture of impunity among the security forces, which means anybody who falls foul of the authorities is vulnerable.
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“Start Quote
My youngest son, who is five years old, still keeps asking me when his dad will come back”
Sabira Islam
Bangladesh's elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) police force is blamed for much of the wrongdoing. Human rights groups have documented nearly 1,600 extra-judicial killings since 2004 - and they say this number includes disappearances, those killed in so-called "fake encounters" where people are shot dead in allegedly staged gun battles, and people who have died in custody.
"Although the number of RAB killings has dropped following domestic and international criticism, there was a sharp increase in enforced disappearances, leading to concerns that security agencies have replaced one form of abuse with another," the New York-based Human Rights Watch said in its World Report 2012.
'Gang rivalries'
The Bangladeshi government said that report "was not correct" and security forces vehemently deny such accusations. They dispute the figures put forward by rights groups.
"These are baseless complaints. Law enforcement agencies have nothing to do with them. In fact, we have solved many abduction cases in the last three years," said Commander Mohammad Sohail, a spokesman for the Rapid Action Battalion.
A Bangladesh Rapid Action Battalion officer watches an opposition rally in Dhaka in July 2006 Many disappearances have been blamed on the Rapid Action Battalion
Cmdr Sohail also disputed explanations provided by human rights groups on disappearances, attributing them to political and gang rivalries.
"If you see the profile of some of those abducted or who are missing, you will find that they had lots of opponents and were involved in crime themselves," he said.
Indeed, following an outcry over continuing abductions and killings, the government ordered an inquiry in December. Security personnel say they have made significant progress and have even solved many cases.
"They are carrying out their duty properly and are working to prevent, not to enforce, disappearances," Bangladeshi Home Minister Sahara Khatun said, in support of the security forces in January.
Nevertheless, human rights activists blame the country's present political culture for the increasing violence.
"Unfortunately, our politics is a kind of violent politics and there is a culture of impunity," Odhikar spokesman Mr Khan said.
"That's why we see more human rights violations through political violence. Probably, some in the law enforcement agencies are taking advantage of that."
Meanwhile, families struggle to deal with the loss of their loved ones.
"My youngest son, who is five years old, still keeps asking me when his dad will come back. I don't know how to answer him," Sabira Islam says.


24 April 2012 Last updated at 09:17 GMT

Viewpoint: Binyavanga on why Africa's international image is unfair


Madonna in Malawi Should Madonna be Africa's president?

Binyavanga Wainaina, Kenyan author and a past winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing, argues that the world has got its image of Africa very badly wrong.

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“Start Quote
Africa's image in the West, and Africa's image to itself, are often crude, childish drawings of reality”
Let us imagine that Africa was really like it is shown in the international media.
Africa would be a country. Its largest province would be Somalia.
Bono, Angelina Jolie and Madonna would be joint presidents, appointed by the United Nations.
European aid workers would run the Foreign Affairs Office, gap year students from the UK the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Culture would be run by the makers of the Kony2012 videos.
'Wholesome and ethnic'
Actual Africans would live inside villages designed by economist Jeffrey Sachs.
A view from Venezuela: "Africa has been oppressed and abused"
Those villagers would wear wholesome hand-made ethnic clothing, dance to wholesome ethnic music and during the day they would grow food communally and engage in things called income-generating activities.
For our own protection, American peacekeepers and Nato planes would surround the villages - making hearts and minds happy and safe.
We would give birth to only one baby per couple - this way we would not overwhelm poor, suffering Europeans with our desire to travel outside our villages and participate fully in a dynamic world.
We would not be allowed to do business with the Chinese and we would not be allowed to do business with the country formerly known as Gaddafi's Libya.
Africa would discover the child in itself, and stop trying to mess around and be a part of the rest of the world.
Getting back to here, and now.
Any sensible person would say that to cede power to others to decide what you are has never been a good idea.
That is one of the reasons why Al-Jazeera exists.
Kenyan artist Cyrus Kabiru posing with artwork resembling sunglasses on February 1, 2012 in Nairobi Africa has numerous different images of itself to offer the world
Already, after 20 years of economic growth, as our countries - which are all very young - start to evolve and grow rapidly what starts to happen is that we start to look less cartoonish to ourselves and to others - as we export our entrepreneurs, our writers, our skilled people within the continent and to the rest of the world; as we continue to invest aggressively in digital technology; as we begin a new agricultural revolution; as our countries start to make larger political and economic unions.
Africa's image in the West, and Africa's image to itself, are often crude, childish drawings of reality.
These pictures and words are crude because crude things come out of little investment: Of money, of time, of attention, of imagination.
The picture becomes clearer, the more progress arrives. The more politics becomes lucid and accountable, the more roads, cables and railways are built.
Africa 'not Switzerland'
That process has been accelerating for a while now.
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“Start Quote
Everywhere I go, I see young people: confident, forward looking”
The human ability to learn, grow, and innovate is our most valuable tool.
Africa will never look like Switzerland.
One of the problems with the way it is written about is that it is measured in the present tense by how different it looks from the places that have developed a sophisticated and deeply documented sense of themselves.
Those nations and regions that got in earlier found themselves better able to project their own image to the rest.
There are parts of Africa that are not yet even committed to being in a nation-state as drawn in 1885 at the Berlin Conference, and in the 1960s by the great powers.
A view from Islamabad: "I think Africa is doing very well. Africa rocks!"
There are nation states that will survive those - and new nation states will emerge, new arrangements of people, new ways to manage resources, to use what is there.
There is work to be done. That is no question. Work for the brave, those full of imagination and desire.
There are a billion of us - of every human persuasion you can imagine.
Eight years ago, in my country Kenya, we had stopped imagining we could make anything work. Now Kenya is overwhelmed by new ideas, businesses, frictions, paint work, books, movies, magazines, and industries.
Everywhere I go, I see young people: Confident, forward looking. I have seen them in Lagos, in Rwanda, in the suburbs of London.
There is fresh concrete all over the continent. There are great challenges, but there is aggressive movement - and movement causes conflict.
Continue reading the main story
The Africa Debate
Tune in to the BBC World Service at 1900 GMT on Friday to listen to The Africa Debate broadcast from Kampala: Is Africa's image unfair?
Or take part in Twitter - using #bbcafricadebate - Facebook or Google+
What is much, much worse is stagnation. Places where people just sit and wait for fate. The post-IMF 1990s were like that - but that was more a moment than a permanent reality.
Things are changing fast.
The truth is, we have only started to see what we will look like.
The truth is, with the rise of China, we do not have to take any deal Europe throws at us that comes packaged with permanent poverty, incompetent volunteers and the occasional Nato bomb.
As the West flounders, there is a real sense that we have some leverage.
The truth is, we will never look like what CNN wants us to look like.
But that's fine - we can get online now and completely bypass their nonsense.
Binyavanga Wainaina is the author of One Day I Will Write About This Place: A Memoir and founding editor of the literary magazine Kwani?
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26 April 2012 Last updated at 01:12 GMT

Latin American indigenous groups join forces to fight dams


By Joao FelletBBC Brasil, Brazil-Peru border
Meeting of indigenous people to discuss strategy ahead of Rio+20 Indigenous communities are increasingly coming together to plan strategies
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When Brazilian indigenous leader Tashka Yawanawa saw the news on television that communities from Peru were campaigning to prevent the construction of dams close to their land, he had no doubt about how he could help.

He turned on his computer, and using Skype, he contacted indigenous movements involved in the protest to offer both his support and to publicise the cause in Brazil.

"Today, indigenous groups can no longer escape the white man's technology," says Mr Yawanawa.
"We have to update ourselves, and prepare to face this new world."
He belongs to the Yawanawa people, who live in the Brazilian Amazon, an area where indigenous communities have also fought many battles against hydroelectric dams.
An aerial view shows rivers converging in the Isiboro Secure indigenous territory and national park (Tipnis) in Beni 19 April 2012 Indigenous land is often rich in resources or lies on a strategic route
He leads an organisation that seeks to build links with similar movements in other Latin American countries so they can learn from each other's campaigns.
His initiative reflects an unprecedented effort among the region's indigenous groups, as they join forces to resist major projects which they see as damaging to their territories.
It is part of a growing conflict as governments, seeking what they say is badly needed economic growth, build roads and hydro-electric dams, and exploit natural resources such as oil, copper and gold.
At the same time, indigenous groups say they are fighting to ensure that their traditional way of life is preserved.
Skype is one tool they are using to co-ordinate campaigns, alongside more traditional tactics such as adopting a unified position in international organisations including the UN and the Organisation of American States (OAS).
"We are mapping all the achievements of our fellow indigenous peoples in the continent in order to use their experiences here in Brazil," says Marcos Apurina from the Co-ordination of Indigenous Organisations of the Brazilian Amazon (Coiab).
"Our problems are almost identical to the native peoples of other countries."
'Green economy'
This approach has been led by large national indigenous organisations and regional movements such as the Co-ordination of Indigenous Organisations of the Amazon Basin (Coica).
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“Start Quote
Geraldo ManchineriFor me, travelling from Peru to Brazil means only crossing a river”
Geraldo Manchineri
Coica operates across national boundaries, helping groups in Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Guyana, French Guiana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela.
Coica's work also involves organising meetings and workshops to help indigenous communities learn about international conventions, and also tips on lobbying and dealing with people in positions of power.
These gatherings allow indigenous leaders to discuss ways of putting pressure on governments to demarcate their territories.
They also discuss how international bodies can help guarantee indigenous rights or prevent major economic projects from having a detrimental impact.
"We are concerned about the new form of development known as the 'green economy'. We understand this as an effort to exploit natural resources in indigenous territories," says Rodrigo de la Cruz from Coica.

Several projects in the Brazil-Peru border region aim to expand the economic and transport integration between the two countries in the coming years.
The Inter-Oceanic Highway, connecting the north-west of Brazil to Peruvian ports on the Pacific coast, was inaugurated in 2011.
According to indigenous movements, this has brought several problems to the region, such as deforestation and illegal mining.
Jaime Corisepa, president of the Native Federation of Madre de Dios River and Tributaries (Fenamad), says that conditions may worsen if other projects go ahead.
One is the planned construction of six hydro-electric dams in Peru to supply the Brazilian market.
Protest in Cajamarca in Peru against gold mining project (November 2011) Mining has been the focus of protests in several countries
Protests forced the Peruvian government to suspend this project and to start a process of local consultation.
Using new technology and holding regional summits are ways to co-ordinate protests, but indigenous campaigners are also building on relationships that existed long before national boundaries and laws were established.
Marcela Vecchione, from the Pro-Indian Commission (CPI) in the Brazilian state of Acre, in Brazil, says that in many areas, indigenous communities are divided by artificial boundaries.
That is the case of the Manchineri people, divided by a border in 1904 when Brazil annexed the state of Acre.
"I often visit my family on the other side of the border. For me, travelling from Peru to Brazil means only crossing a river," says Geraldo Manchineri.
But thanks to technology, communication across much longer distances has become easier.
Indigenous leaders hope to take advantage of this new way of co-ordinating and gather 1,200 people in Rio de Janeiro this June when world leaders will come together for the Rio+20 meeting.


25 April 2012 Last updated at 10:23 GMT

Colombia rejects taint of US secret agent sex scandal


By Arturo WallaceBBC Mundo, Bogota
Sex worker in the Colombian city of Cartagena20 April 2012 Cartagena has prostitution, just like any other city, Colombian officials say
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Colombians at first reacted to the news that US Secret Service agents were caught up in a sex scandal with plenty of jokes, a fair amount of schadenfreude, and even some music.

"The Secret Service agents didn't think about Obama. They only wanted to jump into la cama (bed)," goes one song.
It was written shortly after 11 members of the US president's advanced security detail were sent home accused of "improper conduct" in Cartagena with alleged escorts.
The "champeta", as the Afro-Caribbean rhythm typical of Cartagena is known, makes the most of the incident.
"Oh, Obama, they left you all alone, they ditched you to take care of Colombian girls," it goes.
Meanwhile, the stance taken by everybody, from the organisers of the summit that brought Barack Obama to Colombia earlier this month, to Cartagena's mayor, to the managers of the hotel where the agents allegedly slept with prostitutes, amounted to: "It is not our problem, it is the United States'."
Not funny
But as the story has rumbled on, reactions in Colombia have hardened.
Prostitution is legal in Colombia, but the potentially negative impact of the scandal on the country's image abroad was shown by an advertisement from a low-budget US airline.
A poster promoting flights to Cartagena featured a man dressed in the dark suit and glasses associated with US secret agents and four scantily-clad girls, with the far from subtle slogan "More bang for your buck."
And in a reference to the quarrel over money between one of the agents and his escort, which is said to have detonated the scandal, the advertisement also said that "upfront payment" was required.
A helicopter flies over Cartagena during preparations for the Summit of the Americas on 12 April  Security was tight in Cartagena for the Summit of the Americas earlier this month
The Colombian authorities, however, did not appreciate the joke.
"It is a shameful publication and we demand that the airline withdraw it and publicly apologise to Cartagena and Colombia," said Tourism Minister Sergio Diaz.
Concerns over the country being perceived as a sex tourism paradise only increased after the Washington Post ran an article describing Cartagena, a Unesco World Heritage site, as "swimming in prostitutes".
"Prostitution in Colombia is legal and widely accepted, a slightly embarrassing but very real part of the booming tourist trade," said the Post.
This brought a swift response from the Colombian Association of Travel and Tourism Agencies (Anato).
"That's not Cartagena's reality. The streets are not packed with prostitutes. That's not the city I see, that's not the city we want," Rodrigo Maldonado, Anato's president, told the BBC.
"Tourists are drawn to Colombia because of its nature, its mountains and landscapes, its diversity, its architecture. To say otherwise is not to know the country," he said.
Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin also expressed regret at what she called the "stigmatisation" of Cartagena and Colombia.
"The fault lies with the US Secret Service. Prostitution exists everywhere. Wherever there's a man, there's prostitution, so don't come and tell us it's only Cartagena," she said.
Ms Holguin is, of course, right.
But that does not mean Colombia does not have a problem.
Man walks in Cartagena's old town, November 2009  Colombia has stepped up efforts in recent years to promote itself as a top destination
"Many Colombian women go into prostitution because of their economic circumstances, because they have children but not money, because they don't have other options," says Betty Pedraza, director of Espacios de Mujer, a local NGO that supports sex workers.
"It's a reflection of inequality, a reflection of the feminisation of poverty. And the fact that Colombian women are well-known for their beauty doesn't help," she said.
Ms Pedraza said she understood the wider concern that Colombia was being portrayed as a sexual paradise, after years trying to get rid of an image associated with sex, drugs and violence.
"But, at least for us, the main challenge is to make sure that sex workers are not denied their rights and to make sure they have the opportunity to pursue other options if that's what they want," she said.
"And the current debate is only stressing the obvious. Everybody knows there's a lot of prostitution, that there's sex tourism - and not only in Cartagena.
"But very little will happen after that."


5 May 2012 Last updated at 11:16 GMT

Emerging economies rise to prominence


By Justin RowlattBBC News, Kenya
Man lying on sun-lounger
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In today's Magazine
Is the Kentucky Derby still decadent and depraved?
Life in the city of 1,000 statues
The Bin Laden family on the run
A palace fit for a tsar

Ten years ago, the so-called developed world dominated the global economy but a family holiday in Kenya provides the opportunity to assess how much that balance of power is shifting.

From Our Own Correspondent brings you insights from reporters in extreme locations. What you do not usually hear is a report composed in the comfort of a sun lounger, beside a sparkling pool in a tropical resort.
But I make no apology for admitting that that is precisely where this report was conceived. And yes, at times, I enjoyed a long, cool drink as I wrote.
Because the palm-fringed, white-sand beach of my Kenyan holiday hotel turned out to provide the perfect vantage point from which to observe one of the biggest stories of our time.
I had expected that the other holidaymakers would be - like us - middle-class Europeans enjoying a special treat. And two-thirds of the guests were just that.
What was intriguing was the other third.
At breakfast on the first morning there were two Chinese couples at the table next to ours. They turned out to be from Beijing and were taking a couple of days by the beach as part of an African safari trip.
That did not surprise me unduly because I have reported on the rise of Chinese tourism in Africa for the BBC and I know it is the fastest growing tourist sector on the continent.
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From Our Own Correspondent
 Broadcast on Saturdays at 11:30 BST on BBC Radio 4, and weekdays on BBC World Service
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But there were not just Chinese families at the hotel.
A couple of days later, there was a big wedding. The bride and groom were British, of Indian descent. At least half of the guests had flown in from the sub continent.
Add to that the parties of other Indian and Chinese guests, the Russians and the scattering of Kenyan families - escaping from Nairobi for some R and R (rest and recreation) on the beach - and it became apparent that a sizeable minority of the people staying at the hotel were from what economists would call "developing" or "emerging" economies.
Now the top elites even in emerging economies have always had enough money to shell out for a top-class hotel. But the people I was sharing my holiday with were not government ministers or tycoons. They were just ordinary middle-class people like me.
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote
The International Monetary Fund is forecasting that next year the so-called developing world will out-produce the developed world for the first time”
It began to dawn on me that my Mombasa hotel illustrated, in microcosm, a much larger process - quite possibly the most significant international economic development of all our lifetimes - the great levelling of the world economy.
The statistics show just how dramatic the progress of that process is. The International Monetary Fund is forecasting that next year the so-called developing world will out-produce the developed world for the first time.
What a turnaround. As recently as 10 years ago, the developed world still dominated the world economy, producing three-fifths of world GDP.
But let's be clear, this is not a product of the financial crisis.
The crisis accelerated the process - bringing many developed economies to a standstill - but it did not cause it.
Because this is not about the West going into decline - most developed economies are not shrinking - what is happening is the rest of the world is just getting richer a whole lot quicker.
Tourist in Sri Lanka The world is witnessing a rebalancing of wealth
And this vast rebalancing of wealth across the globe should not really come as a surprise. One day we made the effort to drag ourselves away from the various attractions on offer in the hotel to venture into town, into Mombasa.
This great East African metropolis was a cosmopolitan trading hub even while London was a regional backwater. Its ancient trading culture predates the rise of Europe and the West.
And you can still see its influence in the mosques and minarets, in the spice markets and in the faces of the so-called Swahili people - the Muslim descendants of marriages between local Africans and Arab traders and settlers.
Zebras in Kenya The gap is closing between East and West
Indeed, standing in the centre of Mombasa, you realise that the rise of the developing world is really just a return to business as usual. After all, until the 18th Century, India and China were the richest countries on the planet.
The historic anomaly has been the incredible concentration of wealth in Europe and America that followed the industrial revolution. Economists call that chasm that opened up between East and West "the great divergence".
Well, looking around the pool of my hotel, I realised that what I was witnessing was nothing less than the growing momentum of a "great convergence" of the world economy.
It will be many, many years before average incomes in developing economies like China and India match those in the West - if they ever do.
But what was clear from that sun lounger in a Kenyan holiday hotel was that, for the middle classes at least, the world is rapidly becoming a much more equal place.


8 May 2012 Last updated at 23:32 GMT

The secret to writing a bestseller in India


By Mukti Jain CampionJaipur, India
Books on a shelf
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India is on course to become the world's most lucrative market for English books, but it's no longer the traditional English authors whose work is flying off the shelves. So what is the secret to writing a bestseller there?

The Indian market for English books is booming.
Third only to the USA and Britain, it's set to become the biggest in the world as India's middle class continues to expand rapidly over the next 10 years.
Keen to get a piece of the action, international publishers are flocking to set up offices in India, while many canny Indian publishers have already been reaping big rewards from backing emerging homegrown talent.
India has a demographic profile very different to the US or Britain, with more than a third of its population under 30.
With literacy on the rise and a fiercely competitive education and work environment, English has become established as the language of the new middle class.
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Book sales are demonstrating that these young urban Indians, with more disposable income than ever before, are hungry for books that will develop their English and help them to succeed on college campuses and in the globalised offices of corporate India.
So what are Indians reading? It used to be Agatha Christie and PG Wodehouse, but no longer.
Jeffrey Archer is the most successful foreign author in India. He now launches his books in India before anywhere else and his book-signing tours are big crowd-pullers. He puts his success down to the nature of his protagonists.
"The Indian race is an aspiring race, and my books so often are about someone coming from nowhere and achieving something, which is what every Indian believes will happen to them - and that's a wonderful thing."
Bookshop in Trivandrum, Kerala
Business books, self-help books and books about India written by Indians are all selling well.
But the biggest growth has been in commercial fiction, led by a banker turned author called Chetan Bhagat whose books have become a publishing phenomenon.
His first novel, Five Point Someone, published in 2004, was a laddish tale of student antics and young love set on a college campus. It became a huge bestseller, opening up a previously untapped mass market of young readers.
His subsequent books have also all been fantastically successful, turning him into a nationwide celebrity.
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India's book market, 2011
 Grew by 45% in volume and 40% in value over the first half of 2011
 13 million book purchases, worth 3.28bn rupees (£0.03bn), covering more than 286,455 different titles
 Adult fiction was fastest growing area of the market over the first half of 2011, growing by 82% in volume and 49% in value
 Chetan Bhagat's novel Revolution 2020 sold more than 280,000 copies
 The non-fiction bestsellers were Rashmi Bansai's I Have a Dream (49,000 copies) and Walter Issacson's Steve Jobs biography (44,000)
Source: Neilsen BookScan
India's love affair with Charles Dickens
Bhagat ascribes his success to being able to catch the zeitgeist: "India is seeing a lot of change in terms of economic development and change in values and each of my five stories has connected with the youth audience in a way that other books have not. That's why they continue to patronise me and be my fans."
His books are often criticised for dumbing down but it is the very accessibility of his language that attracts readers for whom English may be their second or even third language and who may previously have never bought an English book.
While Indian authors like Salman Rushdie and Arundhati Roy have won great international acclaim, their style of literary fiction is largely inaccessible to the majority of Indian readers.
Today there are many hundreds of Indian authors trying to emulate Bhagat's success, writing in simpler language, devising fast-paced narratives with plenty of humour and, most importantly, a finger on the pulse of modern urban Indian life.
Jaishree Misra is an Indian-born novelist who lived in Britain for more than 20 years, where her first novel Ancient Promises was published. She has now switched to writing commercial fiction and moved back to live in Delhi.
Browser at World Book Fair World Book Fair was in Delhi in March
A three-book deal for a chick-lit series beginning with Secrets and Lies was commissioned by Harper Collins in Britain but has actually won her more readers in India.
The plots feature jet-setting Indian characters, glamorous foreign locations and the prose is liberally sprinkled with luxury designer names. She has been more than willing to adapt her style for Indian readers.
"I am now trying to keep my language a little simpler than before. As it is in the world of commercial fiction, you have editors breathing down your neck saying: 'Don't use big words.'
"I would rebel against that in the past but now I understand. I'd rather not lose these people who are buying books in hundreds of thousands."
So what else does it take to write an Indian bestseller? Kapish Mehra of Rupa, who first published Chetan Bhagat, has these words of advice.
"There is no formula. You have to keep on looking for what the reader is expecting. Is there a certain sort of aspiration that today's youth have that is not being fulfilled?
"You have to constantly engage in dialogue with your target market, to speak to the reader in the language they want to be spoken to."
And he is optimistic that, for those who can crack it, the rewards will prove worthwhile.
"Today we have three generations of English-speaking Indians, and that will continue to grow. With every new generation we are obviously creating a bigger market."


9 May 2012 Last updated at 21:24 GMT

Ferrari sorry after car damages Nanjing city wall

The Ferrari was shown driving on top of an ancient Chinese monument
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Italian sports car maker Ferrari has apologised after one of its cars drove on an ancient Chinese monument, prior to a publicity event, causing damage.

Ferrari suggested the incident was the fault of a local dealership employee.
The car was filmed wheel-spinning on top of a 600-year-old Ming-dynasty era wall in the city of Nanjing.
Footage of the screeching vehicle has infuriated China's online community, hitting a nerve in a society where such cars are a symbol of privilege.
One web user called it a "rude insult" to Chinese tradition and culture.
The incident, in the run-up to a Ferrari show, left tyre marks on the wall.
But most public anger has been directed at city officials after reports emerged suggesting they had agreed to rent the use of the wall to the Ferrari dealership for about $12,000 (£8,000).
City officials have retorted that the car company did not have approval.
"No enterprise or individual is allowed to use the city ramparts in Nanjing for commercial purposes," Nanjing Cultural Relics Bureau Captain Wu Jing said.
Ferrari has denied the episode was a publicity stunt and has laid the blame with a member of staff at a local dealership.
"Unfortunately, an employee of the dealership - not a Ferrari employee - took it upon himself to drive the car in the way that you will see in the video, with the very regrettable result that tyre marks were left on the ancient monument.
"Ferrari SpA has unreservedly apologised to the Chinese authorities and local community for any damage and offence caused, and has promised to work with the necessary officials to repair any damage caused by the negligence of this individual."
The BBC's John Sudworth in Shanghai says that other than the tyre marks, physical damage to the monument does not appear to be substantial.
The night-time spin, shortly after the car had been hoisted on to the wall, reportedly led to the cancellation of the event itself, a celebration of 20 years since Ferrari entered the Chinese car market.
The word Ferrari has now been blocked on Chinese microblogs, perhaps as part of an effort to contain criticism of the actions of government officials, our correspondent says.


19 May 2012 Last updated at 10:39 GMT

The Somali millionaire 'thanked' for being rich


By Mary HarperBBC News, Dubai
Foreign workers cycle past Dubai skyscrapers
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The emirate of Dubai is one of the richest places in the world with a large population of foreign nationals - including tens of thousands of expat Somalis, some wealthier and more successful than others.

"Why this car?" I asked.
"Because I don't like the Phantom."
"The Phantom?"
"Oh, you know, the Rolls-Royce Phantom."
The car I was talking about was a Bentley. And the man I was talking to was a Somali, originally from Mogadishu, who had done rather well for himself in the mobile phone business.
He was dressed in an understated but expensive way. We were in the underground car park of a giant, glitzy shopping mall in Dubai.
Rolls-Royce on sale in Dubai Dubai is a mix of the ultra-wealthy and those who still dream
The car was enormous. Six metres (20ft) long and a rich, dark gold colour. A small Indian man was polishing its wheels.
"Get in," said the Somali.
I obeyed his instruction and placed myself as elegantly as I could on the smooth leather seat. The floors were made of soft brown fur.
"Lambskin," Abdullahi Abdi Hussein said, as he closed the door for me. A quiet, expensive clunk.
"This car cost $500,000 (£315,000)," he added as he slid into the driver's seat.
"Look at the dashboard. It's African cherry wood and crystal. The interior, including the ceiling, is cow leather. Special cow, blemish-free cow, bred especially for Bentley."
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We purred into action and out into the sunlight. The glistening, glass-and-marble world of Dubai. Past the tallest building in the world. A city where everything looks unreal - even the people.
"I like the best of everything," said Abdullahi. "Have you heard of Number One perfume? "
"I've heard of Chanel No 5."
"No, I'm speaking about Number One - the most expensive perfume in the world."
"Here," he said, giving me his phone. "This is a photo I took of my bottle. Next to my watch."
He told me the make of the watch which I now forget but I have checked the price of the perfume he was talking about.
It is £2,700 ($4,300) for 30 millilitres.
Before I tell you more about my journey in the Bentley, I think I should tell you about the other Somalis I met in Dubai.
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“Start Quote
They congratulate me and say thank you - they say seeing me in my car makes them proud to be Somali”
They were right in the middle of the city, in a place that contrasts dramatically with the extreme order, the perfect cars and clothes, the extraordinary buildings in all sorts of surreal shapes and sizes. A world apart from the air-conditioned shopping malls selling things that none of us really needs, at prices I certainly cannot afford.
Moored in the creek that runs through Dubai is a long stretch of old, scruffy, splintering wooden dhows. Their design has not changed much for centuries. The sailors are Gujaratis and several of those I met did not even have shoes.
All of them were going to Somalia, including Mogadishu, which is often described as the most dangerous city in the world. They did not seem in the least bit concerned.
The area was a frenzy of activity.
All sorts of things were being loaded on to the dhows, Somali merchants keeping a sharp eye on what went where.
There was a lot of dried pasta, a staple in Somalia. There was quite a lot of bottled water. There were cars, vans and spare tyres, scaffolding, paint, tiles - an amazing array of construction material, a sign perhaps that Somalia is starting to rebuild itself after more than 20 years of war.
Even though it is a country of fewer than 10 million people and has come top of the world's list of failed states for the past four years in a row, it is, I am told, the second biggest importer of goods from Dubai, after Iran.
And it does this in the most basic of ways, by loading goods on to wooden boats which then take a few days to sail to Somalia. Some of them are seized by pirates on the way.
Dubai Creek Dubai creek is a key trading post for shipments to Somalia
But back to that car, that Bentley with its digital displays, wireless headphones and no fewer than 20 speakers to pump out the music.
It even had massage machines built into the seats which, I confess, I found truly delicious.
As we slid along boulevards - the playgrounds of the rich - people stopped and stared, their heads swivelling in amazement, eyes popping, sometimes cameras flashing.
"What do other Somalis make of you and this car?" I asked.
"Oh, they are extremely happy. They congratulate me and say thank you. They say seeing me in my car makes them proud to be Somali."
"They don't feel jealous or disgusted?"
"Oh no. Why should they? I give them hope. I bought this car because it shows success."
As those flashing cameras showed, the Bentley even managed to impress the ultra-wealthy residents of Dubai.
But I am not sure what it would have meant, if anything, to those Somalis I met at the port, or indeed the Somalis back home in Mogadishu, most of whom can only dream of owning a car, let alone a Bentley.


23 May 2012 Last updated at 10:58 GMT

Beijing sets 'two flies only' public toilet guidelines

The BBC's Michael Bristow braves one of Beijing's notorious public toilets

Authorities in the Chinese capital have set new standards for public toilets, including a stipulation that they should contain no more than two flies.

The new rules, published by the commission of city administration, also set standards on odour and cleaning litter bins.
Toilets in places such as tourist spots must comply with the new standards.
But it is not clear whether failing washrooms will be punished and if so, how.
The new rules also cover cleaning, the use of equipment and training for attendants.
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At the scene
image of Michael BristowMichael BristowBBC News, Beijing
Beijing public toilets are not known for their welcoming appeal. People often smell them before they see them. I only venture in at the most desperate of times.
And the word cleaning seems misplaced when applied to a public lavatory in Beijing. Dirty grey mops are occasionally dragged across a toilet floor, but not to any great effect. There is seldom toilet paper - or soap to wash your hands.
The best (or worst) that can be said about Beijing public loos is that there are a lot of them about.
There is a serious side to these regulations though. Many people who live in the city's old neighbourhoods still do not have their own toilet - and have no choice but to use public conveniences. For them, these rules might make an unavoidable daily necessity a touch more palatable.
There is an ordinance covering what is referred to as "discarded items" - there should be no more than two in any public convenience.
The new standards also require signs in both Chinese and English to be installed in the toilets.
They regulate advertisements displayed in toilets, saying they must not obstruct functionality and had to be legal, reports the Beijing Times.
Beijing's Municipal Commission of City Administration and Environment said in a statement that the regulations aimed to standardise toilet management at places such as parks, railway stations, hospitals and shopping malls.
An unnamed official from the commission told local media that the guidelines on flies were meant for easy monitoring.
However media reports cast doubt over whether the guidelines could be enforced.
A commentary published in the Beijing News said one central Beijing district implemented a similar rule in 2008 when the city hosted the Olympic Games, but sanitation and hygiene still varied from toilet to toilet.
Effort should be invested on educating the public to use public toilets in a better manner, said the commentary.


25 May 2012 Last updated at 00:50 GMT

From India's child bride to multi-millionaire


Kalpana Saroj Kalpana Saroj heads Kamani Tubes, a company worth more than $100m
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It's for real - an Indian Dalit (formerly untouchable) woman, who once attempted suicide to escape discrimination, poverty and physical abuse, becomes the CEO of a multi-million dollar company.

The BBC's Rajini Vaidyanathan in Mumbai captures Kalpana Saroj's journey - a symbol of the Dalit struggle to mark their arrival at the top.
Her life reads like the plot of a Bollywood film, with a narrative which has defied so many obstacles, to conclude with a happy ending.
The "rags to riches" cliche can be overused, but it goes some way in describing the story of Kalpana Saroj, a woman who struggled on so many occasions on her way to the top.
Born into a low-caste Dalit family, she was bullied at school, forced into marriage at the age of 12, fought social pressures to leave her husband, before she tried to take her own life.
Today, she is a multi-millionaire. At the helm of a successful company, she rubs shoulders with prominent businessmen and has won awards for her professionalism.
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“Start Quote
I was treated badly by my husband's elder brother and his wife. They would pull my hair, and beat me, sometimes over little things”
Kalpana Saroj
"The first time I came to Mumbai, I did not even know where to go. I was from such a small village. Today my company has two roads named after it in the city," she says, summing up the extent to which her life has transformed.
India's caste system is an ancient social hierarchy, which places people into different categories by birth. Those born into the lower castes have historically faced discrimination.
"Some of my friends' parents would not let me in their homes, and I was not even allowed to participate in some school activities because I was a Dalit," says the 52-year-old.
"I used to get angry. I felt really nervous because I thought even I am a human being," she adds.
Marital woes
Even though her father allowed her to get an education, wider family pressures saw Kalpana become a bride at the age of 12.
She moved to Mumbai to be with her husband who was 10 years older, but was shocked to find herself living in a slum.
But that was not the only hardship she had to endure.
"I was treated badly by my husband's elder brother and his wife. They would pull my hair and beat me, sometimes over little things. I felt broken with all the physical and verbal abuse," she says.
Kalpana with factory staff People from all backgrounds and caste work in Kalpana's company
Leaving a husband is widely frowned upon in Indian culture, but Kalpana was able to escape the violent relationship, thanks to her supportive father.
When he visited her in Mumbai, he was shocked to see his daughter emaciated and wearing torn clothes and took her back home.
Many villagers were suspicious of her return, viewing Kalpana as a failure.
She tried to ignore the judgemental comments thrown at her, focusing instead on getting a job. She learnt tailoring as a way to make money.
But, even with some degree of financial independence, the pressure became too much.
"One day, I decided to end my life. I drank three bottles of insecticide, termite poison," she says, recalling her lowest moment.
Kalpana was saved after her aunt walked into the room and found her frothing at the mouth and shaking uncontrollably.
The big change
It marked a watershed for her. "I decided to live my life, and do something big, and then die," she says.
So, at the age of 16, she moved back to Mumbai to stay with an uncle and work as a tailor.
She began by earning less than a dollar a month, but tirelessly learnt how to operate industrial sewing machines, and as a result saw her income rise.
But the money she earned was not enough to pay for her sister's vital medical treatment, a moment which defined Kalpana's entrepreneurial spirit.
"I was highly disappointed and realised that money did matter in life, and that I needed to make more."
She took a government loan to open a furniture business and expand her tailoring work.
Kalpana Saroj with former president Abdul Kalam Kalpana (right) is one of the few Dalits to have succeeded by unleashing their entrepreneurial spirit
She worked 16 hours a day, a routine she has not managed to shake off to this day.
In the following years, she remarried, this time to a fellow furniture businessman, and had two children.
Her reputation led to her being asked to take over the running of a metal engineering company, Kamani Tubes, which was in massive debt.
By restructuring the company, she turned things around.
"I wanted to give justice to the people who were working there. I had to save the company. I could relate to the staff who needed to put food on the table for their family," she says of her motivations at the time.
Now, Kamani Tubes is a growing business, worth more than $100m.
Kalpana employs hundreds of people, from all backgrounds and castes. She has met prominent businessmen such as Ratan Tata and Mukesh Ambani, and in 2006 won a prestigious award for her entrepreneurial spirit.
Kalpana regularly visits her home village and does charity work to help those in her community.
As a Dalit and a woman, her story is all the more remarkable in a country where so few CEOs are from such a background.
"If you give your heart and soul to your job and never give up, things can happen for you," she says.
It is a mantra that has helped Kalpana through the worst of times and still rings true for her.


24 May 2012 Last updated at 23:00 GMT

Vietnam's new technology entrepreneurs look global


By Nga PhamBBC News
Scooters in Ho Chi Minh City All change: Vietnam's young population and cheap labour costs make the country an ideal environment for technology start-ups, despite the failings in the education system
When the PC game Dien Bien Phu 7554 was launched six months ago, its Vietnamese developers Emobi Games felt a great sense of triumph and achievement.
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Hailed as "first next-gen box game" made in the country, Dien Bien Phu 7554 was also the first Vietnamese PC game to be built in modern 3D graphics.

"Up to now, what most companies do is import foreign-made games and reversion them for the Vietnamese market, " says Nguyen Tuan Huy, director of Emobi Games.
"Our aim is to get Vietnamese gamers to play Vietnamese games."
It took Mr Huy, 32, and his team two years to develop the game, the plot of which is based on the famous battle of Dien Bien Phu that saw the end of the French occupation of Vietnam in 1954.
In this offline game, players take on the roles of Vietnamese soldiers fighting a "sacred war" to free their land.
Screenshot Dien Bien Phu 7554 is a PC game based on the famous battle of that name that saw the end of the French occupation of Vietnam in 1954
However, despite the seemingly winning combination of nationalistic pride and modern 3-D technology, Dien Bien Phu has failed to bring in any profit.
Having sold only 5,000 copies in Vietnam and 500 overseas, Emobi Games generated an income of only 1bn Vietnamese dong ($50,000), roughly 6% of the investment put into the game.
"The Vietnamese public still don't have much trust in domestic products," admits Nguyen Tuan Huy.
But he insists that for him and his team, the game remains "our success".
"We have proved that Vietnamese can be innovative and original," Mr Huy says.
Emobi Games developers are currently working on another product - 2112, this time an online game.
Growing pains
Nguyen Tuan Huy and his 28-strong team represent the new generation of Vietnamese entrepreneurs who are not afraid of challenges and who are quick to embrace global trends.
Emobi Games's Nguyen Tuan Huy Nguyen Tuan Huy: "The Vietnamese public still don't have much trust in domestic products"
Vietnam has moved a long way from being a technology backwater to become one of the fastest growing IT markets.
Thinh Nguyen, a former Silicon Valley executive, who has been working in Vietnam for the last decade, says the changes have been "staggering".
Mr Thinh left Vietnam in 1975 when the war ended, but came back to start up Pyramid Software Development in Ho Chi Minh City in 2002. He since sold the company and is now working as a consultant.
"Ten years ago, you could count the number of IT companies using your fingers," he says.
Now there are more than 750 software companies employing some 35,000 people. Among them, 150 are outsourcing firms.
Industry sources suggest that Vietnam is currently among the top five outsourcing destinations in Asia.
Vietnamese companies are manufacturing software and games for foreign companies, and are starting to export mobile phone apps overseas.
A young population and cheap labour costs are two major advantages that many start-ups have been tapping. The government in Vietnam has also been very encouraging, seeing information technology as beneficial for the country's economy.
Back to school
Charles Speyer, co-founder of Glass Egg Digital Media, a console game art outsourcing company, says the environment has been "very friendly for software companies".
"We received our licence after less than a week," he says.
"At Glass Egg we have always had to train our 3D artists, but there are good coders coming straight out of school in Vietnam."
However Mr Speyer warns that although there is a lot of potential, the innovation industry in Vietnam will take some time to develop because of the inadequate education system.
"The education system is not geared towards creating innovators and that does not seem to be changing any time soon under the current government guidelines."
IT veteran Thinh Nguyen appears to be more cautious.
Thinh Nguyen Thinh Nguyen believes that a lack of investment and qualified employees are standing in the way of Vietnam's success
"Vietnamese start-ups do have great potential," he agrees. "But the truth is their competitiveness is still very low."
In Mr Thinh's opinion, lack of investment and limited human resources pose the main obstacles in the innovation process.
"Mobile apps are one thing, but international-standard products require a lot of investment and many more developers than there are at the moment."
With nearly 100,000 IT postgraduates, questions arise over how computer companies in Vietnam can still be short of staff.
But this is the reality, and the reason is Vietnam's people policy, explains Nguyen Long, an up-and-coming software developer.
At 23 and still a student, Mr Long has already developed 17 apps for Blackberry, including SayIt, a voice recognition app.
While Vietnamese developers do have "brilliant and original ideas", he says, they don't receive much support - including from the government.
"I want to continue my path and eventually to open my own company," he says.
"But at the moment it looks like my future will be outside Vietnam."


25 May 2012 Last updated at 02:46 GMT

Mexico election: Drugs war in spotlight in Michoacan


By Will GrantBBC News, Michoacan
Rosa Isela Caballero Garcia, the wife of a Mexican journalist missing for more than five years, says not knowing if he is dead or alive is like "physical torture"
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Mexico's drugs war
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Marching on?

There is an area of western Mexico called Tierra Caliente.
The name is a reference to the soporific and oppressive heat in the region. But in this part of the world, caliente can also mean "dangerous" as well as "hot".

Unfortunately, for many residents in the state of Michoacan, "Dangerous Land" is an all-too-accurate description of their towns and villages.
It was here that the government declared war on the drug cartels.
In December 2006, barely a week after taking office, President Felipe Calderon ordered 6,500 troops into his home state to restore order after a surge in drug-related killings.
Many had expected the army's deployment to be temporary.
Fast-forward almost six years, and the soldiers are still there, fighting drug traffickers on the Pacific coast and in the mountains. In fact, there are more than ever.
Earlier this year the government sent a further 4,000 troops into the state.
"The majority of Mexicans have said they don't want the government to surrender to organised crime," says presidential candidate Josefina Vazquez Mota.
Josefina Vazquez Mota campaigning in Michoacan Josefina Vazquez Mota on the campaign trail in Michoacan
Speaking to the BBC shortly before addressing a rally in Sahuayo, a small town in the north of Michoacan, she readily admits that the military strategy has not been easy, but argues that it was the only choice.
"There weren't many alternatives. Either we handed over Mexico's families to organised crime or we fought back."
Synthetic drugs
Ms Vazquez Mota is Mexico's first female candidate for a major political party, and is running for Mr Calderon's governing National Action Party (PAN).
But far from being his heir apparent, she is doing everything she can to distance herself from the incumbent. Her campaign slogan is a single word: Different.
Except when it comes to security.
Ms Vazquez Mota advocates continuity with Mr Calderon's approach, promising to keep the army on the streets and set up a national police force to replace the hundreds of corrupt and inefficient municipal forces around the country.
She acknowledges that Mexicans "want less violence, fewer deaths".
For her, police reform is one of several "new strategies we must employ to reduce violence".
But reducing violence in the Tierra Caliente will not be easy.
Continue reading the main story
The candidates
Enrique Pena Nieto (left) and Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (right) Enrique Pena Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) which governed for 71 years until 2000 (pictured left)
 Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), runner-up in the last presidential election (pictured right)
 Josefina Vazquez Mota of the governing National Action Party (PAN)
 Gabriel Quadri de la Torre of the New Alliance Party, closely associated with the powerful teachers' union
Michoacan is the centre of the lucrative methamphetamine trade in Mexico.
Unlike cocaine, which is produced in the Andes, methamphetamine or "glass" is made in Mexico.
'Crazy cartels'
As it fast becomes the drug of choice from campuses to crack-houses across the US, the battle for control of the pharmaceutical product involves some of the most brutal cartels operating in Mexico.
Among them are the pseudo-religious drug gang, La Familia Michoacana, who have their own bizarre, rambling creed for the "salvation" of their foot-soldiers.
They are at war with a more powerful splinter group called the Knights Templar.
The consequences of such internecine conflicts can be seen every week, says a veteran journalist working in the region, as he shows us photos of bodies dumped on roadsides or hung from bridges, their twisted limbs folded at strange angles beneath them.
"These were just over the past fortnight," he tells us.
Some of the corpses had been dismembered, others had threatening messages attached to them as warnings to rival gangs.
Many of the dead had their trousers pulled down in one final humiliation.
One woman who has personal experience of the drug violence in Michoacan is left-wing politician Minerva Bautista.
In April 2010, while serving as Michoacan's public security secretary, La Familia Michoacana tried to assassinate her.
Minerva Batista during an interview Minerva Bautista is staying in politics despite an assassination attempt by a drug cartel.
That she survived the attempt on her life is one of the most extraordinary escapes in the country's drug war.
As she left the annual state fair, her car was blocked on the road by a trailer.
She and her entourage were then ambushed by 20 armed men, mostly teenagers, she recalls, who fired on her vehicle for 15 minutes with machine guns, sub-automatic weapons and grenades.
In the attack, two of her bodyguards were killed, as well as two bystanders, and almost 3,000 rounds of ammunition were fired on her car.
Miraculously, Ms Bautista emerged shaken but unharmed.
"I don't remember much about the attack, it was unreal, surreal."
The car's armour-plating, the quick-thinking of her bodyguards and sheer good fortune saved her life, she says.
Bullet holes in car More than 3,000 rounds of ammunition were fired at Minerva Bautista's vehicle
"In a twist of fate, the grenades didn't explode. The car was already badly damaged and had the grenades gone off, that would have been the end of us."
Rather than flee Michoacan, however, she returned to public life a few months later and is now standing for mayor in the state capital, Morelia.
Asked if she thinks Operation Michoacan has worked, Ms Bautista is emphatic.
"No, definitively not. We are now talking of thousands of families who have been abandoned, children and young people who have been orphaned and people who have disappeared."
'Two Mexicos'
Over sticky soft drinks, I chat with the crime reporter who showed us the photos of the latest violence in the region, most of which were too gruesome to publish.
He has covered drug cartels for 23 years and has been kidnapped twice himself.
Soldier stands guard at at a clandestine drug processing laboratory discovered in Zapotlanejo, on the outskirts of Guadalajara  Mexican authorities have uncovered an increasing number of drugs labs in recent months
As we sip our soft drinks in the shade, he points out that we are barely a block away from the site of one of the most brazen acts of violence of the past six years.
On Mexican Independence Day, 15 September 2008, the main square in Morelia was packed with celebrating crowds.
As the proceedings reached their climax, in which the state governor shouts the Cry of Independence ,"Viva Mexico!", three times from his balcony, an armed group threw two grenades into the crowd killing eight and injuring dozens.
Could there have been any clearer statement from the cartels to the authorities, the journalist asks rhetorically.
"People who don't live here don't understand", he says. "There are two Morelias, two Michoacans, two Mexicos."


29 May 2012 Last updated at 14:50 GMT

Jaguar Land Rover reports higher profits and sales


Jaguar and Land Rover emblems The UK is still the biggest market for Jaguar Land Rover
Jaguar Land Rover, the Indian-owned car manufacturer, has reported a 34% rise in profits after sales hit a record high.
In 2011-2012 the group made pre-tax profits of £1.5bn, up from £1.12bn the year before.
Retail sales were up 27% to 305,859 units, with parent, Tata Motors, attributing the significant increase to strong demand from China and other emerging markets.
Chinese sales jumped 76% to 50,994.
Continue reading the main story
image of Jorn MadslienJorn MadslienBusiness reporter, BBC News

JLR is now in rude health, just four years after it was sold to Indian industrial conglomerate Tata, amidst fears about its ability to survive.

Since then, Tata has invested billions of pounds to make the company what it is today, namely a vital contributor to the parent company's bottom line, as well as a large and growing employer of some 21,000 people in the UK.
Recently launched models, such as the Range Rover Evoque and the Jaguar XF, have been vital to JLR's revival, especially in Asia where its sales growth has been the strongest.
In the years ahead, JLR will speed up its new model roll-out as part of a broader effort to cultivate an image of a technology-inspired carmaker with heritage to boot.
In depth: Global car industry
The company's new Range Rover Evoque, a compact 4x4, has proved particularly popular, the company said.
Pre-tax profits for the quarter ended 31 March were £530m, up from £299m for the same quarter last year. Revenues were up 51.5% at £4.14bn.
JLR's parent company Tata Motors also reported results. Net profit for the year to the end of March came in at 135.7bn rupees ($2.4bn; £1.6bn), up 47% from the previous year.
Although the UK remains Jaguar Land Rover's biggest market, with retail sales of 60,022, up 3.2%, the group now exports 80% of its production.
Sales to India rose 153.3% to 2,138, while sales to Brazil rose 62.2% to 9,027, as buyers in emerging markets warmed to the luxury brand.
"What we saw in today's results was China emerge as their key market," said David Bailey from Coventry University Business School.
"There's a big middle class there that wants to drive upmarket cars and what better way to do that than, say, drive a Range Rover Evoque?"
Commenting on the results, Ralf Speth, JLR chief executive, said: "Today's announcement... is a positive reflection of the continued level of consumer confidence in both of our brands.
"These record earnings, driven by strong product demand and operating efficiencies, give JLR the financial impetus to sustain its ongoing investment programme."
Continue reading the main story
JLR sales in top five markets
 UK 60,022
 North America 58,003
 China 50,994
 Russia 16,142
 Germany 13,675
In March, the luxury car maker announced a joint venture agreement with Chinese manufacturer Chery Automobile, to build vehicles for the Chinese market.
But the agreement has yet to receive regulatory approval from the Chinese authorities.
Also in March, JLR announced it was creating 1,000 new jobs at its Halewood factory on Merseyside.
The carmaker said it needed more workers in order to meet strong demand for its Range Rover Evoque and its Freelander 2.
It decided to move Halewood to three shifts a day and run the factory around the clock.


1 June 2012 Last updated at 11:41 GMT

Somalia donor money 'goes missing'


Somali soldiers take position on 29 May, 2012 during a clash with al-Shabab insurgents The Somali government is fighting al-Shabab, which control much of the country
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Somalia - Failed State
How a mother survives Somalia
Meeting al-Shabab
Why is Uganda in Somalia?
Will the world help or hinder?

Large sums of money donated to Somalia's UN-backed interim government have not been accounted for, a World Bank report says.

The report, seen by the BBC, is being circulated at talks in Turkey on how to end Somalia's decades of anarchy.
It alleges a discrepancy of about $130m (£85m) in the accounts over two years.
UK foreign minister William Hague told the BBC that an international board to oversee the distribution of aid funds needed to be established urgently.
Somalia's transitional government mandate expires in August when it is due to hand over to an elected president.
'Big question mark'
Continue reading the main story
image of Jonathan HeadJonathan HeadBBC News, Istanbul
Countless conferences and billions of dollars of aid have been devoted to Somalia, with little to show for it. What is new about this gathering is the energetic involvement of Turkey, now one of the largest donors and investors in Somalia.
Turkish entrepreneurs are braving shaky security to do business in Mogadishu and last year Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was the first foreign leader to visit Somalia since the civil war began in 1991. Turkey is not burdened by the suspicion many Somalis feel towards neighbouring or Western countries, that their assistance has a hidden agenda.
But aid experts have warned that Turkey's preference to work alone, and not through international agencies, is risky. Some of its projects could fail, or have only a short-term impact.
This conference aims to start preparing Somalia for long-term reconstruction. In his opening speech, Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali painted a rosy picture of unspoiled coastlines and rich pastures. We have a lot more to offer than pirates and famine, he said.
The revelations in the World Bank report come as several hundred Somali politicians meet representatives of more than 50 countries in Istanbul to try to win new funding for the long-term reconstruction of country.
The report stops short of making specific allegations, but does not rule out corruption as a possible explanation for the missing funds.
"There is a discrepancy in what comes in and there's a lack of accounting of how money has been spent," the report's author Joakim Gundel is quoted by US broadcaster Voice of America as saying.
"So that opens naturally a big question mark for sure."
The report, which looks at the years 2009 and 2010, also says the transitional government has no real accounting system nor does it publicly disclose financial statements.
Contacted by the BBC, Mr Gundel said he would not make any comment about the report until later on Friday.
But VOA reports him as saying that the missing millions could significantly bolster Somalia's security without relying on foreign donations.
The conference in Istanbul is the second major international gathering this year about Somalia's crisis.
In London in February, at talks hosted by the UK government, it was agreed that a financial management board to oversee aid should be established.
"The details of this need to be finalised with the government of Somalia - and frankly I was hoping it could be done by now, by this conference in Istanbul - if it is not signed here, well then it needs to signed in the next few weeks," Mr Hague told the BBC Somali Service.
Last month, leaders of disparate Somali factions agreed to a timetable that will elect a new president by 20 August, ending the transition period of the interim government.
The Horn of Africa country has had no effective central government since 1991, and has been wracked by fighting ever since - a situation that has allowed piracy and lawlessness to flourish.
Mr Hague said it was important that those at the conference understood that deadlines were met and that the 18,000-strong African Union force in Somalia was properly funded.
"I hope it [the conference] will keep up the momentum, particularly towards a successful and legitimate political process in Somalia, towards making sure that development money can be spent properly and transparently in Somalia... And we'd like to see, of course, the continued success of African Union forces," the UK foreign secretary said.
All Somalia's rival groups have been invited to participate in the Istanbul talks, expect for the Islamist al-Shabab group, which joined al-Qaeda earlier this year.
Despite facing pressure on a number of military fronts, its fighters control much of the country.
In recent months, troops from Ethiopia and the African Union force, as well as pro-government militias, have helped government forces gain territory from al-Shabab but the militants continue to stage attacks in the capital, Mogadishu, and elsewhere.


3 June 2012 Last updated at 01:04 GMT

Hashemi trial: Murder plots detailed in Iraqi court


By Rami RuhayemBBC News, Baghdad
Iraq's fugitive Vice-President, Tariq al-Hashemi, in Istanbul, 4 May Tariq Hashemi has fled the country
Continue reading the main story
Struggle for Iraq
Iraq's dilemma
Message of hope
Divisions laid bare
Risky rift

The trial of Iraq's fugitive Vice-President, Tariq al-Hashemi, in absentia has heard gripping testimony from a man said to have arranged a revenge bomb attack on his behalf.

Wearing sandals and a brown jumpsuit, Hameed Mashhadani approached the bench and faced the judge.
Only muffled sobs were audible as he placed his hand on the Koran. "Swear to tell the truth," the judge instructed him.
For a few seconds the courtroom was silent, until Mr Mashhadani finally let out the oath in a whimper. Then he confessed.
Some time last year, he said, he was ordered to arrange an attack on a police checkpoint which had stopped and searched Mr Hashemi's convoy and questioned his bodyguards.
Mr Mashhadani had several men assigned to work with him, and he set out distributing tasks. Abu Kaisar would buy the car and fetch the suicide bomber. Abu Ruqayya would prepare the explosives and rig the vehicle at Abu Ali's ranch.
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote
When the bomb detector pointed to the car, we'd just say that we were carrying perfume”
Hameed Mashhadani Prosecution witness
The next day, the suicide bomber rammed a dark blue Kia into the checkpoint. "I don't know how many people died," Mr Mashhadani told the court.
Was the suicide bomber Iraqi? the judge asked. "He looked Iraqi, but I couldn't tell for sure," came the reply. We weren't allowed to speak to them."
He said he had received US $10,000 to cover the expenses of the attack.
The judge asked him how they managed to smuggle explosives through checkpoints during this and other attacks.
"When the bomb detector pointed to the car, we'd just say that we were carrying perfume," he replied.
'Protector of the Sunnis'
Throughout the session, Mr Mashhadani's voice was subdued, and he would often answer the judge with a nod and a few mumbled words. The judge would then articulate the answer to the rest of the courtroom.
"I've lost respect for Hashemi," he said. Echoing a previous witness, he told the court that Mr Hashemi spoke of lofty principles in public but was a different person away from the cameras.
Earlier, Riyad al-Qobeissi had told the court Mr Hashemi had "cast himself as protector of the Sunnis in Iraq but, in reality, he would order the killing of Sunnis who opposed him".
Unlike Mr Mashhadani, Mr Qobeissi was calm and articulate. He said he had joined Mr Hashemi's team of bodyguards in 2005, when Mr Hashemi was still the leader of the Islamic Party of Iraq.
When he became vice-president in 2006, Mr Qobeissi was appointed deputy head of security.
Among other attacks, he helped organise and carry out the assassination of the son of a Sunni Sheikh who "wasn't on message".
His killing was meant to chase his father away from the Al-Shawaf mosque so it could be used by the Islamic party for recruitment.
Mr Qobeissi said that he was once given a list of men to kill under the pretext of "restoring balance to government institutions".
They were Shia judges working in Sunni areas, he explained.
At the beginning of the session, the judge rejected a request by the defence to call Iraqi President Jalal Talabani as a witness.
In response, the defence decided not to participate in the session, but remained in the courtroom to take notes.
Mr Hashemi and his son-in-law are formally charged with the murder of a lawyer, an employee in the ministry of state for national security and a police officer.
Mr Mashhadani and Mr Qobeissi both deny any knowledge of any of the three cases.
Questions about Maliki
The detailed confessions have left Mr Hashemi, currently a fugitive in Turkey, mostly on the defensive.
But the vice-president and his supporters have their own list of accusations against the judiciary, the security services and Prime Minister Nouri Maliki.
They point to a speech by Mr Maliki in which he said he had known about Mr Hashemi's "violations" for three years but had wanted to give the political process a chance to succeed.
Mr Maliki also said in his speech in December last year that he had more information to reveal. "I hope they will at least stop the sabotage and the killing. Otherwise, all the files will be handed over to the judiciary."
Critics of Mr Maliki say the comments are evidence that the entire trial is a political affair.
The decision to air televised confessions of several of Mr Hashemi's bodyguards has also been criticised as proof that the Iraqi judiciary is unable or unwilling to protect the rights of the prisoners.
Most of all, the death of one of Mr Hashemi's bodyguards while in custody has raised suspicions.
In March Mr Hashemi accused security forces of torturing the man to death. Security forces said he had died of kidney failure.
Mr Hashemi maintains that all the confessions, on television and in court, were fabricated and extracted under torture.
The session was adjourned to 19 June.
Hours later, we headed to the Jabbar Abul Shirbet juice shop in central Baghdad to meet an intelligence officer with access to the prisoners.
"People keep asking us if the confessions are true, and whether we beat them into confessing," he said.
"I can make you confess to rigging a car by beating you up but can I get you to invent elaborate stories in such detail?"


2 June 2012 Last updated at 00:54 GMT

Renato Corona trial: Filipinos gripped by judge's TV trial


By Kate McGeownBBC News, Philippines
Former Chief Justice Renato Corona at the Philippine Senate Corona came back in a wheelchair after he was forced back to the Senate court
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Historic trial in the Philippines

Screaming matches and a dramatic walkout, on top of claims of secret bank accounts, faked illness and favouritism - Filipinos have been gripped to their TV screens for months watching the drama unfold.

But this was not one of the telenovelas (soap operas) this country loves so much. It was the impeachment trial of the Philippines' top judge.
Since mid-January senators have turned their debating chamber into a law court to investigate the actions and assets of Chief Justice Renato Corona.
In the end they voted 20-3 against him, dismissing him from office for failing to declare more than $2m (£1.53m) in foreign bank accounts.
But that was only after some memorable scenes in court. Many of the senators are former movie and TV personalities or the children of ousted presidents (the sons of Ferdinand Marcos and Joseph Estrada are both senators). These flamboyant personalities are used to the limelight.
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote
This is definitely a major victory for the president. He anchored his election campaign on being anti-corruption, and this is the biggest fish he's caught so far.”
Marites VitugPolitical analyst
"This trial took some very strange twists and turns, as everyone was performing for the cameras," said Senator Miriam Santiago, one of the most flamboyant of them all.
At one stage she called a member of the prosecution "stupid", screamed 'Wah!" repeatedly in frustration, and announced she "felt like creeping back into bed and adopting a foetal position".
Then came Corona's own testimony. He gave a three-hour monologue that included a complex powerpoint presentation, broke down into tears, then got up and walked out of the chamber.
Less than an hour later, with the gates to the Senate locked to prevent him leaving the compound, he was back - this time in a wheelchair.
He complained of health problems, and he has been in hospital most of the time since.
Highly charged
Part of the reason this trial was so highly charged was because everyone involved knew that it went far deeper than just the guilt or innocence of one man.
It cut right to the heart of a festering disagreement between two branches of government - the executive and the judiciary - and an even larger divide between the current and former presidents.
Protesters rally near the Philippine Senate The trial of the chief justice can be compared to a soap opera
Corona was appointed Supreme Court justice by the former president, Gloria Arroyo, in the last few weeks of her term.
The current government believes this was an unlawful "midnight" appointment, a tactic by Mrs Arroyo to put her ally in a position to help her when she left office.
When Benigno Aquino became president two years ago, he refused to be sworn in by Corona as an act of protest.
The row resurfaced late last year, when corruption charges were about to be laid against Gloria Arroyo, and she was trying to leave the country.
The Supreme Court, headed by Corona, said she could go. The government, backed by President Aquino, insisted she stay.
To make matters worse, the Supreme Court then voted to break up a large plantation owned by President Aquino's relatives and divide it between the tenant farmers.
When Corona was impeached, there was little doubt that the government was firmly on the side of the prosecution.
In fact, on the eve of the verdict, President Aquino admitted it would be a "disaster" if the chief justice were acquitted.
'Major victory'
So, in many ways, the outcome is a triumph for President Aquino.
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote
It's a partial victory for President Aquino, but in some ways I don't really think this trial was entirely fair ”
Clarita CarlosProfessor
"This is definitely a major victory for the president," said political analyst Marites Vitug. "He anchored his election campaign on being anti-corruption, and this is the biggest fish he's caught so far."
In other ways, though, it is not quite the verdict the government had wanted.
There were originally eight articles of impeachment, including accusations of favouritism towards Mrs Arroyo, but fairly early in the process, it became clear that the defence just did not have enough evidence on some of these articles so they were dropped.
"It's very hard to prove something like bias, especially as the Supreme Court is made up of many judges," said Clarita Carlos, a politics professor at the University of the Philippines.
So instead, the trial became dominated with accusations about finances. An undeclared $2.4m dollar bank account and an additional 80 million pesos ($1.8m) in other accounts ultimately proved to be Corona's undoing.
These are undoubtedly huge sums of money, and many questions could legitimately be asked about how Corona could have accumulated such wealth, but as Prof Carlos points out, the rules for nondisclosure of assets seem unclear, and other officials could well be moving their own finances around in light of the verdict.
"It's a partial victory for President Aquino, but in some ways I don't really think this trial was entirely fair," said Prof Carlos.
Senator Miriam Santiago, one of the three senators who voted against Mr Corona's conviction, went even further.
Senator Miriam Santiago, who acted as a judge during the trial Senator Santiago said that the trial "took some very strange twists and turns"
"The verdict was not based on the rules of court, but on political considerations," she claimed.
But Ms Vitug insists that the outcome was both fair and a watershed moment in the notoriously corrupt world of Philippine politics.
"What is really compelling and makes this such a landmark case is that it sends such a really strong signal to other public officials that they need to be completely above board when it comes to their finances," she said
Fast pace
For many Filipinos, one major positive of the trial is that it's actually reached a timely conclusion. Court cases in the Philippines have a tendency to go on and on unresolved for years.
Whether they agree with the decision or not, it is still a decision and that is something to celebrate.
Now the workings of power can resume. President Aquino's supporters in his fight against corruption will refocus on the criminal trial of Gloria Arroyo, which should get under way in earnest soon.
The senators can dismantle their temporary courtroom and turn it back into a debating chamber and address a large backlog of bills.
Senator Santiago will soon take up her post as a judge at the International Criminal Court, no doubt bringing her unique theatrical style with her.
And ordinary Filipinos, well, they will just have to go back to watching telenovelas instead.


2 June 2012 Last updated at 03:54 GMT

Leon Panetta: US to deploy 60% of navy fleet to Pacific


Leon Panetta delivers speech "US Rebalance Towards the Asia-Pacific" Leon Panetta said the US military was rebalancing towards the Asia-Pacific region
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The US is planning to move the majority of its warships to the Asia-Pacific region by 2020, Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has revealed.

He said that by 2020 about 60% of the US fleet would be deployed there, in the clearest indication yet of the new US strategy in Asia.
Mr Panetta told a regional security meeting in Singapore that the shift was not aiming to contain Chinese power.
Beijing has indicated it is unhappy with the US boosting its presence.
Last November, President Barack Obama announced that the Asia-Pacific region was a "top priority" of US security policy.
His comments were seen as a challenge to China, which is striving to be the main regional power.
"By 2020, the navy will reposture its forces from today's roughly 50-50% split between the Pacific and the Atlantic to about a 60-40 split between those oceans," Mr Panetta told the annual Shangri-La Dialogue conference.
Continue reading the main story
At the scene
image of Jonathan MarcusJonathan MarcusBBC Diplomatic Correspondent in Singapore
The US defence secretary is on a mission both to explain and reassure. Firstly to set out in more detail the practical implications of Washington's strategic re-balancing towards Asia and secondly to reassure America's allies in the region who wonder if it can really afford to fund this new strategy given the budgetary pressures at home.
Mr Panetta also sought to play down any suggestion that Washington's new strategy was aimed at China.
He stressed the need for closer military ties between China and the US - especially for understanding in the difficult areas of cybersecurity and outer space.
However his support for a comprehensive new "rules-based" system to resolve competing territorial claims in the South China Sea will not go down well in Beijing.
"That will include six aircraft carriers in this region, a majority of our cruisers, destroyers, combat ships and submarines."
Mr Panetta said the US would aim to increase the number and size of the training exercises it conducts alongside its allies in the region.
He said US budget problems and cut-backs would not stop the changes, adding that the US defence department had money in a five-year budget plan to achieve its goals.
"It will take years for these concepts, and many of the investments we are making, to be fully realised," he said.
"But make no mistake, in a steady, deliberate and sustainable way, the United States military is rebalancing and brings enhanced capabilities to this vital region."
China has long-running territorial disputes with allies of the US, including the Philippines, over island groupings in the South China Sea. In recent years it has grown more assertive on the issue.
An increased US presence in the region is likely to embolden those countries and irritate Beijing.
Mr Panetta played down any possible tensions and said he was looking forward to visiting China later this year.
"Some view the increased emphasis by the United States on the Asia-Pacific region as some kind of challenge to China," he said.
"I reject that view entirely. Our effort to renew and intensify our involvement in Asia is fully compatible with the development and growth of China. Indeed, increased US involvement in this region will benefit China as it advances our shared security and prosperity for the future."
In January, Chinese state media also said an increased US presence in the region could boost stability and prosperity.
But it warned the US against "flexing its muscles" and said any US militarism could create ill will and "endanger peace".
Mr Panetta is currently on a nine-day tour of Asia which will include visits to Vietnam and India.


5 June 2012 Last updated at 00:03 GMT

Entrepreneurial spirit takes hold in China


By Michael BristowBBC News, Beijing

In a picture taken on March 2, 2011 a Chinese sales assistant arranges gold bars at a gold jewellery shop in Hefei, in east China's Anhui province. Gold is being promoted as an attractive investment commodity in China

Not long ago, capitalism was a dirty word in communist China - it was impossible to start your own business or think about getting rich.

But all that changed with a series of economic reforms launched three decades ago that unleashed a wave of entrepreneurial spirit.
Many Chinese people now spend much of their free time thinking, reading and learning about how to get ahead.
They turn to seminars, self-help books and novels in search of inspiration and to help them understand the rules of this new game.
One firm looking to help - and cash in - on this thirst for knowledge is Hengtaidatong Gold, which tries to persuade people to invest in this precious metal.
Every few weeks it organises glitzy gatherings for Beijing's well-heeled residents to teach them how to make money from this valuable commodity.
Silver-tongued compere
At one of them, potential investors were gently ushered into comfortable leather seats and offered Italian coffee or Chinese tea.
The event, held in a coffee shop in Beijing's central business district, was hosted by silver-tongued compere Zhan Weisheng.
"Previous generations never even thought about investing money because they were poor. They were just concerned about having enough food and warm clothes," Mr Zhan told the BBC.
Gold seminar host Zhan Weisheng Zhan Weisheng teaches Chinese investors about how to invest their money
"But because the economy's now booming, that problem's been solved and people have money, so naturally they have to think about how to invest it."
Mr Zhan and the team at Hengtaidatong hope to direct investors towards their own products, although they present their gatherings as attempts to learn. The host called it a "salon".
"This isn't a lecture - this is supposed to be relaxing. It's us learning together about how to invest in gold," he told the audience as they settled into their seats.
Mr Zhan's main tool of instruction was a game, using fake gold bars, pretend cash and real-life scenarios.
The audience were given a set amount of gold and money, and then had to make investment choices after being told information that could affect the price of the precious metal.
The death of Osama Bin Laden, the bombing of Libya by Nato planes and the down-grading of credit ratings for certain European countries were all events that investors had to factor into their calculations.
A group of smartly dressed and attractive assistants buzzed around the room with calculators to help those having trouble with their sums.
Mr Zhan did his job well. After the session, 20 people said they would buy gold worth about one million yuan ($159,000; £99,000).
Of course, the price of gold, which has reassuringly risen sharply over the last decade, must have helped investors make up their minds.
Self-help powers
Seminars are not the only way to learn about making money. There are also thousands of self-help books.
Beijing salesman Luo Peng is one of those who believe in their educational powers.
The 29-year-old, who sells computer services, read dozens of these books when he was learning how to perfect the art of selling.
One is called The Psychology of Selling by Brian Tracy. The book's sub-title promises its readers they will learn how to sell more, easier and faster than they ever thought possible.
Beijing bookstore Self-help books are also gaining popularity among those seeking wealth
Mr Luo now stands while talking to customers on the telephone, a habit he picked up after reading about one Japanese master salesman.
"One day he went home, got changed into his pyjamas and laid on his bed. At that point, there was a call from a client," said Mr Luo.
"Before answering the call, he got changed into his suit and tie and stood up, because only then did he feel like a proper salesman."
Mr Luo said he stands when talking on the phone because that is how he feels professional.
Novels also provide inspiration for those who dream of leaving poverty behind and finding wealth in the new capitalist China.
Many tell stories of poor farmers who rise through the ranks of top companies.
These books are not always read just for fun, but for what practical information they might contain.
"There isn't a recent legacy of reading for pure pleasure, the idea of reading because it makes you feel nice," said Jo Lusby, the head of Penguin books in China.
"Typically in adult and teen publishing, it's a sense of what do I know at the end of this book that I didn't know at the beginning - and ideally how will it help me get a better job."
Getting a better job, making money and starting a business are relatively new concepts in China - but they are all occupying the thoughts of the people who live here.


5 June 2012 Last updated at 00:37 GMT

Bangladesh rickshaw puller starts clinic for the poor


By Anbarasan Ethirajan BBC News, Mymensingh
Joynal Abedin with school children Joynal Abedin started a clinic with his savings as a rickshaw puller, and then launched a coaching centre for children
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Joynal Abedin still remembers the rainy and windy night when he saw his father die because there was no medical treatment.

His village in the northern Mymensingh district of Bangladesh did not have any medical facility at that time, and the nearest hospital was about 20km (12 miles) away.
The death of his father, about 30 years ago, changed the life of Mr Abedin, who was working as a farm labourer then.
He could not console himself and vowed to establish a basic medical centre in his village of Tanashadia, about 100km (60 miles) north of the capital Dhaka, so that lives of poor villagers could be saved.
Though he had the ambition, he had no money, so he set out for the capital Dhaka with his wife.
Joyal Abedin Mr Abedin vowed to start a clinic to help villagers after his father's death
"When I landed in Dhaka it was a new experience for us. We were amazed by the size and energy of the city. Initially, we were not sure how we could survive there," Mr Abedin, 61, remembers.
Like many other migrants, he started pulling a rickshaw. But it was not easy in the city's busy traffic. Gradually, he learnt how to negotiate swerving cars and trucks. For two decades, Mr Abedin pulled rickshaws, carrying passengers and goods from one point of the city to another.
His wife, Lal Banu, managed to find a job as an assistant in a local clinic. But Mr Abedin always kept a secret from his wife.
He opened a bank account to save money and start a health clinic in his village. His wife did not know about it.
"Sometimes my wife used to argue with me for not bringing enough money to run the family. But I always saved some money. Even during difficult times, I never touched my savings," Mr Abedin recalls.
After he had saved more than $4,000 (£2,550) Mr Abedin decided to return to his village.
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“Start Quote
Previously, when I was a rickshaw puller, people use to ignore me and I faced lots of abuses”
Joynal Abedin
It was a surprise move as villagers who come to Dhaka seeking livelihoods normally prefer to stay in the capital - given its better hospital and school facilities - and better basic services.
Mr Abedin bought a small plot of land with his savings. He built a tin roof house for himself and then built another shed for the clinic.
With the remaining money he bought a few tables and beds for the clinic.
When he shared his idea of starting a clinic with his fellow villagers, they did not take him seriously.
"People were making fun. They did not believe that a rickshaw puller could start a clinic. Even doctors were not willing to come to this centre," reminisces Mr Abedin.
Mr Abedin named his clinic as Mumtaz Hospital. He initially requested a paramedic to give first aid treatment.
Village women waiting outside the clinic The clinic treats several people every day
As the news went out, more villagers came to the clinic to get basic treatment. Those with serious conditions were referred to a hospital in the town of Mymensingh.
Every day, the medical centre treats around 100 patients. A local paramedic treats patients in the clinic and a doctor pays a weekly visit.
With the help of some individuals and companies Mr Abedin has also set up a basic pharmacy, which distributes medicines for free to the patients.
The health centre treats minor ailments like fever, diarrhoea and simple injuries and helps those who suffer from asthma.
It also has a small maternity ward, but those with complications are immediately referred to a hospital. The staff members also talk to rural women on maternal health and child care.
Hospital dream
Villagers from neighbouring areas speak highly of Mr Abedin's work. They commend the former rickshaw puller's determination and courage.
"This hospital helps poor people like us in this area. The government hospital is far away and I cannot afford private clinics. So, I come here whenever I require treatment and it's free," said Abdul Malik, a farmer living in a nearby village.
When the local media reported on his work and his clinic, some individuals donated money to him, which he used to build a couple of more tin roof sheds and started a coaching centre for primary school students.
The coaching centre caters to the children of day labourers and farmers. More than 150 students are studying Bengali, Arabic and basic maths and English.
Village women waiting outside the clinic The clinic is popular with locals, and has received praise from local media
"Though it is not a proper hospital, Mr Abedin's clinic offers vital support to the villagers. He has become a role model in our country," Lokman Hossain Miah, a senior government official in Mymensingh district, told the BBC.
"We have given free books to the students there and are also trying to arrange donations from individuals for the clinic."
It is unusual in a country like Bangladesh for a rickshaw puller to invest his entire savings to start a clinic for others.
Rickshaw pullers are among the bottom rung of society and earn less than a dollar a day.
Mr Abedin stopped being a rickshaw puller late last year because of ill health. He spends his time looking after his clinic.
"Previously, when I was a rickshaw puller, people use to ignore me and I faced lots of abuse. Now people are showing respect, they are inviting me to their houses to have tea with them. This would have never happened if I had been a normal rickshaw puller," said Mr Abedin.
"My dream is to convert this clinic into a full-fledged hospital with the help of the government and other donors."


5 June 2012 Last updated at 09:56 GMT

How the school run can make Kenyan champions


By James CoomarasamyBBC News, western Kenya
Susan Kapkarich says she gets tired in lessons because of her long journey
Continue reading the main story
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Moses and Linet Masai had a long way to travel each morning when they were school children in western Kenya.

According to their former sports teacher, Ben Tumwet, the brother and sister had a 10km (more than six miles) journey to Bishop Okiring secondary school in the village of Kamuneru.

"Moses and Linet were coming from a far place, they were coming very early in the morning and also going back in the afternoon," says Mr Tumwet.
"So they got their running training to and from school."
Their daily commute proved to be over an auspicious distance.
Linet went on to win the 10,000m at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, while her brother earned a bronze in the men's event.
Punishing schedule
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“Start Quote
Naboth Okadie, headmaster of Kenya's Bishop Okiring secondary schoolIt's a huge challenge with our bad roads and insecurity: Actually, we fear for them”
Naboth OkadieHeadmaster, Bishop Okiring school
Now, a new generation of pupils at their former school - in the foothills of Kenya's Mount Elgon - is faced with a similar early morning journey, and they have a similar lack of transport.
They have been inspired by the success of the Masai siblings - but their goals are not confined to the athletics track.
Take 17-year-old Sammy, who also lives 10km away from the school and has a punishing schedule.
"I wake up at 4am, prepare some breakfast and then head out. I try to arrive at school by 6am in the morning," he says.
"I pass through the forest, where there's danger from wild animals, then I travel over muddy roads.
"Sometimes, the rivers overflow and carry away the bridges. On those days, I don't go to school."
But he perseveres. "It's a hard journey, but I struggle because I want to get an education. When I leave school I want to be a lawyer here in Kenya."
So, are there good things about his journey?
"No, there is nothing."
A photo of school children in Iten, where Abel Kirui trains, running around an athletics track after some full-time Kenyan athletes Children run around a track where the two-time world marathon champion Abel Kirui trains
And according to the school's headmaster, Naboth Okadie, the romantic image of future champions earning their stripes on their daily run to school, does not quite tally with the harsh reality that his pupils face.
The school is located in a poor, rural part of Kenya, with only the most basic infrastructure - and where inter-communal tensions have, in the recent past, resulted in violence and death.
"Right now, we have two children who are going for the national competition in athletics," Mr Okadie says.
As with the majority of his students, the headmaster worries about their journey.
"They walk to school and then back home in the evening. It's a huge challenge with our bad roads and insecurity: Actually, we fear for them," he says.
Another of the Bishop Okiring pupils, Susan, lives 5km away from the school.
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“Start Quote
I want to be in the boarding section, but now my parents are not able to contribute the fees for boarding”
SusanBishop Okiring student
Like Sammy, that means a start at 04:00 local time (02:00 GMT) - and a frequently scary journey.
"Sometimes it is very dark, especially in the rainy season," she says.
"And, as I'm a girl, it is risky to walk alone... Sometimes I fall, because the route is very muddy - and I'm forced to go back and change.
"I don't enjoy the journey and find I am very tired in lessons.
"I want to be in the boarding section, but now my parents are not able to contribute the fees for boarding."
Another highly successful athlete from the region that has produced so many Kenyan champions, Abel Kirui, also ran to school.
Kenyan running champion Abel Kirui Long-distance runner Abel Kirui is aiming for gold at the London Olympics
Looking back, he acknowledges that, while it was a formative experience, he would have avoided the journey, if it was an option.
"When we were young, we didn't like going to school - but our parents pushed us," he says.
"We used to run the two kilometres to school when we were late, then we'd run back for lunch and then go back after lunch running again."
These days, he runs considerably further.
The two-time world marathon champion is aiming for a gold medal at the London Olympics and, he told me, with a glint in his eye, at the following Games as well.
And if Abel Kirui's future is paved with gold, it will - in part - be thanks to the road he travelled in the past; a road which many young Kenyans are travelling still, whether or not they want to.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------, Monday 18 June 2012 20.30 BST

China: witnessing the birth of a superpower


As he prepares to leave after almost a decade reporting from China, our reporter reflects on his ringside seat watching a developing country transform itself

 Jonathan Watts

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People doing early-morning taichi in Shanghai
People doing early-morning taichi in Shanghai. Photograph: Eugene Hoshiko/AP

When I moved to Beijing in August 2003, I believed I had the best job in the world: working for my favourite newspaper in the biggest nation at arguably the most dramatic phase of transformation in its history. In the past decade, it has given me a front-row seat to watch 200-odd years of industrial development playing at fast forward on a continent-wide screen with a cast of more than a billion.
That said, I am glad my daughters were young and easy to please back then or we might well have taken the first plane out of the country. As we drove from the airport to our apartment, I tried to maintain an upbeat chatter. "Look at all the kites," I said as we passed Chaoyang park, even though my heart sank at the tatty buildings, endless construction sites and stultifying haze. In my head, I asked myself: "Have I done the right thing for them?"
We had come from Japan – a democratic, comfortable, polite, hygiene-obsessed, orderly, first-world nation – to the grim-looking capital of a developing, nominally communist country that looked and sounded like a giant building site. For all my enthusiasm, my family must have felt we were taking a step backwards in lifestyle.
It required an adjustment of preconceptions. Like many newcomers, I delighted at discoveries of Chinese literature and Daoist philosophy, Beijing parks, the edgy eccentricity of Dashanzi and the glorious mix of classicism and obscenity in the Chinese language, though I never managed to master it. The mix of communist politics and capitalist economics appeared to have created a system designed to exploit people and the environment like never before. It was so unequal that Japan appeared far more socialist by comparison. And it was changing fast. As swaths of the capital were being demolished and rebuilt for the Olympics, there was an exhilarating (and sometimes disorientating) sense of mutability. Everything seemed possible.
Looking back over the stories that followed, it is hard to believe so much could be compressed into such a short span of time – the outbreaks of Sars and bird flu, the attempted assassination of the president of Taiwan, deadly unrest in Tibet, the devastating earthquake in Sichuan, murderous ethnic violence in Xinjiang, Tibetan self-immolations, as well as the huge regional stories: two tsunamis – in 2004 in the Indian Ocean and last year in the Pacific, a multiple nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, and the protracted rattling of nuclear sabres on the Korean peninsula.
One of my first tasks in 2003 was to chose a Chinese name. I opted for "Hua Zhong", partly because it sounds a little like "Watts, Jon", but mainly because the characters mean "Sincere to China" – something I was determined to be as a reporter. Nine years later, that sentiment has not faded. But at various times, I have been called a communist sympathiser, supporter of Taiwan, a stooge of the Dalai Lama.
However, my focus has been on development and its impact on individuals and the environment. In 2003, China had the world's sixth-biggest GDP. It passed France in 2004, Britain in 2006, Germany in 2009, and Japan in 2011. On current course, it will replace the US as No 1 within the next 15 years. It is already top in terms of internet population, energy consumption and the size of its car market.
A decade of dominance
The primary driver for change has been the movement of people. Over the past nine years 120 million Chinese people – almost twice the population of the UK – have moved from the countryside to the city. This mind-boggling shift has its problems, as I found in Chongqing, but for the most part, China appears to have avoided the worst of the poverty, crime and ghettoes seen in other rapidly urbanising countries.
Yet it also seems more brittle, perhaps because of the other big economic engine: infrastructure investment. In this period, China has been re-wired and re-plumbed. There has been an extraordinary expansion of power, transport and communication networks that have linked the nation like never before: west-east gas pipelines, south-north water diversion, hundreds of airports and a massive new electricity grid linking wind and solar power plants in the deserts to power-hungry consumers in cities and industrial plants.
This has been a decade of cement and steel, a time when economic development has pushed into the most remote corners of China with a series of prestige projects: the world's highest railway, the biggest dam, the longest bridge, putting a man into space, the most ambitious hydroengineering project in human history and, of course, hosting – and dominating – the Olympics for the first time.
It has been a privilege to watch this redistribution of wealth and power from the developed to the developing world. On a global level, such a shift will require nothing less than a grand accommodation – or a violent conflict. Beijing appears to be preparing for both. Other news during this period showed a hardening of China's military muscle: a breakthrough satellite-killing missile test, the launch of a first aircraft carrier, the development of a new stealth fighter and a steady increase in military spending.
Criticism has rarely been appreciated. All too often, there have been flare-ups of anti-foreign media hostility. Some of my colleagues in other media organisations have received death threats. I never expected China to be an easy place to work as a journalist. For political and cultural reasons, there is a huge difference in expectations of the media. For historical and geo-strategic reasons, there is a lingering distrust of foreign reporters.
Run-ins with the police, local authorities or thugs are depressingly common. I have been detained five times, turned back six times at roadblocks (including during several efforts to visit Tibetan areas) and physically manhandled on a couple of occasions. Members of state security have sometimes followed interviewees and invited my assistants "out for tea", to question them on who I was meeting and where I planned to visit. Censors have shut down a partner website that translated Guardian articles into Mandarin. Police have twice seized my journalist credentials, most recently on this year's World Press Freedom Day after I tried to interview the blind human-rights activist Chen Guangcheng in hospital. When that happened, I debated with another British newspaper reporter who was in the same position about whether to report on the confiscation. He argued that it was against his principles for journalists to become part of the story. I used to believe the same, but after nine years in China, I have seen how coverage is influenced by a lack of access, intimidation of sources and official harassment. I now believe reporters are doing a disservice to their readers if they fail to reveal these limitations on their ability to gather information.
Yes, there is often negative coverage and yes, many of the positive developments in China are underemphasised. But I don't think it does the country's international image any favours to clumsily choke access to what is happening on the ground.
Treated like a spy, I have sometimes had to behave like one. At various times, I've concealed myself under blankets in a car, hidden in a toilet, waited until dark in a safe house and met sources in the middle of the night to avoid detection.
At other times, it is Chinese journalists and officials who pull the screen of secrecy aside. Take the foot-and-mouth outbreak on the outskirts of Beijing in 2005. I was first alerted to this by a Chinese reporter, who was frustrated that the propaganda department had ordered the domestic media not to run the story.
Foreign ministry officials often tell me China is becoming more open and, indeed, there have been steps in that direction. But restrictions create fertile ground for rumour-mongering. One of the biggest changes in this period has been the spread of ideas through mobile phones and social networks. The 513 million netizens in China (up from 68 million in 2003) have incomparably greater access to information than any previous generation and huge numbers now speak out in ways that might have got them threatened or detained in 2003. Microblogs are perhaps nowhere more influential than in China because there is so little trust of the communist-controlled official media.
It has been fun watching netizens create an ingenious new language to evade restrictions. In this anti-authoritarian world, the heroes are the "grass mud horses" (which, in Chinese, sounds the same as a core banned phrase: "Fuck your mother!") while the villains are the river crabs (which is pronounced like "harmony" – the favourite excuse of the authorities when they crack down on dissent). But ultimately, a journalist wants to see things for him or herself. I will never forget the epic road trips – across the Tibetan plateau, along the silk road, through the Three Gorges and most memorably from Shangri-la to Xanadu. Along the way, I met remarkable people with extraordinary stories. True to the oft-heard criticism of the foreign media, many were from the "dark side": a young man in Shaoguan who confessed – as the shadows lengthened on the building site where we had our interview – to killing Uighur co-workers at his toy factory because of a rumour they had raped Han women; a gynaecologist in Yunnan who argued with great conviction that it had once been necessary to tie pregnant women up to carry out abortions; the young boy who found the body of his dead grandmother who killed herself a year after his father – an illegal migrant – phoned her to say he was about to drown in what became known as the Morecambe Bay disaster.
Other stories literally turned up on my doorstep – such as the petitioner who arrived at my office a few weeks before I left. We had never met, but it was easy to identify Yang Zhong, who stood out a mile with his country boots, green overalls and bags crammed full of injustice. The look was all too familiar. I have lost count of the number of petitioners who have asked the Guardian to investigate land thefts, corruption cases, industrial accidents, rapes, murders and other alleged abuses of power.
Yang had come from Jinshantun village in the far northern province of Heilongjiang to accuse a local forestry chief – Wang Liguan – of illegal logging in one of China's last great protected forests and for having him locked up and beaten when he dared to complain. Typically, his story, minutely recorded in reams of papers and even on a DVD, was anything but black and white.
Weak laws and strong censorship make it difficult for such people to have their cases heard in the domestic system so they turn to foreign news bureaus. There were so many grim accounts it was impossible to give them all the time and attention they deserved.
Heroism and brutality
But there were also stories of success, heroism and inspiration as a nation embraced new wealth and battled for new ideas: the business empires built by enlightened philanthropists such as Yin Mingshan of Lifan auto, the internet fortunes accrued by entrepreneurs such as Jack Ma of Alibaba and Robin Li of Baidu.
Compared with nine years ago, people in China have more freedom to shop, to travel and to express their views on the internet. The Communist party tolerates a degree of criticism,but step over the invisible line of what is acceptable and the consequences are brutal. In my first years in China, I interviewed several outspoken opponents – Liu Xiaobo, Gao Zhisheng, Hu Jia and Teng Biao. I was impressed back then that they were at liberty to speak out. It seemed like the act of a confident government. But all of them have subsequently been locked up and, in at least two cases, tortured.
The blame for that surely lies with the authorities. But I have sometimes felt pangs of guilt. I first interviewed Ai Weiwei in the summer of 2007 for an Olympic preview. He was one of the creators of the "bird's nest" stadium and I was expecting him to tell me how proud he would be when it was unveiled at the opening ceremony. Instead, he told me he would not attend in protest at the "disgusting" political conditions in the one-party state and then launched into a withering assault on propaganda. It was the first time he had expressed such views to the foreign media – a great scoop, but also one fraught with risk. At the end of the interview, I cautioned the artist: "Are you sure you want to say this? It could get you into a great deal of trouble with the authorities."
"Absolutely," he replied. "I only wish I could say it more clearly."
Despite that confirmation and the similarly critical comments he subsequently made to other media organisations, I felt partly responsible when Ai was detained last year.
Whether the repression is getting better or worse has been a constant question with few clear answers. My feeling is that China has become a less tolerant country since 2008.
That was a coming of age of sorts, when China stopped seeming like a work in progress and started looking and behaving like a superpower. On the Beijing skyline, the scaffolding and cranes had been replaced by stunning architectural wonders. The ever-present sentiments of victim-hood and nationalism found powerful outlets in the Tibetan uprising, torch relay protests and the Sichuan earthquake. Meanwhile, those who had supported moves towards a more open, liberal, internationalist China saw the value of their political stock plunge almost as fast as the Dow Jones index in the global financial crisis. With the western model apparently shattered, many in China understandably felt less inclined than ever to listen to outside advice.
In the four years since, China has become a more modern and connected nation, but – despite the official hubris – it also seems more anxious that the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa may spread. The government now spends more on internal security than defence of its borders – a sign that it is more frightened of its own people than any external threat.
Little wonder. This has been an era of protest in China. The government stopped releasing figures a few years ago, but academics with access to internal documents say there are tens of thousands of demonstrations each year. The reasons are manifold – land grabs, ethnic unrest, factory layoffs, corruption cases and territorial disputes. But I have come to believe the fundamental cause is ecological stress: foul air, filthy water, growing pressure on the soil and an ever more desperate quest for resources that is pushing development into remote mountains, deserts and forests that were a last hold-out for bio and ethnic diversity.
This is not primarily China's fault. It is a historical, global trend. China is merely roaring along the same unsustainable path set by the developed world, but on a bigger scale, a faster speed and at a period in human history when there is much less ecological room for manoeuvre. The wealthy portion of the world has been exporting environmental stress for centuries. Outsourcing energy-intensive industries and resource extraction have put many problems out of sight and out of mind for western consumers. But they cannot be ignored in China.
The worst problems are found in the countryside: "cancer villages", toxic spills, pitched battles to block a toxic chemical factory, health hazards from air pollution and water and the rapid depletion of aquifers under the north China plain – the country's bread-basket.
The implications are global. China has become the biggest greenhouse-gas emitter on the planet. This year, it will probably account for half the coal burned in the world. The number of cars on China's roads has increased fourfold since 2003, driving up demand for oil. Meanwhile, there is less and less space and respect for other species. For me, the most profound story of this period was the demise of the baiji – a Yangtze river dolphin that had been on earth for 20m years but was declared extinct in 2006 as a result of river traffic, pollution, reckless fishing and massive damming.
I switched my focus to environment reporting. It was not just the charismatic megafauna and the smog, though the concern about air quality never went away. It is really not funny to send your children off to school on days of high pollution with a cheery "Try not to breathe too much", knowing they will probably be kept in at break-times because the air outside is hazardous.
As I have noted at greater length elsewhere, I had come to fear that China may be where the 200-odd-year-old carbon-fuelled capital-driven model of economic development runs into an ecological wall. Britain, where it started, and China may be bookends on a period of global expansion that has never been seen before and may never be repeated again.
Developed nations have been outsourcing their environmental stress to other countries and future generations for more than two centuries. China is trying to do the same as it looks overseas for food, fuel and minerals to satisfy the rising demand of its cities and factories. This has been extremely good news for economies in Africa, Mongolia, Australia and South AmericaI sympathise with China. It is doing what imperial, dominant powers have done for more than two centuries, but it is harder for China because the planet is running short of land and time.
With their engineering backgrounds, President Hu Jintao (a trained hydro-engineer) and premier Wen Jiabao (one of China's leading experts on rare earth minerals) are probably better aware than most global leaders about the challenge this poses. While there has been almost no political reform during their terms of office, there have been several ambitious steps forward in terms of environmental policy: anti-desertification campaigns; tree planting; an environmental transparency law; adoption of carbon targets; eco-services compensation; eco accounting; caps on water; lower economic growth targets; the 12th Five-Year Plan; debate and increased monitoring of PM2.5 [fine particulate matter] and huge investments in eco-cities, "clean car" manufacturing, public transport, energy-saving devices and renewable technology. The far western deserts of China have been filled with wind farms and solar panels.
That is the most hopeful story of this grey era. If China could emerge from the smog with a low-carbon economy, it would be a boon for the world. But talk of the world's first green superpower remains as premature as the image of the "red menace" is outdated.
When my predecessor, John Gittings, left China after 25 years, he presciently foresaw how the the old cold war stereotypes would be shattered by the country's speed of development. But that is just the start of realignment. In the future, I believe the most important political division will not be between left and right, but between conservers and consumers. The old battle of "equality versus competition" in the allocation of the resource pie will become secondary to maintaining the pie itself.
But the transition has some way to go. In the next 10 years, China is likely to build more dams than the US managed in its entire history and, despite the Fukushima disaster, it plans to construct more about 20 new nuclear power stations. But even with this huge expansion of non-fossil-fuel-based energy, if the economy continues to grow at its current pace China will require about 50% more coal than it currently burns.I expect there will be a slowdown before then as overseas markets contract and domestic investment suffers from the law of diminishing returns. Long-hidden environmental costs – over-depletion of key resources and under-regulation of waste – will force their way onto corporate balance books and national budgets in the form of turbulent commodity prices and higher clean-up expenses. China may well look back on the Hu and Wen era as a golden age of growth and perhaps a missed opportunity to put in place the reforms needs to adjust to leaner times.
Respect, sympathy – and pessimism
Meanwhile a new leadership – almost certainly to be headed by Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang – will take the helm at this autumn's party congress. They will have their work cut out. While the Hu-Wen era was one of construction, Xi and Li will have to put more effort into maintenance. This will require more than the creation of wealth and construction jobs; it will require a system with greater flexibility, efficiency and a new set of values. I expect that transition will be more turbulent than anything seen in the past 10 years. But success or failure, I believe it will remain the most important story in the world.
So why am I leaving? Well, over the years, I have come to feel increasing respect, sympathy and affection for China, but also more pessimism. Journalists here are worn down like brake pads on a speeding juggernaut. Such cynicism is not healthy. I hope a change of scene will allow me to see China – and the world – afresh. Regardless of Beijing's choking smog, traffic and politics, it will be hard to match living and working in China. I shall miss hikes along wild stretches of the Great Wall, swimming under remote waterfalls, wandering through vibrant hutongs, incredible food and some of the smartest company I have encountered anywhere in the world.
In the past few weeks, I have said goodbyes to places, friends, long-suffering assistants and sources, some of whom have become global names as their country has risen in prominence over the past nine years: the environmentalist Ma Jun (winner of this year's Goldman Prize), the lawyer Teng Biao, journalist Li Datong, the rights activists Hu Jia (winner of the Sakharov human-rights prize), and Zeng Jinyan; the social network guru Isaac Mao, the public intellectual Wang Xiaoshan and the artist Ai Weiwei (recently named "the most powerful artist on earth").
On my final weekend in China, I went to Weiwei's grey-walled home in the Caochangdi art district. He was with his wife, two aides, a film crew and two lawyers, but as gregarious and mischievous as ever.
"It's hot. Let's take our clothes off," said Weiwei, who proceeded to strip to the waist. I was too shy to follow suit. So was everyone else. The lawyers simply proceeded with their brief about the next stage in his tax case.
I couldn't stay. The China story was moving on again. News had just come in that Chen Guangcheng was at Beijing airport, about to board a plane to the US. After six years of house arrest and prison, he was finally flying to freedom. I said my goodbyes and wandered home to write up what felt like an uplifting article to finish on. I knew though, that it was not really the end. For all the hardship Chen endured, I guessed he would miss China. I certainly will. This is a peak and perhaps one for mankind.
• Jonathan Watts will be based in Rio de Janeiro as Latin America correspondent from July.


Mongolia's new wealth and rising corruption is tearing the nation apart


Political scandal and growing social injustice grip country as Mongolians go to the polls

 Jonathan Kaiman in Ulan Bator, Wednesday 27 June 2012 12.20 BST
Mongolian soldiers on horseback welcome
Mongolian soldiers on horseback in the country's capital Ulan Bator. Photograph: Michael Kohn/AFP/Getty Images

Mongolia's parliamentary elections are scheduled for Thursday, and its capital city is awash with politics. The faces of candidates fill the newspapers, peer out of TV sets and stare down from billboards.

A few miles away from the parliament building – a shiny glass edifice guarded by a giant statue of Genghis Khan – the 54-year-old former president Nambaryn Enkhbayar lies in a hospital suite hooked up to an intravenous drip. Enkhbayar was arrested under suspicion of corruption in April and staged a 10-day hunger strike in detention. He resumed eating when the authorities agreed to release him on bail.
"They launched a politically motivated campaign against me," Enkhbayar said on a warm afternoon in early June, his face gaunt, his nightstand stacked with Buddhist texts. "A hunger strike is, I think, a very proper way of fighting."
The elections will be Mongolia's sixth since it shed its Soviet-controlled communist system in early 1990, and the stakes are high. The country's recent discovery of massive copper, gold, coal, uranium and rare earth deposits have opened the floodgates to foreign investment and kicked its economy into overdrive. Mongolia's GDP grew by 17.3% last year and shows no signs of slowing down.
Enkhbayar's case – the highest-level corruption drama in Mongolia's history – embodies the young democracy's soaring ambitions and underscores the risk that political infighting, opacity and graft could send them crashing down to earth. Analysts say that if Mongolia's new leaders are transparent, equitable and just, they could use the country's mineral wealth to forge a stable middle-class society like Qatar. Yet Mongolia could just as likely become another Nigeria, where an oil boom in the 1970s led to environmental degradation and conflict, the country's wealth frittered away by corrupt officials, its average citizens left mired in poverty.
"Our society worries that things are not going that well in terms of social justice, that there is a growing gap between rich and poor, and that there is an oligarchic class," said Sumati Luvsandendev, the director of Sant Maral, a polling organisation in Ulan Bator.
For many Mongolians, high-level corruption is one issue that underpins the rest. They have few doubts about its existence. Although winning a seat in parliament costs around $2m (£1.27m), its members make about $800 a month. Mongolia was ranked 120 out of 183 countries on Transparency International's 2011 corruption perceptions index, tied with Bangladesh and Iran.
Symptoms of sudden wealth are ubiquitous in Ulan Bator, where high-end restaurants flank rubble-strewn alleyways and brand-new Landcruisers tie up traffic on crumbling roads. More than half of the city's 1.2 million residents live in "ger districts" named after traditional Mongolian felt-lined tents, which stretch up the hillsides around the central city. As brutal winters and few prospects send herders surging into the city to look for work, they have become slum-like sprawls of hastily partitioned properties that lack running water and heating.
Residents of ger districts have been hit hard in recent years by encroaching inflation and unemployment. Altan Jay, a 39-year-old single mother in one of the poorest areas, has not had a steady job in years. When she can't afford coal in the winter, she heats her home with discarded boxes. "Some people are getting richer and richer," she said, "and all I can think about is food."
Mongolia's rural population, on the other hand, is chiefly concerned by the environmental effects of mining. Nomads in the Gobi desert say that the dust kicked up by truck convoys is turning their livestock black. Rivers are running dry. Herders have been arrested for shooting up mining equipment with old Soviet rifles, outraged by the government's unwillingness to enforce its own environmental laws.
"People used to ask: 'When are you going to increase my salary and pension?'" said Oyungerel Tsedevdamba, a parliamentary candidate and former human rights adviser to the president. "Now it's: 'How are you going to clean this water?'"
Enkhbayar's case has shed light on a violent, corrupt, and profoundly personal streak in Mongolian politics. His arrest on 13 April was broadcast live on state TV. Policemen burst into the ex-president's house, carried him outside shoeless and threw him into the back of a van.
Enkhbayar and his lawyers argue that the current president, Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, who took office in 2009, engineered the corruption case to keep him from running in the coming elections. They claim that the court gave them insufficient time to review the prosecutors' evidence and witness statements. The election authorities' denial of Enkhbayar's candidacy on 6 June, they say, violates his constitutional right to be considered innocent until proven guilty.
"What I see are huge violations, fundamental violations of his right to a fair trial at this point," said Jim Hodes, a US-based independent trial observer. Hodes said the five charges levelled against Enkhbayar seem overblown and unsubstantiated. One accuses him of misappropriating TV equipment that was intended for a Buddhist monastery. Another alleges that he illegally shipped eight copies of his autobiography to South Korea on a government plane.
Yet others paint a picture of Enkhbayar as a bankrupt politician, flagrantly corrupt and apt to silence journalists and activists who opposed his rule. Unzarya Tumursukh, a 39-year-old political scientist in Ulan Bator, said that even if the case is politically motivated, the high-level friction itself could prove a healthy step in the development of Mongolian democracy. "Conflict among the elites is very good," she said, "because only then will they bring up information that they've agreed to hide from the public."
Current MPs are focused on preventing a recurrence of the violence that gripped Ulan Bator after the 2008 elections, when thousands of Mongolians gathered in a central square to protest alleged voter fraud. They stole weapons from police stations and set fire to political offices. Five people were killed, and the government declared a four-day state of emergency.
Richard Messick, a corruption expert and World Bank consultant, said that Mongolian politicians are remarkably determined to learn from past mistakes. These elections will be the first in Mongolia's history to use an automated voting system, making widespread fraud unlikely. In January, parliament approved a sweeping conflict of interest law that will restrict abuses of official power.
"I've worked in 10 to 20 countries previously, and this is the most favourable country I've ever seen," he said. "It's really exciting to be in a place like this."
Few Mongolians feel the same way. Tserem Buted, 58, a retired seamstress living in a ger district, said that politicians bombard her year after year with empty promises of an apartment, street lamps and running water. She doubts that the new guard will be much different than the old.
Yet like most of her neighbours, she plans on voting anyway, and refuses to believe that their lives will not eventually improve. "In Mongolia, they say that if you say negative things, they'll all come true," she said. "Good things can come true, too. Maybe not for me, but at least for my children."


13 July 2012 Last updated at 00:19 GMT

Explaining Cambodia's 'mystery illness'


By Guy De LauneyBBC News, Phnom Penh
Cambodian villagers and their children outside hospital Villagers lined up for medical checks outside the Kuntha Bopha children's hospital in Phnom Penh
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It must be every parent's nightmare - reports of a mystery disease killing dozens of children.

Sixty undiagnosed deaths over a period of three months triggered a report from the Cambodian authorities to the World Health Organisation (WHO). In such cases, there is usually an internal investigation to discover the facts before anything is made public.
This time, however, the report was leaked to a news agency in the Philippines. It soon made international headlines, perhaps understandably, bearing in mind that diseases like SARS and bird flu had first been identified in this region.
But it turned out that the unidentified illness was nothing remotely so serious.
'Needless panic'
Working together with Cambodia's Ministry of Health, the WHO found a virus known as EV71. It was the first time it had been positively identified in Cambodia, but it is common in nearby countries, including Vietnam and China.
It is one of the triggers for hand, foot and mouth disease - a childhood illness that is well-known around the world.
For most children, it causes nothing more than a few days' discomfort. But for those already weakened by malnutrition or diarrhoea, it can become more serious if not properly diagnosed and treated.
Dr Pochenda Chhorn from the Cambodia Children's Fund Clinic Dr Pochenda Chhorn says poor living conditions trigger disease
Most health experts in Cambodia were bemused by all the fuss. One told the BBC that treating the illness as a news story would be "like covering an outbreak of chickenpox".
Dr Beat Richner, the Swiss national director of Phnom Penh's Kantha Bopha Children's Hospital, berated the WHO for causing "needless panic" in its handling of the affair.
But officials at the WHO are themselves privately seething that what should have been an internal report ended up going viral, spreading alarm before all the facts were known.
The fuss over the affair will probably die down soon. But some health workers hope that it will at least illuminate the challenges facing Cambodia, especially its young children.
Toilet access
Sixty deaths over three months may seem a lot, until one realises that 50 children under the age of five die in Cambodia every day.
Over a year, that comes to almost 20,000. In all, one in 20 Cambodian children will not live to see their fifth birthdays.
The reasons are tragically simple. Dr Pochenda Chhorn sees them every day at the Cambodian Children's Fund Clinic on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.
"They live in very poor conditions. They have low hygiene - this is the biggest cause of disease for them," she said.
It is a staggering statistic, but true nonetheless: Cambodians are more likely to own a mobile phone than have access to a toilet. In rural parts of the country, the vast majority lack sanitation and the consequences are predictable.
A patient at the Children's Fund Clinic on the outskirts of Phnom Penh Children in Cambodia are vulnerable to infections because of poor hygiene
Diarrhoea is one of the main causes of death for the under-fives. Even when it does not kill, it leaves children vulnerable to other infections, including hand, foot and mouth disease.
Simple advice
The WHO's advice for reducing the spread of EV71 and HFMD is simple: wash hands and practise good hygiene. If children develop a fever, treat them with paracetamol.
Despite the recent scare, and the high under-five mortality rate, the WHO is keen to emphasise the progress Cambodia has made. As recently as a decade ago, one in eight children died before they reached five.
Dr Howard Sobel, the WHO Maternal and Child Health Team Leader in Cambodia, says that credit should be given to the government's promotion of breast-feeding.
"These days, three out of four mothers practise exclusive breastfeeding. It used to be one in 10," he says.
Mr Sobel also praises the government's efforts to restrict the advertising of infant formula milk and says the campaign and its results have been remarkable for such a small, developing country.
If that level of commitment could be applied to sanitation and child nutrition, then further success may come. Cambodia's children would then be much less vulnerable to the likes of EV71 and hand, foot and mouth disease.


Ai Weiwei: China excluded its people from the Olympics. London is different


Ai Weiwei withdrew from the Beijing 2008 Olympics opening ceremony and was declared a threat to the police state. Here he explains why he hopes the London Games will be different

 Ai Weiwei, Wednesday 25 July 2012 17.47 BST
Jump to comments (81)
Police stop the media from filming after a Pro-Tibet demo near the Beijing national stadium
Police stop the media from filming after a Pro-Tibet demo near the Beijing national stadium in August 2008. Photograph: Dan Chung for the Guardian

The Olympic Games are highly commercialised. They purport to follow the traditions of an ancient athletics competition, but today it is the commercial aspect that is most apparent. I have seen how, through sport, cities and corporations compete against each other for financial gain. The Olympics are beholden to the wishes of various commercial operations, which in turn shape our understanding of the event and of the world. They are no longer connected to the idea that humanity can be expressed through athletics.
In China, the Olympics have always served as a tool for propaganda. China uses its gold-medal count to affirm its position in the world order and its strength as a nation. Many other countries have the same attitude. But flaunting gold medals, in the guise of fighting for a country's glory, is done at the expense of many lives. For one, athletes sacrifice their physical and emotional wellbeing for this vanity. This is a tragedy in itself.
I don't believe in the so-called Olympic spirit. I speak from personal experience. When China hosted the Games, it failed to include the people. The event was constructed without regard for their joy. The state and the Olympic committee failed to take a position on many major social and political issues. Afterwards, the state tightened its controls; China became a police state. "Friendship, fair play, glory, honour and peace": the Olympic slogan is an empty one.
My memory of the Beijing Olympics has not changed. It is a fake smile, an elaborate costume party with the sole intention of glorifying the country. From the opening to the closing ceremony, from the torch relay to the cheers for gold medals – these all displayed the might, and the desperation, of a totalitarian regime. Through authoritarian power a country can possess many things, but it cannot bring joy or happiness to its people.
I see the Beijing National Stadium as an architectural project. I accepted Herzog and De Meuron's invitation to collaborate on the design, and our proposal won the competition. From beginning to end, I stayed with the project. I am committed to fostering relationships between a city and its architecture. I am also keen on encouraging participation and exchange during mass events that are meaningful for humankind.
I have no regrets about the role I played; the stadium is a work of great quality and design. I only withdrew from participating in fake performances laden with propaganda. I disagreed with the approach, and did not want my name associated with it. The Beijing opening ceremony had no sensitivity for the Chinese people; it even had the police force dancing on the fields. This is the fantasy of a totalitarian society. It was a nightmare.
By publicly announcing that I would not participate in the opening ceremony, I became a minority, an alternative voice. To the media, I have become a symbolic figure, critical of China. According to the government, I am a dangerous threat. I only expressed my personal opinion of an occasion that many people are passionate about. Unfortunately, such an occasion has no room for differing stances. Mine posed a challenge to the Games themselves. What did I say? Only that I didn't like the government propaganda. I don't feel obliged to approve of it.
I don't watch TV. I did not watch the Olympics last time; I am not very interested in watching it this time, either. I have no interest in activities that are dissociated from the emotions and struggles of everyday people. I enjoy watching any kind of competition – but it must be carried out in fairness, adhering strictly to the established rules. Any competition that cannot demonstrate fairness and abide by a set of openly acknowledged regulations violates civil society. It is also in conflict with the principles of human, social and legal rights.
I have visited London two or three times. I have good impressions of the city. It has a strong and natural continuity with its traditions. At the same time, people enjoy their lives and the city is full of culture. It was a pleasant experience to work with the Serpentine gallery, as well as Herzog and de Meuron, on this summer's pavilion. From the response, I can see that Londoners are very savvy about art and architecture. Tate Modern is also a unique cultural institution, a standard-bearer for quality contemporary art and activities.
I am interested in seeing what the 2012 Olympics has done to London, but I am not free to travel. If I were free, I'd like to see how people will respond to the event, and how members of a different society, living in different social conditions, will participate in the Games. I don't know how London will cope, but I believe it will be more relaxed than Beijing. In London, the people will be able to participate in and celebrate the joy of the Games.


24 July 2012 Last updated at 11:51 GMT

African viewpoint: Why Timbuktu matters


Men outside the Mosque of Sankore  in Timbuktu, Mali, in February 2005
Continue reading the main story
African Viewpoint
Sola Odunfa: State control
Taking sides
Cash crisis?
Grassroot convictions

In our series of viewpoints from African journalists, Elizabeth Ohene from Ghana laments the destruction of the Malian town of Timbuktu.

I decided on a title for my memoirs long before I wrote one sentence. It was to be called I Never Did Make It To Timbuktu.

As a young journalist, three cities fascinated me - I thought nothing could be more adventurous and romantic than to get a byline from Timbuktu, the ancient Malian city, Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, and Puffadder, a small town in South Africa.
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“Start Quote
 I wondered what it must feel like to have a Timbuktu address”
As things turned out, I did not make any particular effort to get to these places but I made it to Puffadder in 1991 when I was on a reporting trip to South Africa and I wanted to go to places that were not on the usual route.
The story of that trip is for another day.
I have never been to Kathmandu and now I do not think I ever will.
It lost its long-distance charms long ago and I cannot quite remember why I wanted to go there in the first place.
I have not been to Timbuktu either but it has retained its attraction for me.
A general view of Kathmandu (archive shot)  Kathmandu, Nepal's capital, is also an ancient city steeped in history
The nearest I came to fulfilling the long-held desire to go there was in the late 1990s when I played a small role in a project looking at the preservation of documents in the ancient libraries of the city.
Then came the African Renaissance project, instigated and led by Thabo Mbeki, South Africa's then president.
Timbuktu featured large and my interest was revived. I read everything and watched every film I could find about the city.
I felt inexplicably proud that way back in the 14th Century, Africa had a centre of learning and of excellence that could rival any other place on this planet.
I dreamt about walking along the ancient walls and rummaging through the old documents.
I thought about the young people who lived there and I wondered what it must feel like to have a Timbuktu address.
Impotent rage
Continue reading the main story
Treasures of Timbuktu
map Timbuktu was a centre of Islamic learning from the 13th to the 17th centuries
 700,000 manuscripts survive in public libraries and private collections
 Books on religion, law, literature and science
Why do we know Timbuktu?
And so I have been watching from afar the disaster that has overtaken Timbuktu, engulfed Mali and choked our continent.
Men with pick-axes, hammers and other tools have been systematically destroying Sufi shrines and all the other ancient and hallowed architecture and artefacts of Timbuktu, in the name of religion.
All the sacred and famous things in Timbuktu are being reduced to rubble and the locals look on with impotent rage.
The invaders claim to be doing the work of God and they carry guns to make sure their every wish is carried out.
Admittedly, Timbuktu has more in its past than its present.
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote
Why is there such silence around the continent about what is being done in Timbuktu?”
This city, which was once upon a time famous for its wealth and learning and which was a cultural and wealthy trading centre, is not what it used to be.
But surely Timbuktu represents enough to give pride and confidence to present day Africans.
So where is the outrage around the continent?
Why is there such silence around the continent about what is being done in Timbuktu?
I know the leaders of Africa brought up the subject at their recent African Union meeting in Addis Ababa but it was obvious that there will be no rescue forthcoming to the city of 333 saints, as Timbuktu is known, before everything that offends the sensibilities of the Muslim Salafist fundamentalists is demolished.
I know it was getting late for me to ever make that pilgrimage to this city of my dreams but at least the dream lingered.
Now, it seems the dream will die.
I will never make it to Timbuktu.
My heart bleeds, but what is the point? I am old enough to know that is the reality of our continent.
If you would like to comment on Elizabeth Ohene's column, please do so below.
Your comments (55)


28 July 2012 Last updated at 02:01 GMT

South Africa's corruption crusader Thuli Madonsela


Karen AllenBy Karen AllenSouthern Africa correspondent, BBC News
Thuli Madonsela seen in the BBC World News programme Our World: "Corruption crusader" Thuli Madonsela says she does not remember corruption being "this bad"
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"She's not a superwoman, she's just an ordinary person doing her job" is one anti-corruption campaigner's blunt assessment of Thuli Madonsela, the woman the press often calls just Thuli.

Her investigations have led to the sacking of some of the most senior figures in the state, most recently the country's former police chief, Bheki Cele, who was suspended over a property leasing scandal in 2011.
The softly spoken mother of two has become a one-woman corruption crusader.
David Lewis, chief executive of the newly launched campaign group Corruption Watch has described her as "South Africa's most important bulwark against corruption", who has inspired hope among millions of citizens looking for better service delivery.
Although her title of public protector may sound mundane, Mrs Madonsela has captured the imagination of South Africans and the media for her no-nonsense style and her ability to deliver.
The National Commissioner of the South African Police Service, Bheki Cele, speaking at a news conference in 2010, before his suspension over corruption allegations in 2011 (file picture) Thuli Madonsela's work led to the suspension of national police chief Bheki Cele in 2011
Add to that her credentials as a former lawyer in the trade union movement during the fight against white minority rule and her involvement in the drafting of South Africa's post-apartheid constitution, and she's earned the respect of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party and opposition alike.
Our BBC documentary team has had exclusive access to Thuli Madonsela over the past few months, trailing her as she oversees some 14,000 investigations.
Our own probes have unearthed inflated water tenders in North West province, newly built schools without any furniture in the Eastern Cape and appalling sewage conditions in Bram Fischerville, Soweto. All of these are now being investigated by Mrs Madonsela's team.
"I don't remember it being this bad," Mrs Madonsela confided after we took her to Soweto, to see for herself the squalor of overflowing drains that have been left unattended for years.
Embodying hope
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote
How does it feel to be South Africa's biggest tell-tale?”
Thuli Madonsela's daughter Wenzile
Wading through raw sewage in a smart set of high heels and wincing at the unidentifiable waste swirling at her feet, Mrs Madonsela described how she grew up in Soweto, the proud heart of the liberation struggle rule. And yet, "things were different then".
She accepts Justice Minister Jeff Radebe's argument that "300 years of colonial rule and 40 years of apartheid" cannot be corrected overnight, and that the seeds of corruption were sown long before the first post-apartheid elections in 1994
But, she says, if "visible action is taken" against corrupt officials now, then it sends the message to people that "if you are thinking about it - then don't".
In other countries, like Kenya, the task of rooting out corruption has been a lonely one. I first met anti-corruption tsar John Githongo when he fled into exile after he handed the BBC sensational tapes implicating very senior ministers in corruption back in 2005.
Image of road in Soweto from the BBC World News programme Our World: "Corruption crusader" Frustration with the state of public services has led to protests in places like Soweto
But in South Africa, the task of rooting out corruption is distributed among several agencies.
"It spreads the risk" - this is the assessment of Willie Hofmeyr, the deputy director of National Prosecutions, who says though a "great deal is being done now", he is "disappointed at the slow rate of progress".
The implication is that if one investigating agency gets cornered, another can still pursue a case.
South Africa has shown that, with a free press and independent courts, it still has a chance of winning the war on corruption, and in many ways, Mrs Madonsela embodies that hope.
Wounding enemies
The public protector has risen out of the bureaucratic morass to become a breath of fresh air for a South African public clamouring for more accountability from their public servants and leaders.
She has called for constructive dialogue rather than a repeat of recent rioting against poor services, and has been promised by ministers that despite past attempts to muddy her name, she will be allowed to do her job, whatever her investigations unearth.
With the ANC's national elective conference in Mangaung scheduled for the end of the year, the stakes are higher than ever.
Mrs Madonsela knows that corruption allegations can be used to wound political enemies.
In our film, Thuli's daughter, Wenzile, asks over the breakfast table: "How does it feel to be South Africa's biggest tell-tale?"
Thuli laughs and shrugs it off with a joke, but with four more years in the job, she knows that there are still many noses she could put out of joint.


29 July 2012 Last updated at 01:53

Programmers sought for tropical hackathon


By Mark WardTechnology correspondent, BBC News
Tropical atoll It is not yet clear which remote tropical island will host the two-month hackathon
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Wanted: 12 programmers to live on a remote tropical island for two months to do nothing but write code.

Applicants are being sought for the coding jamboree that will take place on an as yet un-named island.
Those applying will have to submit a proposal explaining what they will work on during the hackathon.
They will also have to complete a psychological evaluation to show they can live in harmony with other coders for the duration of the event.
"I lived with a few people in Alaska working on a project and that was an amazing experience," said Walter Heck, organiser of the Come Hack With US hackathon. "Why can we not recreate that experience in a tropical and remote location so we can really focus on our projects?"
Those attending would have all cooking and cleaning taken care of so they can concentrate on the code, he told the BBC. Mr Heck is currently looking for sponsors to help shoulder the cost of supporting the cost of feeding the coders during the hackathon.
'Serious' project
Successful applicants will be expected to make their own way to the island and pay a small fee to attend.
"It's a submission fee that's largely symbolic," he said. "It's to keep away the people that are planning to party all the time or are not serious about their project."
"That could be really detrimental to the atmosphere," he said.
The projects that people will work on would be matched to the skills of those attending to ensure good progress was made on all of them, said Mr Heck.
Mr Heck, who is currently based in the Kuala Lumpur, said there were lots of islands in the Philippines that were potential candidates for the coding get together. Although remote, the islands had good power supplies and were connected to the mainland via microwave links.
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote
If you look at some of the bigger companies of the last few years like Facebook they just came out of one idea and they've changed the way we live and work”
Walter Heck, organiser
Reaction to the idea had been swift and positive, Mr Heck told the BBC. More than 4,000 people had showed an interest within hours of the advert going on the Y Combinator tech news site, he said.
"Some of the bigger blue chip companies do this already with their top employees on a smaller scale," said Niall Cook, head of recruitment at hiring agency Computer People.
Retreats and other getaways had become a staple among firms that wanted to get staff focussing on new ideas rather than taking care of day-to-day business, he said.
He had no doubt that the isolation of the hackathon would boost the creativity of anyone taking part.
"If you look at some of the bigger companies of the last few years like Facebook they just came out of one idea and they've changed the way we live and work," he said.
"Without think tanks and the like nothing new would emerge," he said. "Whether putting 12 people on a tropical island is the way you get the best out of people I'm not sure.
"We won't know until they've done it," he said.


14 August 2012 Last updated at 10:52 GMT
Article written byAndrew Harding

Can expatriate Somalis rebuild their country?


Somalia is preparing for presidential elections later this month
Somalia - Failed State
New constitution, new era?
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10 things about Somalia
A doctor's mission

Mohammed Martello was standing on a sand dune beside the beach just north of Mogadishu, with a big grin on his face.

"Look at that view," sighed Mr Martello, an estate agent who returned home to Somalia recently after years spent living in Luton, England.
Nearby, two elegantly dressed Somali women - one in business, the other a politician's wife - emerged from an air-conditioned car to view the plots with keen interest.
"We've sold 115 houses… Prices are skyrocketing. Everybody is looking for property. I want to make enough money to buy a good house for my kids in Chelsea, London! Posh area! Now is the time to stabilise Somalia - 110%!" gushed Mr Martello.
His enthusiasm is not merely a sales pitch.
“Start Quote
I believe the diaspora will have a big role to play in Somali politics”
Yusuf GaraadPresidential candidate
After more than 20 years of war and anarchy, Mogadishu is enjoying a rare, extended period of relative calm.
Amidst the rubble, homes are being rebuilt, cafes and hotels opening, thousands of members of the diaspora are returning, and everyone is talking - with varying degrees of confidence - about a future without bloodshed.
There are two driving factors behind that optimism.
Firstly, the militant Islamist group al-Shabab, which once controlled more than half the city, was driven out by African Union and Somali government troops more than a year ago and now appears to pose only a limited threat inside Mogadishu. The group has also lost control of several other key towns and cities.
Secondly, after years of failed peace initiatives organised abroad, Somalia's endlessly feuding politicians are finally back in their own capital city, and nearing the climax of an exhaustive, Somali-led, internationally chaperoned new process that has already delivered a new constitution and by 20 August is supposed to produce a new parliament and president - and with luck, something resembling a functioning government with a reach that might extend far beyond Mogadishu.
Corruption concern
Real estate agent Mr Martello with a client The relative calm in Mogadishu is encouraging expatriate Somalis such as Mohammed Martello to return
"Vote for a real leader," shouted a group of women standing in matching outfits at the heavily guarded gates of the city's airport. They broke into song as a heavily armed convoy emerged, carrying the latest candidate to throw his hat into the presidential ring.
For many years Yusuf Garaad has been running the BBC's Somali Service from Bush House in London. He quit last week and flew back to Mogadishu.
"I believe the diaspora will have a big role to play in Somali politics. We have seen what peace and development mean," he said. Hours after landing, al-Shabab announced on a website its intention to kill him.
"I think that [threat] is positive for my campaign. It shows that they know I mean business and I don't like them and won't let them exercise their brutal terrorism in Somalia," he declared.
That threat is one of many signs that a little scepticism may be appropriate amid all the excited predictions that Somalia is finally turning a corner.
The UN has already warned that the election process - consisting of a clan-based system for nominating MPs, who in turn pick the president - is riddled with corruption. Many insiders have acknowledged as much, with reports that $50,000 (£31,832) is now the going rate for an MP's seat.
"It's a very depressing situation," said Mohammed Nur, the mayor of Mogadishu. "Where do they get the money from? That money is supposed to build the roads and hospitals."
It's hard to gauge the full extent of the alleged corruption. But it's a measure of both how much worse things have been in the past, and how desperate Somalis are for progress, that most people I've spoken to here are inclined to invest real hope in the current "road map", even if it is an obviously flawed process at the mercy of the usual currents of clan rivalry and regional divisions.
"It's like sausages being made," said Abdul Karim Jama, a former presidential adviser who now runs a think tank in Mogadishu.
"The process is messy, but it should pave the way for a one person one vote election in four years' time. Most importantly, the ordinary people are behind this process."
“Start Quote
Hopefully we will reclaim our country in the next few months”
Tariq BihiAdvisor, Somali prime minister
Significantly, there's supposed to be a quota for women MPs, and a committee busy attempting to screen candidates and bar those without qualifications, as well as the more notorious warlords.
'Biggest vote of confidence'
In the Hamar Weyne market, a shop owner rubbed his fingers together to indicate that the election process was corrupt, but then shrugged and said "things are getting better, for sure".
"Hopefully we will reclaim our country in the next few months," said Tariq Bihi, a London-based Somali who came home this year to advise the Somali Prime Minister, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, who is also running for president.
"Everybody is coming back. People are investing their money - that's the biggest vote of confidence you can have," said Mr Bihi.
He insisted Mogadishu was no more dangerous today "than any other big city", but conceded that the prime minister's campaign schedule was being severely curtailed because of fears he could be targeted by al-Shabab militants, who continue to infiltrate the city and only last week killed six soldiers with a roadside bomb.
Women campaigning for presidential hopeful Yusuf Garaad Politicians expect a functioning government after the elections
"I'm more or less a prisoner here," said Mohammed Yahye, a 28 year old from Wembley, London, who came back to Mogadishu three months ago to help with a charity that provides small grants to youth groups in the city.
"People might attack me because I'm diaspora - thinking I've got money. They think we are all rich but that's not the case. Al-Shabab are still lurking around in Mogadishu streets so it's not good to walk around like back at home," he said, but insisted things were improving.
Back at the beach, Mohammed Martello was watching a bulldozer try to smooth over the dunes. Our security guards eyed the landscape warily - the edges of Mogadishu remain contested ground and this area used to be an al-Shabab stronghold.
For now, Mr Martello conceded, most houses are being bought by speculators looking "to flip" the properties for a profit. He said his company tries to work only with "legitimate" investors but has no real way of telling if the cash comes from pirates or other criminals.
"To be honest, corruption in Somalia is epidemic. It's worse than the warlords. Worse than al-Shabab. If we don't fight corruption we will end up with nothing," he said, but then quickly moved back onto more positive territory.
"After so many phases - tribal, warlords, religious - now every option has finished," he said.
So Somalis have run out of reasons to fight? "Absolutely."
Your comments (20)


18 August 2012 Last updated at 23:54 GMT

Risking life in the Mongolian gold rush

UK miner Craig Notman described Mongolian mining as 'like a prison camp'
Continue reading the main story
In today's Magazine
An American's quest to learn Farsi
The rise of the halal traveller
The enduring appeal of Sherlock Holmes 
Cairo, beer and Islamist politics

Mongolia, one of the most remote and desolate places on earth, is in the middle of a gold rush. But with 40% of the population living in poverty, around 100,000 people work in deadly unregulated mines in order to survive.

"When I look at families with horses, I feel so sad tears well up in my eyes."
Sukhbaatar used to be a nomadic herder - the ancient way of life in Mongolia.
"That was when I was a real man with horses", he says. Now he is a miner.
Continue reading the main story
Find out more
(L-R) Anga, Craig Notman, Sukhbaatar The Toughest Place to be a Miner is on BBC Two Sunday 19 August 21:00 BST.
Or catch up on iPlayer
Two years ago, all of Sukhbaatar's livestock - 300 horses, yaks and goats - were killed in a long harsh winter known as a Zud.
Severe droughts and Zuds in recent years have devastated Mongolia's livestock herds, killing an estimated eight million animals.
"Nothing was left, everything was dead and that's why we moved here," he explains.
His destination was Uyanga, a mining town on the Mongolian Steppe, a rolling grassland that stretches in a large crescent around the Gobi Desert.
The mining boom in Mongolia has given the country the fastest-growing economy in the world. Billions of dollars of copper, gold and coal flood over the border to China.
While this has created a new class of super-rich, more than a million people live in acute poverty, risking their lives for a few pounds a day working in these unregulated mines.
Every day, whatever the weather, Sukhbaatar and his wife Gansuvd ride on motor bikes two miles across the Uyangen valley - past yak herders, a reminder of their former life.
Their destination could be described as the middle of nowhere.
Map of Mongolia Mongolia spreads across 1.5 million sq km of the Central Asian plateau
Rolling grassland stretches as far as the eye can see - not a tree or bush in sight.
People are working at holes in the ground, that look a little like craters on a moon. Smoke is rising out of some of them, adding to the otherworldly feel of the landscape.
The smoke is from dung fires lit by the miners to melt the layers of permafrost, permanently frozen land. Each hole has been dug by a different family.
One person can fit into each hole, being lowered down into it by rope. But there is nothing in the holes to support the walls.
"The ground collapses. Some people are saved and some have died buried in the ground," Sukhbaatar admits.
It is not known how many have died in the massive network of tunnels that now cover the valley.
British miner Craig Notman could not believe what he was seeing when he travelled from Staffordshire to Mongolia to experience Sukhbaatar's life.
"This is Victorian mining I can't get my head round it. The hole looks like a grave. It's like going into your own tomb," he says.
In the UK, mining is done by big machines, with stringent health and safety rules. Sukbhaatar, Gansuvd, their daughter and son-in-law use pick axes and shovels, which is gruelling work.
Digging down to the gold seam on the ancient river bed can take days.
(L-R) Milking a Yak. Gansuvd, Craig Notman  Gansuvd taught Craig how to milk a yak, when they visited family
They bring up nearly half a ton of soil every day. The earth then has to be sorted, the larger stones removed and then the rest panned to hopefully reveal gold flakes.
They are lucky to make £5 a day.
The government in this part of Mongolia refuses to issue licences for people like Sukhbaatar because they claim that they damage the environment. But further up the valley, big companies have been given licences to mine gold on an industrial scale.
They have pledged to make good the environmental damage when they have finished mining in the area. But Sukhbaatar believes they will take what they want and move on.
"It makes me sad. Before there was a large river running along the valley. There used to be herders all up this valley."
In 20 years of mining, the Ongin river here has all but dried up.
The Mongolian people have a deep connection to their land and digging it up runs counter to their beliefs. Every few weeks, Gansuvd and their young son Samya visit the Buddhist temple on the edge of town to pray for forgiveness from the land.
In the UK, Craig has been a miner for 15 years, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, and he believes mining is a brotherhood.
But he finds that it is every man for himself on the Mongolian plains.
One day they return to find three families have dug tunnels into Sukhbaatar's hole to take the gold from it.
Craig Notman The valley is now a warren of tunnels raising the risk of collapse
"The owner of one of them is a friend - I can't believe they would do this," Sukhbaatar whispers.
Safety is Craig's highest priority and he is upset and frightened that people work like this. He is determined to help Sukhbaatar to mine more safely.
Wood is expensive and Sukhbaatar is worried any props to support the sides of the holes would be stolen. Craig eventually persuades him to use props that they take home every night.
He is "chuffed to bits" that they are taking on his advice but admits that he found his visit "hard and upsetting", seeing the risks they were taking.
Back home in the UK, Craig is determined to help the miners in Mongolia.
"If a miner is struggling, another miner is going to help him and that's what's happening, it's a brotherhood."
Craig describes Sukhbaatar as a "good honest man, with a heart as big as a lion", and mining teams around the UK are now planning fundraising to buy him cattle.
"I want to pull up outside his place with a big lorry full of cattle and drive out to the countryside and park up and leave them [Sukhbaatar's family] to it - to where he should be.
"I will achieve that and I'm looking forward to that day so much."


Rich Chinese seeking overseas residency


By John SudworthBBC News, Shanghai
Louie Huang Louie Huang thinks foreign residency rights could benefit his family
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There is one Chinese export product that is seemingly unstoppable at the moment - millionaires.

Porsche-driving Louie Huang lives in Shanghai, having made his money - a lot of money - in property.
He is having a 200-room villa built here and owns properties in at least five other cities around the world.
But while his business interests remain in China, he has also stumped up the sizeable investment needed to buy himself residency rights in Singapore.
He says it is for a number of reasons, in particular the opportunity it might bring his future family.
But he admits that for many of his wealthy friends it is a sense of insecurity which is leading them to ponder a life outside China.
"Most of them think I've got so much money here but one day maybe the government will change the policies and take it all back," he says.
Visa for jobs
Entrepreneurial, well-connected or just plain corrupt, it does not matter how they made their fortunes, there is mounting evidence to show that China's super-rich are heading for the exit.
Potential Chinese real estate investors look at a display of United States property for sale at the Overseas and China Property Expo in Beijing, 5 April 2012 More and more rich Chinese businesspeople are seeking residency in the US through investment
At a seminar in a plush office suite with a spectacular view of Shanghai, Chinese entrepreneurs with at least half a million dollars to spare are being encouraged to invest in the US economy.
The EB-5 visa scheme is an investment-for-residency programme, handing out green cards as long as the investment can be shown to have created at least 10 jobs.
In 2006 Chinese nationals were granted just 63 visas under the scheme. Last year the figure had leapt to more than 2,408 and this year it is already above the 3,700 mark.
It means a tidal wave of Chinese money is currently pouring into US infrastructure projects.
The scheme is open to any nationality but Chinese investors now make up 75% of the total.
Uncertain times
China's rigid and opaque political system is perhaps one reason for the wealth-drain, particularly in a year in which there is due to be a changing of the guard at the very top of the Communist Party.
There are certainly lifestyle concerns too. Like Louie Huang the wealthy are often seeking cleaner air and a better education for their children.
Add to that the fears that China's decade-long economic boom may be losing steam and it is perhaps not surprising that China's rich are on the run.
The EB-5 data is not the only evidence. A survey last year of almost 1,000 Chinese dollar millionaires found 60% considering moving overseas.
China is now one of Australia's biggest sources of migrants with figures released for 2011 showing that it had overtaken the UK for the first time.
And American estate agents have been reporting a big jump this year in the number of high-value home buyers from mainland China and Hong Kong.
The party is far from over for China's wealthy, including Louie Huang - who has just opened a brand new nightclub.
As his patrons sit around tables containing a dozen or more bottles of champagne it is abundantly clear that many people are still making money here.
But in these economically uncertain times, there is a growing temptation for those with money to take it, and themselves, somewhere a little safer.


25 August 2012 Last updated at 00:30 GMT

The fearless ferrymen of Dhaka's Buriganga river


Ferrymen have to jostle for position in the queue to pick up passengers
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Rush hour in the Bangladeshi capital sees thousands of Dhaka's commuters boarding small wooden boats to cross the busy waters of the Buriganga river, one of the most dangerous waterways on Earth, especially for the ferrymen.

"To do this you need all your strength and courage. If you lose your bravery then you are finished."
Ferryman Muhammed Abdul Loteef takes passengers and goods across a quarter-mile (400m) stretch of the Buriganga river every day.
It is hard physical work in temperatures of up to 40C - especially for a 70-year-old.
There are few bridges across the Buriganga river. For the 25,000 people who commute every day between the city centre and the residential areas on the other side, the sampans - small wooden boats, powered and steered by one oar - are a lifeline.
Continue reading the main story
Find Out More
Muhammed Abdul Loteef, Colin WindowToughest Place to be a Ferryman is on BBC Two Sunday 26 August 21:00 BST
 London ferryman Colin Window spent two weeks with Dhaka counterpart Muhammed Abdul Loteef
 Watch online or catch up on the rest of the series via iPlayer (UK only) at the above link
The ferrymen must negotiate huge gravel barges, cargo ships and passenger boats, which dominate the river.
"Every day here one or two boats capsize," says Loteef.
"Sometimes small boats go under the big boats and people die."
There are no emergency services here. If there is an accident, it is up to the other boatmen to come to the rescue.
One of Loteef's friend's boats was hit by a launch a few months ago, when it was fullly laden with nine passengers.
"Of them, I rescued eight," he said. "They found the (other) body three days later," he says.
"It is our duty to save our passengers. Sometimes we risk our lives to save passengers."
For that dedication, there is not much financial reward. It costs two taka (just over £0.01 or under $0.02) to cross the river.
To make enough money to support his family, Loteef has to make the crossing more than 60 times a day, and sometimes works into the night.
British ferryman Colin Window, a bridge officer on the Woolwich ferry across the Thames in London, is stunned by how hard his Bangladeshi counterpart works.
"He's been at it all day. He's had a small break I think for his prayers and that, but he's still powering backwards and forwards. He's 70 years old. He's unbelievable.
Sampan ferries
"These guys... are really pushing themselves to the limit every day. They must be a really hard, hard people here to be able to cope with this."
On one trip together, Mr Loteef and Mr Colin, as they call each other, have a close shave with a large boat.
"That would be a reportable near-miss on the river Thames," says Colin, amazed.
Like millions of Dhaka's other inhabitants. Loteef used to work on the land, but increasingly unpredictable weather has left many farmers unable to earn a living.
Bangladesh has always suffered from cyclones and flooding but storms have become more frequent and unpredictable and river erosion has accelerated.
Every day an estimated 2,000 people arrive in the city having left their villages.
Mr Loteef admits he finds it very hard to live in the city. But compared to many other ferrymen, he is doing well - he owns his own boat and he and his family have a room in one of Dhaka's hundreds of slums.
Many ferrymen have to rent boats some have to sleep on them.
"We have a saying, 'If God gave me wings on my arms I would go back to my village,'" says Loteef.
Dhaka ferries wait for passengers Sampan ferries have barely changed in thousands of years
He owns a small plot of land where he could still grow lentils, but that would not make enough money to support his family.
"We could make it work if we had two cows. If I had two cows I would not have to live in the city," he says.
But just one cow would cost Loteef more than he earns in a year.
"It's my own land and I want with my whole heart to be able to mark my father's grave," he stuttered, walking away to hide his tears.
For Colin, swapping the 1,000-ton Woolwich car ferry for a sampan for two weeks, to film a BBC Two documentary, was "extremely, extremely hard work".
He feels changed by his time in Bangladesh, and on his return to London he admits to constantly thinking about his time there "to try and make some sort of sense of the whole chaotic nature of what it was like".
"You just want to try and make sense of it so you can try and find a solution for some of them, which is what I'm trying to do."
His first solution was to buy two cows for Loteef, who has now moved back to his village.


25 August 2012 Last updated at 14:46 GMT

Angola deports China 'gangsters'


Hooded and hand-cuffed suspects are escorted to get off a plane after arriving in Beijing August 25 The suspects will now face trial in China
Continue reading the main story
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Angola has extradited 37 Chinese nationals, accused of extortion, kidnappings, armed robberies and running prostitution rings.

They allegedly targeted other Chinese, kidnapping businessmen for ransom and sometimes burying victims alive.
They lured women to Angola, promising well-paid jobs, but then forced them into prostitution, Chinese police said.
Tens of thousands of Chinese live in Angola, and Chinese state-run firms have large interests in the country.
China's Ministry of Public Security said a special police team was sent to Angola in July to help investigate criminal gangs.
The ministry said the officers had helped their Angolan counterparts break up 12 gangs and free 14 victims, most of whom were thought to be women forced to work as prostitutes.
The 37 suspects arrived at Beijing airport in handcuffs with balaclavas covering their faces. They are due to be tried in China.
Mineral-rich Angola is China's biggest trading partner in Africa, with some $24.8bn (£15.7bn) in 2010.
Commercial opportunities have attracted private businesses and state-run firms.
But according to Chinese media, crime had begun to seriously affect operations in the country.
China Police, a website run by the ministry, published an article documenting 14 kidnappings during 2011 in which five victims were killed.
The article said Chinese business owners had moved away from the capital Luanda, while others had hired private security guards and bought bullet-proof cars.


26 August 2012 Last updated at 23:55 GMT
By Ruth AlexanderBBC News

Why do so many African leaders die in office?


Funeral of John Atta MillsIt's rare for the leader of a country to die in office. Since 2008, it's happened 13 times worldwide - but 10 of those leaders have been African. Why is it so much more common in this one continent?

Large crowds carrying candles ran alongside the hearse carrying the body of Meles Zenawi, as it made its way through Addis Ababa, on Tuesday. He had died, aged 57, after a long illness.
Earlier in the month, tens of thousands of Ghanaians attended the funeral of their late President, John Atta Mills, who had died suddenly at the age of 68.
Four months earlier, a national holiday was declared in Malawi to allow as many people as possible to attend the funeral of the late president, Bingu wa Mutharika, who had died of a cardiac arrest, aged 78.
And in January, the president of Guinea Bissau, Malam Bacai Sanha, died in a military hospital in Paris after a long illness. He was 64.
So, four African leaders have died in office this year alone. Disruptive for the countries concerned, tragic for the leaders' families. But spare a thought also for the reporters.
"I seem to be getting an awful lot of calls in the night telling me an African president has died," says Simon Allison, a correspondent for South Africa's Daily Maverick website. "Why do African presidents keep dying?"
The question led him to take a close look at their survival rate.
"Go back just a little bit further and the list of dead sitting African presidents gets alarmingly longer," he says. Indeed, since 2008, 10 African leaders have died in office.
Meles Zenawi  Ethiopia PM, Meles Zenawi
  "Sudden infection", August 2012
John Atta Mills  Ghana president, John Atta Mills
  Throat cancer, July 2012
Bingu wa Mutharika  Malawi president, Bingu wa Mutharika
  Cardiac arrest, April 2012
Malam Bacai Sanha  Guinea Bissau president, M B Sanha
  Long illness, January 2012
Muammar Gaddafi  Libya leader, Muammar Gaddafi
  Killed, October 2011
Umaru Yar'Adua  Nigeria president, Umaru Yar'Adua
  Kidney, heart problems, May 2010
Omar Bongo  Gabon president, Omar Bongo
  Heart attack, June 2009
Bernardo Vieira  Guinea Bissau president, J B Vieira
  Killed, March 2009
Lansana Conte  Guinea president, Lansana Conte
  Unspecified cause, December, 2008
Levy Mwanawasa  Zambia president, Levy Mwanawasa
  Stroke, August 2008
It's certainly true that leaders are dying in office in higher numbers in Africa than on any other continent. In the same period, only three other national leaders have died in office - Kim Jong Il of North Korea, Polish President Lech Kaczynski, who died in a plane crash, and David Thomson of Barbados, who had cancer.
The obvious answer is that African leaders are just older than those of other continents, an explanation Simon Allison favours. He believes Africans like their leaders to be older - respect for elders is embedded in the culture of many of the continent's countries.
But are they?
Actually, the average age of African leaders is 61 years - the same as in Asia. European leaders are, on average, 55 years old, while in South America, it's 59.
But another thing to consider is life expectancy which, among the general population, is lower in Africa than in Europe, Latin America and Asia. This is partly because of problems like the prevalence of HIV/Aids and also poor medical care, which leads to high rates of death in childbirth.
But poverty in childhood and early life can also have a lasting impact, as Dr George Leeson, a gerontologist from the University of Oxford, explains.
"African presidents, before they have been elected, will have led a relatively disadvantaged life, and disadvantageous lifestyle, and that will impact on their life expectancies at subsequent ages," he says.
"So once they get into the presidential office, even though they will be living a lifestyle far far far removed from their fellow citizens, which would increase their life expectancy in relation to those fellow citizens, they do have an accumulated disadvantageous lifestyle which they have to pay back on at some time."
Although of course, not all African leaders will have had poor childhoods.
But is there another factor to take into account - politics? The stereotypical African leader clings on to power until he drops. But the facts don't seem to fit that explanation.
"This is true of some of the leaders who died in office, particularly Omar Bongo, Conte and Gaddafi," says Simon Allison. "All of them were old-school dictators who were never going to leave voluntarily, but the others are different - Meles Zenawi had clung on to power for a long time, but he was only 57. And all the others were in their constitutional time limits and hadn't even fiddled with them yet."
It's important to note that, our calculations only take into account the deaths in office of world leaders since 2008. It could be that the number of African deaths in this timeframe is just a statistical blip.
But whatever's going on, such a death toll creates uncertainty. Deaths in office create power vacuums, which can be dangerous and destabilising.
"Look at what happened in Guinea-Bissau," says Simon Allison. "When Sanha died, a coup followed very shortly afterwards. This is a difficult situation for Africa to find itself in because it, historically, has not done very well with power vacuums."
However, he believes there is some cause for optimism.
"In Zambia, in Malawi and Ghana and in Nigeria, the death of the president was followed by a constitutional succession with a minimum of violence and dispute, and I think this is a very encouraging sign for Africa's development."


27 August 2012 Last updated at 12:13 GMT
Article written byDamian Grammaticas Beijing correspondent

China's economic conundrum


File photo: A Chinese worker at a thread factory in Fujian province There are growing signs that China's economy is weakening ahead of its major leadership change
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China's leaders are facing a conundrum. They're preparing to hand over power to a new generation in the autumn.

But look at all the data rolling in and it seems the current Communist leadership could be stepping aside just as China's economy is at its lowest ebb in years. So should they try to give things a boost, or will that make any problems they pass on to the new leadership worse?
This weekend, Premier Wen Jiabao was touring the southern manufacturing heartland of Guangdong. It was his third visit to China's economic heartlands in recent weeks.
He used it to make a very public call for greater efforts to support exports. They're one of the key drivers of China's economy, but look to be flagging.
According to Xinhua, Premier Wen said: "The third quarter of the year is a critical period for China to realise the year's export growth target and we should take targeted steps to stabilise growth."
"Wen said that judging from the new export indexes, China's export outlook will continue to be clouded by difficulties and uncertainties," the news agency reported.
Economic measures
“Start Quote
Recent efforts by China's leaders to engineer a turnaround don't seem to have worked”
China's official goal is to expand exports by 10% this year. But July's figures showed export growth had slumped to just 1%, largely because of collapsing demand from Europe. Premier Wen's problem is that there is little he can do about the eurozone's troubles.
But to try to help things along, the premier has, according to the Global Times, "proposed that the government speed up the export tax rebate process, expand export insurance coverage, reduce inspection fees, encourage financial institutions to improve their services on hedging against currency exchange risks, and keep attracting foreign investment".
Those are all measures that will take time to filter through. Meanwhile, the Communist Party has only a few weeks before the expected Party Congress in the autumn, when the leadership change will happen.
And there are growing signs the economy is still weakening. As we report today, profits at industrial firms in China fell by 5.4% in July.
China's banks have also been in the spotlight. China Construction Bank, one of China's "big four", said on Sunday that profit growth has fallen to its slowest level since 2009. Last week another of the big ones, Bank of China, said the same.
And also last week were signs that output from China's huge manufacturing industries fell again, to its lowest level in nine months.
Slowing economy?
File photo: Labourers at a construction site in China Investment spending already accounts for 50% of the economy
Put all this together and you have an economy that looks like it is still slowing, despite the predictions that China would rebound in the first or second quarter of this year.
Recent efforts by China's leaders to engineer a turnaround don't seem to have worked. They have already cut interest rates twice, released more money into the economy but cutting bank reserve ratios, and announced a raft infrastructure projects.
The way to change things now would be to pump more money into building projects - and fast.
But investment spending already accounts for a huge 50% of China's economy. The massive stimulus used to get China through the financial crisis led to inflation, worries about bad debts and soaring property prices and the government has been working to rein those in.
So if they do more now to achieve a short-term boost before the autumn Party Congress, then the result down the line could be a new, nasty bout of inflation, unpaid loans, and surging house prices, things the leadership says it's determined to avoid.
As Reuters says in a new analysis today, "China's policy chiefs have about two weeks left to decide about giving the economy a proper stimulative prod, or risk parading a new Communist Party leadership to the world just as growth falls below target for the first time in nearly four years."
For a political party that has long staked its right to rule on its record of economic competence, it's tricky place to be. The leaders have already cut their projection for economic growth to 7.5% this year. It means they will be handing over an economy growing at its slowest pace in 13 years.
But as Tim Condon from ING in Singapore tells Reuters, China's outgoing leaders would be well-advised not to try to go for a quick injection of money into the economy now because "a bad year is not the end of the world for the party. The new leaders come in, turn things around in 2013 and look like heroes".
And Mr Condon adds that by refusing to have an "aggressive stimulus" now, the outgoing leadership are taking the wise path.
"What they seem to be saying is that they are not going to take the easy way and double down on the command and control policies, but stay on the course of market-oriented reform. That's a really positive story - if it's true."
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Africa innovations: 15 ideas helping to transform a continent


A mobile phone database for dairy farmers and a strain of sweet potato that can help fight child blindness. These are just two of the imaginative new ideas that are tackling Africa's old problems

 Mina Holland,  Ian Tucker,  Monica Mark,  Annie Kelly, Olivia Honigsbaum
The Observer, Sunday 26 August 2012
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Su Kahumbu, founder of iCow, is licked by a Jersey-Friesian cross
Su Kahumbu, founder of iCow, is licked by a Jersey-Friesian cross as John Njure, a small-scale dairy farmer from Kamirithu, looks on. Photograph: Martin Storey

Idea: The Hippo water roller is a drum that can be rolled on the ground, making it easier for those without access to taps to haul larger amounts of water faster.
Problem: Two out of every five people in Africa have no nearby water facilities and are forced to walk long distances to reach water sources. Traditional methods of balancing heavy loads of water on the head limit the amount people can carry, and cause long-term spinal injuries. Women and children usually carry out these time-consuming tasks, missing out on educational and economic opportunities. In extreme cases, they can be at increased risks of assault or rape when travelling long distances.
Method: The Hippo roller can be filled with water which is then pushed or pulled using a handle. The weight of the water is spread evenly so a full drum carries almost five times more than traditional containers, but weighs in at half the usual 20kg, allowing it to be transported faster. A steel handle has been designed to allow two pushers for steeper hills. "Essentially it alleviates the suffering people endure just to collect water and take it home. Boreholes or wells can dry out but people can still use the same roller [in other wells]. One roller will typically serve a household of seven for five to seven years," said project manager Grant Gibbs.
Verdict: Around 42,000 Hippo rollers have been sold in 21 African countries and demand exceeds supply. Costing $125 each, they are distributed through NGOs. A mobile manufacturing unit is set to begin making them in Tanzania. Nelson Mandela has made a "personal appeal" for supporting for the project, saying it "will positively change the lives of millions of our fellow South Africans". Monica Mark
Idea: To harness the power of mobile phones to encourage best practice for dairy farmers and increase milk production.
Problem: Small-scale dairy farmers often living in remote areas don't have access to valuable information about latest prices of milk or cattle, and they may not keep accurate records of important details such as their cows' gestation periods or their livestock's lineage – often resulting in inbreeding and disease.
Method: Created by Kenyan farmer Su Kahumbu, iCow is an app that works on the type of basic mobile phones farmers own. Each animal is registered with the service, which then sends SMS reminders to the farmer about milking schedules, immunisation dates and tips about nutrition and breeding or information about local vets or artificial insemination providers. UK-based foundation the Indigo Trust helped fund iCow's development. Its executive Loren Treisman says: "It's exciting to see a technology-driven project targeting such an unexpected constituency. Farmers have been empowered to improve their own lives through accessing critical agricultural information as opposed to depending on aid. What particularly excited us is that as a social enterprise, the iCow team have a sustainable business model which will enable them to expand rapidly and maximise their reach and impact without dependence on ongoing funding."
Verdict: "The wonderful thing with iCow is that by the time you have used the app and adhered to all the instructions, your cows end up healthier, bigger and stronger. They can easily fetch you more money in the marketplace. Every smart farmer will use iCow," a small-scale farmer based in the cental highlands of Kenya told Forbes magazine. Ian Tucker

Idea: Farmer managed natural regeneration (FMNR), which restores existing trees on drought-stricken land, to improve Senegal's dwindling harvests.
Problem: Senegal is suffering its third drought of the decade, resulting in reduced crops and inflated food prices. The World Food Programme assisted more than 9 million people in the Sahel region of West Africa this year, including 800,000 in Senegal.
Method: Attempts to tackle the resulting problem of soil fertility have largely flopped so far. Trees planted as part of reforestation schemes have seen only a 5% success rate and fallowing is not an option, with 80% of African farmers owning under two hectares of land, which need to be utilised year in, year out. This puts the emphasis on reinvigorating the stumps of nitrogen-fixing trees, which were formerly cleared to maximise crop space. Farmers are thus encouraged to prune the stems and branches of trees like Faidherbia albida, giving new life to the vegetation already there.
Verdict: FMNR is an inexpensive way for farmers to make improvements with the resources they already have, increasing millet harvests from 430kg to 750kg a hectare, and saving money on fertilisers, with restored trees producing leaf litter (forming humus) and giving shade to livestock (for manure). It gives the ecosystem a holistic boost, encouraging wildlife like bush pigeons and rabbits to return, and providing welcome human benefits such as wood cuttings for cooking and new food sources such as tamarind. Mina Holland
Idea: Portable irrigation technology helping sub-Saharan smallholder farmers grow crops out of season.
Problem: When it comes to food supply, Africa faces enormous instability due to unpredictable climate and poor resources. Only 6% of Africa's cultivated land is irrigated, limiting the volume of crops that can be grown out of season, but increased access to irrigation systems stands to increase food productivity by up to 50%.
Method: Kick Start, a not-for-profit organisation that specialises in irrigation technology, is making portable water pumps accessible to farming communities across Africa – most significantly in Kenya, Tanzania and Mali. These cost anything from $35 to $95 but, putting the emphasis on entrepreneurship, Kick Start are selling the pumps to farmers rather than giving them away.
Solution: Kick Start told The Atlantic that, since 1991, their pumps have lifted 667,000 people out of poverty, helping to "create an entrepreneurial middle class, starting with the family farm". They have pumped new revenues equivalent to 0.6% of the GDP in Kenya alone. MH

Idea: A computer tablet diagnoses heart disease in rural households with limited access to medical services.
Problem: Cardiovascular diseases kill some 17 million worldwide annually. In many African countries, those at risk often have to spend huge amounts of money and travel hundreds of miles to reach heart specialists concentrated in main urban centres. The Cameroon Heart Foundation has noted a "sharp spike" in heart disease among its 20 million-strong population, which is served by fewer than 40 heart specialists.
Method: A program on the Cardiopad, designed by 24-year-old Cameroonian engineer Arthur Zang, collects signals generated by the rhythmic contraction and expansion of a patient's heart. Electrodes are fixed near the patient's heart. Africa's first fully touch-screen medical tablet then produces a moving graphical depiction of the cardiac cycle, which is wirelessly transmitted over GSM networks to a cardiologist for interpretation and diagnosis. "I designed the Cardiopad to resolve a pressing problem. If a cardiac exam is prescribed for a patient in Garoua in the north of the country, they are obliged to travel a distance of over 900km to Yaoundé or Douala," Zang says.
Verdict: At the Laquintinie, one of the country's biggest hospitals, cardiologist Dr Daniel Lemogoum said that, in a recent survey, three in every five persons who uses the Cardiopad has been diagnosed as hypertensive, or at risk of heart diseases. "These are people who would not necessarily have been aware they are hypertensive. It means sudden deaths might be preventable." MM

Idea: The Inye computer tablet that can connect to the internet via a dongle surmounts the price and infrastructure barriers in one go.
Problem: Tech-savvy youths, who make up the bulk of the continent's population, face being left behind by a growing "digital divide". While much of Africa has skipped the desktop internet era and gone straight to mobile tech, big name brands retail in price ranges that remain out of reach for a majority in sub-Saharan Africa. Infrastructure is also straining under rapid population growth, and wireless and broadband technology is not yet widely available in many public places.
Method: Co-founders Saheed Adepoju and Anibe Agamah, aimed to plug a gap in affordable mobile devices with the Inye tablet in Nigeria. They say its strongest selling point is its price – currently around £200. Run on Android systems, it can be connected to the internet via widely used dongles rather than wirelessly. IT provider Encipher also offers add-on bundles from games to specifically tailored apps. Local developers are designing apps that address issues such as HIV, water and sanitation and education.
Verdict: The group is now retailing its Inye 2 model to popular demand. Long-term, there are plans to expand beyond Africa's most populous country. MM

Idea: Refining locally sourced cassava into ethanol fuel to provide cleaner cooking fuel.
Problem: Forests in Africa are being cut down at a rate of 4m hectares a year, more than twice the worldwide average rate. Some of this is fuelled by demand for wood and charcoal, which the UN estimates is still used in almost 80% of African homes as a cheaper option to gas. The smoke from cooking using these solid fuels also triggers respiratory problems that cause nearly 2 million deaths in the developing world each year.
Method: CleanStar Mozambique, a partnership between CleanStar and Danish industrial enzymes producer Novozymes, has opened the world's first sustainable cooking-fuel plant in Mozambique. CleanStar has steered clear of monoculture crops in favour of sustainable farming methods. One-sixth of the final yield comes from locally harvested cassava, which requires farmers to plant in rotation with other edible crops to keep the soil fertile. A Sofala Province-based plant transforms the products into ethanol, which is sold on the local market along with adapted cooking stoves also produced by the company.
Verdict: "City women are tired of watching charcoal prices rise, carrying dirty fuel, and waiting for the day that they can afford a safe gas stove and a reliable supply of imported cylinders," CleanStar marketing director Thelma Venichand said. "They are ready to buy a modern cooking device that uses clean, locally made fuel, performs well and saves them time and money." The plant aims to produce 2m litres of fuel annually, and reach 120,000 households within three years. MM

Idea: Danish brothers David and Christopher Mikkelsen founded Refugees United in 2008 after they helped a young Afghan refugee in Copenhagen search for lost family members. Realising the futile paper trail that many refugees were faced with when looking for missing relatives, the brothers wanted to find an easier way that refugees could trace their families.
Problem: There are 43 million forcibly displaced people worldwide with hundreds of thousands of refugee families scattered across the globe. Before 2008 all family tracing was done by refugee agencies, which still rely on paper forms and postal systems to try to locate people. There was no online global data bank that could be accessed or used by refugees themselves.
Technique: Refugees United is an online search tool, where refugees can create a free profile and start their search for family via an online database using the internet or a mobile phone. It works through an open-source model, partnering with not-for-profit refugee organisations including the Red Cross and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) as well as corporate tech partners such as Erickson and Google.
Verdict: More than 100,000 people are registered on the Refugees United family tracing platform. It is available in dozens of different languages and contains searchable information on refugees from more than 82 countries. It is currently helping 15,000 people trace family in the Kakuma refugee camp, home to 80,000 refugees and asylum-seekers, in Kenya. The main challenge is actually reaching the refugees, often the poorest of the poor, who don't have ready access to computers or mobile phones. Annie Kelly

Idea: To make Africa self-sufficient in emergency relief supplies.
Problem: For a continent so in need of quick, affordable emergency relief, not to mention so riddled with unemployment, there's a cruel irony about the provenance of emergency supplies. Smaller African manufacturers have traditionally been unable to compete with Chinese prices, or to meet the vast demand for emergency goods within Africa. As a result, aid agencies such as Unicef have forged links with foreign producers better able to produce these supplies at the scale, cost and quality required. Yet this inevitably requires longer lead times and higher transportation costs than sourcing goods locally – and Africans lose out on the work.
Method: Advance Aid is an organisation that wants to make aid destined for Africa available within Africa, from blankets and mosquito nets to basic cooking equipment and hygiene kits. The organisation acts as an intermediary between large aid agencies and African producers, putting together packages of aid supplies sourced locally. This has been very effective in Kenya, where Advance Aid have supplied 5,000 locally sourced emergency kits to World Vision and another 14,000 jerry cans to Catholic Relief Services, who distributed them in Dadaab, the refugee camp near the Somalian border.
Founder David Dickie says: "Aid is not working. I'm trying to turn the market on its head by creating jobs in Africa. Building this capacity in Africa will make a real difference to agencies, to the beneficiaries of the aid and to local businesses… [It] is a very efficient way of bringing together the development and humanitarian agendas."
Verdict: Advance Aid's work in Kenya in 2011 marks the first time that emergency relief goods produced in Africa have been provided for an African emergency, with 80% of goods sourced within the country. It put $1.5bn into the Kenyan economy and brought orders to 12 local manufacturers. MH

Idea: To carry out scientific research on sickle cell disease (SCD) and show that large-scale, cutting-edge genomic studies are possible in Africa.
Problem: Every year, 300,000 children worldwide are born with SCD, a genetic blood disorder that can result in severe anaemia. Seventy percent of these children, or 210,000, are born in Africa. Tanzania has one of the highest annual birth rates of SCD in the world and without treatment up to 90% of these children will die in early childhood. However, many of these deaths could be prevented by early diagnosis and treatment. A better understanding of the genetic and environmental mechanisms of the disease will lead to improved diagnosis and therapies.
Method: Dr Julie Makani from Muhimbili University in Tanzania is working with the Wellcome Trust to conduct a genome-wide association study (GWAS) in order to better understand the genetic and environmental factors affecting SCD. The Muhimbili Wellcome Programme originally aimed to follow 400 children but is now following 2,500, making it one of the largest, biomedical SCD resources in the world. Dr Makani says that the work "provides validation that it is possible to conduct genomic research in Africa".
Verdict: Professor Lorna Casselton from the Royal Society says: "SCD has a severe toll on Africa, and high-quality research to lessen the burden is much needed. Dr Makani stands as a role model for other young African scientists wishing to make a difference." Olivia Honigsbaum

Idea: To offer emergency credit through mobile phones to people who don't have access to credit cards or bank loans.
Problem: Credit cards are still rarely available to Kenyans and bank loans are only authorised for large amounts of cash or as investments for buying homes or starting businesses. Often the only source of emergency cash is loan sharks, increasingly big business in Kenya, with borrowers signing ambiguous photocopied contracts and tying themselves into interest rates of 50% or more. M-Pepea was launched to try to bridge this gap.
Method: M-Pepea, set up in late 2010, provides its customers with emergency funds within a few hours. It partners with Kenyan businesses, with employees then able to use M-Pepea to get immediate loans of up to 20% of their monthly salary. The money is accessed through their mobile phones, with M-Pepea sending a special pin code to be used in cash machines. Money can also be collected at branches of Safaricom, one of Kenya's largest mobile phone operators, and then deducted from the borrower's pay packet at the end of the month. M-Pepea charges around 10% interest rates on the loans, which are paid in full at the end of the month.
Verdict: M-Pepea has currently partnered with 20 businesses and has around 300 subscribers, and is hoping to have increased this to 20,000 by the end of 2013. Its partnership with Safaricom is encouraging but the company has run into problems with businesses defaulting. "We're still in our initial phase, but we've seen how positively people have responded to the service," says David Munga, M-Pepea's 33-year-old founder. "If, like many Kenyans, you've found yourself at the side of the road with a broken car, no credit card and no money in the bank, it's a way of getting yourself that money without having to get into trouble." AK

Idea: The brightly coloured "Tutu Tester" van is a mobile clinic that incorporates screening for tuberculosis (TB) and HIV into a general health check-up in order to overcome the stigma associated with these diseases.
Problem: South Africa is at the centre of an epidemic of TB/HIV co-infections. An estimated 5.7 million people are infected with HIV and, fuelled by HIV, the country's rate of TB has increased over the last 20 years to the point where it now has the third highest TB burden in the world. In the case of HIV, voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) is vital for preventing and treating the disease. However, data from the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation conducted in communities most affected by HIV shows that VCT is often inaccessible or inadequately performed. This results in missed opportunities for prevention and increased morbidity and mortality – hence the need for new control strategies to keep the epidemic in check.
Method: The Tutu Tester is a mobile clinic that takes sophisticated testing equipment and trained staff (including a nurse, a counsellor and an educator) into areas without adequate health facilities. By framing TB and HIV screening within a battery of other healthy living tests, including pregnancy, diabetes and hypertension, people are encouraged to get tested for the diseases. Dr Linda-Gail Bekker, a leading scientist working with the foundation, says that data from these screens shows that "the increase in TB has quite clearly tracked the increase in HIV rates". Further, the introduction of Antiretroviral therapy (ART) for HIV has also led to a decline in the incidence of TB. This suggests that ART programs, if sufficiently implemented, may greatly assist in reducing TB mortality.
Verdict: There is still a stigma attached to HIV and TB. But as Liz Thebus, a healthcare worker at the Tutu Tester says: "The outside world does not know whether someone wants to be screened for HIV or diabetes. They are in that respect much more anonymous." OH

Idea: Breeding sweet potatoes to contain betacarotene, to help in the fight against childhood blindness.
Problem: More than 3 million children in Africa suffer from blindness caused by vitamin A deficiency; in Uganda it is estimated that 28% of children are deficient. Currently aid agencies combat this problem by giving children vitamin A supplements, but addressing this issue with a locally grown food would be more sustainable.
Method: A new strain of sweet potato was conventionally bred which contains between four and six times as much betacarotene as a regular sweet potato – betacarotene is converted by the body into vitamin A. The OSP (orange sweet potato) was distributed to 10,000 farming households in Uganda; at the end of the two-year study vitamin A deficiency in non-breastfeeding children aged between 12 and 35 months fell from nearly 50% to 12%. Dr Christine Holz from the International Food Policy Research Institute who led the project said: "Overall, these results add to the growing evidence base that OSP provides large amounts of vitamin A in the diet."
Verdict: Similar results were obtained from a sister project in Mozambique; now the scheme is being scaled up to reach 225,000 households by 2016. IT

Idea: A range of easy-to-use audio books designed to get potentially life-saving health messages out to millions of isolated people struggling with depression and mental health problems.
Problem: In 2003, Zane Wilson, the founder of the South African Depression & Anxiety Group (Sadag), the country's largest mental health initiative, was horrified at how suicide rates among young South Africans were spiking. Mental health carries a huge social stigma across Africa and information booklets designed to help people with depression or mental health problems simply weren't working, especially in remote communities with high illiteracy rates. People weren't getting the help they needed – a 2009 study showed that only a quarter of the 16.5% of South Africans suffering from mental health problems had received any kind of treatment.
Method: Speaking Books created a range of free books with simple audio buttons talking the user through each page. The first Speaking Book, voiced by South African actress and celebrity Lillian Dube, was called Suicide Shouldn't Be a Secret and focused on how depression is a real and treatable illness, encouraging people to get help when they need it.
Verdict: Speaking Books have now produced 48 titles in 24 different languages and are now used in 20 African countries across the continent. The books now tackle a number of critical healthcare issues outside of suicide prevention such as HIV and Aids, malaria, maternal health and clinical trials. Speaking Books has also expanded to China, India and South America. "The situation we face in rural South Africa is the same in any other African country – low literacy compounded by lack of access to services and affordable healthcare," says Wilson. "This means that patients are often not able to get help for many health problems. We believe that this interactive, durable, high-quality, hardcover book engages the user or patient, and allows them to build self-confidence and skills with a simple action plan". AK

Idea: Narrative exposure therapy (NET) for Uganda's former child soldiers, encouraging storytelling to help come to terms with their experiences.
Problem: Abducted and forced into conscription by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), over 25,000 Ugandan children were pushed into violent atrocities during a civil war that lasted 22 years, often killing their own families. The majority were left with severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – with symptoms including depression, flashbacks and suicidal thoughts. Moreover, hostility from their former communities has left countless child soldiers alienated, making PTSD a longer, lonelier battle.
Method: NET was introduced to Ugandan child soldiers as a means of making conscious their deeply repressed traumas. The technique highlights the importance of story, creating a kind of fiction from real-life experience as a vehicle for coming to terms with it. Nick Taussig, co-founder of the Mtaala Foundation – a charity that sets up educational communities in Uganda, empowering Ugandans to help their own youth – says that narrative exposure, though not a new concept, appeals to Ugandan culture, "There's a strong oral tradition in Uganda, and these treatments build on that by committing the children's stories to paper, investing them with added meaning."
Verdict: A study of 85 former child soldiers conducted by Bielefeld University, Germany, demonstrated that 80% of those who underwent NET showed clinical improvements. MH


8 September 2012 Last updated at 23:40 GMT

The forbidden public toilets of Beijing


By Justin RowlattBBC News
Justin Rowlatt Many farmers are so poor that one donkey is shared between two villages
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The journalists' rule of thumb in China is that you cannot report the so-called three Ts - Tiananmen, Taiwan or Tibet. But it turns out there is also another T that upsets Chinese censors.

Jeff Sun is the scion of one of China's new rich and the founder of the "China Super Car Club". He has got so many he cannot even remember them all.
With a bit of head scratching he can list the two Lamborghinis, the two Ferraris, the Audi R8 and the Maserati. But then there is a long pause before his face suddenly lights up.
"Ah yes," he says, "and the Bentley".
We met Jeff while reporting on the yawning chasms of inequality that have opened up in Chinese society.
We filmed in some of the poorest communities I have ever visited - Chinese villages where no-one has ever owned a car and where they still till their fields using a single donkey, shared between dozens of farmers.
China still claims to be a communist society and has a fearsome reputation for censorship, so why was it happy for us to do this?
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From Our Own Correspondent is broadcast on Saturdays at 11:30 BST on BBC Radio 4, and weekdays on BBC World Service
China on Four Wheels is broadcast Sunday 9 September at 20:00 BST on BBC Two
The answer says a lot about both China's ambitions and the challenges the country faces.
A couple of years ago I made another series, this one about China's great expansion into the world over the last decade.
I had not expected the Beijing government to like the films. We met some very sympathetic Chinese people but we showed the corruption and brutality of others.
Yet, shortly after the programmes were broadcast, I received an email from a senior official at the Chinese embassy inviting me to tea at a London hotel. It said the Embassy had liked my programmes.
In the genteel grandeur of the hotel the embassy official told me why.
"We thought you were fair," she said. "You showed the Chinese people as they are."
She took a sip of tea from the bone china cup and told me the rest of the world seemed to think that the Chinese did not have the same hopes, fears and ambitions as everyone else.
"They believe China is a threat to other nations. We want people to understand they do not need to be afraid of us," she said.
My guess is we were allowed to explore the eye-watering inequities in Chinese society because the government reckoned that on balance we would again, present a sympathetic picture of Chinese people.
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“Start Quote
China may be undergoing the most incredible economic transformation, but the Chinese Communist Party's instincts have not changed”
Furthermore - by showing just how rich many had become the government knew we would project a powerful message about China's success.
At the same time the poverty of hundreds of millions of others, would illustrate the huge challenges the country still faces.
Nevertheless we did not entirely escape the censors.
The journalists' rule of thumb is that you cannot report the so-called three Ts - Tiananmen, Taiwan or Tibet.
We inadvertently discovered a fourth T.
In an article in the country's English language newspaper, China Daily, I came across an editorial featuring stinging criticism of China from the WTO. Not the World Trade Organisation, this was the less well-known World Toilet Organisation.
This WTO had ranked China as having the worst public toilets in all Asia. The paper explained how, in response, Beijing had introduced rigorous new hygiene standards - now no more than two flies are allowed in any public toilet.
The paper was in no doubt about the importance of the issue. "Clean public toilets are the symbol of a civilized society," it thundered. The controversy made me chuckle and I mentioned to our government minder that I wanted to cover this storm in a toilet bowl.
It was Mr Chen's job to ensure we did not break any reporting rules. He had been a cheerful, relaxed companion throughout our three-week journey, but now his face darkened.
"I do not think that would be a good idea," he said gravely.
Justin Rowlatt and Anita Rani in Shanghai Rowlatt travelled 2600 miles across China with the BBC's Anita Rani to make the documentary
I laughed, assuming he was just being a bit conservative.
"No", he emphasised. "I really do not think that is a good idea."
I said it would only take a couple of minutes. Just a bit of fun.
Mr Chen vanished for a few moments. When he returned his manner was forbidding.
"I am sorry Justin but I have to tell you cannot report this story at all."
This was getting serious. Our Chinese fixer was visibly anxious and quietly warned me that if this went any further Mr Chen was likely to close down our production completely.
I was learning an important lesson. China may be undergoing the most incredible economic transformation, but the Chinese Communist Party's instincts have not changed.
It may let you speak to the idle rich and the abject poor but threaten to embarrass it - even with something as trivial as some criticism from the World Toilet Organisation - and the sinews of power become all too apparent.
We were close to the end of our long journey and could not afford to jeopardise our project now.
I decided I had to close the door on the Chinese toilets.
China On Four Wheels is broadcast Sunday 9 September at 20:00 BST on BBC Two.


9 September 2012 Last updated at 23:12 GMT

Indian philanthropy's changing face


By Yogita LimayeBusiness reporter, BBC News, Mumbai
Indian philanthropy is changing
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India is home to 4% of the world's billionaires, yet the country's rich have often been criticised for not sharing enough of their wealth through philanthropy.

Things seem to be slowly changing though, with more being done to promote a greater culture of giving.
"Painting is what I like to do most," says Nikita Shah, 30, and judging by her confident brush strokes on a large canvas, she has a great flair for it.
Nikita Shah Nikita Shah is one of 70 women with developmental conditions helped by Om Creations
Nikita is autistic, and in a country with few facilities for those with developmental conditions, her immense talent may have gone unnoticed if not for the Om Creations Trust.
The Mumbai organisation helps 70 women with developmental conditions earn a living, by teaching them how to make handicrafts and food items.
Om Creations is financially supported by the Tata Group, which is not only one of India's biggest corporate houses but also a name that has been associated with philanthropy for many decades.
"We couldn't have done it without the Tatas. We had good ideas but no financial backing," says Dr Radhike Khanna, a special educator and founder of the trust.
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“Start Quote
We can't expect somebody else to do it all the time”
Anuja Sanghavi Hamara Footpath
Low-income country
India is at the number four spot on an international list compiled by Forbes magazine, based on the number of billionaires a country produces.
Yet it comes in at a dismal 91st place on another list, the World Giving Index, which ranks 153 nations according to charitable-giving behaviour.
This performance though is a vast improvement over the previous year, when India ranked 134th.
Dr Khanna and girls Dr Khanna, from Om Creations, says the trust would not have got off the ground without Tata's money
"India is a low-income country so clearly we are not going to see as much philanthropy as in advanced nations," says Adi Godrej, the head of another big Indian conglomerate, the Godrej Group.
"But compared to developing countries, the philanthropic culture here has grown over the years."
Some say Indians are more inclined to donate to religious causes rather than philanthropic projects.
"In India if you ask someone to give money to set up a school or hospital it is unlikely they will agree, but at the temple they will most certainly drop something in the donation box," says Subhash Mayekar, the chairman of the Siddhivinayak Temple Trust in Mumbai.
Siddhivinayak is one of the most popular temples in Mumbai and every year it collects more than $11m (£6.9m) in the donation boxes that lie in every corner of the temple.
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The rich are getting ever richer, big companies are getting bigger, while new fortunes are being created faster.
However, some of the super-rich are discovering that with a lot of money comes a lot of responsibility.
In a new series, we will be looking at how companies and rich individuals are discovering their social responsibility and using their wealth to change society and the wider world.
Special report: Business of Giving
Mr Mayekar says this money in turn is spent on charitable causes such as building schools for underprivileged children and rehabilitating people after natural disasters.
In fact, many rich temple trusts in India have been known to donate a part of their earnings to charity every year.
As India grows economically, individual mindsets too seem to be changing, according to Dr Khanna from Om Creations.
"Recently we have been finding that people are not only giving to temples but are looking for causes to donate to," she says. "Another change we're seeing is that people are now leaving money for charity in their wills. Earlier they left everything only for their children."
And it seems India's younger generation is powering a new trend of social awareness and responsibility.
A report by the consultancy Bain released earlier this year observed that people under the age of 30 are driving progress in Indian philanthropy.
Anuja and children Anuja Sanghavi volunteers to teach poor children because she wants to see change in her society
Hamara Footpath is one example of the new generation's growing role. The organisation is run by Anuja Sanghavi, 29, with six other young professionals in Mumbai.
Three days a week, after their own day jobs, Anuja and her friends gather street children from the neighbourhood on the steps of a building and teach them basic English, maths and even some physical exercises.
"We're often complaining about how things are and what's not working in our country. But we figured that if something has to change we've got to be contributing," Anuja says.
"We can't expect somebody else to do it all the time."
Compulsory giving?
In the future, the concept of giving back to society is expected to grow further in India.
Wipro chairman Azim Premji and HCL Technologies founder Shiv Nadar have both pledged a part of their wealth to charity.
Over the past year, the government has been mulling over making it compulsory for companies to spend 2% of their profits on corporate social-responsibility projects.
And with incomes growing, the country's middle class too is now gearing up to take on its role in Indian philanthropy.


20 September 2012 Last updated at 00:24 GMT

The man who turned his home into a public library


By Kate McGeownBBC News, Manila
Nanie Guanlao's library
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If you put all the books you own on the street outside your house, you might expect them to disappear in a trice. But one man in Manila tried it - and found that his collection grew.

Hernando Guanlao is a sprightly man in his early 60s, with one abiding passion - books.
They're his pride and joy, which is just as well because, whether he likes it or not, they seem to be taking over his house.
Guanlao, known by his nickname Nanie, has set up an informal library outside his home in central Manila, to encourage his local community to share his joy of reading.
The idea is simple. Readers can take as many books as they want, for as long as they want - even permanently. As Guanlao says: "The only rule is that there are no rules."
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Nanie Guanlao in his library Kate McGeown's interview with Nanie Guanlao was featured on Outlook on BBC World Service
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It's a policy you might assume would end very quickly - with Mr Guanlao having no books at all.
But in fact, in the 12 years he's been running his library - or, in his words, his book club - he's found that his collection has grown rather than diminished, as more and more people donate to the cause.
"It seems to me that the books are speaking to me. That's why it multiplies like that," he says with a smile. "The books are telling me they want to be read… they want to be passed around."
Guanlao started his library in 2000, shortly after the death of his parents. He was looking for something to honour their memory, and that was when he hit upon the idea of promoting the reading habit he'd inherited.
"I saw my old textbooks upstairs and decided to come up with the concept of having the public use them," he says.
So he put the books - a collection of fewer than 100 - outside the door of his house to see if anyone wanted to borrow them. They did, and they brought the books back with others to add to the collection - and the library was born.
Guanlao's library
Such is the current turnover that Guanlao confesses he has no idea how many books are in his possession, but there are easily 2,000 or 3,000 on the shelves and in the boxes stacked outside his front door.
And that's before you move inside, where books are rapidly encroaching into every available space. You can hardly get into the front room, the car has long since been moved out of the garage, and books are even stacked all the way up the stairs.
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“Start Quote
You don't do justice to these books if you put them in a cabinet or a box”
Nanie Guanlao
The library is not advertised, but somehow, every day, a steady stream of people find their way there.
On the day we visited, some shop assistants came to browse during their lunch break, a local man borrowed a weighty tome about the history of St John's Gospel, and some schoolchildren picked up some textbooks - although I noticed they were taking some fashion magazines as well.
But it's people like Celine who sustain the library. She lives down the road from Guanlao, and she arrived with two bulging bags of books - some of which she was returning, others of which she was planning to donate.
She says she loves the concept of the library, because Filipinos - certainly those who are not particularly wealthy - have limited access to books.
Nanie Guanlao with some of his readers Guanlao gave up his job to run the library
"I haven't been to any public libraries except the national library in Manila," she says, explaining that it is quite far away - and it is not possible to borrow any books.
If she wants to buy a book, the average price is about 300 pesos (£4.50, $7), she says. Imported books - especially children's books - could easily be twice that amount.
"Considering the income here, I think parents have other priorities," she adds.
To help the poorest communities in Manila, Nanie Guanlao does not wait for them to find him - he goes to them, on his "book bike", which has a large basket piled high with books.
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Literacy in the Philippines
 The Philippines has one of the highest literacy rates in the developing world
 Approximately 93% of the population 10 years of age and older are literate
 Filipino (based on Tagalog) is the official national language, English is the language of government and instruction in education
Source: US State Department
He's also started to set his sights outside Manila. He's already given several boxes of books to a man trying to set up a similar venture in Bicol province, a 10-hour drive from Manila, and his latest plan is to help a friend who wants to start up a library in the far south of the country.
She wants to set up a "book boat", travelling around the islands of Sulu and Basilan - an area better known as a hideout for separatist rebels than for any great access to literature.
As we sat outside Nanie Guanlao's house in the midday sun, watching people browse through his collection, he tells me why he thought it was worth spending all his time - even to the point of giving up his job and surviving purely on his savings - to maintain the library.
"You don't do justice to these books if you put them in a cabinet or a box," he says.
"A book should be used and reused. It has life, it has a message.
"As a book caretaker, you become a full man."


23 September 2012 Last updated at 15:38 GMT

Social entrepreneurship takes off in China


Juliana LiuBy Juliana LiuHong Kong correspondent, BBC News
According to Forbes magazine total giving by China's top 100 philanthropists has plunged by 41% leaving social entrepreneurs to pick up the slack.
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Seven years ago, Hong Kong natives Legward Wong and Jeff Ng decided to set up a small business to tackle what they believed to be a big social problem.

In traditional Chinese culture, the elderly were revered for their wisdom and contribution to their community.
After decades of raising children and working to support the family, they used to be able to look forward to their golden years of being pampered by the younger generation.
But because flats in this cramped city of more than seven million people are notoriously tiny and residents here tend to work long, gruelling hours, many senior citizens have ended up in nursing homes, instead of being cared for by family members.
According to Mr Wong, in the 1990s, the government gradually stopped subsidising care for the elderly through non-profit organisations because of the high cost.
"High land costs and high labour costs in Hong Kong not only bring up a huge social concern, it also means taking care of elders becomes more difficult," he tells BBC News during a visit to the Evangel Home for Senior Citizens in the western suburb of Yuen Long.
As a result, privately-run group homes, often offering a lower quality of care, became more widespread.
Nursing home Many senior citizens live in nursing homes in Hong Kong
Some senior citizens found themselves in homes that could not cater to their needs, creating anxiety for their families.
New business model
So Mr Wong and Mr Ng set up the Home of the Elderly, a service to match senior citizens with nursing homes based on their requirements.
The seniors and their families were not charged. Instead, the nursing homes paid the company a fee for each successful placement.
This business model, unknown in Hong Kong at the time, became the basis for one of the city's earliest social enterprises.
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“Start Quote
In every country, it is the entrepreneur who can respond more quickly to meet a need than anyone else”
Ross BairdVillage Capital
Today, their company has a staff of 40 people and works with almost half of Hong Kong's 600 nursing homes.
It made a profit of about HK$1m ($129,000; £79,000) last year, about one-third of which was donated to their charitable foundation, promoting awareness of seniors' needs.
Emerging trend
Unlike non-profit organisations, social enterprises must aim to be money-making and self-sustaining.
But while they make money, often they make less money than regular businesses, and they re-invest the profits in a related charity, targeting social problems.
In China, social entrepreneurship is a growing trend.
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Business of Giving
The rich are getting ever richer, big companies are getting bigger, while new fortunes are being created faster.
However, some of the super-rich are discovering that with a lot of money comes a lot of responsibility.
In a new series we will be looking at how companies and rich individuals are discovering their social responsibility and are using their wealth to change society and the wider world.
Special report: Business of Giving
In a 2011 study of family philanthropy in Asia by Swiss bank UBS and the Insead business school, 40% of the China-based respondents rated the emergence of social entrepreneurship as the most highly-anticipated trend.
When billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffett travelled to China to persuade the country's richest people to give away their wealth, they were reportedly told by internet entrepreneur Jack Ma that rich Chinese people preferred to invest their money in socially responsible businesses, rather than giving it to charities.
For Ross Baird, executive director of Atlanta-based Village Capital, who works with social entrepreneurs in China, the US, Kenya and India, that makes sense.
"I think the Chinese are among the most innately entrepreneurial people in the world. And in every country, it is the entrepreneur who can respond more quickly to meet a need than anyone else," he says.
Although hard data on the rise of social entrepreneurship is hard to come by, Mr Baird says opportunities for investors like Village Capital to put money into these types of businesses are growing exponentially.
He cites one of his partners, the Empowering Chinese Social Enterprise Leaders fellowship, which is affiliated with the Clinton Global Initiative, as receiving 100 applications for one of its programmes in 2011.
Legward Wong Mr Wong is already thinking about his next project - recycling prosthetic limbs
In 2012, the same programme received 1,000 applications, he says.
Lack of trust
The popularity of social entrepreneurship in China is also being driven by a lack of trust among the general public in state-run charities, says Home of the Elderly's Mr Wong.
"It is easier to create value by yourself than asking people for donations, because the social trust level between people is not high," he says.
According to UBS and Insead, mainland China has the strongest level of government control over philanthropy of the Asian countries surveyed.
Most private charities in China are prohibited from raising money publicly.
In 2008, 89% of donations went to government-backed organisations such as the Red Cross Society and other groups under the Department of Civil Affairs, according to the study.
A devastating earthquake in the south western province of Sichuan in 2008 led to a brief boom in corporate and personal giving.
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“Start Quote
Catlin PowersWe realised that in order to reach all the people who have this need, we would have to scale in a big way. And the only way to do that sustainably is by generating sustainable profits”
Catlin PowersOne Earth
But last year, a high-profile scandal in which a young woman named Guo Meimei posted online photos of herself enjoying a lavish lifestyle funded in part by the Red Cross hurt China's charities.
The Red Cross denied the connection.
A man, reportedly her boyfriend, who worked for a company affiliated with the charity resigned from the firm when the scandal spread, but the damage had been done.
According to Forbes magazine, total giving by China's top 100 philanthropists plunged by 41% in response, mirroring wider mistrust in state-backed charities.
Working together
Despite the scandal, some social enterprises are choosing to partner with the Chinese government to reach the greatest number of people in need.
The flagship product of One Earth Designs, based in eastern Hong Kong, is a solar cooker weighing about 20kg that can harness energy from the sun to boil a litre of water in about 10 minutes.
The target customers are rural residents in the vast, impoverished areas of western China, where electricity is scarce.
Catlin Powers, the company's co-founder, says she was drawn to tackling the massive scale of the environmental and health problems faced by villagers burning solid fuels such as wood, dung and coal.
"We actually started out as a non-profit and in the process of working on community projects we realised that in order to reach all the people who have this need we would have to scale in a big way," she says.
Solar cooker One Earth will sell solar cookers to the government, which will then subsidise them for rural villagers
"And the only way to do that sustainably is by generating sustainable profits."
In China, Ms Powers estimates that about 700 million people use solid fuels that cause pollution and pollution-related deaths.
A similar number exists in India, while about 300 million burn such fuels in South East Asia.
In rural areas where villagers cannot afford the $100 to $200 price tag for each of the cookers, One Earth plans to sell directly to the Chinese government, which will then resell them at a heavily subsidised price.
The company, which will begin to sell the cookers this year, expects to break even next year. By 2016, sales are projected to top $45m.
Across town, with one company under his belt, Home of the Elderly's Mr Wong is already dreaming up his next venture.
A prosthetist by training, he wants to recycle prosthetic limbs no longer used by patients in the West.
He aims to drive around China in a truck, providing the prosthetics to people in need.
He is still working out details of his business model, but he is certain that doing business is the best way to solve social problems.


25 September 2012 Last updated at 03:42 GMT 

The workplaces building Africa's business future


By Fiona GrahamTechnology of business reporter, BBC News, Kampala

Building site in Kampala Under construction: Like much of Kampala, Uganda's start-up ecosystem is growing from the ground up, with the help of flourishing co-working spaces and technology hubs across the city

 Thomas Ssemakula is an impressive young man.
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Smartly dressed in a shirt and tie, he has just come from a meeting with an investor who has agreed to fund his agricultural services start-up. He smiles widely, his happiness infectious as he talks about how his business got started.
"I started Brave East Africa without a coin on me. That was June 2010 when I finished my final year at Makere University, I was doing bachelor of animal production at the college of veterinary medicine," he says.
Inspired by his single parent mother, Mr Ssemakula set about creating what he hopes will become a multinational agribusiness that helps east African farmers build profitable and sustainable businesses.
"My mother has been father and mother, supporting the family slowly through her work. I wanted to follow the same path."
The first step was to find somewhere to work from. But with no money options were limited - so he came up with the idea of trading veterinary officer services for a seat in an internet cafe, run by a group of farmers.
Thomas Ssemakula Thomas Ssemakula aims to move his company into it's own Kampala office block within two years
Writing for a newspaper about agriculture, in return for having the name of his business and contact details prominently displayed, attracted customers, bringing precious funds to invest in the business. Finally he was ready to move to an office environment which would allow him to meet clients and investors and to be taken seriously.
Setting up on your own in east Africa isn't cheap. Not only is there rent to consider, there's furniture, utilities and the internet connection that remains prohibitively expensive for ordinary Ugandans.
So instead Mr Ssemakula decided to become a member of the Mara Launchpad, one of a new breed of home-grown co-working spaces and innovation hubs in Kampala.
Community property
"If you're working from home or out of your car here in Uganda people don't take you seriously," says Mara Launchpad's Nigel Ball.
Mara Launchpad The Mara Launchpad is on the third floor of an office block, above a Tusky's supermarket, just across the road from Makere University.
"They're worried because trust levels are lower, and if you don't have an office how do they track you down if things go wrong."
Providing office space is a simple thing to do, says Mr Ball. But what the Launchpad wants to do is give technology and non-technology companies credibility in the eyes of potential clients or partners.
"Getting the right kind of office that projects the right kind of image, that's in the right location, at the right price, is not an easy task," he says.
There's a large open plan room filled with desks, with wifi connectivity, as well as various meeting rooms. In the room next door regular Friday night innovation events are held, organised by the Mara Foundation and the Angels Finance Corporation, the people behind the Launchpad.
The Grameen Foundation's Ravi Agarwal The Grameen Foundation's Ravi Agarwal talks to Launchpad members about how to market their businesses successfully at the regular Friday night innovation event
Business incubation and mentorship is available, as well as a six week acceleration program that runs twice a year.
Ideas exchange
Over the last couple of years, tech hubs and other co-working spaces have started popping up in towns and cities worldwide.
For emerging economies, the services and advice they offer can have even more impact than in the developed world. Taking the lead from the granddaddy of them all, Nairobi's iHub, they are spreading rapidly across the African continent.
In an office block on a residential street in Kampala, Barbara Birungi sits at her desk with a cup of tea. She is the manager of the Hive CoLab, less a co-working space than a start-up incubator. Technology entrepreneurs who fit their criteria can spend two years based in the open plan offices.
"It's not about strict business. It's also about coming here to share your ideas, and collaborate. Because out of sharing and collaborating come ideas," says Ms Birungi.
Hive CoLab The Hive CoLab was opened to give the technology scene in Uganda a space that they could call their own and come and collaborate, says Barbara Birungi
"Apart from just offering them a space we see how we can take an idea to the next level. Because many startups fail within the first two years of existence."
As well as regular events and Mobile Monday innovation sessions, the incubator offers mentoring and support finding investors, helping them to protect their intellectual property.
"We have seen examples where investors actually take up someone's idea, and because there's no paperwork, there's no proof they have done that," she says.
Kampala's newest space is Outbox, a co-working space and technology start-up incubator and accelerator that counts Google among its partners.
Richard Zulu is a co-founder. He says working with developers and realising they needed help to get them to the next level pushed him to open the hub.
Outbox hub The Outbox hub is a co-working space for a diverse group of people and a technology incubator and accelerator
"It's very important that the people that start these places share the same passions as the people that work in them," says Mr Zulu.
"A place like this creates a focal point, where you'll be able to meet A, B, C, D people in the tech community. Through the co-working initiative it drives entrepreneurship and innovation through the participants of the space.
"The core is community."
The space specialises in mobile and web start-ups, and Outbox is already home to at least one award-winning business.
Smooth transitions
Senegalese-born social entrepreneur and blogger Marieme Jamme mentors founders and managers of some of Africa's technology hubs.
She believes that while the hype surrounding the new hubs is increasing the visibility of African developers, the type of mentorship available in the Ugandan hubs is vital to their success. And it's not available at all of the spaces opening up across the continent.
"You have ideas generated within those tech hubs, but they don't know how to scale those businesses. They have the business acumen and the passion, but they don't know how to go through setting up that business, or writing that business plan.
"You'll find out that 90% of them don't know how to do it. But when an investor comes in they hide their discomfort, and pretend they know how to do it. This is African pride, this is inside the African mindset.
"It's not because they're not good people, it's the way the mindset works."
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“Start Quote
How can you move the coder from a coder to a CEO?”
Marieme Jammesocial entrepreneur
Another problem according to Ms Jamme is the gap between theoretical and practical knowledge when it comes to coding and development.
"That's why it's very important for us to go back and say, it's ok if you don't know, and work out how you help these entrepreneurs scale their businesses.
"How can you move the coder from a coder to a CEO?"
Mr Ssemakula is certain coming to the Mara Launchpad was the right thing to do.
As well giving farmers agricultural and financial advice, the company is working on technology to link the farmers to high-value markets using text messages.
"The Mara Launchpad has changed my business by providing me with a professional business environment that commands more credibility in the eyes of my customers, in this case the farmers, who find me in such a setting and they see my business as a serious business."
His dreams of sitting at the helm of a multi-national agribusiness are becoming more tangible, with plans for his first branch office in Nairobi, Kenya.
"[The Launchpad] has given me access to free business mentorship and how to go about being an entrepreneur in a practical way."
"I'm glad to be here."


11 October 2012 Last updated at 01:40 GMT

Mali Islamists 'buying child soldiers, imposing Sharia'


Young fighters, including 13-year-old Abdullahi, right, and 14-year-old Hamadi, second right, display their Quranic studies notes as their Islamist commanders look on, in Douentza, Mali, 27 September 2012 Child soldiers can be bought from families for as little as £375 in Islamist-controlled northern Mali

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Islamists who seized control of part of Mali are amassing money from ransoms and drug trafficking while imposing Sharia law, says a senior UN official.
They are also buying child soldiers, paying families $600 (£375) per child, Ivan Simonovic said after a fact-finding visit to the country.
Islamic extremists seized two-thirds of Mali in March when a military coup plunged the country into chaos.
Mr Simonovic painted a grim picture of human rights abuses there.
Women's rights were being particularly restricted, said Mr Simonovic, the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, citing the compilation of a "frightening" list of unmarried women who were pregnant or had borne children.
More women were being forced into marriage - with a wife costing less than $1,000 - and some were then being resold in "a smokescreen for enforced prostitution", added Mr Simonovic.
"Human rights violations are becoming more systematic," he told reporters at UN headquarters in New York, adding that Islamists had "imposed an extremist version of Sharia".
Amputations and floggings
The fact-finding mission gleaned information from people travelling to and from northern Mali, where he said Islamists were imposing harsher punishments for crimes.
So far, he said, there had been three public executions, eight amputations and two floggings.
There were allegations of torture and inhuman prison conditions in southern Mali, where the government retains control, Mr Simonovic added.
He urged authorities to investigate these cases if they expected UN help as Mali's army tries to reclaim the north.
The 15-member Security Council seems prepared to back an international intervention force in the country, under the right conditions, says the BBC's Barbara Plett at the UN.
She says council members are deeply concerned about al-Qaeda linked extremists taking advantage of the anarchy in northern Mali.


20 October 2012 Last updated at 00:23 GMT

How to get to the top of China's Communist Party


By Angus FosterBBC News, Beijing

A woman looks at a painting by Chinese artist Ji Dachun entitled "Zhong Nan-Hai 1.0"
China's Communist Party is about to unveil the country's next generation of leaders. Almost all will be career politicians who have risen through the ranks. But what are the secrets of success in one of the world's most rigid authoritarian systems?

Start young
Age is very important in China, and if you haven't been singled out for high office by the time you are in your mid-twenties, it's probably too late.
The two men who are set to become China's new president and premier, Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, both joined the Party aged 21 and have never worked outside it.
Nowadays children get exposed to politics even earlier, starting from age six when they wear the distinctive red neckerchiefs of the Young Pioneers. Formal political education doesn't really start until selected children join the Communist Youth League, from 14, and promising students are eligible for full party membership from 18.
To join the Party, you have to write an application letter to your local party cell, be accepted into a study group, have your thinking and background thoroughly examined, then be approved as a probationary member. There is a formal ceremony held before the Party's flag - a yellow hammer and sickle on a red background - and new members swear the Party oath.
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New member's oath
It is my will to join the Communist Party of China, uphold the Party's program, observe the provisions of the Party constitution, fulfil a Party member's duties, carry out the Party's decisions, strictly observe Party discipline, guard Party secrets, be loyal to the Party, work hard, fight for communism throughout my life, be ready at all times to sacrifice my all for the Party and the people, and never betray the Party
"It's quite an emotional experience," according to one female party member, who did not want to be named. "In China you don't even swear an oath at your wedding, so joining the Party was my only time."
Joining is not easy. In 2011 22m people applied and only 3m were accepted. Overall membership rose slightly to 83m, making it arguably the largest private club in the world.
People want to join for different reasons. Membership brings high status and significant privileges, like access to restricted information, government jobs and a chance to meet people who can help your job prospects. For others, joining is about sacrifice and wanting to contribute to China's future.
"Joining showed you were one of the best students, and close to the centre of power," the female member said. "Later on, it's fear of being excluded that makes you want to join."
Choose your faction
The most important factor in how far you rise is your patron, or kaoshan in Chinese - meaning the mountain you can rely on.
"If you have a patron who can get you into the queue for jobs when you're young, ahead of other people, you are poised for greatness," says Minxin Pei of Claremont McKenna College.
For children of high-levels officials this is easy, since they have the help and protection of their parents' networks of influence.
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Party numbers
Communist Party flag in Chengdu Ruled China since 1949
 83m members in 2011
 77% of members are men
 Farmers make up one third of membership
 6.8m members work for the Party and state agencies
 Funded by government grant and membership dues
 Private businessmen allowed to join since 2001
 Seven of country's richest men attending congress
China's new leaders
About half of China's most senior leaders now fall into this category, and are known as the "princelings" because of their privileged upbringings.
The other important faction is known as "tuanpai", people like outgoing President Hu Jintao who have risen up through the Communist Youth League. Coming from more humble backgrounds, they are usually thought to be more concerned with popular issues like subsidised housing or rural incomes.
For most of the past five years, the two groups have been battling over who gets the next generation of top jobs. Xi Jinping, a princeling with extensive family ties, pipped Hu Jintao's protege Li Keqiang for the top job, but some other posts are still up for grabs.
"It's not just two blocks which need to be balanced against each other," according to Steve Tsang of Nottingham University. "Multiple games are being played in terms of factional politics and personal ambitions. You try to form alliances, persuade people that what you can offer is more attractive that the others," he says.
China's censored media doesn't report the battles. When snippets of unverifiable rumour emerge, they suggest a ruthless political culture. Ling Jihua, a close ally of Hu Jintao, appears to have missed out on promotion after his son was killed in a car crash - allegedly driving a Ferrari, with two partially-dressed women as his passengers.
Study morality
Throughout China's history, its leaders have been expected to govern with a sense of moral duty. So while the Party, like the emperors before it, believes it has an unassailable right to govern, it also believes it has the duty to govern fairly.
There is a long tradition of eulogising good officials, whose devotion and sacrifice is held up as a public model.
Nowadays, officials need to show their superiors they are able to govern well. They are subjected to annual reviews where factors like GDP growth, tax revenues and social stability in their areas are key. At grassroots levels the Party has allowed some elections, though officially approved candidates almost always win. Some higher officials' promotions are also now approved by limited public consultation.
These measures help the Party claim it has public legitimacy. But most Chinese would say its successful management of the economy is why it should stay in power.
Officials also need to appear humble, and remember the Party's watchwords "Serve the people".
Wen Jiabao talks to villagers after a deadly landslide in Yunnan, 2012 Grandpa Wen serves the people
Outgoing premier Wen Jiabao has become one of China's most popular leaders because of his ability to connect with ordinary people. After every earthquake, landslide or flood "Grandpa Wen" - as he is widely known - is quickly there, chatting sympathetically and ready to help.
Even though critics say it's an act, Wen's apparent humility earns him huge respect.
Don't flaunt it
TV montage of Shaanxi official Yang Dacai and his watches One official's luxury watch collection proved too much
As China's economy has boomed, high-level corruption has become the biggest source of popular anger against the Party.
Measuring its scale is impossible, but corrupt officials are thought to have smuggled $120bn out of the country since the mid 1990s.
There is also resentment against perks of office like banquets, expense accounts and lavish gifts which have become an important extra source of income.
The Party has responded by cracking down on the most blatant culprits. It says tens of thousands of people have been punished.
But critics say the campaigns are often propaganda, and the Party knows it has to tolerate most official corruption precisely because so many people are implicated.
"If you start, where do you stop? Because everyone's touched by it," says Richard McGregor, author of The Party.
The result is that top officials and employees of state-owned companies are able to get rich, but must take care not to show off that wealth conspicuously.
Shaanxi official Yang Dacai has learned that lesson. He was sacked this year after an internet campaign exposed how many expensive watches he owned, and asked how he could afford them on a provincial official's salary.
Be male
Liu Yandong
Only about a quarter of Party members are women.
No woman has ever reached the Politburo's standing committee, its highest decision-making body.
In the wider, 24-strong Politburo, only one woman, Liu Yandong, has a seat.
Don't stand out
Modern China's founders - men like Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping - were charismatic visionaries who almost single-handedly dictated the country's future.
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“Start Quote
You want to be a tallish poppy, but not a tall poppy”
Steve TsangNottingham University
Nowadays leaders have to climb a tangled bureaucracy which demands total obedience.
The party's absolute control of politics and the media means that any mistake could be your last.
The most spectacular recent example came in 2012 when Bo Xilai, former party secretary of Chongqing and sometimes tipped for even higher office, was sacked and expelled from the party. His wife was jailed for murdering a British businessman and Bo himself faces charges of corruption, abuse of power and - an old party favourite - "improper sexual relations".
Li Keqiang, Liu Yunshan and Liu Yuanchao - Sep 2012 Dark(ened) hair and suit are compulsory
But many Western analysts say Bo's real crime was to challenge the established way of doing politics. Populist policies and a crime crackdown were a dangerous bid for legitimacy, and a threat to those who awaited promotion via the party's usual negotiated consensus.
"You want to be a tallish poppy, but not a tall poppy. If you stand out too far you may get chopped down," says Tsang.
Not standing out extends to your clothes and appearance - dark suits and dark hair, with no greying allowed.
Work somewhere poor
For a party with no democratic mandate, it is vital top leaders appear to understand the challenges faced by ordinary people.
The party's organisation department, an all-knowing bureaucracy which decides who gets every senior party and government job, therefore makes sure its future leaders have done time far from the comforts of Beijing.
Outgoing President Hu Jintao spent four years in Tibet, seen by Chinese as a particularly arduous posting. One of the rising stars among China's younger leaders, 49-year-old Hu Chunhua, is serving time in Inner Mongolia.
Be ruthless
All political systems breed ruthlessness, but China's is especially unforgiving.
"If you get pushed out of power they make sure you never come back. You don't just lose your job, they go after your family and destroy your name," says Minxin Pei.
Ambitious leaders are advised to first read Houheixue, or Thick Black Theory - a classic of political dark arts published in the last century. It says the weapons needed to succeed are a thick skin, which is immune to shame or guilt, and a black heart, hardened to hurting others for your own gain.


21 October 2012 Last updated at 00:43 GMT

Why rural sexual violence remains rife in India


By Sanjoy MajumderBBC News, Dabra, Haryana
Woman in Dabra Last year, 733 rapes were reported in Haryana but many more are unreported
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Dabra is a typical village in India's rural Haryana state.
It has narrow lanes with open drains and small houses built of brick and mud.

Children play in the dirt, while men sit around smoking. Not many outsiders visit this poor farming community.
But outside one of the houses two policemen stand on guard.
Inside, a 16-year-old girl sits in one of the rooms surrounded by women.
She is the reason the police are here.
Six weeks ago, she was out walking on the street when she was abducted by a dozen men.
"They dragged me inside the car and blindfolded me," she says, staring ahead, her voice steady but emotionless.
"They took me by the side of a river. There, seven of them took turns to rape me.
"The others kept watch."
'Overcome with shame'
Her ordeal did not end there. The men filmed the assault on their mobile phones and circulated the images in this deeply conservative society.
Rural village in India Men still call the shots in India's rural villages
"Her father was so overcome with shame and the humiliation that he poisoned himself," the girl's cousin said.
"We rushed him to the hospital but it was too late to save him."
Nine of the alleged attackers have been arrested. But the others are still at large.
Last year, 733 rapes were reported in Haryana. Most such assaults go unreported.
Sexual violence against women takes place all over India. But what stands out in Haryana is the social attitude towards women.
In a region that is just a short drive from Delhi, the modern capital of one of the word's rising powers, men still call the shots.
In the rural district of Jind, a traditional village council meeting is under way.
Inside a large hall, elderly men sit on wooden cots, smoking pipes. There is a not a single woman among them.
And as they have for centuries, they pass judgement - on social mores, on women and on the recent spate of rapes.
"I'll tell you the main reason for these rapes," explains Suresh Koth, one of the elders.
"Just look at what's in the newspapers, on television. Topless women. This is what's corrupting our youth. After all this is India, not Europe."
'Kangaroo courts'
These are comments which cannot be dismissed lightly.
These are the khaps, the all-male village councils that are tremendously powerful both socially and politically.
Men smoking pipes in the rural district of Jind, a short drive from Delhi Traditional village councils rarely include women
"They often function like kangaroo courts, creating laws for society, determining what women must do, how people should behave," says rights activist Ranjana Kumari, of the Centre for Social Research.
"And if people don't follow them, they intimidate them and threaten violence, including honour killings."
Khaps are unelected bodies but politicians and governments are wary of taking them on.
They can help to deliver votes during elections, which means they are often indispensable to politicians.
But there is a growing sense of outrage across India at their pronouncements following the recent spate of rapes.
One council elder was reported as saying that girls should be forced to marry young to protect them from rapists. Others routinely blame Western influences.
Many people believe they have no place in a modern, democratic and liberal India. But taking them on is not going to be easy.
Back in Dabra, the impact of what happened a few weeks ago is already apparent.
"The girls in my neighbourhood have stopped going to school," the young rape victim says.
"I am frightened too."


1 November 2012 Last updated at 00:30 GMT

Sushil Kumar: What the real Slumdog Millionaire did next


By Rajini VaidyanathanBBC News, Motihari, Bihar
Who Wants to be a Millionaire
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He was dubbed the real Slumdog millionaire after he became the first person to win the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Like the hero of the Oscar-winning film, Sushil Kumar used his wits to win a fortune - but one year on, his life has changed only a little.

There are many ways you can spend a cool million dollars, but as he leads me into the corner of a dusty shed, Sushil Kumar shows me the first thing he splashed out on.
"This is my generator," he says, beaming at his $500 purchase. "We get power cuts here for as long as four hours every day. Before I couldn't watch the news and my favourite TV programmes, but now I have this there's no problem."
It was in fact his favourite television programme, which ushered Sushil Kumar into India's millionaire's club.
A year ago, the world watched as the government office clerk from Bihar, one of India's poorest states, became the first contestant to scoop the top prize of 50 million Rupees ($1m) on Kaun Banega Crorepathi? (Who wants to be a millionaire?)
Sushil Kumar with generator, poster of Amitabh Bachchan, and his new scooter
Before his appearance on the show, Sushil, a psychology graduate, was earning little more than $100 a month. By answering 13 questions correctly, he pocketed more than he would have earned in 800 years.
The story made headlines around the world, because it was almost identical to the plot of the film Slumdog Millionaire, where a man from a humble background hits the jackpot on the quiz show. In the film you don't find out how it changed the hero's life - but you get the sense there is going to be a transformation.
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How winners spend their cash
Michael Carroll, the self-proclaimed King of Chavs, from Norfolk in the UK, won £9.7m ($15.6m) on the lottery, and spent it all in eight years
Allen and Violet Large, an elderly couple from Nova Scotia, Canada, won $11.3m (£7m) in 2011 and gave 98% of it away to charity, saving the rest for a "rainy day"
William 'Bud' Post III won $16m (£10m) in the Pennsylvania lottery in 1988 and it brought him nothing but trouble - a brother even tried to hire a hitman to kill him at one point during the 10 years he was squandering the money on homes, cars, boats and a plane
Matthew Breach, a lorry driver from Battle, East Sussex, won £18m ($29m) in March 2011 - two months later he still had not taken a holiday, moved out of his one-bedroom council flat, or replaced his ancient Vauxhall Astra car
At Sushil's house in the town of Motihari, a fading, slightly dog-eared picture of the show's host, Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan is taped to the wall - one of the few visible reminders of events a year ago.
The family home is very basic. Each of the four main rooms has a double bed, in the corner of one is a small television. It's here he lives with his wife, his mother and father, four brothers, two sisters-in-law and one child - 11 in all.
"Because we live in a very small town, my economic problems have been solved 100%," he says. "I feel it's a miracle nothing less. It's God's blessing."
Sitting cross-legged on his bed, Sushil shows me another one of his purchases, his first ever computer, a small tablet. Last week he bought a scooter, the only vehicle he owns, even though he has enough money for several high-end sports cars.
Ask him why he's not spent extravagantly since his win, and his reply is: "Slowly, slowly, I'm spending my money carefully."
Even the clothes he wears the day we meet are not new, and were part of his wardrobe before the show. So far, he's spent $200,000 of his winnings.
The biggest slice of this has gone on a plot of land next door, where work is currently under way to build a nine-room house for the entire extended family. "Each bedroom will have an attached bathroom," he says proudly as he walks me around the site.
Building site
Sushil says the money has changed him in simple and small ways. He's paid off a brother's debts, bought some jewellery for his wife and put the rest in the bank.
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote
In our society if you help one, thousands of people start coming and saying they are needy”
Sushil Kumar
India is a nation known for its savings culture, and it seems Sushil is living up to the stereotype. He's has taken some financial advice on how to invest the money but has also had plenty of offers from people wanting to spend it for him.
"Since I won, a lot of people started writing letters to me asking for money, to buy land, to solve their problems, to pay for operations, their house, their children's wedding."
But Sushil takes a firm line with begging letters.
"In our society if you help one, thousands of people start coming and saying they are needy too," he says.
"A million is a lot of money but not enough if you start helping people, you'll lose it all in a day."
Continue reading the main story
Who wants to be an Indian millionaire?
Sushil Kumar answered 13 questions on his way to becoming a millionaire. Can you answer the following selection of six?
Kumar wins million dollars
1.) Multiple Choice Question
With which part of a computer is the advertising slogan "Intel Inside" associated?
intel logo
2.) Multiple Choice Question
Muammar Gaddafi was the ruler of which country from 1969 to 2011?
Muammar Gaddafi
3.) Multiple Choice Question
According to India's 2011-2012 Union Budget, people of which age are considered as a "very senior citizen"?
elderly Indian woman
4.) Multiple Choice Question
After Sachin Tendulkar, which Indian batsman has scored the highest number of runs in Test cricket?
Sachin Tendulkar
Sunil Gavaskar
Rahul Dravid
Mohammad Azharuddin
VVS Laxman
5.) Multiple Choice Question
Which investigation agency was founded in 2009 and given special powers to probe terror crimes in India?
Indian security police
National Security Guard
Special Task Force
National Investigation Agency
Anti-Terrorism Squad
6.) Multiple Choice Question
Which colonial power ended its involvement with India by selling the rights of the Nicobar Islands to the British on 16 October, 1868?
Nicobar Islands
It's the processor. "Intel Inside" was launched in 1991 by microprocessing manufactor Intel. Intel is the biggest provider of processors in the world. Kumar got the audience to help him answer this question, his third, worth 20,000 rupees (�230).
It's Libya. Colonel Muammar Gaddafi ruled Libya for more than 40 years before being overthrown and killed on 20 October 2011, during the Libyan revolution. This sixth question was worth 160,000 rupees (�1,846).
It's 80. Indian "very senior citizens" qualify for more tax relief than those who are merely "senior citizens" - classified as being between 60 and 80 years old. This was Kumar's eighth question, worth 640,000 rupees (�7,387).
It's Rahul Dravid. Dravid currently has 13,265 Test runs. Tendulkar has 15,533 runs, while Gavaskar retired in 1987 with 10,122 runs. This ninth question for Kumar was worth 1,250,000 rupees (�14,425).
The National Investigation Agency was created in the wake of the November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. It allows the central agency to combat terrorism across India's states without requesting permission. This 10th question was for 2,500,000 rupees (�28,845).
It's Denmark. The Nicobar Islands in the eastern Indian Ocean were first colonised by the Danish East India Company between 1754-56. They became part of British India in 1869 after being sold by Denmark the year before. This 13th and final question won Kumar the 50 million rupees (�550m or roughly $1m).
Your Score
0 - 2 : Posh pauper
3 - 5 : Modestly middle class
6 - 6 : Slumdog millionaire
The money has allowed Sushil to quit his job, though.
At the time of his win Sushil said he gleaned much of his general knowledge from the BBC Hindi service. As a voracious consumer of news, he now spends his time watching documentaries and reading newly-bought books.
"I'd like to become a psychology lecturer one day," he says. "I'd also like to build my own personal library."
Sushil's dad explains they now have a cleaner to help with the household chores - as most lower middle class Indians do - and can now also afford to buy better food.
"Before we could only buy half a litre of milk, but now we get 2 or 3 litres. Earlier we couldn't buy expensive vegetables, but now we can afford it, all this has changed," he says.
As Sushil's win was watched by 27 million Indians, he definitely has celebrity status.
Jhalak Dhikalaja
"Now I go to any part of the country and people recognise me and… want to get pictures taken with me and get my autograph. It's a very good feeling," he says.
Continue reading the main story
Is it easy to remain sane?
The way people deal with a windfall gain depends on their mental make-up, their conditioning, and their current state of mental health.
One person may go on a complete high, become rash, and splurge all the money. Another may use it slowly and pragmatically. Yet another may become insecure and develop symptoms of paranoia.
The Indian way of thinking is a big factor that allows people like Sushil Kumar to retain their balance - not just the Indian thought process related to saving, but also to living a simple life, and taking only that which is rightfully yours.
Psychologist Sanjay Chugh
He's had offers to appear in films and television shows, and turned them all down, apart from India's version of Strictly Come Dancing, Jhalak Dhikalaja, where he lasted a few weeks.
"I was the kind of person who would stand at the side at a party if people danced, so it was 100% a challenge for me."
His biggest challenge is yet to come, however - the imminent prospect of fatherhood.
Sushil had married his wife Seema months before the show, and the couple are now expecting their first child.
"Now our kids will be brought up very well, their studies will go very well," says Seema.
Sushil Kumar and wife Seema
Does a person change when they become rich overnight?
Psychologist Sanjay Chugh says some people who get rich overnight "go on a complete high" which can make them "elated, euphoric and a bit grandiose".
It's in circumstances like this that people sometimes "become rash and splurge all the money" he says.
But Sushil says nothing has changed about him, and he has no plans even to leave his home town for the bright lights of the cities.
"I'm the same Sushil Kumar, before I won," he says. "And I want to remain the same Sushil Kumar in future."


Aftermath of hurricane Sandy leaves Haiti facing new disaster


While the world's attention has focused on the US, the suffering and consequences for the Caribbean nation are far greater

Jonathan Watts in Port-au-Prince
The Guardian, Friday 2 November 2012 20.22 GMT
Hurricane Sandy Haiti
Two women in the flooded streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Up to 54 people have died, 20 are still missing, and thousands have lost temporary shelters set up after the 2010 earthquake.
 Photograph: Jean Jacques Augustin/EFE/Photoshot

When hurricane Sandy struck, Fifi Bouille was giving birth in a refugee camp. There were no medics around, only her sisters. Throughout the three-hour labour, rain beat down on the tent and fierce winds tugged at the canvas.
Not long after the umbilical cord was cut, the gusts were so great that the sisters feared the covering would be ripped from above them, so the first-time mother had to carry her newborn son through muddy paths in the middle of the the storm to find new shelter "I was terrified my baby might die," says Bouille, who is now sharing a tent with six others. The danger of the storm has passed, but she is now faced by a new concern: how to feed her child and herself.
The hurricane did not just take their tent, but their cooking utensils, bedding and meagre supplies of food. On Wednesday, she had one meal of corn. On Thursday, nothing.
"I need food, but I don't have enough money to buy it," she says. "Tell people we need nappies, cooking utensils, protein."
Bouille is not alone in fearing that Sandy's aftermath may be more terrible than the storm itself for Haiti. Although the world's attention has mostly focused on the hurricane's impact on the United States, the short-term suffering and long-term consequences for this Caribbean nation – the poorest country in the western hemisphere – are far greater because so many people already live permanently on the edge of catastrophe.
Bouille moved to the Marassa refugee camp after her home and family were destroyed by a devastating earthquake in January 2010. As with the storms before and after, the impact of that disaster was worsened by high levels of poverty, dire infrastructure and weak governance.
Almost three years after the earthquake, 350,000 people in the capital of Port-au-Prince are still living in camps for displaced refugees.
Over the past three years, hundreds who now live in the Marassa camp have been forced to flee twice: from homes destroyed in the quake, to tents which were ripped and flooded in the storm, and to a temporary shelter in a fire station. Since Sandy struck, the camp's inhabitants have rebuilt their simple church made of sheets of corrugated iron, but are still waiting for new tents and food supplies.
Community leaders say cholera and hunger stalk the 3,500 camp residents, and starvation had claimed one life shortly before Sandy struck. Aid groups such as Oxfam have helped, but humanitarian support has ebbed in the past two years.
"We need food," said Mogaline Richard. "There have been promises, but nothing has come yet."
Haitians of proud of their country's origins. Later this month, people will celebrate the great battle fought by sugarcane slaves against their French overlords that led to the establishment of the world's first black-led republic in 1804.
But Johan Peleman, head of the United Nation's Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, warns: "This country is very vulnerable. It has the world's worst cholera epidemic and 3.5% of people in the capital are still living in tents."
Haiti was only hit by Sandy's tail, but 54 people died and 20 are still missing. Prime minister Laurent Lamothe described it as a "disaster of major proportions". There is little resentment that the US gets far more attention. Instead, the mood is more one of resignation that a catastrophe in a poor country is less of a story.
"This is not the first nor the last disaster we will have. We have seen so much worse that we are relieved there is only this," noted Emmelie Prophete–Milcé, a writer based in Port-au-Prince. "In New York disasters do not happen every day so the media have a good catch. In Haiti the disasters come every day. Well, almost."
Even before Sandy, Haiti had more cholera cases than the rest of the world put together. Almost 6% of the population have been affected and 7,500 people have died.
To respond to the rush of cases this month, Médecins Sans Frontières have opened an extra cholera treatment centre in Carrefour, where the tents are now almost filled with 158 patients, including many young children.
Ezechial Maxi, a journalism student, came in on Monday after being turned away by the general hospital. "The doctors were on strike because they have no medicine and they're not getting paid. I was crying. I knew I had cholera and thought I was going to die."
After being put on an IV drip with a simple rehydrating formula, he has now almost fully recovered.
Cholera is a disease of the poor. It is not difficult to avoid or treat if basic sanitation and clean water are available. But in much of Port-au-Prince, this is not the case. Many road are flooded. Street markets keep their food on the wet, rubbish-strewn and easily contaminated floor.
Sandy will add to those risks, but, says Joan Arnan, the head of MSF's mission in Haiti: "When it goes away, there'll still be cholera and misery in this country. The problem here is structural. We're talking about a very fragile country that cannot respond. Unless there is more support for the international community, this situation will repeat itself every time there is a big storm."
More than any single disaster, the danger is from a steady accumulation of problems and not just in the city.
Sandy turned dirt roads and paths into deep, fast running streams in the village of Jacquet in the district of Gantheir, an hour north-east of Port-au-Prince. About three-quarters of the people in this community of 2,850 people had their homes destroyed. Most of the homes were built from the same mud that gushed down from the denuded mountainside. All that was left of the school was a few dozen breeze blocks, upended desks and a twisted blackboard that still had the lesson notes "history needs its documents" chalked up in French. The nearby football pitch and farm fields were filled with mud and rocks.
Downstream, homes made of mud walls and tin roofs had either collapsed or been flooded. There were already seven people to a small room in some of them. Now the community is squashed tighter in the few homes that remain dry and strong.
"The water came into our homes at midnight. There was just a little at first, but by 4am it had turned into a torrent of mud that took away almost everything we owned," said Yanick Thelemarque, a mother of seven who has only eaten one meal in the past two days.
Food insecurity is growing. More than 70% of crops, including bananas, plantains and maize, were destroyed in the south of the country, officials say.
"Our harvest is gone and we don't have enough money to buy anything so, after we brush our teeth in the morning, our mouths are empty for the whole day," Thelemarque said.
For several villagers, this was the second or third time in three years that a disaster had ruined their homes.
Jean-Tholere Cenat, a farmer, lost his house and crops of potatoes, beans and leaks. "The flood left us alive, but took our spirits," he says. "Tell people we need food and housing."
In the past food shortages have led to violence. The anger is already evident here. After the deputy mayor came to hear their problems, an irate crowd came away yelling: "We're hungry!"
Local people say it was not always this way. "Life was better for us 20 years ago, when schooling was free and a little land was enough to feed and family," says Jean-Carlo Prosper, who runs a non-governmental organisation that works with Oxfam to ease the problems and help people rebuild. "Now everything is more expensive. There are more people and the soil quality is worse because it has to be constantly cultivated."
On the radio, people hear how the US has suffered as a result of Sandy and they sympathise. But, although it was the same storm, its impact seems to have played out in two different worlds.
Reports that electricity was slowly being restored in New York contrasted here with villages that had no electricity to begin with.
Dieula Geffrard lost her home and her husband in the 2010 earthquake. The refugee tent she and her four children moved into afterwards was destroyed by a storm the same year.
Her portable home in Kafou Desruissaux, about an hour's drive from Port-au-Prince, has now been inundated with mud.
"My home wasn't strong enough to withstand the floods, which took away my bed, clothes and shoes," she says.
She counts herself lucky, though, to be alive. After the waters subsided , she found the body of her neighbour, the town tailor. "This place has been forgotten," says Geffrard, "Please help us."
Additional reporting: Jean-Daniel Delone


12 November 2012 Last updated at 01:44 GMT

The Philippines: The world's budget English teacher


Kate McGeownBy Kate McGeownBBC News, Philippines
Much cheaper lessons and a convincing US accent are bringing a fast-increasing number of students to learn English in the Philippines.
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The Philippines is fast becoming the world's low-cost English language teacher - with rapid increases in overseas students coming to learn English or study in English-speaking universities.

There might be other countries that people think about as a classic place to learn English, such as the UK, the US or Australia.
But there is one key reason that they are switching to the Philippines. It's much cheaper. And in the competitive market for language students, it means the Philippines is attracting people from countries such as Iran, Libya, Brazil and Russia.
"We have very competitive rates compared with other countries," says English teacher, Jesy King, citing her school's fees of $500 (£313) for a 60-hour class - about a third of the price of an equivalent course in the US or Canada.
Another major advantage is the accent.
Filipinos speak with a clear American accent - partly because the Philippines was a US colony for five decades, and partly because so many people here have spent time working in call centres that cater to a US market.
Call centres
These centres train their staff to sound indistinguishable from Americans, so callers never realise that the person they're speaking to is on the other side of the world.
Russian student at university in the Philippines Elizaveta is a Russian student taking courses taught in English in the Philippines - she says fees are a quarter of courses in Australia or Canada
"I have a background in call centres, so I've learnt to adopt an American accent - it's one of the pre-requisites when you join," says Jesy King.
Her school, the International Language Academy of Manila, attracts students from all over the world.
The majority are from Asia - especially Japan, Taiwan and Korea - but in the past few months she's also taught people from North Africa, South America and the Middle East.
Student numbers are growing rapidly. According to the Philippine Immigration Bureau, more than 24,000 people have applied for a study permit this year - compared to fewer than 8,000 just four years ago.
The government sees this sector as a golden opportunity for growth.
Increasing demand
"We're geared to accept more and more students," says Cristino Panlilio, the under-secretary for the Department of Trade and Industry. "I believe the country should come up with more marketing for this."
And it's not just English language students who are coming to the Philippines - there's also been a rapid increase in the number of foreigners applying for graduate and post-graduate courses in all kinds of fields.
Outsourcing worker in Manila Outsourced work being carried out at home in Manila: The Phillipines benefits from having one of the biggest English-speaking populations in the world
The main reasons that attract them are, again, the cost - and the fact that, in the country's top universities, all classes are held in English.
In order to study at a university here, foreigners need a full student visa, and immigration records show that three times as many foreigners applied for one in 2011 than they did just three years before.
Dr Alvin Culaba, the executive vice-president of De La Salle - one of the country's top universities - is confident that the level of teaching in his institution can compete with that found anywhere in the world.
"Our programmes are very comparable, or sometimes even better, than in the US and Europe," he says.
Driving a bargain
De La Salle already has a lot of students from China and Japan, but there's recently been an increase in Europeans.
Elizaveta Leghkaya, a Russian engineering student, is one of them.
Continue reading the main story
 1.55 billion learners of English around the world, says British Council
 10.2 million English teachers
 Universities are increasingly using English as a medium for teaching
 Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands have the best English speakers, according to EF English Proficiency Index
 In China, Disney has become a major provider of English teaching lessons
She looked at courses in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, but the programme at De La Salle was a quarter of the price of the others.
"Here it's much cheaper, and I'm really confident that the qualification I'll get is just the same," she says.
She had found other benefits of studying in the Philippines too.
"It's a good experience, as it's a different style of life than I'd get in Europe. It's interesting to learn the culture. I like to travel here, and go to the beaches and museums."
But studying in the Philippines isn't for the faint-hearted.
Living here means coping with the bureaucracy and corruption, and if you're in Manila, the heavy pollution.
And then there's the fact that many Filipinos speak a rather different language than the rest of the English-speaking world.
The Philippines markets itself as being the third largest English-speaking nation - after the US and the UK - a fact proudly displayed on the Department of Tourism website. And in a way, that's true. Most people speak at least rudimentary English, and the well-educated speak it fluently.
Taglish speakers
But a lot of people speak Taglish - a mix of English and the local language Tagalog - which is often difficult for foreigners to understand.
English signs often have the wrong spellings and the way English words are used is sometimes uniquely Filipino, with confusing and occasionally unintentionally amusing results.
Taglish spelling: "Ice bloke" Ice block to ice bloke: The local Tagalog language can be mixed with English to create some unexpected outcomes
One of the national newspapers used the headline "Police Clueless" for a story about the police officers not having any specific clues about a case.
For a foreign student trying to learn English, this will undoubtedly present some challenges.
But for an increasing number of people, these are small obstacles compared with the benefits of studying in the Philippines.
The spiralling cost of education in many parts of the world, coupled with the ease of finding out about foreign courses on the internet, mean that more and more students are deciding to study abroad.
And English-speaking nations like the Philippines are primed to cash in on this trend.


26 December 2012 Last updated at 08:43 GMT

Africa image harming aid effort, says charity Oxfam


Children in Africa Oxfam said stereotypes of Africa needed to be discarded
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A negative image of Africa in the UK is harming efforts to raise food aid in the continent, charity Oxfam has said.

It found that three out of four people had become desensitised to images showing hunger, drought and disease.
Three-quarters thought it was possible to end hunger in Africa, but just one in five believed they could play an active role in achieving it.
Of the more than 2,000 people surveyed, almost half suggested hunger as the biggest problem facing Africa.
Respondents to the survey said over-exposure to negative media and advertising portrayals of Africa and developing countries in other parts of the world was "depressing, manipulative and hopeless".
'Diversity and complexity'
Oxfam chief executive Dame Barbara Stocking said: "Oxfam has led the way in drawing attention to the plight of Africa's most vulnerable people and we aren't trying to gloss over the problems that still beset so many of them, particularly levels of malnutrition that remain stubbornly high.
"But we've come a long way since the 1980s and Band Aid's Do They Know it's Christmas? We need to shrug off the old stereotypes and celebrate the continent's diversity and complexity, which is what we are attempting with this campaign.
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote
We want to make sure people have a really better balanced picture of what's happening in Africa”
Dame Barbara StockingOxfam chief executive
"The relentless focus on ongoing problems at the expense of a more nuanced portrait of the continent, is obscuring the progress that is being made towards a more secure and prosperous future.
"If we want people to help fight hunger we have to give them grounds for hope by showing the potential of countries across Africa - it's a natural instinct to turn away from suffering when you feel you can do nothing to alleviate it."
And when speaking to the BBC, Dame Stocking said a negative image of Africa was "not the truth" about that continent.
"Of course, there are floods, droughts, and there is conflict, but that is not in every country at all. And there are quite a number of countries now in Africa that are really doing very well.
"We want to make sure people have a really better balanced picture of what's happening in Africa. Of course we have to show what the reality is in the situations in those countries.
"But we also need to show the other places where things are actually changing, where things are different."
In a separate recent Oxfam poll, more than half of people immediately mentioned hunger, famine or poverty when speaking about Africa.


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