Saturday , 23 March 2019
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French mayor quits over nude photos sent to woman

A mayor in northwest France close to Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has resigned after several nude pictures of him were released by a woman who claims she was the victim of unwanted advances.

Philippe’s office Friday welcomed the resignation, describing it as a “responsible decision”.

Luc Lemonnier, a 50-year-old father of four who replaced Philippe as mayor of the Channel port city of Le Havre in 2017, announced his resignation on Thursday in order to “protect his family.”

He denied improper behaviour, saying “the exchange of messages occurred without any coercive intent and between consenting adults.”

Lemonnier had filed a libel suit last June over the publication of the text messages, though prosecutors later dropped the case.

“Municipal council members received a picture of the mayor along with a description of behaviours which he denies,” Lemonnier’s lawyer Christian Saint-Palais told AFP.

But the woman who released the photos said she felt she had no other option.

“It was a very difficult situation,” she told a local radio station this week, on condition of anonymity.

“I’ve been married for more than 20 years, I have children and our relationship is fulfilling — I was not involved at all in any games of seduction,” she said.

The mayor’s resignation is an embarrassment for the centrist Republic on the Move government which is hoping to win over Philippe’s former political stronghold in the 2020 municipal elections.

Before signing on as prime minister to President Emmanuel Macron in 2017, Philippe served, both as mayor and as a member of parliament for Le Havre, as a member of the conservative party the Republicans.

New Zealand PM Ardern receives death threats

The New Zealand Police are investigating death threats sent to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on social media, local media reported on Friday.

A Twitter post containing a photo of a gun and caption “You are next’’ was sent to the prime minister.

The post had been up for over 48 hours before the sender’s Twitter account was suspended after it was reported by various people.

According to the report, the suspended account contained anti-Islamic contents and white supremacist hate speeches.

Terror attacks hit New zealand’s Christchurch recently, killing no fewer than 50 people and injuring 50 others.

In the aftermath of the terror attacks, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern vowed to change the gun law in the country.

Ardern announced on Thursday that military style semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles are to be banned in New Zealand.

Kenyan President Kenyatta quits social media

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Friday suspended his social media accounts citing infiltration by unauthorised individuals.

Kenyatta has been active on social media platforms, Twitter and Facebook, where he has millions of followers, earning the tag ‘digital president’.

“On the account of unauthorised access to official social media handles of the President of the Republic of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, all official social media handles of the president have been suspended.

“Although remedial measures were being taken to restore them,’’ Nzioka Waita, State House Chief of Staff, said in a statement posted on social media.

Kenyatta, before the suspension, had posted on Twitter and Facebook his resolve to fight corrupt officials noting he will not spare even his friends, a message that generated heated reactions.

The Kenyan leader has pledged to reinvigorate the war against graft during his second and final term in office.

Alan Krueger, Obama’s economic adviser commits suicide

Alan Krueger, a prominent Princeton University economics professor who advised U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, took his own life over the weekend, his family said in a statement on Monday. He was 58.

The statement did not elaborate about the circumstances of Krueger’s death, nor did the university when confirming it earlier in the day.

Krueger served in the last two Democratic administrations – as chief economist for the U.S. Department of Labor during the Clinton era and as chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers for Obama.

“It is with tremendous sadness we share that Professor Alan B. Krueger, beloved husband, father, son, brother, and Princeton professor of economics took his own life over the weekend,” his family said in the statement furnished by the university.

“The family requests the time and space to grieve and remember him.”

He had taught economics at Princeton since 1987. Last week, Krueger delivered a lecture at Stanford University in California on income distribution and labour market regulation titled “Why is Basic Universal Income So Controversial?”

“Alan was recognised as a true leader in his field, known and admired for both his research and teaching,” Princeton said in a statement.

An avid music fan, Krueger posted about Bruce Springsteen and other rock stars on Twitter and wove David Bowie into his lectures. He made this passion the subject of his latest research in his forthcoming book on economics and the music industry, due to be released in June.

Krueger received numerous awards, including the Kershaw Prize from the Association for Public Policy and Management in 1997 for distinguished contributions to public policy analysis by someone under the age of 40.

He is survived by his wife, Lisa, and two children.


Nirav Modi, Indian fugitive billionaire arrested in London

Indian Fugitive billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi had been arrested in London on behalf of his country’s authorities, British police said on Wednesday.

India had asked Britain in August to extradite Modi, one of the main suspects charged in the $2 billion loan fraud at state-run Punjab National Bank (PNB), India’s biggest banking fraud.

Police said Modi, 48, had been arrested in the Holborn area of central London on Tuesday and was due to appear at London’s Westminster Magistrates Court on Wednesday.

Punjab National Bank, India’s second-largest state-run bank, in 2018 said that two jewellery groups headed by Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi had defrauded it by raising credit from other Indian banks using illegal guarantees issued by rogue PNB staff.

Modi and Choksi, who have both denied wrongdoing, left India before the details of the fraud became public.

In December, a British court agreed that another high-profile Indian businessman, aviation tycoon Vijay Mallya, could be extradited to his homeland to face fraud charges.

Mallya is currently appealing the decision.

Cyclone Idai kills over 1000 in Mozambique, 89 in Zimbabwe

Cyclone Idai caused more havoc than initially reported as Mozambique reported than over a thousand people may have been killed as the cyclone smashed into the central part of the country.

In neighbouring Zimbabwe, Idai left 89 dead and at least 150 more missing.

The city of Beira in central Mozambique bore Cyclone Idai’s full wrath on Thursday before the storm barrelled on to neighbouring Zimbabwe, unleashing fierce winds and flash floods and washing away roads and houses.

“For the moment we have registered 84 deaths officially, but when we flew over the area … this morning to understand what’s going on, everything indicates that we could register more than 1,000 deaths,”Mozambican President Felipe Nyusi said in a nationwide address.

Cyclone Idai damaged aircraft at Beira Airport in Mozambique

“The scale of damage… (in) Beira is massive and horrifying”, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said.

Ninety percent of the city of some 530,000 people and its surrounding area has been “damaged or destroyed,” it said in a statement.

“The situation is terrible. The scale of devastation is enormous,” the IFRC’s Jamie LeSueur said.

“Almost everything is destroyed. Communication lines have been completely cut and roads have been destroyed. Some affected communities are not accessible.”

A large dam burst on Sunday and cut off the last road to Beira, he said.

Sofala Province governor Alberto Mondlane warned that the “biggest threat we have now, even bigger than the cyclone, is floods because it’s raining more and more”.

Emma Beaty, coordinator of a grouping of NGOs known as Cosaco, said: “We’ve never had something of this magnitude before in Mozambique”.

“Some dams broke, and others have reached full capacity, they’ll very soon open the flood gates. It’s a convergence of flooding, cyclones, dams breaking and making a potential wave: everything’s in place so we get a perfect storm,” she said.

Mozambique’s environment minister, Celso Correia, has also warned that the death tally would rise.

“I think this is the biggest natural disaster Mozambique has ever faced. Everything is destroyed,” he told AFP on Sunday night at Beira international airport, which re-opened after being temporarily closed because of cyclone damage.

“Flying roofing sheets beheaded people,” Rajino Paulino recounting the moment the cyclone smashed into the city.

“We are sleeping rough, we are eating poorly and we don’t have houses anymore.”

In Zimbabwe, Idai swept away homes and ripped bridges to pieces, leaving destruction that the acting defence minister, Perrance Shiri, said “resembles the aftermath of a full-scale war”.

“There was a lot of destruction both on our facilities and on people,” said Shiri speaking on television from the affected eastern highlands region.

Some roads were swallowed up by massive sinkholes, while bridges were ripped to pieces by flash floods, according to an AFP photographer.

“This is the worst infrastructural damage we have ever had,” Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Joel Biggie Matiza said.

The eastern district of Chimanimani was worst-hit, with houses and most of the region’s bridges washed away by flash floods.

The most affected areas are not yet accessible, and high winds and dense clouds have hampered military rescue helicopter flights.

Two pupils and a worker at a secondary school in the area were among those killed after a landslide sent a boulder crashing into their dormitory.

Soldiers on Sunday helped rescue the surviving nearly 200 pupils, teachers and staff who had been trapped at the school in Chimanimani.

Joshua Sacco, lawmaker for Chimanimani, told AFP that between “150 to 200 people” are missing.

The majority of them are thought to be government workers, whose housing complex was completely engulfed by raging waters. Their fate is currently unknown because the area is still unreachable.

“We are very worried because all these houses were just suddenly submerged under water and literally washed away and that is where we have about 147 missing,” he said.

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who cut short a visit to Abu Dhabi, said on arrival on Monday, “we are deeply grieved as a nation”.

But the government has come under fire for failing to move timesously to evacuate people.

The main labour movement,the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions said the disaster was avoidable.

“Authorities knew about the cyclone weeks before it struck, but did absolutely nothing to prepare for its eventuality,” it said.

How Nigerian Imam escaped death in New Zealand mosque attack

The Imam of one of the Christchurch, New Zealand mosques attacked by a terrorist on Friday is a Nigerian.

Lateef Alabi who is the Linwood mosque’s acting Imam was leading the congregation in prayers on the fateful day when terrorist Brenton Tarrant struck.

Alabi said the death toll would have been far higher at the mosque but for a worshipper, Abdul Aziz, 48, who grabbed Tarrant’s gun and forced him away from a mosque.

Aziz’s action terminated the killing spree.

Alabi said he heard a voice outside the mosque at about 1.55pm and stopped the prayer he was leading and looked out the window, the London Mail reported yesterday.

He saw a man in black military-style gear and a helmet holding a large gun and assumed it was a police officer.

Then he saw two bodies and heard the gunman yelling obscenities.

“I realised this is something else. This is a killer,” Alabi said and shouted at the congregation of more than 80 people to get down.

They hesitated only for a shot to be fired by Tarrant, shattering a window and felling a worshipper.

That what when it dawned on the congregation that they were under attack.

“Then this brother came over,” he said of the moment Aziz could no longer bear the unfolding scenario.

“He (Aziz) went after him, and he managed to overpower him, and that’s how we were saved.

“Otherwise, if he managed to come into the mosque, then we would all probably be gone.”

Also reporting on the tragedy, the Sunday State Times quoted Alabi as saying that grieving families of the mosque terrorist attack victims are anxious to be reunited with their loved ones.

“Everybody is angry, everybody is upset of course, and they want to see their dead ones and just want to pay their last respects and let them go to the grave, but the police have to complete their work and go through the normal procedure before they are released,” he said.

Alabi said the community leaders had requested the process be done as quickly as possible.

“We just request the bodies shouldn’t be too long in the mosque because the bodies are still lying over there and eventually it will be too difficult to wash the bodies and take to the burial and probably things will start deteriorating, that’s the worry.”

He and other leaders wanted the mosques re-opened with increased security.

“I’m very sad for what has happened, but I believe this country is a peaceful country and I hope something good will happen after that and the security will become tighter.”

“They just want to express the anxiety and the pain they are going through … that’s all. Our people are very good; it’s not that they are angry with the police or the work they are doing. They just want to see … just to know that … ok, my father is gone, my brother is gone … so I just want to get him beneath the ground, beneath the earth.”

No time for the release of the bodies for burial had been agreed, but Alabi said it would “probably” start from Sunday.

Alabi became emotional talking about the grieving families. “I never thought this would happen in New Zealand, never, never, never, believe me.

“But it’s happened, it’s happened, so it will happen anywhere and …. we just feel bad about those who have passed away … and for their families … I will pray for them.”

The volunteer imam said he was in the middle of prayers when he saw the gunman outside the mosque. “He shot one brother coming towards the mosque; he shot him from the head.

“I stopped my prayer, I peeked through the window, and I saw the person with a machine gun, heavily dressed. By the time I looked on the ground and saw dead bodies I thought this is something else, this is a terrorist.”

Alabi told everyone inside to “get down”, but it wasn’t until the gunman shot someone through a side window that everyone dropped to the floor.

He said the gunman ran out of bullets and dropped his gun. A man inside the mosque followed the shooter as he left the mosque. He picked up the machine gun and smashed it into the gunman’s car windscreen. After the gunman ran away, Alabi returned to the mosque.

“I started picking up the bodies to know who was dead and who was alive.”

Alabi said he had never expected to experience a terrorist attack in New Zealand.

“I’m very sad for what has happened, but I believe this country is a peaceful country and I hope something good will happen after that and the security will become tighter.”

It would take some time and lots of reassurance before many members would feel safe to return to the mosques.

“Probably even going to the mosque will be hard for members unless some serious security is provided.”

“I believe New Zealand will do it. The PM has promised it, and she will do it,” he said.

Aziz, the man who stood up to the terrorist is being hailed a hero for preventing more deaths at the Linwood mosque, although he says he is not one.

He thinks it is what anyone would have done.

At least 49 people were killed after Tarrant allegedly attacked two mosques in the deadliest mass shooting in New Zealand since 1983.

Trump, May, World leaders condemn New Zealand’s mosque attack

U.S. President, Donald Trump,  British Prime Minister, Theresa May and other world leaders on Friday condemned the mosque shootings in New Zealand that left 49 people dead a “sickening act of violence.”

Trump on his twitter handle @RealDonaldTrump said that the attack was senseless. While commiserating with those that died, he pledged the support of the U.S. to New Zealand.

“My warmest sympathy and best wishes goes out to the people of New Zealand after the horrible massacre in the Mosques. 49 innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured. The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!

Donald J. Trump


My warmest sympathy and best wishes goes out to the people of New Zealand after the horrible massacre in the Mosques. 49 innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured. The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!

46.5K people are talking about this

For the UK Prime Minister, May, she wrote: “On behalf of the UK, my deepest condolences to the people of New Zealand after the horrifying terrorist attack in Christchurch,” May tweeted on Friday.

“My thoughts are with all of those affected by this sickening act of violence.’’

German Chancellor, Angela Merkel has expressed sorrow over the “citizens who were attacked and murdered out of racist hatred’’ in attacks on two mosques in New Zealand that killed many.

“We stand together against such acts of terrorism,” Merkel said through her spokesman, Steffen Seibert, on Twitter.
She added that the victims had been doing nothing more than “peacefully praying in their mosque.”

Turkish President, Recep Erdogan urged leaders to take measures against what he called the “dangerous trend” of Muslims being targets of attacks, particularly in Western societies.

His comments came in the wake of attacks on two mosques in New Zealand that killed at least 49 people.

“It is clear that the perception represented by the murderer [in New Zealand] … has started to swiftly take over Western societies like a cancer,” Erdogan said.

“We urge the whole world, the Western countries in particular, to take urgent measures against such dangerous trend.”
EU Council President, Donald Tusk, says New Zealand has Europe’s “solidarity” following the twin mosque attack that left at least 49 people dead in Christchurch.

“Harrowing news from New Zealand overnight. The brutal attack in Christchurch will never diminish the tolerance and decency that New Zealand is famous for.

“Our thoughts in Europe are with the victims and their families,” he tweeted.

Tusk said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern “can count on our solidarity.”

Sri Lankan Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, on Friday offered his deepest condolences to the government and people of New Zealand following the multiple shootings in Christchurch, which left many dead and 48 others injured.

In a statement, Wickremesinghe said New Zealand is a country with a strong history of peace, multiculturalism and tolerance and there was no doubt that its people will not allow this incident to undermine those values.

In the wake of the heinous attacks, Wickremesinghe said he also offered his support to New Zealand.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the incident was one of New Zealand’s darkest days.

Saudi Arabia on Friday said that one of its nationals was injured in the attack that targeted two mosques in New Zealand.

The Saudi embassy in New Zealand revealed in a statement posted on its Twitter account that the citizen sustained minor injuries without revealing its identity.

It called upon Saudis in the Christchurch city where the attack took place to be cautious, follow the local authorities’ instructions and stay at home until situations are back to normal.

The embassy also asked its nationals to contact the embassy in case of emergency.

Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has expressed his “heartfelt sympathies” for New Zealand following the attacks in Christchurch.

The terrorist attack in Christchurch has left 49 dead and 48 injured on Friday, New Zealand police said.

“We grieve, we are shocked, we are appalled, we are outraged, and we stand here and condemn absolutely the attack that occurred today by an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist,” Morrison on Friday.

“This attack reminds us of the evil that his ever present and would seek to strike out at any time.”

“I particularly want to express my sincere prayers and thoughts for those New Zealanders, indeed Australians of Islamic faith today, who have been the subject of this callous right-wing extremist attack.”

New Zealand Police Minister, Mike Bush, confirmed that three men and one woman were in police custody in relation to the multiple shootings at two separate mosques in central Christchurch.

Bush said he was aware that the footage of the Al-Noor Mosque shooting was on social media and police were doing everything they could to get it removed.

“I found the advice of the New Zealand police force to be particularly wise.

“They have said, and I agree, and do not allow this evil into our lives. Do not share the footage. Do not watch the footage,” Bill Shorten, leader of the opposition Australian Labor Party, said.

PROFILE: Tarrant, the gym instructor ‘who killed 49’ in New Zealand

Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian, is suspected to be the gunman behind the horrific attack that left 49 persons dead in the New Zealand city of Christchurch on Friday. The suspect invaded two mosques during a coordinated and unprecedented attack.

Tarrant reportedly worked as a personal trainer at Big River Gym in the northern New South Wales city of Grafton.

Tracey Gray, gym manager, told ABC News the man who filmed the attack and streamed it online was Tarrant, who worked at the gym after he graduated from school in 2009 until 2011, when he left to go travelling overseas in Asia and in Europe.

“He was a very dedicated personal trainer,” Gray said.

“He worked in our program that offered free training to kids in the community, and he was very passionate about that.”

The gym manager said she never saw Tarrant as someone who had an interest in firearms.

“I think something must have changed in him during the years he spent travelling overseas,” she said.

The suspect during a trip to Pakistan last year

Tarrant was said to have lost his father Rodney to some kind of asbestos-related illness when he was rounding off high school.

He left his job after making some money from Bitconnect, a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, and then used the money to fund his travels. He is known to have travelled to Europe, South-East Asia and East Asia.

What he said about himself in the manifesto

In a 74-page manifesto, believed to have been written by him, Tarrant described himself as a “regular white man, from a regular family” who was born in Australia to a “working class, low-income family”.

“My parents are of Scottish, Irish and English stock. I had a regular childhood, without any great issues. I had little interest in education during my schooling, barely achieving a passing grade,” he said.

“I am just a regular White man, from a regular family. Who decided to take a stand to ensure a future for my people.”

The author of the manifesto went on to describe himself as “a private and mostly introverted person” and admits he is racist, adding that he is an “Eco-fascist by nature”.

He described himself as an ethnonationalist and a fascist, who was inspired by Norwegian shooter Anders Breivik.

49 shot dead as gunmen invade New Zealand mosques

Mass shootings at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch have left 49 people dead.

Jacinda Ardern, prime minister of New Zealand also told a news conference that about 20 people were in a serious condition after the “terrorist” attack, making for “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”

“What has happened here is an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence,” she said, adding that the attackers have “no place in New Zealand.”

“For now my thoughts and I’m sure the thoughts of all New Zealanders are with those who have been affected their families,” she said.

It was gathered that a heavily armed gunman clad in military-style gear opened fire at a mosque in the center of Christchurch on Friday. A second mosque was also targeted.

Prior to the shooting, videos and documents were shared on social media which seem to suggest that the shooter live-streamed his attack on Facebook coupled with a prepared an anti-immigrant “manifesto.”

The social media posts show images of weapons and ammunition, as well as the name of perpetrators of past mass-casualty shootings.

As of press time, Facebook has taken down the videos.

“Police are aware there is extremely distressing footage relating to the incident in Christchurch circulating online,” a police statement read.

“We would strongly urge that the link not be shared. We are working to have any footage removed.”

Meanwhile, Mike Bush, New Zealand police commissioner said four people (three men and one woman) have been taken into custody while investigation is ongoing.

Cardinal jailed six years for child sex abuse

Cardinal George Pell, the most senior Vatican official to be convicted of sex abuse to date, has been sentenced to six years in prison for the “callous” assault of two choirboys in the late 1990s
A former senior adviser to Pope Francis, Pell showed no reaction when Chief Judge Peter Kidd handed down his sentence in a hearing broadcast live worldwide on Wednesday from Victoria’s County Court in central Melbourne.
Pell, 77, was found guilty of one count of sexual penetration of a child and four counts of committing an indecent act with a child last December after a secret five-week trial.
Reporting of the trial and verdict was suppressed by the court to avoid prejudicing a second trial, which crown prosecutors abandoned in February after the judge ruled some prosecution evidence couldn’t be submitted.
On Wednesday, Judge Kidd said Pell’s attack on the victims was “breathtakingly arrogant” adding that the cardinal had assaulted the boys with “callous indifference to the victims’ distress.”
But the judge said Pell was “not to be made a scapegoat for any failings or perceived failings of the Catholic Church.”
Outside the court, survivors of Catholic sex abuse who had attended the hearing were divided on the sentence. Some felt it was too light, while others were happy to see justice being done. “I would have been happy with one month, one week,” one said.
In a statement after the sentencing, the surviving victim said it was hard for him “to take comfort in this outcome.”
“There is no rest for me,” he said through his lawyer, Vivian Waller. “I’m doing my best to hold myself and my family together.”
Until last month Pell held the role of Vatican treasurer, considered by many to be the third most senior position within the Roman Catholic church.
Pell’s legal team has previously announced it will appeal his conviction on three grounds, including that the jury’s verdict on all five charges was unreasonable, based on the evidence submitted.
The Court of Appeal is due to hear submissions in early June.

12,000 Indian farmers commit suicide

About 12,000 farmers in India’s southwestern state of Maharashtra committed suicide between 2015 and 2018, a 91-percent jump compared with 2011-2014.

The new figures were revealed in a report quoting a letter to the National Human Rights Commission by the Maharashtra government.

According to the report under the Right to Information on Thursday, the number of farmer’s suicide rose sharply to 11,995 from January 2015 till the end of 2018 while the same was 6,268 during 2011-2014.

The rural distress among farmers related to credit, cost and crop pattern along with issues of health, unemployment and climate has led to the rising number of suicides, said Kishore Tiwari, head of the farmers association from the state.

In June 2017, the state government announced a farm loan waiver and was working toward making the state drought free by 2019 through its water conservation program.

Maharashtra is the second most populous state and third largest by area in the country. According to the last available agriculture census of 2010-2011, there were 13.6 million farming families in the state.

Cardinal convicted of covering up sex abuse allegations

A high-ranking French Catholic cleric, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, was convicted on Thursday for failing to report allegations of sexual abuse in his diocese and said he would submit his resignation to Pope Francis.

Barbarin, Archbishop of Lyon and the highest-profile cleric to be caught up in the child sex abuse scandal inside the French Catholic Church, was handed a six-month suspended prison sentence.

The court in Lyon ruled that between July 2014 and June 2015 Barbarin covered up allegations of sexual abuse of boy scouts in the 1980s and early 1990s by a priest, who is due to go on trial later this year.

Barbarin was not present for the verdict but his lawyer, Jean-Felix Luciani, said he would appeal the ruling.

He denied concealing allegations that Father Bernard Preynat abused dozens of boys more than a decade before he arrived in the Lyon diocese in 2002.

Preynat has admitted sexual abuse, according to his lawyer.
Barbarin told a brief news conference he would travel to the Vatican to meet Pope Francis in the next few days and resign.

The victims and their families were in his prayers, he added.

There was no immediate word from the Vatican on whether Francis would accept the resignation, which could remove Barbarin from his post as archbishop but leave him with the rank of cardinal.

Prosecutors in Lyon had previously investigated Barbarin but dropped the probe in mid-2016 without a detailed explanation.

However, an association of alleged victims called Parole Liberee (Freed Word) used a provision of French law to compel the cardinal to stand trial.

“This will send a strong message to the Church and to the pope,” said abuse victim Francois Devaux, applauding the verdict.

Barbarin’s trial put Europe’s senior clergy in the spotlight at a time when the pope is grappling with criticism over the Church’s response to a sexual abuse crisis that has gravely damaged its standing around the globe.

Francis ended a conference on clergy abuse of children in February with a call for an “all-out battle” against a crime that should be “erased from the face of the earth.”

Victims said the pope had merely repeated old promises and offered few new concrete proposals.

Barbarin told the trial he only became aware of Preynat’s abuses in 2014 after a conversation with one victim.

Before that, he said, he had only heard rumours. He removed Preynat from his post a year later, when the allegations became public.

The scandal is the subject of Francois Ozon’s film “Grace A Dieu” (By The Grace of God) which won the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize at the Berlin International Film Festival in February.

British museum to return Ethiopian Emperor’s hair after 150 years

A British museum has agreed to repatriate to Ethiopia two locks of hair taken from the head of the 19th-century widely revered  Emperor Tewodros II  some 150 years ago.

History has it that Tewodros chose to kill himself rather than give himself up to the British after the capture in 1868 of Maqdala, his mountain capital, in order to rescue some Europeans taken captive.

Hundreds of treasures were plundered by the British, including a gold crown and a wedding dress, which are in the collection of the V&A.

Ethiopia lodged a formal request in 2008 at various British institutions for the return of the treasures worth millions of dollars taken from the site.

The announcement comes at the end of a year-long commemorations marking 150 years since the Battle of Maqdala.

According to BBC, the National Army Museum on Monday said it had agreed to a formal request for the return of objects “considered to be of cultural sensitivity to Ethiopian citizens”.

Terri Dendy, head of collections at the museum, said: “Our decision to repatriate is very much based on the desire to inter the hair within the tomb alongside the emperor.

“Having spent considerable time researching the provenance and cultural sensitivities around this matter, we believe the Ethiopian government claim to repatriate is reasonable and we are pleased to be able to assist.”

The historic  Battle of Magdala, which resulted in  the fall of Emperor Tewodros, was the conclusion of the British expedition to Abyssinia.

The expedition  witnessed the battle between British and Abyssinian forces at Magdala in 1868.

In the mid-19th Century, Emperor Tewodros II had decided to modernise his empire, Abyssinia, by opening up relations with the British, but his letter to Queen Victoria requesting munitions and military experts  was ignored.

In protest,  the emperor detained the British consul and other missionaries, and Britain reacted by sending an army to the emperor’s fortress in Maqdala.

The Magdala invasion, often described as the largest military offensive by the British empire in Africa, saw  13,000 troops  deployed to free the British hostages as well as  capture and loot the emperor’s fortress.

The British were led by Robert Napier while  the Abyssinians were led by Emperor Tewodros II.

As the British won the battle,  Tewodros chose to take his life rather than give himself up to the British as prisoner of war.

Tewodros’s seven-year-old son, Prince Alemayehu, was also taken after the Battle of Maqdala and became a favourite of Queen Victoria.

The young prince, however,  died of pleuritis at 18 and was buried at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle at the request of  Queen Victoria.

Trump, Kim summit ends in fiasco

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un failed to reach an agreement on denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula at their summit in Vietnam on Thursday, the White House said.

Earlier, both Trump and Kim had expressed hope for progress on improving relations and on the key issue of denuclearisation, in their talks in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi.

“The two leaders discussed various ways to advance denuclearisation and economic driven concepts,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.

“No agreement was reached at this time, but their respective teams look forward to meeting in the future.”

Trump had been scheduled to hold a “joint agreement signing ceremony” with Kim at the conclusion of their summit talks, according to an earlier White House announcement.

Both leaders left the venue of their talks, the French-colonial-era Metropole hotel, at 1.25 p.m. (0625), without attending a planned lunch together, and returned to their hotels.

News of the change in schedule sent South Korea’s currency lower and knocked regional stock markets.

Earlier Kim and Trump, seated across from each other at a conference table, appeared confident of progress.

“If I’m not willing to do that, I won’t be here right now,” Kim told reporters through an interpreter, when asked if he was ready to give up his nuclear weapons.

Trump, responding to that, said: “That might be the best answer you’ve ever heard.”

Kim did not elaborate on what “denuclearization” would entail, but asked if he was ready to take concrete steps, Kim said they had just been talking about that.

While the United States is demanding North Korea give up all of its nuclear and missile programs, the North wants to see the removal of a U.S. nuclear umbrella for its Asian allies such as South Korea and Japan.

The two leaders’ summit in Singapore in June, the first between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader, produced a vague statement in which Kim pledged to work toward denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

But there has been little progress since then.

Trump’s lawyer, Cohen says president is a conman, racist

Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen called the US president a conman, a cheat and a racist in explosive congressional testimony on Wednesday, saying he was ashamed of a decade of working for the real estate billionaire.

Trump’s disgraced former fixer was giving evidence as Congress prepares for the final report from a probe into possible collusion between his campaign and Russia — and with the president in Vietnam for a second historic summit with North Korea.

Cohen — who is about to go to jail for three years after admitting financial crimes and lying to Congress — said Trump directed him in an illegal scheme to pay hush money to a porn star, and knew in advance in 2016 that WikiLeaks would publish dirt on Hillary Clinton, despite Trump’s denials of both.

He also said Trump directed negotiations for a Trump Tower in Moscow through the 2016 election campaign even while denying any business ties with the Russians.

Cohen said Trump implicitly directed him to lie about the project, and that White House lawyers “reviewed and edited” his testimony in 2017 when he lied to Congress about the Trump Tower negotiations.

But Cohen, 52, also said he had no direct evidence that Trump or his 2016 campaign colluded with Russians — the central focus of Justice Department and congressional investigations.

Cohen told lawmakers he was “ashamed” of his decade-long role as the president’s personal lawyer and “fixer” for sensitive problems.

“I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is. He is a racist. He is a conman. He is a cheat,” Cohen said.

“Today, I am here to tell the truth about Mr. Trump,” he said.

Democratic Chairman Elijah Cummings said Cohen’s testimony was “deeply disturbing, and it should be troubling to all.

“If it is as explosive as it appears to be, I think that it is the beginning of an impeachment process,” Democratic Representative Jackie Speier, another member of the panel, told NPR radio early Wednesday.

Trump, in Hanoi for a second nuclear summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, responded to the early release of the testimony by trying to discredit Cohen.

“Michael Cohen was one of many lawyers who represented me (unfortunately),” Trump tweeted.

“He was just disbarred by the State Supreme Court for lying & fraud. He did bad things unrelated to Trump. He is lying in order to reduce his prison time.”

– Republican threats –

Cohen appeared drawn as he began his testimony before the House of Representatives Oversight Committee, the only open and televised hearing of three scheduled for him this week on Capitol Hill.

On Tuesday he spent eight hours behind closed doors at the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign’s behavior.

On Thursday he will testify in a closed session at the House Intelligence Committee, also investigating Russian election interference, as well as Trump’s business relations with Russians.

Cohen’s testimony was greeted by a hail of counterattacks from Republicans.

Late Tuesday Representative Matt Gaetz, a close Trump ally, tweeted a veiled threat addressed to Cohen.

“Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she’ll remain faithful when you’re in prison. She’s about to learn a lot,” Gaetz wrote.

Democrats expressed outrage at the tweet, accusing Gaetz of illegal witness intimidation.

– Focus on Trump and Russians –

Addressing a key focus of the federal and congressional investigations into Russian meddling, Cohen said he did not have “direct evidence” of collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

“But I have my suspicions,” he added.

He said he believes that Trump was informed ahead of time about a meeting between his campaign and a Russian lawyer peddling “dirt” on Trump’s election rival Hillary Clinton.

And he said he was present in mid-2016 when Republican campaign consultant Roger Stone called Trump to inform him that WikiLeaks was about to publish damaging information on Clinton that it got from Russian hackers.

“Mr. Trump responded by stating to the effect of ‘wouldn’t that be great,’” Cohen said.

On race, Cohen said America has seen Trump woo white supremacists and bigots but that in private “he is even worse.”

“He once asked me if I could name a country run by a black person that wasn’t a ‘shithole.’ This was when Barack Obama was president of the United States,” Cohen said.

Russian Navy develops weapon that can make attackers hallucinate, vomit

The Russian Navy has developed a new weapon, a “visual optical interference” device, named Filin 5P-42, that can disrupt the eyesight of targets as well as make them hallucinate and vomit.

The weapon’s name “Filin” translates to “Eagle Owl” in English. It was developed by Ruselectornics, to dazzle and incapacitate attackers.

Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported that a Russian military contractor has installed the weapon on two Russian warships, Admiral Gorshkov and the Admiral Kasatonov, which are currently patrolling the Arctic Ocean. Another two warships, currently under construction, are expected to be fitted with the device as well.

MSN News reported that the weapon fires a beam, similar to a strobe light, which hinders the enemy’s ability to see the ships. Weapon can also suppress night vision technology, laser targeting systems and anti-tank missiles up to a distance of more than 3 miles.

During testing, volunteers reportedly used rifles and guns to shoot targets that were protected by the weapon. The volunteers reported having trouble aiming because they couldn’t see.

Additionally, about half of the volunteers said they felt dizzy, nauseous and disoriented. About 20 percent of the volunteers reported experiencing hallucinations.

Pope, Grand Imam sign historic pledge of fraternity in UAE

The pope and the grand imam of Al-Azhar have signed a historic declaration of fraternity, calling for peace between nations, religions and races, in front of a global audience of religious leaders from Christianity, Islam, Judaism and other faiths.

Pope Francis, the leader of the world’s Catholics, and Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the head of Sunni Islam’s most prestigious seat of learning, arrived at the ceremony in Abu Dhabi hand-in-hand in a symbol of interfaith brotherhood.

The document pledges that Al-Azhar and the Vatican will work together to fight extremism. Claiming to be in the name of “all victims of wars, persecution and injustice”, it warns against a “third world war being fought piecemeal”.

It says: “We resolutely declare that religions must never incite war, hateful attitudes, hostility and extremism, nor must they incite violence or the shedding of blood.”

In the first ever papal visit to the Arabian peninsula, the birthplace of Islam, the pope specifically called for an end to wars in the Middle East, naming Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Libya. All religious leaders had a “duty to reject every nuance of approval from the word war”, he said in a 26-minute address.

The UAE is part of the Saudi-led military coalition engaged in the war in Yemen. On Sunday, before leaving Rome for Abu Dhabi, Francis said he was following the situation in Yemen “with great concern”, and that the population was “exhausted by the lengthy conflict, and a great many children are suffering from hunger”.

In his speech on Monday evening – his first public comments during the three-day trip – he welcomed “the opportunity to come here as a believer for peace … We are here to desire peace, we are here to promote peace, to be instruments of peace.”

Violence, extremism or fanaticism could never be justified in the name of religion, he said. He also called for religious freedom “not limited only to freedom of worship”, justice and for religions to “stand on the side of the poor”.

Sheikh Tayeb, who addressed the pope as “my dear brother”, said millions of Muslims had paid the price for the actions of “a handful of criminals” following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Ivory Coast’s Gbagbo goes to Belgium on exile

Belgium has agreed to take in former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo following his acquittal at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Under the terms of his release, he has to remain in a host country until the tribunal rules on whether to grant the prosecutors’ request for a new trial.

He is also forbidden from contacting witnesses in the case and speaking publicly about it.

“In response to a request from the International Criminal Court, Belgium has agreed to take in Laurent Gbagbo,” said foreign ministry spokesman Karl Lagatie.

“That is also part of the framework of our support for international criminal jurisdictions,” he added.

The ICC finally freed Gbagbo on Friday after his shock acquittal last month on charges of crimes against humanity.

He and his aide Charles Ble Goude were cleared on January 15 over the wave of violence after disputed elections in the west African nation in 2010.

His release was also on condition that he stay in whichever host state accepted him until the court decided whether to let an new trial go ahead.

Defence lawyers had argued for the two men’s immediate and unconditional release.

Under further conditions, Gbagbo also had to surrender his travel documents, report weekly, avoid contacting witnesses in Ivory Coast and refrain from making public statements about the case, the court documents said.

According to Belgian press reports, Gbagbo’s second wife, 47-year-old Nady Bamba, lives in Belgium.

Gbagbo, now 73, was the first former head of state ever to stand trial at the ICC.

More than 3,000 people died on both sides after Gbagbo refused to concede defeat to his internationally backed-rival — and now-president — Alassane Ouattara.

He had been held by the ICC in the Netherlands since 2011.

The ICC’s unwillingness to let Gbagbo return to Ivory Coast may be because of the country’s refusal to surrender Gbagbo’s wife Simone, despite an outstanding ICC warrant for her arrest.

She was convicted and jailed by the courts there in 2015, but Ouattara granted her an amnesty last year, allow her release after seven years in detention.

Gbagbo’s release comes at a particularly tense time in Ivory Coast.

With presidential elections due in 2020, Ouattara has not said whether or not he will run for a second term, and the coalition he formed with Henri Konan Bedie, his former ally against Gbagbo, has collapsed.

US imposes visa restrictions on Ghana

The United States, on Thursday, said it has imposed visa restrictions on Ghana.

Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state, said the West African country has not been co-operating in accepting Ghanian citizens to be deported from the US.

“As a result, Secretary of State Pompeo has ordered consular officers in Ghana to implement visa restrictions on certain categories of visa applicants. Without an appropriate response from Ghana, the scope of these sanctions may be expanded to a wider population,” the department of homeland security said in a statement.

“The sanctions will remain in place until the Secretary of Homeland Security notifies Secretary Pompeo that cooperation on removals has improved to an acceptable level.”

Commenting on the development, Kirstjen Nielsen, DHS secretary said: “The United States routinely cooperates with foreign governments in documenting and accepting U.S. citizens when asked, as appropriate, as do the majority of countries in the world, but Ghana has failed to do so in this case.

“We hope the Ghanaian government will work with us to reconcile these deficiencies quickly.”