english news

US woman freed after year as hostage in Nigeria

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An American woman lured to Nigeria by a promise of marriage from a man she met on Facebook has been rescued after being held captive for more than a year, police say. The 46-year-old was held against her will in a hotel room in Lagos. The suspect Chukwuebuka Obiaku, 34, “took control” of the unnamed victim’s credit and debit cards, and retirement benefits, according to the police. Over a period of 15 months she was forced to part with $48,000 (£38,000). The victim is a retired civil servant from Washington DC. Police say Mr Obiaku “also used the victim as a front to defraud her associates and other foreign personalities and companies”. 

The victim arrived from the US in February 2019, according to Nigerian police. In May 2019 she married Mr Obiaku.

In total, the woman is said to have been held against her will for 16 months in a hotel room. The police say they received a tip off from a “civic minded” individual and they used the information to rescue her. Mr Obiaku has been arrested and police say he faces a charge of cybercrime.(BBC)…[+]

Llamas provide key to immune therapy


As Fifi the llama munches on grass on a pasture in Reading, her immune system has provided the template for a coronavirus treatment breakthrough. Scientists from the UK’s Rosalind Franklin Institute have used Fifi’s specially evolved antibodies to make an immune-boosting therapy. The resulting llama-based, Covid-specific “antibody cocktail” could enter clinical trials within months. The development is published in Nature Structural and Molecular Biology. It involves “engineering” llama antibodies, which are relatively small, and much more simply structured than the antibodies in our own blood. That size and structure means they can be “redesigned” in the lab. Professor James Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute – and the lead researcher – described the technique as akin to cutting a key that fits the coronavirus lock. “With the llama’s antibodies, we have keys that don’t quite fit – they’ll go into the lock but won’t turn all the way round,” he said.(BBC)…[+]

Trudeau admits ‘mistake’ while facing third ethics inquiry in office


Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he “made a mistake” by joining in talks for giving a government contract to a charity that paid his family. We Charity was tapped by his government to oversee a C$900m ($664m, £533m) youth volunteer programme in June.

It later emerged that We previously paid Mr Trudeau’s relatives over C$280,000 to speak at events. Mr Trudeau now faces his third ethics commission inquiry in office over the scandal. “I made a mistake for not recusing myself from the discussions immediately, given my family’s history,” Mr Trudeau said Monday. “I should not have been a part of the discussion.” Mr Trudeau has not been paid by the organisation himself, although he has spoken at We events for free. The prime minister said he should have known his family has been paid, since they are frequently hired for professional speaking engagements.(BBC)…[+]

Glee star likely drowned in tragic accident, police say

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Glee star Naya Rivera is believed to have drowned in a “tragic accident” while boating with her young son on a lake in California, police say. The 33-year-old was reported missing on Wednesday afternoon when her boat was seen drifting at Lake Piru, north-west of Los Angeles. Her son, 4, was found asleep on board. He told police they went swimming but his mother never returned. Search teams are hunting for her body but conditions are difficult.

Rivera is best known for playing cheerleader Santana Lopez in Glee, the hugely popular musical comedy TV series that ran on the Fox network from 2009 to 2015.(BBC)…[+]

Biden challenges Trump with ‘Buy American’ economic plan


Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden has laid out his rescue plan for the coronavirus-crippled US economy, while berating President Donald Trump as incompetent. Mr Biden said his $700bn (£560bn) plan would be the biggest investment in the US economy since World War Two. The “Build Back Better” agenda, he said, would spur a manufacturing and technology jobs boom.

The Trump campaign responded that the plan would inflict “catastrophe”. Mr Biden is all but guaranteed to face off with Mr Trump in this November’s presidential election. Speaking at a metalworks firm near his childhood hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania, on Thursday, Mr Biden said the president’s failures had “come with a terrible human cost and a deep economic toll”. “Time and again, working families are paying the  price for this administration’s incompetence,” Mr Biden said.(BBC)…[+]

US Supreme Court rules half of Oklahoma is Native American land

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The US Supreme Court has ruled about half of Oklahoma belongs to Native Americans, in a landmark case that also quashed a child rape conviction. The justices decided 5-4 that an eastern chunk of the state, including its second-biggest city, Tulsa, should be recognised as part of a reservation. Jimcy McGirt, who was convicted in 1997 of raping a girl, brought the case. He cited the historical claim of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation to the land where the assault occurred. Thursday’s decision in McGirt v Oklahoma is seen as one of the most far-reaching cases for Native Americans before the highest US court in decades. The ruling means some tribe members found guilty in state courts for offences committed on the land at issue can now challenge their convictions.(BBC)…[+]

‘Flagrant’ war crimes committed in Idlib battle, UN says


Syrian pro-government forces and their jihadist opponents flagrantly violated the laws of war during the battle for Idlib province, UN investigators say. Civilians endured “unfathomable suffering” when the Syrian military launched a campaign late last year to retake the area, according to a report. They were subjected to indiscriminate air strikes and ground shelling, as well as arrests, torture and pillaging.

Hundreds of civilians were killed before a ceasefire was agreed in March. Almost one million were displaced by the fighting and many were forced to live in dire conditions in overcrowded camps or open fields. Now, the investigators warn, “a perfect storm is in the making” as the war-torn country faces both the coronavirus pandemic and an economic crisis. More than 380,000 people have been killed and 13.2 million others – half of Syria’s pre-war population – have been displaced inside and outside the country since an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in 2011.(BBC)…[+]

Anger over US decision on foreign students’ visas


Politicians and academics have criticised a decision to withdraw US visas from foreign students whose courses move fully online. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said people could face deportation unless they changed to an institution with in-person tuition.

A number of US universities are considering online teaching in the new academic year due to coronavirus. It is not clear how many people will be affected. The Student and Exchange Visitor Programme, which is operated by ICE, had introduced a temporary exemption to allow students whose courses had moved online for the spring and summer semesters to remain in the US. However, the exemption will not be extended into the new academic year. The decision affects students who are in the US on F-1 and M-1 visas, according to the ICE statement.(BBC)…[+]

Washington Redskins: Major retailers drop merchandise

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Major US retailers Walmart and Target have dropped American football team Washington Redskins’ merchandise from their websites. Last week, the Washington DC-based team said it would be reviewing its name following demands from sponsors. It has faced years of pressure over a name seen as offensive to Native Americans.

The decision to review the name comes amid a fresh focus on racism, sparked by worldwide protests. Walmart said on Twitter that it would be “discontinuing the sale of items that reference the team’s name and logo“. Target told CNN in a statement that they were “in the process of removing the items from our assortment“.(BBC)…[+]

Brain-eating amoeba: Warning issued in Florida after rare infection case


A case of a rare brain-eating amoeba has been confirmed in Florida, according to health officials in the US state. The Florida Department of Health (DOH) said one person in Hillsborough County had contracted Naegleria fowleri.

The microscopic, single-celled amoeba can cause an infection of the brain, and is usually fatal. Commonly found in warm freshwater, the amoeba enters the body through the nose. The DOH did not outline where the infection was contracted, or the patient’s condition. The amoeba cannot be passed from person to person. Infections are typically seen in southern US states. They are rare in Florida, where only 37 cases have been reported since 1962.(BBC)…[+]