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Today's World News covering, Africa, Europe, Middle East

The Panama paper leak raises a political storm

The massive leak of confidential banking documents known as the Panama Papers has implicated some big names in Africa. The documents, described as the biggest data leak in history show how 143 politicians, including 12 national leaders, have used offshore tax havens and other means to avoid taxes and sanctions.


 

Some of the Africans mentioned in the documents include a nephew of South African President Jacob Zuma, the twin sister of Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila, the jailed former governor of Nigeria’s oil-rich Delta State, and the petroleum minister of Angola, Africa’s second-biggest oil producer behind Nigeria.

Stanley Achonu is operations manager for Budgit, a civic organization that works to simplify the Nigerian federal budget for ordinary Nigerians. He said while the use of offshore facilities is not in itself a crime, the leak confirms what Africans have known all along about some of their leaders, that they use these offshore bank accounts to conceal stolen public funds.

“This is not new. The revelation is things that we have always known. But it now makes sense to have a paper trail backing up things that we have heard in the past,” he said.

James Ibori, governor of Nigeria’s oil-rich Delta State from 1999 to 2007, pleaded guilty in a London court in 2012 to conspiracy to defraud and money laundering offences. Ibori admitted using his position as governor to corruptly obtain and divert up to $75 million out of Nigeria through a network of offshore companies, although authorities alleged that the total amount he embezzled may have exceeded $250 million. Ibori received a 13-year prison sentence.

Achonu said the leaked data will bolster President Muhammadu Buhari’s effort to recover stolen public funds.

“This confirms all he has said in recent months about how huge sums of money was stolen by both elected and appointed officials. I believe that this revelation will further provide evidence for the anti-corruption fight,” Achonu said.

The leaked Panama papers also named the nephew of South African President Jacob Zuma.

Zuma’s nephew -- Khulubuse Zuma -- was listed as a representative of Caprikat Limited—one of two offshore companies that allegedly acquired oilfields in Democratic Republic of Congo in a $6.8 million deal in 2010. Caprikat is registered in the British Virgin Islands, the main offshore tax haven involved in the Panama Papers.

Khulubuse Zuma’s spokesperson Vuyo Mkhize said Monday that “Khulubuse does not, and has never held any offshore bank account” and that the Panama Papers simply suggested he was associated with Caprikat, which was a matter of public record.

The revelation could not have come at a worse time for President Jacob Zuma as South Africa's parliament is scheduled to open a debate Tuesday on an opposition motion to impeach him for violating the constitution.

The Constitutional Court ruled last week that Zuma "failed to uphold, defend, and respect the constitution" by failing to pay back some of the public funds he used to make improvements on his private home.

Zuma said in a televised address to the nation last week that he "never knowingly or deliberately set out to violate the constitution, which is the supreme law of the republic." Achonu said it’s about time South Africans make a decision about what to do about their president.

“For me it’s not just about South Africa. It’s also about the larger role that South Africa plays in Africa, one of the biggest countries, only second to Nigeria. South Africa cannot afford to have a president who has been tainted on all sides with respect to scandals,” Achonu said.

The documents also mentioned Jaynet Désirée Kabila, twin sister of Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila. She has been a member of parliament since 2012. She is allegedly linked to Keratsu Holding Limited, a company incorporated in the Pacific island of Niue in June 2001, months before her brother was elected as president. Kyungu has yet to comment on the allegations.

Achonu said while the use of offshore facilities is not in itself a crime, the leak confirms what Africans have known all along about some of their leaders, that they use these offshore bank accounts to conceal stolen public funds.

“I wouldn't want to reduce the data being released to just tax evasion. Especially in Africa, it’s most likely a case of people who have stolen public funds which they cannot justify using their regular income based on the position they hold in government and are now trying to hid their assets and wealth through offshore companies,” he said.

Other Africans mentioned the alleged leaked date include Kenya’s deputy chief justice Kalpana Rawal and the widow of former Guinean President Lansana Conte, Mamadie Touré.

A Newsweek magazine article said U.S. authorities allege that Touré received $5.3 million in bribes to help a mining company obtain rights to the world’s richest iron ore deposit.

It said in 2014, U.S. authorities raided Touré’s Florida home, seizing properties, restaurant equipment and an ice cream cooler collectively worth more than $1 million.

The son of former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan is also mentioned in the alleged leaked Panama papers.

According to Newsweek, the Swiss company Cotecna hired Kojo Annan in 1995 for work in Nigeria. By early 1998, he had quit to become a consultant to Cotecna. Months later, the United Nations awarded the firm a contract as part of Oil-for-Food humanitarian program in Iraq, prompting allegations of impropriety. An independent panel investigated the program, including Kojo Annan, and issued a report in 2005 that found no evidence that he tried to influence or to use family connections to benefit from the program.

Alaa Mubarak, the son of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is also mentioned in the papers as well as Ian Stuart Kirby, president of the Court of Appeal in Botswana, and former Zambian Ambassador to the United States, Attan Shansonga.

voanews.com

Prophet 'Ascends' To Heaven, Sells Photos He Took While There

Wonders they say shall never end. If you think Ghana was the only place where self-proclaiming men of God gave out ridiculous prophecies and claim to have performed  miracles that even Jesus Christ did not perform while on earth, then you must be mistaking.

U.N resolution seeks police deployment to monitor and advance rule of law in Burundi

The United Nations Security Council asked U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday to provide options for a police deployment to Burundi, where simmering political violence has stoked fears the small African state could spiral into ethnic conflict.


 

Burundi has been embroiled in political violence since President Pierre Nkurunziza said last April he would seek a third term, which his opponents said was illegal. Since then, at least 439 people have been killed and more than 250,000 have fled.

The 15-member council unanimously adopted a French-drafted resolution after language asking the United Nations to work with the government of Burundi on disarmament was removed to appease the United States, which is a council veto power.

 

The resolution asks Ban - in consultation with the Burundi government and cooperation with the African Union - to provide options within 15-days for the deployment of a U.N. "police contribution to increase the U.N. capacity to monitor the security situation, promote the respect of human rights and advance rule of law."

reuters.com

John Kasich blames black women for infant mortality

Everyone knows Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) is running as the “nice guy” in the Republican presidential race. But at MSNBC’s recent GOP town hall, he made some nasty comments about black infant mortality rates in his state.


 

After a question on criminal justice reform, NBC News host Chuck Todd asked Kasich to explain how his efforts in the black community could go further than policing and mass incarceration. Todd listed statistics including the state’s staggering income gap, that Ohio was deemed the sixth worst state to raise a black child by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and that Cleveland is considered one of the of the 10 most segregated cities in the U.S.

Kasich, after saying he didn’t believe those statistics, listed his accomplishments as governor — including school reform and job creation — before oddly pivoting to infant mortality rates.

“The issue of infant mortality is a tough one. We have taken that on and one of the toughest areas to take on is in the minority community,” he said. “And the community itself is going to have to have a better partnership with all of us to begin to solve that problem with infant mortality in the minority community, because we’re making gains in the majority community.”

Ohio has the third highest rate of infant mortality in the nation — and the main organization working to lower those rates had its funding cut by Kasich.

Though Kasich expanded Medicaid, which brought health care to many low-income mothers, a lot of the gains were erased in February. That month he signed a bill to slash $1.3 million of state funding to Planned Parenthood and other organizations that “perform or promote” abortions (even though Ohio law already prevented state funds from covering abortions). The bill takes effect May 23. Among Planned Parenthood’s services is Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies, the largest of 14 infant mortality programs in the state.

“It is offensive to hear John Kasich tell black women what we should do with our bodies, though not at all surprising. John Kasich blames black women for infant mortality, while as Governor, he cuts programs that help black families in Ohio,” said Alencia Johnson, assistant director of constituency communications for the Planned Parenthood Action Fund in a statement.

huffingtonpost.com

Observant pupil saves class mate’s life while two others tried to poison him

Three first-graders at an Anchorage school have been suspended for plotting to kill a classmate with poison.


 

Luckily for their intended victim, two things went wrong: most importantly, another kid who learned of their scheme informed grownups before the plot could be carried out, local NBC affiliate KTUU reports. And even if they had made their attempt, they likely would have failed: they were planning to use silica gel, which is not actually considered toxic (though they thought it was).

An email to parents of first graders at Winterberry Charter School explained what happened and urged parents to encourage their kids to be like the good Samaritan in this case.

A spokesperson for the Anchorage Police Department said, “The important lesson here is to really teach your kids if they hear something like this, something where someone intends to do harm to someone else, they should tell someone that they trust right away.”

 

time.com

Man With 1,400 Bags Of Heroin In His Rectum Busted By Dog

A 41-year-old from Bronx was Tuesday busted in Vermont with over 1,400 bags worth of heroin inside him, cops have said, according to nydailynews.

Fernando Estrella was hiding three condoms filled with the drug inside his body when state troopers pulled him over on North Elm St. in St. Albans at around 1 a.m. for speeding his gray Chevy minivan through a stop sign, said Sgt. John Helfant of the Vermont State Police.

A drug-detecting dog then alerted police to Estrella’s car seat. Cops found a heroin needle and cooking cap in the car, but recovered no drugs.

Cops detained Estrella and took him to a local hospital, where cops executed a warrant for a body cavity search.

They eventually removed the three heroin-filled condoms, which equal 1,428 bags for sale, from his rectum, Helfant said.

Estrella, had brought the drugs from New York City to be sold in the area, he said.

He was charged with felony heroin possession, heroin trafficking, and heroin importation. He had also violated the terms of his release on a Nov. 2015 cocaine bust, officials said.

'Jesus' Falls 13 Feet From Cross In Guatemala

Tragedy struck for real during a reenactment of Jesus's death when the main actor plunged from the top of the cross to the ground. 

A video on Mailonline shows the man dressed as Christ falling about 13ft into the crowd below has now gone viral on social media.

The incident is said to have happened during Easter celebrations in the town of Santa Barbara, in the south-west Guatemalan department of Suchitepequez.

The images show the man, with long curly hair and a white loincloth, falling off the high cross with his arms flailing.

The scared Jesus actor tries to grab onto the robes supporting the cross but tumbles down into the crowd amidst shouts of alarm.

There is no news as to the condition of the man.

 

 

primenews.com.gh

Passenger on board hijacked EgyptAir flight describes reactions witnessed

A passenger on board the hijacked EgyptAir flight has described the unique reactions he witnessed among his fellow travellers when they believed they could be killed during the ordeal.


 

As the plane was forced to divert from Cairo at the behest of hijacker Seif Eldin Mustafa, 58, many began calling loved ones for what they thought were their final goodbyes.

One rang his wife to reveal the existence of a secret bank account, while another woke up as the diverted jet approached Cyprus, asking: 'Why Cyprus? I'll miss my connection.'

Another man's wife, apparently unconcerned about the fact her husband was a bomb hostage, forced him to repeat the details of his bank account several times.

The stories were retold by AbdAllah El Ashmawy, an orthopedic surgeon from Egypt who is based in Plymouth.

In a post on his Facebook page, he thanked all those who called and messaged him concerned about his safety.

Admitting it was a day he would 'never forget', he said it was a 'very painful experience to be on a hijacked plane in the middle of the sea with a guy... who claims he has explosives'.

However, he also revealed that the reactions of his fellow passengers helped lighten the tense mood on board the plane.

He wrote: 'Most of the people managed to stay calm, but as usual passengers on board made my day.

'A lovely Egyptian chap decided to call all his family and friends one by one in the middle of the hijacked plane when we were about to land to Cyprus.

'Another funny husband calling [sic] his wife to tell her about some money he was hiding in a bank and the funniest part is his wife forgetting about the hijack thing and asking him to repeat the bank name.

'Another lovely guy was sleeping and woke up to be informed we are landing in Cyprus and his funny response was 'why Cyprus??!..I will miss my connection.'

dailymail.co.uk

Miami man rejects $1.8 million price tag on ancestors land

A Native American man has refused to sell his tiny wooden Miami house to developers for $1.8million because he believes it is on sacred ground.


 

Ishmael Bermudez, 65, also known as Golden Eagle, has been excavating the backyard of his home for almost 50 years and claims it is a mystical place sacred to the Tequesta tribe.

He says he will not sell his home unless the garden, where he discovered a natural spring, is protected.

The small house, which is decorated with colorful paintings, sits incongruously in the heart of Miami's bustling city center, surrounded by high rise buildings, heavy traffic and ongoing construction projects.

Developers have driven up the value of his property to at least $1.8 million, but Mr Bermudez says he has no intention to sell unless his backyard can be protected.

Mr Bermudez claims he has found evidence of the earliest native inhabitants of the area in his garden, which sits just two blocks from busy Brickell Avenue and is surrounded by skyscrapers, bars and restaurants.

dailymail.co.uk

Police officer shoots dead unarmed man in Arizona despite pleas to spare his life

An unarmed young father of two was shot five times by a police officer in Mesa, Arizona, after begging “Please don’t shoot me.” Now his widow is fighting the system to try to keep her husband’s murderer from walking free.


 

Police invaded Daniel Shaver’s hotel room after receiving a phone call that somebody was pointing a rifle out the window, according to local affiliate KTAR. The rifle wound up being two pellet rifles, which the police “later determined were related to his pest control job.”

Police forced Shaver and his acquaintance to “crawl” out from the room. Shaver reached towards his waistline, “possibly to pull up his shorts,” when Officer Philip Brailsford gunned him down with his own personal AR-15 assault rifle, which was inscribed with the phrase “You’re f***ed,” according to Tucson News.

Shaver was only 26 years old, and leaves behind two daughters.

Brailsford has been fired and is pleading not guilty to second degree murder. However, county attorney Bill Montgomery has said that they are considering a plea deal. At most, he would likely serve three years and nine months with a possibility for probation.

usuncut.com

How the U.S. media actively misinforms the public on crucial issues

Either by omission or by commission, the US media actively misinforms the public on crucial issues that matter. The reason they do this is because they legally can.

My mentor and dissertation committee member, Dr. Peter Dale Scott, recently wrote on his Facebook page: “Inadequate decently priced housing is one of America's most urgent domestic problems, with developers vacating neighborhoods to build third and fourth homes for the one percent. It is a symptom of what's wrong that Cynthia McKinney, one of the relatively few former members of Congress with a Ph.D., has to go to RT to discuss a crisis that is so under-reported in the US media.”

And therein lies the problem with US media: The news is so filtered and in some cases propagandized that it bears little resemblance to the day-to-day intellectual needs of the average US citizen. It fails to provide solutions, let alone information that allows US citizens to cast informed votes. Either by omission or by commission, the US media actively under-, ill-, or misinforms the public on crucial issues that matter! The reason they do this is because they legally can. Media in the US has at least one court ruling that allows them to knowingly lie to the public.

Let’s start with the First Amendment to the US Constitution that protects freedom of speech. Courts in the US have ruled on many occasions that freedom of speech also includes the freedom to lie. The rationale is that such rulings give space for unpopular statements of fact. For example, in 2012, the US Supreme Court voted 6-3 to affirm a lower court decision to overturn a conviction for lying about one’s credentials.

The lower court judge in that case wrote, “How can you develop a reputation as a straight shooter if lying is not an option?”

Washington State Supreme Court even ruled that lying to get votes, distinguishing between fact and opinion, was not something that the state should negotiate. It wrote that people and not the government should be the final arbiter of truth in a political debate.

Now, the First Amendment does not protect some types of lying: like, for instance, lying while under oath, lying to a government official, lying to sell a product. Even in defamation cases, the plaintiff has a firm threshold to overcome, especially if the person targeted is a “public person.” However, the Supreme Court has emphatically ruled that individuals have a right to lie: what about corporations and media outlets? In 2012, the Supreme Court extended First Amendment rights to organizations and corporations in its Citizens United decision.

My local newspaper, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution (AJC), ran a headline against me just days before my election that read: “McKinney Indicted.” One had to pore over the article to learn that the McKinney referred to was neither me nor my father, nor anyone related to me. But the AJC never stated that fact. It was a dirty trick carried out by the US press. And sadly, it happens all the time. I filed a lawsuit against the AJC, but had to withdraw it because of a lack of money to finance the lawsuit and, worse, the hostile environment regarding the media and anybody's efforts to make them tell the truth. I remained powerless before the media monolith and wondered why and how they could get away with such blatant and outright lies.

Then, in 2010, 'Project Censored' ran a story that caught my eye: “The Media Can Legally Lie.” After having had my series of run-ins with my local media as they always failed to report the truth about me, I was drawn to this story. Project Censored is a media watchdog based at Sonoma State University in California. Its goal is to end the junk food news diet of misinformation and disinformation fed to the US public by the corporate media. It is a project of students and faculty to shine a light on underreported or unreported stories that should be of great interest to the public. The Project Censored movie tells a part of its important story.

The 2010 story centers on two journalists, hired by FOX News as investigative journalists, who became whistleblowers when they were instructed to report “news” that they knew was not true.

According to Project Censored, in February 2003, FOX News argued that there was no prohibition on media outlets distorting or falsifying the news in the United States. And skipping ahead, FOX News won on that claim! But to backtrack to provide some context, the issue was the placement of Bovine Growth Hormone, BGH, manufactured by Monsanto, into the milk stream without labeling it.

A husband and wife reporting team produced a four-part series revealing the health risks for humans in drinking milk from cows treated with BGH to boost milk production. FOX News wanted the reporters to add statements from Monsanto that the couple knew were not factual. When they refused to make the suggested edits, the couple was fired. They sued and a Florida jury decided the couple was wrongfully fired. FOX News appealed the case. Basically, the Florida Appeals Court ruled that there is no law, rule, or even regulation against distorting the news and that the decision to report honestly resides with the news outlet.

FOX News was joined in its court action by other news outlets, notably Cox Television, Inc., a sister organization to the Cox-owned Atlanta Journal and Constitution. In an incredible and chilling turnabout, the two truth-telling journalists were ordered to pay FOX News millions of dollars to cover the company’s attorney fees. The reporters were told by FOX News executives, “The news is what we say it is.”

And there we have it. Now, this Court action immediately affected the right of people in the US to know what is in the food they buy. Media consolidation in the US is such that six corporations control 90 percent of the junk food news and entertainment fed to the people of the US and around the world. And US Courts not only say that this is OK, but also decided that it’s OK for them to knowingly lie to the public. That, in a nutshell, is why the US media lie: Because they can. And that, in a nutshell, is why the people of the US are increasingly turning to RT and alternative news outlets for information: Because they must.

rt.com

Lawyer who dishonestly practiced for 10 years convicted

A former president of a Pennsylvania county bar association has been convicted of using forged documents to pose as an estate lawyer for a decade even though she didn't have a law license.


 

Kimberly Kitchen was convicted on Thursday on charges of forgery, unauthorized practice of law and felony records tampering in Huntingdon County.

Kitchen, 45, fooled BMZ Law, a Huntingdon firm, by forging a law license, bar exam results, an email showing she attended Duquesne University law school and a check for a state attorney registration fee, prosecutors said.

The married James Creek resident handled estate planning for more than 30 clients despite never attending law school, and she even served as president of the Huntingdon County Bar Association for a time.

She made partner at BMZ, where she specialized in estate planning, before the fraud was discovered.

The judge on the case was brought in from another county, and the state attorney general, not county prosecutors, handled the case because Kitchen had been a fixture in the county courthouse for years.

BMZ officials testified at her two-day trial but haven't commented publicly since issuing a statement in December 2014, when the Huntingdon Daily News first reported that Kitchen was being investigated.

The firm's voicemail said its offices were closed for Good Friday.

'Sadly, it would appear that our firm was the last, in a long line of professionals, to have been deceived by Ms Kitchen into believing she was licensed to practice law,' the firm said previously. 'We are undertaking a thorough review of each and every file she may have handled.'

Kitchen had worked in fundraising at Juniata College before she started telling people she was an attorney, state prosecutors said.

The charges she was convicted of carry a maximum sentence of three-and-a-half to seven years behind bars.

Defense attorney Caroline Roberto said Friday that she is reviewing whether to appeal.

The judge didn't immediately schedule sentencing, giving caseworkers 90 days to file a presentence report first.

'We think that she had no intent to defraud,' Roberto said.

Last year Roberto called Kitchen an 'incredibly competent person'.

'She worked very diligently and was devoted to the people she served in the community,' Roberto added.

She said there was no evidence Kitchen's work was bad. 'She provided a good service,' she said.

Kitchen hasn't practiced law since the firm asked her to stop in December 2014.

Attorney General Kathleen Kane's office said it is happy with the conviction of Kitchen.

'The Attorney General's Office is certainly pleased to prove this case but more importantly to take an impersonator office the streets,' spokesman Chuck Ardo told WJAC.

Ardo added that Kitchen's lies were bound to catch up with her because 'they almost always get caught'.

A date for Kitchen's sentencing has yet to be scheduled.

dailymail.co.uk