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News - International News

Amwal Al Ghad English - 2014-11-02 09:45:06
Burkina Faso's opposition parties and the African Union rejected the army's seizure of power in the West African country on Saturday after the resignation of President Blaise Compaore, setting the stage for fresh protests. The military top brass named Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Zida, deputy commander of the elite presidential guard, as head of state on Saturday. A power struggle within the armed forces was resolved by sidelining the chief of staff. Zida, who has operational control over the army's best trained and equipped unit, had declared himself interim president in an early morning radio address, overruling military chief General Honore Traore's claim to lead a transitional government following Compaore's departure. One of Africa's long-serving rulers, Compaore stepped down on Friday after two days of mass demonstrations against his attempts to change the constitution to extend his 27 years in power. At least three people were killed after protesters stormed the parliament building and set it on fire. On the dusty streets of Ouagadougou, the capital, protesters voiced anger that they had driven out Compaore - who seized power in a 1987 military coup - only to have another soldier imposed on them. "The victory of the popular uprising - and consequently the management of the transition - belongs to the people and should not in any way be confiscated by the army," a coalition of opposition parties and civil society groups said in a statement after talks on Saturday. "Our consultation reaffirmed that this transition should be democratic and civilian in character," it said, announcing a demonstration in the vast Place de la Nation for Sunday morning. The unfolding crisis in the poor, landlocked nation is being closely watched by the United States and former colonial power France, which were close military allies of Compaore. Under his rule, Burkina Faso became a key ally in operations against al Qaeda-linked groups in West Africa. The United States could freeze military cooperation if it judges a coup has taken place. Washington on Friday urged a peaceful transition to elections, respecting constitutional rules. Under Burkina Faso's 1991 constitution, the head of parliament should take office if the president resigns, with a mandate to organize elections within 90 days. However, the army has dissolved the legislature and suspended the constitution. In a statement issued by military leaders after meeting to appoint Zida to power, they said the form and duration of the transition would be decided in consultation with all sections of society. Troops loyal to Zida patrolled the quiet streets of Ouagadougou on Saturday following his early morning radio announcement that he was taking over as head of state to avoid a descent into anarchy and to ensure a democratic transition. "This is not a coup d'etat but a popular uprising," Zida said, dressed in military fatigues, in the studio of BF1 television. "I salute the memory of the martyrs of this uprising and bow to the sacrifices made by our people." He appealed for the African Union and West African regional bloc ECOWAS to show their support for the transition. But, in a strongly worded statement, the African Union called for the military to hand power over to civilian authorities. It said the Peace and Security Council -- the arm of the 54-nation bloc that imposes sanctions for violations of democratic process -- would discuss the situation on Monday. "The Chairperson of the (African Union) Commission ... stresses the duty and obligation of the defense and security forces to place themselves at the disposal of the civilian authorities who should lead the transition," read the statement. COMPAORE IN IVORY COAST In the Place de la Nation, the epicenter of this week's massive demonstrations, many people voiced anger at what they saw as an attempt by the military to subvert their uprising. "It's ridiculous. It's just replacing Blaise with a little Blaise," said Frederic Ouedraogo. "The presidential guard opened fire on the crowd. If were able to get rid of Blaise, then he (Zida) will not be able to stop us. He is going to go, too!" The events in Burkina Faso will also be carefully followed by other governments in West and Central Africa. Several long-serving leaders are reaching the end of their constitutional terms in several countries in the region, including Benin, Congo Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo. The government of neighboring Ivory Coast said on Saturday that Compaore had arrived there with his family and entourage but did not specify his location. Military sources said he was staying at a presidential retreat in the coastal resort of Assinie, to the east of the economic capital, Abidjan. It was the seventh time that a military officer had taken over as head of state in Burkina Faso since it won independence from France in 1960. It was previously known as Upper Volta. Troops loyal to Zida deployed at strategic points across the capital on Saturday night, though an evening curfew was pushed back by three hours to 2200 GMT (1800 EDT). The airport was also reopened. Land borders remained closed. Despite being one of the world's poorest nations, Burkina Faso positioned itself as a key mediator in regional crises under the stewardship of the imposing Compaore, popularly known as 'Handsome Blaise', who was renowned as a skilled negotiator and a wily, ruthless politician. A taciturn former soldier who had survived several bids to oust him after he seized power in a 1987 military coup, Compaore initially sought to defy the calls for him to step down once the protests turned violent on Thursday. Diplomats said Compaore - widely blamed for the death of his friend, the leftwing revolutionary Thomas Sankara, in the 1987 coup - was alarmed at the possibility of prosecution on rights charges if he left office. But his bid to cling to the presidency - and its lavish trappings - angered many young people in a country stagnating in 183rd place out of 186 countries on the U.N. human development index. With an average age of less than 18, most of the country's 17 million population have never known another leader. Crowds danced, cheered and blew whistles in Place de la Nation on Friday after Compaore's resignation, before the army announced it was taking charge. "This is a 'sub-Saharan Spring' and it must continue against all the presidents who are trying to hang on to power in Africa," said law student Lucien Trinnou on Friday, referring to the Arab Spring that toppled several long-term leaders. More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2014-11-01 07:52:54
China's factory activity unexpectedly fell to a five-month low in October as firms fought slowing orders and rising costs in the cooling economy, reinforcing views that the country's growth outlook is hazy at best. The official Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) eased to 50.8 in October from September's 51.1, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Saturday, but above the 50-point level that separates growth from contraction on a monthly basis. Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast a reading of 51.2. Underscoring the challenges facing the world's second-largest economy, the PMI showed foreign and domestic demand slipped to five- and six-month lows, respectively, with overseas orders shrinking slightly on a monthly basis. "There remains downward pressure on the economy, and monetary policy will remain easy," economists at China International Capital Corp said in a note to clients after the data. More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2014-11-01 07:47:45
An officer in Burkina Faso's presidential guard seized power on Saturday promising to lead the West African country to elections after the resignation of longtime President Blaise Compaore, in an apparent putsch against the military chief of staff. Compaore stepped down on Friday after two days of mass protests against his attempts to change the constitution to extend his 27-year rule. At least three people were killed after protesters stormed the parliament building and set it on fire. Army chief of staff General Honore Traore, a Compaore loyalist, had quickly announced on Friday he would take over the presidency on a transitional basis, but this was rejected by the demonstrators and a number of junior officers. After reports of heavy gunfire near the presidential palace early on Saturday, Lieutenant Colonel Issaac Zida, the operational commander of the elite presidential guard, announced on radio that he was taking power. More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2014-10-30 13:56:16
The nation’s economic output rose at a 3.5 percent annual rate in the third quarter, the Commerce Department reported Thursday, offering another sign that growth is steady if unspectacular. The higher-than-expected bump in gross domestic product — a measure of all the goods and services produced — was driven in part by an unusual spurt of federal spending, concentrated in defense, and private investment outside the housing sector. Consumer spending, though up 1.8 percent, was weaker than some economists had hoped, given recent job growth and money saved from falling gas prices. Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg had expected the gross domestic product figure to be 3 percent for the quarter. Although bigger than expected, the result was not surprisingly a decline from the second quarter’s impressive 4.6 percent annualized growth rate, which came after a bitter winter that contributed to the previous quarter’s disappointing 2.1 percent decrease. Strong exports and private inventory investment helped pull the economy out of its first-quarter slowdown. Those looking for reasons to be optimistic about the quarter already underway can point to falling gasoline prices, an unemployment rate that has declined below 6 percent, and perhaps most encouraging from this week, a report from the Conference Board showing that the consumer confidence index jumped in October to a seven-year high. That upbeat outlook could help push up consumer spending during the coming holiday season. “I don’t think it’s going to be hard to maintain a growth of 3 percent for the fourth quarter,” said Carl Tannenbaum, chief economist at the Northern Trust Company: “This is the strongest six-month interval we’ve had in 10 years,” he said, adding that “the pace of the expansion has clearly increased.” He noted, however, that in the third quarter, “the things that drove us were not the usual suspects” — in particular, an unusually high 10 percent bump in the federal government sector, helped by a 16 percent increase in military spending. “Consumers were a little less active than we might have thought,” he said. Krishna Memani at Oppenheimer Funds agreed that “the components may not be as strong as the headline number shows.” Consumption did not pick up as much as economists hoped, he said. Reinforcing positive signs in the labor market, however, the Labor Department said Thursday that new claims for unemployment insurance benefits remained at recent low levels. The four-week moving average was 281,000, compared with 352,500 a year ago. The Federal Reserve asserted its belief in the economy’s underlying strength on Wednesday, announcing a halt to its six-year, multitrillion-dollar bond-buying program, ending one of its most pointed efforts to ignite the economy. Still, the Fed continued to say it planned to keep short-term interest rates close to zero for a “considerable time,” a sign that the central bank is proceeding with caution. In a speech in Boston this month, Janet L. Yellen, the Fed chairwoman, also expressed concern about a decline in the number of new businesses, which are traditionally a vehicle for Americans to get ahead. Certainly, the stock market’s unpredictable swings rattled investors recently. But skeptics may be more concerned about the effect of Europe’s anemic growth on the American economy. Some economists worry that European policy makers and the European Central Bank are not doing enough to stimulate their sluggish economies. An announcement by the European Central Bank on Monday that it was buying 1.7 billion euros’ worth of private assets was seen by many as too small an effort given the region’s economic problems. Government statisticians will revise Thursday’s figure twice, first in November and then in December. Thus, the final measure of growth could end up being restated by as much as a percentage point in either direction, according to Pantheon Macroeconomics. Lurking beneath all the statistics, however, is the insistent worry that even the most promising numbers are masking profound inequalities, as Ms. Yellen indicated in her Boston speech. “It is no secret that the past few decades of widening inequality can be summed up as significant income and wealth gains for those at the very top and stagnant living standards for the majority,” she said. “I think it is appropriate to ask whether this trend is compatible with values rooted in our nation’s history, among them the high value Americans have traditionally placed on equality of opportunity.” More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2014-10-30 09:35:52
The Swedish government became the first E.U. member to officially recognize the state of Palestine on Thursday. Newly elected Prime Minister Stefan Lofven first announced the move at his swearing-in ceremony on Oct. 3, but he was not expected to follow through so soon, writes the Israeli daily Haaretz. “Some will claim that today’s decision comes too early. I’m rather afraid it’s too late,” writes Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom in the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter. “The past year, we’ve seen how the peace negotiations once again have halted, how decisions on new settlements on occupied Palestinian land have obstructed a two-state solution and how violence has returned to Gaza.” Wallstrom writes that the recognition aims to support moderate forces among the Palestinians, make future negotiations more equal and give young Palestinians hope of a peaceful solution to the conflict. Israel has publicly protested the move, which some believe is feeding unrealistic Palestinian expectations of working out a resolution with the international community but without involving Israel, writes the Jerusalem Post. A total of 134 other countries recognized Palestine before Sweden. Hungary, Poland and Slovakia all did so before joining the E.U. More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2014-10-27 09:00:33
Despite opposition from nearly half of Brazil's voters, leftist President Dilma Rousseff won re-election on Sunday and will have another four years to try to revive growth in a once-booming economy gone stagnant. The 66-year-old Rousseff, who was a Marxist guerrilla in her youth, overcame growing dissatisfaction with the economy, poor public services and corruption to narrowly clinch a second term for herself and the fourth in a row for her Workers' Party. After a bitter, unpredictable campaign that pitted poorer Brazilians grateful for government anti-poverty programs against those exasperated with a stalled economy, Rousseff must now seek to continue flagship social services even as she tweaks economic policies to restore growth. Speaking to a relieved crowd of supporters on Sunday night in Brasilia, the capital, Rousseff acknowledged the close race and the call for change expressed by many voters. "I know that I am being sent back to the presidency to make the big changes that Brazilian society demands," she said after winning the runoff election with 51.6 percent support. Her slim, three-point margin over centrist candidate Aecio Neves came largely thanks to gains against inequality and poverty since the Workers' Party first came to power in 2003. Using the fruits of a commodity-fueled economic boom in the last decade, Brazil's government expanded welfare programs that helped lift more than 40 million people from poverty despite the current economic woes. The "Brazilian model" has been adopted by center-left parties across Latin America and Rousseff's victory, however narrow, is a blow for conservatives in the region. It also means there will be no dramatic improvement in ties with the United States, hit in recent years by trade disputes and U.S. government spying programs that infuriated Rousseff. About 40 percent of Brazil's 200 million people live in households earning less than $700 a month, and it was their overwhelming support that gave Rousseff victory on Sunday. Now, she pledges to deepen social benefits while working to revive an economy that fell into recession in the first half of this year. She has already promised to replace her finance minister, part of a pledge to rethink economic policies that she has so far been known to all but manage herself. "Such a tight result reduces her capacity to radicalize policies," said Alberto Bernal, a Miami-based economist with Bulltick Capital Markets. "Pretty much half of the country is against what she has been doing." So unhappy are investors with Rousseff that Brazil's stock market and its currency both slumped in recent weeks whenever opinion polls showed her gaining ground in the race. They could take another hit on Monday. Still, Rousseff and aides consistently shrug off market pessimism as little more than tantrums by speculators. As her camp celebrated victory late on Sunday, longtime foreign policy advisor Marco Aurelio Garcia told reporters that investors should relax and "take tranquilizers." Rousseff's victory came just a year after massive street protests swept Brazil because many advances of the past decade had stalled. The slowing economy, rising prices and anger over a lack of investment in public services prompted many to ask whether the Workers' Party had exhausted its ability to improve the lives of people in a country still plagued by vast gaps between rich and poor. FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN But Neves, a senator and former state governor who enjoys support among the upper-middle and wealthy classes, failed to convince a majority of Brazilians that he had enough new ideas to pull Rousseff from power. It didn't help that many poor Brazilians associate his centrist Brazilian Social Democracy Party with a less inclusive past, a perception that the Rousseff camp deftly exploited. "Even if things are getting worse, many voters prefer to stick with what they know than take a risk on the unknown," said Fernando Abrucio, a political science professor at the Getulio Vargas Foundation, a business school in Sao Paulo. A second Rousseff term will not be easy, especially as a slowing economy strains a government model accustomed to high tax revenues to finance social programs and subsidized credit for companies and consumers. Brazil's economy, after growing by as much as 7.5 percent the year before she took office, is on track to grow less than 1 percent this year. Prior efforts to gun growth, largely through tax breaks and other subsidies for select industries, have largely fallen flat. Meanwhile, inflation, long a problem in a country with a history of runaway price increases, is now hovering above the government's tolerance ceiling of 6.5 percent. And while unemployment is near record lows, economists don't expect it to remain so for long as plunging investment, slower growth and further uncertainty prompt employers to cut back. To correct the course, economists say Rousseff must pursue long-pending tax and labor reforms in order to increase productivity and engage further with the global marketplace. "Without improving efficiency and making Brazil a more productive part of the global economy, the country will just keep muddling along," said Marcio Garcia, an economist at the Pontifical Catholic University in Rio de Janeiro. Rousseff will also face gridlock in a Congress increasingly weary of the ruling party and continued uproar over a snowballing corruption scandal at the state-run oil company known as Petrobras (PETR4.SA). Brazilian media in recent weeks have been abuzz with leaked testimony by a former company executive relating alleged kickbacks by contractors to Workers' Party coffers. One news magazine reported that another key suspect told prosecutors that Rousseff was aware of the scheme, an accusation that she has vehemently denied. "She will face resistance on a number of fronts," said Carlos Melo, a political scientist at Insper, a Sao Paulo business school. "This is a victory in spite of all the problems - not an affirmation of a job well done." More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2014-10-25 07:30:36
New York and New Jersey will automatically quarantine medical workers returning from Ebola-hit West African countries and the U.S. government is considering the same step after a doctor who treated patients in Guinea came back infected, officials said on Friday. The steps announced by the two states, which go beyond the current restrictions being imposed by President Barack Obama's administration on travelers from Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea, came as medical detectives tried to retrace the steps in New York City of Dr. Craig Spencer, who tested positive for Ebola on Thursday. The new policy applies to medical workers returning from the region through John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey. In the first instance of the new move, a female healthcare worker who had treated patients in West Africa and arrived at the Newark, New Jersey, airport was ordered into quarantine. She had no symptoms upon arrival at the airport but developed a fever Friday evening, the New Jersey Health Department said in a statement. She is now in isolation and being evaluated at University Hospital in Newark. The agency gave no further details. More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2014-10-25 07:19:58
Presidential candidates traded accusations over political corruption on Friday night in a last ditch attempt to sway undecided voters before Sunday's election runoff in Brazil's closest race in decades. In the final television debate of a bitter campaign, leftist President Dilma Rousseff and pro-business opposition candidate Aecio Neves sparred over who was best suited to restore growth to a stagnant economy, fight inflation, bring down rents and deal with open sewers in Brazilian cities. But it was a deepening bribery scandal at the country's largest enterprise, state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA (PETR4.SA), that brought the fiercest exchanges. "There is one easy way to put an end to corruption: throw the Workers' Party out of office," Neves said in reply to a question from a voter on how to improve Brazil's lenient anti-corruption laws. Polls show that the festering corruption scandal involving the ruling Workers' Party has not had a significant impact on the race in which Rousseff gained a clear lead this week. More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2014-10-25 07:13:04
Sixteen workers were killed after a coal mine collapsed in China's far western region of Xinjiang, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Saturday, highlighting the poor safety standards in the world's biggest coal producing country. The accident occurred in the regional capital of Urumqi on Friday night when 33 workers were underground, the report said citing local officials. Eleven workers were injured and six escaped, it added. The report did not identify the name of the coal mine and said the cause of the accident is being investigated. China's mines are the deadliest in the world because of lax enforcement of safety standards and a rush to feed demand from a robust economy. Twenty two workers were killed in a coal mine accident in southwestern China in June. In an effort to eliminate outdated capacity and improve work safety, China plans to shut down over 2,000 small-scale coal mines by 2015. More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2014-10-23 09:40:15
Russian investigators detained four more staff members Thursday at the Moscow airport where the CEO of French oil giant Total died when his plane collided with a snow plough. Those detained include an intern air traffic controller, her supervisor, who was in charge of flights at the time, and the heads of the airport's air traffic controllers and runway cleaners. Investigators had already detained the driver of the snow plough and a court hearing on Thursday was expected to sanction his arrest. Investigators named the detained intern as Svetlana Krivsun. Russian media had reported earlier that the controller in charge of Christophe de Margerie's plane was a trainee. "The investigation suggests that these people did not respect the norms of flight security and ground operations, which led to the tragedy," the powerful Investigative Committee in charge of the probe said. At the same time the Vnukovo airport announced the resignations of its general director and his deputy "due to the tragic event" after the management was accused of "criminal negligence" by investigators. Neither of the two airport directors who resigned was detained by investigators, however. Total on Wednesday named new bosses after an emergency meeting in Paris, bringing back Thierry Desmarest -- who was both chairman and chief executive at Total from 1995 to 2007 -- as chairman of the group. Philippe Pouyanne, who currently heads the refining and chemicals division, was named as chief executive. In Moscow, French investigators joined a local team to probe the accident, which Russian experts said was caused by criminal negligence on the part of senior airport officials. Three crew members were killed along with De Margerie. Investigators began analysing the jet's black boxes, which record the flight history and conversations in the cockpit. - 'Lost my bearings' - Snowplough driver Vladimir Martynenko, accused by investigators of having been drunk on the job, arrived at a Moscow district court on Thursday for a hearing to decide whether to formally arrest him on the request of investigators. Martynenko told investigators in footage aired on Russian television that he had got lost. "When I lost my bearings, I myself didn't notice when I drove onto the runway," the 60-year-old said. "The plane was running up to takeoff and I practically couldn't see it because my equipment was on. There weren't even any lights, nothing." Interfax news agency reported that he had admitted drinking coffee with a liqueur before taking the wheel of the snowplough and that tests afterwards found a small amount of alcohol in his blood. "If he remains at liberty, Martyenko can hide from the investigation, put pressure on witnesses and destroy evidence," an investigator said at Thursday's hearing, cited by RIA Novosti news agency. Members of De Margerie's bereaved family are heading to Moscow to bring home his body to be buried in Normandy in northern France. However there were no details about when his body would be repatriated. - 'Great friend of Russia' - De Margerie had been chief executive of Total since 2007 and spent his entire 40-year career at the group, which employs 100,000 people and posted revenues of 189.5 billion euros ($240 billion) in 2013. A descendant of a family of diplomats and business leaders, De Margerie was the grandson of Pierre Taittinger, founder of the eponymous champagne and luxury goods dynasty. Married with three children and highly regarded within the oil industry, he was known for his jolly nature. Not one to shy from controversy, De Margerie was an outspoken critic of Western sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis. Even as relations between the West and Russia deteriorated to the worst since the Cold War, the French oil boss had criticised the sanctions, calling them "a dead-end" and urging "constructive dialogue" instead. Russian President Vladimir Putin described De Margerie as "a true friend of our country, whom we will remember with the greatest warmth". Vedomosti business daily wrote in an editorial on Thursday that De Margerie was "one of the most active investors of the Russian oil and gas sector" and that his death, caused by "elementary" management failures was emblematic of Russia's increasingly dire investment climate. More»