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31 May
2017

Kenya insists on refugee camps closure despite court order

KENYA (WNF) - Kenya’s government continues to insist on the closure of the vast Dadaab refugee camp by the end of the month, despite a high court order to block the proposal. Generally described as the world’s biggest by numbers, Dadaab houses Somalis who have fled civil war in their home country.
The Kenyan government opened Dadaab in 1991. Situated in northeast Kenya near the Somali border, it was designed to house some 90,000 refugees as a temporary solution to Somalia’s civil war and now houses 250,000 to 350,000.

The ruling Jubilee Party set the May deadline for closing Dadaab as a security measure, claiming the Somali Islamists Al-Shabab used the camp as a hideout. The Islamists have staged deadly attacks in Kenya in recent years.

The government also threatened to close Kakuma, a camp housing mainly refugees from the fighting in South Sudan. Closure of the camps would have displaced an estimated 600,000 people.

Britain’s Guardian saw the government’s threat as related to the general election in Aug 2017, with President Uhuru Kenyatta using it to portray himself as tough on terror. The newspaper describes the threat as cynical electioneering. It points out that threats are one thing and the reality of closing down the huge and well-established camps – now de facto cities – is something else entirely. #22069 Updated: 04/19/2017 UPDATED APR 16 TO REFLECT COURT ORDER TO KEEP CAMP OPEN

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Jun
2017

Apple said to be planning iPhone production in India

INDIA (WNF) - Apple is reportedly planning to manufacture iPhones in India, which might bring the company under new fire from the new President of the United States, Donald Trump. (June 2017
Trump is strong-arming U.S. manufacturers to bring production home, and might not be mollified by the report that the phones will be for Indian consumption.

A Times of India source said that the high-tech hub of Bangalore “is being looked at seriously” for the factory. Production is expected to start in June, according to the newspaper.

According to data shared by Counterpoint Technology Market Research, published by IB Times, Apple sold 2.5 million iPhones in India from Oct 2015 to Sep 2016, marking a rise of more than 50 per cent over the year-ago period.

Britain’s Guardian newspaper notes that Trump’s prolific tweeting helped him win the U.S. election, and that he now is using Twitter to persuade big business to bend to his agenda.

Apple has shown no interest in bringing phone production home to the United States. MSNBC notes that the majority of Apple phones are made in China, and that iPhone costs would double if production was brought home.

Apple is also reported to be setting up an iOS App Design and Development Accelerator in Bengaluru in May, which the company is calling a first-of-its-kind center to support developers creating mobile apps in India. #21995 Updated: 03/11/2017 UPDATED MAR 11 to move start date from April to June

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Jun
2017

Palestinian membership bid considered at INTERPOL executive meet

FRANCE (WNF) - The INTERPOL Executive Committee, probably meeting in Lyon, considers whether to accept a Palestinian reapplication for membership in the global policing body. Israel credits its lobbying efforts for the suspension of the first application. (June 2017
Should the Palestinian application receive the green light at the second bid, it will be put to the vote at the 86th General Assembly in November.

At the organization’s 85th General Assembly in Bali, Indonesia, the 190 member states suspended the application requests of “the Republic of Kosovo, the State of Palestine and the Solomon Islands.” After the vote the Jerusalem Post boasted that Israel had helped to thwart the Palestinian bid.

Palestine already has observer status in the body. It needed 125 votes in Bali to proceed to the next step. Fifty-six voted in favor of the Palestinian application, 62 voted against and 37 abstained.

The Palestinians argue that they need membership to be able to prosecute dozens of the most wanted fugitives by the Palestinian judiciary on criminal and financial corruption charges.

INTERPOL has forwarded Palestine’s application to the organization’s legal committee to examine whether the Palestinian police would be able to cooperate with INTERPOL.

Palestinian leaders have sought accession to international institutions as a means of keeping the statehood bid alive. Some bids have been successful. Palestine has non-member observer status in the United Nations, and full membership status in the International Criminal Court and UNESCO. Some 136 UN member states recognize Palestinian statehood.

Like the Palestinian Authority, Kosovo is also seeking unilateral de-facto statehood recognition by joining as many international bodies as possible.

The 13-member Executive Committee (EC) meets three times a year to set organizational policy and direction, and to set the agenda for the annual General Assembly. #22075 Published: 02/24/2017

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Jun
2017

South Korea tests new bullet train to Winter Olympics venues

SOUTH KOREA (WNF) - A high-speed railway opens for testing ahead of the Winter Olympics, an amenity that South Korea hopes will help establish the area as a ski destination beyond the Feb 9-25 Games. (June 2017
The train will whisk visitors from Incehon Airport in Seoul to mountain events in PyeongChang county in a mere 69 minutes, compared to the two-and-a-half hour road trip.

The Olympic Stadium is also in PyeongChang, while the ice events will be held in the coastal city of Gangneung. Yongpyong, the largest ski and snowboard resort in the country, will host the slalom and giant slalom.

It’s only the third time the Winter Games will be held in Asia, and the first outside Japan; South Korea is keen to make an impression. Most of the venues were completed months in advance, including a new Alpine ski centre, speedskating oval, figure skating arena and sliding track for the bobsled, luge and skeleton events.

The New York Times notes that the hope is that the Olympics can have a lasting impact on the tourism industry of South Korea and help it rival Japan — and upstart China — as a winter sports destination. Geography has been one of the main impediments: South Korea’s mountains are smaller than its neighbours' and receive far less natural snow. #22084 Published: 03/02/2017

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Jun
2017

Revamped gorilla exhibit opens at Cincinnati Zoo a year after tragedy

UNITED STATES (GN) - An expanded Gorilla World exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo is scheduled to open, shortly after the first anniversary of the shooting death of an endangered gorilla named Harambe. (Early June 2017
Zoo officials shot and killed the western lowland gorilla on May 28, 2016, a day after his 17th birthday, after he seized a 3-year-old boy who’d fallen 15 feet into the enclosure.

The death of the endangered primate spawned international outrage, plus numerous internet memes.

In the immediate aftermath the besieged zoo installed higher barriers at the gorilla exhibit and added a mesh fence to prevent future falls.

The revamped exhibit includes new landscaping, an energy-efficient stream and waterfall and a resurfaced outdoor habitat. A new indoor area will also allow guests to see the gorillas year round.

“We’re on track to complete the new indoor environment this fall and excited to get gorillas outside in a few weeks,” zoo director Thane Maynard said in a recent statement. #22178 Published: 05/22/2017

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02 Jun
2017

Fifth anniversary of conviction sees ex-Egyptian president free

EGYPT (WNF) - Five years ago former president Hosni Mubarak was convicted of failing to stop the killings of hundreds of anti-government protesters during the 2011 uprising and was sentenced to life in jail. He will not spend the fifth anniversary imprisoned.
The verdict was later overturned on appeal and a retrial was ordered, but he remained behind bars on embezzlement charges.

The door opened for the now 89-year-old former leader on Mar 24, just two months before the fifth anniversary, and he was taken under armed escort from the Maadi Military Hospital in southern Cairo to his mansion in Heliopolis.

He is said to be preoccupied with how history will treat him, and he is now free to write his version in the comfort of his home.

History is unlikely to be kind. The Arab world’s most populated country was under Emergency Law during his three decades of rule. It enabled the government to arrest and detain people indefinitely without charging them. Corruption was reported to be rife.

In another twist in his case, Mubarak had his three-year prison sentence for corruption upheld in 2015 – the only successful prosecution of the once president since his ouster in 2011. He and his sons, Gamal and Alaa, who were also implicated in the corruption case, spent over four years in custody. In 2015 the Egyptian court gave them credit for time served and they were allowed to leave. Mubarak remained imprisoned in his hospital room, with a view of the Nile.

His time behind a locked door with a guard outside saw the country with two other presidents. Mohamed Morsi was sworn into office in 2012 as Egypt’s first democratically elected president, but was ousted by the military, and replaced after presidential elections by Abdul Fattah al-Sisi. Sisi, the former head of Egypt’s armed forces, resigned from the military in 2014.

The military government is reported to be reasonably friendly to former members of the Mubarak regime, and the retrial might be delayed until the death of the former president. The New York Times sources suggest Mubarak, a former military officer, is working to see all charges overturned so the state will restore his military honors and give him a state funeral. #21702 Updated: 05/12/2017 UPDATED MAY 12 TO REFLECT MUBARAK RELEASE

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02 Jun
2017

New taoiseach chosen to succeed Enda Kenny

IRELAND (GN) - Ireland will gain a new taoiseach (prime minister) to succeed Enda Kenny, who announced in May that he was standing down as leader of the governing centre-right Fine Gael party.
Welfare minister Leo Varadkar, son of a Mumbai-born doctor and Ireland’s first openly gay minister, is in the forefront to succeed Kenny as taoiseach.

Simon Coveney, the housing minister, whose father is former Fine Gael minister Hugh Coveney, remains in the running but appears to be losing support.

Kenny, 66, is credited with steering Ireland out of its economic collapse, but domestic scandals and a slump at the ballot box saw him come under pressure from his party to step aside.

In a statement announcing his retirement, Kenny said it had been a “huge honour and privilege” to lead Fine Gael over the past 15 years. He was elected taoiseach in 2011.

Fine Gael chooses its new leader via the electoral college system, with members of the parliamentary party, registered party members, and county councillors all getting a share of the vote.

Once they have all had their say, the Dail (parliament) will formally vote in the new leader as taoiseach later in June. #22167 Updated: 05/22/2017 UPDATED May 22 with latest details

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02 Jun
2017

Tree nuts a possible weapon in battle against colon cancer

UNITED STATES (GN) - U.S. researchers will present their findings that colon cancer survivors who eat at least two ounces (57 grams) of tree nuts a week - roughly 48 almonds or 36 cashews - are less likely to suffer from a recurrence or to die from their cancer than those who did not eat nuts.
Their study was released in advance of the upcoming American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting in Chicago, which runs Jun 2-6.

The researchers analyzed a questionnaire about dietary intake from a clinical trial of 826 patients with stage III colon cancer, where the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes but not to other parts of the body.

All the patients had received surgery and chemotherapy to treat their colon cancers.

Around 19 per cent of the study participants, who reported eating more than two ounces of tree nuts per week, had a 42 per cent lower chance of cancer recurrence and a 57 per cent lower chance of death than those who did not eat nuts.

The benefit applies only to tree nuts and not peanuts or peanut butters, according to Dr. Temidayo Fadelu of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and colleagues, who conducted the study.

That may be because peanuts are legumes, which may have a different metabolic composition than tree nuts, Fadelu said.

ASCO President Daniel Hayes said that the study shows that something as simple as eating tree nuts may make a difference in a patient’s long-term survival, adding that basic healthy eating is often overlooked by doctors and their patients in cancer care.

The team focused on nut consumption because prior studies have shown that eating nuts can reduce the risk of obesity and diabetes, factors that also influence the risk of recurrence and death from colon cancer. #22179 Published: 05/22/2017

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03 Jun
2017

Panama Papers scandal triggers Malta snap election

MALTA (WNF) - Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has called an early election, a year before his term ends and just three weeks before the end of the country’s term as rotating president of the European Union. The announcement is fallout from the so-called Panama Papers scandal.
The vote opens the door for the opposition Nationalist Party to defeat Muscat’s Labor Party, which won 54.8 per cent of the vote in the last election, in 2013.

The Panama Papers last year revealed that both Malta’s energy minister and the government’s chief of staff had opened offshore companies in Panama. Muscat’s wife, Michelle, is now accused of owning an offshore company in Panama. Malta is enjoying record low unemployment and economic growth of more than 3.5 per cent, according to the BBC, but anti-corruption protesters have taken to the streets against Muscat’s government.

The Panama Papers are an unprecedented leak of 11.5 million files from the database of the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca. Twelve national leaders are among 143 politicians, their families and close associates from around the world known to have been using offshore havens to dodge taxes and hide assets. #22156 Published: 05/05/2017

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04 Jun
2017

Mexico State gubernatorial vote a high-stakes poll for ruling PRI

MEXICO (WNF) - Mexico State elects its leadership, with the ruling Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) needing a strong win in the country’s most populous state to revive its chances ahead of the 2018 general election.
Many see the election in the PRI stronghold, where it has held power for 80 years, as a gauge of the party’s ability to retain the presidency when Enrique Peña Nieto’s six-year term is up. The party goes into the election weaker than ever after losing seven recent gubernatorial elections. They include the vote in another PRI stronghold, Veracruz. Conversely, a good showing in Mexico State, will revitalize the demoralized PRI.

For the first time, the PRI faces significant competition in the state, which wraps around Mexico City. The opposition Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) has teamed up with Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD), and the leftist National Regeneration Movement, or Morena, appears to be surging.

Governors serve six-year terms and cannot seek reelection. The main candidates are the PRI’s Alfredo del Mazo Maza, PAN’s Josefina Vázquez Mota, and Delfina Gómez Álvarez of the leftist National Regeneration Movement, or Morena.

The New York Times notes that the state, in common with the nation, has been wrestling with rising violence and unremitting corruption. #22163 Published: 05/12/2017

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05 Jun
2017

Trial of Bill Cosby for sexual assault starts in Pennsylvania

UNITED STATES (GN) - The trial of Bill Cosby, who stands accused of sexual assault, gets underway in Pennsylvania. The embattled actor and comedian has said he will not testify at his trial.
Andrea Constand, a former basketball coach at Cosby’s alma mater, Temple University, alleges that the 79-year-old entertainer drugged and molested her in 2004.

At least 50 women have come forward to accuse him of sexual assault, but Cosby will only face charges in Constand’s case due to statutes of limitations.

Cosby denies any wrongdoing and suggests that racism has played a role in his treatment.

The former star of the 1980s family sitcom “The Cosby Show” said he intends to return to performing following the trial. Once known as America’s Dad, Cosby was the first African-American to host a primetime TV show. #22180 Published: 05/22/2017

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05 Jun
2017

UN Oceans Conference to tackle threats to the high seas

UNITED NATIONS (WNF) - UN member states hope to reach agreement on managing the world’s oceans at a meeting described as one of the body’s most important of the year. It will seek solutions to problems like plastic fragments in the ocean, declining fish stocks and coral bleaching.
According to a 2016 World Economic Forum report, there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans by the year 2050. The organization also reports that declining fish stocks will affect the more than two billion people worldwide who rely on fish as a source of protein.

The United Nations environment agency reported in Jan 2017 that if current trends continue and the world fails to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, nearly all of the world’s coral reefs will suffer severe bleaching – the gravest threat to one of the Earth’s most important ecosystems – on an annual basis.

A study cited by the BBC shows that higher water temperatures in 2016 caused the worst destruction of corals ever recorded in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the country’s natural wonder. The ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies reported that some 67 per cent of corals died in the reef's worst-hit northern section. The study found that the central section fared better, with 6 per cent die-off, and that the southern reef is in good health. #22014 Published: 01/17/2017

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05 Jun
2017

50th anniversary of Six-Day War a sensitive day

ISRAEL, GAZA STRIP, WEST BANK (WNF) - Fifty years after Israel defeated Arab armies in the Six-Day War and began to occupy land beyond its borders, the negotiations that might have averted new conflict on the sensitive anniversary have run out of steam.
Israel’s decisive victory included the capture of the Gaza Strip, West Bank, Old City of Jerusalem, Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights.

Palestinian fury has grown apace with Israel’s determination to hold on to its conquests. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has been hanging his hopes for a negotiated two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 borders on the efforts of the so-called Quartet – the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia. Those negotiations are nowhere in sight. Newer conflicts, particularly in Syria, have overtaken the older Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

The Middle East publication Al-Monitor reported in Aug 2015 that for Israelis the anniversary offers a juncture for reflection on the country’s identity as a Jewish democracy. Recent news indicates that Israel will celebrate the day as the anniversary of a monumental victory, with screenings and print that relive the pivotal moments of the conflict. It will also be a day of remembrance for the Israeli casualties of the war, and for tributes to its veterans.

To many Palestinians, the date represents the absolute deadline for the achievement of independence, according to the same Al-Monitor report. The return of Palestinians displaced by the 1948 and 1967 conflicts remains one of the many sticking points in the fitful peace negotiations.

A Palestinian official reported to be close to PLO President Mahmoud Abbas told the Middle East publication that time is running out for Palestinian diplomatic efforts, and complained about unremitting Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank. “Come June 2017, without Palestinian statehood, we will have no choice but to revert to an alternative strategy of achieving statehood through conflict.” He foresees Jerusalem and the Temple Mount as the center of the violence, with Arab countries and Shiite and Sunni terror organisations joining the fight. Other Palestinian publications refer to the anticipated violence as the “intifada of independence.”

On Jun 6 Palestinians will also mark the 69th Nakba Day, the establishment of Israel in 1948, making the period doubly sensitive.

The two-state solution is nowhere on Israel’s radar, and on Jun 8, 2016, while travelling with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a state visit to Russia, Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel told the Times of Israel that the world should forget about a Palestinian state. According to the report of the statement in the Washington Post, he said he wants the government to take complete control of more than half of the West Bank and remove the Palestinian residents from the territory. #21674 Updated: 05/18/2017 UPDATED MAY 18 TO REFLECT QUARTET INACTION

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