Title hopefuls Arsenal got thrashed by Saints on Christmas day as most of their supporters, especially Eric in Austin Texas - USA, is not so much worried. He is content with making profit as a shareholder of the club than winning the EPL trophy. However, Ansah-Nyampong, a die-hard supporter of the club could not take it no more as he drove to his house crying like a “baby” after seeing his darling club going through the hustle to be on top of the EPL this festive week. Not even the friend, Kwabena Ben, who was naming his baby boy on that faithful day could prevent him from crying or going home.
His team, Arsenal, missed the chance to go top of the Premier League as they were thrashed by Southampton at St Mary's. Saints full-back Cuco Martina marked his first league start with a stunning goal, curling in from 30 yards out.
Arsenal's Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott missed free headers, before Shane Long finished from close range and Jose Fonte headed in the third.
Striker Long struck the post with three minutes remaining, but managed to add a fourth through the legs of Petr Cech.
It could have been even worse for the visitors. Virgil van Dijk had a header ruled out for offside, while Dusan Tadic's dipping strike was pushed away by Cech.
Arsenal had lost just one of their previous 11 league games and recorded an impressive victory over Manchester City on Monday but Arsene Wenger's side could not back that performance up with victory on the south coast.
Playing from the left, Walcott failed to make any impact in the final third of the pitch. A lot of his touches came in his own half
Having seen leaders Leicester beaten by Liverpool earlier in the day, the Gunners would have gone top with a win but were resoundingly beaten by a rampant Southampton side.
Playmaker Mesut Ozil - who has received plenty of plaudits for his impressive performances this season - was kept quiet by the Southampton midfield, while former Saint Walcott posed little threat, attempting only 20 passes before being substituted.
Going into the game, Arsenal had conceded the joint-fewest number of goals (14) in the league this season and their second-half capitulation will be a big worry to Wenger.
Arsenal need to win games against teams in the bottom half of the table if they are to take the title, but did not come close to capitalising on the points dropped by Claudio Ranieri's side.
The pressure was starting to grow on Southampton boss Ronald Koeman after five winless games left them just four points above the relegation zone.
But they were marshalled brilliantly in the middle of the park by the superb Victor Wanyama, who made a match-high six tackles and 10 interceptions, often bullying the opposition players.
The graphic doesn't do justice to Cuco Martina's stunning strike
The opening goal was stunning. There seemed to be no danger when defender Per Mertesacker headed the ball away, and Martina steadied himself before unleashing an outside-of-the-foot drive which started wide of the post before swerving into the net.
Arsenal posed little threat and the hosts added to their tally with a slick counter-attacking move.
There was a hint of controversy in it though, as Long and Laurent Koscielny came together in the build-up, leaving the Frenchman on the ground, allowing Long to stride forward unchallenged and stroke in from Sadio Mane's pass.
Defender Fonte added a bullet header and Long grabbed his second to complete a comprehensive victory for Southampton who managed their first clean sheet in six games.
Republic of Ireland international Shane Long grabbed two goals and could have had a third when he hit the post. He was a constant menace to the Arsenal defence.
Southampton manager Ronald Koeman: "You don't expect a 4-0 win against Arsenal. Of course we have a good football team, but we have struggled in recent weeks. But the second half was perfect. It was a tough night for Arsenal, we caused them a lot of problems. It was an amazing result."
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger: "We lost too many challenges and that explains why we lost the game. But that's one aspect, so well done to them.
"The second aspect is that on the first three goals we were really unlucky with the decision of the referee. The first goal was offside, the second goal was a foul and the third goal was a goal kick, so if you're a bit below par and on top of that you have the first three goals against you in the decision-making then it's even more difficult."
It's a quick turnaround for both sides. Southampton travel to West Ham on Monday (17:30 GMT), while Arsenal will look to get back to winning ways when they host Bournemouth on the same day (also 17:30 GMT).
Iraqi forces have retaken a former government compound in Ramadi from where Islamic State (IS) group militants have been resisting an army offensive, the military has said.
The complex was "under complete control" and there was no sign of IS fighters, a spokesman said.
He said this heralded the defeat of IS in the city, although he admitted there could be pockets of resistance.
The government has been trying to retake Ramadi for weeks.
The mainly Sunni Arab city, about 55 miles (90km) west of Baghdad, fell to IS in May, and was seen as an embarrassing defeat for the army.
In recent days, troops have been picking their way through booby-trapped streets and buildings as they pushed towards the city centre, seizing several districts on the way.
After sniper fire from the compound stopped and aerial surveillance detected no human activity, Iraqi soldiers moved in.
The military spokesman, Sabah al-Numani, told Reuters: "The complex is under our complete control, there is no presence whatsoever of [IS] fighters in the complex.
"By controlling the complex this means that they have been defeated in Ramadi. The next step is to clear pockets that could exist here or there in the city."
Controlling this compound is key to retaking Ramadi. Iraqi soldiers are slowly clearing it as they fear it may have been rigged to explode.
Troops are also busy in the surrounding neighbourhood, where pockets of resistance remain.
The authorities will hail this week's offensive as a success - in stark contrast with the security forces' hasty retreat from Ramadi last May.
However, it took months to mount this ground campaign, in co-ordination with coalition air strikes.
There had been no clear indications of the number of IS militants who had been defending the city, although some reports put it at about 400. No official toll of Iraqi army casualties has been given.
The Iraqi military believes the remaining militants have headed north-east; with fighting also reported to be under way to the south-west of the compound.
Gen Ismail al-Mahlawi, head of Anbar military operations, told Associated Press that the fighting had been tough given IS's use of suicide bombers, snipers and booby traps.
Concern also remains for the plight of hundreds of families who have been trapped on the frontline.
Image copyright AFP
Image caption The Iraqi army was ousted from Mosul by Islamic State in June 2014
Although the full extent of the situation on the ground remains unclear, Agence France-Presse reported there had been celebrations on the streets of a number of Iraqi cities.
The operation to recapture Ramadi began in early November, but made slow progress, mainly because the government chose not to use the powerful Shia-dominated paramilitary force that helped it regain the northern city of Tikrit, to avoid increasing sectarian tensions.
Benin's Prime Minister walked away unscathed after the helicopter in which he was travelling crashed in the country's northwest, his daughter said.
It is unclear why the helicopter carrying Lionel Zinsou crash-landed in a stadium.
"My father is fine. There were no victims in the helicopter accident in Djougou," Marie-Cecile Zinsou tweeted.
Earlier this month, Mr Zinsou confirmed he would run as a candidate in Benin's 2016 presidential elections.
The helicopter crashed while landing at a stadium in the city of Djougou, a spokesman for Benin's interior ministry Leonce Houngbadji told the AFP news agency.
He said no-one in the helicopter was hurt.
Mr Zinsou, a former private-equity executive, was appointed prime minister of Benin in June.
He has said he will run for president in February's election as a candidate of the ruling Cowry Forces for an Emerging Benin (FCBE) party.
Reuters reported in early December that Mr Zinsou's announcement put an end to speculation Benin's president Thomas Boni Yayi was seeking a third term.
Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick says it is "disrespectful" to claim the club's players are not trying their best for manager Louis van Gaal.
United's Boxing Day defeat at Stoke was their fourth in a row and extended their winless run to seven games.
Van Gaal, who says he could quit, was at United's training ground on Sunday.
"It is a bit disrespectful when people say the lads aren't trying for the manager," said Carrick. "That hurts us - it's not the type of people we are."
The United vice-captain added: "We haven't won games and it is fair enough if people criticise things that have gone wrong on the pitch.
"It is a horrible run, and it is a horrible feeling. It hurts badly.
"The run we've been on is just not good enough. We can't hide from it, we're not going to hide from it. That is how it is and we all need to be better."
United have lost four successive competitive matches for the first time since November 1961, and their winless streak of seven games - which has seen them knocked out of the Champions League and slip out of the top four in the Premier League - is their worst run since the 1989-90 season.
Van Gaal's side face Chelsea at Old Trafford on Monday, with midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger available again after returning from a three-match suspension.
The Dutchman admitted it would be hard to lift his players for the game against Chelsea.
"When you lose four matches in a row it's much more difficult," said Van Gaal.
But asked whether he thought the players still believed in him, the 64-year-old added: "Until now, I can say 'yes'."
One United player to have suffered from a lack of form in recent weeks is Netherlands striker Memphis Depay.
The 21-year-old, at fault for Stoke's opening goal, was withdrawn at half-time on Saturday and has scored just two league goals since arriving from PSV Eindhoven for £31m in June.
Chelsea's interim manager Guus Hiddink believes Depay is suffering from the pressure of having to adjust to English football.
"He has this talent but he's also now having a confrontation with the demands of the Premier League, which are much higher in the intensity of the game for 90 minutes," the Dutchman said.
"He has this talent, but he's also giving interviews saying: 'Hey, I have to get used to another way of playing, the intensity of the games every three days, plus the intensity of the game.'
"Those guys, they need a bit the cover of experienced players."
Flagbearer of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, says his 2016 resolution is to assume the highest office of the land.
The NPP leader says he wants to become President to give Ghana the government it deserves.
“A government that will deal with the problems facing the people of Ghana; problems of unemployment, jobs for youth, how to sustain our economy, grow our economy, bring prosperity to the ordinary man and the people of Ghana. That’s the new year resolution,” Akufo-Addo said.
Akufo-Addo was speaking to Joy News’ Latiff Idrissu after a thanksgiving service at the Resurrection Power and New Generation Church at Kasoa in the Central Region.
The flagbearer was joined at the service by the Acting General Secretary of the party, John Boadu, Chairman of the party’s Council of Elders, C.K. Tedam, former MP Sheik IC Quaye and some members of parliament and parliamentary candidates.
Nana Akufo-Addo said he has the solution to the country’s troubled economy and lack of opportunity for the youth in Ghana.
According to him, winning the 2016 elections will give him the chance to put the economy back on track for recovery.
He said he was in church to give thanks to God for steering the NPP through turbulent times which have seen three national officers suspended.
Chairman Paul Afoko, General Secretary, Kwabena Agyepong and Second Vice-Chairman, Sammy Crabbe have all been suspended for allegedly acting in ways that vitiate from the party's goal of capturing political power next year.
Vice president, Kwesi Amissah-Arthur has justified the need for Ghanaians to retain the Mahama-led National Democratic Congress (NDC) in power ahead of the 2016 general elections.
According to him, in spite of the socio-economic challenges, government has been able to maintain the peace and stability of the country.
Mr. Amissah-Arthur addressing the University of Cape Coast branch of Tertiary Educational Institutions Network (TEIN) was skeptical about the opposition New Patriotic Party’s (NPP) ability to maintain the stability of the country should it win the 2016 general elections.
In his view, an opposition party characterized by violence which has led to the death of its members is not worthy of leading a peaceful nation like Ghana.
“If they can with their own people like this, how much more the NDC” he quizzed.
The vice president maintained that “John Mahama guarantees the stability and the peace of this country [which] allows us all to progress rather than the other side [NPP]”.
He charged the youth is work assiduously to make the NDC attractive to the over 50 percent of Ghanaians who have not decided who to vote for in 2016.
“More than half of the Ghanaian people have not decided yet who they want to vote for. It means that we need to do well to convince them to vote for NDC”.
Kwesi Amissah-Arthur is confident with hard work and determination; the Mahama-led government will surmount the challenges.
Braimah Kamoko aka Bukom Banku, Ghana's undefeated Cruiserweight Champion, has once again triumph over his biggest foe, Ayittey Powers, this time by technical knockout, at the Boxing Day slugfest dubbed #RevengeOrRepeat held at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium.
Government has given plastic producers a six months ultimatum to help solve the country’s sanitation problem or face a blanket ban on the production of plastics.
The latest threat from government comes on the back of what some have described as the lack of commitment by the plastic producers to combat the plastic filth which has engulfed the country’s capital especially.
In mid-2015 President Mahama gave indications that government may have to go the Rwandan way of banning plastics into the country. His comments generated a huge public debate about the production and use of plastics in Ghana.
It was on the back of this that plastic producers pleaded with government to reconsider the decision by promising to make their products biodegradable.
Government suspended the ban which should have come into effect in November.
Environment Minister, Mahama Ayariga in an interview indicated that “there is an understanding that the flexy plastic manufacturers will work out a strategy with us on how to keep the environment clean from their products such as helping with sanitation management.
“They have also promised to provide litter bins and help in reducing waste especially plastic waste.”
These the minister says should be looked at immediately, or government would slap them with the ban.
The Bank of Ghana has asked rural and community banks (RCBs) to put in place corporate governance and effective risk management best practices that help banks to clearly identify, measure, control and mitigate the risks associated with their operations.
It observed that good corporate governance and risk management systems lie at the heart of any successful business, and further advised rural banks to adopt adequate measures that deal with the associated challenges of operational and credit risks which often come along with their operations.
Head of Other Financial Institutions Supervision, Bank of Ghana, Mr. Raymond Amanfu, made these remarks at the shareholders’ Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Atwima Mponua Rural Bank at Toase.
He said RCBs should give serious consideration to human capital as part of their attempts to grow.
He insisted that RCBs should endeavour to appoint competent and reliable persons of high integrity to manage their institutions, and also deal with issues of unethical banking practices promptly and appropriately.
He indicated that the BoG does not countenance such practices. “We require due diligence be carried out on all prospective RCB staff before they are employed”.
Mr. Amanfu said impacts from the rural banking industry continue to be felt in the economy. He noted that after four decades of operations, the RCB sector has evolved significantly in response to phenomenal challenges posed by changing dynamics in the industry and among other actors.
It is important to note that the total assets of rural and community banks (RCBs) grew from a year-on-year total figure of GH?1.8billion in October 2014 to GH?2.40billion in October 2015, marking a 17.8 percent increase.
This noteworthy performance of RCBs accounted for 3.4 percent of the total assets in a banking industry with GH?70.39billion as at October 2015.
The total assets of RCBs were funded mainly by deposits, 76.22 percent; borrowings and other liabilities, 10.36 percent; and reserves of 9.45 percent.
Notwithstanding the steady performance recorded by the RCB sub-sector, the BoG expressed concern at some major lapses which continue to occur in the operations of RCBs despite several initiatives taken to address them.
It said it will ensure that all licenced institutions operate within the rules and laws governing their operations, and not tolerate any violations of laws -- as offenders will be appropriately sanctioned.
This warning comes with the knowledge that some RCBs have been operating agencies in the urban centres without the BoG’s approval.
The central bank has noted that these agencies are mostly established without due consideration as to the financial and supervisory capabilities of the RCBs, which often leads to misuse of depositors’ funds with attendant effects of flouting prudential requirements.
Mesut Ozil inspired Arsenal to reclaim top spot in the Premier League, at least for 24 hours, as they won their first league meeting with Bournemouth.
After a tense opening, Ozil's corner was met with a firm header by defender Gabriel for his first goal in English football.
Ozil made it 2-0 after the break from a slick one-two with Olivier Giroud.
Bournemouth showed plenty of spirit, but could not find their way through as Arsenal closed out the victory.
More to follow.
Real Madrid remain excluded from the Copa del Rey after losing an appeal against their punishment for fielding an ineligible player.
The 19-time winners were expelled for playing winger Denis Cheryshev against Cadiz in the last 32 on 2 December.
Cheryshev should have been serving a one-match ban for yellow cards he was shown while on loan at Villarreal.
Spain's Administrative Court of Sport dismissed Real's appeal after "analysing all the parties' arguments".
The club can still appeal against the verdict, but would need to take the case to Spain's normal law courts - effectively starting litigation against the Spanish football federation.
Real, third in La Liga behind Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, last won the Copa del Rey in 2014.
Manchester United were unable to ease the pressure on manager Louis van Gaal despite a much-improved performance as they were held to a draw by Chelsea at Old Trafford.
Van Gaal's future was shrouded in uncertainty after a run of four straight defeats - and while a draw offers minor relief, United were still unable to secure the victory the 64-year-old Dutchman so desperately needs.
United's luck was out as both Juan Mata and Anthony Martial struck the woodwork inside the first 15 minutes and only a brilliant reflex save from Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois stopped Ander Herrera from six yards after the break.
Chelsea, under the temporary control of Van Gaal's fellow countryman Guus Hiddink, had chances of their own and United needed the brilliance of keeper David de Gea as he saved athletically from John Terry's early header then made a double save from Pedro and Cesar Azpilicueta after the break.
And as United ran out of momentum and ideas - although they were unlucky not to get a penalty when Willian handled - Nemanja Matic missed the best chance of the game when he raced clear, only to shoot hopelessly over the top.
The merchandisers outside Old Trafford may have been hawking scarves proclaiming Jose Mourinho as the next Manchester United manager, but those inside 'The Theatre Of Dreams' gave their embattled manager commendable support.
Few Mourinho scarves were on view and Van Gaal was able to acknowledge warm applause from plenty of United fans as he made his way from the tunnel at the Stretford End to his technical area before kick-off.
United's vibrant start, out of character with the timidity of recent weeks, instantly lifted the spirits and volume of support that were out-of-sorts and subdued before the start, and the fans remained solidly behind their team throughout.
There was certainly no hostility on view towards Van Gaal, although there were some signs of frustration as the game edged into the last 20 minutes with no sign of a breakthrough.
The final whistle was greeted with some jeers but this was more out of frustration that United could not find a winner, which also saw Wayne Rooney miss a late chance.
Van Gaal's name was not heard in any chants but there was no groundswell of hostility towards the manager fighting for his job.
Allegations that American football legend Peyton Manning took human growth hormone should be investigated, says the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada).
Wada also described the allegations, which Manning dismissed as "complete garbage", as "very concerning".
Al Jazeera reported that Denver Broncos quarterback Manning was treated with human growth hormone (HGH) during his recovery from neck surgery in 2011.
Its source - Texas-based pharmacist Charlie Sly - has since recanted.
The Al Jazeera documentary linked players from the National Football League (NFL) and Major League Baseball (MLB) with performance-enhancing drugs.
"Al Jazeera's allegations are very concerning, particularly as it relates to the NFL's and MLB's testing programmes," David Howman, director-general of Wada, said in a statement.
"While the NFL and the MLB are not signatories to the world anti-doping code, in recent years Wada has been working with them and other professional leagues in the United States to try to bring them closer to Wada's programme.
"As it relates to the particular allegations by Al Jazeera, Wada expects that they will be carefully investigated by the relevant authorities and that, if warranted, necessary and appropriate steps would be taken."
The NFL collective bargaining agreement, ratified in 2011, banned HGH but players were not tested for it until 2014. No NFL player has tested positive for HGH.
MLB said it would investigate allegations made in the documentary that several of its players took banned hormone supplement Delta-2.
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal says he will not resign after his side drew 0-0 with Chelsea on Monday.
United have now failed to win in eight games in all competitions - the first time that has happened since 1990 - and are five points behind fourth place.
But Juan Mata and Anthony Martial both hit the woodwork in an improved United display against Chelsea.
And Van Gaal said: "When the players give such a performance with a lot of pressure, there's no reason to resign."
It has been a testing week for Van Gaal, who before Christmas walked out of a news conference after criticising the media for speculating about his position.
The Red Devils then lost 2-0 at Stoke, while United scarves with the name of recently sacked Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho on them were sold outside Old Trafford before Monday's game.
Van Gaal, though, is confident he has the support of both the players and the club's board.
"The crisis here is the environment and you [the media] are part of that," added Van Gaal.
"The players are willing to fight for every metre. The manager is willing to fight. The members of staff are willing to fight and the board has every confidence in the staff and the manager."
However, with United sixth and bottom of the Premier League form table, Van Gaal accepts he is not immune from the sack.
"In this crazy football world it can happen every day and also with me," he said.
"When it happens to Jose Mourinho then it can happen with me."
A US grand jury has decided not to bring charges against a white policeman over the killing of a 12-year-old black boy armed with a toy gun.
A local prosecutor in Ohio state, Tim McGinty, called the events that led to the death of Tamir Rice a "perfect storm of human error".
But he said it was not unreasonable for the officer to fear for his life.
Public officials in Cleveland on Monday urged the public to remain calm and to protest peacefully.
State Senator Sandra Williams said any unrest would hamper progress but still called the decision a "grave miscarriage of justice".
The announcement comes at a time when the deaths of black men at the hands of police have sparked a national debate.
Rice was carrying a non-lethal pellet gun when police approached him in Cleveland in November 2014, in response to a 911 call reporting a man waving and pointing a gun at people.
Rice's gun was a toy but looked like a real weapon
The caller said the gun might not be real and the perpetrator could be a juvenile.
Mr McGinty, who announced the grand jury's decision on Monday, faulted the emergency services dispatcher for not relaying that information to police.
Officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback have said the gun looked real and urged Rice to raise his hands three times.
Mr Loehmann shot Rice twice after the boy pulled the gun from his waistband.
The officers said they believed Rice was older than 12. He weighed about 175lbs (79kg) and stood 5ft 7in (1.7m) tall.
The toy gun lacked an orange safety tip and Mr McGinty urged toy manufacturers to stop making replicas that look like real guns.
The Rice family have said police fired too quickly and should have used a Taser, a non-lethal weapon.
Footage from a surveillance camera shows Mr Loehmann firing moments after police arrived at the scene.
Although the officers' actions were not criminal, Mr McGinty said Cleveland had learned from the shooting.
"It should never happen again, and the city has taken steps so it doesn't,'' Mr McGinty said.
A wave of attacks by female suicide bombers in north-eastern Nigeria has killed more than 50 people.
In the latest blasts two bombers struck a market in the town of Madagali in Adamawa state, an army official said. More than 25 people were killed.
In neighbouring Borno state, several attacks in Maiduguri killed more than 30 people and injured over 100.
Last week, Nigeria's leader said the war against Islamist Boko Haram militants had been "technically won".
The attacks are being blamed on the group.
The BBC's Abdullahi Kaura Abubakar in the capital, Abuja, says Boko Haram jihadists appear to be trying to prove that they can still inflict widespread destruction.
President Muhammadu Buhari, who took office in May promising to defeat the group, told the BBC last week that the militants could no longer mount "conventional attacks" against security forces or population centres.
It had been reduced to fighting with improvised explosives devices (IEDs), he said.
The twin suicide blasts in Madagali were confirmed by the Adamawa state military chief, Brig-Gen Victor Ezugwu.
Maina Ularamu, a community leader and former local government chairman, told AFP two female suicide bombers killed at least 30 people.
Further north, during an attack on Dawari village on the outskirts of Maiduguri, security forces had intervened and killed 10 suicide bombers, spokesman Col Mustapha Anka said.
Residents said militants armed with rocket-propelled grenades drove into the village in trucks and began firing indiscriminately.
Muhammad Kanar, from the National Emergency Management Agency, told the BBC the injured had been taken to three hospitals in the city for treatment.
Hours later a female suicide bomber killed one person as people queued in the morning by a mosque in the city.
A resident in Maiduguri's Ushari Bulabulin district, who asked not to be named, told the BBC Hausa Service: "People were being scanned before they were allowed to pass, and she went into the middle of the gathering. She killed one person and injured six or seven...
"We cannot see the lower part of her body - the bomb must have completely destroyed the lower part of her body," he said.
The military has not commented on the latest attack on the mosque, which is believed to be about a kilometre from the village.
Boko Haram started its insurgency in 2009 and has sworn allegiance to Islamic State and often displays its trademark black flag
Asian shares traded mixed, following a lacklustre lead from global markets dragged down by oil prices.
The price of US crude oil dropped more than 3% overnight, while Brent crude was back near 11-year lows on reports that Iran plans to increase exports once sanctions are removed, which would add to the global supply glut.
Lower energy shares across Asia weighed on benchmark indexes.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index was down 0.1% to 18,850.17 in morning trade.
"Oil prices look likely to continue in their depressed state if Iran is able to ramp up its exports at such a rapid rate," said market analyst Angus Nicholson at trading firm IG in a note on Tuesday.
Iran intends to increase exports by 500,000 barrels per day once the economic sanctions are removed, according to reports.
Meanwhile, shares of Toshiba rose by 0.6% on a local report that the struggling electronics giant planned to ask for an additional $2.5bn (£1.7bn) in credit to fund its large-scale restructuring.
The company is reeling from a $1.3bn accounting scandal earlier this year.
Chinese shares headed higher in early trade with the Shanghai Composite up 0.4% to 3,546.38, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was higher by 0.1% to 21,945.33.
In Australia, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 was up 0.6% to 5,238.80 after reopening from public holiday on Monday.
Bucking the trend were shares of Woodside Petroleum, up 0.1% despite the drop in oil prices.
South Korea's Kospi index was down 0.7% to 1,949.56, following the previous session's losses.
David Cameron has defended the government's spending on flood defences following widespread devastation across parts of northern England.
The prime minister dismissed suggestions of a "north-south divide" in investment, saying more per head was spent on flood defences in the north.
Parts of Yorkshire, Lancashire and Greater Manchester were flooded after several rivers burst their banks.
The Environment Agency has called for a "complete rethink" of flood defences.
The Met Office says areas of Cumbria, Lancashire and Yorkshire have seen record December levels of rainfall.
A thousand homes have flooded in Leeds, but the leader of the city council, Judith Blake, said the flooding had been a "preventable disaster".
She said the North had not received "anywhere near the support that we saw going into Somerset" - which flooded in 2014 - and there was now a "real anger growing across the North".
But speaking while visiting communities affected in York, Mr Cameron rejected the accusation.
He said ministers needed to assess "what we are planning to build, what we are planning to spend and see if more can be done".
The government has ordered a major review of flood prevention strategy.
But the prime minister insisted the government had spent "more per head of the population on flood defences in the north than we do in the south".
"We are going to spend £2.3bn on flood defences in this parliament but we will look at what's happened here and see what needs to be done," he added.
The Environment Agency has nine severe flood warnings - meaning danger to life - in place in north-east and north-west England, and more than 100 other flood alerts across England and Wales.
It comes as a fresh storm - which has officially been named Storm Frank - is set to bring further heavy rain late on Tuesday into Wednesday.
Many places in northern England have seen record river levels over the past 24 hours, including the River Aire in Leeds, and the rivers Calder and Ribble, affecting places such as Whalley, Hebden Bridge and Ribchester.
The River Ouse is now thought to have stabilised in York, where hundreds of people had to leave flooded homes following the torrential rain over Christmas, but water levels are still believed to be rising in the town of Selby.
In developments elsewhere:
The Environment Agency deputy chief executive David Rooke said the UK was moving from a period of "known extremes" of weather to one of "unknown extremes".
"I think we will need to have that complete rethink and I think we will need to move from not just providing better defences... but also looking at increasing resilience," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
Meanwhile, the Met Office has issued yellow (be aware) warnings for rain on Wednesday in areas of northern England, Wales and Northern Ireland, bringing the threat of further flooding.
Amber (be prepared) warnings for rain are also in place for parts of Scotland on Wednesday. There are currently no flood warnings in Scotland.
People can access information from council websites and the Environment Agency Floodline.
The agency is also operating a phone line - 0345 988 1188 - which will be staffed rather than offering recorded information.
Leicester City missed the chance to return to the top of the Premier League as they played out a goalless draw with Manchester City at the King Power Stadium.
Claudio Ranieri's side can take great heart, however, from a highly impressive response to only their second league defeat of the season at Liverpool on Boxing Day - but Arsenal stay top on goal difference.
Leicester and Manchester City both had chances in an entertaining encounter, with goalkeepers Kasper Schmeichel and Joe Hart excelling with a succession of saves.
Man of the moment Jamie Vardy missed Leicester's best chance when he shot over the top after racing clear in the first half while the normally lethal Sergio Aguero was off target from inside the six-yard box as both sides pushed for the win.
Aguero's frustrating season continues as he was replaced by Wilfried Bony after just 62 minutes with Manchester City pressing strongly for a breakthrough.
The 27-year-old Argentine is a striker of undisputed world class but his edge has been blunted by a succession of niggling injuries that have interrupted his season.
Aguero has scored seven Premier League goals this term - and five of those came in the space of 20 minutes in the 6-1 win against Newcastle United at the Etihad in early October.
He had a couple of opportunities here, none better than when he stole in on a corner seconds after the break but his touch was too heavy at the near post and he was well off target.
Aguero is a player of such quality that it is only a matter of time before the brilliance returns but he seems to be struggling for full fitness - and as City search for the victories that will give them consistency, it is a vital missing ingredient.
It is the question that has been asked all season - how will Leicester City react to a defeat?
After the 1-0 defeat at Liverpool on Boxing Day, the visit of Manuel Pellegrini's expensively assembled squad was both a test and an opportunity.
They answered the question emphatically with a performance bursting with spirit and energy, roared on by the trademark vibrant atmosphere at a packed King Power Stadium.
This was a night when Ranieri's undercard once again came to the fore and outshone the pair he calls "the pinnacle of the iceberg" - Vardy and Riyad Mahrez.
N'Golo Kante, a £5.6m summer signing from French club Caen, has been winning plaudits and he looked a bargain again here.
Kante almost broke the deadlock with a flashing 25-yard shot just wide then showed remarkable pace to catch Raheem Sterling in a footrace to stop a City attack.
Wes Morgan was once again a powerhouse in defence alongside Robert Huth, while Christian Fuchs ran a marathon down the left, almost creating a first-half goal for Marc Albrighton with a superb cross.
Vardy and Mahrez deserve every headline written about them this season - but there is much more going on under the pinnacle of the Leicester iceberg.
While Manchester City may be formidable at home, there is a missing link away from home that is undermining their chances of taking the Premier League title back from Chelsea.
This goalless draw leaves their league away record this season as won three, drawn three and lost three with eight goals scored and eight conceded - not title-winning form.
City's last away league victory was at Crystal Palace on 12 September after starting with impressive victories at West Bromwich Albion and Everton.
There is still time to put it right - but the lack of punch away from home must be a concern for Pellegrini because it is often on travels where titles are won.
Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri: "I think we made a very good match. It was difficult. We played well, we created some chances. I wanted to see how my players responded after the Liverpool defeat and they responded well.
"Every match is difficult for us. This league is very crazy...nobody wants to win the league. It's very strange. We're the basement and the other teams are a villa with a swimming pool. It's not easy for us but we want to fight with everybody. It's a miracle what we're doing."
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini: "I think we did more than Leicester to win the game. We had more possession, more attempts, more options but it was a tough game against a tough team playing away. This is a crucial period. I think at the end of January we will know exactly what position we are in. "
More than one million refugees and migrants have reached Europe by sea since the start of 2015, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) says.
More than 80% of the 1,000,573 people arrived in Greece, with the majority landing on Lesbos island, it said.
About 844,000 travelled to Greece from nearby Turkey. Most of the others - over 150,000 - crossed the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy.
The migrant crisis is Europe's worst since World War Two.
The number of sea arrivals has increased vastly since 2014, when it was recorded at slightly more than 216,000.
"Increasing numbers of refugees and migrants take their chances aboard unseaworthy boats and dinghies in a desperate bid to reach Europe," the UNHCR said on its website.
"The vast majority of those attempting this dangerous crossing are in need of international protection, fleeing war, violence and persecution in their country of origin."
About 49% of those crossing the Mediterranean Sea are from Syria, with 21% coming from Afghanistan, it added.
The number of those dead or missing at sea is now at 3,735.
The BBC's Paul Adams in Lesbos says that while the island feels less overwhelmed than usual, thousands more people are still waiting to be registered so they can travel further into Europe.
On 21 December, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said the total number of migrants arriving by both land and sea had reached more than 1,006,000.
Many migrants are still making the journey to Europe despite winter weather. The influx has caused tension within the EU, with some states putting up fences and reimposing frontier controls.
Last week, the EU agreed to increase the number of Frontex agency staff in Greece, where most migrants arrive before travelling further into Europe.
Germany says it has received more than a million refugees and migrants, the largest number of any European country, but this includes a large number from the Balkan states who are not counted in the sea arrivals.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the end of the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, two years after the epidemic began there.
Guineans are expected to celebrate the landmark with concerts and fireworks.
The disease killed more than 2,500 people in the West African state, and a further 9,000 in neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone.
However, Liberia has had new cases since the declaration.
A country is considered free of human-to-human transmission once two 21-day incubation periods have passed since the last known case tested negative for a second time.
"It's the best year-end present that God could give to Guinea, and the best news that Guineans could hope for," Ebola survivor Alama Kambou Dore told AFP news agency.
Local health workers echoed a warning from the WHO that vigilance was still vital despite the mood of celebration.
"We have to be very careful, because even if open transmission has been stopped, the disease has not been totally defeated," said Alpha Seny Souhmah, a Guinean health worker and Ebola survivor.
Ad campaigns have run in countries affected by Ebola calling for an end to stigma
In a statement, the WHO congratulated the Guinean government and people for showing "extraordinary leadership in fighting the epidemic".
But it also noted that there had been 10 new small outbreaks of the virus between March and November.
"The coming months will be absolutely critical," said Dr Bruce Aylward from the WHO's Ebola response team.
"This is the period when the countries need to be sure that they are fully prepared to prevent, detect and respond to any new cases."
The WHO will maintain surveillance and outbreak response teams in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia throughout 2016, Dr Aylward added.
Analysis: Tulip Mazumdar, health correspondent, BBC News
This is another major milestone in the bumpy road to the end of the worst Ebola outbreak in history. It all started in Guinea when the virus emerged, probably from fruit bats, in a rural community deep in the forest.
Guinea saw far fewer cases than neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone, yet the virus has been circulating there for longer than anywhere else.
I remember travelling through Guinea at the height of the outbreak, and there was still a lot of denial about Ebola; people told me it was a made-up disease. Suspicion is still rife in some communities, and many simply do not trust their government.
Ebola has made a comeback in Liberia after the country twice declared the end of the epidemic, and there is every possibility it could return to Guinea. It will be up to communities to keep the killer virus at bay, by reporting suspicious deaths and encouraging loved ones to seek treatment if they show symptoms of Ebola.
But medical facilities also need to respond quickly, which will happen for the extra 90-day "heightened surveillance" period. A key question is what will happen after that, particularly for the thousands of Ebola survivors who are still facing health problems.
More than 100 health workers also lost their lives in the fight against the disease.
Many survivors still live in fear of the stigma and long-term side effects associated with the virus.
The government in Guinea has blamed the virus for poor economic performance and says it has also caused people to distrust the country's health services.
President Alpha Conde has doubled the health budget since winning re-election in October.
Music stars and celebrities have paid tribute to Motorhead frontman Lemmy, who has died at the age of 70.
Lemmy died at home in Los Angeles on Monday, two days after learning he had cancer.
He formed Motorhead in 1975 and recorded 22 albums, including the classic Ace of Spades.
The band said on its Facebook page: "Our mighty, noble friend Lemmy has passed away after a short battle with an extremely aggressive cancer."
The band added: "We cannot begin to express our shock and sadness, there aren't words."
They urged fans to play Lemmy's music loud and "have a drink or few", saying: "Celebrate the life this lovely, wonderful man celebrated so vibrantly himself.
"He would want exactly that."
Lemmy, who was the only constant member of Motorhead, had been diagnosed with cancer on Saturday - two days after his 70th birthday.
Todd Singerman, Motorhead's manager, told the BBC News channel that Lemmy had had cancer "in his brain and neck" and that his sudden death had come as "a massive shock".
He said the singer died while sitting in front of his favourite video game with his family.
Singerman described Lemmy as "the pinnacle, he's up there with one of his idols, Elvis".
"He was was one of the last true rock stars left, this guy lived it every day."
While Lemmy was known for his hard-living lifestyle and his penchant for Jack Daniels, Singerman joked that in recent years, the frontman had "switched to vodka and orange - he thought it was healthier!"
"He was one of the kindest men I ever met - he was the people's man," he added.
Heavy metal star Ozzy Osbourne was among those to pay tribute on social media.
He tweeted: "Lost one of my best friends, Lemmy, today. He will be sadly missed. He was a warrior and a legend.
Alice Cooper said: "I will see you on the other side. When we say 'one of a kind' in rock'n'roll, Lemmy was the epitome of that - one of the most beloved characters in rock'n'roll.
"I can't think of anyone who didn't adore Lemmy; you can't say 'heavy metal' without mentioning Lemmy.
"Rock'n roll heaven just got heavier."
Queen's Brian May described Lemmy as "our utterly unique friend".
Metallica tweeted: "Lemmy, you are one of the primary reasons this band exists. We're forever grateful for all of your inspiration.''
Kiss star Gene Simmons said: "Lemmy: Rest In Peace. Shake the heavens, my friend."
Guns N' Roses bassist Duff McKagan added: "Rest In Peace Lemmy. A hell of a man who suffered no fools.
"U shall be missed brother, and, THANK u 4 the years of unwavering kick ass R&R."
And Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello described Lemmy as "a true rock icon".
Black Sabbath founding member Geezer Butler said: "Very sad to hear of Lemmy's passing. We've lost a true, true legend. RIP."
Aerosmith drummer Joey Kramer added: "RIP #Lemmy heaven is Rockin tonight."
And the band's Joe Perry also paid his respects on Twitter: "RIP Lemmy. A true rocker from beginning to end. We'll all see you there, soon enough."
Rock band Judas Priest also paid tribute: "Words about Lemmy can never be enough so we will simply say farewell Lord Lemmy, thank you for the music, the shows."
Hawkwind's Dave Brock tweeted: "Lemmy was a gentleman & a friend. I'll miss our eccentric text conversations.We had that magic when we played together.His legend lives on."
Fans also left messages on Lemmy's Facebook page.
Lemmy was born Ian Fraser Kilmister in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, in 1945.
He lived in Anglesey, Wales, as a child and acquired the nickname Lemmy while at school, although he claimed to have had no idea where it came from.
As Lemmy of Motorhead, he became known for his fast and furious bass guitar playing and gravelly voice.
His death comes just weeks after former Motorhead drummer Phil Taylor died at the age of 61.
Ex-Motorhead guitarist "Fast" Eddie Clarke, who played with the group between 1976 and 1982, said on Facebook: "I am devastated. We did so much together, the three of us.
"The world seems a really empty place right now. I am having trouble finding the words ... He will live on in our hearts. R.I.P Lemmy!"
Lemmy was credited with introducing punk sounds into the heavy metal genre - and having a wild offstage reputation.
He first became involved in the Manchester music scene before going to London.
There he had a stint as a roadie with Jimi Hendrix and briefly played in progressive rock band Opal Butterfly.
In 1972 he joined space-rock band Hawkwind on bass but left after being busted for drug possession on a tour of Canada in 1975.
Lemmy went on to form Motorhead - the name is US slang for someone who takes speed - and recorded 22 studio albums with the band between 1977 and 2015.
The band achieved critical acclaim with the 1980 Ace of Spades album, which reached number four in the UK chart.
They recently released Bad Magic and were set to play dates in the UK and Europe over the next few months as part of a world tour.
John Robb, a musician and editor of the Louder Than War website, told the BBC: "Lemmy's voice and the sound of the bass guitar was exactly the same.
"It was a fantastic bluff gruffness which is so attractive, so hypnotic.
"It's a really great sound... It's a mistake to say it's just a noise because he wrote really good songs."
Brazil's deficit jumped in November to one of the highest levels on record as state finances came under increasing strain amid a deep recession.
The public sector deficit - the difference between what the government spends and what it receives in revenues - rose to 19.6bn reais ($5.1bn).
This was worse than expected and much higher than October's 11.5bn reais.
The government is struggling to increase tax revenues as the economy continues to shrink.
Between July and September, the economy contracted by 1.7% compared with the previous quarter, deepening the country's worst recession in 25 years.
The economy has shrunk in all but one of the last six quarters.
Unemployment has risen sharply this year and now stands at 7.5%, putting a further strain on government finances.
Inflation is also running at more than 10%, undermining the value of Brazilians' savings and their ability to spend.
Brazil's economy has been hit hard by a slowdown in global demand - particularly in China - for its commodities, while a corruption scandal centred on state oil giant Petrobras has severely damaged investor confidence.
A top aide to the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has died in a car crash, state news agency KCNA has said.
Kim Yang-gon, 73, was a secretary of the ruling Workers' Party and was in charge of ties with South Korea.
He was part of a high-level delegation from North Korea that helped ease a stand-off with the South in August, after an exchange of artillery fire.
The state news agency called him Kim Jong-un's "closest comrade and a solid revolutionary partner".
"Comrade Kim Yang-gon, a Workers' Party secretary and member of the party Central Committee Politbureau... died in a traffic accident at 6:15am, Tuesday, at age 73," KCNA said, without giving details.
It added that Kim Jong-un would lead an 80-member state funeral for Mr Kim on Thursday.
Tension between North and South Korea increased in August when a border blast injured two South Korean soldiers.
Meetings at that time eventually led to the two countries stepping away from a military confrontation.
A court in Buenos Aires has given jail sentences to two former Argentine transport ministers for a train crash which killed 51 people in 2012.
Ricardo Jaime and Pablo Schiavi were given six- and eight-year sentences for negligence.
The accident, which injured 789 people, happened when a morning rush hour train hit the buffers at the Once rail station in the capital.
t was one of the worst train accidents in Argentina in decades.
The train driver received a three-year prison sentence.
Two of the directors of the company Trenes de Buenos Aires (TBA), which operated the rail line concession at the time, received sentences of between five and nine years.
The train hit the barrier at about 12mph (20km/h), destroying the front of the engine and crushing the carriages into it from behind.
One of the carriages was driven nearly 6m (20ft) into the next.
The train hit the barrier at about 12mph (20km/h)
The Buenos Aires rail system transports about four billion passengers a year, making it the biggest in South America.
In the 1990s most of it was privatised in the hope of boosting investment in infrastructure.
But little investment in the network happened since the companies were not obliged by contract to invest, and they had little incentive because they continued to receive income from state subsidies.
South Africa's justice minister has thrown out a bid by the Thembu king to reopen his criminal trial so that he can avoid serving 12 years in prison.
King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo had failed to provide any new evidence to justify a retrial, Michael Masutha said.
The monarch is due to report to prison on Wednesday after being convicted of kidnapping, assault and arson.
He comes from the Thembu clan, to which South Africa's first black president, Nelson Mandela, belonged.
King Dalindyebo is the first monarch to be convicted of a crime in South Africa since minority rule ended in 1994.
He ascended to the throne in 1989, and has about 700,000 subjects.
The late Mr Mandela grew up in the Thembu royal household, and was the 51-year-old King Dalindyebo's uncle.
South Africa has 10 officially recognised monarchs representing different ethnic groups and clans.
Nelson Mandela, who grew up in the Thembu royal household, died two years ago, aged 95
The case against King Dalindyebo was related to a dispute he had with some of his subjects more than two decades ago.
He was accused of kidnapping a woman and her six children, setting their home on fire and beating up four youths, one of whom died, because one of their relatives had failed to present himself before the king's traditional court.
King Dalindyebo appealed to Mr Masutha to reopen his trial after failing in the courts to have his conviction and sentence set aside.
His legal team said he would not report to prison on Wednesday, as they intended to apply for his bail to be extended yet again, the national broadcaster, SABC, reports on its website.
Last week, a court extended King Dalindyebo's bail while Mr Masutha considered his request for a retrial, making it possible for him to spend Christmas at home.
Many people feel King Dalindyebo has disgraced the royal family, and that he will be hard-pressed to find any sympathy, correspondents say.
There is already talk of his son, Prince Azenethi Dalindyebo, being crowned as the next monarch.
King Dalindyebo was a member of the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party, but it revoked his membership following his conviction.
Sentencing him in October, the Supreme Court of Appeal said: "His behaviour was all the more deplorable because the victims of his reign of terror were the vulnerable rural poor, who were dependent upon him. Our constitution does not countenance such behaviour.
"We are a constitutional democracy in which everyone is accountable and where the most vulnerable are entitled to protection."
Government has announced an official end to the four-year long load shedding exercise which plagued the country.
In a statement signed by the head of Public Affairs of the Ministry of Power Kweku Sersah-Johnson, Wednesday, government thanked Ghanaians for their patience during the difficult times.
The announcement comes two days before the January 1 2016 deadline given by the Power Minister Dr Kwabena Donkor.
He had vowed to resign if the perennial power crisis continued after the end of the year.
It appears however that government has resolved the crisis.
The following is the full statement;
END OF LOAD SHEDDING
The Ministry of Power wishes inform the public that its Load Shedding programme in respect of electricity supply has been brought to an end.
The Ministry takes this opportunity to express its profound gratitude and appreciation to the entire citizenry and residents of Ghana for their forbearance and understanding during those difficult times.
The Ministry and its Agencies wish to assure the public that it shall continue to pursue policies and programs to consolidate the gains so far made in the generation and transmission of Electricity for the country.
Prosecutors in Pennsylvania have filed the first sexual assault charges against US comedian Bill Cosby.
Mr Cosby, 78, has been charged with aggravated indecent assault over an alleged incident in 2004 involving a former local university employee.
He has previously said under oath he had a consensual sexual encounter with the woman.
The case was re-opened after dozens of women alleged assault by Mr Cosby, dating back to the 1970s.
Andrea Constand, who was an employee at Temple University at the time of the alleged assault, sued Mr Cosby in 2005 and settled for an undisclosed sum after no charges were brought.
She has said she was tricked into taking drugs before being sexually assaulted by Mr Cosby.
Mr Cosby has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in relation to the allegations.
Documents from the case were sealed until this summer.
Testimony from the lawsuits include Mr Cosby admitting he gave women a sedative, Quaaludes, when he wanted to have sex with them.
Mr Cosby befriended Ms Constand through her job at the university and she came to think of him as "a mentor and a friend" before he allegedly made two sexual advances that were rejected, said prosecutors.
Kevin Steele, district attorney for Montgomery County, said they re-visited the case after new evidence emerged, with the statue of limitations not expired yet.
The prosecutors re-interviewed witnesses, examined evidence from the civil case and spoke to other alleged victims before they decided to file criminal charges, Mr Steele's office says in a statement.
At the height of his fame from The Cosby Show, the comedian was the highest paid entertainer on US television.
Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza has threatened to fight African Union (AU) peacekeepers if they are deployed to the country.
The AU announced two weeks ago that it would send 5,000 troops to protect civilians in the country, even without the government's consent.
"Everyone has to respect Burundi borders," Mr Nkurunziza said in his first public response to the AU plan.
At least 400 people have been killed and 220,000 displaced since April.
The violence began after Mr Nkurunziza announced he would seek a third term in office. He survived a coup attempt in May, and secured a landslide victory in disputed elections in July.
There have been fears that the violence could spiral into civil war and possible ethnic conflict.
Under Burundi's constitution, foreign troops can only intervene if the warring parties ask for it, or if there is no legitimate government in place, the president said in comments broadcast on state radio.
Any violation of those principles would be considered "an attack on the country and every Burundian will stand up and fight against them," he said.
Other government officials have already criticised the AU proposal saying it would violate the country's sovereignty.
If the deployment goes ahead, it would be the first time the AU uses its power to deploy a force without a country's consent.
A clause in the organisation's charter allows it to intervene in a member state because of grave circumstances, which include war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.
Diplomatic moves to prevent a civil war in Burundi have recently accelerated with the UN, the European Union and the East African Community fearful of the impact of worsening violence both on the local population and the region.
The government has said there is no threat of genocide.
A peace meeting held in neighbouring Uganda on Tuesday to find a solution to the crisis ended without any agreement.
A recent AU fact-finding mission reports of arbitrary killings, torture and the arbitrary... "closure of some civil society organisations and the media".
Ethnic conflict between Hutus and Tutsis in the 1990s claimed an estimated 300,000 lives.
Mr Nkurunziza is the former leader of a Hutu rebel group, who has been in power since a 2005 peace deal.
Both the government and the opposition are ethnically mixed.
Long queues formed at polling stations in the Central African Republic's capital as presidential and parliamentary elections were held to end years of conflict.
UN troops patrolled Bangui to stop a repeat of the clashes during a recent referendum on a new constitution.
Thirty candidates vied to replace interim leader Catherine Samba-Panza.
CAR has been torn by sectarian violence since a largely Muslim Seleka rebel group seized power in March 2013.
A band of mostly Christian militias, called the anti-Balaka, then took up arms against the Seleka.
In January 2014, a transitional government was formed but elections have been postponed four times since February 2015 due to insecurity and logistical challenges.
Three candidates are considered frontrunners for the presidency.
Two of them - Martin Ziguele and Anicet Dologuele - were prime ministers under late President Ange-Felix Patasse. The third, Karim Meckassoua, is a Muslim who served as a minister under President Francois Bozize until he was ousted in 2013 by Seleka rebels.
UN peacekeepers staged patrols and positioned armoured personnel carriers at polling stations in Bangui.
"I've been dreaming of this election for two years since the day armed men killed my father and my brother in Bangui. I voted for peace," said Ahmat Abouna, who fled to the Cameroon border town of Garoua-Boulai and voted along with thousands of other refugees, Reuters news agency reports.
Businessman Gradias Vara said: "We came to vote because we want to be free to get back to our professions. We want to put an end to the conflict."
Voting was extended at numerous polling stations where logistical problems had delayed voting, including in Bangui's flashpoint PK5 district, the AFP news agency reports.
The new head of the 11,000-strong UN force, General Bala Keita, said the atmosphere was "good-natured", and there had only been a few "administrative issues".
"It won't be like last time [the referendum vote]. We have learned, the people have learned, the saboteurs have learned. So we have all have learned. So today, God willing, all will go well," he told journalists in Bangui.
Judging by the long queues in Bangui, it seemed that people were determined to turn the page on violence and division which they blame on rotten politicians driven by their own interests.
The same determination was seen during the 13 December referendum when many voters in Bangui's mainly Muslim PK5 district defied armed men who tried, and partly succeeded, to disrupt voting.
General Keita promised that troops would be more aggressive during the election, and said it was unacceptable that they could not help citizens fulfil their duty of voting when there were so many of them in CAR.
So the election is likely to be peaceful compared with the referendum, especially after a powerful Seleka leader, Nourredine Adam, backpedalled on his threat to disrupt voting in areas under his control following pressure from Muslim leaders.
The interim government and international donors pushed for the poll, believing that an elected president and parliament would help CAR, where most people are poor despite the fact that it is rich in resources, move forward.
But it is not going to be a perfect election, and if the poll is marred by widespread logistical problems and claims of vote-rigging, the post-election period will be difficult to manage.
Pope Francis ignored safety fears to visit CAR last month, and said Muslims and Christians were brothers and sisters who should live in peace.
Results are not expected for a few days. Observers say a second round is likely and could be held by the end of January.
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.
All three former presidents were barred from contesting the election.
Mr Djotodia and Mr Bozize are both in exile and face UN and US sanctions over violence in the country.
Mr Bozize described the Constitutional Court's decision to reject his candidacy as "shameful".
About 1.8 million people are registered to vote, out of a population of roughly five million.
More than one million people have been forced to flee their homes because of the fighting.
Two US class action lawsuits against Facebook by shareholders alleging it hid growth concerns ahead of its 2012 public listing can now go ahead.
A federal judge certified the legal proceedings, Reuters reports, saying investors who claim they lost money could pursue their claims as groups.
Facebook told the BBC that it was disappointed with the decision and it has launched an appeal against it.
The firm's initial public offering (IPO) in May 2012 raised $16bn (£10bn).
The investors say that by purchasing the firm's shares at inflated prices they lost money.
That year, its shares began trading on 18 May in New York at $38 per share, but the price fell to almost half the amount of $17.55 on 4 September.
The price stayed below the IPO price for more than a year, but shares ultimately rebounded and closed up at $107.26 on the Nasdaq index on Tuesday.
District judge Robert Sweet gave the lawsuits class action certification on 11 December, but the order was made public on Tuesday, Reuters reports.
Investors claim that Facebook omitted information about revised revenue projections and the impact that increased mobile usage, at a time when there was little advertising on mobile devices, would have on its revenues.
But Mr Sweet said Facebook provided "an impressive amount of evidence" to indicate that shareholders knew how mobile usage would affect the firm's revenue.
However, he rejected the tech giant's argument that shareholders should pursue their claims individually.
In a 55-page decision, Mr. Sweet said that given the extraordinary size of the case, allowing two subclasses "in fact adds more weight to the predominance of common questions and answers, practically negating the individualized questions raised".
Facebook told the BBC that it believes the class certification is "without merit".
The tech giant also said the decision "conflicts with well-settled Supreme Court and Second Circuit law", and it has already filed an appeal seen by the BBC.
"The suggestion that class members' knowledge might be inferred on a class-wide basis flouts due process," the appeal said.
Apple's Italian subsidiary has agreed to pay €318m (£235m; $348m) following an investigation into tax fraud allegations, Italy's tax office says.
Italy's tax authorities say the company failed to pay €880m in tax between 2008 and 2013, according to La Repubblica.
The settlement follows an investigation by prosecutors in Milan.
The US tech giant has not commented on the deal. It has previously denied attempting to escape paying tax owed on profits made around the world.
Apple Italia is part of the company's European operation which is headquartered in Ireland, a country with one of the lowest levels of corporation tax in the EU.
A spokesman for the tax agency confirmed the newspaper's report was accurate but would not divulge further details.
Ireland taxes corporate earnings from normal business activities at a rate of 12.5% compared with 27.5% in Italy.
Investigators in Italy say they found a huge gap between the company's revenues in Italy of over €1bn between 2008 and 2013 and the €30m that was paid in tax in the country.
The settlement comes amid a European Commission investigation into the tax arrangements of numerous multinational companies accused of using cross-border structures to reduce their tax bills, sometimes with the help of secret and potentially illegal "sweetheart" deals.
The issue of Apple's Irish arrangements is separate from but related to the broader one of multinational companies "parking" revenues and profits in low-tax countries.
Apple's activities in the Republic of Ireland are currently subject to that investigation, which is due to announce soon whether tax breaks designed to secure the company's extensive investment in Ireland amounted to illegal state aid.
Apple's European operations have been headquartered in Cork since 1980.
The company is expanding its workforce there to 6,000 and it has been joined in Ireland by other US tech firms including Twitter, Microsoft and Google.
The company's chief executive, Tim Cook, has rejected accusations that the firm has been sidestepping US taxes by stashing cash overseas, insisting: "We pay every tax dollar we owe."
Mr Cook said on a visit to Ireland in November that he was confident the Dublin government and his company would be found to have done nothing wrong.
US Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump says he is planning to spend $2m (£1.3m) a week on campaign advertising.
Mr Trump said he would bring out "substantial" adverts in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina ahead of primary elections in February.
Meanwhile, former New York Governor George Pataki has pulled out of the race for the Republican nomination.
Correspondents say he has failed to make any impact in the polls.
Mr Trump, a property tycoon, has previously said that he is funding his campaign himself and wouldn't be in the pocket of lobbyists or powerful corporate entities. He has also insisted that he has spent very little on his campaign so far, and yet is the frontrunner.
"I'll be spending a minimum of $2m a week and perhaps substantially more," Mr Trump said in a video broadcast on CNN.
"I'm going to be doing big ads in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and they're going to be very substantial."
Could Trump actually win? - he's ahead in the polls but is that enough?
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Is Trump a Democratic secret agent? - the conspiracy theories that he's a Republican wrecking ball
The true cost of his deportation plan - Trump wants to kick out every undocumented migrant, but how?
Mr Trump's campaign so far has been marked by a series of controversial statements.
Earlier this month, he said Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton had been "schlonged" by Barack Obama in 2008, using a vulgar Yiddish term that means a penis.
He said he was referring to Mrs Clinton's defeat to then Senator Obama in the primary contests that year.
He has also called for Muslims to be banned from entering the US following a deadly attack in California carried out by a radicalised Muslim couple.
The billionaire, who has no political experience, leads the polls nationally among Republican voters, and is also ahead in some key states.
In a tweet on Tuesday, Mr Pataki said he was suspending his campaign but was "confident we can elect the right person".
He launched his campaign in May, positioning himself as a moderate in a heavily conservative field.
However, he has barely registered in state or national polls and was not eligible to take part in televised debates involving the high-profile candidates.
Bruce Breton, a member of Mr Pataki's New Hampshire steering committee, said the former governor had told him on Tuesday that he would be leaving the race.
He said Mr Pataki's campaign had struggled to win media attention or to raise funds.
"He said he couldn't get any traction. He worked hard, it's just a different type of year,'' Mr Breton said.
The primary contests begin at the start of February and the presidential election is in November.
Aston Villa boss Remi Garde will try to sign Chelsea striker Loic Remy on loan in the January transfer window.
Garde wants the 28-year-old Frenchman to strengthen a Villa side four points adrift at the bottom of the Premier League - and 11 from safety.
"Loic is special because he knows the country and the league and he would be an interesting player for the team," Garde said.
"He is part of some players I'll try to attract to Aston Villa for sure."
Countryman Garde was assistant manager at Lyon when Remy started his career at the Stade de Gerland.
The Villa boss will hope the forward can add goals to a side that has scored just 15 times in 19 league games, the lowest in the division.
Remy joined Chelsea in a £10.5m move from QPR last year.
He has started only one Premier League game this season, scoring twice in the League Cup and once in the league.
However, Garde may face a tough task in convincing Chelsea, who are just three points above the relegation zone in 14th place, to allow Remy to leave.
"We need all the players here until the end of the season," said Blues caretaker boss Guus Hiddink.
"Chelsea are still in a position where we have to improve to get up the table, so we need all our players at the moment. So we don't talk about the rumours."
Hiddink was responding to speculation over the future of 28-year-old Blues midfielder Cesc Fabregas, with Italian clubs Juventus and Inter Milan reportedly keen on the Spaniard.
"Cesc is coming in with a smile, which is what I always like," Hiddink added. "Players come in with a smile and not a worn-out face."
Iran's navy conducted rocket tests last week near US warships and other commercial vessels in the Strait of Hormuz, the American military has said.
The tests threaten to cause new tensions between the two nations following their landmark nuclear deal.
Iran fired "several unguided rockets" about 1,370m (1,500 yards) from two US vessels and a French frigate, US military spokesman Kyle Raines said.
The tests were "highly provocative", said Cmdr Raines.
The Strait of Hormuz is a narrow waterway between Iran and Oman that provides passage for nearly a third of all oil traded by sea. The strait is also crucial for ships taking part in the war against so-called Islamic State.
In 2012 Iran threatened to block the strait, which lies at the entrance of the Gulf and is 33km (21 miles) wide at its narrowest point.
The latest incident, which took place on Saturday according to the US, follows a series of weapons tests by the Islamic Republic. Iranian media and officials did not immediately comment on the reports.
Iranian ships announced over maritime radio their intention to carry out the test 23 minutes before the rockets were fired.
"Firing weapons so close to passing coalition ships and commercial traffic within an internationally recognised maritime traffic lane is unsafe, unprofessional and inconsistent with international maritime law," Cmdr Raines said.
The US Navy's 5th Fleet is based in nearby Bahrain. It conducts anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf and serves as a regional counterbalance to Iran.
Iran signed a long-term deal with six world powers in July to limit its sensitive nuclear activities in return for the lifting of crippling sanctions.
However, this year it has also broadcast footage of a missile attack on a mock-up of an US aircraft carrier and aired film on state TV of an underground missile base.
The Strait of Hormuz was the scene of a battle between the US and Iran in April 1988, when the US attacked two Iranian oil platforms used for surveillance and sank or damaged six of its vessels, including two naval frigates.
Tensions had erupted after the near-sinking of missile frigate USS Samuel B Roberts by an Iranian mine.
In July 1988, the USS Vincennes was patrolling the strait when it shot down an Iran Air flight heading to Dubai, killing 290 people on board. The ship's crew apparently mistook the plane for an Iranian F-14 fighter.
Security is being stepped up in major European cities ahead of New Year celebrations, with officials wary of possible terror plots.
New Year fireworks and festivities have been cancelled in the Belgian capital Brussels because of an alert.
Extra measures will also be in place in cities including Paris, London, Berlin and Moscow.
Meanwhile in Turkey, security services say they have thwarted a major plot to attack celebrations in Ankara.
Earlier this week, Austrian police claimed a "friendly intelligence service" had tipped them off that major European capitals were at risk of being attacked over the holiday period.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said the Brussels decision had been taken "given information we have received".
Last year 100,000 people turned out in Brussels to welcome in the New Year.
"In these circumstances, we can't check everyone," Brussels Mayor Yvan Mayeur said.
Earlier in the week, police arrested two people suspected of planning attacks during the festive season and seized propaganda for so-called Islamic State (IS) as well as military clothing and computer equipment.
Belgium has been on high alert since the terror attacks of 13 November in Paris. Several of the perpetrators are thought to have been based in Belgium.
On Wednesday Turkish police arrested two suspected IS members over an alleged plot to attack celebrations in Ankara.
They reportedly entered Turkey from Syria and were planning two separate attacks on crowded areas, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
Suicide vests and explosives were found during police raids.
A double suicide bombing killed more than 100 people in Ankara in October. Turkey has blamed IS, but no group has sad it carried out the attack.
Security will also be stepped up in Istanbul, with local media reports saying that some officers will be wearing Father Christmas outfits and other disguises to patrol crowds undetected.
In Paris a New Year fireworks display has been abandoned, but the traditional gathering on the Champs-Elysees will take place amid tight security.
Projections on the Arc de Triomphe will be shorter than normal, four giant screens will be placed at intervals to avoid creating tightly packed crowds and the fireworks display has been cancelled.
"We have decided to mark the New Year in a reflective manner and without fanfare," Mayor Anne Hidalgo said.
November's gun and bomb attacks in the city killed 130 people and at least one of the suspected attackers remains on the run.
The US military has said some IS commanders in Iraq and Syria who had links to the Paris attacks and were planning further attacks on the West have died in bombing raids over the past month.
Security is also being tightened in cities where the authorities say there is no specific intelligence about a possible attack.
Authorities in Moscow will completely close off Red Square, where crowds normally count down to midnight.
In Berlin, backpacks and fireworks will be prohibited and bags searched on the "fan mile" in front of the Brandenburg Gate, which has reportedly been closed off since Christmas.
Up to a million people are expected to attend the celebration.
Berlin's interior minister Frank Henkel encouraged party-goers to not allow fear to sour their celebratory mood.
"Caution is a good counsellor, fear is not," he told broadcaster RBB.
London's Metropolitan Police will deploy 3,000 officers in the inner city, including extra armed officers.
More than 100,000 people are expected to watch the Mayor of London's fireworks show, a ticketed event.
"Our plans are purely precautionary and not as a result of any specific intelligence," said a spokesperson.
A Canada-bound airliner was forced to make an emergency landing after severe turbulence injured 21 passengers, including three children, officials said.
The Air Canada flight from Shanghai to Toronto was diverted to Calgary after the turbulence hit.
Eight passengers suffered neck and back injuries and 13 more were taken to hospital for observation.
Those hurt were in a stable condition, an emergency services spokesman said.
Air Canada's chief operating officer Klaus Goersch said passengers had been through a "very unsettling experience".
The Boeing 777 with 332 passengers and 19 crew on board landed at Calgary without further incident, the airline said in a statement.
"To start with it was just OK, normal just up and down, and all of a sudden it was really violent and just shaking everybody," said Yi Lee.
"Suddenly the flight is just going down and everything is really scary. The girl sitting next to me, she was sleeping and she just fly up (to the ceiling)," said Linda He.
Mr Goersch praised the crew's response and said some of the passengers taken to hospital had quickly been discharged.
Police in Chicago are to receive new equipment and training on how to defuse tensions following a spate of fatal shootings of African-Americans by officers, the city's mayor has said.
Rahm Emanuel says every patrol car in Chicago would be equipped with a Taser gun, which is usually non-lethal.
He said police must learn when they can use a gun and when not to do so.
Protesters have urged Mr Emanuel to step down over a case in which an officer fatally shot a black teenager.
Laquan McDonald's death led to the city's police chief being fired and days of protests.
"Just because you train that you can use force doesn't mean you should," said Mr Emanuel. "Helping officers make that distinction - and the training that goes with it - is essential."
Mr Emanuel said the department would make 1,400 Tasers available to officers, up from 700.
On the night Mr McDonald was killed, several officers were heard asking for a Taser before officer Jason Van Dyke opened fire, shooting the teenager 16 times.
Mr Van Dyke has since been charged with murder.
However, the shootings have continued.
Just after Christmas, Chicago police shot and killed two people.
Bettie Jones, a 55-year-old mother-of-five was shot "accidentally", police said, as officers opened fire on, and killed, 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier, who they said was being "combative" toward officers.
About 15% of Chicago's police officers have so far received training aimed at resolving incidents without violence, officials say.
Rwanda's High Court has sentenced a pastor to life in prison for his role in the 1994 genocide.
Jean Uwinkindi organised and participated in attacks on the minority Tutsi ethnic group, the court ruled.
Some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed by militias from the majority Hutu ethnic group.
The 64-year-old Hutu pastor was the first genocide suspect to be sent back to Rwanda for trial by the Tanzanian-based UN tribunal.
The tribunal shut down this month after sentencing 61 individuals and acquitting 14 others.
Uwinkindi - the former head of a Pentecostal church on the outskirts of the capital, Kigali - had opposed his transfer.
He said he would not get a fair trial in Rwanda, where there is now a Tutsi-led government.
His lawyers said he would appeal against the High Court's ruling.
"The court finds that there were killings of the Tutsi at Rwankeri and Kanzenze hills and that the attacks were led by Uwinkindi," said Judge Kanyegeri Timothee, Reuters news agency reports.
The prosecution alleged that in investigations after the genocide, some 2,000 bodies were found near the church in Kanzenze, just outside Kigali, where Uwinkindi was pastor.
He was indicted in 2011 after he was arrested in 2010 in neighbouring Uganda.
Another key suspect, Ladislas Ntaganzwa, who has a $5m (£3.2m) US bounty on him, was arrested two weeks ago in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.
Christian Benteke scored the only goal as Liverpool ended 2015 with a victory, leaving Sunderland in deep trouble.
Benteke netted early in the second half, running on to Adam Lallana's pass to neatly net from inside the area.
Vito Mannone made a stunning save to tip Liverpool midfielder Roberto Firmino's shot on to a post before pushing away the Brazilian's header.
Jermain Defoe forced Simon Mignolet into an excellent save, but Sunderland have now lost their past five games.
Fabio Borini also went close against his former side, shooting straight at Mignolet and striking an effort narrowly wide.
This was the Reds' second successive 1-0 win, having beaten Leicester by the same scoreline on Boxing Day, with Belgium striker Benteke the match-winner both times.
Since signing for £32m in the summer, the former Aston Villa man has not been a regular starter, but has now scored six times in seven games against Sunderland, more than against any other side.
But, having missed from close range against Leicester, he once again spurned a straightforward chance, running through on goal before striking at Mannone.
Liverpool were not at their best, but their control and another clean sheet will please boss Jurgen Klopp. His side moved up to seventh - level on points with Manchester United.
The home side were much improved from their 4-1 defeat by Manchester City and looked confident in the opening 45 minutes, but once again their defensive frailties came to the fore.
They switched off straight after the interval, giving the ball away on the edge of the centre circle for Liverpool to break quickly and score just 22 seconds into the second half.
It means the Black Cats have conceded 38 goals in their 19 Premier League games this season - more than any other team - and are now seven points from safety.
Having had a bid accepted for Lorient centre-back Lamine Kone, manager Sam Allardyce will hope the Ivorian can help plug a leaky defence and raise the confidence of his lowly team.
With five minutes left, Sunderland midfielder Jeremain Lens left Liverpool defender Mamadou Sakho writhing in agony with a late tackle.
The visiting side's staff became involved in heated exchanges with their Black Cats counterparts, and Lens was booked. Sakho stayed on and finished the match.
Klopp said: "I don't want to say now, 'Come on, give him a red card'. I have no problem with this player, but if you go like that, everything can happen. That's not allowed. For me, that's a red card, finish, that's it."
Allardyce responded: "He's a soft German. It's not a red card, it's a yellow. It's a foul.
"There was some foul and abusive language towards my staff that I didn't like. It was all right, though, because we all shook hands and got on with it, which is what we have got to do."
Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce: "There is some encouragement - seeing the lads battling and fighting for themselves and trying to get a win or at least a point - but a bit of misfortune just after half-time took it away from us. I thought the lads tried their best and you can't ask for more than that."
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp: "It is not the best we can do, we know this, but we had to fight. We knew about Sunderland's situation. Everyone wants to end the year positively. We can and Sunderland can't but we take these points, go home, sleep two times and onto the next game."
Second-bottom Sunderland host bottom side Aston Villa on Saturday (15:00 GMT), while Liverpool travel to West Ham on the same day (12:45).
The five-member panel reviewing proposals for and against demands for a new voters register says arguments for a new register are unconvincing.
The EC, a month ago organized a two-day forum for political parties, Civil Society organisations and individuals to collate views on the credibility or otherwise of the register.
The EC decided to hold the forum following heated national debate over the register after the opposition New Patriotic Party claimed it had evidence suggesting the register had been compromised with as many as 76,000 non-Ghanaian voters on it.
There were a number of demonstrations some of which turned violent.
A panel was therefore constituted to solicit opinions from stakeholders on whether or not to compile a new register.
Weeks after the two day forum, the panel has submitted its report to the EC.
Chair of the Panel Justice VCRAC Crabbe is recommending that EC should not replace the current voters’ register. The panel however stated that it will still continue to monitor events relating to the register.
The following is the full statement from the Electoral Commission
ELECTORAL COMMISSION’S POSITION ON THE VOTERS’ REGISTER
The Electoral Commission is pleased to inform the general public that it has received the report submitted by the Independent Panel set up by the Commission and tasked to look into the concerns and views of stakeholders on the Voters’ Register. Following the receipt of the report on December 21, 2015, the Commission has concluded its study of the report submitted by the Panel and wishes to advise the public as follows:
1. The Panel finds the arguments for a new register unconvincing and therefore does not recommend the replacement of the current voters’ register;
2. The Panel is of the view that the responsibility for having a clean and credible register is the shared responsibility of all citizens of Ghana;
3. The Electoral Commission accepts the recommendations of the Panel and will progressively implement the recommendations made therein;
4. The Electoral Commission 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;
5. The Commission will publish the full report of the Panel on its website- www.ec.gov.gh by 7th January 2016 for the benefit of the public.
The Commission further wishes to inform the public that it has examined all the allegations and complaints made by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) on the voters’ register and has responded appropriately to the party. A copy of the findings of the Commission into the claims made by the NPP will also be made available to the Public on the Commission’s website.
The Commission takes the opportunity to thank the members of the Panel led by His Lordship VCRAC Crabbe, the Political Parties, Civil Society Organizations, Faith Based Organizations and all stakeholders for the support and cooperation shown to the Commission during the engagements on the Voters’ Register.
The Commission reiterates its commitment to ensuring transparent, inclusive and credible general elections in 2016 and to ensuring democratic growth and stability in Ghana and takes the opportunity to wish all citizens of Ghana a blessed, peaceful and prosperous 2016.
ACTING DIRECTOR, PUBLIC AFFAIRS
President John Mahama has given his unwavering assurance to sack all appointees who fail to deliver on their promises to the people.
In a short new year's message delivered on 31st night the president said he and his appointees will uphold the promises made to the people and at any point any one falls short of those promises he will not hesitate to sack them.
"I assure you once again as your president that each and every member of this government is listening to your concerns and is committed to working towards the greater good of Ghana and for the welfare of its people.
"Each and every member of this government will uphold the promises that have been made to you, the people whose interest we serve.
"Those who fall short of that commitment have been and will continue to be asked to tender in their resignation and relieved of their responsibilities.
"Ghana is not for one person or one political party. Ghana is not for some select group of people. Ghana is for all of us and for all our children," he said.
His statement comes in the wake of reports that the Power Minister Dr Kwabena Donkor has been forced to resign or be sacked after failing to honour his promise to the load shedding regime by close of 31st December 2015.
The president also admitted that the year 2015 was particularly a challenging year and applauded Ghanaians for their patience.
"We are closer now than ever before to realising the fruits of our patience. So let us not surrender or perseverance and the pride of nationalism to negativity and pessimism," he pleaded.
The president pledged to serve the country with diligence and with the hall mark of communicating with the people and listening to their concerns.
He was hopeful 2016 will be a better year.
Former President John Agyekum Kufuor has called for peaceful elections in 2016.
A statement signed by Mr Frank Agyekum, the Spokesperson/Special Aide to the former President and copied to the Ghana News Agency on Wednesday said, “My wish for our nation and all of us into the coming year, is a reprieve from the many and seemingly endless challenges that have beset us through the just ending year, 2015.”
The statement said scandals and perceived corruption in governance and the society generally, socio-economic hardships such as unstable currency, unstable power supplies underme both industrial and domestic ventures.
It also mentioned executive bureaucratic delays in the public sector, especially at the ports, many industrial actions, protest demonstrations throughout the economy, sudden and high tariff increases for utilities, and ever-bloating national debt stock, have hall-marked the out-going year.
It said the incoming year, 2016, must be a year of decision for the nation to arrest this dangerous slump of the society and economy.
The statement said people must decide for good, efficient and accountable governance at all levels of government.
It said civil society organizations, traditional leaders and religious groups must assume responsible guidance within their remits to ensure that the entire citizenry of the nation live up to the spirit and letter of the national constitution which enshrines inclusive democracy as the way of life for all of us.
It said 2016 is significant because it is the year of Election for both the Presidency and the Legislature.
“The people must show through their conduct and choices that they understand the uses of the vote.
“Sustained transformation of society will not come through short-sighted and short-term inducements.
“We must examine critically the track records and manifestoes of the contending parties before we make our choices in the election,” it said.
It said the Electoral Commission must be resolute in its independence and impartiality as enjoined by the national constitution, in officiating the elections.
The statement said the security agencies of the nation must uphold the integrity and security of the national constitution and the state which are above all institutions, parties and individuals of the land.
“We must all resolve to enter and live through this New Year with this determination so that the outcome of the elections will ensure us with the government we can all accept and work with in good faith and in peace.
“This is how to give our nation and its citizenry the sustained peace and direction to real development and dignity that we must have,” it said.
Impeccable information reaching Joy News says President John Mahama has relieved Power Minister Dr. Kwabena Donkor of his post.
This is coming at a time the minister has been touting his ability to put an end to a bedeviling four-year load shedding.
The load shedding which was nicknamed “dumsor” was an albatross on the neck of the government forcing the president to create a new ministry to tackle issues in the power sector.
Days after his appointment, Dr. Kwabena Donkor made a bold declaration, promising Ghanaians he will end the load shedding by the end of the year. He promised to resign if that was not achieved.
On Wednesday, December 30, 2015, his ministry issued a statement to announce an end to the load shedding.
“The Ministry of Power wishes inform the public that its Load Shedding programme in respect of electricity supply has been brought to an end,” the statement said.
The pronouncement was received with caution by some consumers and civil society groups notably the Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP).
It appears the presidency is itself not convinced by the statement announcing an end to load shedding.
Joy News has learnt that Dr. Donkor has been asked to vacate his ministry, most likely, on January 1, 2016.
However sources at the Power Ministry say the Minister has not received any communication with regards to any dismissal.
Former President Jerry John Rawlings has stressed on the need to re-ignite the spirit of fighting corruption, containing greed and selfishness amongst Ghanaians.
He said it was only through such a move that Ghana could be able to reach its destination.
Speaking at a wreath-laying ceremony at the Revolution Square in Accra Thursday morning to mark the 34th anniversary of the 31st December Revolution, the former President said corruption, greed and selfishness was the order of the day in present day Ghana.
“From what I can see, it appears that, the colour of this democracy is very different from the power of democracy we knew from 1982 to 1992 and also very different from the colour of the democracy we knew from the constitutional period of 1992 to 2000.”
According to the former President, “the colour of the democracy especially from the year 2000 appears to lack the will, the capacity and the ability to fight corruption.”
Former President Rawlings who was speaking after lighting the perpetual flame at the yearly ritual and comparing the June 4th and December 31st revolts and revolutions to present day Ghana said, “the colour of those revolutions contained a strong sense of justice, truthfulness and freedom and the spirit of defiance.”
“It seems a little too different from what we used to know from the spirit of defiance that could contain, the greed, selfishness, that has given rise to so much corruption and pain in this country.”
“I keep reminding ourselves of the colours of the revolution. It’s extremely important that we do everything possible to recapture that spirit before it becomes too late.”
“I keep saying the people of this country are peace loving people and it is important that we do not take a peace loving nature of Ghanaians for granted.”
Despite government’s efforts to stop piracy in the country, textile companies are still lamenting the impact on their operations of pirated textiles smuggled into the country.
The Managing Director of Ghana Textile Prints (GTP) Kofi Boateng said: "It is true that government has set up an anti-piracy task force, but the problem is so large -- to an extent that the efforts of government are not having any meaningful impact, though they have scared a few people.
"Our designs, labels and copyrights are being imitated by some people from the Far East. They then print and bring them back onto the Ghanaian market. So we now have to employ more young but experienced creative people so that we can have thousands of designs and colours on a monthly basis in order to survive and compete well," he said.
The once-vibrant Ghanaian textile industry is at a cross-road due to importation of cheap, pirated textiles that make original textile designs manufactured in Ghana relatively expensive.
There were about 20 textile companies which employed about 25,000 in the 1980s. But currently there is a remnant of just four textile companies employing under 2,000 people, battling to stay in business amid a myriad of challenges.
Even surviving companies Akosombo Textile Limited (ATL), Tex Style Ghana Limited (GTP), Printex and Ghana Textile Manufacturing Company (GTMC) are struggling in the face of competition from cheap, pirated imports.
The Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) has said it is not against the importation of fabrics so far as they are not fake in terms of design, brand-name and other characteristics.
The illegal business has in recent years led to the retrenchment of many textile workers, while some local manufacturers have had to diversify their businesses.
The task force team since its establishment in 2010 has undertaken many different destruction exercises, with a total 6,000 pieces of Ghanaian-designed fake textiles destroyed.
The textile designs were seized during operations by the task force at various outlets across the country.
John Kwesi Amoah, Assistant Manager Brand Protection ATL, noted that: “We want fair competition; we are not saying that government should ban people from importing textiles, but we want fair competition. People should come with their own design and brand”.
The Power Minister, Dr Kwabena Donkor has tendered in his resignation to the Presidency. He submitted the resignation on Thursday December 31, 2015 sources at the Presidency has confirmed to Graphic Online.
It followed a series of discussions at the Presidency on Wednesday over how he had handled the four-year-old power crisis, one year after his appointment as sector Minister.
Sources within the energy sector also told Graphic Online that the Presidency was not happy about the Minister’s performance and therefore asked him to resign or be sacked by close of work on Thursday December 31, 2015.
Dr Donkor himself had earlier stated he would resign by end of 2015 if he was unable to solve the load shedding problem.
Graphic Online gathered that when Dr Donkor heard he was going to be sacked, he quickly asked the Public Relations outfit of the Power Ministry to issue a statement on Wednesday announcing that load shedding was over.
An official communication on his resignation was yet to be put out.
Meanwhile the Load Management Committee has in a statement announced that load shedding was not over despite the significant gains made.
Police in the German city of Munich have warned of a planned terror attack and asked people to avoid crowds.
The police tweeted that the city's main station and Pasing station had been evacuated and said trains were no longer stopping there.
In a Facebook post, authorities said they had "serious information" that the attack had been planned for New Year's Eve. They gave no further details.
Cities across Europe are already on a heightened state of alert.
"Current indications show that a terror attack is being planned in Munich. Please avoid gatherings of people and the Munich and Pasing train stations," police said in the tweet.
Munich newspaper TZ reported that police believed several groups of attackers could strike at different locations in the city.
Police said they had two pieces of information about a possible attack, German media reported.
"We have concrete information that we cannot sweep under the carpet," Bild newspaper quoted a police spokesperson as saying.
Local media reports say the information had come from French authorities.
Armed police have cordoned off the main station and asked people nearby to leave the area, TZ reported.
The newspaper quoted a spokesperson as saying the situation was "comparable to that in Hannover" in November, when a football match between Germany and the Netherlands was called off after what Hannover police called a "concrete security threat".
"We want to minimise the risk as much as possible," the spokesperson told the newspaper.
The city's police said they had called in reinforcements from southern Bavaria while special police units were already operating in the city.
Security concerns had already caused New Year celebrations to be cancelled or limited in other European cities.
The authorities in Brussels called off all official events after three people were detained on Thursday in connection with an alleged New Year's Eve plot.
They are being held for a further 24 hours, prosecutors said. Two other terror suspects were arrested earlier this week.
But the apparent plots to target New Year celebrations in Brussels were not related to the suspected network behind the Paris attacks, the authorities said.
Police seized material during Thursday's raids including computers, phones and materials for playing airsoft - a military simulation game in which players fire replica weapons loaded with plastic pellets.
Separately, Belgian police arrested a 10th suspect over the 13 November attacks in Paris, in which 130 people were killed.
The Belgian national, identified as Ayoub B, was detained on Wednesday during a raid in the Brussels district of Molenbeek. He has been charged with terrorist murder and participation in the activities of a terrorist group.
In Paris, the traditional fireworks display has been called off but thousands of people partied on the Champs Elysees in the biggest public gathering since last month's attacks.
Security was stepped up in other major European cities too, including Moscow, London and Berlin.
Earlier this week, Austrian police claimed a "friendly intelligence service" had tipped them off that major European capitals were at risk of being attacked over the holiday period.
In Moscow, the fireworks were delayed by five minutes and, for the first time, the police closed Red Square - a traditional place for crowds to gather.
London's Metropolitan Police deployed 3,000 officers in the inner city, including extra armed officers.
In Berlin, officials said the security situation remained unchanged despite the alert in Munich.
Backpacks and fireworks were banned and bags searched on the "party mile" leading up to the Brandenburg Gate.
On Wednesday, Turkish police arrested two suspected IS members over an alleged plot to attack celebrations in Ankara.
State media said they were planning two separate attacks on crowded areas. Suicide vests and explosives were found during police raids.
A South African king who is a nephew of the late Nelson Mandela has begun a 12-year prison sentence for kidnapping, assault and arson.
King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo reported to prison after his legal attempts to overturn his conviction failed.
The case against King Dalindyebo was related to a dispute he had with some of his subjects about two decades ago.
He comes from the Thembu clan, to which Mr Mandela, South Africa's first black president, belonged.
He is the first monarch to be jailed in South Africa since minority rule ended in 1994.
King Dalindyebo, 51, ascended to the throne in 1989, and has about 700,000 subjects.
South Africa has 10 officially recognised monarchs representing different ethnic groups and clans.
They play a largely ceremonial role, and attend to minor disputes within their communities.
King Dalindyebo was accused of kidnapping a woman and her six children, setting their home on fire and beating up four youths, one of whom died, because one of their relatives had failed to present himself before the king's traditional court.
He handed himself to prison authorities in the eastern city of Mthatha in compliance with a court order after a judge refused to extend his bail on Wednesday, the justice ministry said in a statement.
Earlier, Justice Minister Michael Masutha turned down his request for a retrial, saying there was no legal justification for doing so.
King Dalindyebo had maintained his innocence, saying he disciplined his subjects under customary law.
Analysis: Milton Nkosi, BBC Africa, Johannesburg
Many of the king's subjects feel that he has sullied the reputation of the Thembu royal household.
His father, Sabata, was a revered monarch who fought against minority rule, and campaigned for the unity of South Africa's ethnic groups.
In contrast, his son turned out to be a disgrace, and has paid the ultimate price.
More significantly, South Africa has once again demonstrated that, despite its leadership problems, it upholds the rule of law, even if it means locking up a king and alienating some of his subjects ahead of crucial local elections next year.
It is also to the monarch's credit that after exhausting all his legal options, he reported to prison rather than daring the police to come and arrest him at his palace in South Africa's Eastern Cape province.
Sentencing the king in October, the Supreme Court of Appeal said: "His behaviour was all the more deplorable because the victims of his reign of terror were the vulnerable rural poor, who were dependent upon him. Our constitution does not countenance such behaviour.
"We are a constitutional democracy in which everyone is accountable and where the most vulnerable are entitled to protection."
There are conflicting reports on whether King Dalindyebo would remain the monarch of the Thembu people.
One royal family spokesman was quoted in the South African media as saying that its elders would meet on Monday to choose a successor, while another spokesman said that he would remain the king despite his imprisonment.
King Dalindyebo defected from the governing African National Congress (ANC) to the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party during his legal battles.
The DA revoked his membership following the ruling of the Supreme Court of Appeal.
(Closed): Wall Street finished its final day of 2015 down, marking its worst annual performance in seven years.
Oil prices suffered a second year of steep losses and are expected to take at least another year to clear as the international surplus continues.
The Dow Jones was down 178.84 points or 1.03%, at 17,425.03.
The oil price collapse sent global markets reeling throughout 2015.
Energy stocks have taken a beating this year, with the S&P energy sector losing nearly 24% in the last twelve months.
For the year the S&P 500 was down 0.7% while the Dow Jones ended 2.2% lower.
The Nasdaq, however was a bright spot closing 5.7% higher for 2015.
Trading volumes were thin on the last day of the year.
Apple was down 1.92% weighing on the Nasdaq.
McDonald's was down 1.08% at $118 and weighed on the Dow the most.
Stocks were led lower as US jobless claims increased by 20,000 to 287,000 last week, wildly missing forecasts of 270,000.