Machine that 'unboils' eggs may help fight cancer

A machine that can "unboil" protein-rich egg whites, winning an Ig Nobel Prize in 2015, may also have important medical applications, its inventor says.

Prof Colin Raston, a chemist from Flinders University in South Australia, has discovered that his Vortex Fluidic Device (VFD) can also slice tiny carbon nanotubes (CNTs) to uniform length with unprecedented precision.

Individual CNTs, which are just a few nanometres in diameter or about the width of a small virus, have incredible properties - they are 200 times stronger than steel yet five times more flexible, and conduct electricity five times more efficiently than copper wires.

But an inability to consistently create nanotubes with uniform lengths and properties has been one of several obstacles that has frustrated scientists' efforts to harness these materials, which can be used for highly targeted drug delivery in cancer therapy.

"When you make CNTs normally, they're entangled - it's like a bowl of spaghetti. They're all stuck together and they're different lengths," Prof Raston told the BBC.

Shortening them currently requires toxic chemicals, which can chemically alter the surface of the CNTs, changing their properties and limiting their functionality.

Prof Raston's VFD, which mixes fluids inside a rapidly spinning glass tube, could offer a cleaner, faster alternative for cutting CNTs down to size, also opening up applications for electronics.

"What our device does is untangle the carbon nanotubes and then slices them, so you overcome two problems in one go," he says.

Carbon nanotubes

Carbon nanotubes resemble a "bowl of spaghetti" when created and must be cut down to size

Using just water, a liquid solvent, and a laser, his team was able to consistently produce CNTs with an average length of 170 nanometres, without degrading their properties. The results were published in Nature's Scientific Reports.

"It's one of highest tensile strength materials, and yet you put it in a liquid, and you spin it in a special way and with a laser you can cut it down," he says.

Prof Raston says his sliced CNTs are small enough for drug-delivery vehicles, and could also improve the efficiency of solar cells.

Eureka moment

The idea for the VFD was conceived on a 15-hour flight from Los Angeles to Sydney in 2010. Prof Raston wanted a small machine to use for continuous flow processing, a type of manufacturing where chemical reactions take place between fluids mixing inside a tube.

"It was a eureka moment," recalls Prof Raston. "I came up with the idea for the device, and I drew the plans on the plane."

The VFD has what looks like a glass test tube, about 20mm in diameter, tilted at a 45 degree angle. This tube is spun at very high speeds, up to 9,000 revolutions per minute.

"While you're spinning it, you actually add liquid to the bottom of the tube through stainless steel jet feeds," explains Prof Raston. "The speed of the spinning tube coupled with the incoming flow creates intense, highly dynamic micro-mixing."

This mechanical energy means the machine can create bio-diesel without adding any heat, and can also unravel and correctly fold proteins, he says.

Prof Raston and his colleagues demonstrated protein unravelling by successfully unboiling an egg, reverting gelatinous whites back into liquid form. It was an achievement that in 2015 earned the research team an Ig Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

The tongue-in-cheek Ig Nobels honour scientific research that seems unusual or funny at first glance but on closer inspection has merit.

That same protein-folding mechanical energy is what enables the device to manipulate CNTs: "Because of the complex way the liquid moves it has intense shear [force], and therefore it bends the nanotube," says Prof Raston.

This creates a kink in the structure - with the nanotube bent, his team added vibrational energy, using a near-infrared laser to slice through the weakened kink where the tube was folded.

Like a washing machine

Assoc Prof John Stride from the University of New South Wales in Sydney is an expert in carbon nanostructures, and says "if the researchers can reliably slice the CNTs 'to order' then this is a real advance".

"Anything that allows us to control and manipulate these nano-objects will be of use in developing applications," he says.

"The beauty of the approach is the relative low-tech aspect of it essentially being a spinning column of liquid that does the initial work… with a near-infrared laser providing the energy to cut the tubes.

"It's almost like laundry in the washing machine being spun out… it's very simple to picture what's happening, but of course that's occurring on the molecular scale, which is really quite intriguing."

Prof Stride also says that, if they're proven to be inert, shortened CNTs may provide an "effective mechanism for drug delivery to the inner cell region".

"It's a nice finding. I don't think it will completely revolutionise carbon nanotube research, but it's a significant advance in the field."

Source: bbc.com

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US Election 2016: Donald Trump names foreign policy advisers

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has revealed the first members of his foreign policy team.

The advisers include academics and former military officers with expertise on the Middle East and energy issues.

Mr Trump told the Washington Post that he would name more advisers in the coming days.

Several of his advisers have served as experts for other Republican presidential candidates such as Mitt Romney and Ben Carson.

On Monday, Mr Trump named retired Lt Gen Keith Kellogg, Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, Walid Phares and retired Gen Joseph Schmitz.

The team is led by Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama who has helped shape Mr Trump's policies, most notably on immigration.

Mr Trump has come under criticism in recent days over his policy credentials. When cable news network MSNBC asked him who was advising him on policy, Mr Trump named himself.


Analysis: Anthony Zurcher, BBC North America reporter

Donald Trump recently boasted he was his own top adviser on foreign policy matters, noting that he had a "good instinct for this stuff".

After more than a month of hints and promises, however, the Republican presidential front-runner has announced who else has his ear on international affairs.

The names are hardly a who's who in the Republican foreign policy firmament - which could be good or bad news depending on one's perspective.

Mr Trump's positions on trade deals and military intervention put him decidedly outside the Republican Party establishment, and this list of advisers will do little to change that perception.

If Republicans hoped they could bend Mr Trump to party orthodoxy, this may be their latest Trump-related miscalculation.


While some of his team are not well known in Republican academic circles, others are seen as controversial figures.

Gen Joseph Schmitz resigned from the military in 2005 amid accusations of misconduct. However, Mr Schmitz was never charged with wrongdoing.

Another adviser, Walid Phares, was criticised when he was named as part of Mr Romney's foreign policy team in 2011.

Muslim advocacy groups took issue with Mr Phares's close ties to right-wing Christian militia groups during the Lebanese civil war.

He is an outspoken critic of Sharia, or Islamic religious law, and has appeared on Fox News and other conservative media outlets as an expert on the Middle East.


More on the US presidential race

Jorge Ramos on Donald Trump's rise - Meet the Republican front-runner's nemesis

Who is funding the US election? - Money is a big issue in the 2016 US presidential race

Could Hillary Clinton face jail time? - The case of David Petraeus may signal how she will fare


George Papadopoulos recently served as an adviser to Mr Carson, who dropped out of the race in February. Mr Papadopoulos has worked as a consultant for energy companies in the Middle East.

Also on Monday, Mr Trump told the BBC's Gary O'Donoghue that he believes the UK may leave the European Union when a referendum is held in June.

"I think they may leave it based on everything," Mr Trump said. "I have a lot of investments in the UK, and I will tell you I think they may leave based on everything I'm hearing."

He also said the US should spend less money on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato).

"We are paying disproportionately," he told CNN. "It's too much and frankly it's a different world than it was when we originally conceived of the idea."


More on the advisers:

Retired Lt Gen Keith Kellogg

  • Served under Coalition Provisional Authority leader Paul Bremer during the Iraq war
  • Vice-president at defence contractor CACI International

Carter Page

  • Long time energy industry executive
  • Expert on the Caspian Sea region and economic development in former Soviet states

George Papadopoulos

  • Director of the London-based Center for International Energy and Natural Resources Law & Security
  • Research fellow at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank

Walid Phares

  • Professor at National Defense University
  • Adviser to members of Congress

Retired Gen Joseph Schmitz

  • Former inspector general at the Defense Department
  • Former executive at defence contractor Blackwater

Source: bbc.com

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FBI 'may be able to unlock San Bernardino iPhone'

The FBI says it may have found a way to unlock the San Bernardino attacker's iPhone without Apple's assistance.

A court hearing with Apple scheduled for tomorrow has been postponed at the request of the US Justice Department (DOJ), Apple has confirmed.

The DOJ had ordered Apple to help unlock the phone used by San Bernardino gunman Rizwan Farook.

But Apple has continued to fight the order, saying it would set a "dangerous precedent".

Rizwan Farook and his wife killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California, last December before police fatally shot them.

UN human rights chief backs Apple

Apple boss hits back at FBI conduct

McAfee offers to unlock iPhone for FBI

Analysis: Dave Lee, BBC North America technology reporter

Ever since this issue arose, security experts have been saying "surely the FBI can do this themselves?" Well, maybe now they can.

An "outside party" - you'd assume a security company, but we don't know for sure - has approached the FBI and said it could unlock the phone.

If they can do it, the court case is irrelevant. The FBI gets what they need. But if it doesn't work, we'll find ourselves back here to resume the trial.

Apple's legal team told reporters it wasn't treating it as a legal victory. The issue still looms large over the company. If the FBI has found a way, who's to say it'll always work? Apple will, as any software maker would, frantically try and fix the flaw. After all - if the FBI can do it, so can any other hacker privy to the same information.

If this method works, then what? With each new iteration of iOS, Apple could find itself back in court.

The technology industry, led by Apple, has called for the matter to be debated in Congress. This case may be on the brink of going away, but the debate is just starting.

Prosecutors said "an outside party" had demonstrated a possible way of unlocking the iPhone without the need to seek Apple's help.

"Testing is required to determine whether it is a viable method that will not compromise data on Farook's iPhone," a court filing said.

"If the method is viable, it should eliminate the need for the assistance from Apple."

DOJ spokeswoman Melanie Newman said in a statement that the government was "cautiously optimistic" that the possible method to unlock the phone would work.

The government said it would update the court on 5 April.

Attorneys for Apple told reporters that the firm had no idea what method the FBI was exploring to try to unlock the phone.

They said they hoped that the government would share with Apple any vulnerabilities of the iPhone that might come to light.

The FBI says Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik were inspired by so-called Islamic State and that the encrypted iPhone may contain crucial evidence.

It wants to access the data but the device can only be unlocked by entering the correct passcode.

Guessing the code incorrectly too many times could permanently delete all data on the phone, so the FBI had asked Apple to develop a new version of its operating system that circumvents some of its security features.

Last month the DOJ obtained a court order directing Apple to create that software,

But Apple has fought back, stating that creating a compromised version of the operating system would have security implications for millions of iPhone users and would set a precedent.

The company has received support from other tech giants including, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook, as it resisted a court order to unlock the iPhone.

Source: bbc.com

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Cuba visit: Obama and Castro spar over human rights

Cuban President Raul Castro and US President Barack Obama sparred over human rights issues including the American prison at Guantanamo Bay and Cuba's political prisoners.

At a historic news conference, Mr Castro said if he was given a list of political prisoners, he would "release them tonight".

The White House has said it has given Cuba lists of dissidents in the past.

Mr Castro does not view the prisoners as dissidents, US officials said.

That disagreement is central to the conflict between US and Cuban officials.

More needs to be done to lift the US embargo on trade with Cuba, Mr Castro said, adding that the Guantanamo Bay detention camp must close.

Mr Obama, the first serving US president to visit Cuba since 1959, said the trade embargo would be fully lifted.

"Cuba's destiny will not be decided by the United States or any other nation... The future of Cuba will be decided by Cubans not by anybody else," Mr Obama said.

Mr Obama and first lady Michelle Obama were later welcomed at a state dinner, along with some members of US Congress and senior White House staff.

The Failde Youth Band entertained the guests, who dined on shrimp mousse, cream soup flavoured with rum, and traditional pork with rice and plantain chips. Waiters passed round Cuban cigars after dinner.

Earlier on Monday, Mr Castro defended Cuba's record on human rights and pointed to problems in the US.

"We defend human rights, in our view civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights are indivisible, inter-dependent and universal," Mr Castro said.

Mr Castro is not usually subject to any aggressive questioning from reporters and called the prisoners question "not polite", later ending the news conference by saying "I think this is enough".

"Actually we find it inconceivable that a government does not defend and ensure the right to healthcare, education, social security, food provision and development," he said.

Speaking to ABC News after the conference with Mr Castro, Mr Obama did not directly say he would be giving Mr Castro a list of political prisoners.

"We have given them a lists in the past and they have responded intermittently to our engagement," he said. "And this I think is an example of why it was my belief that this would be a more successful mechanism for us to advance the values that we care about than an embargo and silence and no communications."


Analysis: Tara McKelvey, BBC White House Reporter

President Obama and his aides hoped that the Cuban President, Raul Castro, would approach the news conference with an open mind.

The White House officials also hoped that Mr Castro would be receptive to new ideas and to new ways of doing things. Specifically, the US officials hoped that he'd take questions from reporters. Surprisingly enough, he did, marking a departure from his past.

The two men joked around during the question-and-answer period, and they worked out some of their differences. When one of Mr Castro's aides interrupted his boss during the conference, for example, Mr Obama looked annoyed. But he and Mr Castro moved on, talking about the future of Cuba.

In a similar way, Mr Obama and his aides hope they can overcome other issues, including difficult ones such as human rights, as they forge a new relationship between the two countries.


Mr Obama could not say exactly when the trade embargo would be lifted, but recognised it was necessary.

"The reason is what we did for 50 years did not serve our interests or the interests of the Cuban people," he said.

His administration has done what it can on lifting trade restrictions, he said, but further action will require Congress which is "not as productive in an election year".

He also said further easing of the trade embargo will depend on actions Cuba takes on human rights.


More on Mr Obama's visit to Cuba

Mr Castro and Mr Obama were congenial but had some disagreements about human rights

Mr Castro and Mr Obama were congenial but had some disagreements about human rights

Six sticking points to better relations - Guantanamo Bay, human rights and media freedoms are among the unresolved issues

Cuba's DIY economy - A new generation of Cuban entrepreneurs are launching private businesses

Internet access still restricted in Cuba - Only about 5% of Cubans have web access at home


Mr Obama said it is not just Cuba that the US has "deep disagreements" about human rights with - it also has disagreements with China and Vietnam.

"I believe if I engage frankly, clearly, stating our beliefs but I can't force change on any country - it ultimately has to come from within - that is a more useful strategy," he said. "I have faith in people".

Reporters described the press conference as "tense" and "remarkable".

Karla Olivares, an independent journalist from Cuba, told the BBC's Tara McKelvey Mr Castro "talked more than usual" and the claim that Cuba does not have any political prisoners "complicated".

Before the speech, it was announced that Google was opening an online technology centre for free Internet access at much higher speeds than what is available on the island now.

Google hopes the centre will be part of a larger effort to improve Internet access in Cuba.

Source: bbc.com

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Russia plane crash: Dozens killed in Rostov-on-Don

A passenger jet has crashed in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don killing all 55 passengers and six crew on board, officials say.

The FlyDubai Boeing 737-800, coming from Dubai, missed the runway as it attempted to land at 03:50 local time (00:50 GMT) on Saturday.

It is not clear what caused the crash but poor visibility and high winds are being considered as a factor.

There were reports of a fire or an explosion on board.

Most of the passengers on board flight FZ981 were Russian, the regional governor said on television.

Another official said three foreigners were on the passenger list, Reuters reported, but this has not been confirmed.

About 700 rescue workers are at the site of the crash and the fire has been extinguished, media reports say.

Other flights have been diverted away from the airport.

A CCTV video showed what appeared to be a plane landing at the airport before being engulfed in a huge fire. Its authenticity has not been verified.

In a statement on its Facebook page, the airliner confirmed the "tragic accident" and said an emergency response has been put in place.

Boeing said on Twitter its team was working to gather more details.

FlyDubai, a low cost carrier launched in 2009 with a hub in Dubai, operates flights to some 90 destinations.

Source: bbc.com

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Migrant crisis: EU agrees joint position to put to Turkey

EU leaders have agreed a joint position to put to Turkey in an attempt to reach a deal over the migrant crisis, Luxembourg's prime minster says.

Xavier Bettel said the common EU position would be put to Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu on Friday morning.

The proposed deal would see all migrants travelling to Greece from Turkey sent back.

In return it is thought the EU might offer Turkey financial aid and visa-free access to Schengen countries.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Turkey had to meet international standards of protection for all migrants, Reuters reports.

She said that legal resettlement of Syrian refugees from Turkey to the EU under the deal could start a few days after the first returns from Greece.

However, she added that the EU needed to be ready to start returning migrants from Greece to Turkey rapidly to avoid a "pull factor" creating a surge of migrants before the new system takes effect.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite has warned that the plan to return people to Turkey is "on the edge of international law" and difficult to implement.

Mr Davutoglu has said he will not accept Turkey becoming an "open prison" for migrants.

To meet concerns over the plan's legality, the leaders discussed providing assurances that each person claiming asylum will be given a full hearing in Greece, the BBC's Damian Grammaticas reports from Brussels.

French President Francois Hollande warned that "I cannot guarantee that there will be a happy outcome" to the search for a solution.

Since January 2015, a million migrants and refugees have entered the EU by boat from Turkey to Greece. More than 132,000 have arrived this year alone.

Tens of thousands are now stuck in Greece as their route north has been blocked.

Map

Under initial proposals, for each Syrian migrant returned to Turkey, a different Syrian would be resettled in the EU directly from the country.

In return, the EU had suggested it would double financial aid to Turkey promised last year, make a fresh push on talks over Turkey's eventual membership of the EU and offer visa-free travel to Europe's Schengen states.

However, those proposals have since been watered down, lowering expectation on greater financial help and talks on EU membership and linking visa-free travel to 72 conditions to which Turkey must agree.

A number of EU countries have raised concerns about what is on offer to Turkey amid a clampdown by the Ankara government on academics and journalists.


A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.

Source: bbc.com

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Migrant crisis: 'Many issues' in way of EU-Turkey deal

EU leaders are to meet to finalise a deal with Turkey to help ease the migrant crisis.

European Council President Donald Tusk admits a "catalogue of issues" in the way of an agreement remains unresolved.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is due to join the summit on Friday.

The proposed plan would see all migrants arriving in Greece from Turkey sent back. For each Syrian returned, a Syrian in Turkey would be resettled in the EU.

Hundreds of thousands of migrants have travelled through Macedonia over the past year, heading north, the vast majority of them arriving after making the dangerous sea crossing from Turkey.

No 'cast-iron' incentives

At a meeting last week where the plan was initially proposed, EU leaders said that in return for action on the migrant crisis, visa-free travel to Europe for Turkish citizens would be available from June.

They also promised to speed up financial aid promised last year and to make a fresh push on talks over Turkey's eventual membership of the EU.

However, in the latest draft of the deal the incentives being offered to the Turkish government appear to be far less cast-iron than Ankara would like, the BBC's Chris Morris reports from Brussels.

There is no guarantee that Turkey's EU membership bid will be speeded up - only a commitment to prepare for further negotiations as soon as possible.

Secondly, visa-free travel to the Schengen area for Turkish citizens by the end of June will depend on Turkey complying with all 72 conditions that the EU has set out.

Finally, there's no certainty that financial aid for Syrian refugees in Turkey will be doubled to €6bn - only a promise to consider it, if the first tranche of money produces positive results.

In addition to these points of potential disagreement, there is continuing criticism of the legal basis for the idea of returning all irregular migrants from Greece to Turkey, our correspondent adds.

The Spanish foreign minister has said Spain will oppose the "blanket return" of refugees to Turkey.

Despite the obstacles, the head of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker said ahead of the summit that he was "cautiously optimistic" a deal could be reached.

Map

Meanwhile UK Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to warn the summit of a possibility of a fresh wave of migrants coming to Europe from Libya this summer.

Although recent attention has been focused on migrants arriving in Greece, the sea route to Italy from Libya has also been a key route for migrants including refugees fleeing conflicts and oppression in Syria, Eritrea and other countries.

Libya has suffered from chronic instability and lawlessness since forces backed by Nato countries including the UK and France overthrew long-serving ruler Col Muammar Gaddafi in October 2011.

Last week, US President Barack Obama suggested Mr Cameron had become "distracted" in the aftermath of the intervention. "I had more faith in the Europeans, given Libya's proximity, being invested in the follow-up," he said.

A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.

Source: bbc.com

 

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Letter from Africa: Ghana opens doors to other Africans

In our series of letters from African journalists, Ghanaian writer Elizabeth Ohene reflects on Ghana's decision to remove visa requirements for citizens of all African countries.

After President John Dramani Mahama delivered his State of the Nation address two weeks ago, most of the discussions were on local and internal affairs, and this being an election year in the country, the debates were heated and will continue for a long time.

But hidden somewhere in the speech and lost in all the discussion was a major foreign affairs initiative which slipped by without media reporting or analysis and it seems likely people may have missed this completely.

Ghana's new visa-on-arrival policy for citizens of African Unity member states, to be introduced from July, only came to light after an announcement from the African Union.

Nationals from African countries complain loudly about the humiliations they go through to get visas for Europe and the United States but the process for African visas is often just as frustrating.

Anyone who has tried to cross borders on the African continent will have experienced the difficulties with travelling in Africa.

Air fares cost more than anywhere else and few roads or railways connect the countries to each other.

The immigration and police check points turn the journeys into veritable obstacle courses.

Displaced people who fled the anti-immigrant violence are seen in a camp on April 19, 2015 in the village of Primrose, 15 kms east of Johannesburg

South Africa is one country where other Africans do not always receive a warm welcome

We no longer have to go through Europe to fly to each other's countries, but flight connections are so few and so random, you are tempted to resort to the old routes through Europe to go to the country next door.

However, this is nothing compared to the hassle one has to go through to get visas for another African country.

Business people trading in the continent felt frustrated in the past at spending weeks trying to get visas for each country.

They pointed out that once armed with a European Schengen visa, they could travel through many European countries and conduct business without hassle.

Pointless bureaucracies

Unsurprisingly Ecowas, the West African regional body established in 1975 was at the time considered an attractive union due to the introduction of visa-free travel among member states.

Continental organizations like the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), formed to foster cooperation between African states and its successor the African Union (AU), launched in 2002, have few passionate supporters these days in Ghana as they are seen as pointless bureaucracies that have no bearing on the lives of people.

President Mahama's policy could boost AU's significance once again.

African unity was taken very seriously here in Ghana. It was our first President, Kwame Nkrumah, who was the driving force behind the establishment of the OAU back in 1963.

During the struggle for independence, Ghana provided a place of refuge for many freedom fighters, especially from South Africa with many being given Ghanaian passports.

As countries gained independence, Ghanaians were dismayed to discover they were not particularly welcome in these countries.

In the early years of Ghana's independence, and before the establishment of Ecowas, there were visa exemptions for "persons of African descent" born in the neighbouring west African countries, and members of the Casablanca group, which consisted of Guinea, Tunisia, Mali, United Arab Republic, Morocco and Algeria.

But these arrangements were scrapped after the overthrow of President Nkrumah.

With the new visa policy, Ghanaians will be watching to see if the number of non-Ecowas African nationals coming to Ghana will rise.

We in Ghana have a reputation for restless feet and are always trying to find new destinations to get to.

Obtaining visas for travel is often the greatest obstacle to travel and any country that makes it easier for us to enter becomes very attractive.

Whilst many here will be feeling that Ghana is taking a lead in implementing an AU directive, there will be greater interest in knowing how many other African countries will be allowing Ghanaians to enter their countries on a visa-on arrival policy.

Source: bbc.com

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Google car crash 'not a surprise' - US transport secretary

The recent crash involving a Google self-driving car and a bus was "not a surprise", the US transport secretary has said.

Anthony Foxx told the BBC that accidents were inevitable, but that the emerging technology should not be compared "against perfection".

Nobody was hurt in the crash, but it was the first time Google's on-board computer has been blamed for causing a collision.

Secretary Foxx was attending the South by Southwest Interactive festival in Austin, Texas.

He announced that seven US cities - Austin, Columbus, Denver, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Portland and San Francisco - had reached the final stage of a competition to receive $40m in government funding for "smart" technologies.

Secretary Foxx agreed that smart technologies could put some people out of work.

"Driverless technology presents a lot of potential for disruption on a number of fronts," he said.

"It's unclear to me now exactly how that future unfolds."

Relative comparisons

Secretary Foxx is leading efforts to bring self-driving cars to US roads. The Obama administration has committed $4bn to that goal - which includes attempts to develop standardised regulations for autonomous cars across the entire country.

On the public perception of self-driving cars following the February Google crash, he said: "It's not a surprise that at some point there would be a crash of any technology that's on the road.

"But I would challenge one to look at the number of crashes that occurred on the same day that were the result of human behaviour."

"I think the question here isn't comparing the automated car against perfection, I think it's a relative comparison to what we have now on the roads which is you and I, and our eyeballs, and our brains."

One challenge would be to tackle the legal issue of responsibility when crashes occur - and whether the passenger should be liable, or, given that the computer was driving, the companies behind the software that failed.

"That's precisely the type of question that we're hoping over the next several months to provide feedback to both the states and the industry on."

Source: bbc.com

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Syria conflict: Damascus under pressure ahead of peace talks

Western powers have condemned efforts by the Syrian government to set limits to the agenda of fresh peace talks starting on Monday.

Syria's Foreign Minister Walid Muallem on Saturday ruled out any discussion of presidential elections.

US Secretary of State John Kerry responded by accusing Damascus of "trying to disrupt the process".

The UN-led talks represent the first serious diplomatic intervention since Russia began air strikes in September.

At the Geneva talks, diplomats are hoping to build on the fragile and partial truce, which has reduced the level of violence in Syria since it came into effect at the end of February, notes the BBC's Bethany Bell.

But expectations for the talks are low, she adds.

Mr Kerry met foreign ministers from France, Germany and the UK in advance on Sunday.

A cessation of hostilities agreed by most participants in the conflict began late last month. It excludes so-called Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda's branch in Syria.

The purpose of the partial and temporary truce was to enable the warring sides and their foreign backers to launch a fresh attempt to end the five-year conflict.


More on this story

The story of the conflict

What is a cessation of hostilities?

How Putin is succeeding in Syria


But the latest diplomatic row began when Mr Muallem said that any talk of a new presidential election was off the agenda. "This is an exclusive right of the Syrian people,'' he said.

The main Syrian opposition umbrella group, the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), said the pre-conditions could halt the talks before they had even started.

On Sunday Mr Kerry said Mr Muallem was "clearly trying to disrupt the process", adding that Syria's allies, Russia and Iran, had made clear "there must be a political transition and that we must have a presidential election at some time".

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Syria's "provocations" were a "bad sign and did not reflect the spirit of the ceasefire".

On Sunday the HNC said it would push for an interim government in which President Bashar al-Assad and the current leadership would have no role.

The indirect talks in Geneva are mediated by the United Nations. UN special envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura has said he wants presidential elections to be held in the next 18 months.

The fate of President Assad has been one of the main stumbling blocks in previous talks. The last round collapsed in February without agreement.

More than 250,000 Syrians have been killed and about 11 million people have been forced from their homes in five years of Syria's civil war, which began with an uprising against Mr Assad.

Government forces, supported by Russian air strikes, have made gains against rebel fighters in recent months.

 

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Ivory Coast: 16 dead in Grand Bassam beach resort attack

Al-Qaeda-linked militants have killed at least 16 people in a gun attack on a beach resort in southern Ivory Coast.

The attackers fired on beach-goers in Grand Bassam, about 40km (25 miles) from the commercial capital Abidjan.

The resort is popular with both locals and foreigners. Four of the dead were Westerners, including a French and a German national, officials say.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has claimed the attack. The gunmen have been "neutralised", officials say.

Ivory Coast was once one of the most stable countries in West Africa.

However, a civil war broke out in 2002, pitting the mainly Muslim north against the largely Christian south. Since then, peace deals have alternated with renewed violence.


Analysis: Tomi Oladipo, BBC Africa security correspondent

The attack confirms the fears of the Ivorian government, which has attempted to beef up security, particularly in its northern border regions, to keep Islamist militants out.

Grand Bassam is all the way to the south on the Atlantic coast, though. That shows that the militants have not just crossed the border but they might have even have a greater presence in the country. It furthers prove the capacity of jihadists to blend into the public and strike soft targets.

This threat is spreading across West Africa. To halt it, regional governments would need to step up their act in policing, as well as gathering and acting on intelligence individually and collectively.

France, too, is likely to boost its military campaign to protect its vast and entrenched interests in its former colonies.


A witness to Sunday's attack told AFP news agency that "heavily armed men wearing balaclavas" had opened fire near the L'Etoile du Sud hotel, which was full of expats.

Fourteen of those killed were civilians and two were soldiers, officials say. Interior Minister Hamed Bakayoko four of the civilians were Westerners, and included a French and a German national.

There is no word on the nationalities of the other victims. French President Francois Hollande condemned the "cowardly attack".

BBC regional reporter Maud Jullien says Ivory Coast has been identified as one of several countries in West Africa at risk of being targeted by Islamist militants.

AQIM claimed deadly attacks on luxury hotels in Mali in November and Burkina Faso in January.

The group, which has its origin in Algeria's civil war of the 1990s, has expanded across the Sahel regions south of the Sahara in recent years.

Source: bbc.com

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Ankara bombing: President Erdogan vows to bring terror 'to its knees'

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to bring terrorism "to its knees" after an attack in the capital Ankara that killed at least 34 people.

Mr Erdogan said the suicide car bomb would serve only to strengthen the resolve of Turkey's security forces.

The explosion, in Guven Park in the Kizilay district, a key transport hub, wounded at least 125 people.

Interior Minister Efkan Ala said an investigation would conclude on Monday and those responsible would be named.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but government sources are casting suspicion on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The Kurdish rebels have carried out a series of attacks on Turkish soil in recent months. The so-called Islamic State group has also targeted Ankara recently.

Mr Erdogan said in a statement that terror groups were targeting civilians because they were losing the battle against Turkish security forces.

Calling for national unity, he said Turkey would use its right to self-defence to prevent future attacks.

"Our people should not worry, the struggle against terrorism will for certain end in success and terrorism will be brought to its knees," he said.

According to Turkey's state-run news agency, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has postponed a visit to Jordan following the bombing.

The United States condemned the attack. US State Department spokesman John Kirby said: "We reaffirm our strong partnership with our Nato ally Turkey in combating the shared threat of terrorism."

Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also condemned the attack, saying there was "no justification of such heinous acts of violence".

Turkey's pro-Kurdish political party issued a statement condemning the attack. The Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) said it shares "the huge pain felt along with our citizens".

The HDP is frequently accused of being the political wing of the PKK, an accusation it denies, and of not speaking out against PKK violence.

The blast happened at about 18:40 (16:40 GMT) on Sunday and the area was evacuated in case of a second attack.

Turkish Health Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu told a news conference that 30 people were killed at the scene and four died later in hospital. Two of the dead are believed to be the attackers.

Mr Muezzinoglu said 125 people were being treated at several hospitals in Ankara, of whom 19 are in a critical condition.

Last month, a bomb attack on a military convoy in Ankara killed 28 people and wounded dozens more.

That bombing was claimed by a Kurdish militant group, the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK). It said on its website that the attack was in retaliation for the policies of President Erdogan.

Turkey, however, blamed a Syrian national who was a member of another Kurdish group.

Last October, more than 100 people were killed in a double-suicide bombing at a Kurdish peace rally in Ankara.

The BBC's Mark Lowen in Istanbul said three attacks in the Turkish capital in less than six months show the multiple security threats that Turkey now faces.

The country that was the stable corner of the Middle East and the West's crucial ally in a volatile region is now at a dangerous moment, he said.

Source: bbc.com

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Migrant crisis: Leaders gather for Turkey-EU summit

Turkish and EU leaders have gathered in Brussels for an emergency summit on tackling Europe's worst refugee crisis since World War Two.

The EU has pledged €3bn (£2.3bn; $3.3bn) to Turkey in return for housing migrants and stemming the flow.

Last year, more than a million entered the EU illegally by boat, travelling mainly from Turkey to Greece.

Some 13,000 are stranded on Greece's border with Macedonia as European states seek to restrict entry.

Nato is expanding its naval mission against people-smuggling in the Aegean Sea to cover Turkish and Greek territorial waters, and will also increase its co-operation with the EU's border agency Frontex in the region.

The UK has announced that the amphibious landing ship RFA Mounts Bay will join naval vessels from Germany, Canada, Turkey and Greece in the area.

Migrants, many of them fleeing war zones in Syria and Iraq, continue to make the hazardous sea journey from Turkey to Greece's outer islands.

The human cost of the crisis was brought home again on Sunday when a boat capsized off Turkey with the loss of 25 lives.

EU states are divided over their response to the crisis with strains showing this year even in Germany and Sweden, seen as the countries most open to refugees.

Anti-migrant parties won a general election in Slovakia on Saturday which saw the far right gaining seats.

Turkish promise

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte met their Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu, at the Turkish embassy in Brussels late on Sunday to prepare for the summit.

The 28 EU states are expected to ask Turkey to take back thousands of migrants who do not qualify for asylum.

Last week, European Council President Donald Tusk said he had been told by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that his country was ready to take back all migrants apprehended in Turkish waters.

A draft summit statement seen by the Associated Press news agency pledges to "stand by Greece in this difficult moment and will do its utmost to help manage the situation''.

"This is a collective EU responsibility requiring fast and efficient mobilisation," it adds.

More than 2,000 migrants continue to arrive daily in Greece from Turkey, hoping to reach the richer EU states to the north.

But Macedonia, which aspires to EU membership, is blocking them on its border, now fenced off with razor wire and watchtowers.

A ramshackle tent camp that has grown up around the Idomeni frontier crossing has become the focus of the crisis.

On Sunday, reports from the area said Macedonia had stopped allowing entry to anyone from areas in Iraq and Syria it did not consider to be active conflict zones.

Many migrants in the camp rely on food distributed by volunteers and items like firewood are scarce.

"We have been here five days, or six - who remembers the days anymore?" asked Narjes al Shalaby, 27, from the Syrian capital Damascus, in conversation with AP.

She is travelling with her mother and two daughters, Maria, five, and Bara'a, 10. Her husband and third daughter are already in Germany.

"All we do here is sleep, wake up, sleep," she said. "We get hungry, we wait in the queue for two hours for a sandwich, we come back, we sleep some more."

Migrants scuffle over firewood near Greece's Idomeni border crossing with Macedonia, 6 March

As many as 13,000 migrants are camped near Greece's border with Macedonia, many of them in tents. These men were collecting firewood

Source: bbc.com

 

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Nancy Reagan death: President Obama leads tributes

US President Barack Obama has led tributes to former First Lady Nancy Reagan, who has died at the age of 94.

Mr Obama and his wife Michelle said they were "fortunate to benefit" from Mrs Reagan's "proud example".

Mrs Reagan, who died of congestive heart failure in Los Angeles on Sunday, was also praised by other senior US politicians and foreign leaders.

Her 52-year marriage to Ronald Reagan was once described as the US presidency's greatest love affair.

From 1981-89 she was one of the most influential first ladies in US history; initially criticised for an expensive renovation of the White House, but later becoming a much-loved figure.

Nancy Reagan: Her husband's greatest supporter

Praise for 'devoted' First Lady

'Gracious first lady'

In a statement, the Obama family said: "Nancy Reagan once wrote that nothing could prepare you for living in the White House. She was right, of course.

"But we had a head start, because we were fortunate to benefit from her proud example, and her warm and generous advice. Our former first lady redefined the role in her time here."

Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romneytweeted that "with the passing of Nancy Reagan, God and Ronnie have finally welcomed a choice soul home".

Former President George W Bush said: "Mrs Reagan was fiercely loyal to her beloved husband and that devotion was matched only by her devotion to our country. Her influence on the White House was complete and lasting."

Meanwhile, former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is a Democratic presidential hopeful, said: "Nancy was an extraordinary woman: a gracious first lady, proud mother and devoted wife to President Reagan - her Ronnie."

Stepson Michael Reagantweeted: "I am saddened by the passing of my stepmother Nancy Reagan... She is once again with the man she loved. God bless..."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "I remember Nancy as a noble woman who supported President Reagan and stood by his side. She will be remembered as a great friend of the state of Israel."

Anti-drugs campaigner

Mrs Reagan will be buried next to her husband, at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, the library said in a statement.

Like her husband, Mrs Reagan was a former Hollywood performer who made it all the way to the White House.

As Nancy Davis, she was an actress during the 1940s and 1950s and married Mr Reagan, a prominent film actor, in 1952.

She served as first lady of California during her husband's stint as California governor from 1967 to 1975 before moving into the White House after his decisive victory over Democratic President Jimmy Carter in 1980.

As first lady, she sought to emulate the style of one of her predecessors, Jackie Kennedy.

To this end, she extensively redecorated the White House, and accepted designer dresses worth $1m (£600,000) and a 4,732-piece set of china worth $209,000.

But this spending spree provoked a huge outcry from people outraged by what they saw as profligacy and waste while millions of Americans were losing their jobs.

Public opinion was also swayed by accusations that Mrs Reagan had a frosty personality, often consulted astrologers, and ordered the dismissal of White House chief of staff Donald Regan in 1987.

"I see the first lady as another means to keep a president from becoming isolated," she once said.

Mrs Reagan's best-known project as first lady was the anti-drugs "Just Say No" campaign.

After her husband died of Alzheimer's in 2004, she became a champion for Alzheimer's patients, raising millions of dollars for research and breaking with fellow conservative Republicans to argue for stem cell studies.

Source: bbc.com

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Fla. woman won't face charges after drownings in filthy pool

Prosecutors say a central Florida woman won't face criminal charges in the drowning deaths of her daughter and grandson.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal reports that a State Attorney's Office memorandum released Thursday says there is "insufficient evidence" that Martha Jenkins exhibited a "gross and/or flagrant violation" while caring for the 2-year-old girl and 1-year-old boy.

Sheriff's investigators say Ashton Jenkins and Shana Cavanaugh died July 30 after slipping out of a sliding glass door and falling into a filthy backyard pool. Investigators had recommended two counts of aggravated manslaughter of a child after interviewing Jenkins' relatives and seeing their poor living conditions.

Officials say 33-year-old Jenkins, of Holly Hill, near Daytona Beach, was sleeping when the children left the house. Jenkins' mother told officials the door was left slightly open so cats could come and go.

Source: foxnews.com

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Major donor calls for ouster of Wounded Warrior Project executive

A major donor to the Wounded Warrior Project veterans’ charity called Thursday for the nonprofit’s CEO to resign in light of allegations of lavish spending on staff meetings, according to a CBS News report.

Fred and Dianne Kane, the parents of two Iraq War veterans, have donated $325,000 to the Wounded Warrior Project since 2009 through their personal charity, Tee-off for a Cause.

Slightly more than half of the Kanes' donations directly benefitted veterans, according to CBS News.

But after recent tax forms reflected questionable spending by the veterans’ charity on staff expenditures, including $26 million on conferences and meetings at luxury hotels in 2014 alone, Fred Kane called for CEO Steven Nardizzi to be fired.The expenditure on conferences and travel was up from just $1.7 million in 2010, according to reports.

“Hearing that there was this waste of money, donor dollars that should have been going to servicemen and women that were injured, and that it was spent on [Wounded Warrior Project staff] having a good time—it’s a real disappointment,” Dianne Kane told CBS News.

The Kanes also initiated an online petition calling for a public audit of the Wounded Warrior Project in addition to canceling the next golf tournament Tee-off for a Cause was to hold to benefit the Project.

In January, Charity Navigator, a group that oversees nonprofit organizations, placed Wounded Warrior Project on its watch list, Fox News reported, citing a separate CBS report.

Army Staff Sergeant Erick Millette, who returned from Iraq in 2006 with a bronze star and a purple heart, told CBS News at the time that he admired the charity’s work and took a job with the group in 2014 but quit after two years.

"Their mission is to honor and empower wounded warriors, but what the public doesn't see is how they spend their money," he said.

Millette said he witnessed lavish spending on staff, with big “catered” parties.

Also in the previous interview, two former employees, who were so fearful of retaliation they asked that CBS News not show their faces on camera, said spending has skyrocketed since Nardizzi took over as CEO in 2009, pointing to the 2014 annual meeting at a luxury resort in Colorado Springs.

"He rappelled down the side of a building at one of the all hands events. He's come in on a Segway, he's come in on a horse,” one employee told CBS News.

Fred Kaine, in the recent interview, questioned Nardizzi’s apparent public absence while his organization has been under scrutiny.

“Where is this guy? You lead from the front—good or bad—you don’t hide,” he said, “If no one is going to talk about this right now and it has to be me, then it has to be me.”

Kane said he has cut charitable ties with the Wounded Warrior Project, embarking on a new charge to effect change at the organization.

Source: foxnews.com

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LA police testing knife found buried at OJ Simpson's former estate

A knife found buried under O.J. Simpson’s former Los Angeles estate where he lived at the time of the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman is undergoing forensic testing, Fox News confirmed Friday.

TMZ reports a construction worker found the knife years ago and gave it to an off-duty cop who kept it in his home before finally turning it over to police in January. TMZ did not specify when the knife was found, but reported that it may have been around the time the home was destroyed in 1998.

"It is being treated as we would all evidence," LAPD Capt. Andy Neiman said Friday. He added that police were "quite shocked" to learn about the knife after so many years.

Simpson's property was in the Brentwood section of LA. In 1995, a jury found him not guilty of murder after the so-called "Trial of the Century" dominated the media for months. Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, her friend, were found stabbed to death in June of 1994.

In 1997, a jury found Simpson civilly liable for the slayings. He's now imprisoned in Nevada on a robbery-kidnap conviction.

The weapon used in the killings has been a mystery for decades. Law enforcement sources told TMZ the blade is a folding Buck knife. It's now being tested for hair and DNA after it was handed over to the LAPD’s Robbery and Homicide Division.

NBC News, citing unnamed law enforcement officials, reported
that it was a smaller, relatively inexpensive utility-style blade typically carried by construction workers or other laborers and inconsistent with it being the murder weapon.

"We discovered it and our investigators immediately followed up on it," Neiman added. Simpson likely cannot be prosecuted again for the stabbings because of constitutional protections against being charged for the same crime twice, or double-jeopardy.

One source told TMZ the knife appeared to have blood residue on it, but it’s extremely rusted and stained, requiring further testing.

A member of Simpson's legal "dream team" in his murder trial called the find "ridiculous." Attorney Carl Douglas told the Los Angeles Times, "It's amazing how the world cannot move on from this case!"

The cop who kept the knife, an officer assigned to the traffic division, was off-duty at the time and never alerted higher-ups to the discovery, TMZ reported.

In late January the cop reportedly contacted a friend in the homicide division and told him he was getting the knife framed for his wall.

According to TMZ, the cop even asked his friend to get the department’s record number for the Simpson-Goldman murder case so he could engrave it in the frame. He was forced to surrender the knife to LAPD when the friend told superiors.

Sources told TMZ authorities are keeping their investigation top secret and under wraps, even logging the case into a computer system outside the official case file.

Source: foxnews.com

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Student charged after sharing nude photos of teacher

A high school student who went through his teacher's cellphone, found a nude picture of her and posted it online has been charged with a computer crime and voyeurism, authorities said Friday.

Union Public Safety Department Chief Sam White said the student, who is being charged as a juvenile, was taken into custody at Union High School without incident.

The 16-year-old is charged with a count of violating the state's computer crime act in the second degree and a count of aggravated voyeurism.

He is being held in juvenile detention for a hearing in family court. There have been no other arrests, but the investigation is continuing, the chief said.

Officials say it's not clear how many people may have seen the social media postings of the photo.

The teacher, Leigh Anne Arthur, has quit her job teaching mechanical and electrical engineering and computer programming at the school's vocational center.

Arthur, 33, told police on Feb. 18 that while she stepped out of her classroom, a boy took her unlocked smartphone from her desk, opened the photos application and found a nude selfie she had taken for her husband as a Valentine's Day present.

An online petition has been started, urging school district officials in the community in northwestern South Carolina to give Arthur her job back. The superintendent has said it was the teacher's fault for leaving students unattended during a four-minute break between classes.

The Associated Press left a phone message with Arthur on Friday seeking comment on the arrest.

The voyeurism charge makes it illegal, for the purpose of sexual gratification, to record or make a digital file of another person without his or her consent. The computer crimes charge makes it illegal to take possession or deprive the owner of a computer of computer data.

Both charges are misdemeanors for a first offense. But if the teen is convicted on both counts he could be sentenced to a maximum fine of $10,500 and four years in prison.

Source: foxnews.com

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Mahama grants charter to Central University to award degrees

President John Dramani Mahama has granted a Presidential Charter to the Central University College, making it a fully-fledged university that can now award its own degrees.

The institute becomes the fourth private university to achieve this feat after Valley View University, Trinity Theological Seminar and Akrofi-Christaller Memorial Research Institute.

Central University was accredited as a private university college in 1998, but in 2009, was turned down by the National Accreditation Board when it applied for the Presidential Charter. Five years down the line, the President has approved an application submitted by the NAB to grant a Charter to the school.

It is required that every university college, after operating for a minimum of 10 years, sends an application to the NAB for a comprehensive assessment of the institution, its programmes, facilities and finances; and a report is presented to the Minister of Education for onward recommendation to the president.

When the application is approved by the president, he then grants that institution a Charter, which enables it to award its own degrees, diplomas and certificates.

Deputy Minister of Education, Samuel Okudzeto Ablarkwa, who disclosed this to the media, said the NAB is very careful about which schools it recommends to the president for a charter, as it wants to protect the country’s tertiary education system’s dignity and integrity.

He therefore urged authorities of private universities to support the NAB to protect the accreditation system so as to ensure holders of certificates from Ghanaian universities get value when they enter the global job market.

“They should understand the strict guidelines from the NAB. It is for a good reason that the NAB is so stringent in accreditation assessment. We don’t have to open the floodgates; we need to protect the accreditation system’s integrity,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Council of Independent Universities of Ghana has described the affiliation system in the country as a “grand exploitation” scheme, designed to rip-off nascent tertiary institutions and make private university education “expensive”.

They argue that the affiliation system where a private university college understudies a public university until the private university college becomes mature and receives a Presidential Charter to run its own graduate programmes, has become a major source of revenue for the mentor universities, as exorbitant fees are charged for it.


Source: citifmonline.com

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Nigeria government's audit removes nearly 24,000 non-existent workers

The Nigerian government has removed nearly 24,000 workers from its payroll after an audit revealed they did not exist, the Finance Ministry has said.

The move has enabled a monthly saving of around $11,5m (£8m).

The audit is part of an anti-corruption campaign by President Muhammadu Buhari, who took power last year.

Corruption and mismanagement have long been a challenge to Nigeria's growth, and the government has promised to cut costs to face an economic slowdown.

Nigeria is Africa's biggest economy and the continent's top oil producer, and its finances are under strain due to the recent collapse in oil prices.

The country has also faced rising inflation, a stock market slump and the slowest pace of economic growth in more than a decade.

Nigeria's budget fiasco

Is corruption Nigeria's biggest challenge?

Profile: Muhammadu Buhari

The audit started in December used biometric data and a bank verification number to identify holders of bank accounts into which salaries were being paid, Reuters news agency reports.

This process allowed the identification of some workers who were receiving a salary that did not correspond to the names linked to the bank accounts.

Nigeria's economy

  • Africa's largest economy, biggest oil producer and most populous nation
  • Oil-rich, but facing worst economic crisis in years after falling oil prices
  • 62.6% of its 170 million population live in poverty
  • Average annual earnings - $1280 (£850)

Source: UN


It also revealed that some employees were receiving salaries from multiple sources.

Some 23,846 non-existent workers were removed from the payroll, an adviser to the finance minister was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Periodic checks and electronic audit techniques will be periodically carried out to prevent new frauds, the ministry said.

Officials have said the savings resulted from the anti-corruption measures will help the country tackle its crisis and prevent job cuts.

Source: bbc.com

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Nigeria's ex-Interior Minister Abba Moro charged over stampede

Nigeria's ex-interior minister has been charged with fraud over a botched recruitment drive, which resulted in stampedes that left 20 people dead.

Abba Moro led a scheme which encouraged young graduates to apply for jobs in the immigration ministry in March 2014.

Stadiums, which were being used as test centres, were overwhelmed by huge crowds of people turning up to apply.

Mr Moro has pleaded not guilty to his role in an alleged $2.5m (£1.8m) fraud, involving missing application fees.

There is a high level of unemployment in Nigeria, especially among young people.

Court papers filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) allege that more than 675,000 people were defrauded by the scheme, which required them to pay a $6 (£3.50) application fee to take the initial recruitment test.

The case has been adjourned until 2 March.

On 15 March 2014 deadly stampedes occurred at stadiums in the Nigerian cities of Abuja, Benin and Port Harcourt, as well as a school in Mina city, as people scrambled to apply for the new jobs.

Many Nigerians online have been commenting on the irony that a former minister in charge of the country's prisons is facing a lengthy stint behind bars if he is found guilty.

abba moro

At the time, Nigeria's interior minister rejected calls for him to step down and initially refused to accept any responsibility for the disaster.

He blamed the officials in charge of the stadium for the deaths, as well as the job seekers themselves.

Source: bbc.com

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Somalia's al-Shabab killed '180 Kenyan troops' in el-Ade

At least 180 Kenyan troops were killed when al-Shabab attacked their base last month, Somalia's president has said.

Kenya's army said the number was untrue, but again refused to give its own casualty figures for the assault in the southern Somali base of el-Ade.

The Islamist militant group said it had killed about 100 Kenyan troops.

If it is confirmed that 180 troops were killed, it would be al-Shabab's deadliest assault since it was formed nearly a decade ago.

Its previous most deadly attack was the killing of 148 people in the day-long assault on Garissa University College in north-eastern Kenya last April.

Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud gave the death toll of 180 in an interview with a Somali television station, while defending his attendance at a memorial for the soldiers in Kenya.

Some Somalis accused him on social media of showing greater concern for the killing of Kenyans than his own nationals.

President Mohamud said it was important to pay tribute to the troops killed in el-Ade, which is in Somalia's south-western region of Gedo.

Map of Somalia

"When 180 or close to 200 soldiers who were sent to us are killed in one day in Somalia, it's not easy," he told Somali Cable TV.

"The soldiers have been sent to Somalia to help us get peace in our country, and their families are convinced that they died while on duty," he added.

'Counted bodies'

Kenyan army spokesman David Obonyo said the Somali president's information was untrue.

"Ask the source of the information to clarify it. Maybe he knows his sources," he told the BBC.

"Secondly, we should stop trivializing the dead. They are not mere statistics. They ought to be treated with honour and respect," Col Obonyo added.


Analysis: Tomi Oladipo, BBC Africa security correspondent

The el-Ade attack was hugely embarrassing for Kenya, and it is not surprising that it has rejected the Somali president's figure without giving its own. Kenya's government possibly fears that confirming a high death toll would fuel doubts among Kenyans about its military presence in Somalia.

It is unclear where Mr Mohamud got the figure from, and whether he had had intentionally disclosed it, something that could strain diplomatic relations with Kenya.

Kenya's military is clearly upset with him, but it has previously said that a company-sized battalion, usually made up of 100 to 250 men, was targeted by the militants.

And there is no doubt that this was the bloodiest attack on Kenyan troops since they crossed into Somalia in 2011, even if the exact death toll remains unclear.

The Kenyan army has sought revenge for the attack, carrying out a series of air strikes against suspected al-Shabab bases in southern Somalia, even saying that it has killed the group's intelligence chief, a claim the militants deny.


Mr Mohamud's figure is similar to that a community leader in el-Ade gave to the BBC Somali service after the attack on 15 January.

He had counted about 190 bodies, he said.

It is unclear why al-Shabab put the number of killed at about 100, but one possibility is that it excluded ethnic Somalis who were Kenyan soldiers, correspondents say.

After the attack, Kenya said the bombs used by al-Shabab were three times more powerful than those used by al-Qaeda in the 1998 US embassy attack in the capital, Nairobi, which left 224 people dead.

Its troops withdrew from el-Ade 11 days after the attack.

Kenya has about 4,000 troops in the 22,000-strong African Union force battling al-Shabab, which is part of al-Qaeda, in Somalia.

Source: bbc.com

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Uhuru Kenyatta: Kenyans are 'experienced thieves'

Kenyans are "experienced in stealing and perpetuating other crimes", the president has said, during a state visit to Israel.

Uhuru Kenyatta added that Kenya was "20 times more wonderful" than Israel, but "all we ever do is complain".

Kenyans were also abusers, and promoted tribalism, he said, in an address to Kenyans living in Israel.

Mr Kenyatta has been accused of failing to do enough to curb corruption and of stirring up ethnic violence.

His comments were seen as an attempt to encourage Kenyans to develop their country, like Israel, says the BBC's Wanyama Chebusiri in Kenya's capital, Nairobi.

He seemed to question why Kenya was lagging behind, and had to even learn about irrigation from a desert country, our correspondent adds.

However, many Kenyans believe that the president's speech was just rhetoric, and he was not serious about tackling corruption or ethnic divisions in the East African state, our reporter says.

They complain that ethnicity determines whether they get government jobs, and bribery and corruption are endemic in government, he adds.

Mr Kenyatta was accused by the International Criminal Court (ICC) of crimes against humanity for allegedly inciting ethnic violence after elections in 2007, in which more than 1,200 Kenyans were killed.

But the case was dropped in 2014 after the prosecutor's office said it did not have enough evidence against him.

He always denied the charges.

Source: bbc.com

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Apple asks court to reverse FBI iPhone order

Apple has asked a US court to overturn an earlier ruling ordering the company to help the FBI break into a phone used by one of the San Bernardino killers.

In court papers Apple says law enforcement authorities are seeking "dangerous powers" and the move violates its constitutional rights.

The FBI and White House have said the request is limited to one iPhone.

But Apple says the software needed to comply with the FBI's request "simply does not exist".

Instead Apple says it would have to create a new version on the iPhone operating software, containing a back door to the device's encrypted data.

It argues that the lower court did not have the authority to force Apple to do that.

Apple also says no court had ever forced a company to weaken the security of its products to gain access to personal individual information.

"This case is about the Department of Justice and the FBI seeking through the courts a dangerous power that Congress and the American people have withheld," the filing said.

Analysis - Dave Lee, BBC North America technology reporter

In appealing to the American public, there are numerous boxes you can tick to quickly gain support; strings that tug at the mind of almost every person living in this country.

In this case, the FBI went with fighting against terror, and the need to beat the so-called Islamic State. Few would disagree with that motive, and even Tim Cook has acknowledged the compelling moral argument for unlocking the phone.

But if there's one things Americans worry about more than terrorists, it's the erosion of their constitutional rights. In Apple's court motion on Thursday, the company ticked the biggest box of all: freedom of speech.

The code it writes, the company argues, is the company's speech, it's expression.

Forcing it to write code and create a "GovtOS" - a play on iOS, the software that powers the iPhone - would be forcing Apple to write code it disagreed with, the company says.

It may be the argument that tips the balance in the court of public opinion.

Apple's boss hits back at FBI conduct

Bill Gates calls for terror data debate

Apple v the FBI - a plain English guide


'Hardest question'

On Thursday FBI director James Comey, said the government's dispute with Apple was, "the hardest" he had faced in government.

Testifying before congress Mr Comey said: "This is the hardest question I have seen in government and it's going to require negotiation and conversation."

The row between Apple and the FBI blew up last week when the bureau asked the electronics firm for help to unlock the smartphone of Syed Rizwan Farook - who along with his wife killed 14 people in December 2015.

So far, Apple has refused to unlock the phone.

In an interview aired yesterday with US TV network ABC, Apple boss Tim Cook said the FBI was asking it to make "the software equivalent of cancer".

He added: "Some things are hard and some things are right. And some things are both. This is one of those things."

Constitutional questions

Apple has argued that the FBI's request violates its constitutional right to freedom of speech, because a 1999 court case ruled that computer code is considered speech.

By forcing Apple to create a new code the FBI was violating a constitutional right, the company said.

Apple's attorney, Bruce Sewell will testify before Congress on 1 March about the encryption case.

Tech leaders, including Google's boss, and Apple customers have praised the company for standing up to the FBI.

Apple supporters rallied in front of the company's stores on Tuesday to show their support.

A Department of Justice court filing from February accused Apple of refusing to help to boost its "marketing strategy".

Source: bbc.com

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India caste unrest: Ten million without water in Delhi

More than 10 million people in India's capital, Delhi, are without water after protesters sabotaged a key canal which supplies much of the city.

The army took control of the Munak canal after Jat community protesters, angry at caste job quotas, seized it.

Keshav Chandra, head of Delhi's water board, told the BBC it would take "three to four days" before normal supplies resumed to affected areas.

All Delhi's schools have been closed because of the water crisis.

Sixteen people have been killed and hundreds hurt in three days of riots.

At the scene: Defiant India protesters stand ground in Haryana

Watch: What future for India's caste system?

Sixteen million people live in Delhi, and around three-fifths of the city's water is supplied by the canal.

Mr Chandra said that prior warnings meant that people had managed to save water, and tankers had been despatched to affected areas of the city, but that this would not be enough to make up for the shortfall.

The army took control of parts of the canal on Monday morning, but repairs are expected to take time.

The BBC's Sanjoy Majumder, who is near Delhi's border with neighbouring Haryana state, said protesters who have set up road blocks are refusing to budge.

"We don't trust them. Let's get something in writing. Let them spell it out," one demonstrator who refused to be named told the BBC.

The damaged canal in Haryana

The Munak canal which was damaged by Jat protesters

Indian people fill up canisters and containers with water from a tanker in New Delhi, India (22 February 2016)

Millions in the Indian capital are without running water

Indian children walk with containers to collect water from the hand pump, a ground water source of water , at the Azadpur area of in north Delhi, India (22 February 2016)

Families are dependent on tankers delivering water supplies

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted that the army was "trying to assess in how much time water would reach Delhi and whether any damage had been done to the canal".

Protesters went on the rampage despite a curfew and the deployment of the army, which is reported to have opened fire on them in the districts of Rohtak and Jhajjar.

Why are the Jats angry?

  • The land-owning Jat community is relatively affluent and has traditionally been seen as upper caste.
  • They are mainly based in Haryana and seven other states in northern India.
  • Comprising 27% of the voters in Haryana and dominating a third of the 90 state assembly seats, they are a politically influential community. Seven of the 10 chief ministers in Haryana have been Jats.
  • The Jats are currently listed as upper caste but the demonstrators have been demanding inclusion in caste quotas for jobs and education opportunities that have been available to lower castes since 1991.
  • In March 2014 the Congress-led national government said it would re-categorise Jats as Other Backward Castes (OBC), opening the way to government job quotas.
  • But India's Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that the Jats were not a backward community.
  • As jobs have dried up in the private sector and farming incomes have declined, the community has demanded the reinstatement of their backward caste status to enable them to secure government jobs.

Haryana state minister Ram Bilas Sharma said the situation was returning to normal, traffic had resumed on national highways and that railway lines between Delhi and the cities of Jaipur and Chandigarh had reopened.

Mr Sharma also confirmed that the government would introduce a bill on reservations and quotas for the Jat community in the next assembly session, although he did not say when that would be.

Meanwhile, India's federal government has said it will set up a top-level committee to look into the grievances of Jats.

The violence had earlier forced the closure of several key roads and national highways, and paralysed the railway system in northern India.

Source: bbc.com

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US-Based Ghanaian Arrested For Attempting To Smuggle Weapons To Ghana

A Charlotte man is facing federal charges after investigators said he attempted to smuggle weapons and ammunition into West Africa.

Richmond Attah, 30, was charged with one count of violating the Arms Export Control Act, one count of illegal firearms dealing, two counts of smuggling goods from the United States and four counts of making false statements to a firearms dealer, according to federal authorities.

Officials said between September 2013 and December 2015 Attah purchased approximately 63 firearms and 3,500 rounds of ammunition from various stores, Internet vendors and at gun shows. The indictment then states on Sept. 4, 2015, Attah travelled from Charlotte to Ghana.

Attah hid $30,100 in his luggage during his return trip, falsely declaring on customs paperwork that he was bringing $350 back into the United States, according to the charges.

Most recently, between November 2015 and December 2015, the indictment alleges Attah purchased 22 more firearms and ammunition from dealers in North Carolina.

Specifically, the indictment said Attah lied on his application and said the guns were for him when he purchased several of the weapons from Mount Holly Gun and Pawn.

A manager of the store told Channel 9 Attah actually bought the guns online and they simply handled the paperwork. The man added it did seem odd Attah purchased more than one of the same kind of weapon.

The court document goes on to state Attah then hid more than two dozen weapons and another 3,500 rounds of ammunition inside a washing machine and dryer and tried to have them shipped to Ghana. U.S. Customs found the weapons and ammunition before they were shipped out of the United States.

Attah was arrested from his place of employment Thursday, according his father.

Sampson Attah said federal agents came to their home looking for his son early that morning. Channel 9 spoke with him Thursday afternoon following his son’s arrest.

“Look at the door,” said Sampson Attah. “They broke through the house.”

Sampson Attah showed Channel 9 where federal agents broke through the front door of his home. The father said he came home to a slew of federal agents inside his home.

“My breakfast sandwich is still sitting on the table,” Sampson Attah pointed out. “I haven’t been able to eat all day.”

Sampson Attah said he’s shocked by the allegations and firmly denied any knowledge of the alleged gun trafficking scheme.

“If it is true, that he’s been doing this — not in this house,” said Sampson Attah.

Sampson Attah said agents searched his home but didn’t find anything.

“They took my cellphone and laptop. Everything was out and, oh, my God,” said Sampson Attah, shaking his head.

Sampson Attah said he and his family are from Ghana and that Richmond has lived with him here in Charlotte since 2003. When asked he said his son went to Ghana to visit his girlfriend. He said the couple share a child and has another one on the way.

“He’s a good man,” said Sampson Attah, again getting emotional. “He’s my son and I love him. I’m just praying God should intervene.” The father said he’s in the process of getting his son a lawyer. Richmond Attah made his first court appearance Thursday.
 

Source: peacefmonline.com

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Islamic State militants in Libya 'threatened US interests'

Militants from the Islamic State group who were killed in a US air strike in Libya posed a threat to US and Western interests, the Pentagon says.

An IS camp was attacked in Sabratha, around 70km (43 miles) west of Tripoli.

The 38 people killed reportedly include Tunisian extremist Noureddine Chouchane, linked to two attacks in Tunisia last year, including one which killed 30 Britons.

The IS group has been active in Libya for more than a year.

The US estimates the group has up to 6,000 fighters there.

Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said the strike was carried out "with the knowledge of Libyan authorities" but declined to confirm exactly who had been informed.

"We took this action against Sabir [Noureddine Chouchan] in the training camp after determining that both he and the ISIL [IS] fighters at these facilities were planning external attacks on US and other Western interests in the region," he was quoted by AFP news agency as saying.

"We see what's happening in Iraq and Syria and we believe that these fighters in Libya posed a threat to our national security interests."

Libya remains in chaos more than four years after the overthrow of former leader Muammar Gaddafi and is being fought over by a number of groups, including IS.

Efforts to agree on a unified government have so far been unsuccessful, with different authorities governing different parts of the country.

Top IS leaders 'take refuge' in Libya

Tunisia attack: What we know

Control and crucifixions: Life in Libya under IS

Map

The Pentagon described Chouchane as an "experienced facilitator" who had helped move IS fighters across the Tunisia-Libya border.

American F-15E fighters as well as unmanned aircraft were involved in the raid, the Pentagon said.

The BBC understands that British bases were involved in the attack but no British assets, such as warplanes, were involved.

The mayor of Sabratha put the death toll at 41 and said the majority of those killed were Tunisians.

A statement on the council website said weapons such as machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenades had been found at the site.

Tourists holding hands looking at tributes on beach

The Sousse attack last year left 30 Britons dead

In November, a US strike in Derna reportedly killed Iraqi IS commander Abu Nabil, also known as Wissam Najm Abd Zayd al-Zubaydi, who was said to be the group's leader in Libya.

The US has launched several unilateral raids and operations in the country since it helped oust Gaddafi.

In June, a gun attack in the Tunisian resort town of Sousse left 38 people dead, 30 of them Britons.

Chouchane is also believed to have been behind the attack on the Bardo Museum in Tunis last year, which left 19 people dead.

The gunmen in both the Sousse and Bardo attacks are believed to have trained in Libya, which shares a border with Tunisia.


Islamic State militants in Libya

Map of control

  • IS jihadists seized a strip of land along Libya's coast, around the city of Sirte, last year
  • Libyan intelligence officials say foreign fighters and some IS commanders have relocated there from Iraq and Syria
  • The US estimates the number of IS foreign jihadists at 4,000-6,000
  • The largest groups are said to be from Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan and Iraq
  • Recent recruitment has focused on sub-Saharan African countries
  • It is not known how many of the jihadists are nationals of European countries
  • IS militants have attacked Libyan cities, including Tripoli and Benghazi, and oil installations

Source: bbc.com

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Donald Trump demands Apple boycott to force it to unlock phone

US presidential candidate Donald Trump has called for a boycott of Apple until the tech giant helps unlock the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino killers.

Apple has clashed with the Justice Department (DoJ) over a court order forcing the company to help break the encryption on one of its phones.

On Friday the DoJ called Apple's refusal a "marketing strategy".

Apple said it will not help break into the the phone, citing wider privacy concerns for its users.

The phone belonged to one of the two people who opened fire at an office event in San Bernardino, California, last December, killing 14

Speaking at a campaign rally, Mr Trump said: "Boycott Apple until such time as they give that information."

On Thursday, a court ordered the tech giant to help break the encryption.

The government has called the request narrow and argued it is only focused on this particular iPhone.

The DoJ filed another motion in court on Friday after Apple's chief executive, Tim Cook, said Apple would continue to refuse the order.

A California court has set 22 March for the hearing.


Analysis: Dave Lee, BBC North America technology reporter

Before this goes to court, it's being played out with a war of words.

The DoJ motion today is about investigators smashing the ball back into Tim Cook's court. It disputes his claim that the security of its products would be inherently and forever compromised.

It essentially argues that Mr Cook's stance - and indeed the stance of the other technology companies that support him - is motivated by business, not ethics.

Apple has been given an extension to submit its formal response, but the real sparks are likely to fly at the hearing date set for late March.

It will take place in San Bernardino under, you'd imagine, the scrutiny of the families caught up in the tragedy.


In a letter to customers published on Apple's website, Mr Cook called the implications of the order "chilling".

"While we believe the FBI's intentions are good, it would be wrong for the government to force us to build a backdoor into our products. And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect."

Source: bbc.com

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EU deal gives UK special status, says PM

David Cameron says a deal struck with EU leaders will give the UK "special status" and he will campaign with his "heart and soul" to stay in the union.

The PM said the agreement, reached late on Friday after two days of talks in Brussels, would include a seven-year "emergency brake" on welfare payments.

He added the deal included changes to EU treaties and would be presented to his cabinet on Saturday at 10:00 GMT.

EU exit campaigners said the "hollow" deal offered only "very minor changes".

The unanimous agreement reached at the EU summit was announced by European Council president Donald Tusk, who tweeted: "Deal. Unanimous support for new settlement for #UKinEU."

The new deal includes:

  • Cuts in child benefit for the children of EU migrants living overseas - applicable immediately for new arrivals and from 2020 for the 34,000 existing claimants
  • The amending of EU treaties to state explicitly that references to the requirement to seek ever-closer union "do not apply to the United Kingdom"
  • An "emergency brake" on migrant workers' in-work benefits that will apply for seven years - less than the 13 years the PM proposed but longer than other countries had asked for
  • The ability for the UK to enact emergency safeguards to protect the City of London

German Chancellor Angela Merkel predicted the package of reforms would "elicit support in the UK for the country to remain in the EU".

'In Britons' hands'

Mr Tusk said it "strengthens Britain's special status", while EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker described it as "fair".

Mr Tusk added: "We didn't walk away from the negotiating table. We were willing to sacrifice part of our interests for the common good, to show our unity.

"I deeply believe the UK needs Europe and Europe needs the UK. But the final decision is in the hands of the British people."

Once Mr Cameron has briefed his ministers at Saturday's cabinet meeting, they will be free to campaign for either side in the referendum, which has been promised by the end of 2017 but is expected in June this year.

Mr Cameron said he would shortly announce the date of the referendum and said he was "disappointed" but not surprised that one of his key allies, Justice Secretary Michael Gove, was to campaign for the UK to leave the EU.


Analysis by Laura Kuenssberg, BBC political editor

The ink is hardly dry on the UK's EU deal, but immediately the focus has switched to the substance of what David Cameron has achieved and - possibly an awkward question - how many of his colleagues will argue against him.

The focus will move to whether the prime minister can keep his party politely together during a period of public disagreement.

The ability to restrict benefits to migrants is an important victory for Mr Cameron - ammunition for his argument that he has achieved changes to help reduce the number of EU migrants coming to live and work in the UK.

The proposals are complicated and do not exactly match the promises he made in the Conservative Party manifesto.

But with it - and the other commitments - it becomes harder for his critics to make the case that the agreement is flimsy and will change nothing.

Read more from Laura


Mr Cameron said he had achieved the reforms he wanted, claiming they would put the UK "in the driving seat" of one of the world's biggest markets and create a "more flexible" EU.

"We have permanently protected the pound and our right to keep it," he added, saying that, for the first time, the EU "has explicitly acknowledged it has more than one currency".

"The British people must now decide whether to stay in this reformed European Union or to leave," he continued.

"This will be a once-in-a-generation moment to shape the destiny of our country."

At the same time as the EU reforms, the PM said further measures to strengthen the UK's sovereignty would be announced.

The deal reached between all 28 EU member states comes after several leaders objected to Mr Cameron's planned reforms.

The original aim had been to conclude the deal at an "English breakfast" meeting on Friday, which became an "English brunch", then an "English lunch" and eventually an "English dinner", at which point the agreement was announced.

Eurosceptics have dismissed the reforms, saying they will not allow the UK to block unwanted EU laws or reduce migration.

Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the Vote Leave campaign, said Mr Cameron "will now declare victory but it is an entirely hollow one".

He disputed the PM's claim that the deal was legally binding, saying it "can be ripped up by EU politicians and unelected EU judges".

As the EU summit was being concluded, another EU exit campaign, Grassroots Out, held a rally in Westminster.

Conservative MP David Davis said it was time for Britain "to take control of its own destiny", while UKIP leader Nigel Farage said the cross-party campaign was "absolutely united in fighting to get back our democracy".

Mr Farage unveiled former Respect MP George Galloway as a "special guest" at the rally, describing him as a "towering figure on the left of British politics".


Analysis by Laurence Peter, BBC News online

After two days of gruelling talks - and late-night haggling - EU leaders were plainly relieved to get the deal with David Cameron done.

French President Francois Hollande stressed that "no revision of the treaties is planned". Tough EU treaty change would have been politically toxic for him, as he is faced with an election next year.

But he also stressed that for France the EU "is not just a budget" - but about many policies and "the joint project". It was a pointed reminder about the EU's symbolism, contrasting with Mr Cameron's position.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the new child benefit rules could be good for Germany too - and supported Mr Cameron's drive against abuse of the welfare system.

"I don't think we gave the UK too much," she said. But she admitted that ever closer union was an emotional issue for her, so Mr Cameron's opposition to it was "not easy" to deal with.

Source: bbc.com

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Nigeria to probe generals over arms fraud

Twelve senior Nigerian army officers have been handed over to the anti-corruption agency for their alleged involvement in an arms scandal.

The army did not name them, but said they included six serving generals.

If the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) finds enough evidence against them, they would be tried in a military court, the army said.

A presidential inquiry last year found that fake contracts worth $2bn (£1.3bn) were awarded by last administration.

It alleged that the money, which was meant to buy arms to fight the Islamist Boko Haram group, has gone missing.

The former national security adviser, Sambo Dasuki, was charged in December in connection with the case involving $68m that is alleged to be missing. He was accused of awarding phantom contracts to buy helicopters, fighter jets and ammunition, which he denied.

Army spokesman Colonel Sani Usman said the 12 officers referred to the EFCC included three serving major generals, one retired major general, three brigadier generals, four colonels and a lieutenant colonel.

The army's announcement follows President Muhammadu Buhari's order last month to investigate 20 former military chiefs and officers over the alleged arms procurement fraud.

Suspects released

Several close associates of former President Goodluck Jonathan are also facing trial in connection with the scandal.

During the fight against Boko Haram, many soldiers reported that they did not have enough equipment to take on the insurgents.

Mr Buhari, who came to power last May, was largely elected on a promise to tackle corruption.

Three young men, who were discovered while entering Bama town, sit blindfolded in the back of a pick-up truck before being taken for interrogation by the Nigerian army on March 25, 2015.

The military denies allegations that it is maltreating detainees

Meanwhile the army has released 275 people arrested on suspicion of being members of Boko Haram in the north-eastern Borno state after they were found to have no links with the Islamist group.

They included 142 men, 49 women, 22 boys and 50 girls, a spokesman for the state governor, Usman Kumo, told the BBC Hausa service.

It is not clear how long they were in detention.

Last year, Amnesty International accused the military of maltreating detainees and said since 2011 more than 8,000 people had died in custody during the fight against Boko Haram.

Earlier this month, the UK-based campaign group criticised the reinstatement of an army general it accuses of committing war crimes.

The military said the allegations were being investigated.

Related Topics

Source: bbc.com

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Al-Shabab 'carried out' Somalia plane attack

Somalia's Islamist militant group al-Shabab says it carried out a bomb attack on a plane that blew a huge hole in its fuselage earlier this month.

In an emailed statement, al-Shabab said the attack was revenge for Western intelligence operations in Somalia.

The Daallo Airlines Airbus 321 with 74 passengers on board made an emergency landing in the capital Mogadishu after the explosion shortly after take-off.

One person, said to be the bomber, was reportedly blown out of the plane.

The explosion happened about 15 minutes into the flight, when the plane was only at around 11,000ft (3,350m) and the cabin was not yet pressurised.

Most of the passengers had originally been booked on a Turkish Airlines flight but the flight was cancelled due to bad weather a few hours before take-off, Turkish Airlines said.

In its statement, al-Shabab said it had targeted Turkish Airlines because it said the Nato state was supporting Western operations in Somalia.

But the group admitted it had failed in its aim of bringing down the flight.

Somali authorities have released a video showing a passenger being given a laptop that they believe contained the bomb.

In the video, a man in an orange hi-visibility vest is shown walking with a man in a blue shirt holding what looks like a laptop. Another man in a hat approaches them and it is alleged that the laptop is handed over.

More than 20 people have been arrested in connection with the incident, the Somali government said.

Source: bbc.com

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Syria conflict: Pressure grows on Russia over civilian bomb deaths

Pressure is increasing on Russia over civilian deaths in Syria, with France and the US urging greater caution.

French PM Manuel Valls and US Secretary of State John Kerry said civilians were dying in Russian air strikes.

Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev said there was "no evidence of our bombing civilians, even though everyone is accusing us of this".

One observers' group says at least 1,015 civilians have been killed in Russian air strikes.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said late last month that close to a quarter of those killed were under the age of 18.

How Putin is succeeding in Syria

Displaced Syrians struggle to survive

Syria: The story of the conflict

Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has consistently denied hitting civilian targets and insists it is battling terrorists.

Mr Valls said his government "respects Russia and Russia's interests" but "that to re-discover the path to peace, to discussion, the Russian bombing of civilians has to stop".

Mr Kerry again accused Russia of using so-called 'dumb bombs' in Syria that do not hit precise targets. Last week, he said women and children were being killed "in large numbers" by Russian raids.

Mr Medvedev said Russia was "not trying to achieve some secret goals in Syria", adding that "we are trying to protect our national interests".

Their comments were made at a security conference in Munich, days after world powers agreed a deal to push for a cessation of hostilities in Syria within a week.

Map

Agreement to try to bring about a cessation of hostilities and allow more access for humanitarian aid was reached by world powers late on Thursday in Germany, but neither the Syrian government nor the rebels were involved.

Under the plan, efforts will be made to try to make urgent aid deliveries to besieged and hard-to-reach areas in Syria. Steps will also be taken to work towards an eventual ceasefire and implementation of a UN-backed plan for political transition in Syria.

The halt will not apply to the battle against jihadist groups Islamic State (IS) and al-Nusra Front.

Assad 'deluded'

However, the metaphorical ink was barely dry on the deal before the obstacles to a Syrian ceasefire popped up, one after another, the BBC's security correspondent Frank Gardner reports.

From watching the various speeches at the Munich conference, it is clear that when it comes to ending the Syrian conflict the Russian and Western positions appear to be as far apart as ever, our correspondent reports.

Rebel groups in Syria have told the BBC they would not stop fighting because they do not believe that Russia will end its bombing campaign in support of the government.

They also reiterated their demand that President Assad be removed from power. On Friday, the president said he wanted to retake "the whole country" from rebels.

But US state department spokesman Mark Toner said Mr Assad was "deluded" if he thought there was a military solution to the conflict.

Syrian government forces, backed by Russian air strikes, have almost encircled rebels in parts of the northern city of Aleppo.

More than 250,000 people have been killed and some 11 million displaced in almost five years of fighting in Syria.

On Saturday, Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Saudi Arabia would send war planes to the Turkish air base of Incirlik, from where they would attack militants in Syria from the so-called Islamic State.

Saudi Arabia is already part of the international coalition against IS.

Mr Cavusoglu also said it was possible that troops from his country and Saudi Arabia might participate in a ground operation against IS forces. The US has so far ruled out a ground invasion.

Moscow has warned against any new foreign ground intervention in the country, saying such a development could even lead to a world war.


Syria conflict - key questions

smoke rises after shelling by the Syrian army in Jobar, Damascus

Why is there a war in Syria?

Anti-government protests developed into a civil war that, five years on, has ground to a stalemate, with the Assad government, Islamic State, an array of Syrian rebels and Kurdish fighters all holding territory.

Who is fighting whom?

Government forces concentrated in Damascus and the centre and west of Syria are fighting the jihadists of Islamic State and al-Nusra Front, as well as less numerous so-called "moderate" rebel groups, who are strongest in the north and east. These groups are also battling each other.

How has the world reacted?

Iran, Russia and Lebanon's Hezbollah movement are propping up the Alawite-led Assad government, while Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar back the Sunni-dominated opposition, along with the US, UK and France. Hezbollah and Iran are believed to have troops and officers on the ground, while a Western-led coalition and Russia are carrying out air strikes.

Source: bbc.com

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Case On Appointment Of Judges, EC Chair Adjourned To March 2

The Supreme Court has adjourned to March 2 2016, the petition brought before it by the Ghana Bar Association (GBA) challenging the appointment of two judges to the nation’s apex court, and two others, also challenging the appointment of a chair for the Electoral Commission.

The case has been adjourned to allow all the parties to file a joint memorandum for the court to make a determination on the cases. 

A Ghanaian citizen, Richard Dela Sky, has also filed a writ at the Supreme Court asking the court to interpret provisions of the 1992 Constitution on the appointment of an Electoral Commission chair. 

Mr. Sky is hopeful that a positive outcome of the case will define a clear path that President John Mahama, and all future Presidents, must navigate in making appointments to the Electoral Commission.

Mr. Danso Acheampong,  has also filed a suit seeking interpretation on some appointments to the EC.

Source: citifmonline.com

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We´re Breaking Away From Ghana – Volta Group

A group known as the Homeland Study Group Foundation based in Ho is demanding the secession of the Volta Region and parts of the Northern and Upper East Regions from Ghana to become the Western Togoland state as soon as possible.

The demand runs contrary to the prevailing international order of globalisation which rather facilitates the integration of states and nations into political and economic blocs.

In an argument, the group claimed that residents of the Western Togoland voted to become a union with the Gold Coast (now Ghana) but the union had not been established up till now and that Ghana opted to be a unitary state under the plebiscite in 1956 [referendum] to be in union with a common constitution with the WesternTogoland and the Gold Coast but there had been no unionized constitution up to date.

The group further claimed that the Western Togoland was not incorporated in the act establishing the Gold Coast by Queen Elisabeth of the United Kingdom.

The need for sovereignty

It therefore called for the declaration of Western Togoland which is perceived as stretching from Kulungugu in the Upper East Region to Keta in the Southern coast by the Atlantic ocean as a sovereign state.

According to the group the Gold Coast voted to be a unitary state on July 12, 1956 while the Western Togoland voted to be in union with Ghana on July 9, 1956 and that the union had not been established till now.

The group claimed that the size of Eastern Togoland was 22,000 square miles and the Western Togoland as 12,600 square miles.

Speaking exclusively to Graphic Online at the sidelines of the annual congress and lecture of the homeland study group at the auditorium of the Volta Regional House of Chiefs in Ho, the chairman and convenor of the secessionist group , Mr Charles Kormi Kudjordjie, said the group had no intention of creating any turmoil in the country and that the agitation was to be pursued in a peaceful manner.

”This is the beginning of the united effort of exerting final pressure to extricate ourselves from over 50 years span of un-established union with Ghana which has not yielded any benefits - social, economic and financial security to the common people of the land," Mr Kudjordjie stated.

“The time is now to execute a common plan of action to come out of serfdom as some wise men and women did before under various autocracies the world over. Our wise men and women are again ready to strategise for the formula for coming out of the serfdom sooner than later. This congress is the launch pad for the missile attack at all fronts for independence. Whether it is here now, today, tomorrow is matter of choice that must not be delayed, but pursued vigorously”, Mr Kudjordjoe declared.

He said the group was positioned to avoid all errors of misrule of former affiliation and assured that there was enough capital, human and material resources to plan policies towards better technological skilled manpower development for brighter economic attainment of the new state.

Mr Kudjordjie said the people of Western Togoland had no legal basis to be part of Ghana and that the time to act was now to save the future generation.

In a welcoming address, the vice chairman of the homeland study group, Mr Gotthold Yao Agra, said the Western Togoland was clandestinely removed at all levels of education in Ghana with the view to creating a vacuum that will consume the identity as a state among United Nations, African Union and the Economic Community of West African States(ECOWAS ) and other international organisations.

He, therefore, said the restoration of the state of Western Togoland was in tandem with the restoration of history and subsequent restoration of the legitimate state which had lingered over the years that had remained for over 100 years.

More than 35 delegates came from Adidome, Kpando, Tsito, Dzodze, Ho, Juapong, Amedzofe, Lume, Wheta, Klikor, Damabai, Aflao and Kadjebi.

Source: Graphic.com.gh

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Smarttys Pays First Installment Of Refund Cash

Smarttys Management and Production Limited has paid the first instalment of the refunds in connection with the rebranding of 116 Metro Mass Transit (MMT) buses by the Ministry of Transport.

The branding of the buses was done at a cost of GH¢3.6 million.

A letter signed by lawyer for Smarttys Management and Production Limited, Mr Kissi Agyebeng, to which the cheque paid into the account of the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) was attached said, “See attached a cheque intended as the settling of the agreed first instalment of three hundred thousand cedis drawn on the client’s account of Cromwell Gray LLP.”

The letter made reference to the Attorney General’s letters of December 29, 2015 and January 7, 2016, on the refunds to be made, and also made reference to modes of payment reached.

Modes of payment

The letter of January 7, 2016 by the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Ms Marietta Brew Appiah-Oppong, which was addressed to Mr Kissi Agyebeng said a figure of GH¢1,548,608.04 had been arrived at as the amount to be refunded by Smarttys Management and Production Limited.

“In consultation with the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Finance, this amount was arrived at taking into consideration the following factors raised in your letter, revised value added tax position, revised withholding tax position and a set off of GH¢27,173.74 withholding tax over deductions,” the letter added.

The letter indicated the acceptance of the request to pay the revised amount in full on or before March 31, 2016.

It said interest on the revised amount would be frozen subject to Smarttys Management and Production Limited making full payment  of an amount between GH¢300,000 on or before January 29, 2016.

“The remainder to be paid in two equal instalments on or before February 29, 2016 and March 31, 2016, respectively,” the letter said.

It directed that all payments should be made by cheque in the name of EOCO.

“Please be advised that government reserves the right to take all relevant actions or steps to recover all moneys owed together with interest accrued calculated at the prevailing bank rate from 29th January 2016 till date of final payment if you fail to make payment within the stipulated time,” the letter said.

Context

The branding of the new Chinese Huanghai buses for the MMT with portraits of John Mahama and past presidents caused public outcry, resulting in the resignation of the Minister of Transport, Ms Dzifa Attivor, in December.

Subsequently, the Chief of Staff, Mr Julius Debrah, ordered the Attorney General to probe the contract and report back to him.

The Attorney General presented her report on December 22, 2015, directing the refunding of money found to have been overpaid to Smarttys in the contract.
 

Source: Daily Graphic

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Obama climate initiative: Supreme Court calls halt

President Barack Obama's plans to regulate emissions of carbon dioxide from US power plants have been stalled by the US Supreme Court.

The court ruled that the president's Clean Power Plan could not go forward until all legal challenges were heard.

Designed to cut US emissions by 32% by 2030, the scheme put huge emphasis on a shift to renewable energy.

It formed the key element of the US pledge at UN climate negotiations held in Paris in December last year.

Introduced by the president last August, the plan set carbon reduction goals for each state and it was up to the states themselves to come up with proposals to meet those goals.

A group of 27 states, utilities and coal miners sought to block the proposal in the courts. They argued that the plan was an infringement on states' rights.

An initial attempt to halt the implementation of the plan until legal challenges were heard was thrown out by a US appeals court in Washington in January.

However the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to suspend the plan pending the outcome of the litigation.


White House 'disagrees' with ruling

White House spokesman Josh Earnest put out a statement following the decision:

"We disagree with the Supreme Court's decision to stay the Clean Power Plan while litigation proceeds.

"The Clean Power Plan is based on a strong legal and technical foundation, gives states the time and flexibility they need to develop tailored, cost-effective plans to reduce their emissions, and will deliver better air quality, improved public health, clean energy investment and jobs across the country, and major progress in our efforts to confront the risks posed by climate change.

"We remain confident that we will prevail on the merits."


The ruling could have significant implications for the president's attempt to cut down on carbon.

Under the Clean Power Plan, individual states were due to submit their proposals on how to meet the CO2 restrictions by September this year. That date will be missed.

It is unlikely that all the legal questions over the future of the Clean Power Plan will be resolved before President Obama leaves office next January.

Bar chart showing the 10 states in the US most dependent on coal for their energy

West Virginia's Attorney General Patrick Morrisey called the high court's action a "great victory".

"We are thrilled that the Supreme Court realized the rule's immediate impact and froze its implementation, protecting workers and saving countless dollars as our fight against its legality continues," he said in a statement.

Supporters of the Clean Power Plan were confident that the courts would ultimately upheld its legality.

"The electricity sector has embarked on an unstoppable shift from its high-pollution, dirty-fuelled past to a safer, cleaner-powered future, and the stay cannot reverse that trend," said David Doniger, from the Natural Resources Defense Council.

"Nor can it dampen the overwhelming public support for action on climate change and clean energy."

The ruling will be seen as a major embarrassment for President Obama, who helped craft a new global agreement on climate change at UN sponsored talks in Paris in December.

What will worry the White House more is the division of the court along ideological lines, with conservative justices all supporting the stay while the liberal justices opposed.

If these divisions hold, the Clean Power Plan may suffer further setbacks in the Supreme Court which may ultimately render it useless.

If that was to happen, the ability of the US to live up to its commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement would be in serious doubt.

Source: bbc.com

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'We are not criminals' Nigerians tell their president

It's the home of the "419" scam - the infamous online swindle named after a Nigerian anti-fraud law - and it's no secret that this country's international reputation has been tainted by allegations of criminality.

But it's not something Nigerians expected to hear from the mouth of their president himself, especially while he was on an official visit to the UK.

In an interview with the Telegraph newspaper, President Muhammadu Buhari said that Nigerians abroad have "made it difficult for Europeans and Americans to accept them because of the number of Nigerians in prisons all over the world accused of drug trafficking or human trafficking."

"We have an image problem abroad," he said. "And we are on our way to salvage that. We will encourage our countrymen to stay at home, work hard and make a respectable living at home."

Nigerians reacted to his remarks by the thousand - with rage, humour and some insightful self-reflection too.

Opposition senator Ben Bruce-Murray was one of the first to respond, urging people to get the hashtag #IamANigerianNotACriminal trending.

Tweet by senator Ben Bruce-Murray

That hashtag rapidly evolved into the snappier #NigeriansAreNotCriminals which was used more than 35,000 times in a couple of days. There were a slew of tweets criticising the president for slandering the reputation of his own people.

Tweet of frustration

It's a thorny issue for Nigerians living abroad who feel they sometimes have to deal with stricter immigration checks and visa restrictions than people from other parts of the world. And some who believe they face heavier oversight and regulation when it comes to working in the banking and finance sectors because of their nationality.

Nigeria is in the middle of an economic crisis. Dropping oil prices mean there is less money around for investment and the value of the naira is falling rapidly.

Tweet

And Nigerians feel that in many respects the reputation just isn't justified. According to UK police statistics, shared by Senator Murray-Bruce, Nigerians in the UK have faced fewer arrests than immigrants from other, smaller European countries.

Despite the backlash, there was some support for what President Buhari said. The president has a reputation for plain speaking. He was voted into power last year, in a mostly fair election, on a platform of fighting corruption. As an army general in 1984 Buhari overthrew a civilian government, replacing it with a military dictatorship and made a promise to stamp out "indiscipline". He was overthrown not long after. But his reputation survived.

Some are calling this a gaffe but so far the president has made no effort to backtrack on what he said.

Source: bbc.com

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Mali: landmine 'kills 3 soldiers' in central Mopti

Three Malian soldiers were killed when their vehicle hit a landmine in the central region of Mopti, officials say.

Two others were wounded and taken to a hospital, the defence ministry said in a statement.

No group has claimed responsibility for the device.

Mali has been threatened by various armed groups and has fought Islamist rebels in the north for a number of years.

The incident happened in Mondoro, next to the border with Burkina Faso, the statement said.

Why Mali is an insurgent hotspot

Mali profile

Al-Qaeda-linked militants have been fighting the army in northern Mali and France, the former colonial power in the country, intervened in January 2013 to stop their advance south to the capital.

But attacks across the country have increased recently, including a shooting at a hotel in the capital, Bamako, that left 22 people dead in November.

Militancy in Mali

  • October 2011: Ethnic Tuaregs launch rebellion after returning with arms from Libya
  • March 2012: Army coup over government's handling of rebellion; a month later Tuareg and al-Qaeda-linked fighters seize control of north
  • June 2012: Islamist groups capture Timbuktu, Kidal and Gao from Tuaregs, start to destroy Muslim shrines and manuscripts and impose Sharia
  • January 2013: Islamist fighters capture a central town, raising fears they could reach Bamako. Mali requests French help
  • July 2013: UN force, now totalling about 12,000, takes over responsibility for securing the north after Islamists routed from towns
  • July 2014: France launches an operation in the Sahel to stem jihadist groups
  • Attacks continue in northern desert area, blamed on Tuareg and Islamist groups
  • 2015: Terror attacks in the capital, Bamako, and central Mali

Source: bbc.com

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US President Obama signs Africa electricity plan into law

US President Barack Obama has signed into law an initiative aimed at bringing electricity to 50 million people in sub-Saharan Africa by 2020.

The Electrify Africa Act of 2015 will give legal backing to Mr Obama's flagship Power Africa scheme, which is trying to improve access to electricity through public-private partnerships.

It took nearly two years to be passed in both houses of the US Congress.

About two-thirds of people in Africa do not have access to reliable power.

Africa Live: BBC News updates

Observers say the new legislation is likely to ensure that the scheme continues even after Mr Obama leaves the White House in 2017.

A man holds a placard reading 'No electricity! No industries!! No jobs!!! Provide electricity, revive industries, provide decent jobs' during a demonstration to protest against the 45 percent raise of electricity prices on February 8, 2016 in Lagos

Many Nigerians are forced to rely on generators for their electricity supply

The scheme has set itself the long-term target of doubling electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa.

The legislation would "improve the lives of millions in sub-Saharan Africa by helping to reduce reliance on charcoal and other toxic fuel sources that produce fumes that kill more than HIV/Aids and malaria combined," said House Foreign Affairs committee chairman Ed Royce, a long-time supporter of the initiative.

It would also "promote the development of affordable and reliable energy", he added, in a statement on Monday.

Management consultant firm McKinsey estimates that it will cost $835bn (£575bn) to connect the entire continent's population to electricity by 2030.

Aside from the US government, African governments, development partners, and the private sector are all involved in the Power Africa scheme.

The US government has made financial commitments of $7bn to support the scheme, which it says in turn has drawn a further $43bn in investment pledged from other public and private partners.

Source: bbc.com

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South Africa's Zuma makes U-turn over Nkandla revamp money

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma has made a U-turn in court over his refusal to repay some of the $23m (£15m) of state money used to upgrade his home.

His lawyer admitted he was wrong to ignore an anti-corruption watchdog's report to pay back money spent on features such as a swimming pool.

The opposition bought the case, hoping it will open the way for impeachment proceedings against the president.

Thousands of people protested outside court, shouting "Zuma must fall".

Police put up a strong show of force, as the protesters, led by Julius Malema's left-wing Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), marched to the court in the main city, Johannesburg.

Latest updates from court and protests

How Zuma's home has grown

The protest was against "corruption and cronyism" in government, the EFF said.

The main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) also organised its own demonstration.

The governing African National Congress (ANC) denounced the marches as a "political exercise".

'Unlawful enrichment'

The opposition parties want the Constitutional Court to rule that My Zuma flouted the constitution by ignoring a 2014 report by the anti-corruption watchdog, known as the Public Protector, that he should repay the money, as he had "unduly benefited" from the upgrade.

At the time, the police minister defended the expenditure as necessary security upgrades, saying the swimming pool was, in fact, a fire pool that could be used in the event a fire broke out at the residence in Mr Zuma's home village of Nkandla.

An amphitheatre, cattle enclosure and chicken run were also built.

Map

Mr Zuma's lawyer Jeremy Gauntlett conceded in court that the report was "binding" on the president, and he was prepared to repay the money within 90 days.

However, he denied that Mr Zuma had violated the constitution.


Analysis: Milton Nkosi, BBC News, Johannesburg

The admission by Mr Zuma's lawyer was shocking: The president was legally bound to accept the findings of the Public Protector's report, entitled Secure in Comfort.

This was a massive U-turn, as Mr Zuma had until now argued that the report contained mere recommendations, lacking the status of a court order.

Looking at Mr Malema, I could only conclude that he was rubbing his hands with glee as the drama unfolded in court.

The EFF now smells blood - it hopes South Africa's highest court will go as far as to rule that the president breached the constitution and therefore violated his oath of office.

The opposition would then no doubt demand the president's impeachment.

For now, Police Minister Nathi Nhleko's position is most tenuous. He was at the forefront of the campaign to rubbish the Public Protector's report. It is difficult to see how he can remain in the post.

The saga has become a major political scandal, at one point sparking scuffles inside parliament.

EFF lawyer Wim Trengrove told the court the president had defied the Public Protector to unlawfully "enrich himself", South Africa's private News24 website reports.

"His conduct at the time and response to the report was in violation of the constitution," Mr Trengrove is quoted as telling the judges.

The case comes at a difficult time for Mr Zuma, who has also been under fire over his handling of the finance ministry, after he sacked two ministers in a week last year.

Many South Africans also accuse his government of not doing enough to tackle corruption and poverty.

Source: bbc.com

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Germany train crash: Several killed near Bavarian town of Bad Aibling

At least 10 people were killed and scores more injured, police say, after two passenger trains collided in the German state of Bavaria.

The head-on crash happened near Bad Aibling, a spa town about 60km (37 miles) south-east of Munich.

The transport minister said the trains had crashed into each other while both travelling at around 100km/h (62mph).

Emergency teams, some winched in by helicopter, worked for hours to free casualties from the wreckage.


What we know

  • The accident occurred on a single-track route between Rosenheim and Holzkirchen at about 07:00 local time (06:00 GMT)
  • Officials say they assume both train drivers had no visual contact before the crash as the site is on a bend - and therefore crashed into each other largely without braking
  • The stretch of line had an automatic braking system designed to halt any train that passed a stop signal. It is not yet known why this failed to stop the crash
  • Two of the three data recorders or "black boxes" on board the trains have been recovered

In focus: Bavaria's railways

Train crash rescue: As it happened

Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was "dismayed and saddened" by the crash.

Regional police said that 10 people had been killed and revised down the toll of injured to 80, 17 of them seriously.

One person is still missing, they say.

The drivers of both trains and two train guards were among those killed, police said.

German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt, who visited the scene, said it was a "horrifying sight".

"The drivers' cabs of both trains are wedged into each other. One side of one train is completely torn open. The other train bored into it," he told a news conference.

Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann told the same conference it was "difficult to comprehend" how such a crash could happen given the amount of investment in railway safety following previous train accidents.

Electrical engineer Joe Adediran, who was on the train between Rosenheim and Holzkirchen, said that he had had a "lucky escape".

"At the first station, this train normally has to wait for five minutes or so for the opposite one to arrive. After a while, we started to move on to the next station without waiting for the opposite train," he told the BBC.

Other fatal German train crashes

  • January 2011: 10 killed in Saxony-Anhalt when commuter train collides with goods train after driver runs through two signals
  • February 2000: Nine dead when overnight train from Amsterdam to Basel crashes near Cologne
  • June 1998: 101 killed when a high-speed train with a broken wheel derails and smashes into a bridge at Eschede in Lower Saxony

Source: bbc.com

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UN Security Council vows new sanctions after N Korea's rocket launch

The UN Security Council has strongly condemned North Korea's launch of a long-range rocket.

After an urgent meeting in New York, the council said it would soon adopt a new sanctions resolution in response.

Pyongyang said it fired the rocket to place a satellite in orbit but critics believe the real purpose was to test ballistic missile technology.

Sunday's launch came weeks after North Korea conducted a fourth nuclear test. Both acts violate existing sanctions.

Amid the tension, a North Korean patrol boat briefly crossed into South Korean territory near the island of Socheong early on Monday morning, according to South Korea's Defense Ministry.

The ministry said that it retreated back across the border - a boundary line Pyongyang disputes - shortly after South Korean forces fired warning shots into the water around it.

'Serious violation'

Speaking after the closed-door talks, the Security Council said the launch was "a serious violation".

US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said Washington would now "ensure that the Security Council imposes serious consequences" on Pyongyang.

"There can be no business as usual," she said, adding that "we'll come up with something tough".

Ms Power's words were echoed by Japanese envoy Motohide Yoshikawa, who said sanctions must be strengthened.

"The existing sanctions have not stopped North Korea from developing nuclear weapons," he said.

The council meeting was requested by South Korea, Japan and the US.

Why did Kim fire a rocket now?

Analysis: BBC's Nick Bryant at UN headquarters

The question once asked by a British tabloid - How Do you solve a problem like Korea? - still has not been answered. The UN Security Council has imposed four sets of sanctions since North Korea carried out its first atomic test almost 10 years ago.

They have included arms embargos, asset freezes, travel bans and restrictions on luxury goods, aimed at hitting Pyongyang's elites where it hurts - in their lavish lifestyles. But while they might have slowed the nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, they've come nowhere near halting them. The sanctions have not been rigidly enforced. Nor have they been widely applied.

Now the US is pressing at the Security Council for tough and comprehensive new sanctions, but they're being resisted by China, Pyongyang's closest ally and biggest trading partner.

Beijing, while expressing support for a new resolution, fears that tough new sanctions could topple the Pyongyang regime, destabilising the country and creating a refugee crisis on its border. Pyongyang knows it can exploit that fear.

Sunday's launch, which North Korea had said last week it would carry out, was hailed by state media as a "fascinating vapour... trailing in the clear and blue sky in spring of February on the threshold of the Day of the Shining Star".

A statement said a new Earth observation satellite, Kwangmyongsong-4, had successfully been put into orbit less than 10 minutes after lift-off from the Sohae space centre in North Phyongan province.

Hailing it as part of the country's peaceful space programme, a state TV newsreader said the launch had been ordered by North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un and that more launches were planned.

South Korean MPs were told by the country's spy agency later on Sunday that the launch should be treated as a ballistic missile test, as the satellite it put into orbit would be useless.

The MPs were also reportedly told North Korea had the technology for intercontinental ballistic missiles and was preparing a fifth nuclear test.

North Korea last fired a long-range rocket in 2012, putting what it claimed was a communications satellite into orbit. However, experts said that satellite appeared to spin out of control and the revolutionary songs that Pyongyang said it was broadcasting were never detected.

The payload this time was presumed to weigh 200kg (440lbs), double the size of the 2012 launch, but still much lighter than the 800-1,500kg usual for a satellite.

North Korea's rocket launches

  • February 2016: Launch of rocket reportedly carrying satellite
  • May 2015: North Korea announces it has successfully tested a submarine-launched missile for the first time, but scepticism is then poured on the claim
  • Dec 2012: North Korea launches three-stage rocket, says it successfully put a satellite into orbit; US defence officials confirm object in orbit
  • Apr 2012: Three-stage rocket explodes just after take-off, falls into sea
  • Apr 2009: Three-stage rocket launched; North Korea says it was a success, US says it failed and fell into the sea
  • Jul 2006: North Korea test-fires a long-range Taepodong-2 missile; US said it failed shortly after take-off

North Korea's missile programme

How potent are the threats?

Isolated country's nuclear tests

A world leader in dramatic rhetoric

Source: bbc.com

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Tunisia builds anti-terror barrier along Libya border

Tunisia says it has completed the first part of a 200km (125-mile) barrier along its border with Libya, designed to deter terrorism.

The barrier is made of sand banks and water trenches.

It was announced last summer after 38 people were killed on a beach by a gunman said to have trained in Libya.

Tunisia's defence minister said the second phase of the project would involve installing electronic equipment with the help of Germany and the US.

Security forces said the defences - which aim to make the border impassable by vehicles - had already helped to reduce smuggling.

Soldiers overlook a trench, that forms part of a barrier along the frontier with Libya, in Sabkeht Alyun

The barrier is designed to be impassable by vehicles

"Today we finished closing it off, and this will help us protect our border, and stop the threat," said Defence Minister Farhat Horchani on Saturday.

More than 3,000 Tunisians have left to fight with the Islamic State (IS) group and other Islamist militants in Syria and Iraq but Mr Horchani said many had since returned to join the group in Libya.

Libya has been beset by instability since the overthrow of former leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and currently has two rival governments.

IS took control of Sirte, Gaddafi's hometown, last year.

A Tunisian soldier stands on a sandbank during a presentation of the anti-jihadi fence, in near Ben Guerdane, eastern Tunisia, close to the border with Libya

The barrier came about with assistance from the US and Germany

Source: bbc.com

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North Korea fires long-range rocket despite warnings

North Korea has fired a long-range rocket, which critics say is a test of banned missile technology.

A state TV announcer said that North Korea had successfully placed a satellite in orbit.

The launch was condemned by Japan, South Korea and the US, who have requested an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council later on Sunday.

South Korea says it is to begin discussing with the US the deployment of a missile defence system.

Senior defence official Ryu Je-Seung said if the THAAD missile system - considered one of the most advanced in the world - were deployed it would be only to counter the threat from the North.

International reaction

The North insists its space programme is purely scientific in nature but the US, South Korea and even ally China say the rocket launches are aimed at developing an inter-continental ballistic missile capable of striking the US.

North Korea provoked international criticism earlier this year with a fourth nuclear bomb test on 6 January.

South Korean analysts had speculated that the North might carry out the launch ahead of 16 February, the birthday of the late North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il.

Image from North Korean TV of rocket launch on 7 February 2016

Picture from North Korean TV of the rocket after launch, on 7 February 2016

'Fascinating vapour'

UN Security Council resolutions ban the state from carrying out any nuclear or ballistic missile tests.

In a statement, the North Korean National Aerospace Development Administration said earth observation satellite Kwangmyongsong-4 had entered orbit about 10 minutes after lift-off from the Sohae space centre in North Phyongan province.

Announcing the launch on state TV, a newsreader said it had been ordered by North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un and said the country planned to launch more satellites in the future.

"The fascinating vapour of Juche satellite trailing in the clear and blue sky in spring of February on the threshold of the Day of the Shining Star,'' was how the launch was described.

South Korean Defence Ministry spokesman Moon Sang Gyun said a warship had detected the launch at 09:31 (00:31 GMT).

US National Security Adviser Susan Rice said North Korea's use of ballistic missile technology was "yet another destabilising and provocative action".

"North Korea's missile and nuclear weapons programs represent serious threats to our interests - including the security of some of our closest allies," she said in a statement.

Contenders for the Republican ticket in the US presidential election this year were asked for their reaction during a debate in New Hampshire.

Donald Trump said he would work with China to resolve the North Korea nuclear issue: "I would get on with China. Let China solve that problem. They can do it quickly and surgically. That's what we should do with North Korea."

North Korea's rocket launches

A North Korean military parade

  • February 2016: Launch of rocket reportedly carrying satellite
  • May 2015: North Korea announces it has successfully tested a submarine-launched missile for the first time, but scepticism is then poured on the claim
  • Dec 2012: North Korea launches three-stage rocket, says it successfully put a satellite into orbit; US defence officials confirm object in orbit
  • Apr 2012: Three-stage rocket explodes just after take-off, falls into sea
  • Apr 2009: Three-stage rocket launched; North Korea says it was a success, US says it failed and fell into the sea
  • Jul 2006: North Korea test-fires a long-range Taepodong-2 missile; US said it failed shortly after take-off

North Korea's missile programme

How potent are the threats?

Isolated country's nuclear tests

A world leader in dramatic rhetoric

Source: bbc.com

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Alassane Ouattara: No more Ivorians will go to ICC

Ivory Coast's President Alassane Ouattara says he will not send any more Ivorians to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

This means none of the president's supporters will go to the ICC.

His long-time rival Laurent Gbagbo is on trial for war crimes at the ICC over the civil war sparked by his refusal to accept defeat in the 2010 election.

Both sides were accused of atrocities during the four-month conflict, which left some 3,000 people dead.

Mr Outtara said Ivory Coast now has an operational justice system so future prosecutions will happen in national courts.

He was speaking during a meeting in Paris with his French counterpart Francois Hollande.

Campaign group Human Rights Watch has warned that the ICC gave a "perception of victor's justice" by only prosecuting one side of Ivory Coast's conflict.

Mr Gbagbo's trial in The Hague, in the Netherlands, started in January and is likely to last three to four years.

Mr Gbagbo and ex-militia leader Charles Ble Goude deny murder, rape, attempted murder and persecution.

The ICC also accuses pro-Gbagbo militias of attacking members of ethnic groups believed to support Mr Ouattara.

But pro-Ouattara forces were also accused of similar atrocities and these have not been prosecuted in the ICC.

Last year, several former leaders of the pro-Ouattara rebels were indicted in Ivory Coast.

Among them is Cherif Ousmane, who remains a high-ranking officer in the presidential guard.

None of them is currently under arrest, reports the BBC Afrique's Abdourahmane Dia.

The ICC had issued an arrest warrant for Mr Gbagbo's wife, Simone, too, but this was dismissed by the Ivorian government.

Instead she was taken to court in Ivory Coast, along with 82 other supporters of her husband - 15 of whom were acquitted.

She was sentenced to 20 years in prison in March 2015 for undermining state security.

Source: bbc.com

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New York crane collapse kills at least one person

A large construction crane has collapsed in lower Manhattan in New York City, killing one person and injuring at least two others.

The Fire Department of New York confirmed the fatality and is on the scene responding to the accident.

The collapse happened along West Broadway early on Friday morning in the Tribeca neighbourhood.

The downed crane, which filled the street, fell onto numerous parked cars.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the victim was sitting in a parked car at the time of the accident, and that it was caused by high winds.

Workers were in the process of lowering the crane due to the high winds when it collapsed. No workers were injured.

Map of where the collapse occured

Crane collapsed in New York

"It was right outside my window," witness Robert Harold told the AP news agency. "It was a crashing sound. You could feel the vibration in the building. I looked out the window and saw it lying in the street."

Mr Harold said he saw someone trapped in a car and someone lying in the street.

The crane was replacing air conditioning equipment in an existing building when the crash occurred, the first for New York City since 2008.

"The fact is, this is a very very sad incident, we lost a life," Mr De Blasio said. "If you go out there and see what happened, thank God it was not worse."

All cranes in New York City have been ordered to be lowered after the incident.

Debris on street from crane collapse

The boom of the crane was 500ft (152m), authorities said.

The weather in New York City this morning was windy with snow flurries.

Public transportation is delayed and subway trains are bypassing the area due to the collapsed crane.

Source: bbc.com

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Deadly earthquake topples buildings in Taiwan city of Tainan

An earthquake has toppled several buildings in the south Taiwan city of Tainan, killing at least three people.

Rescue teams were trying to reach people trapped in rubble after the magnitude 6.4 quake struck early on Saturday as people were sleeping.

A baby and one other person died after a high-rise residential block collapsed. More than 220 people have been rescued.

President Ma Ying-jeou is on his way to Tainan, a city of two million people.

The quake was shallow, meaning its effects would have been amplified, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said.

Television pictures show rescue workers frantically trying to reach people trapped in collapsed buildings, using ladders to climb over piles of rubble.

Taiwan's official news agency said at least 23 people had been injured in the multi-storey residential building, where about 200 people were believed to be living in about 60 households.

Tainan resident Emma told BBC World News people feared further tremors. "I felt the quake, it was terrible," she said.

Irving Chu was in a hostel in central Tainan. He said he had been woken up by a tremor lasting about 40 seconds.

"It was a violent jerking motion," he told BBC World News. "The entire room was shaking. We were just holding on to things. We were shaken up."

Barry Knapp, a British man in Taiwan, said he was 240km (150 miles) north of Tainan but still felt the tremor.

"I was just in bed, about to fall asleep, and shaking started happening," he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"It was going on for about 20 to 30 seconds and it came in waves. It was shaking and then it eased off, but then it started shaking even harder."

The earthquake struck as people were getting ready for Chinese New Year.

"It has come at a bad time," journalist Jay Chen told the BBC.

"Sunday is New Year's Eve. People were preparing to celebrate and now many people will be homeless."

There were also reports of power outages.

Saturday's quake was felt in the capital Taipei 300 km away and there have since been several aftershocks.

A 7.6 magnitude quake in central Taiwan in 1999 killed more than 2,300 people.

Taiwan lies near the junction of two tectonic plates and often sees tremors.

Rescue workers in Taiwan after a strong earthquake

A building badly damaged by an earthquake in Taiwan

A building damaged in the quake

Source: bbc.com

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30 new goverment ambulances gone waste?

Thirty (30) out of two hundred (200) ambulances procured by the government of Ghana did not meet specifications of the Ministry of Health.

Because of the situation, the ambulances have not been distributed to government hospitals that are in dire need of them. The ambulances are currently parked at the car park of the Parliament of Ghana.

Minister of Health, Alex Segbefia who disclosed this on the floor of Parliament on Thursday said experts will be dispatched to the manufacturing company to inspect the rest of the ambulances before they are shipped into Ghana.

“Mr Speaker, at the moment they are 30 in the country. The content of the ambulances is the issue, various things have to be in the ambulance to ensure that they are fit for purpose. What we have are not fit for purpose so at the moment we have refused to say that this can be ambulances that could be used for the purposes we bought them. We have specifications, and the specification in these ambulances don’t appear to be met. It is the duty of the Ministry to ensure that we do not not take what we haven’t asked for. So we’re ensuring we have what we asked for, that is why we haven’t distributed the ambulances” Hon. Alex Segbefia noted.

His comment was in response to a question posed by the Member of Parliament for Atebubu Amantin, Sanja Nanja. The legislator had asked when the Atebubu /Amantin District Hospital will be allocated an ambulance.

Meanwhile a report carried by Thursday Feb. 4th edition of the Ghanaian Times states that about 40 of the 130 ambulances procured for the National Ambulance Service in 2010, have been grounded at its workshop.

Although the vehicles have outlived their usefulness, the service is compelled to repair them for use but that too is constrained by lack of funds.

The remaining 90 ambulances are woefully inadequate for effective health care delivery in the country.

The Chief Executive officer of the NAS, Professor Ahmed Nuhu Zakariah said some of the ambulances were parked at the workshop because they had exceeded their lifespan while others have developed major faults.

“The lifespan, of every emergency vehicle is normally five years, which means that the NAS needs to get a new fleet of vehicles, but we are compelled to use the old ones since we don’t have that luxury,” he said.

“The reality is that if the major faults on emergency vehicles are not fixed before use again, it may be causing more harm than good; that is why it’s better to book it out of commission rather than use it in a bad state,” he added.

Source: bbc.com

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More money for you this year – Mahama to Ghanaians

“Currently, in all the road construction that’s going on in this country, 95% of the contractors are Ghanaians and not foreigners. And so by doing this, we are expanding the road construction industry and making Ghanaians take advantage of the commanding heights of that particular industry.

“In 2012 when I became President, there were six foreign companies that had asphalt plants to be able to do asphalt roads. Today, 22 Ghanaian companies have their own asphalt plants and these are the gains that we are making in this country.

“I can understand when people say things are tight. During Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s time, they said things were right and that there was no milk and cornered beef among others; but at the time he was building Akosombo, he was building Valco, Tema Steelworks, the shoe factories, GIHOC Distilleries to create jobs; and so we drove him away in a coup.

“The same people complaining today that things are hard drove Nkrumah away. And Nkrumah said if I knew it was milk you wanted, I would have connected it through a tap for you to drink.

“In everybody’s life, you make sacrifices for things that are important. Times come when we have to squeeze ourselves a bit to do the precious things that we need in life. We can’t have money in our pockets when the roads are not good?”

“What is the use of money when you are sick and can’t get a hospital to be cured? And so sometimes when we are squeezing ourselves, it is to do the things that are essential; to put in place the social and economic infrastructure after which you can begin to put money in your pocket.

“And so it’s good politics to say things are hard; but the money that we are raising we are using for things that will benefit this country. We have spent these last four years investing in bringing the social infrastructure back to scratch and when I win the second term, then we will start putting money in your pocket. And I wish to pledge that we will continue working in the interest of the people of Ghana.”

  • President Mahama was speaking at the inauguration of a Community Day Senior High School at Kwaobaah Nyanoa in the Eastern Region on Thursday

Source: kasapafmonline.com

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Somalia plane: Daallo Airlines confirms passenger missing

A passenger on the flight forced to land at Somalia's Mogadishu airport after a large hole appeared in the fuselage has been confirmed missing by the airline.

Daallo Airlines had previously said that all the passengers had been accounted for.

It is thought that the man fell out of the hole, which appeared shortly after take-off from Mogadishu on Tuesday.

There have been fears that the damage to the flight was caused by a bomb.

But the exact cause is still not clear and Somalia is currently investigating what led the hole to appear on the Djibouti-bound Airbus 321.

No militant group has said it was behind the explosion.

Daallo Airlines head Mohamed Ibrahim Yasin Olad told the BBC Somali service that he hoped the investigation would be over soon so that his flights could resume but with tighter security at Mogadishu's airport.

In a statement, the airline said the incident was being investigated by Somalia's Civil Aviation Authority, as well as a technical team from the aircraft's owners and its manufacturers, Airbus.

Mohamed Hassan, a police officer in Balad, an agricultural town 30km (18 miles) north of Mogadishu, said residents had found the body of a man who might have fallen from the plane.

Security officials say two passengers were also hurt in the incident.

Daallo Airlines

The airlines says all passengers have been accounted for

A plane in Somalia with a hole in its fuselage

The plane landed safely

Serbian captain Vlatko Vodopivec said he and others were told the explosion was caused by a bomb, though civil aviation authority officials said they had found no evidence so far of a criminal act.

"It was my first bomb; I hope it will be the last,'' Mr Vodopivec said. He said the blast happened when the plane was at around 11,000ft (3,350m).

"It would have been much worse if we were higher," he added.

Daallo Airlines flies regularly from its base in Dubai to Somalia and Djibouti.

Somalia is battling militant Islamist group al-Shabab that has been carrying out deadly attacks in its quest to establish an Islamic state.

Source: bbc.com

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