Early deployment of troops essential to ending suffering in Liberia UN envoy

Speaking to reporters at UN Headquarters in New York, Jacques Klein, Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s new Special Representative for Liberia, painted a grave picture of the current situation in and around the country’s war-torn capital city. Looting and robbery are widespread and reports of human rights violations are persistent, he said.Highlighting the dramatic deterioration of what was already one of the world’s worst humanitarian situations, Mr. Klein said that since fighting reached Monrovia early last month, at least 250,000 people had been displaced and were now scattered among at least 80 makeshift settlements around the capital. Desperate people, suffering form diseases like malaria and cholera, were unable to even forage for food because they fear for their lives.”The situation calls for quick and concerted international action to address the human suffering,” said Mr Klein. “The first step is obviously the reestablishment of secure conditions in which humanitarian agencies can operate, so the key is the early deployment of the advanced guard of West African troops.”Mr. Klein said United States President George W. Bush had assured the Secretary-General during meetings held in Washington earlier in the week that he is committed to helping in what would clearly be a “sequence process” to restoring order in Liberia.”The American side is looking to ECOWAS [Economic Community of West African States] to go in first,” he said, adding that once sufficient West African troops are on the ground, there could then conceivably be a US presence, at which point Liberian President Charles Taylor would leave the country, “hopefully for Nigeria.””Then over the next two months or so, we hope that a safe and secure environment could be established so we could then set up a peacekeeping mission sometime later this fall, said Mr. Klein, noting that he was now in the process of assembling the team to carry out a basic assessment of what sized civilian, military and police restructuring components such a mission would require.Asked if “two months or so” of transition meant the US would stay only for that long, Mr. Klein said he did not know, because the US had not made a commitment yet to actually go. “ECOWAS needs to move quickly,” he said, “that is the key.” ECOWAS units had been trained and should be ready. The US would not make their decision before ECOWAS troops were deployed.Responding to several question about the projected departure of President Taylor, Mr. Klein said it was his understanding that he would leave the day the US arrived. Hopefully he would go to Nigeria, where he would play a “less visible” role. The danger was, however, someone with a cell phone in Nigeria still manipulating things abroad. That would not help stabilize the situation in Liberia. “Real constraints would need to be in place,” he added.Mr. Klein said Liberia’s Vice President was expected to take charge and there would be an interim government for a period of time. There were many people in the diaspora who would like nothing more than to return and aid in the process of reconstruction. It would take some two years to rebuild Liberia’s infrastructure in terms of political parties ahead of eventual elections, which would allow the Liberian people, for the first time in many years, to determine their own future. read more

McDonalds struggles in China Japan persists following foodquality scares

FILE – This Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015, file photo, shows a McDonald’s fast food restaurant sign in Chicago. On Monday, Feb. 9, 2015, McDonald’s said that a key global sales metric fell 1.8 percent in January, continuing to be weighed down by struggles in Japan and China. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File) by The Associated Press Posted Feb 9, 2015 6:21 am MDT McDonald’s struggles in China, Japan persists following food-quality scares AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email OAK BROOK, Ill. – Food-quality scares are hurting McDonald’s in China and Japan, where weakness contributed to a key global sales figure falling 1.8 per cent.The world’s largest hamburger chain said sales dropped 12.6 per cent in January at locations open at least 13 months in the division that includes the Asia region. That overshadowed a 0.4 per cent rise at U.S. locations and a comparable 0.5 per cent increase in Europe.McDonald’s shares fell $1.27, or 1.4 per cent, to close Monday at $92.72.McDonald’s Corp. said its performance in Asia was hurt by customer perception issues in Japan, where a human tooth, plastic pieces and other objects have been found in its food. In China, McDonald’s is trying to recover from the ongoing fallout from another food-safety scandal.Over the summer, an undercover TV report in the country showed one of McDonald’s major suppliers repackaging meat that was alleged to be expired. The claim has not been publicly confirmed by the supplier or the government. But the plant stopped operations, and many of McDonald’s restaurants in the country were left unable to sell burgers, chicken nuggets and other items. The chain’s reputation took a hit as well.Chief Financial Officer Peter Bensen said during a January conference call that McDonald’s estimates it will take at least three to six more months for its business in China to return to normal. He said worsening perceptions are expected to hurt Japan’s results for “the foreseeable future.”Back in the U.S., McDonald’s said breakfast items performed well but that it was offset by tough competition. The chain is dealing with competition on a number of fronts, including convenience stores that are selling more food and smaller chains such as Chipotle that market themselves as being of higher quality.The rise in Europe reflected strength in the U.K. and Germany largely offset by softness in France and Russia.As it struggles to fix its business, McDonald’s Corp. said late last month that it was replacing CEO Don Thompson with Steve Easterbrook, its chief brand officer.The announcement came after McDonald’s reported a drop in its fourth-quarter earnings and sales and said it was making major changes in 2015 to win back customers.The company said it will cut down new restaurant openings in certain markets. It’s also simplifying its menu and looking to offer customers more ways to customize their burgers and giving them multiple ways to order, such as at a self-order kiosk or with a mobile device.McDonald’s has more than 36,000 locations in more than 100 countries. read more