Cholera Outbreak Forces Zambian Government To Suspend Travel Activities

The Zambian Government has placed a temporary suspension on issuance of passports and national identity cards in Lusaka, the country’s capital following an outbreak of cholera.

Minister of Home Affairs, Stephen Kampyongo said the suspension was necessitated by the escalating cases of cholera in the city and to aid the government’s ban on public gatherings in some parts of the city.

He said the issuing office would only attend to emergency travels.

“There is no need to panic as this will be temporal to allow for efforts to prevent the spread of cholera,’’ he told reporters during a news briefing.

The cholera outbreak which mainly affected Lusaka since Oct. 2017 has prompted the government to ban public gathering as well as defer opening of schools.

According to figures from the health ministry, cholera cases in Zambia have surpassed 2,800, while the death toll presently stands at 64.

Zambian President Edgar Lungu expressed optimism that the measures put in place by the government to contain the water-borne disease were adequate but highlighted the need to clean up cities to improve hygiene.


Twenty-Nine People Killed In Madagascar

Madagascar government has revealed that twenty nine people were killed by cyclone Ava that hit Madagascar from Friday to Sunday.

The National Office of Risks and Disasters Management (BNGRC) said in its provisional report that 22 people are still missing, while 17,170 have been displaced.

“The red flood warning is maintained in (the capital) Antananarivo but there is a clear withdrawal of water. The level of rivers in the capital has also declined,” said Charles Rambolarison, executive secretary of the authority.
Cyclone Ava made landfall Friday, but Rambolarison warned that “residents must remain vigilant”.
Five national roads were cut while 17 health centers were destroyed.

BNGRC said in the report that 3,191 hectares of rice fields are totally flooded in the capital Madagascar.

The cyclone hit the eastern part of Madagascar on Friday and left the country on Sunday by continuing its trajectory to the southeast off the country with an average speed of 15 km per hour.




North Korea Agrees To Join Winter Olympics In South Korea

North Korea has formally agreed to participate in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea. It further revealed that it will send a delegation of high-ranking officials, athletes and a cheering squad to the The 2018 Winter Olympics, officially known as the XXIII Olympic Winter Games and commonly known as PyeongChang 2018 international multi-sport event is scheduled to take place from Feb. 9 to Feb. 25 in PyeongchangCounty, South Korea.

South Korea’s vice unification minister Chun Hae-sung said Seoul proposed inter-Korean military talks to reduce tensions on the Korean peninsula and a reunion of family members in time for February’s Lunar New Year holiday.

South Korea also proposed that athletes from the two Koreas march together at the Games’ opening ceremony and other joint activities between the two nations during the Winter Olympics, Chun told reporters outside the first formal talks between North and South Korea in more than two years.

The talks are being closely watched by world leaders eager for any sign of a reduction in tensions on the Korean peninsula amid rising fears over North Korea’s missile launches and development of nuclear weapons in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions.

The meeting was to continue on Tuesday afternoon after the two sides broke up for separate lunches.

It began at 10 a.m. (0100 GMT) in the three-storey Peace House just across the demilitarised zone on the South Korean side of Panmunjom truce village.

“North Korea said that they are determined to make today’s talks fruitful, and make it a groundbreaking opportunity,” Chun said.

Chun also said the South Koreans proposed resuming negotiations over the North’s nuclear programme but there was no specific response from the North Koreans.

According to Chun, North Korean officials said during the meeting they were open to promoting reconciliation between the two countries through dialogue and negotiation.


UPDATE: Iranian Tanker Explosion Still Not Contained On The Third Day

The tanker carrying Iranian oil which collided with a Chinese freight ship in the East China Sea is still on fire on Tuesday morning, the Chinese government has revealed.

Dozens of rescue boats struggled to control the blaze for a third day. The Ministry of Transportation said in a statement that the poor conditions, with heavy winds, rain and high waves, continue to hamper efforts to tame the fire and search for the 31 remaining crew members on the tanker.

The body of a crew member was found on Monday in the water near the tanker, the ministry said. It had been handed over to the civil affairs bureau.

Concerns were growing that the tanker may explode and sink while a flotilla of 13 search and rescue vessels comb a 900-square-nautical-mile area around the ship for the crew.

The tanker hit a freight ship on Saturday night in the East China Sea and burst into flames after spilling oil.

The tanker Sanchi (IMO:9356608), run by Iran’s top oil shipping operator, National Iranian Tanker Co, collided with the CF Crystal (IMO:9497050), carrying grain from the U.S., about 160 nautical miles off China’s coast near Shanghai and the mouth of the Yangtze River Delta.

The Sanchi was carrying 136,000 tonnes of condensate, an ultra-light crude oil that becomes highly volatile when exposed to air and water, to South Korea.

The size of the oil spill from the ship and the extent of the environmental harm were not known, but the disaster has the potential to be the worst since 1991 when 260,000 tonnes of oil leaked off the Angolan coast.

Chinese state media CCTV showed footage on Monday of boats dousing the flames with water as plumes of thick dark smoke continued to billow from the tanker.


Protests In Tunisia Worsens, One Death Recorded

Protests in Tunisia have lead to the death of one. The death occurred during clashes between security forces and protesters in a Tunisian town, the government said, as demonstrations over rising prices and tax increases spread in the North African country.

The Ministry of Interior in a statement on Tuesday said the man was killed during a protest against government austerity measures in Tebourba, 40 km west of Tunis.

The ministry said the man had a chronic breathing problems and died due to suffocation from inhaling tear gas. Witnesses said the protest had turned violent when security forces tried stopping some youths from burning down a government building.

The state news agency TAP said five people were wounded and taken to a hospital.

Tunisia, widely seen in the West as the only democratic success among nations where “Arab Spring” revolts took place in 2011, is suffering increasing economic hardship.

Anger has been building up since the government said that, from Jan. 1, it would increase the price of gasoil, some goods, and taxes on cars, phone calls, the internet, hotel accommodation and other items, part of austerity measures agreed with its foreign lenders.

The 2018 budget also raises customs taxes on some products imported from abroad, such as cosmetics, and some agricultural products.

The economy has been in crisis since a 2011 uprising unseated the government and two major militant attacks in 2015 damaged tourism, which comprises eight per cent of gross domestic product.

Tunisia is under pressure from the International Monetary Fund to speed up policy changes and help the economy recover from the attacks.

Violent protests spread in the evening to at least 10 towns.

Residents said there was also a protest turning violent in the capital.

Security forces had already dispersed small protests in Tunis late on Sunday.

On Monday, about 300 people took to the streets in the central Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid, cradle of the country’s Arab Spring revolution, carrying banners with slogans denouncing high prices.

A lack of tourists and new foreign investors pushed Tunisia’s trade deficit up by 23.5 per cent year-on-year in the first 11 months of 2017 to a record 5.8 billion dollars, official data showed at the end of December.

Traders said concerns about the rising deficit have hurt the dinar currency, sending it to 3.011 versus the euro on Monday, breaking the psychologically important three dinar mark for the first time.

The currency is likely to weaken further, said Tunisian financial risk expert Mourad Hattab.

“The sharp decline of the dinar threatens to deepen the trade deficit and make debt service payments tighter, which will increase Tunisia’s financial difficulties,” he said.

Hattab said the dinar may fall to 3.3 versus the euro in the coming months because of high demand for foreign currency and little expectation of intervention from the authorities.

In 2017, former Finance Minister Lamia Zribi said the central bank would reduce its interventions so that the dinar steadily declined in value, but it would prevent any dramatic slide.

The central bank has denied any plans to liberalise the currency but Hattab said Monday’s decline showed there was an “undeclared float” of the dinar.


Leaders Of Iranian Anti-Government Protests Identified

Leaders of the Iranian anti-government protests have already been identified and are said to face severe punishment.

This was revealed by the Deputy Head of Iran’s Judiciary System Hamid Shahriari.

“I assuredly announce that all the instigators of recent riots have been identified and arrested and they are awaiting their trials.

“Harsh punishment is expected to be meted out to the instigators of recent riots in some cities of Iran,” Shahriari said, as quoted by the Mehr news agency.

He also buttressed that the protesters were trying to find a media channel in order to disseminate propaganda against the country’s establishment.

Several major cities in Iran, including Tehran, Mashhad, Isfahan and Rasht, have been engulfed in anti-government protests since Dec. 28 2017.

The people have taken to the streets to protest against unemployment, poverty, and the rising cost of living.

At least 20 people have reportedly been killed and 450 have been detained.

Interior Minister Abdolreza Fazli said that about 42,000 Iranians had participated in the rallies.

NAN reports that on Jan. 2, a senior Iranian security official accused Saudi Arabia, the U.S. and Britain of being “major players” behind recent anti-government protests.

“Certain countries are waging a proxy war against the Islamic republic via social media and the internet,’’ Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said.

He said that the U.S, Britain and Saudi Arabia are behind the recent riots in Iran, adding that the hash tags and social media campaigns in Iran are all being guided by these countries.

“Based on our analyses, around 27 per cent of the new hash tags against Iran are generated by the Saudi government,” the Iranian official said.

Shamkhani also said this foreign-backed intervention is aimed at hampering Iran’s progress in different spheres.

“What is happening in Iran will be over in a few days, and there is no reason to worry at all,’’ he noted.


China Breaks Record With World’s Longest Bridge

China said it has completed the major work of the world’s longest sea bridge on schedule, after its lighting system was installed and tested.

It took six years preparation, and eight years to build the 55-kilometre-long bridge linking Hong Kong, Zhuhai and Macao.

Major work on the bridge consisted of a 22.9-kilometre-long main bridge, a 6.7-kilometre-long tunnel and an artificial island off the bridge, which is considered the most technically demanding part of the whole construction.

In the next few weeks, engineers and constructors will test the coordination of the bridge’s various systems and equipment, and proceed with inspection and cleaning work, said Zhang Jinwen, project director with the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge (HZMB) Authority.

“The bridge will be put into trial operation after its port project is completed and taken over by customs, inspection and quarantine, and border control authorities,” Zhang said.

In the past 14 years, the regional economy and transport network have undergone tremendous changes, leading authorities to re-assess the utilization rate of the bridge, said Su Yi, assistant to the chief of the HZMB Authority.

But Su dismissed worries that the bridge would not have enough traffic, saying, “we have full confidence for the future.”

“We have a whole toolbox of policies at our disposal,” Su said. “It is like playing cards. We can adjust our moves accordingly.”

The bridge will slash travel time between Hong Kong and Zhuhai from three hours to just 30 minutes, further integrating cities in the Pearl River Delta.

Source: Xinhua

Longest Serving Lawmaker, Senator Orrin Hatch Retires

After serving as senator for 42 years, Sen. Orrin Hatch of the Republican party, has finally bowed out as the longest serving lawmaker.

He announced his retirement in a video statement via Twitter on Tuesday.

“I was an amateur boxer in my youth and I brought that fighting spirit to Washington,” Hatch said.

“But every good boxer knows when to hang up the gloves. After much prayer and deliberation with family and friends I have decided to retire at the end of this term.”

The resignation of the 83-year- came amid widespread speculation that former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney could run for Hatch’s Senate seat.

According to US media reports, Orrin Hatch was under constant pressure by US President Donald Trump because it was assumed Hatch would seek re-election, blocking the way for the return of fellow Republican and former presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

The veteran US senator decided to retire just weeks after Trump signed a massive tax overhaul bill, legislation that capped Hatch’s long career. Hatch actively assisted in the writing of the tax plan as chair of the Senate Finance Committee

President Donald J. Trump has congratulated the senator through a tweet on Wednesday.

“Congratulations to Senator Orrin Hatch on an absolutely incredible career. He has been a tremendous supporter, and I will never forget the (beyond kind) statements he has made about me as President. He is my friend and he will be greatly missed in the U.S. Senate!’’

The senator also played a key role in reducing the size of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in the US state of Utah.

Man Kidnapped, Forced To Marry In India

Allegations a young engineer was kidnapped and made to marry at gunpoint are being investigated by police in one of India’s poorest states, which has a history of forced marriage of men.

Video footage apparently showing Vinod Kumar being forced to go through with a wedding by his bride’s family sparked the probe, police in the eastern state of Bihar said

‘Pakadua Vivah’ (forced marriage) is a practice specific to Bihar and surrounding areas, and is mainly carried out by poor families who cannot afford a dowry — still a widespread expectation in India.

A video circulated on social media shows the engineer being manhandled and forced to dress for the wedding as he pleads for freedom.

“We are only performing your wedding, not hanging you,” one man is heard to shout as Kumar begs to be released.

Another video shows Kumar sitting beside his bride crying while a woman, apparently an in-law, tries to console him.

Lalan Mohan Prasad, a local officer, told AFP police had contacted Kumar and offered their help but he had not formally complained.

Local media quoted the engineer as saying one of the bride’s relatives had pointed a pistol at him after they met at a mutual friend’s wedding and ordered him to marry her.

Since the incident, he has reportedly escaped and returned to his home in neighbouring Jharkhand state.

Bihar has a long-held reputation for lawlessness and gang violence, with families thought to enlist organised criminals to help them carry out abductions and forced marriages.

Local social scientist Saibal Gupta said such marriages enjoyed widespread acceptance and tended to endure, given the stigma of divorce.

“The frequency of such kidnappings has come down, but certainly not stopped. Poverty is still rampant,” he told AFP.

Official figures show police received nearly 3,000 complaints of groom kidnapping in 2016. None of the marriages were annulled.


Gunman Kills Christians In Liquor Store In Egypt

Judicial and security sources have revealed that a gunman killed two Copts celebrating the New Year in an Egyptian alcohol shop early on Monday.

This is said to be the latest deadly violence against the Christian minority. The shooting came just three days after a gunman, identified as a wanted jihadist, killed nine people in an attack on a church south of the capital.


According to reports, the assailant rode up in the back of a motorcycle taxi and opened fire on the liquor store in Cairo’s twin city Giza at around 1:30 am (2330 GMT Sunday), when the streets were still bustling with New Year revelers.

The store’s Coptic owner survived but two of his friends who were celebrating with him were killed.

Police are still investigating the motive of the attack, the sources said.

Alcohol consumption is forbidden by Islam and liquor stores, most of which are run by Copts, have come under attack in the past by hardline Muslims who believe they should be banned.


Ten Americans Killed In Plane Crash In Costa Rica

Ten Americans flying from a vacation hotspot on Costa Rica’s tropical Pacific coast died yesterday, Sunday when the small plane they boarded crashed and burst into flames shortly after take-off.

A list of the passengers given by local media showed five shared the same last name, suggesting they were related.

“The government of Costa Rica profoundly regrets the deaths of 10 US passengers and two Costa Rican pilots in the air accident,” which occurred in the country’s northwestern Guanacaste region, Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis said in a statement posted to social media.

A US State Department official said: “We confirm the deaths of multiple US citizens in an airplane crash in Costa Rica,” adding that assistance was being provided to the affected Americans.

Costa Rican officials revealed that the plane that came down belonged to Nature Air, a domestic airline that services routes across the country and also provides aircraft for charter.

Guanacaste is a popular vacation destination, especially this time of year, when its pristine beaches and jungle provide a respite for tourists fleeing the northern hemisphere’s winter.