Category Archives: World

Russian opposition leader arrested

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Alexei Navalny was taken by police officers during a rally in central Moscow

Russia’s main opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, has been arrested at an anti-corruption protest he organised in the capital, Moscow.

Thousands of people joined rallies nationwide, calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev over corruption allegations.

At least 500 other protesters were detained in the capital and across the country.

Most of the marches were organised without official permission.

TV pictures showed demonstrators chanting “Down with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin!”, “Russia without Putin!” and “Putin is a thief!”.

Correspondents say the marches appear to be the biggest since anti-government demonstrations in 2011 and 2012.

Alexei Navalny was detained as he arrived to join the rally in central Moscow. Protesters then tried to prevent a police van from taking him away.

In a tweet after his detention, he urged fellow protesters to continue with the demonstration.

“Guys, I’m fine. No need to fight to get me out. Walk along Tverskaya [Moscow main street]. Our topic of the day is the fight against corruption,” he said (in Russian).

He later said police stormed the office of his foundation and detained its staff, who were broadcasting the protests live.

Demonstrations were also held in Saint Petersburg, Vladivostok, Novosibirsk, Tomsk and several other cities, where arrests had also been reported.

The US has condemned “the detention of hundreds of peaceful protesters throughout Russia”.

“Detaining peaceful protesters, human rights observers, and journalists is an affront to core democratic values,” acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

He added that the US was “troubled” by Mr Navalny’s arrest.

In Moscow, protesters filled Pushkin square and some climbed the monument to poet Alexander Pushkin shouting “impeachment”. Turnout was estimated to be between 7,000 and 8,000, according to police.

The police said 500 protesters had been arrested in the capital alone, but a rights group, OVD Info, put that number at more than 800.

Alec Luhn, a journalist with UK newspaper The Guardian, was among those detained. He was released five hours later.

The Kremlin has not commented on the demonstrations. It had said on Friday that plans for an unauthorised protest in central Moscow were an illegal provocation.

Local media reports suggested the authorities pressured students not to attend. In some cities, exams were scheduled on Sunday.

Alexei Navalny announced his intention to run for president in 2018 against Vladimir Putin. But he is barred from doing so after being found guilty in a case he said was politicised.

He said on his website that protests were planned in 99 cities, but that in 72 of them authorities did not give permission.

Source: BBC

Police officers decapitated in DR Congo

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Militia fighters in DR Congo have decapitated about 40 police officers in an ambush in the central province of Kasai, local officials say.

Fighters from the Kamwina Nsapu group attacked a police convoy.

Six policemen who spoke the local Tshiluba were freed, but the rest were killed, Kasai Assembly President Francois Kalamba said.

The unrest in Kasai began last August, when security forces killed the Kamwina Nsapu leader.

Friday’s attack targeted a police convoy travelling between Tshikapa and Kananga.

The state Governor Alexis Nkande Myopompa said an investigation had been launched into the killings.

The UN says 400 people have been killed and 200,000 displaced in the Kasai region since Jean-Pierre Pandi, the Kamwina Nsapu leader, was killed.

This came two months after Kamwina Nsapu launched a bid, in June 2016, for him to be officially recognised as a local chief and for state bodies to withdraw from the region.

map

The UN says it has identified 10 mass graves where those killed in the unrest have been buried, as well as another seven suspected mass burial sites.

Two UN experts, an American and a Swede, were kidnapped in the area two weeks ago with four Congolese colleagues and are still missing.

DR Congo is in a state of increasing political uncertainty as President Joseph Kabila remains in power beyond the end of his mandate ,which expired last December.

Elections are now due to be held before the end of this year, but no firm date has been set.

Source: BBC | Africa

Trump defiant after healthcare failure

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US President Donald Trump has blamed Democrats for the failure of his healthcare bill.

Both houses of Congress are controlled by Mr Trump’s Republican party but the bill was withdrawn on Friday because it could not get the votes required.

Speaking to the Washington Post, Mr Trump said “We couldn’t get one Democratic vote, and we were a little bit shy… so we pulled it.”

The last-minute retraction is seen as a huge blow to the president.

Repealing and replacing the healthcare programme known as Obamacare was one of his major election pledges.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said he and Mr Trump agreed to withdraw the vote, after it became apparent it would not get the minimum of 215 Republican votes needed.

Republicans have a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

However, multiple reports suggested that between 28 and 35 Republicans were opposed to President Trump’s draft American Health Care Act (AHCA).

Some were said to be unhappy that the bill cut health coverage too severely, while others felt the changes did not go far enough.

The bill also appeared unpopular with the public – in one recent poll, just 17% approved of it.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated the AHCA would reduce the deficit by $336bn between 2017 and 2026.

However, the number of Americans without health insurance would stand at 52 million by the same time – an extra 24 million compared with Obamacare.

Speaking after the withdrawal, Mr Trump repeatedly said Obamacare would “explode”.

However, he refrained from criticising Mr Ryan, whose job as speaker of the House involves rallying support for controversial bills.

Mr Trump said: “I like Speaker Ryan. I think Paul really worked hard.”

Mr Ryan also told reporters the president had been “really been fantastic”.


How disastrous is this for Trump? Analysis by Anthony Zurcher, North America reporter

How bad was Friday’s defeat of the American Health Care Act in the House of Representatives? Bad. Very bad.

The AHCA was the first major piece of legislation pushed by the White House and the Republican-controlled Congress, a key political test early in the president’s term, when he should be at the height of his power and party cohesion at its strongest.

In spite of all of this, Mr Trump, Mr Ryan and the Republicans running Washington could not get the job done.

For Republicans Friday wasn’t just bad. It was a disaster.

Read more analysis here.


President Trump said the Republicans would probably focus on tax reform for now.

“We have to let Obamacare go its own way for a little while,” he told reporters at the Oval Office, adding that if the Democrats were “civilised and came together”, the two parties could work out a “great healthcare bill”.

“We learned about loyalty; we learned a lot about the vote-getting process,” he said.

Donald Trump speaks to reporters

Mr Trump said he believed the Democrats would “reach out when they’re ready” REUTERS

Earlier Mr Ryan told reporters: “We are going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future.

“I will not sugar-coat this. This is a disappointing day for us. Doing big things is hard.

“We were a 10-year opposition party where being against things was easy to do,” he said, adding that it was difficult to get “people to agree with each other in how we do things”.

Meanwhile, the leader of the House minority Democrats, Nancy Pelosi, described the retraction as “a victory for the American people”.


What did the bill propose?

  • Cuts the Medicaid programme for low earners
  • Provides tax credits to help people pay medical bills, but reduced compared to Obamacare
  • Ends penalties on those who do not buy health coverage
  • Allows insurers to raise premiums for older people
  • Blocks federal payments to women’s healthcare provider Planned Parenthood for a year
  • Insurers would no longer be required to include “essential benefits”, such as maternity care, mental health and emergency treatment

Source: BBC

Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak freed after six years in detention

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Mubarak was tried, convicted and cleared on various charges several times

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has been freed from detention, six years after being overthrown.

Mr Mubarak left a military hospital in southern Cairo and went to his home in the northern suburb of Heliopolis, his lawyer said.

He was ordered freed earlier this month after Egypt’s top appeals court cleared him over the deaths of protesters in the 2011 uprising.

Mr Mubarak, 88, became president in 1981 after Anwar Sadat’s assassination.

He had been at Maadi Military Hospital since 2013, when he was transferred there on bail from Torah prison.

Mr Mubarak was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted in 2012 of complicity in the killing of protesters who died at the hands of security forces in February, 2011.

Another trial was held and a judge decreed in May 2015 that Mr Mubarak could be released from detention.

However, the government of President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi was reportedly reluctant to free him because of the public backlash that might accompany such a move.

Mr Sisi served as Mr Mubarak’s military intelligence chief and led the military’s overthrow of his democratically elected successor, Mohammed Morsi, in 2013.

In all, more than 800 people are believed to have been killed as security forces clashed with protesters in Cairo, Alexandria, Suez and other cities around Egypt during the 18-day uprising that forced Mr Mubarak to resign.

Source: BBC

Gambia to set up truth commission to probe Jammeh’s rule

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The Gambia will set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate abuses committed during ex-President Yahya Jammeh’s rule, the justice minister has said.

The finances of Mr Jammeh would also be investigated, Abubacarr Tambadou added.

People would be encouraged to confess to crimes, and victims would be offered compensation, he said.

The former regime was accused of widespread torture and enforced disappearances during its 22-year rule.

There were also unconfirmed allegations that more than $11m (£8.8m) went missing from The Gambia’s state coffers following Mr Jammeh’s departure in January.

He fled to Equatorial Guinea in January after regional troops entered the tiny West African state to force him to accept defeat to property developer Adama Barrow in elections the previous month.

“A Truth and Reconciliation Commission with appropriate reparations for victims will be set up within the next six months and public hearings will be expected to commence by the end of the year,” Mr Tambadou said in a statement.

Former intelligence chief Yankuba Badjie was arrested in January, making him the first of Mr Jammeh’s security officials to be taken into custody by the new government.

No official reason was given for his arrest.

After his election victory, Mr Barrow pledged that his government would not seek vengeance against officials of the former regime, and would instead set up a South Africa-styled Truth and Reconciliation Commission to heal wounds of the past.

In a 2015 report, campaign group Human Rights Watch said Mr Jammeh’s regime “frequently committed serious human rights violations, including arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, and torture against those who voiced opposition”.

Torture methods included the “electroshock of body parts, including genitals and dripping melted plastic bags onto the skin”, it said.

The regime relied heavily on its intelligence agency to target opponents, and was also accused of running paramilitary hit squads.

It denied the allegation, insisting that it upheld the law.

Source: BBC

More than 200 migrants feared drowned in Mediterranean

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Only five bodies have been recovered

More than 200 migrants are feared dead in a boat sinking off the coast of Libya, a Spanish aid organisation says.

Proactiva Open Arms said it had recovered five bodies floating near two capsized boats, which can each hold more than 100 people.

The group’s Laura Lanuza said the five they pulled from the Mediterranean were young men who appeared to have drowned.

A spokesman for Italy’s coast guard, which co-ordinates rescues, confirmed the five deaths.

But he told the BBC that they could not confirm the estimates of deaths given by Proactiva, and said they had received no distress calls from any boats.

Ms Lanuza said at least 240 migrants may have died as the boats were often overloaded by smugglers.

“We brought on board five corpses recovered from the sea, but no lives,” the group wrote on its Facebook page.

“It is a harsh reality check of the suffering here that is invisible in Europe.”

Numbers of migrants trying to reach Europe from Libya via Italy have risen dramatically this year since the route between Turkey and Greece was effectively shut down.

The Italian coast guard said they had co-ordinated more than 40 rescue operations in the last few days.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says more than 20,000 migrants have arrived in Italy so far this year – and some 559 people are estimated to have died or gone missing en route.

This compares with fewer than 19,000 arrivals in Italy and about 350 deaths in the first three months of 2016.

“We have yet to complete March, and we are already racing at a pace of arrivals that has exceeded anything we’ve seen before in the Mediterranean,” IOM spokesman Joel Millman said earlier this week.

“This is typical of spring, getting very busy, but it’s not typical to have the numbers be so high this early and the corresponding deaths that go with it.”

Source BBC

Akufo-Addo condemns London terror attack

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Ghana’s leader Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has joined other world leaders to condemn Wednesday’s terror attack at Westminster in Central London, UK.

The attack left three persons including a policeman dead with several others injured. The gunman was shot dead by police.

In a tweet on Thursday to condemn the attacks, President Akufo-Addo expressed sympathies for the bereaved families and the injured.

He added: “This attack is a stark reminder of the threat terrorism poses to the world and the duty it imposes on us all to help combat this scourge”.

<blockquoteclass=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”>

This attack is a stark reminder of the threat terrorism poses to the world & the duty it imposes on us all to help combat this scourge. 2/2

— Nana Akufo-Addo(@NAkufoAddo) March 23, 2017

So far, eight persons have been arrested.

The attack has raised the hackles of security in London with Scotland Yard scouring for persons linked with the attacker, whose name has been given as Khalid Masood.

By Emmanuel Kwame Amoh|3news.com|Ghana

[Video] Girl takes off Pope’s skullcap

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A young girl of three years got all gathered at St Peter’s Square marveled after removing Pope Francis’ skullcap.

The Pope was blessing children, then.

Estella, as the girl’s name was given, was lifted by a Vatican aide to meet the Pope on Wednesday.

Watch the video below:

Source: 3news.com|Ghana

Is it safe to drink Fanta and Sprite?

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A recent court case in Nigeria has highlighted concerns that locally made soft drinks may be considered unsafe for human consumption elsewhere, as Ijeoma Ndukwe explains.

There has been uproar in Nigeria after it emerged that the company that manufactures Fanta and Sprite, the Nigeria Bottling Company (NBC), has been ordered by a court to place warning labels on its products, stating that they are unsafe when consumed alongside vitamin C.

The drinks are said by critics to contain high levels of the preservative benzoic acid and the colouring sunset yellow.

NBC is challenging the ruling.

The case has caused deepening concern in a country where Fanta, Sprite and Coca-Cola are probably the most widely consumed soft drinks.

Barbara Ukpabi owns a grill restaurant which serves local food in Oniru, Lagos. She says she might stop buying Fanta and Sprite for the restaurant and also has concerns about giving the drinks to her children.

“I was thinking of reducing how much I drink of it. I’ll be thinking of drinking less of it or going to other substitutes like juice.”

Although like many Nigerians, the habit is hard to break.

“I just had my lunch and I had Coke and water.”

Security guard John Uloko didn’t see the reports about the soft drinks in the newspapers but heard about it via WhatsApp and hasn’t drunk any since.

‘Flexing their muscles’

The ruling was the result of a nine-year-long court battle initiated by Nigerian businessman Fijabi Adebo.

John Uloko

John Uloko has stopped drinking Fanta and Sprite

In 2007, Mr Adebo shipped Nigerian-made Fanta and Sprite to the UK to sell at his chain of shops in Manchester.

His shipment was confiscated by UK customs, originally because of concerns about the authenticity of the beverages.

But when the UK health authorities tested the products, they were declared unsafe for human consumption and destroyed.

Mr Adebo sued NBC, Coca-Cola’s franchise owner in Nigeria, which had sold him the products.

They had refused to take financial responsibility for the incident.

He later extended the case to include the food standards agency Nafdac, on the grounds that it had allegedly not performed its duty.

Last month – nearly 10 years after he filed his case – a Lagos high court ruled against Nafdac and ordered the Nigerian Bottling Company to place written warnings on its Fanta and Sprite bottles.As NBC is appealing, the labels have not yet been added to the bottles.

Mr Adebo told the BBC: “Initially they were flexing their muscles, which dragged [out] the process. I went to court to compel Nafdac to do its duty.

Soft drinks in Nigerian store

The warning have not yet appeared as the ruling is being challenged

“We shouldn’t have a product that is considered substandard in Europe.”

His viewpoint is echoed by many, angered that products considered unsafe for consumption in the UK are legal in Nigeria.

The case has prompted discussions about accepted standards in the country.

Although benzoic acid is widely used as an antibacterial and antifungal preservative in acidic foods and beverages to extend their shelf life, studies have shown that the chemical can cause health problems in certain circumstances.

‘Toxic’

A scientist based in Nigeria, who has dealings with Nafdac and asked to remain anonymous, says some human toxicity studies have shown that benzoic acid may react with ascorbic acid (vitamin C) in soft drinks, forming benzene.

“While benzoic acid itself is relatively non-toxic, when benzene is formed in the presence of ascorbic acid in foods it is particularly dangerous, as benzene is widely known to be toxic and linked to many forms of cancer. These include leukaemia and other cancers of the blood,” the scientist said.

The secretary-general of the Nigerian Medical Association says it is impossible to make a judgement about acceptable levels of benzoic acid without conducting a local study looking at health implications over a long period of time.

Passers-by walk past the Nigerian Bottling Company in Lagos

Soft drinks may need more preservative in hotter countries AFP

Dr Yusuf Sununu Tanko says there are a number of examples where evaluations are different between countries because of differences in physical constitution, diet and environment.

“Each country has its own acceptable value of what is considered normal for what is fit for human consumption,” he says.

Nigeria’s health ministry published a statement in response to the public outcry, reassuring Nigerians that the drinks are safe for human consumption.

However, the ministry advises that medicines are taken with water to help “prevent unexpected drug-food interactions”.

Although the government has not spoken of enforcement, it “encourages” all bottling companies to include advisory warnings on all relevant products.

The Nigerian Bottling Company has appealed against the court ruling. It says the levels of benzoic acid in its soft drinks are “well within the levels approved” by both the national regulator and Codex Alimentarius, an international food standards body.

The company also says the ingredient levels set by countries for their food and beverages are influenced by factors such as climate, with drinks in hotter countries needing higher levels of preservative.

It also says there was “no proven case of negligence” or finding that the company had breached its duty of care to consumers.

The government’s Consumer Protection Council has formally requested documents from the Nigerian Bottling Company ahead of an independent inquiry.

With an appeal in motion and a government inquiry under way, this case is far from over.

Source: BBC

London attack: Seven held after armed police raids

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GETTY IMAGES

Seven arrests have been made in raids following the Westminster attack that left four dead, police have said.

Acting Deputy Commissioner and Head of Counter Terrorism Mark Rowley said hundreds of detectives have worked through the night, carrying out searches at six addresses.

Those who died were a woman in her 40s, a man in his 50s, PC Keith Palmer and the attacker, he said.

Seven of the injured are still in hospital in a critical condition.

A further 29 had been treated in hospital, Mr Rowley added.

In the attack on Wednesday, a man drove a car along a pavement in Westminster knocking down pedestrians, leaving dozens injured.

He then stabbed a policeman and was shot dead by police in the grounds of Parliament.

In a statement made outside Scotland Yard, Mr Rowley said: “The inquiries in Birmingham, London and other parts of the country are continuing.

“It is still our belief – which continues to be borne out by our investigation – that this attacker acted alone and was inspired by international terrorism.

“To be explicit, at this stage we have no specific information about further threats to the public.”

Map

He said he would not name the bridge victims yet, who were “a mix of nationalities”, and urged journalists not to publish the attacker’s name while searches were continuing.

He said Londoners should expect to see more police officers on the streets, after officers’ leave had been cancelled and duty hours extended.

It was initially thought that three members of the public had been killed on Westminster Bridge, but Mr Rowley referred to just two in his statement.

In other developments:

  • A witness told the Press Association that three men were arrested in an armed raid on a Birmingham address. The BBC understands this is linked to the London attack
  • There is an unconfirmed suggestion that the car used in the attack was hired from an address in Birmingham, BBC Newsnight says
  • Security at Parliament will be reviewed, says Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon
  • The Cabinet Office says it will observe a one-minute silence at 9.33 am to pay respect to the victims
  • The flag over the Houses of Parliament is flying at half mast
  • Parliament will sit, as normal, later
  • People worried about family and friends can call the police casualty bureau on: 0800 056 0944 or 0207 158 0010. Anyone with images or footage of the incident can send them to ukpoliceimageappeal.co.uk

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the “working assumption” was that the attack was linked to “Islamic terrorism in some form”.

He paid tribute to Pc Palmer, a 48-year-old father and husband, and an unarmed member of the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Squad who had served for 15 years.

Pc Palmer stopped the attacker getting into Parliament and “gave his life for the democracy we all cherish”, he told BBC Breakfast.

Asked about the mood of the city, Sir Michael said: “London is getting back to normal. They’ve seen terrorism like this before and they are not going to let it triumph.”

A floral tribute

AFP

Brendan Cox, the husband of murdered MP Jo Cox, said it was important to remember that “this was a story about people who didn’t come home yesterday”.

Prime Minister Theresa May, who will make a statement shortly, said the attack was a “sick and depraved” attack on the heart of the capital, and such attempts to defeat UK values were “doomed to failure”.

US President Donald Trump was among world leaders to offer their support, tweeting: “Spoke to UK Prime Minister Theresa May today to offer condolences on the terrorist attack in London. She is strong and doing very well.”

By Dominic Casciani, home affairs correspondent

The carnage on Westminster Bridge and inside the grounds of Parliament is the attack that security chiefs here in the UK have long been preparing for.

Terrorism looks not just to kill and maim – but to create panic and such a sense of disorder that it rocks a city or nation to its foundations.

And this attacker sought to do so in as low-tech way as is possible.

The days when terrorism meant large, complex bombs and months of planning are gone: Western security agencies – particularly MI5 and its partner agencies – are very, very good at identifying those plots and disrupting them.

The longer it takes to plan such an attack, the more people who are involved, the more chances there will be for security services to learn what is going on.

Source: BBC