Ex-World Bank staff and leading economists support Nigeria's Okonjo-Iweala for top job

Nigeria's Okonjo-Iweala 
A group of former World Bank officials has written a letter backing Nigeria's Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to be its next president. Traditionally the post is given to the candidate put forward by the US, which this time is Dr Jim Yong Kim. But in an open letter, 35 former economists and managers said the Bank should choose the next chief on merit.
Another group of economists this week signed a petition backing Colombia's Jose Antonio Ocampo.
This is the first time the World Bank has had to choose between candidates since its creation more than 60 years ago.
The executive board of the Bank has to choose between Mrs Okonjo-Iweala, a former World Bank managing director, Jose Antonio Ocampo, a former finance minister of Colombia, and Jim Yong Kim, a public health expert and president of Dartmouth College in the US.
The Bank is holding interviews next week and plans to select the successor to outgoing president Robert Zoellick by 20 April, when it starts its spring meetings with the IMF.
The three-way fight is attracting increasingly passionate comment from candidates' supporters. It has also shone a light on the way the World Bank chooses its head.
The US, which is the Bank's largest shareholder, has always picked the Bank's president. It, Europe and Japan have 54% of the votes.
Under an informal arrangement, in return, Europe appoints a European as head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which is the Bank's sister institution. It is currently run by Frenchwoman Christine Lagarde.
Emerging economies have become increasingly unhappy with this system and are pushing for change.
The leaders of Russia, Brazil, China, India and South Africa recently called for a review of that weighted voting system.
The nations, sometimes referred to as the Brics countries, are working to chose a joint candidate, according to the Brazilian finance minister Guido Mantega.
Speaking after a meeting with the US-nominated Jim Yong Kim, he said Brazil has not yet made up its mind who to promote.
"By late next week Brazil should have a position on the matter and I will talk with the other Brics."
He said Dr Kim had vast experience with the developing world, but he would wait until he had met the other candidates before making up his mind.
The letter in support of Mrs Okonjo-Iweala, which is signed by high-ranking managers and economists, including Tunisia's central bank chief, Mustapha Nabli, criticised some aspects of the selection process.
It said that it still involves nomination by governments, based in part on nationality, and without an agreed list of qualifying criteria.
It called for the process to be made in "an open, transparent, merit-based, and competitive manner rather than simply appointed in line with understandings that no longer reflect the world as it is today".
Mrs Okonjo-Iweala herself has called for a televised debate between the three candidates.
Her supporters said: "We believe that Mrs Okonjo-Iweala has outstanding qualifications across the full range of relevant criteria."
Mrs Okonjo-Iweala "would bring the combination of her experience as finance and foreign minister of a large and complex African country with her wide experience of working at all levels of the Bank's hierarchy in different parts of the world, from agricultural economist to managing director".
It says "she would be the outstanding World Bank president the times call for" and pointed out that should would be the institution's first female leader.
They said they cared too much about the institution not to speak out.
The petition is support of Mr Ocampo was signed by economists from countries including China, India and Brazil, as well as two former governors of the Chilean central bank.
It pointed to his background working for UN agencies where "his intellectual leadership and commitment to development led to significant improvements in these institutions contribution to development thinking and to development policy design".
He has also been setting out his views of the future shape of the World Bank.
Writing in the Financial Times newspaper, he said the Bank's core mandate must remain that of reducing poverty, addressing growing inequalities that have appeared in recent decades and eliminating gender inequalities.
Mrs Okonjo-Iweala has also been outlining what she thinks should be the Bank's main goal.
She said that it should be creating jobs, in both developing and developed countries, with a particular focus on youth unemployment because of the knock-on social problems it caused.
Dr Kim, who once did a turn as a rap artist at a social event at Dartmouth College, has the support of Canada, Japan and South Korea, where he was born, as well as the US.
He has not yet given an interview about his views on the role at the World Bank, but has described it in a statement as "one of the most critical institutions fighting poverty and providing assistance to developing countries in the world today".


Clueless Ecowas leaders impose sanctions on Mali junta.... to the delight of advancing (Al-Qaeda backed) rebels

West African states are imposing immediate sanctions on Mali, Ivory Coast's president has announced.

Alassane Ouattara, current head of regional body Ecowas (Economic Community of West African States), said it had closed borders to trade and frozen Mali's access to bank accounts.

The group had given the leaders of the country's military coup until today (Monday) to step down.

Coup leader Capt Amadou Sanogo said he has "taken note" of the Ecowas sanctions.

In a statement, he said the military junta was open to "mediation to find solutions out of the crisis" but that its priority remained "recovering the country's territorial integrity faced with the crisis in the north".

Tuareg rebels (former Muammar Gaddafi fighters in Libya) have made rapid advances in the north of the country over the last few days.

Correspondents say that Mali, a poor, landlocked country, would struggle to survive an economic blockade.

It is almost entirely dependent on its Ecowas neighbours for trade. Mali also shares its currency with seven other regional countries - and other members of the CFA franc zone have said they will cut transfers to Mali's banks.

President Ouattara said: "All diplomatic, economic, financial measures and others are applicable from today (Monday) and will not be lifted until the re-establishment of constitutional order."

He added that Ecowas' military force had been put on standby.

Mali's neighbours are keen for order to be restored in the country.

"The situation in Mali is extremely serious, it is a blow to democracy and an attack on the territorial integrity of this country," Mr Ouattara said.

The army said it had staged its coup because the campaign against the Tuareg rebels - who are fighting for an autonomous region in the north of Mali - had been poorly run.

But the Tuareg took advantage of the political situation over the weekend by seizing the key towns of Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal.

The UN Security Council (notorious for the Libya fiasco and its unintended consequences) will hold an emergency meeting on the crisis in Mali on Tuesday, sources quoted a US mission spokesman as saying.

France initially called for the meeting because it is increasingly concerned about gains made by Tuareg rebels in the north since the junta overthrew Mali's government, the agency adds.

Capt Sanogo has said the army is not leaving power, but has promised to consult local political forces to set up a transition body "with the aim of organising peaceful, free, open and democratic elections in which we will not take part".

The coup and Tuareg rebellion have exacerbated a humanitarian crisis in Mali and some neighbouring countries, with aid agencies warning that 13 million people need food aid.

Strauss-Kahn's legal troubles far from over

Disgraced former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn (pictured left) was charged on Monday with involvement in an organized vice ring that procured prostitutes for top-class clients, lawyers said.
Prosecutors said the 62-year-old former Socialist finance minister and one-time presidential favorite had been released on 100,000 euros ($135,000) bail after the charges on “aggravated pimping as part of an organized gang.”
Strauss-Kahn was called in by investigating magistrates in the northern French city of Lille two days earlier than expected and charged with an offense that could carry 20 years in prison if he is convicted.
“He firmly declares that he is not guilty of these acts and never had the least inkling that the women he met could have been prostitutes,” said Richard Malka, one of Strauss-Kahn’s counsel.
“Dominique Strauss-Kahn was placed under judicial control and was forbidden from contacting defendants, civil plaintiffs, witnesses and the press regarding the procedures,” prosecutors said in a statement.
Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers immediately said they would appeal the charge.
“It goes without saying that we will ask for the cancellation of this decision,” said one of his lawyers, Henri Leclerc.
Strauss-Kahn “has never broken the law,” Malka said. “Through this prosecution they are trying to create a new crime punishing clients of prostitution where the law does not provide for this.”
He also suggested that Strauss-Kahn was being pursued because of his high profile and links to France’s Socialist party in the midst of a heated campaign for France’s April-May presidential election.
“As a result of behavior that is purely his own business, Mr Strauss-Kahn has found himself—largely because of his fame—thrown to the wolves, by coincidence less than a month before a major election,” Malka said.
Strauss-Kahn’s name came up as police were investigating a pimping operation that saw sex workers from brothels over the Belgian border being brought to France for orgies in high-class hotels in Lille and Paris.
Strauss-Kahn admits that he took part in some of these parties, one of which was said to involve women being flown to Washington to entertain him while he was still managing director of the International Monetary Fund.
But, through his lawyers, he has denied knowing the escorts were paid.
Using prostitutes is not illegal in France, but prosecutors are seeking proof that Strauss-Kahn was aware the parties were arranged by an organized pimping ring and paid for by other guests misusing company funds.
Several Lille-based businessmen and policemen have been accused of taking part in the ring. Strauss-Kahn told police he did not suspect the women were prostitutes because he was introduced to them by senior police officers.
Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers will also be in court on Wednesday in New York for the first hearing in a civil case brought against him by Nafissatou Diallo, a hotel maid who alleges he sexually assaulted her.
Judge Douglas McKeon will be asked to rule on a motion by Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers urging him to dismiss the case on the grounds that, at the time of the alleged attack in May last year, their client had diplomatic immunity.
McKeon has said he will give a written judgment on whether the case can go forward within a few weeks. If he accepts the motion, Strauss-Kahn’s U.S. legal woes may be over. If not, Diallo’s case for damages will go forward.
These two cases are the most serious threats facing Strauss-Kahn after the dismissal of two earlier criminal investigations that were brought against him in the United States and in France after his spectacular fall from grace.
First, criminal charges relating to 32-year-old Diallo’s complaint that Strauss-Kahn attacked her in his suite in a New York Sofitel hotel on May 15 were dropped after prosecutors came to doubt the reliability of her testimony.
After that case fell apart, Strauss-Kahn, who had resigned from his post at the IMF in Washington, returned to France, only to face an accusation from 32-year-old author Tristane Banon that he had tried to rape her in 2002.
French investigating magistrates questioned Strauss-Kahn and his accuser and concluded that, while there was prima facie evidence of a sexual assault, the alleged attack had occurred too long ago to be prosecuted.
Strauss-Kahn admits having a “sexual encounter” with Diallo during the nine minutes she spent in his suite, and told French police that he had tried to kiss Banon, but strenuously denies he used violence in either case.
Until the scandals erupted, Strauss-Kahn was considered the favorite to become the Socialist Party’s presidential candidate and the frontrunner to defeat incumbent right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy in next month’s election.

Source: AFP

Apple claims it sold over 3 million iPad units over the weekend....

In a news release, Apple marketing Sr. Vice-President Phil Schiller claims the technology giant sold over 3 million units of the new iPad this past weekend.

He was quoted as saying further that:

"The new iPad is a blockbuster with three million sold―the strongest iPad launch yet ... Customers are loving the incredible new features of iPad, including the stunning Retina display, and we can't wait to get it into the hands of even more customers around the world this Friday."

It was indeed surprising that Apple decided to release the sales figures after all.

While Apple did not announce sales last year (hence no way to do year-by-year comparison), analysts and speculators believe that the released figures portend a very good sign for the new iPad as Apple continues to consolidate its market share in the technology gadgets and accesories space.

It will be interesting to see how and where the numbers trend from here.

Source: TechnologyInsider


Mad rush expected for Apple's latest iPad

The customary storefront crowds are expected to gather as Apple's latest iPad goes on sale Friday. Long lines are likely even though customers could have ordered the new tablet computer ahead of time for first-day home delivery.
The third version of Apple's iPad will be available in the U.S. and nine other countries beginning at 8 a.m. local time. The new model comes with a faster processor and a much sharper screen. It also boasts an improved camera, similar to that of the latest iPhone.
For many customers, visiting a store in person — instead of having one shipped — offers consumers a chance to mingle with die-hard Apple fans.
Two years after the debut of the first iPad, the device's launch has become the second-biggest "gadget event" of the year, after the annual iPhone release. A year ago, thousands lined up outside the flagship Apple store on New York's Fifth Avenue. The device sold out on launch day, even though it didn't go on sale until 5 p.m.
Apple does its part to encourage a party atmosphere. In past years, the company's retail employees have provided bottled water, coffee, bagels and even cupcakes to people in line. They've cheered and clapped as customers entered and left. Some customers bring lawn chairs and sleeping bags. Others dress as iPhones and iPads.
Although Apple's product releases have become a cultural phenomenon, the cult-like crowds that line up outside of its stores have made the company vulnerable to gentle ribbing from its competitors.
Television ads for Samsung's Galaxy line of phones routinely poke fun at people who are camped out in line for what appears to be an Apple product release.
The spots, in heavy rotation since December, portray Apple fans as clueless drones who think they're too cool to buy gadgets made by companies other than Apple. In one of the commercials, a bearded hipster says he could never buy a Samsung phone because he's "creative." A bystander observes: "Dude, you're a barista."
For some customers, standing in line will offer the only chance to get a new iPad on Friday. Apple quickly ran out of supplies it set aside for advance orders. The company was telling customers Thursday to expect a two- to three-week wait for orders placed through its online stores.
The new iPad is called just that: "the new iPad." Apple declined to give it a name like "iPad 3" or "iPad HD." That is consistent with its naming practice for iPods, MacBooks and iMacs, but a break with the way iPhone models are named.
In the U.S., the new iPad starts at $499, the same as the previous model, the iPad 2, when it debuted a year ago. The iPad 2 remains in stock, for $100 less.
Despite competition from cheaper tablet computers such as Inc.'s Kindle Fire, the iPad remains the most popular tablet computer. Apple has sold more than 55 million iPads since its debut in 2010, including some 40 million last year. Researchers estimate that the iPad has more than 60 percent of the market for tablets.
The iPad's accomplishments have contributed to the company's success on Wall Street. Apple's stock touched $600 briefly for the first time on Thursday. Apple is the world's most valuable company, with a market capitalization of nearly $555 billion. It topped $500 billion for the first time in late February, a market value peak where few companies have ventured.
Apple's retail stores are likely to draw the biggest crowds because they usually have the largest launch-day supplies, but the tablet will also be sold at Best Buy, Radio Shack, Sam's Club, Target and Walmart.
AT&T and Verizon Wireless will also sell iPads, but only models with built-in cellular broadband modems. Those models use the companies' latest high-speed wireless networks, based on so-called "4G LTE" technology. They'll be the first Apple devices with that capability built in.
The cellular-capable models cost $130 more than Wi-Fi-only versions. There's a separate monthly data fee, but none of the long-term contract requirements typical with phones. The priciest iPad goes for $829; it comes with cellular access and four times the storage capacity of the basic, $499 model.
Apart from the U.S., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the device goes on sale the same day in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
A week later, another 25 countries will get the device, altogether making for an unusually fast product roll-out for Apple.

Source: AP News


Pretoria apologizes to Abuja over deportation row

South Africa has apologised for the deportation last week of 125 Nigerians over suspicions that their yellow fever certificates were fake.
The action quickly turned into a diplomatic spat - with Nigeria refusing South Africans entry and the foreign minister branding Pretoria xenophobic.
South Africa has rejected that claim - and promised new procedures to avoid a repeat of the "regrettable incident".
At one stage Nigerian carrier, Arik Air, suspended flights to South Africa.
Yellow fever is spread through infected mosquitoes and has a wide array of symptoms from nausea and vomiting to kidney failure, jaundice and bleeding.
According to the UN World Health Organization, about half those who develop severe symptoms of the haemorrhagic illness and are untreated die from the disease - about 30,000 people each year worldwide.
"We wish to humbly apologise to them, and we have," South Africa's Deputy Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ibrahim said.
"We are apologising because we deported a number of people who should not have been deported," Mr Ibrahim said - adding that he does not expect an apology from Nigeria for the tit-for-tat deportations of South African nationals.
He blamed airport authorities for what a joint statement with Nigeria described as a "regrettable incident which the South African government believes could have been handled better".
The Nigerians were turned away on 2 March because the yellow fever certificates were not check properly, according to the deputy minister.
South Africa is considering reopening a travel clinic at Johannesburg's airport - so that travellers without a yellow fever certificate can be vaccinated on arrival rather than deported.
And from now on, mass deportations will need the permission of foreign ministry officials, the deputy minister said.
On Tuesday, Olugbenga Ashiru, Nigeria's foreign minister, said the deportations was evidence of xenophobia.
"What you see playing out is what we call xenophobia by South Africans against all Africans - not just Nigerians," AFP news agency reported him as saying.
In 2008, South Africa saw a wave of xenophobic violence which shocked the nation and shook up the world's view of the "rainbow nation".
Mr Ibrahim said on Thursday that South Africa is not a xenophobic country.
The two countries say the yellow fever row will not undermine bilateral relations - and they are moving towards strengthening them.
Nigeria is one of the biggest markets for South Africa's MTN mobile phone operator, while retailer Shoprite and Standard Bank also have profitable operations there.


The Kony Files: Fact or fiction....

A former Catholic altar boy from northern Uganda, Joseph Kony has waged war against the government of President Yoweri Museveni for almost two decades.
His Lord's Resistance Army movement has been demanding that Uganda be ruled according to the Biblical 10 Commandments.
Wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC), Mr Kony has failed to sign a peace deal with Uganda's government, seeking assurances that he and his allies will not be prosecuted.
But after more than two years of delicate peace negotiations, regional governments appear to have lost patience with Mr Kony, mounting a new attack on LRA bases in eastern DR Congo.
Born in the early 1960s in Odek, a village east of Gulu, Mr Kony is remembered as an amiable boy.
"He played football and was a brilliant dancer," one of his former classmates said, recalling the rebel leader's days at Odek primary.
He is thought to be the cousin of Alice Lakwena, a former prostitute who formed the Holy Spirit Movement in 1986.
This group represented the Acholi people who felt excluded from power after the overthrow of the northern leader, Milton Obote, by Mr Museveni.
Ms Lakwena promised her followers immunity from the bullets of the Ugandan army, but Mr Museveni's troops defeated her movement in 1988 and she fled to Kenya.
After this defeat, Mr Kony founded his own rebel group which over the next 19 years went on to abduct thousands of children to become fighters or sex slaves.
Mr Kony himself is thought to have at least 60 wives, as he and his senior commanders take the pick of the girls they capture.
He sees himself as a spirit medium.
Young abductees, who have escaped from the LRA, say that Mr Kony would tell them he got his instructions from the Holy Spirit and would often preach in tongues.
"I will communicate with Museveni through the holy spirits and not through the telephone," he once said.
He has created an aura of fear and mysticism around himself and his rebels follow strict rules and rituals.
"When you go to fight you make the sign of the cross first. If you fail to do this, you will be killed," one young fighter who escaped from the LRA told Human Rights Watch.
"You must also take oil and draw a cross on your chest, your forehead, and each shoulder, and you must make a cross in oil on your gun. They say that the oil is the power of the Holy Spirit."
Mr Kony appears to believe that his role is to cleanse the Acholi people.
He uses biblical references to explain why it is necessary to kill his own people, since they have - in his view - failed to support his cause.
"If the Acholi don't support us, they must be finished," he told one abductee. 

Source: BBC Africa News


Most common traits of bad leaders....

Poor leadership in good times can be hidden, but poor leadership in bad times is a recipe for disaster. To find out why leaders fail, we scrutinized results from two studies: In one, we collected 360-degree feedback data on more than 450 Fortune 500 executives and then teased out the common characteristics of the 31 who were fired over the next three years.

In the second, we analyzed 360-degree feedback data from more than 11,000 leaders and identified the 10% who were considered least effective. We then compared the ineffective leaders with the fired leaders to come up with the 10 most common leadership shortcomings. Every bad leader had at least one, and most had several.

These sound like obvious flaws that any leader would try to fix. But the ineffective leaders we studied were often unaware that they exhibited these behaviors. In fact, those who were rated most negatively rated themselves substantially more positively. Leaders should take a very hard look at themselves and ask for candid feedback on performance in these specific areas. Their jobs may depend on it.

Source: Harvard Business Review


Apple victorious in China iPad dispute

Apple can for now continue to sell the iPad tablet in Shanghai after a court ruling over naming rights was suspended on Thursday.

Chinese firm Proview had called for the courts to prevent Apple - who it accuses of infringing its trademark - from selling the device in the city.

A local court agreed to Apple's request to suspend the decision until a bigger case is heard later this month.

Apple insists it acquired worldwide rights for the iPad name in 2009.

Proview had requested that the court impose a provisional injunction to take the iPad off Shanghai's shelves - which would have included three of Apple's own stores.

Proview claims the rights to the iPad name in the Chinese market after registering it back in 2000 - years before Apple released its tablet computer.

The company is threatening to continue the battle in US courts.

Although Proview's Taiwanese affiliate registered the name "iPad" in a number of countries, including China, Apple subsequently bought the rights to the global trademark.

However, Proview claims that its Taiwanese subsidiary had no right to sell the rights to the name in China.

The tussle has seen Apple's device taken off the shelves in some parts of the country - while Proview has also sought to block the import and export of the product.

Apple had previously lost a similar case in the southern Chin city of Shenzhen, where Proview is based.
That decision will be appealed by Apple at Guangdong High Court on 29 February.

On Thursday, the Shanghai judge said a ruling on sales in the city will not be made until that other judgement has passed.

His decision follows heated exchanges between the firms' lawyers in court earlier in the week.
Apple lawyer Qu Miao dismissed Proview's "IPAD" device, saying: "They have no market, no sales, no customers. They have nothing."

He argued that the US company's device was of benefit to China, providing jobs and tax revenues.
Proview lawyer Xie Xianghui said this factor was irrelevant.

"Whether people will go hungry because you can't sell iPads in China is not the issue," he said.

"The court must rule according to the law. Do you absolutely have to sell the product? Can't you sell it using a different name?''

In a written statement, an Apple spokesman re-iterated the company's position on the dispute.

"We bought Proview's worldwide rights to the iPad trademark in 10 different countries several years ago," he said.

"Proview refuses to honour their agreement with Apple in China and a Hong Kong court has sided with Apple in this matter.

"Our case is still pending in mainland China."


Mid-week morning brew: Wall Street falls on disappointing retail data

The S & P 500 index retreated yesterday from near a seven-month high after weaker-than-expected January U.S. retail sales data curbed investors’ appetite for risky assets.
Leading the fall was the financial sector, with two of the top three biggest decliners on the Dow being Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase.
Citigroup downgraded Bank of America Corp to “neutral” from “buy,” saying earnings headwinds would continue at the company even as capital concerns subside. Bank of America shares were down 1.1 percent at $8.16 and JP Morgan shares fell 1.5 percent to $37.70.
The 0.4 percent rise in retail sales fell short of the 0.7 percent increase expected by economists polled by Reuters and reflected cutbacks in car purchases and online shopping.
“The data shows that consumers are still hanging in there, just not as strong as we expected,” said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James at St. Petersburg in Florida.
“It shows that we are still battling some headwinds here, but the economy is definitely in a recovery mode.”
The disappointing data added to concerns stemming from Moody’s Investors Service downgrade on Monday of credit ratings on six euro-zone countries.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 42.54 points, or 0.33 percent, at 12,831.50. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell 6.30 points, or 0.47 percent, at 1,345.47. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 12.93 points, or 0.44 percent, at 2,918.46.
On Monday, the S&P 500 rose near a seven-month high, up more than 25 percent from a low in early October. The benchmark index has encountered strong resistance in the 1,355 -1,360 area.
In other data, U.S. business inventories rose 0.4 percent in December, slightly lower than an estimated increase of 0.5 percent in December.
A third report showed import prices rose a touch more than expected in January as petroleum and food rebounded strongly, but underlying inflation pressure from imports remained muted.
Late Monday, Moody’s put Britain’s Aaa rating in jeopardy for the first time and warned it may cut France and Austria as well. Moody’s also downgraded six euro-zone nations, including Spain and Italy.
But data from Germany on Tuesday suggested that Europe’s bulwark economy is picking up pace again. The ZEW economic think tank’s monthly poll of economic sentiment jumped to 5.4 from minus 21.6 in January, well above the consensus forecast in a Reuters poll of analysts for a rise to minus 12.0.
Apple Inc plans to announce a fourth-generation (4G) version of its iPad in the first week of March, a Wall Street Journal report said, citing a person briefed on the matter. Apple shares rose slightly to $503.41 after hitting above the $500 mark for the first time on Monday.