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Trump-Russia: Steve Bannon questioned in Mueller inquiry

President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, has been interviewed as part of an investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

He met with special counsel Robert Mueller, who leads the inquiry, over two days this week.

Mr Bannon was chairman of Mr Trump’s presidential campaign before becoming a top White House official.

But he left his post in August amid reports of tension with other aides.

Mr Mueller is leading an investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the US election. Both Moscow and Mr Trump deny this.

Investigators believe Mr Bannon may hold crucial information on the Trump administration, including details on why former FBI Director James Comey was fired by the president.

Mr Comey has previously said he has “no doubt” that he was fired by Mr Trump to “change” the Russia investigation, a charge the White House denies.

It is not clear what Mr Bannon was questioned about, but he is reported to have spent around 20 hours speaking with Mr Mueller’s team.

A source close to the process though told the Associated Press that Mr Bannon answered every question put to him.

Robert MuellerImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionRobert Mueller is investigating possible links between Russia and the Trump campaign

This inquiry is running alongside four similar ones being conducted by politicians in Congress, and Mr Bannon spoke to one of them on Thursday.

He appeared in front of the House intelligence committee as part of their own, separate, investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

But he frustrated the committee when he refused to answer their questions, opting instead to answer 25 pre-written questions that had been approved by the White House.

It led top Democrats to call for contempt proceedings against Mr Bannon.

“There was a refusal to answer any questions that would have brought out the full facts. That is not how privilege works. That’s how stonewalling works,” the panel’s Democratic leader Adam Schiff said.

In a tweet, Democratic member Joaquin Castro also accused Mr Bannon of stonewalling.

Republican Representative Mike Conaway said members of the panel were unhappy with Mr Bannon’s responses.

“He did not answer all the questions we’d like answered, so there was frustration among committee members with respect to that,” he said.

It is not the first time Mr Bannon has been criticised by the panel.

He voluntarily met with the same committee in January and refused to answer their questions over a 10-hour period.

The committee then issued a subpoena compelling him to return for a second time.

But Mr Bannon was reportedly advised by President Trump to invoke executive privilege, a prerogative allowing him to withhold information.

 

Source: BBC

Florida shooting: Nikolas Cruz confesses to police

The teenager accused of killing 17 people at a Florida high school on Wednesday has confessed to the shooting, police say.

Nikolas Cruz, 19, said he arrived on campus and began shooting students before abandoning his weapon and escaping, according to a court document.

He has appeared in court charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.

The FBI has admitted it received a tip-off about him last year.

The attack, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, is the deadliest US school shooting since 2012.

“Cruz stated that he was the gunman who entered the school campus armed with a AR-15 and began shooting students that he saw in the hallways and on the school grounds,” according to the court document.

He said he was carrying extra ammunition in a black duffel bag and backpack, it said.

Mr Cruz then discarded his weapon in an attempt to blend in and escape, the documents showed.

He was reportedly able to flee the scene undetected before entering a Walmart and then a McDonalds, and was eventually spotted by police and arrested one hour after the attack.

What do we know about the suspect?

Mr Cruz had been expelled from the school he has confessed to attacking and some students said they had joked “he’s the one to shoot up the school”.

One former schoolmate, Chad Reuters, told Reuters Mr Cruz was an “outcast” who was “crazy about guns”.

His interest in weapons was apparent on his social media profiles, which Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said were “very, very disturbing”.

Two separate Instagram accounts, now deleted, purport to show Mr Cruz posing with guns and knives.

What were the warnings?

After seeing a comment on a YouTube post last year by Mr Cruz, user Ben Bennight contacted the FBI and spoke to representatives for about 20 minutes.

Mr Bennight said the FBI contacted him again following the school shooting in Parkland.

The FBI confirmed on Thursday that they were made aware of the comment, adding that they had conducted “checks” but were unable to identify the person behind it.

Meanwhile, maths teacher Jim Gard told the Miami Herald that school authorities had emailed teachers about Mr Cruz’s behavioural problems.

“There were problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus,” he said.

Source: BBC

Weah withdraws nominee for Liberia’s justice ministry

Liberia’s new president George Weah has appointed a new justice minister following media reports and criticism that the one he had originally chosen, Charles Gibson, had his lawyer’s licence revoked for embezzling a client’s money.

Gibson was one of the appointees named on a list of ministers released by the presidency a few hours after George Weah became president on January 22.

The nomination was met with criticism by the media and activists who pointed out that Gibson’s appointment in the sensitive justice docket would send a wrong message as far as rule of law and the fight against corruption are concerned.

The local press revealed that Gibson’s lawyer’s licence had been suspended by the Supreme Court for embezzling $25,000 from a client, which he had been ordered to repay.

His credentials were further damaged when it was revealed that he had ignored the Supreme Court order to repay his client until a week before his name surfaced on the nomination list of ministers.

President George ’s Minister of Justice-designate, Cllr. Charles Gibson recently completed the payment of the client’s funds he misapplied and petitioned the Supreme Court to allow him resume active law practice again in after being suspended https://twitter.com/AlasMoJ/status/956092456109592576 

While Gibson argued that he had been too broke to pay the money and seek the lifting the ban on his legal practice, many in the media and general public interpreted his actions as impunity and urged the senate which approves presidential nominees, not to confirm this particular appointment.

According to the Executive Mansion release, the decision to withdraw the nomination of the disgraced advocate as made on Feb 7, in an official communication to the Senate Pro-Temp, Hon. Albert Chie, and Justice Minister-designate Cllr. Charles Gibson.

Gibson will be replaced in the Ministry of Justice by Musa Dean, formerly a lawyer for the National Electoral Commission (NEC), who led the fight against allegations of electoral fraud made by George Weah’s opponent in the second round of the presidential election, Joseph Boakai.

As with the previous one, this new appointment must be approved by the Senate.

In his first government, the former football star nominated a majority of his party’s members, as well as close relations with outgoing president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

In his first weeks in office, Weah has issued financial directives capping expenditure by ministries and also announced a 25% cut in his remuneration.

The ex-football star has vowed to fight corruption and establish a pro-people governance system as he strives to deliver on the high expectations of the people of Liberia.

President George Weah lays out his agenda for Liberians

 

Source:Africannews

The Gambia rejoins the Commonwealth after 2013 exit

The Commonwealth has confirmed the successful readmission of Gambia into the global bloc.

The West African country becomes the 53rd nation but fourth to rejoin.

The Gambia referred to as “smiling coast of West Africa” joins the likes of South Africa, Fiji and Pakistan who all left at a point and gained readmission.

In 2013, exiled President Yahya Jammeh pulled the country out of the Commonwealth.

Jammeh at the time gave the reason that the 52-member group was a ‘neo-colonial institution.’

After Jammeh’s shock defeat to then opposition candidate Adama Barrow in December 2016 elections, the Commonwealth intimated that its doors were open to a return by The Gambia. The Adama Barrow government have over the past year gone through the legal process of readmission.

Foreign Minister Ousainou Darboe in December 2017 notified parliament of the government’s decision to rejoin the Commonwealth union. The move was unanimously adopted by lawmakers who criticized how Jammeh unilaterally took them out of the union.

 

Delighted we are welcoming The Gambia🇬🇲 back to the family, a partnership of 53 countries building a more prosperous, secure, fair and sustainable future http://ow.ly/8WS230ih98q 

A December 2016 statement issued by Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said, “When The Gambia left the Commonwealth in 2013, heads of government, meeting in Colombo that year, noted this decision with regret, and looked forward to the country’s eventual return. Like every close-knit family, our Commonwealth doors remain open.”

Besides the Commonwealth, Jammeh had announced the withdrawal of the Gambia from the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2016. Barrow rescinded the decision soon after taking office. It was one of the campaign promises of the then opposition coalition.

 

Source: Africanews.com

Lion kills Nigeria zookeeper

A zookeeper has died after a lion mauled him in a park in northern Nigeria.

The lion broke out of its cage in the popular Gamji Gate amusement park in Kaduna city, injuring Mustapha Adam in the neck.

Mr Adam was admitted to hospital, where he died of his wounds in the early hours of Wednesday.

Authorities say the lion was lured back into its cage after the attack.

It is the second time in six months that an escaped lion has killed a person in Nigeria. In September last year, a lion killed a man feeding it in the city of Ibadan.

In 2015, a lion escaped from its cage in the central city of Jos but was tranquilized and killed before it could harm anybody.

Mustapha Adam

Source: BBC

Nigeria lassa fever death toll hits 31, Ivory Coast takes precautions

Thirty-one people have died from Lassa fever in Nigeria since the start of this year, the health minister said, with cases of the viral disease recorded across the country.

Isaac Adewole told reporters in Abuja on Monday that the outbreak was currently “active in 15 states, (with) 105 laboratory-confirmed cases, three probable cases, and 31 deaths”.

Ten of the 31 dead were health workers, he added.

Lassa fever belongs to the same family as Marburg and Ebola, two deadly viruses that lead to infections with fever, vomiting and in worst-case scenarios, haemorrhagic bleeding.

In Ivory Coast, Health and Public Hygiene Minister Raymonde Goudou Coffie said that the country had stepped up vigilance “in light of the… situation in affected countries and the flow of (travellers) among the nations of the sub-region.”

Coffie said that no cases of the disease had been registered locally, but warned of a potential risk from countries where it is endemic, such as Nigeria and Benin, as well as neighbouring Guinea.

Ivorians should go “immediately to the nearest health centre if the following symptoms appear: high fever followed by a general illness, weakness and muscle pains,” Coffie said.

The virus is spread through contact with food or items contaminated with rats’ urine or faeces or after coming into direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person. It can be prevented by enhanced hygiene and avoidance of all contact with rats.

The disease takes its name from the town of Lassa in northern Nigeria where it was first identified in 1969.

More than one hundred people were killed in 2016 in one of the country’s worst outbreaks of lassa fever, affecting 14 of the 36 states, including Lagos and the capital Abuja.

 

Source: Africannews

Sudan central bank devalues currency amid soaring inflation

Sudan’s central bank has said it will devalue the local currency to an upper limit of 31.5 Sudanese pounds against the US dollar.

The new official exchange rate will take effect on Monday, the central bank added.

This is the second such move in weeks amid soaring inflation which currently stands at 34 percent.

The Sudanese pound has fell to record lows on the black market this year after is was devalued to 18 per dollar from 6.7 following a call by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to let the currency float freely.

The central bank called on commercial banks for better coordination in order to put the foreign currency in “good use to help import essential items”.

Trading on the foreign exchange market has been very volatile since October 12, when the US lifted its 20-year-old trade embargo imposed on Khartoum.

Sudan’s economy has been struggling since the south seceded in 2011, taking with it three-quarters of its oil output.

Since January, Sudan has witnessed sporadic anti-government protests after a sharp rise in food prices.

 

Source:Africanews.com

Israel issues ultimatum to African migrants

Israel on Sunday began warning thousands of African migrants that they must leave by the end of March, officials said, under a plan that could see them jailed if they refuse.

Immigration authority spokeswoman Sabine Haddad told AFP that officials began issuing migrants letters on Sunday advising them that they had 60 days in which to leave the country voluntarily.

On January 3, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the implementation of a plan to deport about 38,000 migrants who had entered the country illegally, mainly Eritreans and Sudanese.

The controversial plan gives them until the end of next month to leave voluntarily or face jail and eventual expulsion.

For now, the notices are being given only to men without families, officials said.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz said “anyone recognised as a victim of slavery or human trafficking, and those who had requested asylum by the end of 2017 but haven’t gotten a response” would also be exempt for now.

It added that this left the number subject to near-term deportation at “between 15,000 and 20,000 people”.

The authority is offering those who agree to leave a grant of $3,500, a flight ticket and help with obtaining travel documents.

Sabine said, should they not leave by the deadline, the grant would be reduced and “enforcement measures” would be taken against them and anyone employing them.

Israel refers to the tens of thousands of African migrants who entered the country illegally from neighbouring Egypt as “infiltrators”.

Israeli officials tacitly recognise that it is too dangerous to return Sudanese and Eritreans to their troubled homelands, but local media say the notices do not specify where departing migrants would be sent.

Aid workers and media have named Uganda and Rwanda, although both countries deny being a destination for migrants being expelled involuntarily.

Public opposition to the plan has been slow to build, but some Israeli airline pilots have reportedly said they will not fly forced deportees.

Academics have published a petition and Israeli Holocaust survivors wrote an open letter to Mr Netanyahu last month pleading with him to reconsider.

The UN refugee agency has called on Israel to scrap the plan, calling it incoherent and unsafe.

A 2016 UN commission of inquiry into Eritrea’s regime found “widespread and systematic” crimes against humanity, and said an estimated 5,000 people flee the country each month.

The International Criminal Court has indicted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide linked to his regime’s counter-insurgency tactics in the Darfur conflict.

 

Source: Africanews.com

Samsung heir freed from S Korea jail

Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong has been freed from jail after a South Korean court suspended his five year jail term for bribing the country’s ex-president.

An appeals court upheld parts of the conviction, but used its discretion to release the executive.

South Korea’s supreme court is expected to appeal against the decision.

The case gripped the public amid growing anger against the country’s biggest companies, known as chaebols.

Scandal

Last year a lower court jailed Lee for corruption in a political scandal that ultimately brought down former President Park Geun-hye.

The Samsung Electronics vice chairman, who is also known as Jay Y Lee, who had been detained for nearly a year, appealed against both the verdict and sentence.

The scandal exposed the ties between family-run conglomerates and political powers.

Samsung Electronics is regarded as the jewel in the crown of the Samsung Group conglomerate, which is made up of 60 interlinked companies.

Lee has effectively directed operations at Samsung Electronics since his father, Lee Kun-hee, was incapacitated by a heart attack in 2014.

Source: BBC

Pressure grows on Zuma to stand down

South African President Jacob Zuma is under growing pressure to step down following talks with senior members of his ANC party on Sunday.

Details of the talks were not revealed but party leaders are to hold an emergency meeting on Monday.

Mr Zuma, who faces corruption allegations, was replaced as ANC leader by Cyril Ramaphosa in December.

Analysts say party chiefs want to avoid a power struggle that could split the ANC before elections next year.

They are expected to begin the process to remove President Zuma through a formal recall or by introducing a motion in parliament.

Cyril Ramaphosa in East London

Cyril Ramaphosa says the ANC has become divided through factionalism and corruption

The six most senior figures of the governing ANC party arrived one by one on Sunday at President Zuma’s residence in Pretoria.

They remained tight-lipped as the talks ended but have called a meeting of the party’s national working committee for Monday.

Julius Malema, an opposition leader and former ANC member, said on Twitter that Mr Zuma had refused to stand down.

Mr Zuma is not due to leave office until the 2019 elections. However, the ANC has seen its popularity fall during his second term amid a weakening economy and claims of corruption.

The president faces numerous allegations of corruption relating to his relationship with businessman Shabir Shaik who was tried and found guilty in 2005 of soliciting bribes from a French arms company.

Mr Zuma and other government officials were accused of taking kickbacks from the purchase of fighter jets, patrol boats and other arms.

Charges were first brought against Mr Zuma in 2005 but dropped by prosecutors in 2009.

Last year, the High Court ruled in a case brought by the opposition Democratic Alliance that he should face the charges.

Mr Zuma lodged a challenge with the Supreme Court of Appeal but it ruled he should face the charges. He has consistently denied any wrongdoing.

Mr Ramaphosa, who as the ANC’s new leader is in a strong position to win the 2019 elections, has called for party unity.

But correspondents say fears are growing that he and his allies in the ANC may move against Mr Zuma if he refuses to stand aside.

Source: BBC

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