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November 01, 2017

December deadline for Essequibo dispute

Guyana and Venezuela's foreign ministers met on Friday to look for a solution to the long-standing border controversy between the two South American countries.

The controversy has avoided going to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) when the two countries referred their dispute to UN Secretary-General António Guterres for resolution, unlike interstate disputes between Nicaragua and Costa Rica or Chile and Bolivia.

The international dispute has remained low on the international political radar until reports of crude oil explorations by Exxon Mobil Corp partnering with Royal Dutch Shell off the coast of the Essequibo region.

For the latest round of talks Guterres deployed Norwegian lawyer Dag Nylander as his personal representative through the arbitration process whose task Guterres said was to "actively engage with the governments of Guyana and Venezuela with a view to exploring and proposing options".

Guiterres' office issued a statement on Monday, October 30, where both parties affirmed their commitment to continue using the Good Offices process.

“They also reaffirmed their commitment to the Good Offices process and reiterated that their governments will remain actively engaged with the personal representative. The parties agreed to meet again to continue discussions within this framework, and to explore options for the resolution of the border controversy,” the statement said.

The long-standing territorial dispute between the two states dates back to a Washington treaty where the borders between the erstwhile Colony of British Guyana and the then United States of Venezuela. The treaty, called Arbitral Awards and signed on February 2 1897, was an agreement between then Venezuelan president José Andrade and Queen Victoria through Sir Julian Pauncefote, the British ambassador. The arbitration process is made complicated by dismissal of the agreement as null and void and the countries continued claim to about 74% of modern Guyana.

The two countries will be forced to make representations to Guterres on the reasons the international body should not send the dispute to the ICJ if no agreement is reached by the end of the year.

October 29, 2017

UN experts conclude Rohingya fact-finding visit to Bangladesh

Experts deployed to the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar have concluded their visit to Bangladesh where more than 600,000 Rohingya fled, amid genocide described as a textbook case of ethnic cleansing by the UN.


The fact-finding mission, which intended to conduct investigations in Rakhine State, has not been granted access by the Myanmar government. It was tasked in March with investigating and ensuring that perpetrators of human rights violations, particularly in the Rakhine State, are held accountable.


The mission is chaired by Marzuki Darusman (Indonesia) and includes Radhika Coomaraswamy (Sri Lanka) and Christopher Sidoti (Australia) and has a mandate inform the UN Human Rights Council on the human rights situation dating as far back as January 2011.


The future of the Rohingya in Bangladesh is among the issues the mission has to address so as to inform the international community's response to the human rights crisis in the region.


The UN Refugee Agency is facilitating the relocation of 5,000 refugees to a new site called Kutupalong Extension to ease the demand on the area's schools and to open space for new arrivals fleeing from the conflict.


The Rohingya in Myanmar are in a precarious situation as an almost stateless minority in the country that continues to limit their political rights. According to Sidoti, their repatriation to Myanmar might need the deployment of monitors to the country.


“Any repatriation must be voluntary and can only take place after the establishment of effective mechanisms to ensure their safety and protection. That may require the placement of international human rights monitors in Rakhine State,” he said.


In an October 27 update the chairperson said the many accounts of human rights violations were deeply disturbing.


“We have heard many accounts from people from many different villages across northern Rakhine State. They point to a consistent, methodical pattern of actions resulting in gross human rights violations affecting hundreds of thousands of people,” said Darusman.

October 26, 2017

Catalan parliament votes to leave Spain

The Catalan parliament has voted to declare independence from Spain as Madrid seeks to take over the functions of the nominally independent territory. 

The regional parliament of Catalonia met on Friday morning to vote on the motion to begin what is called the “constituent process” to formally leave Spain.


But MPs from the Socialist Party and People’s Party as well as those of the Ciudadanos walked out of the chamber in protest before the vote.

It's the legislative body of the Generalitat of Catalonia and is located in the Palau del Parlament in the Parc de la Ciutadella in Barcelona.


The other bodies that comprise the Generalitat are the Presidència de la Generalitat de Catalunya, the Consell Executiu o Govern, the Consell de Garanties Estatutàries, the Síndic de Greuges, the Sindicatura de Comptes and the Consell de l'Audiovisual de Catalunya.

The definition of the Parliament of Catalonia in Article 55 of the 2006 Statute of Autonomy is as follows:

1. It represents the people of Catalonia.
2. It has legal authority, approves the budget of the Generalitat of Catalonia and control and impulses the political actions of the government.
3. The Parliament is inviolable.


However, as the growing tension with Spain worsens,  the central government has threatened to  impose its will. 

The Parliament of Catalonia has to comprise between 100 and 150 deputies and is currently made up of 135 members, who are elected by universal suffrage.

October 25, 2017

Violence at Kenyan election re-run

Groups of opposition party members and others opposed to today's Kenyan election re-run have tried to stop the poll going ahead, with reports of tear gas and rubber bullets being fired in Kibera, a slum in the capital Nairobi, and in Kisumu, Kenya's third-biggest city.


Sky News has also reported that protesters barricaded the entrances to polling stations and hurled rocks at security forces in some parts of the country.


Some polling stations remain locked and chained as officials cite fear of violence for the failure to deliver voting equipment.

Kenya youths have also stopped voting in some towns as they seek to challenge the credibility of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s expected victory.

October 24, 2017

Xi Jinping fails to announce clear successor

Chinese President Xi Jinping has broken with tradition and failed to include anyone who's a possible successor in the newly formed senior leadership committee.


Xi, who's 64, is approaching the legal age when applicants may no longer stand for president which is 67.


He's also changed the country's constitution, the first leader to do so since Deng Xiaoping and Mao Zedong. 


Five new appointments were made to the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee which is the most powerful body in China. 


The big surprise was Xi named members who are all in their 60s which means they technically won't be able to stand for re-election in five years time.


Two names in particular were missing as political analysts had speculated before the National Congress that Chen Miner and Hu Chunhua could be included as worthy successors. 

October 22, 2017

McCain jabs at Trump bone spur excuse

US Senator John McCain has taken a swipe at President Donald Trump, who avoided going to Vietnam after claiming a doctor said he had "bone spurs" or what is also called shin splints. 


Trump insulted McCain during the run-up to last year's US elections by saying that soldiers shouldn't be taken prisoner – referring to McCain's incarceration in a North Vietnamese prison camp.


McCain was being interviewed by CSPAN on the 50th anniversary of his being shot down over Vietnam.

"One aspect of the conflict, by the way, that I will never ever countenance is that we drafted the lowest-income level of America, and the highest-income level found a doctor that would say that they had a bone spur," McCain said.


Trump's father found a doctor to medically disqualify his son from service in Vietnam in 1968.


"That is wrong. That is wrong. If we are going to ask every American to serve, every American should serve," said McCain.


Trump said McCain was a war hero only "because he was captured". The US president followed that up with "I like people that weren't captured".  

During the Vietnam War, Trump asked for deferments four times while studying then after graduating a doctor ruled that he had bone spurs.

October 22, 2017

Catalonian officials to defy Madrid

Catalonia has warned that all its officials would defy Madrid's order as the Spanish government tries to enforce direct rule on the region. 

This has angered the Catalans, with Madrid threatening to impose its own staff and government officials on the territory.

That's after the Spanish government voted to impose direct rule and force an election after it says the Catalan referendum of October 1 was illegal. 

While the Catalan authorities claim around 90% of those who took part in the referendum voted for independence,  only about 43% of the electorate in the region actually cast their ballot or one in three. 

October 18, 2017

Singer Jennifer Ferguson says football boss Danny Jordaan raped her

Jennifer Ferguson, famous for her stand against apartheid as a singer in South Africa, says the country's football boss Danny Jordaan raped her nearly 24 years ago. 


She says the incident happened in Port Elizabeth after an evening's performance. 


Jordaan is regarded as an important member of the ruling ANC,  and was mayor of the same city where Ferguson says the incident took place.


Jordaan served as mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay, which includes Port Elizabeth, from May 2015 until August 2016 when the opposition won the local government elections in the heartland of the ANC, embarrassing the ruling party. 


Speaking about the incident 24 years ago, Ferguson says he came to her room after a party dinner, grabbed her and raped her then walked out without saying a word.


She had just been nominated to become an ANC member of Parliament soon after the 1994 elections. 

Since the incident she has emigrated to live in Sweden. 


Ferguson told media she's come forward as part of the  #MeToo campaign on social media where women around the world are talking about being attacked and sexually abused by men.

Jordaan remains a prominent member of the ANC although he faces allegations of involvement in bribery during the run-up to the 2010 Soccer World Cup which South Africa hosted.

October 18, 2017

UN chief to travel to Central Africa Republic

UN Secretary-General António Guterres announced on Thursday, October 19, that he will travel to the Central African Republic and will spend United Nations Day with a peacekeeping mission.


The country has experienced instability since the ouster of ex-president Francois Bozize by Seleka rebels in a 2013 coup.


“We are determined to ensure that the voices of victims are heard – I will myself be ready to meet with victims and their families – in and beyond the Central African Republic. Victims must be at the centre of our response if we want our zero-tolerance policy to be successful,” said Guterres.


This follows recent allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by some members of the UN peacekeeping mission  active in the country. 


President Faustin-Archange Touadera, currently in office, assumed power after a February 2016 presidential election victory which saw him rule the country with multiple humanitarian challenges.


The Central African Republic is a resource-rich country with gold, diamonds and uranium among other minerals. However, the country's almost 4.6 million population remains among the poorest in the world.


In his announcement,  Guterres added that a special criminal court has been established with the support of the UN to mitigate against the law and order situation that has deteriorated in the country, which has more than a dozen armed groups.


"The country has seen enough brutality, enough division, enough conflict,” added Guterres. 

October 18, 2017

Zuma's Gupta family connection gets FBI treatment

Financial Times reports that the FBI has started a US investigation into the Gupta family which has high level ties with President Jacob Zuma and his relatives. 

The report indicates American investigators have been busy looking into the family bank accounts as well as companies registered in the US by Gupta family members, including Ashish and Amol Gupta, nephews of the three Gupta brothers.


Ashish and Amol are US citizens, which means should the FBI find enough evidence of corruption or fraud both could face years behind bars. 


While Zuma has publicly supported the Guptas, he claims they're merely old friends, while his nephew and son have entered numerous financial arrangements with them.


KPMG has also been forced to admit that its South African branch erred in doing business with the Guptas,  who sold most of the interests in the country and fled to Dubai last year claiming they feared for their lives.


Since then there have been numerous complaints by ruling ANC party officials of being forced to meet with the Guptas – particularly officials working for the Eskom power monopoly. 

October 15, 2017

Mango pilots on strike

Mango airline pilots have embarked on a strike commencing officially at 5am on Monday, October 14, according to Solidarity, the union representing about 95% of the pilots.


The action by Mango pilots is a result of a failure in wage negotiations on Sunday night.


The two parties are unable to resolve the dispute with the airline offering a 6% salary hike while the  union is looking for an 8.5% settlement for the pilots. 

The airline informed passengers about the delays through Facebook and Twitter on Monday and advised them to contact check-in desks for flights that have been re-accommodated in other operators.


Some flights to Johannesburg, George, Durban and Cape Town have been affected and rescheduled for later departure times.


Meanwhile, in another airline related incident a strike by South African Airlink cabin crew was averted after an agreement was reached by the company and labour union South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) after a new remuneration agreement was reached


South African Airlink's marketing manager Karin Murray issued a statement on Friday, October 13, about a new remuneration agreement reached with Satawu. 


“South African Airlink advises customers that its scheduled flights will operate as normal after a new remuneration agreement was reached with the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union, which, in turn, has called off its intended strike,” the statement said.

According to Matthew Ramose, Satawu's aviation coordinator, the union and South African Airlink reached an agreement that the union membership has agreed with. The union and airliner agreed to a 10% increment and an additional R2,000 per month backdated to September 1. 


The agreement includes a flight pay allowance for cabin crew whose minimum is set to increase by 7.63% from R380 to R409 for just less than six hours and is capped at an increase of 9.09% amounting to R492 for flights exceeding twelve hours. 


Other increases included in the new remuneration package include the following:

  • Night subsistence allowance will increase to R360 (previously R309) (16.50% increase).

  • The night shift allowance will increase from R65 to R70 (7.69% increase).

  • Airport reserve allowance will increase from R130 to R140 (7.69% increase).

  • The in-charge allowance will increase from R132 to R143 (8.33% increase).

  • The trainer allowance will increase from R143 to R154 (7.69% increase).

  • The allowance for working on an off day will increase from R424 to R500 (17.92% increase).

  • Extended flight pay allowance will be based on a sliding scale for hours flown exceeding 65 hours every. It commences at R120 for ten additional hours and an increase of R10 for every five hours after the employee's extended flight is past 75 hours.

October 11, 2017

Kenyan elections to go ahead

Kenya’s electoral commission says the October 26 poll will go ahead even though the opposition is disputing the terms. 


National Super Alliance leader Raila Odinga announced that he's no longer going to stand in the election but the Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission says he needs to fill out Form 24A in order to make his announcement legal. 

But Odinga has denied this, saying his decision is irreversible.


The previous election on August 8 was annulled by the country's Supreme Court, which ruled the poll had not been held in line with the constitution and that it had been plagued by irregularities.


President Uhuru Kenyatta, who won the previous ballot, said he believed the election should go ahead. 

October 09, 2017

Storm kills one, injures nine in South Africa

Rescue workers called to Krugersdorp, west of Johannesburg, say a tornado in the midst of a storm killed at least one person. Nine others were hurt by a reported tornado east of Johannesburg, which the weather service says it is investigating. 


The storm moved across the Gauteng province leaving a trail of devastation, damaging schools, hospitals, private dwellings and shopping malls. Social media featured images of hailstones the size of golf balls leaving vehicles damaged, while the Cradlestone Shopping mall near Krugersdorp lost its roof. 


Tornados are rare in the Johannesburg region but it's seen at least four in the last two years, surprising meteorologists who say it's not a normal condition even in the midst of extreme weather. 


Earlier warnings were issued about the powerful storm which led to roads being submerged and motorists stranded on highways.  

October 05, 2017

South African power monopoly Eskom wants McKinsey, Trillian cash back

Eskom, South Africa's state-owned power monopoly, says it wants  McKinsey and Trillian’s cooperation in respectively returning R1bn and R564m, which appears to have been unlawfully paid out in 2016 and 2017.


After months of wrangling, Eskom says the interim findings from its investigations into the circumstances surrounding payments made to both the companies "point to certain decisions by Eskom, and resultant payments, as being unlawful", it said.


Under South African company and fiduciary law, including the PFMA (Public Finance Management Act) and the Companies Act, Eskom says it wants to set aside "these unlawful decisions and to have all the money unlawfully paid out returned".


Eskom has written to each of the two companies explaining the action it would take and requesting their cooperation in the matter.


Eskom is critical to power supply in South Africa and is protected as a monopoly by government. It has been under pressure after it emerged that senior executives had lied to the Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown about the role played by the controversial Trillian Capital company tied to the Gupta family.  

October 05, 2017

Anti-nuclear campaign wins Nobel Peace Prize

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, known as ICAN,  has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. ICAN is a global group working to promote the full implementation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.


The campaign was launched in 2007 and has built a large group of partner organisations numbering more than 460 in over 100 countries. ICAN  was launched publicly at two events, the first on April 23 2007 in Melbourne, Australia, where funds had been raised to establish the campaign, and the second on April 30 2007 in Vienna at a meeting of state parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. National campaigns have been organised in dozens of countries in every region of the world.


ICAN members were motivated to start the movement after the success of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which led directly to a ban on certain types of anti-personnel landmines in 1997.

October 04, 2017

Las Vegas killer stockpiled weapons for decades

The  gunman accused of killing 58 people, excluding himself,  and wounding nearly 500, had stockpiled arms for decades.

That's according to police in the Nevada city of Las Vegas. 

Stephen Paddock, 64, stored thousands of rounds of ammunition well before he opened fire on revellers attending a Country & Western concert on Sunday night. 

But his motive remains a mystery. 

“What we know is that Stephen Paddock is a man who spent decades acquiring weapons and ammo and living a secret life, much of which will never be fully understood,” Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo told media on Wednesday.

While Lombardo said the cache could mean that others knew about the planned shooting, the FBI said that was just a theory. 

October 03, 2017

Spanish army moves into Catalan province

Reports from the Catalan Province in Spain say that thousands of troops are reportedly on the move into the region to bolster police following last weekends referendum on independence.

Sources in the province have used social media to record and publish information they say shows the Ministry of Defence is preparing the military installations of Sant Boi de Llobregat (Baix Llobregat) in case it should host the troops of the Spanish police and the Civil Guard deployed in Catalonia.

According to the Catalan news site El Mon, members of the Logistics Support Group 41 of the army, located in Saragossa, as well as two support ships have already been sent to the province carrying materials such as bunk beds, kitchens, showers and other equipment. 

October 03, 2017

Buffett challenges Trump tax plan

Donald Trump's tax plan has been criticised by billionaire investor Warren Buffett as well as Black Rock executive Larry Fink.

Buffett says Trump's plan to cut the corporate tax rate is too extreme and believes that it will increase stress on the middle class.

Buffett told CNBC: "We have a lot of businesses (and) I don’t think any of them are non-competitive in the world because of the corporate tax rate."

At the same time, Fink said the planned 27% tax rate would hardly provide real relief for business, and would increase the federal deficit.

Trump's administration wants to cut the corporate tax rate from 30% to 27% but the plan is under pressure as it has failed to show where the revenue shortfall will be recovered.

October 02, 2017

Kenyan police fire tear gas at protestors

Kenyan police have fired tear gas and rubber bullets in Nairobi and Kisumu as protestors turned out demanding a change of leadership at the country's election commission.

The opposition National Super Alliance called the protests in connection with a faulty poll where leader Raila Odinga lost to President Uhuru Kenyatta.

A rerun is scheduled for October 26.

Kenya's Supreme Court ordered the repeat after nullifying August elections, saying there had been irregularities in the vote counting.

October 01, 2017

Gunman kills 59, wounds nearly 500 In Las Vegas

A gunman has fired on an outdoor music festival from the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas Strip casino, killing 59 people, including himself, and wounding close to 500.

Country music star Jason Aldean was performing as the time.


A suspect, believed to be 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, was killed by police.

They're now searching for what police call a "person of interest"  named Marilou Danley. She was described as a "companion" of the shooter.

October 01, 2017

Hundreds injured In Catalonia referendum

Spain is facing its biggest constitutional crisis in more than 50 years after a referendum in Catalonia turned violent on Sunday, October 1.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy ordered police into towns in the region, who were then accused of using violent tactics in order to stop the poll from going ahead.

Rajoy has rejected the vote, which saw an overwhelming 90% of Catalonians supporting the call for independence.

More than 840 people were injured, a number seriously, when police opened fire with rubber bullets and tear gas in various parts of Catalonia.

The police had been brought in from outside the region, angering locals who accused Madrid of using military dictatorship-era tactics to stop the poll. 

September 28, 2017

Twitter shuts 201 accounts linked to Russian trolls

Twitter has shut down 201 accounts it says were tied to "Russian operatives" or trolls who posted thousands of political ads on Facebook.  

But the company and other digital startups are now under pressure to be more proactive about dealing with the abuse of freedom of speech rights. 

News Site RT or Russian TV was directly linked to the Kremlin, according to Twitter, and it shut down three RT accounts linked to the Russian state which had spent more than $270,100 in ads since 2016. 

This week Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg also admitted that Russian trolls had misused his platform in order to try to influence the US election by running more than 400 pages set up to attack Hillary Clinton. 

September 27, 2017

Hugh Hefner dies at 91

Playboy's founder, Hugh Hefner, has died at the age of 91. He passed away peacefully at his home in Los Angeles according to Playboy Enterprises.  

He is believed to have died of natural causes. 

Hefner began publishing Playboy in 1953 and it became one of the best selling men's magazines globally. At one stage more than 7-million copies were being bought monthly. 

Hefner also launched a series of clubs with the infamous Bunny Girls or women dressed in tight bodices, rabbit ears and fluffy tails, which at the time enraged feminists and the conservative establishment.  

In one interview he claims to have seduced more than 1,000 women and said the invention of Viagra revolutionised his life.  

n 2012, aged 86, Hefner married his third wife Crystal Harris, who was more than 60 years his junior. 

She apparently will receive nothing in his will which he didn't change to reflect his latest marriage. 

September 26, 2017

Ukraine - arms dump explosion could be sabotage

In the second incident of its kind in six months, an ammunition dump has exploded in the Ukraine and the government in Kiev says the latest blast could also be the work of saboteurs.

The first blast in March 2017 was caused by a drone, according to government officials.

In the latest explosion, 28,000 people have been evacuated from the Vynnytsya region of central Ukraine and explosions are still being reported from the ammunition dump.

Around 188,000 tons of munitions were stored there.

On March 23, tank ammunition stored at a warehouse in the east of the country exploded, causing a massive fire and, in that instance, 20,000 people were evacuated.

The base near the city of Balakleya was packed with around 138,000 tons of ammunition.

September 25, 2017

Angola’s first new president in 38 years sworn in

Angola's first new president in 38 years has been sworn in at a ceremony in the capital, Luanda. João Lourenço is only the country's third president, after the ruling MPLA secured 64.5% of the vote in elections in August. His predecessors were Agostinho Neto and Eduardo dos Santos.

The latter led the country for 38 years through an oil boom, but also instituted what is regarded as one of the most corrupt governments in Africa. Lourenço is the former defence minister and a product of the party. He was educated in the Soviet Union, like dos Santos, and is part of the military establishment which has had unfettered access to Angola's oil wealth. 

Since the country emerged from a 27-year civil war in 2002, it has held three elections with the MPLA winning each. However, the latest poll has seen MPLA support drop to 64.5% from more than 70%. 

September 20, 2017

Hurricane Maria floods Puerto Rico

Hurricane Maria has intensified as it moves towards the Dominican Republic after flooding Puerto Rico overnight.

The rain continues to fall in Puerto Rico and government there says there is no power on the island as all electrical supply has been damaged.

Weather forecasters report that the island will see an additional 610mm of rain on Friday. The governor, Ricardo Rosselló, has ordered a 6pm-6am curfew to be enforced, saying it's too dangerous for the citizenry to venture outside at night. 

The storm which weakened slightly overnight has strengthened to a Category 3 hurricane. It's expected to hit the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) and the Bahamas later tonight.


September 19, 2017

More than 200 dead in Mexico earthquake

Rescue workers are searching through rubble for signs of survivors after a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck central Mexico, killing at least 220 people.

It's the most violent quake since 1985 and has severely damaged hundreds of buildings while power and water supply has also been cut in parts of Mexico City.

People have remained outdoors as aftershocks continue to be felt in the area.

A school collapsed in the capital trapping at least 30 children who are unaccounted for and Mexico's president, Enrique Peña Nieto, has paid a visit to the area.

September 18, 2017

Russian helicopter mistakenly fires missiles at journalists

Russian authorities are investigating a report that a helicopter taking part in the #ZAPAD2017 military exercises in Belarus and Kaliningrad accidently fired missiles into a truck which was surrounded by journalists.

At least two people were seriously injured in the attack, according to media reports from the area. 

According to the Russian media, during the exercise "West-2017" helicopter Ka-52 accidentally fired  rockets at spectators, who were near the "Luzhsky" training ground near St Petersburg.

According to, the two injured people are unnamed journalists.

Russia began the drills last week, mobilising at least 13,000 troops along with heavy weapons, such as tanks, attack helicopters, fighter jets and support aircraft as well as warships.

September 18, 2017

Hurricane Maria causes major damage in Dominica

Hurricane Maria has caused major damage in Dominica in the Caribbean.

There are no reports of casualties yet, but authorities on the island say there's widespread destruction following the Category 5 hurricane which made landfall on Tuesday.

The powerful storm is now making its way towards the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

While the hurricane has been downgraded to a Category 4, its winds are still powerful enough to destroy homes and rip up trees.

Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit has posted in Facebook that it's too early to determine the extent of the damage caused but he believes it's severe.

"I am honestly not preoccupied with physical damage at this time, because it is devastating ... indeed, mind boggling. My focus now is on rescuing the trapped and securing medical assistance for the injured," he said.

September 17, 2017

Hamas to create unity government with Fatah

Hamas, which runs the Palestinian Territories, has agreed to dissolve its administration and to enter into talks with the rival Fatah movement after decades of violent rivalry.

Hamas has ruled Gaza since 2007 after a bloody Palestinian civil war.  More than 2-million people live in the territory. 

The latest development means a form of power-sharing can be negotiated, which previously caused relations to break down. 

In 2014 Hamas and Fatah agreed to a national reconciliation administration but then fell out on the details.

Fatah has been meeting Egyptian officials but has not directly discussed any of the arrangements directly with Hamas yet. Other factions in Palestine are set to join the talks should they begin. 

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov welcomed the Hamas statement, saying: "All parties must seize this  opportunity to restore unity and open a new page for the Palestinian people."

September 17, 2017

Hurricane Maria adds to Caribbean pain

Hurricane Maria has grown in strength and is now a Category 1 hurricane as it heads towards a string of islands in the Caribbean Sea that were badly damaged by Hurricane Irma.

Maria will hit the Lesser Antilles, or the Leeward Islands as they're known, on Monday, September 18, at night local time. 

Hurricane Maria's winds are approaching 150km/h and the US Hurricane Center says it will continue to strengthen over the next 48 hours. 

Hurricane Irma which is regarded as one of the most powerful ever recorded with winds that topped 300km/h struck the islands last week then moved on to Florida. 

At least 84 people were killed by Irma. 

September 10, 2017

9/11 Comemmorations

When the twin towers in Manhattan were brought crashing down 16 years ago, the men who'd launched the attack by commercial airliner thought they'd bring the US to its knees in the assault.

While failing, the US has never truly recovered from the shock of the attack on the twin buildings known as the World Trade Center in the heart of New York.

Four passenger jets were hijacked by 19 al-Qaeda terrorists. Two of the planes crashed into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center. Within two hours both buildings collapsed. A third plane hit the Pentagon leading to major damage, while a fourth saw passengers fighting the hijackers and the aircraft plunged into a field near Washington. While 2,997 people died in the assault, more than 6,000 were injured.

The response led to a surge into US military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, the effect of which continues.

September 05, 2017

Hurricane Irma makes landfall

Category 5 Hurricane Irma has passed over the Caribbean Island of Barbuda and winds of over 250km/h are reported. It's now officially the most powerful storm ever recorded in the Atlantic.

​Hurricane Irma is moving at around 20km/h and forecasters say it's likely to head towards Puerto Rico, Antigua, St Kitts and Nevis, and the US Virgin Islands.


There are fears it will move towards southern Florida and, in particular, Miami. Waves have crested at more than 6m and there's a reported storm surge which is believed to be one of the most powerful ever recorded, but forecasters say it's too early to say.


But there is concern for thousands of people in the path of the hurricane in the northeastern Caribbean.  While the area is hit virtually annually by hurricanes,  the power of Hurricane Irma means some of the expected effects could be far worse than originally expected.

September 04, 2017

China human rights harassment rises

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has published its Country Report which shows that China has instituted a programme of hunting down opponents of the one-party state across the world.

HRW reports more than 16 human rights lawyers and activists were detained in a nationwide sweep of rights advocates in July 2015, which they say "were the clearest victims of the authorities’ hostility towards independent civil society. Most were held in secret and not allowed to communicate with their families or lawyers of their choosing. Families, lawyers, and supporters who inquired about the cases or sought the detainees’ release also became targets of the authorities’ wrath."

HRW also reports that Chinese authorities' enforced disappearance of critics from Hong Kong and other countries in 2016 continues into 2017.


"Beijing's decision to interfere in a politically charged court case in Hong Kong in November undermined judicial independence and the territory's autonomy. In the ethnic minority regions of Xinjiang and Tibet, Beijing continued its highly repressive rule, curtailing political activity and many peaceful expressions of ethnic and religious identity," it says.


Security police continue to tighten their grip on independent groups in China. In January, a Swedish national heading up an NGO that funds human rights lawyers was detained for 23 days.

Peter Dahlin was forced to confess on television and then deported.


In April, China's congress passed the Foreign NGO Management Law, which gives police power to restrict the work of foreign groups in the country.

In Tibet,  Chinese authorities continue their attempt at cracking down on dissent. 

"Tibetans continue to face routine denial of basic freedoms of speech, assembly, and movement," says HRW.

"In 2016 authorities prioritised rights-abusing 'anti-splittism' and 'stability maintenance' campaigns despite the absence of tangible threats, and forbade almost all residents of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) from foreign travel."

September 03, 2017

Agencies say Myanmar is blocking aid from reaching Rohingya

Aid agencies say Myanmar officials have stopped them from travelling to the region where refugees claim entire villages have been wiped out in what amounts to systematic ethnic cleansing.
Soldiers are reported to be moving from village to village, destroying structures and killing residents in response to an attack by Rohingya militants, who attacked government troops last month.


Myanmar says the Rohingya are moving to nearby Bangladesh themselves and deny violence against the civilians. There are more than 1-million Rohingya in Myanmar.
At least 400 people have died according to government officials who say they are “terrorists”,  but have denied access to the region known as Rakhine.
They Rohingya are Muslim and religious leaders in the mainly Buddhist Myanmar have called on the government to expel Rohingya. 

September 02, 2017

Kenyan elections annulled - How did observers get it so wrong?

Kenya's Supreme court has annulled the country's 2017 election, saying that there were irregularities in the August poll.

The court has called for new elections to be held within 60 days.

Opposition candidate Raila Odinga claimed after the elections that hackers had influenced the results.

The judge ruled that election officials had "failed, neglected or refused to conduct the presidential election in a manner consistent with the dictates of the constitution".

There has been a great deal of tension building in the country which saw more than a thousand people die in post-election violence in 2008, and in the run-up to this year's election on August 8 there were warnings about tension.  But compared to previous clashes, the EU and AU said this year's election, while problematic in certain areas,  was mostly run properly.  The AU said they were free and fair, the EU reported overall the process was acceptable. 

Ruling President Uhuru Kenyatta won 54% of the vote in the latest election but there were a number of incidents that led opponent Odinga to believe the results had been manipulated.


The top election official was tortured and murdered before the polling and it was reported that he had possibly revealed confidential details about the digital system, including passwords.

Now there are questions raised about both the EU and AU monitoring teams and just how they managed to get the poll so badly wrong.  Despite clearing the process,  the judge's report indicated there were numerous incidents of illegal actions at polling stations and, in some cases,  ballot box stuffing or bogus figures released after the poll date.

August 27, 2017

Cannibal accused appear in South African court

Tension is reportedly running high outside Estcourt Magistrate's Court, north of Durban, in South Africa, where five suspected cannibals abandoned their bail application and the matter was postponed.

Outside hundreds of residents chanted "We want to see the killers" and demanded they be brought out to face mob justice.

Apparently one of them walked into the Estcourt police station on last Friday and told the officers on duty that he was “tired of eating human flesh” and then showed them part of a human leg and a hand.

All five suspects were then arrested – three are in their 30s.

They allegedly killed a woman, cut her up and ate parts of her body.

Police say they believe 25-year-old Zanele Hlatshwayo is thought to be the woman who was murdered and cut up before her flesh was shared around neighbours.

Villagers near the KwaZula-Natal town have come forward to report relatives and friends missing, leading to police to fear there could be many more victims.

August 24, 2017

Hurricane Harvey threatens Texas

The most powerful hurricane in more than a decade is about to make landfall in Texas with winds of 160km/h. It is moving northwest about 355km off the coast of Corpus Christi, Texas, the National Hurricane Center said in an advisory.

Coastal refineries have ordered workers from the Gulf of Mexico to return to shore and prepared oil platforms for the expected storm surge and high waves.

Natural gas and crude oil output has been negatively impacted, say producers.

While industry readies, on land people have been warned that the hurricane will strengthen to a Category 3, according to the US National Hurricane Center.  

It's the first major hurricane to hit the US mainland since Hurricane Wilma struck Florida in 2005.

August 23, 2017

Russia's "Zapad" worries Nato

Around 100,000 Russian troops are set to take part in Russian military manoeuvres code-named "Zapad" or "West" near the Baltic States on the eastern edge of Nato territory in a build-up that's worrying Western observers.

While Moscow has called these actions drills,  Nato is on alert in the area close to Belarus, the Baltic States and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.

At the same time US bombers have arrived in the UK reportedly to shore up preparations for war games scheduled for Eastern Europe around the same time. While Nato and Russia are holding their military war games far from each other's core operations, there are fears that the militarisation will increase tensions in the region. 

August 22, 2017

Grace Mugabe's departure from South Africa under scrutiny

South Africa's International Relations and Cooperation portfolio committee says its going to ask an ally of President Jacob Zuma, Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, to brief MPs on her decision to grant Zimbabwean First Lady Grace Mugabe diplomatic immunity. 


Mugabe was accused of beating a 20-year-old South African woman with an electrical cord in a Johannesburg hotel and was supposed to appear in court on assault charges on Friday, August 18. However, she was granted diplomatic immunity, allowing her to leave with her husband,  President Robert Mugabe, who was attending a SADC Heads of State Summit in South Africa at the time.


Grace Mugabe was not in the country on official business and was not on a diplomatic passport at the time of the alleged crime. 


Opposition parties want to know how the minister reached her decision to grant immunity if the Zimbabwean first lady was not in the country on official business. 

August 21, 2017

Indian court bans Islam's instant divorce

An Indian court has banned the practice known as Talaq, or the Islamic rule that permits men to instantly divorce their wives by saying "You're divorced" three times.


While men and women in India have welcomed the decision, some conservative leaders say it is a cultural practice that cannot be influenced by a court decision.


It's believed that about 1 in 11 Muslim women in India have experienced the divorce process which makes it more difficult for a women to remarry because of the associated social stigma. 


Talaq has already been banned in much of the Islamic world, including in neighbouring Pakistan and Bangladesh.

August 21, 2017

India and China inch closer to conflict

Beijing and New Delhi are at loggerheads over a small territory widely known as Doklam, which has been claimed by both. The Chinese call it Donglang and it is a remote region located at the point where India, Bhutan and China converge. 


The recent tension was inflamed in June when Bhutan discovered Chinese troops attempting to build a road through a plateau in the disputed Doklam territory. 

The region is disputed due to contradictory language used in a border agreement signed in 1890 between Great Britain and China's Qing dynasty or pre-nationalists.

India has no direct claim to the territory but supports Bhutan in their claim and opposes the Chinese.  This has put a strain on relations between the two biggest members of the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) bloc.

August 21, 2017

Trump vetos US troop pullout

US President Donald Trump has told reporters that he has changed his mind about the pullout of American troops from Afghanistan, after promising to do so during his campaign speeches last year.  

Trump said the troops would now "stay and win" and also said that "America will work with the Afghan government, so long as we see commitment and progress".

Democrats are calling this a flip-flop on his policy after the US president did an about-turn, saying up to 4,000 new troops would be sent to Afghanistan, which is battling increasingly aggressive insurgencies by both the Taliban and Islamic State.  

August 21, 2017

Cannibals reported in South Africa

Three people have appeared in a court in South Africa for being in possession of human remains.


Police in the town of Estcourt, in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, say a man approached them and made the admission that he had been eating human body parts.


“When he was questioned, he produced part of a human leg and a hand. Further investigation led police to a house in the Rensburgdrift area in Estcourt, where police were met with a foul smell, and more human remains were found," said SA police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbhele.


“A second suspect was also arrested in Estcourt. A third suspect was later arrested in the Amangwe area. More body parts were found (there)." 

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