Saturday, 30 March 2013
DOHA (Reuters) – The Somali government expects to get its first shipment of light weapons within two months after the United Nations partially lifted an arms embargo to strengthen security forces fighting al Qaeda-linked militants, Somalia’s president said.
Aware of international wariness about sending arms to a volatile country already awash in weapons, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said he knew the world was closely watching how his government would manage a fresh inflow of arms.
“We take full responsibility. The world is looking at us and monitoring us,” Mohamud said in an interview in Doha on Wednesday after taking part in his first Arab summit focused on Syria and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
“We are not worried about getting supplies, we’re concerned about the management of these supplies,” he said, adding he expected the first shipment to arrive within the next two months.
He described as “really useful” the U.N. Security Council resolution earlier this month to allow sales of weapons such as automatic assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.
While the United States had supported the move, other Security Council members were wary about completely lifting the ban on a country where al Shabaab militants are still able to launch major attacks.
Somalia’s poorly equipped military – more a collection of rival militias than a cohesive fighting force loyal to a single leader – has had the support of African Union peacekeepers as it has battled al Shabaab fighters on several fronts.Continued
By Ryan Lenora Brown
Christian Science Monitor
Using UN statistics, travel writer Gunnar Garfors found that top contenders for the least-visited award are often dangerous or remote. But some are just plain boring
For some travelers, getting off the beaten path is a point of pride, a way to see the parts of the world that don’t make it into glossy guidebooks.
But how many of those same adventurous travelers would be willing to visit, say, Somalia?
About 500, it turns out.
At least, that’s how many tourists found their way to the wartorn east African nation last year.
That makes Somalia the second-least visited country in the world, after the tiny pacific island nation Nauru, according to a recent list compiled by travel writer Gunnar Garfors from UN statistics.
RECOMMENDED: Are you a savvy global traveler? Take the quiz
Little Nauru – 8.1 square miles in size, population 9,378 – got just 200 visitors last year, and it’s pretty clear why.
“There is almost nothing to see there,” writes Mr. Garfors, “as most of the island … is a large open phosphate mine.”
Indeed, most of the world’s least visited countries seem to fall in one of two categories. There are the Naurus, where you’ll puzzle over what to do, and the Somalias, where it’s simply too dangerous to do much of anything at all. (As Somalia’s Wikitravel page aptly notes, “the easiest method for staying safe in Somalia is not to go in the first place.”)
Most of the “nothing to do” countries are the crumbs that dust a map of the Pacific Ocean: the Federated States of Micronesia, the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, and Tuvalu. The latter shares with the Maldives the dubious distinction of having "highest elevation points" that are the lowest on earth – 15 feet above sea level. Visit while you can, as rising sea levels could make the island uninhabitable within a century.
As for the “too dangerous” countries, the list reads like a global primer in political conflict. For instance, despite its pristine national parks full wild gorillas and elephants, the perpetually ungovernable Central African Republic (#23) is an unpopular destination for tourists. And its stock will likely continue to plummet – last week a rebel alliance seized the capital, Bangui, and the president fled to neighboring Cameroon. (For more on the tempestuous politics of the CAR, read about the rebel alliance that took power there Sunday)
Afghanistan (#10) also suffers from tourism-deflating instability, which keeps visitors away from its rugged peaks, ancient Buddhist monuments, and Islamic holy sites, including the 12th-century Minaret of Jam, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.Continued
Thursday, 28 March 2013
Wednesday, 27 March 2013
Continue reading the main story
The word "ungoogleable" has been removed from a list of new Swedish words after a trademark spat. But it raises the question of what can and can't be found with a search engine.
Today Google appears to be the font of all data.
The idea that something can't be found online is strange enough to have spawned its own adjective.
The word "ungoogleable" is in the headlines after a dispute between the search engine giant and Sweden's language watchdog.
The Language Council of Sweden wanted to include "ungoogleable" - or "ogooglebar" - in its annual list of new Swedish words. But it defined the term as something that cannot be found with any search engine.
Google wanted the Swedish translation to be changed to refer only to Google searches, and the Council opted to remove the word altogether to avoid a lengthy legal battle.
The spat raises the question of just what "ungoogleable" means. Or more specifically, are some things still impossible to find with a search engine? And if so, is it a deliberate strategy?
To be ungoogleable might be a blessing or a curse.
Continue reading the main story
- Some search terms still deliver too many results to pinpoint the right person
- Some people may employ deliberate tactics to stay hidden - for example, a band name might use a symbol to be harder to find
A firm that chooses to call itself 367 may be shooting itself in the foot - people searching online will probably encounter a lot of bus routes before they get to the company.
It's a similar story for an academic with a common name trying to promote research. Being called Mark Smith, for instance, might bring up thousands of other Mark Smiths online.
But others may actively seek to be ungoogleable.
The internet, unlike humans, has an almost flawless memory. That is why it's so useful. But it can also be embarrassing.
Imagine the person who has been photographed in a compromising position at university and had the picture posted online. What happens when they try to get a job as a lawyer? For this very reason there are firms that promise to move people down search-engine lists.
Ungoogleability increasingly means privacy, says Cameron Hulett, executive director of digital marketing company Undertone.
"There are firms managing people's online reputations. Ungoogleable is the extreme form - you are not just managing it you are removing it altogether," he says.
Then there are online networks that act like auction sites for people trading in drugs, erotica and other forbidden items.
Websites such as these use software to create anonymous networks. And with questionable sites that are accessible, a search engine might decide to withhold access to users.
Continue reading the main story
Who, what, why?A part of BBC News Magazine, Who, What, Why? aims to answer questions behind the headlines
But the desire to be ungoogleable goes far wider than that. Prof Ralph Schroeder, from the Oxford Internet Institute, points to democracy activists in China who may need to operate an anonymous website to escape a crackdown on their activities.
Or it might be as simple as a pub quiz wanting to prevent cheating.
Trying to outwit Google's search capability has been popular for a while. A Googlewhack is two words that elicit only one result. The comedian Dave Gorman wrote a book about it after noticing that a phrase on his website "Francophile namesakes" only delivered one result.
Nowadays most people using Google will respond to the promptings of Google Autocomplete. So stumbling upon a Googlewhack is less likely.
Paywalls are another factor. Used by academic journals and newspapers such as The Times and Financial Times they restrict what users can easily find via google.
For some, being ungoogleable is about being unknowable. It's about preserving one's mystique.
Irene Serra chose the name -isq for her band deliberately to make it hard to find online.
As it contains a hyphen, it cannot deliver an easy result. The band have a website but they don't want it to be too easy to find.
"We didn't want to give everything away straightaway," says Serra. "If you want to hear about us you'll need to try just a little bit harder. And then when you do actually find us online we have lots in place."
It also allows them to easily keep control of all the domain names.
Seb Mower, a search engine optimisation consultant, says that even supposedly ungoogleable things can usually be found. Most people use Google in haste. But a bit of thinking can often turn up the correct result.
For instance, the band -isq will appear third in the list on Google if speechmarks are put around the search term.
Where Google really struggles, he says, is to show pictures of text. "If you wanted all the back issues of the Times, none of that information would be indexable."
For some, it seems, being ungoogleable is an unfortunate state of affairs. For others, the ignorance of Google's algorithms is bliss.
Oil: How Could Liberians Settle for Only Five Percent?
|Liberia oil blocs P. Courtesy|
Africans must not be deceived. The oil scavengers are now looming over West Africa and if we are not careful to choose rightly between the Nigerian and Ghanaian models of exploitation, there will be no real benefit and this political bonanza could definitely be a curse for the Liberian people in the long run.
Obviously, like their Ghanaian neighbours, Liberians look forward to the prosperity that the oil and gas finds “will bring” to their country. If well managed, the black gold could transform the destiny of the entire country for generations to come through improved living standards.
Unfortunately, these aspirations may turn out to be a nightmare if the people do not rise up to the government to adequately scrutinize the oil “agreement” and set up a national platform for dialogue on the best way forward, so that together, there will be dialogue to secure a reasonable percentage share (70% and above) for the people whose interest the government claims to serve.
According to a statement issued by the Nobel Peace Prize winner, President Ellen Johnson, the American Oil company, Exxon Mobil will own a whopping 80% of the oil shares discovered in Liberia, while their Canadian neighbours, the Canadian Overseas Petroleum Limited (COPL), will own 20%. Many people are wondering: where does this place the people of Liberia? What share does the government of Liberia have in this oil deal? The African people would want to know.
Again, why the rush to explore the oil without first putting adequate measures in place to guard against the challenges that may accompany the oil exploration in the near future? Where is the government rushing to? Is President Ellen Johnson considering early retirement in the coming months? Has the government considered building local refineries to process the crude oil or Liberia will follow the Nigerian model where the raw crude is shipped to Europe and the refined product is shipped back to the country at ridiculous prices? Has the government considered training local engineers to take over the management of the oil industry within the shortest possible time? Why must African leaders always allow such sensitive sectors of their economy to be held hostage by a few foreign corporations?
We (Africans) have a major problem. We rush to commission most projects without taking time to plan against the unforeseeable challenges that may likely show up in the near future.
Is Liberia well-prepared to deal with corruption in the oil and gas sector? Is the government prepared to face the angry youth who are likely to take up arms as we see in Nigeria? In Nigeria, many agitated so-called rebel groups rose up and took arms to fight the corruption in the oil and gas sector, a situation which is currently out of control. Will Liberia learn some lessons from Nigeria or as usual, wait unprepared for the problems to come up before they run to NATO for solutions?
Although President Ellen Johnson has not said what would happen to the Liberian share, the President and CEO of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL), Dr. Randolph McClain, explained that the negotiating team of the Liberian government secured a 5% citizens participation share in LB-13 and a further 5% royalty on oil produced from wells drilled under water depths of 0–1500 meters. Angered by the shocking news, Okechuku, a PhD student at Oxford University wondered:
“When Liberia was in crisis, did the US and Canada send any help? I’m shocked at how a country's wealth is being giving away for peanuts. Is this the reason why the president was awarded the Nobel Prize some months ago? Ellen Johnson has always been the World Bank’s darling girl anyway. You don’t get a Nobel Peace Award without signing such deals.”
The man is absolutely right! Of course that is the price the people pay when our leaders are given such awards by special interest foreign groups. Remember Ellen Johnson was given the Nobel Prize somewhere last year? Yeah, that was when the “actual oil deal” was sealed. The selfishness of our leaders is the reason for our underdevelopment. Our people must say no to all NGOs that are buying-off our leaders and our independence. It's a shame. How can a country that has suffered over a decade of economic hardship, settle for some 10% ‘royalty’ in a multi-billion resource like oil?
Is this all that our forefathers died for? Is this the hope and the dream the government sought to build when the people gave out their mandate? But more seriously, how much of this 10% will end up in the offshore accounts of many of these ‘negotiating team’? This still remains unclear.
Meanwhile at the moment, although early indications are positive, the exact extent of oil deposits found in the country still remains unknown. Leaders have already settled for peanuts from big oil corporations as they hand over the oil reserves to the western firms with virtually nothing left for the ordinary Liberian in the near future.
The Canadian Overseas Petroleum Limited (COPL) recently disclosed offering the politicians, a mere U$45m in cash toward the purchase of block 13 of Liberia's oil industry, a move which will see Liberia lose billions of dollars every year to the COPL. I wonder why these politicians will just sell the oil reserves for merely $45m when the actual oil deposit is yet unknown. How many of the poor Liberian families will benefit from the $45m given to the politicians?
Liberian politicians have been blinded by the mere $45millon they received as “signature fee,” forgetting about the long term financial loses, the environmental damage and all the hardships the country will endure while their foreign ‘donors’ bag a whopping 95% profit shares on a monthly basis! Why are African leaders keen on the few millions today, while they ignore the billions which the big oil companies will be reaping in the coming years?
Why are such sensitive agreements held in the corridors of secrecy when the destiny of entire generations depends on them? Why must the good people of Liberia allow a few selfish, greedy and corrupt politicians to negotiate on their behalf in camera?
For a country like Liberia which had been plunged into civil war and suffered decades of economic hardship, seeing the need to put such oil agreements in the public domain, and discussing them in consultation with leaders of the regional block would have been a better decision. But as usual, African leaders never consult their colleagues during such critical moments. Only a few millions into their offshore accounts and the agreement is sealed, leaving the poor masses to their fate.
Will Liberia Repeat Nigeria and Ghana’s Mistakes?
In Nigeria for instance, as western oil companies loot some $140 Billion a year of the country’s oil, two-thirds of the country’s 160 million people live on less than $2 a day. Western oil companies are literally looting Nigeria’s oil, paying as little as a 9% royalty. Simply put, at $100 a barrel, the western oil companies get $91 and Nigeria only gets $9. Or more shockingly, Big Oil makes $140 billion a year vs. Nigeria’s $10 Billion, writes Thomas C. Mountain as he reveals the shocking reasons why many Nigerians remain the poorest in Africa despite the country’s plenteous oil and gas.
Ghana's Oil Has Been Sold Off Already
Today in Ghana, when Tullow Oils makes a profit of $3 billion, Ghana gets only $3 million out of that. Can this agreement truly better the lives of Ghanaians? Yet, former president Kuffuor, the man who recently suggested that bad leadership is Africa’s problem, was the same president who signed this oil agreement with foreign firms. This is what happens when foreign corporations are allowed to secretly finance our politicians into power during election periods!
African citizenry must rebel against such dangerous oil agreements. Legislations must be introduced to ban all politicians from sourcing for funds from abroad during elections periods. The country’s planners should not neglect other sectors of the economy. They should diversify to avoid exogenous shocks due to volatility in the prices of oil on the international markets.
Privatization of state resources must cease with immediate effect. Governments cannot continue with the habit of selling off every strategic resource without adequate long term planning. African leaders must train more engineers to help build our industries so that we can manage the exploitation of our resources. Africans must develop the habit of managing their own affairs.
This is the beginning of a long walk to perpetual poverty and economic impoverishment in Liberia as Big Oil corporations begin to loot Liberian worth. For very $100billion of profits made by the oil corporations, Liberians will only get some few $100 million donations.
I miss Chavez, I miss Gadhafi. These leaders showed oil-rich Africans the way, but due to corruption and selfishness, our leaders will not follow their steps. Ghanaians have already settled for some 10% share in their most-talked about oil. Nigerians have quietly accepted 9% for more than 50yrs. Liberians must never settle for 5%! Anything less than 70% must be rejected by the people. This is the only way we can fight poverty and say enough to the foreign corporations who continue to enrich themselves with African resources while the African people wallow in poverty. It’s time we said enough is enough!
By Honourable Saka
The writer firstname.lastname@example.org is a Pan-African analyst and the founder of the Project Pan-Africa (PPA), an organization that was established to unlock the minds of the African youth to take Africa’s destiny into their hands.
The internet around the world has been slowed down in what security experts are describing as the biggest cyber-attack of its kind in history.
A row between a spam-fighting group and hosting firm has sparked retaliation attacks affecting the wider internet.
It is having an impact on popular services like Netflix - and experts worry it could escalate to affect banking and email systems.
Five national cyber-police-forces are investigating the attacks.
Spamhaus, a group based in both London and Geneva, is a non-profit organisation which aims to help email providers filter out spam and other unwanted content.
To do this, the group maintains a number of blocklists - a database of servers known to be being used for malicious purposes.
Recently, Spamhaus blocked servers maintained by Cyberbunker, a Dutch web host which states it will host anything with the exception of child pornography or terrorism-related material.
Sven Olaf Kamphuis, who claims to be a spokesman for Cyberbunker, said, in a message, that Spamhaus was abusing its position, and should not be allowed to decide "what goes and does not go on the internet".
Spamhaus has alleged that Cyberbunker, in cooperation with "criminal gangs" from Eastern Europe and Russia, is behind the attack.
Cyberbunker has not responded to the BBC's request for comment.'Immense job'
Steve Linford, chief executive for Spamhaus, told the BBC the scale of the attack was unprecedented.
"We've been under this cyber-attack for well over a week.
"But we're up - they haven't been able to knock us down. Our engineers are doing an immense job in keeping it up - this sort of attack would take down pretty much anything else."
Mr Linford told the BBC that the attack was being investigated by five different national cyber-police-forces around the world.
He claimed he was unable to disclose more details because the forces were concerned that they too may suffer attacks on their own infrastructure.
The attackers have used a tactic known as Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS), which floods the intended target with large amounts of traffic in an attempt to render it unreachable.
In this case, Spamhaus's Domain Name System (DNS) servers were targeted - the infrastructure that joins domain names, such as bbc.co.uk, the website's numerical internet protocol address.
Mr Linford said the attack's power would be strong enough to take down government internet infrastructure.
"If you aimed this at Downing Street they would be down instantly," he said. "They would be completely off the internet."
He added: "These attacks are peaking at 300 gb/s (gigabits per second).
"Normally when there are attacks against major banks, we're talking about 50 gb/s."Clogged-up motorway
The knock-on effect is hurting internet services globally, said Prof Alan Woodward, a cybersecurity expert at the University of Surrey.
"If you imagine it as a motorway, attacks try and put enough traffic on there to clog up the on and off ramps," he told the BBC.
"With this attack, there's so much traffic it's clogging up the motorway itself."
Arbor Networks, a firm which specialises in protecting against DDoS attacks, also said it was the biggest such attack they had seen.
"The largest DDoS attack that we have witnessed prior to this was in 2010, which was 100 gb/s. Obviously the jump from 100 to 300 is pretty massive," said Dan Holden, the company's director of security research.
"There's certainly possibility for some collateral damage to other services along the way, depending on what that infrastructure looks like."
Spamhaus said it was able to cope as it has highly distributed infrastructure in a number of countries.
The group is supported by many of the world's largest internet companies who rely on it to filter unwanted material.
Mr Linford told the BBC that several companies, such as Google, had made their resources available to help "absorb all of this traffic".
The attacks typically happened in intermittent bursts of high activity.
"They are targeting every part of the internet infrastructure that they feel can be brought down," Mr Linford said.
"Spamhaus has more than 80 servers around the world. We've built the biggest DNS server around."
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