Items filtered by date: Friday, 21 June 2019
Boris Johnson, a former foreign secretary who helped lead the 2016 Brexit referendum campaign, is cantering down to the finish line in the race to succeed Margaret May as prime minister.
 
In the fourth ballot among Conservative lawmakers, Johnson trounced his rivals yet again. The poll eliminated interior minister Sajid Javid. The result of a fifth and final ballot is due at 1700 GMT on Thursday.
 
Johnson, who served as London mayor for eight years, has cast himself as the only candidate who can deliver Brexit on Oct. 31 while fighting off the electoral threats of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.
 
Despite a series of scandals in the past and criticism about his attention to detail, Johnson has dominated the race since May announced a month ago that she would step down after repeatedly failing to get her Brexit deal ratified by parliament.
 
Johnson, 55, has increased his share of the vote of Conservative lawmakers at each of the four ballots so far: 114 out of 313 votes in the first ballot on June 13, 126 on June 18, 143 on Wednesday and 157 on Thursday.
 
Environment minister Michael Gove was second with 61 votes and foreign minister Jeremy Hunt third with 59. Javid got 34.
 
After the final lawmakers’ ballot leaves just two candidates remaining, around 160,000 Conservative Party grassroots members will vote on who will be their leader – and Britain’s next prime minister – by the end of July. Bookmakers give Johnson an 89% probability of winning.
 
Johnson has pledged to leave the European Union on Oct. 31 with or without a deal. The EU has said it will not renegotiate the divorce deal that May agreed last year and the British parliament has indicated it will block a no-deal exit.
 
He has not addressed how he will solve that riddle.
 
PM JOHNSON?
 
The rise of Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, cast by many as simply “Boris”, to pole position for leading the world’s fifth largest economy is the grandest twist so far in a career that has morphed from journalism via TV-show fame, comedy and scandal into the brinkmanship of Britain’s Brexit crisis.
 
Born in New York, Johnson was educated at Eton, Britain’s most exclusive school, and at Balliol College, Oxford. He began his career at a management consultancy in the City of London but dropped out after a week.
 
He then turned to journalism but was sacked from The Times newspaper for making up quotes.
 
Hired by The Daily Telegraph, Johnson infuriated European officials and delighted then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher by lampooning the European Economic Community establishment with a host of sometimes misleading reports from Brussels.
 
After entering politics, he was sacked from the Conservative Party’s policy team while in opposition for lying about an extra-marital affair.
 
But his sometimes shambolic personal appearance and disarmingly self-deprecating confidence allowed him to survive both gaffes and scandal. He won two terms as London mayor from 2008 to 2016.
 
In 2016, he became one of the most recognisable faces of the Brexit campaign which won the referendum with 52% of the votes cast versus 48% for staying in.
 
His bid to replace David Cameron, who resigned after the referendum, was foiled by Gove who pulled out of his campaign saying Johnson was unsuitable for the job.
 
After May won the premiership, she prompted consternation in European capitals by appointing Johnson foreign minister. He resigned in 2018 over May’s handling of Brexit.
 
“We must leave the EU on October 31st, with or without a deal, so we can begin to unite our country, restore trust in our politics, and move beyond Brexit to focus on delivering for everyone,” Johnson said on Tuesday.
 
Published in World
Friday, 21 June 2019 10:03

KLM avoiding parts of Iranian airspace

Air France-KLM's Dutch subsidiary KLM is avoiding flying over parts of Iran as a precautionary measure, a spokesman said on Friday, confirming a report by the Netherlands' state broadcaster NOS.

 

The spokesman could not provide further details. The NOS report said that the company decided to reroute flights following a decision last night by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to stop American operators from flying over Tehran-controlled airspace over the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman.

 

Published in World
Friday, 21 June 2019 09:03

Zimbabwe’s currency hits new low

The Zimbabwe’s interim currency fell to a new low on the black market on Thursday.
 
As a result, local firms now demand payment in U.S. dollars, while inflation is running at its highest in a decade.
 
The RTGS dollar has plunged 60 per cent against the U.S. dollar since its introduction in February, and public sector workers’ demands for a second pay rise this year could undermine a government drive to convince lenders of its fiscal discipline.
 
President Emmerson Mnangagwa won a disputed election last year on a promise to revive a Zimbabwe economy shattered by decades of mismanagement by his ousted predecessor Robert Mugabe.
 
But a year later daily life is harder. Ordinary Zimbabweans are enduring a severe shortage of U.S. dollars, fuel, medicines, bread and daily power cuts that last 10 hours.
 
The RTGS dollar, introduced by the government on Feb. 22 as the first step towards a new currency by year-end, traded at 10.5 to the U.S. dollar on Thursday, 14.3 per cent lower than a week ago.
 
On the official interbank rate, the RTGS currency was pegged at 6.2 compared to 5.9 a week ago.
Zimbabwe formally adopted the U.S. dollar as its official currency in January 2009, when most Zimbabweans had already ditched the hyperinflation-wrecked Zimbabwe Dollar.
 
A decade later, analysts see the same situation repeating itself.
More than 80 per cent of Zimbabweans earn RTGS dollars but from bricks to rentals, car parts and many grocers, prices are now pegged in U.S. dollars, News reports.
 
Published in Bank & Finance
US President Donald Trump left journalists guessing on Thursday over whether the United States would hit Iran in retaliation for the shooting down of an American military drone.
 
“You’ll soon find out,” Trump eerily said.
 
His tweet earlier when he said Iran made “a very big mistake” by shooting down the drone drove oil prices skywards and also fanned anxiety over a wider military conflict in the Middle East.
 
Tehran said its Revolutionary Guard shot down the military because it flew over over its territory on a spy mission.
 
The United States, which called the event an “unprovoked attack” in international air space, is pursuing a campaign to isolate Iran to contain its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and limit its role in regional wars.
 
It was the latest in an escalating series of incidents in the Gulf region, a critical artery for global oil supplies, since mid-May including explosive strikes on six oil tankers as Tehran and Washington have edged toward confrontation.
 
It was unclear how the United States might respond and U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress, said Washington had no appetite for war with Iran.
 
Iran has denied involvement in the tanker attacks, but global jitters about a new Middle East conflagration disrupting oil exports have triggered a jump in crude prices. They surged by more than $3 to above $63 a barrel on Thursday.
 
Saudi Arabia, Washington’s main gulf ally, said Iran had created a grave situation with its “aggressive behaviour” and the kingdom was consulting other Gulf Arab states on next steps.
 
“When you interfere with international shipping it has an impact on the supply of energy, it has an impact on the price of oil which has an impact on the world economy. It essentially affects almost every person on the globe,” Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs, told reporters in London.
 
Tensions flared with Trump’s withdrawal last year from world powers’ 2015 nuclear accord with Iran and have worsened as Washington imposed fresh sanctions to throttle Tehran’s vital oil trade. Iran retaliated earlier this week with a threat to breach limits on its nuclear activities imposed by the deal.
 
Upping the ante, Washington said on Monday it would deploy about 1,000 more troops, along with Patriot missiles and manned and unmanned surveillance aircraft, to the Middle East on top of a 1,500-troop increase announced after the May tanker attacks.
 
Iranian state media said the “spy” drone was brought down over the southern Iranian province of Hormozgan, which is on the Gulf, with a locally made “3 Khordad” missile.
 
A U.S. official said the drone, formally called an RQ-4A Global Hawk High-Altitude, Long, Endurance Unmanned Aircraft System, had been downed in international air space over the Strait of Hormuz, through which about a third of the world’s seaborne oil exits the Gulf..
 
Navy Captain Bill Urban, a spokesman for the U.S. military’s Central Command, said Iran’s account that the drone had been flying over Iranian territory was false.
 
“This was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset in international air space,” Urban said. The drone, he added, was downed over the Strait of Hormuz at approximately 2335 GMT – in the early morning hours of local time in the Gulf.
 
A Iranian Revolutionary Guards statement said the drone’s identification transponder had been switched off “in violation of aviation rules and was moving in full secrecy” when it was downed, Iranian state broadcaster IRIB reported.
 
“Our air space is our red line and Iran has always responded and will continue to respond strongly to any country that violates our air space,” Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, told Iran’s Tasnim news agency.
 
The RQ-4A’s manufacturer, Northrop Grumman, says on its website that it can fly for over 24 hours at a time at altitudes higher than 10 miles (16 km), with an operational range of 8,200 nautical miles.
Published in World
Edwin Elochukwu Anyaoku, a Nigerian suspected of being the mastermind of an international drug-smuggling operation has been extradited by South Africa to the US to face charges of drug-trafficking.
 
South Africa’s Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), known as the Hawks, announced this today in a statement. He said Anyaoku was extradited on Thursday.
 
Anyaoku, 54, was arrested in a joint police investigation by the Hawks’ South African Narcotics Enforcement Bureau (Saneb) and the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Fourways in July last year.
 
His arrest resulted in the seizure of 29kg of heroin worth more than R6m( about $416,000).
 
Read the statement by Hawks:
 
A suspected mastermind of an international drug-smuggling operation who was arrested last year in Fourways, Johannesburg, was extradited to the United States on Thursday to face charges of drug trafficking.
 
Edwin Elochukwu Anyaoku (54), was arrested in a joint police investigation by the Hawks’ South African Narcotics Enforcement Bureau (SANEB) and Crime Intelligence (Counter Narcotics) and the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) which resulted in the seizure of 29 kilograms of heroin worth more than R6 million.
 
Anyaoku was arrested with other two suspects, Lerato Diannah Mohai (42) the alleged courier and Christopher Okonkwo (53) who was the suspected scout. Okonkwo successfully made a representation to the Randburg Regional Court last year and after careful consideration his matter was withdrawn. However the case against Mohai is ongoing at the same court. It is for trial on 16 and July 2019.
 
The investigation into the group started in 2017. An undercover operation was set where Anyaoku allegedly agreed to supply heroin. Anyaoku brought 29 kilograms of heroin and after the purchase, he was arrested together with Mohai and Okonkwo.
 
A request was received from the Justice Department of the United States of America for the extradition of Anyaoku late last year. The extradition hearing took place in December last year and Anyaoku decided to waive his right to appeal against the extradition. In April this year the extradition was authorised by the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development and Anyaoku was extradited to the US with the assistance of Pretoria Interpol office yesterday.
 
Published in World

South Africa's Reserve Bank will probably cut interest rates next month or in September to boost the country's economy, a Reuters poll found on Friday.

A median forecast from 24 economists, polled this week, suggests the economy will grow 0.6% this year, slower than last year's 0.8% and weaker than the 1.1% predicted in a May poll. Growth is expected to accelerate next year to 1.4%.

Economists reckon this year's slow growth should be enough to convince authorities to cut interest rates by 25 basis points to 6.50%.

Ten of 18 economists predicted rates would be cut in one of next quarter's two policy meetings - July or September - a substantial uptick in expectations for lower rates. Last month, only two people forecast rate cuts.

"Inflation is now well-anchored within the 3% to 6% target range, and the economy is performing very poorly," said John Ashbourne, senior emerging markets economist at Capital Economics. "We've pencilled in a cut from 6.75% to 6.50% at July's meeting."

On Wednesday, the U.S. Federal Reserve signalled rate cuts may begin as early as July, in the face of growing global and domestic economic risks. Central banks in Australia, India, New Zealand and Russia have already cut rates. The repo rate will probably remain at 6.50% until the end of 2021 at least, the economists said. Inflation is expected to average 4.5% this year and 5.0% next year.

The bank left theft the repo rate unchanged at 6.75% in May, judging that easing inflation and an economy it believed shrank in the first quarter were not enough to warrant a cut.

Two weeks later, the statistics agency confirmed growth contracted by a quarterly 3.2% in the first three months of 2019. The bank, along with President Cyril Ramaphosa's incoming administration, is under pressure to revive growth.

Monetary policy has taken centre stage recently, with senior officials from South Africa's governing party contradicting each other over whether the party had decided to expand the central bank's mandate to include growth.

The rand has recovered to 14.23 per dollar, almost in line with a Reuters poll earlier this month that also said emerging-market investors would be more cautious and selective in making risky bets against a strong dollar in coming months.

 

Published in Bank & Finance

The second largest Ebola virus disease outbreak on record is currently raging in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with over 2,000 cases and more than 1,400 deaths recorded. Uganda, which shares a long and porous border with DRC, registered its first confirmed cases and two deaths and, earlier this week, a suspected case in Kenya fortunately turned out negative.

While the epidemic has been mostly contained in the DRC, the potential and risk of spread is high. Given that Kenya shares a porous border with Uganda – and is a busy international travel hub – is Kenya ready to handle an outbreak? The Conversation Africa’s Moina Spooner asked Abdhalah Ziraba to share his insights.

How prepared is Kenya to handle an Ebola Virus Disease outbreak?

We saw Kenya’s Ebola response spring into action when there was a suspected case in Kericho, western Kenya. The patient was quickly isolated, samples were taken, and all potential contacts were traced. Major health facilities in the region were alerted and prepared to handle any reported cases. Kenya’s Health Cabinet Secretary was quick to issue statements to reassure the public. These actions show that all players are alert.

Kenya has been preparing for this. There’s a national ebola preparedness and response contingency plan tasked to monitor the situation, make sure enough personnel are trained and respond to suspected cases. Under this plan, there’s a rapid surveillance and response team who get dispatched to support health facilities that report any suspected Ebola case.

There are also experts on the ground. During the 2014 outbreak in West Africa, a Kenyan team of 170 people was dispatched and they spent about six months helping to bring down the epidemic. These individuals are part of Kenya’s Ebola mitigation teams that have now been mobilised to all major entry points.

Kenya appears prepared, but a lot more can be done.

There needs to be more awareness messaging for the general public – like Uganda has done in its border districts. Tighter screening at all borders (especially along the border with Uganda) is crucial, too. Primary health care workers – even those in private facilities – need to be able to pick out suspected cases. It is not clear to what extent low level health care workers have been sensitised on managing and reporting suspected cases.

All health facilities also need to be provided with a minimum of supplies to help them manage suspected cases. And in the event of a confirmed case, the ministry should consider providing an experimental vaccine to all front-line health care workers, as the DRC and Uganda are doing. That’s because health care workers are at a higher risk of exposure to the virus in any outbreak.

Who are the main players involved in managing the risk?

Healthcare providers are key. How quickly an outbreak is spotted and controlled depends on their ability to identify a case and manage patients while protecting themselves, and others, from infection.

The general public is vital too, especially when it comes to reporting cases early and managing the crisis. But they need to be equipped with the right information. In the past, in places where epidemics were poorly understood, they quickly flared up due to misconceptions about where the disease came from and the mode of transmission. People also continued with cultural practices that increased exposure – like the washing of dead bodies before burial.

Political leadership is critical in making decisions regarding resource mobilisation, distribution and to maintain order. A serious outbreak can lead to panic and the breakdown of security. This would affect those seeking health care; hinder service provision; and fuel misinformation.

Other leaders – community, cultural and religious – can also play a critical role in educating the public, and clearing up misconceptions that often fuel the spread of an epidemic.

International players – like the World Health Organisation – give vital support when it comes to technical and financial resources. Without these an outbreak could quickly become an epidemic. These actors must be engaged with from the planning stage.

What are the biggest risks Kenya faces?

The spread of the Ebola virus is made worse when there’s a lot of movement of people within – and between – countries. Kenya has wide and porous land borders with its neighbours. Many people cross the borders without being formally screened and documented.


Read more: How Africa's porous borders make it difficult to contain Ebola


Also, while there are thermal cameras at all official border points, there is a small risk that infected people would come into the country before getting the first symptoms. The time-lag between getting infected to showing symptoms ranges between two and 21 days.

Has Kenya had outbreaks before? How well did it manage them? What lessons were learnt?

While Kenya has never had a confirmed Ebola virus case, there has always been a risk. And so Kenya has taken proactive measures, including maintaining some form of surveillance.

The problem has been the consistency with which these measures have been applied. For example, the thermal cameras haven’t always been active or passenger travel history questionnaires consistently collected. As long as there’s an outbreak nearby, the country should always be alert.The Conversation

 

Abdhalah Ziraba, Associate Research Scientist, African Population and Health Research Center

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Published in Travel & Tourism
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