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Joyous Congolese dances, songs enliven St. Peter’s Basilica
By FRANCES D’EMILIO | Sun, December 1, 2019 09:02 EST
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Congolese dancing and singing enlivened St. Peter’s Basilica on Sunday, as Pope Francis celebrated a special Mass for Catholics from the violence-wracked African nation and denounced arms suppliers for helping to fuel the conflict.
The whoops of joy and the chorus of rhythmically-swaying Congolese approaching the altar with symbolic gifts at the Mass’ offertory section made for vivid contrast with the solemnity of most religious ceremonies at the Vatican basilica.
Francis decided to celebrate the Mass to mark the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Catholic Congolese Community in Rome.
The Mass was conducted using a special rite approved by the Vatican in 1988 entitled the “Congolese Missal for the dioceses of Zaire,” the former name of Congo. The Vatican noted that Popes Paul VI and John Paul II had encouraged, as the Vatican put it, ‘’opening the liturgy to the cultural values of the people” of Congo.
In his homily, Francis prayed that conflict cease, noting that peace was “gravely threatened in the east of the country.’’ He decried weapon suppliers, lamenting “conflicts fed by those enriching themselves with arms.”
Recently, rebels in eastern Congo have targeted Ebola response workers, compounding difficulties in containing the outbreak.
Francis noted that many in the pews Sunday had left their homes and loved ones to come to Italy in search of a better life. In an apparent reference to hostility by many Italians to arriving refugees and migrants, the pope said: “The church is the house of God. Here, then, always feel at home.”
Francis’ expressed desires to visit Congo as well as South Sudan have so far been thwarted by persistent violence in those countries. He recently said he hoped to visit South Sudan in 2020 if conditions permit a pilgrimage.
At Mass’ end, a Congolese nun, Sister Rita Mboshu Kongo praised Francis for showing “fatherly attention and a great openness for the churches that are on the peripheries” and for his “constant worry” about migrants, the poor and others on society’s margins.
The nun decried what she called “total silence on the global level” to the killings of some 6 million Congolese people in the last 20 years” in conflict and turmoil.
Some of the Congolese faithful in the basilica “don’t know where their relatives are, don’t know if they are alive or dead,” Sister Mboshu Kongo told the pope.

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Iraqi PM formally submits resignation amid more violence
SAMYA KULLAB and MURTADA FARAJ | Sat, November 30, 2019 06:12 EST
BAGHDAD (AP) — Three anti-government protesters were shot dead and at least 58 others wounded in Baghdad and southern Iraq on Saturday, security and medical officials said, as Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi formally submitted his resignation to parliament.
Lawmakers were expected to either vote or accept outright Abdul-Mahdi’s resignation letter in a parliamentary session Sunday, two members of parliament said.
The prime minister announced Friday he would hand parliament his resignation amid mounting pressure from mass anti-government protests, a day after more than 40 demonstrators were killed by security forces in Baghdad and southern Iraq. The announcement also came after Iraq’s top Shiite cleric withdrew his support for the government in a weekly sermon.
The formal resignation came after an emergency Cabinet session earlier in which ministers approved the document and the resignation of key staffers, including Abdul-Mahdi’s chief of staff.
In a pre-recorded speech, Abdul-Mahdi addressed Iraqis, saying that following parliament’s recognition of his stepping down, the Cabinet would be demoted to caretaker status, unable to pass new laws and make key decisions.
Existing laws do not provide clear procedures for members of parliament to recognize Abdul-Mahdi’s resignation, Iraqi officials and experts said. Cabinet bylaws allow the prime minister to tender his resignation to the president, but there is no specific law that dictates the course of action should this be tasked to parliament.
“There is a black hole in the constitution, it says nothing about resignation,” said lawmaker Mohamed al-Daraji.
There are two main laws that could direct parliament’s course of action, he added: Either they vote Abdul-Mahdi out in a vote of no-confidence, per Article 61 of the constitution, or resort to Article 81 reserved for times of crisis when there is a vacancy in the premiership, shifting those duties temporarily to the president.
“My understanding is this will be taken care of per Article 61,” he said.
A vote of no confidence would demote Abdul-Mahdi’s Cabinet into caretaker status for a period of 30 days, in which parliament’s largest political bloc would have to propose a new candidate.
This is where the real problem comes in, experts and officials said.
Abdul-Mahdi’s nomination as prime minister was the product of a provisional alliance between parliament’s two main blocs — Sairoon, led by cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, and Fatah, which includes leaders associated with the paramilitary Popular Mobilization Units headed by Hadi al-Amiri.
In the May 2018 election, neither coalition won a commanding plurality that would have enabled it to name the premier alone. To avoid political crisis, Sairoon and Fatah forged a precarious union.
“Now we are back to the question of who is the largest bloc that can name the next prime minister,” said one official close to the State of Law party, led by former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. “If they don’t come to an agreement before the 30-day deadline, then we might have to go to the supreme court.”
Officials traded theories as to why Abdul-Mahdi chose to tender his resignation through parliament, with some speculating it was to buy more time or avoid the risk of a vacuum should the post remain empty.
Abdul-Mahdi had alluded to the challenges faced by political parties to find consensus candidates, saying in earlier statements he would step down once an alternative candidate was found.
In his speech, addressing these speculations, Abdul-Mahdi said he was acting on the advice of Iraq’s chief Supreme Court judge.
“The perspective I received from the chief of the federal supreme court is that the resignation should be submitted to those who voted the government in,” he said.
Abdul-Mahdi listed his government’s accomplishments, saying it had come to power during difficult times. “Not many people were optimistic that this government would move forward,” he said.
The government, he said, had managed to push through important job-creating projects, improve electricity generation and strengthen ties with neighboring countries.
“But unfortunately, these events took place,” he said, referring to the mass protest movement that engulfed Iraq on Oct. 1. “We need to be fair to our people and listen to them, where we made mistakes, where we did not make up for the mistakes of previous governments.”
At least 400 people have died since the leaderless uprising shook Iraq with thousands of Iraqis taking to the streets in Baghdad and the predominantly Shiite southern Iraq decrying corruption, poor services, lack of jobs and calling for an end to the post-2003 political system.
Security forces have used live fire, tear gas and sound bombs to disperse crowds leading to heavy casualties.
Three protesters were killed and 24 wounded in the holy city of Najaf in southern Iraq on Saturday as security forces used live rounds to disperse them from a key mosque, security and hospital officials said.
In Baghdad, at least 11 protesters were wounded near the strategic Ahrar Bridge when security forces fired live ammunition and tear gas to prevent demonstrators from removing barricades. The protesters are occupying part of three strategic bridges – Ahrar, Sinak and Jumhuriya – in a stand-off with security forces. All three lead to the heavily fortified Green Zone, the seat of Iraq’s government.
In the southern city of Nasiriyah, security forces used live fire and tear gas to repel protesters on two main bridges, the Zaitoun and the Nasr, which lead to the city center. Heavy fighting has taken place in Nasiriyah in recent days, with at least 31 protesters killed.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
Abdul-Mahdi referred to the rising death toll by security forces in his speech.
“We did our best to stop the bloodshed, and at the time we made brave decisions to stop using live ammunition, but unfortunately when clashes happen there will be consequences,” he said.

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London extremist attack takes center stage in UK campaign
By GREGORY KATZ | Sun, December 1, 2019 01:14 EST
LONDON (AP) — Britain’s political leaders sparred Sunday over who is responsible for the early release of a convicted extremist who launched a stabbing attack in central London that left two dead and injured three.
After a one-day pause out of respect for victims, Friday’s attack is dominating the political scene as the Dec. 12 election nears, shifting the focus, at least for the moment, from Brexit and the National Health Service to issues of security and criminal justice.
The argument centers over the early release from prison of Usman Khan, who served roughly half his sentence before being set free. He was able to stab five people before being shot dead by police despite conditions imposed on his release that were supposed to protect public safety.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, portraying himself as tough on crime, on Sunday blamed Khan’s freedom on changes in sentencing rules made by the last Labour Party government before Johnson’s Conservatives took power in 2010. He promised to toughen sentencing laws.
“I think it is repulsive that individuals as dangerous as this man should be allowed out after serving only eight years and that’s why we are going to change the law,” he told BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.
Marr repeatedly challenged the prime minister by pointing out that the Conservatives had been in power for nearly a decade and not taken any steps to change the situation Johnson was complaining about.
The accuracy of Johnson’s claim was challenged by Ed Davey, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, who told Sky News that the prime minister was misleading the public about the current law regarding the early release of prisoners.
“Either he’s incompetent and doesn’t know the law, or he’s deliberately misleading people when we’ve got a tragedy on our hands, and I’m afraid, either way, it does not look good for the prime minister,” Davey said.
He said Johnson has a track record of misleading the public on this and other matters, including Brexit: “I’m really alarmed that we are on the brink of having a prime minister who is the most untruthful prime minister of all time.”
Regardless of who is to blame, it is clear that setting Khan free before his sentence was concluded put the public at risk at a time when the official terrorism threat level had recently been lowered because of a perceived reduction in the risk of jihadis returning from Syria to Britain to launch attacks.
The Ministry of Justice has begun an urgent review of cases like Khan’s that might pose a threat, including a review of the conditions governing the movements of every convicted terrorist who has been released from prison.
Officials say about 74 people fit this category. Conditions typically including the wearing of an electronic device that allows police to track a person’s movements, a curfew, limitations on internet use and smartphone use, and reporting on a regular basis to police.
Police have said that Khan appears to have been in compliance with the conditions governing his release, which weren’t made public, but nonetheless was able to carry out a deadly assault that didn’t rely on sophisticated weaponry or detonation of an explosive device.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused the Conservatives of trying to provide security “on the cheap” and said he doesn’t necessarily agree that all terrorist prisoners should be required to serve their full terms.
He said it depends on the circumstances and called for the Parole Board and the probation service to be more actively involved.
Johnson’s Conservatives quickly tried to capitalize on Corbyn’s statement in a clear indication that the extremist attack is now fair game for political brinksmanship.
The party tweeted a promise — “We will change the law so terrorists serve every single day of their sentence” — along with a warning about Corbyn’s opposition to this plan.
“Who do you trust to keep you safe?” it asks.
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Follow AP’s full coverage of Brexit and British politics at https://www.apnews.com/Brexit

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24 killed in Tunisia when bus plummets off hill
Sun, December 1, 2019 01:57 EST
TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — A bus plummeted off a hill in Tunisia on Sunday morning, killing 24 passengers who were on an excursion in the country’s north, government officials said.
The regional bus, which was carrying 43 people and belonged to a private local company, veered off a winding road after the driver failed to maneuver a sharp turn and crashed at the bottom of a ravine, the Interior Ministry said.
Local media showed images of an overturned, crumpled bus with smashed windows at the foot of a hill.
Health Ministry spokesman Chokri Nafti said that the crash left 18 people injured. Some were rushed to the nearby Amdoun and Beja hospitals, while the more seriously injured were transported to specialized hospitals in Tunis.
When it crashed, the vehicle was headed 185 kilometers (115 miles) west from capital Tunis to Ain Draham, a beautiful local tourist spot renowned for its mountainous reliefs on the border with Algeria. Ain Draham is located at an altitude of 800 meters (more than 2,600 feet) on the slopes of the Djebel Bir, one of the Kroumirie mountains.
Prime Minister Youssef Chahed interrupted a visit to the south of the North African country to return to the seat of government in Kasbah where a crisis center has been set up.
Following the tragedy, the Tunisian Soccer Federation said it would observe a one-minute silence before all scheduled games Sunday.

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‘Terrorists should not necessarily serve full prison term’ | UK News | Sky News

‘Terrorists should not necessarily serve full prison term’ Fill 2 Copy 11 Created with Sketch. Sunday 1 December 2019 06:08, UK Jeremy Corbyn tells Sophy Ridge on Sunday that it would “depend on the circumstances” as to whether terrorists should be released early from jail.

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