Category: Global-news


  • Mugabe’s wife sues over $1.35-million diamond ring: report

    Wed, 2017-10-18 13:10

    HARARE: The wife of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has sued a Lebanese businessman for failing to deliver a $1.35-million diamond ring she ordered for her wedding anniversary, state media reported Wednesday.
    “First lady Dr. Grace Mugabe is suing fugitive businessman Mr.Jamal Joseph Ahmed for $1.23 million (1.05 million euros) over a diamond ring deal that went sour last year,” The Herald newspaper said.
    “In breach of the agreement, Mr.Ahmed failed to deliver the ring, triggering a legal wrangle.”
    In 2015, Grace Mugabe placed an order for a 100-carat diamond ring worth $1.35 million to mark the anniversary of her wedding to the 93-year-old leader.
    “The plaintiff wanted to purchase a unique diamond ring for her wedding anniversary celebrations,” said court documents seen by The Herald.
    “The defendant tendered a diamond ring worth $30,000 and naturally, the plaintiff refused to take possession of an inferior ring.”
    Grace Mugabe demanded a refund but Ahmed paid back just $120,000.
    In court documents filed last year, Ahmed said he had offered to repay the money in instalments and claimed he had already paid back $150,000.
    In January Ahmed went to court to stop Grace Mugabe from seizing his properties over the diamond ring spat.
    Grace Mugabe has however denied attempting to seize Ahmed’s properties, saying police had been guarding his premises because he was wanted for alleged crimes.
    The Lebanese businessman holds a Zimbabwean permanent residence permit, but no longer lives in southern African country.
    Ahmed also claimed to have received threats from officials from Zimbabwe’s spy agency — the Central Intelligence Organization — as well from Grace herself and a son from her first marriage, Russell Goreraza. She has denied the allegation.
    Grace, 52, married Mugabe in 1996. She now heads the ruling ZANU-PF party women’s league.
    She has said that she has the right to rule the country like any other Zimbabwean and is now seen to be among those manoeuvering to replace her husband.

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  • Spain threatens Catalan separatists as deadline looms

    Wed, 2017-10-18 13:30

    MADRID: Spain said Wednesday it would take the unprecedented step of seeking to suspend Catalonia’s autonomy if the region’s leader does not abandon his independence bid, on the eve of his deadline to give a final answer.
    Separatist leader Carles Puigdemont — whose banned independence referendum on October 1 has sparked Spain’s worst political crisis in decades — has until 10:00 am (0800 GMT) on Thursday to tell the central government in Madrid whether or not he is declaring a split from the rest of the country.
    Unless he backs down, Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said Madrid would trigger article 155 of Spain’s constitution, a never before used measure that could allow it to take direct control over semi-autonomous Catalonia.
    It could allow Madrid to suspend Puigdemont’s regional government and eventually trigger new elections in Catalonia, but the move would risk further escalating a crisis that has sparked huge street rallies, rattled stock markets and deeply worried Spain’s EU partners.
    “All I ask of Mr.Puigdemont is that he acts with good sense,” Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told parliament on Wednesday.
    Puigdemont issued a cryptic “suspended” declaration of independence following the referendum, saying he wanted time for talks with the government — a prospect Madrid has rejected.
    Rajoy would need Senate approval to trigger article 155, but his conservative Popular Party has a majority there.
    Jordi Xucla, a lawmaker from Catalonia’s ruling coalition, told Rajoy in parliament that such a move would be “a serious mistake... its application would be difficult and questionable.”
    The latest escalation came after tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Barcelona on Tuesday night after a court jailed two influential Catalan separatist leaders, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez, pending investigation into sedition charges.
    Barcelona police said around 200,000 people massed in the city center calling for the release of the pair known as the “two Jordis,” who spent a second night behind bars Tuesday.
    Shouting “freedom” and “independence,” the crowds lit candles, turning the boulevard into a sea of flickering lights.
    “They want us to be afraid so we stop thinking of independence, but the opposite will happen. There are more of us every day,” Elias Houariz, a 22-year-old baker, told AFP at the rally.
    Cuixart and Sanchez are the leaders of pro-independence citizens’ groups Omnium Cultural and the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) respectively, which count tens of thousands of members each and have emerged as influential players in the crisis.
    They are accused of whipping up major demonstrations last month in the run-up to the referendum, when protesters blocked Spanish police for hours inside the Catalan administration’s offices as they were raiding the building.
    Manchester City’s Catalan manager Pep Guardiola dedicated his team’s 2-1 win over Napoli in the Champions League on Tuesday to the detained pair.
    “We have shown in Catalonia that citizenship is bigger than any ideas. We hope they will be released soon,” he said.
    Thousands of workers in Barcelona and other cities had also staged a brief walkout earlier Tuesday in protest at the detentions.
    Catalan police chief Josep Lluis Trapero has also been charged with sedition — a crime that carries up to 15 years’ jail time — accused of failing to stop the referendum going ahead.
    With its own language and culture, Catalonia is proud of its autonomy but its 7.5 million people are deeply divided over independence.
    Puigdemont claims the referendum resulted in a 90 percent “Yes” vote, but the turnout was only 43 percent as many supporters of Spanish unity stayed away.
    Separatists argue that wealthy Catalonia, which represents about a fifth of Spain’s economic output, does too much to prop up the rest of the country and would be better off going it alone.
    But opponents say the region has more clout as part of a bigger Spain and that the instability could be disastrous for its economy.
    Madrid announced Monday that it was cutting its economic growth forecast for next year from 2.6 to 2.3 percent, pointing blame at the Catalan crisis.
    The standoff has sparked a business exodus, with nearly 700 companies moving their legal headquarters out of Catalonia in a bid to minimize the instability.

    Main category: 
    Spain gives Catalan leader 8 days to drop independence
    Spaniards take to streets as Catalonia independence tensions rise
    Spain warns it will act if Catalonia declares independence

  • Officers fired following probe of United passenger dragging

    Wed, 2017-10-18 01:37

    CHICAGO: The city of Chicago revealed Tuesday that it fired two airport police officers in connection with the controversial removal of a passenger from a United Airlines plane earlier this year.
    Video went viral online of a bloodied David Dao being dragged off the full flight by airport officers to make room for airline crew needing to be repositioned for future flights.
    The April incident on a flight from the midwestern US city to Louisville, Kentucky caused an international uproar.
    Chicago inspector general Joseph Ferguson, who heads a city watchdog office, had been pursuing an internal probe of the officers’ actions, and revealed Tuesday that two of the four had been fired and the other two suspended.
    Ferguson did not detail when the disciplinary actions were taken nor reveal the officers’ identities.
    “Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) employees mishandled a non-threatening situation that resulted in the physically violent forcible removal of a passenger,” the inspector general’s public report stated.
    The fired employees were the officer who initially pulled Dao from his seat and the supervisor who engaged in “the deliberate removal of facts from an employee report,” the inspector general said.
    Two other officers, one who “made misleading statements in two reports” and another who “made material omissions in a report,” were handed five-day suspensions.
    One of the suspended officers chose to resign instead.
    Dao’s lawyer Thomas Demetrio said his client was “neither vindictive nor happy about Mr.Ferguson’s findings.”
    “There is a lesson to be learned here for police officers at all levels. Do not state something that is clearly contrary to video viewed by the world.”
    The bloody encounter was captured on video by alarmed passengers and shared online — causing a firestorm of negative publicity for United.
    After initially mishandling the aftermath, the airline repeatedly apologized, settled with Dao for an undisclosed sum, and announced a series of operational changes to avoid future incidents.

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  • Horror in Taiwan over siblings’ abuse deaths

    Wed, 2017-10-18 11:44

    TAIPEI, Taiwan: A Taiwanese couple have been indicted over the abuse and deaths of three of their children whose bodies they then buried in hidden locations, in a crime that has shocked the island.
    The father, identified by his family name Lee, admitted to beating two sons — aged seven-years-old and 10 months — before they died, prosecutors said in a statement Wednesday.
    He was charged with causing injury leading to death while the children’s mother was indicted for abandonment leading to death, both punishable by life imprisonment.
    The cause of death of their six-month-old daughter was undetermined.
    Lee, 37, denied abusing the baby, prosecutors said.
    He and his partner surnamed Chen, 33, escaped murder charges as Lee claimed he “had no idea” his children would die, said Huang Yi-hua, a spokeswoman for the Yunlin prosecutor’s office.
    “Lee said he just wanted to teach the children a lesson when they were crying and screaming,” she added.
    But the case sparked an emotional public response, with some calling for the death penalty, which can be handed down for serious crimes in Taiwan.
    Local media described the couple as “cold-blooded, horrifying parents.”
    “Even if they don’t get sentenced to death by a judge, they will go to hell after they die,” read one message left on the comment section on Apple Daily’s website.
    “They are animals, they should be shot dead,” read another.
    Prosecutors described Lee as unemployed and an alcoholic.
    The children died between 2008 and 2013, when the couple were on the run for theft and fraud charges.
    They buried their seven-year-old son near a river in central Yunlin county where Lee is from, said prosecutors.
    Lee’s father has been indicted for helping to dispose of the body.
    The remains of the six-month-old girl were buried in the backyard of Lee’s father’s home.
    The 10-month old was buried in northern Taoyuan.
    When authorities finally caught up with the fugitive couple last year and arrested them for theft and fraud, they tried to locate the older son and became suspicious when they could not.
    The couple said he had been adopted, but their eldest daughter told police her brother had been beaten to death.
    Now aged 12, she is currently in foster care with two younger siblings.

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  • US wants evidence over detained staff to end Turkey visa dispute

    Wed, 2017-10-18 11:08

    ANKARA: A US delegation has asked Turkey for information and evidence regarding consular staff whose detention has led to a diplomatic rift and suspension of visa services, private HaberTurk television channel reported on Wednesday.
    Two locally employed US mission staff have been arrested in Turkey this year. In May, a translator at the consulate in the southern province of Adana was arrested and two weeks ago a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) worker was detained in Istanbul.
    Turkish police want to question a third worker based in Istanbul. His wife and daughter were detained last week over alleged links to the network of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, blamed by Ankara for orchestrating the abortive putsch. They were later released.
    Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has accused US officials of sheltering him in their Istanbul consulate.
    HaberTurk said the US delegation which arrived in Turkey this week laid out four conditions to solve the visa crisis, including Turkey providing information about investigations into consulate workers and evidence related to the DEA worker Metin Topuz and the other worker who is being sought.
    Erdogan’s spokesman said last week Topuz had been in contact with a leading suspect in last year’s failed military coup. Turkish media reported similar accusations against the translator in May. The US embassy in Ankara has said such accusations are baseless.
    The US delegation told Ankara that if the contacts which Turkish authorities are seeking to investigate were undertaken on the instructions of the consulate, the employees should not have been arrested, HaberTurk said.
    Private news channel CNN Turk quoted Turkish foreign ministry sources saying the ministry would not accept pre-conditions to the talks.

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  • Death toll in Afghan suicide attacks rises to 80: officials

    Wed, 2017-10-18 12:18

    KHOST, Afghanistan: The death toll from two suicide and gun attacks on Afghan security forces in southeast Afghanistan has risen to 80 with nearly 300 wounded, officials said Wednesday, in the bloodiest day in the country in almost five months.
    The deadliest of Tuesday’s assaults was on a police compound in the city of Gardez in Paktia province where Taliban militants disguised as police detonated three explosive-packed vehicles — including a truck and a Humvee — that cleared the way for 11 gunmen to enter.
    At least 60 people, including Paktia police chief Toryalai Abdyani and civilians waiting to collect documents, were killed in the blasts and ensuing battle that lasted around five hours, Gardez deputy director of health Hedayatullah Hamidi told AFP.
    Some 236 people were also wounded in the assault, he added.
    “The first checkpoint for the compound was blown up by a truck bomb. Two other vehicles then entered the compound — one detonated near the second checkpoint and the other rammed into the police chief’s office that killed the police chief and his bodyguards,” said Paktia governor spokesman Abdullah Hasrat.
    The militants had been wearing police uniforms and carrying fake police identification, Hasrat said — a common tactic used by insurgents to gain entry to government and security installations.
    Police spokesman Sardar Wali Tabasum said two members of the security forces had been arrested in connection with the attack, suggesting the assailants had insider help.
    “We think the Taliban took these vehicles (a Humvee and a police pickup truck) when Jani Khel district fell to them in August,” Tabasum told AFP. Jani Khel is about 50 kilometers (30 miles) east of Gardez.
    In the second attack in the neighboring province of Ghazni, some 100 kilometers west of Gardez, the official death toll was lowered to 20, including 15 members of the security forces and five civilians, Ghazni governor spokesman Haref Noori told AFP.
    The number of wounded stood at 46.
    That assault followed a similar pattern involving insurgents detonating an explosives-laden Humvee near a police headquarters then storming the building, Noori said. Six attackers were killed.
    An earlier toll had put the number of dead at 30 with 10 injured.
    It was the deadliest day in Afghanistan since May 31 when a truck packed with 1,500 kilogrammes of explosives detonated in the diplomatic quarter of the capital Kabul, killing around 150 and wounding hundreds more, mostly civilians.
    Kabul police foiled an even larger truck bomb on Saturday — 2,700 kilogrammes of explosives stashed under boxes of tomatoes — that would have caused carnage had it exploded.
    Less than two days later authorities seized a car driving toward Kabul that was carrying 300 kilogrammes of explosives.

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  • Madagascar plague death toll climbs to 74

    Wed, 2017-10-18 10:53

    ANTANANARIVO: An outbreak of highly contagious plague has claimed 74 lives in Madagascar over the past two months with the capital particularly affected, according to a new official toll published Tuesday.
    A total of 805 cases have been reported on the poor Indian Ocean island nation since August, the health ministry said in a statement.
    Madagascar has suffered plague outbreaks almost every year since 1980 — typically between September and April — and are often sparked by rats fleeing forest fires.
    The current outbreak is unusual as it has affected urban areas — especially the capital Antananarivo — increasing the risk of transmission, according to the World Health Organization.
    It has sparked panic despite the government appealing for calm.
    Passengers at Antananarivo’s transport hubs are subject to medical inspections, infected areas have been fumigated to kill fleas, public gatherings are banned, and schools and universities have been shut to combat the outbreak.
    WHO has delivered 1.2 million doses of antibiotics vital to fighting the disease while the Red Cross has been urgently training hundreds of volunteers on the island to publicize preventative measures.
    Plague bacteria develops in rats and is carried by fleas.
    In humans, the pneumonic version is transferred through coughing and can be fatal within 72 hours.
    Most of the victims recorded in Madagascar have been infected with the pneumonic form. The bubonic form is less dangerous.

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  • Philippines arrests militant widow for trying to recruit Daesh fighters

    Wed, 2017-10-18 10:18

    MANILA: Philippine law enforcement agents have arrested a woman who tried to spread radical ideas and recruit hundreds of foreigners to reinforce pro-Daesh rebels occupying a southern city, the justice minister said on Wednesday.
    Karen Aizha Hamidon, the widow of a former leader of a small extremist group in Mindanao, was arrested by special agents at her home in a Manila suburb a week ago and has been charged with inciting to rebellion, Vitaliano Aguirre told a news conference.
    Hamidon is accused of using social media and messaging apps to call on foreigners to join the siege by an alliance of Daesh loyalists in Marawi City, a battle that has lasted nearly five months.
    The military says the conflict, the biggest security crisis in years in the Philippines, is now in its final stages and has killed more than 1,000 people, mostly rebels.
    “This is a welcome development in the fight against terrorism,” Aguirre said.
    Agents found she had made 296 posts in chatrooms on Telegram and WhatsApp “calling on Muslims in the Philippines, India and Singapore to come to Marawi to establish a province of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria,” he said.
    There were also about 250 names, mostly foreigners, in her phonebook who were suspected of being Daesh sympathizers.
    Dressed in a black burqa, Hamidon was paraded before the media but was not allowed to speak. Her laptop, mobile phones and electronic gadgets were being looked at by experts for forensic investigation.
    Hamidon, a Muslim convert, was married to Mohammad Jaafar Maguid, alias Tokboy, the former leader of radical group Ansar Al-Khilafa. He was killed in a gunfight with police in January.
    Aguirre said she was also linked to Singaporean and Australian extremists, both of whom are in detention in their countries.
    But counter-terrorism expert Sidney Jones cast doubts about whether Hamidon had been effective. Jones said her presence in chatrooms of Daesh supporters was not welcomed, her credibility had been questioned and some participants blamed her for the arrests of radicals.
    “Everyone hates her and thinks she’s a spy,” Jones said.

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  • Xi declares ‘new era’ for China as party congress opens

    Wed, 2017-10-18 09:25

    BEIJING: President Xi Jinping declared China is entering a “new era” of challenges and opportunities on Wednesday as he opened a Communist Party congress expected to enhance his already formidable power.
    Xi told some 2,300 delegates at the imposing Great Hall of the People that the party must “resolutely oppose” any actions that undermine its leadership as it steers a course through a high-stakes period in its development.
    “The situation both domestic and abroad is undergoing profound and complex changes,” said Xi, who is expected to secure a second five-year term as general secretary and stack leadership positions with loyalists during the twice-a-decade congress.
    “China’s development is still in a stage of important strategic opportunities. The prospects are bright, but the challenges are also severe,” he said in a marathon speech that exceeded three hours and was met by waves of applause.
    “Socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era.”
    Speaking in front of a massive hammer and sickle, Xi touted his nationalistic “China dream” slogan, vowed to open the economy, promised to win the fight against poverty, and warned he would continue a “zero tolerance” campaign against corruption.
    “Every one of us in the party must do more to uphold party leadership and the Chinese socialist system and resolutely oppose all statements and actions that undermine, distort or negate them,” he said.
    Considered China’s most powerful leader since Deng Xiaoping or even Mao Zedong, Xi could use the congress to lay the foundation to stay atop the 89-million-strong party even longer than the normal 10 years, according to analysts.
    That would break the unwritten two-term limit accepted by his immediate predecessors Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao — who were by Xi’s side at the congress — and end the era of “collective leadership” aimed at preventing the emergence of another Mao.
    Another signal of Xi’s rise to the pantheon of Chinese leadership would be if his name is added to the party constitution, an honor that has only been bestowed upon modern China’s founder, Mao, and the father of economic reforms, Deng.
    Potential rivals have been swept aside under Xi’s vast anti-corruption drive, which punished 1.3 million Communist Party officials over five years.
    Xi said the campaign has been “unswervingly fighting against ‘tigers’, ‘beating flies’, ‘hunting foxes’” — terms used for lower- and higher-ranking officials, as well as those who have fled abroad.
    His rise has also been marked by a relentless crackdown on dissent, with authorities even refusing to free Nobel peace prize laureate Liu Xiaobo as he lay dying of cancer in July.
    On other fronts, Xi touted efforts to complete the army’s modernization by 2035 and build artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea
    In a stern warning to self-ruled Taiwan, which Beijing considers a rebel province, Xi said China has the “ability to defeat separatist attempts for Taiwan independence in any form.”
    Xi, who has championed globalization in the face of President Donald Trump’s “America First” policies, vowed to further open up China’s economy.
    Foreign companies complain that Xi’s words have not been backed by deeds, as the state retains control over the economy.
    US and European firms report being barred from certain sectors and forced to share their technologies with local competitors.
    Trump, who will visit Beijing next month, has launched a trade investigation into China’s intellectual property practices.
    “China will not close its doors to the world, we will only become more and more open,” Xi said, pledging to “protect the legitimate rights and interests of foreign investors.”
    Authorities stepped up policing for the week-long congress, with red armband-wearing “security volunteers” fanning out across the capital, karaoke bars closing and online kitchenware firms even suspending knife sales.
    The conclave, which will mostly meet behind closed doors and end next Tuesday, will select new top party members, including for the Politburo Standing Committee, China’s all-powerful ruling body.
    Xi and Premier Li Keqiang are expected to remain on the committee while the five other current members are supposed to step down under an informal retirement age set at 68.
    Xi may lobby to retain his 69-year-old right-hand man Wang Qishan, who heads the leader’s signature anti-graft campaign. This would create a precedent for Xi himself to remain in charge beyond retirement age in 2022.
    But a Xi heir apparent could emerge from the congress.
    One former potential successor who was outside Xi’s circle, Sun Zhengcai, was ousted from the party last month due to graft allegations.
    Chen Miner, a former Xi aide who succeeded Sun as political chief in the city of Chongqing, is now well positioned for promotion.

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  • Japan complains to US over resumed chopper flights

    Wed, 2017-10-18 08:38

    TOKYO: Japan said Wednesday it was “truly regrettable” that the US military had restarted flights of a helicopter that burst into flames last week, saying it wanted further reassurances over safety.
    The US resumed operations with its CH-53 helicopters on Wednesday, after grounding them for a week following the blaze in an empty field on the western Japanese island of Okinawa.
    At the time the US military said the blaze occurred after the aircraft had landed in the field and no crew were injured.
    Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters it was “truly regrettable” that the flights had resumed “without enough explanations.”
    Deputy government spokesman Kotaro Nogami said US officials had briefed their Japanese counterparts but Tokyo was not satisfied and would “continue asking for further explanations from the US side.”
    Onodera had previously called for the helicopters to be idled until their safety can be guaranteed and dispatched experts to Okinawa to ensure a thorough investigation.
    Representatives of the US military in Okinawa could not be reached for immediate comment Wednesday.
    More than half the approximately 47,000 American troops in Japan under a decades-long security alliance are stationed on Okinawa, the site of a major World War II battle that was followed by a 27-year US occupation of the island.
    Islanders have complained for decades about noise and accidents.
    In December, five crewmembers aboard a US Marine MV-22 Osprey were injured after what the Pentagon described as a “mishap” resulting in the plane landing in shallow water off Okinawa.
    Okinawa residents have protested against the deployment of Ospreys in Japan after a series of accidents in other countries involving the hybrid aircraft.

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