english news

Ex-minister’s harsh jail sentence sends shockwaves through Russian elite

russia

A Moscow court has sentenced a former Russian economy minister to eight years in a high-security prison for corruption, in a verdict that is likely to send chills through the Russian elite. Alexei Ulyukayev was also ordered to pay a $2.2m (£1.7m) fine as part of the punishment for soliciting a $2m bribe from Igor Sechin, the chief executive of the state oil company Rosneft, who is widely seen as the second most powerful man in Russia after Vladimir Putin. Ulyukayev was arrested in a sting operation at Rosneft’s headquarters last year, after Sechin handed him a basket containing $2m in specially marked $100 bills. Sechin said in his testimony that Ulyukayev had asked for the bribe during a game of billiards at a summit in India.The former minister said he had never made any demands and assumed the basket contained sausages or wine. There was little evidence in the case except Sechin’s testimony, and he refused to show up at court despite receiving several summons. He said he was too busy. (Theguardian)…[+]

Mike Pence’s Holy Land visit in disarray after Jerusalem recognition

pence

The lights are already illuminated on Bethlehem’s huge Christmas tree in Manger Square. Nearby, at the narrow entrance to the Church of the Nativity, holiday pilgrims queue daily for their chance to descend into the cramped subterranean shrine said to be the birthplace of Jesus.

One person, however, who will not be entering the church, barring a last-minute diplomatic miracle, is the US vice-president, Mike Pence. A proposed visit to Bethlehem and the Nativity church – now cancelled – had been intended as the highlight of a tour of the Middle East next week. That tour has been thrown into disarray by Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and the consequent refusal of Palestinian and many Christian leaders to meet Pence.

Part of the reason is that Pence – who stood next to Trump during his announcement – is seen by Palestinians as having been a key influence on Trump regarding the decision, and appears to have made little effort to repair the damage.(theguardian)…[+]

CDB announces USD172 million programme of assistance for Jamaica

cdb

BRIDGETOWN – The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has announced a programme of assistance of USD172 million (mn) for Jamaica over the period 2017 to 2021. These resources will be augmented by GBP17.5 mn (approximately USD22.2 mn) in grants from the United Kingdom Caribbean Infrastructure Partnership Fund (UKCIF). The programme of assistance, outlined in a new Country Strategy Paper, was approved by the Bank’s Board of Directors today.

The Strategy is built around four key pillars, with cross-cutting themes of citizen security, gender equality and energy security. Enhance educational quality and improve the effectiveness of social protection

CDB-supported interventions will focus on improving access to, and the quality of, education. At the community level, the Bank will continue to support initiatives to strengthen local economic development and expand income-earning opportunities for vulnerable groups.

Enhance governance and citizen security

To strengthen implementation capability, CDB will support initiatives being driven by the Government of Jamaica and other international development partners to enhance performance monitoring and public sector efficiency. The Bank will collaborate and leverage the expertise of key stakeholders to implement a comprehensive crime and violence prevention initiative and will consider support to reduce recidivism; build capacity among vulnerable groups; and expand income-earning opportunities for youth.

 Increase inclusive economic growth and competitiveness

CDB will support inclusive economic growth and competitiveness through reforms to improve business innovation; develop climate-resilient economic infrastructure; and improve agricultural productivity, which remains an important contributor to gross domestic product, employment and foreign exchange earnings in Jamaica. Grants from UKCIF will support agricultural development.(theguardian)…[+]

US regulator scraps net neutrality rules that protect open internet

us regulator

The US’s top media regulator voted to end rules protecting an open internet on Thursday, a move critics warn will hand control of the future of the web to cable and telecoms companies. At a packed meeting of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in Washington, the watchdog’s commissioners voted three to two to dismantle the “net neutrality” rules that prevent internet service providers (ISPs) from charging websites more for delivering certain services or blocking others should they, for example, compete with services the cable company also offers.

Outside, protesters angrily called on Congress to block the FCC’s efforts. Bouquets of flowers littered the grass outside the building, an apparent reference to the “death” of open internet. Posters of the angry-face emoji covered the walkway. And activists carried hand-made signs that read: “Don’t make the internet a private toll road”; “Ajit Pai doesn’t want you to meet your fiancé online”; and “Don’t undermine our democracy – that’s Russia’s job”.(theguardian)…[+]

CDB approves USD76 million to boost development results in St. Kitts and Nevis

cdb

BRIDGETOWN– The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has announced a programme of assistance of USD76.2 million for St. Kitts and Nevis over the period 2017 to 2021. Today, the Bank’s Board of Directors approved the new strategy, which will support economic and social development, environmental protection and infrastructure enhancement.

The proposed programme of assistance is built on three pillars.

 

  1. Economic development and enhanced livelihoods: The Country Strategy is designed to achieve improved macroeconomic and fiscal stability; increased productivity; competitiveness and economic diversification; and improved governance through reforms in areas such as project implementation capacity and procurement.
  2. Inclusive social development: The assistance programme will support enhanced education outcomes; closing the gender gap and increasing gender equality; and better protections for the most vulnerable groups in St. Kitts and Nevis.
  3. Environmental protection and infrastructure enhancement: Interventions delivered under the Country Strategy will seek to strengthen environmental management and climate-resilient infrastructure, including sea defences, roads, slopes, water and drainage systems, and energy infrastructure.

The Country Strategy is a joint collaboration between the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis and CDB. The Bank consulted with stakeholders, including Government officials and development partners, emphasising country ownership of the proposed programme of assistance. Salient issues that emerged during these discussions, including urgent sector priorities and ongoing interventions supported by other development partners, have been taken into account.(CDB)…[+]

 

Global warming made Hurricane Harvey deadly rains three times more likely, research reveals

harvey

Hurricane Harvey’s unprecedented deluge, which caused catastrophic flooding in Houston in August, was made three times more likely by climate change, new research has found. Such a downpour was a very rare event, scientists said, but global warming meant it was 15% more intense. The storm left 80 people dead and 800,000 in need of assistance.

The scientists from the World Weather Attribution (WWA) initiative usually publish their assessments of the role of climate change in extreme weather events around the world as soon as possible. However, in this case they waited for the work to be confirmed by peer review because of the current US government’s opposition to strong action on climate change. The researchers said their new work shows global warming is making extreme weather events worse right now and in the US. The cost of the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey has been estimated at $190bn (£140bn), which would make it the most costly weather disaster in US history, more than Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy combined.(theguardian)…[+]

Sweden’s ‘laser man’ killer John Ausonius goes on trial in Germany

german

A Swedish far-right extremist whose shooting spree in the 1990s inspired “lone wolf” terrorists such as Anders Breivik will go on trial in Germany on Wednesday morning for an unresolved murder of an Auschwitz survivor in Frankfurt 25 years ago.

John Ausonius, 64, is already serving a life sentence in Sweden for the shooting of 11 people of immigrant background in the Stockholm and Uppsala area between August 1991 and January 1992. His aim, he said in interviews, was to scare immigrants out of the country and discourages others from entering. Ausonius was dubbed Lasermannen, or “laser man”, in Swedish media because he used a rifle equipped with laser sight for the attacks, which left Jimmy Ranjbar, an Iranian student, dead and others with severe disabilities.

Now, 17 years after eventually confessing to 10 attempted shootings, Ausonius will appear in a Frankfurt court for a trial that could dash his hopes of an early release. On 8 February 1992, while on the run from Swedish police, Ausonius visited a restaurant in the city’s Opernplatz square. Two weeks later he returned, accusing cloakroom attendant Blanka Zmigrod of having stolen an electronic Casio notebook from his pocket. An altercation ended with Ausonius shouting “we will meet again” at Zmigrod as he left the restaurant. The following night, the 68-year-old was shot from close range by a hooded cyclist as she walked home from work.(theguardian)…[+]

Palestinians no longer accept US as mediator, Abbas tells summit

middle east

The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, has formally declared that Palestinians will no longer accept the US as a mediator in the Middle East peace process following Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. In his strongest public statement since Trump’s announcement last week, Abbas called the move a “crime” that threatened world peace. He demanded the United Nations take charge of the peace process as Washington was no longer “fit” for the task.

Abbas was speaking at a hastily convened meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul, where members were called upon to recognise a Palestinian state amid strong condemnations of both the US and Israel. “Jerusalem is and will forever be the capital of the Palestinian state,” Abbas told delegates. “We do not accept any role of the United States in the political process from now on. Because it is completely biased towards Israel.”(theguardian)…[+]

Former Facebook executive: social media is ripping society apart

facebook

A former Facebook executive has said he feels “tremendous guilt” over his work on “tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works”, joining a growing chorus of critics of the social media giant. Chamath Palihapitiya, who was vice-president for user growth at Facebook before he left the company in 2011, said: “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth.”

The remarks, which were made at a Stanford Business School event in November, were just surfaced by tech website the Verge on Monday. “This is not about Russian ads,” he added. “This is a global problem. It is eroding the core foundations of how people behave by and between each other.”(theguardian)…[+]

Sheryl Crow criticizes country stars for not ‘taking a stand’ on gun control

crow

Money and fear have kept country music artists from speaking out about gun laws, the nine-time Grammy Award-winner Sheryl Crow said, even after thousands of country fans were targeted in October in the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.

“You would think after Vegas we would see some leadership from our country community,” Crow told the Guardian. “But all I can say about that is if there’s money involved, and fear, these conversations come to a screeching halt. “There’s no one that I know of in the popular country world that is willing to step out and really to take a stand on this, and that’s really unfortunate.

“I hope there will be people who find a way out of their fear, who stick up for humanity as opposed to sticking with their fanbase or the money that can come along with having those large crowds.” Crow’s new song, The Dreaming Kind, released on Monday, is a tribute to the 20 young children and six adults who were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut five years ago.(theguardian)…[+]