Articles below are from years ago, haven't updated this site in a long while.


Epic African roadtrip aids poor ahead of 2010 WC

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Soccer's World Cup inspires many great feats, but not many reach the heights envisioned by Nomadic Nation founder John Lovejoy, who plans to lead an audacious pan-African roadtrip in the event's honor.

Hoping to raise tens of thousands of dollars for soccer-focused charities on the continent, 29-year-old Lovejoy in May will lead "World Cup Trek" entrants driving "the cheapest, worst, lightest cars" from Berlin, site of the 2006 World Cup, to Cape Town, where the competition kicks off in June.

Speaking to AFP in Washington before embarking on a nine-week "reconnaissance run" of the route, passing through 13 African countries -- via the Spain-Morocco ferry link -- the experienced globetrotter insisted the choice of transport was no mistake.

"We want to show that you don't need a four-wheel drive vehicle to go across Africa, that having a smaller car makes it half the adventure of getting there," explained the Washington-based Lovejoy.

What makes him think such an endeavor is even possible is that Lovejoy and friends undertook a similarly intrepid journey in 2007, driving cheap East German-era Trabant cars through 21 countries from Germany to Cambodia on some of the world's worst roads, raising funds for street children along the way.

"Drive half the world's circumference in plastic cars" was their pitch then, and the clarion call is similar now from Nomadic Nation, a community of travelers undertaking unique and "socially conscious" trips off the well-trodden backpacking trail.

"We've been saying to people, aren't you sick of your nine to five job, sick of living vicariously -- don't you want more adventure out of life?" Lovejoy asks.

"We want to show people that you can take the car you drive to work in, grab your mates and head down and have a brilliant time."

The response from charity recipients who work with the idea of development through soccer -- including Kick4Life, Grassroots Soccer, Coaching for Hope and PLAY SOCCER -- has been "overwhelming," he said.

"The excitement is based on the unique nature of actually getting people involved who are raising money for them and who can see where their money is going and the people they are helping," Lovejoy said.

He and a close band of five friends from across Europe hope to complete the reconnaissance run by December.

Their aim is to clarify the winding route down Africa's west coast, raise awareness of the event, get updated border crossing information and resolve visa issues.

And they want to "identify checkpoints to reach for a well deserved beer" after a long day of driving, he added.

Since the website -- -- was launched on October 1, the organization has been accepting entrants, who can join for 1,250 dollars.

While they expect at least 200 teams to sign up, Lovejoy said they are prepared for 500.

"It sounds like an amazing project, really exciting," said Steve Fleming, who works with the British-based charity Kick4Life that provides health/HIV education, HIV testing and life-skills education in Lesotho.

"The fact they're using it to raise money around the World Cup is a great fit," Fleming told AFP.

"For every 10 dollars raised, Kick4Life will be able to test a child for HIV, referring those who are positive to life saving anti-retroviral treatment."

A lot of people ask about safety, but the roads themselves look to be far more of an obstacle than regional instability, said Lovejoy.

"From our research on the route we've chosen, and talking to people who've done this route before, rebels are not the problem. Roads are our biggest concern."

For example, he admitted, "the road from Cameroon into Nigeria is the only route you can really take, and from the pictures we've seen, it's not a road at all. You can barely call it a dirt track."

in the Daily Telegraph

On the 10 hour night shift, this drops

Three Afghans arrested in US attack probe

Sun Sep 20, 5:02 am ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Three men of Afghan origin have been arrested for making false statements to FBI agents investigating an alleged plot to launch an attack in the United States, US officials said.

The US Justice Department said the FBI is also investigating other individuals "in the United States,Pakistan and elsewhere, relating to a plot to detonate improvised explosive devices in the United States," according to affidavits filed to support the arrests.

Najibullah Zazi, 24, and his 53-year-old father Mohammed -- both Afghan natives -- were arrested in the western US state of Colorado late Saturday, the department said in a statement. Ahmad Wais Afzali, 37, also from Afghanistan, was later arrested in New York. All three reside legally in the United States.

"Each of the defendants has been charged by criminal complaint with knowingly and willfully making false statements to the FBI in a matter involving international and domestic terrorism," the statement said.

The arrests come after raids this week in New York and Colorado and three days of voluntary questioning of Najibullah Zazi in Denver, Colorado.

"The arrests carried out tonight are part of an ongoing and fast-paced investigation," said David Kris, assistant attorney general for national security.

"It is important to note that we have no specific information regarding the timing, location or target of any planned attack," he added.

According to US media reports this week, investigators focused on a alleged plot targeting New York.

The CNN news network, citing sources close to the investigation, reported the target was a major New York transportation hub, such as a rail or subway station. Najibullah Zazi, a bus driver in Colorado, possessed a video of New York's Grand Central Station, the network said.

US media also said authorities found 14 new black backpacks in the New York raids that fueled concern the men may have been planning to use the backpacks to carry suicide bombs.

ABC News cited unnamed authorities as saying Najibullah "Zazi brought with him instructions on how to build a bomb using household chemicals." It also reported that he had been under investigation for nearly a year prior to the raids.

In a telephone interview with Najibullah Zazi, who is a permanent US resident, reported in the Denver Post newspaper on Saturday, he denied admitting to any link to Al-Qaeda or involvement in an attack plot.

"It's not true," he told the newspaper. "I have nothing to hide. It's all media publications reporting whatever they want. They have been reporting all this nonsense."

Justice Department officials said Sunday they had intercepted a number of phone calls between Najibullah and Mohammed Zazi and Afzali on September 11, where the defendents discuss Afzali being interviewed by authorities.

Najibullah Zazi told Afzali his car had been stolen and that he feared he was being "watched", according to the affidavits cited by the department.

Afzali then allegedly asked him whether there was any "evidence in his car," to which he replied no.

In a search of Zazi's rental car in New York, where he had been visiting Afzali, officials said in the affidavits that they found a digital image of handwritten notes "regarding the manufacture and handling of initiating explosives, main explosives charges, explosives detonators and components of a fuzing system."

When asked about and shown the notes, which were found on his laptop computer, Najibullah Zazi "falsely asserted that he had never seen the document before," officials said.

In interviews with FBI agents in Denver, according to the affidavits filed with his detention, Najibullah Zazi meanwhile admitted that on a 2008 trip to Pakistan he "attended courses and received instruction on weapons and explosives at an Al-Qaeda training facility."

Najibullah Zazi, a permanent US resident, and Mohammed Zazi, a naturalized US citizen, are set to appear in a Colorado federal court on Monday.

On the same day Afzali, also a permanent US resident, is scheduled to stand before a federal court in New York.

If convicted each man faces eight years in prison.

US Senator Chuck Schumer insisted this week that the New York raids were preventive and that no terrorist attack was in its final planning stages.

"There was nothing imminent," the New York lawmaker said.

Stuck between Barack and a crumbled nation

US commander warns of Afghanistan 'failure'

By Alex Ogle

Mon Sep 21, 2:42 am ET

WASHINGTON — The top US military commander in Afghanistan has warned that more forces are needed within the next year or the war against the Taliban will be lost, the Washington Post reported on Monday.

General Stanley McChrystal wrote in a classified report: "Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term (next 12 months) -- while Afghan security capacity matures -- risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible."

The grim assessment of the eight-year conflict, obtained by the Post, was presented to US Defense Secretary Robert Gates on August 30 and is being reviewed by the White House.

McChrystal, who is widely expected to make a formal request to increase the 62,000-strong US force, noted the campaign in Afghanistan "has been historically under-resourced and remains so today."

As such, he wrote "inadequate resources will likely result in failure."

The weak resources "also risks a longer conflict, greater casualties, higher overall costs, and ultimately, a critical loss of political support. Any of these risks, in turn, are likely to result in mission failure."

The 66-page document -- a declassified version of which is published at -- describes a strengthening, intelligent Taliban insurgency.

McChrystal also slams the corruption-riddled Afghan government and a strategy by international forces that has failed to win over ordinary Afghans.

"The weakness of state institutions, malign actions of power-brokers, widespread corruption and abuse of power by various officials, and (the International Security Assistance Force's) own errors, have given Afghans little reason to support their government," wrote McChrystal.

International forces, he said, "have operated in a manner that distances us -- physically and psychologically -- from the people we seek to protect... The insurgents cannot defeat us militarily; but we can defeat ourselves."

The general, who Gates nominated to take over operations because "new thinking" was needed as President Barack Obama attempts a new strategy for the war-torn country, also warns that hardline insurgents reach systematically into Afghanistan's bloated prison system for recruits.

The prisons have become "a sanctuary and base to conduct lethal operations" against the Afghan government and coalition forces, he said.

McChrystal however does maintain a cautious optimism for long-term outcomes in the conflict, insisting: "While the situation is serious, success is still achievable."

Obama weighed in Sunday on the debate over more troops in Afghanistan.

"We're going to test whatever resources we have against our strategy, which is if by sending young men and women into harm's way, we are defeating Al-Qaeda," the president said in an interview with ABC.

"(If) that can be shown to a skeptical audience -- namely me, somebody who is always asking hard questions about deploying troops -- then we will do what's required to keep the American people safe," Obama said.

Gates said this week that the president needed time to assess US strategy and should not be rushed over such an important decision. "We need to take our time and get this right," he told a news conference on Thursday.

Earlier, Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services committee that more soldiers would likely be needed to subdue the Taliban.

"A properly resourced counterinsurgency probably means more forces and, without question, more time and more commitment to the protection of the Afghan people and to the development of good governance," Mullen said.

By coincidence, McChrystal's report was revealed on the UN's International Peace Day, when Kabul's defense ministry said foreign and Afghan troops will pause offensive operations.

Qari Yusuf Ahmadi, purportedly a Taliban spokesman, was quoted on the ReliefWeb website as suggesting the insurgency may do the same, saying: "Our forces will remain in defensive position, as usual."

Foreign forces in Afghanistan, experiencing their deadliest year since the war began eight years ago with more than 350 deaths so far in 2009, are sceptical the rebels will keep their word.

Rejecting Carter

Obama: racism not at root of criticism

"Are there people out there who don't like me because of race? I'm sure there are. That's not the overriding issue here," Obama told CNN in excerpts of an interview to be broadcast on "State of the Union."

The US leader, in a media blitz to shore up support for health care reform, will appear on five major Sunday talkshows after commandeering prime-time television earlier this month with a major address to Congress on the issue.

Obama has been pulled into the controversy-rife race debate after former president Jimmy Carter claimed racism was driving demonstrations and angry rhetoric on the president's health care reform plans and spending policy.

An "overwhelming part" of the US public is more concerned with how health care reform will affect them, Obama said, according to excerpts of an interview with ABC television's "This Week."

The "biggest driver" of opposition to his administration's proposals likely comes from people who are "passionate about the idea of whether government can do anything right," the president said.

Obama told NBC's "Meet the Press" that it is an argument "that's gone on for the history of this republic -- and that is, what's the right role of government? How do we balance freedom with our need to look after one another?"

There has been a long-standing debate on big power plays from the White House, Obama told CNN, that is "usually that much more fierce during times of transition or when presidents are trying to bring about big changes."

The vitriolic attacks of the 1930s on then-president Franklin Roosevelt "are pretty similar to the things that are said about me -- he was a communist, he was a socialist," he added.

"Health care has become a proxy for a broader set of issues about how much government should be involved in our economy," Obama told the CBS show "Face the Nation."

"Even though we're having a passionate disagreement here, we can be civil with each other, and we can try to express ourselves acknowledging that we're all patriots, we're all Americans and not assume the absolute worst in people's motives."

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs sought to cool temperatures after Carter, 84, said much of the criticism leveled at Obama, the first US black president, owed to racism.

"The president does not believe that the criticism comes based on the color of his skin," Gibbs said.

Carter, a southerner from Georgia whose presidency ended in 1981, told NBC on Tuesday that "an overwhelming proportion of the intensely demonstrated animosity" toward Obama "is based on the fact that he is a black man, he's African-American."

The debate exploded after Republican lawmaker Joe Wilson veered from US political etiquette when he shouted "You lie!" at the president during his address to Congress, and when thousands protested in Washington against Obama's policies.

A succession of Democratic lawmakers and political columnists have since warned that the heckling and other overt signs of public disapproval not only foster a dangerous climate but also reflect underlying racial bias.

The top Republican in the US House of Representatives, John Boehner, dismissed the notion that race played a role in protests against Obama's health care planand other policies.

"The outrage that we see in America has nothing to do with race. It has everything to do with the policies that he is promoting," he said Thursday.

Obama will appear on comedian David Letterman's "Late Show with David Letterman" on Monday, becoming the first sitting president to appear on the popular CBS talk show.

In March, Obama appeared on rival comedian Jay Leno's "The Tonight Show" as he sought to defend his economic recovery plan.

Since Obama swept to victory in elections last November, several incidents have seized on Obama's race.

In December, a politician campaigning to be chairman of the Republican National Committee distributed a song titled "Barack the Magic Negro," sparking furious debate about race in American politics and the soul of the Republican party in the wake of its White House defeat.

Extremists make a comeback. Kind of like Britney, but even more unpleasant.

Rallying point

Tsvangirai: "I don't want to demean those who have the misfortune of being over 85"

Zimbabwe PM maintains 'fire' for change

Wed Jun 10, 4:54 pm ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai called Wednesday on potential western donors to judge his fragile coalition government by what it has done and not by his country's abusive past.

Tsvangirai, a long-time opposition leader backed by the West, meets with US President Barack Obama on Friday as part of his three-week tour of Europe and the United States, seeking assistance from the international community for the unity administration alongside long-time adversary President Robert Mugabe.

"When you judge this government it must be based on what this (unity) government has done" and not on the actions of strongman Mugabe's political movement ZANU-PF, he said here at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In a decade the southern African nation's once a dynamic regional economy has been crushed by world-record hyperinflation, political instability and alleged human rights abuses.

Tsvangirai however maintained Zimbabwe is changing since he joined the government in February, saying currently "there is no one in detention" and pledging democratization to be the "first plank" of Zimbabwe's economic recovery efforts.

The prime minister said he understood frustration on the speed of political reform as he works to mend fences with former allies.

"We have not given up our fire for a democratic Zimbabwe, even when we share power with someone who we believe has never been democratic," insisted Tsvangirai, who heads the main opposition party Movement for Democratic Change.

"My assurance is that it is a process. We are going through the stages of transformation and down the line we will have a fair and free election that will give Zimbabweans an opportunity to choose their own government."

In often frank terms, Tsvangirai denounced the tragedy of his country's recent past.

The southern African nation "stands as remarkable testimony to the power of a corrupt government, in pursuit of selfish policies, to impoverish an entire nation," he said.

Acknowledging skepticism of joining Mugabe in a unity government Tsvangirai even name-checked South Africa's anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela.

Like him, Tsvangirai said he agreed to "work with a non-democratic regime as a transition to full democracy."

The prime minister acknowledged he has to be hopeful, always, that change will eventually come and that Mugabe will not double-cross him.

"I have the corner in my mind that thinks 'maybe he's trying to cheat me,'" he noted, but needs to be ever upbeat like the Zimbabwean people, who he said are also "cautiously optimistic."

Speaking of his rival Mugabe, Tsvangirai chose not to criticize the president personally.

"I'm sure that I don't want to demean those who have the misfortune of being over 85," he said with a hearty chuckle.

"But what probably motivates people of that age group is legacy. I'm sure in his twilight years he has realized he has to end his life as the founding father of the nation, and not the villain of the nation."

For those who don't get sent to Palau

Democrat warns Obama risks 'future Guantanamos'

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US President Barack Obama risks creating "future Guantanamos" by continuing his predecessor's policy of indefinitely holding Al-Qaeda suspects, a prominent Democrat warned on Tuesday.

Senator Russ Feingold said he was "troubled" by Obama's policies, warning the practice of holding some suspected terrorists indefinitely risked being "effectively enshrined as acceptable in our system of justice."

Feingold warned the current administration risked mimicking the policies of the Bush administration, which "claimed the right" to detain anyone, anywhere, he said.

During a major security speech at the National Archives in May, Obama acknowledged for the first time that a legal framework could be established to hold the most dangerous US detainees indefinitely without trial.

Speaking during a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on the consequences of "prolonged detention," Feingold said that could set "the stage for future Guantanamos, whether on our shores or elsewhere, with potentially disastrous consequences for our national security."

If Obama follows through on the proposal for establishing "a new legal regime for prolonged detention to deal with a few individuals at Guantanamo," Feingold said "he runs the very real risk of establishing policies and legal precedents."

Feingold said it would be worse if these policies were "effectively enshrined as acceptable in our system of justice, having been established not by a largely discredited administration, but by a successive administration with a greatly contrasting position on legal and constitutional issues."

Also at the hearing, former White House lawyer Richard Klingler warned prolonged detention was "already widespread" and set to continue "on a wide scale."

Klingler, who served as a lawyer in the Office of White House Counsel under former president George W. Bush, told senators the "debate on indefinite detention often wrongly focuses on Guantanamo Bay," arguing the practice is "considerably more widespread."

It is a practice Obama "will continue to pursue," in Afghanistan, Iraq, and at Guantanamo, and he noted the White House has already followed in the Bush administration's footsteps by defending it repeatedly in court.

The "wartime framework underlying [these tactics] have settled well within the mainstream of the American tradition," added Klingler, who also served as the formergeneral counsel for the National Security Council staff.

Obama, he added, has embraced practically all the controversial components and related executive powers asserted by Bush to carry out a global offensive against extremists. The continuation of the practices, therefore, has lead to a "broader recognition of the established legal basis" for indefinite detention, Klingler said.

The president has pledged to close the controversial US Navy-run prison in southeastern Cuba by early next year.

Signaling a major move toward reaching that goal, on Tuesday a Tanzanian Guantanamo detainee became the first to be transferred to a civilian court on US soil.

He pleaded not guilty to taking part in the 1998 bombings of two US embassies in East Africa.

Arbitrary and unlimited detention has boosted US enemies by serving as a "powerfully effective recruiting advertisement" for Al-Qaeda and other groups, Human Rights First CEO Elisa Massimino testified before the hearing.

"It has strengthened the hand of terrorists -- rather than isolating and delegitimizing them -- in the political struggle for hearts and minds," she told subcommittee.

Obama declared in his security speech last month that the "terrorists can only succeed if they swell their ranks and alienate America from our allies -- and they will never be able to do that if we stay true to who we are."

His administration, Obama said, has been tasked with cleaning up what is "quite simply a mess ... a misguided experiment that has left in its wake a flood of legal challenges."

Transferring the remaining 240 so-called "war on terror" inmates at Guantanamo Bay to top security jails in the United States remains deeply unpopular with both Democrats and Republicans in Congress.

"We are not going to release anyone if it would endanger our national security, nor will we release detainees within the United States who endanger the American people," Obama has promised.