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Nepal parties ink seven-point breakthrough peace deal

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Putting their differences aside, Nepal’s main political parties have inked a historic deal that includes an agreement on integrating former Maoist combatants into the security forces, to take a major step towards concluding the stalled peace process.

 

 

The four major political forces which represent more than 85 per cent strength of the 601 member Constituent Assembly reached a seven-point agreement on Tuesday night to conclude the stalled peace process within a month and to prepare a draft constitution.

 

An agreement on the contentious issue of integrating the former combatants was a major part of the deal which decided to integrate a maximum of 6,500 Maoist combatants into security forces and returning properties seized during the civil conflict to their rightful owners.

 

Those who signed the deal at the end of a crucial meeting held at Prime Minister’s residence at Baluwatar Tuesday night include UCPN-Maoist chief Prachanda, Nepali Congress president Sushil Koirala, CPN-UML chairman Jhala Nath Khanal and leader of Joint Democratic Madhesi Front and Deputy Prime Minister Bijaya Kumar Gachhadar.

 

As per the deal a maximum of 6,500 Maoist combatants will be integrated into the Nepal Army by creating a separate directorate, whose responsibility would be to carry out development activities, forest conservation, industrial security and crisis management, according to Nepali Congress vice president Ramchandra Poudyal.

 

The directorate will consist of 65 per cent personnel from Nepal Army and 35 per cent from the Maoist combatants.



 

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Greece’s cabinet backs PM’s referendum on EU debt rescue package

News4u – News Desk : 

Greece’s cabinet has given unanimous backing to the proposal by Prime Minister George Papandreou to hold a referendum on EU debt rescue package, the announcement shocked political leaders.

 

Papandreou is due to meet European leaders in France on Wednesday.

Stock markets recorded big drops amid shocked reactions in eurozone capitals to the referendum announcement.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French Prz Nicholas Sarkozy will hold an emergency meeting ahead of the G20 summit in Cannes in the wake of Greek Premier George Papandreou’s surprise referendum call on a proposed EU rescue package that re-ignited the euro zone debt crisis and triggered new turmoil in the financial markets.

The two leaders hurriedly organised a meeting ahead of the G-20 summit on Wednesday amid concern that the euro zone is heading for a long period of uncertainty and if the Greek voters rejected the rescue package, it will have far-reaching consequences for the stability of the euro and the nations using the single currency.

Merkel and Sarkozy during a telephone conversation on Tuesday reaffirmed their determination to ensure with their partners the full implementation of a comprehensive package of measures agreed by the EU leaders at their summit in Brussels last week to contain the debt crisis.

They agreed that a “full and speedy implementation of those decisions are more necessary now than ever,” the German government said in a press statement.

Germany and France are convinced that the EU’s new financial aid package for Greece will help it to return to sustainable growth, Merkel and Sarkozy said.

They expressed the hope that a time plan for the implementation of this agreement will be worked out shortly in cooperation with its European partners and the IMF.

They have invited Papandreou to join them in today’s meeting and hoping that the Greek prime minister could be persuaded to give up his referendum plan, which was announced on Monday, media reports said.

Luxembourg’s Prime Minister and chairman of the euro group Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde and newly-appointed president of the European Central Bank Mario Draghi also are expected to attend.

European governments and politicians reacted with shock and bewilderment to Papandreou’s announcement to hold a referendum on the second rescue package just five days after the EU leaders reached a deal on a new strategy to prevent the debt crisis spreading to larger economies such as Italy and Spain.

They expressed fears that deal could fall apart if the Greek voters rejected the rescue package.

Greece will have to implement further spending cuts, slashing of pensions and wages and job cuts of several thousand civil servants in return for the assistance from EU.

Greece has been facing a wave of violent anti-government demonstrations in protest against the government’s austerity measures and the Greek public strongly opposes further spending cuts.

More than 60 per cent of the voters are against the new rescue package, according to opinion polls.

Papandreou gave no date for the proposed referendum, but said it could be held within the next few weeks when details of the new rescue package are available.

The EU leaders had reached a deal with European banks last Thursday to write down 50 per cent of Greece’s debts as part of the second bailout package of 100 billion euros on top of a 110 billion euro rescue package it received from the EU and the IMF in May, last year.

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Background Note: Botswana

News4u-Travel Desk- These facts and figures have been forwarded by The U S Department of States for general information…

Official Name: Republic of Botswana

PROFILE
Geography
Area: 582,000 sq. km. (224,710 sq. mi.), about the size of Texas.
Cities (2001 census): Capital-Gaborone (pronounced ha-bo-ro-neh), pop. 186,007. Other towns-Francistown (83,023), Selebi-Phikwe (49,849), Molepolole (54,561), Kanye (40,628), Serowe (42,444), Mahalapye (39,719), Lobatse (29,689), Maun (43,776), Mochudi (36,962).
Terrain: Desert and savanna.
Climate: Mostly subtropical.

People
Nationality: Noun and adjective-Motswana (sing.), Batswana (pl.).
Population (est.): 2.06 million.
Annual population growth rate (2009): 1.5%.
Ethnic groups: Tswana 79%; Kalanga 11%; Kgalagadi, Herero, Bayeyi, Hambukush, Basarwa (“San”), Khoi, whites 10%.
Religions: Christianity 70%, none 20%, indigenous beliefs 6%, other 4%.
Languages: English (official), Setswana, Ikalanga.
Education: Adult literacy-84.8%.
Health (2011): Life expectancy-58.05 years. Infant mortality rate-11.14/1,000.
Work force (2005-2006 est.): 548,600 employed; total including unemployed, 651,500.

Government
Type: Republic, parliamentary democracy.
Independence: September 30, 1966.
Constitution: March 1965.
Branches: Executive-president (chief of state and head of government), cabinet. Legislative-popularly elected National Assembly; advisory House of Chiefs. Judicial-High Court, Court of Appeal, local and customary courts, industrial labor court.
Administrative subdivisions: Five town councils and nine district councils.
Major political parties: Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) 45 seats, Movement for Democracy (BMD) 6 seats, Botswana National Front (BNF) 5 seats, and Botswana Congress Party/Botswana Alliance Movement 5 seats.
Suffrage: Universal at 18.

Economy
Nominal GDP (2010): $14.8 billion.
Real GDP growth rate (2010): 7.5%.
Per capita nominal GDP (2009 est.): $6,200.
Natural resources: Diamonds, copper, nickel, coal, soda ash, salt, gold, potash.
Agriculture (2% of real GDP, 2008): Products-livestock, sorghum, white maize, millet, cowpeas, beans.
Industry: Types-mining (40% of real GDP, 2008): diamonds, copper, nickel, coal; tourism, textiles, construction, beef processing, chemical products production, food and beverage production.
Trade (2008): Exports-$5.127 billion f.o.b.: diamonds, nickel, copper, meat products, textiles, hides, skins, and soda ash. Partners-EU, South Africa. Imports-$3.931 billion f.o.b.: machinery, transport equipment, manufactured goods, food, chemicals, fuels. Major suppliers-South Africa, EU, and U.S.

PEOPLE AND HISTORY
Batswana, a term also used to denote all citizens of Botswana, refers to the country’s major ethnic group (the “Tswana” in South Africa), which came into the area from South Africa during the Zulu wars of the early 1800s. Prior to European contact, the Batswana lived as herders and farmers under tribal rule.

In the 19th century, hostilities broke out between the Batswana and Boer settlers from the Transvaal. After appeals by the Batswana for assistance, the British Government in 1885 put “Bechuanaland” under its protection. The northern territory remained under direct administration and is today’s Botswana, while the southern territory became part of the Cape Colony and is now part of the northwest province of South Africa; the majority of Setswana-speaking people today live in South Africa.

Despite South African pressure, inhabitants of the Bechuanaland Protectorate, Basutoland (now Lesotho), and Swaziland in 1909 asked for and received British assurances that they would not be included in the proposed Union of South Africa. An expansion of British central authority and the evolution of tribal government resulted in the 1920 establishment of two advisory councils representing Africans and Europeans. Proclamations in 1934 regularized tribal rule and powers. A European-African advisory council was formed in 1951, and the 1961 constitution established a consultative legislative council.

In June 1964, Britain accepted proposals for democratic self-government in Botswana. The seat of government was moved from Mafikeng, in South Africa, to newly-established Gaborone in 1965. The 1965 constitution led to the first general elections and to independence in September 1966. General elections serve to elect members of parliament, and the presidential candidate from the party that wins the most seats in the general election becomes the president. Seretse Khama, a leader in the independence movement and the legitimate claimant to traditional rule of the Bamangwato, became the country’s first president, was re-elected twice, and died in office in 1980. The presidency passed to the sitting vice president, Ketumile Masire, who was elected in his own right in 1984 and re-elected in 1989 and 1994. Masire retired from office in 1998. The presidency passed to the sitting vice president, Festus Mogae, who was elected in his own right in 1999. Mogae won a second term in elections held October 30, 2004 and stepped down in accordance with national term limits on March 31, 2008. On April 1, 2008 former Vice President Ian Khama assumed the presidency. Khama was elected as President in his own right during the general election held on October 16, 2009.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Botswana has a flourishing multiparty constitutional democracy. General elections are held every 5 years. Each of the elections since independence has been freely and fairly contested and has been held on schedule. The country’s minority groups participate freely in the political process. The openness of the country’s political system has been a significant factor in Botswana’s stability and economic growth.

The president of Botswana is indirectly elected. The presidential candidate from the political party that wins the majority of the 57 seats in the National Assembly is sworn in as president. The cabinet is selected by the president from the National Assembly; it consists of a vice president and a flexible number of ministers and assistant ministers, currently 16 and 8, respectively. The National Assembly has 57 elected and 4 specially elected members; it is expanded following each census (every 10 years; the most recent was conducted in 2001). The next census will be held in 2011.

There are four main parties and a number of smaller parties. In national elections held October 16, 2009, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) won 45 of 57 contested National Assembly seats, the Botswana National Front (BNF) won 6 seats, and the Botswana Congress Party (BCP)/Botswana Alliance Movement pact won 5 seats. For the first time in the history of the country, an independent candidate won a seat in parliament during this election. In May-July 2010, 7 BDP parliamentarians and the lone independent changed their membership to the newly created Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD). In August 2010, 2 BMD members returned to the BDP, leaving the BMD with 6 seats. Individuals elected by the National Assembly hold an additional 4 seats; the ruling BDP currently holds all 4. The ruling BDP took all but one of the five constituencies in the city of Gaborone from the opposition. BDP now controls the city council.

The advisory House of Chiefs represents the eight principal subgroups of the Batswana tribes, five members specially elected by the president, and 22 members elected from designated regions. The elected members hold office for a period of only 5 years whereas the eight principal chiefs are members for life. A draft of any National Assembly bill of tribal concern must be referred to the House of Chiefs for advisory opinion. Chiefs and other leaders preside over customary traditional courts, though all persons have the right to request that their case be considered under the formal British-based legal system.

The roots of Botswana’s democracy lie in Setswana traditions, exemplified by the Kgotla, or village council, in which the powers of traditional leaders are limited by custom and law. Botswana’s High Court has general civil and criminal jurisdiction. Judges are appointed by the president and may be removed only for cause and after a hearing. The constitution has a code of fundamental human rights enforced by the courts, and Botswana has a good human rights record.

Local government is administered by nine district councils and five town councils. District commissioners have executive authority and are appointed by the central government and assisted by elected and nominated district councilors and district development committees. There has been ongoing debate about the political, social, and economic marginalization of the San (an indigenous tribal population). The government’s policies for the Basarwa (San) and other remote area dwellers continue to spark controversy.

Principal Government Officials
President-Seretse Khama Ian Khama
Vice President-Mompati S. Merafhe (acting Vice President is Ponatshego Kedikilwe)

Cabinet Ministers
Finance and Development Planning-Kenneth Matambo
Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation-Phandu T.C. Skelemani
Environment, Wildlife and Tourism-Onkokame Kitso Mokaila
Infrastructure, Science and Technology-Johnny Swartz
State Presidency- Justice, Defense and Security-Edwin Batshu (acting)
State Presidency- Presidential Affairs and Public Administration-Mokgweetsi Masisi
Trade and Industry-Dorcas Makgato-Malesu
Minerals, Energy and Water Resources-Ponatshego Kedikilwe
Lands and Housing-Nonofo E. Molefhi
Local Government-Lebonaamang T. Mokalake
Education and Skills Development-Pelononi Venson-Moitoi
Health-John Seakgosing
Transport and Communications-Frank Ramsden
Labour and Home Affairs-Peter L. Siele
Sports, Youth, and Culture-Shaw Kgathi
Agriculture-Christian De Graaf

Central Bank Governor-Linah Mohohlo

Ambassador to the United States-Tebelelo Seretse
Ambassador to the United Nations-Charles Ntwaagae

Botswana maintains an embassy at 1531-1533 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington DC 20036 (tel. 202-244-4990; fax 202-244-4164). Its mission to the United Nations is at 103 E. 37th Street, New York NY 10017 (tel. 212-889-2277; fax 212-725-5061).

ECONOMY
Botswana has enjoyed one of the fastest growth rates in per capita income in the world since independence, although it slowed considerably due to the global economic downturn. The economic growth rate averaged 9% per year from 1967-2006, but slowed during 2007 and 2008 to only 3% before dropping to minus 3.7% in 2009. In 2010, real GDP grew by approximately 7.5%, and it is expected to post an average growth of 6% in 2011 and 2012. The government has maintained a sound fiscal policy and a negligible level of foreign debt. Foreign exchange reserves were estimated to be $8.4 billion in September 2010, representing approximately 19 months’ cover of imports of goods and services. Botswana’s impressive economic record has been built on the foundation of wisely using revenue generated from diamond mining to fuel economic development through prudent fiscal policies and a cautious foreign policy. The government recognizes that HIV/AIDS will continue to affect the economy and is providing leadership and programs to combat the epidemic, including free anti-retroviral treatment and a nationwide Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission program.

Mining
Debswana (formed by the government and South Africa’s DeBeers in equal partnership) is the largest mining operation in Botswana. Several other mining operations exist in the country, including the Bamangwato Concessions, Ltd. (BCL, also with substantial government equity participation) and Tati Nickel.

Since the early 1980s, the country has been the world’s largest producer of gem-quality diamonds. Four large diamond mines have opened since independence. DeBeers prospectors discovered diamonds in northern Botswana in the late 1960s. The first mine began production at Orapa in 1972, followed by the smaller mines of Lethlakane and Damtshaa. What has become the single-richest diamond mine in the world opened in Jwaneng in 1982. The Orapa 2000 Expansion of the existing Orapa mine was opened in 2000. In December 2004, Debswana negotiated 25-year lease renewals for all four of its mines with the Government of Botswana. Diamond mining accounts for approximately one-third of Botswana’s GDP and 70% of export earnings. However, the industry is capital intensive and accounts for less than 5% of private sector employment. The global economic crisis greatly reduced worldwide demand for diamonds, and the government reports that Botswana’s diamond sales volume for 2009 was 37% lower than that of 2007. Demand has somewhat recovered, and Debswana plans to increase diamond production by 20% in 2011.

Diamond mining will continue to be the mainstay of Botswana’s economy, with known current reserves sufficient for at least the next 20 years. Exploration for additional kimberlite pipes continues. The economic slowdown greatly impacted Botswana’s diamond mining industry. As part of Botswana’s drive to diversify and increase local value added within the mining sector, De Beers opened the Diamond Trading Center Botswana (DTCB) in 2008 to shift sorting, cutting, polishing, aggregating, and marketing from London to Gaborone. In 2009, the DeBeers group postponed moving its worldwide diamond aggregation from London to Botswana. The DTCB is currently responsible for sorting all stones mined in Botswana before they are sent for aggregation in London. In addition, DTCB receives packets of rough stones from DTC London which it is authorized to sell to 16 diamond cutting and polishing firms (known as “sightholders”) that have opened factories in Gaborone, creating approximately 3,000 new jobs and helping to diversify Botswana’s economy.

BCL, which operates a copper-nickel mine at Selebi-Phikwe, has had a troubled financial history but remains an important employer, although the life of the mine is expected to end in the next 5 to 10 years. Other copper-nickel mines include Tati Nickel near Francistown. Botash, the sole producer of soda ash in the region and supported by substantial government investment, produced 215,000 tons of soda ash in 2009.

Coal-bed methane gas has been discovered in the northeastern part of the country, estimated by the developers at a commercially viable quantity of 12 trillion cubic feet. Development of the gas fields has been slow, however.

Tourism
Tourism is an increasingly important industry in Botswana, accounting for approximately 11% of GDP, and has grown at an annual rate of 14% in the past 8 years. One of the world’s unique ecosystems, the Okavango Delta, is located in Botswana. The country offers excellent game viewing and birding both in the Delta and in the Chobe Game Reserve-home to one of the largest herds of free-ranging elephants in the world. Botswana’s Central Kalahari Game Reserve also offers good game viewing and some of the most remote and unspoiled wilderness in southern Africa.

Agriculture
More than one-half of the population lives in rural areas and is largely dependent on subsistence crop and livestock farming. Agriculture meets only a small portion of food needs and makes up only 2.3% of GDP-primarily through beef exports-but it remains a social and cultural touchstone. Cattle raising in particular dominated Botswana’s social and economic life before independence. The national herd is estimated between 2 and 3 million head, but the cattle industry is experiencing a protracted decline.

Private Sector Development and Foreign Investment
Botswana seeks to further diversify its economy away from minerals, which accounts for more than one-third of GDP. Foreign investment and management are welcomed in Botswana. Botswana abolished foreign exchange controls in 1999, has a low corporate tax rate (15%), and no prohibitions on foreign ownership of companies. The government reports that the average consumer price inflation rate dropped to 7.0% for 2010 as compared to 8.1% for 2009.

With its proven record of good economic governance, Botswana was ranked as Africa’s least corrupt country by Transparency International in 2010 (33rd out of 178 countries, ahead of many European and Asian countries). Botswana is consistently ranked by international organizations as among the freest economies in sub-Saharan Africa. The Heritage Foundation’s 2010 Index of Economic Freedom ranked Botswana at 28th in the world with a score of 70.3, in the best score of any country in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2010, the Moodys’ credit rating agency downgraded Botswana’s rating from an “A” grade to an “A-” but also revised its outlook from “negative” to “stable”. However, Botswana remains one of the best credit risks in Africa and is on par with many countries in central Europe, East Asia, and Latin America.

U.S. investment in Botswana remains at relatively low levels. Major U.S. corporations, such as H.J. Heinz and AON Corporation, are present through direct investments, while others, such as Kentucky Fried Chicken and Remaxx, are present via franchise. The sovereign credit ratings by Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s clearly indicate that, despite continued challenges such as small market size, landlocked location, and sometimes cumbersome bureaucratic processes, Botswana remains one of the best investment opportunities in the developing world.

Because of history and geography, Botswana has long had deep ties to the economy of South Africa. The Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU), comprised of Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland, and South Africa, dates from 1910, and is the world’s oldest customs union. Under this arrangement, South Africa has collected levies from customs, sales, and excise duties for all five members, sharing out proceeds based on each country’s portion of imports. The exact formula for sharing revenues and the decision-making authority over duties-held exclusively by the Government of South Africa-became increasingly controversial, and the members renegotiated the arrangement in 2001. A new structure was formally ratified and a SACU Secretariat was established in Windhoek, Namibia. Following South Africa’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO, of which Botswana also is a member), many of the SACU duties are declining, making American products more competitive in Botswana. Botswana signed an Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union in December 2007, and, as a member of SACU, it signed a preferential trade agreement in 2004 with Mercosur.

Botswana’s currency-the Pula-is fully convertible and is valued against a basket of currencies heavily weighted toward the South African Rand. Profits and direct investment can be repatriated without restriction from Botswana. The Botswana Government eliminated all exchange controls in 1999.

Botswana is a member of the 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC), and Gaborone hosts the SADC Secretariat’s headquarters. SADC has a broad mandate to encourage growth, development, and economic integration in Southern Africa. SADC’s Trade Protocol, calls for the elimination of all tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade among the 12 signatory countries. However, implementation of the protocol has been slow and is not yet complete.

Transportation and Communications
A sparsely populated, semi-arid country about the size of Texas, Botswana has nonetheless managed to incorporate many rural areas into the national economy. An “inner circle” highway connecting all major towns and district capitals is completely paved, and the all-weather Trans-Kalahari Highway connects the country (and, through it, South Africa’s commercially dominant Gauteng Province) to Walvis Bay in Namibia. A fiber-optic telecommunications network has been completed in Botswana connecting all major population centers. The Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana (CAAB) has been established as a regulator of the air transport services to further enhance the transport system.

In addition to the government-owned newspaper and national radio network, there is an active, independent press (one daily and seven weekly newspapers). Two privately owned radio stations began operations in 1999, and a third began operations in 2008. In 2000, the government-owned Botswana Television (BTV) was launched, which was Botswana’s first national television station. GBC is a commercially owned television station that broadcast programs to the Gaborone area only. Foreign publications are sold without restriction in Botswana, and there are 22 commercial Internet service providers. Three cellular phone providers cover most of the country.

DEFENSE
The president is commander in chief of the Botswana Defense Force (BDF). A defense council is appointed by the president. The BDF was formed in 1977 and has approximately 13,000 members.

The BDF is a capable and well-disciplined military force. Following positive political changes in South Africa and the region, the BDF’s missions have increasingly focused on border control and anti-poaching activities. The BDF is considered an apolitical and professional institution.

FOREIGN RELATIONS
Botswana puts a premium on economic and political integration in Southern Africa. It seeks to make SADC a working vehicle for economic development, and promotes efforts to make the region self-policing in terms of preventative diplomacy, conflict resolution, and good governance. Botswana joins the African consensus on most major international matters, but is not afraid to take its own stand on issues it views as matters of principle. Botswana is a member of international organizations such as the United Nations and the African Union (AU). Botswana has taken a leadership role within SADC advocating for a resolution of the crisis in Zimbabwe that fully reflects the will of the Zimbabwean people.

U.S.-BOTSWANA RELATIONS
The United States considers Botswana an advocate of and a model for stability in Africa and has been a major partner in Botswana’s development since its independence. The U.S. Peace Corps returned to Botswana in August 2002 with a focus on HIV/AIDS-related programs after concluding 30 years of more broadly targeted assistance in 1997. Similarly, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) phased out a longstanding bilateral partnership with Botswana in 1996, after successful programs emphasizing education, training, entrepreneurship, environmental management, and reproductive health. Botswana, however, continues to benefit along with its neighbors in the region from USAID’s Initiative for Southern Africa, now based in Pretoria, and USAID’s Southern Africa Global Competitiveness Hub, headquartered in Gaborone. The United States International Board of Broadcasters (IBB) operates a major Voice of America (VOA) relay station in Botswana serving most of the African continent.

In 1995, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) started the BOTUSA Project in collaboration with the Botswana Ministry of Health in order to generate information to improve tuberculosis (TB) control efforts in Botswana and elsewhere in the face of the TB and HIV/AIDS co-epidemics. Under the 1999 U.S. Government’s Leadership and Investment in Fighting an Epidemic (LIFE) Initiative, CDC through the BOTUSA Project has undertaken many projects and has assisted many organizations in the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Botswana. Botswana is one of the 15 focus countries for PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief. PEPFAR has been supporting the Botswana national response since 2004 through technical assistance and financial support totaling more than $480 million. PEPFAR assistance to Botswana, which totaled over $87 million in FY 2010, supports sustainable, high-quality, cost-effective HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and care interventions. The International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA), situated just outside of Gaborone, is another example of bilateral cooperation. The academy, jointly financed, managed, and staffed by the Governments of Botswana and the United States, provides training to police and government officials from across the sub-Saharan region. The academy’s permanent campus, in Otse outside of Gaborone, opened March 2003. Over 4,300 law enforcement professionals from 26 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have received training from ILEA since it began offering classes in 2001.

Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador-Michelle Gavin
Deputy Chief of Mission-Scott Hamilton
Office of Security Cooperation-Joshua Reitz
Centers for Disease Control-Kathleen Toomey
International Board of Broadcasters-George Miller
International Law Enforcement Academy-James O. Smith
Peace Corps-Heather Robinson (acting)

The U.S. Embassy is on Embassy Drive off Khama Crescent-P.O. Box 90, Gaborone (tel. 267-395-3982; fax 267-395-6947). OSC is located at the embassy. CDC is located on Lejara Road, Phase 2 in Gaborone. ILEA is located in Otse, about 45 minutes outside of Gaborone. The IBB station is located in Selebi-Phikwe, about 400 kilometers northeast of Gaborone.

TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
The U.S. Department of State’s Consular Information Program advises Americans traveling and residing abroad through Country Specific Information, Travel Alerts, and Travel Warnings. Country Specific Information exists for all countries and includes information on entry and exit requirements, currency regulations, health conditions, safety and security, crime, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. embassies and consulates abroad. Travel Alerts are issued to disseminate information quickly about terrorist threats and other relatively short-term conditions overseas that pose significant risks to the security of American travelers. Travel Warnings are issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel to a certain country because the situation is dangerous or unstable.

For the latest security information, Americans living and traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet web site at http://www.travel.state.gov, where the current Worldwide Caution, Travel Alerts, and Travel Warnings can be found. Consular Affairs Publications, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning a safe trip abroad, are also available at http://www.travel.state.gov. For additional information on international travel, see http://www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/Travel/International.shtml.

The Department of State encourages all U.S. citizens traveling or residing abroad to register via the State Department’s travel registration website or at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Registration will make your presence and whereabouts known in case it is necessary to contact you in an emergency and will enable you to receive up-to-date information on security conditions.

Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada or the regular toll line 1-202-501-4444 for callers outside the U.S. and Canada.

The National Passport Information Center (NPIC) is the U.S. Department of State’s single, centralized public contact center for U.S. passport information. Telephone: 1-877-4-USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778); TDD/TTY: 1-888-874-7793. Passport information is available 24 hours, 7 days a week. You may speak with a representative Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Eastern Time, excluding federal holidays.

Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) and a web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx give the most recent health advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements, and advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and countries. The CDC publication “Health Information for International Travel” can be found at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/contentYellowBook.aspx.

Botswana Map

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Have sought EGoM meet on diesel, LPG rate hike: Reddy

News4u-News Desk- 

With oil companies losing Rs 333 crore per day on selling fuel below cost, Petroleum Min S Jaipal Reddy has sought a meeting of a high-powered ministerial panel to decide on revising the rates of diesel, domestic LPG and kerosene.

 

“I have asked for a meeting of the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM),” Reddy told reporters after a meeting with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who heads the EGoM in New Delhi on Wednesday.

State-owned oil firms are currently losing Rs 9.27 per litre of diesel, Rs 26.94 per litre of kerosene sold through the public distribution system (PDS) and Rs 260.50 per 14.2-kg LPG cylinder supplied to households for cooking purposes.

The EGoM “meeting would take place before the Winter Session of Parliament”, beginning 22nd November, he said, adding that a decision on raising prices may “not be easy”.

The ministerial panel is essentially a consensus-building body of the Congress-led UPA government and comprises key allies like the DMK, TMC and NC.

The allies had in September scuttled plans to limit the supply of subsidised LPG cylinders to 4-6 per household in a year so that subsidies can be cut.

Reddy said his ministry would push for raising prices of all three regulated products, diesel, LPG and kerosene.

On oil companies pressing for a hike in petrol prices, he said PSUs were fully empowered to take a view, keeping in mind rising crude oil prices and depreciating rupee.

“Our ministry does not administer” the price of petrol, which was freed from government control in June last year, he said.

On Tuesday, HPCL Director (Finance) B Mukherjee had said that oil firms may have to raise petrol prices, as they were losing Rs 1.50 per litre at the current rates.

Reddy said Indian Oil, Hindustan Petroleum and Bharat Petroleum stand to lose over Rs 130,000 crore this fiscal on selling diesel, domestic LPG and kerosene at rates below their cost.

“Oil companies will soon find it difficult to get loans from Indian banks, let alone foreign banks,” he said, adding that the companies were borrowing heavily to meet even working capital requirements in the absence of fuel selling price not meeting even operating expenses.

Up to oil cos to hike petrol prices: Petroleum Ministry

A day after state-owned oil companies pressed for a petrol price hike, the Petroleum Ministry on Wednesday said it is up to the oil firms to decide on raising the rates of the deregulated commodity.

“It is for them (oil companies) to decide. They will take a decision at a right time,” Oil Secretary G C Chaturvedi told reporters in New Delhi.

On Tuesday, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL) Director (Finance) B Mukherjee had said that oil firms may have to raise petrol prices, as they were losing Rs 1.50 per litre at the current rates.

Chaturvedi said petrol is a deregulated commodity whose pricing is not decided by the government.

“The oil companies are empowered to take a view on it,” he said.

Indian Oil, HPCL and Bharat Petroleum had last hiked petrol prices by Rs 3.14 a litre on 16th September, when the Indian rupee was valued at about Rs 48 per US dollar. The exchange rate is now over Rs 49 per US dollar.

“From today, there are some losses on petrol. To cover them, we may have to increase prices,” Mukherjee had said on Tuesday.

He had stated that crude oil is hovering at around USD 108 per barrel in international markets.

At the current exchange rate, the petrol price of Rs 66.84 per litre in Delhi is equivalent to a crude oil price of about USD 102 per barrel.

The government had in June last year deregulated, or freed, petrol from all price controls, but the retail rates have not moved in line with the cost as high inflation forced the oil companies to seek “advice” from the parent Oil Ministry before revising rates.

Mukherjee did not say when petrol prices would be hiked.

“We are in consultations,” he said, without elaborating.

The loss on petrol is currently Rs 1.50 per litre and after including local levies, the desired increase in retail prices is Rs 1.82 per litre.

“Let’s say, we are toying with the idea,” he said.

“It may happen. We will see,” he added.

Besides petrol, the three firms are losing Rs 333 crore per day on selling diesel, domestic LPG and kerosene below cost.

They lose Rs 9.27 per litre on diesel, Rs 26.94 per litre on kerosene sold through the public distribution system (PDS) and Rs 260.50 per 14.2-kg LPG cylinder supplied to domestic households for cooking purposes.

At the current rate, the industry is projected to lose Rs 121,459 crore in revenue on the sale of diesel, domestic LPG and kerosene in the full fiscal.

While the loss on these three products is compensated through a combination of government cash subsidy and upstream oil firm dole-outs, there exists no such mechanism for making good the losses on petrol, as the product is deregulated.

 

 

Peetroleum Minister Jaipal Reddy

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Indian men at 10th spot, women 13th in FIH rankings

 

 

News4u-Sports Desk-

Erstwhile hockey powerhouse India are languishing at the 10th position in the men’s category, while the women’s team is further down at 13th spot in the recently-released FIH world rankings.

 

With just 1385 points in their kitty, India are a place behind the arch-rivals Pakistan in the rankings chart issued on Tuesday, after the conclusion of the continental championships.

World champions Australia occupy the top position among men, while 2008 Beijing Olympic gold medalists, the Netherlands is the numero uno team among women.

In the Asian region also, India cut a sorry figure and are currently ranked fourth behind Pakistan, Malaysia and Korea.

Germany is placed second among men’s team with the Netherlands occupying the third position.

In the women’s category, Argentina is ranked second ahead of Germany.

Top 10 rankings:

Men:

Australia 1 (2,620 points); Germany 2 (2,470); The Netherlands 3 (2,213); Spain 4 (1,990); England 5 (1,947); Korea 6 (1,788); New Zealand 7 (1,610); Argentina 8 (1,470); Pakistan 9 (1,460); India 10 (1,385).

Women:

The Netherlands 1 (2,063 points); Argentina 2 (2,030); Germany 3 (1,765); England 4 (1,696); China 5 (1,675); New Zealand 6 (1,615); Australia 7 (1,548); Korea 8 (1,423); Japan 9 (1,318); United States 10 (1,233).

 

HOCKEY INDIA LOGO

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Madonna’s corset sold for 45,000 pounds

News4u-Entertainment Desk- Pop superstar Madonna has laughed off reports that she is set to marry her 29 year junior toy boy lover Jesus Luz this year.
The pair has been dating since they met at a photo shoot for W magazine in December last year, Gossip.com reported.
Biographer Randy Taraborrelli claimed earlier this week that the relationship is so serious, the happy couple is planning to tie the knot in a Kabbalah commitment ceremony within the next few months.
“The pop queen has been dating Jesus since January and it is thought the pair may marry before the end of the year.
Madonna is crazy about Jesus and has been telling close friends and family that ‘I could definitely see myself marrying him. Yes, it’s definitely on the table’,” Taraborrelli said.
But a representative for Madonna, 51, has denied she is planning to marry the 22-year-old model, telling the website that the report “isn’t true”.

News4u-Entertainment DeskLONDON: A black corset sported by pop starMadonna on her popular 1987 Who’s That Girl Tour has fetched 45,000 pounds. 


The singer wore the tasselled creation at gigs during her world trek. A fan in China bid 41,800 pounds over the 3,125 pounds expected price at the sale held by Julien’s Auctions, reports dailystar.co.uk.

The costume was designed by Los Angeles label Trashy Lingerie, and was made especially for Madonna’s concerts.

A signed copy of the singer’s famed book “Sex” also sold at the auction for 2,000 pounds.IANS

Pop superstar Madonna

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SATYANARAYAN KATHA –SOME STARTLING TRUTHS

News4u, Special Feature- Dr. Hari Ramchandra Divekar was a great scholar of ancient scriptures and a known writer in the century gone by. In one of his articles he brought to light some startling truths about the most popular Katha amongst devout Hindus that is Satyanarayana Katha.

Dr. Divekar wrote that after the end of each Chapter in the Katha, the vachak says “Scund Purane Rewakhande”. When he wanted to read the original version of the Katha in the Scund Puran he came to know that such a katha did not exist either in the Scudnd Puran or any other Puran for that matter.

He then set about to get at the root of the matter. What he learnt about the ‘Katha’ and its writer was startling in itself. He went about in search of old copies of the’Katha’ in bookform. His hard work paid and he found out that when Muslims were in power in Bengal there was a Muslim Fakir worshipped by both Hindus and Muslims, calling him “Sachcha Peer’. At this time some Brahmin wrote this simple katha to draw Hindus in the fold of their own religion. There are no hard and fast rules about observing the “Vrat” and listening to the Katha. Members of all the varnas can without hesitation perform the ‘Pooja’ and receive Prasad. Now this Brahmin wanted to give some authenticity to this Katha. Very cleverly he wrote in the end of each chapter ‘Scann Puran’ not Scund Puran. The writer discovered that in the old books “Scann Puran’ was mentioned which means what ever is lost, can not be found. The Brahmin very wisely spoke the truth and did not lie.

Dr. Divekar’s version is that while this ‘Katha’ was being reprinted the Printer’s devil, ignorant of the meaning of “Scann” corrected it in his own way and made it ‘Scund Puran’, which was a known puran amongst all and sundry.

Now ‘Scann Puran’ became Scund Puran and is still the same in all the books printed thereafter. So the writer of the book is not to be blamed for the mistake. In the same manner’Purvkhande’ became Rewakhande due to the printer’s mistake and then continued for centuries till date.

Dr.Divekar also sees a lot of similarities in the Prasad prepared for the katha like Halwa or Panjiri with maleeda of the Muslims. He says that this unkown Brahmin who wrote this katha should be credited with sincerity and love for Hindu religion and not declared a fraud .

(Courtsey Kadambini)

Satyanarayan Katha

Satyanarayan Katha

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Take two pegs a day for your heart

News4u-News Desk-Patterns of alcohol consumption may be more important in determining alcohol’s influence on heart health than the total amount consumed, according to a new study.

Scientists have found that daily moderate drinking- the equivalent of two drinks per day - decreased atherosclerosis in mice, while binge drinking - the equivalent of seven drinks a day, two days a week - increased development of the disease.

Atherosclerosis, or the hardening and narrowing of arteries, is a serious condition that can lead to aheart attack or stroke.

“People need to consider not only how much alcohol they drink, but the way in which they are drinking it,” said lead study author John Cullen, Ph.D., research associate professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of RochesterMedical Center.

“Research shows that people have yet to be convinced of the dangers of binge drinking to their health; we’re hoping our work changes that,” he added.

The study has been published in the journal Atherosclerosis .ANI

Whiskey

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World Kabbadi Cup started in Bathinda today

News4u-News Desk- 

Sukhbir Singh Sarawan will lead the Indian Kabbadi team in the World Kabbadi Cup, being organised by Punjab government at Bathinda,where as many as fourteen nations are participating.

 

This was disclosed by secretary general of the organising committee Sikander Singh Maluka.

He said that Hardavinder Singh Dulla will be vice captain of the team.

Five key players from last year’s Indian team namely Sukhbir Singh Sarawan, Hardavinder Singh Dulla Surakhpuria, Gulzar Singh Moonak, Mangat Singh Mangi Bagga and Narinder Kumar Bittu Dugaal have been retained while nine new players, including Gurlal Ghanaur would represent for the first time.

The 14-member team comprises of seven raiders and defenders while for players have been picked as standbys.

The coaching staff of team includes Harpreet Singh Baba, Dalbir Singh Bittu and Harbans Singh while Gurdeep Singh Malhi has been made the manager.

The members of Indian Kabaddi team are: Sukhbir Singh Sarawan, Hardavinder Singh Dulla Surakhpuria, Gulzar Singh Moonak, Gurlal Ghanaur, Sandeep Dirba, Gagandeep Singh Gaggi Khiranwal and Talwinder Singh Sonu Jump (all raiders), Mangat Singh Mangi, Narinder Kumar Bittu Dugaal, Sikander Singh Kanjhli, Ekam Hathoor, Narinder Nindi Benra, Jagdeep Singh Kaka Ghaniwal and Gurwinder Singh Kahlwan (all defenders).Besides, Vicky Ghanaur, Talwinder Singh Tinda, Yaadwinder Singh Kotli and Gurpreet Singh Maheru were the standby players. 

Kabaddi

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Govt launches e-payment system

News4u-News Desk- Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Monday launched the e-payment system, it is a part of govt’s anti corruption initiative and it will be implemented in all paid account offices of the Ministries.

 

The system will cover eight banks and at the end of this financial year, all the ministries will come under its ambit.

The Minister added once the system is fully operational, it will be responsible for payment of six lakh crore rupees.

Mukherjee gave the background of the e-payment evolution in the country and maintained that it will ensure greater efficiency, cost effectiveness and better delivery of money.

He said that the task force set up by the government headed by Nandan Nilkeni will work out modalities of direct transfer of cash subsidy of kerosene and fertilizers.

The e-payment system has been developed by Controller General of Accounts, Ministry of Finance in collaboration with National Informatics Centre.

Minister of State for Finance Namonarain Meena and Secretary Department of Expenditure also spoke on the occasion.

 

ASHOK STHAMB

ASHOK STHAMB

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