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Posts tagged ‘Rosalind Russell’

Nigeria Boko Haram Member Jailed Over Christmas Bomb Attack.

Kabiru Sokoto
A Nigerian court sentenced Kabiru Sokoto, a member of Islamist group Boko Haram, to life imprisonment on Friday for his involvement in bombings. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

A Nigerian court sentenced a member of Islamist group Boko Haram to life imprisonment on Friday for his involvement in bombings, including a 2011 Christmas Day attack on a Catholic church near the capital that killed 37 people.

The militant group Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the bombing of St. Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla, on the outskirts of Abuja, which also wounded 57 in the deadliest of a series of attacks at Christmas.

Kabiru Sokoto was initially suspected of being the mastermind of the Christmas bomb, although the Federal High Court‘s Justice Adeniyi Adetokunbo-Ademola found the prosecution had only proved that he knew it was going to happen and failed to disclose this to the authorities.

Ademola found him guilty, however, of being the mastermind of a bungled coordinated strike in the northwestern city of Sokoto in July the same year. Several bombs were planted by government buildings there, including next to the police headquarters, but were discovered before they were detonated.

He also noted that Sokoto was a member of an “illegal terrorist organization Boko Haram.” President Goodluck Jonathan declared the Islamist rebels—seen as the main security threat to Africa’s top oil producing nation—a terrorist group in June.

Boko Haram, like many hardline Islamist groups, sees Christians as infidels who must either convert or be crushed. A wave of attacks on churches two years ago seemed aimed at triggering a sectarian war in a country with the world’s largest mixed Muslim and Christian population.

Sokoto slipped the net the day after his arrest but was recaptured the following month.

He received a life sentence for masterminding the failed Sokoto bombs and 10 years for not informing authorities of the Christmas attack.

Jonathan launched an all-out offensive against Boko Haram seven months ago in its stronghold in the northeast.

Initially this appeared to temper the violence as soldiers secured towns, cities and semi-desert bases.

But Boko Haram fighters have survived many assaults during the 4-1/2-year-old insurgency. After retreating this year to remoter areas, they have mounted deadly counter-attacks—including one on several military barracks and the air force base in the main northeastern city of Maiduguri this month.


Reporting by Camillus Eboh; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Rosalind Russell

© 2013 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Italy’s Berlusconi revives tax amnesty proposal.

ROME (Reuters) – Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has revived proposals for a sweeping amnesty on unpaid taxes and building permit violations as he tries to gain ground on the centre-left ahead of elections on February 24-25.

The pledge follows Berlusconi’s eye-catching promise to scrap a hated housing tax imposed by the technocrat government of outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti and reimburse last year’s payments.

The last opinion polls published before a pre-election blackout showed Berlusconi’s centre-right alliance trailing almost 6 points behind the centre-left in the overall vote.

“If voters give a majority to me and my People of Freedom party alone, I will immediately pass a full tax and building amnesty,” he told a talk show on RAI state television late on Friday.

Tax amnesties have been passed regularly by successive Italian governments but have been widely criticized as an encouragement to tax evasion, a chronic problem that has contributed to creating Italy’s massive public debt.

A similar tax amnesty proposal was rejected last week by Berlusconi’s coalition partners in the pro-devolution Northern League party and there has been no sign that they have changed their stance, as Berlusconi himself acknowledged implicitly.

“If I have to deal with the others we will see how things go,” he said.

Media magnate Berlusconi has sharply eroded the centre-left’s lead in the last month. While most experts believe it is too late for him to catch up, key regional battles could produce a hung result in the Senate.

That brings the risk of stalemate or could force the centre-left to seek a potentially unstable alliance with Monti’s centrist bloc.

Berlusconi has brushed aside criticisms that his proposals would hamper efforts to cut the public debt, which at over 126 percent of gross domestic product is second only to Greece in the euro zone.

He has said that the extra cash brought into the economy by repaying the IMU housing levy and cutting other taxes would stimulate growth sufficient to start bringing down the debt.

(Reporting By James Mackenzie; Editing by Rosalind Russell)



Mali shows Europe must work to plug defense gaps: NATO.

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – France’s need for U.S. help during the Mali operation shows Europe must do more to fill worrying gaps in its defenses, NATO’s chief said on Thursday.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen also sounded the alarm about growing disparities between what the United States and Europe spend on defense and warned that NATO’s military power and global influence could be put at risk if allies continue to slash their defense budgets while emerging powers boost theirs.

France’s intervention in Mali has illustrated his point by again exposing European military deficiencies that were laid bare during the 2011 Libya campaign when European states relied heavily on the United States for air-to-air refueling, intelligence and surveillance.

Rasmussen praised France for taking “swift and effective action” in Mali. Paris intervened militarily in Mali in early January to halt the advance of al Qaeda-affiliated militants who launched an offensive that threatened the Malian capital Bamako.

While NATO is not involved in Mali, some European members of the alliance as well as the United States and Canada have supported France with transport aircraft and other help.

“The operation also illustrates that European allies still need strong support from the United States in their endeavors to carry out such an operation,” Rasmussen told a news conference.

“The Mali operation once again points to the need for increased European efforts to fill the gaps when it comes to essential military capabilities such as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance,” he said.

The United States agreed to a French request to fly tankers to refuel French jet fighters and bombers attacking the militants. The United States is also sharing intelligence and helped to transport some French troops.


The United States, shifting its security focus increasingly to Asia, wants the Europeans to take the lead in military operations in its neighborhood, such as in Libya and Mali.

Releasing his annual report, Rasmussen voiced concern that defense cuts by Western states trying to rein in budget deficits because of the financial crisis risked weakening their security.

“Of course, governments must reduce deficits and borrowing,” he said. “You can’t be safe if you’re broke. But … we have to invest to keep our societies safe. Because security threats won’t go away while we focus on fixing our economies.”

Rasmussen warned that defense spending among the NATO allies is increasingly uneven, not just between North America and Europe, but also among European allies.

This could lead to a growing capability gap that could limit the allies’ ability to work together and risk weakening political support for NATO in the United States. At the same time, emerging powers were spending more on defense.

“The rise of emerging powers could create a growing gap between their capacity to act and exert influence on the international stage and our ability to do so,” Rasmussen wrote in the annual report.

He did not name any countries but China boosted military spending by 11 percent last year, continuing a near-unbroken string of double-digit rises across two decades.

Rasmussen also warned that too deep defense cuts could worsen the West’s economic crisis by weakening defense industries that are key drivers of innovation, jobs and exports.

(Editing by Rosalind Russell)


By Adrian Croft | Reuters

Germans still divided two decades after unification: survey.

BERLIN (Reuters) – The majority of eastern Germans regard their western compatriots as “arrogant” and mostly interested in money, according to a new survey that highlights distinct east-west identities.

More than 22 years after the reunification of Germany following the collapse of the Berlin Wall, a major study by the Allensbach Institute showed that easterners held strongly negative views of westerners but high opinions of themselves.

The study found that 71 percent of easterners believe westerners are “arrogant”, 57 percent see westerners as interested primarily in money, and 45 percent believe westerners are “shallow”.

East Germans have practically only negative views of west Germans,” wrote Welt am Sonntag newspaper, which published excerpts of the Allensbach study on Sunday. “By contrast, the self-perception of east Germans is overwhelmingly positive.”

The survey showed there are still strong perceptions of separate identities between east Germans and west Germans more than two decades after the end of the Cold War that led to German unification on October 3, 1990.

The survey commissioned by east German universities found that 69 percent of easterners call themselves “modest”, 63 percent see themselves as “reserved”, 58 percent call themselves “inventive”.

The report found that 51 percent of westerners believe their east German brethren are “discontented”, 42 percent “distrustful” while only 12 percent labeled easterners “arrogant”.

Many easterners have endured hardship and upheaval. Millions lost their jobs, their homes as well as the fabric of their society and their way of life. Nearly 2 million easterners moved west in search of jobs.

Many are still struggling to come to terms with life in reunited Germany and are nostalgic about life in East Germany, to the irritation of many western Germans who have helped pay nearly 2 trillion euros to rebuild the east.

(This story fixed translation in paragraph seven)

(Reporting By Erik Kirschbaum; Editing by Rosalind Russell)



Pope, ending synod, urges lapsed Catholics to return to fold.


VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Benedict, closing a gathering of bishops who discussed how to win back lapsed and lukewarm Catholics, on Sunday said the Church had to develop new ways of reaching out to those who had drifted from the faith.

Benedict, 85, said a solemn Mass in St Peter’s Basilica to close the three-week synod of some 260 bishops from around the world on the theme of the “New Evangelisation,” or how to stem the haemorrhaging of the faithful.

The Church is suffering desertions from its practising flock in former strongholds in Europe, North America and Latin America due to sex abuse scandals, increasing secularism, rival faiths and open dissent against Church teachings on homosexuality and its ban on a female priesthood.

“Besides traditional and perennially valid pastoral methods, the Church seeks to adopt new ones, developing a new language, attuned to the different world cultures …,” he said.

He did not name any new methods but recently the 1.2 billion member Church has increasingly turned to the Internet and social media to spread its message.

One of the 58 proposals made by the bishops at the end of the gathering called for Catholic leaders to be better trained in the use of electronic communications.

In his homily, the pope said Church leaders had to work harder to turn around a situation “where the light of faith has grown dim and people have drifted away from God, no longer considering him relevant for their lives”.

The synod’s final message, issued on Friday, said the Roman Catholic faith in many advanced countries risked being “eclipsed” by an increasingly secularized and materialistic world.

The message, a synthesis of the topics discussed, said that while the gospel could not be “a product to be placed in the market of religions”, the Church needed to find new ways of putting it “into practice in today’s circumstances”.

Friday’s message took a dig at the United States and Canada, saying the countries of North America needed to “recognize the many expressions of the present culture in the countries of your world which are today far from the Gospel”.

The pope will use the deliberations at the synod and the proposals to write his own document, known as a “apostolic exhortation” on the topic.

(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Rosalind Russell)


By Philip Pullella | Reuters

Tens of thousands protest against austerity in Rome.

  • A range of protesters from communists to academics mount a 'No Monti Day' demonstration against government austerity policies in downtown Rome October 27, 2012. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

    Enlarge PhotoReuters/Reuters – A range of protesters from communists to academics mount a ‘No Monti Day’ demonstration against government austerity policies in downtown Rome October 27, 2012. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi


ROME (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of people marched through Rome in a “No Monti Day” on Saturday, some throwing eggs and spraying graffiti to protest against austerity measures introduced by Prime Minister Mario Monti‘s government.

Appointed in November when Italy risked being sucked into the euro zone debt crisis, Monti has pushed through painful austerity measures to cut the country’s massive debt, including tax hikes, spending cuts and a pension overhaul.

“We are here against Monti and his politics, the same politics as all over Europe, that brought Greece to its knees and that are destroying half of Europe, public schools, health care,” said demonstrator Giorgio Cremaschi.

Police were on alert for possible infiltration by extremists who turned past demonstrations violent. But while protesters threw eggs at bank windows and set off firecrackers, no major incidents were reported.

“United with a Europe that is rebelling. Let’s get rid of the Monti government,” read one of the banners held at the demonstration.

Unemployment in Italy has risen to its highest since monthly records began in 2004 and unions are locked in growing disputes with companies over plant closures and layoffs.

“It’s been years that there have been no investments, instead it’s all outsourced and privatized, we are here to say enough and we hope this voice will grow,” said another demonstrator, Caterina Fida.

Monti has defended the austerity measures, saying he believes his technocrat government will be remembered for having helped Italy pull itself out of a deep economic crisis without needing to resort to external aid.

In another demonstration in northern Italy, a small group of protesters scuffled with police near where Monti was addressing a rally on the theme of family values.

(Reporting By James Mackenzie, editing by Rosalind Russell)



Thousands in Georgia protest against prisoner abuse.


TBILISI (Reuters) – Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili vowed to punish those responsible for torturing and raping prisoners, after a video of abuse in a jail sparked angry street protests two weeks before a parliamentary election.

The demonstrations erupted in the capital Tbilisi on Tuesday night after footage of the torture was shown on pro-opposition television channels. Thousands of people joined the protests on Wednesday, blocking two main streets and calling for the resignation of senior ministers.

The government said the video had been staged and recorded by guards who had been bribed by “politically motivated persons”.

The prosecutor’s office said 10 people had been arrested including the head of the prison in Tbilisi, two deputies and a number of guards. The prisons minister said she was resigning.

“Tonight, I tell all the victims of these inhuman actions and the whole nation that the Georgia we have built and we are all building together shall not and will not tolerate such behavior – in its prisons or anywhere else,” Saakashvili said in a statement issued in the early hours of Wednesday.

“Those who committed these crimes will spend long years in jail, as will those who bribed guards to stage these horrors and film them,” he said.

Later Saakashvili said radical reforms should be enacted in the former Soviet republic’s penitentiary system and ordered patrol policemen to take on prison duties while reforms were worked out.

“This system, the way it is now, should be entirely abolished,” Saakashvili said at the meeting with the prime minister, justice minister and prosecutor-general.

The video shows groups of guards beating, punching and humiliating prisoners, and inmates raped with objects. It was screened by two opposition-leaning television channels, one owned by billionaireBidzina Ivanishvili, whose Georgian Dream coalition is challenging Saakashvili’s ruling United National Movement in an October 1 parliamentary election.


Protesters demanded the resignation of the justice and interior ministers and an independent investigation. Some of them chanted: “Misha, go!”, referring to Saakashvili.

Similar protests were held in several major towns in Georgia, a transit route for oil and gas supplies across the volatile Caucasus.

A few political leaders, including Ivanishvili, joined the protests, but called for calm ahead of the election.

“Under no circumstances should you start unorganized street protests and under no circumstances should your actions be governed by anger,” Ivanishvili said.

Human rights groups and the U.S. Embassy condemned the prisoner abuse and called on the government to conduct a prompt and independent investigation.

Georgian Dream, which unites several opposition parties, has attracted large numbers to its rallies, but still trails the ruling party in opinion polls.

Ivanishvili, 56, has a fortune estimated by Forbes magazine at $6.4 billion. He and other opponents accuse Saakashvili of curbing freedoms and criticize him for leading Georgia into a disastrous war with Russia in August 2008.

(Writing by Margarita Antidze; Editing by Rosalind Russell)


By Margarita Antidze | Reuters

Egypt reopens Rafah crossing with Gaza: sources.

ISMAILIA, EGYPT/GAZA (Reuters) – Egypt reopened the Rafah border crossing with Gaza on Saturday, a lifeline for Gazans which had been closed for much of the month since an August 5 attack on Egyptian guards, Palestinian and Egyptian security sources said.

The move signals an advance in relations between Egypt’s new government lead by PresidentMohammed Mursi and Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas, which had deteriorated since the attack in which gunmen killed 16 Egyptian soldiers on the Israeli border.

“The Egyptian side has informed us that the Rafah crossing would open all days of the week, without more details,” said Ehab Al-Ghsain, spokesman for the interior ministry in Gaza.

The opening of the crossing was confirmed by an Egyptian security source.

Shortly after the attack, Egypt closed the Rafah crossing and moved to seal myriad smuggling tunnels with Gaza on suspicion they might have been used by militants who shot dead the soldiers before storming an Israeli border crossing near Gaza. The attackers were killed by Israeli fire.

The Rafah crossing normally sees some 800 people a day leave for Egypt and beyond, and is the only window on the world for the vast majority of Gazans.

Egypt later said it would open the crossing temporarily, but just for three days, mainly to permit travel for humanitarian purposes such as Palestinians seeking medical care abroad.

Hamas has ruled out suggestions that Palestinian gunmen took part in the Sinai killings and has criticized Cairo for imposing “collective punishment” on the impoverished Mediterranean coastal enclave by sealing the border.

Hamas hoped the election of the Muslim Brotherhood‘s Mursi would usher in an era of strong ties between Gaza and Cairo, but that has yet to materialize because of strategic considerations involving Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel and related military aid from the United States.

(Reporting By Yousri Mohamed in Ismailia and Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Writing by Tamim Elyan; Editing by Rosalind Russell)



Drought in England could last beyond Christmas – agency.

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LONDON (Reuters) – A drought affecting parts of England could last until after Christmas, Britain’s environment agency warned on Monday, as rain over the spring and summer is unlikely to replenish low water levels.

In a country more usually associated with damp and drizzle, drought has been declared in seventeen counties in England’s southeast and central regions, after two dry winters left rivers and ground waters depleted.

Although public water supplies in these areas are unlikely to be affected, the lack of rain is taking its toll on the environment and farmers, causing problems for wildlife, wetlands and crop production, the agency said in a statement.

“A longer term drought, lasting until Christmas and perhaps beyond, now looks more likely and we are working with businesses, farmers and water companies to plan ahead to meet the challenges of a continued drought,” said Trevor Bishop, head of water resources at the Environment Agency.

Bishop urged the British public to conserve water supplies.

Images of umbrella-touting spectators at the often sodden summer tennis championship Wimbledon have reinforced Britain’s image as a rainy country.

In fact, Germany, Italy, Slovenia and other European countries have higher average annual rainfall than Britain.

The impact of climate change on rainfall patterns is hard to predict – but it could mean more intense bursts of rain in summer and longer wet periods in winter.

Hotter summers are also more likely, however, leading to droughts. Dry and compacted ground due to drought also means that there is a greater risk of flash flooding if there is heavy rainfall. Due to these extremes, the government is preparing a national adaptation plan which should be published next year.

UK-government funded research showed in January that flooding was the biggest climate risk facing the UK in the future.

Experts are now hoping for a steady rainy winter in 2012 and 2013 to replenish Britain’s rivers and ground waters, but the Environment Agency is working with the water industry to put plans in place now to deal with the prospect of a third dry winter.

Water companies are looking at where they may be able to get more water, options to share water and how they can reduce leakage further, the agency said.

The agency said it was working to help farmers top up their storage reservoirs and has introduced a process for the agricultural sector to take additional water when river flows are high.

(Reporting by Nina Chestney; Editing by Rosalind Russell).



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