english news

Baby Pia: Almost 1m Belgians pay for life-saving drug


More than 950,000 Belgians have responded to a couple seeking €1.9m ($2m; £1.7m) to cover the cost of their baby’s life-saving treatment. Nine-month-old Pia, who has spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) and lives in Antwerp, requires the drug Zolgensma, which has not been approved for use in Europe but is available in the US.

Her parents have now raised enough for a single course of treatment. “I can fly instead of crawl,” a message on the TeamPia fundraising page said. Belgium has a population of 11.4 million and Pia’s mother, Ellen De Meyer, said almost one in 10 Belgians had contributed. The money was raised through a text messaging donation service – €2 for each text received – launched just days ago and through contributions to a campaign posted to the crowdfunding site GoFundMe.”It is overwhelming that a country can come together for something like this,” Ms De Meyer told Belgium’s VRT News, adding: “The fact that this happens in two days is insane.”(BBC)…[+]

South Africa violence against women ‘like a war’, says Ramaphosa


South African President Cyril Ramaphosa says urgent action is needed to tackle gender-based violence in the country. At an emergency sitting of parliament, Mr Ramaphosa said figures of violence against women and children were similar to those of a country at war.

Some 2,700 women and 1,000 children were murdered by men last year and at least 100 rapes were reported daily. The spike in violence against women has ignited protests in many parts of the country. Mr Ramaphosa pledged $75m (£60m) for measures including public education, strengthening the criminal justice system, increasing sentences for perpetrators of sexual offences and providing better care for victims.

The plan also includes measures to improve women’s economic power. Murders recorded by the police have been rising every year for the last decade, and sexual offences including rape have risen 4.6% this year.

Mr Ramaphosa also addressed the recent xenophobic attacks which gripped parts of Johannesburg a few days ago and acknowledged that South Africa was facing a serious crisis of violence and intolerance. He said a fact finding mission led by two former African heads of state would investigate the causes of recent violent attacks in the country.(BBC)…[+]

Chile’s ex-president Bachelet denies links to Brazil’s Car Wash scandal


SANTIAGO – Michelle Bachelet, Chile’s ex-president and now the UN human rights chief, has denied allegations by a Brazilian businessman under investigation in Brazil’s massive Car Wash scandal that he paid $141,000 to cover debts incurred by her 2013 presidential campaign.

Bachelet, a socialist who served from 2006 to 2010 and again from 2014 to 2018, denied the claims that were reported on Monday by the Brazilian newspaper Folho de Sao Paolo. It said Leo Pinheiro told prosecutors as part of a plea bargain that his engineering firm, OAS, paid the money at the suggestion of the former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. “My truth is the same as always, I have never had links with OAS,” she told Chilean TV station 24 Horas in Geneva.

Lula is serving a 12-year prison sentence for taking bribes in connection with the scandal, which involved payoffs and political kickbacks on contracts with oil company Petrobras and other state-run companies. Cristiano Zanin Martins, Lula’s lawyer, told Reuters his client had not recommended any such payments and that the latest claims were part of a “strategy” by prosecutors to persecute Lula “politically”.

“Leo Pinheiro’s version is denied by a statement filed on Feb. 7, 2017 by his own company – OAS – which said that ‘no contracts or donations were made to former presidents of the Republic, nor for institutes or foundations linked to them’,” he said.(Reuters)…[+]

Trinidad: Valsayn shoplifter says she stole to give to the poor


A Valsayn woman who claimed she stole over $3,000 in clothing to give to the poor, has been arrested. The suspect, of Bamboo #3, was allegedly caught stealing on Saturday from PriceSmart in Chaguanas.

According to police, the woman allegedly picked up several blouses and pairs of pants from the shelves and went to the ladies room. While there she allegedly placed them in the bag she was carrying. She attempted to leave the store, but was stopped by a security guard who searched her bag and allegedly found the clothing items.

Chaguanas police were contacted by and a team of officers led by Cpl Phillips responded. The woman allegedly told police officers that she stole the clothing to give to the poor. She was arrested and charged with the offence of larceny. She is expected to appear before a Chaguanas magistrate on Monday. (Stabroek News)…[+]

Hugo Carvajal: Spain denies US extradition request


A Spanish court has rejected an extradition request for Venezuela’s former intelligence chief General Hugo Carvajal. The US sought his extradition, accusing him of drug trafficking offences.

He turned against the government of President Nicolás Maduro in February and backed opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s leader. Mr Carvajal fled Venezuela on a boat and was arrested in Madrid in April. On Monday he was pictured with his family as he left a prison in Spain.He had been under US sanctions since 2008 due to allegations he helped Colombia’s Farc rebel group and protected US-bound drug shipments.

Federal charges which accuse him of co-ordinating a 5,600kg (12,345lb) shipment of cocaine from Venezuela to Mexico in 2006, became public in 2014. The US Justice Department said in April that if convicted, he could face between 10 years and life in prison. Washington also believes that Mr Carvajal could share incriminating evidence about Mr Maduro.

Mr Carvajal was a close ally of Venezuela’s late socialist leader Hugo Chávez but later denounced his successor President Maduro. He was stripped of his rank after choosing to back opposition leader Juan Guaidó. Mr Guaidó declared himself president in January, citing Venezuela’s constitution. He has the backing of dozens of countries including the US. Mr Carvajal escaped Venezuela by boat to the Dominican Republic before travelling on to Spain.(BBC)…[+]

Supreme Court: Parliament suspended ‘to stop MPs frustrating PM’, judges told


Boris Johnson sought to suspend Parliament to avoid the risk of MPs “frustrating or damaging” his Brexit plans, the Supreme Court has heard. Lawyers for campaigners challenging the suspension said there was “strong evidence” the PM saw MPs “as an obstacle” and wanted to “silence” them.

But a government lawyer said the PM was “entitled” to suspend Parliament, and it was not a matter for the courts. The judges are hearing two challenges relating to the five-week prorogation. Lady Hale, President of the Court, stressed the landmark case would have no bearing on the timing of Brexit. In her opening statement, the most senior judge in the UK said she and her 10 colleagues would endeavour to address the “serious and difficult questions of law” raised by the case, but would not determine “wider political questions” relating to the Brexit process.(BBC)…[+]

Hurricane Humberto takes aim at Bermuda, a danger to U.S. coast


Humberto, which gained hurricane strength late Sunday, is expected to drop another 2 inches of rain on the storm-ravaged northwestern Bahamas as it crawls away from the U.S. coast, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said early Monday. It will bring life-threatening waves and tides to parts of Central Florida and North Carolina coasts for the next few days as it packs sustained winds of 85 mph (140 kph) and heads east-northeast toward Bermuda, the NHC said.

It was 760 miles (1,225 km) west of Bermuda early Monday, moving at 5 mph (7 kph), and may bring heavy rains there by late Wednesday, the NHC said in its 5 a.m. advisory. Humberto is forecast to gain strength and get faster over the next two days. (Reuters)…[+]


Spain’s high court rules against extraditing Venezuelan ex-general


MADRID– Spain’s High Court ruled today that the government should refuse a request from the United States to extradite Venezuela’s former military intelligence chief. Former general Hugo Carvajal was arrested on drug trafficking charges by Spanish police in April at the request of Washington, which says it believes he will share incriminating information about Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro.

The court said the ex-spy chief would be freed from jail, where he has been held pending the extradition process, but did not say when he would be released. The Spanish government has the final say on extraditions, but it tends to follow the court’s rulings.

Carvajal was an ally of Venezuela’s late Socialist leader Hugo Chavez and has turned against Maduro, who succeeded Chavez. He has denied accusations he helped Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels smuggle cocaine to the United States. During the extradition hearing last week, he said Washington was fabricating the charges, raising doubts about whether he will cooperate in future with the United States.(Reuters)…[+]

Trinidad drivers have paid $171 million in traffic fines in 4 years


The Ju­di­cia­ry of T&T has col­lect­ed $170.9 mil­lion in fines paid by er­rant and delin­quent dri­vers who com­mit­ted traf­fic of­fences and vi­o­la­tions be­tween 2011 and 2015 on the na­tion’s roads. This star­tling fig­ure does not in­clude the 120,489 tick­ets that re­mained un­paid in the courts for this same pe­ri­od, which cur­rent­ly rep­re­sents mil­lions of dol­lars in out­stand­ing rev­enue for the State.

The amend­ments to the Mo­tor Ve­hi­cle and Road Traf­fic Act of 2017, which are ex­pect­ed to be pro­claimed next month, would see the in­tro­duc­tion of new road laws and mea­sures that will see the Gov­ern­ment mash­ing the brakes on reck­less, care­less and delin­quent dri­vers. The im­ple­men­ta­tion in­cludes the use of speed spot cam­eras, penal­ties for late pay­ment of tick­ets, red light cam­eras and law en­force­ment of­fi­cers us­ing hand­held de­vices to is­sue elec­tron­ic tick­ets. In ad­di­tion, tick­ets will no longer be paid at the courts and mo­torists can have their dri­ver’s per­mits sus­pend­ed.

On Tues­day, Head of Le­gal Ser­vices at the Min­istry of Works and Trans­port Mar­vin Gon­za­les de­scribed these new mea­sures as the u-turn sys­tem of evo­lu­tion­ary en­force­ment for the 700,000-plus mo­torists who use the na­tion’s roads.(Trinidad Guardian)…[+]

End of Golden Age: Dutch museum bans term from exhibits


One of the Netherlands’ most prestigious museums has fuelled fresh debate over the the country’s colonial past by deciding it will no longer use the term Golden Age to describe the 17th century when it was at its pinnacle as a military and trading power. The Amsterdam Museum said that in an attempt to be “polyphonic and inclusive”, the common description of the century in which the Netherlands bestrode the world stage would be banned from its exhibits.

The museum said the term Gouden Eeuw did not do justice to those who were exploited during the era in which the Netherlands was at the forefront of scientific discovery and artistic achievement.

Tom van der Molen, the curator of the 17th century at the museum, said: “The Golden Age occupies an important place in Western historiography that is strongly linked to national pride. But positive associations with the term such as prosperity, peace, opulence and innocence do not cover the charge of historical reality in this period. The term ignores the many negative sides of the 17th century such as poverty, war, forced labour and human trafficking.” The museum said the term would not be used in future exhibitions and that the name of the museum’s permanent collection will be changed from Dutch in the Golden Age to Group Portraits of the 17th Century. The treatment of the Dutch colonial period in public spaces has become a matter for keenly contested debate in recent years with street names changed and questions raised about the relevance of statues celebrating military heroes of the past. (The Guardian)…[+]