G20 leaders endorse
sweeping reform of IMF
SEOUL (AFP) - G20 leaders gave their backing this week to
sweeping reforms designed to give emerging economies such as
China a bigger say in the International Monetary Fund.
The leaders of advanced and emerging economies announced
they were delivering “a modernised IMF that better reflects
the changes in the world economy through greater
representation of dynamic emerging markets and developing
The reforms would enhance its “legitimacy, credibility and
effectiveness, making it an even stronger institution for
promoting global financial stability and growth”, the G20
leaders said in a summit declaration in Seoul.
The IMF’s executive board had agreed to the changes --
described as “historic” by managing director Dominique
Strauss-Kahn -- at its own meeting last week.
They create “the biggest-ever shift of influence in favour
of emerging market and developing countries”, Strauss-Kahn
The fund has long been dominated by Western powers but has
faced growing calls to adapt.
The deal to reform its 24-member board of governors was
thrashed out by G20 ministers last month ahead of this
Europe has agreed to give up two seats. Just over five
percent of voting rights will be transferred, and Brazil,
Russia, India and China will all be among the top 10 IMF
China will become the third-largest shareholder, with a
nearly 6.4 percent quota -- up from three percent, which had
put the country in sixth place.
The total size of the quotas -- the contributions of the 187
member states to the Fund’s capital -- will be doubled, to
756 billion dollars.
G20 leaders, as part of efforts to rebalance the world
economy, also tasked the IMF with advising on proposed
“indicative guidelines” to help identify large current
account imbalances that require corrective action.
“We will not have any way to force countries to implement
our guidelines,” Strauss-Kahn told reporters Friday in
“We have no police, no army. The strength of the IMF relies
on the strength of the truth. The IMF is not going to be the
dictator of the world economy.”
Upon his arrival at the IMF in 2007, Strauss-Kahn made quota
redistribution a top priority, to resolve a long and bitter
battle by emerging-market and developing countries to wrest
When a previous quota reform plan was officially adopted by
member states in April 2008, he hailed it as “the beginning
of the new legitimacy of the Fund.”
But that reform has not been enacted due to the lack of a
sufficient number of ratifications by member states.
|Mecca heaving with
MECCA (AFP) - Pilgrims dressed in
white robes descended in their hundreds of thousands on
Mecca for weekly prayers on Friday, ahead of the start of
the annual Hajj pilgrimage.
All streets leading to the grand mosque were crammed with
praying pilgrims, with lines stretching back about a
Plazas and corridors of surrounding malls were also crowded
with devotees spreading their prayer mats, as were grocery
stores which stopped selling for the prayers.
Some 2.5 million people are expected in Mecca by the start
today of the hajj, which is being held amid tight security
and with new facilities, including a railway, to ease the
sometimes fatal congestion.
Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz has said
he cannot rule out an Al Qaeda attempt to disrupt the
five-day ritual, although the group has not attacked
pilgrims in the past.
While most of those who crowded the streets of Mecca on
Friday had donned white ihram garments for the pilgrimage,
some were still dressed in their countries’ traditional
clothes, reflecting the number of nationalities and
ethnicities represented in the annual season.
|Obama makes free trade
push at start of APEC summit
|YOKOHAMA (AFP) - US President Barack Obama made a push
for free trade in the Asia-Pacific yesterday at the start of
a regional summit that threatens to be overshadowed by
tensions between its biggest economies.
Pitching a free-trade pact that would group countries on
both sides of the Pacific, Obama said that “the security and
prosperity of the American people is inextricably linked to
the security and prosperity of Asia”.
The US president said that seven of America’s 15 top trading
partners were now members of the Asia Pacific Economic
Co-operation (APEC) forum, whose 21 member economies are
meeting in the Japanese port city of Yokohama near Tokyo.
With an eye to his domestic audience, which this month
delivered him a mid-term electoral drubbing, Obama added
that “with every one billion dollars we sell in exports,
5,000 jobs are supported at home.”
While a key aim of APEC is to liberalise the free flow of
goods, sharp divisions over trade have created tensions that
surfaced at an earlier G20 summit in South Korea, especially
between the US and China.
Both economies accuse each other of artificially driving
down their currencies in order to make their goods more
competitive abroad, and China has rejected a US proposal to
take steps to reduce its huge trade surplus.
Stressing the point again, Obama said that “countries with
large surpluses must shift away from an unhealthy dependence
on exports and take steps to boost domestic demand.
“No nation should assume that their path to prosperity is
simply paved with exports to America.”
He said that the US, which hosts next year’s APEC summit in
Hawaii, wants to pursue the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP),
a proposed free trade zone that now includes Brunei,
Singapore, Chile and New Zealand.
The US, Australia and three other countries are now in talks
to join the grouping, which would eliminate most tariffs and
other trade barriers and is seen as a vehicle towards a much
wider Pacific Rim treaty.
|New great mates?
|YOKOHAMA (AFP) - President Barack Obama yesterday lauded
Australia as a key player in the Asian economy as he held
his first talks with Prime Minister Julia Gillard and
invited her to Washington next year.
Gillard meanwhile said Australia and the US were “great
mates” and offered condolences for US losses in Afghanistan,
where Australian troops are fighting shoulder-to-shoulder
with American forces.
Obama also praised the “enormous sacrifices” being made in
Afghanistan by Australian troops and said he would discuss
war strategy in more depth with Gillard at next week’s NATO
summit in Lisbon.
“The United States does not have a closer or a better ally
than Australia,” Obama said as he met Gillard in the
Japanese port city of Yokohama ahead of a Pacific Rim
summit. As he wrapped up an eight-day stay in Asia designed
to pry open markets and promote US job creation, Obama said
the region was “highly important to our economy and to world
economic growth. Australia is a central player in that
“I am just grateful that I had this opportunity to speak to
the prime minister, I have extended an invitation to her to
visit the US sometime early next year and we will find a
Gillard said she and Obama had talked briefly at the G20
summit in Seoul which ended Friday and would go into depth
further in Lisbon.
|Fish stocks dwindle as
trawlers empty seas
PENANG (AFP) - Overfishing in
Southeast Asian seas has left garoupas and sea bass in dire
straits, searching for mates on denuded seabeds, according
to experts alarmed by ever-declining catches.
Marine scientists and fishermen say that popular fish
species -- especially the large and valuable ones -- have
been caught indiscriminately, causing numbers to plunge
For big fish “finding a mate is a difficult task. They have
to swim a long distance to find one,” said Edward Allison
from the World Fish Centre in Malaysia’s northern resort
island of Penang.
One of the culprits is bottom trawling, which involves
dragging huge, heavy nets along the sea floor. Large metal
plates and rubber wheels attached to the nets move along the
bottom and crush nearly everything in their path.
Allison said the habitat for young fish, or fry, is also
shrinking because the mangrove swamps which provide food and
protection are being obliterated by coastal development
including tourist resorts.
Demand for top-quality seafood, from Southeast Asian nations
themselves and from Hong Kong and China, is another major
factor behind the emptying of the seas.
According to World Fish data, there were 10 times more fish
in the Gulf of Thailand in 1965 than 30 years later.
In Malaysia the decline was between 80 and 90 percent while
in the Philippines it is estimated that there was a 46-78
percent dropoff in fish stocks.
There is little data from other countries without the
resources to carry out the studies, but World Fish believes
the rate of decline in those three countries is reflected
across Southeast Asia. In Tanjung Karang, a fishing village
in central Malaysia on the banks of the murky Tengi river
which flows into the Malacca Strait, coastal fishermen are
gloomy as they come ashore to sell their daily catch.
|Suu Kyi supporters
pray for her freedom
YANGON (AFP) - Supporters
of Myanmar’s democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi gathered
yesterday in anticipation of her expected release from the
lakeside home that has been her prison for most of the past
Dozens waited anxiously outside her party’s headquarters and
her crumbling mansion, a day after hundreds had massed in
the hope of a glimpse of the 65-year-old Nobel Peace Prize
Many wore T-shirts bearing her image and the words: “We
stand with Aung San Suu Kyi.”
Although Myanmar’s most famous dissident has been in
detention for the past seven years, sidelined and silenced
by the ruling generals, for many in the impoverished nation
she still embodies hope of a better future.
“We are praying for her release. We are very excited,” said
Cho Cho, a 35-year-old housewife in Yangon.
Suu Kyi, still seen as the biggest threat to the junta after
almost five decades of military dictatorship, has been
locked up for 15 of the past 21 years, but her most recent
sentence is close to an end.
The authorities have said her release is imminent, even
though some fear the generals may find an excuse to extend
“She will be released today,” a Myanmar government official
JALALABAD (AFP) - Taliban militants attacked Jalalabad
airport and a military base for foreign forces in eastern
Afghanistan yesterday but the strike was thwarted, officials
The government in Nangarhar province and NATO’s
International Security Assistance Force said that a wave of
fighters attacked a security post at the airport before dawn
and at least six insurgents were killed.
“Six attackers have been killed -- two of them died blowing
themselves up and four others were killed by security
forces,” said government spokesman Ahmad Zia Abdulzoi.
ISAF said in a statement that its troops and Afghan National
Army soldiers killed eight militants but only one was
wearing a suicide bomb vest.
“The forward operating base received small arms fire from an
unknown number of insurgents and after gaining positive
identification of insurgent fighting positions an ANA and
ISAF quick reaction force was sent to the area,” it added.
“Initial reports indicate no ANA or ISAF servicemembers were
The Taliban, which regularly exaggerates details of its
attacks, said that 14 suicide bombers were involved.
|Maliki faces dispute
over power-sharing deal
|BAGHDAD (AFP) - Iraq’s newly reappointed premier Nuri Al
Maliki faced the task of repairing a power-sharing pact
yesterday after claims the deal had already been broken.
Reappointed on Thursday, Maliki now has 30 days to form his
cabinet, with the next parliamentary session scheduled for
But a dramatic walk-out by some 60 MPs from the Sunni-backed
bloc of former premier Iyad Allawi underscored the fragility
of the deal just as it was getting inked.
International leaders however continued to laud the
agreement, a bid to end an eight-month post-election
As part of the accord, brokered during three days of intense
talks, President Jalal Talabani, re-elected by MPs, named
Maliki as prime minister.
But the move was overshadowed by a dispute that prompted
angry members of the Iraqiya bloc to storm out of the
Council of Representatives chamber.
For many, the support of Allawi’s Iraqiya bloc, which
narrowly won the March 7 poll and garnered most of its seats
in Sunni areas, is vital to preventing a resurgence of
The Sunni Arab minority that dominated Saddam Hussein’s
regime was the bedrock of the anti-US insurgency after the
“Last night, it was clear, there are a lot of
disagreements,” independent Kurdish lawmaker Mahmud Othman
told AFP on Friday.
“Last night showed that the agreement is shaky,” he added.
|People ‘daydream half
LONDON: People spend nearly half of
their waking hours not thinking about what they are actually
doing, according to a US study conducted via the iPhone.
More than 2,200 volunteers downloaded an app which then
surveyed them about their thoughts and mood at random times
of day and night.
The Science study suggested minds wander, even from
demanding tasks, at least 30% of the time.
A UK expert said other studies confirmed people are easily
The iPhone was a novel research tool for researchers at
Participants agreed to be contacted, at which point they
selected what they were doing from a menu, whether they were
actually thinking about it, and how happy or sad they felt.
Remarkably, some participants were prepared to answer the
survey even when making love.
While their study sample was composed entirely of people who
owned the device, and were prepared to download and be
disturbed by an app of this kind, the researchers said it
provides an insight into how our minds can wander during the
After gathering 250,000 survey results, the Harvard team
concluded that this group of people spent 46.9% of their
time awake with their minds wandering.
Dr Matthew Killingsworth, one of the researchers, said:
“Mind-wandering appears ubiquitous across all activities.
|Mobile technology can
help improve global health: Gates
- Mobile technology can help improve global health with
cheap diagnostic tools, patient reminders and making
immunisation programs more efficient, Microsoft founder Bill
“The mobile phone is pretty interesting for lots of things,”
Gates said in a keynote address at the mHealth Summit, a
gathering of public and private sector groups and companies
involved in mobile technology and health.
“There’s a whole lot of opportunities,” said Gates, who
stepped down from day-to-day duties at Microsoft two years
ago to concentrate on global health care through the Bill
and Melinda Gates Foundation.
“I think we have to approach these things with some humility
though,” Gates cautioned, pointing out that “there’s no
Internet and data connections” in much of the world.
“I do think there’s absolutely a role (for mobile technology
to impact global health) but I think we have to hold
ourselves to some pretty tough metrics to see if it’s really
making a difference or not.”
Gates said the cellphone can allow health care professionals
to “actually be there with a patient, to be there in a
clinic which might not be staffed with wholly trained
Bollywood actress Hazel Croney attends a press conference
for the upcoming Hindi film on homosexual relationships
‘Dunno Y...Na Jaane Kyun’ directored by Sanjay Sharma in
Mumbai - AFP
vow to boost strategic ties
|GUANGZHOU: President Asif Ali Zardari and Chinese
Premier Wen Jiabao vowed to further strengthen the
deep-rooted and multifaceted Sino-Pak ties and strategic
relationship through increased cooperation in diverse
The two leaders, who met on the sidelines of the 16th
Asian Games being hosted by China, had a
delegation-level and later a one-on-one meeting, and
exchanged views on various issues of mutual interest,
including bilateral relations, regional situation and
matters of international importance.
Wen said he would visit Pakistan in December to “deepen
strategic co-operation” and proposed the establishment
of a mechanism for formal and structured dialogue at
ministerial level. Zardari welcomed him and said the
government and the people of Pakistan looked forward to
The two leaders agreed on various issues of regional and
international importance, with particular reference to
peace and stability of the region.
Wen noted the role Pakistan was playing in countering
terrorists and said with increased cooperation, the two
countries would be in a better position to counter
Both the leaders also expressed their firm resolve to
further strengthen ties in economic, defence and
President Zardari said two-way trade between the two
countries had risen to around $7 billion, up from the $2
bn in 2002, but was still far below the trade potential
of the two countries. Briefing reporters, the
president’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar said Zardari
called for a currency swap agreement with China and
taking full advantage of the free trade agreement to
take bilateral trade to $15 billion soon.
Zardari also stressed on the need to enhance
connectivity by developing pipelines, rail links and
fibre optic link. - APP
marriage of much more than convenience
By DR DAYAN JAYATILLEKA
If the mass media are a mirror of society would it be
correct to observe that Sri Lankan society has
paradoxically become more insular as the world, and
human existence itself, have become more globalised?
I pose the question not only because I did not notice a
single Colombo newspaper carry a front page photograph
of the important Obama visit to India, but also because
I grew up with a father who as editor of the Daily News,
introduced syndicated columnists of the New York Times,
including the iconic James Reston, into the paper’s
pages and wrote considered editorials on Nixon’s visit
Obama’s passage to India may or may not prove quite as
historic as that visit in 1972, but it is of enormous
The explicit articulation of a strategic partnership
between the US and India, its definition as a
partnership of equals, the regional and global aims of
that alliance, Obama’s open support for India’s Security
Council aspirations and the reciprocity that would
doubtless ensue in multilateral forums and India’s
superb demonstration of ‘soft power’ will all have their
impact in the years and possibly decades to come.
What is most interesting about the Obama – India
interaction and the new levels it has taken the equation
to, is precisely the combination of hard power and soft
power: the convergence of strategic interests and
congruency of values.
Both powers, and more crucially, both societies and
peoples, see themselves as secular, federal, pluralist
Since the Indo-US nuclear deal of 2005, and certainly
President Bush’s visit of the next year, commentators
have speculated about an Indo-US alliance, but Sri
Lankan readers had been alerted to the prospect from at
least one year prior to the nuclear deal, as far back as
2004, and their attention redrawn to it in the years
that followed. In two articles in 2004, I wrote:
“Historically India’s Congress party has been more
comfortable with the Democrats, and Washington and Delhi
will draw still closer than they are today. ... An
Indo-US condominium...the emerging constellation of a
Democrat victory, the Congress govt. and a strengthened
(‘Chandrika’s options, Ranil’s tactics, JVP’s game,
Mahinda’s role’ – island.lk)
I repeated this later in the same year:
“...Historic, ideological and personal ties make for
closer convergence between Washington and Delhi under
Democratic and Congress administrations... a closely
congruent equation between Washington and New Delhi...
an Indo-US condominium ...the emerging constellation of
a Democrat victory, the Congress government and a
strengthened US-India axis ...” (A Kerry Win:
Implications for Sri Lanka Oct 14th, 2004)
Commenting in early 2006 on President Bush’s visit to
India, I wrote:
“The South Asian region affects us; more so when the
development involves both the pre-eminent regional
power, our giant neighbour India, and the world’s sole
superpower, the US. And yet, Sri Lankans have been
notably myopic with regard to the qualitative leap in
the Indo-US relationship by means of the nuclear deal, a
deal, which is symptomatic of a portentous new factor in
This factor could unleash a new, history-making
dynamic...The rights and wrongs of the new agreement
between Washington and Delhi should not detain us here.
What is more pertinent is how the Indo-US axis affects
Sri Lankan interests... “
(‘America’s passage to India: Implications for Sri
Lanka’, Dayan Jayatilleka -- dailynews.lk)
It is against this backdrop that all thinking Sri
Lankans must take cognisance of the chapter on Sri Lanka
in a brand new book by Robert D Kaplan, entitled
‘Monsoon: The future of the Indian Ocean and the future
of American Power’ (2010).
Kaplan, a member of the Pentagon’s Defence Policy Board
and the Distinguished Visiting Professor at the US Naval
Academy is an influential political writer and opinion
maker in the strategic community, author of twelve
books, and national correspondent for The Atlantic.
Legendary former National Security Advisor Zbigniew
Brzezinski, regarded as the author of strategy for the
defeat of the USSR in Afghanistan and of ‘Communism’ in
Poland, describes the book as “an intellectual treat:
Beautiful writing is not incompatible with geopolitical
imagination and historical flair”.
It is not necessary to concur with Kaplan’s assessment
of Sri Lanka.
Prof. Michael Roberts’ and Sergei de Silva–Ranasinghe’s
critiques of his extended essay in The Atlantic on Sri
Lanka as smacking of ‘Orientalist’ prejudice, resonates
That criticism holds true of his chapter on Sri Lanka in
this book, but that is neither here nor there.
What is significant is his main thesis, which the book’s
dust-jacket (the hardback’s cover is illustrated with an
ancient map in which Ceylon is quite centrally placed)
summarises in the following terms:
“Like the monsoon itself, a cyclical weather system that
is both destructive and essential for growth and
prosperity, the rise of these countries (including
India, Pakistan, China, Indonesia, Burma, Oman, Sri
Lanka, Bangladesh and Tanzania) represents a shift in
the global balance that cannot be ignored. The Indian
Ocean area will be the true nexus of world power and
conflict in the coming years.
It is here that the fight for democracy, energy
independence, and religious freedom will be lost or won,
and it is here that American foreign policy must
concentrate if America is to remain dominant in an ever
Having opined that “Sri Lanka grows in importance in
this Indian Ocean-centric world” Kaplan writes that “Sri
Lanka...is the ultimate register of geopolitical trends
in the Indian ocean region” (p 209).
Many Sri Lankans may find this flattering and some part
of me does too, but I am far too aware of the seminal
observation of the founder of realist history writing,
Thucydides: “the real cause I consider to be the one
which was formally most kept out of sight: the growth of
the power of Athens and the alarm which this inspired in
Acutely aware as I am of the Melian Dialogue in
Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian Wars, and the
relative unimportance of our perceptions of ‘right’ when
the perceived strategic interests of the mighty are at
stake, I trust that in the great power competition in
the Indian Ocean region, Sri Lanka will not be
misperceived as a 21st century isle of Melos.
crosses 800 amid UN plea
GENEVA: A cholera
epidemic sweeping across Haiti has killed more than 800
people, hospitalised 12,000 and put an estimated 200,000
at risk, the UN said, as it appealed for $163 million in
The first outbreak of the disease, which is contracted
through contaminated water and causes severe diarrhoea
and vomiting, was reported in the lower Artibonite
region, north of capital Port-au-Prince Oct 22.
As the epidemic found its way to Port-au-Prince -- a
tattered city of rubble and tents where more than 1.5
million homeless Haitians are forced to live in
unsanitary and overcrowded conditions -- hospitals are
struggling to cope.
Cholera is a disease of poverty, caused by lack of
access to clean water.
Doctors in the earthquake-shattered country expressed
concerns that they would soon have to treat cholera
patients in unhygienic conditions.
“It’s a really worrying situation for us at the moment,”
a doctor from Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without
Borders, MSF) said.
“All hospitals in Port-au-Prince are overflowing with
patients and we’re seeing seven times the total amount
of cases we had three days ago.”
At a medical centre in Cite Soleil, a slum in the north
of the capital, MSF recorded 216 cases of cholera
Thursday, nearly 10 times as many as earlier this week.
“If the number of cases continues to increase at the
same rate, then we’re going to have to adopt some
drastic measures to be able to treat people,” the MSF
The UN anticipates that up to 200,000 people will show
symptoms of cholera, ranging from cases of mild
diarrhoea to severe dehydration. (IANS)
|Pirates seize ship in Arabian Sea
BEIJING (AFP) - Pirates have seized a ship carrying 29
Chinese sailors in the Arabian Sea, Beijing’s Xinhua
news agency quoted the China Marine Rescue Centre as
The Panamanian-registered freighter, the “Yuan Xiang”,
was hijacked late on Friday, Xinhua said.
The China Marine Rescue Centre said it had not been able
to contact the ship’s crew and that the fate of the
sailors remained unclear.
The centre received a report from the Ningbo Hongyuan
Ship Management Co., Ltd. saying the ship had been
attacked by pirates late on Friday.
Xinhua said that the pirates had told the shipping
company that the vessel was sailing towards Somalia.
The centre said that efforts were under way through
international anti-piracy organisations to rescue the
The waters of the Arabian Sea, at the northern tip of
the Indian Ocean, have seen hundreds of pirate attacks
in recent years.
The UN has warned that Somali pirates are becoming more
brazen and keeping ahead of the international naval
force seeking to control them.
page filled with abusive comments
The Facebook page of Queen Elizabeth and the British
royal family has been littered with abusive comments,
and Camilla and Charles have become the targets of
inappropriate posts, a media report said.
Most of the abusive posts, however, have been deleted
and the site’s moderators have warned against
inappropriate content on the landing page.
The page was launched on November 8 as an accompaniment
to the British royal family’s Twitter and Flickr
accounts. While over 220,000 people have “liked” the
page, the 28 photo albums have attracted abusive and
“The uglys day out,” wrote one user named Silas
Headbanger. Another user, Aled Jones, said he was
“ashamed” to be British.
“...this outdated institution is a sham and is costing
us a fortune, get a job, pay your taxes and be
productive,” Jones posted on the page, according to the
Sydney Morning Herald.
The royal family has over 75,500 followers on Twitter
and uploads new photos to its Flickr account on a daily
basis. It also has a channel on YouTube.
However, it was easier to manage Twitter and Flickr
accounts because they were less interactive, Australian
social media strategist James Griffin said.
Griffin, from social media intelligence and risk
management firm SR7, said the royal family should
consider devoting a staff member to monitoring the
comments full time. (IANS)