US To Host Bolsonaro In Early 2019

In this file photo taken on October 28, 2018, Jair Bolsonaro, far-right lawmaker and presidential candidate for the Social Liberal Party (PSL), waves to supporters, during the second round of the presidential elections, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  MAURO PIMENTEL / AFP

 

Brazil’s incoming right-wing leader Jair Bolsonaro will visit Washington early next year as he finds common ground with President Donald Trump, a US official said on Friday.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is set to attend Bolsonaro’s New Year’s Day inauguration in Brasilia and will discuss Trump’s invitation to Washington, the official said.

“We look forward to what will hopefully be his first official visit early in the year ahead,” the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

The Trump administration sees a strong ally in Bolsonaro, who is following the lead of the United States in moving Brazil’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and has been critical of international efforts to fight climate change.

The US official noted that both Bolsonaro and Pompeo have warned of risks to Latin America from rising investment by China, whose financing of projects has turned into debt traps.

“It’s not always the case that when China shows up it is with good intention for the people they are showing up to ostensibly support,” the official said.

Bolsonaro, like Trump, has provoked outrage over the years with brash, swaggering statements, including telling a female lawmaker she was “not worth raping” and voicing nostalgia for the former military dictatorship’s use of torture.

The US official acknowledged “there has been some concern about older statements” but said Bolsonaro since the election has taken a “very strident and very forceful” approach to human rights in the region.

“The president-elect has been very forward-leaning on Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua in his defence of the human rights and the freedoms and democracy for the people in those countries,” she said.

Pompeo heads after Brazil to Colombia, where he will speak with President Ivan Duque about taking a firm line against Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro.

AFP

Salah Enters Emery’s Top 5 After PSG Snub

Salah 'Almost 100%' Certain To Play In Egypt Opener, Coach Says
Egypt’s forward Mohamed Salah gestures as he takes part in a training session at Ekaterinburg Stadium in Ekaterinburg. Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP

 

Arsenal manager Unai Emery believes Mohamed Salah is now among the world’s top five players, despite failing to sign him when he was in charge of Paris Saint-Germain.

The Gunners boss will be in opposition to the Liverpool forward when his Arsenal side faces the unbeaten Premier League leaders at Anfield on Saturday.

Egypt international Salah, 26, has scored 59 goals in 78 matches since arriving at Anfield from Italian club Roma before the start of the 2017/18 season.

Emery was coach of Ligue 1 champions PSG at the time and on Friday he admitted to being uncertain as to how Salah would cope with the pressure of playing for a major club.

“We spoke about the possibility to sign Salah to Paris St Germain when he was playing at Roma,” Emery said.

“We had some doubts — and then he signed for Liverpool and these doubts he has broken at Liverpool. Now, if you are speaking about the five top players in the world, one is Salah.”

Emery, asked about the nature of his reservations regarding Salah, added: “Can he take the performance into one big team?

“For example like PSG in Paris. And today I can say to you…if we signed him, we signed one player in the top five in the world.”

Emery said the signings of Salah and centre-back Virgil van Dijk had been central to Liverpool’s progress under Jurgen Klopp.

“I remember three years ago they had a problem in their defensive moments and bought some people — for example van Dijk — with good investment and the result is we are looking at them today and their progress,” he said.

“They are very strong in defence and also they are improving a lot when they bought Salah and now offensively they are a very big team.”

The Spaniard added: “I think the Premier League is now the best and most important competition in the world for the teams, with Spain, maybe Italy and Germany.

“But I think here are the best teams and players and now the leader in the table is Liverpool — and it is because they are doing things very well.”

AFP

Former Kenyan Olympic Chief Charles Mukora Dies

File photo of Charles Mukora

 

Former Kenyan Olympic chief and International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Charles Mukora, who was forced to resign from the IOC after the Salt Lake Winter Olympic bribery scandal has died aged 83, the Kenyan Olympic Committee (NOCK) said on Friday.

Mukora, who also served as head coach of the Kenyan team at the 1968 Olympic summer games in Mexico, was one of the six members forced to resign or expelled from the IOC in 1999 following the bribes-for-votes affair.

Salt Lake records showed that Mukora received direct payments of $34,650 but he strongly denied the accusations levelled against him.

“It is my considered opinion that I am an innocent victim of circumstances,” he said at the time.

A former athlete and footballer Mukora also worked in national politics and was elected member of parliament representing Laikipia East in 1992 in the first Kenyan multi-party elections since independence.

As the head coach in Mexico in 1968, he oversaw Kenya’s first-ever gold medals when Naftali Temu and Kipchoge Keino won the 10,000 and 1,500 metres respectively.

Kenyan sports officials paid tribute to Mukora who died after a long illness on Thursday.

“Charles Mukora was one the founding pillars of the National Olympic Committee of Kenya, and his tenure saw Kenya firmly established in the global Olympic movement,” said current NOCK chairperson Paul Tergat.

Athletics Kenya president Jack Tuwei highlighted the many different facets of Mukora’s contribution.

“This is one individual who served Kenya in different capacities internationally and in a very diligent manner. Kenya has lost a dedicated sports leader and servant,” he said.

AFP

‘Yellow Vest’ Protesters Target Macron’s Holiday Hideaway

A video grab taken from footage released by France Televisions on December 25, 2018, shows France’s president Emmanuel Macron. photo: Handout / FRANCE TELEVISIONS / AFP

 

If Emmanuel Macron is hoping for some holiday respite from the anti-government protests which have rocked France, he might want to avoid the presidential retreat on the Mediterranean coast.

Around 40 “yellow vest” demonstrators on Thursday tried to storm the medieval fort of Bregancon that serves as Macron’s summer retreat before being turned back by police, the mayor of nearby Bormes-les-Mimosas, Francois Arizzi, told AFP on Friday.

“It’s madness. For people who want more democracy, they should start by respecting other people’s property,” Arizzi said, saying many of the protesters had tried to infiltrate the fort by crossing private land.

The yellow vest movement has morphed from anger over fuel taxes to a broad rebuke of Macron, accused by critics of neglecting the rising costs of living for many in rural and small-town France.

Bregancon generated some unwanted headlines last summer when it emerged Macron was installing a 34,000 euro ($39,000) swimming pool at the fort, which already has its own private beach.

In theory, the site is currently unoccupied, though the president has refused to disclose where Macron and his wife Brigitte are spending the holidays.

Press reports have said the president cancelled a planned Christmas skiing trip, possibly at his long-time destination of La Mongie in the Pyrenees, not far from where his grandmother lived while he was growing up.

In Paris, where yellow vest protests have repeatedly descended into clashes with police in recent weeks, further demonstrations are planned on Saturday and New Year’s Eve.

Paris officials have decided to go ahead with the traditional New Year’s Eve fireworks display on the Champs-Elysees avenue — which usually attracts tens of thousands of people — despite the planned protest.

Paris police said in a statement Friday that strict security measures would be in place on the night, including bag and vehicle checks. Alcohol will be banned from the area.

Jeanne d’Hauteserre, mayor of the 8th district of Paris which includes the Champs-Elysees, told BFM television that at least 4,000 police and security forces would be on duty.

Yellow vest protesters “are welcome” to join the celebrations, she said.

Nearly 8,000 people are listed on Facebook as planning to attend the yellow vest New Year’s Eve demonstration, insisting it will be “festive and non-violent”.

AFP

Trump Has ‘Black And White’ World View, Says UK Foreign Minister

File photo of Britain’s Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt (C) phot:  ATTA KENARE / AFP

 

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on Friday criticised Donald Trump’s view of the world after the US president’s announcement of a withdrawal of American troops from the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria.

“President Trump makes a speciality of talking in very black and white terms about what’s happening in the world,” Hunt told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“We have made massive progress in the war against Daesh (Arabic acronym for IS), but it’s not over and, although they have lost nearly all the territory they held, they still hold some territory and there is still some real risk,” he said.

“We have to continue to be vigilant,” he added.

Trump announced the pull-out last week, stunning allies including Britain and France who warned that the fight against jihadists in Syria was not finished.

Some 2,000 US troops, joined by other foreign forces, have been assisting local fighters battling against IS.

Britain takes part in the coalition by carrying out air strikes in IS-held areas in Iraq and Syria.

During a visit to Iraq this week, Trump declared an end to the US role of being the world’s “policeman”.

“We don’t want to be taken advantage of any more by countries that use us and use our incredible military to protect them,” he said.

Asked what would happen if US troops also withdrew from Afghanistan, Hunt said: “We will continue to do everything we need to do to make sure the streets of Britain are safe.

“This is a security issue for the UK as well as for Afghanistan,” he said.

AFP

Arsenal’s Ex-Chairman Peter Hill-Wood, Dies At 82

In this file photo taken on October 26, 2006 Former Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood, who signed off on hiring a then largely unknown Arsene Wenger as manager, has died aged 82, the Premier League club announced on December 28, 2018. Odd ANDERSEN / POOL / AFP

Former Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood, who signed off on hiring a then largely unknown Arsene Wenger as manager, has died aged 82, the Premier League club announced on Friday.

The former Army officer and successful banker was chairman of the Gunners — the third member of his family to fill the role after his grandfather and father — from 1982-2013.

Under his chairmanship, Arsenal enjoyed two successful eras with starkly contrasting styles of play.

The conservative defensive strategy of George Graham secured the club two league titles, the FA Cup, League Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup between 1986 and 1995.

However, the club was to enjoy a complete makeover when Hill-Wood and the board rubber-stamped their dynamic vice-chairman David Dein’s recommendation to hire Wenger in 1996.

The Frenchman was to revolutionise English football and in the process win three Premier League titles — including the ‘Invincibles’ season in 2003/04 — and four FA Cups.

“It is with deep regret that we announce the death of former chairman Peter Hill-Wood, at the age of 82,” read the club statement.

“Peter, who was a key part of the formation of the Premier League in 1992, was immensely proud of our successes on the pitch but equally those off it, most notably the move from Highbury to Emirates.

“He was instrumental in facilitating our smooth relocation during what was perhaps the most transformative period in the club’s existence.”

Hill-Wood — who is survived by his wife Sally and three children — eventually stepped down after over three decades in charge because of ill health.

“As we celebrate the unique achievement of 100 consecutive years in the top flight this season, the Hill-Wood family were at the helm for the lion’s share of this special century,” read the statement.

“A testament to their tenacity and judgment in ensuring we have remained a significant force in English football for so long.

“Peter and his family’s influence on the club cannot be understated.”

AFP

Follow Pogba’s Example, Solskjaer Encourages United Players

Manchester United’s Norwegian caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gestures at the end of the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Huddersfield Town at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on December 26, 2018. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has warned Manchester United stars Romelu Lukaku, Anthony Martial and Alexis Sanchez they should follow Paul Pogba’s example if they are to revive their careers at the club.

Lukaku and Sanchez suffered a dramatic loss of form in the last months of Jose Mourinho’s tempestuous spell in charge at Old Trafford, while Martial was criticised by the Portuguese coach before finding his scoring boots.

World Cup winner Pogba was another key player who became a symbol of the club’s decline in the final weeks before Mourinho’s two-and-a-half year tenure came to an end before Christmas.

But the 25-year-old Frenchman has responded superbly to Solskjaer’s first week in charge and made big contributions to a 5-1 win at Cardiff and 3-1 home victory against Huddersfield.

Lukaku missed those games, having been given ‘compassionate leave’ by the cub, as did Sanchez who has been sidelined since late November with a hamstring injury.

Solskjaer says Pogba deserves all the credit for his return to form.

“I cannot do anything for their performances on the pitch,” said Solskjaer.

“Paul has done it himself. It’s up to them when they get a chance. That’s the name of the game as a footballer, you’ve got to do it yourself.”

Solskjaer, whose side play out-of-form Bournemouth on Sunday, said he can advise the players but ultimately it is down to them to change their attitude.

“I gave some guidelines of course, on expression, freedom of expression, but that’s how I’ve always been as a manager. You can’t tell the players what to do in this position,” said the 45-year-old Norwegian.

“Just enjoy playing for this club, that’s the best time of your life.”

 Pogba among world’s ‘top players’ 

Pogba’s rejuvenated form has certainly been one of the key factors in Solskjaer’s first games in charge, after the midfielder’s much-publicised difficulties with Mourinho.

Solskjaer reiterated that Pogba is the sort of player United should build a team around.

“He’s one of the top, top players in the world,” said Solskjaer.

“Attacking wise, he’s done really well but he’s a big lad, can win headers, tackles.

“The attitude has been perfect and that’s key, you should be tired towards the end of every single game.

“He’s been top class and we’re looking to build a team around him, of course.”

Solskjaer also gave 18-year-old forward Angel Gomes an outing as a late substitute against Huddersfield and has repeated his vow to use youngsters in his spell in charge at Old Trafford.

Midfielder Jimmy Garner, who travelled to Cardiff last week, and forward Mason Greenwood — both 17 — are also prominent in the manager’s thoughts.

“As Sir Matt (Busby) once said, if they’re old enough, they’re good enough,” said Solskjaer.

“We’re built on that tradition, we need young players coming through, it’s important in the academy.

“I am looking to bring players through, we have top talents in the under-18s knocking on the door now.

“We’ve had a couple of injuries and fatigue has been involved and they’re ready to step up.”

AFP

Russia To Host Putin, Erdogan, Rouhani Summit In 2019

File photo

Moscow will early next year host the leaders of Russia, Iran and Turkey to discuss the Syrian conflict, Russia’s deputy foreign minister said Friday, after the United States announced it was withdrawing troops from the country.

“It’s our turn to host the summit… around the first week of the year. This will depend on the schedules of the presidents,” Mikhail Bogdanov was cited as saying by Interfax news agency.

The meeting will be the latest step in the Astana peace process — set up in early 2017 by Russia and Iran, who support President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, and opposition backer Turkey.

The Astana process was launched after Russia’s military intervention in Syria tipped the balance in the Damascus regime’s favour. It has gradually eclipsed an earlier UN-sponsored negotiations framework known as the Geneva process.

The last meeting between Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Iran’s Hassan Rouhani and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan took place in Iran in September with the fate of the rebel-held Idlib province dominating the agenda.

US President Donald Trump in a shock announcement recently said he was pulling out some 2,000 American soldiers from Syria, claiming the Islamic State jihadists had been defeated.

AFP

Turkey Detains Dozens Over Alleged IS Links

 

Turkish authorities on Friday detained dozens of suspects over alleged links to the Islamic State during morning raids in two provinces, state news agency Anadolu reported.

In Ankara, 52 people were taken into custody after the capital’s chief prosecutor issued 64 arrest warrants as part of a probe into the IS jihadist group.

Raids continued to find the 12 other suspects.

Police discovered weapons including guns and ammunition at the homes of the suspects in Ankara, Anadolu reported.

And in the northern province of Samsun, 10 Iraqis were detained over suspected IS ties, the agency said.

Turkish authorities have conducted similar raids in the capital this year.

Just a few days before national elections in June, 14 suspected IS members were detained accused of planning an attack on the polls.

Turkey was hit by a series of terror attacks in 2015 and 2016 attributed to IS and Kurdish militants. The last attack was in January 2017 when a gunman killed 39 people at an elite Istanbul nightclub during New Year celebrations.

The arrests come as Turkey has vowed to eliminate IS in Syria, threatening to launch an offensive soon against jihadists and a Syrian Kurdish militia in the wake of the US announcement to withdraw all ground forces from the war-torn country.

AFP

Chinese Students Protest Against Alleged Interference Of School Leadership

A group of students hold up signs as they protest against the change in a student-run Marxist group’s leadership at Peking University in Beijing on December 28, 2018. Photo: EVA XIAO / AFP

 

A dozen students from a top Chinese university staged a protest Friday after the school removed the president of an on-campus Marxist group amid an ongoing crackdown on student activists this year.

The students gathered in an open area in front of the science department where they held up signs and shouted slogans protesting the change in the society’s leadership.

But security moved in almost immediately and started pulling students away, forcing some to the ground while others were pushed towards a waiting black car.

Peking University did not immediately respond to AFP’s request for comment.

The university said Thursday that it “restructured” the student-run Marxist group, replacing core members and student leaders, including former president Qiu Zhanxuan, with their own picks.

Many of the 32 new members are from the Communist Youth League or the Communist Party.

The move came one day after Qiu was detained by police for “disturb(ing) the public order” on campus by singing and holding slogans.

An eyewitness told AFP that Qiu was arrested for attempting to commemorate the 125th birth anniversary of Mao Zedong, whose legacy in China remains controversial.

Though President Xi Jinping has called for a refocusing on Communist roots — including a May speech which called for Marxism to be promoted in campuses and classrooms — Beijing is increasingly wary of student-run Marxist societies, especially those that try to apply theory to practice.

Over the summer, when university students joined efforts to organize a labor union for factory workers in southern Guangdong province, Chinese authorities flew into action.

In August, a police raid swept up the student activists, beating several of them and confiscating their phones, according to the Jasic Workers Solidarity group, a labour rights organisation that the students joined.

Several of them, including Yue Xin, a Peking University graduate who became known after co-authoring a petition demanding details of a sexual abuse case at the school, have not been heard from since.

AFP

Albania To Ban Gambling In 2019

File photo

 

 

Albania’s law to ban gambling will take effect on January 1st,2019  to curb domestic violence and poverty to lining the pockets of criminals, Albania’s love of gambling has spawned a scourge of social ills in one of Europe’s poorest countries.

But at the start of 2019, the Balkan state is taking a nationwide resolution to break the addiction in hopes of curbing suffering that has consumed many families.

On January 1 a law will go into effect shuttering the 4,300 betting venues that have cropped up on nearly every street corner in the country of 2.8 million people.

It is an “extremely high” ratio of one shopper 670 people, far above that seen in both neighboring Balkan states and more developed Western European countries, says economist Klodian Tomorri.

The betting blackout will also outlaw online gambling and restrict casinos — some of which are currently near schools — to five-star hotels in licensed tourist resorts.

For people like Arta, a 31-year-old mother of two, the move is welcome although it comes too late to shield her own family from a devastating loss.

Last July her husband leaped off a building after betting for the losing team in Belgium-France football match, she recalls with tears and trembling hands.

“He bet on Belgium, but in fact, what he got was misery,” said Arta, who is now relying on around 100 euros of monthly state aid to raise her young kids.

According to a study by the University of Tirana, one out of four gamblers has attempted suicide at least once.

Another 70 percent have struggled with stress and psychological problems.

“We also found a close link between domestic violence and gambling, which has led many families to experience very serious crises,” said Iris Luarasi, who runs a counseling line for victims of violence.

Losing everything 

Ilir Musta, a heavyset 35-year-old man, experienced that type of family catastrophe first hand.

“I don’t know how to get out of this, please help me,” he recently told a doctor in Tirana, where he was seeking help for anxiety.

“The game was good at first, but now it’s cancer. I lost my life, my wife, my daughter, I’m a living dead,” added Ilir, speaking in a shaky voice as his eyes darted around the room.

He started betting on sports just two years ago, convinced he was on the verge of making a fortune.

But instead, he found himself drowning in debt and ended up in prison for violently beating his wife after she asked for a divorce.

There are scores of other families who have been ruptured by the destructive addiction.

According to Tirana lawyer Vjollca Pustina, some 70 percent of divorce cases brought to court in the capital this year have been linked to gambling.

The government says rehabilitation centers will be opened to help gamblers who will be forced to quit cold turkey.

But there is concern that the centers will not be ready soon enough.

“Gambling addiction is a disease and must be managed once the betting rooms are closed for players, but for the moment rehabilitation centers are completely missing,” said Menada Petro, professor of social sciences at the University of Durres.

 Cash and crime 

The industry has also been criticized for draining money from families in a country where the average monthly salary is below 300 euros ($342).

According to official figures, Albanians spend some 140 to 150 million euros ($170 million) on sports betting annually, which amounts to 70 percent of what the average family spends on healthcare.

But when accounting for illegal betting, the real figure is estimated to be around 700 million euros ($798 million), according to the government.

For Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama, another core goal is cutting off cash flow for organized crime groups who profit from the industry and use it to launder money.

But he admits that the new law will not end the fight against gangs, a key task for a government that wants to kickstart EU accession talks.

“The war will continue as criminals change their skin and strategy,” Rama said in a recent TV interview.

Going underground 

Some betting shops already closed in December while others are trying to profit from a final year-end rush, said Artan Shyti, president of the Federation of Albanian Betting Companies.

The next battle will be controlling illegal venues, especially online.

Betting firms “have started to move to Macedonia, Montenegro, and Kosovo where they already have their subsidiaries and can operate quietly (online),” Shyti told AFP.

Albania tried to reduce the number of betting clubs in 2013, but politics and special interests got in the way.

Now the new law, passed in October, will put some 8,000 people out of work.

“The authorities have allowed (this industry to grow) and now they are forcing us to suddenly close our business without distinguishing between clean and dirty (operations),” says Arjan Gumi, 47, who has run small betting club in Tirana for 16 years.

He says he doesn’t yet know what to do next and is hoping the government follows through on a promise to assist the unemployed.

“It is tragic for our families too,” he added.

AFP

Paris: New Year’s Eve Bash To Hold Despite ‘Yellow Vest Protest’

Yellow vest member Vincent installs a sign on the roundabout (rond point) next to a tent where people can write their demands (in French “Cahier de doleances”) in Cagnes sur Mer,
VALERY HACHE / AFP

New Year’s Eve celebrations on the Champs-Elysees in Paris will go ahead despite plans for another “yellow vest” anti-government protest on the famed avenue, city officials said on Thursday.

Tens of thousands of tourists and locals traditionally ring in the new year on the wide shopping boulevard, which ends with the Arc de Triomphe monument.

The Champs-Elysees has since last month been the epicenter of repeated violent protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s government, with the Arc de Triomphe ransacked on December 1.

While the numbers turning out at protests across the country have dwindled dramatically, some “yellow vests” have called online for a New Year’s Eve protest on the Champs-Elysees.

On Facebook 7,400 people are listed as planning to attend what it calls a “festive and non-violent event”.

Paris officials said they would continue as planned with preparations for a fireworks display and sound and light show on the Champs-Elysees under the theme “fraternity”.

The avenue is a regular gathering point for national celebrations such as Bastille Day, the Tour de France and France’s victory this summer in the football World Cup.

But on recent Saturdays, it has been the scene of violent clashes between riot police and “yellow vest” protesters who accuse Macron of favoring the rich with his policies.

The movement sprang up online in October and spiraled into the worst crisis of Macron’s presidency, with tens of thousands blocking roads and protesting across France.

Macron sought to defuse the crisis in mid-December by announcing a 10 billion euro ($11.4 billion) package of measures to help pensioners and low-paid workers.

Since then the “yellow vests” have been split between moderates willing to engage in dialogue with the government and others intent on remaining at the barricades.