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Lesotho’s Thomas Thabane to be charged with murdering his wife


Lesotho’s Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, 80, is to be charged with the murder of his estranged wife Lipolelo Thabane, police have said. Mr Thabane announced he would be stepping down in July because of old age, without commenting about the case. His current wife Maesaiah Thabane has already been charged with the murder.

He would be the first African leader to be charged with a domestic murder while in office, in a case that has shocked the tiny mountain kingdom.  Lipolelo, 58, was shot dead two days before Mr Thabane became prime minister in 2017. At the time, he described her killing as “senseless” but police now accuse him of being involved in her killing.

“The prime minister is going to be charged with the murder,” Deputy Commissioner of Police Paseka Mokete was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying. “The police are preparing directives and he will probably be charged tomorrow [Friday],” he added.(BBC)…[+]

Democratic debate: Elizabeth Warren’s attacks light up social media

social media

US Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren is being praised online for her fiery performance in a televised debate on Wednesday. Billionaire Michael Bloomberg was appearing in his first presidential debate in the contest and floundered in the face of rivals’ attacks.

Ms Warren has fallen behind in the race but her attacks on Mr Bloomberg won her the debate on social media. Bernie Sanders is currently the frontrunner to win the nomination. The tone for the night was set when Ms Warren, a former teacher who has talked about her experiences of discrimination and unequal pay, branded Mr Bloomberg a “billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians”.

She repeatedly attacked his record on women’s rights, referring to private agreements he made to settle sexual harassment and hostile workplace lawsuits. She continued her criticism in a tweet after the debate saying: “I hope you heard what Mayor Bloomberg’s defence of decades of mistreatment of women was: ‘I’ve been nice to some women.'” The post was widely shared and #WarrenForTheWin was a top trend on Twitter on Thursday. Memes celebrated Ms Warren’s “take-down” of Mr Bloomberg.(BBC)…[+]

Trump criticised for appointing loyalist Grenell as acting spy chief

trump cabinet

President Donald Trump has appointed Richard Grenell, the current ambassador to Germany, as the acting intelligence chief in charge of US spy agencies. The move was a surprise to many given his lack of relevant experience and controversial record of pushing conservative policies as a diplomat.

But Mr Grenell is a staunch Trump loyalist and has been outspoken in his defence of the president. Critics say this bias will impede his ability to deliver neutral facts. As the acting Director of National Intelligence, Mr Grenell will manage the National Security Agency, FBI, and CIA among other agencies, as well as advise the president on intelligence concerns. The president announced the appointment via Twitter on Wednesday, saying Mr Grenell had “represented our Country exceedingly well” as ambassador.

But US media report some officials and Trump allies are concerned that Mr Grenell was given the directorship based primarily on his loyalty to Mr Trump. Mr Grenell is a former Fox News contributor and served as US spokesman at the United Nations during President George W Bush’s term. He was confirmed by the Senate to the ambassador role in April 2018. He is believed to be the first openly gay member of Mr Trump’s cabinet.

Mr Grenell will replace the current acting director, Retired Vice Admiral Joseph Maguire, who must leave the post by 12 March in accordance with federal law. When the last director, Dan Coats, left in July, the president attempted to fill the role with another loyalist, Republican congressman John Ratcliffe. Mr Trump eventually decided against doing so after bipartisan pushback over Mr Ratcliffe’s lack of experience and outspoken support for him. It was clear he was unlikely to be confirmed by the Senate.(NU)…[+]

Niger aid stampede: At least 20 killed in Diffa


At least 20 people, many of them women and children, have been killed in a stampede in south-eastern Niger, reports say. Refugees from neighbouring Nigeria were queuing for food and money in the town of Diffa when the incident took place, according to local sources. Ten other people were injured. The region is home to around 120,000 people displaced by years of violence carried out by Boko Haram militants in north-eastern Nigeria.

People rushed forward to collect aid supplies when the gates of the facility were opened early on Monday, the BBC’s Is’haq Khalid in Nigeria reports. The aid was provided by the governor of Nigeria’s Borno state who was visiting refugee camps in the area, according to AFP news agency. Militant Islamist group Boko Haram and its offshoots have waged a brutal insurgency in Nigeria since 2009.(BBC)…[+]

Coronavirus: More than 200 Australians flown home after 14-day quarantine


More than 200 Australians have been flown back home after 14 days in quarantine on remote Christmas Island amid coronavirus fears. They were evacuated from China’s Hubei province – the epicentre of the deadly outbreak – on 3 February. With no cases reported during the minimum required time, they were taken to six cities across Australia.

Many of the returnees, including children, expressed relief, saying they were happy to be finally home. More than 70,600 people across China have been infected by the virus, with 1,771 deaths. Most new cases and deaths in the past 24 hours have been reported in Wuhan, Hubei’s largest city.

More than two dozen countries around the world have confirmed cases of the new coronavirus. Australia is among them with 15 cases. Outside mainland China, five deaths have been reported – in France, Hong Kong, Japan, the Philippines and Taiwan. The virus, which causes acute respiratory disease, has been named Covid-19.(BBC)…[+]

Jeff Bezos: World’s richest man pledges $10bn to fight climate change


Amazon boss Jeff Bezos has pledged $10bn (£7.7bn) to help fight climate change. The world’s richest man said the money would finance work by scientists, activists and other groups. He said: “I want to work alongside others both to amplify known ways and to explore new ways of fighting the devastating impact of climate change.” Writing on his Instagram account, Mr Bezos said the fund would begin distributing money this summer.

Mr Bezos has an estimated net worth of more than $130bn, so the pledge represents almost 8% of his fortune. Some Amazon employees have urged him to do more to fight climate change. There have been walkouts and some staff have spoken publicly. Also, Mr Bezos is financing the Blue Origin space programme, criticised for its carbon footprint.(BBC)…[+]

Human compost funerals ‘better for environment’


A US firm has given scientific details of its “human composting” process for environmentally friendly funerals. A pilot study on deceased volunteers showed that soft tissue broke down safely and completely within 30 days.

The firm, Recompose, claims that its process saves more than a tonne of carbon, compared to cremation or traditional burial. It says that it will offer the world’s first human composting service in Washington state from next February. Speaking exclusively to BBC News, Recompose’s chief executive and founder, Katrina Spade, said that concerns about climate change had been a big factor in so many people expressing interest in the service.

“So far 15,000 people have signed up to our newsletter. And the legislation to allow this in the state received bi-partisan support enabling it to pass the first time it was tabled,” she said. “The project has moved forward so quickly because of the urgency of climate change and the awareness we have to put it right.” (BBC)…[+]

Uganda’s Queen of Katwe star Nikita Pearl Waligwa dies aged 15


An actress who starred in the Queen of Katwe, a Disney film about a chess prodigy from a Ugandan slum, has died aged 15, Ugandan media report. Nikita Pearl Waligwa had been diagnosed with a brain tumour. The 2016 film was based on the true story of Phiona Mutesi, who took up chess aged nine despite not being in school and went on to compete in international tournaments.t starred Lupita Nyong’o as her mother and David Oyelowo as her chess teacher.

Waligwa played the role of Gloria, a friend of Phiona who explained the rules of chess to her. She was first diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2016 and Queen of Katwe director Mira Nair reportedly mobilised people to help fund her treatment in India, with Ugandan doctors quoted as saying they did not have the necessary equipment. She was given the all-clear in 2017 but last year was found to have another tumour.(BBC)…[+]

South Sudan peace talks: Machar and Kiir in deadlock over states


Former South Sudanese rebel chief Riek Machar has said he is not satisfied by proposals made by the president aimed at paving the way for the formation of a government of national unity. On Saturday President Salva Kiir agreed to an opposition demand to reduce the number of states in the country. But Mr Machar says the new proposals do not go far enough. Six years of conflict have devastated South Sudan, with some 380,000 deaths in the world’s newest country.

The two rivals are under increasing international pressure to meet a deadline of 22 February to implement a power-sharing deal. The US last year warned that it would impose sanctions on anyone working against the peace process.

Pope Francis and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, spiritual leader of the Anglican Church, have said they will visit South Sudan once a national unity government is formed.(BBC)…[+]

Coronavirus: Fake flyers in Los Angeles target Panda Express


Fake flyers telling diners to avoid Asian-American restaurants because of the coronavirus are among a spate of recent racist incidents linked to the outbreak, say California authorities. Coronavirus fears have spread even though the US has seen just 15 cases, over half in California. This week in Los Angeles bullies accused an Asian-American student of having the virus and badly beat him. The coronavirus has now reached 24 countries outside China.

Anxiety and misinformation related to the virus have fuelled anti-Asian prejudice, Los Angeles authorities said at a press conference. “Many may be quick to assume that just because someone is Asian or from China that somehow they are more likely to be carriers of the virus,” said Robin Toma, executive director of the LA County Human Relations Commission.(BBC)…[+]