Strauss-Kahn blames Sarkozy
Former IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn on Friday accused his political enemies linked to President Nicolas Sarkozy of destroying his bid for the presidency. Strauss-Kahn told the Guardian that his highly public fall from grace was orchestrated by his opponents to prevent him from standing as the Socialist candidate in the French election that culminates next week. Strauss-Kahn had been favored to win the presidential election until May last year, when he was arrested in New York and accused of sexually assaulting a hotel maid, Nafissatou Diallo. Strauss-Kahn said that although he did not believe the incident with Diallo was a setup, the subsequent escalation of the event into a criminal investigation was “shaped by those with a political agenda.” Strauss-Kahn accuses the agents of intercepting telephone calls and ensuring that Diallo went to the police in New York to make her accusations. He believes he was under surveillance in the days before the encounter.
Protesters clash with police
Protesters trying to march to the heart of the capital clashed with riot police on Friday, witnesses said, hours after a massive show of force by the mainstream Shiite Muslim opposition. They said dozens of youths threw stones at police who used teargas and stun grenades to block the planned march to the Pearl roundabout, the center of an uprising last year that the government suppressed with the help of troops from neighbors, including Saudi Arabia. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
Man arrested after siege
Police arrested a man who witnesses said had threatened to blow himself up in an office building in central London, forcing a busy shopping street to be sealed off in a three-hour standoff on Friday. Police had placed a 300m cordon around a building on Tottenham Court Road and sent armed officers to the scene after the man started throwing computer monitors from a window on the fifth floor. Witnesses had reported the 48-year-old man had strapped gas cylinders to his body and had taken four men hostage. Hundreds of local office workers watched throughout the siege from behind the cordon as monitors, papers and reportedly a filing cabinet were hurled intermittently from the window.
Militia leaves Timbuktu
An Arab militia has pulled out of the desert city of Timbuktu, hours after entering the town, amid power struggles in the lawless region more than a month after a coup shook the country. A vast area about the size of France has been contested by Tuareg separatists, Islamic extremists and other irregular forces in the power vacuum that followed a March 22 putsch in the capital in Mali’s south. A new group — the National Liberation Front of Azawad (FNLA) — rolled into the fabled Sahara city of Timbuktu on Friday with about 100 vehicles packed with men described as “armed to the teeth” by a security source. The group has declared it opposes both the secession of northern Mali — as demanded by the Tuareg nomads — and the imposition of strict Islamic law. However, the FNLA later said that militant group al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb had demanded they leave town. Abdelhamid “Abu Zeid, the leader of AQIM himself, asked us to leave our positions in Timbuktu. To avoid a bloodbath whose main victims would be civilians, we left the city,” FNLA leader Ahmed Ould Cherif said.
Somalian guilty of piracy
A federal jury convicted a Somalian man of piracy on Friday for his role as a hostage negotiator in the hijacking of a yacht. All four Americans on board were shot to death. Mohammad Saaili Shibin was also convicted of piracy, kidnapping and hostage--taking for the hijacking of a German merchant ship in 2010. Shibin faces a mandatory life sentence on the piracy charges. “Today’s verdict marks the conviction of the highest-ranking Somali[an] pirate ever brought to the US,” Attorney Neil MacBride said in a statement. “He was among an elite fraternity of pirate negotiators — the vital link to any successful pirate attack. His skills were essential to obtain a ransom for those who attacked the vessel and the financiers who paid for the attack.” Prosecutors said Shibin received at least US$30,000 for his role as a hostage negotiator aboard the Marida Marguerite, which was ransomed for US$5 million. No payment was ever made for the sailing vessel Quest.
Death row dog reprieved
A mutt who sat on doggy death row for more than a year before getting a reprieve is on his way to Louisiana. Prada, a four-year-old pit bull mix, was released on Thursday from Nashville’s Animal Control facility, where he had been held since January last year. Prada was ordered put down after attacking several other dogs, but his owner fought a lengthy legal battle to keep him alive. The woman asked a judge to spare the dog if she agreed to send him to the Villalobos Rescue Center in New Orleans. The center is featured in Animal Planet’s reality TV show Pitt Bulls and Parolees, which puts ex-convicts and abused dogs together so both man and animal can be rehabilitated.
Chavez leads election poll
President Hugo Chavez’s big poll lead puts him in a strong position ahead of the presidential election, but it could also convince radical opponents violence is the only way to beat him, a senior campaign strategist said. Despite ongoing cancer treatment, Chavez is favored to extend his 13-year rule at the Oct. 7 election, with most opinion polls giving him an advantage of at least 10 percentage points over opposition candidate Henrique Capriles. Government warnings of opposition conspiracies have been commonplace since a 2002 coup, but critics say Chavez allies are using scare tactics to lay the groundwork for a refusal to hand over power if they lose. With Chavez’s cancer and political accusations dominating headlines, Capriles is struggling to grab public attention with grassroots campaigning in the provinces.
Fossil find stumps experts
Experts are trying to figure out what a 450 million-year-old fossil dubbed “Godzillus” used to be. The 68kg fossil recovered last year in Kentucky is more than 2m long. The Dayton Daily News reports that scientists at a Geological Society of America meeting viewed it on Tuesday in Ohio. “This is the ultimate cold case,” said amateur paleontologist Ron Fine, who spotted the fossil on a hillside last year. Experts are trying to determine whether it was an animal, mineral or a form of plant life. University of Cincinnati geologist Carl Brett told the Cincinnati Enquirer that it is the largest fossil ever extracted from that era in the region, once covered by water. “This one has us stumped,” said David Meyer, another UC geology professor. Fine shared his find in September last year at a meeting of the Dry Dredgers, a group of amateur geologists.
UNCERTAINTY: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken did not specify measures NATO might take, but many believe that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project could be canceled The US has said it has evidence that Russia has made plans for a “large scale” attack on Ukraine and said NATO allies are “prepared to impose severe costs” on Moscow if it attempts an invasion. Speaking at a NATO ministers meeting in Latvia, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that it was unclear whether Russian President Vladimir Putin had made a decision to invade, but added: “He’s putting in place the capacity to do so in short order, should he so decide.” “So despite uncertainty about intention and timing, we must prepare for all contingencies while working to see to
‘TRAVEL APARTHEID’: Biden’s top medical adviser said the US was considering lifting restrictions on travel from African nations imposed after the variant was discovered The Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 is rapidly spreading throughout the US, but early indications suggest it might be less dangerous than the Delta variant, which continues to drive a surge of hospitalizations, US health officials said on Sunday. US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci told CNN’s State of the Union that scientists need more information before drawing conclusions about Omicron’s severity. Reports from South Africa, where it emerged and is becoming the dominant strain, suggest that hospitalization rates have not increased alarmingly. “Thus far, it does not look like there’s a great degree of severity to it,” Fauci
South African hospitals are bracing for a surge in admissions as the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 drives a sharp rise in COVID-19 infections and as more evidence emerges about the severity of the illness caused by the strain. The seven-day moving average of daily new cases in the country rose to 10,055 last week, from fewer than 300 three weeks earlier. Hospitalizations also picked up, but remain relatively low, with admissions standing at 3,268 on Sunday. Whether there would be a deluge of new patients is the biggest question. Severe symptoms in patients who contracted earlier variants typically developed between one and three
SURGE: South African infections increased to a record 3 million on Friday, data for the 24-hour period showed, with 16,055 bringing the cumulative total to 3,004,203 South Korea again broke its daily records for COVID-19 infections and deaths, and confirmed three more cases of the new Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 as officials scramble to tighten social distancing and border controls. The 5,352 new cases reported by the Seoul-based Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency yesterday marked the third time this week that the daily tally exceeded 5,000. The country’s death toll was at 3,809 after a record 70 people died in the most-recent 24-hour period of tallying, while the 752 people in serious or critical conditions were also an all-time high. Amid the Delta variant-driven surge, there is also