DDMA Headline Animator

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Hundreds protest in Sudanese capital

Wed Oct 12, 2011

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Hundreds of Sudanese took to the streets of central Khartoum on Tuesday to demonstrate against high food prices and to demand better public transport, witnesses said.

Protests are rare in Sudan but anger has been building over an economic crisis and spiraling inflation after the country lost most of its oil reserves to newly-independent South Sudan.

About 300 people protested in the main bus and taxi station in Khartoum to demand better public transport, witnesses said. Students from the university faculties joined the crowd to protest against food inflation.

"The students shouted: 'No to high prices. Bread, bread for the poor," a witness said, declining to be identified. Police arrived at the scene but did not interfere, he said.

Hundreds of people also protested at a bus station in the suburb of Omdurman, another witness said. The protesters then marched on a Nile bridge linking Omdurman with Khartoum and started throwing stones at private cars and police vehicles, the witness said.

Police said in a statement that a group of citizens had thrown stones at cars crossing the bridge, adding that it had prevented "acts of sabotage."

Sudan has a poor public transport system with commuters mostly relying on private taxis and mini-buses which struggle to meet demand and often get accused of overcharging.

Many Sudanese have been hit hard by inflation which reached 20.7 percent in September due to high food prices, while the Sudanese pound has dived on the black market in past weeks.

The government has reacted with a package of measures, including temporarily waiving duties on basic food imports.

But economists doubt inflation will ease much as Sudan lost most of its oil reserves when South Sudan became independent, reducing the inflow of foreign currency needed to pay for imports, leading to scarcities.

The economy is dependent on oil and small-scale gold exports. The government wants to diversify the economy but progress has been slow, which experts blame on U.S. trade sanctions and poor planning.

© Thomson Reuters 2016 All rights reserved

Source: Reuters.
Link: http://af.reuters.com/article/topNews/idAFJOE79B00420111012.

Most suspects freed in Indonesia raid as tough law pending

February 21, 2016

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian police on Sunday released most of the men detained while attending military-style training at a suspect jihadi camp, as officials lamented weaknesses in the current anti-terrorism legislation that is due to be significantly strengthened following last month's deadly attacks in Jakarta.

The elite anti-terrorism squad early Saturday detained 38 men at a suspected militant camp on the remote slopes of Mount Sumbing in Central Java province, said provincial police spokesman Col. Liliek Darmanto. Police seized air rifles, knives, and jihadi books and flags in the raid.

However, they were released early Sunday after 24-hour questioning as police were unable to prove a string of terrorism-related allegations, he said. "This is the weakness of our laws," said Saud Usman Nasution, head of the anti-terrorism agency. "We cannot arrest before they have committed a crime even though we can detect a radical network."

His agency has been pushing the government to strengthen the anti-terrorism law. It gained momentum following the Jan. 14 suicide and gun attacks in Jakarta, which left eight people dead, including four of the attackers.

In response to the attacks, Indonesia's government submitted a new anti-terrorism law to parliament this past week. The draft bill, obtained by The Associated Press, says an individual suspected of plotting to carry out an act of terrorism could be detained for up to six months without charges. If approved, it would be the first time for such a tough measure to be enacted since the downfall of dictator Suharto in 1998.

Luhut Pandjaitan, a Cabinet minister in charge of security and political affairs, said he expected lawmakers to pass the revisions within the next two months. The bill would also become an offense for Indonesians to join a militant group overseas such as the Islamic State group, or recruit others, with a maximum imprisonment of seven years. It would also authorize the anti-terrorism squad to execute raids and arrest suspects for interrogation based solely on intelligence reports.

In addition to the Central Java raid, five other suspected militants were captured late Friday in Malang, a hilly city in East Java province, said local police chief Lt. Col. Yudho Nugroho. He said police were tipped about their whereabouts after interrogating alleged militants who were arrested on suspicion of links to the Jakarta attack. National police chief Gen. Badrodin Haiti told lawmakers last week that police had arrested a total of 33 people in connection with the attack.

Among those arrested Friday was Nazarudin Mukhtar — also known as Abu Ghar. He is believed to have planned the Jakarta attack with Muhammad Ali and Afif Sunakin, who was fatally shot by by police when the two were trying to detonate a bomb in front of a Starbucks cafe, said Lt. Col. Arif Makhfudiharto, head of the anti-terrorism squad unit in West Java province.

Mukhtar, who had recently completed a prison sentence for his role in a deadly 2004 attack on a police station in Maluku province, "returned to his old ways," Arif said. He alleged Mukhtar joined a new militant cell after visiting Abu Bakar Bashir and Aman Abdurrahman, the country's most radical clerics who are now serving sentences on the Nusa Kambangan prison island.

Arif said that Mukhtar had pledged allegiance to Islamic State leaders.

Cambodia's Kampot pepper wins coveted EU protection

March 02, 2016

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodia's Kampot pepper, a go-to spice for chefs around the world, has joined an elite group of gourmet food items whose names are protected by the European Union, joining products such as Gruyere cheese from France and Parma ham from Italy.

The coveted designation, known as Protected Geographical Indication, or PGI, works like a trademark protection that certifies the origin of regional foods. It means that any product sold in EU countries calling itself "Kampot pepper" must come from a designated region in southern Cambodia that includes Kampot and neighboring Kep province.

The recognition was awarded to Kampot pepper on Feb. 18, making it the first Cambodian product to receive the label, the EU office in Cambodia said in a statement this week. The peppercorns, which come in white, red and black, are described by gourmet chefs as having a complex flavor with floral overtones. Cambodian farmers from the seaside region on the Gulf of Thailand say the area's microclimate and mineral-rich soil give the pepper its unique taste.

Like so many industries in Cambodia, Kampot pepper's production collapsed in the 1970s during the Khmer Rouge era, when an estimated 1.7 million people died at the hands of the brutal regime and the country's farmland was largely replaced by rice paddies.

The pepper industry's revival came in the 1990s, after peace was restored in Cambodia following the Khmer Rouge's 1975-79 reign of terror and years of subsequent civil war. In 2010, Cambodia's Commerce Ministry took a first step toward protecting Kampot pepper by giving it a domestically issued geographical indication status. The government applied to the EU in 2014 to expand the status to the European bloc.

"It is the first Cambodian product to receive this status in the EU, a single market of more than 500 million consumers and 28 countries," Alain Vandersmissen, charge d'affaires of the EU's delegation to Cambodia, said in an email.

"From now on, (Kampot pepper) will benefit from a very high level of protection on the EU market," he said. The pepper is also known in Khmer as Mrech Kampot and in French as Poivre de Kampot. Nguon Lay, president of the Kampot Pepper Promotion Association, sees the PGI designation as a seal of quality that will boost sales of the spice, which is currently grown by 342 families on 184 hectares (455 acres) of land in Kampot and tiny Kep province.

In 2015, the region produced 60 tons of Kampot pepper, of which 70 percent was exported, mostly to the EU, the United States and Japan. "We are delighted that our production has finally been recognized by the world's biggest market, the EU," Nguon Lay said. "The status will help improve our living standard as more and more customers become impressed with our Kampot pepper."

Associated Press writer Jocelyn Gecker in Bangkok contributed to this report.

Egyptians protest after policeman kills driver

February 19, 2016

CAIRO (AP) — Disgruntled Egyptians beat up a policeman, blocked roads, and surrounded the local security headquarters late Thursday night after the officer killed a driver in a dispute. Egypt's Interior Ministry media office said in a statement that the killing followed an argument over the sergeant's fare for his ride in Cairo's populous el-Darb el-Ahmar district. In the course of the dispute, the officer shot and killed the driver.

A second Interior Ministry statement called the shooting a "mistake." Videos posted by the el-Masry el-Youm news website showed tearful residents displaying bloodstained sections of cardboard and saying the officer had verbally insulted the driver and when the latter objected, the policeman shot the driver in the head.

Egypt state-run news agency said the policeman was arrested. The incident highlighted ongoing tensions in Egypt over the behavior of the security forces. Last week, Egyptian doctors staged a large protest after police officers assaulted two emergency room doctors in a Cairo hospital.

Human rights groups say that a culture of impunity among the Egyptian security forces has led to widespread police brutality. Trials are rare and when they do occur, sentences are usually appealed and subsequently reduced.

Unrestrained police abuses were also one of the main contributing factors in the 2011 popular uprising that ousted longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak from power. Thursday's incident comes after the body of an Italian student was found by a roadside in Cairo earlier this month, marked with cigarette burns and other signs of torture. Italy has demanded those responsible be brought to justice. Egypt has dismissed suggestions its security services could have been involved.

Egyptian protesters demand release of detained blogger, activists

By BNO News

CAIRO (BNO NEWS) -- Dozens of Egyptian protesters on Tuesday gathered outside the Cairo Military Court to express solidarity with detained activists and protested against the ruling military council, the Al-Ahram daily newspaper reported.

Members of the "Free Maikel" group waited outside the military court in which detained blogger Maikel Nabil's sentence is being appealed. Nabil, who has been on a hunger strike for 50 days and now weighs only 44 kilograms (97 pounds), was sentenced in August to three years in jail on charges of insulting the military after publishing a blog post entitled "The people and the army were never one hand."

Activists chanted slogans against Egypt's ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) as they waited outside for the verdict. They also called for the release of Ali Sultan and Khaled Saleh, two other civilians currently standing trial before military courts.

"I really don't think he'll be freed," said group member John Milad. "The authorities have been extremely stubborn in regard to Maikel's case, especially due to his opinions on Israel and the Egyptian army."

Nabil has said that he would maintain his hunger strike until his release. He also has vowed to stop drinking water as well if Tuesday's appeal trial fails to grant him his freedom, the newspaper reported.

According to reports, as many as 12,000 civilians have been hauled before military tribunals since February. Activists have been demanding that civilians only be tried by civil courts.

Last month, the Cairo-based Arabic Network for Human Rights Information noted a 'sharp decline' in freedom of opinion and expression in Egypt following the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak during a revolution earlier this year. The human rights group condemned recent measures taken by the SCAF, which was handed the power to govern Egypt after the ouster of Mubarak, such as the return of Mubarak-era emergency laws.

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Source: Wire Update.
Link: http://wireupdate.com/news/egyptian-protesters-demand-release-of-detained-blogger-activists.html.

Spain's Socialists face uphill task to form government

March 01, 2016

MADRID (AP) — Spain's Socialist party leader pledged Tuesday to bring down unemployment, roll back labor reforms enacted in the name of austerity and mount a corruption crackdown if a majority of parliamentary deputies back his bid to form a new government following an inconclusive December election.

But Pedro Sanchez faces an uphill battle because lack of support from other parties suggests he won't succeed even though the issues he highlighted are the ones Spanish voters identify as most important.

Sanchez's party came in second in the Dec. 20 election as voters angry with Spain's political status quo upended the country's traditional two-party system by giving strong support to a pair of upstarts: far-left Podemos and business-friendly Ciudadanos.

The country's Popular Party that ran the country from 2011-2015 came in first, but didn't win back its majority in the 350-seat lower house of parliament. Acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who now presides over a caretaker government, refused to try to form a government because he lacked support.

Sanchez's Socialists won 90 seats and have support from Ciudadanos, which won 40 — but that's far short of the 176 needed to win the parliamentary government formation vote Wednesday night. The Popular Party has 123 seats and Podemos has 69 and both have pledged to vote against Sanchez. The remaining 28 seats are split among smaller parties.

With Sanchez expected to lose on Wednesday, fierce negotiations are expected ahead of a second vote Friday night with different winning rules. Sanchez must then get more votes for him than against him — a lower bar which allows parties to abstain, letting a rival in power in return for concessions. Parties who oppose him in the first vote also have the option of changing tactics and voting for him in the second one.

If Sanchez fails to win confirmation in both votes, King Felipe VI has two more months to allow a party leader to try again — or call a new election for June 26. A governing alliance of parties not including the first-place winner has never happened nationally for Spain, but has at the regional and local levels.

Out in the cold: Refugees get no good news at Greek border

March 01, 2016

IDOMENI, Greece (AP) — Hassan Rasheed's papers have been cleared but the Iraqi refugee has spent days freezing in a tent with no tarp on the ground and flaps that don't close, one of 10,000 migrants stuck at a muddy camp on the border of Greece and Macedonia.

They're hoping for a breakthrough in Europe's troubled negotiations on how to handle the deepening crisis. But there was little sign of that Tuesday. Austria's chancellor insisted he would not to let his country become a "waiting room for Germany," while authorities from four ex-Yugoslav countries on the migrant route vowed closer cooperation to keep people out.

"I've been at Idomeni for 10 days and it's the fourth day I've been waiting to cross over," the 27-year-old Rasheed said. "Conditions are very bad. There are many ill children who are coughing, and we spent the night in this tent under heavy rain."

The heavily policed border, marked by a twin fence and coils of razor wire, remained closed a day after migrants attempted to push through the barriers and were forced back by Macedonian riot police using tear gas and stun grenades. Before that, sporadic closures since Feb. 19 had slowed the number allowed through to just dozens a day.

Overnight, rain soaked many families, who hung up clothing to dry Tuesday on the border fence. More exhausted refugee families continued to reach the burgeoning tent city in this Greek border town on foot or by taxi. Many walked up to 30 kilometers (18 miles) along Greece's northern highways.

Ahmed Majid, a 26-year-old Iraqi, was traveling with his wife and two young children. "We have been walking for three kilometers. Police stopped our taxi on the highway, which is why we are going through the fields," he said.

About 2,000 migrants are still reaching Greek islands from nearby Turkey every day, despite the recent deployment of NATO ships in the east Aegean Sea. European Council President Donald Tusk was in Austria on Tuesday to try to persuade Chancellor Werner Faymann to change his mind about the country's decision to accept no more than 80 asylum requests a day at Austria's southern frontier with Slovenia.

But Faymann said Austria was determined not to accept the "policy of waving through" migrants to the rest of the EU. "Austria is not a waiting room for Germany," he said. "This disorganized chaos must end. ... It's important to have clarity on the EU's external borders. (Otherwise) Austrians have to be active on their borders."

Meanwhile, Austria's interior minister, Johanna Mikl-Leitner, announced plans by her government to launch an advertising campaign in Afghanistan — including billboards, TV ads and public bus banners — to discourage Afghans from trying to reach Europe.

Tusk added a stop in Ankara to his schedule, ahead of next week's summit of leaders from the EU and Turkey on migration. To prepare for the summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was to meet French President Francois Hollande in Paris on Friday, and she remained vocally opposed to the Austrian border closure.

"We must stand with Greece," a spokesman quoted the chancellor as saying on a Twitter post. "I am therefore in constant contact with (Greek Prime Minister Alexis) Tsipras." In Athens, the government said it has requested 480 million euros ($520 million) in aid for the refugee crisis from the EU, under an emergency plan to cope with as many as 100,000 stranded refugees — roughly three times the number now stuck inside Greece.

Athens is pressing EU countries to honor pledges to accept asylum seekers directly and for Turkey to help speed up deportations. The government said 69 people from North Africa considered ineligible for asylum were deported to Turkey, with another 230 people due to be sent back by Wednesday.

The impasse in Greece drew strong criticism from the United Nations refugee agency, which warned that Europe "is on the cusp of a largely self-induced humanitarian crisis." A UNHCR statement said inconsistent policies on the continent, which faces its worst immigration crisis since the end of World War II, "are causing unnecessary suffering and risk being at variance with EU and international law standards."

New York-based Human Rights Watch blamed "discriminatory border closures" and the cap imposed by Austria for the crisis. "Trapping asylum seekers in Greece is an unconscionable and short-sighted non-solution that is causing suffering and violence," said the right's group's Greece specialist, Eva Cosse.

"It demonstrates once again the EU's utter failure to respond collectively and compassionately to refugee flows."

Jahn reported from Vienna. Associated Press writers Konstantin Testorides in Skopje, Macedonia; Jovana Gec in Belgrade, Serbia and Derek Gatopoulos, Nicholas Paphitis, and Elena Becatoros in Athens contributed to this report.

Rights groups accuse France of brutality in Calais eviction

March 01, 2016

CALAIS, France (AP) — More than a dozen humanitarian organizations on Tuesday accused authorities of brutally evicting migrants from their makeshift dwellings in a sprawling camp in northern France, as fiery protests of the demolition continued.

Thousands of migrants fleeing war and misery in their homelands use the port city of Calais as a springboard to try to get to Britain on the other side of the English Channel. However, authorities are moving to cut short that dream by closing a large swath of the slum camp in the port city of Calais.

In the stinging accusation at the close of the second day of a state-ordered mass eviction and demolition operation, the organizations charged that authorities have failed to respect their promise of a humane and progressive operation based on persuading migrants to vacate their tents and tarp-covered homes.

"Refugees, under threats and disinformation, were given one hour to 10 minutes to leave their homes," a statement said. Police pulled out some who refused, making arrests in certain cases, while others were not allowed to gather their belongings or identity papers, the statement charged.

Migrants and pro-migrant activists protested against the eviction Tuesday, some climbing onto shanty rooftops to briefly stall the tear-down, and others by starting a night fire. Tents and tarp-covered lean-tos were also set afire on Monday and earlier Tuesday.

The protesting organizations alleged that police aimed flash-balls at the roof protesters, then clubbed them and made some arrests. Tear gas, water cannons and other tactics have been used excessively, the statement charged.

Organizations respected for their humanitarian work with migrants, such as Auberge des Migrants (Migrants' Shelter), GISTI and Secours Catholique were among the 14 who signed the list of charges. The mass evictions from the southern sector of the camp were announced Feb. 12 with promises by Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve that there would be no brutality. However, the Monday start of operations came as a surprise.

The regional prefecture in charge of the demolition says the hundreds of police present are needed to protect workers in the tear-down and state employees advising migrants of their options. France's government has offered to relocate uprooted migrants into heated containers nearby or to centers around France where they can decide whether to apply for asylum. Officials have blamed activists from the group No Borders for the ongoing unrest. But many migrants resist French offers of help, afraid of hurting their chances of reaching Britain.

Officials say the evictions concern 800-1,000 migrants, but organizations working in the camp say the real number is more than 3,000. A court has ordered that common places like houses of worship, schools and a library that have sprung up must not be destroyed.

The city bordering the Channel has ferry links and the Eurotunnel rail to England, and is temporary home to an estimated 4,000 migrants, down from 6,000 in December. The camp has become a flashpoint between France and Britain, fueling far-right support in both countries.

"This operation will continue in coming days, calmly and methodically, providing a place for everyone as the government has committed," French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said in a statement Tuesday.

Elaine Ganley in Paris contributed to this report.

NASA spaceman back from record year flight; gives thumbs up

March 01, 2016

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Astronaut Scott Kelly returned to Earth on Wednesday after an unprecedented year in space for NASA, landing in barren Kazakhstan with a Russian cosmonaut who shared his whole space station journey.

Their Soyuz capsule parachuted onto the central Asian steppes and ended a science-rich mission at the International Space Station that began last March and was deemed a steppingstone to Mars. It was a triumphant homecoming for Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko after 340 days in space. Kelly pumped his fist as he emerged from the capsule, then gave a thumbs-up. He smiled and chatted with his doctors and others as photographers crushed around him in the freezing cold.

"The air feels great out here," NASA spokesman at the scene, Rob Navias, quoted Kelly as saying. "I have no idea why you guys are all bundled up." Clearly animated and looking well, he said he didn't feel much different than he did after his five-month station mission five years ago.

Kelly and Kornienko had checked out of the space station 3½ hours earlier. In total, they traveled 144 million miles through space, circled the world 5,440 times and experienced 10,880 orbital sunrises and sunsets during the longest single spaceflight by an American.

Kelly posted one last batch of sunrise photos Tuesday on Twitter, before quipping, "I gotta go!" His final tweet from orbit came several hours later: "The journey isn't over. Follow me as I rediscover # Earth!"

Piloting the Soyuz capsule home for Kelly, 52, and Kornienko, 55, was the much fresher and decade younger cosmonaut Sergey Volkov, whose space station stint lasted the typical six months. The two yearlong spacemen faced a series of medical tests following touchdown. Before committing to even longer Mars missions, NASA wants to know the limits of the human body for a year, minus gravity.

As he relinquished command of the space station Monday, Kelly noted that he and Kornienko "have been up here for a really, really long time" and have been jokingly telling one another, "We did it!" and "We made it!"

"A year now seems longer than I thought it would be," Kelly confided a couple weeks ago. Not quite a year — 340 days to be precise, based on the Russian launch and landing schedule. But still record-smashing for NASA.

Kelly's closest U.S. contender trails him by 125 days. Russia continues to rule, however, when it comes to long-duration spaceflight. The world record of 438 days was set by a Russian doctor during the mid-1990s.

"A really smart person said to me one time, 'Teamwork makes the dreamwork in spaceflight,' and spaceflight is the biggest team sport there is," Kelly said Monday. He acknowledged each of the 13 U.S., Russian, European and Japanese space fliers with whom he and Kornienko lived during the past year. "It's incredibly important that we all work together to make what is seemingly impossible, possible."

For NASA, that mission possible is Mars. Scientists are hoping for more one-year subjects as NASA gears up for human expeditions to Mars in the 2030s. Radiation will be a top challenge, along with the body and mind's durability on what will be a 2½-year journey round trip. With his one-year mission, Kelly has "helped us take one giant leap toward putting boots on Mars," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement.

The choice of the pioneering Kelly turned out to be a bonanza. His identical twin, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, offered himself up as a medical guinea pig so researchers could study the differences between the genetic doubles, one in space and the other on the ground. They provided blood, saliva and urine samples, underwent ultrasounds and bone scans, got flu shots and more, all in the name of science.

"My brother @StationCDRKelly is back home on our planet! Talk about aliens. He's been off the planet for a year," Mark Kelly joked via Twitter. Kelly and Kornienko were due to split up later Wednesday. Kelly heads to Houston with two flight surgeons and several other NASA reps, arriving late Wednesday night. That's where he'll be reunited with his two daughters, ages 21 and 12; his girlfriend, a NASA public affairs representative at Johnson Space Center; and his brother and his brother's wife, former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

"Excited to welcome him back in Houston," Giffords tweeted. Kornienko returns to his home in Star City, Russia, near Moscow, to his wife, daughter and toddler grandson. Kelly has spent more time in space, altogether, than any other American: 520 days over the course of four missions. Realizing this is likely his last journey, it was "a little bittersweet" saying goodbye to his orbiting home. He'll have plenty of pictures, at least, for the scrapbook — he posted 1,000 dramatic, color-drenched pictures of Earth on his Twitter and Instagram accounts.

"What a ride he took us on!" fellow astronaut Reid Wiseman said in a tweet from Houston. "Those of us who dream of sending astronauts to deep space thank Scott Kelly for his sacrifice," said Jim Green, director of planetary science for NASA, "and are thrilled to welcome him home."