The country earned $1.7 billion, roughly 7%, in taxes and royalties out of a total $23 billion, which is the value of gold produced in the country from 2016 to 2013, a study by the Africa Centre for Energy Policy has shown.
Using Newmont as a case- study, ACEP said the scant rent the country received from gold happened at a time when price of the commodity was good.
“The cost of production per ounce of gold was US$596 in 2012 and $542 in 2013. This indicates a revenue of $850 - $1050 per ounce of gold in 2012/2013,” the think-tank said in a press statement read by Dr. Ismael Ackah, a policy analyst.
Titled 'Golden Days for Newmont', the report said Newmont from 2003 to 2012 paid less than US$500million in taxes to the government of Ghana despite reporting annual revenues of $931 million in 2012, $919 million in 2011 and about $2.5 billion in three years.
“While Ghana's economic performance is declining over the years, the mining sector grew by 11.7% in 2013 (EITI, 2014),” the study indicated.
Over the years, there has been a clarion call for government to find ways of clawing back a lot more than the country currently gets from mining rents, especially as mining communities have not seen much benefit from same.
The companies have argued that developing communities is the task of government and not theirs, once they meet their tax obligations to the state.
In January 2012, government inaugurated a team of negotiators led by Prof. Akilakpa Sawyerr, to renegotiate existing mining contracts which were widely seen to have failed citizens.
On December 23, 2015, the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources released a press statement to the effect that government had successfully renegotiated the contract for Newmont, the largest single investor in gold mining in Ghana.
“The proposed changes are expected to improve benefits for the Ghanaian government and economy, and increase revenues for government while assuring a fair, predictable and beneficial long-term basis for Newmont's business in Ghana,” said the statement signed by sector minister Nii Osah Mills.
At the end of the negotiations Newmont is expected to make some upfront payments of up to $27 million, which Nii Osah Mills says the company is organising to pay.
While commending government for renegotiating the Newmont contract, ACEP said the country needs a law on resource rent tax in the mining sector “to capture a share of excessive profits and introduce other exempted taxes without negatively affecting long-term mining investment”.
The country, it added, needs a mining investment law to guide how mineral revenues are collected, disbursed and spent; as well as effective transparency and accountability to track the share of royalties that goes to traditional authorities.
President John Mahama has said he was not elected to take “popular decisions” that would make Ghanaians happy.
According to him, he was elected to take tough decisions that would benefit majority of Ghanaians in the long term.
Responding to questions on the recent hikes in Petroleum products by the media at the Flagstaff House Tuesday, President Mahama said “it is not every decision that would be popular, but what was I elected for... If I took popular decisions to make you happy with me this country would be in the ground.
“They are tough decisions... I don’t take pleasure in imposing taxes on people... I don’t, but the alternative is worse so I must take decisions that are in the national interest... that benefit might not be seen immediately but in future people would see what benefits we have accrued”.
January 1, 2016, began with increases in prices of petroleum products by one of its biggest margins in recent times.
The increase became necessary because of the recent Energy Sector Levy put on most of the products.
If government had not introduced the recent levy fuel would have rather gone down by 10 percent due to the continuous fall of crude oil on the world market.
But President Mahama has asked Ghanaians to bear with him, saying the measures he is putting in place would eventually benefit the nation.
President John Dramani Mahama opened up to the Ghanaian media on Tuesday and spoke on a wide range of issues from the ex-Guantanamo Bay detainees staying in Ghana to the economy.
Listen to the full question and answer session below:
Lawyers of Smarttys Management Limited – the company that rebranded government buses at a controversial amount- have met with the Attorney General to discuss a refund plan for the excess amount in the contentious contract.
This was disclosed by President John Mahama at a media briefing at the Flagstaff House Tuesday.
According to him, government is bent on retrieving the GHC 1.9 million excess payment as advised by the attorney general and will not relent on it.
The GHC3.6 million that was given to Smarttys for rebranding 116 government buses became a matter of public concern as many Ghanaians were incensed by the outrageous fee charged by the company owned by actress Selassie Ibrahim.
“...Yesterday, the lawyers of the company met with the Attorney General to agree on a payment plan to refund the excess money,” Mr Mahama stated.
Transport minister Dzifa Attivor resigned her post after the Chief of Staff Julius Debrah ordered a probe into the controversial contract.
President John Mahama has urged Ghanaians to be compassionate towards the ex-inmates of the Guantanamo prison who have been transferred to Ghana by the United States of America.
The two, Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby who arrived in Ghana last week after 14 years at the hardcore prison in a radio interview said they are thirsty for peace and want to live a normal life in Ghana.
Ghanaians have generally called for their relocation. The Christian Council of Ghana and the opposition New Patriotic Party have also kicked against their presence in the country, saying they pose a major security threat to the oil-producing nation.
Speaking to Journalists Tuesday, President Mahama said the inmates pose no threat to the country since they would be strictly monitored.
“They were put in the lowest risk in Guantanamo…they were never tried, they were never charged and they were never convicted.
“As Commander-in-Chief of this country I will not take any decision that would jeopardize the safety of any Ghanaian...we must look at the side of compassion, I am a Christian and the Bible teaches us to be compassionate to prisoners and these people were not even convicted and so where is our Christian compassion for people,” President Mahama added.
President Mahama added Ghana decided to accept the inmates of Guantanamo after extensive security checks by national security operatives.
No Monetary considerations
The President also strongly dismissed widespread claims that his government received money in exchange for the transfer of the ex-inmates of Guantanamo.
“There is no monetary considerations…so what they are saying on social media that I collected 300 million is absolutely untrue.”
According to him, the decision to accept them was purely based on the relationship between Ghana and the United States.
President John Mahama has said the opposition New Patriotic Party’s promise to restore allowances of teacher trainees if they win the 2016 election is mere propaganda.
According to him, the upgrade of teacher training institutions to tertiary institutions made it difficult for them to continue enjoying the benefit of allowances.
“...We raised them to tertiary institution and brought them to the same level as the University of Education, Winneba, and the University of Cape Coast is also training teachers”
“So If these ones (tertiary institutions) we don’t pay teacher trainee allowances; we say go for student loans, but then if these ones that are also are tertiary institution and degree awarding, we say we will pay you teacher training allowances, then there is no sense of equity,” Mr. Mahama told the media at the flagstaff House Tuesday .
The 2016 running mate of the main opposition NPP flagbearer Dr Mahamudu Bawumia and his flagbearer Nana Akufo-Addo have promised to restore the allowance should they win the November polls.
In the view of Dr. Bawumia, the basis for the suspension of the allowance by the NDC government is untenable.
But the President believes such utterances are unhealthy for policy development in the country.
“It is not necessary for us to inject politics into policy making...We must allow policy to work so they can be reliable and predictable”.
President John Mahama has assured that the power crisis that has afflicted the country for the past three years will soon be over.
According to him, his government is closer to providing a permanent solution to the crisis that has seen the power minister resign his post.
Power minister Dr. Kwabena Donkor relinquished his office on January 1, this year, after failing to fix the crisis as promised upon his assumption of office.
Addressing the media at the Flagstaff House Tuesday, Mr. Mahama who fell short of giving timelines said the end to the power rationing is very close.
“...We need to forecast our demand and plan generation to be in tune with our growth...one of the major sectors that take my time and attention is the power sector... we have made a great effort and as close as we are at solving dumsor, we still have a gab.
“...In a short while, we will be able to overcome dumsor, ..I have learnt to leave (timelines) to the technical people to talk about ...but we now, as a result of the work that we did, have sufficient generation; the problem now is the fuel... we are fortifying the power sector to make it more robust and lasting,” he stated.
A legal scholar, Professor Stephen Kwaku Asare, has condemned President John Mahama over his decision to reward the taxi driver who foiled a robbery operation with a house.
The Cabby rammed his car into the motorbike of two robbers - Abaliku Sannie, 35, and Oko Quaicoo, 30 - who shot at a sales girl of the Koala Supermarket on her way to deposit sales at the bank.
The supermarket is getting him a new car, the police has scheduled to honour him in addition to a house being sponsored by the Mahama-led administration.
Prof. Asare feels the initiative of the government is laudable, but could be a recipe for disaster.
“But the State should be more careful. Driving your car into someone is a crime, even if the person is a suspected criminal. As tempting as it is to be seen to be endorsing what the Driver did, I strongly believe it is error for the President to reward it,” the US-based Ghanaian law professor posted on his Facebook.
Below is his full post:
“Does the President's state funded reward to the Koala Taxi Driver endorse vigilantism as part of the criminal justice system?
“PS: For the avoidance of doubt, I do not have any difficulties with the Koala Driver. I like what he did and would easily give him a reward.
“But the State should be more careful. Driving your car into someone is a crime, even if the person is a suspected criminal. As tempting as it is to be seen to be endorsing what the Driver did, I strongly believe it is error for the President to reward it.
“Let us not forget that the Koala driver saw something and acted. Someone may have only seen the driver running into the suspects. Will that someone, seeing the driver running into what the driver thought were suspects but whom the someone thinks are regular motor bikers, be justified in pouncing on the driver and pouring acid on him?
“State supported Vigilantism will put all of us on a slippery slope to chaos.
The robbers shot the sales girl on her way to deposit the previous day’s sales at the bank. While bolting, the driver rammed into the motorbike of the thieves, forcing them into a nearby drain.
An armed soldier who chanced on the scene intervened to effect the arrest of the duo, who were still shooting in their injured state.
The opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) is accusing government of breaching the ant-terrorism act of Ghana in accepting the two ex-Guantanamo bay prisoners in the country.
“Why has Government chosen to ignore the relevant provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act (Act762) which clearly frowns on the admission of suspected terrorists into Ghana? Section 35(1) of Act 762 states as follows:
"The director of immigration or an officer authorised by the director shall not grant an endorsement or authority to permit a person to enter this country if there is reasonable ground to suspect that the person IS, WILL OR HAS BEEN INVOLVED IN THE COMMISSION OF A TERRORIST ACT!" the party noted in a statement.
The party is also demanding government to make a full disclosure of the terms and considerations involved in the deal.
Below are details of the statement
The New Patriotic Party (NPP) shares the deep anxiety and fears of the Ghanaian people over the resettlement of the two former Guantanamo terrorist detainees - Mahmud Umar Muhammed Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammed Salih Al-Dhuby-in Ghana. We are concerned that the decision was made without any consultation whatsoever with Parliament, political parties and other stakeholders.
The conduct of the Government raises a number of important questions and we join the Ghanaian people in demanding answers to the following pertinent questions in the spirit of full disclosure.
1. What foreign policy considerations went into the decision to resettle the detainees?
2. Why was the agreement to resettle the detainees in Ghana shrouded in secrecy?
3. Why was Parliament not informed, especially since the issue touches on and concerns terrorism and national security?
4. Why has Government chosen to ignore the relevant provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act (Act 762) which clearly frowns on the admission of suspected terrorists into Ghana? Section 35(1) of Act 762 states as follows:
"The director of immigration or an officer authorised by the director shall not grant an endorsement or authority to permit a person to enter this country if there is reasonable ground to suspect that the person IS, WILL OR HAS BEEN INVOLVED IN THE COMMISSION OF A
5. Why has the Government not disclosed the terms of agreement, nature and full extent of the consideration received in exchange for resettling the detainees?
6. Why is the Government hiding the true violent and dangerous profiles of the two detainees, as disclosed in official US Government information portals, from the Ghanaian people?
7. Why is Government straining to paint a picture of the two detainees as harmless misunderstood and wrongly detained persons?
8. Why did Government smuggle the detainees into Ghana only to give the impression that they were yet to arrive?
It cannot be in the interest of good governance that such critical matters should be agreed to by Government on the blind side of the people in whose midst these former terrorist detainees are supposed to live. The proverbial Ghanaian hospitality should not be put at such risk.
The Electoral Commission has reiterated its commitment to ensure a credible, transparent and peaceful election in November.
Ghanaians go to the polls on November 7 to elect a new President and Members of Parliament.
The credibility of the EC to hold a credible election has been questioned by the opposition New Patriotic Party after its calls for a new voters’ register were rejected.
But speaking on Morning Starr Monday, the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission Mrs. Charlotte Osei called on all stakeholders in this year’s election to play an active role to ensure that the polls are successful.
“I am totally certain that we are going to have elections that are peaceful, that are transparent, inclusive and credible but we need the support and the active involvement of all Ghanaians.
“Elections belong to the people and not just the political parties, we need everyone to work with us to ensure that we deliver a credible elections,” Mrs. Osei told host Nii Arday Clegg.
The chairperson of the electoral commission Charlotte Osei has revealed that the EC is considering a proposal of assistance that has been extended to it by the association of chartered accountants in the country.
According to her, the EC will need the expertise of the accountants at the collation centers.
The move forms part of the EC's attempt at getting recognizable professional institutions to help in the management of the November polls.
Already, the Ghana Bar Association has offered to play a role in protecting the credibility of the polls.
Speaking to Samson Lardy Anyenini on Newsfile on Joy FM Saturday, Mrs Osei said the commission is willing to engage the services of all relevant professionals to ensure a credible polls.
“The Chartered accountants have written to us and they are willing to do voluntary work...and we think that we will need them at the collation centers”.
She added that about 275 professional will be needed to help with the polls in the various constituencies.
|An Accra Circuit Court yesterday issued a bench warrant for the arrest of one of the 11 accused in the raiding of the headquarters of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), for failing to appear before court.
Michael Agoha, was one of the 11 other accused who raided the headquarters of the opposition NPP on MondayNovember, 23, last year
This was after the prosecutor Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Abraham Annor prayed the court for a bench warrant for the arrest of the two of the accused who were absent, thus, Michael Agoha and Abdulai Wudu for failing to appear before the court.
Counsel for the accused Abdul Aziz Mohammed, told the court that he had received information that Abdulai, had lost his mother and as a result, he was unable to make it to court.
However, concevning Michael Agoha, the counsel said, he was not too sure of his whereabout, but heard his been visiting the Psychiatric Hospital for treatment.
Consequently, the Court presided over by Rubby Naa Adjeley granted the prosecution’s application for bench warrant for the arrest of Michael Agoha and charged the counsel for the accused to ensure Abdullai Wudu comes to court on the next adjourned date.
Following this, the first prosecution witness, Robert Essumang a caretaker of the NPP Headquarters testified in the matter and was later cross-examined by the counsel for the accused.
The witness said, he was at the headquarters of the party together with other three people of which two were security men and the other also a caretaker, when they heard a knock at the main entrance.
Mr. Essumang said, a security man rushed to the entrance to attend to the people and two in military uniform entered and asked everyone in the premises to come around.
He said they were later locked in a room and after some minutes released and that upon their release, they saw the military men with a fertilizer sack which contained four guns and cutlasses.
The prosecution witness, revealed that they asked them to carry it and later said, they had arrested them for possessing those ammunitions.
He said after some time, they brought in more people wearing red T-shirts to ransack all the offices.
The Prosecution witness cross-examined and after, the court adjourned the case to today, January 12, 2016.
At a court sitting on December 8, the court which issued a bench warrant in the morning for the arrest of five people accused of raiding the New Patriotic Party (NPP) headquarters, withdrew the warrant in the afternoon after the accused rushed to the court for the case to be recalled.
Nii Teiko Ayi-Bontey, Michael Agoha, Shamzu Dinni and Obed Yawson are among the 11 people charged with the offence but were absent in court in the morning.
They rushed to the court in the afternoon after the warrant was issued with the excuse that they were hungry and decided to comb around for food.
Following this, the court, withdrew the bench warrant issued at the request of the prosecution and adjourned the case to December 22.
Source: The Ghanaian Times
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu telephoned German Chancellor Angela Merkel to offer his condolences, the Anadolu news agency said.
Mr Davutoglu later said: "We have determined that the perpetrator of the attack is a foreigner who is a member of Daesh [IS]."
The shops and restaurants around the Blue Mosque are open tonight but deserted - no surprise when the German government has warned its tourists to stay away from crowded open areas.
The Turkish government now firmly believes this was an attack by the so-called Islamic State - a reflection of Turkish foreign policy, with Turkey an increasingly active part of the US coalition against IS.
One source said Turkey had taken the lead recently at a meeting of anti-IS armed groups on the Syrian border. IS has been losing territory in Iraq and in Syria. The Syrian town of Manbij may be next to fall - there are reports of IS commanders pulling out.
As IS comes under pressure, it has warned of more attacks against its enemies - not only in Turkey, but in Europe and the US.
He vowed to find and punish those linked to the bomber and pledged to continue the fight against IS militants.
Mrs Merkel said: "Today Istanbul was the target, before Paris, Copenhagen, Tunis... The terrorists are the enemies of all free people, indeed the enemies of all humanity."
Foreign Minister Franz-Walter Steinmeier said at least eight Germans were dead, following initial reports of nine.
Turkey's Deputy PM Numan Kurtulmus said earlier: "It has been identified that the suicide bomber is Syrian."
The suspect was said to have been born in 1988 and was identified from body parts.
Some Turkish media said the suspect had been born in Saudi Arabia.
Mr Kurtulmus said the suspect was not on Turkey's militant watch-list and was believed to have recently crossed into Turkey from Syria.
Turkey last year took a more active role against IS in Syria, carrying out air strikes and allowing US warplanes to use its Incirlik base for missions.
Eyewitness Murat Manaz said: "It was a suicide bomb. I went there and saw it and came back to the hotel. There was chaos. Everybody was running somewhere.
"Policemen did not see this coming. They were distressed but at the same time they were trying to evacuate the area because they said there was a possibility that a second bomb could go off."
Bishop Pat Buckley, from Northern Ireland, had been taking photos in Sultanahmet Square shortly before the blast and had moved on into the Blue Mosque.
He told the BBC: "I have lived in Northern Ireland since the 70s, and I have heard explosions, and this was incredibly loud. I saw dust through the doorway of the mosque and I could smell the explosives."
He added: "I am slightly worried because there is talk here that they are expecting further trouble and we have been warned to avoid crowds."
One Norwegian was confirmed among the injured.
Germany currently provides the largest number of tourists visiting Turkey. In 2014, 23.6 million people visited, with the top three:
Turkey faces myriad security threats and establishing which group is behind this latest attack will be a matter of urgency. The Islamic State group has been blamed for three bombings in Turkey in the past year, including an attack in Ankara that killed more than 100 people. Violence has also soared between Turkish security forces and PKK militants, battling for more autonomy for the Kurds, after a ceasefire agreement broke down in July. A PKK offshoot, the TAK, fired a mortar at Istanbul airport last month. Far left groups are also active in Turkey, and a female suicide bomber attacked a police station in Istanbul's Sultanahmet district last year.
President Erdogan has blamed a "suicide bomber of Syrian origin". The conflict in Syria has not only seen the rise of IS but also strengthened the PKK's offshoot in Syria, known as the YPG. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but correspondents point out that IS was similarly silent following previous attacks last year that were widely blamed on the jihadist group.
Last year Turkey agreed to take a more active role in the US-led campaign against IS, carrying out air strikes in Syria. It also allowed US warplanes to strike IS targets from its base in Incirlik and moved to tighten security along its 900km (560 mile) border with Syria. Meanwhile Turkish forces have also been targeting Kurdish militants in northern Iraq. And violence has flared in Turkey's mainly Kurdish south-east, where the Turkish military says it has killed some 600 PKK militants over the past month, according to Anadolou Agency.
Ghana's president has strongly defended the government's decision to allow two Yemenis freed from Guantanamo Bay to live in the West African state.
Opposition and church groups had condemned the decision, saying the men were a security threat.
However, Mr Mahama said a Ghanaian was more likely to die in a road accident than at the hands of the Yemenis.
The men said they looked forward to living in Ghana, and had followed the national football team in prison.
Khalid al-Dhuby and Mahmoud Omar Bin Atef were held at the US prison in Cuba for more than a decade without being charged.
They are the first Guantanamo detainees that Ghana has accepted, at the request of the US.
The jail was set up following the 11 September 2001 attacks in the US to detain what Washington called "enemy combatants".
US President Barack Obama has said he wants to close the jail down before he leaves office in 2017.
Speaking at a press conference in the capital, Accra, Mr Mahama said that Guantanamo Bay was a "blot on the human rights record of the world".
The ex-detainees say they were happy when Ghana beat the US in the 2010 football World Cup
"They [the men] just want to pick up the pieces of their lives and live normally. We don't have anything to fear," Mr Mahama said, adding that Mr al-Dhuby and Mr Atef were living in a security compound.
He dismissed as "absolutely untrue" allegations that Ghana had received money from the US to take the detainees.
Earlier, the influential Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference called the Yemenis "time bombs" who should be "sent back to wherever they came from".
The opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) said that official US documents showed the men had "violent and dangerous profiles".
"Why is government straining to paint a picture of the two detainees as harmless, misunderstood and wrongly detained persons?" it asked.
The two men were captured in Afghanistan, following the US-led invasion to overthrow the Taleban government in 2011.
Mr al-Dhuby and Mr Atef have denied belonging to militant groups.
"We have been wrongly arrested for 14 years without any charge against us," Mr Atef told Ghana's public radio station Uniiq FM.
"We have suffered but we are not looking for revenge," he said.
Mr Atef said they were huge fans of Ghana footballer Asamoah Gyan, and many of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay supported the Black Stars at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
"When Ghana beat America, we were very happy. We made some celebrations. We also told the guards that we've won," Mr Atef said.
Ghana beat the US 2-1, with Gyan scoring the winning goal in extra-time, which sent the Black Stars through to the quarter-finals.
Dozens of countries have received former Guantanamo Bay detainees, including other African states such as Uganda and Cape Verde.
A total of 780 men have been held at Guantanamo Bay since 2002, the vast majority without charge or criminal trial.
The US navy base now has 105 detainees, nearly 50 of whom have been cleared for release.
Kenya's evangelical churches have condemned government plans to make it tougher for religious bodies and clerics from all faiths to operate.
The move was aimed at stopping the growth of evangelical churches, said the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya.
But a leading Anglican cleric welcomed the proposals as an attempt to end the "commercialisation" of religion.
The proposals require all religious bodies to register, and for preachers to have police clearance.
All religious institutions would also be required to submit their statements of faith to a government-backed body for examination.
Christians form the majority in Kenya, while Muslims are the second-largest group.
Their main body, the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims, was also opposed to the proposals, warning they could violate "freedom of worship and amount to a clampdown on religious institutions", the privately owned The Standard newspaper reports.
The Catholic Church - the largest Christian denomination in Kenya, and to which President Uhuru Kenyatta belongs - has not yet commented on the proposals.
The BBC's Muliro Telewa in the capital, Nairobi, says Attorney-General Githu Muigai unveiled the proposals last week, and would hold public consultations before drafting legislation.
Other proposals include:
Our correspondent says the proposals seem to target self-proclaimed Christian prophets and faith healers whose influence is growing, as well as Muslim preachers who promote extremism in a country where militant Islamist group al-Shabab is active.
The Evangelical Alliance of Kenya (EAK) said it would launch a campaign to obtain three million signatures to block the government from enforcing the proposals.
"Registration of churches was stopped since 2014. We believe this is meant to stop evangelism and growth of the church since other societies are being registered freely," said EAK chairman Bishop Mark Kariuki, the private Daily Nation newspaper reports.
He warned that the EAK would urge its followers not to vote for the government in elections next year if it implemented the proposals.
He said: "2017 is very close and we will not hesitate to use those [voter] cards."
Muslims are the second-biggest religious group in Kenya
However, Anglican Church of Kenya Bishop Beneah Salah said government intervention was needed because the church was not in a healthy state.
"Horrible things are happening in the church today. There is a lot of commercialisation of the gospel with this prosperity gospel," he is quoted by The Standard as saying.
"Perhaps God is using the state to punish the church as he did in the past, where he used kings or nations to discipline the church," he added.
The head of the tiny Atheists in Kenya group, Harrison Mumia, said the government had a responsibility to protect desperate Kenyans from faith healers who took advantage of them.
Last week, Kenya's Communications Authority published new broadcasting regulations which will ban preachers from soliciting money on air.
Leading Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has called for an end to deportation raids targeting Central American families living in the US illegally.
A spike in raids in recent weeks, largely aimed at women and children, has drawn the ire of rights groups.
Mrs Clinton said the raids "have sown fear and division in immigrant communities across the country".
Immigration has been one of the leading issues in the 2016 race.
Mrs Clinton, who is top of the Democratic pack in the race, said she would ensure government lawyers were provided for unaccompanied minors and would increase funding for immigration courts.
The raids, which spiked over the holiday season, have angered migrants' rights activists as well as lawmakers in Mr Obama's Democratic party.
They come as fears grow that a spike in immigration from Central America may be foreshadowing a repeat of the 2014 crisis that saw tens of thousands of migrants - especially unaccompanied children - cross the border.
The White House has defended the raids, with spokesman Josh Earnest saying the president was aware of the outrage but that "the enforcement strategy and priorities that the administration has articulated are not going to change".
The Obama administration has unilaterally enacted immigration reform to protect undocumented immigrants who have been in the country a long time, but has said deportations would continue. In February, Mr Obama said that the forced removals would be "focusing on potential felons".
"I think the administration sees is as important to complete some of these removal orders to discourage future irregular immigration from Central America," Marc Rosenblum of the Migration Policy Institute told the BBC.
"It's difficult to grant relief to deserving cases if you're not also going to deport cases found not to be deserving."
The raids have riled lawmakers and activists, who say they are disruptive and ill-timed, and were breaking families apart as well as spreading fear across immigrant communities.
Rep Nydia Vlazquez, a member of the Hispanic caucus, said that "immigrants and their families are terrorised".
"These are some of the most vulnerable members of society and we are treating them like criminals."
The anger prompted White House officials to meet with politicians on Thursday in an attempt to dampen the anger.
A man comforts a woman after immigration authorities detain them
Leading Republican candidate Donald Trump prompted a weeks-long outrageover the summer when he described Mexican immigrants as "rapists" and "criminals" and called for a wall to be built on the southern border.
Meanwhile, one of his rivals, Marco Rubio, is framing the issue as one of national security, saying that radical jihadist groups could exploit the immigration system.
Mr Rubio's support for immigration reforms in the past could be a liability for the candidate during primary elections, as he attempts to climb to the top of the crowded and mainly conservative Republican pack.
Democrats have taken a different approach to the issue, urging a humanitarian response.
Senator Bernie Sanders, currently in second place, wrote a letter to President Obama earlier this month saying: "I urge you to immediately cease these raids and not deport families back to countries where a death sentence awaits."
Martin O'Malley, who is in a distant third place, has attacked his two rivals saying that their support for immigrants was recent and politically expedient.
President Barack Obama offered money to Joe Biden when his son was terminally ill, the vice-president has said.
Mr Biden's son later died from brain cancer but when he had lost the ability to speak and work, his father thought he might have to sell his home.
"Whatever you need, I'll give you the money," the president told his deputy over lunch, Joe Biden told CNN.
The vice-president also said Bernie Sanders was more "authentic" on inequality issues than Hillary Clinton.
The Vermont senator and the former US Secretary of State are leading the field in the Democratic race to succeed Mr Obama.
Backing from the popular vice-president would be a coup but like the president, Mr Biden refused to publicly support either candidate.
He did, however, imply Mr Sanders had more credibility on the issue of wealth disparity.
Sanders speaks to "a yearning that is deep and real", said Mr Biden, but Mrs Clinton was new to it.
"Hillary's focus has been other things up to now [but] no one questions Bernie's authenticity on those issues."
Beau Biden was a lawyer and US Army Captain
When he and the president had lunch and discussed Beau Biden's declining health, Joe Biden revealed his concern about how his son, Delaware's attorney general, would support his family.
The vice-president and his wife had discussed selling their house, he told Mr Obama.
"He said, 'I'll give you the money,'" recalled Mr Biden. "'Whatever you need, I'll give you the money. Don't, Joe, promise me. Promise me.'"
Beau Biden died in May last year. Months later, his father revealed he would not run for president in 2016.
UK oil firm BP said it would cut 4,000 jobs globally, 600 of which will be from its North Sea operations.
It comes as profits continue to suffer as a result of a 70% collapse in oil prices leading to a big cutback in investment across the oil industry.
The North Sea job cuts are expected to take place over a two-year period.
Meanwhile, Brazil's oil giant, Petrobras, announced a massive scale back of its investment plans thanks to the lower commodity price.
Petrobras will reduce investment by $32bn, 25%, over the next four years, its third cut in six months.
The Brazilian giant said it was adapting to a new economic outlook. Its problems have been exacerbated by a fall of a third in the value of Brazil's real, which makes servicing Petrobras's mammoth dollar debts that much more expensive.
BP said all the job losses would occur in its oil exploration and drilling business.
"We want to simplify structure and reduce costs without compromising safety. Globally, we expect the headcount in upstream to be below 20,000 by the end of the year," a company spokesman said.
The job losses amount to around 5% of BP's total global workforce of 80,000. BP currently employs around 3,000 people in the UK.
BP said it remained committed to the North Sea and would invest about $4bn (£2.7bn) there this year.
But in a statement, the oil firm said given the "challenges" of operating in the North Sea and in "toughening market conditions" it needed to "take specific steps to ensure our business remains competitive and robust".
It added: "An inevitable outcome of this will be an impact on headcount and we expect a reduction of around 600 staff and agency contractor roles by the end of 2017, with the majority of these taking place this year.
BP staff and contractors working in Aberdeen, Sullom Voe in Shetland, and Grangemouth, are expected to be affected.
The company gave no breakdown of how many jobs are expected to go in each area of its North Seas operations.
Oil prices have been volatile again, hit by continuing oversupply, the strong dollar and weak global demand.
Some members of the Opec group of oil producers have called for an emergency meeting to discuss reducing output.
Opec president Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu said an extraordinary meeting could be held in early March.
On Tuesday, Brent crude fell as low as $30.43 per barrel before recovering to trade 0.5% higher at $31.75 a barrel.
Meanwhile the US benchmark, West Texas Intermediate, slipped to $30.41 before regaining some ground to $31.06 a barrel.
Oil prices have fallen about 15% since the start of the year to near-12 year lows.
North Sea Brent Crude has fallen 70% since September 2014, when it it was last at $100 per barrel.
Opec members are not due to meet until June, having previously met in December, but the deterioration in the oil price has prompted calls from several members for a fresh review of quotas.
"We did say that if it (the price) hits the $35 per barrel, we will begin to look (at)... an extraordinary meeting," said Mr Kachikwu, who is also Nigeria's petroleum resources minister.
He said that "a couple" of countries had been pushing for a meeting, but would not say which those were.
Much will depend on Saudi Arabia, which has resisted calls to cut production.
"Saudi Arabia has never held the position that it does not want to talk. In fact, it was very supportive of a meeting before June, at the time when we held the December meeting, if (there was a) consensus call for it," the Opec president said.
Saudi Arabia wants to maintain market share despite the sliding oil prices.
Lower prices are hurting smaller oil producing nations, such as Nigeria, Algeria and Venezuela, which are all suffering heavily as the price of oil is no longer high enough to cover the cost of production.
Lower oil prices have also had an impact on Saudi Arabia.
It announced a budget deficit nearing $100bn (£68bn) last year, prompting tax rises within the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia also said it was considering listing state oil company Saudi Aramco on the stock market in an effort to raise cash.
"The near-term outlook for the oil market is bleak," said analysts at Jefferies.
"Opec is producing flat-out into a market that is oversupplied by over one million barrels per day; already decelerating demand growth could further decay with slowing economic activity; and OECD inventories that are already at record levels are likely to expand through at least the middle of the year."
There is such a big oversupply globally that countries are running out of storage.
The US, which is thought to have among the largest oil storage facilities in the world, has nowhere left to store it, according to Paul Stevens, professor emeritus at Dundee University.
"Storage is pretty much full and people are already talking about buying tankers as floating storage," he said.
"But if supply continues to outstrip demand, then the only thing that you can do with the oil is sell it, which inevitably pushes the price down."
Oystein Berentsen, managing director of crude oil at trading company Strong Petroleum, said the strong US dollar was a factor, but that oversupply was mostly responsible for falling oil prices.
"Once the crude surplus turns into a product surplus and we start running out of storage capacity, there will be even more pressure on prices and an imminent collapse," he said.
Oil prices have fallen by about 70% in the past 18 months as supply has outstripped demand. The demand for oil from China has fallen as its economic growth has slowed. Meanwhile supply has increased, partly due to the rise of US shale oil. In addition, the world's largest exporter of oil, Saudi Arabia, has refused to cut production - something it has done previously to support oil prices. Analysts estimate that about one million barrels of oil are being produced above demand every day.
Consumers and some businesses have benefitted from lower oil prices. UK motorists have seen the price of petrol and diesel fall from about £1.40 a litre 18 months ago to about £1 now. Transport operators and airlines should also be benefitting from cheaper fuel. The lower fuel costs have also helped to keep inflation close to zero in many countries.
Oil exporting nations that rely on a higher oil price to break even are suffering, such as Russia, Nigeria and Venezuela, as are oil firms generally. There have been thousands of job losses in the North Sea's oil industry. Investment in exploration has also been cut by big oil firms such as Shell, BP, Total and Exxon Mobil.
Paul Dummett's late strike rescued a point for Newcastle as Manchester United missed the chance to go level on points with fourth-placed Tottenham.
It was a remarkable end to a game that had seen the away side lead twice.
Wayne Rooney's penalty and Jesse Lingard's finish put them 2-0 up before Georginio Wijnaldum and Aleksandar Mitrovic's penalty levelled the scores.
Rooney's second looked to have won it for Louis van Gaal's side but Dummett salvaged the draw in the last minute.
The point earned is not enough to lift Newcastle out of the bottom three - they remain a point and place behind 17th-placed Swansea - but it represents another notable improvement following three successive 1-0 league defeats.
For Louis van Gaal's side, it will represent two points lost and a step backwards after back-to-back Premier League and FA Cup victories had offered improvement on a winless December.
Following criticism of Manchester United's attacking prowess, in a season that had seen them score just 24 goals in 20 league games prior to Tuesday, Van Gaal himself admitted on Monday that he has been "very bored" at times watching his side.
He can have no such complaints after this hugely entertaining, see-saw game, which produced some of their best attacking play of the season.
Rooney was magnificent.
The England striker gave them the lead from the spot after Mike Dean's controversial call to award a penalty against Chancel Mbemba after his arm blocked Marouane Fellaini's back-post header from a corner.
But it was his role in setting up Lingard for the second - holding the ball up before rolling a perfectly timed pass into the winger's path for a low, angled finish - and his superbly struck 20-yard second, after Memphis Depay's shot had deflected to him, that really showcased the 30-year-old's talent, the latter of which drew a rare smile from his manager.
However, United's attacking display was let down by key misses from Lingard, who blazed over from inside the box at 2-1, and Fellaini, who headed straight at Rob Elliott from point-blank range when his side led 3-2.
Ultimately, though, Van Gaal will be left bemoaning an area in which his side have largely excelled this season, as a series of defensive lapses cost them victory.
But on the evidence of this display, at least, the current squad is not lacking in fight.
At 2-0 down they refused to crumble, hitting back soon after Lingard's goal as Wijnaldum - who had earlier seen a 12-yard shot saved by David de Gea - made no mistake from a similar range after latching on to Mitrovic's downward header.
The supplier turned scorer after the break to make it 2-2, dusting himself off after being grappled to the ground by Chris Smalling in the box to roll in his fourth goal of the season from the penalty spot.
Even when they fell behind again with 11 minutes to go, Newcastle dug deep and were rewarded when the away side failed to properly clear a ball into the box and Dummett's fierce strike from the edge of the box found the net via Smalling's chest.
"What a fantastic match. Credit to both sets of players and managers as they both wanted to win and gambled to win. I think a draw was a fair result.
"How on earth can you work football out?
"Newcastle got some confidence and they shoved themselves 10 yards up the pitch, particularly in the first half. They got the goal just before half-time and I'm sure Steve McClaren told them to do the same as they had in the last 10 minutes of the first half.
"It was a great atmosphere in the stadium and I just wanted more.
"The one concern is that we have seen Newcastle performances like this against Tottenham and Liverpool but what they have to do now is go into games against lesser teams and produce that kind of performance."
Newcastle United boss Steve McClaren:"The crowd responded magnificently and we wanted to show everyone what we are about.
"People said that United were boring and that we lack character - but we kept fighting until the end and we have got a goal that feels like a winner.
"People thought it would be a 0-0 and it was a classic at 3-3. It must have been a great game for the neutral - it was a heart attack for the coaches."
Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal:"Of course it feels like a defeat.
"We have given it away - I have told that to my players. When the referee gives a penalty for nothing - it is a duel I think and you cannot decide who is worse - but we gave it away.
"We could have scored six goals easily here and we did not. If we had, it would have been three successive wins at the start of the year going into Liverpool."
Newcastle are at home again on Saturday, with West Ham the visitors to St James' Park.
Manchester United travel to Anfield to face Liverpool on Sunday in a 14:05 GMT kick-off.
Bottom club Aston Villa secured their first win under Remi Garde after an awful mistake by Crystal Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey.
Hennessey allowed Joleon Lescott's header from a corner to squirm from his grasp and trickle over the line.
Palace almost took the lead when Wilfried Zaha hit a post after just 42 seconds at Villa Park.
In a much improved Villa display, returning striker Libor Kozak forced a fine save when the game was goalless.
Garde deserves credit for his side's first win since the opening day of the season after making sweeping changes to the team defeated at Sunderland last time out in the Premier League.
Keeper Brad Guzan and defender Micah Richards were among those left on the bench, with striker Kozak starting for the first time in the league since Boxing Day 2013.
Palace started brightly, Zaha hitting the base of the post in the opening minute after Jason Puncheon's threaded pass before Bakary Sako fired over from 25 yards and Damien Delaney got between two defenders before shooting just wide.
Villa settled with Kozak impressing in attack and forcing a fine save from Hennessey before the Wales international failed to hold Lescott's tame header, the ball dropping between his feet and rolling over the line.
This was a long overdue committed performance, one which Villa fans have been crying out for.
But despite a highly encouraging result, Villa remain in deep trouble at the bottom of the table, eight points from safety with 17 games remaining.
Yet Garde's new-look team showed more heart and energy in these 90 minutes than they had displayed in the previous 19 games since the opening day win at Bournemouth.
A huge turnaround in fortune is needed to get out of the mess they are in but this was a move in the right direction, a far cry from the lacklustre performance in the FA Cup third round draw at League Two Wycombe which angered their fans so much.
What has happened to Palace?
Victory at Villa Park would have put them level on points with sixth-placed Manchester United but talk of Palace gate-crashing Europe next season is premature after a lacklustre display.
There are some big tests around the corner for Pardew's men and they will certainly have to perform much better than they did against Villa.
Aston Villa manager Remi Garde: "We won only 1-0 but we created many good opportunities.
"We earned our luck by being very aggressive on the ball. We didn't sit back after we scored, we tried to score a second. We had a very good attitude."
Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew: "A lot of things went wrong.
"We lacked energy, we lacked quality, one of our poorest displays of the season. Villa really deserved their victory - they worked so, so hard.
Despite victory, it does not get any easier for Aston Villa with second-placed Leicester City visiting Villa Park on Saturday (17:30 GMT). On the same day, Palace are at third-placed Manchester City (15:00 GMT).
Dimitri Payet inspired a West Ham comeback to secure victory over Bournemouth which moves them to fifth in the Premier League.
Harry Arter had given the hosts the lead with a 25-yard strike.
But West Ham were much improved after the break thanks to the inventive Payet who deservedly scored a wonderful free-kick into the top left corner.
Payet then fed Enner Valencia for a tap-in before the winger produced a stunning free-kick late on.
With Manchester United drawing 3-3 at Newcastle, the victory for Slaven Bilic's men - which seemed unlikely at the break - moves the Londoners to within a point of Tottenham in fourth.
The win, West Ham's first away from home in six games, also equals a club record eight-match unbeaten run in the Premier League.
Bournemouth deserved their lead at the break, but West Ham immediately played with more intensity in the second half and, such is their character, have now secured eight points in the league this season from losing positions, a haul only Leicester, with 10 points, can better.
The Hammers have had to cope with injures to key players in recent months - Andy Carroll being the latest injury worry after lasting just 12 minutes of this match - but Payet's recovery from an ankle problem is a much welcome boost for the Londoners.
Making his first Premier League start since 7 November, the Frenchman orchestrated West Ham's comeback. His free-kick was sublime, while it was his skill inside the box which created the second goal.
"It's scary how good he is. He's a top player. He's a player who makes all the others better," said manager Slaven Bilic after the match. "It's all about the team, but he's the player who is the most decisive for us."
Bournemouth's club-record signing Benik Afobe started for the Cherries following the striker's £9m move from Championship side Wolves.
Boss Eddie Howe had warned before the match not to expect too much from the new signing, to allow him to adjust to the pace of the Premier League.
But the former Arsenal striker should have done better with the chances created for him in the first half. With the hosts in command, the 22-year-old - who scored 23 goals in 48 games for Wolves - failed to hit the target with a header from six yards out and then messed up another scoring opportunity, hesitating to allow Adrian to gather on the floor after being put through by a wonderful Junior Stanislas pass.
Howe reflected on the positives, saying: "The pleasing thing was that he was at the end of those chances and we know with his quality he'll put them away."
Scoring has been a problem for the Cherries, which is why they have spent about £16m on strikers in the past week, with Lewis Grabban re-signing for about £7m on Monday. Howe also said further additions will be made to the squad this month.
And although Afobe should have been more clinical, Arter's strike did at least ensure Howe's side scored for the first time in four league matches.
West Ham face relegation-threatened Newcastle at St James' Park on 16 January, while Bournemouth - just three points from relegation - face fellow strugglers Norwich at home (16 January) and Sunderland (23 January) in successive league matches.
President Barack Obama is set to strike an optimistic and hopeful tone in his final State of the Union address.
The president will focus on cementing his legacy rather than unveiling new policies, officials have said.
Mr Obama is expected to frame some of the key issues in a way that fellow Democrats can embrace during campaigning for the upcoming election.
However, recent polls suggest that seven in 10 people in the US do not share their leader's optimism.
A response by the Republican party will be delivered by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.
In excepts from the speech released in advance, Mr Obama urges Americans to make world changes work for them and overcome fears.
He will say the future the US wants is only possible if the country "fixes its politics" and works together.
"A better politics doesn't mean we have to agree on everything... But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens," the speech reads.
Hours before the event, 10 US sailors were held by Iran after their boat had mechanical issues and sailed into Iranian waters. They are expected to be released on Wednesday.
Mr Obama's aides have avoided characterising the speech as a victory lap, but say it will highlight his accomplishments over the past seven years.
They say that it will present an optimistic alternative to the dire narratives put forward by Republican presidential candidates.
Mr Obama, seen on TV in Cuba announcing the restoration of diplomatic ties, is expected to cheer the rapprochement
Among the events and developments that he will tout as successes are:
He will also continue his public messaging campaign aimed at improving the image of his strategy against the so-called Islamic State.
Keeping with tradition, the president will speak about what he would like to see Congress work on and his vision for the US beyond his last year in office.
While he is not expected to offer a large list of policy proposals, he could urge action on a number of items he feels have been left undone or could be accomplished with bipartisan support during his remaining year in office.
Among the items that could be on his to-do list:
Also keeping with tradition, First Lady Michelle Obama will host several gueststhat reflect the president's vision for US society.
This year, an empty chair will be featured in remembrance of gun violence victims.
Among the many guests:
The speech is expected to begin around 21:00 local time (02:00 GMT), and has - in the past - had a duration of about an hour.
Mr Obama's remarks mark the fulfilment of a constitutional mandate that requires the president to "from time to time give the Congress information on the State of the Union".
Historically, the update has usually been given annually, in January, as a speech to a joint session of Congress.
The US is investigating how the sailors entered Iranian waters.
Thanking Iranian authorities for their "co-operation and quick response", Mr Kerry said: "These are always situations which have an ability if not properly guided to get out of control...
"This kind of issue was able to be peacefully resolved and officially resolved, and that is testament to the critical role diplomacy plays in keeping our country safe, secure, and strong," he added.
Iranian state broadcaster Irib News has published pictures of the sailorsapparently being detained.
The tentative and still largely potential softening of relations between Washington and Tehran in the wake of the nuclear deal seems to have passed a delicate initial test.
The Tehran authorities have quickly accepted that the US patrol boats strayed into their waters by accident.
The process to begin lifting the sanctions imposed on Iran due to its nuclear activities is expected to get under way at the end of this week.
There are many conservatives and hardliners in both countries who would dearly love to sabotage the deal. Consequently both governments may well have been eager to get this episode resolved as quickly as possible.
Clearly the economic benefits of lifting the sanctions may have been too great an inducement for the agreement to be derailed now.
Mr Kerry called Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif shortly after the incident. The pair developed a personal rapport during the nuclear talks.
Those detained - nine men and one woman - were taken to Farsi Island, in the middle of the Gulf, where Iran has a naval base.
Conservatives in both countries have opposed the nuclear deal, under which Iran will limit its nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.
In the US, Republican presidential candidates were among those expressing outrage at the sailors' detention.
"Iran is testing the boundaries of this administration's resolve," said Marco Rubio.
"[Barack] Obama's humiliatingly weak Iran policy is exposed again," Jeb Bush said in a tweet before the sailors were released.
Donald Trump said Iran was "toying" with the US.
Iran's deputy nuclear chief has meanwhile denied a report the Arak heavy-water reactor had been decommissioned, which would be a final step towards implementation of the nuclear deal.
Iranian state media's coverage of the incident has been studiously restrained and measured in tone.
The usual pejorative terms usually reserved for the US and other Western powers - such as "global arrogance" and "enemies" - have been conspicuous by their absence.
State TV and radio reports did highlight that the US incursion had been "illegal" and that Tehran wanted an apology, later reporting that it had got it.
The mood music was far less tense and confrontational than during the capture of British sailors in in 2007, with Iran insisting they strayed into its water - an accusation London denied.
Then, the Iranian media initially accused the UK servicemen of spying, and later mockingly reported that one of them had cried when his music player was confiscated.
What is it? In July, Iran agreed a landmark nuclear deal with six world powers to limit its sensitive nuclear activities for more than a decade in return for the lifting of crippling sanctions. The US is confident the agreement will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Iran says it has the right to nuclear energy - and stresses that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes only.
When is 'implementation day'? Iran will not see the UN, US and EU sanctions lifted until the global nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), certifies that it has fulfilled its commitments under the deal. Iran reportedly says the IAEA will do so this Friday. US Secretary of State John Kerry says implementation will take place "within coming days".
What does Iran stand to gain? The sanctions have cost Iran more than more than $160bn (£102bn) in oil revenue since 2012 alone. Once they are lifted, the country will be able to resume selling oil on international markets and using the global financial system for trade. Iran has the fourth largest oil reserves in the world and the energy industry is braced for lower prices. Iran will also be able to access more than $100bn in assets frozen overseas.
World football's governing body Fifa has dismissed secretary general Jerome Valcke.
The Frenchman, 55, was provisionally suspended from football for his alleged involvement in a scheme to profit from the sale of World Cup tickets.
He was released from his duties on 17 September after being accused of a series of Fifa ethics code breaches.
Appointed in 2007, the former right-hand man of Fifa president Sepp Blatter has denied any wrongdoing.
"The duties of the secretary general will continue to be assumed by the acting secretary general, Dr Markus Kattner," read a Fifa statement.
Fifa's ethics committee said on 7 January that it had decided to open "formal adjudicatory proceedings" against Valcke after studying a report submitted by its investigatory chamber.
Valcke has also been accused of being party to a potential £6.8m ($10m) bribe paid to Jack Warner, the former head of the North and Central America football governing body Concacaf, in return for his vote and backing to South Africa's successful bid to host the 2010 World Cup.
Fifa's ethics committee has already recommended that Valcke should be banned from all footballing activities for nine years.
Blatter and vice-president Michel Platini were both suspended for eight years in December following a Fifa ethics investigation.
Valcke has now been sacked twice by Fifa.
He joined the organisation in 2003 as director of marketing and TV, but was dismissed in 2006 over a scandal involving its long-time sponsorship partner Mastercard.
He was found to have negotiated with Mastercard's rival Visa in violation of the former company's right of first negotiation, which cost Fifa $90m (£61.3m) in a settlement.
BBC Radio 5 live sports correspondent Richard Conway:
Sources close to the world governing body have told the BBC that a culmination of factors made his departure "inevitable".
Abuse of expenses and misuse of Fifa's hired private jet are believed to be just two of the reasons behind his sacking Valcke.
However, it is believed other significant factors were taken into account.
For example, Valcke's role in an alleged £6.8m ($10m) bribe - made by South Africa to Jack Warner - has also come under scrutiny, although the Frenchman has denied any wrongdoing.
Forget the fanfare, forget the ritual and forget the policy announcements, because let's face it - this was not an eat-all-you-can legislative meal.
How could it be?
The president has less than a year to go, so a protein-rich legislative programme would be a waste of time because there aren't the hours and there aren't the votes.
Instead this occasion was about symbols and messages. Variously attributed to Walter Benjamin, George Orwell and Winston Churchill it is said that "history is written by the victors". And like all good politicians Barack Obama in his final State of the Union address was trying to give his narrative on his term of office.
Without the verbal dexterity or phrase-making elan that have been his oratorical hallmark - I could sum it up crudely as: "It was a pile of steaming ordure when I got here, but it's really pretty good now."
And so the tone was optimistic: "The future we want - opportunity and security for our families; a rising standard of living and a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids - all that is within our reach."
But that message also served another political purpose. With the election coming up in November the none too subtle sub-text of that is: All this is within your reach providing you don't change course. In other words, don't embrace a Republican candidate.
"Democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens," Mr Obama said
And of what he found when he got to the White House, he spoke of the American spirit to innovate and discover.
"It's that spirit that made the progress of these past seven years possible. It's how we reformed our health care system, and reinvented our energy sector; how we delivered more care for our troops and veterans and how we secured the freedom in every state to marry the person we love."
I told you he would do it more eloquently.
But if part of his legacy depends on seeing a Democrat returned to the White House, there was one Republican the president didn't want to see embraced.
That was the billionaire businessman Donald Trump. Although he did not mention Mr Trump by name it was clear who his target was.
"When politicians insult Muslims ... that doesn't make us safer. That's not telling it like it is. It's just wrong. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world. It makes it harder to achieve our goals. And it betrays who we are as a country."
Indeed calling for a different kind of political dialogue was one of the central themes of this speech.
One of the great frustrations of his presidency has been the toxic relations between Capitol Hill and the White House.
And so he called for a more tolerant, open and respectful political discourse.
"Our Founders distributed power between states and branches of government, and expected us to argue, just as they did, over the size and shape of government, over commerce and foreign relations, over the meaning of liberty and imperatives of security.
But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens."
That goal will probably have to be filed in the "mission not accomplished" intray. But he said he would keep on trying.
On policy there is a determination to get to mission accomplished on a whole pile of things from reform of the criminal justice system to prescription drug abuse; from getting more students to write computer code to concluding the normalisation of relations with Cuba; from the Pacific trade deal to immigration reform.
First Lady Michelle Obama sits next to empty seat set aside for victims of gun violence
And of course, closest to his heart - making progress on tackling the scourge of gun violence. One seat in the First Lady's box was symbolically kept empty to remember those who've been killed and whose voice is no longer heard.
But this was not a State of the Union that will be remembered for the shopping list.
This is about a vision for America for the next four or five years, when President Obama will be long gone and pruning the roses and digging up the weeds in his back yard (why do I struggle with that as a credible image?). It was optimistic, upbeat, hopeful.
Winning everyone in Congress with this address was never going to be possible.
No the target is the American people. As he enters the final lap of his presidency latest polls suggest that around two thirds of the American people think America is going in the wrong direction; only 27% think the country is doing well.
Switch those numbers around and the Obama legacy is secure; if those numbers don't budge then history might not be written by the president, but by the verdict of "we the people".
Ethiopia's government is set to abandon plans to expand the boundaries of the capital, Addis Ababa, which have caused months of deadly protests.
Demonstrations by people from the Oromo ethnic group have been sparked by fears that Oromo farmers could be displaced.
Human rights groups have estimated that at least 140 people were killed by security forces during the protests.
The ruling party in the Oromia region said it was dropping the plan following discussions with local people.
The Oromo People's Democratic Organisation (OPDO) made the decision after three days of talks, the state broadcaster EBC reports.
The OPDO, along with the Addis Ababa city authority, would have been responsible for implementing the "master plan".
Oromia is Ethiopia's largest region, and completely surrounds the capital.
The government has disputed the death toll quoted by the New York-based Human Rights Watch, saying the figure was an overestimation.
Abiy Berhane from Ethiopia's London embassy told the BBC's Focus on Africa radio programme that the government "has been trying to avoid confrontation", but the protests were hijacked "by people whose intention it was to induce violent confrontation".
The government has also said that plan was going to be implemented only once "a consensus had been reached after in-depth and full discussions".
But a message on the Facebook page of a leading online campaigner says Oromo activists have "dismissed" the government's change of heart as "as too little too late".
The master plan was proposed as a way to incorporate the areas close to Addis Ababa into the capital's rapidly developing economy.
The recent wave of protests began in November last year, but anger over the proposed expansion of Addis Ababa goes back to 2014.
Observers say that the Oromo protests build on long-standing complaints that the community has been excluded from political and economic power.
At the last census in 2007, the Oromo made up Ethiopia's biggest ethnic group, at about 25 million people out of a population at the time of nearly 74 million.
African exports to China fell by almost 40% in 2015, China's customs office says.
China is Africa's biggest single trading partner and its demand for African commodities has fuelled the continent's recent economic growth.
The decline in exports reflects the recent slowdown in China's economy.
This has, in turn, put African economies under pressure and in part accounts for the falling value of many African currencies.
Presenting China's trade figures for last year, customs spokesman Huang Songping told journalists that African exports to China totalled $67bn (£46.3bn), which was 38% down on the figure for 2014.
BBC Africa Business Report editor Matthew Davies says that as China's economy heads for what many analysts say will be a hard landing, its need for African oil, metals and minerals has fallen rapidly, taking commodity prices lower.
There is also less money coming from China to Africa, with direct investment from China into the continent falling by 40% in the first six months of 2015, he says.
Meanwhile, Africa's demand for Chinese goods is rising.
In 2015 China sent $102bn worth of goods to the continent, an increase of 3.6%.
Last year, South Africa hosted a China-Africa summit during which President Xi Jinping announced $60bn of aid and loans, symbolising the country's growing role on the continent.
Arsenal had their advantage at the top of the Premier League cut after Joe Allen's late equaliser gave Liverpool a deserved point in an Anfield thriller.
Olivier Giroud's second-half strike - his second of the night and 18th of the season - looked to have put the Gunners on course for a crucial victory, but substitute Allen rewarded the hosts for a display bursting with energy and spirit with a low 90th-minute finish.
Roberto Firmino twice gave Liverpool the lead in a breathless first half, the second a spectacular 20-yard drive, but Arsenal took advantage of poor defending from Jurgen Klopp's side to level through Aaron Ramsey and Giroud.
Giroud also missed an open goal in the first half, while Firmino glanced a shot off the bar in a wide open game.
With 10 minutes remaining, Arsenal's lead at the top of the table was four points. Yet Robert Huth's late winner for Leicester City at Tottenham and Allen's late strike left Arsenal only ahead of the Foxes on goal difference.
Joe Allen's goal was his first in the Premier League since April 2015
The visitors looked to have finally established supremacy in this topsy-turvy encounter when Giroud turned to put them ahead 10 minutes after the break - but then failed to press home the advantage and paid a heavy price.
And it will be a matter of concern to Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger that on nights like this at places like Anfield, they did not show the necessary ruthlessness to close out a game that was within their grasp.
The Reds deserve great credit for the way they responded to the disappointment of going behind after leading twice - but Arsenal showed no assurance or authority when the pressure mounted in the closing stages and there was an inevitability about Allen's equaliser.
Arsenal, when they should have been pressuring a desperately poor and under-strength Liverpool defence, instead allowed themselves to be pushed back. This was two points lost and Klopp will be the much happier manager.
For such a regular goalscorer, Giroud remains a maligned figure by some Arsenal fans who regard him as just short of the highest class - and yet his strike rate speaks eloquently on his behalf.
He showed a poacher's instinct to touch home his first from Ramsey's corner then showed good awareness and movement to turn Kolo Toure and score his second.
And yet those who remain unconvinced by Giroud will point to his astonishing first-half miss when he somehow failed to convert Hector Bellerin's pass from a matter of inches in front of the Kop.
Here, though, he demonstrated again that he will get goals and that is the best answer he can give to those who still doubt the France striker's pedigree.
Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet is poised to sign a new five-year contract at Anfield and has won the consistent backing of manager Klopp despite his fragile form.
And yet he was once again a very obvious weakness behind a Liverpool defence that was an accident waiting to happen for large portions of this enthralling game.
The 27-year-old Belgian was beaten too easily inside his near post when Ramsey equalised Firmino's opener, then was hopelessly stranded as Giroud's faint touch allowed a corner to sneak in. It was desperately poor keeping.
For all Klopp's public assurances - he would not do otherwise - he must surely be concerned at Mignolet's obvious frailty, alongside the glaring inadequacy of his deputy Adam Bogdan, as proved by his errors at Watford and Exeter City.
Liverpool have recalled 22-year-old Welsh keeper Danny Ward from a successful loan spell at Aberdeen so he is now in the mix - but Klopp has to consider a more reliable, experienced long-term solution after Mignolet's latest blunders.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp: "We started so good and played good football. It showed all of us how good we could be.
"Then we concede a goal from a set play and we have to work at it. Organisation is one thing and sometimes we have a little problem with concentration.
"We gave them two easy goals after we had to work really hard for our goals. We had many moments which I am happy with."
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger: "I'm very disappointed but, overall, I cannot fault the effort and commitment of the team.
"We had a difficult start. At 3-2, we should have made it 4-2 and didn't make the right decision in the final third.
"Liverpool fought until the last second."
Liverpool don't have long to recover before they entertain fierce rivals Manchester United on Sunday (14:05 GMT). Arsenal's next game is a trip to Stoke, where they have failed to win on their past five Premier League visits, on Sunday (16:15 GMT).
Robert Huth scored a late winner as Leicester beat Premier League top-four rivals Tottenham.
The Foxes, who are now level on points with leaders Arsenal, looked like they were heading for a fourth league game without a goal until unmarked Huth headed home Christian Fuchs' corner.
Harry Kane had Spurs' best chance when his effort was touched on to the bar by keeper Kasper Schmeichel.
Foxes striker Jamie Vardy returned from groin surgery but had a quiet game.
There had been fears Leicester's slide was beginning after three games without scoring - and they looked like making that four in a row before Huth's late goal.
But this win - which takes them seven points above fourth-placed Spurs and eight clear of West Ham in fifth - will give them real hope of finishing in the Champions League places, if not higher.
They were characteristically short of possession with only 39% - their average of 40.62% is the third lowest in the league - but they have shown they are far from a two-man team with Riyad Mahrez and Vardy, their two stars of the campaign, subdued throughout.
Maybe, but it was wasteful finishing rather than the lack of a second striker that cost Spurs against the Foxes.
Manager Mauricio Pochettino has continually insisted it is not urgent they sign a new striker to partner Kane, who is their top scorer with 11 league goals.
The England international was their sole striker against Leicester but Spurs' formation meant Erik Lamela, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli got forward to support him regularly.
Those four had a combined 18 shots, although Kane's effort which Schmeichel touched on to the bar was one of only five shots on target the team managed.
Former England captain Alan Shearer on Match of the Day: "It's a remarkable story for Leicester. Only Manchester City have scored more goals than them.
"It was a good old-fashioned proper plant your feet, arch your back and get your neck muscles going header from Huth. Look at the power. Boof."
Ex-Germany midfielder Dietmar Hamann: "It's a blip for Spurs. They're still in a good position and favourites to reach the Champions League. The worry is the lack of form from Christian Eriksen, who hasn't scored in the league since October. They are over-reliant on Harry Kane. If he gets injured they'll be in trouble."
Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri told BBC Match of the Day: "We wanted to win but we knew it was a difficult match. Tottenham started very well and put us under pressure but we didn't lose our confidence or shape and it was difficult for them.
"In the second half it was an open match. We both had chances and we scored the goal. Unfortunately it's January, not May. There's so much work to do. We have to remain calm and believe in what we're doing."
Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino: "I'm disappointed. We created the better chances. You need to score. We need to keep calm and try to improve.
"All the stats are positive for us. It's difficult to explain - we deserved more and to win the game. In football you can get punished for one little mistake. We are going to try to analyse the game. We were unlucky tonight."
Both sides will be confident of wins on Saturday in the Premier League. Leicester visit bottom side Aston Villa, while Tottenham host third-from-bottom Sunderland.
The Foxes and Spurs then meet again next Wednesday in their televised FA Cup third-round replay.
James McClean's late equaliser earned West Brom a share of the points as they refused to accept defeat at Chelsea.
The Blues went ahead when Cesar Azpilicueta turned in fellow full-back Branislav Ivanovic's low cross.
Craig Gardner's skimming shot levelled, but it seemed Chelsea had done enough when Gareth McAuley prodded Willian's cross into his own net.
But when the home defence failed to clear McClean made them pay with a pinpoint shot into the bottom corner.
The Republic of Ireland international's leveller was the final twist in an often ill-tempered game with Chelsea striker Diego Costa at the centre of several flashpoints, including a confrontation with several West Brom players after the final whistle.
After only four goals in his first 21 games of the season, Costa has come to life in the wake of Jose Mourinho's departure as manager - doubling that tally in his past four appearances.
But, even at his best, the Spain international bristles with aggression as well as attacking threat.
From gliding past Jonny Evans and rifling over the top in the first minute, he was never far from incident - exchanging words and clashing shoulders with Jonas Olsson and Claudio Yacob and picking up a booking himself for a crude challenge on Craig Gardner.
He forced Boaz Myhill into a sprawling save with his side 2-1 up deep into the second half, but he could not deliver a third goal that would have killed off the contest and wrapped up the points.
Chelsea's title win last season - in which they were out-scored by second-placed Manchester City - was based on a steely defence.
But that, along with many other aspects of their play, has deteriorated sharply this term.
Despite the imposing pairing of John Terry and Kurt Zouma at centre-half, supported by 6ft 6in goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, the hosts never looked comfortable when the ball was played into their box from out wide.
After allowing Craig Dawson and McClean to win headers in dangerous positions earlier in the match, their lack of conviction was punished as McClean threaded an 86th-minute shot into the bottom corner after a bout of penalty-area pinball.
That goal - combined with Pedro's cheap concession of possession and Zouma's failure to close down Gardner for West Brom's first - will give Blues interim boss Guus Hiddink plenty to muse on as he tries to shore up his rearguard and Chelsea's position in the table.
Chelsea faced 23 crosses into their box during the match
After their Boxing Day defeat by Swansea, West Brom were just three points from the relegation places, but home wins against Stoke and Newcastle followed by this point at Stamford Bridge have improved that cushion to more comfortable nine.
Tony Pulis' tactics - his side have played the highest proportion of long passes in the top-flight this season - have been criticised, but his record of never having been relegated as a manager looks unlikely to be spoiled by this typically well-drilled and solid Baggies side.
Salomon Rondon, well supported by McClean, was a willing runner in attack and the proceeds from the potential sale of the unsettled Saido Berahino might yet fund an evolution in the Baggies' style.
Chelsea boss Guus Hiddink: "West Brom always bounce back, there is great character. It was an intense game.
"Diego Costa controls himself, he is very dangerous. The player is concentrated on his job and doing very well.
"Tony Pulis made a wise decision when he took over the role of the referee and took off Claudio Yacob. The referee forgot to do it."
West Brom manager Tony Pulis: "We are pleased. It was a tough game, you have to ride your luck and work hard and we did that.
"We were disappointed with one or two of our players because they got wound up and kept the crowd going. You have to be sensible and you have to play with your head.
"There is a couple of weeks to go. Saido Berahino's situation is up in the air. The chairman is running the club diligently, the finances are up to him."
Chelsea have a couple of testing Premier League encounters up next, taking on Everton at home on Saturday before travelling to leaders Arsenal on Sunday, 24 January. West Brom play Southampton away in the league on Saturday, before an FA Cup third-round replay at Bristol City on Tuesday.
Manchester City missed the chance to make up ground in the Premier League title race as they were held to a goalless draw by a stubborn Everton.
Manuel Pellegrini's side dominated the second half but were repeatedly denied by away keeper Tim Howard.
It was a supreme defensive display from the Toffees, who had been the better attacking side in the first half.
They also rode their luck, as City were denied a late penalty for a foul on Raheem Sterling by John Stones.
For Everton, it is a point won - and a confidence-boosting one, following a run of seven games in which they have won just once.
But it is two key points dropped for City and they remain three points behind joint league leaders Arsenal, held 3-3 by Liverpool, and Leicester, 1-0 winners at Tottenham.
The game began in a half-full Etihad Stadium as traffic problems prevented many fans arriving by kick-off.
However, you would forgive many of the City supporters who did eventually make it to the ground for wishing they had not. Before the break, the home side looked sluggish and were outworked by a dynamic away side.
They did produce a couple of chances - the best of them a Yaya Toure header from eight yards that was palmed away by Howard - but could easily have trailed.
They improved in the second half as Sergio Aguero became more involved, but still struggled to break their opponents down, even after the introduction of David Silva with 15 minutes to go.
The game would end in desperate, vain calls for a penalty for Stones' admittedly risky sliding challenge on Sterling.
City boss Manuel Pellegrini was adamant that Stones' challenge should have been penalised and his side awarded a "clear penalty".
"Everyone in the stadium could see it was a penalty - it was so near to the referee and so clear," said the Chilean. "Both Raheem's legs were taken by Stones but if he doesn't whistle we can't say anything."
Unsurprisingly, Everton boss Roberto Martinez had an opposing view of the incident and praised the "maturity" of referee Roger East.
"We have been on the back end of receiving a penalty, in the last seconds against Stoke," said the Spaniard.
"Stones goes to slide to block the ball, Sterling does not play the ball and waited. In my eyes it is an area that is not certain if it's a penalty or not.
"I believe the referees should control their emotions and the referee did exactly that. It is impossible to be 100% certain and I am pleased he did this and showed his maturity."
his game was the second part of a fixture trilogy between these sides in January, falling between the two legs of a Capital One Cup semi-final.
A week ago, Romelu Lukaku's winner gave Everton a 2-1 victory at Goodison Park, and they impressed again in a performance that showcased both sides of their game.
In the first half, the Toffees were patient and precise when they had the ball and hard-working when they did not. But for some wayward shooting, they would have led at the break.
Gerard Deulofeu and Lukaku were both denied with shots from an angle in the box, while the latter set up Leon Osman for the best chance - a volley from 15 yards that flew just past Joe Hart's far post.
After the break, Roberto Martinez's side were firmly on the back foot and spent long spells without the ball but demonstrated discipline and commitment to limit City to only a few goalscoring chances.
Manchester City are at home again on Saturday, with Crystal Palace the visitors.
Everton face another tough away trip on the same day, as they travel to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea.
Jermain Defoe struck a hat-trick as Sunderland dragged 10-man Swansea closer to the bottom three in a game packed with refereeing controversy.
Defoe pounced on Lukasz Fabianski's mistake to score, but Swansea equalised with Gylfi Sigurdsson's penalty.
Kyle Naughton was controversially sent off for a foul on Yann M'Vila but Andre Ayew put the Swans ahead by half-time.
Patrick van Aanholt's deflected shot levelled and Defoe struck twice to secure a second successive league win.
Sunderland have now leapfrogged arch rivals Newcastle into 18th in the Premier League table, just one point and one place below Swansea.
Despite Defoe's heroics, it was referee Graham Scott who found himself as the centre of attention, with doubts hanging over three of the six goals as well as the seemingly harsh dismissal of Naughton.
oining the select group of Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, Harry Redknapp and David Moyes, Sunderland's Sam Allardyce became only the fifth manager to reach 450 Premier League games.
The former Bolton and Newcastle boss did not have to wait long to celebrate the landmark, as Defoe put Sunderland ahead after just three minutes.
Fabianski inexplicably hit his goal-kick straight to Adam Johnson and was then only able to parry Fabio Borini's shot, allowing Defoe to tap in from what appeared to be an offside position.
Allardyce's elation soon turned to anger, however, as Swansea equalised in similarly dubious fashion.
Referee Scott awarded the hosts a penalty for what seemed like a Wes Brown trip on Ayew, but replays appeared to show the Ghanaian forward had fallen over his own feet.
Sigurdsson confidently converted the spot-kick, much to Allardyce's visible fury on the touchline.
If Defoe's opener and Sigurdsson's equaliser were debatable, Naughton's dismissal was a controversial flashpoint which prompted a vitriolic backlash from the home crowd.
The Swansea right-back won the ball from M'Vila but, having done so with studs showing, Scott showed him a red card.
Swansea interim manager Alan Curtis - who waited to confront the official at the interval - claimed Scott got "all the major incidents wrong", adding Naughton "clearly won the ball".
Despite the setback, his side initially responded well to their numerical disadvantage as Ayew latched on to Fabianski's clearance and scored with a powerful drive.
The Swans were not ahead for long though, as four minutes after the restart Van Aanholt's 20-yard shot deflected off Federico Fernandez and flew into the top corner.
While Allardyce was presiding over his Premier League milestone, this was Curtis' first since being named Swansea's manager for the rest of the season.
Curtis' side defended raggedly throughout and there was a certain inevitability - and, once more, controversy - to Sunderland's third goal.
Defoe was offside as he collected Johnson's through ball but linesman Mark Perry did not raise his flag and the Sunderland striker finished calmly.
The England international striker was then perfectly placed to slide in from Van Aanholt's excellent cross to put the game beyond doubt with his fifth goal in two games.
Swansea, who are 17th in the Premier League table, remain just one point above Sunderland and Newcastle immediately below them.
Swansea manager Alan Curtis: "The first goal and third are clearly offside decisions. You can recover but when you play with 10 men for an hour, that's the one that killed us more than anything."
Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce: "We manipulated or played with the situation as it panned out. That's all we can do. We have taken the opportunity rightly or wrongly to win the game. For us it's an unbelievable win. Today it's an enormous, enormous, enormous three points to give us encouragement and hope going forward."
Sunderland will look to make it three Premier League wins from three when they travel to Tottenham on Saturday at lunchtime, while Swansea host Watford at the Liberty Stadium on Monday night.
An former US professional football player whose career was cut short by disciplinary problems has been found dead inside his California prison cell.
Officials believe Lawrence Phillips, 40, killed himself early on Wednesday.
In the 1990s, he was a star player at the University of Nebraska, making him a sought-after rookie in the NFL.
Phillips played for the St Louis Rams, Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers until 1999, but he was plagued by trouble on and off the field.
After his NFL career, Phillips continued to have problems with the law.
Eventually, he was sent to prison after being convicted of assault for driving his car into a group of teenagers. In another case, he was convicted of assaulting a former girlfriend.
Phillips - who was serving a term of more than 30 years - had been placed in a cell alone after he was accused of killing his former cellmate.
On Tuesday, a judge found that there was enough evidence to try Phillips in the death of Damion Soward, 37.
It is unclear how he took his own life.
"He was an intelligent person and had some good qualities," Tom Osborne, Phillip's coach at Nebraska, told the Associated Press news agency.
"Yet he had some anger issues and couldn't overcome the demons in his life.''
Search teams looking for the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 think they have stumbled across a 19th-Century shipwreck.
Underwater sonar equipment turned up a strange object more than two miles beneath the waves just before Christmas.
Earlier this month they sent down an unmanned submarine to take a picture.
Experts at the Western Australian Museum think it is a 19th-century ship made of metal.
This is the second uncharted shipwreck found miles beneath the waves during the search for the missing plane.
Last year, investigators released ghostly images of man-made debris scattered along the sea floor, including what is clearly an old anchor.
The hunt for MH370 no longer makes headlines, but what some have described as the most complex search in history has continued for almost two years.
Three ships are methodically combing the belly of the southern Indian Ocean. Before this search, scientists knew more about the surface of the moon than the bottom of this stretch of water, so it is not surprising that they keep revealing secrets.
Along with the shipwrecks, a number of previously unknown underwater volcanoes have been discovered.
The search teams have now checked two thirds of the 120,000 sq km search zone.
That is an area not much smaller than Greece, so mountainous that it dwarfs the Alps, with weather as hostile as any on earth. Because conditions are so dangerous, the three ships involved travel at walking pace.
The search will conclude later this year and after that the authorities have admitted they will give up unless some debris is found.
They are confident they are looking in the right place after a piece of a wing from MH370 was washed up on an Indian Ocean island thousands of miles away.
Oceanographers have modelled the way the sea would have moved the fragment, and how long it would have taken to reach Reunion island.
They say it all points to the aircraft coming down where they are currently looking, although no-one has any idea why it ended up so far off course.
The plane had 239 people on board and was en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on 8 March 2014 when air traffic controllers lost contact with it.
Last year Malaysia Airlines appointed Aer Lingus boss Christoph Mueller as chief executive in a bid to revive the ailing company.
In June the airline announced plans to axe 6,000 jobs from its 20,000-strong workforce and abandon unprofitable routes to stem substantial losses.
General Motors (GM) shares have jumped after the firm said it would be more profitable and return more money to shareholders.
Shares in the biggest US car maker rose more than 2% after it raised its 2016 earnings forecast by 25 cents to between $5.25 and $5.75 per share.
GM also plans to raise its stock buyback programme by 80% to $9bn and extend it to the end of 2017.
In total it plans to give $16bn back to shareholders by the end of 2017.
GM executive Mary Barra said: "We made significant progress executing our strategic plan and the results are being demonstrated through our improved earnings."
Shares in rival car maker Ford fell more than 3.5% after it said US margins could hit a plateau of 9.5%.
Ford said on Tuesday it would give a special $1bn dividend, and that it expects pre-tax profit of between $10bn and $11bn in 2015.
But this figure was at the lower end of analyst expectations.
"Their guidance is in line or below what was expected," said Matthew Stover of Susquehanna Financial.
WOW air is a happy Icelandic low-cost airline that flies to Iceland from a number of cities in Europe and North America the whole year round. The airline was founded in November 2011 and its inaugural flight was to Paris on May 31st 2012. WOW air is committed to providing the cheapest flights to and from Iceland, but doing so with a smile and providing a memorable service all the way.
WOW air was founded by entrepreneur Skúli Mogensen, whose extensive business background is largely in technology and telecoms in Iceland, Europe and North America. WOW air is entirely owned by Mogensen, debt free. He sits on the board of many tech companies both in North America and Europe and was selected Business Man or the Year in Iceland 2011.
In October 2012 WOW air took over the flight operations of Iceland Express. Only a year later, in October 2013 WOW air was awarded the Air Operator‘s Certificate (AOC) by the Icelandic Transport Authority.
WOW air operates four Airbus A320 aircraft, the choice of many of the world's leading airlines and a perfect fit for our short haul flights between Europe and Iceland. For our longer flights to North America, WOW air operates the Airbus A321, the largest member of the Airbus A320 Family. We are proud to be able to say that as of spring 2014, WOW air has the newest aircraft fleet in Iceland with the lowest emission. Planes are the cars of the sky and the same rule applies; newer planes burn less fuel which is better for the environment and your wallet, and they are more comfortable!
Check the Route map:
Check the destinations and dates below.
*Flights from U.S. to Iceland - Based on lowest one-way fare, per person, incl. taxes, fees and carrier charges when booked via wowair.com. Travel from Boston (BOS) and Washington, D.C. (BWI) to Iceland (KEF) on Mondays, subject to availability. Available for travel: January 11 - March 14 and April 4-26, 2016. Restrictions and baggage fees may apply.
*Flights from U.S. to Berlin, via Iceland - Based on lowest one-way fare, per person, incl. taxes, fees and carrier charges when booked via wowair.com. Travel from Boston (BOS) and Washington, D.C. (BWI) to Berlin (SXF) on Mondays, subject to availability. Available for travel: January 10 - March 10, 2016. Restrictions and baggage fees may apply.
*Flights from U.S. to Bristol, via Iceland - Based on lowest one-way fare, per person, incl. taxes, fees and carrier charges when booked via wowair.com. Travel from Boston (BOS) and Washington, D.C. (BWI) to Bristol (BRS) on Tuesdays, subject to availability. Available for travel: May or September, 2016. Restrictions and baggage fees may apply.There is WOW in everything we do!
Below are some of theroutes they ply.
*Flights from U.S. to Dublin, via Iceland - Based on lowest one-way fare, per person, incl. taxes, fees and carrier charges when booked via wowair.com. Travel from Boston (BOS) and Washington, D.C. (BWI) to Dublin (DUB) on Thursdays, subject to availability. Available for travel: January 10 - March 10, 2016. Restrictions and baggage fees may apply.
*Flights from U.S. to Stockholm, via Iceland - Based on lowest one-way fare, per person, incl. taxes, fees and carrier charges when booked via wowair.com. Travel from Boston (BOS) and Washington, D.C. (BWI) to Stockholm (VST) on Thursdays, subject to availability. Available for travel: May or September, 2016. Restrictions and baggage fees may apply.
*Flights from U.S. to London, via Iceland - Based on lowest one-way fare, per person, incl. taxes, fees and carrier charges when booked via wowair.com. Travel from Boston (BOS) and Washington, D.C. (BWI) to London (LGW) on Fridays, subject to availability. Available for travel: January 10 - March 10, 2016. Restrictions and baggage fees may apply.
*Flights from U.S. to Amsterdam, via Iceland - Based on lowest one-way fare, per person, incl. taxes, fees and carrier charges when booked via wowair.com. Travel from Boston (BOS) and Washington, D.C. (BWI) to Amsterdam (AMS) on Sundays, subject to availability. Available for travel: January 10 - March 10, 2016. Restrictions and baggage fees may apply.
*Flights from Boston to Copenhagen, via Iceland - Based on lowest one-way fare, per person, incl. taxes, fees and carrier charges when booked via wowair.com. Travel from Boston (BOS) to Copenhagen (CPH) on Wednesdays, subject to availability. Available for travel: January 10 - March 10, 2016. Restrictions and baggage fees may apply.
*Flights from Washington, D.C. to Copenhagen, via Iceland - Based on lowest one-way fare, per person, incl. taxes, fees and carrier charges when booked via wowair.com. Travel from Washington, D.C. (BWI) to Copenhagen (CPH) on Mondays, subject to availability. Available for travel: January 10 - March 10, 2016. Restrictions and baggage fees may apply.
*Flights from Boston to Paris, via Iceland - Based on lowest one-way fare, per person, incl. taxes, fees and carrier charges when booked via wowair.com. Travel from Boston (BOS) to Paris (CDG) on Thursdays, subject to availability. Available for travel: January 10 - March 10, 2016. Restrictions and baggage fees may apply.
*Flights from Washington, D.C. to Paris, via Iceland - Based on lowest one-way fare, per person, incl. taxes, fees and carrier charges when booked via wowair.com. Travel from Washington, D.C. (BWI) to Paris (CDG) on Sundays, subject to availability. Available for travel: January 10 - March 10, 2016. Restrictions and baggage fees may apply.
This week, Icelandic budget airline WOW Air unveiled a set of new flight deals from Los Angeles International Airport and San Francisco International Airport: $199 one-way tickets to various destinations in Europe, and $99 straight to Iceland.
Yes, you read those numbers right.
The $199 flights have a one-hour stopover in Keflavik, Iceland, before allowing you to jump to 18 different cities in Europe, including London, Paris, and Berlin.
For a long-haul transatlantic commute, that's a steal; a quick online price check with traditional carriers shows nonstop flights for later this month going for $1,200 and up, and one-stop options hovering in the $700 range. With more than two stops on your route, you're still going to have to shell out $518.
Meanwhile, budget transatlantic air rival Norwegian Air is posting prices upwards of $275.
So what's the catch? WOW Air is a notorious budget carrier, along the lines of the Spirit, Ryanair, and Allegiant brands. They identify as part of the "ultra-low-cost long haul" category, in which they're shooting to become the industry leader.
Currently rated at 2.5 stars on Yelp, you're going to have to pony up for traditional carrier amenities. It's $25 for an aisle seat; $10 for seat assignment in advance; up to $48 for an extra five inches of legroom; a $48 fee for "overweight" carry-on luggage, which means anything over 11 lbs.; and $67 or more for checked luggage. Reviewers also mention that in-flight refreshments are not free.
Still, since they launched Boston and Washington, DC low-cost routes in 2015, they've grown substantially, running at 90% capacity this year and expecting to double their passenger capacity this year.
"We have had a tremendously positive response to our low prices on our current transatlantic routes and this gives us confidence that passengers will take up the chance to travel even further afield," said CEO and Founder Skuli Mogenson in a statement posted on their site.
You'll be flying in one of three new Airbus A330-300 aircraft that WOW purchased just for these routes, each holding up to 340 passengers. And there will be no "upgrades" to business class, as WOW flies single class only.
Don't get too excited about making an affordable last-minute escape to Europe this winter, though. A quick search shows that their $199 deals are booked out to most destinations through the fall of 2016. But you know what they say: Paris is always a good idea. It'll be lovely next October, especially for just $199.
The routes will be serviced by three new Airbus A330-300 aircraft, the first wide-body planes in the WOW air fleet, which will each carry 340 passengers in a single-class configuration. The routes will connect with daily flights to Keflavik from London Gatwick (and other WOW air destinations in Europe), allowing Brits to travel with the airline to Los Angeles four times per week and San Francisco five times a week, all year round.
Los Angeles skyline
Skúli Mogensen, founder and CEO of WOW air, said:
“We are thrilled to add Los Angeles and San Francisco to our fast growing network. This is a game changer for WOW air as we cement ourselves as the industry leader in the ultra-low-cost long haul category. With the addition of these long range A330-300 aircraft to our fleet, we will be able to offer fares from Europe to the US West Coast far cheaper than our competitors whilst maintaining great service with a smile, as we did with our routes to Boston, Washington DC, Toronto and Montreal. We have had a tremendously positive response to our low prices on our current transatlantic routes and this gives us confidence that passengers will take up the chance to travel even further afield. Equally, we're sure Californians will welcome our super low fares to Europe.”
WOW air's expansion to California follows the successful launch of transatlantic services from London Gatwick to Boston and Washington, D.C. in early 2015 and the announcement that the airline would begin flying to Montréal and Toronto in May 2016, all via Iceland and with fares as low as £99. The existing US services now operate year round and maintain consistent carrier loads of 90% plus. WOW air's entry to the market has already brought prices down industry-wide by 30% between Boston and Iceland and by 14% on flights between Boston and the UK.
Launched in November 2011, WOW air now connects twenty destinations across the US and Europe with the Icelandic capital. WOW air's annual passenger capacity will more than double in 2016 to over 1.8 million, up from approximately 840,000 in 2015.
WOW air's A330-300 aircraft will host a single-class configuration with a capacity of 342 passengers. Seat pitch will vary from 30 inches as standard to 34 inches at an additional charge.
Tickets to San Francisco and Los Angeles will go on sale in January 2016.
The New Patriotic Party (NPP) has served notice to the Electoral Commission (EC) of Ghana, cautioning it to immediately halt all the processes involved in the internal cleaning of the voters’ register until approval is sought from all the political parties to do so.
According to the elephant family, it is completely dissatisfied with the response of the electoral body to its request for a new voters’ register for the conduct the November 7 Presidential and Parliamentary polls and subsequent elections in the country.
In August, 2015, the NPP led by Dr. Bawumia, described the country’s electoral roll as terminally faulty and which cannot be relied on for the 2016 Presidential and Parliamentary elections.
He revealed that the NPP had identified 76,286 persons with the same data in both Ghana and Togo’s voters’, a figure he said represents 10% of the work in progress.
Some other African nationals from Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso, according to Dr. Bawumia, were also on the country’s electoral register.
Worried about the flawed document, the Vice-Presidential Candidate of the NPP then called for a new register ahead of the November 7, 2016 polls.
But the Electoral Commission under the tutelage of its Chairperson, Charlotte Osei, on the eve of the New Year, shot down the call for a new voters’ register.
It said the argument for the call for the new voters’ roll was not convincing and therefore, does not recommend the replacement of the current register.
Instead, the Commission said it “will continue to engage stakeholders to ensure that a clean and credible voters’ register is in place for the 2016 general elections through an inclusive and collaborative audit process.”
In a recent interview on Accra-based Joy FM, Madam Charlotte Osei, disclosed that the EC was currently undertaking a cleaning of the Register.
She told listeners that the EC has so far identified in Ashanti Region, 200,000 names in the current register that are on the Multiple Registration list which they were going to clear.
However, at a press conference to react to the response of the EC, Campaign Manager of the NPP, Peter Mac Manu, told journalists that the claims by the EC of identifying 200,000 names in the Ashanti Region was contrary to the 150,000 names it mentioned as those identified nationwide.
He said it would therefore, be suicidal for the EC to go ahead with its plans towards cleaning the alleged bloated voters’ register if it does seek clearance from the political parties.
“This disclosure is very strange. The EC in its response to the NPP claimed in page 23 that 150,000 names had been identified as multiples nationwide. How is it possible therefore for the EC to identify as much as 200,000 names in the Ashanti Region alone?”
“The NPP is by this response calling for an immediate stop to all processes involved in the so-called internal cleaning of the Register until all parties can satisfy themselves of the modalities and means by which this so called internal cleaning is being done”, he said.
The NPP must stop disturbing the Electoral Commission and its Chairperson and go back to work, a Political Scientist at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Dr Samuel Adu Gyamfi has advised.
According to him, it is totally unnecessary for the party to persist in attacking the integrity of the EC and its Boss, but must rather focus its attention and energies at improving its electoral fortunes as the NPP is likely to win this year’s elections, however without a Parliamentary majority.
The largest opposition Party has in the past several months led the campaign for a new voters register after it claimed that the party’s investigations had established over 76,000 Togolese registered on the electoral roll making it not credible.
Their persistent calls and claims led to the Electoral Commission establishing a panel of eminent persons to assess the NPP’s assertions.
But the five-member panel set up by the EC to assess the demand for new voters’ register said the NPP’s evidence was not reliable data. The EC in conclusion said the NPP’s claims were unconvincing hence it cannot proceed to create a new register, but would rather ensure an audit to present a credible electoral roll for the polls.
However the NPP at a news conference on Thursday to respond to the EC’s position defended the evidence it [provided to the EC, and said the EC’s response was rather unfortunate.
The Dankwa-Busia-Dombo tradition accused the EC of bowing to the propaganda of the NDC government.
But speaking to Kwaku Owusu Adjei on Si Me So on Kasapa FM, Dr Samuel Adu Gyamfi urged the NPP to desist from its seeming calculated attempt to paint the EC black in the eyes of Ghanaians.
“You cannot tarnish the image of the EC and its Boss and make it look as if the Commission is in bed with the government and further suggest that majority of Ghanaians want the voters register changed. The NPP is not the majority of Ghana and neither are the rest of the political parties. It is all Ghanaians that form the majority of the voice in Ghana. So if the NPP makes a proposition to the EC, it knows the Commission has the competence and legal right to assess the proposal and make pronouncement on it. If it looks into the matter and the party disagrees with the verdict it is well and good that the outcome is respected, and even if we beg to differ it is essential that we don’t make comments like the EC is in bed with the government, because that is dangerous for our democracy.”
He added: When you denigrate the EC, and you eventually win the election it will amount to the same thing. Because what you are saying is that you used a bloated register to win the elections.
One man is brain-dead and another five people are in hospital after an experimental drug was administered to 90 people in a French clinical trial.
There is no known antidote to the drug, the chief neuroscientist at the hospital in Rennes said.
Of the five men in hospital, three could have permanent brain damage, Gilles Edan added.
Reports that the drug is a cannabis-based painkiller have been denied by the health ministry.
The trial, which involved taking the drug orally and has now been suspended, was conducted by a private laboratory in Rennes.
The experimental drug was manufactured by the Portuguese company Bial.
All those who volunteered for the trial have been recalled and the Paris prosecutor's office has opened an investigation.
Health Minister Marisol Touraine pledged to "get to the bottom... of this tragic accident".
"I was overwhelmed by their distress" she told reporters. "Their lives have been brutally turned upside down".
By James Gallagher, health editor, BBC News website
This is the bitter price of the new medicines we take for granted. Testing such experimental drugs, at the cutting edge of science, can never be completely risk-free.
The safety and effectiveness of these drugs are rigorously tested in animals. The risks are low but there must still be a leap of faith when they are tried in people for the first time.
This trial has been taking place since July without such major events being reported. Generally in Phase I trials the dose is increased slowly over time, which could be why the side-effects are appearing now.
The hospitalised men started taking the drug regularly on 7 January and began showing severe side-effects three days later.
Three of the volunteers are now facing a lifetime of disability in this "accident of exceptional gravity".
It is a high price to pay, but thousands of people do safely take part in similar trials each year.
The trial was conducted by Biotrial, a French-based company with an international reputation which has carried out thousands of trials since it was set up in 1989.
In a message on its website, the company said that "serious adverse events related to the test drug" had occurred.
The company insisted that "international regulations and Biotrial's procedures were followed at every stage".
According to the health ministry, the adverse effects occurred on Thursday.
Trials typically have three phases to assess a new medicine for safety and effectiveness
The study was a Phase I clinical trial, in which healthy volunteers take the medication to evaluate the safety of its use, the ministry said.
Before any new medicine can be given to patients, detailed information about how it works and how safe it is must be collected.
Clinical trials are the key to getting that data - and without volunteers to take part in the trials, there would be no new treatments for serious diseases such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and arthritis.
Every year around the world thousands of people take part in clinical trials but incidents like this are very rare, the BBC's Hugh Schofield reports from Paris.
New EU regulations to speed up clinical drug trials and streamline testing procedures across the 28-nation bloc are due to take effect in 2018.
The United Nations says it has evidence that Burundi's security forces gang-raped women while searching the homes of suspected opposition leaders.
Security forces separated the women and raped them, the UN said, adding that it had documented 13 cases.
Forces also kidnapped, tortured and killed dozens of young men, it said.
Meanwhile, a court has sentenced four generals to life in jail for their part in trying to overthrow President Pierre Nkurunziza in May last year.
Nine other officers were jailed for 30 years and eight soldiers, including drivers and body guards, to five years for their role in the unrest sparked by Mr Nkurunziza's announcement that he would run for a third term.
He secured a third term in disputed elections in July.
The abuses documented by the UN took place immediately after rebel attacks in December against three military camps in the country's capital, Bujumbura, the UN's human rights chief, Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein, said in a statement.
The UN believes the army is taking revenge for the attacks.
Mr Hussein also called for an investigation into reports that nine mass graves were found in and around Bujumbura, warning about the "increasing ethnic dimension of the crisis".
Some witnesses say that violence from security forces was directed at the Tutsi minority.
Burundi has been plagued by tension between Tutsis and Hutus since independence in 1962.
However, analysts say ethnicity is not at the heart of the conflict.
The failed coup leader, ex-General Godefroid Niyombare, who is on the run, is a Hutu.
His allies sentenced to life in jail by the Supreme Court were a mix of ethnicities.
Gen Cyrille Ndayirukiye, the former defence minister, and Hermenegilde Nimenya, a police general, are Tutsis and army generals Zenon Ndabaneze and Juvenal Niyungeko are Hutu.
The Nigerian president has ordered 20 former military chiefs and officers to be investigated over alleged arms procurement fraud.
Among them are the chiefs of defence and air staff under the last administration.
President Muhammadu Buhari's office said it was "on the recommendation of" a committee set up to examine procurement from 2007 to 2015.
The activities of 20 companies will also be investigated.
One of the names on the list is of a former security adviser to the government. Sambo Dasuki was charged in December over an alleged $68m fraud. He was accused of awarding phantom contracts to buy helicopters, fighter jets and ammunition.
He denied the allegations and said they were politically motivated.
A previous investigation found that phantom contracts worth $2bn had been awarded.
During the fight against Islamist militant group Boko Haram, many soldiers reported that they did not have enough equipment to take on the insurgents.
Others on the list include Alex Sabundu Badeh, a former chief of defence staff, and the former chief of air staff Adesola Nunayon Amosu. Both served under former President Goodluck Jonathan.
President Buhari was largely elected on a promise to tackle corruption.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is spearheading the anti-corruption campaign.
Chelsea and West Brom have been charged by the Football Association because of the conduct of their players in a 2-2 draw on Wednesday.
The charge relates to the reaction of players when Baggies midfielder Claudio Yacob escaped a second yellow card for a foul on Diego Costa.
The clubs were deemed to have failed "to ensure their players conducted themselves in an orderly fashion".
They have until 18:00 GMT on 20 January to respond.
Chelsea interim boss Guus Hiddink believed Yacob should have been dismissed and spoke with fourth official Jon Moss during the game.
"I told him: 'This is one of the worst referees of the Premier League I have experienced,"' said Hiddink, speaking on Friday before Saturday's match against Everton.
"He said to me 'you haven't seen me yet', which was a beautiful remark I think."
An Accra Fast Track High Court has dismissed a case against NDC parliamentary candidate in the Korle Klottey constituency, Zanetor Rawlings.
The court said the NDC members, Reverend Michael Kwabena Nii Adjei Sowah, Joseph Narku Botchway, Jacob Amin were not convincing in their claim that their rights had been violated or will be violated if she represents the ruling party.
They had gone to court to remove the daughter of former President arguing she was not a registered voter and therefore cannot be voted for. They also sued her, the NDC and the Electoral Commission on 13 December 2015 for looking on while she emerged winner of the parliamentary primaries.
In the opinion of the petitioners, Dr Zanetor Rawlings is not a registered voter because her name is neither in the national biometric register compiled in 2012, nor is her name in the biometric register of the governing National Democratic Congress.
The judge Patience Mills Tetteh said the suit was an 'afterthought" because the disgruntled NDC members had all the opportunity to challenge her candidature before the elections. She also described the suit a "waste of resources" because the party has internal mechanisms to address grievances. An option which the court believes was not maximised. The latest ruling clears the hurdle for a parliamentary contest in November with main rivals the NPP candidate, Nii Noi Nortey whose candidature is also being internally challenged.
"It would have been a travesty of justice" if the plaintifs had had their way in court, a jubilant NDC candidate told the media. Zanetor announced her second victory on facebook, saying 'nothing can stop forward march'.
An Accra High Court has dismissed a case brought by some members of the NDC in Klottey Korle constituency seeking to annul the results of the parliamentary primaries of the NDC in the area.
The three; Joseph Narku Botchway, Jacob Amin and Reverend Michael Kwabena Nii Adjei Sowah went to court to challenge the eligibility of the Parliamentary candidate, Zanetor Rawlings who they allege is not a registered voter.
According to the court, the plaintiff did not demonstrate in any way how their rights had been violated or will be violated.
The court also indicated in the ruling that the action of the plaintiffs were an abuse of the court.
The ruling of the court followed an application by Lawyers of Dr. Zanetor Rawlings praying the court to strike out the case brought by the disgruntled members.
The plaintiffs were praying the court to compel the EC to provide the following answers:
1. Whether or not Dr. Zanetor Agyemang Rawlings is a registered voter.
2. If so, when was the name entered on the National Biometric Voters’ Register.
3. The name of the Registration Officer.
4. The date of registration.
5. The time on which the name was entered on the roll as shown on the printout.
6. The registration centre name.
7. The registration code.
8. The constituency within which the registration took place.
9. The Voter’s Identify Card number of Dr. Zanetor Agyemang Rawlings.
10. Biometric fingerprint.
11. The type of identification document used in the registration process.
12. Copies of Form 1C that captured the data.
13. Copies of Voter Register Form 1A
14. Whether Dr. Zanetor Agyemang Rawlings’ name has been publicly exhibited on any provisional Voters’ Register.
15. If so, when?
16. Please furnish the Court with the said Voters’ Register.
17. If the registration was during the limited registration period in 2014, a copy of the voter registration identification guarantee form.
18. Copies of the registration team details Form 2A.
19. Please furnish the Court with the final Biometric Voters’ Register showing Dr. Zanetor Agyemang Rawlings’ name.
The price of tomatoes have increased in Ghanaian markets in the second week of January, 2016.
It increased by 4 percent. Currently a ‘medium size tomato tin’ is being sold at GHc11.68.
Another commodity which also increased is Yam (Pona) and is being sold in the market at GHc 4.50 “per medium size tuber.”
Cowpea, Groundnut and Soya beans also followed with a percentage point gain each to close the week at GHc 7.70, GHc 12.90 and GHc 5.60 per olonka respectively.
Meanwhile, checks by Esoko Ghana revealed that Cassava (fresh tubers) dropped by 2 percent to close the week at GHc 5.30 per “3-4 tubers”.
Cassava (Gari) and Rice (imported –unclesam) also dropped by a percentage point each to close the week at GHc 4.50 and GHc 28.90 per “olonka” and “1 small bag (5kg)” respectively.
The price for an “olonka” of maize on the various markets remained the same.
A “medium size tomato tin” full of fresh tomatoes gained 17 percent in Kumasi to close the week at GHS 8.90 with Techiman gaining 5 percent to close at GHS 7.00 and also with Takoradi gaining 9 percent to close the week at GHS 21.60 and in Accra it dropped by 3 percentage points to close the week at GHS 19.80.
In the other markets, the price remained the same.
Cocoa, one of a few bright spots in the commodities world in 2015, is having a bad start to this year.
The bean behind chocolate joined this week’s global market selloff as algorithmic traders jumped on a shift in the supply outlook, brokers say.
In 2015, cocoa was one of only two commodities tracked by S&P to trade higher, posting a 13% gain in London trading as dry conditions hit the harvest. This year cocoa is trading 4% lower after dropping as much as 7% earlier in the week, a decline first triggered by expectations of increased supply.
But the size of the moves has surprised brokers, who say buying and selling is being driven by the computerized traders that are increasingly dominating this market.
“There are a lot more system funds involved in cocoa than there ever have been before,” said Jonathan Parkman, head of agricultural brokerage at Marex Spectron. “There’s been a power shift.”
Algorithmic trading systems buy or sell based on sets of rules linked to price levels and the timing of market movements.
The rising ability of algorithmic trading to influence prices has affected other markets, including U.S. Treasurys, one of the most heavily traded markets in the world. That is leading to amplified swings that often don’t reflect economic fundamentals, particularly in smaller markets like cocoa, some analysts say.
It is unclear what percentage of trade in cocoa is coming from these systems, as data from the ICE exchange, which tracks market positions, doesn't distinguish between different kinds of investors.
Cocoa soared in 2015 as dry weather and production shortages in Ghana, where about 17% of the world’s cocoa is grown, crimped supply. In early December, cocoa prices hit £2,326 ($3,397) a metric ton, their highest since March 2001 when the world’s largest producer, Ivory Coast, was in the midst of a cocoa export ban and civil war.
Those gains came as other commodities were hit by a combination of oversupply and concern about weaker demand from China. The S&P GSCI Index, a measure of 27 commodities, lost 32.9% in 2015. Only cocoa and cotton ended the year in positive territory.
Cocoa’s big climb may have been helped by buying from the algorithmic traders who are now being blamed for the downdraft.
“There was a big speculative bet on cocoa prices [in 2015],” said Carlos Mera, a senior commodities analyst at Rabobank.
In late December, a pickup in cocoa shipments sent the cocoa price lower. Early this week, the downward drift became a rout, the size of which surprised analysts.
“If you really believed the fundamentals, [investors] should have just been selling a little every week,” said Max Goettler, a cocoa trader at Rotterdam-based Cocoanect.
Analysts are mixed on whether the market will continue to fall. Some point to what could be a larger crop from West Africa that will winnow down the current deficit. Other analysts say that potentially dry weather in Ghana could hit the crop.
Some traders say the early new year fall is bringing back buyers. On Friday, the market had recovered some of its losses, with the price of cocoa rising more than 2% by midafternoon in London.
Either way, market participants believe that cocoa will continue to see volatility as trade is exaggerated by the presence of algorithmic traders.
The circumstances under which the recent past General Secretary of the Ghana National Teachers Association (GNAT), Mrs Irene Duncan-Adanusa, bought a two-year-old Toyota Hilux pick-up belonging to the association for a ridiculously low price of GH¢7,000 has angered many teachers in the country.
Some of the teachers who spoke to Weekend Finder have raised serious concerns regarding how prudent their contributions are being managed by their executives.
Documents available to Weekend Finder indicate that the former head of the association offered to pay an amount of GH¢7000 for a two-year-old Toyota Hilux pick-up.
A letter dated March 5, 2013 and authored by then head of the association read: “I wish to purchase one of the used official vehicles - Toyota Hilux Reg No. [The registration number was not stated.]
“I am therefore making an offer of GH¢7,000 (Seven thousand cedis) for the vehicle.
“Hoping my offer will be favourably considered”.
These were contained in a report of a committee of enquiry into allegations of corruption and mismanagement in the association.
According to information gathered from GNAT, the vehicle in question was bought at a value of GH¢48,828.10 in 2013 for official use.
Incoming General Secretary of GNAT, Mr David Ofori Acheampong, who is expected to take office on February 1, 2016, explained that due to the rigorous use of official vehicles of the association, they are changed every five years.
“The truth of the matter is that the vehicles that we use in doing our jobs have a life span of five years. If we buy the vehicles fresh, because of the way we travel, so after five years we dispose it off and buy new vehicles for the safety of our personnel”, he said.
He explained that as of 2013 when the car was auctioned to the then General Secretary, it had a book value of GH¢29,000.
He explained further that official vehicles of the association depreciate at a 20% rate every year.
Initially, Mr David Ofori Acheampong said he would find it hard to believe that the vehicle in question could be sold for GH¢7,000 because all the cars that were auctioned in 2014 had a value of not less than GH¢10,000.
“I don’t believe that there are any records to show that that particular vehicle was sold for GH¢7,000. Because I know that even some of the old Land Cruisers sold at about GH¢15,000.
“I will be very, very surprised if it is so”, he added.
After cross-checking the facts from the Accounts Office, and satisfying himself that the information was true, he came back to tell this reporter that the vehicle in question might be an “exit package” for the former boss.
Weekend Finder’s checks indicate that the car in question was not part of the exit package for the former head.
In our subsequent stories, this paper will update readers on its findings on how teachers’ contributions have been used by officials of the association.
By Daniel NONOR, of thefinderonline.com