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Former Auschwitz worker may face trial
A 91-year-old woman who worked
at Auschwitz has been accused of
complicity in the murders of at least
260,000 Jews during World War
Two, the German news agency DPA
The woman, who worked as a
telegraph operator in Auschwitz,
would be tried in a court for minors
because she was under 21 at the time
of alleged crimes, the agency said.
A court in the northern German
city of Kiel is to decide whether to
proceed with a trial next year, taking
both the charges against her and her
health into consideration, DPA said,
quoting the city’s chief prosecutor,
Dollel did not name the woman
but said she belonged to an all-
female unit that helped the Nazi
SS in concentration camps, and that
she was accused in connection with
events between April to July 1944.
Those three months correspond
to a time when huge numbers of
Hungarian Jews were murdered in
the gas chambers of the Auschwitz-
Birkenau concentration camp.
In July, a 94-year-old former
SS soldier Oskar Groening, was
sentenced to four years in jail as an
accessory to murder in 300,000 cases
in which Hungarian Jews were sent
to the gas chambers between May
and July 1944.
Known as the “Bookkeeper of
Auschwitz”, his case was expected to
be one of the last Holocaust trials.
Groening ser ved as an accountant
at Auschwitz, sorting and counting
the money taken from those killed or
used as slave labour, and shipping it
back to his Nazi superiors in Berlin.
Some 1.1 million people, most
of them European Jews, perished
between 1940 and 1945 in the
Auschwitz-Birkenau camp before it
was liberated by Soviet forces. —AFP
On a special anniversary for
him, Pope Francis celebrated
Mass in east Cuba overnight on
the last full day of a trip where
he has been praised for aiding
rapprochement between the
communist government and the
Two predecessors have visited
Cuba, but Pope Francis was the
first to visit Holguin, capital of
the province where the Castro
brothers and leaders of Cuba,
Fidel and Raul, grew up. He said
a Mass for tens of thousands of
people in sweltering heat.
September 21 was the day in
1953 when the Argentinian Pope
said first felt a calling from God.
The then 17-year-old Jorge
Mario Bergoglio was heading to
meet friends for a picnic marking
the start of spring in the Southern
Hemisphere when he felt an urge
to enter a church he was passing
in Buenos Aires. It was there that
he felt a strange pull. “ I can’t say
what is was but it changed my
life,” he told one biographer.
That took place on the feast
of St Matthew and the Pope
dedicated his Holguin homily to
the Bible story of the conversion
of the former tax collector who
decided to follow Jesus Christ.
Holguin is a centre of Cuban
music and the Mass was
accompanied by lively Caribbean
On nearly every block, posters
welcoming the pontiff adorned
doors and telephone poles, while
bike-taxis and horse-drawn
carriages traversed below the
yellow-and-white flags of the
Vatican, fluttering alongside
Cuba’s red, white, and blue.
The government of President
Raul Castro, who attended
the Holguin Mass, had hoped
the 78-year-old Francis would
explicitly condemn the still-
intact US economic embargo
against Cuba before leaving for
He has not done so yet but on
arrival on Saturday, he did urge
the old Cold War foes to deepen
their detente after this year’s
restoration of relations, which the
Critics of the one-party
State want Papal support for
dissidents, some of whom have
been rounded up and denied
attendance at Papal events.
A Cuban human rights group
said 50 to 60 government
opponents had been arrested
and several dozen more blocked
in their homes by State security
agents. The same happened when
Pope John Paul visited in 1998
and Pope Benedict in 2012.
“ We estimate about 100 people
affected by this preventive
repression,” Elizardo Sanchez,
who runs the Cuban Commission
of Human Rights and National
During the first two days of his
visit, Pope Francis has stuck largely
to spiritual messages in speeches,
though he has also called for
tolerance of different ideas.
“ Believer or non-believer,
we believe in the Pope!” Yami
Mendez, a retired schoolteacher
in Holguin who is not a Catholic
but, like most Cubans, holds Pope
Francis in high esteem, said.
Climbing the steep road to
a hilltop cross, Mendez cited
benefits associated with Pope
Francis: the US diplomatic
breakthrough, the release of more
than 3500 common prisoners, and
the fresh paint and renovations at
the places he will visit.
In his first two days in Havana,
the Pope met both Castro
brothers. The Castro brothers,
both educated by Jesuits,
repressed the Church after the
1959 revolution but relaxed
restrictions from the 1990s and
have now seen three pontiffs visit
them in less than two decades.
Pope Francis flies from Cuba to
the US tonight. — Reuters
Pope celebrates Mass in provincial town
PICTURE: Getty Images
Pope Francis arrives in the Plaza de la Revolution in Holguin, Cuba, to hold celebrate Mass.
Amid the chaos and confusion of
Europe’s migrant crisis, Switzerland
is holding itself up as a model for
fair and efficient handling of asylum
seekers and has drawn praise from
the United Nations’ refugee agency
and Germany ’s Angela Merkel.
Even in peaceful, consensus-
minded Switzerland, however, the
issue of asylum seekers is proving
politically sensitive and the country’s
biggest party, the right-wing Swiss
People’s Party (SVP), remains
strongly opposed to any measures
that might encourage more refugees,
most of whom are Muslim, to come.
Switzerland remains much more
manageable than for, say, Germany.
Far fewer people fleeing conflicts
in Syria and elsewhere are currently
seeking asylum in the small Alpine
nation, which is not a member of the
European Union though it is part of
Europe’s free travel ‘Schengen’ area.
Under the Swiss system, five refugee
centres swiftly sift through asylum
applicants and send those most likely
to qualify to cantons under a fixed
quota while their cases are heard.
In a move to further streamline the
process, the Swiss parliament has also
recently approved plans to shorten the
asylum process for most applicants to
less than 140 days while providing
them with free legal representation.
“ We can show that these accelerated
asylum procedures not only work
but, thanks to comprehensive legal
protection, are actually fair too,” Swiss
President Simonetta Sommaruga said.
The European Commission is trying
to persuade the 28-nation EU to also
accept a quota system that would
evenly share out the responsibility of
accommodating asylum seekers, but
faces stiff resistance, especially from
ex-communist member states. EU
interior ministers will again try to
break the deadlock tomorrow.
Switzerland committed on Friday
to take in 1500 asylum seekers under
the EU quota system if it is approved.
Germany, which expects to admit
800,000 refugees this year, gave
a nod to the Swiss model last
week when Chancellor Merkel’s
federal government agreed with
German regional administrations
on distributing refugees across the
country and creating a network of
centres to facilitate the task.
The UN High Commissioner for
Refugees (UNHCR) has lauded the
Swiss approach for its speed and
“ For persons who are clearly in
need of international protection like
Syrians, this means faster access to
their rights as refugees, to be able to
build up a new life in safety and to be
reunited with their family members,”
spokeswoman Susanne Stahel said.
Switzerland may also hold lessons
in another area of asylum policy —
the prioritising of genuine refugees
fleeing danger zones over economic
migrants who are just seeking a better
Under a policy introduced three
years ago, Switzerland processes
asylum requests from Balkan
countries such as Kosovo and Bosnia
within just 48 hours. Most are told
they do not qualify as their region is
now at peace and they must leave.
Merkel said during a visit to the
Swiss capital Berne this month that
Germany could learn from such an
approach and Berlin has started to
clamp down on Balkan applicants to
help make way for more deser ving
candidates from war zones such as
“If they (the Germans) had these
elements of the Swiss system, it’s
possible that it could provide some
relief,” spokesman for advocacy group
Swiss Refugee Help Stefan Frey said.
Whatever the merits of the
Swiss system, however, the country
accounted for only about 3% of more
than half a million people to seek
refuge in Europe so far this year. Just
401 Syrians requested Swiss asylum
in August — a month when tens of
thousands of Syrians trekked across
the Balkans to reach neighbouring
Austria and Germany.
“Switzerland’s share in European
asylum requests is at its lowest in 15
years,” Sommaruga said.
Nevertheless, the number of
refugees as of June stood at 38,000,
up nearly 20% from a year earlier —
enough to alarm the right-wing SVP
and its supporters in a country which
has long struggled to reconcile the
humanitarian and the more insular
traditions which define the distinctive
“ Despite Switzerland’s generosity
and humanity, the country is simply
too small to fulfil all of the hopes of
the people who are seeking a better
life here,” said Heinz Brand, a SVP
lawmaker and immigration expert.
The SVP points out that foreign-
born residents now account for about
a quarter of the total Swiss population
of 8.2 million.
Asked about Switzerland’s relative
lack of popularity among the new
wave of refugees, Swiss officials cite
geography — it is simply not on the
main routes leading from the Balkans
to Germany — and also the lack
of a large Syrian community that
could create a bigger pull factor as in
Germany or Sweden.
The UNHCR has also criticised
Switzerland’s practice of granting
“provisional admission” for many
Syrians fleeing war, offering only
limited rights to family reunification
and access to the labour market
a “very precarious status”, the
UNHCR’s Stahel said.
There is also the Swiss image,
reinforced by two referendums, as a
country less welcoming to Muslims.
In a 2009 referendum Swiss voters
backed a ban on the construction
of new minarets and in 2014 they
approved a plan to curb immigration
with a quota system, a decision that
put Switzerland at odds with the EU
principle of free movement.
“ Both have always
in Switzerland: solidarity and
reser vations towards foreigners,”
Sommaruga acknowledged in an
inter view with a Swiss newspaper.
Asylum seekers taking part in
a pilot scheme for the revamped
Swiss asylum procedures at a centre
in Zurich are unperturbed by such
“ We like it here. The staff treat us
nicely, and we can go outside any
time we like,” said Akalya, 17, a Sri
Lankan who arrived with her mother
a month ago at the Zurich centre,
which provides free schooling for
children and activities such as yoga.
Keen to practise the German she
is learning in her four-hour lessons,
Akalya added: “ Wie geht es dir?”
(“How are you?”). — Reuters
Swiss offer lessons on handling refugees
At least 80 people were killed and
about 150 injured in bomb attacks in
northeastern Nigeria’s Borno State on
Sunday evening, police and witnesses
The State is the birthplace of the
insurgency waged by Boko Haram and
has been the focus of attacks by suspected
members of the militant Islamist group
that have killed more than 800 people
since President Muhammadu Buhari
took office on May 29.
Three bomb blasts in the state capital
Maiduguri about 7.30pm left at least
54 people dead and 90 injured. About
two hours later, two bombs exploded
at a checkpoint some 135km away at a
market in the town of Monguno.
Locals residents and a hospital source
said that attack killed 27 people and
injured 62 others.
No one has claimed responsibility for
the attacks but they bore the hallmarks
of the jihadi sect, which has been trying
to carve out a state in the north-east of
Africa’s most populous country since
“A suspected Boko Haram suicide
bomber detonated IEDs (improvised
explosive devices) at a mosque in Ajilari
and some insurgents also threw IEDs at
a viewing centre,” Victor Isuku, a police
spokesman in Maiduguri, said of the
“ Total casualty figure is now 54,” he
A Nigerian army spokesman said
yesterday that three bombs had gone
Local residents said a suicide bomber
hit a market at Monguno, killing at least
“I counted 27 dead bodies from the
scene,” Malum Sunoma, a local resident
who helped with rescues, said. He was
speaking on the phone from a hospital
where his brother was being treated.
“Five vehicles conveyed 62 injured
persons from the Monguno attack to the
specialist hospital in Maiduguri,” said
a doctor, who spoke on condition on
The Boko Haram insurgency has killed
thousands and displaced 2.1 million
Buhari’s March election victory
owed much to his vow to defeat the
insurgents, but there was a spike in
attacks across northern Nigeria in the
two months following his inauguration
and Maiduguri was hit on a near weekly
A new offensive launched by the
Nigerian army to clear Boko Haram
out of more towns over the last month
has led to a sharp drop in the frequency
of attacks in Borno, the worst affected
by the insurrection, and neighbouring
Maiduguri has been free of attacks
for about a month. It was last hit by a
bomb at the end of July and there was
a skirmish with suspected Boko Haram
militants on the outskirts of the city in
mid-August. — Reuters
An “old” drug used to treat rheumatoid
arthritis may offer new hope in the fight
against Alzheimer’s and other forms of
dementia, scientists say.
In laboratory mice, the anti-
inflammatory drug, salsalate, prevented
damage to the brain associated with the
diseases and reversed memory loss.
The early research points towards an
as-yet untried treatment strategy that
could be effective in combating the
devastating effects of Alzheimer’s, it is
One of the hallmarks of dementia is
the formation of so-called tau tangles,
toxic twisted knots of protein within
ner ve cells.
Salsalate was found to inhibit a
chemical process called tau acetylation
that appears to drive tangle generation.
The drug was tested on mice with
frontotemporial dementia (FTD), a
form of dementia affecting the frontal
lobes of the brain.
“ We identified for the first time a
pharmacological approach that reverses
all aspects of tau toxicity,” Dr Li
Gan, from the Gladstone Institute of
Neurological Disease in San Francisco,
who co-led the research, said.
“ Remarkably, the profound protective
effects of salsalate were achieved even
though it was administered after disease
onset, indicating that it may be an
effective treatment option. ”
Treatment with the drug protected
against shrinkage of the hippocampus,
a region of the brain vital to memory,
the scientists reported in Nature
The drug worked by blocking an
enzyme in the brain called p300, which
is known to be raised in Alzheimer’s
patients and triggers tau acetylation.
Since the enzyme plays an important
role in many biological functions,
completely inhibiting it could cause
serious side effects, the researchers point
But they add that according to a recent
study, p300 activity is “aberrantly high”
in Alzheimer’s brains.
“ Partial inhibition of p300 could
normalise its aberrant activation and
suppress hyper-acetylation of its
substrates, including tau,” the scientists
say. — PA
Arthritis drug may
help fight Alzheimer’s
Russia starts drone
missions in Syria
Russia has started flying drone aircraft
on sur veillance missions in Syria, United
States officials said overnight, in what
appeared to be Moscow ’s first military
air operations there since staging a rapid
build-up at a Syrian air base.
The beginning of Russian drone flights
underscored the risks of US-led coalition
planes and Russian aircraft operating
within Syria’s limited air space, without
agreeing on co-ordination or objectives
in Syria’s civil war.
The former Cold War foes have a
common adversary in Islamic State
militants in Syria. But Washington
opposes Moscow ’s support for Syrian
President Bashar al-Assad, seeing him
as a driving force in the four and a half-
year-long civil war.
The Pentagon declined comment at
a news briefing when asked about the
report on Russian drones, saying it could
not discuss intelligence matters. But it
said the US Department of Defence was
“ keenly aware” of what was happening
on the ground in Syria.
The White House acknowledged that
Moscow ’s intentions were unclear and
that the prospect of deepening Russian
military backing for Assad was troubling.
One US official said the number of
fixed-wing, piloted Russian aircraft
stationed at the air base near Latakia,
an Assad stronghold, had also grown
dramatically in recent days.
That included Russia’s positioning of
a dozen Fencer advanced-attack aircraft
and a dozen Frogfoot planes, used for
close air support. Those were in addition
to Russia’s first deployment of fighters
US Secretary of State John Kerry said
over the weekend the US welcomed
Russia’s involvement in tackling Islamic
State militants in Syria. But he said a
worsening refugee crisis highlighted
the need to find a compromise that
could also lead to political change in the
Syria’s civil war has killed an estimated
250,000 people, and many continue
to flee their homes, with four million
refugees and another 7.6 million
displaced inside the country.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has
pledged to continue military support for
Assad, assistance that Russia says is in
line with international law.
It was also unclear whether Moscow
might eventually target opposition
fighters the US supports in Syria, seeing
them as equal threats to Assad as Islamic
US and Russian defence chiefs agreed
on Friday to explore ways to avoid
accidental interactions, also known as
“deconfliction” in military parlance. But
those discussions were described as only
at their inception.
It was unclear whether the US-Russian
talks might gain added urgency, now
that Moscow has started drone flights.
Russia’s drone operations appeared
to be staged out of the air base near
Latakia, officials said.
A drunken man in India died after
he fell into a hole and construction
workers built a road over him,
police said on Monday.
Police in the district of Katni in
Madhya Pradesh State in central
India said the 45-year-old was
returning home on Friday evening
when he fell into the hole.
Labourers then filled the hole
with molten tar and used a heavy
roller to flatten the surface. Locals
later spotted the man’s shirt and he
was pulled out of the newly-laid
road dead overnight, police said.
“ His body has been sent for post-
mortem examination and further
investigation is in process,” sub-
inspector N P Chaudhary said.
The man had gone to a village
fair and was heading home after
visiting a liquor shop, the Times of
A driver and a road worker have
been arrested, the newspaper said.
Man dies after road built over him
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