2015 Has Been A Difficult Year For The NPP – John Boadu

The Acting General Secretary of the opposition New Patriotic Party [NPP], John Boadu, has admitted that the ‘Elephant’ has indeed suffered in 2015 but hopefully will ‘fully’ bounce back in the coming year.

According to him – “Every great and deep difficulty bears in itself its own solution. It forces us to change our thinking in order to find it.”

The opposition NPP has on several occasions been in the media for some ‘bad’ reasons this year – the party has faced some internal wrangling leading to suspension of some national executives of the party.

NPP’s infightings allegedly also led to the terrible death of their party’s Upper East Regional Chairman of the NPP, Adams Mahama.

Also, the party’s headquarters has been a ‘war zone’ on numerous occasions – all these compelled party’s flagbearer, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to call on the party to “ceasefire” on the issues tarnishing the image of the party in the public domain.

Speaking on NEAT FM’s morning show, Ghana Montie, John Boadu who also serves as the National Organizer of the NPP stated emphatically that – “trust me it has been a very difficult year for the NPP but surely we are bouncing back.”

He opined that – the party will build a united front to campaign strategically for the 2016 polls – “we will never give up. Ghanaians are craving for the NPP and we will not let them down. They can’t again suffer under the Mahama-led administration.”

Source: peacefmonline.com

Donald Trump mocks 'disgusting' Clinton toilet break

Republican frontrunner Donald Trump has mocked Hillary Clinton for apparently taking a toilet break during a televised Democratic debate.

"I know where she went. It's disgusting," he said to supporters at a rally in Michigan.

The former secretary of state returned to the stage late after an advert break during Saturday's debate with her party rivals for the presidential nomination.

Mr Trump also said Mrs Clinton had been "schlonged" by Barack Obama in 2008.

Using a vulgar Yiddish term that means a man's penis, he was referring to Mrs Clinton's defeat to the then senator in the primary contests that year.

"Even her race to Obama. She was going to beat Obama. I don't know who'd be worse. I don't know. How does it get worse?

"She was favoured to win and she got schlonged, she lost."

Mrs Clinton's spokeswoman, Jennifer Palmieri, tweeted: "We are not responding to Trump but everyone who understands the humiliation this degrading language inflicts on all women should. #imwithher"

It is not the first time Mr Trump has referred to women in a controversial way.

In August, he implied that he received tough questions from Fox News debate host Megyn Kelly because she was menstruating.

And he has previously described comedian Rosie O'Donnell as a "fat pig".

Mrs Clinton and Mr Trump have been feuding in recent days over claims she made that Islamic State militants were using Mr Trump as a recruiting tool.

He has called for Muslims to be banned from entering the US, in light of a deadly terror attack in California carried out by a radicalised Muslim couple.

Mr Trump, a billionaire property tycoon with no political experience, leads the polls nationally among Republican voters, and is also ahead in some key states.

The primary contests begin at the start of February and the presidential election is in November.

Source: bbc.com

Sex tape row: German court orders man to destroy naked images

Germany's highest court has ordered a man to destroy intimate photos and videos of his ex-partner because they violate her rights to privacy.

The Federal Court said the man, a photographer, should no longer possess naked photos and sex tapes, even if he had no intention of sharing them.

The woman had originally agreed to the images but this consent stopped when the relationship ended, the court said.

Germany has some of the strictest privacy laws in Europe.

The Federal Court was called upon to rule in a dispute between a former couple, who were arguing over whether or not the man should delete intimate photos and videos.

In its ruling (in German), the court said everyone had the right to decide whether to grant insight into their sex life - including to whom they grant permission and in what form.

It said that by retaining the images, the photographer had a certain "manipulative power" over his ex-lover.

He should no longer have rights to the photos and videos once the relationship had ended, it concluded.

It is not clear how the ruling will be enforced.

Recent cases of naked images being leaked online have sparked a debate about victims' rights, with some countries making so-called "revenge porn" a criminal offence.

Source: bbc.com

Creed named Black Film Critics Circle best movie of 2015 as Abraham Attah receives BFCC's rising star award

Creed has been voted the best film of 2015 by the Black Film Critics Circle.

The Rocky spin-off was also given prizes for lead actor Michael B Jordan and for supporting players Sylvester Stallone and Tessa Thompson.

The best ensemble performance award went to Straight Outta Compton, which also won for best original screenplay.

Brie Larson won best actress for Room and George Miller won best director for Mad Max: Fury Road, which also won the best cinematography prize.

Beasts of No Nation received a special mention, with young lead Abraham Attah getting the BFCC's rising star award.

The US critics' association called the Ghanaian's debut as an African child soldier was "one of the strongest and most phenomenal we have ever seen" and said he had "a very bright future ahead of him".

Rapper Ice Cube, producer of NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton, won a pioneer award for showing "artistic integrity and an unerring commitment to excellence".

Cube, the BFCC said, "continues to defy expectations [and] expand the boundaries of what black film-makers can achieve".

The Black Film Critics Circle also released their top 10 films of 2015.

  1. Creed
  2. Mad Max: Fury Road
  3. Straight Outta Compton
  4. Spotlight
  5. The Martian
  6. Room
  7. Beasts of No Nation
  8. The Hateful Eight
  9. The Big Short
  10. Ex Machina

Creed sees former boxing champion Rocky Balboa, played by Stallone, serve as trainer and mentor to the son of his late rival Apollo Creed.

Source: bbc.com

Quata Budukusu out with, a new single, Pum Pum Shots

The rap Lord  “Quata Budukusu” Drops Another single and he calls this one
“PUM-PUM-SHOT ” with Dhope lyrical lines and some
Tonga chronicles …which was produced by Vegas Ace..Download, Listen and Share !!!

Download, listen, share and enjoy with family and friends.

https://soundcloud.com/bakusgrp/quata-pum-pum-shots

Source: nerohitz.com

IAAF's Nick Davies steps down pending Russia 2013 investigation

IAAF deputy general secretary Nick Davies has stepped aside while an investigation takes place over a plan to delay naming Russian drug cheats.

In an email to Papa Massata Diack, a former IAAF marketing consultant, before the 2013 World Championships in Moscow, Davies wrote about the need to discuss "Russian skeletons in the cupboard" with the anti-doping team.

The Englishman said to the son of Lamine Diack - the former president of athletics' ruling body - that "we need to be smart" about releasing names.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Davies said: "I have decided to step aside until such time as the Ethics Board is able to review the matter properly and decide if I am responsible for any breach of the IAAF Code of Ethics.

"What has become apparent is that I have become the story."

Davies denied any wrongdoing and explained he had shown emails sent to Papa Massata Diack in 2013 and statements to the IAAF Ethics Board.

The email which had been obtained by the BBC contains a "very secret" five-point plan and was sent on 19 July, 22 days before the start of the 2013 World Athletics Championships.

The IAAF announced sanctions against 16 Russian athletes in the four months following the Moscow event, in which Russia topped the medals table.

Last month, they became the first country to be banned from international competition because of doping after an independent report uncovered systemic, state-sponsored cheating.

Source: bbc.com

'Terror attack' foiled in France

French police have foiled a terror attack on police and army personnel in the region of Orleans, the interior minister has said.

Bernard Cazeneuve said on Tuesday that two men, aged 20 and 24, were arrested on 19 December and were being held for questioning.

Both are thought to have had contact with a Frenchman who is believed to be in Syria.

France saw its worst attacks in decades last month, with 130 killed in Paris.

Speaking in the southern city of Toulouse, Mr Cazeneuve said 10 attacks had been foiled in France so far this year.

He said the investigation into the latest alleged plot south-west of Paris will look into whether the Frenchman in Syria, thought to be a jihadist, ordered the attack.

Paris attacks - in depth

One of the detainees confessed they had intended to attack police officers, military personnel and anyone identified with the French state, Mr Cazeneuve said.

Investigators think the suspects had raised money for the plot and were searching for weapons.

One of the men arrested is reported to be of Moroccan descent, while the other is said to be from Togo. One suspect was reportedly unknown to police, while the other was a known petty criminal.

Mr Cazeneuve also said 3,414 people had been denied entry to France since a state of emergency was declared in the wake of the Paris attacks, "due to the risk they present to security and public order".

Source: bbc.com

The world’s most extreme runways

Long lines, terse agents, overpriced food and delays – in the world of travel, airports are notorious for being necessary obstacles standing between travellers and their final destinations. But according to users of the question-and-answer site Quora.com, at the world’s most unique airports, the take-offs and landings make it all worth the ride.

A death-defying descent
Nepal’s Tenzing-Hillary Airport is built for adventurers. Tucked high in the Himalayan town of Lukla, the airport’s 460m runway has a steep 12% incline, making it only accessible to helicopters and small, fixed-wing planes. To the north of the runway, there are mountains, and to the south is a steep, nearly 600m drop, leaving absolutely no room for error.

The terrifying airstrip serves as an entry point for mountain climbers who are keen to tackle the world’s tallest mountain. “This is where most Everest summiters land,” wrote Quora user Amy Robinson. “It is one of the most dangerous airports in the world.”

Perhaps it’s appropriate, then, that this airport was named after the region’s most famous adventurers: Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, the first people to reach Everest’s summit.

A runway under water
At high tide, the runway of Scotland’s Barra Airport is nowhere to be seen.

“The airport is unique, being the only one in the world where scheduled flights use a beach as the runway,” wrote Quora user Amit Kushwaha. As such, flight times are dictated by the tide.

Located in the shallow bay of Traigh Mhor beach on Barra Island in the Outer Hebrides, the airport’s runways are laid out in a triangular formation and are marked by wooden poles to help guide the Twin Otter propeller planes onto the sand.

A stretch for tropical take-offs 

For pilots, landing at the Maldives’ Male International Airport is daunting. The lone asphalt runway – which lies just two metres above sea level – takes up the entire length of Hulhule Island in the North Male Atoll, so a minor miscalculation could send the plane careening off into the Indian Ocean.

“[It’s] one of the few airports in the world that begins and ends with water and takes up an entire island,” wrote Quora user Peter Baskerville.

Because Hulhule Island (one of 1,192 coral islands spread over roughly 90,000sqkm) is used mainly for the airport, visitors typically take speedboats to their final destinations once they land.

Hit the brakes 

Landing at Juancho E Yrausquin Airport, on the Caribbean island of Saba, “is not for the faint of heart,” wrote Quora user Dhairya Manek.

That’s because it is widely regarded as having the shortest commercially serviceable runway in the world – approximately 396m. (Typically, runways are between 1,800m and 2,400m.) That means only small aircraft, which can quickly decrease speed, can land here.

Its setting is as beautiful as it is dangerous. “The airport’s runway is located on a cliff that drops into the Caribbean Sea on three sides and is flanked by high hills on the other,” Manek wrote. “Jet airplanes are not allowed to land at the airport due to its incredibly short runway.”

Nerve-racking… yet stunningly beautiful’
At 2,767m above sea level, Colorado’s Telluride Regional Airport is North America’s highest commercial airport. “[It’s] nerve-racking to experience, yet stunningly beautiful,” wrote Quora user Erin Whitlock.

Telluride’s single runway – which sits on a plateau in the Rocky Mountains, next to a heart-stopping, 300m drop to the San Miguel River below – used to be notorious for a giant dip in its centre. But renovations in 2009 made the airstrip safer and made it possible for larger aircraft to land. Today, the airport’s Mountain Flying Safety guide advises pilots of single- or light-twin-engine aircraft not to attempt night landings, not to attempt flight if high-altitude winds exceed 30 knots, and not to fly if visibility is less than 15 miles.

A heart-stopping approach
So petrifying was the landing at the now-closed Kai Tak Airport in Hong Kong, passengers had a nickname for it: the Kai Tak Heart Attack.

“The Kai Tak Airport no longer exists, but it was one of the wonders of the flying world when it was in operation [between 1925 and 1998],” wrote Quora user Jay Wacker. “It was on a little bit of reclaimed land in a harbour and there were high-rises on both sides. It was a relatively short runway for big planes, and it always felt harrowing when landing on a 747. When you looked out the window during take-off or landing, you felt like you could look into the living rooms of people.”

Intrigued by these extreme runways? When's the next time you plan to take off?

Source: bbc.com

Louis van Gaal walks out of news conference

Under-pressure Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal answered only three questions before walking out of a news conference on Wednesday.

The 64-year-old Dutchman was unhappy at being asked about his future following speculation that he could be sacked.

The media briefing, ahead of Saturday's game at Stoke, lasted only five minutes before Van Gaal's departure.

The former Netherlands boss said he had only turned up to speak to journalists because of Premier League rules.

As he left, he told the reporters: "I wish you a merry Christmas and maybe also a happy new year when I see you. Enjoy the wine and a mince pie. Goodbye."

United are without a win in six games, having lost their last three matches to Wolfsburg, Bournemouth and Norwich.

You can read a full transcript of Van Gaal's news conference at the bottom of this page.

Four minutes and 58 seconds

Van Gaal was in an angry mood from the moment he took his seat in the media room at the club's training ground in Carrington.

"Has anybody in this room not a feeling to apologise to me? That's what I'm wondering," he responded after being asked about Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger's earlier claim that speculation about Van Gaal's future had been "disrespectful".

The news conference lasted only four minutes and 58 seconds in total.

Van Gaal, who has also managed Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, is halfway through his three-year Old Trafford contract.

Reluctant appearance

Van Gaal said his family and friends had been adversely affected by the criticism, amid rumours that sacked Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho is poised to replace him.

"What do you think happens with my wife or my kids?" he snapped.

"Or with my grandchildren? Or with the fans of Manchester United? Or my friends? What do you think?

"So you think that I want to talk with the media now. I am here only because of the Premier League rules. I have to talk with you."

Mourinho speculation

Van Gaal is under pressure following United's dip in league form and early exit from the Champions League.

The club are fifth in the table, below fourth-placed Tottenham on goal difference but nine points behind surprise leaders Leicester.

Chelsea's sacking of Mourinho, 52 - who has been tipped as a possible replacement - has only intensified the pressure on Van Gaal.

News conference transcript

Question 1: "Louis, thank you for your time. Arsene Wenger has said today that the speculation over your future is disrespectful. Is that something you agree with?"

Answer: "Erm, has anybody in this room not a feeling to apologise to me? Nobody has that feeling? That's what I'm wondering?"

Question 2: "What have we done wrong?"

Answer: "I think I was already sacked, I have read... I have been sacked. My colleague [replacement] was here already.

"What do you think that happens with my wife or with my kids or with my grandchildren or with the fans of Manchester United or my friends? What do you think? They have called me a lot of times and also Arsene Wenger is saying something about that.

"Do you think that I want to talk with the media now? I'm here only because of the Premier League rules. I have to talk with you. But I can only see when I say something that you use my words in your context.

"I want to say only that I have tried to lift the confidence of my players, I have done everything this week. I hold meetings, evaluation meetings with the players, with my members of staff, I hold a Christmas lunch, I have held a speech and I feel the warmth and support of everybody in Carrington, this Aon training complex.

"But I didn't feel that in the media and, of course, I can imagine that you can write about that subject. We are not in a good position but four weeks ago we were first in the Premier League and in about four weeks we can again be back in that position.

Question 3: "You have been though Louis at big clubs, huge clubs before. This is Manchester United and when results don't go well and when the supporters have turned it is inevitable that speculation will happen. You surely aren't surprised that there is speculation?"

Answer: "No, I don't think that you can do that because you have to stick by the facts and when I get calls from [former manager Sir] Alex Ferguson and [director] David Gill and [executive vice-chairman] Ed Woodward because you are creating something that is not good, that is not being the facts and now I have to answer the questions.

"I don't think that I want to do it. I only say now I am focused on Stoke City, I help my players, I wish you a merry Christmas and maybe also a happy new year when I see you. Enjoy the wine and a mince pie. Goodbye."

Source: http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/football/35166770

 

Chelsea players must look in the mirror - Guus Hiddink

Guus Hiddink has told his Chelsea squad to "look at themselves in the mirror" and be "ultra-critical".

The Dutchman, a short-term replacement for sacked Jose Mourinho,also said he would have a "brief" chat with players who did not have the necessary desire.

Chelsea sit 15th in the Premier League after 17 games, just three points above the drop-zone.

Hiddink added that finishing fourth was still a "mathematical possibility" but said it would be a very difficult task.

"This league is very strong," he said. "All the teams can kill each other."

The former Netherlands coach, 69, also revealed he was keen to bring former striker Didier Drogba back to the club to work alongside him.

Hiddink first managed the Blues on a temporary basis for the final three months of the 2008-09 campaign, replacing Luiz Felipe Scolari.

He helped them win the FA Cup, took them to the semi-finals of the Champions League and steered them to third in the Premier League, seven points behind champions Manchester United.

On getting the job:

"I shouldn't be here halfway through the season. It means things are not going well. But, anyhow, I am glad to be back. It is a few years ago I was here in a similar situation."

On Chelsea's problems:

"It is not easy after a championship. You relax as a team and get a wake-up call. It is not easy to say that I am here and the problem is solved."

On Mourinho:

"If you look at his record over the years it is amazing. There were many, many titles. Nevertheless things happen in football. People take decisions that they have taken and I come on when I am asked."

On his message to the players:

"I talked to the squad yesterday and we talked about the past a little... why I am here, the reason why we are down. But I also told them things happen in football and I want everyone to look themselves in the mirror, for not just a second but for a long time."

On potential January transfers:

"Let's go into the next few games and we will see. First, I would like to get through the first few games."

On the fans:

"I hope the fans will support the team, as they did briefly during the last game. The team has to take the initiative. What I know of Chelsea is that the fans back up the team, but the team has to show it first."

Source: http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/football/35166727

Syria conflict: Russian air strikes 'killed 200 civilians'

At least 200 civilians were killed in Russian air strikes in Syria in the two months to the end of November, an Amnesty International report says.

Quoting witnesses, the human rights group accuses Russia of using cluster bombs in civilian areas and says such attacks could constitute war crimes.

Russia's defence ministry dismissed the report as containing "fake information" and "trite cliches".

It also rejected Amnesty's accusations about cluster bombs, Reuters reports.

Amnesty said in its report it was also researching concerns about the US-led coalition air strikes in Syria.

The US has rarely acknowledged civilian deaths in its air bombardment of the so-called Islamic State (IS), which began in September 2014, although some monitoring groups say the toll could run into hundreds.

'Russian strikes kill scores' in Syria

Activists criticise Raqqa air strikes

Russia began air strikes in September this year, saying it was acting at the request of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. It is targeting IS and other groups it designates as terrorists - some of which are backed by the West.

'No military targets'

In the report, Amnesty said it had "researched remotely" more than 25 Russian attacks that took place in Homs, Hama, Idlib, Latakia and Aleppo between 30 September, when the Russian air campaign began, and 29 November.

It had interviewed by phone or over the internet witnesses to the attacks, and had audio and video evidence, as well as "advice from weapons experts". Amnesty said.

It said there was evidence that Russia's military "unlawfully used unguided bombs in densely populated areas and inherently indiscriminate cluster munitions".

Amnesty set out its findings into six attacks - each of which, it said, caused dozens of civilian casualties, but had no obvious military target nearby.

On 29 November, for example, it said at least one suspected Russian warplane fired three missiles into a busy public market in Ariha, in Idlib province.

A local activist group said a total of 49 civilians were either killed or missing and feared dead.

"It was a normal Sunday; there was nothing unusual. People were buying goods; children were eating," the activist, Mohammed Qurabi al-Ghazal, told Amnesty.

"First there was a loud explosion - dirt flying in the air - followed immediately by shock. In just a few moments, people were screaming, the smell of burning was in the air and there was just chaos."

He said the armed group Jaysh al-Fateh controlled the area, but did not have any presence inside Ariha itself.

"Some Russian air strikes appear to have directly attacked civilians or civilian objects by striking residential areas with no evident military target and even medical facilities, resulting in deaths and injuries to civilians," Amnesty's Philip Luther said.

"Such attacks may amount to war crimes," he added.

A report by another group, Human Rights Watch, three days ago accused Syrian government forces and their Russian allies of making "extensive" use of cluster munitions against rebel groups.

Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday Russia was "conducting its operation in strict conformity with principles and norms of the international law".

The Kremlin has previously described similar reports as "information warfare" aimed at discrediting its operations in Syria.

President Vladimir Putin said in October that reports of alleged civilian casualties had emerged before the first air strikes were even carried out.

More than 250,000 people are believed to have been killed and millions of people have been forced to flee their homes since the conflict began in Syria in March 2011.

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-35162523

 

Somalia bans Christmas celebrations

Somalia's government has banned the celebration of Christmas, warning that such Christian festivities could threaten the nation's Muslim faith.

"Those celebrations are not in any way related to Islam," an official at the religious affairs ministry said.

Security agencies have been directed to stay alert to stop any gatherings.

Foreigners are free to mark the Christian holiday in their own homes, but hotels and other public places have been prohibited from marking the day.

"Having Muslims celebrate Christmas in Somalia is not the right thing, such things are akin to the abandonment," local media quote Mohamed Kheyrow, a top official at Somalia's justice and religious affairs ministry, as saying.

Correspondents say as the country recovers from years of civil war, a growing number of Somalis who grew up in the diaspora are returning home, some of them bringing Western customs with them.

Christmas is not widely celebrated in Somalia, which officially adopted Sharia in 2009, but the odd event was held - especially as an excuse to hold a party.

Mogadishu's mayor, Yusuf Hussein Jimale, told the BBC that such gatherings might also be a target for the Islamist al-Shabab group that has targeted hotels in the city in the past.

Celebrations will be allowed at UN compounds and bases for African Union peacekeepers, who are in the country to back the government's fight against the al-Qaeda-linked militants.

Source: bbc.com

Mass graves for '300 Shia Nigerians' in Zaria

Nigeria's military killed and quickly buried the bodies of at least 300 Shia Muslims in an unjustified attack in the northern Zaria city earlier this month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said.

The bodies were buried without family members' permission, it added.

Military spokesman Brig General Rabe Abubakar told the BBC the army had not killed anyone.

Reports of the deaths sparked outrage among Shia around the world and Iran called for their protection.

HRW said Nigeria's army version of events "does not stack up" and called for an independent judicial investigation into what happened.

The Shia have rejected a committee set up by the government to look into the incident, saying it would be biased.

"At best it was a brutal overreaction and at worst it was a planned attack on the minority Shia group," HRW Africa direction Daniel Bekele said.

The military accuses the pro-Iranian sect of trying to assassinate army chief Gen Tukur Buratai, which it denies.

It also released images purportedly showing Shia with sticks and some throwing stones at them when they tried to pass through a makeshift roadblock erected by the group.

But Human Rights Watch says there has been no "credible information" that any soldiers were injured or killed.

It is difficult to determine an accurate death toll but the information was gathered from hospital sources and eyewitnesses, the campaign group added in a statement.

Nigeria's Islamic spiritual leader, the Sultan of Sokoto, has warned that the raids on the sect, known as the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), could spark a new insurgency.

Militant Sunni Islamist group Boko Haram has killed thousands of people in its pursuit of an Islamic state, and has attacked the IMN.

The IMN said the military had destroyed its religious shrine and the home of its leader Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky during the raid.

Sheikh Zakzaky is currently being held by the police.

Those killed during the incident include the group's deputy leader and its spokesman.

Last year, three sons of Sheikh Zakzaky were killed in clashes between the army and pilgrims in a religious procession.

Shia in NigeriaAFP

  • Shia are minority in Nigeria but their numbers are increasing
  • The IMN, formed in the 1980s, is the main Shia group led by Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky
  • They operate their own schools and hospitals in some northern states
  • They have a history of clashes with the security forces
  • The IMN is backed by Shia-dominated Iran and its members often go there to study
  • Sunni jihadist group Boko Haram condemns Shias as heretics who should be killed

Source: bbc.com

Dying Pakistani student's family granted Australia visas

A decision to deny a dying Pakistani student's family a visa to visit Australia has been overturned.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the mother and brother of Hassan Asif would be granted visas to Australia.

Mr Asif was studying architecture at a university in Melbourne when he was diagnosed with terminal skin cancer in July.

His case attracted wide media attention after he made an emotional plea to see his family before died.

Mr Dutton's office told the BBC he received a call on Wednesday afternoon confirming the decision to grant Mr Asif's mother and brother a visa.

Family wish

Mr Asif told Network Ten on Tuesday night that it was difficult to face the prospect of death without his family around him and questioned why they had been denied visas.

"I'm dying and it's really hard because of the pain. In these circumstances everybody would like to be with family," he said.

At an earlier press conference, Mr Dutton said that in such cases immigration officials would have considered several factors before granting or denying visas, including the likelihood applicants might overstay their visa or make a claim for protection.

"In some cases that can result in millions of dollars of expense to the taxpayer," he said.

"It may mean that somebody is here on welfare for an extended period of time so the consideration has to be in the national interest."

Bucket list

The Melbourne City Mission homelessness centre has been caring for Mr Asif, who was previously living in a squat.

The centre's director, Sheridan Bruinhout, said Mr Asif had a relatively small social network because his focus had been on studying.

But he was currently ticking off a "bucket list" that included getting his feet wet at the beach, going to the movies and visiting the Melbourne Aquarium, she said.

Source: bbc.com

Russian ex-tycoon Khodorkovsky may seek UK asylum

Former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a fierce critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, says he is considering applying for political asylum in the UK and feels safe in London.

He was speaking in a BBC interview after a Russian court put him on an international wanted list over the 1990s murder of a Siberian mayor.

"Definitely I'm considering asking for asylum in the UK," he said.

Mr Putin "sees me - it's obvious now - as a serious threat", he said.

Once Russia's richest man, the former head of the now defunct Yukos oil firm spent 10 years in a Siberian prison on fraud charges, which he says were politically motivated.

Mr Putin pardoned him in 2013 and he now lives abroad, mainly in Switzerland.

"I'm considered by President Putin as a threat, economically, because of the possible seizure of Russian assets abroad, and politically, as someone who will potentially help democratic candidates in the coming 2016 elections," he said.

Russia will hold elections to the lower house of parliament - the State Duma - next year. The Duma is currently dominated by Mr Putin's supporters.

London base?

The BBC's Richard Galpin asked Mr Khodorkovsky whether he felt at risk in light of the murders of prominent opponents of Mr Putin in recent years. Among them was former secret agent Alexander Litvinenko, poisoned with radioactive polonium in a London hotel in 2006.

"The history of deaths of opponents of this regime is impressive... but I was in jail for 10 years, I could have been killed any day easily. In London I feel much safer than during those years," he replied.

When he left Russia in 2013 he said he would not get involved in politics - which was was widely believed to have been the reason for his early release.

He told the BBC on Wednesday that he would "help young political activists in Russia to gain political experience and present an alternative to the existing regime".

He said it was "far too optimistic" to speak of regime change in Russia now, "but I'm quite confident that within 10 years the regime will be changed and I hope I will play a significant role in that".

Charge sheet

Earlier, referring to the Russian order for his arrest, he said the Moscow authorities had "gone mad".

He is accused of ordering several of his employees to kill both the mayor and a businessman, who survived.

Investigators allege Vladimir Petukhov, the mayor of Nefteyugansk, was killed on 26 June 1998 for demanding Mr Khodorkovsky's oil firm, Yukos, pay taxes that the company had allegedly been avoiding.

Local businessman Yevgeny Rybin was allegedly targeted because his activities "clashed with Yukos's interests", Russia's powerful Investigative Committee (SK)said in a statement (in Russian).

Mr Rybin survived a gun attack in November 1998 and a second attack on his car in March 1999, when another man in the vehicle was killed and several people were injured.

Five people have already been tried for the attacks and the arrest warrant is unlikely to make any difference unless Mr Khodorkovsky returns to Russia, the BBC's Sarah Rainsford reports from Moscow.

Armed police raided the Moscow offices of Mr Khodorkovsky's Open Russia pro-democracy movement on Tuesday, in a move that authorities said was linked to allegations of tax evasion. The flats of at least seven activists who work for Mr Khodorkovsky were also searched.

After Mr Khodorkovsky was arrested in 2003, Yukos was broken up and taken over by a state oil firm.

Last year an international arbitration court in The Hague said Russian officials had manipulated the legal system to bankrupt Yukos, and jail Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

The court told Russia to pay former shareholders in Yukos $50bn (£32bn) in compensation.

Timeline: Mikhail Khodorkovsky

1963 - Born in Moscow, son of chemical engineers

1987 - Founds Menatep bank

1995 - Buys Yukos for $350m, with Menatep assuming $2bn in debt

2003 - Arrested for tax evasion, embezzlement and fraud

2005 - Found guilty on six of seven charges, jailed for eight years

2007 - Yukos declared bankrupt

2010 - Convicted of embezzlement and money laundering

2013 - Pardoned by President Putin after request for clemency; leaves Russia for Germany

2015 - Charged with ordering 1990s murder of Siberian mayor; says he is considering asking for political asylum in the UK

Source: bbc.com

Panama orders arrest of ex-leader Ricardo Martinelli

Panama's Supreme Court has ordered the arrest of former President Ricardo Martinelli, who governed the Central American country from 2009 to 2014.

Mr Martinelli is accused of using public funds to illegally spy on more than 150 prominent people.

Among those he allegedly spied on are trade union activists, politicians, lawyers, doctors and business people.

Mr Martinelli denied the allegations, saying they were part of a vendetta by current President Juan Carlos Varela.

Illegal wiretaps

The court ordered the arrest because Mr Martinelli failed to appear at a hearing earlier this month.

He left Panama in January days before the Supreme Court voted in favour of having him investigated over separate corruption allegations.

He is believed to be living in Miami, Florida.

The court did not give any details about how his detention would be sought.

On Monday, Mr Martinelli tweeted [in Spanish]: "First round of the political trial: without having been properly documented, without charges, without proper notification and without sentence, my provisional arrest has been ordered."

The Supreme Court launched an investigation into the alleged spying ordered by Mr Martinelli in June.

It came after dozens of people alleged they had their phones tapped and that the administration of Mr Martinelli prepared dossiers against them containing intimate information.

Among the alleged victims are high-ranking members of the opposition Revolutionary Democratic Party, as well as lawmaker Jose Luis Varela, who is the brother of current President Juan Carlos Varela.

Investigators said the wiretaps were carried out by members of Panama's National Security Council.

Source: bbc.com

Colombia fully legalises medical marijuana ("Weed", "Wee")

Colombia's president has signed a decree fully legalising medical marijuana in a shift away from preventing drug crop production.

Juan Manuel Santos said the move put Colombia "in the group of countries that are at the forefront...in the use of natural resources to fight disease".

But, he said, the country would still fight illegal drug production.

Up until now, marijuana production in Colombia had fallen into a legal grey area.

While a 1986 law allowed for the manufacture, export, sale and medical and scientific use of marijuana, the practice was, until Tuesday, never formally regulated.

Anyone wishing to grow marijuana must now apply to the National Narcotics Council for a licence. Medical marijuana is used for medical ailments such as Crohn's disease, seizures, HIV and nausea.

Last year, Mr Santos, who has admitted smoking cannabis while a student in Kansas in the 1970s, said legalisation would take drug production out of the hands of drug traffickers.

A number of countries in Latin America have decriminalised or legalised marijuana use in recent years, as have US states such as Colorado, Oregon and Washington. Uruguay fully legalised the production, sale and recreational use of marijuana in 2013.

Colombia has been plagued by decades of drug-related violence, and is better known as the world's biggest producer of cocaine, along with Peru.

Source: bbc.com

US prisoners released early by software bug

More than 3,200 US prisoners have been released early because of a software glitch.

The bug miscalculated the sentence reductions prisoners in Washington state had received for good behaviour.

It was introduced in 2002 as part of an update that followed a court ruling about applying good behaviour credits.

State officials said that many early-release prisoners would have to return to jail to finish their sentences.

"That this problem was allowed to continue for 13 years is deeply disappointing to me, totally unacceptable and, frankly, maddening," said Washington's governor Jay Inslee at a press conference.

The Washington Department of Corrections (DoC) added that it was made aware of the problem in 2012 when the family of one victim found out that the offender was getting out too early.

Despite this, the faulty software was not corrected until a new IT boss for the DoC was appointed, who realised how serious the problem had become.

The manager then informed senior staff at the DoC and the governor's office.

 

Analysis of the errors showed that, on average, prisoners whose sentences were wrongly calculated got out 49 days early. One prisoner had his sentence cut by 600 days. It is not known if any offender committed further crimes after being released prematurely.

Local police are now helping to round up those who still need to spend time in jail. Five people have already been returned to cells.

Mr Inslee said he had ordered the DoC to fix the software as quickly as possible.

An update that applies the correct formula for calculating sentence cuts is due to be in place by 7 January. Until then the DoC has been ordered not to release any prisoner without checking manually that they should be released.

An independent investigation has also been started to find out how the mistake was left uncorrected for so long.

Source: bbc.com

$1 billion Eurobond approved by Parliament

Parliament has approved a request for sovereign guarantee for the Finance Minister to issue a $1 billion Eurobond.

The House approved the motion to allow Seth Tekper to issue the bond through a voice vote.

The Minority had attempted to block the loan, citing poor economic management by government.

The MPs said they do not want to be a part of unwarranted government borrowing, characterized by excessive domestic loans.

In a rare outcome in Parliament on Tuesday, the Minority won a vote to stop government from securing approval for a sovereign guarantee on one billion dollar Eurobond.

The motion by the Finance Minister, Seth Terkper, seeking parliamentary approval to borrow from the international market lost by one vote.

Sixty-seven Members of Parliament (MPs) voted against the motion, whilst 66 voted in favour.

A head count to establish the number of legislators voting in favour or against approval of the Eurobond became necessary after a voice vote proved impossible to determine whether the motion had been approved or not.

However in a dramatic turn, Ebo Barton-Odro, First Deputy Speaker, announced that the number of Parliamentarians present in the House, i.e. 133, does not meet the requirement to take a decision on a matter.

The motion was subsequently tabled for debate on Wednesday.

Seth Terkper says the entire one billion dollar Eurobond would be used for refinancing Ghana's short-term debts.

Source: myjoyonline.com

CDD cautions against abuse of manual verification during 2016 polls

The Centre for Democratic Development (CDD) has lauded the decision to complement biometric verification with manual verification in next year’s general elections, but cautioned against abuse of the discretion.

Deputy Director of the agency, Franklyn Oduro, says it is likely that polling officials in the rural areas may even put aside the verification machines and do manual verification only.

“It’s a good thing but what we need to avoid is excessive discretion on the part of polling officials in terms of who can be verified manually and who can be verified with the machine,” he said.

At an Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) meeting Tuesday, representatives of political parties agreed to allow manual voter verification during the 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections.

This will be done for voters whose particulars appear in the voters register but may be rejected by the biometric verification machines.

The Committee also set out a definition for over-voting on Tuesday.

“Over-voting would be deemed to have occurred where the number of ballots in the ballot box exceeds the number of verified voters,” was the definition set by the political parties.

Also due to budgetary constraints, the polling stations have been reduced from 30,000 to 29,000.

Commenting on the reduction in the number of polling stations, Dr Oduro said the Electoral Commission (EC) would still "meet the objectives of reducing the huge number of voters at polling stations.”

Source: myjoyonline.com

Transport Minister Resigns Over MMRT Rebranding Scandal

Information available topeacefmonline.com indicates that Minister of Transport, Dzifa Attivor has resigned over the Metro Mass Rapid Transit Bus scandal.

According to a statement signed by her Personal Assistant, Egypt Kobla Kudoto, the Minister of Transport can no longer continue with her duties and has accordingly submitted her resignation letter to the President, John Dramani Mahama.

Issue

Government has spent about GH¢ 3,649,044.75 on the Re-branding of 116 buses for the Metro Mass Rapid Transit (MMRT) imported to improve the transport system in the country.

Re-branding for each of the buses cost GH¢31,457.28, leading to a total of GH¢3,649,044.75 for the 116 buses, the Minority Leader in Parliament, Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu quoted figures from the 2015 annual report on the Petroleum Funds.

But the Transport Minister, Dzifa Ativor in her response to the claim by the Minority Leader said she did not have the details of the re-branding at hand and promised to make it available to the House at a later date.

Below is the full statement:

Hon Mrs Dzifa Attivor, Minister of Transport wishes to inform the good people of Ghana that, as the Minister with oversight responsibility for the activities of the Metro Mass Transit (MMT), she has tendered in her resignation as Minister due to the current issues surrounding the branding of the 116 buses.

She further wants to take the opportunity to thank her Party for the opportunity offered her to serve, first as Deputy Minister of Transport under the late President JEA Mills, and later the substantive Minister.

Mrs Dzifa Attivor also wishes to thank the President sincerely for the honour to serve in his government. She has already communicated this decision to His Excellency President John Dramani Mahama through the Chief of Staff, Julius Debrah.

Signed

Egypt Kobla Kudoto

Personal Assistant

Source: peacefmonline.com

Addison Back To Court

The case in which Mr. Philip Addison, a parliamentary aspirant of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in the Klottey Korle Constituency, is challenging the results of the primary, has gone back to court. 

Counsel for the party, Dr. Opoku Adusei and Prof. Mike Oquaye, told the Accra High Court that attempts to settle the matter out of court had proved futile, and as a result the party would want to remain neutral. 

They said since the plaintiff, Philip Addison, and the third defendant, Nii Noi Nortey, were both members, the party would not want to take sides. 

Counsel prayed the court to hear the matter and deliver its ruling, saying the party would oblige by the ruling.

The NPP, earlier sought an out of court settlement of the case in which Addison, who was defeated in the parliamentary primaries, is demanding an annulment of the result, alleging the election was illegal.

Acting on behalf of the party, Dr. Adusei had prayed the court to allow the party to use internal mechanisms to settle the dispute and later report to the court.


The plaintiff and the second defendant in the matter, Valentino Nii Noi, who won the primary, agreed to the submission and moved the motion to set aside the earlier default judgement given by the court when the party failed to make an appearance.

The court, presided over by Ms. Patience Mills Tetteh, granted the plea for an out of court settlement and adjourned the case to December 16, for the parties to report the outcome to the court.

Unfortunately, the disputing parties failed to reach an agreement.

Following this, they prayed the court for another adjournment with the view that the case would be resolved by then.

The counsel for the party told the court yesterday [Tuesday] that they had held two meetings with the National and the Regional Executives in an attempt to settle the grievances of the two sides, however, they had proved futile.

Consequently, the court adjourned the case to January 12.
 

Source: Ghanaian Times

Mahama’s Green Book Dazzles NPP

The opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) has been thrown into a state of confusion since the John Dramani Mahama administration unveiled its “Accounting to the People” publication chronologically cataloguing the countless development projects embarked upon by his government, the Republic Newspaper can report.

Sources have told this paper that the NPP is currently groping frantically for a new line of criticisms against the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) government since the publication popularly dubbed the Green Book has significantly neutralized the NPP’s narratives against the government.

President Mahama launched the publication at an event at the State Banquet Hall late last week, and since the launching, the Green Book has become an important topical issue in the media.

“ We note that ever since government began the publication and provision of irrefutable evidence of its achievements, the leadership and membership of the opposition party have changed their oft-repeated narrative of “non-performance” to one of “inflation of project cost”. In their misguided view, this desperate narrative will taint these projects and obscure the benefits that our people will derive from them,” Dr. Omane Boamah, stated in a press release on Monday.

The often repeated criticism of the NDC government by the NPP includes the fact that the NDC administration had secured billions in loans and grants more than any other administration but yet have been unable to show anything for it because the funds have been siphoned into private pockets.

This allegations is preposterous says the Communications Minister. “ Let me place on record that our performance in Government as summarized in the book, ‘Accounting to the people’ is unassailable and cannot be wished away. The unparalleled investments we have made in education, health, water, housing, roads, transport, and security among others have led to significant and measurable improvements in the living conditions of our people. We are aware that the NPP perceives these achievements as an existential threat hence their resort to outright falsehood as a means to detract from them. No amount of falsehood about government’s performance, however, will change the fact that the NPP’s record over the eight years they were in power pales into insignificance when set against what the NDC has done in office,” he said in the statement released on Monday.

Touting the achievements of his administration on Tuesday at the launching event at the State Banquet Hall, Mahama said the government has done a lot in all sectors to put Ghana on a sound footing. “Ghana is on the path of recovery and our medium-term prospects of becoming an upper middle-income country are brighter now than ever in the history of our country.”

“Development occurs within space and time, and so very often it’s not easy to comprehend that development is taking place because if you live in, say Chorkor, and there is a hospital being built in Nungua, you might not have the consciousness that healthcare is improving…, and so what I’ve tried to do with this book is to bring an overview of what we’ve been doing in the whole country over the period of our governance. Accounting to the people brings together in one space and volume, major highlights of what we have achieved so far as a government,” the President explained to dignitaries at the event.

The book is a combination of the numerous significant strides made in various sectors of in the country, adopting a combination of pictures matched with crisp and incisive text.

The book is presented in two parts. The first part gives a broad overview of this Government’s performance in various sectors based on the four pillars of the 2012 NDC manifesto. The second part provides pictorial proof of work done at the district level.

The green book shows that the NDC had been particularly active in the roads and transport sector, where it has significantly modernized the over 71,063 Km network criss-crossing the country. “One of the key planks of President Mahama’s transformation agenda is to expand and modernizes the road network. This is a prerequisite to open up the country in order to reduce road traffic accidents and congestion, boost economic activities and move goods and services freely. Unparalleled investments have been made in road projects across the country in the last few years,” the publication stated.

For instance, the government is spending GH¢3 billion in five years on what is known as the Cocoa Roads Improvement Programme (CRIP) which has commenced with the ongoing construction of several roads in cocoa-growing areas. Beyond the massive road construction in cocoa growing areas, other road projects funded from various sources are underway, the green book acknowledged.

On the transport sector, to provide the public with greater options and flexibility in road transport, public transportation is being improved through the acquisition of a total of 495 buses to strengthen the operations of two public transport companies, namely the Metro Mass Transit and the Intercity STC; and the implementation of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project.

Some of these buses have been designed to allow for easy access by persons with disability. The first batch of 116 buses has already arrived and is to be deployed to provide intra-city transport services after the installation of electronic ticketing systems in the buses. Procurement processes are underway for the Bus Rapid Transit project. Ten of the buses for the BRT.

On the aviation sector, the Mahama administration has heavily invested in the development and upgrade of the country’s aviation infrastructure including airports, aerodromes and expansion of runways. The idea for the aviation sector is to allow Ghana to consolidate itself as the Aviation hub of Africa. Already these investments have attracted prospective investors in Dubai and Europe.

Statistics shows increasing volumes of passengers and cargo through the Kotoka International Airport. In 2014, over 40,000 flights were recorded at the airports. In the same period, total passenger throughput stood at over 2.5 million compared with a little over 1.3 million in 2009, representing nearly 100% increase.

To accommodate this increases in throughput serious expansion work has been undertaken at the arrival hall. Also, Preparatory work is underway for the construction of an ultramodern international terminal with a capacity of 5 million passengers a year, to be known as Terminal 3 at the Kotoka International Airport.

Meanwhile similar massive investments are being undertaken in the ICT sector, a sector known to have contributed greatly to Ghana’s economic growth over the years. Investments in the sector include the National Data Centre which will form an essential part of the e-Government infrastructure.

Designed to be the largest in West Africa, the Data Center will promote an integrated use of ICT to improve efficiency and transparency in governance and facilitate storage, management and dissemination of data for both public and private establishments. It will among others, provide web hosting and cloud infrastructure services. Fibre optic backbones are currently being laid across the country to facilitate the ICT drive of the government.

Source: The Republic

Buhari Declares Free University Education For Science & Tech Students

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari while presenting the 2016 fiscal year budget has assured that there will be free eduction for science, technology and education students in tertiary institutions.

President Buhari stressed that this would indeed mark a historic milestone for Nigeria as a nation.

“Furthermore, through the office of the Vice President, we are working with various development partners to design an implementable and transparent conditional cash transfer program for the poorest and most vulnerable.

“This program will be implemented in phases. Already, the compilation of registers of the poorest persons is ongoing.

“In the coming weeks, we will present the full programme which will include our home-grown public primary school feeding and free education for science, technology and education students in our tertiary institutions.

“Indeed, this will mark a historic milestone for us as a nation”, President Buhari said.
 

Source: Daily Trust

Kumasi Rattray Park costs KMA $4.4M

It has emerged the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly spent a whopping 4.4 million Dollars to construct the city’s modern amusement center, the Rattray Park.

The Rattray Park is named after Captain Rattray, a Scottish who was the Assistant Colonial Secretary in the Gold Coast and clerk to the Legislative Assembly of Accra in 1919.

He was a special commissioner and the colonial government anthropologist in Ashanti in 1920, who did a lot of research work on the Ashanti Kingdom and the people of the Gold Coast in a bid to help the government understand the people.

Captain Rattray is believed to be the first man to fly an aircraft (glider) to West Africa, and crash-landed at the site where the ultramodern recreational centre stands.

The Rattray Park, Kumasi City which was commissioned on June 1, 2015 by President John Dramani Mahama with the support of the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II has become the preferred choice for outdoor relaxation for many residents.

Believed to be the biggest and most beautiful amusement park in West Africa, it comes with an artificial lake and a restaurant. But project cost remains unknown until now with some assembly members agitating over City Mayor’s refusal to furnish them with how much the assembly has spent on it.

K.M.A Chief Executive, Kojo Bonsu, has revealed the project cost the assembly a whooping 4.4 million US Dollars.

He promised to make public details of the cost in due course after delay caused by unavoidable factors. Mr. Kojo Bonsu who made the revelations on Nhyira Fm’s ‘Kuro yi mu Nsem’ program Monday is however happy at the gains made so far with revenue realized from the project.

He says the facility is generating some revenue to support the Assemblies operations, touting it as one of the assembly’s success.

According to Mayor Bonsu, the assembly is able to make at least 17,000 cedis on some weekends from the park.

 

Meanwhile, the Assembly has also commenced the renovation of Prempeh Assembly Hall and walling of the Komfo Anokye sword site on the premises of the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital.

He added that the Assembly is embarking on these projects with Internally Generated Funds and support from the World Bank’s Urban Development Grant
In another development, Mr. Bonsu has assured traders in the central market and various satellite markets the assembly will ensure these projects are completed in time.

Source: Nhyira Fm

Ghana Proposes a Pan African Trade Hub System

The Minister for Trade and Industry, Dr. Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, has presented in Nairobi to the international community an innovative project dubbed the Pan African Trade Hub System (PATHS). 

The Minister’s presentation was at a forum organised by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) attended by top officials of the African Union, the World Trade Organisation, the Commonwealth Secretariat, the International Trade Commission and the UN Economic Commission for Africa. 

Also present were several African Ministers, CEOs of some major multinational corporations, business associations and chambers of commerce, heads of think tanks, academics, research firms and NGOs.

According to the Ghana Minister, PATHS aims, among other goals, to increase the values of Intra-African trade from the current approximately 5% of Africa’s total trade to some 25% in two decades, in order to promote greater African development, to create wealth, and to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  

The Minister of Trade and Industry was one of the main speakers at the high level forum of UNCTAD  on the topic “The African Continental Free Trade Area—Making it Work”  as one of the side events at the  just concluded tenth WTO Ministerial Conference which took place in Nairobi, Kenya from 15th to 18th December, 2015. 

Dr. Spio-Garbrah described PATHS as continental public-private partnership of African international organisations, member governments, financial institutions, and the private sector which would be an aggregated e-commerce/m-commerce, e-procurement, and e-payments platform and portal. It is intended to converge and facilitate the work of a range of institutions and actors in the African trade ecosystem, from governments, customs and revenue agencies, commodity producers and traders, importers and exporters and other trade facilitation entities.

The Ghana Minister further stated some of the other benefits of the PATHS to include increasing African's percentage of  total world trade  from 2% to 10%; and to increase Intra-African Investment and Foreign Direct Investment, In addition, PATHS would improve the quality, standards and competitiveness of African goods and services in international trade; enable African SMEs to compete more effectively globally; as well as enable Africa to raise the service delivery and integration of banking and payments service infrastructure to international standards.

 The PATHS is intended to be a  public-private commercial partnership supported by the African Union, African Governments, African Chambers of Commerce and Industry and public-private investors as well as a profit making commercial enterprises. It is to be registered as a private company initially in Kenya, Ghana, Mauritius and Tunisia.

The Minister listed the PATHS stakeholders as the African Union (AU), Regional Economic Communities (RECs), African governments and public agencies, industrialists, manufacturers, commodity producers, warehousing companies, traders/brokers, financial institutions, banks, insurance companies, importers, exporters, freight forwarders, clearing agencies and online shoppers.

Elaborating on the Road Map to achieving the establishment of the PATHS, the Minister explained the steps to adopt in the bid to establishing the PATHS as continuing with the ICT architectural design and development, equity capital mobilisation, and obtaining the formal support of the AU and other African regional and national bodies for the initial platforms, products and services of PATHs  to be finally launched to coincide with the proposed  declaration of a Continental Free Trade Area for Africa in 2017 or whenever that agreement may be signed by African member states.

Following the Ghana Minister’s presentation to UNCTAD, the Government of Kenya, acting through its Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Ambassador Amina Mohamed, immediately associated itself with the Ghanaian initiative and offered at a press conference in Nairobi to co-sponsor a resolution of support for PATHs for consideration by member states of the AU at a forthcoming summit meeting of Heads of State in 2016. The Ghana delegation to the WTO conference included two members of Parliament, the Acting High Commissioner of Ghana to Kenya, and senior officials of the Ministry of Trade and Industry based in Accra, Geneva and Brussels.

Source: peacefmonline.com

You can form your own collecting society – Rex Omar

Rex Owusu Marfo, popularly known as Rex Omar has told music Rights Owners in Ghana that they can withdraw their membership from the Ghana Music Rights Organization (GHAMRO) if they feel GHAMRO is not being transparent to them.

He said this during a meeting with leaders of the Music Council of Ghana and the Ghana Music Rights Organization (GHAMRO) yesterday December 22, 2015, at the Registrar General’s Conference room.

Rex Omar made this statement when John Mensah Sarpong who served on the former board with him (Rex Omar) wanted the know the criteria the new board uses to distribute royalties to members and whether it was appropriate for them to disseminate information through text messages to members.

Rex Omar responded by saying that GHAMRO is the only collecting society we have in Ghana so if you don’t understand the way GHAMRO operates you can form your own society.
 

Source: peacefmonline.com

Gayle King Suits Up for a Beachside Holiday Vacation With Oprah Winfrey and Celebrity Friends

Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King have jetted off together for a beachside holiday getaway. Judging from the famously inseparable duo's colorful candids, these longtime gal pals are having a blast. 

Ever the journalist, King has documented every moment of  their vacation thus far on her Instagram account, including a not-so-glam but oh-so-hilarious shot of her morning hiking. It looks like this Weight Watchers devotee is certainly getting in her fair share of steps.   

"Hiking this am w/ Urania Greene was told 30 min up & 30 min down.. 45 min in-I said how MUCH longer? Notice Mrs Greene has not broken a sweat ... Me hot mess!" she captioned the funny photo. 

Luckily, King seems to have recovered just fine from her sweat-inducing adventure. 

Oprah's sidekick also shared a photo of the vacationing crew lounging and drinking cocktails along with celebrity pal, actor David Oyelowo. 

"Favorite daughter & @davidoyelowo join the girl beach party ! A welcome addition for sure...." King described the shot.

A family affair indeed! King and co. are all smiles, hugs, and giggles. 

"This is what VACATION looks like In paradise love when favorite daughter &favorite @oprah can chill !" King wrote alongside a pic of her daughter and BFF taking in the shade under an oceanside cabana.  

If this is what a typical vacation looks like for the duo, sign us up for the next one!

The high-profile guests kept rolling in. In addition to Oyelowo, the group of vacationers also included Winfrey's longtime partner Stedman Graham, Selma director Ava DuVernay and favored fitness trainer Bob Greene

Good times, excellent company and some gorgeous scenery—this family-filled vacay certainly seems like one to remember. 

But, just in case it slips anyones' minds, King's bevy of Insta uploads will easily jog the group's memory in all the years to come.

Source: eonline.com

 

Pope Francis in his Christmas homily denounces materialism

Pope Francis has warned the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics not to be "intoxicated" by possessions in his annual Christmas homily.

He called for more sobriety in a world obsessed by "consumerism and hedonism, wealth and extravagance".

The Pope was celebrating a Christmas eve Mass in St Peter's Basilica in front of about 10,000 people.

Later on Friday he will deliver his traditional Christmas message from the central balcony of St Peter's Square.

Celebrating Mass, the Pope said Christmas was the time to "once more discover who we are".

He called on believers to show the same simplicity as the child Jesus, "born into poverty in a manger despite his divinity" to inspire their lives.

"In a society so often intoxicated by consumerism and hedonism, wealth and extravagance, appearances and narcissism, this child calls us to act soberly, in other words, in a way that is simple, balanced, consistent, capable of seeing and doing what is essential," he said.

World's Christians celebrate Christmas

Welby: Islamic State is Herod of today

"Amid a culture of indifference which not infrequently turns ruthless, our style of life should instead be devout, filled with empathy, compassion and mercy."

Security was tight at the service with police carrying out spot checks in the area surrounding the Vatican. Everyone who went into the basilica, the largest church in Christendom, had to pass through metal detectors.

Correspondents say the Pope, 79, used his homily to reflect the key themes of three years in office - mercy, compassion, empathy and justice.

"In a world which all too often is merciless to the sinner and lenient to the sin, we need to cultivate a strong sense of justice, to discern and to do God's will," he said.

His voice was occasionally hoarse - the effect of a slight flu earlier this week.

Source: bbc.com

Ghana demands return of $500,000 spent on bus rebrand

hana has demanded a $500,000 (£350,000) refund after its transport ministry spent $1m to paint more than 100 buses with portraits of the country's recent leaders.

The contractor, Smartty's Management Limited, has been asked to return the excess payment, the government said.

On Wednesday, Transport Minister Dzifa Attivor resigned following a public outcry over the deal.

Ghana is struggling with a large budget deficit and a widening public debt.

The branding involved respraying the 116 imported passenger buses and adding portraits of the current President John Mahama, his three immediate predecessors and Ghana's first head of state, Kwame Nkrumah.

'Not value for money'

A proper procurement method was "not followed and the contract did not ensure value for money," the government said after a review by Attorney General Marietta Brew Appiah-Opong.

Opposition and anti-corruption campaigners have raised concerns over the amount spent, which they said was far too much, forcing the presidency to set up an investigation.

The BBC's Sammy Darko in the capital, Accra, says many people think the government is not doing enough to tackle budget mismanagement.

They want to see people being charged for causing financial loss to the state, he adds.

Mrs Attivor's resignation is the first by a Ghanaian minister in more than a decade and comes amid efforts by the government to cut spending as it implements a three-year International Monetary Fund plan to restore fiscal stability.

Earlier this week, Mr Mahama banned public officials, including ministers, from first class air travel and he suspended non-essential trips.

Source: bbc.com

Iran hostage crisis: Victims 'to be compensated' 36 years later

The US victims of the Iran hostage crisis are to receive compensation 36 years after their ordeal, reports say.

Each of the 53 hostages or their estates will receive up to $4.4m (£3m), according to a US spending bill passed last Friday.

The victims of other state-sponsored terror attacks such as the US embassy bombings in East Africa in 1998 will also be eligible.

The hostage-taking lasted 444 days and led the US to break off ties with Iran.

The decision to award compensation follows a controversial deal between world powers and Iran over its nuclear programme.

"Those negotiations resulted in an understanding that an inevitable next step in securing a relationship was to address the reason for the rupture, which was our kidnapping and torture," former hostage Rodney Sickmann told the New York Times.

US outrage at Iran 'hostage-taker' envoy

Remembering the Iran hostage crisis

In pictures: Iran hostage crisis

US-Iran relations: a brief guide

The hostages have long fought for restitution, but the agreement that secured their release barred them from making such claims and their attempts were repeatedly blocked by the courts, including an appeal denied by the Supreme Court.

Congress was also unable to pass laws granting them compensation.

The money for compensation is likely to come from a huge $9bn fine for French bank Paribas for violating sanctions against Iran, Sudan and Cuba, the New York Times reported.

About $1bn will go into a fund for victims of terrorism and an additional $2.8bn will be set aside to help the victims of the 9/11 attacks and their families.

The new law allows for payments of up to $10,000 for each day of captivity, while spouses and children are eligible for a payment of up to $600,000. Initial payments are due within a year.

Thirty-seven of the 53 hostages held after a mob stormed the US embassy in Tehran are still alive.

Timeline: Iran hostage crisis

4 November 1979: Iranian students storm the US embassy in Tehran and take 99 people hostage, including 66 Americans. They demand the extradition of Iran's former ruler, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, from the US

17 November 1979: Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini orders the release of female and African-American hostages, bringing the number of hostages to 53

28 January 1980: Six US embassy employees, who had avoided capture and hidden in the homes of Canadian embassy officials, flee Iran

7 April 1980: President Jimmy Carter cuts ties with Iran

25 April 1980: An attempt to rescue the hostages fails when a helicopter and a transport plane collide, killing eight US soldiers

11 July 1980: A hostage is released due to illness

19 January 1981: The US and Iran sign an agreement to release the hostages

20 January 1981: The remaining 52 hostages are released and flown to Germany

Source: bbc.com

Beware: Takata airbag fault claims eighth victim in the US

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has linked an eighth US death to a faulty airbag inflator made by Japan's Takata.

The NHTSA said a teenager was killed in July after an airbag in a 2001 Honda Accord ruptured.

A total of 19 million cars, containing 23 million airbag inflators, made by 12 car companies have been recalled.

In November, Takata agreed to pay a $70m fine for safety violations and may face deferred penalties of up to $130m.

The airbag fault has claimed nine lives globally.

The airbag inflators explode with too much force and spray metal shrapnel into the car. All nine deaths, eight in the US and one in Malaysia, have all been in Honda cars. More than 100 people have been injured.

Honda said that the car involved in the crash had been included in a February 2010 national safety recall campaign and claimed that it had made "numerous attempts" to contact the previous owner of the vehicle.

It said it sent a new recall notice to the current owner of the car on 21 July this year, one day before the crash.

A spokesman for the NHTSA said that Honda, as well as Subaru and Mazda, have added a "few hundred thousand" more cars to the recall in the US, adding that other car companies may follow suit.

The NHTSA said about a quarter of affected cars have been fixed, the majority of which are in areas of high humidity which can react adversely to ammonium nitrate, a chemical compound which is used to deploy the airbags.

In a statement, Takata said: "Our heartfelt condolences go out to the driver's family.

"We are working in close collaboration with Honda and NHTSA to determine the facts and circumstances surrounding this tragic situation. Takata's number one priority is the safety of the driving public."

Shares in Takata closed down nearly 5%.

Source: bbc.com

US storms: At least 11 dead in trail of destruction

At least 11 people have been killed and scores more injured by a devastating storm which left a path of destruction across the US South on Christmas Eve.

Seven people were killed as tornadoes moved through northern Mississippi overnight, officials said, and three more died in Tennessee and one in Arkansas.

There have been reports of at least 20 tornadoes of varying severity.

A seven-year-old boy was among those killed.

Authorities in parts of Mississippi are conducting a house-by-house search-and-rescue operation after the state was hit by multiple tornadoes.

The boy was inside a car, which was picked up and tossed in the storm. His relatives, who were also in the vehicle, were taken to a hospital for treatment.

Planes at a small airport in the north-west of the state were overturned and an unknown number of people were injured.

"I'm looking at some horrific damage right now," Clarksdale Mayor Bill Luckett was quoted by the AP news agency as saying.

"Sheet metal is wrapped around trees; there are overturned airplanes; a building is just destroyed."

Mississippi's Interstate 55 was closed in both directions as the tornado approached, the state's Highway Patrol said.

There are reports that one large tornado touched land in Mississippi and travelled 100 miles to Tennessee.

The threat of tornadoes eased as the line of storms moved east on Thursday, but heavy rain and thunderstorms caused flooding and travel chaos in Georgia, Alabama and the Carolinas.

The national Storm Prediction Center in Oklahoma had released a "particularly dangerous situation" warning for the first time since June 2014 when two massive tornadoes destroyed a rural Nebraska town, killing two people.

The possibility of bad weather just before Christmas in the US is not unusual, officials at the centre say.

One year ago a tornado hit south-eastern Mississippi, killing five people and injuring dozens more.

A storm on Christmas Day in 2012 which included several tornadoes damaged homes from Texas to Alabama.

Source: bbc.com

Jurgen Klopp: No Premier League break hurts England chances

The busy schedule of the Premier League hurts England's chances in major tournaments, says Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp.

The German praised England's current team as "really talented", but said the lack of a winter break in the country would count against them at Euro 2016.

"You have too many games, that's for sure," Klopp told Football Focus. "You have no break, too many tournaments.

"I think everybody knows that's not the way [to be successful]."

The 48-year-old added: "Everybody thinks [manager] Roy [Hodgson] should lead these boys to the title, they have really good players.

"But they've had no break for one year. All the other teams have. You can be [successful] but it's much harder."

England have not reached the semi-finals at any of their past eight major tournaments, and were knocked out at the group stage of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Klopp added that the fixture schedule in domestic football has also contributed to the recent struggles of English clubs in the Champions League, Europe's elite competition.

"There are reasons why the big English clubs in the last few years were not that successful," he said. "You have too many tournaments."

Klopp's Liverpool side face three matches in eight days over Christmas and New Year, starting against surprise Premier League leaders Leicester at Anfield on 26 December.

Mini pre-season for Sturridge

Klopp confirmed that Daniel Sturridge is currently doing "a little pre-season" as he works towards recovering from a hamstring injury.

The England striker is not expected to be fit until mid-January after straining his muscle against Newcastle on 6 December.

"He will do this for seven, eight, nine days and then we will see," said Klopp.

Source: bbc.com

Louis van Gaal not a Man Utd coach - Kanchelskis

Louis van Gaal "doesn't understand English football" and is "not a head coach for Manchester United", says their former winger Andrei Kanchelskis.

But Kanchelskis believes the Dutchman should remain in charge until the end of the season, despite a six-match winless run in all competitions.

Van Gaal walked out of Wednesday's news conference in protest at media reports that his job is under threat.

"I am disappointed with the way United are playing," Kanchelskis said.

"Under Alex Ferguson, we played in a more attacking style of football and played in a 4-4-2. Van Gaal sees things differently. This is not a head coach for Manchester United.

"I just don't think that Van Gaal understands English football. A team needs to have leaders, like Bryan Robson, Roy Keane, Peter Schmeichel, who can give the right things at the necessary moment and can show their leadership qualities.

"The coach does not want this and this is the reason for such disastrous results."

'My way or the highway' with Van Gaal

Van Gaal, who has a contract at Manchester United until 2017, left Wednesday's news conference after four minutes and 58 seconds, answering just three questions.

He started by requesting an apology from the gathered members of the media for questioning his future at Old Trafford.

Raymond Verheijen, who has previously worked as a coach under Van Gaal, believes his compatriot's reaction resulted from his frustration at not being able "to control" the media.

"You have two categories of coaches - teachers and managers," Verheijen told BBC Radio 5 live. "Teachers are 'my way or the highway' they have a rigid approach.

"Louis van Gaal is clearly a teacher. They want to control everything, which is fine internally at Manchester United but the mistake he makes is that he wants to control the outside world. The media is part of the outside world and what he should understand is that is something you cannot control."

Despite the fractious relationship with the media, Verheijen expects Van Gaal to see out his contract at United.

"Louis is not a quitter, he is a fighter," he added. "He will fight until the end and look to stay the full three years, maybe even longer."

Van Gaal and Hiddink 'complete opposites'

Van Gaal has been joined in the Premier League by fellow Dutchman Guus Hiddink, who replaced Jose Mourinho as Chelsea boss earlier this month.

"Guus Hiddink is the total opposite of Louis Van Gaal," added Verheijen, who was Hiddink's assistant with the Netherlands at the 2002 World Cup.

"Van Gaal is the ultimate teacher. He wants to improve the potential of his players every day. Hiddink is more of a people's manager, he goes with the flow.

"Hiddink wants to get the maximum out of his players by creating a very nice environment so that they feel really comfortable and are able to perform every week."

Source: bbc.com

Your take: Parliament partly responsible for corruption – Ato Dadzie

A member of the legal team of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Ato Dadzie, says Parliament’s failure to properly scrutinize projects presented for approval is partly to blame for recurrent reports of bloated expenditure.

Ato Dadzie says being a key part of government’s machinery, Parliament needs to be strengthened to appropriately check facts and figures contained in the motions presented to the House.

“We have a constitutional order, and the oversight responsibility for financial disbursement and all that is in Parliament. Parliament must do more in terms of investigating and examining documents placed before them,” Ato Dadzie said.

The NDC lawyer was speaking on a special edition of Joy FM’s Super Morning Show Thursday, hosted by New Patriotic Party (NPP) member, Gabby Otchere-Darko.

Ato Dadzie was reacting to views that corruption has steeped under the current administration.

Citing the controversial 3.6 million Ghana cedis bus branding deal and the over 500 million Ghana cedis AMERI power plant contract, Gabby Otchere-Darko suggested that the current administration has done a poor job at fighting corruption.

Some analysts say Ghana could have gotten the 235MW power plants that AMERI has provided at a lesser cost.

A Ranking Member on the Mines and Energy Committee of Parliament, K.T. Hammond the committee said he was misled to approve the controversial AMERI power project contract.

According to him, the Power Ministry failed to provide full details of the transaction to the Committee members.

Also, the Chief of Staff has ordered the Attorney General, to recover GHC1.9 million the company that branded the buses.

Speaking on the Super Morning Show Thursday, Ato Dadzie said Parliament and other government institutions need to be strengthened.

 “You shouldn’t come and tell us that you were misled. That is why we put you there. That oversight responsibility is that of Parliament.” Ato Dadzie said.

He said Parliament and state instutions that have the mandate to check graft must invest in capacity building to enable them deliver on their objectives.

Source: myjoyonline.com

A member of the legal team of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Ato Dadzie, says Parliament’s failure to properly scrutinize projects presented for approval is partly to blame for recurrent reports of bloated expenditure.

Ato Dadzie says being a key part of government’s machinery, Parliament needs to be strengthened to appropriately check facts and figures contained in the motions presented to the House.

“We have a constitutional order, and the oversight responsibility for financial disbursement and all that is in Parliament. Parliament must do more in terms of investigating and examining documents placed before them,” Ato Dadzie said.

The NDC lawyer was speaking on a special edition of Joy FM’s Super Morning Show Thursday, hosted by New Patriotic Party (NPP) member, Gabby Otchere-Darko.

- See more at: http://www.myjoyonline.com/politics/2015/December-24th/parliament-partly-responsible-for-corruption-ato-dadzie.php#sthash.v9xkn9vP.dpuf

500 Army Recruits Sacked...For Demonstrating Against ‘Strenuous’ Training - GAF

500 recruits undergoing training at the Army Recruit Training School at Shai Hills in the Greater Accra region have all been sent home for misconduct.

A statement signed by the Director of Public Relations, Col. Aggrey-Quashie explained that the recruits were sacked after their training was halted following demonstrations by army recruits.

The recruits followed their protest with other acts of insubordination, according to the statement. The Army says such acts of insubordination are detrimental to national security, hence the decision to dismiss the recruits. 


Read full statement below

The Ghana Armed Forces wishes to inform the General Public and relatives of recruits undergoing training at the Army Recruits Training School, Shai Hills, that there is cessation of training of the Recruits.

The cessation has become necessary following an incident which took place at the Training School on 3 December 2015.  At about 0200 hours on that day, the recruits without due authorization dressed up in their outing attire (black trousers and white shirt) staged an unauthorized assembly on the School square and later marched to the instructors accommodation to be sent home because the training was strenuous, a situation the recruits considered as maltreatment. This was followed by other insubordinate behaviours by the recruits that same day.

The implications of the recruits’ behavour are far reaching and inimical to the security of the State.

The Ghana Armed Forces take this opportunity to wish all Ghanaians Merry Christmas and a Prosperous new year.

 

Signed

E. Aggrey-Quashie

Colonel

Director Public Relations

 

Source: peacefmonline.com

PANAFEST Salutes Rocky Dawuni

The Pan African Historical Theatre Festival (PANAFEST) Foundation has congratulated reggae star Rocky Dawuni on his nomination in this year’s Grammy Awards.

The Ghanaian has been nominated for the Best Reggae Album category-‘Branches of the same tree’.

Consequently, the Foundation in a release signed by Rabbi Kohain Nathanyah Halevi, the Executive Secretary, PANAFEST Foundation said “Rocky I am writing to give you very big congratulations on your nomination in the Grammy “It is an honour for Ghana and Africa for your achievements to be recognized on the highest level.

“The spirit of your message in the name of the album helps to open the gate for this year’s inaugural of the "Decade for People of African Decsent" which has been proclaimed by UNESCO for 2015-2024.

”We at PANAFEST chose as our theme, PANAFEST, At the Threshold of the Decade for People of African Decent" and are working hard toward celebrating a grand PANAFEST 2017 in Ghana inviting the whole of Africa and it's Diaspora to be part of this Mega Event to promote and define our own landmarks and agenda for the decade.

It added “The PANAFEST Foundation wishes you the best and would like for you to also serve as one of its cultural Ambassadors promoting Pan Africanism and Africa and African People as the Tree of Life for the 21st Century. A Tree ready to give shade, bounty and fruit for all humanity.

“Great seeing and sharing with you in Washington as well as New York and look forward to you taking the Grammy.

Source: Daily Guide

Man united easily beaten at Stoke

Stoke City condemned Manchester United to a fourth straight defeat to increase the pressure on manager Louis van Gaal.
Bojan Krkic broke the deadlock after a poor header back to David de Gea from Memphis Depay allowed Glen Johnson to play it back to the Spanish forward.
Stoke went 2-0 ahead through Marko Arnautovic's 25-yard finish after Bojan's free-kick had hit the wall.
Van Gaal dropped captain Wayne Rooney, who came on as a half-time substitute, and United struggled to create chances.
Stoke, who climbed three places to eighth in the Premier League, were superior throughout and could have won by more.
Arnautovic missed a great chance to add to United's misery when clean through, while Potters keeper Jack Butland denied Marouane Fellaini and Anthony Martial.
How the action unfolded, pictures and the best of social media
Rooney decision backfires badly on Van Gaal

Van Gaal was already under pressure before kick-off after a poor run of form but the manner of United's defeat at the Britannia Stadium - together with the manager's decision to leave out England skipper Rooney - is bound to raise more questions about the Dutchman's future.
United rarely looked like getting back into the game after falling behind and showed little desire and leadership as they found themselves outmuscled and outfought by an impressive Stoke side.
They were already 2-0 behind after an awful first-half display when Rooney, starting on the bench in a league match for the first time since 28 January 2014, was introduced at the start of the second period.
They improved after the break, Butland saving well from Martial, Juan Mata and Fellaini - but Stoke, managed by former United forward Mark Hughes, deserved their victory.
More to follow

Source: bbc.com

Louis van Gaal to quit?

Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal said he could "quit by myself" after Stoke City condemned his side to a fourth straight defeat.

The Dutchman, under pressure after seven games without a win, was asked whether he feared he would be sacked.

"That is something I discuss with [executive vice-chairman] Ed Woodward not you," Van Gaal told a media conference after the game.

"It is not always the club that has to fire or sack me."

He added: "Sometimes I do that by myself, but I am the one who wants to speak first with the board of Manchester United and my members of staff and my players, not with you."

United's miserable run has seen them knocked out of the Champions League at the group stage and slip out of the top four in the Premier League.

"I have received [the club's backing] all the time but we have lost so there is a new situation," said Van Gaal.

"I feel the support of my players and my board. The fans will be disappointed but that is logical after four defeats."

Van Gaal saw his side quickly go behind to goals from Bojan Krkic and Marko Arnautovic, with United struggling to create chances as they tried to work their way back into the match in the second half.

"We have lost the game in the first 45 minutes because we didn't dare to play our football. That is what I have analysed," said Van Gaal, whose side's next game is at home to Chelsea on Monday.

"The circumstances now play a bigger role and will in the next game also. We have to cope with that and look for the solution.

"It is very difficult as I'm also part of four losses and I have to cope with that and I have to manage that. More important is that my players shall manage that because they have to perform."

'Right decision on Rooney'

Van Gaal dropped Wayne Rooney to the bench for the game at the Britannia Stadium.

The England striker came on for the second half but United still struggled to create chances as they went four top-flight games without victory.

Club captain Rooney has scored just two league goals so far this season and rarely looked like adding to that tally at Stoke, although he did set up Marouane Fellaini for a chance that was impressively saved by home keeper Jack Butland.

Van Gaal added: "I thought it was the right decision [to leave out Rooney] otherwise I would not have done it.

"We were better in the second half but then we didn't have anything to lose."

Source: bbc.com

Chelsea salvage a point on Guus Hiddink first game in Charge

Diego Costa scored twice as Guus Hiddink's second spell as Chelsea boss started with a draw against Watford.

It could have been more for Hiddink, in charge after Jose Mourinho's sacking, had Oscar not missed a late penalty.

Spaniard Costa hooked in the opener for the Blues before Nemanja Matic's handball allowed Troy Deeney to level from the penalty spot.

Odion Ighalo's deflected shot gave the visitors the lead, only for Costa to fire in and earn Chelsea a point.

More to follow.

Source: bbc.com

Syria war: Yarmouk camp evacuation 'on hold'

The expected evacuation of thousands of rebels from in and around Yarmouk refugee camp in southern Damascus has been put on hold, reports say.

Safety issues and the killing of a top rebel have been blamed for the delay.

Militants and their families were due to be bussed to areas under the control of their respective groups, under a deal between rebels and the government.

About 18,000 civilians have been trapped in Yarmouk by the fighting and a government siege since 2012.

Islamic State (IS) militants took over parts of the camp earlier this year.

They were pushed back by Palestinian militias and Syrian rebels after weeks of fierce fighting, and Yarmouk has since been divided into areas controlled by IS, the rival al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front, and pro- and anti-government Palestinian militants.

Government forces maintain checkpoints around the area preventing civilians from leaving.

Safe passage

Under the deal, fighters will withdraw from Yarmouk and the neighbouring districts of Hajar al-Aswad and al-Qadam.

Eighteen buses which will transport rebels and their families were reported to have arrived at the camp on Friday.

However, Lebanese Hezbollah al-Manar TV said the evacuation was held up because the convoy was due to pass through territory controlled by rebel group Jaysh al-Islam, whose leader was killed in an air strike later that day.

The UK-based monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said it was paused for "logistic reasons" in order to secure the road to IS-held Raqqa in the north-east.

The plan would see IS fighters and their families given safe passage there, and al-Nusra militants transferred to the northern province of Idlib.

Once Yarmouk is made safe, the UN will be able to get aid to the civilians who have been trapped.

Yarmouk was first built for Palestinians fleeing the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Before the Syrian civil war began in 2011, it had more than 150,000 refugees living there.

Those trapped in the camp for the past two years, including 3,500 children, have no access to regular food supplies, clean water or healthcare.

Source: bbc.com

Christmas Day blaze guts Australia homes

A Christmas Day bushfire has destroyed more than 100 homes in Australia's Victoria state, officials say.

Officials said 98 homes had been razed in Wye River and 18 at Separation Creek. No injuries are reported.

Hundreds of firefighters have been battling the blaze along the famous Great Ocean Road in Victoria's south-west, popular with holidaymakers.

A change to cooler weather and rain has greatly reduced the threat, but some emergency warnings remain in place.

Some 1,600 residents and tourists from the popular tourist spot of Lorne were evacuated on Friday amid fears that a wind change would push the fire towards the town, but were allowed to return on Saturday.

Many of those forced to leave their homes had to spend Christmas night in hastily-arranged shelters.

More than 500 firefighters, 60 tankers and 18 aircraft have been involved in fighting the flames.

Victoria Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley said they were "working around the clock to bring this fire under control".

He warned that although the immediate threat had eased, the fire had the "potential to burn" for weeks to come.

'Dropped everything'

Thousands of tourists typically descend on the area in the days after Christmas to visit coastal towns.

But many residents and holidaymakers were forced to flee, as festivities were abandoned when the scale of the threat became apparent.

"They (residents) were all prepared, putting their barbecues on, they were cooking away, and all of a sudden they could see the smoke coming over the hill," local resident Patrick Carey said.

"They thought it was still four hours away according to what they'd heard. And then all of a sudden it was an hour away, and all of a sudden it was half-an-hour away. So, they just dropped everything, stopped cooking and hopped in their car."

Anyone still planning to travel to the area is being asked to check emergency warnings and to avoid the Great Ocean Road if possible.

The Falls Music and Arts Festival, which is held annually near Lorne, may not go ahead because of the fires, its organisers said.

The fire began with a lightning strike on 19 December and has been fanned by strong winds and intense heat in recent days, burning across 2,200 hectares (5,437 acres) so far.

Victoria is one of the most fire-prone regions in the world.

Many bushfires are started by lightning strikes, while others are sparked accidentally by campers or discarded cigarettes.

Some are the work of arsonists.

In 2009, more than 170 people died in Victoria during Australia's worst ever bushfire disaster.

Source: bbc.com

I deserve credit for managing power crisis – Power Minister

Power Minister, Kwabena Donkor, says he deserves credit for managing the power crisis that has crippled businesses and left many people jobless.
In his view, he has done enough to reduce the intensity of the crisis, although there is still work to be done.
“If you set an exam and somebody gets 99 percent, is it not possible to say the person has done extremely well,” he queried.
Responding to a question regarding his promise to resign if the load shedding does persists after December 31, 2015, Dr Donkor said “if it is my going that people want then that’s fine."
He was speaking on Joy News’ end of year review programme, Dr Donkor said he and his ministry, together with government are working tirelessly to bring the situation to an end.
Dr Donkor made news earlier in the year when he said in an interview with Joy News that he will resign from his position if he is unable to end the power crisis by the end of the year.
He has been heavily criticized for failing to handle the situation as the crisis seems to have worsened, crippling many businesses and forcing others to lay off their workers in order to cut cost.
However, briefing Parliament’s Assurances Committee on progress made so far with regards to the power crisis, Dr Donkor said he still stands by his promise but a two-week extension into the New Year will help solve the situation entirely if things work according to plan.
“All things being equal, at the end of this year…that is seven days from today the load shedding will end. But the only caveat I will throw in is that the end of the year can move up to about two weeks of the New Year.”
The public has however, not taken his comments lightly. They insist that he must resign since he has failed in handling the power crisis.
The Minister insists that "give or take", the crisis will cease by the end of the year, adding “for the last three days there has been no load shedding in Ghana, so if you’re in a particular locality and there is no power then it means it is a fault particular to that locality.
“That is what I’ve been struggling over the past weeks to distinguish. It is possible there will be no load shedding but you can still have faults in particular localities arising out of a number of reasons and that is a reality,” he said.

Source: myjoyonline.com

Ghana is 8th best country for business in Africa - Forbes

On the Forbes 2015 ranking of 144 Best Countries for Business in the world, Ghana ranks 79th and 8th in Africa.
Ghana is ahead of countries like Senegal, Tunisia, Namibia and the Seychelles. Some of the other countries that Ghana is ahead of include Mozambique, Lesotho, Madagascar, Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire which is ranked at 106th in the world and 17th in Africa.
The countries ahead of Ghana are, Mauritius, South Africa, Morocco, Botswana, Cape Verde, Rwanda and Zambia.
Forbes posts indicators like population, GDP growth rates, GDP per capita and trade balance to GDP.
Ghana’s GDP growth is put at 4 per cent, GDP per capita is $4,100, trade balance to GDP, -10.4 per cent and the population is 26.3 million.
Nigeria is ranked at 122nd in the world and 27th in Africa with a population of 181.6 million. The country’s GDP growth is put at 6.3 per cent, its GDP per capita is $6,100 and trade balance to GDP is 0.2 per cent.
The ranking has Denmark with a population of 5.6 million at number one, with 1.1 per cent GDP growth, $44,600 GDP per capita and trade balance to GDP of 6.3 per cent.
At the bottom of the ranking is Chad. Having a population of 11. 6 million, Chad has a GDP growth of 6.9 per cent, a GDP per capita of $2,600 and trade balance to GDP of -7.8 per cent.
With a population of 1.3 million, Mauritius is the number one country in Africa on the ranking. It has a GDP per capita of $18, 700, a trade balance to GDP of -5.5 per cent and GDP growth of 3.6 per cent.
The ranking covers 40 countries in Africa. 

Source: myjoyonline.com

‘Attivor’s Resignation Is A Good Sign For Democracy’- Batidam

The President’s Special Advisor on Governance and Corruption, Daniel Batidam has indicated that the Transport Minister Dzifa Attivor’s resignation involving the rebranded Metro mass transit buses is a good sign for the country’s democracy and the fight against corruption.

‘For me, it’s a good sign for our governance, for our democracy and our fight against corruption. Now this Minister’s action I believe is an example that it does not always has to be the ultimate authority of the president to sack people who are involved in corruption,’ he remarked.

He indicated that this is the first bold decision taken by a state official directly or indirectly involved in corruption.

‘This is another test in terms of governance in our country Ghana, as you do know hardly does a public official or Minister of state step down or aside from his/her office or position as a matter of principles, or taking responsibility,’ he observed.

Mr. Batidam admitted that this rarely happens in Africa, urging Ghanaians to look at the progress made so far than looking at it from political angle.

‘Let us not look at it as though as if this is a feel of guilt, all over in the world, especially in the most advanced countries it is almost a natural thing for people with whom the back normally stops to take responsibility for any actions, commissions or omissions that happens under their supervision, and normally in those highly democratic environment people don’t even have to call on you before you step down, but you and I know that in Africa this a rarely case,’ he maintained.

Speaking on Ultimate breakfast hosted by Prince Minkah, he encouraged state officials to own up to their responsibilities.

‘In terms of governance and principles it does not always have to be that one is guilty or has done something wrong, there are certain standards or principles that must be upheld by duty- bearers at a certain level, whenever failure happens under their watch. In real democratic world, they should take responsibility even if they were not necessarily involved,’ he entreated.

The President’s Special Advisor on Governance and Corruption advised Ghanaians especially politicians to examine accountability in its broader framework.

‘Mind you corruption is a very complex thing, sometimes because of our emphasis on corruption itself. We make people look at it more as to who is corrupt and who is not corrupt. We have to look at it in the broader framework of accountability, and in accountability, we have answerability, who is answerable, who takes the ultimate responsibility. When we move from just the talk about corruption which then makes us reduce it to finger pointing and look at the broader issue of accountability, corruption is the absence of accountability, who is to be held accountable,’ he stated.

He further entreated people to own up to their responsibilities wherever they find themselves.

‘When we develop up to a point when our ethical standards are high enough, we should be having people in positions taking responsibilities of anything that go on. It does not only has to be about resignation but by accepting the consequences of what has gone wrong, this boost democracy, Ghanaians should be proud about it,’ he said.

Source: peacefmonline.com

Gov’t completes investment deal with Newmont

Government has negotiated its Investment Agreement with mining giant Newmont, guaranteeing improved benefits for Ghana.

A statement from the Lands and Natural Resources Ministry says the new deal will also ensure long term sustainability of the mining industry.

The objective of the re-negotiation is to ensure that all major stakeholders, including Ghanaians, mining companies and their investors equitably share in the benefits that mining brings.

The proposed changes are expected to improve benefits for Government and economy and increase revenues while assuring a fair, predictable and beneficial long term basis for Newmont’s business in Ghana.

The re-negotiated Investment Agreements, now consisting of two separate agreements, one for each Newmont Ghana entity operating in Ghana, were submitted to Parliament for ratification in June and ratified by Parliament this week.

Newmont’s original Investment Agreement with the Government of Ghana was ratified by Parliament in December 2003.

Newmont has since invested more than US$2.7 billion in Ghana to date; making the company the largest single investor in gold mining in Ghana.

Newmont Ghana has affirmed its long-term commitment to Ghana and says it will continue partnering with the government and people to bring sustainable value and opportunity for all stakeholders.

The Newmont deal with government has in the past been criticized for being too lopsided in favor of the mining firm.

The Government of Ghana set up the Government Mining Review & Negotiating Committee (MRC) in 2012 to review the country’s mining regime and to re-negotiate existing stability agreements taking into account changes in the national economy and the mining industry over the past few years.

Source: ghanaweb.com

Manchester City thrashed relegation-threatened Sunderland but...

Manchester City thrashed relegation-threatened Sunderland but home substitute Vincent Kompany limped off soon after his return from injury.

Raheem Sterling opened the scoring by heading in Kevin de Bruyne's cross.

The lead was doubled through Yaya Toure's low 20-yard drive before Wilfried Bony headed in another de Bruyne delivery.

The brilliant Belgian calmly scored before Fabio Borini's consolation, as Bony skied a penalty later on.

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City will be concerned by the second-half departure of skipper Kompany, just minutes after coming on, having missed the previous eight matches with a calf injury.

The defeat leaves Sunderland still five points adrift of Premier League safety, while City remain in third place.

The strongest in the league?

Manchester City may have lost to Arsenal last time out, but manager Manuel Pellegrini was adamant his side - when fully fit - are the strongest side in the Premier League.

Sunderland did little to test that theory as they allowed Pellegrini's men to return to winning ways in totally dominant style.

While just too good to handle as an offensive unit, the hosts were still far from convincing defensively as the Black Cats created several chances of their own.

And when Borini scored at the second attempt from close range, it meant City had failed to keep a clean sheet for an eighth successive match.

Stunning display from De Bruyne

Raheem Sterling goal

Kevin de Bruyne (17) rescued Aleksandar Kolarov's ball from the left to cross for Raheem Sterling's (7) opener

Many questioned Manchester City when they spent a club record £55m on Wolfsburg midfielder De Bruyne in the summer, who was unable to make an impression during an earlier two-year spell at Chelsea.

It increasingly looks like good business as the Belgian created chances almost at will from the right, and linked up effectively with midfielder David Silva - who was brought down for the penalty.

De Bruyne whipped in a delicious cross for Sterling's opener before a similarly accurate delivery allowed Bony to head home City's third.

He rounded off a stunning individual display with a cool finish of his own and, had it not been for some wayward Bony finishing, the win could have been even more emphatic.

What hope for Sunderland's survival chances?

When Sam Allardyce was appointed Sunderland boss in October, the Black Cats were second-bottom of the Premier League and winless in their opening eight games.

Things have improved - slightly - after three wins since, but they remain in 19th and have now lost their past four league matches.

A defeat at City won't be the result that sends them down but the ease with which they were torn apart defensively will be a huge concern for a manager who prides himself on organisation.

What they said

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini on Vincent Kompany's injury: "Yes, it is the calf. Nobody understands. He had a good warm-up, he was working during the week with normality. It is difficult to understand. The most important thing is to understand why this happens.

"Nobody wins the title in December, but it doesn't mean it will be easy to beat Leicester. In the second half of the season we have to play teams around us. It is important to try to continue with this kind of performance."

What next?

Manchester City travel to Premier League leaders Leicester City on Tuesday, while Sunderland who entertain Liverpool on Wednesday.

Source: bbc.com

Jordan Ayew with another goal and point for Aston Villa

A Jordan Ayew penalty helped bottom of the table Aston Villa come from behind to earn a draw against a West Ham team which has not won since 24 October.

In an evenly contested game, Villa twice went close in the first half through Rudy Gestede before Aaron Cresswell scored with a low strike.

The spirited hosts levelled through Ayew after Gestede was clumsily felled by Angelo Ogbonna.

As Villa searched for the winner, Alan Hutton went close with a header.

But the right-back's effort was cleared by James Collins as West Ham held on for their fifth successive draw to remain ninth in the league.

Garde remains winless

Villa have now battled back to earn a point in successive league matches, but Remi Garde's team desperately need to start collecting three points if they are to overcome the odds and maintain their Premier League status.

Garde has yet to oversee a Villa victory since succeeding Tim Sherwood as manager at the beginning of November, although there may be some solace in the desire his side displayed against a well-organised West Ham side despite falling behind just before half-time.

The grim reality, however, is that Villa have not won since the opening day of the season and are now 10 matches without a win at Villa Park and nine points from safety.

Only three of the previous 23 sides who were bottom of the Premier League on Christmas Day have avoided relegation, although the last two sides in that position - Leicester in 2014 and Sunderland in 2013 - did both survive.

Hammers masters of the draw

Although Villa fans might look at their mid-table rivals with envy, Slaven Bilic's side are enduring a slump of their own slump after promising early-season form.

The Londoners' winless run has coincided with the absence of the injured Dimitri Payet - scorer of five goals in an impressive start since his arrival from Marseilles - and the France international's return in the New Year will be welcomed by Bilic's injury-hit side.

West Ham are defensively sound - enjoying three successive clean sheets prior to this match - but currently lack cutting edge in front of goal.

Not many sides would have been as obliging as Villa in giving Cresswell the freedom to roam down the left, before cutting inside and striking low into the far corner from the edge of the box.

The Hammers had their chances, with Cheikhou Kouyate hitting the crossbar before Cresswell opened the scoring, but a draw was a fair result as the visitors' verve died away after the break and the hosts came back into it.

Source: bbc.com

Diego Costa scored twice as Oscar slipped on his run up to his 80th-minute penalty

Diego Costa scored twice as Guus Hiddink's second spell as Chelsea boss started with a draw against Watford.

It could have been more for Hiddink, in charge after Jose Mourinho's sacking, had Oscar not missed a late penalty.

Spaniard Costa hooked in the opener for the Blues before Nemanja Matic's handball allowed Troy Deeney to level from the penalty spot.

Odion Ighalo's deflected shot gave the visitors the lead, only for Costa to fire in and earn Chelsea a point.

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The Blues have won just one of their last five Premier League games and are 15th in the table, just two points above the relegation zone.

Watford's run of four successive victories came to an end, but they remain seventh.

Costa full of beans

Hiddink, placed in interim charge at Stamford Bridge this week almost seven years after his first stint as manager, should have been celebrating a win upon his return to the champions.

But after Valon Behrami cut down Eden Hazard in the penalty area, Brazilian Oscar slipped on his run up to his 80th-minute penalty and hit the ball against his standing leg, slicing it clear of the crossbar.

But while Chelsea were not as fluid as they were in last week's 3-1 win over Sunderland, overseen by caretaker boss Steve Holland, they will have been buoyed by the return to form of Costa.

With just three Premier League goals this season before the game, he showed the predatory instincts that saw him score 21 times last term.

The 27-year-old opened the scoring by turning to half-volley in from six yards after John Terry knocked down Willian's corner and then timed his run perfectly to take in Willian's superb throughball and angle his shot past Heurelho Gomes for the equaliser.

Hiddink quietening Chelsea complainers?

Costa was one of three players, along with Cesc Fabregas and Oscar, who were berated last week by some Chelsea fans who were convinced the squad had cost Mourinho his job after losing nine of this season's first 16 league games.

But there was an air of positivity around Stamford Bridge, as Hiddink, who led the Blues to victory in the FA Cup final in 2009, was warmly greeted by home supporters.

The Dutchman told his players to look at themselves in the mirror this week, but barely changed the starting line-up, only bringing Gary Cahill in for Kurt Zouma in central defence.

But he seemed to give his full-backs - in particular Branislav Ivanovic - the licence to push forward and add width to his side, as he looks to pull Chelsea away from the drop zone and towards the top four before the end of the season.

Source: bbc.com