Home' Greymouth Star : January 31st 2017 Contents Greymouth Star
8 - Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Anti-voodoo cult members suffocate in sealed prayer rooms
Wrapped up from head to toe in a
white bag and gently rocking from
side to side, five Japanese mothers are
hopeful Tokyo’s latest health trend can
cure their post-pregnancy aches and
According to its exponents,
Otonamaki, which translates as “adult
wrapping”, was devised by a Kyoto
midwife who thought replicating how
children are swaddled at birth could
help mothers overcome post-labour
shoulder and hip pain.
The five mothers at a recent session
in Tokyo lay on their backs with their
knees on their chests bundled up in
white cloths. Staff then helped them
rock over cushions.
“ It felt warm and there was this
feeling with my body,” one mother
who tried the 20-minute session said.
“ I have never experienced this
before so its quite hard to describe
Not everyone is a fan. Chiropractor
Shiro Oba was sceptical about its
powers of healing and encouraged
mothers with back pain to visit a
“There may be cases where people
with asthma may find it easier to
breath (in that position), but once the
cloth is off it’s the same thing,” O ba
“But apart from that, I just can’t
think of how people can benefit from
this even as a form of reflexology or
exercise.” — Reuters
Adult swaddling therapy fad hits Japan
A woman is wrapped up in a Tokyo clinic.
Former Panamanian dictator
Manuel Noriega has been
released from prison for three
months to have surgery to remove
a brain tumour, his lawyer said.
Noriega, who ruled Panama
from 1983 to 1989, left prison
under heavy police guard to
undergo treatment ahead of the
surgery planned for February 15,
and was taken to the apartment
of one of his daughters in a posh
part of Panama City.
His lawyer, Ezra Angel, said
judicial authorities had granted
82-year-old Noriega a period of
home arrest until April 28 to go
through with the operation.
After ward the surgery, an
assessment will be made on
whether he should return to
prison or recover outside, judge
Katerin Pitti said.
Noriega, who is ser ving time for
murder, was initially sentenced in
the United States in 1992.
Deposed dictator for surgery
Five people died from asphyxiation in
Benin this weekend and several more
were in hospital after a religious cult told
followers to seal themselves into prayer
rooms and burn incense and charcoal,
residents and a sur vivor said.
The group, whose name in French
translates as the Very Holy Church of
Jesus Christ of Baname, has thousands
of adherents across the country and has
stirred tensions by vehemently opposing
the local voodoo culture.
Its young woman leader, Vicentia
Chanvoukini, known by her followers
as Lady Perfect, has proclaimed herself
“ With the help of old cloths, we sealed
off all of the exits to the prayer room
before using incandescent charcoal and
incense to prepare for the descent of the
Holy Spirit,” sur vivor Yves Aboua said
at the Porto Novo hospital where he was
admitted with respiratory problems on
Church members were told to stay
in their prayer rooms until Sunday so
as “not to be held accountable” when
the world ended, he said. Several other
people remain in hospital in critical
condition, according to residents and
In a shady courtyard in the town of
Adjarra, 5km north-east of the capital,
a woman fanned a sur vivor sitting on
a straw mat to resuscitate him while
awaiting medical attention. The body of
his brother, who died during the prayer
ritual, lay beside him.
Local mayor Michel Honga confirmed
that the victims were members of prayer
groups but declined further comment.
Police officials declined comment
reporters were unable to contact anyone
representing the Baname church.
About 40% of the west African
country’s population follow Voodoo,
and Benin has a national holiday to
celebrate it. Many Christians and
Muslims incorporate some of its beliefs
into their faith.
The Baname church, named after
Chanvoukini’s hometown, has drawn
criticism because it rejects Voodoo
There have been several violent clashes
between Baname followers, who often
wear red scar ves to identify themselves,
and members of other faiths since 2009.
Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, escorted by
police, arrives at the apartment of one of his daughters in Panama
Police were investigating a single
suspect in a shooting at a Q uebec City
mosque that killed six people, with a
second person who was arrested now
considered a witness, authorities said
The sole suspect in the attack
on Sunday evening prayers was
Alexandre Bissonnette, a French-
according to a source familiar with
The man now considered a witness
was of Moroccan descent although
his nationality was not immediately
known, the source said. He was
named by media as Mohamed Khadir
or Mohammed Belkhadir.
Police declined to give details of
those arrested or possible motives
for the shooting at the mosque,
the Centre Culturel Islamique de
Authorities initially said they
had arrested two suspects, but in a
Twitter message, the Royal Canadian
Mounted Police said that “following
the investigation, the second
individual is now considered as a
Police said this morning they were
confident no other suspects were
involved in the attack.
“They consider this a lone wolf
situation,” the source said.
In addition to the six killed, five
people were critically injured and
12 were treated for minor injuries, a
spokeswoman for the Q uebec City
University Hospital said.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin
Trudeau earlier called the shooting “a
terrorist attack on Muslims”. He was
heading to Q uebec City later today, a
United States President Donald
Trump called Trudeau to express his
condolences “and offered to provide
any assistance as needed,” Trudeau
spokesman Cameron Ahmad said.
He gave no further details.
The shooting came over a weekend
when Trudeau said Canada would
welcome refugees, speaking in
response to Trump’s order to halt
the US refugee program and to
temporarily bar citizens from seven
Muslim-majority countries from
entering the US.
Trump’s action, which the president
said was aimed at protecting
Americans from the threat of attacks
by militant Islamists, was widely
condemned in the United States and
abroad as targeting Muslims.
A father of four, the owner of a halal
butcher near the mosque, was among
those killed, said Pamela Sakinah El-
hayet, a friend of one of the people at
The mosque concierge was killed, as
was Ahmed Youness, a 21-year-old
student, El-hayet said. One of El-
hayet ’s friends, Youness’s roommate,
was in the mosque at the time of the
shooting. He was unharmed, she said,
but in total shock.
Ali Assafiri, a student at Universite
Laval, said he had been running
late for the evening prayers at the
mosque, near the university in the
Quebec City area. When he arrived,
the mosque had been transformed by
police into a crime scene.
“ Everyone was in shock,” Assafiri
said by phone. “It was chaos.”
Universite Laval is the oldest
French-language university in North
America, with 42,500 students.
Vigils were planned for Montreal
and Quebec City, the provincial
capital, as well as in Edmonton. There
was an outpouring of support for the
mosque on social media.
Citizens for Public Justice, a group
of Canadian Christians, churches
and other religious congregations,
expressed their solidarity with the
Muslim community of Quebec City.
“Last night’s shooting, targeting
people of faith during their worship
and prayer, is a deplorable attack on
all Canadians and our most deeply-
held values,” the group’s executive
director, Joe Gunn, said.
While the motive for the shooting
was not known, incidents of
Islamophobia have increased in
Quebec in recent years.
The face-covering, or niqab, became
a big issue in the 2015 Canadian
federal election, especially in Quebec,
where the majority of the population
supported a ban on it at citizenship
Pope Francis offered his condolences
to Cardinal Gerald Cyprien LaCroix,
Archbishop of Quebec, who was
visiting Rome overnight.
important it is in these moments that
everyone remains united in prayer,
Christians and Muslims,” the Vatican
said in a statement. — Reuters
Quebec mosque shooting ‘lone wolf ’ attack
Supporters of Islamic
State mocked United States
President Donald Trump’s
decision to deny entry to
citizens of seven Muslim-
majority countries, saying
it would fail to stop attacks
in the US and help win new
militant recruits instead.
“ Your decision will do
nothing. Attacks will come
at you from inside America,
from Americans born in
America with American
parents and grandparents,” one Islamic
State supporter posted on Telegram, an
encrypted messaging app.
In a move he said would help protect
the US from terrorists, Trump signed
an order on Saturday suspending the
entry of people from Iran, Iraq, Libya,
Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for at
least 90 days. Admission of all refugees
was halted for four months, and for
The sweeping travel curbs took effect
immediately, wreaking havoc for would-
be travellers with passports from the
seven countries and prompting an
Islamic State, which has been fighting
military assaults on several fronts in
its heartlands of northern Syria and
Iraq, has made no formal comment on
Trump’s ban. But some sympathisers
took to social media to pour scorn on
immigration restrictions they said would
ser ve Islamic State’s cause.
“ Trump bans Muslims from entering
America and kills them in Yemen, Iraq
and Syria, then threatens them . . . the
wretch does not know he presents an
invaluable ser vice to Islamic State,”
a supporter calling himself Salem al-
Mosuly wrote on Twitter.
An Islamist channel
on the messaging app
Telegram called Scholars
of Haq, monitored by US
monitoring ser vice SITE,
asked whether Trump’s
policies meant he was
currently the best “caller
to Islam” — someone who
attracts new believers.
Of the first 48 users
to respond, 34 answered
that he was, according to
SITE. SITE quoted one
respondent, Abu Magrebi, as saying:
“ What Trump has done has clearly
revealed the truth, and harsh reality
behind the American government ’s
hatred towards Muslims.
“ What is Trump doing to his country?
He just become president and already
people (are) protesting against his policy,
and worldwide countries criticising him.
Trump will bring American down God
willing,” Abu Magrebi wrote in another
post monitored by SITE.
By last night, the Scholars of Haq
channel had been taken down, along
with several other channels on which
Islamist militants had posted responses.
Other Islamic State supporters mocked
an order issued by Trump requiring his
joint chiefs of staff give him a plan, in
the next 30 days, to defeat the militant
“The Crusader Trump has made
himself an unthinking Pharaoh. The
despicable Crusader forgets the reckless
utterances of Bush Junior and the
mule Obama before him. They did not
succeed and by the grace of God we will
rub his nose in the mud as we did his
predecessors,” wrote user Turjman Al
Asawirti on Telegram. — Reuters
Colombian rebels set to lay down arms
Colombia’s Mar xist FARC rebels are
on the move one final time, travelling by
boat, road and on foot across jungle and
mountains to demobilisation camps, as
part of a deal to end more than 50 years
of war, guerrillas and the government
Just under 4400 Revolutionary Armed
Forces of Colombia (FARC) fighters
are currently making their way to more
than two dozen rural camps scattered
around the country, accompanied by
officials from the United Nations and
The remainder of an estimated 6000
to 7000 FARC fighters are already at or
near the demobilisation sites, where UN
personnel are responsible for collecting
weapons from the guerrillas.
UN officials are also assisting
Colombian authorities with special
justice proceedings against rebels
accused of crimes against humanity,
as well as reintegration and victim
“They set out this weekend, guns
over their shoulders, ready to trade for
a life lived in legality, in democracy,
a different life that will contribute
to building peace,” the government ’s
peace commission said in a statement
The group’s demobilisation will
mark an end to more than 52 years of
bloodshed in the Andean nation by the
FARC. Founded in 1964 to fight for
rural reform and income equality, the
rebels once had a presence in nearly half
of Colombia’s territory.
The FARC, which decries State and
paramilitary violence against the poor
and minorities, was once notorious for
high-profile kidnappings and fierce
ambushes of government troops.
The conflict between the government
troops, rebel groups and paramilitaries
has killed more than 220,000 people.
A spokesman for the FARC’s Southern
Front unit shared photos with journalists
of dozens of rebels boarding motorised
river canoes on their way to the camps.
“ From the day it was signed, we’ve
held up our part of the deal and we will
continue to do so,” the Southern Front
said in a statement that accompanied
The rebels and government of President
Juan Manuel Santos hammered out a
more than 300-page peace deal over
nearly four years of negotiations in
Havana, Cuba. The original deal was
rejected by voters in a referendum in
October 2016, but a revised version was
passed by Congress late last year.
The UN, government and rebels are
working together to build infrastructure
in the camps, including housing, medical
facilities and sanitation. — Reuters
Police and prosecutors
scheduled a press conference
later today to announce they
had solved the 1976 murder
in Los Angeles of the ex-wife
of Righteous Brothers singer
Bill Medley, saying the killer
was identified through familial
Authorities released few other
details, and did not say whether
or not the suspect was alive to
be arrested or charged in the
40-year-old cold case.
Karen Klaas, 32, was attacked
at her home in the Los Angeles
suburb of Hermosa Beach
on the morning of January
30, 1976. The mother of two
had been sexually assaulted,
strangled and left in a coma,
dying at a local hospital five
The case has remained
unsolved for four decades
despite working up a DNA
profile of the killer based on
forensic evidence found at the
Familial DNA testing
involves using a national DNA
database to search for people
who may be related to the
Klaas and Medley, who with
Bobby Hatfield made up the
singing duo best known for
such hits as You’ve Lost that
Lovin’ Feelin’ and Unchained
Melody, were married from
1964 to 1970. — Reuters
Police solve slaying of singer’s ex-wife
PICTURE: Getty Images
Righteous Brothers singers Bobby Hatfield, left, and Bill
Medley in 1974.
Syria denies rumours of Assad ill-health
The Syrian government has denied
rumours that President Bashar al-Assad
is suffering from ill health, saying he was
“c arrying out his duties quite normally”.
Speculation swirled in recent days
on social media and some Arab news
websites saying Assad, 51, was in critical
condition, citing rumours of stroke, or
even that he had been shot.
“The presidency denies all these
reports. President Assad is in excellent
health,” his office said in a statement.
“They (the reports) coincide with the
changing circumstances in the field and
politically,” it said, without elaborating.
The Ikhbariya news channel said
overnight that Assad had spoken by
phone to Venezuelan President Nicolas
Maduro, the first report from State
media to detail Assad’s activities since
the health rumors emerged.
Assad ally Russia and rebels backer
Turkey hosted talks between the
government and opposition in Kazakhstan
last week, where they reaffirmed a shaky
month-old ceasefire between the two
sides ahead of a ne w round of planned
peace negotiations in Geneva.
Assad had said before the Astana talks
he was ready to discuss “everything”,
including his own position within the
framework of the Syrian constitution.
His opponents have insisted throughout
nearly six years of conflict that he must
leave power under any peace deal.
But in the 17th year of his presidency
Assad holds the upper hand in the
Syrian war, bolstered by allies Russia
and Iran whose military involvement
has turned the conflict to his advantage.
The Syrian army and allied forces
recaptured the Wadi Barada area near
Damascus on Sunday, in another blow
to rebels who have fought for years to
Wadi Barada’s recapture came weeks
after rebel groups were driven from areas
they held for years in east Aleppo, their
last major urban stronghold. Taking full
control of Aleppo represented Assad’s
most important gain yet in a conflict
that grew out of protests against his rule
in 2011. — Reuters
College Station (Texas)
The leaders of the only private
university in North Korea asked
Texas A and M University in
the United States, known for
its agricultural economics and
public health programmes, for
help in teaching subjects such
The Pyongyang University of
Science and Technology (PUST)
was founded by evangelical
Christians and opened in 2010,
with students generally the
children of the country’s elite.
The PUST delegation said the
requested help is not about
politics but about using academics
for humanitarian ideals.
“It just tugs at the heartstrings
when people realize that there are
these people who are struggling
to get the food that they need.
If there is no food, there is no
education and life breaks down,”
Norma Nichols, director of
international academic affairs
for the university in the North
North Korea’s centrally planned
rationing system never recovered
from a famine in the 1990s. From
April to June last year the State
handed out just 360g of rations
per person per day, the lowest
amount for five years, a World
Food Programme report said.
PUST, with a volunteer faculty
mostly of evangelical Christians,
has a curriculum that includes
subjects once considered taboo in
North Korea, such as capitalism.
North Korean university
seeks US help
US move blocks 20,000
The United Nations refugee agency
voiced alarm overnight at United States
President Donald Trump’s decision to
suspend entry of refugees, saying that
this week alone 800 people set to make
America their new home had been
barred, causing anxiety and heartbreak.
An estimated 20,000 refugees in
“precarious circumstances” would have
been resettled to the US during the
120 days covered by the suspension
announced last Friday, the UN High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
said in a statement. “Refugees are
anxious, confused and heartbroken at
this suspension in what is already a
lengthy process,” it said.
“Those accepted for resettlement by
the US, after a rigorous US security
screening process, are coming to rebuild
their lives in safety and dignity. UNHCR
hopes that they will be able to do so as
soon as possible,” it said. — Reuters
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