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Archive for July 30th, 2008

Malagasy leader re-affirms membership to continental aviation body

Posted by African Press International on July 30, 2008

Malagasy President Marc Ravalomanana confirmed here Tuesday that his country would remain in the Dakar-based Agency for Air Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA), said the final communiqu of his one-day visit to Gabon.

President Ravalomanana announced the decision after meeting Tuesday morning with his Gabonese counterpart Omar Bongo Ondimba.

Leaders of ASECNA member countries appointed their Gabonese counterpart Bongo Ondimba, the longest serving African head of state, to mediate with the leaders of Madagascar and Senegal (Abdoulaye Wade) in order to bring them back into the organisation.

Both leaders announced that they would quit the institution, which manages the airspaces of 17 African countries supported by France.

Following heated discussions at the 48th session of the ASECNA ministerial committee held 12 July in Malabo (Equatorial Guinea), Madagascar rescinded its decision to quit the organisation, while Senegal said it would proceed with the move.

At the end of the ministerial session, Senegal was given two months to make a final decision.

Faced with the situation, member countries requested that the headquarters be moved if Senegal sticks to its guns.

The Malagasy leaders visit to Libreville comes a few days after he refused to receive the credentials of French ambassador Gildas Le Lidec, who has been posted in Antananarivo for six months.

French newspaper Le Monde reported that “it is unclear what prompted the ambassadors departure, with some arguing that President Marc Ravalomanana seems to dislike Le Lidec often being positioned in crisis-affected countries.”

Le Lidec was based in Kinshasa, the DR Congos capital, in October 2000 when Laurent-Desire Kabila was assassinated, and in Cote dIvoire from 2002 to 2005 during the rebellion against President Laurent Gbagbo, sources recalled.

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API/APA

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Attacks on aid workers lead to shortage of relief assistance to Somali IDPs

Posted by African Press International on July 30, 2008

Most of the displaced persons who live in Elasha, 17 kilometres south of Mogadishu, where most of the Mogadishu residents fled during the height of the insurgency, are faced with lack of food and medicine as many of the relief agencies have now stopped providing assistance to the IDPs following the frequent attacks on aid workers.

We dont get any more food and medical services and we fled from our homes because of the daily clashes between the Ethiopian soldiers and Islamist insurgents, Sadia Abdi Farah a mother of 4 told APA in an interview.

The complaints are also coming from other IDP camps in southern Somalia when several relief agencies stopped providing them with food assistances following the frequent attacks by unknown gunmen on aid workers.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR has recently declared that the killing of aid workers had escalated in the capital has caused about 7,000 additional people to flee their own homes and leaving millions in need of humanitarian assistance.

The UNCR said thousands of Mogadishu residents fled from their homes during the last year only, and that many more are likely to flee if the situation goes on this way. It also reports that more than one million people have been forced to flee from their homes because of the daily clashes between the Islamist fighters and government troops and their Ethiopian backers, while thousands are going without humanitarian assistance because of the violence.

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EU deploys election observers in Rwanda

Posted by African Press International on July 30, 2008

The European Union (EU) has announced the official deployment of an election observation mission for Rwandan parliamentary elections scheduled on September 15, sources has said.

During a press briefing in Kigali for the launch, the EU chief observer, Michael Cashman, said the mission will follow a set election methodology applied in other countries.

This will be in full accordance with the declaration of principals and the code of conduct for international election observation, to determine the credibility of the elections, he said.

He added that the observer mission will address all relevant issues with regard to the entire election process, including the campaign, performance of the election administration, role of the judiciary and general environment in which the election take place.

About 80 observers will be deployed along with a delegation representing the European Parliament.

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Former President Clinton arrives in Ethiopia to start an African tour

Posted by African Press International on July 30, 2008

The former president, Bill Clinton is scheduled to arrive Tuesday in Addis Ababa to begin an African tour in an attempt to draw attention to HIV/AIDS and malaria challenges in Africa.

Clinton, along with his delegation will see works being undertaken by the Clinton Foundation, which is active in many African countries in the fight against HIV/AIDS and malaria.

He is scheduled to visit Rwanda, Liberia and Senegal, where he will meet with local officials and Clinton Foundation staff and members in the respective countries.

In Ethiopia, Clinton is expected to hold talks with Ethiopian officials, including Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and he will also discuss issues related to the fight against HIV/AIDS and malaria.

This years trip will focus not only on the progress the Foundation has already made, but will highlight new efforts, specifically: the Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiatives new program to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia, the Foundations Ethiopian office said regarding his visit to Ethiopia.

The foundations new program aims to increase access to malaria drugs and diagnostics.

President Bill Clinton visited Ethiopia on July 2006; when he launched a new health program to help children suffering from AIDS.

While in Ethiopia, Clinton will also visit ALERT (All African Leprosy and Rehabilitation Training Centre) Hospital, which provides healthcare services to children and AIDS orphans, where he laid the foundation stone of the new Childrens Treatment Centre (in 2006), which is being built with the assistance of the Foundation.

The Clinton Foundation in 2002 launched an anti-AIDS initiative, and in June 2008 it has reached an agreement with several pharmaceutical companies to reduce the price of the top anti-malaria treatment by 30 percent.

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Sudan to be sued over Nairobi bomb attack

Posted by African Press International on July 30, 2008

Security personnel and volunteers comb through the rubble for survivors after the bomb attack on the US embassy on August 7, 1998. Photo/FILE

By DAVID MUGONYI and JEFF OTIENO

A lawsuit against terrorism that could put Kenya in an awkward position with its trading partners is to be lodged in the United States by next week.

The suit, to be filed by a US legal firm on behalf of victims of the August 1998 bomb blast, seeks to indict Sudan and Iran.

The governments of these two countries are accused of having sponsored the attack that left 206 Kenyans and 12 Americans dead. More than 5,000 people were injured.

Counter-terrorism legal experts at Mann and Mairone Attorneys said the firm had gathered enough evidence in its two-year research, linking key officials in the governments of Sudan and Iran as the sponsors of the terrorist attack.

We have significant evidence indicating that senior government officials of the Islamic Republic of Sudan and Iran provided such support and finance to al Qaeda and therefore were enablers of the terrorist attack that killed and maimed hundreds of residents of Kenya and they must be held legally liable for the death and destruction caused, said Mr Gavriel Mairone.

He said the research was done in Arabic, Farsi, English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Russian, Hebrew and German.

The firm said it was approached by one of the victims of the bombing of the US embassy, seeking its aid in the matter. And it has organised a meeting with the victims in Kenya this week.

Medical aid

The lawsuit comes years after victims of the blast and their relatives tried to sue the US for compensation in vain. The US argued it was not under any obligation to compensate Kenyan victims, saying it was itself a victim and that the al Qaeda group should be held responsible. In addition, it said that it had spent millions of dollars in helping victims seek medical aid.

However, the legal suit to be filed before August 7 will only involve Kenyans who were employees at the American embassy.

Efforts by the law firm to pressure the US government to change its law to cater for other Kenyan victims were fruitless.

The lawsuit comes just months after the expansion of the US law on terrorism.

In January this year, President George W. Bush signed into law an Act expanding jurisdiction of US courts to any lawsuit against a foreign government that sponsors terrorism filed by either a US citizen, an employee of the US government or a contractor of the US government, who was killed or wounded by an act of terrorism anywhere in the world.

Previously, the law permitted only United States citizens to bring lawsuits against foreign governments in America.

Mr Mairone said the case would be filed immediately asall lawsuits must be brought within 10 years of the incident. The 10-year period for the Nairobi attack expires on August 7, in under two week.

Sudanese ambassador to Kenya Majok Guandong said he was not in Government when the attack took place and therefore could not comment on it.

Although officials at the Iranian embassy said they would respond they had not done so by the time we went to Press.

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API/Nation.ke

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Shocking rise in HIV prevalence

Posted by African Press International on July 30, 2008

HIV/Aids activists on a campaign walk. Photo/FILE

Kenyas HIV and Aids prevalence rate has increased to nearly eight per cent, according to a new study to be released Tuesday

Just when Kenyans were beginning to celebrate last years announcement that the prevalence rate had dropped to 5.1 per cent, the Government is expected to announce that the rate is actually higher.

Based on a new study conducted last year, the findings show HIV prevalence to be higher than last years 5.1 per cent and the 6.7 per cent captured by a 2003 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey.

The study, 2007 Kenya Aids Indicator Survey (KAIS), shows HIV prevalence among pregnant women to be on the rise, returning a figure higher than the 7.3 per cent recorded in the 2003 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS).

Last year an upbeat Government announced a decline based on statistics from antenatal clinics: Kenya is one of three African nations that recently has made significant progress in HIV/Aids prevention and treatment programmes.

But these new findings from a study said to have cost about Sh400 million (US$6 million), have shocked the Government, with officials said to be sharply divided on whether to release the figures.

Several meetings, including a Cabinet discussion, seem to have finally decided to release the statistics after agreement on what to tell the public about the discrepancy in the HIV prevalence trend.

Similar studies in Uganda and Tanzania have not been released several months after they were completed.

It is understood these studies, which are using higher populations in their samples than even the respected Demographic Health Surveys, consistently show higher HIV prevalence rates.

According to the 2007 KAIS, Nyanza Province led in infections, followed by Nairobi, Coast, Rift Valley, Western, Eastern, Central and North Eastern.

Upward trend

But Nairobi and Central registered a decrease in the prevalence rate, with other provinces recording increasing rates compared to the 2003 KDHS findings.

Similarly, while urban areas have higher infection rates compared to rural areas, prevalence rates in the latter seems to be on the upward trend.

The KAIS study also looked at the prevalence of herpes simplex virus-2 and syphilis and their co-infections with HIV. Prevalence of syphilis infection was higher in the rural areas than urban ones, with males being most affected.

As the country ponders on these new developments, the findings raise some pertinent questions of what is really going on in the HIV and Aids field.

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Raila denies reports of a secret eye check-up in Germany after is UK tour, as he differs with Kibaki on caning

Posted by African Press International on July 30, 2008

Prime Minister Raila Odinga has said caning students is not a solution to the current crisis in the education sector.

He was speaking at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on arrival from the UK on official duty. He was received by ODM secretary general Anyang Nyongo.

Mr Odinga differed with President Kibaki, who has called for re-introduction of caning to end strikes in schools.

I dont believe sparing the rod is spoiling the child.

Joining the debate on student unrest Mr Odinga said he believed there are other ways of dealing with the issue.

The PM, in-charge of coordinating and supervising government affairs, said the Ministry of Education was looking into the problems facing schools in the country and a solution to the strikes.

The issue is serious and needs to be dealt with firmly so that it does not recur in future, Mr Odinga said.

Students from more than 300 schools have gone on strike in the past two months, one killed and property worth millions of shillings destroyed.

At the weekend, President Kibaki supported calls for re-introduction of caning to ensure discipline in schools.

Meanwhile, he has described his visit to the UK as successful.

The PM who led a high-powered delegation including six Cabinet ministers and businessmen to the Kenya Investment Roundtable Conference hosted by the Commonwealth Business Club in London said British investors had expressed interest of venturing in the country.

Many British businessmen and Kenyans in the Diaspora are interested in investing in Kenya, he said.

He told a press conference that the positive impact of his London visit was already being felt and that many more investors were likely to come to Kenya in the next few weeks.

During the tour, his third major one after an earlier visit to the US and South Africa, he said Kenyan businessmen and British businessmen shared their experiences, which left a positive impact and a lot of interest in investing in Kenya.

The PM said Kenyans in the Diaspora also had a major role to play in the countrys economy and that they were considering investing back home.

Last year, Kenyans in the Diaspora remitted back home US$1 billion (about Sh70 billion) and Mr Odinga said bankers who accompanied him had explained to them cheaper means of sending money.

He said Kenya would continue to strengthen the already strong and historical ties with the UK for a better impact on trade and investment and to provide business opportunities.

During the visit, the PM held extensive discussions with senior British government officials including Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the Minister for International Co-operation and Foreign Affairs, UN and Asia.

The PM also met with MPs from All-Home and African committees who showed they were keen in development initiatives in Kenya and Africa. He noted that Great Britain had played a big role in the peace process in the country.

Among those who accompanied Mr Odinga to the UK were: Local Government Minister and deputy prime minister Uhuru Kenyatta, Environment and acting Finance minister John Michuki, Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi and Nairobi Metropolitan Development minister Mutula Kilonzo.

Accompanied by his wife Ida, he also denied press reports that he had headed to Germany for an eye check-up after ending his UK visit last Thursday.

I never went for eye check-up. Im in the best of health.

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Parents to pay repair bills after school riots

Posted by African Press International on July 30, 2008

Students from the Jesus Celebrations Centre High School in Bamburi examine the damage caused after their male colleagues burnt a dormitory at the school last week. Photo/GIDEON MAUNDU

By PETER NGARE and KNA

Parents will bear the full cost of rebuilding schools burnt down by students during strikes, a Government official has announced.

Students who organised the strikes will also be suspended for one year as it also emerged that transfer of students had been stopped with immediate effect.

The senior deputy director of education in charge of secondary education, Ms Concilia Ondiek, said money from the Constituency Development Fund and other devolved funds should not be used to rebuild the destroyed dormitories and other school buildings.

This, she said, will prompt parents to take charge of their childrens discipline.

Take responsibility

On Saturday, President Mwai Kibaki said parents will have to take responsibility for the behaviour of their children.

On Sunday, the decision to have parents pay for the losses sparked protests from parents and other players in education, who said it amounted to concluding that parents were solely to blame for the unrest that rocked over 300 schools in the last one month. But headteachers supported the directive saying it served parents right because they had abdicated the role of disciplining their children.

Over 160 schools are yet to be re-opened after rioting students burnt buildings and destroyed other property. Rebuilding the schools is expected to cost hundreds of millions of shillings. In one school alone, a dormitory valued at Sh20 million was razed.

Meanwhile, investigations by the Nation indicate that non-teaching staff employed in schools played an active role in the strikes. In some cases, labourers were used to sneak petrol into schools before the students burnt down dormitories.

The revelations came as calm returned in educational institutions with experts saying the decision to take suspects to court had scared many students.

Speaking at Ukwala Boys High School in Siaya during an education day, Ms Ondiek said the halting of transfers was meant to ensure that indisciplined students are not allowed to move to other schools. The ministry will not transfer a problem from one school to another, she said.

Corporal punishment

Ms Ondiek also opposed calls for the re-introduction corporal punishment in schools. She said the cane only scares students but does not discipline them. However, she said there was need to retrain teachers on guidance and counselling. According to her, the number of teachers who counsel students was too low.

The Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association chairman, Mr Cleophas Tirop, also supported the directive that parents shoulder the cost of repairing burnt schools.

Mr Tirop, also the Kapsabet Boys High School principal, said that as a rule, parents meet the cost of damage caused by students.

We cannot pass the cost to the Government while the students caused the problem, he said.

But the National Association of Parents opposed the proposal, saying that this was a way of putting the blame on parents alone.

The associations national secretary general, Mr Musau Ndunda, said the Government should first investigate the root cause of the riots before putting the blame on parents. We do not support the decision. It is like saying the parents are to blame for the strikes, he said.

He asked the Ministry of Education to come up with a way of punishing those found guilty of organising the riots.

But the Kenya National Union of Teachers told the Government not to rush in apportioning blame but to first find out what went wrong.

Secretary-general Francis Nganga said the unions National Executive Committee will meet next week to discuss on the matter.

And the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers criticised the Governments directive, saying the cost of the damage was too high to be left to parents alone.

Kuppet secretary-general Njeru Kanyamba said public schools had been hardest hit by the riots and parents could not afford the costs.

Additional reporting by Benjamin Muindi and Kibiwott Koros

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KENYA: PM urges end to complacency on AIDS

Posted by African Press International on July 30, 2008

Written By:Beverly Gatimu

Prime Minister Raila Odinga has launched the preliminary results of the latest countrywide HIV/AIDS survey at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre -KICC-.

Speaking during the launch, Raila said the report would be an indispensable instrument in determining the government’s responses and strategies, as well as the paradigm shifts, which are urgently needed to address the changing nature and impact of this disease.

” The report should once again sound the alarm about the urgency with which we must fight this epidemic. Because despite our many excellent efforts, Kenya’s HIV prevalence rate is unfortunately still on the rise, growing by more than a quarter per cent a year. There are now nearly one and a half million Kenyans living with AIDS. This is nothing less than a national crisis, and I appeal to all, particularly media, to give AIDS the same kind of attention they used to.” He said

On the rising prevalence rate, the Prime minister said the government is responding to this with a series of intensified, rapid HIV testing campaigns.

” As such, AIDS needs a comprehensive multi-sectoral and multi-cultural response if we are to tame the menace. The government report that I am now releasing will be an indispensable instrument in determining our responses and strategies, as well as the paradigm shifts, which are urgently needed to address the changing nature and impact of this disease. ” The PM said.

The National Aids control Council is also coordinating a fresh review of the national HIV AIDS Strategic Plan.

Raila applauded the US government and the United Nations for funding this survey and encouraged them and other partners to help Kenya produce such indicator reports every 2 to 3 years, rather than every 5 years.

The Prime minister had earlier arrived from London, where he had led a high-powered delegation to the Kenya Investment Roundtable conference.

Addressing the press at the JKIA VIP lounge, Raila said that the positive impact of his London visit was already being felt.

During the tour the Prime Minister held discussions with senior British Government officials including Prime minister, Gordon Brown and the Minister for International Co-operation and Foreign Affairs.

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Russia deported ‘taggers’

Posted by African Press International on July 30, 2008

Two young Norwegian men visiting Moscow last week were summarily deported, after Russian police caught them trying to break into a restricted area of the city’s public transportation system. They reportedly were on the verge of spraypainting their “tags” on tram cars.

The two Norwegians, aged 21 and 24, were nabbed inside the Russian capital’s Petsjatniki metro station. Local newspaper Komsomolskaja Pravda reported that Russian police found several cans of spraypaint and cameras inside the Norwegians’ bags.

The two men admitted under questioning by Russian police that tagging had been their “hobby” for the past seven years. They planned to tag one or more trams and then take pictures of themselves posing with their tags, for their scrapbooks.

Norway has long contended with widespread vandalism caused by so-called “taggers,” who delight in spraypainting their tags on everything from public transport systems to government buildings and private homes. Politicians have tried a variety of measures to stop tagging, mostly without success.

The Russian authorities, however, clearly had no patience with their Norwegian offenders. They immediately contacted both the Norwegian Foreign Ministry and the Norwegian Embassy in Moscow to report the arrests of the two men, and ordered their deportation.

‘Unwanted’
“I can confirm that two Norwegian men were held in Moscow Friday because they entered restricted grounds inside a Russian metro station,” Bjrn Svenunugsen of the Foreign Ministry told newspaper Aftenposten. “They tried to tag a tram car but were stopped before they got started.”

Svenungsen said the two men were told they were “unwanted” in Russia and placed on a flight back to Norway by Friday evening. The Russian newspaper reported that the two Norwegians will never again be allowed to enter Russia, but Svenungsen could not confirm that report.

Meanwhile, taggers continue to deface both public and private property back home in Norway. Tagging also is an issue in several other European countries and was a big problem in, for example, California, around 20 years ago — until the taggers were widely compared to dogs that urinate as part of an urge to mark their territory. Suddenly tagging became less fashionable.

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API/AAftenposteneng

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Athletes to fly business class

Posted by African Press International on July 30, 2008

Norway is sending its Olympic hopefuls to Beijing in style this time. The Norwegian Olympic Committee has decided that it may improve their chances for medals.

Taekwondo expert Nina Solheim is among Norway’s medal contenders at the upcoming Summer Olympics in Beijing.

PHOTO: TROND TANDBERG

The committee and its management (Olympiatoppen) is spending NOK 425,000 (about USD 85,000) extra on business class tickets for the Norwegian athletes.

“We experienced after a trip to China last year that it was a bit difficult to adjust to the time zones,” Gro Hammersen, captain of the Norwegian women’s handball team, told newspaper VG. “And it’s easier to sleep on board the flight if you have room for your knees.”

Norway tends to excel more in the Winter Olympics than in the summer version, but will nonetheless be sending 85 women and men to the summer games in Beijing, due to start next Friday. The women’s handball and soccer teams alone account for many of the participants.

Others are competing in a variety of sports, many of them among the more obscure in the summer Olympics (called “Sommer-OL” in Norway). Skeet- and rifle shooting, sand volleyball, fencing and race walking, for example, will have Norwegian contenders.

Norway also has some athletes vying for medals in more mainstream sports, including swimming (where Alexander Dale Oen is a medal contender), cycling (where Tour de France veteran Thor Hushovd will ride) and track and field (Andreas Thorkildsen hopes to defend his Olympic gold from Athens in 2004).

Norway also hopes to make a strong showing in sailing events, and Siren Soot Sundby is aiming for another gold medal as well.

One clear gold medal contender is the Norwegian Taekwondo champion Nina Solheim. She has won medals in the world championships, the European championships and the US Open, and will be in action on August 23.

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API/APA

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Steen & Strm sale to ease Hagen’s debt burden

Posted by African Press International on July 30, 2008

Businessman Stein Erik Hagen, long listed as one of Norway’s wealthiest entrepreneurs, says he’ll use proceeds from this week’s sale of retailing and real estate group Steen & Strm to pay down debts in other areas of his empire — and for new investments.

Stein Erik Hagen said he was pleased with the price he and his Canica firm got for Steen & Strm.

PHOTO: JON-ARE BERG-JACOBSEN

Hagen, best known for founding the discount grocery store chain RIMI, will log a gain of nearly NOK 4 billion on the sale of Steen & Strm to Klpierre and Europe’s largest pension fund, ABP.

Hagen’s investment firm Canica had acquired full control of Steen & Strm just last summer. Steen & Strm, originally an Oslo department store, has evolved in recent years into a large shopping center chain with 54 properties in Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

Pension fund ABP and Klpierre, a French real estate investment firm, are paying NOK 22 billion for Steen & Strm. Both Hagen and his right-hand man Peter A Ruzicka, head of Canica, said they were satisfied with the price, not least given current turbulence in real estate markets.

“Even though we wish the gain was larger, it’s not so bad after all,” Hagen told Aftenposten and financial news service E24. “We will use this money to pay down debt and maybe make some investments also.” Neither he nor Ruzicka would say where.

Canica, which also owns 23 percent of industrial concern Orkla among other investments, has debts of around NOK 12 billion and a net worth of an estimated NOK 14.8 billion. Recent stock market and financial turbulence had left Canica and Hagen with reduced fortunes, but the Steen & Strm sale relieves any debt worries.

A board member of Klpierre said the quality of Steen & Strm’s existing shopping centers combined with a large portfolio of development projects made it an attractive investment.

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API/aftenposteneng

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Police to use ‘mafia’ law in cannabis cases

Posted by African Press International on July 30, 2008

Last winter saw a wave of raids on cannabis plantations in Norway, and now those charged are facing their day in court. Two Swedes and a Dutch defendant are linked to two of the largest plantations, and they’re charged under Norway’s so-called “mafia” law designed to fight organized crime.

Two more houses full of cannabis plants were found and raided in Romerike, just north of Oslo, earlier this month.

PHOTO: NES SHERIFF’S OFFICE

Prosecutor Cathrine Fossen told newspaper Aftenposten on Tuesday that there’s a link between large plantations found in Lillehammer and in Kongsberg, and that they involve a group with criminal operations beyond Lillehammer. The mafia law can thus apply, she said.

The plantation in Lillehammer was in operation from April 2007 to February 2008, when police raided it. At that time, it had four or five sub-operations. One person was arrested at the scene, and two others after a car chase.

The cannabis plantations were all found inside otherwise ordinary-looking homes, which had been rented out by persons of Vietnamese background. The homes were then converted into large greenhouse-type operations, and many ruined in the process. More than 500 cannabis plants were found just on the top floor of the Lillehammer house.

Police in Norway have raided nearly 50 cannabis plantations in eastern Norway since last fall.

In all the cases, the operations were inside homes rented by Norwegian-Vietnamese men. More than 100 persons have been arrested, 10 have been convicted so far and 10 more have been charged.

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Hotel computer crash resulted in free lodging

Posted by African Press International on July 30, 2008

One of Scandinavia’s largest hotel chains couldn’t charge its guests late last week because of a computer crash. “This can be expensive,” said Choice Hotels owner Petter Stordalen.

Comfort Hotel Bakeriet in Trondheim was among those hit by computer trouble just before the weekend.

PHOTO: GORM KALLESTAD/SCANPIX

The Oslo-based hotel company’s computer crash hit 130 of its properties in all three categories: Clarion, Quality and Comfort. Only 30 of the chain’s hotels were unaffected because they’re tied to a different system.

The trouble meant that guests staying in at least one of the Choice hotels didn’t need to pay for their overnight stay or other hotel services. Some didn’t need to pay for meals.

Choice generally has 20,000 to 25,000 overnight stays every day, but managing director Torgeir Silseth downplayed the extent of the trouble. “It’s not my impression that there were major problems because of the system trouble,” said Silseth.

He said he’d been in the chain’s hotel near the zoo in Kristiansand, “and everything was working in order there.”

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API/Aftenposteneng

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Swedes save Norway’s restaurant business

Posted by African Press International on July 30, 2008

Without the thousands of Swedes serving with a smile in Norway this summer, the restaurant branch would be in big trouble. Young foreigners are also providing needed help in everything from the hotel to the bakery industries, and some say they work harder than young Norwegians.

Matilda Magnusson is among the many Swedish workers popular in the restaurant business in Norway.

PHOTO: MAGNUS KNUTSEN BJRKE

Emeric Logeais (left) and Antoine Boelle have travelled from France to work as bakers in Norway.

PHOTO: KNUT SNARE

A new study by recruiting firm Proffice indicates that many companies actively seek extra help from overseas, and that Swedes between 18 and 25 years of age are most popular.

“There are a lot of fine young Norwegians, but there also are more of them who lack a strong work ethic,” Proffice’s managing director Per Bergerud told newspaper Aftenposten.

Some who sought summer jobs even made it clear that they also expected to be able to take summer vacation during their seasonal working period. That wasn’t popular among potential employers.

Workers coming from other countries, however, are proving more reliable and eager. Among them is Matilda Magnusson, age 20 from Sweden. She’s working as a waitress at an Oslo pub.

“It’s difficult to get a job in Sweden, plus we can earn SEK 40 more an hour in Norway,” Magnusson told Aftenposten. “Personally, I think the tips are better here, too.”

United Bakeries in Oslo has hired many bakers from France and many stick around. “We get twice as much pay here, so I stayed an extra half-year for the money,” said Antoine Boelle, age 22. All his colleagues at the United Bakeries where he works in Lysaker are French.

There are more than 100,000 foreigners with working permission in Norway at present in addition to the Swedes, who don’t need working permission.

Nearly 50,000 workers from Poland are active in the building branch, while Danes are popular in the hotel industry, Germans are working as doctors, nurses, architects and engineers and French are most often found in bakeries, restaurants and high-tech firms.

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API/Aftenposteneng

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