South Africa leaders divided after President Zuma sacks Gordhan

South Africa’s Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has described the sacking of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan as “totally unacceptable”.

His late night dismissal on Thursday led to a 5% plunge in the value of the currency, the rand.

Mr Gordhan was seen as a bulwark against corruption in an administration that is facing growing criticism.

He was one of several victims as President Jacob Zuma conducted a major overhaul of his cabinet.

Mr Zuma said the midnight reshuffle was about a “radical socio-economic transformation”.

Mr Ramaphosa told public broadcaster SABC that he would not resign in response to the sacking but continue to “serve the people”.

Why has this caused such a fuss?

Pravin Gordhan was seen by many as a safe pair of hands when it came to managing the economy.

He was keen to keep a tight rein on spending and resisted calls from the president to increase government expenditure.

This was Mr Gordhan’s second stint as finance minister after first serving from 2009 to 2014.

He was reappointed in 2015 to replace little-known David van Rooyen. Mr Van Rooyen’s selection was controversial and he was in place for less than a week.

Why was he sacked?

It is unclear why Mr Gordhan was sacked but local media are pointing to an alleged intelligence report which accuses him of working with foreigners to undermine Mr Zuma’s administration.

In a spirited farewell press conference at the treasury’s office in Pretoria, Mr Gordhan defended his economic record, and dismissed speculation that he had recently held meetings in London aimed at undermining the president.

Referral to his dismissal and that of his deputy Mcebisi Jonas he said: “Our souls are not for sale.”

Mr Gordhan and Mr Zuma did not see eye to eye on government spending, the BBC’s Milton Nkosi reports, and that led to a rift between them. Ultimately, though, this is being seen as a political issue with the president rewarding loyalists.

Earlier this week, the president recalled his finance minister from planned events in the UK.

Last October, Mr Gordhan was charged with fraud, but the charges were later dropped.

He has described the allegations as politically motivated.

What is being said about the sacking?

Comments by the Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa that Mr Gordhan’s sacking was “totally unacceptable” captures the overwhelming sentiment of some top leaders in the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu said Mr Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas had integrity and were incorruptible.

The Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, has said the cabinet sackings “constitute an assault on the poor of South Africa”.

ANC Youth League leader Collen Maine has however praised the cabinet changes calling the new Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba “experienced and intelligent”.

What impact could this have?

The rand is experiencing a setback just when it had started to recover from the political uncertainty and international volatility that plagued it in the past year.

The bond markets, this is where government debt is sold and the values are directly linked to the prospects of the economy have also reacted negatively.

For foreign investors that is a boon, but for South African taxpayers subsidising the state it does not represent value for money.

Ultimately ordinary people will feel the pressure of these political moves, a weaker currency means the cost of basic imports such as fuel and some foods will go up.

A country whose reputation is dented, may ultimately lose face with international ratings agencies and finally be downgraded to “junk status” when the economic assessments are done again in June.

What other changes have been made?

Apart from the nine ministers who have been affected by the changes Mr Zuma also appointed 10 deputy ministers.

Sfiso Buthelezi will become Deputy Finance Minister, replacing Mcebisi Jonas.

“I have directed the new ministers and deputy ministers to work tirelessly with their colleagues… to ensure that the promise of a better life for the poor and the working class becomes a reality,” President Zuma’s said in a statement.


Paraguay congress set on fire amid presidential controversy

Demonstrators in Paraguay have set fire to the country’s congress amid violent protests against a bill that would let the president seek re-election.

The head of the main opposition party said an activist had been shot dead.

The country’s 1992 constitution, introduced after 35 years of dictatorship, limits the president to a single five-year term.

But sitting President Horacio Cartes is trying to remove the restriction and run for re-election.

Protesters were photographed smashing in windows of the congress building in Asuncion on Friday night and setting fire to the interior.

The AFP news agency said protesters “ransacked” the offices of those who backed the bill.

Police used mounted units, rubber bullets, and water cannons to disperse the crowd. Local media reports said dozens of people had been injured, including protesters, politicians, and police officers.

The head of Paraguay’s opposition Liberal party, Efrain Alegre, said a young man had been killed during the protests. Police are yet to confirm this.

Santi Carneri, a journalist in Asuncion, told the BBC the congress building was on fire for “more than one or two hours”.

There were “a lot of battles between people and the police in the streets”, he said, adding that it was the worst violence of its kind since Paraguay became a democracy in 1992.

‘A coup

In a statement released on Twitter, President Cartes appealed for calm.

“Democracy is not conquered or defended with violence and you can be sure this government will continue to put its best effort into maintaining order in the republic,” he said (in Spanish).

The attorney general’s office said it had followed the events closely and was investigating the violence.

Earlier, the crowd took to the streets following a private meeting of 25 senators – a slight majority of the house – which approved a bill to amend the constitution.

The bill must also be approved by the other house of parliament – the chamber of deputies – where President Cartes’ party holds a majority.

The chamber’s president, Hugo Velázquez, told ABC Color (in Spanish) that the sitting planned for the following morning would no longer take place and no decision would be made on Saturday.

Opponents say the bill will weaken the country’s democratic institutions.

Opposition senator Desiree Masi said: “A coup has been carried out. We will resist and we invite the people to resist with us.”

Paraguay was controlled by military ruler General Alfredo Stroessner, who seized power in a coup, from 1954 until 1989.

The new constitution in 1992 created the modern government, but there has been a long period of political instability and party infighting, as well as a failed coup attempt.

President Cartes’ term is due to end in 2018.

The change, if approved, would also allow former president Fernando Lugo to run again.

Mr Lugo was ousted in 2012 over his handling of a land eviction in which 17 people were killed.

His supporters, however, would like to see him run again.

Mugabe under siege in Mauritius

President Robert Mugabe came under siege on Monday in Mauritius as scores of journalists stormed a closed session when it was his time to deliver his speech.
According to Zimbabwe state run Herald which does not hesitate to heap praises on the 93 year old, said journalists had been calm all along when other speakers took to the floor, while following proceedings from giant screens in the media centre.
 However, ” all of a sudden they stormed the entrance when the President’s turn to speak came” it said.
“The journalists had been barred from covering the plenary session because the conference venue was too small and were asked to watch proceedings on giant television screens in the media centre.

“But security officers failed to control them when they disregarded protocol and stormed the entrance just not to miss that once-in-a-lifetime experience of covering the African icon’s speech” it added.

Mugabe made a rare public appearance wearing a casual safari shirt surrounded by several aides as he was struggling to walk.

What happened to Mugabe’s suit jacket in Mauritius?

Mauritius: Hang on: what happened to President Robert Mugabe’s suit jacket?
Zimbabweans on social media have been looking at photos of their 93-year-old leader at a meeting in Mauritius with more than a bit of bewilderment. Because he seems to have “lost” his blazer.
A video clip of Mugabe arriving in Mauritius on Sunday night, where he is attending the inaugural African Economic Platform (AEP), shows him wearing a sober navy blue suit jacket and grey tie as he is welcomed by Mauritian Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth. 
But later photos show him walking (and reclining) inexplicably dressed in what looks very much like an untucked white shirt – while a sea of smart blazers surrounds him. 
And although the shirt appears to have a collar, it’s not buttoned up.

Was it a wardrobe malfunction, as @PovoZimbabwe suggested? 

Or a sign of something much more worrying?

“Mugabe has to quit, this is crazy,” tweeted one Zimbabwean.

Said @ali_naka: “The man should be resting or sitting under a mango or guava tree in the village.”
“True but he is being subjected to a gruelling schedule by avaricious aides who are on a plundering mission. Heartless natives,” said @GomoDubi.
The strange choice of clothing could have been nothing more than a desire to be different, as @hbanhire suggested. “Our fearless leader likes to stand out from the crowd,” he tweeted, next to a photo taken in 2015 of Mugabe at an India-Africa Forum in which he was the only one to stick to his suit.
But Mugabe’s taste for Savile Row suits (and others) makes this choice of attire in Mauritius even more puzzling.
He doesn’t just wear Savile Row: at his 93rd birthday party last month he wore a jacket made of fabric that had his face printed on it.

Mugabe’s nephew helps oust ‘dictator’ (so can he oust his uncle, Zimbabweans wonder?)

President Robert Mugabe’s flamboyant and very rich nephew Philip Chiyangwa played a large part in achieving the unthinkable: the unseating of a man who’s been in power for the last (nearly) three decades.
Admittedly, Chiyangwa’s victory was in the world of soccer where the longtime head of the Confederation of African Football Issa Hayatou has just been voted out of power.
But some Zimbabweans are asking: could “Fidza” perhaps do the same with his 93-year-old uncle Robert Mugabe, the man who’s ruled Zimbabwe with an iron grip since independence in 1980?
Rival birthday party
ZIFA and COSAFA boss Chiyangwa headed the campaign to block Cameroon’s Hayatou from getting re-elected as boss of CAF and get Madagascar’s Ahmad Ahmad elected in his place. Hayatou had been in place for 29 years. As a key part of his power-transfer strategy, property magnate Chiyangwa even went so far as to hold a birthday party in Harare a day before his uncle’s official party in February. “Fidza” got FIFA president Gianni Infantino to come to the bash as guest of honour.
The campaign paid off, because Ahmad Ahmad was finally elected at the CAF Congress in Ethiopia this week.
African strongman
So excited were some Zimbabweans that hundreds of them reportedly thronged Harare International Airport on Friday to greet Chiyangwa on his return from Addis Ababa.
But with headlines like “all change in Africa” and “one of Africa’s longest serving strongmen just got voted out of power”, some Zimbabweans and non-Zimbabweans are seeing a certain irony in what’s happened.
“Dear Mr Phillip Chiyangwa, that warm fuzzy feeling you just had sir is called regime change,” tweeted @cctsodzo.
“When shall we get a Fidza in our politics to do a Hayatou? Hayatou fall has excited many,” said @shadreck1971.
‘It took a politician from Zimbabwe to bring change
Phelisile Cengani from Cape Town said: “The irony in all of this, it took a politician from Zimbabwe to bring change at CAF.”
Not everyone saw the irony, it seems. Zimbabwe’s Higher Education Minister Jonathan Moyo congratulated the new CAF boss, saying that history had been made in African football “with our very own Philip Chiyangwa in the thick of it.”
Asked @povozim in a likely reference to Mugabe’s refusal to accept the what many think was the outright loss of the first round of presidential elections in 2008: “Someone must ask Zifa President @chiyangwa_phil how he would feel if #issahayatou refused to go after yesterday’s defeat! #ZimElections2018”.
‘Mugabe has Hayatousis
Supersports presenter Robert Marawa went as far as to pose the ‘could the same thing happen to your uncle’ question to Chiyangwa in an interview on Friday night, according to an online Zimbabwe media watchdog.
Tweeted @ZimMediaReview. “Robert Marawa asked Chiyangwa if he wouldn’t do the same to Bob. “Different type of politics; you will be throwing yourself under a train”
Chiyangwa does not often speak in public about his relative.
Zimbabwe’s next elections are in 2018 and Mugabe says he will stand.
Zimbabwe’s Independent weekly said Saturday that the longtime president is “suffering from Hayatousis”

8 women held hostage in mansion by suspected human sex trafficker: Cops

Eight women were taken from a man’s home in Georiga in what police are calling a case of suspected human sex trafficking.
Police in Sandy Springs responded to a haunting 911 call from a 20-year-old woman who said she was being held against her will on Tuesday.
“I’m in a really bad situation and I need to get out,” said the caller, who told the dispatcher she had met her captor on a website called Seeking Arrangements, which connects women with wealthy men.
In a 911 recording released by police, the dispatcher questions the caller, asking, “Wait, did you say that you’re in a house full of girls?”
“Mmhmm,” the caller replied. “And somebody threatened to kill you if you leave?” the shocked dispatcher asked.
“Mmhmm,” the woman confirmed. The caller went on to tell the dispatcher the man threatening to kill her was her “boss.”
According to officials, officers from Sandy Springs PD arrived at the home, where they say they found a total of eight women. All the women have been removed from the residence.
Four were referred to victim services and the other four are with friends or family, WGCL reports.
Arrested at the home was 33-year-old Kenndric Roberts. Police said he’s been charged with false imprisonment and trafficking of persons for labor.
Police said the current charges are related to the one woman who called with the complaint. Authorities are interviewing the other women and said additional charges could be coming.
“What we believe was happening is these women were basically lured there with a promise of either financial help or a modeling career or some kind of career advancement,” said Sandy Springs Police Sgt. Sam Worsham.
According to police, women in the 6,800-square-foot home were forced to dance for money and even get plastic surgery.
Property records put the value of the 5-bedroom residence at nearly one million dollars. A neighbor said the home was rented.
Robert’s first appearance in a Fulton County Court is scheduled for Thursday morning.
In a statement released late Wednesday, the website said they are conducting an internal investigation into the matter.
“At this time, we are conducting our own internal research and currently have no additional information. is a dating platform intended to be used to connect people interested in mutually beneficial relationships.
“We do not condone any illegal activity, and take active measures to protect the integrity of both our site and our members. As always, we intend to cooperate fully with the authorities on any investigation.”

China-India Rivalry Could Have Deadly Consequences for Afghanistan

Afghanistan is rapidly becoming a strategic hub for a grave conflict of interest among global players — China, Russia, the United States, and India — with huge repercussions for regional security and peace. In the recently concluded six-party meeting in Moscow, India and China rehearsed deep-seated disagreements over peace-building in Afghanistan. In strong opposition to China’s demands to initiate talks with the Afghan Taliban, Indian diplomats reiterated their concern about terror activities proliferating, albeit covertly, from Pakistan. Vikas Swarup, India’s external affairs spokesperson, called for concerted efforts to prevent “safe havens or sanctuaries to any terrorist group or individual in countries of this region” as a prerequisite of stability in Afghanistan.
Yet beyond geopolitical interest, the Sino-Indian rift over Afghanistan is also about status. Status can be understood here as a set of collective beliefs about a state’s standing. Paradoxically, it is only revealed to a state through acts by other parties, which either recognize or fail to recognize status.
For over a decade, the two emerging powers have been engaged in a conflict over their extended spheres of influence in the regional space. India and China have confronted each other in Kabul. China has opted to initiate talks with the Taliban as a prelude to peacemaking; India has resorted to developmental support while refraining from partaking militarily in the conflict. On both sides, there is seething unease about ceding to the other legitimate status as a “responsible” power in the region, with its implications for respective status at the global level. Enjoying this article?
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This has created a status dilemma between the two stakeholders. A security dilemma, as is well understood, has the potential to amplify conflict among purely security-seeking states into an arms race or even war. Yet a status dilemma can engender conflict among states which seek only to maintain their relative standing. Indeed, status dilemmas are frequent and are thus more important causes of inter-state conflicts.
India and China have both pursued deceptively similar strategies vis-a-vis Afghanistan, officially premised on “non-intervention.” In contradiction to Western powers’ reflex toward direct intervention in recent times, the two Asian powers have advanced with cautious steps. Previously relegated to the sidelines of Beijing’s foreign policy perspective, since the 1990s Afghanistan’s strategic significance has escalated astronomically. With concerns ranging from Uyghur militants posing security threats in Xinjiang province to Afghanistan’s evolving geo-political interest — as a gateway to Central Asia and a key player in the “One Belt, One Road” initiative — Beijing has looked at Kabul with focused attention.
India, on the contrary, has eyed Afghanistan through the prism of Pakistan. In the era of Narendra Modi, Delhi has sought to strengthen Afghan ties. To that end, the transfer of Mi-25s attack helicopters – a first-of-its-kind lethal transaction — marks a new beginning.
On the wider canvas, however, India and China are highly sensitive to the status implications of their role in Afghan’s conflict resolution and peacebuilding. Their involvement in multiple institutional arrangements vis-a-vis Afghanistan has thus proved neuralgic.
On being excluded from the Moscow-led multi-party talks early this year, which engaged China and Pakistan, India registered strong opposition. This led to its inclusion in the subsequent six-party talks of unavoidable partners, also embracing Iran and Afghanistan itself.
In the absence of the Afghan Taliban, however, China elected to host a delegation of its leaders. One of the latter described China as a prime stakeholder in peace and stability in Afghanistan. Deng Xinjun, China’s special envoy on Afghanistan, reciprocally remarked: “China has always conveyed to the Taliban that it recognized the Afghan government and has encouraged the Taliban to join the peace process.”
India, differing prominently with China, has meanwhile described the Taliban as the biggest threat to Afghanistan. At the annual Heart of Asia conference in Amritsar in December, India presented itself as a strong peace partner while dismissing any role for the Taliban in bringing peace to the region.
With India and China seeming to pursue on mutually exclusive agendas on Afghanistan, they have used these different institutional platforms to win recognition for their own conceived roles. Status reflects an objective hierarchy, related to material capabilities and observed capacities, yet it is also socially constructed through eliciting acts of recognition by others. Hence the efforts of China to draw support from Russia and Pakistan and India’s advances to Afghanistan and the United States competitively seek recognition of their own envisaged roles in the conflict-ridden state. These institutional fora have offered vehicles for status signaling by the major stakeholders.
In any bargaining over states’ relative status, each state is incentivized to highlight the particular resources in which it enjoys comparative advantage. In the simmering Sino-Indian status dilemma over Afghanistan, India has highlighted its extensive commitments to development, contributing over $2 billion since 2001 alongside training police and military units. China, besides confirming an aid contribution of over $1.5 billion, has gone a step further in conducting joint patrols with the Afghan authorities – looking to fill the vacuum which the complete draw-down of U.S. forces from Afghanistan will herald.
Given that Sino-Indian cooperation is paramount if peace in Afghanistan is to be secured, the United States has a major responsibility to smooth the way. While Afghan policy is uncertain under the volatile new president, it is only prudent for the U.S. administration to attempt a strategic accommodation of the status concerns of India and China. And while Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia is also under scrutiny, Moscow’s interest in the region is growing – including as an advocate of peace talks with the Taliban.
Only through a peaceful accommodation of the status concerns of the great regional/global players – including in most cases institutional recognition – can an effective resolution of the Afghan conundrum be ensured.

Assange defends Wikileaks’ publication of CIA hacking docs

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange defended on Thursday his organization’s decision to publish what he alleges are more than 8,000 documents detailing the CIA’s hacking arsenal, adding he would give tech companies early access to the next tranche of documents so that they can develop fixes before vulnerabilities in consumer technologies are made public.
Assange also reiterated allegations made in Wednesday’s publications that the U.S. consulate in Frankfurt, Germany served as a base for U.S. cyber warriors.
“The U.S. consulate in Frankfurt is a CIA hacker base. People go there from the central intelligence agency,” Assange said. “They operate out of that hacker base to attack targets wihtin europe, within africa and within the Middle East.”
The CIA has not confirmed the authenticity of the documents, but officials tell ABC News that they appear authentic.
Questions have been raised in recent months over the role that WikiLeaks played in Russian efforts to undermine the 2016 U.S. election.
In January, the U.S. intelligence community concluded that hackers associated with Russian intelligence agencies had stolen documents from U.S. political institutions – including the Democratic National Committee – and given them to WikiLeaks, who later published them.
In a January interview with Fox News, Assange said, “We can say – we have said repeatedly – over the last two months that our source is not the Russian government and it is not a state party.”
The press conference was streamed live on Facebook and Periscope.
Assange was speaking from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where he has lived since 2012.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated.

Two dead and two injured as bridge collapses onto motorway in Italy

The two people killed were a married couple whose Nissan Qashqai car was crushed when the bridge came crashing down without warning.
The collapsed bridge was reportedly a temporary structure that had been put in place while road works were carried out.
The two injured were road workers who were employed at the site. They were taken to a hospital in Ancona.
Traffic on the motorway had to be closed in both directions.

Today In History. What Happened This Day In History

What Happened This Day In History.A chronological timetable of historical events that occurred on this day in history. Historical facts of the day in the areas of military, politics, science, music, sports, arts, entertainment and more. Discover what happened today in history.

February 8

1587 Mary, Queen of Scots is.Union troops under Gen. Ambrose Burnside defeat a Confederate defense force at the Battle of Roanoke Island, N.C.

1865 Confederate raider William Quantrill and men attack a group of Federal wagons at New Market, Kentucky.

1887 Congress passes the Dawes Act, which gives citizenship to Indians living apart from their tribe.

1900 British General Buller is beaten at Ladysmith, South Africa as the British flee over the Tugela River.

1904 In a surprise attack at Port Arthur, Korea, the Japanese disable seven Russian warships.

1910 The Boy Scouts of America is incorporated.

1924 The gas chamber is used for the first time to execute a murderer.

1942 The Japanese land on Singapore.

1943 British General Orde Wingate leads a guerrilla force of “Chindits” against the Japanese in Burma.

1952 Elizabeth becomes Queen of England after her father, King George VI, dies.

1962 The U.S. Defense Department reports the creation of the Military Assistance Command in South Vietnam.

1965 South Vietnamese bomb the North Vietnamese communications center at Vinh Linh.

1971 South Vietnamese ground forces, backed by American air power, begin Operation Lam Son 719, a 17,000 man incursion into Laos that ends three weeks later in a disaster.

1990 CBS television temporarily suspends Andy Rooney for his anti-gay and ant-black remarks in a magazine interview.

Born on February 8

412 St. Proclus, Patriarch of Constantinople

1820 William T. Sherman, Union general in the American Civil War.

1828 Jules Verne, French novelist, one of the first writers of science fiction (Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea).

1834 Dmitri Ivanovich Medeleyev, Russian chemist, developed the periodic table of elements.

1851 Kate (O’Flaherty ) Chopin, novelist, short story writer (The Awakening).

1906 Chester F. Carlson, physicist, inventor of xerography, the electrostatic dry-copy process.

1906 Henry Roth, writer (Call it Sleep).

1911 Elizabeth Bishop, poet.

1926 Neal Cassaday, writer, counterculture proponent.

1931 James Dean, film actor and 1950s teenage icon (Rebel Without a Cause, East of Eden, Giant).

1940 Ted Koppel, television journalist.

Zimbabwe: ‘Unfit to rule’ case against Mugabe dismissed

Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court has rejected a case filed by an activist that challenged President Robert Mugabe’s ability rule saying proper court procedures weren’t followed.
Promise Mkwananzi of a social movement calling itself Tajamuka wanted to prove the 92-year-old president was unfit to hold office given his advanced age.
The court threw out the application on Wednesday, saying Mkwananzi’s case was filed improperly and he has 30 days to address technicalities and refile.
Speaking to media outside the court in the capital, Harare, Mkwananzi said he will appeal the decision.
“This is just a convenient excuse for the constitutional court to bite the bullet, so we are saying that we are going to reapply within 30 days as prescribed by the rule of the constitutional law and relaunch this issue,” he said.
“We think that this is a very strong case to answer the overwhelming evidence against him. There are statements which the president made which are clearly not in the spirit of the constitution.”
In his case, Mkwananzi argued that Mugabe – who turns 93 this month – is to be blamed for the poor state of the economy, corruption, high unemployment, and alleged human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.
“Afraid of what? We can’t be afraid. This is our country and we are citizens of this country. We are entitled to the things that we do. We have done everything perfectly above board in terms of laws of the country. We are excercising our democratic right,” Mkwananzi told our correspondence
Opposition parties say they will form a coalition by June and choose one presidential candidate to challenge Mugabe in next year’s election.
Civil society groups and activists say there will be more anti-government protests this year.
Mugabe has been in power since the country’s independence from Britain in 1980. He is coming under growing pressure from his opponents and some former allies, who are calling for him to step down. But members of the ruling ZANU-PF party want him to run again in next year’s vote.
Anger over high unemployment and cash shortages has led to violent protests in last year.
Zimbabwe protesters call for President Mugabe to step down

U.N. seeks $2.1 billion to avert famine in Yemen

The United Nations appealed on Wednesday for $2.1 billion to provide food and other life-saving assistance to 12 million people in Yemen who face the threat of famine after two years of war.
“The situation in Yemen is catastrophic and rapidly deteriorating,” Jamie McGoldrick, U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, said in the appeal document.
“Nearly 3.3 million people – including 2.1 million children – are acutely malnourished.”

Why is China ‘protecting’ the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad militant group?

On Tuesday, China blocked a proposal by the United States to designate Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar a global terrorist, according to media reports. The US move at the United Nations Security Council was backed by the United Kingdom and France in an apparent show of support for India.
New Delhi accuses JeM and Azhar of masterminding several terrorist attacks on Indian soil, including a deadly assault on an Indian airbase in Pathankot in January 2016. Pakistani investigators say Azhar and his associates had no links with the attack.
In December last year, China vetoed India’s request at the UN to blacklist the Pakistan-based JeM head Azhar as a terrorist. The UN Security Council has already blacklisted JeM, but not Azhar.
Vikas Swarup, the spokesman for India’s Foreign Ministry, said at the time that his country had requested nine months ago that Azhar be blacklisted, and claimed that most members of the Security Council had backed the move.
“We had expected China would have been more understanding of the danger posed to all by terrorism,” Swarup said in a statement in December, adding that the inability of the international community to ban Azhar showed the “prevalence of double standards in the fight against terrorism.”
New Delhi accuses Pakistan of using jihadist proxies to mount attacks inside India, including India-administered Kashmir. Islamabad denies these allegations.
In a DW interview, Siegfried O. Wolf, a South Asia expert at the University of Heidelberg, explains why Beijing continues to block the Indian move to blacklist Masood Azhar.
Siegfried O Wolf: ‘China’s counter-terrorism measures exclude the US and India’
DW: China blocked a recent US move to blacklist Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar at the UN. Last year, Beijing put two similar Indian proposals on hold. Why is China protecting Azhar?
Siegfried O. Wolf: China’s diplomatic support for Pakistan-based militants is multi-faceted. Therefore, one must look at Beijing’s latest action at the UN in a larger context.
China’s protection of Masood Azhar is only one component of the Chinese campaign to provide Pakistan its diplomatic support, which includes informal “lobbying work” to prevent Pakistan from being listed as a state that sponsors terrorism. The possible sanctions would not only have immense political and economic implications for Islamabad, they would also reflect poorly on Beijing as Pakistan is widely seen as a close China ally. Therefore, Chinese authorities try to undermine all Indian attempts to officially name Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism on international platforms like BRICS or the Heart of Asia conference.
Beijing is now also drawing on Islamabad’s improved relations with Moscow. China is increasingly involving Pakistan in multilateral dialogues on regional cooperation and security in relation to the Afghanistan-Pakistan region and Central Asia in an attempt to minimize Pakistan’s international isolation.
Another dimension of China’s move to block the Indian effort to designate Azhar as a terrorist is the threat that anti-Indian militant groups like the JeM could turn against the Pakistani state. This would have dangerous implications for China, especially for its massive investments and development initiatives in the South Asian country, including the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project. We must not forget that international terror groups like al Qaeda, “Islamic State” (IS) and the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) oppose Beijing for its alleged anti-Muslim policies against the Uighurs in its western Xinjiang province. China doesn’t want an additional confrontation with Islamist groups.
Finally, there is no doubt that the India-China rivalry might also be a factor in Beijing’s support for Islamabad and Pakistan-based terrorists. In this context, China’s major development projects like “One Belt, One Road” to link China with Europe and the Middle East, and several other infrastructure projects show that Beijing considers Afghanistan an important country for its economic, security and geopolitical interests.
China is investing massively in Pakistan Why does India want the UN to designate Azhar as a terrorist? What does it want to achieve through this move?
The Indian policy is that the internationally community recognizes Pakistan as a terror sponsor. New Delhi wants the global powers to impose sanctions on Pakistan. If the international community declares Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism, it would help India to justify its military action against militants on Pakistani soil and legitimize cross-border operations.
China is also facing a protracted Islamist insurgency in Xinjiang. Why are Beijing and New Delhi not on the same page over Islamist terrorism?
China’s counter-terrorism measures exclude the US and India. Chinese authorities have historically treated New Delhi as a geopolitical rival. India’s close ties with the US are also perceived as a threat in Beijing, therefore China prefers not to cooperate with India. Last year, China bolstered its ties with Moscow, and at the moment it appears that Beijing is trying to construct a new security bloc in Asia. This, however, does not involve the Sino-Indian security cooperation.
New Delhi accuses JeM and Azhar of masterminding several terrorist attacks on Indian soil
Will Chinese support embolden Pakistan in what some experts say is its backing for jihadist proxies in India and Afghanistan?

China is indirectly encouraging Pakistan to continue its state patronage of cross-border terrorism. At the same time, Beijing is supporting Pakistan’s policy of fighting anti-state militants, especially those groups that could pose a threat to CPEC.

Beijing will most likely not intervene in Pakistan’s policy of backing militants that are operating in Afghanistan and India. Any measures against such groups, or the withdrawal of support, will be perceived as a hostile act by these jihadists. In this context, it is interesting to note that a recent tripartite meeting between Russia, China, and Pakistan on how to bring stability and peace to Afghanistan identified IS as the major threat and not the pro-Pakistan Taliban groups or the Pakistan-based Haqqani Network.
Siegfried O. Wolf is a researcher at the University of Heidelberg’s South Asia Institute. He is also the director of research at the Brussels-based South Asia Democratic Forum (SADF).

Jovenel Moise Has Been Sworn In As Haiti’s New President

Jovenel Moise has been sworn in as Haiti’s new president, opening a new chapter in the country’s history after a long-running political crisis.
The 48-year-old banana exporter, who has never held political office, took the oath of office on Tuesday in a ceremony in the capital, Port-au-Prince.
The handpicked candidate of Haiti’s former president, Michel Martelly, Moise initially won the first round of voting in October 2015 – but the results were subsequently annulled amid allegations of massive fraud.
The elections were further postponed in October after Hurricane Matthew battered the country, killing hundreds and causing extensive damage.
Moise won a November election redo with 55 percent, vowing to stimulate the economy and create more jobs.
Yet, his critics claimed he did not gain a mandate because only 21 percent of voters went to the polls.
The new president begins his five years in power with an already fragile popularity, since he is at the centre of an unresolved money laundering probe.
Haiti earthquake: Thousands still wait for help Haiti’s Central Unit of Financial Intelligence alleges that Moise laundered $5m through suspicious money transfers – charges he denies.
Haiti has been dependant on international aid since a powerful earthquake devastated it in January 2010. Its serious economic problems have been compounded by political instability, violence and corruption.
According to the UN World Food Programme, two and half million Haitians live in poverty.
Despite the challenges Moise faces as the poor Caribbean country’s new president, some Haitians are willing to give him a chance.
“We have to wait and see what is going to happen. Previous governments came and made promises but nothing happened,” Desilien Simedieu, a community leader at the Carradeux camp, where most people live on less than $3 per day, told our correspondent
“The only thing we can do is wait.

Rwanda fires 200 police officers accused of corruption

Rwanda’s government has dismissed 200 police officers implicated in corruption as the East African country strives to maintain its reputation as largely free of petty graft.Rwanda is sub-Saharan Africa’s third least corrupt country in Transparency International’s latest survey.

The ranking shows the Rwandan government’s will to fight corruption, said Marie-Immaculée Ingabire, the head of Transparency International in Rwanda.

The dismissal of the police officers was approved by a Cabinet meeting last Friday chaired by President Paul Kagame, whose government has been hailed by donor countries for punishing corrupt officials.

Rwanda depends on foreign aid to finance a sizable part of its national budget.

Rwanda police spokesperson Theos Badege said on Monday there would be “no mercy” upon corrupt officers in the police.

“It is a national policy to ensure zero tolerance to graft,” Badege said, adding that accountability and integrity are among the core values expected of police officers while on duty.

Last year 200 civilians were arrested for allegedly giving bribes to police officers.

The African Union estimates that $50 billion is lost to corruption and other financial crimes across Africa annually.

Trump speaks on Zim, slams Mugabe’s govt over arrest of pastor Mawarire

President Donald Trump’s administration has raised alarm over the deterioration of Zimbabwe’s human rights situation, following the jailing of two prominent clerics critical of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s leadership.Trump has not minced his words on some of the world’s dictators, telling them to reform or leave office.

The US embassy in Harare issued a statement condemning the arrest of evangelical pastors Evan Mawarire and Phillip Patrick Mugadza, saying that freedom of expression was now under attack in Zimbabwe.

Mawarire was arrested last week at the Harare International Airport on his surprise return to the southern African country after spending six months in self-imposed exile, mostly in the United States. He was subsequently charged with attempting to subvert Mugabe’s constitutionally elected government.

On the other hand, Mugadza continues to be incarcerated following his prophecy that Mugabe would die on October 17 this year.

Spokesperson of the US embassy in Harare, David Mcguire, described the arrest of Mawarire and Mugadza as “unwarranted”.

“The US government unequivocally believes in the basic right of freedom of speech and calls on the government of Zimbabwe to respect the human rights of all Zimbabweans which are enshrined in the constitution. We believe that the basic right of Zimbabweans to freedom of speech – be it in public, through print media or social media – should be protected within and outside Zimbabwe’s borders,” said Mcguire.

For his part, Mugabe recently lambasted some citizens and top officials of his ruling Zanu-PF party for “abusing social media to further their selfish interests”.

The government is now planning to introduce a bill that would criminalise the abuse of the internet.

Information Minister Christopher Mushohwe was not immediately available for comment.

Madonna adopts twin girls from Malawi: court official

Blantyre – US superstar Madonna adopted two four-year-old twin girls from Malawi on Tuesday, a court official in Lilongwe told AFP, taking the number of children she has adopted from the country to four.Just two weeks ago, the singer denied that she was involved in any adoption application in Malawi after news of her court case first emerged.

“I can confirm that Madonna has been granted an adoption order for two children,” judicial spokesperson Mlenga Mvula told AFP, adding they were twins called Esther and Stella.

Madonna, who set up a charity called Raising Malawi in the southern African nation in 2006, adopted Malawian children David Banda in 2006 and Mercy James in 2009.

Her publicist was not immediately available for comment on Tuesday.

On January 24, local media reports said the singer appeared before Justice Fiona Mwale, accompanied by two unidentified children and several other people, before being driven away in an SUV vehicle.

Later that day Madonna told US magazine People in a statement that “the rumours of an adoption process are untrue.”

Madonna’s charity is funding a surgical unit for children at the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Blantyre, the commercial hub of Malawi.

Somali capital on lockdown ahead of presidential vote

Mogadishu – Somalia’s capital Mogadishu was under security lockdown on Tuesday, with roads and schools closed and residents urged to remain indoors a day before the country holds a long-delayed presidential election.Fears are high that the Al-Qaeda linked al-Shabaab group will seek to disrupt the election by carrying out an attack on the capital.

Twin car bombs at a popular hotel left at least 28 dead two weeks ago.

Heavily armed security personnel patrolled the streets of the capital, while several main roads were blocked off with sand berms and residents of the capital were urged by Mayor Yusuf Hussein Jimale to stay indoors.

“My children did not go to school because of the election and my husband who works as a policeman had to stay on duty for the last three days. This thing is taking too long and people would be relieved if they could see an end to this drama,” mother-of-four Samiya Abdulkadir said.

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is seeking re-election against 21 other candidates, after another dropped out on Tuesday.

The troubled Horn of Africa nation, which has not had an effective central government in three decades, had been promised a one-person, one-vote election in 2016.

However political infighting and insecurity, mainly due to Shabaab militants who control swathes of countryside and strike at will in Mogadishu, saw the plan ditched for a limited vote running six months behind schedule.

The delayed electoral process began in October, with 14 025 specially chosen delegates voting for candidates for both parliament and a new upper house.

In 2012, only 135 clan leaders chose the MPs who voted for the president.

Repeated delays meant the new lawmakers were only sworn-in in December.

In a report on Tuesday, Somalia-based anti-corruption watchdog Marqaati said the elections “were rife with corruption”.

-Delays and disillusion

The tortuous process to elect a president whose remit does not extend beyond the capital and a few regional towns, has left some disillusioned.

“I really don’t care who becomes president. We just need to be free to attend to our business,” said Qoje Siyad, a Mogadishu day labourer.

While falling well short of the election that was promised, the process is more democratic than in the past and is seen as a step towards universal suffrage, now hoped for in 2020.

Wednesday’s voting will see members of the 275-seat parliament and 54 senators cast ballots inside a hangar within the heavily-guarded airport.

Security sources said commercial flights would not be operating on Wednesday.

No candidate is expected to get the two-thirds majority needed for a first-round win, with two further rounds permitted before a winner is declared.

In the absence of political parties, clan remains the organising principle of Somali politics.

The 22 candidates – all men after the only declared female candidates dropped out – paid a $30 000 registration fee.

Few have any serious chance of winning.

One of them is the current president, a 61-year-old former academic and civil society activist from the Hawiye clan.

Also in the running is ex-president Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, a fellow Hawiye and 52-year-old former leader of the Islamic Courts Union which pacified Somalia before being driven out by US-backed Ethiopian troops.

The leading candidates from the Darod clan are Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, 56, and former premier Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed ‘Farmajo’, 55.

Both hold dual nationalities having lived for years in Canada and the US respectively.

Famine looms again

The overthrow of president Siad Barre’s military regime in 1991 ushered in decades of anarchy and conflict in a country deeply divided along clan lines.

The clan rivalries and lawlessness provided fertile ground for the al-Shabaab to take hold and seize territory, frustrating efforts to set up a central administration.

The al – Shabaab has been in decline since 2011 but still launches regular, deadly attacks against government, military and civilian targets in the capital and elsewhere.

Security and overcoming Somalia’s adversarial and divisive politics will top the agenda for whoever wins the vote as will dealing with a growing humanitarian crisis.

The UN warned last week of “possible famine” in Somalia as a severe drought has pushed nearly three million people to the edge of starvation.

After two failed rain seasons, aid workers fear a repeat of a 2010-11 drought which left more than 250 000 dead.

Woman found guilty of hiding 6 dead babies in storage locker

Montreal – A Canadian woman was found guilty on Monday of intentionally hiding in a storage locker the remains of six babies to whom she gave birth.The 42-year-old Winnipeg woman refused to submit to a DNA test, but investigating police performed one with a warrant, using a sanitary napkin from her home. She was shown to have given birth to all the infants.

“All of these children were likely born alive. There is no evidence of complications in these pregnancies,” Judge Murray Thompson said in finding Andrea Giesbrecht guilty of six counts of concealing the body of a dead child.

Each count carries up to two years in prison.

Giesbrecht was not charged with murder. Because the bones of the children were in bad condition, authorities were unable to determine their causes of death.

One of the remains was found in cement, and another covered in a white powder.

The discovery of the remains came after Giesbrecht failed to pay rent on her storage area.

Staff readying to auction off the contents made the tragic discovery.

She pleaded not guilty at trial in April.

Zimbabwe to US critics: ‘Go and hang on a banana tree’

Harare – US critics of Zimbabwe’s human rights record “can go and hang on a banana tree,” a Zimbabwean official said in comments published Tuesday, while he also indicated that the southern African country is waiting for an overture from the administration of President Donald Trump.”We are waiting for a cue from a new government,” Zimbabwe’s state-run Herald newspaper quoted presidential spokesperson George Charamba as saying. Charamba also denounced US Ambassador Harry K Thomas Jr as “a leftover from a terrible era”, an apparent reference to past US administrations that have had testy relations with Zimbabwe’s longtime leader, Robert Mugabe.

On Monday, the US Embassy expressed deep concern about what it called the “continuing deterioration” of human rights in Zimbabwe. The American statement followed the arrest last week of Evan Mawarire, a Zimbabwean pastor who launched a popular protest movement on social media dubbed #ThisFlag.

Mawarire was arrested on his return to Zimbabwe after going to the United States last year. He is being charged with subverting a constitutionally elected government and inciting public violence, and Charamba speculated that he is a US agent. A bail hearing will be held Wednesday.

Another Zimbabwean pastor, Patrick Mugadza, has been in detention since January 19 for claiming that Mugabe will die in October this year.

“The US Government unequivocally believes in the basic right to freedom of speech and calls on the Government of Zimbabwe to respect the human rights of all Zimbabwean citizens which are enshrined in the constitution,” the US Embassy said in a statement.

“We believe that the basic right of Zimbabweans to freedom of speech — be it in public, through print media, or social media — should be protected within and outside Zimbabwe’s borders,” it said.

Charamba said Thomas, who was nominated to the ambassador’s post during the Obama administration, faces an uncertain future under the Trump administration.

“He thinks he can boss over us,” Charamba said of Thomas. “They can go hang on a banana tree.”


PROPHET Light Monyeki of Grace Living Hope Ministries from Soshanguve, Pretoria held a conference over the past weekend.On Sunday the prophet mixed deadly poison Rattex,in water and gave some members of the congregation to drink.

This was to demonstrate power by faith as said on the Grace Living Hope Ministries FACEBOOK PAGE.

The caption said, ” The man of God, Prophet Light Monyeki demonstrates power of faith by causing congregants to drink Rattax; deadly poison to show forth their faith. As he was doing that he said “we do not need to proclaim faith because we are believers. If nyope boys can smoke Rattax for more than 8years, who are we? Death has no power over us”. Then he declared life from above upon the water mixed with Rattax; and spoke nourishment unto bodies and healing unto the sick. A multitude of congregants voluntarily ran to the front to have a drink of the deadly poison. After declaring nourishment and healing, Prophet Light was the first one to drink.”.

Hackers Take Down, Expose Thousands of ‘Dark Web’ Sites

Someone claiming to be affiliated with Anonymous compromised a private web hosting service last week, taking down more than 10,000 sites on the highly encrypted “dark web,” security researchers said.
The hacker or hackers broke into the hidden web hosting service Freedom Hosting II, claiming to have harvested all of the sites’ files and its database, totaling almost 80 gigabytes of material, they said in a message appearing on the screens of users trying to access the sites.
They said more than half of the information they obtained was child pornography, even though the service promotes itself as having a “zero tolerance policy” to such material.
Other materials in the exposed data include numerous references to botnets — automated computer networks used to launch distributed denial of service (or DDoS) attacks, spew out spam or steal data — email addresses, usernames and passwords from dark web sites.
In the message to users trying to access a Freedom Hosting II site, titled “Hello Freedom Hosting II, you have been hacked,” the hackers included a link to how they allegedly carried out the operation, which NBC News isn’t detailing or linking to. There was no response to an email sent to an address listed as a contact point in the hackers’ message.
In October, security researcher Sarah Jamie Lewis found that Freedom Hosting II was connected to as many as 20 percent of the sites represented on the part of the dark web accessed through the anonymized Tor network.
It’s impossible to determine whether the hackers are actually affiliated with Anonymous, a decentralized collective of web sites and advocacy operations that coalesce ad hoc around a wide variety of issues. But the hackers initially demanded a small payment for the return of the materials, a tactic that isn’t characteristic of confirmed Anonymous operations, said Chris Monteiro, another respected cybersecurity researcher.
The breach itself, however, “appears to be genuine,” Monteiro wrote in an analysis of the operation. The same “Hello Freedom Hosting II” message appeared on the company’s main customer portal, he wrote.
“Dark web” is the term used to describe the networks of private sites that exist on the same public internet you use at home and at work but that are accessible only through special software or access configurations.
Sites on the dark web are often used for legitimate, even laudable, purposes, such as protecting political and social activists’ communications from opponents and repressive governments. The original builders of Tor, in fact, included the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory.
But such sites are also often used — in back-alley locations that make up what is sometimes called “darknet” — to shield illegal activities from law enforcement, particularly black markets in weapons, drugs and child pornography.
In research published last year in the journal Global Politics and Strategy, King’s College London, professors Daniel Moore and Thomas Rid reported that about 57 percent of darknet sites they were able to access and classify hosted what they called “illicit material.”
The largest categories were related to drugs, financial crimes, “extremism” and “illegitimate pornography,” they found.
In a followup analysis after the compromised Freedom Hosting II material was released publicly, Monteiro said the haul included child abuse-related forums in both English and Russian, fraud sites, botnets and “weird fetish sites, which might not even be illegal.”

Khamenei tells Trump ‘no enemy can paralyze’ Iran

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei dismissed U.S. President Donald Trump’s warning to Tehran to stop its missile tests, and called on Iranians to respond to Trump’s “threats” on Friday’s anniversary of the 1979 revolution.
“No enemy can paralyze the Iranian nation,” Khamenei was quoted as saying by his website in a meeting with military commanders in Tehran.
“[Trump] says ‘you should be afraid of me’. No! The Iranian people will respond to his words on Feb 10, (the anniversary of revolution) and will show their stance against such threats.”

Nicolas Sarkozy to face trial over 2012 campaign financing

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy is to face trial over the allegedly fraudulent financing of his doomed 2012 bid for re-election, a legal source has said.
The prosecution claims Sarkozy greatly exceeded a spending limit of €22.5m by using false billing from a public relations firm called Bygmalion.
The source said one of two judges in charge of the case, Serge Tournaire, had decided on 3 February that the case should go to trial after the failure of Sarkozy’s legal efforts to prevent it in December.
Bygmalion allegedly charged €18.5m to Sarkozy’s rightwing party – which at the time was called the UMP, but has since been renamed the Republicans – instead of billing the president’s campaign.
Executives from the company have acknowledged the existence of fraud and false accounting and the trial will focus on whether Sarkozy himself was aware or taking decisions about it.
Only one other president – Jacques Chirac – has been tried in France’s fifth republic, which was founded in 1958. He was give a two-year suspended jail term in 2011 over a fake job scandal.
Questioned by police in September 2015, Sarkozy said he did not recall ever being warned about the accounting and described the controversy as a “farce”, putting the responsibility squarely on Bygmalion and the UMP.
While the Bygmalion case is the most pressing, 61-year-old Sarkozy has been fighting legal problems on several fronts since losing the 2012 election to President François Hollande.
After retiring from politics following that defeat, he returned to take the helm of the Republicans and sought the nomination to run for president in this year’s two-stage election in April and May.
In a surprise result, he was eliminated in November in the first round of a primary contest, trailing the eventual winner François Fillon and former prime minister Alain Juppé.

Why Kazakhstan Goes to Court in the United States

While the recent hacking allegations surrounding Moscow and the U.S. presidential election may have generated a significant amount of headlines, another hacking case involving the United States and a post-Soviet dictatorship may have implications that are likewise pernicious.
Over the past few years, Kazakhstan has filed repeated lawsuits with American courts against opposition actors, accusing them of hacking governmental emails and then sharing such information with the public.
Last month, Kazakhstan fired the latest salvo in its legal push against those who’d publicized the hacked emails. As Courthouse News wrote, Kazakhstan’s newest lawsuit, filed in California, targets Muratbek Ketebaev, a former opposition official currently living in Poland. Astana claims that Ketebaev, along with “co-conspirators” — including members of Respublika, which had been one of Kazakhstan’s dwindling independent media outlets before shutting down in 2016 — “knowingly and intentionally accessed protected computer servers of Google and Microsoft, without authorization.” Enjoying this article?
As Courthouse News wrote, “Kazakhstan says Ketebaev published the information on his personal Facebook account and that he likely participated in the initial hack. They cite his refusal to answer direct questions about his involvement in the hack during deposition — invoking his right against self-incrimination — as evidence of his likely participation.” The lawsuit further cited Ketebaev’s Facebook postings as apparent evidence of his guilt.
As it is, this is now Kazakhstan’s third lawsuit targeting opposition media or figures in attempting to link them to the 2014 hack. Like the initial suit, this new lawsuit cites the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), a U.S. federal statute. As the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) wrote about one of the prior lawsuits, rather than simply seek monetary compensation, Kazakhstan used the filing to attempt “to pry personal information about Respublika employees and volunteers” and to use the American court system to shutter the outlet.
If past is precedent, however, Kazakhstan faces little likelihood in seeing its lawsuit achieve its stated goals. While Facebook deleted numerous posts from Respublika’s page following Kazakhstan’s filing, American courts have consistently ruled against Kazakhstan – all while bumping up interest in both the emails and Kazakhstan’s opposition media alike.
Indeed, the lawsuits present an opportunity to revisit some of the damaging leaks and accusations surrounding Astana over the past few years. Not only did at least one American official accuse Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev of being one of the most “notoriously corrupt” leaders extant — Nazarbayev and his family were, as court documents claim, on the receiving end of bribes ranging from everything from snowmobiles to fur coats — but he recently decided to spend over $100,000 to purchase a trio of letters from Napoleon Bonaparte. Likewise, recent leaks have helped shine light on how Kazakhstan spins Western governments, including the work of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in helping whitewash Kazakhstan’s 2011 Zhanaozen massacre.
Still, simply because Kazakhstan routinely loses similar cases does not mean Astana’s filings haven’t had deleterious effects on the country’s opposition media. As EFF wrote last month, Kazakhstan managed “real damage … to the free speech rights” of Respublika, which was forced to shut down following the “harassment” targeting the paper. If anything, EFF added, Kazakhstan presents an example of “how the CFAA can be used by an oppressive foreign government to enter the U.S. court system by claiming it was hacked by an unknown party, and then use the U.S. case to get court orders here and abroad to intimidate enemies and dissidents without ever having to name a defendant.”
Kazakhstan may not have found successful verdicts in its favor, but it may have stumbled across another means of stifling dissent — and preventing more prying eyes into the corruption surrounding Kazakhstan’s higher-ups.

Syria carried out mass hangings at military prison: Amnesty

Beirut: The Syrian government has executed thousands of prisoners in mass hangings and carried out systematic torture at a military jail near Damascus, rights watchdog Amnesty International said on Tuesday.
Amnesty said the executions took place between 2011 and 2015, but were probably still being carried out and amounted to war crimes. It called for a UN investigation.
Syria’s government and President Bashar al-Assad have rejected similar reports in the past of torture and extrajudicial killings in a civil war that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.
The Amnesty report said an average of 20-50 people were hanged each week at the Sednaya military prison north of Damascus. Between 5000 and 13,000 people were executed at Sednaya in the four years after Syria’s popular uprising descended into civil war, it said.
“The victims are overwhelmingly civilians who are thought to oppose the government,” the report said.
“Many other detainees at Sednaya Military Prison have been killed after being repeatedly tortured and systematically deprived of food, water, medicine and medical care.”
The prisoners, who included former military personnel suspected of disloyalty and people involved in unrest, underwent sham trials before military courts and were sometimes forced to make confessions under torture, Amnesty said.
The executions were carried out secretly and those killed were buried at mass graves outside the capital, with families not informed of their fate, it said.
The report was based on interviews with 84 witnesses including former guards and officials, detainees, judges and lawyers, as well as experts on detention in Syria.
“The Syrian state’s backers, in particular Russia, with its permanent seat on the Security Council, and Iran, must condemn the extrajudicial executions and extermination policies of the Syrian state and do what is in their power to bring them to an end,” Amnesty said.

Lebanese government uses military trials to try to crush civilian dissent, rights watchdog warns

Lebanon’s military, which recently received millions in aid from Canada, has been increasingly using secretive military trials to crack down on civilian dissent, Human Rights Watch warns.
Last Monday, law student Layal Seblani, 20, sat in the front row of Beirut’s packed military courthouse, nervously tapping her foot on the tile floor as she waited to go before the judge with 14 other young defendants.
The group was arrested in October 2015 as hundreds protested Beirut’s months-long garbage crisis. Growing piles of trash were left to rot in the streets after Beirut’s main landfill reached capacity and was shut down.
Frustration with the crisis spawned a movement — dubbed You Stink — that soon targeted corruption at all levels of government.
“We trespassed this wall,” Seblani said, referring to a barrier erected by Lebanese security services to block a road in central Beirut. “But we didn’t do anything violent towards the riot police.”
Charged with rioting and destruction of property and facing hefty fines and up to three years in prison, Seblani is being tried in a military court, where judges aren’t required to have a law degree or any legal training.
Military courts in Lebanon have broad jurisdiction over any case involving civilians and security personnel, but human rights groups say the military courts violate due process rights and are used to intimidate government critics and crush dissent.
Scathing report

According to a new report from Human Rights Watch, civilians — including the 14 protesters — are routinely denied the right to see a lawyer before interrogation. The group also alleges the military has used torture to extract false confessions from detained civilians, including children.
Journalists, human rights lawyers and activists have all been targeted by the military justice system, some for charges like publishing “information harmful to the reputation of the Lebanese Military,” the report says.
It calls on countries that provide aid to Lebanon to pressure the government to follow the report’s list of recommendations, which includes at the top: “remove civilians and all children from the jurisdiction of the military courts.”
Two months ago, Canada announced $8 million for Lebanon to help reinforce the country’s “security and stability,” including sending Canadian trainers and equipment to help the Lebanese military defend the border against jihadist threats from Syria.
Back on Dec. 5, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion met with his Lebanese counterpart, Gebran Bassil, and announced $8 million in aid for Lebanon, including support for its military. (Corbett Hancey)
Lebanon’s Defence Ministry, which oversees the military courts, said the Human Rights Watch report wasn’t based on “substantiated facts.” In a letter published in the report, a military official wrote: “The military judiciary in all of its statutes respects all national and international rules of law, especially what concerns respect for human rights.”
Military trials are supposed to be open to the public, including the media, but in practice the presiding judge has discretion, and the courts often ignore the requests of independent observers to attend.
Human Rights Watch sent a request to observe the You Stink protesters’ trial more than a month in advance but received no response, said Lama Fakih, the group’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.
Fakih, along with myself and a Lebanese colleague tried to enter the military courthouse last Monday, but were initially denied. We were let in after my Lebanese colleague called a personal connection who works at the court.
It was the first time Human Rights Watch had gained access to a Lebanese military trial.
‘Impact of being watched

During the 25-minute hearing, the judge ordered defence lawyers be given extra time to review video evidence they previously weren’t allowed to see. He also agreed to consider a request to move rioting and destruction of property charges to a civilian court.
“We could really feel the impact of being watched,” said Ghida Frangieh, a lawyer for seven of the defendants, referring to the presence of media and independent observers.

“Normally we would not be allowed to speak for very long and would often be cut off and interrupted by the judge and prosecutor.”

Protesters carry a Lebanese flag in front of riot police at one of the entrances to the Environment Ministry in downtown Beirut back on Sept. 1, 2015. This was one of many protests during the You Stink movement. (Aziz Taher/Reuters)
A spokeswoman for Global Affairs Canada wouldn’t answer direct questions about the human rights record of Lebanese military courts, but said Canada works with non-governmental organizations that document and promote human rights in Lebanon.
“This includes a recent project mapping existing reform strategies in the security sector and supporting the development of a reform plan,” Kristine Racicot wrote in an email.
All support to the Lebanese army is non-lethal and meant to fit a “specifically identified technical or capacity need,” she said.
‘I’m getting out of Lebanon

Fakih of Human Rights Watch said there’s cause for optimism after being permitted to attend the hearing, but she wonders if others will be allowed to witness future trials if they don’t have a personal connection at the courthouse to let them in.
“A more immediate concern,” she said, “is the trial’s impact on the lives of these young people. The charges will stay on their records.”
Seblani is very worried. As an aspiring lawyer, a conviction could be a career-killer.
Seblani hopes to move to Italy after graduation. (Corbett Hancey)
When she thinks about her professional future, Lebanon is no longer in the picture.
“I’m a law student, right?” she said after the hearing. “So I realize how stupid the law system is in my country. I’m certain that I won’t be able to function in it.”
She says she wants to move to Europe after graduation. Italy tops her list.
“Whatever happens, I’m getting out of Lebanon first chance I get.”

China, United States cannot afford conflict: Chinese foreign minister

There would no winner from conflict between China and the United States, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned on Tuesday, seeking to dampen tension between the two nations that flared after the election of U.S. President Donald Trump.
Relations between China and United States have soured after Trump upset Beijing in December by taking a telephone call from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and threatened to impose tariffs on Chinese imports.
China considers Taiwan a wayward province, with no right to formal diplomatic relations with any other country.
But China is committed to peace, Wang said, after meeting Australia’s Foreign Minister Julia Bishop.
“There cannot be conflict between China and the United States, as both sides will lose and both sides cannot afford that,” he told reporters in the Australian capital of Canberra.
While seeking to reduce tension, Wang called on global leaders to reject protectionism, which Trump has backed with his “America First” economic plans.
“It is important to firmly commit to an open world economy,” Wang added. “It is important to steer economic globalization towards greater inclusiveness, broader shared benefit in a more sustainable way.”
While Trump’s trade policies have spurred concern the United States is entering a period of economic protectionism, China has previously accused Australia of adopting a similar practice by blocking the sale of major assets to Chinese interests.
Bishop urged China to consider joining a pan-Pacific trade pact abandoned last month by Trump, who has said he prefers bilateral deals.
“I want to encourage China to consider the agreement,” Bishop said, referring to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
As China called on nations to be open to offshore investment, Wang said Beijing would link its “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) policy with Australia’s plan to develop its remote northern region.
The program announced by President Xi Jinping in 2013 envisages investments by China in infrastructure projects, including railways and power grids in central, west and southern Asia, as well as Africa and Europe.
Australia has ambitious plans to develop its Northern Territory, a frontier region with little infrastructure, but efforts have largely stalled for lack of investment.

17 Colombian civil leaders ‘massacred’: officials

BOGOTA – Colombian officials said Monday that 17 civil campaigners have been murdered over the past two months in the country, amid tensions over its contested peace process.
President Juan Manuel Santos has warned that fresh violence could destabilise the demobilisation of the leftist FARC rebels under a historic peace accord.
He signed the deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and pushed it through the legislature in December, defying criticism from conservative rivals.
In the weeks following, reports emerged of killings by local civil campaigners by unidentified groups in conflict areas.
On Monday the Victims’ Unit, a state conflict resolution body, said in a statement that “17 civil leaders have been murdered since December 1, after Congress ratified the peace accord.”
The last known victim was Porfirio Jaramillo, leader of a group demanding rural land restitution. He was killed on Saturday in Antioquia department, in the northwest, it said.
Land rights were at the heart of the conflict that pitted the Marxist FARC against Colombian state forces since 1964.
The peace agreement reconciles the two main rival forces in the war, but there are fears of score-settling between renegade players in the multi-sided conflict.
As well as leftist rebels and state forces, the conflict drew in right-wing paramilitaries backed by landowners.
They were supposedly disbanded in the 2000s but the FARC and other groups say former members of them are still active.
The Victims’ Unit said Jaramillo was taken away from his home by four armed men. Police found his dead body on Sunday morning.
“We are extremely worried by these events, because the truth is they are massacring social leaders,” the unit’s director, Alan Jara, said in a statement.
He called on prosecutors to investigate the killings and urged authorities to provide protection for social group leaders.

Chad foreign minister to head African Union

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – Chad’s foreign minister Moussa Faki Mahamat was named Monday as the new AU Commission chairperson, beating four others to succeed South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, diplomats told AFP
.Several delegates leaving the election hall confirmed the win, while grinning Chadian delegates hugged each other in celebration.
Former Burundian president Pierre Buyoya confirmed Faki’s victory, telling AFP it came after a final round battle with Kenyan foreign minister Amina Mohamed.
The 56-year-old former prime minister has been at the forefront of the fight against Islamists in Nigeria, Mali and the Sahel and has promised “development and security” will be top of his agenda as chief of the continental bloc.
He said he dreams of an Africa where the “sound of guns will be drowned out by cultural songs and rumbling factories” and pledged to streamline the bureaucratic AU during his four-year term in office.
Member states elected him after seven rounds of voting, according to a statement from Kenya congratulating him on his victory.
Other losing candidates were from Botswana, Equatorial Guinea and Senegal.

Kim Kardashian Jewels Stolen In Paris Heist Have Been Melted, Re-Cut: The Only Piece Left Is Her $4.5 Million Engagement Ring

A transcript of police interrogation of the leader of the gang in the Kim Kardashian Paris jewelry heist leaked to the French newspaper Le Monde suggests that Kim Kardashian is “unlikely to get back” most of the cache of jewels worth more than $10 million stolen from her in Paris because the robbers melted down or re-cut them before selling them off.
Officers who interrogated the alleged gang boss, Aomar Ait Khedache, in police custody, learned that shortly after the heist, the gang melted the metals and re-cut the stones to make them unrecognizable before selling them off on the black market. The metals were melted down and transformed into bars while the stones were re-cut to change their appearance and remove distinctive markings.
“So that the jewels wouldn’t be recognized, we took a joint decision to melt them down,” Khedache said, according to the Daily Mail. “One of us took care of that… He came back with bars… altogether there must have been a bit more than 800 grams.”
“They separate the stone from the metal,,, melt the metal, and [re-cut] the stones completely, in order to remove all markings or modify the shape,” said Jerome Guillochon, the president of a French jewelers federation, explaining how criminals process their loot to make then unrecognizable, according to the Sun.
According to Guillochon, crooks use sophisticated equipment such as lasers to alter the appearance of jewelry. The altered product could then be disposed off in the black market safely.
But the 36-year-old Keeping Up With The Kardashians reality TV star may still get back her $4.5 million diamond engagement ring that her husband rapper Kanye West gave to her. Khedache told police interrogators that he kept the ring because he was afraid to offer it on the market because it was distinctive and easily recognizable.
Most of Kim’s stolen jewelry had distinctive markings and design that made them easily recognizable. Her ring, for instance, had the name of Adidas, the international sportswear company.
Police investigators have so far arrested nine men and a woman in connection with the daring heist at Kim’s luxury apartment in central Paris.
Kim was sleeping alone in her apartment when the robbers broke in. They woke her up, tied her up and placed her inside her bathtub after they had forced her to show them where she kept her jewels. Kim was in a state of profound shock when police interviewed her about the incident on October 3, two hours after the robbers had escaped.
Police investigators confirmed during interrogation that the men who broke into Kim’s Paris apartment at about 2:35 a.m. on October 3 were 60-year-old Aomar Ait Khedache, nicknamed “Omar le Vieux” (“Old Omar”) and 61-year-old Didier Dubreucq, nicknamed “Blue Eyes.”
“Both men were hooded, one had a ski mask and he had a cap and a jacket with ‘Police’ on it,” Kim told investigators. “The second man had the same ‘Police’ clothes, but did not have any ski mask.”
They asked her where she kept her diamond engagement ring. When she did not reply one of the men took out a gun. Terrified, Kim showed them the ring.
After she had showed them where she kept the ring they tied her up using plastic cables. They then taped her mouth and legs, took her to her bathroom and dumped her inside the bathtub.
But Khedache insisted during interrogation that his gang treated Kim gently.
Kim listed the jewelry that the men took away. She estimated the value of the jewels at about $5 million but it was later confirmed that it was a massive haul worth more than $10 million.
Other members of the gang in police custody include Aomar Khedache’s 70-year-old girlfriend Christaine. Khedache’s 27-year-old son Harminy and Yunice Abas, 63.

China launches emergency measures over missing tourist boat in Malaysia

BEIJING — The China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) on Sunday activated emergency measures after a boat carrying mainly Chinese tourists was reported to have gone missing in Malaysia.
An emergency team led by a deputy chief of the administration has been set up to deal with the incident, according to a CNTA statement.
The administration is checking the information of the tourists, and the staff in its Singapore office are preparing to search the area where the boat went missing, the statement said.
A boat carrying 31 people, among them more than 20 tourists from China, lost contact with marine authorities after it left a port in Kota Kinabalu (KK) in the eastern Malaysian state of Sabah to Pulau Mengalum, a popular tourist island 60 km west of KK, on Saturday, the Consulate General of China in KK said Sunday.
It is not clear yet what caused the disappearance of the boat, but an official from the Chinese consulate said there was unfavorable weather condition Saturday.
Bad weather hampers search effort Bad weather has hampered search effort for the boat carrying mostly Chinese tourists that went missing off Malaysia’s Sabah state, authorities said Sunday.
Senior official of Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency Rahim Ramli said the rescue personnel faced strong winds and choppy waters, according to the local Star newspaper.
Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency said the boat was carrying 31 people, include 28 tourists from China. It sailed out at 9:00 am local time on Saturday from Sabah’s state capital of Kota Kinabalu to Pulau Mengalum, a popular tourist island 60 km to the west.
The Chinese Consulate General’s office has confirmed at least some 20 passengers are Chinese citizens.
The MMEA received a call about the boat’s disappearance on Saturday night and a search and rescue operation was launched to cover an area of 400 square nautical miles. The operation was jointly conducted by MMEA, the Malaysian Navy and Air Force.

Children held in Iraq over suspected Isis links ‘say they were tortured’

Children detained by Iraq’s Kurdistan regional government on suspicion of connections to Islamic State say they were tortured, according to a report from an international human rights group.
The children – who have not been formally charged with a crime – said they were held in stress positions, burned with cigarettes, shocked with electricity and beaten with plastic pipes, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW), a New York based international watchdog.
More than 180 boys under the age of 18 are being held, HRW estimates, and government officials have not informed their families where they are, increasing the likelihood of the children being disappeared.
Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said: “Legitimate security concerns do not give security forces licence to beat, manhandle, or use electric shocks on children.
“Many children escaping from Isis are victims who need help, yet face further abuse by Asayish [Kurdish security] forces.”
The rights group said it had interviewed 19 boys aged 11 to 17 while they were in custody at a children’s reformatory in Erbil. The group said the interviews had been conducted without a security official or intelligence officer present.
As Iraqi security forces have retaken territory from Isis over the past year and a half, they have also detained hundreds of men and boys.
Many of those detained are likely to have suffered inhumane treatment or been tortured. Rights groups warn that such practices risk sowing resentment against Iraqi security forces in the wake of military victories against Isis.
“If the authorities and the international coalition really care about combatting Isis, they need to look beyond the military solution, and at the policies that have empowered it,” said Belkis Wille, the senior Iraq researcher for HRW.
“Policies like torture, enforced disappearances, destruction of property and displacement are and will continue to [be] drivers for victims’ families to join extremist groups,” she added.
Iraqi forces have pushed Isis out of nearly all the cities and towns the group once held in Iraq. Mosul is the last major urban centre Isis holds in Iraq and Iraqi forces have retaken half the city since the operation was officially launched in October.

US air raids’ kill civilians, al-Qaeda chiefs in Bayda

Dawn raids by US drones and helicopters have killed at least 20 people in Yemen, including civilians and three tribal chiefs linked to al-Qaeda, local sources say.
A source told our correspondent that at least six homes were destroyed and a number civilians were trapped under the rubble in Yakla district, in the southern province of al-Bayda.
Eight women and eight children were among those killed, a provincial official, who did not want to be named, and tribal sources told the AFP news agency.
The killed al-Qaeda figures were identified as brothers Abdulraouf and Sultan al-Zahab and Saif Alawi al-Jawfi.
Three US helicopters were reportedly involved in the attacks, firing missiles and helicopter machine guns.
There was no comment from Washington on the raids. The operation was the first in Yemen attributed to the US since President Donald Trump took office on January 20.
The US has stepped up its use of drone strikes in recent years and is the only force known to be operating drones over Yemen.
Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, known as ISIS) have exploited Yemen’s two-year war to carry out assassinations and bombings, mostly in lawless areas in the south.
According to the UN, more than 10,000 people have died – nearly half of them civilians – since a Saudi-led coalition launched air strikes on Yemen in March 2015.

Clashes on Yemen west coast kill over 100: medics

Fierce battles between Yemeni government forces and Shiite rebels on the country’s west coast have killed more than 100 fighters in the past 24 hours, officials said on Sunday.
The bodies of at least 90 Huthi rebels were taken to a hospital in the Red Sea city of Hodeida, which is controlled by the insurgents, while 19 dead soldiers were taken to the southern port city of Aden, the medical and military sources said.
Deadly clashes have shaken the area around the key Red Sea town of Mokha since the start of the year when loyalist fighters launched an offensive to oust the Iran-backed Huthis and their allies.
Loyalists backed by the firepower of a Saudi-led Arab coalition advanced on Saturday into the town after having captured its port on Monday, despite strong rebel resistance.
Clashes raged in the town on Sunday, a military official said.
Air strikes hit rebel supplies Air strikes by coalition war-planes hit rebel supplies along the route between Mokha and Hodeida, the official said.
Huthi forces had controlled Mokha since they overran capital Sana’a in September 2014 and advanced on other regions aided by troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Forces supporting President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, backed by the coalition, launched a vast offensive on January 7 to retake the coastline overlooking the strategic Bab al-Mandab Strait.
Mokha was Yemen’s main port serving as its export hub for coffee until it was overtaken by Aden and Hodeida in the 19th century.
Nearly 370 combatants have been killed since government forces launched their drive up the Red Sea coastline.

Pakistan lifts ban on Indian movies

Islamabad: Pakistan has lifted a ban on the import and screening of movies from neighbouring India after months of suspension amid tension over the disputed region of Kashmir.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb announced the government would uphold a 2007 decision to lift a ban on importing Indian film content, adding in a statement that “the Pakistani film industry has been revived and strengthened” by Indian cinema.
Nasar Khan from Hum Films, which imports and screens Indian movies, welcomed the announcement.
Khan said that his distribution company has applied for a so-called non-objection certificate, required for all films screened in Pakistan, for the latest film Kaabil, adding that he hopes it would be cleared on Monday.
A fatal attack by militants on an Indian army base in Kashmir in September triggered deadly border clashes between the nuclear-armed South Asian rivals, bringing cultural ties to a halt.
A blanket ban on Indian content in Pakistani media came into effect the following month.
Despite the ban, Pakistan’s Film Exhibitors Association had announced it would resume screenings Indian movies.
“Cinemas in Pakistan will go bankrupt if they don’t screen Indian stuff,” Aamir Haider, a member of the Pakistan Film Exhibitors Association, said in December.

Children held in Iraq over suspected Isis links ‘say they were tortured’

Children detained by Iraq’s Kurdistan regional government on suspicion of connections to Islamic State say they were tortured, according to a report from an international human rights group.
The children – who have not been formally charged with a crime – said they were held in stress positions, burned with cigarettes, shocked with electricity and beaten with plastic pipes, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW), a New York based international watchdog.
More than 180 boys under the age of 18 are being held, HRW estimates, and government officials have not informed their families where they are, increasing the likelihood of the children being disappeared.
Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said: “Legitimate security concerns do not give security forces licence to beat, manhandle, or use electric shocks on children.
“Many children escaping from Isis are victims who need help, yet face further abuse by Asayish [Kurdish security] forces.”
The rights group said it had interviewed 19 boys aged 11 to 17 while they were in custody at a children’s reformatory in Erbil. The group said the interviews had been conducted without a security official or intelligence officer present.
As Iraqi security forces have retaken territory from Isis over the past year and a half, they have also detained hundreds of men and boys.
Many of those detained are likely to have suffered inhumane treatment or been tortured. Rights groups warn that such practices risk sowing resentment against Iraqi security forces in the wake of military victories against Isis.
“If the authorities and the international coalition really care about combatting Isis, they need to look beyond the military solution, and at the policies that have empowered it,” said Belkis Wille, the senior Iraq researcher for HRW.
“Policies like torture, enforced disappearances, destruction of property and displacement are and will continue to [be] drivers for victims’ families to join extremist groups,” she added.
Iraqi forces have pushed Isis out of nearly all the cities and towns the group once held in Iraq. Mosul is the last major urban centre Isis holds in Iraq and Iraqi forces have retaken half the city since the operation was officially launched in October.

CCTV clue in hunt for killer of man shot near Liverpool market

CCTV footage could provide vital clues to assist hunting the killer of a man shot dead in Liverpool, police have said.
Thomas Baker was shot at the meat and fish market in the Old Swan area of the city on Friday.
Officers were called at about 8.15am and provided first aid to Baker before an ambulance crew took him to hospital. He was treated for injuries to his head and chest, before being pronounced dead.
Baker, 44, was found injured at the market on Prescot Road. Police are now saying CCTV in the area could help detectives to identify the killer.
Officers are likely to request data from businesses operating in and around the complex. Images from cameras located on the market and overlooking the car park exit – through which the gunman is thought to have fled – could be crucial to the investigation.
Merseyside police retained a heavy presence at the murder scene throughout Saturday.
Baker, from Everton, was shot outside a gym near the meat market. A post-mortem examination confirmed he died as a result of gunshot injuries.
A swath of the market’s car park remained cordoned off on day two of the inquiry. By mid-afternoon, four police vans – including several from the force’s anti-gun and gang crime Matrix squad – and three squad cars were still based around the cordon.
Baker was shot as he left Phoenix Gym, with detectives believing he was attacked by a man lying in wait. The killer is thought to have been in a small grey car parked alongside Baker’s black BMW. He fled the market in the car, turning on to Prescot Road and heading in the direction of Liverpool city centre.
Detectives continue to appeal to the public for information on the incident, the fifth shooting in Merseyside this month.
Detective Superintendent Mark Guinness said: “My message to those involved in gun crime is clear: Merseyside police is steadfast in its commitment to tackling gun crime… But we can’t do this alone. Communities need to take a stand and help us to make the streets safer.”

How Israel polices Palestinian voices online

At about this time last year, Israel was facing what came to be known as the “knife intifada” – hundreds of apparently uncoordinated attacks involving Palestinians stabbing Israelis. While 36 Israelis lost their lives, more than 200 Palestinians were killed, during that period, by Israeli security forces. The other weapon, apart from kitchen knives, that drew the attention of the Israeli security establishment was social media.
The rationale offered: because some attackers went online to signal their intent or had been exposed to provocative posts there, the internet required policing for what the authorities called “incitement”. The result: hundreds of arrests and prison sentences for Palestinian activists, ordinary citizens, as well as journalists – based on what they wrote or shared – particularly on Facebook.
The occupiers are going through our posts one by one, word by word. They look for words like “martyr”, “hero”, “resistance fighter” or “intifada”. If they find one word they can build an entire case around it and you could end in prison, for nothing.
Facebook itself has reportedly responded to numerous requests from the Israelis to censor its content, but that hasn’t stopped politicians pushing for new laws to force social media companies to comply more fully.
Palestinians affected say Facebook is just another place where their voices have been silenced. The Listening Post’s Will Yong reports from Israel and the Occupied Territories on the emergence of social media as yet another battleground in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
Last March, at the height of a wave of so-called “lone wolf” attacks, Israeli soldiers arrested Palestinian journalist Sami Al-Sa’ee in a night raid on his home. Sentenced to nine months in prison, Al-Sa’ee became one of a growing number of Palestinians charged solely or primarily with the offence of online incitement.
“Due to the nature of my job as a news editor, I’m active on my personal Facebook page. I would share news about a martyr and post his picture, or about a girl who was arrested and post her picture, or about a child killed by the Israelis in Hebron and post her picture. Throughout the entire interrogation they were saying that I was sharing inciting posts that enraged people on the street,” Sami Sa’ee told Al Jazeera.
But how does Israel define incitement? Nadim Nashef, co-founder, 7amleh, says: “Israel defines incitement very loosely. Firstly there is the meaning and content of the post itself, whether it contains incitement to violence according to the criteria of the Israeli courts. Then there is the extent of its influence. According to the logic of these courts, how many friends a person has, how many shares a post has, how many likes – all of these are considered evidence of influence over public opinion and contributing to a discourse that could eventually lead to acts of resistance against the occupation.”
With walls, fences, checkpoints and other restrictions coming between the Palestinians in the West Bank and those in Gaza – and separating them from their families and friends among the Arab citizens of Israel – platforms such as Facebook provide a place online to share their stories, opinions and experiences. But arrests, charges and convictions based on social media activity have more than doubled in the past year, leaving Palestinians wondering whether social media is yet another space where Israel gets to make the rules. And, perhaps, where Facebook enforces them.
Last June, when the Silicon Valley giant needed a new head of policy and communication for Israel, it hired Jordana Cutler, formerly Chief of Staff at the Israeli Embassy in Washington DC and, before that, adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The appointment came as top Israeli politicians publicly criticised the company and Israeli lawyers threatened it with a $1bn lawsuit. Cutler’s appointment was hailed by Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan as “an advance in dialogue between the State of Israel and Facebook”. Three months later Facebook representatives traveled to Tel Aviv to meet Israeli officials who, after the talks, said that the two sides would “work together” to tackle online incitement.
This begs the question of whether Facebook is neutral on the Palestine-Israel conflict. The giant social network is taking a stand with the occupier, say Palestinian activists.
“Facebook claims that it respects local laws; but when it backs Israeli accusations of incitement we are talking about an occupation state, so this accusation should not exist in the first place. We have reached a stage where there is high-level cooperation between Facebook on one side, and the Israeli occupation on the other and this is very dangerous,” says Nashef.
Israeli minister Ayelet Shaked told members of the press: “A year ago Facebook removed 50 percent of content that we requested. Today Facebook is removing 95 percent of content we ask them to.”
Even so, politicians are currently debating a so-called “Facebook Bill” which – if passed into law – would give Israeli officials even more power to force Facebook to censor as the Israeli government sees fit. For Palestinians, the consequences are felt beyond their computer screens and smartphones, reaching into society itself.

Trump immigration ban loses first legal battle

The ruling coincided with a wave of anger and concern abroad, including among US allies, and rallies at major airports across the United States.
“Victory!!!!!!” the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which had sued the government, tweeted after US District Judge Ann Donnelly in New York issued an emergency stay.
“Our courts today worked as they should as bulwarks against government abuse or unconstitutional policies and orders,” the ACLU said.
But the ruling, which did not touch on the constitutionality of Trump’s order, did not quiet protestors at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport, where thousands had gathered.
“People are prepared to stand against this” said David Gaddis.
“It’s not surprising that people are mobilizing,” the 43-year-old said. “Every day he’s in office, it’s a national emergency.”
Mass protests also broke out at major airports, including Washington, Chicago, Minneapolis, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Dallas.
Trump’s executive order, signed Friday, suspends the arrival of refugees for at least 120 days and bars visas for travelers from seven Muslim majority countries for the next three months.
The exact number of those affected is unclear, but Donnelly ordered the government to provide lists of all those detained at US airports since the measure went into effect.
Sending those travelers back to their home countries following Trump’s order exposes them to “substantial and irreparable injury,” she wrote in her decision.
A second federal judge in Virginia also issued a temporary order restricting immigration authorities for seven days from deporting legal permanent residents detained at Dulles Airport just outside Washington.
The ACLU’s legal challenge sought the release of two Iraqi men on grounds of unlawful detention.
One of them — Hameed Khalid Darweesh, who has worked as interpreter and in other roles for the US in Iraq — was released on Saturday after being detained the day before.
The List Project, which helps Iraqis whose personal safety is threatened because they have worked for the US, was outraged over Darweesh’s detention, warning it put American lives at risk too.
“I can’t say this in blunt-enough terms: you can’t screw over the people that risked their lives and bled for this country without consequences,” wrote the project’s founder and director Kirk Johnson.
Trump’s order follows through on one of his most controversial campaign promises, to subject travelers from Muslim-majority countries to “extreme vetting” — which he declared would make America safe from “radical Islamic terrorists.”
The targeted countries are Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
“We knew that was coming — we were prepared,” said Camille Mackler, a lawyer who heads legal initiatives at the New York Immigration Coalition, one of the groups that quickly mounted the demonstration there.
“But we didn’t know when, and we couldn’t believe it would be immediate, that there’d be people in an airplane the moment the order was taking effect.”
According to Trump aide Rudy Giuliani, the president originally dubbed his executive order a “Muslim ban,” and asked the former New York mayor to show him “the right way to do it legally.”

“When he first announced it, he said, ‘Muslim ban,” Giuliani told Fox News Saturday, adding that the seven countries were targeted because they are “the areas of the world that create danger for us.”

The State Department has said that people from the seven countries under the 90-day travel ban will be prohibited entry no matter their visa status. Only those holding a dual citizenship with the US will be allowed to enter.
The plan triggered a fierce political backlash at home and abroad, including from Trump’s fellow Republicans.
Orrin Hatch, the most senior Republican in the US Senate, spoke of America’s “legal and moral obligations to help the innocent victims of these terrible conflicts.”
Trump’s Democratic campaign rival Hillary Clinton chimed in on Twitter: “this is not who we are.”
Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat, wrote, “to my colleagues: don’t ever again lecture me on American moral leadership if you chose to be silent today.”
His tweet was accompanied by the now iconic photograph of Aylan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian boy whose body washed up on a beach in Turkey in 2015 after a failed attempt to flee Syria’s brutal war to join relatives in Canada.
The rapid mobilization against the order suggests a protracted battle is shaping up between migrant advocates and Trump and his administration.
The battle could end up in the US Supreme Court, which has not ruled on this type of immigration issue since the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act.
In Europe, French President Francois Hollande lashed the refusal of refugees, and called out to fellow EU members: “We have to respond.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel likewise condemned the restrictions, saying that however hard the fight against terrorism was, “it is not justified to place people from a certain origin or belief under general suspicion,” her spokesman said.
A spokesman for British Prime Minister Theresa May, who is seeking to strike up a friendship with Trump, said US immigration policy was “a matter for the government of the United States… but we do not agree with this kind of approach.”
On Sunday Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called Trump’s ban “a great gift to extremists.”
“#MuslimBan will be recorded in history as a great gift to extremists and their supporters,” Zarif said as part of a string of tweets.

Mnangagwa faces fresh humiliation

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe is expected to fly back home today ending his month-long annual vacation, amid reports that rival Zanu PF factions were plotting to dress each other down when they converge at Harare International Airport to welcome him.
Zanu PF Harare provincial commissar, Shadreck Mashayamombe, yesterday confirmed plans for Mugabe’s “massive welcome rally” at the airport this afternoon, but denied reports that they were planning to use the occasion to embarrass Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa over his alleged growing ambitions to succeed Mugabe.

“We will, as usual, welcome the President. It is now our tradition, but this is just routine for us and nothing sinister about it,” he said.

“The President is coming tomorrow (today) and we are urging our members to come in their numbers. But our plans are dependent on his itinerary, which we do not have as of now.”

Mashayamombe denied claims they wanted to demonstrate against Mnangagwa, who is said to be in India, saying that was not how the party operates.

“We would never do that (seek to embarrass Mnangagwa) at the airport. It is not the way we do things,” he said.

“We are a peaceful people and are disciplined. If anyone wants to take advantage, we will see them.”

Some insiders claimed T-shirts and placards inscribed There is only one boss had been printed, in response to pictures that emerged of Mnangagwa carrying a mug written I’m the boss, which have caused ructions in Zanu PF.

A similar strategy was used in 2015, when T-shirts showing a picture of Mugabe and the late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo embracing with the words The unity that shall never collapse and Munhu wese kuna amai were distributed at the late Sikhanyiso Ndlovu’s burial, which were again targeted at Mnangagwa after he was accused of denigrating the former Zapu leader.

Zanu PF youth leader, Kudzai Chipanga, professed ignorance of the rally, although the ruling party’s Harare provincial youth leader, Edison Takataka, confirmed it.

“We know we will welcome our father, but I have not been advised as to when. As for the issue of T-shirts, it was just a suggestion, which I am not sure will be implemented,” Takataka said.

“But I can assure you, as chairperson, I will have mine. Of course, there is only one boss and that’s the President.”

Mashayamombe is linked to Zanu PF’s G40 faction, which is bitterly opposed to Mnangagwa’s bid to take over from the ailing Mugabe.

Mnangagwa is reportedly leading the other faction known as Team Lacoste.

Insiders said the plots to embarrass Mnangagwa would continue after today’s rally up to Mugabe’s 93rd birthday celebrations set for Matobo next month.

“They have printed different paraphernalia, which will carry messages taunting Mnangagwa’s recent pronouncements on Gukurahundi and their ‘mug declaration’. It is a plan to whip up emotions in the party against Mnangagwa,” one source said.

Other Zanu PF sources said today’s welcome rally could be moved to next Tuesday to allow Mugabe to travel to the African Union summit in Ethiopia, before “he is officially welcomed” back home to resume his duties.

In a bizarre twist, former Zanu PF provincial youth leader, Godfrey Tsenengamu, seen to be aligned to Mnangagwa, yesterday declared he would attend Mugabe’s welcome rally.

“Mugabe is the President of Zimbabwe and our understanding is that the function is not a party gathering,” he said.

“So we will also attend in our numbers as citizens. We hear they have made arrangements to embarrass Mnangagwa or picket against him. If anyone is to be allowed such mischief, they should expect similar doses from us. We will deal with anybody who is planning to be up to no good.”

This will not be the first time Mnangagwa would have been embarrassed at a public event.

In February last year, Hurungwe East lawmaker, Sarah Mahoka, launched a broadside at the Vice-President and was followed by Manicaland Provincial Affairs minister Mandiitawepi Chimene six months later.

Nobel Peace laureate Malala ‘heartbroken’ by Trump order

New York – Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani student activist and Nobel Peace laureate, said on Friday she was “heartbroken” by Donald Trump’s order on refugees and urged the US president not to abandon the world’s “most defenseless”.
“I am heartbroken that today President Trump is closing the door on children, mothers and fathers fleeing violence and war,” said the 19-year-old, shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012 after publicly advocating education for girls in her home country.
“In this time of uncertainty and unrest around the world, I ask President Trump not to turn his back on the world’s most defenseless children and families,” she added in a statement just moments after Trump signed the decree.
Yousafzai is the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, which she shared in 2014 with India’s Kailash Satyarthi, a fellow education activist.
Now living in England, she made a remarkable recovery after undergoing medical treatment and has travelled the world as a campaigner.
“I am heartbroken that America is turning its back on a proud history of welcoming refugees and immigrants – the people who helped build your country, ready to work hard in exchange for a fair chance at a new life,” she said.
The decree signed by Trump was entitled: “Protection of the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States.”
The White House did not immediately make the wording public, but a draft text leaked to US media said it would suspend the entire US refugee resettlement program for at least 120 days while tough new vetting rules are established.
In addition, it specifically bars Syrian refugees from the United States indefinitely, or until Trump decides that they no longer pose a threat.
“I am heartbroken that Syrian refugee children, who have suffered through six years of war by no fault of their own, are singled out for discrimination,” said Yousafzai.
She named a friend who had fled wars in Somalia, Yemen and Egypt to study in the United States, where she had hoped to be reunited with her sister.
“Today her hope of being reunited with her precious sister dims,” she said.

Trudeau to end Canada’s secret political fundraisers

OTTAWA – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will lift the veil of secrecy around cash-for-access fundraisers, a government source said on Friday, bowing to pressure over the events that allowed wealthy donors to meet with top officials away from prying eyes.
The move comes after months of media scrutiny and criticism of the meetings between Liberal government leaders and donors, often at elite social events, that had tarnished Trudeau’s image as a youthful reformer.
The government will introduce legislation that requires future fundraisers for cabinet members, party leaders and leadership candidates to be held in publicly available spaces rather than private homes and clubs, according to a government source.
Future fundraisers also must be advertised in advance and reported on after the fact “in a timely manner” and other measures might follow after a discussion with other political parties, said the source, who requested anonymity because the legislation has not yet been made public.
With a parliamentary majority, the Liberals typically can pass legislation without amendments.
Tom Mulcair, leader of the opposition New Democrats, said the changes would not actually stop Cabinet minister from taking money for access.
“If Justin Trudeau suddenly believes that the fundraisers he held during his leadership race were wrong, will he be returning all of that money?” Mulcair said in an emailed statement.
The move will affect not only Trudeau and his cabinet but also the leadership candidates of both opposition parties. The Conservatives and the New Democrats are embroiled in separate battles to replace their leaders in 2017.
Trudeau, who took power in November 2015 after promising to run an open and ethical government, has been dogged by a string of controversies involving money and access, including his holiday vacation at the private Caribbean island owned by the Aga Khan.
The son of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, he said this week he has been vacationing with the Aga Khan, a family friend, since he was a child.
While the exclusive vacation and elite fundraisers rarely came up during Trudeau’s recent cross-country tour to meet ordinary Canadians, they clashed with his government’s oft-repeated focus on the concerns of middle-class families.

Mali arrests two suspects in planned terror attack

BAMAKO, Mali -Malian officials said Friday two suspected jihadists have been arrested after they planned to stage a suicide attack in the capital Bamako during the France-Africa summit earlier this month.
“In two separate operations in Bamako on Thursday, Malian special intelligence operatives arrested two jihadists who were preparing to commit a large scale attack in Bamako against foreign targets,” a security official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The attack was planned for the France-Africa summit on January 13 and 14, which gathered some 30 African states and France to discuss the fight against extremists, the struggle to improve governance and the migrant crisis.
But stringent security measures forced the suspects to delay their plans, the official said. Another Malian security source confirmed the report.
Both suspects are Malian nationals from the country’s unrest-wracked north, which fell under the control of Tuareg-led rebels and jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda in 2012.
The Islamists sidelined the rebels to take sole control.
Although they were largely ousted by a French-led military operation in January 2013, implementation of a peace accord struck in 2015 has been piecemeal with insurgents still active across large parts of the region.
The suspects were arrested carrying “compromising materials,” the official said, including a “GPS system, ammunition and explosive material.”
“The first (suspect) was the logistics specialist who did the tracking,” while the second was likely the would-be suicide bomber, the second security source said.
He also said that both men belonged to the group of Algerian jihadist and Al-Qaeda ally Mokhtar Belmokhtar, which claimed responsibility for a January 18 suicide bombing that killed more than 70 people in the northern city of Gao.
The group, allied to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), targeted militia groups committed to restoring peace in Mali.
That attack, which struck a fresh blow at efforts to stabilise the troubled north, occurred five days after French President Francois Hollande visited the military base at Gao en route to the France-Africa summit.
French special forces had arrested several people ahead of the summit suspected of planning attacks during the gathering, according to Malian and foreign officials.

Zambian police warned over marrying foreigners

LUSAKA – Zambian police officers have been warned that it is illegal for them to marry foreigners, officials said Thursday, in a crackdown over national security.
The move to strictly enforce long-established wedding regulations attracted criticism from human rights’ groups that described it as discrimination.
The police force said that increasing numbers of officers were getting married to foreigners in defiance of the law.
“What prompted us to say that officers should not marry foreigners is because there are officers who are breaching the law,” police spokeswoman Esther Katongo told AFP.
“Issues of security are delicate and we cannot just sit and watch men in uniforms marrying women from foreign countries.”
Katongo declined to identify the nationalities of the foreigners, but some local cases have involved marriages to Rwandans, according to AFP reporters.
In an internal memo this month, inspector general of police Kakoma Kanganja ordered that the law over police marriages had to be obeyed.
He said that all foreign marriages must be declared within one week or officers would face disciplinary actions.
But the constitutionally mandated Human Rights Commission said that the law was discriminatory and should be repealed.
“We believe in globalisation and this order is not sitting well with human rights,” said commission spokesman Mwelwa Muleya.
“It’s a prejudiced position against people. It is discriminatory and it is our hope that the police will review this order. It might have served a purpose at some point but not now.”
Zambia is a relatively stable and peaceful country, though elections last year were criticised for violence during the campaign and muzzling of the media.

Senegal police arrest former boss of Gambia’s notorious prisons

ABIDJAN – Senegalese police said on Friday that they had arrested General Bora Colley, the man who ran Gambia’s prisons, where human rights groups say perceived opponents were tortured and in some cases died.
Colley was made the director of prisons by Gambia’s former leader, Yahya Jammeh, who lost an election last month but refused to step down. Jammeh fled into exile in Equatorial Guinea last week as a West African regional military force stood poised to remove him.
Senegal surrounds tiny Gambia on three sides, and it spearheaded the operation to install opposition figure Adama Barrow, the election winner. Its police reinforced border checks following Jammeh’s departure.
“These checks led to, among other results, the arrest on January 25, 2017, of Gambian General Bora Colley by police at the border checkpoint in Mpack as he attempted to enter Guinea-Bissau,” the police said in a statement.
Colley was later handed over to Senegalese military authorities, it said. Neither Colley nor any of his associates could be reached for comment.
Jammeh seized power in a 1994 coup and ruled Gambia for 22 years. His regime grew increasingly brutal and his election defeat, which he initially acknowledged before a dramatic reversal a week later, was celebrated across the country.
Colley served as commander of the military camp in Jammeh’s home village of Kanilai. He was appointed director of Gambia’s prisons in 2012.
Human Rights Watch accused Jammeh’s government of forced disappearances, arbitrary detention, and the torture of journalists, human rights activists, political opponents and critics. Gay, lesbian and transgender people were also targeted.
Many of those abuses were committed in jails, including the notorious Mile 2 Central Prison in the capital, Banjul.
More than 90 opposition members were jailed following a wave of peaceful protests that began last April. Two died while in custody.
UN officials, who were allowed into the country for the first time in 2014, found that “torture is a consistent practice” and “avoiding arrest is a necessary preoccupation for Gambian citizens”.

Billionaire Carlos Slim tells Mexico not to fear Trump

On the day before his 77th birthday, Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim said he was celebrating, not his birth, but the unity of his country.
The world’s fourth-richest person, according to Forbes, on Friday entered a standing-room-only press conference in the same building from which he runs his empire, holding a set of papers with handwritten notes and a book with several pages marked, titled: “Great Again: How to Fix our Crippled America,” by Donald Trump.
With camera lights flashing, the investor sat down at a table, alongside his two sons and his son-in-law for a rare press conference, and began a pep talk that led to a wide-ranging discourse on economic development.

“This meeting was a reason for joy and happiness and emotion, to see how all Mexico has joined together, ” he said.
Slim praised his country for solidarity at a time when the country is applauding its President, Enrique Peña Nieto, for canceling a scheduled meeting with US President Trump.
The leader decided not to meet with Trump after the US President tweeted, “If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting.”
The last time Slim met with Trump was in December at the President’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. He described the dinner meeting as three-on-three. Slim was accompanied by his son-in-law and spokesman. Trump wasn’t alone, either.
“Meal was very cordial,” he said. “He’s got great estimation for Mexico and the importance of having a solid country as a neighbor, the importance of having more economic activity. There’s interest that things work, but he has talked about the inconvenience of commercial deficit.”
Businessman sees opportunities for Mexico
Slim has studied Trump’s actions and words.
He hasn’t finished reading the President’s book, but he is taking notes.
After holding up the well-worn paperback to the crowd of reporters, he urged others to read it as a way to understand the new American leader. After thumbing through a few pages, Slim quoted directly from the book to explain why Trump’s governing principles may not always be politically correct.
Trump’s strategy, according to Slim, is to shock and provoke. But in the end, Slim said, Trump’s “not a terminator, he’s a negotiator.”
The businessman believes Trump is attempting to transform the United States, and says this could be an opportunity for Mexico, its economy and its workers.
“What President Trump signifies for us is a big change, a big change in politics and we need to make adjustments in this new civilization,” he said.
The change, he says, is favorable for Mexico. “The engineer,” as others refer to him, doesn’t think Mexicans will end up paying for a wall, especially if Trump’s plan is to use a tax on goods coming into the United States.
“The taxes would be paid, not by Mexico, but by those who import and those who are going to be the users.”
‘Twitter is not a way to negotiate
When it comes to trade, Slim believes Mexico’s relationships with its trading partners are strong and have potential to grow, especially with Asia.
“China has moved from agriculture and rural society, from that to new society that is industrialized and technologized and they have take 20 to 30 million people out of poverty to take them to those great levels of education.”
Trade and a wall are no reason to get angry, he says. It’s a reason to negotiate. While he declined to offer advice to Trump or Peña Nieto, Slim offered a small piece of advice on negotiations.
“Twitter is not a way to negotiate. Glad they were able to talk over the phone.”
While Trump and Peña Nieto are both avid Twitter users, you won’t see Slim engaging in that conversation. The billionaire doesn’t own a Twitter account.

Trump vows ‘new vetting’ to weed out Islamic radicals

US President Donald Trump signed a sweeping new executive order to suspend refugee arrivals and impose tough new controls on travelers from seven Muslim countries.Making good on one of his most controversial campaign promises, and to the horror of human rights groups, Trump said he was making America safe from “radical Islamic terrorists.”

“This is big stuff,” he declared at the Pentagon, after signing an order entitled: “Protection of the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States.”

Trump’s decree suspends the entire US refugee resettlement program for at least 120 days while tough new vetting rules are established.

These new protocols will “ensure that those approved for refugee admission do not pose a threat to the security and welfare of the United States.”

In addition, it specifically bars Syrian refugees from the United States indefinitely, or until the president himself decides that they no longer pose a threat.

Meanwhile, no visas will be issued for 90 days to migrants or visitors from seven mainly-Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

– Extreme vetting –

During the suspensions of the refugee and visa programs, new rules will be devised for what Trump as called the “extreme vetting” of applicants’ backgrounds.

Some exceptions will be made for members of “religious minorities,” which — in the countries targeted by the decree — would imply favorable treatment for Christians.

Civil liberties groups and many counterterror experts condemned the measures, declaring it inhumane to lump the victims of conflict in with the extremists who threaten them.

“‘Extreme vetting’ is just a euphemism for discriminating against Muslims,” said Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Romero argued that, by choosing countries with Muslim majorities for tougher treatment, Trump’s order breaches the US Constitution’s ban on religious discrimination.

Ahmed Rehab, director of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said his group would mount legal challenges to fight the order “tooth and nail.”

“It is targeting people based on their faith and national origin, and not on their character or their criminality,” he told AFP.

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani activist and Nobel peace laureate who was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012, said she was “heartbroken.”

She urged Trump not to abandon the world’s “most defenseless children and families.”

But the measure will be popular with Trump’s nationalist base, and stops short of a threat made during last year’s campaign to halt all Muslim travel to the United States.

Trump’s supporters defend the measures as necessary to prevent supporters of Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State group from infiltrating the US homeland disguised as refugees.

And the State Department, which with the Department of Homeland Security will have to implement the measures, said it was ready to put them into immediate effect.

“We will announce any changes affecting travelers to the United States as soon as that information is available,” spokesman Mark Toner said.

“We take seriously our responsibility to safeguard the American public while remaining committed to assisting the world’s most vulnerable people.”

  • ‘Wonderful thing’ –

Trump signed the order — which will cut the number of refugees the United States plans to resettle this fiscal year from 110,000 to 50,000 — in a ceremony at the Pentagon.

Moments earlier, he had signed an order to “rebuild” the US military and had watched Vice President Mike Pence swear in respected former Marine general James Mattis as his new secretary of defense.

Trump showered Mattis with praise and had earlier admitted he would allow the general’s opposition to the use of torture to override his own enthusiasm for harsh measures.

In what was a busy day from Trump, one week after his inauguration, he also met with Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May, the first foreign leader to visit his White House.

He hailed the “most special relationship” between the twin Atlantic powers and praised Britain’s decision to leave the European Union as a “wonderful thing.”

“When it irons out, you’re going to have your own identity, and you are going to have the people that you want in your country,” Trump said, in a nod to his own immigration stance.

“You’re going to be able to make free trade deals without having somebody watching you and what you are doing.”

May conveyed an invitation from Queen Elizabeth II for Trump to come to Britain for a state visit this year, and thanked him for his “100 percent” support of NATO.

Over the weekend, Trump is due to make calls to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, France’s President Francois Hollande and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

He is keen to develop friendly ties with Moscow, but played down reports that he might quickly end US economic sanctions imposed on Russia for its intervention in Ukraine.

Church of England bishops reject lifting opposition to same-sex marriage

There was also “some support” in the House for the new document including “penitence for the treatment some lesbian and gay people have received at the hands of the Church”.
Questioning of candidates for the priesthood should also change, as singling out their personal sexual conduct was seen as “pastorally unhelpful”, the report says.
But the report, which will be discussed at the General Synod in February, also said there was still “little support for changing the Church of England’s teaching on marriage” – that it is between one man and one woman.