The call to prayer rang on a recent afternoon from Jamia Mosque, a landmark in downtown Nairobi with green and silver domes and multiple minarets. There should be worshipers converging there during this sacred month of Ramadan, but the mosque’s doors remained shut, its prayer halls empty since closing in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
With no congregation to join, I sat in the car, rolled down the windows and listened to the muezzin’s voice, a mellifluous sound that instantly made me cry.
This is a Ramadan like no other. The pandemic, which in Kenya has infected at least 1,109 people and killed at least 50 others, has given us the gift of loneliness. Isolated under a partial lockdown in Nairobi and a nationwide curfew that stretches from dusk to dawn, millions of Muslims in Kenya and beyond have exchanged sprawling banquets for dining alone and observing the evening taraweeh prayers from home.GLOBAL UPDATESRead live developments on the coronavirus pandemic.
I chafe at the imposed restrictions sometimes because, with 21 siblings and 17 nephews and nieces, the iftar meal to break the daily fast has always for me been a bustling family affair. We would start with dates, then gorge on spicy samosas and chicken biryani, pass around my mother’s legendary camel meat, and share cakes and sweet chai.
Many times, particularly when we were young, we would even watch an episode or two of the historical epics or weepy melodramas that are a mainstay of Arab television during Ramadan. But this year, we are getting more than enough drama from real life.
And so we stay physically apart but find unity in the rituals of fasting and feasting. Things might be falling apart, but I have come to find comfort and continuity in the small things: the paneer samosas sent by a friend’s mom, the afternoon runs at a nearby, almost-empty forest, the messages from loved ones checking in from all over the world — and the sound of the azan, the call to prayer, broadcast from the tops of minarets.
Countries around the world have slapped varying degrees of restrictions on their populations in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus. Many have effectively shut their borders except to nationals returning home, imposed strict controls on internal travel and ordered people to stay in their homes.
UK citizens are asked to stay at home and only leave the house for one of four reasons: Shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine; one form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle; any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person; or travelling to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home.
If someone refuses to follow the regulations – for instance if they refuse when told by police to go home – officers can give them an on-the-spot fine of £60, reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days. If they keep breaking the law, more fines can be given – up to a maximum of £960.
Physical exercise is also permitted within a kilometre of one’s home and for no more than an hour.
You must write the time on your form before leaving and return home before the hour is up.
Fines for non-compliance start at €135 (£120) and rise to €200 for anyone who repeats the violation within two weeks. Four violations within 30 days are punishable by a six-month prison term and €3,750 fine.
Some 359,000 fines have been handed out in two weeks.
Under Italy’s rigid quarantine regime, which have tightened since first being imposed on March 9, people are only allowed out if they are going to work, collecting medicine or shopping for essential food.
They are not allowed to leave their municipality unless they have an urgent need.
To do so, they must fill in a form explaining the reasons for leaving home.
Under Spain’s state of emergency regulations, citizens can only go out alone to buy food, seek medical care, for emergencies or to work in essential industries.
Last weekend, it tightened its national lockdown, ordering all non-essential workers to stay at home for the next two weeks. Only workers in hospitals, pharmacies, the food supply chain and other essential industries are required to work until the end of Easter, in mid-April.
Police have been accused of using violence to enforce strict restrictions on movement, and hundreds have been arrested or fined for flouting the measures.
Fines vary from €100 for entering restricted areas to €600,000 and prison terms for serious abuse of emergency restrictions, such as protesting near infrastructure including power stations or transit hubs.
There is no nationwide curfew but more than two people can’t be outside together unless they’re part of the same household. Going for a walk with a friend who lives nearby is fine but groups of three or more are forbidden unless with family or roommates – as long as you keep at least 1.5m apart.
There are no sweeping, Germany-wide guidelines on fines, leaving it up to the individual states to decide for themselves. The western German states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate, for their part, could impose penalties of up to €25,000.
Going for a run, a walk, riding a bike, playing with your kids or taking your dog out are all allowed. Going to work is fine, so is emergency care for children. Grocery shopping, doctor’s visits, necessary appointments, helping others in need are authorised.
Belgians must stay indoors and only go out for essential reasons, including health, food, banking, pharmacies, post office, petrol and to help others in need. Gatherings are banned.
Outdoor sports activities and walks outside are still allowed, but only in small groups, with a friend or with family members living under the same roof.
In theory, travelling for work can only be done with a certificate from the employer.
Supermarkets in Belgium remain open, but shoppers are only admitted if there is enough space for one person per 10 square metres, and they must not stay for more than 30 minutes.
Fines range from €26 to €500 and prison terms of between eight days and three months for repeat offenders.
The government has urged people to stay at home as much as possible, and leave the house only to go to work if people cannot work at home, to buy groceries or to take care of others. They can go out to get some fresh air, but not in groups.
All events and gatherings of three people or more (that are not from the same household) are banned until 1 June.
In public, a distance of at least 1.5 meters between people not from the same household must be observed, and shops and other venues are to enforce this distancing among their visitors.
Fines will be issued to those not complying with the new rules. Companies faces a fine up to €4,000 and individuals of up to €400 for non-compliance.
The health ministry has issued a series of general recommendations for municipalities and states and cities with a high number of cases.
These include reducing social contact with the elderly and the chronically ill; cancelling events in closed places; declaring early school holidays; and quarantine if the occupancy of ICU beds for the treatment of Covid-19 reaches 80 per cent.
Leisure, cultural and sporting events are banned to avoid crowds. Several universities and schools across the country have suspended activities.
However, far-right president Jair Bolsonaro has campaigned on social media under the slogan: “Brazil can’t stop,” suggesting that there is no need for the country to impose self-isolation rules.
The campaign was banned by judges in Rio de Janeiro.
Sweden adopted a laissez-faire approach to the outbreak early on, issuing recommendations, including for everyone to follow good hygiene practices, work from home if possible, and avoid all non-essential travel.
Elderly people and those in other high-risk groups were asked to avoid leaving their homes as much as possible, for example by doing grocery orders online or asking friends, neighbours or relatives to run errands. And anyone showing symptoms was asked to self-isolate and avoid all social contacts.
But food outlets in Stockholm continue to operate and receive customers. Schools for young people under 16, gyms, clothing stores and even some busy ski resorts have remained open (although major ones are now shutting).
Last Friday, Sweden toughened its “light touch” strategy and restaurants, bars, cafés and nightclubs were told to offer seated table service only; public events of over 50 people were banned.
Violations come with fines or prison terms of up to six months.
There is also a nationwide ban on visits to elderly care homes.
The country has a strictly enforced home quarantine system and an exhaustive contact-tracing programme.
Since the start of the outbreak thousands of people in Singapore have isolated themselves. Anyone required to do so can be called multiple times a day and asked to click an online link sharing their phone’s location. Officials also carry out spot checks in person to ensure compliance. Those who do not stay home can expect a fine of up to $10,000 or up to six months in prison.
India has limited the movement of the entire 1.3 billion population for 21 days. The lockdown was ordered after a 14-hour voluntary public curfew on 22 March, followed by enforcement of a series of regulations in affected regions.
People have been told to stay at home. All transport services – road, air and rail are suspended with exceptions for transportation of essential goods, fire, police and emergency services. Schools and non-essential businesses are shut. Food shops, banks and ATMs, petrol pumps, and key manufacturers are exempt. Anyone who fails to follow the restrictions can face up to a year in jail, according to the home ministry.
The country has imposed strict home confinement and a 14-day quarantine rule for foreigners with maximum penalties for breaching them in different states and territories ranging from $50,000 (£24,500) fines to six months’ jail time.
Australians in the state of New South Wales face a six-month sentence and a A$11,000 fine for leaving their own homes without a “reasonable excuse”.
The laws also ban gatherings of more than two people in public unless the people are members of the same household.
Western Australian police have been given greater powers to charge people for “failing to follow a directive” if they breach social distancing and self-isolation requirements, with on-the-spot A$1,000 (£500) fines also expected to be introduced this week.
In Victoria, Australia’s second-most populous state after New South Wales, Premier Daniel Andrews said residents will be fined $1,600 if they’re caught gathering in public in groups of more than two.
One 30-year-old man faces up to six months in prison and could be forced to watch videos of coffins of coronavirus victims after breaching self-isolation orders three times in twelve days.
South Africa has restricted people to their homes for most activities including exercise, only permitting excursions for buying food or health emergencies.
During the shutdown, there will be no jogging, dog-walking or sale of alcohol across the country.
Among Africa’s strictest, the lockdown empowers the government to call out the army to enforce it and making the deliberate dissemination of false information a criminal offence.
Violation of the regulations carries a maximum six-month jail sentence or a fine.
Kenya has enforced strict curfew measures, with all people ordered to stay indoors between 7pm and 5am, with key workers such as medical staff exempt from the measure.
Police are allowed to us “proportionate force where non-violent means are inadequate to achieve the objectives of the curfew,” but many have complained of brutal police tactics, claiming police have teargassed commuters and harassed doctors and nurses.
Senegalese President Macky Sall’s official visit to neighbouring Mauritania ended on Tuesday with the two countries signing a number of deals – on security, transport, energy, mining and fishing.
The Atlantic coast is rich in fish stocks, and fishing is key to both nations’ economies.
But decades of mainly European and Asian trawlers scouring the coastline have meant that the waters have been over-fished. There has also been tension between Senegal and Mauritania over fishing rights.
For more than eight years, the Libyan conflict has festered and the European Union has mostly looked away. Libya mattered, if at all, as a playground for terrorism and a source of the migrants disrupting European politics.
But with the recent involvement of Russia and Turkey on opposite sides of a nasty civil war, adding to the meddling of other neighbors, Europe has suddenly woken to the implications of a new Great Game, this time in North Africa, that is rapidly destabilizing its backyard. Belatedly, the Continent is paying attention.
It will not be easy, as potential oil and gas bonanzas intensify the jockeying. Increasingly, the fate of Libya’s precarious internationally backed government hangs in the balance.
“There has been a major reawakening of geopolitical interest in Libya,” said Ian Lesser, director of the Brussels office of the German Marshall Fund and an expert on Turkey and the Mediterranean.
“That begins with issues of migration, energy, security and counterterrorism,” he added. “But it is just as much about the geopolitics of relations with Russia and Turkey. If they had not been so assertive, Libya would not have attracted such attention now.”
But Europe looks weak and peripheral. Kristina Kausch, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund, said, “Now the Europeans are worried, but it’s too late and we’re out of the picture.”
“Russia and regional powers are playing Europe in our own neighborhood,” she added.
The Libyan mess began with the 2011 overthrow of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi after intervention by European forces, with American help. Justified on humanitarian grounds, the war produced chaos when those same Western forces largely abandoned energy-rich Libya to warring militias.
Many weapons of the old regime spread all over the sub-Saharan region, feeding other militants and terrorist groups, and producing thousands of refugees and migrants seeking safety in Europe.
Libya remains a major transit and jumping-off point for sub-Saharan Africans hoping to make the crossing to Europe. Since the migration crisis of 2015-16, “the E.U. viewed Libya mainly through the prism of the migration problem,” said Claudia Gazzini, a senior analyst for the International Crisis Group.
Individual European countries, at the same time, pursued their own, divergent interests in Libya, often at cross-purposes.
It has also made the fissures in the Europeans’ approach to Libya more and more untenable as the civil war turns into a wider playground for outsiders.
On one side, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, France and now Russia support Khalifa Hifter, whose forces have laid siege to Tripoli, the capital, threatening the internationally backed government there.
On the other, Qatar, Italy and now Turkey support the Government of National Accord. Created by a 2015 United Nations-sponsored political deal, the government is led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.
The divisions between France and Italy have already split the European Union and weakened its positioning on Libya.
The new European Union foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell Fontelles, has brought new thinking and “a renewed energy and willingness to look at Libya as a crisis and a war in and of itself,” said Ms. Gazzini of the International Crisis Group.
In the last month, Mr. Borrell has repeatedly emphasized the dangers of Turkish military involvement in Libya and has criticized Europe’s preference for citing international law as a response to every conflict.
“We Europeans, since we don’t want to participate in a military solution, we barricade ourselves in the belief there is no military solution,’’ he told the European Parliament this week. “Nobody will be very happy if, on the Libyan coast, there is a ring of military bases from the Russian and Turkish navies in front of the Italian coast.”
He added in a Twitter message: “But this is something that could very much happen. We need to engage strongly, keep Libya united and find a peaceful solution to this conflict.”
That will not be so easily done.
Just last week, Russia and Turkey brought both Mr. Hifter and Mr. Sarraj to Moscow to get them to sign a permanent cease-fire agreement, another sign of Russian diplomatic activity to fill vacuums created by Europe and the United States.
But Mr. Hifter, who believes he can still take Tripoli, refused to obey his Russian backers and left Moscow without signing.
Some believe that he will agree to do so on Sunday in Berlin, and that his signature, sincere or not, will be a kind of gesture from President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to the German chancellor, Angela Merkel.
The Trump administration, which had supported the Sarraj government and the United Nations process, reversed course last April, after a meeting with Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, according to the International Crisis Group.
A senior State Department official said that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who altered his schedule to attend the high-level meeting, would urge three things: the continuation of a cease-fire; the withdrawal of all external forces; and a return to a Libyan-led political process facilitated by the United Nations.
But as with the European Union, there would appear to be little force behind those goals, and the messaging has stopped short of expressing support for the government of Mr. Sarraj.
Historical alliances in Libya and interest in gas finds in the eastern Mediterranean are at the heart of the problem, and have raised the stakes for the outside parties.
Migration aside, Italy, the former colonial power, and its energy giant, Eni, are key players in Libya. So stability matters for Rome, and the government has also tried to mediate between Mr. Hifter and Mr. Sarraj.
But with the trend of the fighting moving Mr. Hifter’s way, and Eni shifting to more commercial interests in the eastern Mediterranean, the Italian position has become more ambiguous.
“Russian influence started first and foremost on gas and oil infrastructure,” said Tarek Megerisi of the European Council on Foreign Relations.
“If a situation unfolds whereby Russia and Turkey make peace, and Russia makes heavy investments in oil and gas infrastructure in Libya, that means that’s one more pipeline into Europe that’s in the hands of Russians,” he added. “That’s quite dangerous.”
For other Mediterranean neighbors, Greece and Cyprus, who stand to gain if gas exploration yields commercially viable finds, Libya is crucial.
Despite the cacophony, the meeting in Berlin, if modestly successful, could begin turning the tide for European involvement in Libya, and ultimately for Libya itself, Mr. Megerisi said.
“It’s not that Europe is incapable, it seems that it’s unwilling,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be that way. They do have tools at their disposal. They do have some cards to play.”
Niki Kitsantonis contributed reporting from Athens, and Jason Horowitz and Emma Bubola from Rome.
About 300,000 people were killed in the conflict and some 2.7 million were forced from their homes during the war, according to the United Nations.
Sudan has kick-started investigations into the long, bloody suppression of the Darfur region under the government of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, a move aimed at ending years of impunity and bringing perpetrators to justice amid a fragile political transition.
The Sudanese attorney general, Taj al-Sir al-Hibir, said Sunday that the government would look into atrocities committed against civilians in Darfur beginning in 2003, in the first indication that Mr. al-Bashir and some of his allies could face charges related to human rights abuses in Sudan.
Mr. al-Bashir ruled Sudan with an iron fist for almost three decades — a tenure marked by human rights abuses, economic decline, and entrenched corruption. He was indicted a decade ago by the International Criminal Court in The Hague on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity over his government’s actions in the Darfur region from around 2003 to 2008.
His rule came to an end in April after a months-long uprising and just over a week ago, the 75-year-old former leader was found guilty of corruption and illegal possession of foreign currency and sentenced to two years of detention. He faces other charges including some stemming from the crackdown that left scores of anti-government protesters dead this year and his role in the putsch that brought him to power in 1989.
Mr. al-Bashir was replaced by a transitional government that is working to put the northeast African nation on a path to a full-fledged democracy and lift it out of decades of diplomatic and economic isolation. The new government is also under pressure to redress the wrongs of the past.
After Mr. al-Bashir was sentenced last week, human rights agencies called on the transitional government to take concrete measures against perpetrators of violence in Darfur. But delivering that justice may prove easier said than done, given that some of Mr. al-Bashir’s most trusted confidants continue to hold prominent positions in government.
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“The transitional government of Sudan must demonstrate that the ongoing transition will not obscure past crimes and will take into account the demands of all populations in the different regions of the country, including Darfur, for long-lasting peace and justice,” Arnold Tsunga, director of the Africa regional program of the International Commission of Jurists, said in a statement.
The Darfur conflict flared when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against Mr. al-Bashir’s government, accusing it of economic and political marginalization. About 300,000 people were killed in the conflict and some 2.7 million were forced from their homes, according to the United Nations.
Sudan’s military has said it will not hand over Mr. al-Bashir to The Hague for trial, even as human rights advocates like Amnesty International have called for his extradition. So while human rights activists have endorsed the notion of regional investigations, they have also expressed concerns.
“The victims in Darfur have the right to justice, and they will be given that justice if al-Bashir is tried in the I.C.C.,” said Amir Suliman, a Sudanese human rights lawyer and co-founder of the nonprofit African Center for Justice and Peace Studies.
Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok visited the Darfur region in November and promised that his administration would bring peace and help to the victims. Continuing violence and growing food insecurity there are affecting millions of people, the United Nations says.
Among Mr. al-Bashir’s confidants who remain in power is Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan, also known as Hemeti. He is a member of a prominent council tasked with the transition to democracy.
A report released this month by the Paris-based organization International Federation for Human Rights in conjunction with the African Center for Justice said Darfuri refugees in eastern Chad still suffered physical and psychological consequences from the war. They feel “forgotten and abandoned,” Mr. Suliman said.
The victims, he said, are looking to both regional and international governments for justice and humanitarian aid.
“We are closely watching to see where this investigation will go,” he said.
Schools targeted by extremist groups as half a million people are driven from their homes by violence and the climate crisis.
Roukiata Sow looks tired. The mother of five has welcomed 26 people under the roof of her small brick house. “What will those kids become? Some haven’t been to school for more than two years … Are they all going to be bandits?” she asks.
She is sitting, her head draped in a long grey veil, with other women and girls in a small courtyard in front of her home in Dori, the capital of the Sahel region of northern Burkina Faso.
“In this neighbourhood only, there are about 4,000 displaced persons. Every week, more are coming. We never thought this situation could happen in Burkina Faso. It seemed far from us,” she says. “I don’t even like watching war movies on TV. And now, it happens at home. For real.”
This year more than half a million people have left their homes as a result of the insecurity, exiled in their own land. Most have been taken in by other communities, given shelter and a share of meagre resources by people like Roukiata Sow. Others are living in tents or public buildings.
“This is an unprecedented humanitarian crisis for the country,” says Metsi Makhetha, the UN resident coordinator. “The situation deteriorated so quickly, that we struggled to adjust the response to the level of emergency. We are now catching up, but so far we have only received 41% of the funds that would be needed.”
Until a few years ago, Burkina Faso had been spared the terrorist threat that has plagued its northern neighbour, Mali.
But now attacks by armed men are happening every week, mainly near the northern and eastern borders. Several Islamist groups are active, in addition to various trafficking networks that thrive in chaos.
Badly trained and poorly motivated, the army has been struggling to contain the insurgency, in a war for which it was not prepared. Human rights groups have accused soldiers and militias of abuses that have fuelled the cycle of violence.
In the worst affected regions of the country, where the state has largely lost control, education has been put on hold. “Western” or secular education has been portrayed as unnecessary, or corrupting, by some radical Islamist preachers. Teachers have been killed and classrooms burned down.
About 1,800 schools have closed. “Tens of thousands of children are out of school, says Bernard Kitambala, Unicef office manager in Dori. “There have been threats, and some have been carried out.”
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In a primary school in Dori, a teacher tries to make herself heard over the voices of a hundred children in the classroom. About half were displaced from neighbouring provinces or villages.
“It is not easy to teach in these conditions. They find it hard to focus. Two tents have been set up in the courtyard, and we’re using them as classrooms,” she says. “I’m scared, but we have to keep going. These children have the right to an education.”
For some, the danger has become too great. “We were in class when suddenly we heard gunshots. It was coming from everywhere around. We laid on the floor. Then we evacuated the students to safety,” says Tidiane Koundaba, a teacher in the village of Gorgadji, some 40 miles further west.
In a transit centre in Dori, he is waiting with several other teachers to be reappointed to a different area of the country. “The school was not directly targeted that time. But after they attacked the town hall, and the police station, we thought we might be the next target,” he says.
The violence has deeply traumatised those affected. Ramata, 15, was asleep at home late one April night when she was awoken by the sound of gunshots. “They came on motorbikes. The jihadists. They wore headscarves on their heads,” she says.
“They fired until dawn.” Her uncle and several other relatives were killed. Terrified, she ran into the bush. “I fled with my family, we were about 40 people. We didn’t even have time to put shoes on.”
Ramata now lives in Kaya, a city 60 miles north-east of the capital, Ouagadougou, which has become a refuge for many displaced families. She spends her days in an open space built for children and teenagers who have not yet been able to return to school, for lack of financial means or available space.
“Those children had to flee, some saw people being killed, many have nightmares,” says Lucienne Kontogom, the supervisor. “It’s important that we give them a sense of security.”
Here they play, receive basic education, and take part in group therapy sessions. With support from social workers, they try to understand what they have experienced.
“There’s a feeling of abandonment among those populations. Many feel that the state is doing nothing – or not enough – to help them. There’s a lot of bitterness,” says Chrizogone Zougmoré, president of the Burkinabe Movement for Human Rights.
“This very worrying. Because it’s a feeling that terrorist groups can manipulate. In these already marginalised regions, there’s a risk that a limited access to education and even fewer opportunities could drive more young people into armed groups.”
The organisers of an international student sports competition have called for two Nigerian table tennis players to be returned to their own country after Croatian police wrongly deported them to a Bosnian refugee camp.
Abia Uchenna Alexandro and Eboh Kenneth Chinedu, students at the Federal University of Technology Owerri in Nigeria, arrived in Zagreb on 12 November, on their way to participate in the fifth World InterUniversities Championships, held this year in Pula, Croatia.
The 18-year-old table tennis players left Pula for Zagreb after the tournament, and were supposed to fly back to Lagos on 18 November. However, the night before their departure, while taking a walk in the Croatian capital they were stopped by two police officers who asked them for identification documents.
“We tried to explain who we were and that our documents were in the hostel, but they took us to a police station,” Chinedu told the Bosnian websiteŽurnal. “They paid no attention to what we were saying.”
The officers mistook them for undocumented immigrants, put them in a van and transferred them to the border with Bosnia-Herzegovina where, that day, Croatian authorities had gathered together a group of migrants intercepted as they were attempting to cross the country. Police ordered the group to move through the woods and into Bosnia-Herzegovina.
“I refused to go into the woods,” said Chinedu. “The officer told me he would shoot me if I didn’t move.”
Uchenna and Chinedu were eventually deported to Bosnia-Herzegovina and ended up in a camp in Velika Kladuša, where thousands of migrants are stuck in tents without water or heating with temperatures as low as -2C.
The two Nigerian students could not make themselves understood and it took until the end of November before volunteers at the camp contacted representatives of the table-tennis competition to tell them Uchenna and Chinedu were trapped there.
“They told me two students from Nigeria were taken to Bosnia by Croatian police,” the organiser Alberto Tanghetti told the Guardian. “I asked them to send me photos and their names. After careful verification, we confirmed that those boys had participated in the tournament and had regular visas, issued by the Croatian authorities. I really don’t understand what happened, because even the police in Pula were notified that they were here.”
He added: “It is even more absurd that no one believed the boys when they tried to explain to the police officers that they had regular visas. It would have sufficed to accompany them to the hostel to verify that they had entered Croatia legally.”
A spokesperson for the Croatian interior ministry said that the police had investigated the Nigerians’ claims
“Police officers have already witnessed cases of individuals who make an attempt to or even abuse their participation in sports competitions in Croatia to remain in the country,” the spokesperson said.
The ministry of the interior has confirmed that the Nigerians had regular visas and entered Croatia legally, but suggested that the students were making an attempt to remain and that the pair had checked out from the hostel before being stopped by the police.
But the police’s version of the facts does not explain why the officers deported the Nigerians to Bosnia, knowing that the students had entered the country with a flight to Zagreb and not from Bosnia.
“Those people are victims of illegal acts of the Croatian side,” Dragan Mektić, Bosnia-Herzegovina’s minister of security, told Al Jazeera. “Respecting legal procedures, we now have to take them back to Croatia … It is obvious that they have Croatian visas, that they are in Bosnia and Herzegovina illegally. From their statements, it is obvious that Croatian police forcibly displaced them and we have to bring them back there.”
For years, aid workers and agencies have accused the Croatian authorities of illegally sending migrants trying to cross the border back to Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Migrants are systematically beaten by Croatian police, who strip asylum seekers of their personal items and destroy their mobile phones to avoid being filmed.
Last year, the Guardian documented compelling evidence of the physical abuse perpetrated by Croatian police, of which migrants in the Bosnian cities of Bihać and Velika Kladuša have been complaining. Croatia has denied any wrongdoing in that case.
The boat, which left Gambia on Nov. 27, was headed toward the Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago off the northwestern coast of Africa, when it tried to approach Mauritania to get fuel and food, Laura Lungarotti, chief of the Mauritania mission with the United Nations migration agency, said on Wednesday.
“Many drowned,” she added. “The ones who survived swam up to the Mauritanian coast close to the city of Nouadhibou.”
At least 83 people swam to shore and were receiving treatment, the agency said. Interior Minister Mohamed Salem Ould Merzoug said 10 people were taken to a hospital for “urgent” treatment. The survivors were receiving care in accordance with “human solidarity, fraternity and African hospitality,” the minister’s statement said.
The Mauritanian authorities also said security forces had found 85 survivors, and the search for an unknown number of missing people continued on Thursday. The boat held as many as 180 people, most of them ages 20 to 30.
Mauritania will open an investigation into those responsible for the tragedy, including possible trafficking networks, the statement said.
Between 2005 and 2010, thousands died off Mauritania’s coast in attempts to reach the Canary Islands, but that traffic later calmed, the statement said. But in recent months, the authorities have detained boats carrying hundreds of migrants mostly from Senegal, a neighbor of Gambia, it said.
There was no immediate statement from the authorities in Gambia, where tens of thousands of people have set off in hopes of reaching Europe in recent years. More than 35,000 Gambians arrived in Europe between 2014 and 2018, according to the United Nations migration agency.
President Yahya Jammeh’s 22-year oppressive rule severely affected the country’s economy, which contributed greatly to the exodus. Since Mr. Jammeh fled into exile in January 2017 after a surprise election loss, European countries have been pushing to return asylum seekers.
But Gambia’s economy still suffers. The coastal nation was shaken this year by the collapse of the British travel company Thomas Cook. At the time, Gambia’s tourism minister said the government had convened an emergency meeting on the collapse, while some Gambians said the shutdown could have a devastating impact on tourism, which contributes more than 30 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.
If there is room enough for everyone, then there would be no need to scramble. The same goes for wealth. If wealth is evenly distributed, then there would be no need to envy and attempt to outdo one another; the bane of xenophobia.
Xenophobic attacks are spun from inequality and bad leadership, both of which are significant in South Africa. According to Oxfam South Africa’s democracy and governance manager, Mthandazo Ndlovu, “inequality in South Africa has been exacerbated as a result of systemic failures at a government level.” That is to say, there is a nexus between inequality, bad governance and xenophobia and if the hedge binding them are not broken, the serpent of discord will keep striking, leading in many more deaths in South Africa.
Foreigners have always faced discrimination in South Africa, and contrary to what many thought, post-apartheid did not eliminate xenophobic attacks in the country; if anything, it made it worse. Between 2008 and 2019 about 200 people have lost their lives, no thanks to xenophobia. Mandela’s rainbow nation was supposed to show the world how a new, equitable society could be built out of the ashes of repression and racism. But by some measures, inequality in the country today is worse than it was under apartheid.
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Though the South African law integrates the once divided white, black and Indian populace, silent segregation and hostility still persist in different parts of the country mainly due to the widening gap between the rich and poor in South Africa.
The country remains the most economically unequal country in the world and in the last eight years, over three million South Africans have been living below the poverty line, a study by Statistics South Africa shows. Currently, over 30.4 million South Africans, about 55.5 percent live on less than 992 rand (about $75) monthly.
Why Xenophobia will not end any time soon
South Africa feels superior to other African countries; First off the country is the only African country in Africa with Africa in its name, and thanks to its mineral and precious metal reserves, the country has attracted a lot of mineral giants. In addition, the proximity of South Africa to the ocean, the wildlife and the savanna make it an attractive tourist destination, creating has wealth for the country.
Although activities and the size of the country create wealth, it is not evenly distributed among whites, blacks, Indians and other nationals based in the Southern African country. This has caused intense competition for jobs, commodities and housing as well as increased poverty.
Misplaced aggression: Although the majority of South Africans are poor and have a shared experience of hardship, the country is colonial and apartheid past gave birth to a racist nature among those who should jointly fight for their right.
These racial sentiments have given birth to xenophobic attacks and ethnic prejudice in the country. Worse, the country has no favourable immigration laws. In March 2017, the country approved the White Paper on International Migration, separating foreigners into skilled and unskilled categories and only the skilled are welcomed. However, this does not alleviate the hate the locals have for foreigners who they believe are taking their jobs.
Benin bronze statue at Jesus College to be repatriated after 1897 theft by British forces.
A bronze cockerel taken by British colonial forces and donated to Jesus College Cambridge is to be returned to Nigeria in an unprecedented step that adds momentum to the growing repatriations movement.
The Okukor, described by the college as a “royal ancestral heirloom”, will be one of the first Benin bronzes to be returned to Nigeria by a major British institution since the punitive expedition in 1897 when thousands of bronzes were stolen from Benin City by British forces.
No specific date for return has been released but the college stated that the bronze cockerel “belongs with the current Oba at the Court of Benin”. The return was recommended by Jesus College’s Legacy of Slavery Working Party (LSWP), a group dedicated to looking at the institution’s connections to slavery, which confirmed the piece was donated in 1905 by the father of a student.
Sonita Alleyne, the master of Jesus College, said the decision was not taken to “erase history” but came after “diligent and careful” work that looked into the wider legacy of slavery at Jesus College. “We are an honest community, and after thorough investigation into the provenance of the Benin bronze … our job is to seek the best way forward,” she said.
The cockerel had been removed from its public display following calls from students for it to be sent back in 2016, with the college pledging to begin discussions about its future, including a possible return to Nigeria. In the three years since, the college says it has been in discussion with the Benin Dialogue Group, a collective of artists and museum representatives who meet to discuss the future of the bronzes.
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Victor Ehikhamenor, a Nigerian artist and member of the Benin Dialogue Group, said: “No matter how small the gesture may look, it is a huge step towards the realisation of restitution of the works from the Benin Kingdom that were looted by the British. This is very important example, which I hope other Europeans, especially British institutions, will follow without any excuses or delays.”
Dan Hicks, a professor of archaeology at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford and a representative of the Benin Dialogue Group, said: “We have reached a tipping point in our national dialogues about the cultural restitution of objects looted under British colonialism.
“In the past, our attention on this matter was focused on national collections like the British Museum and the V&A – but in reality such loot is held in dozens of institutions across the regions: city museums, art galleries and the collections of universities.”
The move follows Manchester Museum becoming the first UK institution to return ceremonial items to Aboriginal groups nearly a century after they were stolen by British forces. The repatriation of the artefacts, which include a traditional headdress made from emu feathers, could be the beginning of the return of tens of thousands of similar items from institutions across the UK.
The Jesus College announcement comes almost exactly 12 months after the release of a report commissioned by the French president, Emmanuel Macron, which recommended the return of colonial-era artefacts by France.
The report’s authors, the Senegalese economist Felwine Sarr and the French art historian Bénédicte Savoy, told the Guardian that the British Museum, which houses a huge collection of the Benin bronzes, was acting like “an ostrich with its head in the sand” by not acting faster on repatriations.
“There’s an expression in French, la politique de l’autruche, which means something is in front of you and you say you can’t see it, like an ostrich with its head in the sand,” Sarr told the Guardian. “They will have to respond and they can’t hide themselves any longer on the issue.”
The British Museum agreed with the report’s call for the establishment of “new and more equitable relationships between Europe and Africa”, and is represented in the Benin Dialogue Group.
Since the release of the report, Ivory Coast, Senegal and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have made formal requests for the return of artefacts. European countries including France and Germany have committed to handing back objects, with the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam opening talks with Sri Lanka and Indonesia and describing the Netherlands’ failure to return stolen artefacts as a “disgrace”.
The news comes a week after Open Society Foundations (OSF) announced a $15m initiative aimed at strengthening efforts to “restore cultural objects looted from the African continent”. It also follows the return of a colonial-era artefact by France, with Senegal receiving a sabre that belonged to a 19th-century Islamic scholar and ruler earlier in November.
Norway has become the first country to launch a strategy to tackle so-called ‘lifestyle’ diseases as part of its international aid work.
In 2020, the Scandinavian government will allocate over 200 million Norwegian Krone of international development assistance – roughly £17 million – to help low and middle income countries tackle non-communicable diseases including cancer, obesity and diabetes.
The move comes amid growing concern at the rising burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) worldwide. These conditions are driven not by infections and viruses but by behaviour – for instance poor diet, smoking, drinking and a lack of exercise.
Norway’s move is likely to be followed by other government’s international aid departments over the next few years.
According to the World Health Organization, more than 70 per cent of deaths worldwide are now associated with NCDs and experts are worried about a rising burden in low and middle income countries.
In Africa, the proportion of all deaths caused by NCDs is predicted to rise from 35 per cent to 50 per cent by 2030.
But according to the Norwegian government, prevention and control of NCDs currently receives only about one per cent of health-related development assistance – though it is likely that this will shift in the coming decade.
“Worldwide, 41 million people die each year as a result of respiratory disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, mental disorders and other NCDs,” said Dag-Inge Ulstein, Norway’s minister of international development.
“This cannot continue. Therefore, Norway will triple its assistance to fight NCDs, allocating over 200 million Norwegian Krone to these agendas for 2020.
“This is just the start, we will step up funding towards 2024,” he said.
The government added that investment would be based on the World Health Organization’s 16 “best buys” to prevent and control NCDs. These include schemes to restrict tobacco and alcohol sales as well improving diet and restricting salt and sugar intakes.
“If these were implemented, over eight million lives could be saved annually by 2030,” said Bent Høie, Norway’s minister of health. “There would also be a total savings of $US 7 trillion in low and middle income countries over the next 15 years.”
He added that the policy, titled ‘Better health, better lives’, would help countries to reach the ambitious targets set out in the Sustainable Development Goals.
Commenting on the announcement Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO, thanked Norway for their “leadership in this important area”.
“Non-communicable diseases are the leading killers of our time,” he said. “As is so often the case, the world’s poorest bear the heaviest burden.
“The risks of dying between the ages of 30 and 70 from a heart attack, stroke, diabetes, cancer or asthma are four times higher in most countries of Africa than in Norway.”
The family of Jackson Musoni, a Rwandan, who died in the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 crash where 156 other passengers also died, has filed a lawsuit against Boeing Co. at a federal court in Chicago, where Boeing is headquartered.
Boeing is accused of “defectively” designing “a new flight control system for the Boeing 737 Max 8 that automatically and erroneously pushes the aircraft’s nose down,” and of failing “to warn of the defect.” Boeing has declined comment on the lawsuit.
The suit also claims that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) delegated authority to Boeing to approve portions of the aircraft certification process and assisted Boeing in rushing the delivery of the Max 8, which resulted in “several crucial flaws” in the safety analysis report Boeing ultimately delivered to the FAA.
At a United States Congress hearing on Wednesday, the acting FAA administrator defended the government’s oversight approach.
A Lion Air crash which happened months ago under similar circumstances as the Ethiopian Airline crash has also led different lawsuits against Boeing.
“Boeing, having knowledge of all the reports of dangerous conditions and the previous accident that killed over 150 people, should have taken steps to protect the flying public,” said Steve Marks, an attorney with the Miami-based law firm Podhurst Orseck, who is representing the Musoni family. “This accident happened when it should have never happened.”
On Wednesday, Boeing announced a software update to the 737 Max fleet, which it said would prevent erroneous data from triggering the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) anti-stall system, which is suspected to have played a role in both crashes.
Musoni, 31, was a field coordinator with the United Nations Refugee Agency based in East Darfur, Sudan. He was one of 19 U.N. aid workers and staffers who were on board Ethiopian Flight 302 that crashed on March 10.
This report was first published by The Nerve Africa. All rights reserved.
Relatives of more than 40 illegal workers say there is little chance of saving them.
More than 40 illegal gold miners are believed to have died in Zimbabwe after they were trapped deep underground following a flash flood.
Police, engineers and other miners have struggled since Tuesday to reach any survivors of the accident, which took place in the town of Kadoma, 125 miles (200km) west of the capital, Harare.
About 60 miners are thought to have been working at about 11pm local time (2100 GMT) on Tuesday when heavy rains sent a wave of water pouring into shafts that were up to 100 metres deep.
Relatives searching for their loved ones said they had lost hope on Friday.
Kazius Zvikiti, 94, said of his two missing sons, Xavier, 47, and Marlon, 35: “I am old and I was relying on my children for survival. I don’t know how I am going to survive without them.”
Charles Mwenye, a 41-year-old survivor, said four of his friends were inside the shaft. “I could have been the one trapped underground too,” he said. “When I was on my way out of the shaft, I saw a flood coming straight in … Thank God I am alive. The police came yesterday and today but nothing has been done. All my hope is lost now.”
Mwenye said he and his friends earned a living as illegal gold miners since 2015 in areas surrounding the northern province of Mashonaland West.
Zimbabwe’s economy has collapsed in recent years, forcing thousands to try to feed themselves and their families by excavating in areas abandoned by major commercial companies. It is dangerous and physically gruelling work.
Kadoma and nearby areas are rich in gold deposits and popular with the artisanal miners who use picks and shovels and generator-powered water pumps. The makeshift shafts and tunnels can easily collapse in the rainy season when the ground is soft.
The miners, known locally as makorokoza, or hustlers, usually work at night using torches and can disappear into shafts and tunnels for more than two days.
The Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG), a mining watchdog, blamed Zimbabwe’s environmental management agency for failing to protect lives by properly decommissioning disused mines. The NGO said the mine should have been sealed to avoid tragedies of this nature.
Lovejoy Mbedzi said her brother Evan Chibuwe, 29, has been missing since Wednesday. “I am very sad. This mine shaft is full of boys between the ages of 18 and 30. They are so young and don’t deserve to die in this manner,” she said.
Trapped miners have no funeral cover and relatives are pleading for government assistance. “I don’t have a funeral policy, burying my child will be very difficult,” said Idah Gwangwari, 60, who lost her son Donald, 20.
“I’ve been waiting since the day he went missing , hoping he would come back to me.”
Gold is the largest foreign currency earner for the struggling Zimbabwean economy and this makes illegal gold mining attractive to unemployed young people.
Fatal mine accidents occur frequently, though rarely on this scale.
Illegal gold miners last year contributed significantly to the record bullion output of 33 tonnes in the southern African nation. They sell their gold to a central bank subsidiary or private buyers.
Why did Prime Minister Netanyahu avoid a bigger fight in Gaza this month?
A round of violence near the Gaza border earlier this month began when Hamas fighters discovered an elite Israeli military unit operating undercover in Gaza. A battle ensued. Seven Palestinian fighters were killed, and Hamas responded predictably: by firing rockets into Israel.
But then things took a less predictable turn when Hamas initiated another attack, and then another. Hundreds of rockets were fired into Israel; Israelis had to hide in shelters. Houses were hit; there were wounded people. One person was killed by a rocket attack.
The Israeli public wasn’t pleased. Many people wanted to see more effective deterrence measures against Hamas. The defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman, thought that the public had a point. He asked that the cabinet approve heavier bombing and possibly even the use of ground forces to teach Hamas leaders a lesson. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, though, rejected this position. Instead, he initiated a cease-fire.
In the eyes of many Israelis, Mr. Netanyahu’s choice was both humiliating and dangerous. Hamas had fired hundreds of rockets at Israel and gotten away with it, weakening the perception of Israeli resolve. Polls taken after the cease-fire went into effect showed that more than 70 percent of the public did not approve of Mr. Netanyahu’s handling of the crisis.
Mr. Lieberman was frustrated with the outcome, and he sensed a political opportunity. He quit his job as defense minister and pulled his party out of the governing coalition, rocking the foundations of one of Israel’s longest-serving governments.
It’s not every day that politicians go against an overwhelming sentiment of the public. And yet, Mr. Netanyahu did just that. Why he did isn’t entirely clear. He argued that there were facts that he wasn’t able to share with the public. Speaking at the 45th memorial for David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, Mr. Netanyahu compared himself to the founding father: “In times of trial, Ben-Gurion made fateful decisions. Sometimes he did so contrary to popular opinion, but over time, these decisions turned out to be correct,” he said.
If he is still in office this spring, Mr. Netanyahu’s tenure will surpass Ben-Gurion’s, making him the longest-serving Israeli prime minister since Israel’s birth. Mr. Netanyahu has been able to pull this off because he is an adept politician. And it was that skillfulness that was on display when he decided to offer the cease-fire in Gaza, despite Hamas’s provocations and Mr. Lieberman’s complaints.
When rockets fall or buses explode in terror attacks, launching grand military operations, even going to war, is an easier decision for Israeli politicians than exercising caution. That’s because over many years, Israelis have learned to mistrust diplomacy and fancy arrangements and instead to put their faith in the one thing that rarely seems to fail them: Israel’s military.
So military action is popular. And that’s why using force is what relatively weak prime ministers tend to do. History shows this: In 2000, Prime Minister Ehud Barak did not restrain the forcesresponding to riots that became the Second Intifada. In 2006, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert launched a war in Lebanon in response to Hezbollah attacks on Israel’s northern border. Mr. Barak was a lame duck with no parliamentary majority when violence broke out. Mr. Olmert was an accidental prime minister who had stepped into office just half a year earlier, as an uninspiring replacement for the ailing Ariel Sharon.
Stronger leaders, on the other hand, take their time as they ponder their options. Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who led one of the most right-wing coalitions in Israel’s history, resisted the pressure to respond militarily to missile attacks during the Persian Gulf war. Mr. Sharon, who did not have much need to convince the public that he was tough, waited more than a year, amid growing criticism, until launching a comprehensive counterattack in the West Bank to thwart the Second Intifada.
And now, it was Mr. Netanyahu’s time to show restraint. Like Mr. Shamir’s coalition, the current coalition is hawkish. Like Mr. Sharon, Mr. Netanyahu has already waged a war in Gaza, so no one ought to wonder whether he has the spine to fight when necessary. In short, Mr. Netanyahu’s forbearance was neither because of fear of war, nor because of fear of political ramifications.
Was restraint the right call? It’s hard to say, of course. The public — or, for that matter, a columnist — never knows everything about why a prime minister does what he does, what intelligence and military plans he has access to. And so, as with all security decisions, there’s a leap of faith involved. The public has to trust that the prime minister is the right person to handle the situation, even if it does not know what, exactly, the situation entails.
Mr. Netanyahu seems to understand something that some of his colleagues, like Mr. Lieberman (with Education Minister Naftali Bennett playing second fiddle), fail to grasp: A right-wing Israeli leader has to gain the people’s trust, and he must do that by demonstrating that he is cautious and considerate. That’s precisely what Mr. Netanyahu did by not rushing into a new conflict in Gaza.
It’s quite likely that someday — maybe only after he is re-elected, possibly earlier — the prime minister will again face the need to send troops to battle. When this happens, Mr. Netanyahu will have a better case to make. When this happens, it will be easier, even for some of his foes, to trust him to make a call based on merit, not political calculation.
COVER PHOTO: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, center, in a cabinet meeting at the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem this month.CreditCreditPool photo by Abir Sultan, via Associated Press
Shmuel Rosner (@rosnersdomain) is the political editor at The Jewish Journal, a senior fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute and a contributing opinion writer.
The Prince of Wales has acknowledged Britain’s role in the transatlantic slave trade but stopped short of giving an official apology, which is likely to disappoint campaigners who have long called on the British Royal Family to do so.
Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne and next head of the Commonwealth, is in West Africa, and in a speech to a conference in Ghana’s capital, Accra, he said:
Quote Message: The appalling atrocity of the slave trade and the unimaginable suffering it caused left an indelible stain on the history of the world.
The appalling atrocity of the slave trade and the unimaginable suffering it caused left an indelible stain on the history of the world.
Quote Message: While Britain can be proud that it later led the way in the abolition of this shameful trade, we have a shared responsibility to ensure that the abject horror of slavery is never forgotten, that we uphold the existence of modern slavery and human trafficking and that we robustly promote and defend the values which today make it incomprehensible for most of us that human beings could ever treat each other with such utter inhumanity.”
While Britain can be proud that it later led the way in the abolition of this shameful trade, we have a shared responsibility to ensure that the abject horror of slavery is never forgotten, that we uphold the existence of modern slavery and human trafficking and that we robustly promote and defend the values which today make it incomprehensible for most of us that human beings could ever treat each other with such utter inhumanity.”
Britain outlawed the slave trade in 1833. It has never apologised for its role in slavery.
A haunted look in the eyes of Amal Hussain, an emaciated 7-year-old lying silently on a hospital bed in northern Yemen, seemed to sum up the dire circumstances of her war-torn country.
A searing portrait of the starving girl published in The New York Times last week drew an impassioned response from readers. They expressed heartbreak. They offered money for her family. They wrote in to ask if she was getting better.
On Thursday, Amal’s family said she had died at a ragged refugee camp four miles from the hospital.
“My heart is broken,” said her mother, Mariam Ali, who wept during a phone interview. “Amal was always smiling. Now I’m worried for my other children.”
The grievous human cost of the Saudi-led war in Yemen has jumped to the top of the global agenda as the outcry over the killing of the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi prompts Western leaders to re-examine their support for the war.
Recently, the United States and Britain, Saudi Arabia’s biggest arms suppliers, called for a cease-fire in Yemen. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said it should take effect within 30 days. “We have got to move toward a peace effort here, and we can’t say we are going to do it some time in the future,” Mr. Mattis said on Tuesday.
Riveting images of malnourished Yemenis like Amal — one of 1.8 million severely malnourished children in Yemen — have put a human face to fears that a catastrophic man-made famine could engulf the country in the coming months.
The United Nations warns that the number of Yemenis relying on emergency rations, eight million, could soon rise to 14 million. That’s about half Yemen’s population.
Aid workers and now political leaders are calling for a cessation of hostilities, as well as emergency measures to revive the battered economy of Yemen, where soaring food prices have pushed millions to the brink.
On a trip to Yemen to see the toll the war has taken, we found Amal at a health center in Aslam, 90 miles northwest of the capital, Sana. She was lying on a bed with her mother. Nurses fed her every two hours with milk, but she was vomiting regularly and suffered from diarrhea.
Dr. Mekkia Mahdi, the doctor in charge, sat by her bed, stroking her hair. She tugged on the flaccid skin of Amal’s stick-like arms. “Look,” she said. “No meat. Only bones.”
Amal’s mother was also sick, recovering from a bout of dengue fever that she had most likely contracted from mosquitoes that breed in stagnant water in their camp.
Saudi airstrikes had forced Amal’s family to flee their home in the mountains three years ago. The family was originally from Saada, a province on the border with Saudi Arabia that has borne the brunt of at least 18,000 Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen since 2015. Saada is also the homeland of the Houthi rebels who control northern Yemen, and are seen by the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, as a proxy for rival Iran.
The geopolitics of the war seemed distant, however, in the hushed hunger wards in Aslam.
Amal is Arabic for “hope,” and some readers expressed hope that the graphic image of her distress could help galvanize attention on a war in which tens of thousands of civilians have died from violence, hunger or disease. Last year, Yemen suffered the largest cholera epidemic in modern times, with over a million cases.
Amal was discharged from the hospital in Aslam last week, still sick. But doctors needed to make room for new patients, Dr. Mahdi said. “This was a displaced child who suffered from disease and displacement,” she said. “We have many more cases like her.”
The family took Amal back home, to a hut fashioned from straw and plastic sheeting, at a camp where relief agencies do provide some help, including sugar and rice. But it was not enough to save Amal.
Her condition deteriorated, with frequent bouts of vomiting and diarrhea, her mother said. On Oct. 26, three days after she was discharged from the hospital, she died.
Dr. Mahdi had urged Amal’s mother to take the child to a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Abs, about 15 miles away.
But the family was broke. Fuel prices have risen about 50 percent in the past year, part of a broader economic collapse, and that has pushed even short, potentially lifesaving journeys beyond the reach of many families.
“I had no money to take her to the hospital,” Ms. Ali said. “So I took her home.”
Reporting was contributed by Fuad Shaif al Kadas in Sana and Saeed Al-Batati in Al Mukalla, Yemen.
Cover photo: Amal Hussain, who died at age 7. “My heart is broken,” her mother said. Photo: Tyler Hicks/The New York Times
The bio-brick created by students in Cape Town mixes urine with sand and bacteria, which they say is a world first.
Students in South Africa have created the world’s first brick made from human urine.
The bio-brick was produced by students from Cape Town, who collected urine from specially designed male urinals at the university’s engineering building and mixed it with sand and bacteria.
Bio-bricks are made in moulds at room temperature, removing the need for high temperature kilns. Nitrogen and potassium, which are crucial for commercial fertilisers, are created as by-products during the process.
“In this example you take something that is considered a waste and make multiple products from it. You can use the same process for any waste stream. It’s about rethinking things,” said Dr Dyllon Randall, a senior lecturer in water quality engineering at the University of Cape Town, who supervised the project.
The idea of using urea to grow bio-bricks has previously been tested in the US using synthetic products, but UCT master’s student Suzanne Lambert is the first to use real human urine to make a brick, according to the university.
Bio-bricks are created through a natural process called microbial carbonate precipitation, said Randall, similar to the way seashells are formed. Loose sand, which has been colonised with bacteria that produces urease, is mixed with the urine. Urease breaks down the urea in the urine, producing calcium carbonate, which cements the sand into shape.
While regular bricks are kiln-fired at temperatures of 1,400C and produce large amounts of carbon dioxide, the bio-bricks do not require heat.
“If a client wanted a brick stronger than a 40% limestone brick, you would allow the bacteria to make the solid stronger by ‘growing’ it for longer,” said Randall.
“The longer you allow the little bacteria to make the cement, the stronger the product is going to be. We can optimise that process,” added Randall.
The urine is collected from fertiliser-producing urinals, which are also used to make a solid fertiliser. The remaining liquid is used to grow the bio-brick.
Randall described urine as liquid gold. By volume, urine accounts for less than 1% of domestic waste water, but it contains 80% of the nitrogen, 56% of the phosphorus and 63% of the potassium found in waste water.
The vast majority of the phosphorus present in the urine can be converted into calcium phosphate, a crucial ingredient in fertilisers, but one that is depleting in supply.
“Given the progress made in the research here at UCT, creating a truly sustainable construction material is now a possibility,” said Vukheta Mukhari, a civil engineering honours student who worked with Lambert.
The stigma of mental illness is fading. But it will take time for sufferers to get the treatment they need.
FOR John Mooney, it was a career highlight. In March the Irish cricketer took a crucial catch that gave his team the victory in a World Cup match and eliminated the higher-ranked Zimbabwe. But afterwards the Zimbabwe Herald, a daily paper with links to Zanu-PF, the thuggish ruling party, claimed that Mr Mooney had lied when he said that his foot had not been touching the boundary, meaning the catch should have been disallowed. The article cited previous interviews in which the sportsman had spoken frankly about his long battles with drink, depression and suicidal thoughts. Under pressure, it claimed, a “man of such a character” could not be trusted to have “the honesty, let alone the decency” to tell the truth.
The prospect of such prejudice leads many with mental ailments to conceal their conditions and avoid seeking help. Even if they know better than to believe that mental illnesses are untreatable, or that all sufferers are delusional, they may fear being shunned by friends or employers. Many people think the mentally ill cannot work, but in reality few jobs are off-limits, and only for the most severe cases. (Someone suicidal should not be flying a plane.) What bothered Mr Mooney most about the Zimbabwe Herald article, he says, was that other sufferers might read it and decide never to risk letting anyone know. So he kept talking about his condition. The reaction was heartening. Messages of support and thanks are still coming in.
More people from all walks of life are opening up about mental illness, says Sophie Corlett of MIND, a British mental-health advocacy group. Campaigns by many governments and charities to get rid of the stigma are part of a virtuous circle in which each person who speaks out lessens ignorance and makes it easier for other sufferers to do so too. Only 13% of Britons surveyed in 2013 agreed that a history of mental illness should bar someone from public office, down from 21% five years earlier. The number who said that they would be willing to have a mentally ill co-worker or neighbour went up.
With greater openness comes more understanding of just how common mental illness is. One in five working-age people in rich countries suffer from a mental condition each year. About a quarter of those suffer from severe illnesses, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, and the rest from less debilitating ones, such as mild depression or anxiety. But mental ailments are far less likely to receive treatment than physical ones. Over three-quarters of those suffering severe conditions, and over 90% of those with moderate ones, are treated by non-specialists or not at all (see chart 1). Lack of training means primary-care doctors miss some cases. Others go untreated because their conditions make it hard to push for referrals or deal with the insurance paperwork.
The resulting misery is huge. Put together, mental illnesses account for more suffering and premature death in rich countries than heart disease and strokes, or than cancer (see chart 2). One study estimates that depression is 50% more disabling than angina, asthma or arthritis, as measured by a health score that combines factors such as reduced mobility and pain. Men with mental-health problems die 20 years earlier than those without, according to the British Medical Association, mostly from causes other than suicide. That is partly because mental illnesses make physical ones tougher to treat, and because sufferers often live less healthily. Research has linked even moderate levels of stress to lower life-expectancy. Nearly half of Finns who seek help for addictions, for instance, have a mental illness. Most of the long-term homeless in rich countries are seriously mentally ill, addicted or both.
Estimates from several rich countries put the economic cost of mental illness at 3-4% of GDP. Around a third of that is the cost of treatment; the rest is from lost productivity and the payment of disability benefits. Worklessness and mental illness feed off each other. Between a third and a half of claims for disability benefit are for mental conditions. A study in the Netherlands estimated that €1 ($1.07) spent on treatment saves €4.24 in increased productivity and reduced costs of care.
All this is propelling mental-health care up governments’ agendas. In 2013 nearly 200 countries approved the WHO’s Mental Health Action Plan, which calls for more and better treatment by 2020. Since 2012 Britain’s National Health Service is supposed to grant “parity of esteem” to mental and physical care. Though funding is still very unequal, the principle has improved the attitude of bureaucrats and patients’ access to care, says Ms Corlett. Since last year health insurers in America have had to cover mental-health services. But demand far outstrips supply, says Paul Appelbaum of Columbia University, because not enough medics specialised in mental-health care during the many years when insurance paid little or nothing for it.
Over the past few decades some rich countries have moved away from housing patients with severe psychiatric conditions in asylums and started opening community centres and care homes, and hiring more social workers and mental-health nurses. Australia, Britain, Italy and the Nordics have largely completed the transition. Japan, Korea and most countries in eastern Europe have barely started.
Though the idea was sound, in some countries community-based care was not ready before institutions closed. America is perhaps the starkest example, and the consequences are visible in its criminal-justice system. In 44 states the biggest mental-health institution is a prison, and police spend much of their time dealing with the effects of untreated mental illness (see article). But it is not the only one. British police spend as much as two-fifths of their time dealing with cases that involve mental illness, though few have the necessary training. Across Europe, 40-70% of prison inmates are mentally ill.
Mental-health courts, introduced in Florida in the 1990s and now opening in other American states, aim to divert the mentally ill from prison to community care. In Britain mental-health nurses join police officers on patrol. Their contribution can be as simple as using health records to find the address of someone who is acting oddly or causing a disturbance, or to assess the threat he poses. In a pilot scheme, the approach led to police detaining 26% fewer mentally ill people and sending more who needed acute care to psychiatric assessment rather than a jail cell.
The stigma of mental illness has fallen particularly fast in Australia, says Patrick McGory, a psychiatrist whom the government named “Australian of the year” in 2010. Last year the country’s biggest television station raised A$1.5m ($1.2m) for mental-health research during a weeklong campaign, which included programmes about mental illness. Most treatment, even for severe conditions, is at home, with backup from crisis-resolution teams that combine social and medical care. The country’s family doctors are being trained to identify and treat mental-health problems, and paid to hire mental-health nurses. An early-intervention model for psychosis, which aims to diagnose patients and provide intensive care quickly after the onset of symptoms, has been shown to improve patient outcomes and is now being copied elsewhere.
Britain has expanded access to cognitive behavioural therapy for anxiety and depression, and is now doing so for severe mental illness and those with physically unexplained symptoms. This consists of a series of counselling sessions in which sufferers are taught to watch out for situations that trigger their affliction, and how to avoid thoughts and actions that are likely to lead to a relapse. Half of patients with anxiety conditions (such as social phobia, health anxiety or panic disorders) recover after an average of ten sessions, in most cases for life. Around the same share of those with depression recover within four months, and they are less likely to have a relapse. Such therapy alleviates the severity of physical illness, too, whether psychosomatic or physical in origin. It is particularly helpful for those with pain for which no cause can be found. Greater awareness is boosting demand for treatment, though waiting lists are long.
Cheaper options that can reach more people quickly also show promise. According to a study published on April 21st in the Lancet, a British medical journal, group cognitive behavioural therapy could be as effective as antidepressants for recurrent depression. The MoodGYM, an online programme that works along the same lines, is now in use in Australia, China, Finland, the Netherlands and Norway.
Employers have woken up to the toll of mental illness too. Nearly a third of companies surveyed by the World Economic Forum in 2010 had established some sort of stress-reduction programme. Last year a group of big European businesses launched a charter to target the impact of depression at work. Canada’s voluntary psychological safety standard for business, published in 2013, mirrors initiatives to improve physical safety. It includes a guide on how to cut stress at work, for example by cracking down on bosses who harangue their underlings or set unachievable deadlines, and suggests training some managers to spot the signs of common problems such as anxiety and depression.
Girls and boys, interrupted
The biggest gains will come from improving mental-health services for young people. Half of adults with long-term mental conditions suffered their first symptoms before turning 14. Left untreated, even moderate conditions such as anxiety hurt school results and the prospects for employment. For serious conditions such as psychosis, prompt treatment greatly improves outcomes.
But teenagers are image-conscious creatures for whom the fear of being labelled “crazy” or thought weak looms even larger than for adults. That means tact is needed, and targeted programmes. Australia’s “Headspace” centres, which combine a range of health and employment services for 12- to 25-year-olds, make it easier for the embarrassed or ashamed to seek help. Finland, Norway and Sweden have schemes in schools to tackle the stigma of mental illness. Better to sort out problems early, says Mr Mooney. He dates the start of his problems to losing his father when he was 11, bottling up his grief and turning to drink to cope. Back then, he says, no one even talked about depression. Now they do.
The drivers in light traffic measured a much healthier 123 over 78. Oddly, whether a driver was running late made no difference to blood pressure.
“WHERE would you rather be?” asks a bumper sticker on the back of a rickety-looking Toyota Corolla. It is an advertisement for a hotel—and a question that people might well ask themselves. The words on the sticker are so small that they could be read only by a driver a few feet behind the Corolla while both cars were motionless. In Lagos, Nigeria’s biggest city, it is a dead certainty that plenty of people will be stuck in just that position.
Much of life in Lagos is spent in traffic or trying to avoid it. Peter Elias, a lecturer in planning at the University of Lagos, says that the jams usually begin around six in the morning and last at least until nine. From one to three in the afternoon, parents picking up their children from school clog the roads again. Then Lagos slides into the evening rush hour, which can last until eight or nine. Traffic moves so slowly that one roundabout has a wraparound television screen to entertain drivers. At Victoria Island, the old commercial centre, many workers go straight from their offices to nearby bars to sit out the worst of it.
Many people believe that their city has unusually bad traffic, and that it is worsening. It is hard to judge whether they are right. TomTom, a maker of satellite-navigation devices, and INRIX, a data company, rank cities by traffic congestion. But their lists are dominated by cities in rich and upper-middle-income countries. Poorer cities often have worse traffic but produce too little data to be ranked. The most jammed include Cairo, Delhi, Dhaka, Jakarta, Lagos, Manila, Nairobi and São Paulo.
Most of these cities have three things in common. First, they are crowded. The Atlas of Urban Expansion, a project run by Shlomo Angel of New York University, has good data on Cairo, Dhaka, Lagos, Manila and São Paulo. All are at least twice as densely populated as Paris. Dhaka, with an overall density of 552 people per hectare in its built-up area, is ten times as crowded as Paris. Second, with the exception of Delhi, none has a fast, extensive rail-based public-transport system. Commuters have little choice but to pour onto the roads.
The third thing these cities share is that private-vehicle ownership is rising quickly. In Delhi, the number of registered motorbikes jumped from 4.3m in 2011 to 6.7m in 2017. Cars and jeeps are up from 2.2m to 3.2m. Not everybody with a car drives every day. In Nairobi, traffic is worst at the end of the month, when salaried workers are paid and can afford petrol. But enough people drive that the roads seize up.
In the stickiest cities, traffic seems less an irritation than an inescapable fact. People talk obsessively about it, and swap stories. The quintessential Manila story is the one about the Catholic archbishop who became so fed up in a jam in 2015 that he left his car and directed traffic in the rain. Nigeria’s head of state in the 1970s, Murtala Mohammed, was assassinated while sitting in Lagos traffic. In June of this year one Lagosian tried to beat a jam by driving on the wrong side of the road. He was accosted by police, who tried to force him to turn round. Unfortunately, the driver was a soldier, and he promptly called for back-up. A man was shot in the ensuing mêlée.
Economists think congestion a terrible waste of resources. They have tried to quantify the loss from sitting in traffic—again focusing on rich countries. INRIX estimates that traffic delays cost Los Angeles $19bn and New York City $34bn in 2017, counting petrol as well as lost productivity. Matthias Sweet of Ryerson University in Canada has calculated that congestion retards job growth in American cities when it delays the average commute by more than four and a half minutes.
But to see traffic jams purely as a waste of time is to miss something. To economists, every hour spent in traffic is an hour not spent being productive. But in the cities with the worst traffic, this is not always true. Nor is it clear that people dislike traffic jams quite as much as they say they do.
Nara, a housekeeper in São Paulo, has a three-hour commute. She begins by walking 20 minutes to a bus stop. After a journey of one hour, she walks to another bus stop and takes a second bus, again for about an hour. Then she walks again. Nara could travel faster if she took the metro, but fears being groped by men on the crowded trains. She uses the long bus rides to “create a little world” for herself, listening to music and reflecting on the day. She tolerates and even enjoys the journey. “Nothing here can faze me anymore,” she says.
“Paulistanos know they’re buying a package: São Paulo plus traffic,” explains Ronald Gimenez, the director of Rádio Trânsito. His radio station, which has more than 1m Twitter followers, is all about traffic, all the time. It employs a dozen reporters who zoom (or crawl) to traffic hotspots, though it relies mostly on data from traffic apps such as Waze and on drivers’ tips sent through WhatsApp. Mr Gimenez believes that Rádio Trânsito is not just a source of information but a comfort to stressed travellers. To listen is to be reminded that the jam you are stuck in is merely one of many.
In the slowest cities, few drivers obey bans on texting or making phone calls. When stuck in traffic, they chat to friends and conduct business. Or they shop. Many jammed cities have street hawkers. Lagos’s may be the most inventive. In two days in the city, this reporter was offered soft drinks, grapes, plantain chips, eggs, newspapers, windscreen wipers, hats, hot-water bottles, flip-flops, stuffed animals, gospel music, dog leads, three-legged stools, a large mirror and a CD rack.
One 43-year-old man named Lawal sells inflatable mattresses. He used to have a stall in a roadside market, where he tailored clothes and fixed mobile phones. But Lagos’s police demolished his stall as part of a plan to reduce traffic congestion. He is trying to save money so that he can start again. Lawal likes thick traffic, but not too thick. If cars move so slowly that, by walking up and down the lanes, Lawal passes the same driver several times, that driver might become irate. Happily, he says he can rely on heavy traffic for about five hours every weekday evening.
Many people hate sitting in traffic. One study by doctors at the American University in Beirut measured the blood pressure of drivers who pulled into petrol stations in heavy traffic and compared them with those who pulled over in light traffic. The ones in jams had a mean average systolic blood pressure of 142 and a diastolic pressure of 87. The drivers in light traffic measured a much healthier 123 over 78. Oddly, whether a driver was running late made no difference to blood pressure.
The last finding might be put down to the relaxed Lebanese attitude to time-keeping, except that a study of the punctual English found much the same thing. Male students at Liverpool John Moore’s University were put in a driving simulator and told they would be rewarded with money if they got to their destination within 15 minutes. The simulator was programmed with two traffic jams, one at the start of the trip and one at the end, making it impossible to complete the journey in time. The researchers expected that the second jam would be more stressful, because it made the drivers late. It was not. Both jams raised the students’ heart rates and blood pressures by the same amount. Traffic jams seem to be stressful whenever and wherever they occur.
They are not, however, so stressful that people will do much to avoid them. A study of toll lanes on a Los Angeles motorway, which drivers can enter and leave as they wish, calculated that drivers will pay $11 per hour of time saved—though it seems they will also pay to avoid being late. That is about half the local average wage. Other research has found the same ratio. People would appear to dislike traffic jams about half as much as they dislike work.
Moreover, time spent fuming in traffic jams appears to be soon forgotten. Two academics, Eric Morris and Jana Hirsch, have examined the American Time Use Survey for evidence that people in big cities recall being particularly unhappy at rush hour. They found almost none. Traffic jams infuriate the people stuck in them. But when things start moving, all is forgotten. As they point out, this might help explain why Americans (and others) often oppose measures such as congestion charging.
In 1966 an Argentinian writer, Julio Cortázar, pushed this impression to a fantastic conclusion. In his short story “The Southern Thruway”, a man driving to Paris gets stuck in a jam so bad it lasts for days. At first he and his fellow drivers are furious. But gradually they create a little society, sharing food and drink and turning one car into a hospital. When, to everyone’s surprise, cars start moving at last, the protagonist is distraught. It turns out there is nowhere he would rather be than stuck in traffic.
After clashing statements on who was responsible, president claims he told Russian leader: ‘We can’t have this’.
Donald Trump now says he holds the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, personally responsible for his country’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election, further walking back a statement on Monday that drew bipartisan rebukes.
In an interview set to be broadcast Wednesday evening, the US president told Jeff Glor of CBS News that he holds Putin responsible “because he’s in charge of the country, just like I consider myself to be responsible for things that happen in this country”.
Asked if he agreed with US intelligence assessments that Russia meddled in the election in 2016, Trump replied: “Yeah, and I’ve said that before, Jeff. I have said that numerous times before, and I would say that is true, yeah.”
Asked what he had said to Putin during a one-on-one meeting the two had in Helsinki on Monday, Trump replied: “Very strong on the fact that we can’t have meddling, we can’t have any of that.”
But Trump stopped short of saying that if the intelligence services were correct in their assessment, then Putin must be lying.
“I don’t want to get into whether or not he’s lying. I can only say I do have confidence in our intelligence agencies as currently constituted. I think Dan Coats is excellent … we have excellent people. So when they tell me something it means a lot.”
Christopher Wray, the FBI director, speaking at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, said Wednesday that Russia continued to attempt to sow discord in the US, using fake news and propaganda to “spin up” Americans.
He added that he stood behind the US intelligence agencies’ assessment of Moscow’s election meddling.
He also said that Moscow’s offer of assistance in the investigation of Russian military intelligence officials indicted in the US on espionage charges, was “not high on our list of investigative techniques”.
The president’s statements came after a second day of efforts by the White House to quell bipartisan anger over his failure to publicly hold Putin to account at a joint news conference in Helsinki.
Trump rejected criticism from senior members of even his own party, including Senator Lindsey Graham, who accused him of showing “weakness”.
“I totally disagree. I think it was a strong news conference. People said you should have gone up to him, you shoulda started screaming in his face. We’re living in the real world, OK?”
In his private meeting with Putin, Trump continued, the two leaders discussed nuclear proliferation and the protection of Isreal. On North Korea, Trump said the Russian president “agrees with what I’m doing and that I’m doing a great job. He said he’d help, and I think he will.”
“I think we have a deal. There’s no rush. There’s no missiles going off. We have our hostages back. There’s no testing, so we’ve come a long way in a short period of time. There is no rush, but we would like to see the denuclearization of North Korea. He (Putin) feels strongly about and I feel strongly about it, so that’s good.”
Earlier on Wednesday, the White House tortured semantics of the past several days continued when Trump replied “no” when asked by reporters whether he believed Russia was “still targeting the US”, contradicting Dan Coats, director of national intelligence.
A few hours later, the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, claimed Trump had been answering a different question, and that “we believe the threat still exists”.
The exchanges came a day after Trump’s tortured effort to clarify what he had said in Helsinki on Monday, claiming that he had accidentally used “would” instead of “wouldn’t” to describe whether he thought Russian intelligence interfered in the election.
Trump had told reporters: “They said they think it’s Russia; I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia,” Trump told reporters. “I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”
In a series of Twitter posts on Wednesday morning, Trump continued his campaign to recast interpretation of the Helsinki meeting.
“So many people at the higher ends of intelligence loved my press conference performance in Helsinki. Putin and I discussed many important subjects at our earlier meeting. We got along well which truly bothered many haters who wanted to see a boxing match. Big results will come!”
Foreign minister indicates Tehran could go back to enriching uranium if US president tries to add new conditions to groundbreaking agreement.
Iran’s top diplomat has issued a stark warning to Donald Trump that if he follows through on his threat to scrap the 2015 nuclear agreement in three weeks’ time he will have to “face the consequences” that will not be “pleasant” for the United States.
Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, painted a bleak picture of the prospects for survival of the nuclear deal, which Trump has threatened to tear up on 12 May by refusing to waive a set of sanctions – a move that is integral to the agreement. Zarif indicated that should the US effectively pull out, Iran would refuse to stay inside the deal alongside the Europeans, calling that option “highly unlikely”.
An option actively being considered by Tehran, by contrast, was to withdraw entirely from the deal by returning to uranium enrichment. Other proposals being floated in the Iranian parliament, Zarif said, involved more “drastic” measures – though he would not specify what those entailed.
In an interview with reporters at an Iranian official residence overlooking New York’s Central Park, Zarif said that the Trump administration had the “option to kill the deal, but they have to face the consequences … We will make our decision based on our national security interest when the time comes, but whatever it is it will not be very pleasant for the United States, I can say that.”
Trump indicated in January that he would refuse to sign the sanctions waiver when it came up for its next renewal on 12 May unless Iran agreed to accept a raft of new restrictions. But Zarif made it clear that the Iranian regime had no intention of accepting any new demands, and turned the argument around by accusing Washington of already violating the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
He accused the US of doing everything in its power to prevent Iran from engaging economically with the rest of the world, thus blocking Tehran from benefitting from the easing of sanctions permitted under JCPOA. He said that and other moves by the US amounted to a breach of the deal that had been going on for the past 15 months.
“I don’t think that a country that has been in breach for at least the last 15 months is in a position to make any new demands,” he said.
Zarif is in New York to attend a UN meeting on peace-building. In the course of a six-day stay in the city he will have a one-on-one audience with the UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres.
As the final countdown begins to the next sanctions waiver deadline, and amid Trump’s grand posturing, European states are scrambling to see what can be done to salvage matters should the US president stand by his word and pull the rug out from under the deal. But Zarif gave very little sense of hope that anything would be possible.
He said it was “highly unlikely” that Iran would stay inside the JCPOA if the US effectively pulled out. “It’s very important for Iran to receive the benefits of the agreement – there’s no way that Iran would do a one-sided implementation of it.”
He said France and Germany could try and persuade the US to deflect from the collision course it was on, but he predicted such efforts would be “fruitless”. And he warned of the danger to world peace posed by Trump’s stance.
“The US is sending a very dangerous message to the people of Iran and the people of the world. It says you never come to an agreement with the US.
“The situation is creating an impression globally that agreements don’t matter.”
The Iranian regime has been heavily criticised in recent months for its role in propping up the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, despite his complicity in the death of thousands of civilians and his willingness to use chemical weapons against his own people. Zarif insisted that Iran was not engaged in the Syrian civil war to assist Assad but to combat the threat of extremist groups, notably Isis.
He went on to question claims by western governments that Assad had launched poison gas attacks against the Syrian town of Douma earlier this month, killing at least 40 civilians. Zarif said there was insufficient evidence from the actual sites of the attack to reach that conclusion – while glossing over complaints that international inspectors had been prevented from reaching Douma for several days by the Syrian regime and Russia.
Zarif faced strong questioning about the apparent build-up of permanent Iranian military bases in Syria, and whether the long-term ambition was to prepare for conflict with Israel. He denied there were any Iranian bases inside the country, claiming that his nation’s presence was limited to military advisers stationed at existing Syrian bases.
He also denied that Iran operated aerial drones inside the country.
When asked about the recent Israeli airstrike against the T4 Iranian base east of Homs earlier this month that appeared designed to reduce Iran’s aerial capabilities, he said: “T4 is not an Iranian base, we don’t have a base in Syria.”
French president calls for defence of European liberal democracy in face of illiberalism and nationalism.
Emmanuel Macron has likened the political divisions in Europe to a civil war and warned against growing illiberalism on the continent.
In his first speech to the European parliament, the French president called for the defence of a European liberal democracy that offered protection of the rights of its minorities, and attacked those who took their countries out of the EU to pursue fairytale “adventures”, in a passing mention of Brexit.
Dutch attorney, 33, is first to be formally sentenced for lying to FBI
Trump says ‘nobody’s been tougher to Russia than Donald Trump’
A Dutch attorney was sentenced on Tuesday to 30 days in prison for lying to federal agents, in the first formal conviction obtained by Robert Mueller in his investigation of Russian election interference and alleged collusion between aides to Donald Trump and Moscow.
A federal judge in Washington sentenced Alex van der Zwaan, a 33-year-old lawyer who previously worked with Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager. He was also ordered to pay a $20,000 fine.
Van der Zwaan had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with another former Trump adviser, Rick Gates, and a person the FBI has assessed as being tied to Russian military intelligence.
Although the Dutchman was the fourth person to plead guilty in the Mueller probe, he was first to be formally sentenced. Gates, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos have entered plea deals.
A former lawyer at the prominent firm Skadden Arps, Van der Zwaan worked on a 2012 report commissioned by Manafort to defend former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych from international criticism.
Van der Zwaan’s sentence could be a guide for what other defendants charged with lying in Mueller’s investigation receive when their cases are resolved, if they have co-operated.
Manafort has pleaded not guilty to financial charges and denied any wrongdoing related to Russian election interference.
A memo by deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein revealed in a court filing on Monday confirmed that Mueller was explicitly authorized to investigate allegations that Manafort colluded with the Russian government.
Trump has denied any collusion and repeatedly called the Mueller investigation and congressional investigations a “witch hunt”. At the White House on Tuesday the president told reporters “probably nobody’s been tougher to Russia than Donald Trump”.
He added: “If we got along with Russia, that would be a good thing not a bad thing. And just about everybody agrees with that, except very stupid people.”
Van der Zwaan had faced up to six months in prison, under federal sentencing guidelines. His attorneys pushed for him to pay a fine and leave the country. US district judge Amy Berman Jackson cited the need to deter others from lying in an investigation of international importance and said incarceration was necessary.
The criminal case against Van der Zwaan is not directly related to Russian election interference. But it has revealed new details about the case against Manafort and previously undisclosed connections between senior Trump aides, including Gates, and Russia.
Prosecutors did not take a position on whether Van der Zwaan should be locked up but they stressed that he had lied “repeatedly” to investigators.
Van der Zwaan’s attorneys argued that he had suffered enough because of his “terrible decision” to lie. The attorneys also pushed for Van der Zwaan to be allowed to return to London, where he lives with his wife, who is pregnant with their first child.
Foreign secretary warns of possible disruption to energy supplies or harassment of diplomatic missions in Moscow.
Boris Johnson, the British foreign secretary, has predicted Russia will retaliate against countries that have acted in solidarity with the UK over the poisoning of Russian spy Sergei Skripal, suggesting Moscow may interfere with energy supplies, or disrupt the lives of their Moscow-based diplomats and their families.
Hailing the courage of the 27 countries that had backed Britain by taking action against Russia, he said their show of solidarity had crystallised a collective feeling across three continents that patience with Russia’s malign behaviour had come to an end.
Speaking to the Lord Mayor’s banquet at the Mansion House in London, Johnson pitched the dispute as a wider battle against Russian disruption, claiming “this week was the moment when the world decided to say enough to the wearying barrage of Russian lies, the torrent of obfuscation and intercontinental ballistic whoppers”.
He said: “It wasn’t about us. It was about all of us and the kind of world we want to live in. I believe these expulsions represent a moment when a feeling has suddenly crystallised, when years of vexation and provocation have worn the collective patience to breaking point, and when across the world – across three continents – there are countries who are willing to say enough is enough.”
Russia, he claimed, had underestimated the strength of global feeling against, and the accumulation of impatience with, Vladimir Putin’s behaviour.
In remarks that will raise the diplomatic temperature, Johnson also warned that countries that had sided with Britain “know full well that they face the risk of retaliation – and frankly there are countries that have taken action that are more vulnerable to Russia than we are, whether through geography or their energy needs”.
He said: “I pay tribute to them because they know that their own Russia-based diplomats, and their families, must now deal with the possibility of their own lives being turned upside down.”
Johnson’s remarks are likely to be seen by Moscow as intended to deepen divisions between Europe and Russia. The Russian political leadership have insisted they will prepare reprisals against the nations that have expelled Russian ambassadors, but also do not want to exacerbate bilateral relations with some countries.
Moscow continues to insist that the Russian state was not involved in the poisoning, and now claims that the UK intelligence services may have been responsible as part of an effort to shore up support for Theresa May’s government due to the difficulties it faces in uniting the country over Brexit. It also says the solidarity shown by EU countries is largely due to bullying by America, and that many countries had privately indicated they had not wished to take any measures.
Russia is also calling for access to the nerve agent novichok that the UK intelligence services say was administered to Skripal and his daughter.
Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement: “Unless we receive convincing proof of the opposite, we will regard this incident as an attempt on the life of Russian citizens as part of a large-scale political provocation. We emphasise that the burden of proof rests solely on the UK.”
Johnson retorted that the Foreign Office has so far counted 24 ludicrous Russian lies about the cause of Skripal’s poisoning. He said: “It is rather like the beginning of Crime and Punishment in the sense that we are all confident of the culprit – and the only question is whether he will confess or be caught.”
Johnson put the poisoning in the context of the annexation of Crimea, the Russian intervention in Ukraine, the downing of flight MH17, cyber-attacks, the attempted coup in Montenegro, the concealing of chemical weapon attacks in Syria, the hacking of the Bundestag and interference in other countries’ elections.
He concluded: “There are now just too many countries who have felt the disruptive and malign behaviour of the Russian state.”
In a speech that was light on further measures against Russia, or a solution to the crisis, Johnson instead focused on how the episode showed the UK, once outside the EU, could remain a major player and work alongside the EU on security issues.
He argued the episode had been immensely reassuring since British people “had learned we may be leaving the EU in exactly a year but we will never be alone, and in part that commitment to Britain reflects Britain’s reciprocal commitment to our friends, whether through the work of our peerless intelligence agencies or our armed forces or our development budgets”.
He promised his EU colleagues: “We will stand by you as you have stood by us.”
Joint statement deplores ‘assault on UK sovereignty’ and says only plausible explanation is that Russia is responsible.
The leaders of Britain, the US, Germany and France have released a joint statement strongly condemning the Salisbury nerve agent attack as “an assault on UK sovereignty” and saying it is highly likely Russia was behind it.
The rare united comment from Theresa May, Donald Trump, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, released by Downing Street, follows extensive UK efforts to drum up international support for its response to the poisoning of Sergei Skripaland his daughter.
After the statement’s release Donald Trump said that Russia appeared to be behind the attack. “It looks like it,” he told reporters. “I’ve spoken with the prime minister and we are in discussions. A very sad situation. It certainly looks like the Russians were behind it. Something that should never, ever happen, and we’re taking it very seriously, as I think are many others.”
May, speaking on a visit to Salisbury on Thursday, said the statement showed the UK’s allies “are standing alongside us” in protest at Russia’s behaviour.
The statement said the use of novichok “constitutes the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since the second world war”, noting that the four leaders “abhor the attack that took place against Sergei and Yulia Skripal”.
“A British police officer who was also exposed in the attack remains seriously ill, and the lives of many innocent British citizens have been threatened,” it read. “We express our sympathies to them all, and our admiration for the UK police and emergency services for their courageous response.
“It is an assault on UK sovereignty and any such use by a state party is a clear violation of the chemical weapons convention and a breach of international law.
“It threatens the security of us all. The United Kingdom thoroughly briefed its allies that it was highly likely that Russia was responsible for the attack.
“We share the UK assessment that there is no plausible alternative explanation, and note that Russia’s failure to address the legitimate request by the UK government further underlines its responsibility.”
The unambiguous tone of the comments about Russia will greatly please British ministers, who have spent the past few days seeking to persuade allies to take this line, notably France, where Macron’s spokesman warned the UK on Wednesday against “fantasy politics”.
Speaking after visiting businesses in Salisbury and speaking to emergency services, May said the four countries were “vey clear in attributing this act to Russia”.
“What is important in the international arena – and we have taken this into Nato, into the United Nations, we’ve taken it through into the European Union – is that allies are standing alongside us and saying this is part of a pattern of activity that we have seen from Russia in their interference, their disruption that they have perpetrated across a number of countries in Europe,” she said.
“This happened in the UK, but it could have happened anywhere and we take a united stance against it.”
Washington’s envoy, Nikki Haley, said: “Let me make one thing clear from the very beginning: the United States stands in absolute solidarity with Great Britain. The United States believes that Russia is responsible for the attack on two people in the United Kingdom using a military-grade nerve agent.”
The joint statement calls on Russia to “address all questions related to the attack” and provide full disclosure of the novichok programme to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague.
“Our concerns are also heightened against the background of a pattern of earlier irresponsible Russian behaviour. We call on Russia to live up to its responsibilities as a member of the UN security council to uphold international peace and security,” it ends.
On Wednesday, May announced the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats from the UK and a range of other measures to crack down on “corrupt elites”, including new measures to combat spying.
The expulsion was the largest such move since the cold war, and marked a considerable escalation on the expulsion of four diplomats after the murder of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006.
Earlier on Thursday, the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, told BBC News: “There is something in the kind of smug, sarcastic response that we’ve heard that indicates their fundamental guilt. They want to simultaneously deny it, yet at the same time to glory in it.”
He suggested Vladimir Putin had some responsibility for the attack. “There is very little doubt in people’s minds that this is a signature act by the Russia state, deliberately using novichok, a nerve agent developed by Russia, to punish a Russian defector as they would see it, and in the runup to Vladimir Putin’s election.”
The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, confirmed Moscow would soon expel British diplomats from the country in a tit-for-tat response, Russian state news agencies reported.
Asked by journalists at a press conference on Thursday whether diplomatic expulsions would be included in a Russian response, he said: “Absolutely.” Asked when those statements would be made public, he said: “Soon.”
“As polite people, we’ll first be delivering our response to our British counterparts,” Lavrov said.
About 3,000 schools across America protest in coordinated riposte
Students step out of classrooms to spur action for change
Thousands of students poured out of classrooms in the US on Wednesday in an unprecedented expression of mourning and a demand for action to stem the country’s epidemic of gun violence.
In a stunning visual riposte to the public inertia that has followed mass shootings in the US, crowds of students at an estimated 3,000 schools across the country marched on running tracks, through parking lots and around building perimeters, carrying signs that read “Enough” and chanting, “Hey hey, ho ho, gun violence has got to go”.
The walkout fell one month after a student gunman killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida, in the deadliest high school shooting in the country’s history. Survivors of that massacre joined other student activists to organize Wednesday’s demonstration, which was promoted by the Women’s March movement that sprang up after the election of Donald Trump.
“There were lots of emotions, many people were crying. We were thinking of the 17 we lost,” said Florence Yared, a third-year student at Stoneman Douglas, who joined 3,000 of her schoolmates on the school’s football pitch, where exactly one month ago many were running for their lives.
Students elsewhere filled sidewalks in Brooklyn, kneeled in hallways in a Georgia high school, stood silently in a row in Virginia, and sat in a group with backs turned on the White House. Most demonstrations were planned to last 17 minutes, one for each of the Parkland victims.
In some school districts, students gathered against the warnings of administrators. At Booker T Washington high school in Atlanta, Georgia – once attended by Martin Luther King – a public announcement warned that any protester who left school hallways would incur “swift and severe consequences”.
“Dr King carries a legacy even in death,” said Markail Brooks, a senior. “So I feel as if it’s an obligation to carry on what he wanted and what he was trying to fight for and that’s why this day is very important.”
At an elementary school in Alexandria, Virginia, children synchronized their watches and a captain in each room led students outside two minutes before the planned 10am protest start time.
“Some parents have felt that we’re not old enough to know about it,” said one student, Carter, 11, about school shootings. “They think because we’re fifth-graders we don’t know anything about what’s happening.”
Another student, Henry Gibbs, 10, said: “Just the sensation that we are going to make a difference makes me feel proud.”
In Chicago, public schools changed class schedules to accommodate the walkouts, while the archdiocese announced that about 80,000 students at 200 Catholic schools would participate in assemblies to discuss gun violence.
The protesters called for new gun safety legislation, including a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and the introduction of universal background checks. They also opposed the additional fortification of schools with fences and armed guards, policies endorsed by the NRA, America’s powerful gun lobby group.
The NRA’s “national school shield” proposal to prevent school shootings calls for the “hardening” of school sites with not only armed guards and armed teachers but also the elimination of trees, parking lots and some windows, and the construction of fences.
“Let’s work together to secure our schools and stop school violence,” the NRA said as the walkouts began. Shortly afterwards, the group tweeted a picture of a semi-automatic rifle with an American flag sticker and the caption: “I’ll control my own guns, thank you.”
Neither Trump nor the White House offered a statement.
At the Academy for Young Writers high school in Spring Creek, Brooklyn, New York, students used the walkout to also bring attention to discrimination against people of color, women, and other groups.
“Our protest brings together many things and I do empathize with those in Parkland in Florida, but this is Brooklyn, East New York, and we have our own separate struggles and I wanted to advocate for that as well,” said Nathaniel Swanson, 16.
“We have policing [issues]. Discrimination in housing [and the] workforce. Gentrification is really getting bad in Brooklyn. Gun violence … these are the things that happen in our community.”
The youthful protesters seemed to be the latest indicator that a carapace of resistance to gun policy changes in the United States could be cracking. Recent polling has indicated that as many as seven in 10 Americans want stricter gun laws, the highest such figure in 20 years.
A recent Monmouth University poll found that 83% of Americans support requiring comprehensive background checks for all gun purchasers, including private sales between two individuals. Among NRA members, 69% support comprehensive background checks, the poll found.
The gun policy reform group Everytown for Gun Safety reported a 25% leap in members in the two weeks after the Parkland shooting, and at least 20 corporations changed age limits for buying guns or stopped selling some semi-automatic rifles altogether after the shooting, according to activists.
“While Congress sits on its hands, students like my son will stand and walk out of school this morning to demand action on gun violence,” tweeted Shannon Watts, the founder of the gun safety group Moms Demand Action, on Wednesday morning. “Next we march. Then we vote to #ThrowThemOut.”
Gun safety activists are focused on the midterm elections in November as an opportunity to expunge pro-gun legislators, whose ranks are increasingly out of proportion with the national mood.’
As protesters filled the streets, the Senate judiciary committee convened a hearing on school safety in light of the Parkland massacre. Republican chairman Chuck Grassley gave voice to “the imminence and necessity of passing some legislation quickly” but he hewed in his questioning to minor proposals that even the NRA supports, such as the banning of certain gun accessories.
Multiple gun control bills are currently pending in the US Congress, including bills that fit with the student protesters’ demands relating to assault weapons and background checks. But Congress in the past has repeatedly taken up such legislation only to shelve it, year after year, including in the wake of the 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.
In Connecticut, Washington and New York, the signs were hoisted by growing hands: “Disarm hate”, Protect kids not guns” and “We call BS.”
On the football pitch in Parkland, Florida, the students listened to a recording of the song Shine – “heaven let your light shine down” – as sympathy banners sent from around the world draped an adjacent building.
Then, 17 minutes later, the students filed back inside.
US President Donald Trump has fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and replaced him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
“Mike Pompeo, director of the CIA, will become our new secretary of state. He will do a fantastic job,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday. “Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service!” the president added.
The resignation represents the biggest shakeup of the Trump Cabinet so far and had been expected since last October when reports surfaced about a falling out between Trump and Tillerson, 65, who left his position as chief executive of Exxon Mobil to join the administration.
U.S. stock index futures pared their gains and the dollar also trimmed gains versus the yen while extending losses versus the euro amid the news.
Trump publicly undercut Tillerson’s diplomatic initiatives numerous times, including on Monday when the former secretary of state’s comments about Russia appeared to be at odds with those of the White House.
Tillerson also appeared out of the loop last week when Trump announced he would meet with North Korea’s leader and become the first sitting U.S. president to do so.
“Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State. He will do a fantastic job! Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service! Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all!” Trump said on Twitter.
Assad regime uses barrel bombs and attacks hospitals in rebel-held eastern Ghouta where dozens have been killed and thousands badly injured.
Pro-regime forces continued to bombard the opposition-controlled enclave of eastern Ghouta in Syria on Tuesday, leaving dozens dead, after more than 100 people were killed and hundreds wounded on a day of “hysterical” violence on Monday.
The surge in the killing came amid reports of an impending regime incursion into the area outside Damascus, which is home to 400,000 civilians. More than 700 people have been killed in three months, according to local counts, not including the deaths in the last week.
Five hospitals were also bombed on Monday in eastern Ghouta, which was once the breadbasket of Damascus but has been under siege for years by the government of Bashar al-Assad and subjected to devastating chemical attacks. Two hospitals suspended operations and one has been put out of service.
“We are standing before the massacre of the 21st century,” said a doctor in eastern Ghouta. “If the massacre of the 1990s was Srebrenica, and the massacres of the 1980s were Halabja and Sabra and Shatila, then eastern Ghouta is the massacre of this century right now.”
He added: “A little while ago a child came to me who was blue in the face and barely breathing, his mouth filled with sand. I emptied it with my hands. I don’t think they had what we do in any of the medical textbooks. A wounded child breathing with lungs of sand. You get a child, a year old, that they saved from the rubble and is breathing sand, and you don’t know who he is.
“All these humanitarian and rights organisations, all that is nonsense. So is terrorism. What is a greater terrorism than killing civilians with all sorts of weapons? Is this a war? It’s not a war. It’s called a massacre.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitor, said 194 people had died in 4o hours – a toll that encapsulated the unbridled violence of the war in Syria. After seven years and interventions by regional and global powers, the humanitarian crisis has heightened instead of abating, as forces loyal to Assad’s regime and his Russian and Iranian backers seek an outright military victory instead of a negotiated political settlement.
Aid workers said the latest violence in eastern Ghouta, where 1,300 people died in 2013 after the Assad regime deployed sarin gas, has included the use of notorious barrel bombs. The weapons are so inaccurate that their use is seen as a war crime by human rights watchdogs. The regime has also used fighter jets and artillery bombardment, on top of the punishing siege.
“The situation in eastern Ghouta is akin to the day of judgment,” said Mounir Mustafa, the deputy director of the White Helmets, the volunteer group that rescues people from under the rubble of bombed buildings.
The White Helmets said one of its volunteers, Firas Juma, died on Monday while responding to a bombing.
In Geneva, the UN children’s fund issued a blank “statement” to express its outrage at the casualties among Syrian children, saying it had run out of words.
Medical organisations said at least five clinics and hospitals, including a maternity centre, were bombed on Monday, some of them multiple times. An anaesthetist was killed in the attacks.
“The bombing was hysterical,” said Ahmed al-Dbis, a security official at the Union of Medical and Relief Organisations (UOSSM), which runs dozens of hospitals in areas controlled by the opposition in Syria. “It is a humanitarian catastrophe in every sense of the word. The mass killing of people who do not have the most basic tenets of life.”
SOURCE: The Bloomgist/EPA/The Guardian, UK/Agencies
Valentine’s Day began in a happy frame of mind for many of the 3,200 students arriving at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school, some clutching handmade love hearts for classmates and flowers for their teachers.
Terrified teenagers huddled together with their teachers in classrooms, closets and bathrooms as the gunman, armed with smoke grenades, a semi-automatic AR-15 assault rifle, and wearing a gas mask, moved from room to room, opening fire indiscriminately.
Seventeen people have been killed and 15 hospitalised after gunman attacked Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school.
Here is what we now know about the events that unfolded at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida, on Wednesday.
Seventeen people – children and adults – were killed when a gunman entered the high school on Wednesday afternoon and launched an attack. Twelve people were found dead inside the school, two were killed outside the building, one in the street, and two died later in hospital from their injuries.
The killer was armed with an AR-15 rifle and “multiple magazines”, police said. He bought the gun legally
Cruz was formerly a student at Douglas, but was expelled for disciplinary reasons. A teacher at the school said staff had been warned not to let him back on campus. The suspect had reportedly been receiving treatment for mental health issues. The FBI was reportedly alerted to a post he made on YouTube claiming “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.”
Twelve of those killed have been identified, police said on Wednesday evening. No names of victims have yet been released, but Sheriff Scott Israel said a football coach was among those lost, and the parents of a student named her on Facebook.
Fifteen victims remain in hospital: five in a life-threatening condition and 10 with injuries that are not life-threatening.
Students who had been at school with Cruz said many classmates had predictedhe could “do something” to harm them and that he had previously brought guns to school.
Teacher Melissa Falkowski said drills for a code red (active shooter) situation had been well rehearsed:
We could not have been more prepared for this situation … we have trained for this, we have trained the kids for what to do … We did everything that we were supposed to do.
I feel today like our government, our country, has failed us and failed our kids and didn’t keep us safe.
Distressing messages from children in lockdown inside the school to their parents show the terror as teachers barricaded their students into classrooms and closets to evade the gunman.
President Donald Trump tweeted his “prayers and condolences” to those affected, but decided not to speak about the attack, reports said. On Thursday morning, he tweeted again: “Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!”
But others said thoughts and prayers were not enough. Chris Murphy, senator for Connecticut – site of the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting, in which 26 children and adults were killed – said:
This happens nowhere else other than the United States of America. This epidemic of mass slaughter, this scourge of school shooting after school shooting.
It only happens here not because of coincidence, not because of bad luck, but as a consequence of our inaction. We are responsible.
Asked if the tragedy should lead to stricter gun control for people with mental health issues, a parent replied: “I don’t want to get into a gun debate. I really don’t. What are you going to do? Confiscate everybody’s guns? We have millions and millions of weapons … I’m a gun owner. I don’t want the government taking my gun.”
Michael Irwin, another parent whose son attended the school, shared Crescitelli’s view.
“All the regulation in the world wouldn’t have prevented necessarily what happened today. It’s something that’s tragic, but what regulation can you pass that takes away the guns that are already out there?” he said.
His son was waiting to hear if one of his close classmates was among the dead. By late Wednesday evening, Irwin said, the student was still missing.
Such a perspective was not shared by Israel, who argued during an evening press conference that people with mental health issues should not be able to purchase or use firearms.
Among those absent from the debate was Donald Trump. By the late evening, reports emerged that the president would not be speaking in public about the mass shooting, despite aides advising him otherwise.
Earlier in the day Trump had tweeted a message to send his “prayers and condolences”, adding: “No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school.”
SOURCES: The Bloomgist/CNN/New York Times/The Guardian, UK and agencies
President reportedly seeks grand parade in model of France’s Bastille Day celebration, prompting one veterans’ group to call him ‘a wannabe banana republic strongman’.
Donald Trump has ordered the Pentagon to plan a military parade that would see soldiers marching and tanks rolling down the streets of Washington, it was reported on Tuesday.
The move was instantly criticised, with one veterans’ group comparing the president to “a wannabe banana republic strongman”.
Trump is seeking a grand parade similar to the Bastille Day celebration in Paris, according to the Washington Post. He outlined the plan at a meeting at the Pentagon on 18 January that included defense secretary Jim Mattis and joint chiefs of staff chairman General Joseph Dunford, the paper said, citing an unnamed military official.
“The marching orders were: I want a parade like the one in France,” the official told the Post. “This is being worked at the highest levels of the military.”
The White House confirmed that an event is in the works, though it did not offer further details. “President Trump is incredibly supportive of America’s great service members who risk their lives every day to keep our country safe,” press secretary Sarah Sanders said. “He has asked the Department of Defense to explore a celebration at which all Americans can show their appreciation.”
Trump, who did not serve in the Vietnam war after receiving five draft deferments, has long spoken of his admiration for tough military figures such as General George Patton and frequently makes reference to “my generals”.
Trump told reporters in September: “To a large extent because of what I witnessed, we may do something like that on the Fourth of July in Washington down Pennsylvania Avenue. We’re actually looking into it.”
But not for the first time in Trump’s short political career, such a display is likely to prove divisive. On Tuesday retired general Paul Eaton, senior adviser to VoteVets, a progressive political action committee for military veterans, said: “Donald Trump has continually shown himself to have authoritarian tendencies, and this is just another worrisome example.”
In the past, Eaton noted, Trump has praised the tactics of autocrats such as Saddam Hussein and Vladimir Putin. He added: “Unfortunately, we do not have a commander in chief right now as much as have a wannabe banana republic strongman.”
Richard Painter, former White House ethics lawyer for George W Bush, tweeted: “Cool. Just like in North Korea and Russia. But what do we do about those traitors who don’t clap during our Dear Leader’s speech?” – a reference to Trump’s criticism of Democrats who did not applaud during his state of the union address.
A date for the event has not yet been chosen. Options include Memorial Day on 28 May, Independence Day on 4 July and Veterans Day on 11 November, which would coincide with the 100th anniversary of the end of the first world war. If the route includes Pennsylvania Avenue, it would pass by Trump’s controversial hotel.
But the Post added: “The cost of shipping Abrams tanks and high-tech hardware to Washington could run in the millions, and military officials said it was unclear how they would pay for it.”
Thomas Crosson, a spokesman for the Pentagon, said: “We are aware of the request and are in the process of determining specific details. We will share more information throughout the planning process.”
Charges relate to shootout in Brussels suburb shortly before arrest in March 2016.
The only surviving suspected member of the jihadi group that carried out the November 2015 Paris attacks has refused to answer questions at the start of his trial in Belgium on separate terrorism charges.
Salah Abdeslam stands accused of the attempted murder of police officers after a shootout in Brussels shortly before his arrest in March 2016.
Tight security surrounded the start of the trial of the 28-year-old, who was transferred overnight from a jail near Paris and arrived in Belgium in a convoy of police vehicles.
Abdeslam has declined to to speak to investigators since his arrest in March 2016, prompting his French and Belgian lawyers to resign in frustration, saying his silence made any defence impossible. He immediately signalled his defiance on Monday by refusing to stand when asked by the judge and saying he would not cooperate.
“I do not wish to answer any questions,” Abdeslam, bearded and wearing a long-sleeved white polo shirt, said when the presiding judge, Marie-France Keutgen, asked him to confirm his identity. “My silence does not make me a criminal, it is my defence.
Abdeslam claimed that the judicial process was biased against Muslims, who he said were treated in a “pitiless” manner with no presumption of innocence. “Judge me, do what you want to do, I place my confidence in Allah. I have no fear of you,” he told Keutgen. The judge told the court that Abdeslam has also refused to have photos or video taken of him during the four-day trial in Brussels.
Abdeslam fled Paris after the November 2015 attacks in the French capital that killed 130 people and injured hundreds more.
He was in hiding in a flat in a Brussels suburb when it was raided by police, who believed it had been used by a terrorist cell but was unoccupied at the time. After coming under fire from inside, three officers were injured and a terrorist suspect killed in a subsequent shootout. Abdeslam escaped over the rooftops, but was caught three days later.
He is awaiting trial in France on charges of murder linked to a terrorist organisation.
Abdeslam has been transferred from solitary confinement at Fleury-Merogis prison outside Paris to a high security facility at Vendin-le-Vieil in Pas-de-Calais.
He will be ferried daily to the Belgian capital for hearings that are scheduled to last all week. The courthouse and roads around it have been secured and security forces put on maximum alert.
Abdeslam is on trial with a second Islamist suspect, Sofiane Ayari, a 24-year-old Tunisian arrested with him in the Brussels district of Molenbeek. Both men face up to 40 years in prison if convicted.
A French national, Abdeslam was named Europe’s most wanted man after the terrorist attacks in Paris on 13 November 2015, which began when a suicide bomber blew himself up after failing to get into the Stade de France stadium where the then French president, François Hollande, was among 80,000 people watching a France-Germany football match.
This was followed by drive-by shootings and suicide bombings at cafes and restaurants around the 10th and 11th arrondissements of northern Paris, and an attack at the Bataclan theatre during a rock concert where 89 people were killed.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for the coordinated attacks, described by Hollande as an act of war. Investigators believe the operation was planned in Syria and organised by a group in Brussels.
Abdeslam is also implicated in the cell that carried out the March 2016 attack on Brussels airport and the city’s metro system that killed 32 people, and the attempted attack on a high-speed train from Amsterdam to Paris via Brussels in August 2015 thwarted by three US tourists.
In a letter believed to have been written by Abdeslam and discovered on the hard drive of a laptop computer discarded in a bin shortly before the Brussels bombings, he writes that he had intended to die with his “brothers” in the Paris attacks, but his suicide vest failed to explode.
A vest packed with explosives was discovered in a dustbin in southern Paris. It was found to have faults in the wiring and detonator, but experts are still unsure whether it was defective or had been deliberately sabotaged.
In the letter, Abdeslam wrote: “Of course I wanted to be among the shahid [martyrs]. Allah decided otherwise … I succeeded in joining the remaining brothers because there was a fault in my [suicide] vest.”
He also wrote in the same letter that he wanted to go to Syria. “But on reflection I concluded … the best thing would be to finish the work here with the brothers. Having said that I would just like to be better equipped in future before going into action.”
According to South Korean news agency Yonhap which cited a statement by Democratic Party Rep. Lee Cheol-hee, North Korean hackers have reportedly stolen a large amount of classified military documents, which includes a South Korean and U.S. plan to “decapitate” North Korea’s leadership.
• Cheol-Hee’s revelation
The news agency quoted Cheol-Hee saying the hackers broke into South Korea’s Defense Integrated Data Centre which is responsible for storing digital military data in September last year to steal the secret files, with Operational Plans 5015 and 3100 mentioned in the article.
• The dictates of the stolen documents
Operational Plan 5015 relates to “the latest Seoul-Washington scheme to handle an all-out war with Pyongyang, which reportedly contains detailed procedures to ‘decapitate’ the North Korean leadership,” while operational Plan 3100 is Seoul’s plan to “respond to the North’s localised provocations,” the news agency said.
“Also among them were contingency plans for the South’s special forces, reports to allies’ top commanders, and information on key military facilities and power plants,” Yonhap added, referring to Cheol-Hee’s claims.
According to the South Korean lawmaker who cited unnamed defense officials as being the sources of information on the hack, 235 gigabytes worth of military documents were taken, but nearly 80 percent of the contents of the documents is yet to be identified.
he North Korea government has mocked the fierce warning issued by US President Donald Trump in his first address at the 72nd UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday.
According to The Guardian, Trump in the speech said the US would be forced to “totally destroy” North Korea if pushed to the wall. He also echoed his earlier tweet where he called Kim “rocket man”. The President said, “Rocketman is on a suicide mission for himself and his regime.”
According to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, the foreign minister said, “There is a saying that the marching goes on even when dogs bark,” citing a Korean proverb.
“If he was thinking he could scare us with the sound of a dog barking, that’s really a dog dream,” he added. In Korean, a dog dream is one that makes little sense.
When asked what he thought of Trump’s description of Kim as rocket man, Ri replied, “I feel sorry for his aides.”
Trump’s stern warning came on the heels of North Korea’s defiance at pursuing its nuclear adventure which has seen the regime fired six nuclear missiles, the latest being the launch of two ballistic missiles over Northern Japan.
Meanwhile, varying with China’s continuous push for a dialogue, Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, told the UN General Assembly that previous talks had yielded nothing and called for a global blockade that would deny North Korea access to “goods, funds, people and technology” for its missile and nuclear programmes – arguing that sanctions was preferable to negotiation.
Restating his support for US’ position that all options, including military action, remained on the table, Abe said “We must make North Korea abandon all nuclear and ballistic missile programmes in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner. What is needed to do is not dialogue, but pressure”.
While warning that enough time has passed over the North Korean crisis, Abe cited the failure of a 1994 agreement between the North and the US to freeze Pyongyang’s nuclear programme, and the stalling of six-party talks almost a decade ago was proof the regime would not respond to dialogue.
North Korea had “no intention whatsoever of abandoning its nuclear or missile development. For North Korea, dialogue was instead the best means of deceiving us and buying time. In what hope of success are we now repeating the very same failure a third time?” He added.
South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, equally berated the idea of continued dialogue as posited by China and instead related with Washington’s stand.
In a statement from the presidential Blue House, Moon’s office said he welcomed Trump’s “firm “ speech to the UN. “It clearly showed how seriously the United States government views North Korea’s nuclear programme as the president spent an unusual amount of time discussing the issue,” the statement said.
The five living former United States presidents have teamed up in an Hurricane recovery effort on Thursday to raise money for victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas, under a mantra “One America Appeal”.
The campaign is a rare unity in American politics given the party divide, though, former Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton had teamed up to help Hurricane Katrina victims which struck New Orleans in 2005, and also a joint force was raised by Bush Jr and Clinton for victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake during the Obama regime.
President Trump has however commended and endorsed the actions of his predecessors in a tweet in the early hours of Friday. He wrote, “We will confront ANY challenge, no matter how strong the winds or high the water. I’m proud to stand with Presidents for #OneAmericaAppeal.”
The campaign, jump started with a public service announcement which featured the five former presidents during the first N.F.L. game of the season on Thursday night, with former President George W Bush remarking that, “People are hurting down here”.
The fund-raising effort targets people affected by Hurricane Harvey, which wrecked huge havoc and crippled economic activities in southeastern Texas – a state governed by President W Bush in the 1990s and which also harbored his father within those years.
The campaign will also expand to incorporate the victims of the latest strongest Atlantic Hurricane “Irma” currently ravaging the Caribbean and forecasted to strike South Florida over the weekend and subsequently move to Georgia.
Donations through the fund raising which can also be made online at oneamericaappeal.org, will go to a special restricted account created through the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation, and will be subsequently distributed to two charities, the “Houston Harvey Relief Fund” and the “Rebuild Texas Fund”.
Japan is planning a possible mass evacuation of its citizens in South Korea due to brewing tensions which continues to rise amid threats of nuclear war with North Korea.
According to FOX News, the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe said, “There is a possibility of further provocations. We need to remain extremely vigilant and do everything we can to ensure the safety of our people.”
The Prime Minister’s plan became imperative as North Korea continues to ramp up its threats of nuclear war, coupled with reports that the regime appears to be preparing another ballistic missile launch to show off its capacity to target the U.S.
According to Japanese magazine Nikkei Asian Review, about 60,000 Japanese citizens currently reside in South Korea. Around 38,000 are long-term residents, while roughly 19,000 are tourists or short-term visitors.
A Japanese Government source told Nikkei Review that, “If the U.S. decided on a military strike against the North, the Japanese government would start moving toward an evacuation on its own accord regardless of whether the American plans are public”.
The proposed evacuation plan is comprised of four steps “seeks to limit unessential travel to South Korea, discourage all travel to the South, advise Japanese citizens to evacuate and encourage them to shelter in place”.
The North Korea regime leader, Kim Jong-un has said he will watch the actions of the US before deciding whether to launch missiles towards Guam.
According to KCNA, the North Korea’s official news agency, the leader who received a report from his army on plans to fire missiles towards Guam while inspecting the command of the North’s army on Monday, examined the plan for a long time and discussed it with army officers, said he will watch the actions of the United States before making a decision to fire.
In response to the report, Kim Jong-un ordered the army to be ready to launch should he decide on a military action.
The fierce leader said, “If the Yankees persist in their extremely dangerous reckless actions on the Korean peninsula and in its vicinity, testing the self-restraint of the DPRK, the latter will make an important decision as it already declared.”
Kim’s words follows the surge in tensions sprouted last week due to his threat of a strike near Guam – an action the US President Donald Trump warned he would unleash “fire and fury” on North Korea if it did so.
The leader further said, “the US should make the right choice in order to defuse the tensions and prevent the dangerous military conflict on the Korean peninsula”.
Trump has since spoken to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe late Monday to discuss the military options about North Korea.
“President Trump reaffirmed that the United States stands ready to defend and respond to any threat or actions taken by North Korea against the United States or its allies, South Korea and Japan,” a White House statement said early Tuesday. and has since spoken to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe late Monday to discuss the military options about North Korea.
Rep.Mo Brooks has offered to drop out of the Alabama Senate race in other to allow Attorney General Jeff Sessions reclaim his former seat in the Congress upper chamber.
The proposal would involve all the nine candidates running for the seat dropping out of the contest, allowing the Alabama GOP to appoint Sessions as their nominee and run him in the general election. Following Trump’s incessant critique of Sessions recusal from the ongoing Russian investigations in the past few days, and asked why Sessions was not conducting an investigation into Democratic rival Hillary Clinton’s emails.
In a statement, Brooks wrote; “I support President Trump’s policies, but this public waterboarding of one of the greatest people Alabama has ever produced is inappropriate and insulting to the people of Alabama who know Jeff Sessions so well and elected him so often by overwhelming margins”.
He also added that Sessions “can return to the Senate where he has served us so well and that Trump can then appoint whomever he wants as the Attorney General”.
Ending the statement with; “I recognize that President Trump is popular in Alabama, my closest friends and political advisers have told me to not side with Jeff Sessions, that it will cost me politically to do so. My response is simple: I don’t care. If this costs me politically, that’s fine but I am going to the right thing for Alabama and America. I stand with Jeff Sessions”.
Brook’s offer will most likely be rejected by the other candidates and seems to be a campaign for Brooks to attach himself to the Attorney General.
The US House of Representatives voted on Tuesday to slap new sanctions on Russia and force President Donald Trump to obtain politicians’ permission before easing any sanctions on Moscow.
The sanctions bill comes as politicians investigate possible meddling by Russia in the 2016 presidential election and potential collusion by Republican Trump’s campaign.
New sanctions against Iran and its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which stands accused of supporting terrorism, and North Korea, for its missile tests, are also included in the bill backed by house members.
The Republican-controlled Senate passed an earlier version of the bill with near-unanimous support. The House added the North Korea measures after becoming frustrated with the Senate’s failure to advance a bill it passed in May.
Representative Ed Royce, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the three countries “are threatening vital US interests and destabilising their neighbours. It is well past time that we forcefully respond”.
It was unclear how quickly the bill would make its way to the White House for Trump to sign into law or veto.
The bill still must be passed by the Senate, which is mired in debate over efforts to overhaul the US healthcare system as politicians try to clear the decks to leave Washington for their summer recess.
A prominent member of the upper house of Russia’s parliament, Konstantin Kosachyov, responded on Wednesday saying that Moscow should prepare a “painful” response to new US sanctions.
“Judging by the unanimous vote in the US House of Representatives on the sanctions package against Russia, Iran and North Korea, there will be no breakthrough [in U.S.-Russian relations] … In fact, further degradation of bilateral cooperation is becoming inevitable,” Kosachyov said on his Facebook page.
Bill ‘likely to pass’
Al Jazeera’s Heidi Zhou-Castro reporting from Washington, DC, said the bill is likely to pass in the Senate and be on the president’s desk for final approval by the end of the month.
“This was a rare show of bipartisan solidarity in a near unanimous vote and reflects the widespread concern about Trump’s perceived overfriendly relationship with Moscow,” she said.
“If Trump signs the bill, giving it approval, he will acknowledge that Russia did meddle in 2016 US presidential elections.
“But if he does not sign the bill, he faces a political firestorm given that his campaign, his close family members and closest advisers are under investigations in Capitol Hill for their alleged roles of colluding with the Russian government in getting Trump to the White House.”
The intense focus on Russia, involving several congressional probes and a separate investigation by a Justice Department-appointed special counsel, Robert Mueller, has overshadowed Trump’s agenda.
The scrutiny has angered and frustrated the president, who calls the investigations a politically motivated witch-hunt fuelled by Democrats who cannot accept his upset win in last November’s election against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, a former secretary of state.
On Tuesday, Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, spent three hours with the House of Representatives intelligence panel, his second straight day on Capitol Hill answering questions about his contacts with Russians during the campaign.
Kushner had a “very productive session” with the House Intelligence Committee, Democratic Representative Adam Schiff said after the meeting.
Kushner, who is now a top aide in Trump’s White House, told reporters on Monday he had no part in any Kremlin plot.
US House Republicans on Tuesday rejected a legislative effort by Democrats to obtain Treasury Department documents that could show any ties between the finances of Trump, his inner circle and the Russian government.
Senator John McCain will return to Capitol Hill to vote to keep Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare alive, Tuesday.
According to Reuters, McCain, whose office announced his battle with brain cancer last week, is set to help in the crucial decision making to either keep pushing the Obamacare repeal bill or to trash it. The senators will debate on the Senate floor on a fresh health care plan to overhaul the Affordable health care act known as Obamacare.
President Trump thanked McCain for his return in a tweet early Tuesday, he wrote; “So great that John McCain is coming back to vote. Brave-American hero! Thank you, John”.
McCain’s vote later today is very critical to the Republicans who have been struggling to gather enough votes to repeal the bill since April, a loss today would mean the Senate leaders, would either find another strategy or move on to other legislative matters such as Taxes.
In a White House event on Monday, President Trump chastised the Republicans for their inability to pass the bill to repeal saying they “have not done their job in ending the Obamacare nightmare.
Vice President Mike Pence would be on the hill to step in to vote in the case of a tie.
When G20 leaders meet in Hamburg in early July they face a problem not on their formal agenda: how to work around Donald Trump. The US president disdains multilateral financial cooperation, is opposed to US participation in the Paris Agreement on climate change, has shown little interest in, knowledge of, or desire to partner with African countries.
These core issues frame the 2017 G20 agenda with a proposed “Compact with Africa” slated as the summit’s big initiative. It’s aims will be to encourage private sector investment, support infrastructure development, and greater economic participation and employment in Africa.
In addition to South Africa, the G20’s only African member, the leaders of Guinea, Kenya and Senegal have been invited as guests.
The US convened the first 2008 G20 Summit in Washington in response to the global financial crisis and has played a leading and constructive role ever since. Such experiments in informal global governance are an anathema to Trump, although he lacks any experiencein such matters.
If Africa is to gain the attention in Hamburg the agenda promises, this will have to be without the support and cooperation of the US, at least while Trump is president. But can anything be achieved while this is the case?
If the G20 is to remain relevant in the quest for more inclusive and fair global governance, Africa offers a historic opportunity for collective action, despite US absence. Most urgent is alleviating the famine in East Africa while China, India, and others among the G20 are showing fresh interest in Africa’s long-term peace and development.
The Trump factor
Trump’s first and only exposure to multilateral summit diplomacy was at NATO’s Brussels headquarters on 25 May. Then immediately to a two-day G-7 summit in Sicily. Neither went well. More significant than all the negative media coverage of Trump’s performance, was German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s veiled warning that after 70 years, the US under Trump was no longer a credible ally and Europe
must be ready to take our fate into our own hands.
Merkel’s comments were probably intended for a global and American domestic audience as well. The US foreign policy elite and public continue to support close ties to Europe. Cooperation with Africa also has been generally popular in America. It is one area of foreign assistance that has enjoyed enduring bi-partisan support since the early 1990s.
Trump’s antics in Hamburg could detract from the summit and his recalcitrance may complicate setting and slow implementation of the G20 agenda. But, progress on the Africa Compact is still possible with support from the US private and non-governmental sectors. The same goes for climate change and economic cooperation.
How G20 leaders interact with Trump, and comment publicly on the progress or lack of progress in Hamburg will resonate domestically in the US. In deciding what to say publicly, G20 leaders may want to consider recent and escalating US domestic constraints impinging Trump’s presidency.
Trump’s domestic constraints
Trump meets all the definitional criteria of a demagogue. His appeal to popular passions and prejudices rather than reason and facts, secured him a base of support that remains loyal.
He has not broadened his popular appeal, polling favourability ratings around 36%, the lowest ever recorded this early in a first term.
Trump has shown authoritarian traits. And the leaders he appears he will get along with best are those G20 leaders heading authoritarian regimes in China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. The US still has the world’s biggest military and economy, but Trump has yet to earn the respect and deference of his G20 peers.
Politicians sometimes lie, but not all to the same degree. The Washington Post’s nonpartisan Fact Checkers recently documented 623 false and misleading claims by Trump in just his first 137 days in office.
Allegations that Trump may now be under investigation by an independent special counsel for obstructing justice in the FBI’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, possibly in collusion with the Trump campaign, have put his presidency in even greater peril.
If his own head of intelligence, and other senior officials of his administration, cannot trust him to keep his word, how can foreign leaders? Whatever Trump says at the G20, has to be discounted in light of this, including concurrence with a final joint statement.
Trump’s mendacity points to a much bigger problem. In an era of big data and contested statistical evidence how can opinion be informed by agreed facts to achieve consensus at any political level?
He has ridden rough-shod over decades of research findings regarding the human causes of climate change.
To inform and help frame democratic debate, about such scientifically complicated contested topics as climate, public health, national security, and a raft of other vital policy issues, the public used at least rely on professional journalists to arrive at the best obtainable version of the truth.
This is no longer sufficient. Trump has advanced politically by questioning scientific evidence, those who produce it and dismisses as “fake news” any journalistic reporting he disagrees with. G20 leaders should not be diplomatic in calling attention to this.
And a positive counter-note to Trump’s cavalier claims would be for the G20 leaders to make clear that they believe in evidence based policymaking, as well as the monitoring and evaluation of recommendations.
Cooperation without America
The leaders, individually and together, need to show their commitment to unbiased, honest, and rigorously informed judgements on such issues as the design, priorities, and implementation of their new “Compact with Africa.”
Doing so without US backing adds to the challenge, but is also an opportunity for demonstrating cooperation without America playing a central role. So long as Trump is US president, this is likely to also be popular in most G20 countries.
A just released Pew global survey of public attitudes in 37 countries (including six in Africa – Senegal, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, and Ghana) toward the US under Trump shows a 15% drop in positive views of the US (64%-49%) since Barack Obama left office. Confidence in the US presidency under Trump, however, fell a stunning 41%. Only in Russia, and Israel is Trump regarded more favourably than Obama.
Far more important that thwarting Trump, however, will be gaining public support for the “Compact with Africa” and the rest of the Hamburg agenda. Justifying these costly and complex commitments in positive ways will be a tougher political challenge; but one perhaps rendered easier without Trump or his representative claiming a seat at the head of the table.
President Trump’s revised travel ban “2.o” as it’s been referred to will finally go into effect from 8 p.m. ET Thursday.
According to CNN, under the ruling by the Supreme Court, foreign nationals have to establish a “credible claim of bona fide relationship” with either an entity e.g a school or a job or a person living in the United States eg. a spouse. Any foreign national that can’t sufficiently establish such a close relationship, will be banned for 90 days if they are from Libya, Syria, Iran, Somalia, Yemen, and Sudan, and 120 days if they are a refugee fleeing persecution from any country. The Supreme Court has granted full review of the travel ban and oral argument is set for October.
According to a cable from CNN, the new guidelines were received by US embassies and consulates, Wednesday, says that applicants must prove a relationship with a parent, spouse, child, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law or sibling in the US in order to enter the country.
Bonafide relationship does not apply to other family members — including fiancees, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, and any other “extended” family members. The guidelines have not yet been posted by the State Department or the Department of Homeland Security and could be subject to change.
Alysia Montano, middle distance runner has mesmerised sports fans after she completed the USA Track and Field Championships on Thursday while five months pregnant. The 31-year-old athlete who is pregnant with her second child has been making headlines since finishing about 19 seconds behind the winner recording a time of 2 minutes, 21.40 seconds.
Call her super-woman or wonder woman if you like, but this is not the first time she has pulled this incredible fit. In 2014, Montano ran the same race while she was eight months pregnant. Probably as an appreciation to herself, she sported a Wonder Woman top and a flower in her hair. Montano assured worried people that she was well hydrated and felt absolutely fine. “Everyone is like, “Oh, you’re going to be faster than you were last time, because you’re less pregnant. I’m like, “I’m still pregnant,” she said.
Alysia Montano has represented the United States at numerous international championships including the 2012 Olympics, she won bronze at the 2010 IAAF World Indoor Championships in the 800m race, she won the 800m title in a time of 1:58.33 at the 2011 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, set an American Indoor Record of 1:23.59 and won the 2013 Milrose Games 600 meters, she won 2013 Penn Relays 4 x 800 meters and set American Outdoor Record in 8:04.31 and earned a silver medal at Athletics at the 2015 Pan American Games – Women’s 800 metres.
Even though she lost (came in last position) the 2014 games when she ran being eight months pregnant, Momtano returned after giving birth to her daughter; Linnea Dori Montaño on August 15, 2014, and won the 800 meters final of the US Trials and qualified to the World Athletics Championships 2015 in Beijing.
She says her philosophy in life is to be bold and courageous
Top U.S intelligence officials are currently testifying at a Senate hearing on the law governing the collection of foreign intelligence, known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or FISA, according to reports.
The hearing comes amid varying reports, a major one being that President Donald Trump attempted to interfere with the FBI investigation into whether his campaign colluded with Russian officials during the 2016 election.
Politico reports some of the highlights of the hearing have been;
Coats might not be open to discussing private conversations he may have had with the president but not in a public forum
“I do not feel it’s appropriate for me to in a public session in which confidential conversations between the president and myself,” he said. “I don’t believe that it’s appropriate for me to address that in a public session.”
Reports that President Trump has tried to interfere with an ongoing FBI investigation are appalling
Vice Chairman of the hearing, Mark Warner informed the intel chiefs that he would be asking questions outside the topic of Wednesday’s hearing on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. “I’ll be asking, about those reports today because if any of this is true it would be an appalling and improper use of our intelligence professionals, an act, if true, that could erode the public’s trust in our intelligence institutions.”݀
Rogers refused to address private conversations he may have had with Trump
He said “But I will make the following comment, In the three-plus years that I have been the director of the National Security Agency, to the best of my recollection, I have never been directed to do anything I believed to be illegal, immoral, unethical or inappropriate, and to the best of my recollection during that same period of service, I do not recall ever feeling pressured to do so.”
With bomb-sniffing dogs, bag inspections and rows of metal detectors at the entrance, the modern concert arena is in some ways a fortress.
But the blast that killed 22 people on Monday at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, highlighted the dangers that still exist along the perimeters of these buildings — on the street or in public concourses where concertgoers and others may gather in large numbers, unexamined by any security force.
Investigators say the explosion at Manchester Arena occurred in a foyer just outside the venue’s doors, a space that connects the arena to the nearby Victoria rail station. SMG, the company that manages the arena, said that it is not responsible for policing that space.
The episode immediately recalled the attacks in Paris in November 2015, when gunmen who entered the Bataclan theater during a performance killed 90 people. But Steven A. Adelman, the vice president of the Event Safety Alliance, a trade group, believes that comparison is not quite apt.
“It’s less like the Bataclan than it is the Boston Marathon bombing, which also took place on a public street, surrounded by law enforcement,” Mr. Adelman said. “It was another target-rich environment for someone with bad intent.”
With the Manchester bombing, the multibillion-dollar music touring industry is once again confronting the specter of violence. Last summer, with the Paris attacks still a fresh memory, the singer Christina Grimmie was shot while signing autographs in Orlando, Fla., and in a separate episode in the same city a gunman killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub.
Ms. Grande’s tour is scheduled to stop at the O2 arena in London on Thursday and Friday, but neither she nor the arena have said whether those shows would go ahead as planned.
Several concert promoters and security professionals declined to discuss their procedures on Tuesday, for what one promoter called “obvious reasons.”
Still, there is a broader concern in the music industry that no one wants the concert experience to become too militarized.
“Going to see a show or a sporting event as a kid is one of life’s true moments of happiness,” said Jonathan Daniel, whose company, Crush Music, manages artists like Sia, Fall Out Boy and Lorde. “It would be terrible to lose that.”
Wes Westley, the chief executive of SMG, said in an interview that his company has been heightening its security procedures since the 9/11 attacks in 2001. After the Paris attacks in 2015, he said, the procedures were already strict.
“We already had tight security,” Mr. Westley said. “It was hard to get it any tighter. We wouldn’t let people in the building.”
For many of the talent executives and concert promoters who plan tours, Tuesday began with calls from artists debating whether to go forward with their own shows. With sales revenue from recordings still down, musicians now derive more and more of their income from touring, and many say they are under constant pressure to stay on the road.
Marc Geiger, the head of music at William Morris Endeavor, said that the Manchester attack would cause venues and promoters to ratchet up their security measures once again, and that artists would demand more protections — all of which would drive up costs.
But he echoed an optimism voiced by many in the industry on Tuesday, that the concert business would remain vigorously healthy and that fans would still buy tickets to see their favorite acts.
“I don’t believe it is going to end an industry,” Mr. Geiger said of the attacks. “I do believe that in the near term a fear base has been established, which is what terrorism wants to do.”
A terrorist attack hit a pop concert in Manchester on Monday evening. Here is what we know so far:
What has happened?
Police have confirmed that at least 22 people were killed in the explosion at an Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena. Some of them are children.
Officers said a further 59 people were injured amid reports of at least one explosion that hit the venue shortly after the concert finished.
Theresa May, the prime minister, confirmed the incident was a terrorist attack as she addressed cameras outside Downing Street. Police and security services believe they have identified the bomber, but no name has yet been announced, she said.
It is the deadliest terror attack to hit the UK since the 7/7 London bombings in July 2005.
The first victim has been named as 18-year-old Georgina Callander, her school, Runshaw College, announced.
Police say their priority is to establish whether the killer was acting alone or part of a network.
The police say they believe the attacker was carrying an improvised explosive device, which he detonated.
About 21,000 people are reported to have been at the concert at the time of the explosion.
Multiple witnesses said they heard an explosion, with one saying the blast shook the building, before “everyone screamed and tried to get out”.
A 23-year-old man was arrested on Tuesday morning in south Manchester, the police said. The Arndale Centre shopping mall was evacuated and a man was arrested there but this is unconnected to the attacks, the police said.
Where did it happen?
Manchester Arena said the incident took place “outside the venue in a public space”.
The blast was reported to have hit the foyer of the building at about 10:30pm, British Transport police said.
Victims have been taken to eight hospitals across the Manchester area.
Large parts of the city around the arena have been sealed off. Victoria station has been closed and is expected to be closed throughout Tuesday.
Police have asked the public to avoid Manchester city centre as they continued to work in the area.
Police have carried out a controlled explosion in the Cathedral Gardens area but the item destroyed was not suspicious.
The reactions so far
Theresa May has said her thoughts are with the victims and families of those affected in “what is being treated by the police as an appalling terrorist attack”. In a televised appearance outside 10 Downing Street, she attacked the “appalling, sickening cowardice” of the bombing.
The home secretary, Amber Rudd, described the bombing as a “barbaric attack” that targeted “young people, children out at a pop concert”.
May chaired a meeting of the Cobra government emergency committee at 9am and will attend another later today. She will travel to Manchester to meet the chief constable, mayor and emergency services, she said.
Manchester’s new mayor, Andy Burnham, who attended the Cobra meeting via video link, said there would be a vigil in Albert Square on Tuesday evening.
The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron, have expressed their sympathies for the victims.
The US president, Donald Trump, gave a statement from his trip to Israel in which he called the attackers “evil losers”.
General election campaigning has been suspended.
The Metropolitan police commissioner, Cressida Dick, said additional police would be on duty in London throughout the weekend.
Police have issued a number for people to call if they are concerned about relatives or loved ones: +44 0161 856 9400