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8 - Thursday, May 8, 2014
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has told
a Canadian newspaper that “rehab
is amazing”, adding that it is a lot
like the football summer camp he
attended as a child.
Ford, 44, took a leave of absence
from city hall in the middle of his re-
election campaign last week to enter
rehabilitation for drug and alcohol
abuse, after another video surfaced
showing him allegedly smoking crack
“ I feel great,” he told the Toronto
“ Rehab is amazing. It reminds me
of football camp. Kind of like the
Washington Redskins camp I went
to as a kid.”
The mayor described daily meetings
with four to eight people, including
“two doctors, a captain of industry
and a professional athlete”, and “then
there is a meal before we have some
“There are terrific people in my
group. We are all supporting each
other. We are connecting in a weird
way,” he said, while refusing to say
where he is receiving treatment
after reportedly being turned away
by United States customs agents in
Ford said he is also coming to terms
with the fallout of his substance abuse.
Ford burst into international
headlines last year when an alleged
drug dealer tried to sell a video of
the mayor smoking crack to media
outlets in Canada and the US.
At first, Ford denied using crack
cocaine, but later acknowledged
he had smoked the drug while in a
“drunken stupor” but insisted he was
not an addict.
Since then Ford has been filmed
numerous times in public behaving
Toronto City Council stripped
the mayor of most of his powers in
November over his misconduct.
As for his political future, once he
has completed rehab, Ford said: “I am
coming back and I am going to kick
butt.” — AFP
Rehab ‘amazing’ — Toronto mayor
A new Boko Haram massacre has
killed hundreds in Nigeria’s north-east,
as police offered a 50 million naira
($349,731) reward for information
leading to the rescue of more than 200
schoolgirls held hostage by the Islamists.
The latest insurgent attack targeted the
town of Gamboru Ngala on the border
with Cameroon, where gunmen this
week razed scores of buildings and fired
on civilians as they tried to flee.
Area Senator Ahmed Zanna put the
death toll at 300, citing information
provided by locals, in an account
supported by numerous residents.
Zanna said the town had been left
unguarded because the soldiers based
there had been redeployed north towards
Lake Chad in an effort to rescue the
school girls kidnapped by Boko Haram
on April 14.
The shocking mass abduction has
sparked global outrage and offers of help
from the United States, Britain, France
Nigeria’s response to the kidnappings
has been widely criticised, including by
activists and parents of the hostages who
say the military’s search operation has
been inept so far.
The police on Monday offered the
reward for any information leading to
the girls’ rescue.
administration has sought to appear
more engaged with the plight of the
hostages in recent days, especially after
Boko Haram chief Abubakar Shekau
released a video threatening to sell the
girls as “slaves”.
In a second kidnapping, 11 more girls
aged 12 to 15 years were seized on
Sunday from Gwoza, an area not far
from Chibok and also in Borno State,
Boko Haram’s base.
US President Barack Obama has
described the Chibok abductions as
“ heartbreaking” and “outrageous”, and
announced that a team of military
experts had been sent to help Nigeria’s
British Prime Minister David Cameron
overnight condemned the kidnappers as
“pure evil” as his office said Britain was
sending a team of experts to help with
the kidnap response.
French Foreign Minister Laurent
Fabius said a “special team” was at
Nigeria’s disposal, while Jonathan
said that visiting Chinese Premier Li
Keqiang has also pledged assistance.
Analysts said Jonathan’s acceptance of
western military assistance suggested an
admission he can no longer manage the
Boko Haram uprising without help.
Just a few hours before the mass
abduction in Chibok, a blast ripped
through a crowded bus station on the
outskirts of Abuja, killing 75 people in
the deadliest attack to hit the capital.
Jonathan had hoped that a World
Economic Forum summit which opens
in Abuja today would highlight Nigeria’s
economic progress and underline its
recent emergence as Africa’s biggest
Meeting Jonathan in Abuja ahead of
the summit, China’s Li pledged stronger
co-operation with Nigeria, Africa’s
top oil producer, but public focus has
remained fixed on Boko Haram. — AFP
Israel’s foreign minister has denied
allegations that his country was engaged
in spying activities on United States soil.
In an article published in Newsweek,
anonymous US officials said Israel had
gone too far in its attempts to secure
industrial and technical intelligence from
its No 1 ally, and had “crossed red lines”.
“ No other country close to the United
States continues to cross the line on
espionage like the Israelis do,” said
a former congressional staffer who
attended a classified briefing in late
2013, according to Newsweek.
But Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor
Lieberman denied the charges.
“ We categorically reject such an
accusation,” he said.
“ We’re talking about lies and falsehood,
simply libel which is baseless and
unfounded,” Lieberman said, describing
the remarks as “malicious.”
“ I am sorry that there are apparently
anonymous elements in the United States
who are simply trying to maliciously
spread false accusations,” he said.
The minister said Israel had “learned its
lesson” from the case of Jonathan Pollard,
a US naval analyst who was arrested in
Washington in 1985 and sentenced to
life in jail for spying on the US for Israel.
Pollard passed to Israel thousands of
secret documents about US spy activities
in the Arab world over a period of 18
Lieberman said Israel was not involved
in any form of espionage against the US,
directly or indirectly.
He also denied allegations in the
Newsweek story that the alleged spying
was connected to Israel’s so-far futile
attempts to join the US visa waiver
programme. — AFP
The evacuation of rebel-held parts
of Syria’s Homs has begun under an
unprecedented deal that hands back
control to the government weeks
before the presidential election.
After nearly two years of
government siege, weary civilians
and rebel forces made their way
out of the shelled-out ruins of the
Old City and surrounding areas on
buses taking them to opposition-
held territory to the north.
The deal involved the release of
dozens of civilians and fighters held
by rebels in the northern province of
Aleppo and in Latakia province, on
the Mediterranean coast, including
women and children, sources said.
The operation effectively turns
over the city once dubbed the
“capital of the revolution” to
government control ahead of
a controversial June 3 election
expected to return President Bashar
al-Assad to office.
The evacuation began about
10am local time, with three buses
carrying civilians and fighters, some
of them wounded, departing from
the devastated Old City.
Videos posted on-line showed a
group of fighters, some with their
faces covered, walking towards
They carried backpacks and
light weapons as they boarded the
buses, which were accompanied
by a white United Nations vehicle,
under the gaze of regime police.
By sunset about 600 of the
approximately 1200 people
believed to be in the Old City
had left, according to the Syrian
Obser vatory for Human Rights, a
British-based monitoring group.
Governor Talal al-Barazi and
activists in Homs province said the
operation would continue today.
Obser vatory chief Rami Abdel
Rahman said the withdrawal was “a
propaganda victory for the regime,
because Homs holds a symbolic
place in the Syrian revolution”.
He said “the resistance (put up
the rebels) was legendary, despite
two years of siege, and in spite of
this, the international community
The city of some 800,000 people
was one of the first to rise up
against Assad’s rule in March 2011,
prompting activists to dub it the
“c apital of the revolution”. — AFP
Syrian rebels evacuate Homs
Soldiers loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad pose for a picture after their release by rebels, in the al-Meridian district of Aleppo. They were
freed as part of a larger deal which saw the last remaining Syrian rebels in central Homs city evacuate their positions and free captives in several
locations in northern Syria.
A Thai court ordered Prime Minister
Yingluck Shinawatra to step down
overnight after finding her guilty of
abuse of power, prolonging a political
crisis that has led to violent protests
and brought the economy close to
The decision is bound to anger
supporters of Yingluck, but the court
did allow ministers not implicated in
the case against her to stay in office,
a decision that could take some of
the sting out of any backlash on the
After the ruling, the cabinet said
Commerce Minister Niwatthamrong
Boonsongphaisan, who is also
a deputy prime minister, would
replace Yingluck, and the caretaker
government would press ahead with
plans for a July 20 election.
responsibility now is to organise
an election as soon as possible,”
Niwatthamrong, a former executive
in a company owned by Thaksin
Shinawatra, Yingluck’s brother and
himself a former prime minister who
was ousted by the military in 2006,
“ I hope the political situation will not
heat up after this,” Niwatthamrong
said of the court ruling.
Thailand’s protracted political crisis
broadly pits Bangkok’s middle class
and royalist establishment against
the mainly poor, rural supporters of
Yingluck and Thaksin, who lives in
exile to avoid a 2008 jail sentence for
abuse of power.
Yingluck, who faced six months
of sometimes deadly protests in the
capital, Bangkok, aimed at toppling
her government and ending the
considerable political influence of her
brother, thanked the Thai people in a
televised news conference.
“Throughout my time as prime
minister I have given my all to my work
for the benefit of my countrymen. I
have never committed any unlawful
acts as I have been accused of doing,”
Yingluck said, smiling and outwardly
“ From now on, no matter what
situation I am in, I will walk on the
path of democracy. I am sad that I will
not be able to ser ve you after this.”
Despite her removal from power,
there is no obvious end in sight to the
turmoil in Thailand, with protesters
opposed to Yingluck and her
government still pushing for political
reforms before new elections.
The United States, a close ally
of Thailand, urged a peaceful and
democratic solution to the crisis,
saying this “should include elections
and an elected government ”.
“ We urge all sides at this time to
exercise restraint and reaffirm that
violence is not an acceptable means
of resolving political differences,”
State Department spokeswoman Jen
Psaki told a regular news briefing in
The judge who delivered the verdict
at the Constitutional Court said
Yingluck had abused her position by
transferring a security chief to another
post in 2011 so that a relative could
benefit from subsequent job moves.
The court ruled that nine ministers
linked to the case should step down,
but others could remain, leaving
Yingluck’s ruling party in charge of a
Yingluck, a businesswoman until
entering politics to lead her party to
victory in a 2011 election, was not in
court. Thaksin, based in Dubai, was
unavailable for comment.
Yingluck’s supporters accuse the
Constitutional Court of bias in ruling
against governments loyal to Thaksin.
In 2008, the court forced two prime
ministers linked to Thaksin from
“ We were bracing ourselves for this
verdict. Everything our enemies do
is to cripple the democratic process,”
Jatuporn Prompan, the leader of pro-
Shinawatra “red shirt” activists, said.
“The court chose a middle way today.”
Asked about a vow to resist
Yingluck’s removal that had raised
fears of violence, Jatuporn replied:
“There is no reason why we should
take up arms. We will rally peacefully
as planned on May 10. ”
In Thailand, the prime minister is
normally elected by the lower house
of parliament, but that was dissolved
in December when Yingluck called a
snap election to try to defuse protests.
From that point, she headed a
caretaker administration with limited
powers. The election in February was
disrupted and later declared void by
the Constitutional Court.
and the Election
Commission agreed last week a new
ballot should be held on July 20,
but the date has not been formally
approved and it is bound to be
opposed by protesters.
Thaksin or his loyalists have won
every election since 2001 and would
probably win again.
The former telecoms tycoon won
huge support in rural areas and among
the urban poor with populist policies
such as cheap healthcare and loans.
But his enemies say he is a corrupt
crony capitalist who buys elections
and harbours republican sympathies,
which he denies.
The anti-government protesters say
they want to end Thaksin’s hold over
politics and are demanding reform of
the electoral system before new polls.
The army, which has staged
numerous coups since the end of
absolute monarchy in 1932, has
stayed out of the turmoil, as has King
Bhumibol Adulyadej.The king, 86, has
inter vened to defuse previous crises,
but has not commented since this one
blew up late last year. — Reuters
At least 12 climbers have died in Japan
over a long weekend of public holidays
during which mountaineers traditionally
flock to difficult peaks.
Deaths over the four-day holiday, which
finished on Tuesday, were reported in
climbing spots across Japan’s Northern
Alps, the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper
said, including Toyama, Nagano and
Gifu prefectures, as well as in other
Among the dead was a 69-year-old
housewife who fell about 50m from a
ridge on the 1423m Mount Arafune in
Separately, two men, a 68-year-old
medical worker and a 46-year-old banker,
were found dead after their three-strong
party were caught in bad weather.
The trio made an emergency call
on Monday night saying they had
lost their way on the 3190m Mount
Okuhotakadake in Gifu prefecture.
“They tried to bivouac but their shelter
was blown off by a strong wind,” police
officer Hideki Shibata said, adding it
appeared the cold might have killed
Two men, a 19-year-old National
Defence Academy student and his
29-year-old adviser, were found dead
after falling up to 400m from a ridge
on the 3110m Mount Karasawadake,
The Northern Alps are popular for
their natural beauty but also known for
being reasonably difficult to climb, with
many peaks still covered in snow.
Unconfirmed media reports said
a 23-year-old soldier was found
unconscious after falling while climbing
Mount Fuji, Japan’s highest peak.
Thai court orders PM to step down
J K Rowling
J K Rowling wins damages
Harry Potter author J K
Rowling has been awarded
damages from a British
newspaper following an article
about her time as a struggling
The writer sued bosses at the
Daily Mail’s parent company
Associated Newspapers in January
following publication of a story
titled, “How J K Rowling’s sob
story about her past as a single
mother has left the churchgoers
who cared for her upset and
The feature was in relation to
an article she had written for a
single parents’ website, in which
she recounted an incident when
she felt stigmatised by a woman
at a local church for being an
Rowling claimed the piece,
published last September, had
damaged her reputation and was
misleading and unfair. O vernight
the company issued an apology
and agreed to pay substantial
“ We accept that Ms Rowling’s
article did not contain any
false claims and apologise for
any contrary suggestion and
have agreed to pay substantial
damages to Ms Rowling, which
she is donating to charity, and a
contribution to her legal costs,” the
statement said. — AAP
Poisonous brew claims 63 in Kenya
At least 63 people have died in
Kenya this week and dozens more
are sick after consuming toxic
“So far, we have 63 dead,” police
spokesman Masood Mwinyi said.
Hospital sources said dozens more
were receiving treatment.
“ What we are trying to establish
is the origin of this brew.
Investigations are under way and
samples will be taken to ascertain
where and how it was prepared,”
police spokeswoman Zipporah
The towns worst affected are close
to the capital Nairobi and elsewhere
in the centre and the east of the
In some areas the alcohol was
bought from licensed bars and in
others it was sold on the street in the
slums, officials said.
Deaths from toxic alcohol are
relatively common in Kenya, with
similar cases making the headlines
every year. — AFP
France said overnight it was boosting
intelligence ties with Nigeria and
sending security ser vice agents there
to tackle Boko Haram after more than
200 girls were kidnapped by the Islamist
President Francois Hollande’s office
said after he spoke by telephone with
Nigerian leader Goodluck Jonathan that
Paris would dispatch a specialised team
immediately to Abuja to help find the
With more than 4000 troops operating
between Mali to the west and Central
African Republic to the east, Paris has
a major interest in preventing Nigeria’s
security from deteriorating and has
voiced concern Boko Haram could
spread north into the Sahel.
Having ousted al Qaeda-linked
militants from Mali last year, France is
planning to redeploy its forces across
west Africa this summer to target
Islamist groups taking advantage of
porous borders between southern Libya,
northern Chad and Niger.
“The president expressed his desire to
increase intelligence cooperation with
Nigeria, involving all regional countries,
so that this terrorist group can no longer
carry out such acts,” a statement on the
telephone conversation said.
Earlier on Wednesday, Foreign
Minister Laurent Fabius told lawmakers:
“ In the face of such ignominy, France
must react. This crime cannot be left
Around 10 experts from the external
DGSE intelligence ser vice with satellite
obser vation knowledge would first be
sent to join United States and British
teams, official sources said.
Demanding an Islamic state, Boko
Haram has been fighting in the north-
east for the past five years. It attracted
global attention last month with the
abduction of girls taking exams in the
village of Chibok, also in the south of
Hollande, during a February trip to
Abuja, promised to help fight them,
saying Nigeria’s struggle was also that of
“This may be the catalyst the
international community needs to fight
Boko Haram,” a French diplomat said.
French interests have already been
targeted by Boko Haram.
Last November, the group kidnapped a
French priest and held him for a month.
Earlier last year, in mid-February, they
snatched a French family of seven on
holiday in northern Cameroon and held
them for two months.
Hollande at the time denied a ransom
had been paid for the family, but a
confidential Nigerian government report
seen by Reuters said Boko Haram was
given the equivalent of $3.15 million by
French and Cameroonian negotiators.
France boosts Nigerian
intelligence links as
Boko Haram spreads
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