IN his first speech to Congress as President of the United States, Barack Obama responded to criticism that he has sounded too negative in some speeches and set out his economic recovery plan in positive terms. He included a strong commitment to reform of America's health care system.

Later, in presenting his budget proposals, he said that increased taxes on the wealthy would help to pay for Medicare services. Virtually all his policies were criticised by Republicans. In Britain controversy over “reward for failure” by banks focussed on the pension of 693'000 pounds a year for Sir Fred Goodwin, the former chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland. Gordon Brown said it was “unacceptable” but Sir Fred claimed that the government had agreed to it when negotiating the bail-out of RBS. In Zimbabwe President Mugabe ordered the confiscation of the country's remaining white-owned farms; Morgan Tsvangirai, the power-sharing prime minister appeared unable to prevent these illegal seizures.