Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Mozambique: Nyusi Considers Trip to London “Positive”
Maputo — Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi said in Maputo on Saturday that the world believes in the transition of Mozambique to an economy that will increasingly benefit its people, particularly the neediest strata of the population.

He was speaking at Maputo International Airport on his return from London, where he had attended the Commonwealth Summit, an event he regarded as positive

“We must not get distracted. Beating ourselves up does no good”, he said. “We are increasingly visible and awakening the interest of more countries. The world believes in the transition of Mozambique from a poor economy to one that benefits the neediest”.

He claimed that while in London he had “dissipated doubts” about what have come to be known as the country's “hidden debts”. This term refers to the loans of over two billion US dollars that three security-related companies, Ematum (Mozambique Tuna Company), Proindicus and MAM (Mozambique Asset Management) took from the banks Credit Suisse and VTB of Russia, in 2013 and 2014, with illicit guarantees from the government headed by Nyusi's predecessor, Armando Guebuza.

The companies are effectively bankrupt with no chance of repaying the debts, which, thanks to the illegal guarantees, now fall on the government's shoulders. Credit Suisse and VTB undertook no due diligence before making the loans, and did not ask whether the guarantees were legal.

In London, for the first time, Nyusi declared that the two banks bear some of the responsibility for the debt. There was “shared responsibility” between Mozambique and the banks.

Nyusi said he had also explained the current stage of the dialogue between the government and the rebel movement Renamo, and had spoken of freedom of expression in Mozambique. Concerns had been expressed because of the kidnap and torture of prominent journalist Ericino de Salema on 27 March.

“Our discussions were centred on a more just, prosperous, sustainable and safer future”, he said.

But he also claimed that the Commonwealth governments condemned the improper use of social media such as Facebook. “They stressed the importance of more responsible use of social networks”, he said. “We also debated actions to prevent terrorism and the trafficking in human beings, as well as the use of illicit firearms”.

Other issues discussed, he added, included the fight against cyber-crime, and the sustainability of Commonwealth countries in the face of climate change.
Socialist Party Statement on the Expulsion of Cuban Ambassador and Denying Entry to the Party’s 9 Guests
April 2, 2018
By Cosmas Musumali and Fred M’membe
Lusaka Times

President Edgar Chagwa Lungu has initiated a process to recall the Cuban Ambassador to Zambia.

This is essentially an expulsion of this Cuban patriot out of Zambia. The Ambassador, comrade Nelson Pages, is accused of having breached diplomatic etiquette and therefore crossed a “red line” by shortly attending the launch of the Socialist Party on the 31st march, 2018 in Lusaka and giving a congratulatory message. He was openly and arrogantly ridiculed by the Presidential Spokesperson, Mr. Amos Chanda that the diplomat should have “known better” that opposition political parties are a “no go area” especially coming from Cuba!

The expulsion of comrade Nelson is however not an isolated act by an insecure and desperate President. Two days earlier, nine (9) international guests to the Launch of the socialist party were denied entry into Zambia. They were intercepted, interrogated, humiliated and impolitely sent away on subsequent flights out of the country. International protocol and traveling rights were blatantly breached.

This seemingly irrational behaviour of the President and his government over the launch of the Socialist Party is based on real fear. This is the fear of informed and political conscious Zambian masses, of a genuine revolutionary political formation with a credible leadership and that of international solidarity sympathetic to the plight of the people of Zambia. The Socialist Party and its leadership are bringing out all these elements. The Party is the symbol of hope and a new beginning for the suffering and disillusioned Zambia people. There is therefore a good reason for the panic exhibited by the President and his government. However, this panic mode is exposing serious faults and extreme levels of incompetency in the ability of the President to continue running this country.

The Socialist Party, on behalf of all progressive Zambian people, wishes to extend its apologies to comrade Nelson Pages and to the Cuban people. The decision by the president is not a true reflection of the aspirations of the Zambian masses. We are saddened and ashamed of this uniformed and opportunistic decision. Comrade Nelson is and will remain a true friend to the Socialist Party and Zambian people. Our victory in 2021 is assured and we look forward to receiving him back in the country.

Similarly, we would like to convey our apologies to the nine comrades that were humiliated at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport (KKIA). Their commitment to the spirit of Pan-Africanism and the working class struggle was manifested by their humility in the face of all the injustice they had to endure on Zambian soil.

Our comrade Benewende Sankara, President of the Sankarist Party of Burkina Faso, who was amongst those having been deported at KKIA, is back in his country and sent us the following text message: “I mark my unwavering support for the comrades of Zambia and all people in the struggle. My moral remains high and I know victory will eventually triumph over undemocratic and anti-social forces.”

As of 10:30 hours today, the socialist party has received 79 international congratulatory messages from political parties, trade unions and popular movements of 32 countries. The messages highlight the significance of the Launch of the Socialist Party in Zambia but also condemn the behaviour of President Lungu and his government.

The responses coming from all districts of Zambia are equally confirming our resolve to fight for Justice, Equity and Peace (JEP) and for Socialism in our homeland. The process is gathering fast momentum. The fast pace is to some extent supported by the incompetency of the current government and failures of the capitalist system in our country. It is now very certain that Fred Member will be the President of a socialist Zambia in 2021.

Long live the Cuban revolution;
Long live the spirit of Pan-Africanism;

Long live the Zambian working masses;
Their victory is certain;
And the days of capitalist exploitation and mass poverty will soon end.

Cosmas Musumali is the General Secretary of the Socialist party , while Fred M’membe is the Deputy Secretary and a Presidential Candidate for the Socialist party
Zambia: Does Socialism Still Have A Place In Our Current Political Dispensation?
Mike Makasa
April 2, 2018
By Blessings Kafwanka

I heard media guru Fred M’membe speaking for the first time on TV during the launch of the Socialist Party. I think he writes better than he speaks. However, he did a fantastic job in highlighting some of the challenges that Zambians are facing today despite the country being endowed with vast natural resources. My quick research on his socialist agenda revealed that socialist countries such as China, Sweden, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Canada, Norway etc. are among the best performing economies with the highest standards of living in the world. They have some of the world’s best education, health care and welfare systems. Finland for example has a 100% literacy rate.

Socialism advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or controlled by the community as a whole. Most Socialists, but not all of them advocate for government ownership of industry and public services. This rings a bell in the minds of many Zambians that are familiar with the circumstances that led to the change of government in 1991 and the subsequent privatization of most of the State-owned companies.

Some of the challenges that Zambia Experienced in the mid 1980’s, including the debt crisis, were a direct result of inefficient State-owned enterprises (Parastatals) that were not meeting their objectives of engaging in business activity to generate revenues on behalf of the Zambian government. Most of them were making huge losses and were totally dependent on tax payer’s money for survival. Most of these companies were used by politicians to reward party cadres with jobs for their loyalty and support during elections. This culminated into Zambia becoming one of the most indebted nations in the world, relative to its gross domestic product (GDP). Kaunda moved into an understanding with the IMF in 1989 and a raft of austerity measures similar to what has been put in place by the PF government were implemented. The country’s urbanized population rioted in protest and two years down the line, in 1991, every Zambian knows what happened.

Zambia has since moved towards a capitalist economy though a few firms are still run by the State. The problems that were faced by most firms before the introduction of Capitalism still exists in Zambia today. Out of about 40 State-owned enterprises, less than 10 of them are profitable and paying dividends to the government. More than 75% of our parastatals are unprofitable and depend on tax payer’s money to stay afloat. Part of the high taxes Zambians are paying today are routed towards these companies. Unfortunately, an average Zambian does not understand the repercussions of government holding on to these companies. Any rumor about government’s intention to allow the private sector to take over perturbs the average Zambian. That’s why shutting down or privatizing some of these unprofitable companies is considered “Political suicide” by those in power.

Will Fred M’membe’s Socialist Party advocate for the reintroduction of nationalization or as it was more commonly known a few decades ago, Zambianisation? Perhaps he will advocate for the introduction of a “Socialist market economy” where the decisive means of production remain under state-ownership but state-owned enterprises are organized into corporations and allowed to operate like private capitalist firms. What strategies will he use to avoid the challenges that Zambia experienced in the mid 1980’s. Will he manage put Zambia on a trajectory to become one of the best performing economies with a good education, health care and welfare system like other socialist nations? Can the socialist policies that have worked in other developed countries still work in Zambia today? Well, we just have to keep our fingers crossed and wait to see what comrade Fred M’membe will bring on our Political landscape.
Zambia’s Socialist Party Battles Repression in Its Battle For Justice
The party has remained steadfast despite persecution of its activists.

Kate Janse van Rensburg
The Dawn News 
20 Apr 2018
Image Courtesy: Kate Janse van Rensburg

On April 10, two members of the Socialist Party of Zambia were arrested for organizing training sessions in Matero, one of the country’s poorest compounds. Combined with the government’s attempt to recall the Cuban ambassador Nelson Pages Vilas after he attended the party’s launch on March 31, this is another attempt by the ruling Patriotic Front to crush any form of opposition.

According to a statement released by the party, the arrest happened during an organized private training session at the home of one of its members. Confiscated items included a whiteboard, phones and women’s handbags. Members were harassed and abused by police who surrounded the area.

“It is shocking to see our police service turning into a brutal police force whose main task is now to haunt and oppress the masses of poor Zambians,” said Womba Nkanza, a member of the Kwacha Women’s Movement.

This attack is part of efforts to stifle and suffocate the newly formed party that aims to construct a Zambia built on the foundations of justice, equity and peace.

Last year, Zambia’s cholera outbreak exposed the inability of the Patriotic Front in addressing the social inequities plaguing the country. Poverty and unemployment have run rampage, especially in the more densely populated capital of Lusaka.

As cholera swiftly moved through Lusaka’s gutters, it was the city’s poor who felt the brunt of their failing medical system while the elite were transported outside the country’s borders for quality medical care.

“We live in a Zambia today where medicine is not free. We live in a Zambia today where people do not always have the money to pay for these medical facilities,” said Reo Kafwabulula (19), a member of the Socialist Party Youth League.

Incidents such as the outbreak of cholera, mass unemployment, collapsing medical infrastructure and poor sanitation facilities have dealt a massive blow to President Edgar Lungu’s legitimacy.

Zambia has booming copper and cobalt industries but ordinary people do not reap the benefits of this wealth. Rather, the pockets of its president, ruling elite and various multinational corporations deepen.

Under the guise of the Mopani Copper Mines, Glencore is one such multinational corporation that has sunk its claws into Zambia’s Copperbelt Province. Drawing attention to this attack on the labour force, who work daily within the belly of the earth, and the communities living above these rich minerals, Vijay Prashad, Executive Director of Tricontinental Institute for Social Research wrote in relation to a report released by UNICEF : “Sixty percent of the children in grades one to four cannot read…in one of the areas of Africa with the richest resources, the children cannot read.”

In 1964, Zambia gained its independence and a new hope arose. At the time of independence, the Zambian economy was owned entirely by the British. Subsequently, the government of Kenneth Kaunda instituted wide-ranging nationalization. This nationalization included Zambia’s mineral wealth, which translated into free, compulsory education provided by the state:

“I never bought a pen, exercise book or a calculator. All my father paid for was my transport to school and back,” said Chimozi Zulu, who grew up under Kenneth Kaunda’s regime.

By 1990, imperialism had made it very difficult for the Zambian government to sustain their majority ownership of the mines. Zambia began to run a deficit budget largely because of the collapse of copper prices that led to a drastic reduction in domestic revenue for the government, which could no longer sustain its social spending. They were forced by the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and Zambia’s bilateral partners to privatize the mines in order for Zambia to qualify for debt from these institutions.

Privatization of the Copperbelt’s mines translated into privatized education and consequently, a soaring illiteracy rate. Meanwhile, Glencore’s CEO Ivan Glasenburg fabulously enriches himself and the Swiss territory he obtained citizenship from in 2011.

“President Lungu knows his time is running out. He fears a conscientised mass. He’s scared of a revolutionary leadership. He’s scared of the hope of a new Zambia,” said General Secretary of the Socialist Party, Cosmas Musumali, in a press statement.

Observers point out that Edgar Lungu and his government have relentlessly cooked up propaganda to attempt to crush all forms of opposition. Hostility from the ruling party is not unfamiliar to the Socialist Party. Their process of registration was delayed for over a year in a country where most political parties are registered within two or three months.

Against this backdrop, the Socialist Party is a direct response to these suffocating living  conditions. “Our only alternative is merciless struggle,” said Kafwabulula.

Despite the antidemocratic tactics used by Edgar Lungu and his government, the Socialist Party has remained resolute, undeterred in attempting to build a party that aims to eradicate class and structural inequities. “Our primary aim is to return power not to the wealthy but to the masses, to the mass majority, to the student and to the farmer,” said Kafwabulula.

“This country is being run by an elite whose interests are not at par with the Zambian masses, said Musamuli, “The Zambian masses want peace. They want justice and they want equity. This is what the Socialist Party is there for.”
Harassment of Zambia’s Socialist Party Cadre Continues
Cadre of the party were beaten up by ruling party members on allegations on campaigning in President Lungu’s native Eastern Province.

Pavan Kulkarni
The Dawn News 
24 Apr 2018

The harassment of the newly launched Socialist Party of Zambia (SP) continued with its members being assaulted by cadre of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) in the Chipata district of the Eastern Province.

The incident occurred around 4:30 p.m. at the Katpata market when some women followed the members of the SP and enquired about the party’s programme and ideology. Minutes later, PF cadres arrived at the spot and assaulted the SP members, accusing them of campaigning in the area. Death threats were also made, the party said.

“I was rescued by well-meaning citizens. The cadre then threatened to burn our house if I continued engaging with people for our party programmes,” one of the victims said.

The PF assailants declared that the Eastern province was President Edgar Lungu’s home region and that no opposition party was allowed to carry out its activities in the area.

One of the SP members who was assaulted said she was at the market to buy vegetables and it was only after the women asked her about the party that she began talking to them.

“It was not a meeting or a rally for which I’m supposed to have a permit from the police. I was just passing and people stopped me, asking about the SP, whose leadership and agenda they had heard about and welcome,” she said.

This is the latest in a series of incidents of harassment of the party and its members since its launch on March 31. The Zambian government sought the recall of the Cuban Ambassador from the country for attending the launch. Nine foreign delegates who had come for the event were deported.

On April 10, two members from the party were arrested for organizing a training camp in Matero, one of the poorest compounds in the country. A whiteboard, phones and women’s handbags were confiscated by the police.

The persistent attacks on the newly launched party is being seen as reflecting the government’s fear of the emergence of a socialist opposition.
Asia's Top Stock Market Is Having Its Worst Month in Two Years
 April 23, 2018, 10:53 PM EDT

Nation’s gauge has surged 130 percent from 2016 low to April
Samsung’s Richardson says currency pressures not priced in

Asia’s best performing stock market is having its worst month in more than two years, with a $14 billion loss in the value of Vietnam’s equities since April 6’s record high.

Alan Richardson, portfolio manager at Samsung Asset Management, whose fund has outperformed 94 percent of its peers on a five-year return basis said the “market has peaked” after the nation’s benchmark index gained 130 percent from a low in 2016 through a record high on April 6. The fund sold a majority of its Vietnam equity holdings in March.

Emerging market stocks and currencies are suffering the brunt of investors’ jitters as a surge in U.S. Treasury yields overshadowed easing trade and geopolitical tension. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index is poised to drop for a third month, the longest losing streak since a four-month rout that ended in February 2016.

“There appears to be currency pressures in the Asia region. I have yet to see the market price that in for Vietnam,” said Hong Kong-based Richardson by email Monday. Vietnam’s benchmark index fell 1.7 percent as of 9:51 a.m. in Ho Chi Minh to its lowest level since February 13.

IPO Bonanza

A stocks rally and a privatization program by the government has also led to a flurry of companies seeking to tap the capital markets amid rising foreign-direct investment and accelerating economic growth that boosted the nation’s benchmark. The VN Index rallied 48 percent in 2017 and climbed another 22 percent this year when it reached its April 6 record.

Techcombank, a Vietnamese lender backed by Warburg Pincus is seeking to raise about 21 trillion dong ($922 million). This would be Vietnam’s biggest initial equity offering ever, surpassing mall operator Vincom Retail JSC’s sale in October, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Luxury property developer Vinhomes JSC, which started gauging demand for its offering last week, could raise as much as $2 billion, exceeding Techcombank, Bloomberg News reported last week.

These potential offerings could also be the reason behind the selloff as investors divest current holdings to use capital for the upcoming IPOs, Joshua Crabb, head of Asian equities at Old Mutual Global Investors AP Ltd. said by phone.

"IPOs are coming in at slightly cheaper valuations to some and with better growth prospects,” said Crabb.

About $536 million of foreign inflows so far this year has boosted the market to a record while valuations surged to 20.7 times its 12-month forward earnings in January, the highest ever on record. The gauge currently trades at 17.7 times of earnings compared to 15.3 on the MSCI Southeast Asia Index.

"It has been a lot more volatile recently. The market has done very very well,” Crabb said.

— With assistance by Abhishek Vishnoi
Stock Market's Losses Turn A Deep Red

Stock indexes turned a deeper shade of red Tuesday as the benchmark 10-year yield stayed just under 3%. Losses in the stock market today sharpened in the afternoon, leaving the bulls with few places to hide.

The Nasdaq dropped 1.7% after being up 0.6% early in the session. The S&P 500 fell 1.3%. The Dow Jones industrial average was down 1.7% also.

Small caps, as measured by the Russell 2000, stumbled 0.6%, according to preliminary data. With the exception of the Russell 2000, indexes are trading below their 50-day moving averages.

Early data showed volume rose on both major exchanges, pointing to institutional selling.

The 10-year yield topped 3% for the first time since January 2014, apparently the cause of selling in recent stock market sessions. The yield is currently 2.99%.

At the end of 2017, the yield was 2.41%.

Traders now expect more rate hikes from the Federal Reserve than the two more hikes Fed officials had indicated.

Bank Gains Fade

As the focus shifts to rate hikes, bank stocks initially enjoyed a lift Tuesday. But the bank gains faded either to nothing or to worse than nothing.

For example, the money-center banking group was down about 1% after being up 1.2% earlier in the session.

Caterpillar (CAT) also reversed from good gains. The stock initially jumped 4.6% but then reversed to a 6% loss.

Meanwhile, new-home sales for March delivered a nice beat. The Street's consensus view was for 630,000, up from 618,000 in February. The figure came in at 694,000, a 10% beat.

Homebuilder Pulte Group (PHM) rose more than 6% in the first five minutes of trade. Pulte closed with a gain of nearly 3%.

Pulte's earnings soared 90%, topping views by about a third. The stock is battling near the 50-day and 200-day lines.

Coming Up

Before Thursday's open the durable goods orders for March will be reported. The Street expects new orders to rise 1.7%, down from 3.1% in February.

The first reading on first quarter GDP will be unrolled Friday before the open. Views call for a 2% gain, down from Q4's 2.9% pop.

What's Driving The Market's Tantrum?

Some market watchers see the stock market as a vehicle of wisdom, but lately the market has acted like a 2-year-old having a tantrum. What could be the cause? There are many possibilities.

— "Sell in May and go away" could be getting an early start. (Warning: In recent years, this has not been a useful strategy.)

— Syria could flame up, though it doesn't look too likely for now.

— The fuss surrounding tariffs is quiet, but things aren't likely to stay that way.

— Dodd-Frank is posing a stumbling block. The Republicans seem incapable of unity.

— The unspoken word is "infrastructure." Somehow this project always evolves to being about the border wall.

— The 10-year Treasury yield is near 3%, up from 2.41% at the end of 2017. If this is the problem, investors have to wonder why it took so long to get worked up. The biggest move came from year-end to the end of February. Yields, though, have spiked for more than a week to the highest level in four years.

Ultimately, investors may never know for sure what is causing the market's trouble. But like a 2-year-old's tantrum, a timeout is often the answer.
Why a Global Stock Market Crash Is Coming
The stock market is looking real shaky. It goes beyond Tuesday's steep selloff. Here's some top analysis you need to read.

TheStreet Guest Contributor 
Apr 24, 2018 8:00 PM EDT

The stock market, bond market, and real estate market are all in bubbles. None of these asset classes will be protected from the crash that is likely to come. The writing is already on the wall, too. For example, we can see massive levels of volatility in the S&P 500 , Dow Jones Industrial Average , Russell , and Nasdaq already, and it will get worse.

The asset bubbles in these asset classes are a direct result of central bank stimulus. As recently as September, the combined effort of global central banks was buying $60 billion of global assets per month, and that was a regular occurrence since stimulus was first introduced by Ben Bernanke on the heels of the credit crisis. Quantitative easing part two was also specifically geared towards supporting asset prices, just liked the corporate bond purchases of the European Central Bank were.

With the goal of increasing asset prices and inducing the wealth affect to spur economic activity, the central banks bought assets aggressively for years, and it worked to at least calm the nerves of investors. Institutional investors even piggybacked on this effort. The central banks, after all, told us what they were going to buy, when they were going to buy it, and how much they were going to buy in advance every month. Never has there been so much disclosure, but now that is changed.

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Anyone who appreciates the simple notion that price is a function of supply and demand recognizes that the substantial capital inflows from the combined central banks spurred asset prices higher for years, and most investors did not want to fight it, with justification.

However, given the changes that are happening to liquidity many of those same investors are not appreciating the risks quite yet. If high levels of fabricated demand served to increase asset prices, the opposite is likely when those asset purchase programs reverse as they are now.

Therefore, in one instance central bank stimulus is now a drain on liquidity and the high valuation of the stock, bond, and real estate markets are being questioned as risks are being reassessed.

In addition, without the fabricated demand of the central bank stimulus efforts the demand for these assets is also left to natural forces. Until stimulus was introduced after the credit crisis, natural demand for stocks, bonds, and real estate was based on a simple derivative demographic analysis.

People invest money according to ingrained societal norms. They grow up, get married, buy a house, have children, put their children through school, retire, and die. When these long-term ingrained societal norms are measured against long term economic and stock market cycles we can see a direct correlation as well. This is identified by The Investment Rate. This proprietary measure of the rate of change in the amount of new money available to be invested into the U.S. economy further tells us that we are in the third major down period in U.S. history. This is just like the Great Depression and stagflation because the rate of change in the amount of new money available to be invested declines every year.

The declines illustrated by The Investment Rate began in December of 2007, and that was identified five years in advance. This is a leading indicator of natural demand levels, and it has shown us a direct correlation to longer term cycles that date back to 1900. The only blip has been during the central bank stimulus phase, where fabricated demand was poured into the global economy.

Now that fabricated demand is over, natural demand levels will prevail again, but natural demand is also far lower than where current demand still is perceived to be. According to The Investment Rate, we are in the third major down period in U.S. history, and now central bank stimulus efforts have turned on their head. That creates a double drain on demand.

The stock market, bond market, and real estate markets are set up for a crash based on simple liquidity observations. Price is based on supply and demand, and demand is cratering.

Written by Thomas H. Kee Jr., President and CEO of Stock Traders Daily.
Economy Fears Spark Stock Market Rout After Bonds Punch Through 3%
April 24, 2018, 4:02 PM EDT

Treasury rates topped 3 percent for the first time in four years. For equity investors, the timing could’ve hardly been worse.

The rate milestone was never going to spark celebration on the stock market, as rising bond yields signal higher borrowing costs for consumers and companies and can send stock market investors scurrying to the bond market in search of returns. But it needn’t be all bad, especially if yields are increasing as economic growth is accelerating.

Enter Caterpillar Inc., 3M Co. and United Technologies Corp., stalwarts of American industry that serve as bellwethers for key pieces of the global economy. Caterpillar had its biggest decline since 2016, and 3M plunged the most in 12 years, with both warning that rising costs and tepid demand might hurt profits as the year goes on. Wall Street took the news as a warning that the worldwide economic expansion might be near its peak.

“It means economic growth might not be what the administration is saying, that the tax cuts will pay for themselves because you’ll have increased revenue from higher GDP,” said Donald Selkin, New York-based chief market strategist at Newbridge Securities Corp. Everyone “is talking about the great earnings for the first quarter, but frankly every stock that has reported has done lousy.”

Earnings were supposed to act as a sort of reprieve for equity bulls who’d been struggling to pronounce the correction over and dead. But with almost a quarter of companies done reporting, and almost 80 percent of that share surpassing profit expectations, the results haven’t been a saving grace for investors.

In fact, analysts have cut their earnings estimates for the next year, adding fuel to speculation that the first quarter may mark the height of profit growth.

The S&P 500 Index fell 1.3 percent to 2,634.52, its biggest decline in three weeks, as companies with revenues that are more reliant on economic growth led the decline. Industrial, materials and tech stocks dropped more than 2 percent, offsetting gains from high-dividend shares such as telecom and utilities. Reappearing geopolitical concerns also weighed on equities after President Trump threatened Iran.

“It’s kind of like a paradox of sorts,” Ernie Cecilia, chief investment officer at Bryn Mawr Trust Co, said by phone. “You have strong earnings, in some areas not perfectly aligned on an expectational basis, but it’s relative to expectations. There’s an eye on interest rates, they’re not problematic but they are rising, and 3 percent is at least somewhat of a psychological level that gets peoples’ attention. And then you have the geopolitical issues.”

The stock market’s worry over future growth has persisted since companies started reporting their quarterly results two weeks ago. While profits have come in about 7 percent higher than analyst estimates, stocks have seen muted reactions, a sign that investors are skeptical that the performance can be repeated once the effect of tax cuts wears off.

Indeed, the message from some of the most economically sensitive businesses is alarming. Consider semiconductor companies, whose products are used in everything from mobile phones to autos to computers. Across the globe, chipmakers are announcing disappointing results, blaming weaker demand. That’s in turn hit Apple amid growing speculation the new iPhone isn’t selling as well as had been hoped. The latest clues on how pervasive the slowdown in chip demand is will come later Tuesday when Texas Instruments Inc. reports results.

Other technology behemoths aren’t escaping the plunge either after Google’s parent Alphabet Inc. reported earnings that ratcheted up spending concerns. The news dragged down other tech darlings, wiping almost $85 million in market value from the FANG complex, which also includes Facebook, Amazon and Netflix.

Comments from Caterpillar and United Technologies echoed the latest economic data showing that the concerted global rebound behind last year’s equity rally may be starting to lose momentum.

German business confidence plunged the most in almost a year and sentiment deteriorated in Italy and France, keeping the euro region on an uncertain footing after a weak first quarter. In Asia, China’s leaders are giving their strongest signal since 2015 that growth in the world’s second-largest economy could slow.

In the U.S., government data due Friday is expected to show the economic expansion decelerated to an annual pace of 2 percent in the first quarter from 2.9 percent in the previous period. Still, investors are waiting to assess an impending boost to growth from the tax overhaul signed in December.

“It’s hard for us to call Q1 a high-water mark when tax cuts are kicking in,” said Michael Block, head of trading at Rhino Trading LLC. “We also acknowledge that the uncertainty on the Fed (we have a more dovish view than consensus), the prospect of at least the announcement of new stimulus measures as we roll into mid-terms, and other exogenous factors globally means that nothing is written in stone on the cycle. ”
Dow Tumbles 425 Points
by Paul R. La Monica 
April 24, 2018: 4:11 PM ET

Seemingly good results from Dow components Caterpillar, Coca-Cola and United Technologies (UTX) didn't please Wall Street. The Dow closed down 425 points, or 1.7%, after opening with a 130-point gain. At its worst point of the day, the Dow was down more than 600 points.

The Dow has fallen for the past five straight days — its longest losing streak in more than a year — and has given up its gains for the year.

Why the nearly 650-point swing in the Dow in a matter of hours? Once investors took a closer look at the results, they focused on the negatives.

Caterpillar (CAT), for example, warned that profit margins would probably not get any higher this year than they are now.

And Coke (KO) investors were disappointed that lower prices may have helped drive sales -- even though Diet Coke finally returned to growth. Shares of Caterpillar plunged 6% while Coke's stock lost 2%.

Verizon was one of the few companies that posted strong results Tuesday that didn't seem to have any caveats -- and it was rewarded for it. Shares of Verizon (VZ) rose 2%.

But other earnings reports were downright gloomy. 3M (MMM), another Dow component, lowered its outlook for the year. That sent its stock plunging 7%. Insurance company Travelers (TRV), also in the Dow, fell 3% after its earnings missed forecasts.

All this negativity dragged down other old-school, classic industrial Dow companies too. Boeing (BA) and DowDuPont (DWDP) both fell about 3%.

And tech investors were disappointed by increased expenses at Google parent Alphabet.

Even though Alphabet (GOOGL) posted solid gains in earnings and revenue that easily topped Wall Street's estimates, the stock fell 5% — and that helped drag down the S&P 500, Nasdaq and tech titans Apple (AAPL), Amazon (AMZN), Microsoft (MSFT) and Facebook (FB).

It didn't help that the yield on the 10-year US Treasury note rose above 3% for the first time in more than four years Tuesday morning.

If this benchmark bond rate keeps climbing, it may make it more expensive to borrow money for mortgages and auto loans and could eat into profits at big US companies — especially since the Federal Reserve is expected to keep raising short-term rates.

Still, one expert said investors may be overreacting to the moves in the bond market.

"I don't know that there is any magic to the 3.0% level other than it is a nice round number," said Jeff Mills, co-chief investment strategist for PNC Financial Services Group. "There is no rule that says rising rates are bad for the stock market."

Mills added that since 1928, stocks have actually done a little bit better when rates have gone up. The market has gained about 11% on average during years that rates have gone up and 9% in years of falling rates.

But jittery investors don't seem to care about historical market facts right now. They are selling first and asking questions later.

Monday, April 23, 2018

US Army Trainers Try to Entrench Presence in  West Africa
Sunday 22 April 2018 - 8:08am

Nigerian commandos simulate a raid on a militant camp during the US-sponsored Flintlock exercises in Ouallam. Photo: Reuters / Aaron Ross

OUALLAM, Niger - Kicking up clouds of pink Saharan dust, US military trainers impersonated militants, waved flags saying "death to outsiders" and threw smoke grenades toward approaching Nigerien commandos this week, as a surveillance drone hovered overhead.

The joint military exercises between US-led Western forces and several West African nations, dubbed "Flintlock", have been going on since 2005. This year, however, they have focused more closely on the evolving threat posed by Islamist militants, whose mounting numbers and capabilities require an ever more sophisticated response, military commanders told Reuters.

"Flintlock ... has over the years evolved," Major General J. Marcus Hicks, who leads some 1,000 American special operations forces across about a dozen African countries, told Reuters.

"What's different this year is that we have intentionally focused on the developing threat situation in the Sahel and the ongoing challenges in the Lake Chad region," he said.

Jihadist groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State are launching increasingly brazen attacks on UN, Western and local forces and civilian targets across West Africa's Sahel region, including a raid in western Niger last October that killed four US Green Berets.

This year's 14th instalment of Flintlock brought together about 1,900 special forces troops from 12 Western and eight African countries this month in Niger, whose porous borderlands with Mali and Burkina Faso along Africa's vast Sahel have seen the biggest surge in attacks.

Similar exercises were conducted in Burkina Faso and Senegal.

"The Sahel is not an easy place," Colonel Kassim Moussa of Chad's special forces said at a military base in the western town of Ouallam, where Nigerien commandos in blue helmets and loose fitting uniforms braved the scorching midday sun to simulate raids on a jihadist camp.

"It has to be synchronised as they (the militants) go across borders very easily, very fluidly, so getting our partners to work together is a big driver," trainer Colonel Craig Miller said at the exercise.

The militant threat has ballooned this decade with the emergence of Boko Haram's insurgency in northern Nigeria and the Lake Chad region, and the jihadist 2012 takeover of north Mali.

A French intervention in northern Mali in early 2013 helped beat back that threat, but the militants have regrouped, launching attacks in Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and beyond.

Niger's Defence Minister Kalla Moutari said at Friday's closing ceremony that the officers had shown "their capacity to ... lead aerial and land operations".

Critics of Western nations' policy in the region say they have overemphasised the military aspect of the threat at the expense of root causes that are swelling the militants' ranks, including government rights abuses and inter-communal conflicts that lead some to align themselves with the jihadists.

Special Operations Soldiers Shift Training Emphasis in Africa
U.S. Special Forces train Niger troops during Flintlock 2018. The two-week war game, which ended Friday, aimed to boost combat capabilities of eight participating African countries. (Special Operations Command Africa photo)

Stars and Stripes
22 Apr 2018
By John Vandiver

AGADEZ, Niger -- The Nigerien troops, 250 miles from their higher headquarters in Agadez, were at first reluctant to call their commanders with information about the unfolding battle simulation.

During Flintlock 2018, the largest U.S. special operations exercise in Africa, a contingent of Green Berets aimed to eliminate that hesitancy.

"I think they realized they can give feedback back up to the headquarters to provide senior level commanders tactical guidance and vision of the battle. This exercise definitely facilitated that conversation," said Capt. Neal, a detachment commander with the 3rd Special Forces Group who is identified by his first name only for security reasons.

Since 2005, U.S. special operations forces have been conducting the Flintlock exercise in western Africa. Yet this is the first year when the effort has focused on developing higher level command and control capabilities of the militaries in the region, where local forces are involved in a battle against militant groups that commanders say has gained momentum in recent years.

The transition from training centered on small unit combat skills to advising higher level teams coincides with shifts in how missions involving U.S. troops in Niger will be conducted.

In the wake of the October ambush in the Nigerien village of Tongo Tongo, the risk U.S. forces face in isolated parts of Africa was brought into focus. Four U.S. soldiers were killed in the attack while on a joint patrol with local forces.

"The threat has been increasing since last fall and Tongo Tongo was simply an indicator of that, and we have adjusted our activities accordingly," said Special Operations Command Africa commander Major Gen. Marcus Hicks, who was in Niger to observe the Flintlock exercise. "We mitigate risk as we always do."

Green Berets still conduct patrols with Nigerien forces; however, decisions on when to join Nigerien patrols are given more scrutiny now, Hicks said.

"I would certainly not say we have scaled back. If anything, we've probably increased focus on our personal investment and intellectual activity to better understand the threat," Hicks said.

Even ahead of the October ambush, there was growing recognition inside SOCAFRICA that more attention must be paid to ensuring local forces can conduct counterterror missions independently, a military official said.

That meant developing more command and control capabilities. At Flintlock, a joint multinational headquarters was set up in Agadez to manage missions in Niger, Burkina Faso and Senegal, where some 1,900 troops were war gaming in remote camps. The headquarters and ground forces coordinated air and ground operations and examined intelligence.

The larger aim is to help soldiers assigned to the new G-5 Sahel, a regional alliance, to be better prepared to fight groups that include Al-Qaida and Islamic State affiliates.

"Any time a country can solve its own security issues or threats, that's what you want and that's what we are trying to help with," Neal said.

Col. Brad Moses, commander of the Fort Bragg-based 3rd Special Forces Group -- the unit aligned with the SOCAFRICA mission-- said there was a concerted effort to make this year's Flintlock more about countering day-to-day threats local troops face.

"If we are going to come forward, we might as well tie it to something that is happening," said Moses. "At the end of this, everyone can go back and say they've learned more about our partners in Africa."

However, Green Berets say they will continue to roll in the dirt with their local partners, doing the kind of combat tactical work that has been a training mainstay.

"We are still training with tactical units across the continent. As those tactical units gain proficiency and capability and capacity, we are adding the focus on higher level command and control," Hicks said. "We are building capability and capacity to deal with threats we see in the Sahel and Lake Chad basin."
Libyan Navy Rescues 120 Migrants Off Western Coast
2018/4/24 9:26:29

Libyan navy on Monday rescued 120 illegal immigrants off the coast of Garrabulli city, some 55 km east of the capital Tripoli.

"120 illegal immigrants of different African nationalities have been rescued 50 miles off the coast of Garrabulli," Milad Abdalkarim, commander of navy patrol, told Xinhua.

"The migrants have been taken to Tripoli naval base," Abdalkarim added.

Navy spokesman on Sunday said that the bodies of 11 migrants were recovered and 283 others were rescued off the country's western coast in separate operations.

Following the 2011 uprising that toppled former leader Muammar Gaddafi, Libya became the main departure point for migrants who want to reach Europe across the Mediterranean, due to chaos in the country.

According to official statistics, more than 4,000 migrants were rescued off Libya's coast in the first quarter of 2018.
One Killed, 17 Injured During Opposition Demonstrations in Madagascar
2018/4/22 10:51:49

One was shot dead, while 17 others were injured during opposition demonstrations on Saturday in Antananarivo, capital of Madagascar, Madagascar's Prime minister Olivier Mahafaly Solonandrasana said.

However, one of the leaders the demonstration, Hanitra Razafimanantsoa, a parliament member supporting former president Marc Ravalomanana, said that four were killed, including two demonstrators shot dead and two babies suffocated by tear gas at the children hospital nearby the scene.

Some 73 parliament members, who opposed to the adoption of electoral law at the parliament, planned to report to their followers a complaint about this electoral law at the May 13 square, a famous venue where opposition overthrew the power in 1972, 1991, 2002 and 2009.

However, the government banned this demonstration. A Xinhua reporter who was on spot saw that the armed forces sealed off the May 13 square, threw tear gas to demonstrators who already filled all roads to square.

Demonstrators resisted the tear gas and pushed the armed forces by throwing stones. The armed troops gave up and let thousands of demonstrators join the May 13 square.

Three hours after, the armed forces came back to May 13 square, but this time they secured the demonstrators to avoid smudge.

During the clash in the morning, Xinhua reporter saw one of the demonstrators shot dead on spot, another was seriously injured after he was hit by bullet on the head, and others were injured of tear gas firing.

Angry demonstrators set a police 4x4 pick-up on fire which remained at May 13 square.

Some people also tried to rob the mobile phone stores owned by a parliament member who support Madagascar's president Hery Rajaonarimamianina but fortunately the store owner already emptied it before the demonstration.

Late Saturday, Razafimanantsoa said the demonstration will continue on Sunday with funeral ritual of the four people killed during the demonstration.

"The demonstration will continue again on Monday to fight against corruption, we will continue it until the dismissal of president Hery Rajaonarimampianina," Razafimanantsoa said asking former president Marc Ravalomanana, former transition president Andry Rajoelina, the church council, all opposition parties in the country, the students and public servants to join on Monday.

President Rajaonarimampianina is abroad since Thursday night, according to the presidency.

Prime Minister Solonandrasana called for dialog with opposition and appeasement from the people. "Do not make violence as durable solution for our country. This is not good for Madagascar."

The president of the senate Rivo Rakotovo, who is the president of ruling party Hery Vaovaon'i Madagasikara (HVM) or New Force of Madagascar, also urged appeasement. He said that only dialog between politicians can resolve the problem. "Road demonstration is not for Madagascar which is still weak on economy," he said.

These 73 parliament members include those who support former president Marc Ravalomanana, those who supported the former transition president Andry Rajoelina, and other parliament members who opposed to the current regime.

This is the fifth cyclical political crisis in Madagascar since its independence in 1960 after that of 1972, 1991, 2002, and 2009.

The political crisis in Madagascar in 2009 saw Rajoelina opposing Ravalomanana, with many of their followers killed. But 9 years later, Ravalomanana and Rajoelina joined forces to overthrow Rajaonarimampianina, who was the candidate supported by Rajoelina in 2013.
Head of EBRD Hopes to Expand Into Sub-Saharan Africa
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development keen to work with countries committed to market economics

Larry Elliott Economics editor
Sun 22 Apr 2018 19.15 EDT

A bank originally set up to help countries of the former Soviet bloc is poised to extend its operations into sub-Saharan Africa in order to speed up progress in meeting ambitious development goals set by the United Nations.

Sir Suma Chakrabarti, the president of the London-based European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, said his organisation had the money and the expertise to stimulate the growth of strong private sectors in some of the world’s poorest countries.

Speaking to the Guardian in Washington, Chakrabarti expressed enthusiasm for expansion into sub-Saharan Africa if the member governments that own the bank gave the go-ahead.

“Our shareholders need to start a debate about whether they want us to add to our capacity”, he said. “We have increased our geographical reach – to Mongolia, then Turkey, then the Middle East and north Africa, then Greece and Cyprus.

“The biggest gap is sub-Saharan Africa. The biggest need there is private sector development which is what we do. If we get involved, we need to do so gradually and incrementally. Countries we work with must have a commitment to democracy and market economics.”

With the EBRD prevented from lending to Russia since the start of the Ukraine crisis in 2014, Chakrabarti said the EBRD had all the capital it needed and could increase its lending by €2.5-3bn a year.

The World Bank and the African Development Bank already operate in sub-Saharan Africa, but Chakrabarti said he did not envisage a turf war if the EBRD joined them.

“There is so much to do. The African Development Bank was the biggest cheerleader for us to extend into north Africa and has said it would welcome us with open arms because there is a need for a strong private sector.”

He said the EBRD’s business model was successful because it employed local staff, with only the mission heads non-nationals, adding that the UK government should be celebrating his bank as an example of the global Britain it wants to create after Brexit.

Along with the International Maritime Organisaton, the EBRD is one of only two multilateral bodies based in London. Chakrabarti said India would soon join China as a shareholder in the bank, which had a strong development policy focus and attracted talented people from around the world. It is successful and it is profitable

“We need to recognise the importance to the UK of this organisation. It is a good news story for Britain.”

Chakrabarti said the international community needed to do more if the UN’s 2030 sustainable development goals – 17 targets including eliminating poverty and providing universal quality education – were going to be met. “It is worrying that everyone has willed the objectives but not the means. Business as usual is not going to get us there.”

The World Bank announced on Saturday an agreement to increase its capital by $13bn following protracted talks with the US Treasury.

Chakrabarti said the agreement was good in itself, but added that it was also encouraging that the US was engaged with the multilateral system.
Eritrea, Djibouti, Ethiopia Hosts Top U.S. Diplomat on East Africa Tour
Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban 
22/04 - 12:37

The United States Department of State on Saturday announced that a top official on African Affairs was due to tour three East African countries between April 22 – April 26.

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Ambassador Donald Y. Yamamoto will start off his tour in Eritrea, head to Djibouti and round off his activities in Ethiopia.

He arrives in Eritrea today (April 22) with the three-day working tour according to the Department of State centering on “bilateral consultations with Eritrean government officials, to meet with the diplomatic community, and to visit the Embassy’s staff based in Asmara.

“He will then lead the U.S. delegation to the U.S.-Djibouti Binational Forum April 24-25 in Djibouti, our annual dialogue on matters of political, economic, assistance, and security cooperation,” the statement added.

Ambassador Yamamoto’s last stop will be in Ethiopia on April 26 where he is expected to meet with Ethiopian government officials to discuss shared interests and concerns.

The Horn of Africa region has been one that has continually engaged the attention of the United States. Its relation with Ethiopia has largely been premised on anti-terrorism combat and need for democratic reforms.

Eritrea, meanwhile, continues to slam the United Nationa Security Council and the United States in particular for the refusal to lift sanctions on Asmara over their purported support for Somalia insurgent group, Al Shabaab.

Djibouti on the other hand is seen as a key security ally of the West and other Asian giants, hosting a number of military bases. The U.S. also maintains special interest in Somalia where they continue to carry out air strikes against Al-Shabaab.
9 Dead, 16 Injured After Pedestrians Struck by Van During Attack in Toronto
By Nick Westoll, Jessica Patton and David Shum
Global News

Toronto police say nine people have died and 16 are injured after multiple pedestrians were struck by a white van in Toronto Monday afternoon.

“(At) approximately 1:30 this afternoon, Toronto Police received a number of calls from citizens indicating a vehicle was driving on Yonge Street and striking a number of pedestrians between Finch Avenue and Sheppard Avenue,” Deputy Police Chief Peter Yuen told reporters Monday afternoon.

“We can confirm for you … right now we have nine people that are dead. Sixteen that are injured.”

Yuen said a person is in custody and the investigation by Toronto police is ongoing.

Global News observed multiple bodies on Yonge Street covered with blankets.

In a statement from Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, 10 patients were brought to the hospital. Two of the victims died at hospital, five are in critical condition, two are in serious condition and one is listed in fair condition. Officials said the hospital’s emergency room has been locked down as a precaution.

A video posted on Twitter appears to show a standoff between the male suspect and police just before he was arrested.

The suspect appears to come out of the white van with an object in his hands pointed towards a police officer in the street. In the video, the officer could be heard shouting “get down on the ground now.”

The officer walked toward the man, who dropped the object and turned around with his hands in the air. It is unclear what the object was that the suspect was holding. He was subsequently taken into custody.

Yuen said police are in the process of setting up two telephone lines in response to the attack. The first one will be for victims and their families. The second will be for witnesses.

Barry Mather, a delivery driver from Bolton, told Global News Radio 640 Toronto’s Kelly Cutrara that he saw a “banged up” white van while he was making a delivery on Bogert Avenue, near Yonge and Sheppard.

“I was coming out of my van and I’d look and I’d hear this scraping and grinding noise and there’s this white Ryder van coming towards me so I had to jump out of the way.”

Nick Sanka told Global News he was studying in an area Starbucks when he saw a truck “just running through.”

“I get up, and by the time I come here, I saw someone with blood trailing…”


Sanka said the van was “definitely speeding” and that the driver appeared to be in control.

“He did seem to have control over what he was doing … so it wasn’t some sort of impairment where he was swerving,” he said.

“He just [drove] straight through – and he managed to make a perfect turn at that corner as well.”

Mayor John Tory said he has spoken with Chief Mark Saunders and other city officials and is on his way to the scene.

“There has been a very tragic incident at Yonge Street and Finch Avenue,” Tory said.

“My thoughts are with those affected by this incident and the frontline responders who are working to help those injured.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a brief statement Monday afternoon in response to the incident.

“We’re just learning about the situation in Toronto now. Our hearts go out to anyone affected,” he said.

“Obviously we’re going to have more to learn and more to say in the coming hours.”

Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale commended the response by emergency crews.

“Grateful for the brave and professional response of @TorontoPolice and other first responders to the horrific attack at Yonge and Finch,” he tweeted.

“Canadians are appalled at what happened. The victims and their families have our deepest condolences.”

Global News confirmed Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Vance was briefed on the incident unfolding in Toronto. A strategic advisory alert has gone out to military commanders across the country.

Premier Kathleen Wynne said in a post on Twitter that the province is also monitoring the situation and working with the City of Toronto and the federal government.

“My thoughts are with everyone affected,” she said.

“Thank you to the first responders caring for victims and witnesses.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the rental company of the van driven by the suspect said the company is aware of the incident.

“We are saddened by this tragic event, and our deepest sympathies go out to those impacted,” Claudia Panfil, vice president of corporate communications for Ryder System, Inc., told Global News in a statement.

“We take the safety and security related to the use of our entire fleet very seriously and we are cooperating fully with authorities.”

The Toronto Transit Commission has shut down subway service between Sheppard and Finch stations “until further notice.” Forty shuttle buses will be operating on Senlac Road.

More to come.

— With files from Kerri Breen, Amanda Connolly and Stewart Bell

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Zimbabwe left the Commonwealth network of 53 mostly former territories of the British Empire in 2003.


LONDON - Britain said on Friday it would strongly support Zimbabwe’s re-entry to the Commonwealth and praised President Emmerson Mnangagwa for impressive progress since Robert Mugabe was toppled in a military coup.

But it said Mnangagwa, who became president following a military take-over, would still have to deliver on free and fair elections in July to win over Zimbabwe’s critics at home and abroad.

Zimbabwe left the Commonwealth network of 53 mostly former territories of the British Empire in 2003 after Mugabe, who had ruled Zimbabwe from its independence in 1980, came under criticism over disputed elections and land seizures from white farmers.

“The UK would strongly support Zimbabwe’s re-entry and a new Zimbabwe that is committed to political and economic reform that works for all its people,” the Foreign Office said in a statement.

As Harare looks to rebuild its international ties, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson met his Zimbabwean counterpart Sibusiso Moyo and ministers from other nations over breakfast on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London.

Moyo - the general who went on state television in khaki fatigues last November to announce the military takeover - also met ministers from neighbouring African states and Australia at the breakfast.

Mugabe cast himself as a liberation hero but opponents said he drove Zimbabwe’s economy into the ground and made the country an international pariah. He was forced to step down in November during a coup and was replaced by Mnangagwa.

Johnson praised Mnangagwa’s record in office in the past 150 days but said a bellwether for the direction of a new Zimbabwe would be the election in July.

“The Zimbabwe government must deliver the free and fair elections the people of Zimbabwe deserve and which it has promised,” he said.

The election will pit Mnangagwa against a clutch of opponents including 40-year-old Nelson Chamisa from the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

David Coltart, a former education minister and member of parliament from the Movement for Democratic Change, said he was shocked by the speed with which Mnangagwa has been welcomed back to the fold after an unconstitutional seizure of power.

“I am utterly appalled by the @Commonwealth18 and the British Government feting the #Zimbabwe regime,” Coltart said on Twitter.

The West imposed sanctions on Mugabe and members of his inner circle, accusing them of rigging a series of votes - charges they denied.

Now Zimbabwe has said it will invite Western powers to monitor its national elections for the first time in more than 15 years.

“President Mnangagwa has been in power for 150 days and while Zimbabwe has made impressive progress, there is still much to do,” Johnson said. “That’s why Britain, the Commonwealth and the wider international community will do everything it can in supporting Zimbabwe on its path of reform.”

“The UK stands ready in friendship to support a Zimbabwe that fully embraces the rule of law, human rights and economic reform,” he said.
Fired Zimbabwe Nurses Sue Government, Members to Resume Work on Monday
Zimbabwean nurses have called off a strike against poor working conditions and will return to work on Monday, a nurses union said on Sunday.

Vice President Constantino Chiwenga last week announced the sacking of 16,000 striking nurses, accusing them of a “politically motivated” walkout.

Zimbabwe National Union (ZINA) said on Saturday that the strike by its members had become “politicized”.

“To pave way for the re-opening of negotiations and protection of our workers, we have decided to call off the industrial action,” ZINA said in a statement, calling on its members to report for duty by Monday.

The union said it had filed a court application to force the government to reverse its decision to fire the nurses.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government is seeking to keep a lid on labour unrest in the build-up to the first elections since the fall of Robert Mugabe.

The elections, which will pit Mnangagwa against several opposition candidates, are set for July.

The nurses strike came days after junior doctors wrapped up a month-long walkout over pay and working conditions.

Political Hand Behind Zimbabwe Nurses Strike Says Government
Levi Mukarati and Veronica Gwaze

Opposition politicians conspired with the leadership of the Zimbabwe Nurses Association (Zina) to embark on a strike that led to thousands of health professionals losing their jobs last week, it has emerged.

The strike is part of a larger ploy by opposition politicians to stir labour unrest in the hope that it will reduce the chances of President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his ruling Zanu-PF party sweeping elections this year.

Zina last night asked its members to return to duty on Monday because the “collective job action has been highly politicised”.

It also emerged yesterday that the number of fired nurses has been grossly inflated by the political lobby, with Government saying 5 093 had been identified for dismissal.

Zimbabwe’s total nursing staff compliment is 16 974, and opposition politicians and some sections of the media have claimed that all have been fired and yet just 30 percent were affected.

The actual number of vacant nursing posts at present is closer to 2 000. This is because 2 400 unemployed nurses who were in the Health Services Board database were automatically recruited and many of them had already been deployed to clinics and hospitals by yesterday.

So rapid has been Government’s response to the politically-motivated strike that as of yesterday, Harare Hospital, a key referral institution, had all nursing posts occupied.

Investigations show that the 5 093 nurses were misled by their union leadership, among whom is at least one official who wants to represent the opposition MDC-T in the National Assembly in the 2018 elections.

The majority of those who were identified for dismissal have reapplied for their jobs, joining thousands of unemployed nurses who have stampeded to fill the posts after Government last week asked them to take their striking colleagues’ places.

Health and Child Care Minister Dr David Parirenytawa said: “I assure the nation that normalcy has been restored in all Government hospitals and recruitment in all provinces is underway.

“Of the 16 974 nurses that we have in the country, 5 093 were served with dismissal letters – which is 30 percent of the entire nursing workforce.

“Of the dismissed, in provinces such as Bulawayo, Matebeleland South and Masonaland West, all the nurses have either reapplied or have indicated that they want to come back, and we will make sure we re-engage them.

“We have also been receiving applications from unemployed nurses, both who were already in the database and not, and also those who qualified in March.”

Dr Parirenyatwa slammed opposition politicians’ use of hospitals as campigning venues.

This was after the leader of an MDC-T faction, Mr Nelson Chamisa, yesterday choreographed a visit to public hospitals to push his political agenda.

The Health Minister said: “I am very much against those who come to hospitals and use the hospitals to drive their political motives because a hospital is a high security area and the patients should be well protected at all costs.

“The hospital is also an area of confidentiality and therefore one cannot just come and invade the privacy of patients like that. Lastly, the hospital is a sacred place where people are treated and were some die and therefore not a political play ground. That must come to an end.”

Yesterday, the Health Services Board said of those nurses who had been identified for dismissal, some had “already received their dismissal letters, signed and reapplied; some have not received the letters; while some have received but not reapplied”.

“We have four districts that have not yet handed in the names of the nurses to be dismissed. About 2 400 nurses that were already in the database have been automatically employed, but to bridge the remaining gap the recruitment process is ongoing so we are to look at retirees and those that are reapplying.

“We cannot give detailed information on hospitals that have completed recruiting, but Harare Hospital is one of the institutions that has completed the recruitment,” the board said.

At about 7pm yesterday, Zina called off the strike “to pave way for re-opening of negotiations and protection of our workers”.

The union also said it was “highly regrettable that our cause of collective job action has been highly politicised”.

But this was after it had already become clear that nurses were being used as the first wave in a scheme to orchestrate a series of strikes by public sectors workers ahead of national elections.

The Sunday Mail established that the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, led by Mr Takavafira Zhou, had come up with a “solidarity campaign” that would see teachers go on strike next month.

The project is being fanned under the line, “Teachers are their own liberators: its game on second term 2018.”

On Friday, opposition activists led by Mr Doug Coltart – son of MDC-T MP Mr David Coltart – organised a poorly attended “solidarity” event in Harare’s Africa Unity Square.

All this was despite the fact that Zina on April 15, 2018 acknowledged that Government had agreed to address nurses grievances.

This was after the Zimbabwe National Elders Forum, represented by Father Fidelis Mukonori, had mediated a meeting between employer and employees.

The Zina internal communication in our possession reads: “We are just coming from a meeting with HSB (Health Services Board), MoHCC (Health Ministry), Minister Parirenyatwa, Chief (Fortune) Charumbira, Ministry of Finance, pastors and Zina executives.

“The employer promised to effect the following allowances by Thursday 19 April 2018; night duty allowances to be paid for the following grades D1 to D4 at a rate of $217 to $303.

“Standby allowance for rural health centre staff to be paid at a rate of $240 for grades C5 to D4. Post basic allowance S70 for one. Grading and advancement arrears to be paid on the same date (and) rationalisation of allowance to be disclosed tomorrow.”

Nonetheless, the Zina executive told members to go on strike on April 16 – a day after communicating the good news and three days before the agreed date the money would be paid into accounts.

Zina president Ms Simangaliso Mafa yesterday insisted they had made the correct decision to go on the strike that resulted in members losing their jobs and patients going for days without treatment.

Asked if there was a political motive behind the action, she said would respond later but had not done so by the time of going to print. She also would not say whether or not she intended to stand in MDC-T’s primary elections.

However, several nurses who called The Sunday Mail during the week said they had been unwittingly “used” by politicians.

“Our president (Mafa) is said to be eyeing a post but from our standpoint we thought we had genuine concerns and our actions were above board.

“We feel our job action was infiltrated by politicians and the employer is now treating all of us as politicians,” one of them said.

By last night, service at healthcare institutions was normal.
Zimbabwe Conditions Conducive for Free, Fair Elections: SADC Chief
21 APR, 2018 - 00:04

President Mnangagwa speaks to Sadc Executive Secretary Stergomena Lawrence Tax shortly after her arrival at the Munhumutapa Offices in Harare today.-(Picture by Tawanda Mudimu)

Farirai Machivenyika
Senior Reporter

Visiting Sadc Executive Secretary Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax has commended the political and legislative environment in Zimbabwe, saying it is conducive to conduct a credible election. The elections are expected in July. Dr Tax said this soon after paying a courtesy call on President Mnangagwa at his Munhumutapa offices yesterday.

“You are about to go to elections so we discussed about the elections (and) that you are also undertaking socio-economic reforms, we touched on that,” she said.

“As you are aware we had on observer mission here, a pre-electoral observer mission and we have shared a few issues and generally our findings are that you are set for elections.

“Politically, the environment is conducive, the legislative environment is also conducive, pointing to a readiness for elections and also the reform processes which are ongoing. We also have agreed on how we can work together as a region to support Zimbabwe.”

Dr Tax reiterated President Mnangagwa’s call for peaceful elections and called on other stakeholders to follow suit.

“The suggestion is to continue encouraging (as the President has doing) assuring Zimbabweans that elections are going to take place and are going to be free, fair and credible. That is the suggestion but to also to call upon on all stakeholders to make sure that indeed they are part of that process, they use their civic right but also that they contribute to ensuring that the elections are peaceful and credible,” she said.

The Sadc pre-election observer mission was in the country early this year.

A number of missions, including from Europe and the US, have also been in the country to assess the pre-election environment.

Parliament is currently debating amendments to the Electoral Act as part of reforms requested by the opposition.

Dr Tax said she had also visited Zimbabwe to introduce herself to President Mnangagwa following his assumption of office last year.

“This is my first visit since the new President took over. So I was here to introduce myself to him and also to exchange views and get guidance from him on Sadc issues. That was the main purpose,” she said.

On the economic front, Dr Tax acknowledged that industrialisation was the way to go for the Sadc region.

“In terms of reforms, you know that Zimbabwe championed industrialisation and that is still the way. So the suggestion is let us continue transforming our economies to make sure that indeed we can trade equitably,” she said.

Earlier, Dr Tax had met Minister Cde Simon Khaya Moyo and senior Government officials.
War Between USA and Russia Will Break Out Only If Americans Cross Russia’s Red Lines
Pravda Report

Director of the Institute of the USA and Canada Valery Garbuzov compared the qualities of the commanders-in-chief of Russia and the United States.

War between USA and Russia will break out only if Americans cross Russia’s red lines. 62378.jpeg
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated that Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, as well as the military of the two countries, will never let a military confrontation spark.

"Getting back to the question of risks of a military confrontation, I am 100% certain that the military will not allow it, and, of course, neither President Putin nor, I'm sure, President Trump will allow it. They are the leaders elected by their peoples, and they are responsible to their people for peace and tranquility," Lavrov said in an interview with RIA Novosti.

Director of the Institute of the USA and Canada, Valery Garbuzov, suggested in an interview with Pravda.Ru that Lavrov's optimism is based on one argument: "The United States and Russia are nuclear powers. "We saw from the Cold War experience that the confrontation was tough, but it had not developed into direct confrontation," the expert told Pravda.Ru.

"These days, neither Russia, nor the United States are afraid to take drastic steps that lead to the state of confrontation and contribute to the growth of anti-Americanism in Russia and Russophobia in the US. This is certainly an abnormal situation. Thank God Lavrov has said that as it reduces the tension of the situation, in which just one mistake can lead to a direct clash," Valery Garbuzov told Pravda.Ru.

In his opinion, however, it is the military, rather than policy-makers of the two countries who have been showing greater adequacy in their behavior.

"It's more difficult for the Americans, because our commander-in-chief Vladimir Putin is a reserved man, but Trump is a very unrestrained person. He may say one thing today and then a completely different thing tomorrow," the expert said.

Lavrov's optimism is probably also connected with the fact that the United States did not cross the "red line" that Russia had drawn prior to the recent missile attack on Syria. "They were informed about the red lines, including geographical ones, on the ground. The results show that they did not cross those lines." Russian FM Lavrov said.

See more at http://www.pravdareport.com/russia/politics/20-04-2018/140815-usa_russia_war-0/
Syrian Forces Liberate Neighborhood in Southern Outskirts of Damascus - TV
April 22, 12:10 UTC+3

The militants suffered huge losses, Al-Manar TV station reported

TASS--April 22. Syria’s army and militias forced terrorists out of the al-Zayn neighborhood in the southern outskirts of Damascus on Sunday, the Al-Manar TV station reported.

During the operation, the forces blocked the strongholds of militants from the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra (terror groups, outlawed in Russia) in the south of the capital.

According to the TV channel, the government forces are advancing to the Tadamon neighborhood. The troops from the Al-Hajar al-Aswad neighborhood, where the key forces of the adversary are concentrated, are advancing towards them.

The attack of forces and militias in this area started after surgical strikes carried out by Syria’s Air Force and artillery on the command posts of terrorists and ammunition depots. The militants suffered huge losses.

On Friday, the IS and Jabhat al-Nusra militants, who control several strongholds in the south of Damascus, disrupted the ceasefire brokered with the Syrian military. The armed groups were expected to be withdrawn from the outskirts of Damascus to Al-Sukhnah, some 70 km from Palmyra, and to the north of Syria in the Idlib Governorate.

The number of terrorists in Al-Hajar al-Aswad and the neighboring Tadamon and the Yarmouk refugee camp stands at 1,220. The terrorists reached the southern outskirts of Damascus in 2015 and sporadically attacked roadblocks of the Syrian forces from there. On March 21, 36 servicemen were killed when repelling one of these attacks by militants.

Threat to Turkey Comes From ‘Strategic Partners’ – Erdogan
22 Apr, 2018 01:47

FILE PHOTO: President Erdogan poses with police officers © Kayhan Ozer / Reuters

Turkish President Recep Erdogan has sharply criticized the US and other NATO allies for their support of and reliance on Kurdish militias to keep a foothold in Syria, reiterating that Ankara views them as a threat to its security.

“We cannot buy weapons from the US with our money, but unfortunately, the US and coalition forces give these weapons, this ammunition, to terrorist organizations for free,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, in an interview on Turkish channel NTV.

“So where does the threat come from? It comes primarily from strategic partners,” he stated, emphasizing that Washington continues to funnel truck- and planeloads of weapons into Northern Syria.

“The US sent 5,000 trucks loaded with weapons to northern Syria,” the Turkish leader said, reiterating concerns he repeatedly voiced before, especially following the launch of military operations in northern Syria.

On January 20, Turkey launched a cross-border offensive into Syria with the aim of dislodging Kurdish “terrorists” from Afrin. The assault, codenamed Operation Olive Branch, has strained relations between Washington and Ankara – which has since threatened to expand the operation to Manbij and beyond. The Kurdish YPG are key US allies on the ground in this area, but Ankara views them as an offshoot of the terrorist-designated Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Washington, for its part, has also been critical of Ankara’s growing “misalignment” with the West and of its cozier relations with Russia and Iran. Ankara’s decision to buy S-400 air defense systems from Russia exposes Turkey to possible US sanctions, Assistant Secretary of State Wess Mitchell recently warned, noting that “it is in the American national interest to see Turkey remain strategically and politically aligned with the West.”

“The ease with which Turkey brokered arrangements with the Russian military to facilitate the launch of its Operation Olive Branch in the Afrin district –arrangements to which America was not privy– is gravely concerning,” he said. “Turkey lately has increased its engagement with Russia and Iran.”