I won’t be the cause of violence in Ghana – Mahama pledges

President John Dramani Mahama has assured Ghanaians of his government’s commitment to ensure credible and peaceful elections to consolidate the country’s democratic credentials.

He has therefore pledged not to be the cause of any political violence in the country.

“Nobody – none of us politicians is greater than Ghana. And so, none of us has the right to weed violence on this country and I hope that is the pledge all of us in the political circles will adapt”, he noted.

President Mahama was speaking at this year’s celebration of ‘Mawulid’ to commemorate the birth of the Holy Prophet Mohammed at Fadama, a suburb of Accra last Sunday.

The event was under the theme “Democracy in a Peaceful Atmosphere”.

Commenting further, he entreated the youth to be wary of the use of the internet and avoid extremist groups that are using to the facility to train and radicalize the vulnerable in society.

“Some of the doctrinal face that preaches violence against fellow human beings are suing the internet as a means of radicalizing young growing minds to accept that doctrine of violence. And so, it is our duty to look out for the signs of radicalization”.

He told the gathering that he is for peace and will forever remain committed to the peace that he has been preaching about over the years.

The National Chief Imam, Sheikh Dr. Nuhu Ousman Shaributu in his address called on political leaders to practice democracy in a peaceful atmosphere.

Source: Kasapafmonline.com/Ghana

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Tetegu elders angry at NPP’s Tina Mensah

The traditional elders of old Tetegu in the Weija-Gbawe constituency are angry at the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Parliamentary candidate for the area, Tina Mensah, for throwing tantrums on radio about their needs.

The Obuobia Foundation and the African Toilette Foundation last month cut the sod for the construction of a 20-seater water closet toilet facility for the people of Tetegu which is expected to be completed by February, 2016.

However, speaking on Kasapa FM’s afternoon political program ‘Si Me So’, Madam Tina Mensah asserted the people of Tetegu do not need a toilet facility but rather a water project.

Her comment has therefore infuriated  the elders and youth of the town claiming they already have a water project in existence and needed a toilet facility to halt the open defecation exhibited by the inhabitants.

In an interview with Kasapa FM’s Maame Broni, the linguist of old Tetegu, Livingston Atukpa noted that, the elders have had no meeting with Tina Mensah concerning their needs neither do they know the said NPP candidate.

“I was scandalized when she propagated such an untruth on radio and want her to spill out which of the elders she spoke to about our needs. Has she ever met any of us? We don’t even know who the Tina Mensah is though we have heard her name.” he said.

On behalf of the youth, Mawoenyega Atukpa sounded a warning to Tina Mensah not to stampede their development if she wouldn’t help the town.
Checks by Kasapa FM’s Maame Broni show the over 2000 populated town has only one toilet facility belonging to an individual and the citizenry not able to pay for its usage have resorted to open defecation. Right behind the linguist’s house is an illegal refuse dump which also serves as toilet in the open for the people and demands a careful walking style to avoid one stepping into a fecal matter.

Source: Kasapafmonline.com/Ghana

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Mahama will lose 2016 elections with or without new voters register – PPP

The Progressive People’s Party(PPP) is contending that the ruling National Democratic Congress(NDC) cannot succeed in suppressing the will of the people ahead of the 2016 elections by dismissing the call for a new voters register.

“It was a predetermined committee formed by the EC, no wonder they came up with such decision. But the point is when the people say they don’t need you, there is nothing you can do to change that;John Mahama will lose the 2016 elections with or without a new voters register, a member of the Communications team of the Party, Charles Owusu told Fiifi Banson on Anopa Kasapa on Kasapa 102.3 FM Monday.

The Electoral Commission has shot down the NPP’s demand for a new voters register ahead of the 2016 general elections, describing as unconvincing the arguments put for the claim of a fresh register.

It said given the problems highlighted by the opposition NPP regarding the current register,it will be preferable to continue engaging stakeholders to ensure a clean and credible voters’ register is in place for the 2016 general elections through an inclusive and collaborative audit process.

But Charles Owusu maintained that the EC’s posture before hand, suggested that they were in bed with the ruling government, insisting that the Electoral body’s position taken won’t make a difference in what Ghanaians have decided on, come November 2016.

The Electoral Commission can even decide to open the borders during election period and allow Togolese and Burkinabes to vote,… John Mahama will still lose 2016 elections”

Source: Kasapafmonline.com/Ghana

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Rejection of new voters’ register: EC must be prepared to bear the heat – NPP

Director of Elections for the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Martin Agyei Mensah Korsah, has said the rejection of calls for a new voters’ register by the Electoral Commission (EC) is not surprising because all their actions pointed to the fact they (EC) were not ready for one.

However, he has cautioned the EC to be prepared for the heat that will accompany the decision they’ve taken.

“Deliberately, when you (referring to the Chairperson of the EC, Charlotte Osei) are doing the planned election activities for the year, you managed to think of a possible run-off of the election but the register that you are going to use for the election, you never made room for the budget of a new voters register but you managed to project for a possible a run-off. All these happened three weeks to the final report.”

“Why didn’t you make room for a possible new voters’ register? At no point was the EC ready for a new voters’ register. So, if you look at what has happened so far – both the approach and the actual work and where we are, it is not surprising,” he said in an interview with Fiifi Banson on Kasapa 102.3 FM Monday.

The EC on the eve of the New Year, announced the outright rejection of the call for a new voters’ register, noting that the argument for the call was not convincing.

Instead, the Commission said it “will continue to engage stakeholders to ensure that a clean and credible voters’ register is in place for the 2016 general elections through an inclusive and collaborative audit process.”

But Mr. Korsah said what is more worrying was the failure on the part of the EC to give details as to how they are going to clean the current voters’ register which the NPP and some other political parties as well as civil society organizations are contending is bloated.

“So, how are you going to do the so called cleaning that you are talking about ten months to elections, you are joking. You want to take this country for a ride and if we are not careful, you will take us into a ditch and nobody returns.”

“This is very dangerous. If this is the very voters register that they have decided to use for the general elections – then they will get what they want. I don’t see the point.”

He said the party would in the coming days announce to Ghanaians about their stance on the position taken by the EC as far as the call for a new voters’ register is concerned.

Source: Kasapafmonline.com/Ghana

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Court prevents student involved in GHC 83,500 cedi fraud from Travelling

Elvis Amoah, a student allegedly involved in a GHC 83,500 cedi fraud case, was arrested by security officials and handed over to an Accra Circuit Court when he attempted to travel outside the country.
Amoah is alleged to have defrauded Dr Isaac Kwabena Boakye of the stated amount under the pretext of selling to him four plots of land at Kwabenya in Accra.
The said plots, however, belonged to the state.
The Court presided over by Mrs Abena Oppong Adjin-Doku today revoked his 100,000 cedis bail and remanded him into lawful custody to reappear on January 18.
The Court further ordered for the seizure of his new Ghanaian passport and green card.
The GNA gathered that Amoah had prayed the Court to grant him two months adjournment to visit his ailing mother in the Brong Ahafo Region.
The Court, however, at its last sitting declined and gave him two weeks.
On December 30, Amoah attempted to travel outside the country but was nabbed by security officials at the Kotoka International Airport.
As part of his earlier bail condition in May 2015, the Court ordered Amoah to deposit his Ghanaian passport and green card but he managed to secure a new passport and green card and attempted to travel with them on December 30.
Charged with defrauding by false pretences, Amoah had pleaded not guilty.
He was therefore granted GHC 100,000 with three sureties one to be a public servant earning not less than GHC 500 cedis a month.
As part of the bail conditions he was to deposit his Ghanaian passport and USA green card to the Court.
In the substantive case, prosecuting Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) A.A. Annor said the complainant is a medical practitioner resident in Germany and Amoah is a student of Illinois Institute of Technology in the USA.
In 2010, when the accused person was in Ghana he made the complainant believe that he could secure him four plots of land at Kwabenya in Accra.
Based on that DSP Annor said Amoah collected GHC83,500 from Dr Boakye and allegedly issued the complainant with an Indenture dated November 3, 2011.
According to prosecution the indenture was signed by Nii Adjei Kpobi Asaawa and Ernest Okine.
When the complainant attempted to develop the land he was resisted by another person.
The complainant therefore conducted an official search at the Lands Commission and it came to light that the land belongs to the State.
Accused however disagreed with the complainant’s report after the search, failed to refund the complainant money and attempted to sneak out of the country.
Meanwhile on May 14, last year, Ghana Immigration Service Officers at the Kotoka International Airport were served with arrest warrant.
On May 18, last year, Amoah was found checking in to board a KLM flight to Amsterdam when Immigration officers arrested him and handed him over to the Police.
Amoah in his caution statement admitted the offence.

Source: Kasapafmonline.com/Ghana

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North Korea announces hydrogen bomb test

The North Korean authorities say they have successfully tested a hydrogen bomb amid reports of a tremor near the main nuclear test site.

State media announced the test after monitors detected a 5.1 magnitude quake close to the Punggye-ri site.

The North is thought to have conducted three previous underground nuclear tests there since 2006.

A hydrogen bomb uses fusion to create a blast far more powerful than that of a more basic atomic bomb.

If confirmed, it would mean Pyongyang is intent on pursuing its nuclear programme with little regard for the major political and diplomatic costs that will inevitably accompany this unwelcome development, says Dr John Nilsson-Wright of Asia Programme at Chatham House.

In a surprise announcement a newsreader on North Korean state TV said: "The republic's first hydrogen bomb test has been successfully performed at 10:00 am on January 6, 2016."

Last month, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said Pyongyang had developed a hydrogen bomb, although international experts were sceptical.

What is a hydrogen bomb?

  • A weapon energised by the nuclear fusion of hydrogen isotopes in a chain reaction, developed in 1958 by the United States
  • Also known as a thermo-nuclear bomb, it is seen as a "cleaner" bomb than an atomic one as it has less radioactive fallout - but also much more powerful
  • Unlike an atomic bomb, powered by nuclear fission, a hydrogen bomb is powered by the fusion of lighter elements into heavier elements
  • Such bombs can be as small as a few feet long and can fit in warheads of ballistic missiles

Suspicion of a test was first raised after the US Geological Survey said the epicentre of the quake - detected at 10:00 Pyongyang time (01:30 GMT) was in the north-east of the country, some 50km (30 miles) from Kilju city, near Punggye-ri.

The BBC's Kevin Kim in Seoul says analysts will now focus on trying to detect if any gases have leaked from the subterranean explosion to conclude what type of nuclear material may have been used, if it indeed it was a test of a hydrogen bomb.

N Korea's nuclear test sites

North Korea's nuclear tests

9 October 2006

The first test detonated a device based on plutonium, rather than enriched uranium. The test was conducted at Punggye-ri, also known as P'unggye-yok. US intelligence officials said that it had not been a powerful one, measuring less than one kiloton - that is less then a tenth of the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

25 May 2009

A second underground nuclear test was carried out which was said to be more powerful than the first. Russia's defence ministry estimated a blast of up to 20 kilotons, a similar size to the American bombs that completely destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

Although the North gave no details of the test location, South Korean officials said a seismic tremor was detected in its neighbour's north-east around the town of Kilju - close to Punggye-ri.

12 February 2013

Unusual seismic activity was detected around Punggye-ri. This was followed by confirmation from the state news agency that North Korea had successfully tested a device. The announcement referenced a "miniaturised" nuclear device which raised fears that Pyongyang's ultimate aim is to produce a device small enough to fit on a long-range missile.

Source: bbc.com

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Tearful Barack Obama: US gun control inaction must end

An emotional US President Barack Obama has unveiled new restrictions on gun purchases, saying the "constant excuses for inaction" have to stop.

Wiping away tears, the president recalled the Sandy Hook primary school shooting in 2012 where 20 children and six adults were killed.

His executive actions, without Congress approval, widen background checks on potential gun buyers.

But the National Rifle Association said it would fight Mr Obama's measures.

And the leader of the House of Representatives, Republican Paul Ryan, said the plans were certain to be challenged in the courts.

"His words and actions amount to a form of intimidation that undermines liberty," he said.

Meanwhile, sales of guns in the US appear to have risen, amid speculation in recent weeks that the White House was going to tighten the law.

Earlier, the president announced the law change at the White House, while surrounded by survivors and relatives of victims of shootings.

"The gun lobby may be holding Congress hostage right now, but they can't hold America hostage," Mr Obama said.

Analysis - Anthony Zurcher, BBC News North America reporter

An emotional president employed all of his rhetorical skill to justify what are, in reality, executive actions that only modestly expand federal regulation of firearm sales.

Standing in a room filled with victims of gun violence, he explained that the murder of schoolchildren in Newtown, Connecticut, changed him - and that he hoped it would change the country.

Three years have passed since that school massacre, however, and the country hasn't changed. While some states have toughened their laws, others have expanded gun rights and the US Congress has taken no action.

So Mr Obama did what he could, and wrapped the move in language that sounded more appropriate for a ceremony announcing the passage of sweeping legislation that, in today's political environment, has no chance of reaching his presidential desk.

And even this small move will likely be fiercely challenged in court, in Congress and at the ballot box by whichever Republican wins the nomination fight to replace him in 2017.

Gun violence is significantly higher in the US than in other advanced countries, killing about 30,000 people each year.

Congress has been reluctant to pass any laws restricting gun ownership, facing pressure from gun owners and the powerful National Rifle Association.

Mr Obama tried to pass expanded background check legislation in 2012 after the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 20 children and six adults dead but it failed in Congress.

Former congresswoman and gun violence victim Gabrielle Giffords arrives before US President Barack Obama delivers a statement on executive actions to reduce gun violence

Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (above), who was the victim of a shooting, attended the White House event

The executive actions include:

  • Background checks for all gun sellers, overturning current exemptions to some online and gun show sellers
  • States providing information on people disqualified from buying guns due to mental illness or domestic violence
  • Increased workforce for the FBI to process background checks, hiring more than 230 new examiners
  • Congress being asked to invest $500m (£339m) to improve access to mental healthcare in the US
  • The departments of defence, justice and homeland security exploring "smart gun technology" to improve gun safety

The announcement is already shaping up to be an issue in the 2016 presidential election.

Leading Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton tweeted: "@POTUS is right: We can protect the second Amendment while protecting our families and communities from gun violence. And we have to."

Republican candidate Senator Ted Cruz tweeted that the executive actions are unconstitutional, with a link to sign up for his campaign correspondence on a webpage that says "Obama wants your guns" with a photo of the president in an army jacket and hat.

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush tweeted that he would repeal the actions and protect the Second Amendment.

During Mr Obama's speech, comedian Amy Schumer, cousin of New York Senator Chuck Schumer, was in the audience. Two women died in a shooting at a movie theatre in Louisiana during a showing of her movie Trainwreck.

Gabby Giffords, a former congresswoman who survived a shooting, was there as well, in addition to many relatives of victims and survivors of mass shooting.

Shares in gunmaker Smith & Wesson rose to their highest value since 1999 ahead of the president's announcement.

The number of background checks on potential buyers - a guide to future sales - has risen in the wake of mass shootings in the past.

Graph showing the number of background checks performed by the FBI from December 2007 to December 2015

Why Obama is powerless - the roadblock at Congress

Are you mad or criminal? - the question a gun seller asks

Texas women and their firearms - a photographer taught to shoot at an early age

Do tighter gun laws work? - a state where guns are a way of life

Guns at home - the question parents hate to ask before a playdate

Source: bbc.com

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Migrant crisis: Bodies found on Turkish coast as boats sink

At least 34 bodies have been washed up on the Turkish coast in the latest tragedy to hit migrants and refugees trying to cross the sea to Greece.

Their boats are thought to have capsized while crossing to the island of Lesbos.

The bodies were found on beaches at Ayvalik and Dikili some 30 miles (50km) apart. Several were children.

More than one million migrants crossed the Mediterranean in 2015 and the vast majority went from Turkey to Greece.

According to the UN, 3,771 people were listed as dead or missing.

Conditions in the Aegean Sea in the early hours of Tuesday were described as rough and officials said the migrants who had tried to reach Lesbos were in rubber dinghies.

Coast guards at Ayvalik searched the area for survivors and rescued eight people who had climbed on to a breakwater, reported Dogan news agency.

Greek islands map

Residents said the boat that sank off Ayvalik appeared to have hit rocks. "I'm guessing these people died as they were trying to swim from the rocks," one man said.

Security forces pulled some bodies from the water while others could be seen on the beach, all wearing life jackets. Some were clearly children.

Police told Turkish media that 24 bodies were found on the beach or in the sea off Ayvalik while 10 more were discovered near Dikili.

Although their nationalities were not confirmed, local governor Namik Kemal Nazli Hurriyet said they were Syrians, Iraqis and Algerians.

On Sunday, dozens of people were rescued from a small island off the town of Dikili as they tried to cross to Lesbos. Helicopters had to be called in because the island was too rocky for rescue boats to get to.

Boats are continuing to arrive on the Greek islands every day, despite the wintry weather. Lesbos is by far the most popular destination for migrants leaving Turkey. More than 500,000 reached the island in 2015.

Late last year, Turkey reached a deal with the European Union to tighten its borders and reduce the numbers crossing to Greece in return for €3bn (£2.1bn) and political concessions.

Source: bbc.com

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Cologne sex attacks: Protest against gang assaults on women

Hundreds of people have protested in the German city of Cologne over sexual assaults and thefts carried out by groups of men on New Year's Eve.

Some held up signs demanding action from Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Mrs Merkel has expressed outrage over the "disgusting attacks" and said everything must be done to find those responsible.

Witnesses and police said that the men involved were of Arab or North African appearance.

The scale of the attacks, involving groups of drunk and aggressive young men, has shocked the country.

There is an intense debate in Germany about refugees and migrants who arrived in record numbers last year, many of them fleeing the conflict in Syria.

However, Cologne Mayor Henriette urged people not to jump to conclusions about the attackers, none of whom has been arrested.

'New dimension'

Women have made at least 90 criminal complaints to police about harassment by gangs at Cologne's main railway station on Thursday night.

At least one woman in Cologne was reportedly raped and many were groped, including a volunteer policewoman.

Women were also targeted in Hamburg and Stuttgart in similar attacks, but on a smaller scale.

Police check suspects at Cologne Central Station, Germany, 5 January 2016

Police searched suspects outside Cologne Central Station on Tuesday

Up to 300 people, mostly women, demonstrated against the violence near the scene of the attacks on Tuesday evening.

Some held placards reading: "Mrs Merkel! Where are you? What do you say? This alarms us!"

Police were pictured stopping and questioning men near Cologne's central station on Tuesday.

However, the city's police chief, Wolfgang Albers, said no arrests had yet been made over the New Year's Eve attacks.

"We don't currently have any suspects, so we don't know who the perpetrators were," he said.

"All we know is that the police at the scene perceived that it was mostly young men aged 18 to 35 from the Arab or North African region."

He called it "a completely new dimension of crime" and rejected criticism of his force's handling on the night.

Justice Minister Heiko Maas warned against using the attacks to bolster anti-refugee sentiment.

"In criminal law what's important is proving a crime, and everyone is equal before the law," he said.

"It doesn't matter where someone comes from, it matters what they did and that we can prove it."

Mrs Merkel called Ms Reker on Tuesday to discuss the attacks.

She said everything must be done "to find the perpetrators as quickly and comprehensively as possible and punish them, regardless of their origin or background".

"It's completely improper... to link a group that appeared to come from North Africa with the refugees," she said, following talks with police.

She also promised preventive measures ahead of Cologne's carnival in February, when hundreds of thousands of revellers are expected on the streets.

One man described how his partner and 15-year-old daughter were surrounded by a crowd outside the station and he was unable to help. "The attackers grabbed her and my partner's breasts and groped them between their legs."

Most of the crimes reported to police were robberies.

A British woman visiting Cologne said fireworks had been thrown at her group by men who spoke neither German nor English. "They were trying to hug us, kiss us. One man stole my friend's bag," she told the BBC.

"Another tried to get us into his 'private taxi'. I've been in scary and even life-threatening situations and I've never experienced anything like that."

Source: bbc.com

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South Africa's ANC to push for tougher anti-racism law

South Africa's governing African National Congress (ANC) says it will push for tougher legislation to jail anyone guilty of "racial bigotry", or "glorifying" apartheid.

Black people could no longer be treated as "sub-humans", it said.

The nation has been gripped by a racism row after Penny Sparrow, an opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) member, on Facebook called black people "monkeys".

She denied she was a racist. The DA party suspended her membership.

The racially discriminatory apartheid system ended in South Africa in 1994. It had been introduced in 1948 by the then-white minority government and was later declared by the UN as a crime against humanity.

A spokesman for the ANC chief whip's office, Moloto Mothapo, told the BBC that current legislation was insufficient to tackle racism.

"We haven't had a single person imprisoned for racism despite many instances of racism. We don't believe it addresses the crime of racism," he said.

A statement issued by the ANC parliamentary chief whip's office said racial bigotry and apartheid should be considered a serious human rights violations punishable by imprisonment because of South Africa's "painful past".

1956: A sign common in Johannesburg, South Africa, reading 'Caution Beware Of Natives'

"Elsewhere glorification of Nazism and denial of Holocaust is a crime and perpetrators are tried and sentenced to a prison term," it added.

The ANC also said it had filed criminal charges against several DA members - including Ms Sparrow and MP Dianne Kohler Barnard.

Ms Kohler Barnard was expelled from the DA in October after she shared a post on Facebook which suggested that public services in South Africa were better during apartheid and called for the return of former President PW Botha.

She won an appeal against her expulsion from the party, and was instead ordered to pay 20,000 rand ($1,320; £888) to a charity working with communities disadvantaged by apartheid.

On Monday, the DA said it had filed charges against Ms Sparrow "for infringing the dignity of all South Africans and for dehumanising black South Africans" as it did not tolerate racism.

On Facebook, Ms Sparrow used the word monkeys to describe New Year's revellers on the beach in the eastern city of Durban because of the mess she said they made.

She later apologised but was condemned by many on social media and the hashtag #RacismMustFall was trending on Twitter.

The South African Human Rights Commission, a statutory body, is also investigating her comments.

Source: bbc.com

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Gambia orders female workers 'to cover hair'

The Gambia's government has banned its female employees from leaving their hair uncovered at work, a leaked memo quoted by private newspapers says.

Women should use a "head tie and neatly wrap their hair", the memo said, without giving reasons for the ban.

Last month, The Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh declared the Muslim-majority country an Islamic republic.

He added that no dress code would be imposed and citizens of other faiths would be allowed to practise freely.

The Gambia is popular with Western tourists because of its beaches.

Mr Jammeh withdrew the former British colony from the Commonwealth in 2013, describing the organisation as neo-colonial.

The memo, dated 4 January and published in the pro-opposition Freedom and JollofNews newspapers, said that an "executive directive has been issued that all female staff within the government ministries, departments and agencies are no longer allowed to expose their hair during official working hours".

A supporter of outgoing Gambian President Yahya Jammeh wears a T-Shirt with a portrait of her candidate on November 22, 2011 during a campaign meeting in Bakau

"All are strictly advised to adhere to this new directive," it added.

Some 90% of Gambians are Muslim.

When Mr Jammeh declared The Gambia an Islamic republic, he said the move was in line with the West African nation's "religious identity and values".

His critics said the declaration was intended to deflect attention from the poor state of the economy, including the rise in the price of basic commodities.

Many Muslim scholars believe that Islam requires Muslim women to cover their hair in public.

However, the requirement is not strictly adhered to in The Gambia.

First Lady Zineb Yahya Jammeh has previously appeared in public with her hair uncovered.

In November, the Gambian leader banned female circumcision, saying it was not required in Islam.

Mr Jammeh, who seized power in 1994 as a 29-year-old army lieutenant, is accused by rights activists of presiding over a brutal regime which is intolerant of dissent.

The European Union temporarily withheld aid money to The Gambia in 2014 over its poor human rights record.

Source: bbc.com

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French telecom firms Orange and Bouygues in merger talks

French telecoms operators Orange and Bouygues have confirmed that they are in talks over a possible merger.

In separate statements, Orange said that the talks were "preliminary" while Bouygues said that "no decisions have been taken".

If the deal did go ahead it would reduce the number of French telecoms operators to three from four.

The combined group would have a near-50% share of the French mobile and fixed telecoms market.

As a result, any deal is likely to be scrutinised by both domestic and European competition authorities.

French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron opposed a previous bid by European telecoms group Altice to buy Bouygues, saying in June it risked creating a French operator that was "too big to fail".

But he has since said that he is not opposed in principle to further deals in the sector.

French newspaper reports have suggested that the deal could be worth €10bn (£7.3bn) in a combination of cash and shares.

In its statement, Bouygues said there was "no guarantee that there will be an outcome to these preliminary discussions".

Bouygues said it had signed a confidentiality agreement with Orange as "it is interested in opportunities that would enable it to bolster its long-term presence in the telecoms sector".

Orange said that the talks were not "limited by any particular calendar" and said there was "no commitment to any particular outcome".

Source: bbc.com

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Gun sales rise in US as Obama unveils control plans

Sales of guns in the US are rising, just as President Barack Obama unveils control measures designed to limit the availability of weapons.

Shares in gunmaker Smith & Wesson rose to their highest value since 1999 ahead of the President's announcement.

On Monday, Smith & Wesson raised its sales estimate, saying the market was "stronger than originally anticipated".

The number of background checks on potential buyers - a guide to future sales - has also risen.

The National Instant Criminal Background Check System said that checks were up by about 38% last month compared with December 2014.

Smith & Wesson's trading update said that for the three months ending 31 January it expected sales to be about $175m-$180m. Earlier guidance put the likely figure at between $150m and $155m.

The company said that "the sell-through rate of its products at distribution has been stronger than originally anticipated, resulting in reduced distributor inventories of its firearms". That means guns are being bought faster than Smith & Wesson is supplying them.

The firm said its net profit was $14.2m (£9.46m) for the period, compared with $5.2m for the same period last year.

In December, the company reported that profits had nearly tripled for the three months to October and net sales have increased 38% over the last five years.

On Monday, the White House unveiled proposals for gun control measures that require more sellers to get licences and more gun buyers to undergo background checks.

The US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will require that people who sell guns at stores, at gun shows or over the internet be licensed and conduct checks,

The bureau is also finalising a rule requiring background checks for buyers of dangerous weapons from a trust, corporation or other legal entity. President Obama is due to disclose further details about the plans on Tuesday.

The president has said he will curb gun violence and unregulated sales after a series of mass shootings, which included last month's attack in San Bernardino, California, that killed 14 people.

James Hardiman, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, said the increase in gun sales was probably due to buyers fearing tougher controls.

News of the stronger gun market saw Smith & Wesson's shares up 11% on Tuesday, despite stock markets in general falling sharply. Competitor Sturm Ruger's share rose 7.28% to a 52-week high.

Source: bbc.com

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"we'll shoot ourselves if England exit early"

Greg Dyke says England have 'got to get out' of Euro 2016 group

Football Association chairman Greg Dyke says "we'll all shoot ourselves" if England fail to progress from their group at Euro 2016.

Roy Hodgson's side have been drawn alongside Wales, Russia and Slovakia for the tournament in France, which starts on 10 June.

"We've got to get out of that group," said Dyke. "If we don't, that really is bad news for English football."

Dyke added he believes England can win the World Cup again "one day soon".

The 68-year-old was speaking at the start of a year of events to mark the 50th anniversary of England's 1966 World Cup success.

And he said the "building blocks are in place" to emulate that achievement.

"We owe it to a generation of teenage dreamers to show we can do it again," he added.

"The FA is the richest FA in the world, the most income. The FA has to take some of the blame.

"We should have won a tournament in the last 50 years. We haven't. But we will win in the next 50 years, hopefully long before."

England are ninth in the Fifa world rankings and have not gone past the quarter-finals of a World Cup since 1990.

They went out of the 2014 World Cup without a win, but Dyke stood by Hodgson.

England won all 10 of their Euro 2016 qualifiers and progress from the group in France "should not be the definition of success", added Dyke.

Greg Dyke says England have 'got to get out' of Euro 2016 group

Football Association chairman Greg Dyke says "we'll all shoot ourselves" if England fail to progress from their group at Euro 2016.

Roy Hodgson's side have been drawn alongside Wales, Russia and Slovakia for the tournament in France, which starts on 10 June.

"We've got to get out of that group," said Dyke. "If we don't, that really is bad news for English football."

Dyke added he believes England can win the World Cup again "one day soon".

The 68-year-old was speaking at the start of a year of events to mark the 50th anniversary of England's 1966 World Cup success.

And he said the "building blocks are in place" to emulate that achievement.

"We owe it to a generation of teenage dreamers to show we can do it again," he added.

"The FA is the richest FA in the world, the most income. The FA has to take some of the blame.

"We should have won a tournament in the last 50 years. We haven't. But we will win in the next 50 years, hopefully long before."

England are ninth in the Fifa world rankings and have not gone past the quarter-finals of a World Cup since 1990.

They went out of the 2014 World Cup without a win, but Dyke stood by Hodgson.

England won all 10 of their Euro 2016 qualifiers and progress from the group in France "should not be the definition of success", added Dyke

Greg Dyke and Roy Hodgson

He was joined at Tuesday's launch by 1966 World Cup winners Sir Geoff Hurst, Gordon Banks, Martin Peters and George Cohen.

Dyke said: "It is important to remember and pay tribute to each and every player in the final and also in the squad.

"We hope the celebrations cement the '66 winners their place in history and hope a new generation will hear their story and be inspired by it."

What next for Dyke?

Dyke said a decision on whether to extend his three-year contract - which expires in the summer - will be made in the coming days.

One of the aims of his tenure has been to increase the number of English players in the Premier League, with the objective of seeing England win the World Cup in 2022.

He added: "It is ridiculous. The figures in terms of the numbers of kids who don't make it out of academies, who just disappear, is quite frightening.

"It's not that they go and play in the lower league, they just don't play at all. And they're the cream of their generation."

Source: bbc.com

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Liverpool earn slender cup lead

Liverpool hold a precious advantage going into the Capital One Cup semi-final second leg after Jordon Ibe's goal gave them victory at Stoke City.

Jurgen Klopp's side take the lead to Anfield for the return on 26 January despite losing influential midfield man Philippe Coutinho and defender Dejan Lovren to hamstring injuries before half-time.

Ibe, on for Coutinho, struck at the far post in the 37th minute after clever build-up work by Adam Lallana and Joe Allen.

Stoke failed to reproduce the form that has brought them home wins against Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United in recent times and, when they did force an opening, Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet saved well from Glen Johnson and Joselu.

Substitute Jon Walters wasted their best chance deep into stoppage time and Liverpool are now favourites to meet either Everton or Manchester City at Wembley.

Relive Liverpool's win

Liverpool's split personality

Liverpool league cup wins

Klopp left the media to guess at the "three words" he delivered to his players after a dismal performance in defeat at West Ham United on Saturday.

He had no need to rein in his message here as Liverpool bristled with an intensity from the first whistle that shocked Stoke City in such a manner they struggled to recover any rhythm or composure.

It was another example of the two-faced nature of Liverpool's performances under Klopp since he arrived to succeed the sacked Brendan Rodgers in early October.

This display, full of steely resolve and the incessant pressing Klopp demands, was more akin to the outstanding away victories at Chelsea (3-1), Manchester City (4-1) and the 6-1 win at Southampton in the quarter-final.

And yet Klopp has still had to suffer the frustration of Liverpool barely turning up in losses at Newcastle United, Watford and West Ham.

This was more like the model of what he will expect on a consistent basis when he has really settled into his work at Liverpool - and it has given him a big opportunity of marking his first season with a Wembley appearance.

Stoke City fluff their lines

This was a huge night at the Britannia Stadium as Stoke's players attempt to write their names alongside those who famously won the League Cup for the Potters against Chelsea at Wembley in 1972.

And anticipation had been elevated by the impressive form shown by Mark Hughes' side, a potent blend of silk and steel that arguably had them as favourites before the game.

It was to be a disappointing 90 minutes for the hosts as Liverpool appeared to stun them from kick-off by pressurising them into mistakes, and they simply never recovered enough to build up a head of steam.

Mignolet made a couple of important stops and Stoke felt they had penalty claims when Alberto Moreno tangled with Glenn Whelan, but Liverpool closed down their big players such as Bojan, Xherdan Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic to deserve their victory.

No-one should dismiss Stoke's chances as they have shown so much quality already this season - but they have left themselves a huge task in the return.

Klopp's injury curse

After young Belgian striker Divock Origi went lame in the Boxing Day victory against Leicester City at Anfield, Klopp pointed out in colourful terms that "hamstring" was his least favourite word of 2015.

It is not shaping up any better in 2016 as Coutinho and Lovren both limped off clutching their hamstrings before half-time - adding to Liverpool's already lengthy injury list. They may be joined by Kolo Toure, who ended the game clutching the back of his right leg.

Klopp's "gegenpressing" style, intense and physical as opponents are put under pressure, is demanding and requires high levels of fitness - and maybe it is taking some getting used to for his new charges.

And there is no doubt Liverpool are also suffering a run of bad luck that is filling up the treatment room at their Melwood training headquarters.

Martin Skrtel, as well as Origi, is nursing a hamstring problem while James Milner has only just returned from a similar injury.

Joe Gomez and Danny Ings suffered long-term knee ligament problems before Klopp's arrival while Jordan Henderson's heel problem is a recurrence of a problem he had earlier in the season.

Jordan Rossiter was sidelined by a hamstring problem after initially suffering the injury with England's youngsters while Daniel Sturridge's many problems have already occupied much of Klopp's early time at Anfield.

The German is waiting for the day when he will have all his Liverpool players fit - but that day looks as far away as ever.

What they said

Stoke City manager Mark Hughes said: "People might want to criticise what we did in the first half but sometimes you have to credit the opposition.

"They restricted what we wanted to do in terms of getting people around the ball and restricting space and they did that to good effect and we had to improve in the second half.

"The key from our point of view is that we didn't concede again and the danger was that if we over committed and conceded another one that would have been a huge task to go to Anfield and claw it back."

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp told BBC Radio 5 live: "The only thing we can criticise is our finishing again. We had a good structure, played football good, everything was good but we don't make enough goals.

"The biggest problem for us is we have two and maybe three injured players again."

Stats you need to know

  • Stoke have progressed from both of their semi-finals in the League Cup
  • All three of Jordon Ibe's goals this season have arrived in cup competitions
  • Stoke have played Liverpool six times in the League Cup, drawing one and losing five

What next

Liverpool travel to League Two Exeter City in the FA Cup on Friday night, before Arsenal and then Manchester United visit Anfield in the Premier League. Stoke travel to League One Doncaster in the FA Cup on Saturday, before entertaining Norwich and Arsenal in the league.

Source: bbc.com

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Lord Coe to double IAAF anti-doping budget to help rebuild trust

IAAF president Lord Coe will double the world governing body's anti-doping budget as part of his plan to rebuild trust in athletics.

Since Coe was elected, Russia have been barred from world athletics for alleged involvement in widespread doping.

Coe's predecessor Lamine Diack is the subject of a police investigation, while IAAF official Nick Davies has stepped aside over a separate matter.

Coe said: "Be under no illusion about how seriously I take these issues."

The 59-year-old Briton, a former Olympic 1500m champion, was elected president of the IAAF in August.

He said: "I am president of an international federation which is under serious investigations and I represent a sport under intense scrutiny."

As well as taking the IAAF's anti-doping budget to £5.45m, Coe wants to appoint a new chief executive by the middle of 2016, establish a separate integrity unit for athletics before this summer's Olympics, and double the international testing pool of athletes to 1,000.

The integrity unit, one of Coe's election manifesto promises, will review issues such as doping, corruption, betting and age manipulation.

"My vision is to have a sport that attracts more young people," said Coe.

"The average age of those watching track and field is 55. This is not sustainable."

He said the key was to create "a sport that people trust once more".

Coe added: "Athletics must be a sport that athletes, fans, sponsors, media and parents alike know is safe to compete in on a level playing field and one in which clean effort is rewarded and celebrated."

Diack is being investigated over allegations he took payments for deferring sanctions against Russian drugs cheats.

Davies, the IAAF's deputy general secretary, stepped aside while the organisation's ethics board looks into a plan to delay naming Russian drug cheats before the 2013 World Championships in Moscow. He denies any wrongdoing.

Source: bbc.com

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2015 NFL playoffs: Strengths and weaknesses of each NFC team

The 2015 NFL playoffs are upon us. Beginning this weekend, the top teams in the NFC and AFC will fight for the right to meet in Super Bowl 50. Before the action kicks off with Wild Card Weekend, I thought I'd examine the strengths and weaknesses of all 12 playoff teams, in an effort to paint a more complete picture of the combatants about to square off for football's ultimate prize. Below, you'll find the strengths and weaknesses of each team in the NFC field, listed according to playoff seeding.

Check back Wednesday for the strengths and weaknesses of each team in the AFC field.


1) Carolina Panthers

Next matchup: vs. Redskins/Packers/Seahawks, Sunday, Jan. 17, 1:05 p.m. ET, FOX

Biggest strengths: The Panthers' defensive front seven (defensive line and linebackers) are arguably the best unit in the NFL. Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly command the headlines with their spectacular play and sideline-to-sideline dominance, but Carolina's defensive line also routinely owns the line of scrimmage behind Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei. The Panthers rank fourth in run defense (allowing 88.4 rushing yards per game) and sixth in sacks (44). Given the importance of creating chaos at the point of attack, the Panthers' defense is capable of sparking a deep postseason run.

Biggest weaknesses: Despite Cam Newton's MVP-caliber campaign, the Panthers' passing game remains the biggest weakness on a squad that finished the regular season with a 15-1 record and led the NFL in scoring (31.2 points per game). The team lacks a true WR1; opponents will make a concerted effort to neutralize tight end Greg Olsen (the only player who cracked 1,000 receiving yards this season) with brackets and double coverage down the field. Although Ted Ginn Jr., Devin Funchess and Corey Brown have produced a handful of splash plays throughout the season, the jury is still out as to whether they can produce in a pressurized environment with a potential title on the line.


2) Arizona Cardinals

Next matchup: vs. Vikings/Redskins/Packers, Saturday, Jan. 16, 8:15 p.m. ET, NBC

Biggest strengths: The Cardinals' high-powered offense is problematic for opponents due to their talent and depth on the perimeter. The WR corps, in particular, is full of versatile athletes capable of working between the hashes on a variety of intermediate routes (Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd) or stretching the field on an assortment of vertical routes (John Brown and J.J. Nelson). With quarterback Carson Palmer thriving as a pinpoint passer in Bruce Arians' scheme, the Cardinals' "bombs away" attack has all of the necessary components to attack defenses at every level.

Biggest weaknesses: The Cardinals' offensive line woes haven't prevented Arians' troops from lighting up scoreboards around the NFL, but the unit remains a huge question mark heading into the playoffs. Despite surrendering just 27 sacks during the regular season, the Cardinals' front line has been pummeled by ultra-athletic pass rushers off the edges. Thus, Arians could be forced to abandon his vertical passing game when facing a defense with multiple disruptors at the point of attack.


3) Minnesota Vikings

Next matchup: vs. Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, 1:05 p.m. ET, NBC

Biggest strengths: At a time when most offenses are building around their quarterbacks and dynamic passing games, the Vikings have the luxury of utilizing an old-school approach headed by workhorse runner Adrian Peterson. The three-time rushing leader remains the most dominant playmaker at the position at age 30, exhibiting a hard-hitting running style that makes him nearly impossible to contain with an eight- or nine-man front. Given the Vikings' sterling record when Peterson notches 20-plus carries (8-1) or surpasses the 100-yard mark (7-0), Peterson is the key to the team's playoff hopes.

Biggest weaknesses: Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is the X-factor for the Vikings heading into the tournament. The second-year pro has been an efficient game manager for the team, but he needs to become more of a playmaker for the Vikings to advance. Bridgewater needs to push the ball down the field effectively to prevent opponents from condensing the field with loaded boxes and tight coverage. If Bridgewater is unable to find a way to utilize Mike Wallace and Stefon Diggs as vertical threats, the Vikings' playoff journey could be short.


4) Washington Redskins

Next matchup: vs. Green Bay Packers, Sunday, 4:40 p.m. ET, FOX

Biggest strengths: It is no coincidence quarterback Kirk Cousins has played well since DeSean Jackson returned to the lineup after a first half interrupted by a hamstring injury. The spectacular playmaker is the most explosive big-play receiver in the NFL, and his presence gives the Redskins one of the most dynamic WR corps in the game. With Jackson joining tight end Jordan Reed and receivers Jamison Crowder and Pierre Garcon on the perimeter, Cousins has a plethora of options to target to exploit the most vulnerable defender in the back end. This is a huge advantage for a team that's beginning to steamroll opponents with an electric "dink-and-dunk" passing game.

Biggest weaknesses: The Redskins' opportunistic defense has keyed their surprising playoff run by getting timely stops in key moments, but opposing coaches will attack the front line to see how well it holds up against a punishing ground attack. The Redskins surrender 4.8 rush yards per attempt, tied for 30th in the NFL, which is significant in a conference defined by physicality and toughness. Given the number of top rushing offenses (Carolina, Seattle, Minnesota and Arizona) in the NFC bracket, the Redskins' front seven will need to show opponents they can stop the run to move on in the tournament.


5) Green Bay Packers

Next matchup: at Washington Redskins, Sunday, 4:40 p.m. ET, FOX

Biggest strengths: Despite his subpar performance for most of the regular season, Aaron Rodgers remains the driving force of the Packers' playoff future. The former MVP is not only capable of getting red hot from the pocket, but he is a magical playmaker capable of helping Green Bay score points in bunches. If he can achieve synergy with an underperforming receiver corps that desperately misses Jordy Nelson, Rodgers could spark a playoff run on the heels of a pass-first offense that's a threat to find the end zone from anywhere on the field.

Biggest weaknesses: The Packers' injury-riddled offensive line has struggled against premier pass rushers. The unit surrendered 51 sacks during the regular season (fifth-most in the NFL), and the lack of solid pass protection has disrupted Rodgers' timing and rhythm from the pocket. Most importantly, the leaky pocket has forced Rodgers to quickly abandon his reads and grounded the potent aerial attack. If the Packers are unable to fix their offensive line heading into the playoffs, Green Bay could be one and done.


6) Seattle Seahawks

Next matchup: at Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, 1:05 p.m. ET, NBC

Biggest strengths: For all of the questions regarding the Seahawks' defense in the middle of the season, the unit remains the stingiest in the NFL. The Seahawks not only have the top scoring defense (17.3 points allowed per game), but they have the top run defense (81.5 rushing yards allowed per game) and the second-ranked pass defense (210.2 passing yards allowed per game). While the numbers certainly jump off the stat sheet, it has been the complementary play of the front seven and secondary that makes the Seahawks' defense a destructive force heading into the playoffs. From Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Bruce Irvin wreaking havoc off the edges to Bobby Wagner pummeling opponents venturing over the middle to the "Legion of Boom" suffocating pass catchers down the field, the Seahawks trot out a dynamic defense that ranks as the best in the NFL.

Biggest weaknesses: Offensive line coach Tom Cable has worked miracles reshaping the Seahawks' line on the fly, but the unit remains a weakness on a team loaded with all-stars. The front line has struggled creating a consistent push on the ground, and its inconsistent pass protection has forced quarterback Russell Wilson to run around like a madman on the perimeter. Although the unit has shown significant improvement down the stretch, the Seahawks will have to work around the front line's flaws to make a sustained run in the postseason.

Source: nfl.com

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North Korea nuclear test: UN vows new measures

The UN Security Council says it will begin work immediately on new measures against North Korea, after Pyongyang said it had tested a hydrogen bomb.

The council condemned the test, saying "a clear threat to international peace and security continues to exist".

This is the North's fourth nuclear test since 2006, but if confirmed would be the first of an H-bomb.

However, the US has joined nuclear experts in questioning whether the blast was large enough for such a test.

US White House spokesman Josh Earnest said "initial analysis was not consistent with North Korea's claims of a successful hydrogen bomb test".

He added: "Nothing that happened overnight has changed our view of North Korea's nuclear capabilities."

The Security Council held an emergency session on Wednesday. It was called by the US, Japan and South Korea.

Uruguay's UN Ambassador Elbio Rosselli, current president of the council, said: "The members... recalled that they have previously expressed their determination to take further significant measures in the event of another [North Korea] nuclear test.

"In line with this commitment and the gravity of this violation, [they] will begin to work immediately on such measures in a new Security Council resolution."

Mr Earnest said North Korea's isolation had "deepened as they have sought to engage in increasingly provocative acts".

Japan's ambassador to the UN, Motohide Yoshikawa, called for a swift and robust new UN resolution.

He said: "The authority and credibility of the Security Council will be put in question if it does not take these measures."

However, he and other members have not spelled out what they will be or when the resolution could be adopted.

Russia's UN ambassador said it would be going "too far" to say Moscow supported further sanctions.

North Korea's tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013 triggered UN sanctions, with 20 entities and 12 individuals on a UN blacklist.

'Bang would have been bigger'

If an H-bomb test were confirmed, it would mark a major upgrade in North Korea's nuclear capabilities.

Hydrogen bombs are more powerful and technologically advanced than atomic weapons, using fusion - the merging of atoms - to unleash massive amounts of energy.

Atomic bombs, like the kind that devastated two Japanese cities in World War Two, use fission, or the splitting of atoms.

Bruce Bennett, an analyst with the Rand Corporation, was among those casting doubts on Pyongyang's test: "The bang they should have gotten would have been 10 times greater than what they're claiming."

A South Korean politician, Lee Cheol-woo, said he was briefed by the country's intelligence agency that the blast "probably falls short" of a hydrogen detonation.

North Korea's 'spectacular' rhetoric, by the BBC's Steve Evans

The rhetoric from the North Korean media was spectacular, announcing the country had carried out a "world startling event" - the underground test of a hydrogen bomb.

"People of the DPRK are making a giant stride, performing eye-catching miracles and exploits day by day," state media said.

That North Korea is still living with its predictable 1950s post-Korean War world view, where the US is the prime aggressor, was made clear too.

"The US is a gang of cruel robbers which has worked hard to bring even a nuclear disaster to the DPRK."

But despite the rhetoric, outside experts are sceptical about how much of a giant stride had been made.

What is not in doubt is the determination of Pyongyang to go down the nuclear path despite widespread condemnation the last time it tested a device.

North Korea's dramatic rhetoric

Suspicions that North Korea had carried out a nuclear test were raised when an earthquake was registered near the Punggye-ri nuclear site in North Korea at 10:00 Pyongyang time (01:30 GMT), with the tremors rattling Chinese border cities.

Hours later, in a surprise announcement, a newsreader on North Korean state TV said: "The republic's first hydrogen bomb test has been successfully performed at 10:00 am on January 6, 2016."

A note signed by North Korea leader Kim Jong-un authorising the test said 2016 should begin with the "stirring explosive sound" of a hydrogen bomb.

China and Japan are reported to have been trying to detect radiation.

Can North Korea now launch a nuclear missile?

Despite North Korea's claims, experts are sceptical that North Korea can make a nuclear weapon small enough to fit on a missile.

What do we know about the latest test?

Observers agree a nuclear explosion of some kind took place and it seems to have been a bit bigger than the last test in 2013, but not nearly big enough to be a full thermonuclear explosion - an "H-bomb" - as Pyongyang claims.

Why can't the world stop North Korea?

North Korea has a determination to defy both world opinion and heavy sanctions to reach its nuclear goal. Crucially, its main ally, China, has proved either unwilling or unable to help.

Source: bbc.com

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US Election 2016: Donald Trump questions whether Cruz can be president

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump has questioned whether rival candidate Ted Cruz is eligible to become his party's nominee because he was born in Canada.

Mr Trump called it a "very precarious" issue for the party and said that Mr Cruz's nomination could be challenged in court.

Mr Cruz was born in Calgary to an American mother and a Cuban father.

Most legal experts believe Mr Cruz meets the requirements to be president.

The Cruz campaign responded by saying Mr Trump had "jumped the shark" - a pop culture reference to when a TV show or fad has overreached and fallen into decline.

The Texas senator is performing well in polling in the early voting state of Iowa. While Mr Trump leads most polls, several surveys show Mr Cruz is the top choice of likely Republican voters.

Candidates for US president must:

  • be a "natural born citizen" - interpreted as being born in the US or having one parent who is a US citizen
  • be 35 years of age or older
  • live in the US for the past 14 years

Much of Mr Trump's support comes from independents, disillusioned Democrats and people who have never voted before.

Some analysts are predicting that Mr Cruz will win because of how the voting process is structured in Iowa.

The caucus format requires more time and dedication from voters than a typical US primary election.

Before Mr Trump became a presidential candidate, the New York businessman had repeatedly questioned President Barack Obama's citizenship.

Mr Obama was born in Hawaii to an American mother and a Kenyan father.

Authorities in Hawaii and Mr Obama both provided detailed birth records after some conservatives such as Mr Trump questioned where he was born.

Mr Obama's allies have said the "birther" movement was a racist effort to discredit the county's first black president.

Source: bbc.com

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Cologne sex attacks: Germany's De Maiziere criticises police

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has strongly criticised police handling of gang attacks on women and girls in Cologne on New Year's Eve.

"The police shouldn't work like this," he said, as it emerged that three suspects had been identified.

More than 100 victims have complained of being sexually assaulted or robbed by gangs of up to 30 men, reportedly of Arab or North African appearance.

Officials say the violence should not cast suspicion against all refugees.

A crowd of about 1,000 men had gathered in the square outside Cologne station during New Year's Eve, letting off fireworks. Many were drunk and aggressive.

Police eventually evacuated the area because of the risk of injury from the fireworks.

But gangs of youths soon returned and carried out dozens of attacks over a number of hours with little apparent response from the local authorities until well after midnight.

What went wrong?

Cologne mayor's 'code of conduct' attacked

Two women in Cologne have told police they were raped and many were groped, including a volunteer policewoman. Justice Minister Heiko Maas said the attacks appeared to have been co-ordinated and spoke of "a new scale of organised crime".

Women were also targeted in Hamburg and Stuttgart. More than 30 complaints have been filed by women saying they were indecently assaulted or robbed on Hamburg's Reeperbahn.

Police in Stuttgart say several women were attacked at Schlossplatz in the city centre.

A policewoman holds a young man on 31 December at Cologne station

Hundreds of people protested near Cologne station on Tuesday night, angered by the brazen attacks and by the slow response of political leaders.

Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed outrage over the "disgusting attacks" and the interior minister was asked about the police response on national TV.

Mr de Maiziere criticised police for allowing the attackers to return. The square was evacuated, he said, "and then later these events take place and they wait for complaints. The police shouldn't work like this".

The widespread identification of the attackers as North African or Arab in appearance has also caused considerable alarm because of the influx of more than a million migrants and refugees in the past year. Many of the incomers have fled the conflict in Syria.

Cologne's night of violence

One man described how his partner and 15-year-old daughter were surrounded by a crowd outside the station and he was unable to help.

"The attackers grabbed her and my partner's breasts and groped them between their legs."

A woman, named Busra, told German television the ordeal was "truly terrible".

"They felt like they were in power and that they could do anything with the women who were out in the street partying. They touched us everywhere," she said.

Another woman was robbed of her mobile phone at the station entrance after midnight and went to police to report it. "There were lots of girls, all crying uncontrollably."

And a British woman visiting Cologne said fireworks had been thrown at her group by men who spoke neither German nor English. "They were trying to hug us, kiss us. One man stole my friend's bag," she told the BBC.

"I've been in scary and even life-threatening situations and I've never experienced anything like that."

The "anti-Islamisation" Pegida movement and the right-wing AfD said the attacks were a consequence of large-scale migration. AfD leader Frauke Petry asked if, after the attacks, Germany was now sufficiently "diverse and cosmopolitan".

Mr de Maiziere emphasised there should not be any general suspicion towards refugees, at least "at this stage of the investigation".

"But if North Africans were the perpetrators, for which there is some indication, there should not be a taboo and people should not gloss over it."

Cologne Mayor Henriette Reker had earlier said it was "completely improper" to link the attackers "who appeared to come from North Africa" with refugees.

But she was herself mocked for urging young women and girls to adopt a code of conduct that meant keeping an "arm's length" distance from strangers and sticking with a group of people.

'New dimension'

North Rhine-Westphalia Interior Minister Ralf Jaeger told journalists on Wednesday that three suspects had been identified, although no arrests had been made.

He warned that anti-immigrant groups were trying to use the attacks to stir up hatred against refugees.

Cologne police chief Wolfgang Albers has rejected criticism of his force, describing what happened as "a completely new dimension of crime".

But police union chief Rainer Wendt said a lack of resources meant that the Cologne force had been unable to clear the square properly.

Mr Wendt was critical of the Berlin government, arguing that federal officers who had the task of policing the station itself had been deployed in recent months to strengthen border security in Bavaria.

Cologne authorities are particularly concerned that the attacks may hit the city's reputation ahead of its February carnival, when hundreds of thousands of revellers are expected on the streets.

Source: bbc.com

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Nigeria court in Kano sentences cleric to death for blasphemy

An Islamic court has sentenced a Nigerian cleric to death by hanging for insulting the Prophet Muhammad in the northern city of Kano.

Abdulazeez Dauda, popularly known as Abdul Inyass, was convicted after a trial held in secret to avoid protests.

Five of his followers were also sentenced to death last year.

These are the first death sentences for blasphemy handed down by a Nigerian Sharia court; those delivered for other offences have not been carried out.

Mr Inyass is a preacher at a local faction of the Tijaniya sect, founded in Senegal by Sheikh Ibrahim Niasse, which has a large following across West Africa.

He was reported to have said that "Niasse was bigger than Prophet Muhammad" during a lecture at an event in May, leading to violent protests in the city.

Nigeria map

The BBC's Yusuf Ibrahim Yakasai in Kano says he then fled to the capital, Abuja, and nine of his followers were arrested for their alleged part in organising the event.

When they were arraigned in court, there were further clashes and the courthouse was set on fire, he says.

Analysis: Muhammad Kabir Muhammad, BBC Hausa, Abuja

Anyone who is not satisfied with the judgement of a Sharia court can appeal to the Sharia Court of Appeal in the state within three months. From there the case can be taken to the federal Court of Appeal, which is secular and, finally, to the Supreme Court.

There are judges of the Court of Appeal who are learned in Islamic law and who would be convened by the court's president to hear the case.

The Sharia courts only try Muslims. If a case involves a Muslim and a non-Muslim, the non-Muslim will be given the option of choosing where he/she wants the case to be tried. The Sharia court can only hear the case if the non-Muslim gives written consent.

Amina Lawal, who was found guilty of adultery in 2002 and sentenced to death by stoning, was acquitted by a Sharia Court of Appeal.

Four of the followers were acquitted and the five sentenced to death are appealing against their conviction at the state's high court.

Kano has a predominately Muslim population and Islamic courts operate alongside secular courts.

Mr Inyass, whose five-month trial was held in secret for security reasons, will also be able to appeal against the verdict at the high court.

Several states in northern Nigeria introduced Sharia after the country returned to civilian rule in 1999.

Tijaniya at a glance

Members of the Tijaniyya Brotherhood receive blessing from a descendant (R) of Sheikh Sidi Ahmed al-Tijani who lived during the eighteenth century as they take part in a remembrance for him on May 14, 2014 in the Moroccan city of Fes.

The Sufi sect of Tijaniya was founded in Algeria in 1784 by Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Tijani.

It spread all over the world, with large following in North and West Africa. It also has followers in South Africa, Indonesia and other parts of the world.

There are other Sufi sects in Islam but Tijaniya is the largest.

They have three main daily practices: Asking the forgiveness of God; sending prayers to the Prophet Muhammad and affirming the Oneness of Allah.

Senegalese-born Sheikh Ibrahim Niasse was credited with reviving the sect in the 20th Century. People travel from across the continent to visit his shrine.

They have several factions including the Haqiqa (Realist) group, whose members were convicted of blasphemy in Kano.

Source: bbc.com

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Fuel prices in Ghana shooting up as oil price falls below $35 a barrel to fresh 11-year low

Oil has continued its rollercoaster ride into the new year, with Brent crude falling below $35 a barrel for the first time in 11 years.

Brent crude sank by 4.2% to $34.88 a barrel, surpassing its late December fall, and taking the price to its lowest level since 1 July 2004.

The price of US crude dropped 3.3% to $34.77 a barrel.

The sharp falls followed a short-lived rally on Monday after Saudi Arabia broke diplomatic ties with Iran.

Analysts said fears over the worsening relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which had initially raised concerns about possible supply disruptions and boosted the oil price, had now been overtaken by pessimism over oil cartel Opec ever agreeing on a production ceiling.

How low?

Historically, Opec has cut production to support prices. But led by Saudi Arabia, by far the group's most powerful member, the group has resolutely refused to trim supply this time.

Rising tensions over Saudi Arabia's execution of Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr mean that any agreement is now deemed less likely than ever.

"With relations between Opec kingpins Saudi Arabia and Iran at a historic low point, it solidifies an already unlikely scenario that Opec might cut output," said Barclays analyst Alia Moubayed.

Since mid-2014, oil prices have slumped 70% mainly because of oversupply. This in turn is largely due to US shale oil flooding the market.

At the same time, demand has fallen because of a slowdown in economic growth in China and Europe.

Iranian oil exports are also expected to rise later this year once Western sanctions against Tehran for its nuclear programme are lifted, increasing the oversupply of oil.

Opec is hoping that refusing to cut production will help to drive US shale producers out of business, believing that they will fall victim to lower prices long before its own members, and has forecast that prices will recover to $70 a barrel by 2020.

Goldman Sachs has warned that oil prices could go as low a $20 a barrel, but most analysts are expecting the price to stabilise in the second half of the year as supply from non-Opec nations slows and demand remains relatively robust.

Source: bbc.com

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Bill Cosby: Judge delays wife's deposition

Bill Cosby's wife will not have to give evidence on Wednesday in a defamation case filed by seven women accusing the comedian of sexual assault.

Last week a judge rejected Camille Cosby's attempts to avoid testifying, after she claimed she was protected by a marital disqualification law.

But on Tuesday, he agreed to a postponement, saying it would be unfair to deny her the right to appeal.

However, if the appeal fails, a hearing should happen soon after, he added.

A lawyer for the women said he expected to eventually be allowed to question Mrs Cosby, who has been married to the comedian for more than 50 years is also his business partner.

Mr Cosby's accusers' legal claim alleges he and his representatives sought to tarnish their reputations after they went public with their claims of sexual misconduct.

The star has filed a counter legal claim, contending the women are "engaged in a campaign to assassinate" his reputation and character.

The 78-year-old is also seeking unspecified monetary damages and said the women inflicted emotional distress.

He has denied the accusations.

Last week, prosecutors in Pennsylvania charged the comedian with an alleged sexual assault in 2004. It is the first time Mr Cosby has been charged with any offence after months of accusations by dozens of women.

He is currently on $1m (£675,000) bail.

Source: bbc.com

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Ghana’s Parliament is ‘useless’ – law expert

A constitutional law expert, Professor Henry Kwesi Prempeh has taken a swipe at the country’s legislature over its inability to seek the interest of the people in its work.

Commenting on the latest astronomical fuel price increase in the wake of falling crude oil prices, Prof. Prempeh suggested the country’s parliament has become an appendage of the Executive because it has been reduced to merely approving what is presented to it by the government.

“We don't have a parliament; we have two branches of the executive, one for proposing laws and taxes and loans; the other for dutifully approving them,” he stated in a Facebook post.

Prof. Prempeh was equally not happy about comments made by the Chairman of the Finance committee of Parliament, James Klutse Avedzi, to the effect that those who cannot afford the increment should park their private cars and board commercial cars.

Mr. Avedzi who is the Member of Parliament for Ketu North, said on Tuesday: “In UK, not everyone has a car. Many use public transport. Even if we charge 30% on fuel and you can’t pay just park your car. Once you want to use your private car, then you have to pay,”

But this, Prof. Prempeh finds distasteful. “The Chairman of the Finance committee of Parliament, siding with our tax-and-waste government instead of We the People, has told Ghanaians who think the tax-heavy price of petrol is unbearable to park their cars and walk or get on our non-existent London public transportation,” he adds

That notwithstanding, he said he won't be surprised to see Mr. Avedzi re-elected in this year’s polls, saying “But he is sure to get re-elected; no wonder he has little incentive to use his position as MP to represent the interest and concerns of We the People, rather than of the government”.

Prof. Prempeh said as long as the country’s elected and appointed public officials are provided free petrol “for both their official and their private/household use,” they will continue to not feel the pain of ordinary Ghanaians when it comes to things like petroleum pricing (taxation).

The passage of the Energy Sector Levy (ESL) by Parliament last December has caused petroleum prices to go up between 22 and 27 per cent at the pumps; something that has triggered criticism from the public.

Source: tv3network.com

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NPP calls for immediate reverse of petroleum prices

The New Patriotic Party (NPP) has described as “unjustified” the recent hike in petroleum prices, calling for a reverse of the decision.

Following the passing of the Energy Sector Levy bill, petroleum prices saw increases between 18 per cent and 27 per cent from January 1, 2016.

The opposition party in a statement signed by Nana Akomea, the Communications Director, said the move by government is “callous, wicked, insensitive and lazy”.

Find the full unedited statement below:


The New Patriotic  Party  (NPP)  urges the government  to immediately  reverse  or review the imposition of  a 27% hike on petroleum products which has seen the price of petrol increase from ghc 12  to over ghc15 a gallon, effective  January  1st 2016. The 27% increase is completely unjustified.  

There are two main determinants of petrol prices: the cedi exchange rate and the price of crude oil. The price of the  cedi exchange rate has been relatively stable, at Ghc3.85, in the  last few months. The price of crude oil  HAS ACTUALLY FALLEN STEEPLY,  from $110 in mid 2014 to $37 today. 

By operation of the automatic petrol price adjustment formula, petrol should  be  selling  at about ghc9 a gallon. Indeed the trend all over the world, including  in the rich countries) has been drastic falls in petrol prices. It is therefore totally baffling that in Ghana, the ndc government has not seen it fit to reduce the price of petroleum products to bring  much needed  relief to  the Ghanaian consumer,  but has ACTUALLY increased the price of petrol by a whopping  27%,  from Ghc 12 a gallon to  nearly ghc16  a gallon.

In effect, the poor consumer does not get the well deserved relief in petrol price, but is actually punished by the government  of ndc by imposition  of higher prices for petrol.

Furthermore, over the  last month  or so, the NDC government has imposed at once,  a  60% increase in tariffs for electricity,  a 67% rise in water tariffs and a 27% rise in petrol price, on the long suffering Ghanaian. 

All these unbearable increases have come on the  back of only a 10% provision  for increment in workers' wages and salaries.

The increases therefore show a callous, wicked,  insensitive and lazy government which quickly, time and again, resorts to using state power to  financially squeeze the poor  Ghanaian consumer. 
Apart from the poor Ghanaian having to eke out to  pay directly the 60%, 67% and 27% increases, the poor taxpayer will still be confronted to eke out further to pay increases in trotro fares, bus fares, school fees, sachet  water,  kenkey,  rent, and for food etc. Businesses  are going to suffer from increases in operating costs, losses in profit and further limiting their ability to expand and create jobs for the  teeming unemployed youth. 

It must be noted that the ndc government has removed all subsidies on petrol prices  by  its operation of  the automatic petrol pricing formula. So when the prices of oil or the dollar increase,  the effect of petrol price  increase has been passed on without  any cushion to the Ghanaian consumer.  But when the price of oil has fallen to its lowest  level in 7 years , the ndc govt has not allowed  the automatic reduction in petrol  price, as per the formula, but has rather imposed new and increased taxes to rather raise the  price of petrol by this whooping 27%.

These taxes, imposed under a certificate of urgency,  include taxes on Ghanaians for a so called " legacy debt"( or Energy Debt Recovery Levy), another Energy Fund Levy, a Price Stabilisation and Recovery Levy, a National  Electrification  Scheme Levy , dramatic increases in the  Road Fund  Levy and the Public Lighting Levy !

The preponderance of these taxes and  levies at this time,  in the face of the steep increases in water and electricity tariffs, portray a very uncaring and wicked government,  whose main policy is to impose higher and new taxes on the  long suffering  Ghanaian,  even in  the  face of poor growth in the economy. These government imposed hardships are unfortunate.  

The NPP urges the govt to revisit this issue,  and review the taxes urgently to relieve  the  poor Ghanaian.  The suffering of the people is too much!


Nana Akomea

Communications Director

Source: tv3network.com

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Abu Sakara to contest 2016 election as independent candidate

2012 Presidential Candidate of the Convention People’s Party (CPP) Dr Michael Abu Sakara Foster has announced his intention to contest this year’s presidential elections as an independent candidate.

This was contained in a statement issued from his office.

Dated 6th January, 2016, the statement said the agricultural economist wants to give Ghanaians an alternative to the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP).

“For the moment the traditional route of political parties will only produce more of the same, lone and weak voices in the wilderness of self righteousness,” the statement emphasised.

Dr Sakara indicated in the statement that his decision comes “after months of contemplation and consultation with my close advisors, supporters and other well meaning Ghanaians from all walks of life”.

It is unclear what might have triggered this move as Dr Sakara was expected to contest the likes of Samia Yaba Nkrumah in the Convention People’s Party (CPP) primaries.

The decision by Dr Sakara is the second fate to befall the CPP regarding a former presidential candidate after its 2008 presidential candidate, Dr Papa Kwesi Nduom, seceded from the party to form the Progressive People’s Party (PPP) in 2012.

Dr Sakara, who run as Dr Nduom’s mate in 2008, may have had similar reasons for his decision.

“During this period I also sought the best cause of action to help build the party to which I belonged around the core principles and values that drew me to it,” he explains.

“Alas the attitudes, conduct and misplaced priorities that still dominate decision making in the party has left me convinced that my resources, energy and talent can be put to more productive purpose as an independent Presidential Candidate.”

He, however, wished the CPP well.

Dr Sakara is expected in the coming days to make known his plans towards the elections.

Source: tv3network.com

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NDC gov’t has lost its way – Akomfrah

General Secretary of the Convention People’s Party (CPP) Nii Armah Akomfrah says the incumbent National Democratic Congress (NDC) government has lost its way in the management of the country.

According to him, it is unclear how the economy of the country, for instance, is being managed.

Speaking on TV3’s News @10 on Monday, January 4 regarding the withdrawal of the 1 per cent withholding tax by government, Nii Akomfrah said the government appears to be lost in pursuing its own strategy.

The CPP General Secretary mentioned foreign direct investment (FDI) and value-addition in the agricultural sector as two of the many strategies trumpeted by the John Mahama-led government. However, Nii Akomfrah insists, “you begin to tax the very process in adding value to agriculture”.

The former CPP Communications Director recommended to the government to rather tax mining, telecommunication and utility companies, which, he claims, have usurped the country’s wealth.

“We have gone too far in selling our wealth.”

He said the recent taxes introduced by government wil rather serve as a disincentive to many especially those who want to save at the banks.

Source: tv3network.com

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Everton on top in semi-final tie as they beat Man City 2-1

Everton hold the advantage in the Capital One Cup semi-final against Manchester City after Romelu Lukaku's 19th goal of the season gave them victory at Goodison Park.

City looked to have secured a draw with 14 minutes left, when Jesus Navas finished a sweeping counter-attack following brilliant work by Sergio Aguero.

That equaliser cancelled out Ramiro Funes Mori's opener for Everton on the stroke of half-time.

Argentine Funes Mori pounced after Willy Caballero saved Ross Barkley's shot - although City were nursing an understandable sense of injustice with Lukaku standing in an offside position in front of the keeper.

Everton refused to be sunk by Navas's sucker punch and responded within two minutes, Lukaku heading in his 12th goal in 12 games from Gareth Barry's perfect cross.

Ramiro Funes Mori

Man City's rough luck?

Everton had efforts from John Stones and Lukaku rightly ruled out for offside - and it looked like a case of third time lucky for Martinez's team when Funes Mori struck just before half-time.

Caballero did well to block Barkley's shot, even though the giant figure of Lukaku was clearly standing offside, and appeared to be in the City keeper's line of vision.

Lukaku did not touch the ball, and did not appear to make a movement towards it, so the debate centred on whether he was interfering with an opponent by obstructing Caballero's view.

Referee Robert Madley waved away City's protests and Everton grasped at their good fortune - but the visitors had every right to feel they were hard done by.

That was not the only frustration for City manager Manuel Pellegrini, who felt his side had a strong penalty appeal rejected when Navas went down under a Kevin Mirallas challenge.

"Everton's first goal was absolutely offside and it was a clear penalty when Jesus Navas was fouled," Pellegrini said. "I didn't speak to the referee after the game - they were both clear.

"To lose 2-1 is a bad result but it just means we have to win 1-0 at home. I still think we are able to play in the Capital One Cup final."

Law 11: The offside rule

Under the old rule, a player was allowed to stand in an offside position as long as they were deemed to be not actively interfering with play.

But under this season's changes, a player will now be ruled offside if they clearly make an attempt to play the ball, or if the offside player makes an action which impacts his opponent's ability to play the ball.

Gareth Barry's masterclass

When the 34-year-old former England midfielder struggled last season, many thought this model professional's distinguished career at the top was coming to a close.

Barry has demonstrated that reports of his demise were greatly exaggerated by having an outstanding campaign this term - and all that experience was on show here.

He was the perfect partner for the abrasive, energetic Mo Besic, the rough diamond whose early tackling and positive approach kept Everton going through a slow start and roused a subdued Goodison Park.

Barry, in turn, showed all his class as he strode through midfield making crucial interceptions, breaking up play and barely wasting a pass.

Barkley had a frustrating evening further forward but once again he never stopped driving at City's defence and epitomised Everton's approach after the early exchanges, even though he promised more than he delivered, with several strikes either wide of the target or saved by Caballero.

Toure's disappearing act

While Barry and Besic ran the show around him, City midfielder Yaya Toure looked every day of his 32 years and more besides.

A lumbering figure, he had no impact on the game and his contribution was summed up when an attempted forward run in the first half was halted by the pace and power of Besic, who caught the giant Ivorian to tackle and rob him, leaving him stranded on the ground.

Even as City chased their way back into the game in the second half, Toure was nowhere to be seen. Normally such an influence, he was little more than a passenger.

Toure is still capable of moments of brilliance, as he showed when scoring in Saturday's win at Watford - but are the years finally catching up with the man who has been City's talisman so often?

The stats you need to know

  • Lukaku has netted four goals in five League Cup appearances this season.
  • Navas scored his first goal for City since September 2014 (v Sheffield Wednesday) - a wait of 66 games in all competitions for the club.
  • This is the first time Pellegrini has lost to Everton as Manchester City boss (W4 D1).
  • Roberto Martinez won just his second game against Manchester City as a manager, the other being the 2013 FA Cup final (W2 D2 L11).

What next?

Both teams are in FA Cup action this weekend, with Everton hosting Dagenham and Redbridge, and Manchester City travelling to Norwich. City and Everton meet again in the Premier League at Etihad Stadium next Wednesday.

Source: bbc.com

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Clinton's private email account exploits FOIA loophole, report says

EXCLUSIVE: Hillary Clinton’s unorthodox use of a private email account and personal server for government business exploited a loophole in the State Department's FOIA, or Freedom of Information Act, process, according to the findings of the first Inspector General report to stem from her email scandal. 

Congress asked the Office of Inspector General, the State Department's independent watchdog, to investigate the issue following the revelation that Mrs. Clinton did not use a government email account while secretary of state.

Fox News reviewed the 25-page report and its findings before they were made publicly available.

The report reads in part:

"FOIA neither authorizes nor requires agencies to search for Federal records in personal email accounts maintained on private servers or through commercial providers (for example Gmail, Yahoo, and Hotmail.)  Furthermore, the FOIA Analyst has no way to independently locate Federal records from such accounts unless employees take steps to preserve official emails in Department record keeping systems.”

The report strongly suggests that it relies on employees at all levels to follow the regulations, and when personal email is used, to forward copies to a State Department account so that it can be captured.

"Under current law and Department policy, employees who use personal email to conduct official business are required to forward or copy email from a personal account to their respective Department accounts within 20 Days.”  

Clinton did not have a State Department email address to which she could forward message traffic from her personal account, and it remains unclear whether she provided all her State Department business emails to the State Department or federal courts, where FOIA lawsuits have been filed.

The report also found that the State Department wait time for Freedom of Information Act Requests far exceeds that of other departments. For example, FOIA requires agencies to respond to requests within 20 working days, and "some requests involving the Office of the Secretary have taken more than 500 days to process."

The State Department is also criticized for practices that "do not consistently meet statutory and regulatory requirements for completeness and rarely meet requirements for timeliness."

Given Clinton's use of a private account, where more than 1,000 classified emails have been identified, including at least two at the Top Secret level, it appeared ironic that the report states employees had not been reminded of their FOIA responsibilities "...since March 2009, when former Secretary Clinton sent a message commemorating Freedom of Information Day."

The OIG report makes four recommendations, including that the Office of the Secretary should fully comply with FOIA requirements. The department said it agreed with the recommendations and changes had been made.

State Department spokesperson John Kirby said in response late Wednesday, ‎”The Department is committed to transparency, and the issues addressed in this report have the full attention of Secretary Kerry and the Department’s senior staff. While the volume of State Freedom of Information Act requests has tripled since 2008, our resources to respond have not kept pace.

“That said, we know we must continue to improve our FOIA responsiveness and are taking additional steps to do so. That’s why Secretary Kerry asked the State Inspector General to undertake this review in March, and it’s why he appointed a Transparency Coordinator this Fall.”

Source: foxnews.com

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'Open-carry' in Texas causing confusion for law enforcement

Gun-rights advocates in Texas had a lot to celebrate with the start of 2016. On Jan. 1, the state’s “open-carry” law went into effect allowing licensed gun owners to visibly carry a handgun in most public places.

“It feels great,” said Christopher Carmen Sr., among the first to take advantage of the new law -- enjoying a cup of coffee outside Austin on New Year’s Day with a pistol strapped to his side for all to see. “I want to say that I have more freedom. I just feel safer.”

But the law also is causing some confusion in the law enforcement community, where officers are unclear how far they can go to check licenses.

“What authority [do] the officers have?” asked Kevin Lawrence, executive director of the Texas Municipal Police Association. “We need to get that clarified as much as possible so the officers know what’s expected of them going into any given situation.”

Texas is the 45th state to allow open-carry in some form. Thirty states do not require the carrier to have a license, but Texas is among the 15 states that require a permit. Existing gun owners -- those who previously had concealed-carry permits -- are not required to do anything different. New applicants will have to go through updated training, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Lawrence said his organization isn’t an opponent of the law itself, but is concerned about how it’s enforced. He said the wording of the law when it comes to checking licenses is very vague and leaves officers exposed.

“If a citizen calls in, a business calls in, and says there is someone here carrying a firearm that we’re concerned about -- the question then becomes exactly how much authority does that officer have to approach that individual and investigate whether or not they have a license to carry that gun?” Lawrence said.

In other words, Lawrence told Fox News, if an officer can’t legally ask to see a person’s permit then there’s no way of knowing who is carrying legally. TMPA is the largest law enforcement union in Texas, representing more than 23,000 peace officers around the state.

“Ultimately, we’re going to have to get some rulings out of the courts before we know exactly what the rules are,” Lawrence added.

There are some exceptions to the state’s open-carry law as well. People still may not openly carry handguns at schools, sporting events, bars, voting locations, correctional facilities and secure areas of airports. For private businesses, it’s up to the individual owner.

That leaves business owners with a difficult decision.

“It’s pretty tough. As a business owner, you alienate one group and they stop shopping with you. You alienate another group and they stop shopping with you, and it’s a lose-lose,” said Shane Peterson, who works for a hardware store in Grand Prairie, near Dallas, and attended a question-and-answer session with local police to make an informed decision.

If business owners do not want their customers packing heat, they must put up proper signage on the front door.

Source: foxnews.com

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Texas fires trooper charged in Sandra Bland death after being charged with perjury

HEMPSTEAD, Texas –  A Texas state trooper who arrested Sandra Bland after a contentious traffic stop last summer was fired Wednesday after being charged with perjury for allegedly lying about his confrontation with the black woman who died three days later in jail.

Trooper Brian Encinia claimed in an affidavit that Bland was "combative and uncooperative" after he pulled her over and ordered her out of her car. The grand jury identified that affidavit in charging Encinia with perjury, special prosecutor Shawn McDonald said Wednesday night.

Hours after his indictment, the Texas Department of Public Safety said it would "begin termination proceedings" against Encinia.

Bland's arrest and death — which authorities ruled a suicide — provoked national outrage and drew the attention of the Black Lives Matter movement. Protesters linked Bland to other black suspects who were killed in confrontations with police or died in police custody, including Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Freddie Gray in Baltimore.

Video of the stop shows Encinia drawing his stun gun and telling Bland, "I will light you up!" She can later be heard off-camera screaming that he's about to break her wrists and complains that he knocked her head into the ground.

Encinia's affidavit stated he "removed her from her vehicle to further conduct a safer traffic investigation," but grand jurors "found that statement to be false," said McDonald, one of five special prosecutors appointed to investigate.

She was taken to the Waller County jail in Hempstead, about 50 miles northwest of Houston. Three days later, she was found hanging from a jail cell partition with a plastic garbage bag around her neck. Authorities have ruled she committed suicide, and the grand jury has already declined to charge any sheriff's officials or jailers in her death.

The perjury charge is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum of one year in jail and a $4,000 fine. Encinia was not immediately taken into custody, and an arraignment date has not yet been announced.

About two dozen protesters attended Wednesday's news conference where the indictment was announced. One protester's sign read, "Legalize black skin."


Source: foxnews.com

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Senseless: No harm will come to Ghanaians by accommodating terror suspects – Gov’t

The government is assuring Ghanaians that it has taken all the necessary security measures to ensure the safety of citizens and security of the nation despite accommodating two former terror suspects.

Deputy Communications Minister, Felix Ofosu Kwakye gave the assurance after concerns raised by Ghanaians about the propriety of the country’s decision to accept two former Guantanamo Bay detainees of Yemeni origins.

On Wednesday, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs & Regional Integration in a statement signed by the sector minister, Hanna Tetteh said Ghana has accepted a request by the US government to accommodate the former detainees.

The statement said: “At the request of the US Government we have also agreed to accept two detainees of Yemeni origin who were detained in Guantanamo but who have been cleared of any involvement in any terrorist activities and are being released. They are unable to return to Yemen at the moment and we have indicated our readiness to accept them for a period of two years after which they may leave the country.”

“The United States is grateful to the government of Ghana for its humanitarian gesture and willingness to support ongoing U.S. efforts to close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility,” the New York Times quotes a Pentagon spokesman, Cmdr. Gary Ross, as saying in a statement.

The two Yemeni men transferred to Ghana are Khalid Mohammed Salih al-Dhuby and Mahmmoud Omar Mohammed Bin Atef. Both were born in Saudi Arabia but are considered citizens of Yemen based on their family and tribal ties, according to military dossiers leaked by Pvt. Chelsea Manning.

Speaking on the issue in an interview on the Super Morning Show with Kojo Yankson Thursday, Mr Ofosu Kwakye said, “I can assure you, enough has been done to ensure that they don’t pose a threat.”

According to him, no harm will come to Ghanaians by the decision and, “We are confident that the number of arrangements we have put in place; we will be able to handle the situation.”

He said the detainees should be in Ghana by now.

United States government, he noted, will bear the cost of the upkeep of the two former Guantanamo detainees.

The Deputy Communications Minister noted that, although the US itself has refused to accommodate the detainees, Ghana took the decision to welcome them on humanitarian grounds.

“We are [only] helping the United States,” he said.

Source: myjoyonline.com

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Listen up! "No politician deserves your life", Muntaka urges the youth

The Member of Parliament for Asawasi in Kumasi is urging the youth to desist from electoral violence as no politician is worth more than the life of any Ghanaian.

Alhaji Mubarak Muntaka says the best a politician can do for a party supporter who dies in political misunderstanding is to contribute towards their funeral.

Speaking at a ceremony to inaugurate a six-classroom block for Nurul Ameen Islamic School at Asawasi sponsored by GETFUND, he told the gathering politicians have short memories of their dead followers.

According to the Asawasi legislator, politicians are noted for paying attention to current developments or happenings, a situation which he says influence them to forget easily about their past.

He advised the youth no politician, not even himself deserve the life of a supporter.

Alhaji Muntaka who is also the Majority Chief Whip in Parliament also asked the youth to respect the views of political opponents as political campaigning gets to its peak of electioneering campaign ahead of the 2016 polls.

Meanwhile Alhaji Muntaka is unhappy at the conduct of the contractor who first worked on the project.

According to him, the cost of school project shot up from Gh 130,000 to GH 200, 000 after the contractor abandoned the project.

On his part, Municipal Chief Executive for Asokore Mampong, Alhaji Nurudeen Hamidan is happy because education has seen drastic improvement over the years with improved infrastructure, teaching and learning.

Source: myjoyonline.com

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I bit NDC man in self defense - NPP communicator

NPP communicator Fredrick Tahiru says he acted in self-defense when he bit NDC communicator during a heated radio discussion at North Star FM in Tamale, Thursday morning.

The two were discussing a call by NDC General Secretary to have Dr. Bawumia arrested for allegedly falsifying documents to the Electoral Commission to back the case for a new voters' register.

Fredrick told myjoyonline.com, the NDC communicator who was a panelist described NPP Vice-Presidential candidate Mahamudu Bawumia as a ‘ruffian’.

The NPP panelist demanded that the comment be retracted. Fredrick says after Zakaria retracted “sarcastically” he used condescending language describing him as a ‘small boy in politics’.

He reported the NDC man as saying, “if I don’t change my ways of doing things, I will suffer like Dr Bawumia who is struggling to become just a vice president”.

“I also replied him off air that, his entire generation can never boast of someone like me and Dr Bawumia”

Fredrick Tahiru maintained the NDC panelist was the first to throw a punch which resulted in a physical exchange.

The NPP man also said, he fought back in self-defence.

He said he visited Zakaria Mahama after the incident and they both have apologized to each other and made peace.

Source: myjoyonline.com

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Let's Work Together To Audit The Voters' Register - Atik Mohammed Urges Politicians

Atik Mohammed, General Secretary of the People's National Convention (PNC) has called for collective efforts between political parties in the country to ensure that the current voters' register is cleaned.

Speaking on 'Kokrokoo' on Peace FM, Atik Mohammed advised politicians to lay aside their political differences and cooperate with the Electoral Commission to audit the register.

According to him, the collective work by the parties involved is an antidote against any act of election malpractice or violence.

Atik Mohammed also called on the Electoral Commission to ensure transparency in the register in order to gain the confidence of the electorates.

“To inspire confidence in the register, transparency is key. We therefore plead that it must be all inclusive. It must be transparent."

He noted that the EC should make it possible for the stakeholders in Ghana's electoral processes to employ the services of their technical team to assess the impact of the software(s) that will be used for the biometric verification system.

"There must be the presence of technical persons from the various stakeholders on whichever Committee or body in charge of the work so that we can even suggest regarding the software they will be using. It should be a cooperative enterprise.”

Source: peacefmonline.com

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EC Boss no longer on our Board – Ghana Reinsurance Company

The Ghana Reinsurance Company has denied claims from pressure group, the Progressive Nationalist Forum (PNF) that the current chairperson of the Electoral Commission (EC), Charlotte Osei concurrently serves as a Director on the board of the company.

The group had earlier called for the EC Boss to step down from the positions as per the country’s constitution, the Electoral Commissioner is not permitted to hold another public office.

The Secretary of the Company, Jessica Allotey,  clarified the situation and expressed dismay that checks had not been made before the claims against the EC boss were made.

“I can confirm that as at today January 7, she is no longer a member of the Ghana Reinsurance Board. She’s not a director of Ghana Re. I’m so sorry that nobody called me to check with me what the situation is and unfortunately the story has already been aired,” she told Accra-based radio station Asempa FM.

“As at the end of December, she was not the Director of Ghana Re. I can assure that the transformation that she has brought to the company while serving on the board is immeasrable.”

Earlier checks had revealed that Charlotte Osei name was listed as a Director of the Company on their

However Jessica Allotey attributed this to the break for the Christmas holidays, adding that the companies technicians were working hard to ‘update the website.’

“We have just returned from the holidays and we are currently updating the website. The IT manager is currently working on that. Some of these things are not easily corrected but I can tell you categorically that she is no longer the Director of the company,” she explained.

PNF wants EC Boss out

The PNF in a statement signed by its convenor, Richard Nyamah said “evidence we possess shows that Mrs, Osei before her appointment as EC chair and since her appointment has remained a member of the board of the company.”

They further demanded “that Madam Commissioner resigns her post as member of the board of directors of Ghana Reinsurance Company or as the Chairman of the Electoral Commission with immediate effect.”

They also want Charlotte Osei to refund all allowances she received as board member from January 30, 2015 “or her salary and entitlements as chairman of the commission, which ever option she chooses to exercise from 1st July, 2015 till date.”

Source: citifmonline.com

The Ghana Reinsurance Company has denied claims from pressure group, the Progressive Nationalist Forum (PNF) that the current chairperson of the Electoral Commission (EC), Charlotte Osei concurrently serves as a Director on the board of the company.

The group had earlier called for the EC Boss to step down from the positions as per the country’s constitution, the Electoral Commissioner is not permitted to hold another public office.

- See more at: http://citifmonline.com/2016/01/07/ec-boss-is-not-longer-on-our-board-ghana-reinsurance-company/#sthash.h1nLM5Rl.dpuf
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Group pressures EC boss to resign for holding 2 positions

The Progressive Nationalist Forum (PNF) has mounted pressure on the chairperson of the Electoral Commission to resign for holding two positions concurrently.

According to the PNF, the action by the EC chair Charlotte Osei breaches  article 44 clause 4 of the 1992 republican constitution which states that ‘’the chairman and the two deputy chairmen of the commission shall not, while they hold office on the commission, hold any other public office.”

The group claims that Mrs Charlotte Osei, as well as being the chairman of the electoral commission, is also a board member of the Ghana Reinsurance Company Limited.

The group in a statement signed by its convenor, Richard Nyamah said “evidence we possess shows that Mrs, Osei before her appointment as EC chair and since her appointment has remained a member of the board of the company.”

They further demanded “that Madam Commissioner resigns her post as member of the board of directors of Ghana Reinsurance Company or as the Chairman of the electoral commission with immediate effect.”

They also want Charlotte Osei to refund all allowances she received as board member from January 30, 2015 “or her salary and entitlements as chairman of the commission, which ever option she chooses to exercise from 1st July, 2015 till date.”

“Failure to do any of the above, PNF will exercise all legal rights we have to ensure the right thing is done. We wish to use this opportunity to admonish all Ghanaians, especially those holding public office to refrain from breaking the law and shun corruption in whatever shape or form it comes in 2016 and beyond.”

PNF was the pressure group that petitioned President John to sack the Commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Madam Lauretta Lamptey.

Source: citifmonline.com

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Iran accuses Saudis of hitting Yemen embassy

Iran has accused Saudi-led coalition warplanes of damaging its embassy and injuring staff in an air strike on Yemen's capital, Sanaa.

State media quoted a foreign ministry spokesman as saying planes had deliberately targeted the site.

But some later reports in Iran said missiles had struck only in the vicinity of the embassy.

Residents and witnesses in Sanaa reported there was no damage to the main embassy building.

Although the incident may turn out to be less serious than initially feared, the BBC's Arab Affairs Editor Sebastian Usher says the growing row between Saudi Arabia and Iran could derail peace efforts in Syria and Iraq, as well as in Yemen.

More on Saudi-Iran tensions

The row began after Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia executed a Shia cleric, Nimr al-Nimr.

Iranian protesters in Tehran, angry at the execution, then attacked the Saudi embassy, leading Saudi Arabia to cut off diplomatic relations.

A number of Saudi allies have followed suit in taking diplomatic action against Iran.

Meanwhile on Thursday Iran banned the import of all Saudi goods, according to a statement read on Iranian state TV.

Analysis: BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner

Ever since the Saudi-led air campaign began against Yemen's Houthi rebels last March, there was always a risk that the cold war between the region's two big rivals, Saudi Arabia and Iran, could ignite into something more serious.

The Saudis accuse Iran of smuggling in arms by sea to equip the Shia Houthis, who retain control over the capital and much of the country. Saudi officials have even claimed that Iranian military commanders are on the ground there, helping to direct the Houthis.

Both Iran and the Houthis deny this. The reality is that the Houthis owe most of their military gains to support from renegade Yemeni army units loyal to ousted ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Saudi Arabia's military spokesman says its coalition has asked for precise co-ordinates of foreign embassies in the Yemeni capital so it can avoid hitting them. Angry as the Saudis are about the ransacking of their embassy in Tehran, it would have been a major escalation if they had carried out a deliberate, direct hit on Iran's embassy in retaliation.

'Deliberate action'

The Saudis accuse Iran of supporting the Houthis in Yemen militarily - a charge it denies.

It is not clear whether the Iranian embassy was fully functioning, but a number of countries have withdrawn their staff or relocated missions to the port city of Aden in the past year.

A coalition spokesman said the air strikes had targeted Houthi rebel missile launchers, and that the rebels had used abandoned embassies for operations.

Hossein Jaber Ansari, a spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry, earlier said the raid had injured "a number of the building's guards", according to the Iranian news agency Ilna.

He called the incident a "deliberate action by Saudi Arabia".

A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, Gen Ahmed Asseri, said Iran's claims would be investigated.

At least 2,795 civilians have been killed in Yemen since March, when the Saudi-led coalition began a military campaign to restore the government and drive back the Houthis and allied security personnel loyal to ex-President Saleh.

In the past six months, coalition and pro-government forces have retaken Aden, but the rebels still control the capital.

The already dire humanitarian situation has also deteriorated, with more than 21 million people - four-fifths of the population - now requiring aid.

Source: bbc.com

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Libya truck bomb targets police recruits in Zliten

At least 47 people have been killed by a truck bomb targeting a police training centre in the western Libyan city of Zliten, reports say.

Media in Libya said the attack struck the al-Jahfal training camp.

The camp was a military base during the rule of ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

In a separate attack, a suicide bomber killed six people at the entrance to Ras Lanuf, a major oil port in northern Libya.

One of those killed was a 16-month-old baby, according to Osama al-Hodeiri, a spokesman for the security forces that guard the oil facilities.

"A driver in a Toyota Land Cruiser blew himself up at a checkpoint at the entrance to the town of Ras Lanuf," he said, adding that three guards had also been killed.

Libya has been hit by instability since Gaddafi's overthrow and killing in 2011, and there is concern the so-called Islamic State (IS) group is gaining a foothold there.

The country has been run by two governments - only one of which is recognised by the international community.

A spokesman for the ministry of health of the rival government based in the capital, Tripoli, told the BBC that 47 people were killed and more than 100 people were injured in the first attack, which was reportedly heard 60km (40 miles) away in Misrata.

Other news agencies have put the death toll at 50.

Analysis: Rana Jawad, BBC News

This is one of the deadliest bomb attacks in Libya and comes at a time when hospitals across the country are suffering from severe shortages in medical supplies.

The explosion was similar in size and impact to the multiple bombings in the eastern town of al-Qubbah that targeted a petrol station in February last year.

That incident was claimed by the so-called Islamic State group, just a few months after it established a foothold in the country.

The latest explosion has not been officially claimed by any group yet, but it comes against the backdrop of intensified attacks this week carried out by IS militants near Libya's eastern oil ports.

If nothing else, the latest bombing is an indication of how the political and military chaos is degrading the institutional capabilities in the country.

Devastating attacks of this kind are on the rise, as the ability to prevent them and deal with the aftermath is at an all-time low.

It was reported that a water truck rigged with explosives was used in the bombing.

State of emergency

The ministry of health declared a state of emergency and called on all hospitals in Tripoli, 160km (100 miles) to the west of Zliten, and Misrata to the east, to take in casualties.

An injured man receives treatment inside a hospital in Misurata, Libya January 7, 2016

Residents in Zliten told the BBC that dozens of people were transferred to Tripoli, as the hospital in Zliten struggled to cope with the number of people injured.

Urgent calls for blood donations were made to Zliten residents, the Lana news agency reports.

The UN Special Representative to Libya, Martin Kobler, said that the blast was a suicide attack.

Libyan media said hundreds of recruits were outside performing morning exercises when the centre was targeted.

In December, the country's rival politicians signed a UN-brokered deal to form a unity government, but that has not yet been implemented.

Source: bbc.com

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Dologuele and Touadera to contest CAR run-off

Two ex-prime ministers in the Central African Republic will contest a run-off after no candidate gained 50% in the first round of presidential elections, officials have said.

Anicet Georges Dologuele, who came first with 24%, will face Faustin Touadera, who got 19%, on 31 January.

Last week, more than a million people took part in the first presidential election since a coup in March 2013.

The country has since been wracked by conflict along religious lines.

Twenty of the 30 candidates vying to replace interim leader Catherine Samba-Panza had earlier this week complained of irregularities and called for the count to be halted.

But many of them were persuaded by the transitional government to withdraw their complaints, and the constitutional court will have to look into the remaining grievances.

  • Anicet Georges Dologuele 23.8% - 281,420 votes
  • Faustin Touadera 19.4% - 229,564 votes
  • Desire Kolingba 12.6% - 149,134 votes
  • Martin Ziguele - 10.8% - 121,009 votes

1,181,115 votes were cast and there was a 79% turnout

Source: CAR electoral commission

Mr Dologuele was prime minister between 1999 and 2001, and has also served as the country's finance minister.

Mr Touadera was prime minister in the government of ex-President Francois Bozize, who was overthrown in 2013.

CAR has been torn by sectarian violence since the Seleka rebels seized power in March 2013.

A band of mostly Christian militias, called the anti-Balaka, then took up arms against the Seleka.

More about the Central African Republic

The interim government and international donors pushed for the poll, believing that an elected president and parliament would help CAR recover from years of unrest.

CAR is one of the world's poorest countries - yet it is rich in natural resources.

Elections also took place for the 149-seat National Assembly.

After seizing power, the Seleka rebels installed Michel Djotodia as the first Muslim leader of the majority Christian country.

But under pressure from regional leaders and former colonial power France, Mr Djotodia stood down and was succeeded by Ms Samba-Panza.

About 1.8 million people were registered to vote, out of a population of roughly five million.

More than one million people fled their homes during the communal fighting.

Source: bbc.com


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China market turmoil hits global shares

Global shares have fallen sharply after trading was suspended on Chinese markets for the second time this week.

Wall Street followed the downward trend, with indexes sliding about 1%, while European shares closed down about 2%.

Circuit-breakers triggered the Chinese share suspension following a 7% fall in the country's main index.

Later on Thursday, the Chinese authorities said they were suspending the circuit-breaker system.

The mechanism was brought in late last year to reduce volatility on China's markets and had not been triggered until this week. It will be lifted from Friday.

The slump on Chinese markets prompted renewed panic on global markets. Share dealing was halted in the first 30 minutes, making it China's shortest trading day on record.

The FTSE 100 share index in London closed down 2% at 5,954.08.

Germany's Dax, down 2.3% at 9,979.85, while France's Cac 40 fell 1.7% to 4,403.58.


Amid the uncertainty, the euro gained nearly a cent against the dollar, rising to $1.0870.

What does this mean for the rest of the world?

The direct financial impact of lower share prices in China is moderate. There is not enough foreign investment in the Chinese market for it to be a major problem. The London consultancy Capital Economics has said foreigners own just 2% of shares.

The issue is more about whether the financial turbulence shines a light on wider issues about the economic slowdown in China: is the economy heading for what's called a "hard landing", too sharp a slowdown?

China is now such a big force in the global economy that it would inevitably affect the rest of the world. It is the second largest economy and the second largest importer of both goods and commercial services.

Read more from Andrew Walker, BBC World Service Economics Correspondent

The pound fell against the euro by more than a cent and a half, to €1.3408.

Investors are nervous after the Chinese central bank moved to weaken the country's currency, the yuan, for the eighth day running, sparking fears of a currency war.

This move is designed to boost exports by making Chinese goods cheaper outside the country, analysts have speculated.

It is also being interpreted as an indication that consumer demand in China may be slowing more sharply than feared.

Official economic growth in China is still running at just below 7%.

But moves to devalue the yuan suggest attempts to shift the economy from an export-led one to a consumer and services-led one are running into problems.

Soros warning

Legendary US billionaire investor George Soros has warned that 2016 could see a global financial crisis on as big a scale as that seen just eight years ago.

Giving a speech to an economic forum in Sri Lanka, Mr Soros said China faced a " major adjustment problem."

He added: "I would say it amounts to a crisis. When I look at the financial markets there is a serious challenge which reminds me of the crisis we had in 2008, according to Bloomberg.

It is not the first time the billionaire hedge fund manager has warned of impending doom on the financial markets. In 2011 he warned the Greek debt crisis that consumed Europe was more serious than the 2008 financial crisis.

Analysis: Karishma Vaswani, Asia business correspondent

If at first you don't succeed - try and try again.

Or maybe you don't. Especially if panic breaks out on your stock markets for a second day this week.

The decision by China's regulators to suspend the brand new circuit-breaker mechanism - which only came into effect this week - tells you just how difficult it is to manage or control financial markets.

But perhaps that's the point.

Meddling in markets can only lead to misery - at least, that's certainly what many in China's financial circles may now be thinking.

Read more from Karishma here

China turmoil set to continue

After the trading halt, the China Securities Regulatory Commission announced that major shareholders could not sell more than 1% of a company's shares within three months as of 9 January.

It comes as a previous six-month ban of stock sales by major shareholders is set to expire on Friday.

Why is this happening now?

China's central bank devalued the yuan last Thursday, then announced the biggest month-on-month drop in its foreign exchange reserves. A World Bank report has highlighted weaknesses in China's economy. Buffeted by events in China, world stock markets are also being hit by oil prices falling to a 14-year-low.

Should we be worried?

China is responsible for 17% of all the world's economic activity, so any downturn in spending there affects the rest of the world.

Exporters to China could be hit hard as China is a key buyer of industrial commodities such as oil, copper and iron ore.

What happens next?

There is now a lot more pressure on other Asian countries to depreciate their currencies in response to China's move.

China's attempts to impose circuit breakers with a 7% threshold appear to have only added to the panic. On Wall Street, circuit breakers kick in at 20%.

Amy Zhuang, a China analyst with Nordea Bank, told the BBC she expected "a rush selling" as soon as Chinese markets opened on Friday.

Bernard Aw, market strategist at trading firm IG, said the negative sentiment was because of the perception that China may further weaken the yuan, igniting concerns over what that might mean for other economies.

A weakening of the currency is often seen by investors as an indication that that the economy is not doing well and needs to be propped up by boosting exports.

A lower yuan makes the cost of exporting goods for Chinese companies cheaper, giving the slowing factory sector a boost.

What are China's 'circuit-breakers'?

  • The measures were announced in December after a summer of dramatic market losses - used for the first time time on Monday and again on Thursday
  • They automatically stop trading in stock markets that drop or appreciate too sharply - a 15-minute break if the CSI 300 Index moves 5% from the market's previous close, or a whole-day halt if it moves 7% or more.
  • Supposedly introduced to limit panic buying and selling - which is more likely in small investor-dominated markets like China's - but critics say they only add to selling pressure the next day.

After disappointing manufacturing data on Monday, the mainland benchmark index plunged 7%, triggering a global equities sell-off.

The negative sentiment spilled over the border to Hong Kong, where the Hang Seng index also lost 3%, closing at 20,333.34 points.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index finished down 2.3% to 17,767.34, while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index lost 2.2% to 5,010.30 as energy shares dragged down the market.

Source: bbc.com

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EastEnders' actress Sian Blake and her children confirmed dead

Three bodies found in the garden of former actress Sian Blake are those of the former EastEnders star and her two children, police have confirmed.

The remains of Sian Blake, 43, and her children Zachary Bilal Kent-Blake, eight, and Amon Ben George Kent-Blake, four, were found at the family's south-east London home on 6 January.

A police spokesperson said they had died from "head and neck injuries".

Ms Blake's partner is being sought by police over the deaths.

However, the BBC understands Arthur Simpson-Kent, 48, left the UK and may be in Ghana.

Sian Blake and the couple's sons had not been seen since 13 December. They were reported missing three days later.

Police said a missing persons' investigation had been launched on 16 December after officers attended the family's home in Erith.

This was undertaken following information from the children's charity, the NSPCC, over concerns about Ms Blake's health, police said.

Profile of former EastEnders actress

Sian Blake was born in East London in 1972 - but she adopted the stage name Syan Blake when she became an actress.

She was an East Ender born and bred. Born in Walthamstow, Blake grew up in Leyton and Walthamstow and remained living in the area all her life, even following her success in EastEnders.

She was the youngest of three children in a large close-knit family. Her parents divorced when she was six and her Jamaican father died suddenly of a heart attack when she was 18, which she said was a period of immense heartache for her whole family.

"In the space of about 18 months, someone in my family died every month. My uncle had already died by then, to be followed by other uncles, aunties and cousins," she told the Daily Mirror in 1997.

Then her uncle in Jamaica was murdered by a robber in his shop. "Mum has been through a lot of suffering in her life - each death would be a blow to her health," she said.

Blake discovered she had a talent for acting at primary school.

"I used to round up the kids in the playground and get them to put on adaptations of musicals," she told the paper.

She appeared in local plays and had acting classes from the age of 11 and went on to study acting for three years at Guilford School of Acting.

Soon after college she landed a role in a Christmas special of Casualty.

"I was playing a young bulimic girl. It was a very big role. I was treated like a star. After that I just knew I had to make it on TV," she said.

Her time on EastEnders

In the run-up to landing her role in EastEnders she worked as a telephone receptionist for a doctor's emergency phone line.

She went to audition for a small role as a nurse on the soap as part of a plotline involving Kathy Mitchell's baby and a meningitis scare. But she was asked to audition for another role as a soul singer.

Despite saying she didn't think she could sing well she performed for the shows producers and won the part, playing the role of soul singer Frankie Pierre for 56 episodes between 1996 and 1997.

The actress said when she walked on to the set of EastEnders for the first time and "saw all those famous faces, I was terrified".

The role of Frankie was a home wrecker - she seduced happily married Alan Jackson, only to dump him when he left his wife Carol for him. She then seduced gay character Tony Hills, who had a boyfriend at the time.

Blake revealed to the Daily Mirror she received hate mail and even a death threat while on the soap.

"One woman wrote to me telling me that her marriage had almost been ruined when someone like Frankie went after her husband," she said.

"It was a really vicious letter, she threatened to kill me and warned me to watch out. It was very frightening.

"She started the letter: 'Dear Syan, stay away from Alan,' which worried me because she was obviously deluded and thought that I really am Frankie."

Other credits

Blake appeared in Casualty for a second time in 2003.

She also appeared in The Bill, The Last Detective, Whose Baby is it Anyway, Doctors and played an interpreter in the 2009 series of Skins.

And she had roles in the films The Death of Klinghoffer (2003) and Siberia (1998).

Her theatre work included productions of Joe Guy, The Walworth Farce, After Mrs Rochester, 100, Love's Labours Lost, The Three Birds, Twelfth Night and Tamagotchi Heaven.

Blake also directed several plays, including Oxford Street at the Soho Theatre and The Burial at the Almeida.

Her last credited work was voice acting in the video game Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward, as the character Yugiri in 2015.

Life outside acting

Blake was a registered TSLI: Trainee Sign Language Interpreter.

She used her sign language skills in a 2007 episode of The Last Detective starring Peter Davison.

She was diagnosed with the progressive neurological illness Motor Neurone Disease, and was said to have been "very frail" at the time of her disappearance.

Source: bbc.com

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Oil price tumbles to below $33

The oil price tumbled to $32.62 a barrel on Thursday morning as a result of rising US energy stockpiles and China's weakening currency, before recovering later in the day.

Brent crude fell 4.7%, hitting fresh 11-year lows, while US crude was down 3.9% at its lowest level since 2008.

Brent recovered to $33.95, down less than 1% on the day, while US crude climbed back to $33.42, down 1.6%.

Oversupply has hit oil prices, which are now 70% lower than in June 2014.

Companies and governments that rely heavily on oil revenues have been suffering as a result.

Adding to the continuing fall in oil prices, China depreciated the yuan on Thursday, sending regional currencies and stock markets tumbling.

Demand for crude tends to fall when the US dollar is stronger against currencies of purchasing countries, and China remains the world's biggest energy consumer.

China's stock markets were suspended less than half an hour into trading on Thursday, after falling 7% and triggering a new circuit-breaking mechanism for the second time this week.

Overnight, the US Department of Energy's weekly report showed a sharp drop in US commercial crude inventories of 5.1 million barrels to 482.3 million.

The government data also showed a gain in US crude production of 17,000 barrels a day, taking it to 9.22 million barrels a day, the fourth consecutive week of increases. There was also a rise in stockpiles at the Cushing oil hub in Oklahoma.

Oil is so oversupplied globally that countries are running out of storage.

The US, which is thought to have among the largest storage facilities in the world, has nowhere left to keep it, according to Paul Stevens, professor emeritus at the University of Dundee and a Middle East specialist.

"Storage is pretty much full and people are already talking about buying tankers as floating storage," he said.

"But if supply continues to outstrip demand, then the only thing that you can do with the oil is sell it, which inevitably pushes the price down."

The huge storage overhang means that even if US production falls this year, as oil companies halt production, it will take several months to get rid of excess supplies.

Source: bbc.com

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Michel Platini will not stand in Fifa presidential election

Suspended Uefa president Michel Platini says he will not stand in the Fifa presidential election next month.

Platini, along with Fifa president Sepp Blatter, has been banned from football-related activities for eight years by world football's governing body.

Both men were found guilty of breaches surrounding a £1.3m ($2m) "disloyal payment" made to Platini in 2011.

They are appealing against their bans, but Platini says the timing of the 26 February election means he cannot run.

"I'm withdrawing from the race for the Fifa presidency," the 60-year-old Frenchman told the Associated Press.

"The timing is not good for me. I don't have the means to fight on equal terms with the other candidates.

"I have not been given the chance to play the game. Bye bye Fifa, bye bye Fifa presidency."

'Injustice is revolting me'

Platini, president of European football's governing body since 2007, had submitted his candidacy for the Fifa presidential election but could not stand while suspended.

He and Blatter, 79, plan to take their cases to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

"I've spent more time in hearing rooms than on football pitches speaking about 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 or football news," added Platini.

"I'm taking this philosophically. Let's wait and see what happens. But injustice is revolting me and I'm trying to fight it."

Platini and Blatter claimed the payment was honouring an agreement made in 1998 for work carried out between 1998 and 2002, when Platini worked as a technical adviser for Blatter.

Fifa's ethics committee said there was "not sufficient evidence" to establish the payment was a bribe, but both men demonstrated an "abusive execution" of their positions.

"I can't have any regret in that story because things fell upon my head while I haven't done anything wrong," added Platini.

"I'm struggling to understand what happened, unless there was a will somewhere to prevent me from bidding."

'Maybe I'll come back in 20 years'

The English Football Association had previously backed Platini for the Fifa presidency, but suspended its support in October pending the outcome of the ethics inquiry.

FA chairman Greg Dyke said recently the organisation had yet to decide who to now support.

"I had 150 associations thinking that I'm the right person to solve Fifa problems," said Platini.

"It won't happen. But there is no age limitation, so maybe I'll come back in 20 years. Who knows?"

Who will be the next Fifa boss?

There are five candidates to succeed Blatter, who has been Fifa president since 1998:

  • Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa - 50, Bahrain, president of Asian Football Confederation;
  • Tokyo Sexwale - 62, South Africa, politician, businessman and former political prisoner;
  • Prince Ali bin al-Hussein - 40, Jordan, a former Fifa vice-president and 2015 Fifa presidential candidate;
  • Gianni Infantino - 45, Switzerland, Uefa general secretary and a member of Fifa's reform committee;
  • Jerome Champagne - 57, France, a former Fifa assistant general secretary and former French diplomat.

Voting will take place by secret ballot, with all Fifa's 209 member states having a vote each.

Source: bbc.com

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Qatar Open: Rafael Nadal beats Andrey Kuznetsov to reach semis

World number five Rafael Nadal beat Russia's Andrey Kuznetsov 6-3 5-7 6-4 to reach the semi-finals of the Qatar Open.

Nadal was made to work for his victory by the world number 79, but prevailed in just over two hours.

He will next face Ukraine's Illya Marchenko, who upset Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-3 7-6 (3).

Britain's Kyle Edmund plays Czech world number six Tomas Berdych later on Thursday.

Edmund could face Serb Novak Djokovic in the last four, after the world number one beat Argentina's Leonardo Mayer 6-3 7-5.

Source: bbc.com

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Caf Player of the Year is Aubameyang

Gabon striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has narrowly beaten Ivory Coast's Yaya Toure to the Confederation of African Football's player of the year award.

The Borussia Dortmund striker earned 143 points, with Manchester City midfielder Toure finishing runner-up with 136 points.

Ghana and Swansea midfielder Andre Ayew came in third with 112 points.

Herve Renard, who managed Ivory Coast to their Africa Cup of Nations victory, won the coach of the year award.

The Frenchman, who led Zambia to victory in the tournament in 2012, is the first person to coach two different countries to the title.

More to follow.

Source: bbc.com

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Paris attacks suspect's 'bomb factory' found in Brussels

Belgian prosecutors believe they may have found a bomb factory also used as a hideout by one of the jihadists after the Paris attacks.

Police found traces of explosives, three handmade belts and a fingerprint of fugitive Salah Abdeslam.

The apartment in the Schaerbeek district of Brussels had been rented in a false name that might have been used by a person already in custody.

Islamic State (IS) suicide attackers killed 130 people in the attacks.

Traces of the explosive TATP (acetone peroxide) and the belts, which could have been used to transport explosives, were found in the raid on 10 December in Rue Berge, the Belgian federal prosecutor's office said.

The prosecutor's office told the BBC that Abdeslam's fingerprint was not dated, and it would be very hard to determine the date.

Who were the Paris attackers?

Paris attacks: The investigation so far

Paris attacks: Who were the victims?

Paris attacks: What happened on the night

Prosecutors believe that the Schaerbeek flat was used only by the Belgium-based attackers who went to the apartment, got the explosive belts, and then went to Paris.

However, they believe that Abdeslam, 26, did go back to the flat in Schaerbeek because he probably thought it would be the only place where he could be safe after the attacks.

Their theory is that somebody drove him there, and dropped him not far from that Schaerbeek address, right after the Paris attacks.

French police pulled over the VW Golf car he was travelling in with two others near Belgium, but then let the group continue their journey.

Abdeslam is believed to have rented a VW Polo car in Belgium, which was later found near the Bataclan concert hall in Paris where 89 people were killed. But he also rented a Renault Clio and reserved two hotel rooms outside Paris before the attacks.

His precise role in the attacks themselves is unclear. Although his brother Brahim blew himself up, Salah Abdeslam is thought to have played a logistical role.

The Paris attacks are believed to have been at least partly planned in Brussels. Belgian police have arrested 10 people in the investigation, including one who rented the apartment in Schaerbeek. The district is central, just north of the EU institutions.

Among the 10 held are Mohammed Amri et Hamza Attou, suspected of having brought Salah Abdeslam back to Brussels from Paris.

Immediately after the attacks, the police focused their searches on Molenbeek, in western Brussels, where some of the attackers were known to have lived.

The suspected ringleader was Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian national. He and his cousin Hasna Aitboulahcen died in a fierce gun battle five days after the attacks, when police raided a flat in Paris where they were hiding, heavily armed.

The search for Abdeslam

  • Hours after the 13 November attacks, Salah Abdeslam's VW Golf car was pulled over by French police on the A2 motorway near the Belgian border, but was released after checks
  • It is unclear whether police had linked a VW Polo found at the Bataclan venue to him by this time
  • Police issued an arrest warrant on 15 November
  • Unconfirmed reports said he was spotted by police in the Belgian city of Liege, heading towards Germany, on 15 November but escaped in a black BMW
  • A raid on a suspected hideout in Molenbeek, Brussels, later that day was delayed because of a ban on night-time searches
  • Friends told media the suspect was hiding in Brussels and desperately trying to get to Syria
  • Undated fingerprint from Abdeslam found in a flat in Rue Berge, in the central Brussels neighbourhood of Schaerbeek, on 10 December
  • Police believe Belgian attackers picked up explosives belts from Schaerbeek flat before Paris attacks and Abdeslam returned there afterwards

Map of Paris showing site of attacks and other related locations

Source: bbc.com

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Yaya Toure angered by African player of the year award snub

Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure has reacted angrily after failing to win the Confederation of African Football's player of the year award.

Toure captained Ivory Coast to 2015 Africa Cup of Nations victory but came second to Gabon and Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

"I think that's what makes the shame of Africa," he told Radio France International. 

"To behave in this way is indecent! But what can we do?"

'Yaya will look after himself'

Toure had won the CAF award for the previous four years and was recently crowned BBC African footballer of the year for 2015.

Aubameyang, 26, became the first player from Gabon to win the award.

He has scored 18 goals in 17 Bundesliga games this season and a total of 68 goals in 119 games since joining the German club from French side St Etienne in 2013.

However, Gabon were eliminated at the group stage of last year's Africa Cup of Nations.

"We Africans, we do not show that Africa is important to us," added 32-year-old Toure.

"We give more priority to what's going on elsewhere than in our own continent. This is what is appalling.

"I give an example: it's Lionel Messi who wins all the trophies but it's Ronaldo who is Ballon d'Or. What would you say? It would be unfair."

"Yaya will look after himself, and let Africa look after itself. Like I'm often told, you shouldn't worry too much about Africa, because Africa will be the first to let you down."

Source: bbc.com

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Louis van Gaal unfazed by Pep Guardiola's plans

Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal says he is unfazed by Pep Guardiola's desire to manage in the Premier League.

Bayern Munich coach Guardiola, 44, has announced he will leave the German club in May after three seasons.

The former Barcelona boss has been linked with both Manchester clubs as well as Chelsea and Arsenal.

"He has that ambition and he wants to sniff the culture of England and the Premier League. It is very good he wants to do that," said Van Gaal.

"I'm at the end of my career so for me it's not so interesting.

"For me, it's interesting how I take care of Manchester United in my contract."

Van Gaal, 64, is contracted at Old Trafford until the end of next season but his position has come under scrutiny after an eight-game winless run in the Premier League that ended with last weekend's 2-1 victory over Swansea.

Why is Guardiola in demand?

  • Barcelona's most successful manager with 14 trophies in four years, including three La Liga titles and two Champions Leagues.
  • Took a year's break before joining Bayern in 2013, following the club's Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup treble under Jupp Heynckes.
  • Won the league twice in his two full seasons with Bayern, who are eight points clear in his third campaign. He is yet to win the Champions League with the German club and has been knocked out at the semi-final stage twice.
  • They face Italian giants Juventus in the last 16 of Europe's elite club competition in February and Guardiola said: "Winning the Champions League would make my time here complete."

Source: bbc.com

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Again? Luis Suarez banned for two games

Luis Suarez has been banned for two matches for his part in a scuffle between Barcelona and Espanyol players after their Spanish Cup tie.

The Uruguayan striker, 28, is alleged to have threatened opposition players in the tunnel following Wednesday's game, which Barcelona won 4-1.

The ban applies to Copa del Rey matches only, including the return leg of the last-16 fixture on Wednesday.

Barcelona, who are second in La Liga, are appealing the decision.

"Barcelona is expected to argue that the player, as he later stated, did not use the allegedly offensive words that were attributed to him in the referee's official notes following the match," the club said in a statement. 

During an ill-tempered contest at Nou Camp, the visitors had Hernan Perez and Pape Diop sent off, with the latter dismissed for an abusive comment aimed at former Liverpool striker Suarez.

According to referee Juan Martinez Munuera's report, quoted by Catalan newspaper Sport,  Suarez waited in the tunnel and shouted: "I'm waiting for you, come here! You're a waste of space."

The two city rivals were involved in another tense derby, in which Barcelona star Neymar was the alleged target of racist chanting during a 0-0 draw at Espanyol's stadium, on 2 January.

Source: bbc.com

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