Senate Trial ‘Should Go Very Quickly’, Says Trump

Senate Majority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) listens while US President Donald Trump speaks to reporters before a meeting with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.  Brendan Smialowski / AFP

 

President Donald Trump predicted Thursday that his impeachment trial in the US Senate will not take long and again dismissed the abuse of power charges against him as “a hoax.”

“I think it should go very quickly,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office as the upper chamber’s members were sworn in to serve as the jury in Trump’s historic trial over the Ukraine scandal.

“It’s totally partisan,” Trump said. “It’s a hoax. It’s a hoax and everybody knows it’s a complete hoax.”

Why Xavi Rejected Barca Coaching Offer

Spain and Barcelona football legend Xavi Hernandez who recently signed with Qatar’s Al-Sadd gestures to his teammates during their Qatar Stars League football match against Lekhwiya in Doha. AFP

 

Xavi said it was “too early” for him to coach Barcelona as he confirmed on Thursday that he had received an offer from his former club but would remain at Qatari side Al-Sadd.

World Cup winner Xavi, 39, said Barcelona’s director of football Eric Abidal made him the offer, before settling on Quique Setien to replace Ernesto Valverde as coach.

“I received an offer from Barcelona in the presence of Eric Abidal… but I did not agree to this offer, especially as it is too early for me to coach Barcelona,” he said in a statement issued by Al-Sadd.

“But it will still be my dream to coach the team in the future.

“I love the new Barcelona coach, I love the way he works, and I expect him to succeed with the team.”

Valverde left Barcelona after his sacking on Monday, closing the page on a brutal few days.

Barcelona confirmed Setien’s appointment following a board meeting that lasted more than four hours on Monday.

His contract runs until 2022 although there is a break clause in 2021, to allow for change after the club’s presidential elections.

Valverde is the first coach to be sacked by Barca mid-season since Louis van Gaal in 2003.

Barcelona sit top of La Liga, albeit level on points with Real Madrid, and face Napoli next month in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Xavi came through the Barcelona academy before breaking the record for most appearances for the senior side, winning four Champions League trophies and eight La Liga titles.

He joined Al-Sadd as a player in 2015 before being appointed coach last July.

AFP

Trump’s Impeachment Trial Adjourned Till Tuesday

Chief Justice of The U.S. Supreme Court John Roberts (R) is escorted by Senate Sargent at Arms, Michael C. Stenger after leaving the Senate Chamber at the U.S. Capitol, on January 16, 2020, in Washington, DC. Yesterday the House formally transmitted the Articles of Impeachment against U.S. President Donald Trump to the Senate for the trial. Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AFP

 

Members of the US Senate were sworn in on Thursday to serve as jurors at the historic impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.

US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who will preside over the trial, administered the oath to the senators who will decide whether the 45th president should be removed from office.

“Do you solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John Trump, President of the United States, now pending, you will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and the laws, so help you God,” Roberts said.

Senators in the chamber responded: “I do.” They then individually signed a book affirming their oath.

Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate majority leader, then adjourned the proceedings and said the trial would resume at 1:00 pm (1800 GMT) on Tuesday.

Earlier on Thursday, Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee who will serve as lead prosecutor for the trial, read out the two articles of impeachment accusing Trump of “high crimes and misdemeanours.”

The Democratic-controlled House, in an overwhelmingly partisan vote, impeached Trump on December 18 for abuse of power in his dealings with Ukraine and for obstruction of Congress.

Impeachment rules require a two-thirds Senate majority to convict and remove a president and Trump’s acquittal is widely expected in the Republican-dominated Senate.

AFP

Man United To Receive $1.6m As Young Joins Inter

Manchester United’s English midfielder Ashley Young attends a team training session at the club’s training complex near Carrington, west of Manchester in north-west England on March 12, 2018.
Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Manchester United defender Ashley Young has agreed on a move to Serie A club Inter Milan, according to reports on Thursday.

The 34-year-old will arrive in Italy on Friday for a medical before signing an 18-month contract, Gazzetta Dello Sport reported.

United will receive 1.5 million euros ($1.6 million) plus bonuses for Young who has spent the past eight-and-a-half seasons at Old Trafford since arriving from Aston Villa in 2011.

Young, who has played 39 times for England, has made 261 appearances for the Premier League club and scored 19 goals. He was club captain this season but only started 10 league games.

He won the 2013 Premier League title, the FA Cup in 2016 and both the League Cup and Europa League in 2017.

Young leaves the Premier League with United in fifth, 27 points behind leaders Liverpool, who they play at Anfield on Sunday.

Inter signed Romelu Lukaku from United last summer and also have Alexis Sanchez on loan from the club.

Antonio Conte’s side are second in Serie A, two points behind champions Juventus.

AFP

Doctor Receives Award For Easing Coma Survivors’ Return

In this photograph taken on January 14, 2020, Belgian neurologist Steven Laureys (2L) visits a patient at The University Hospital Centre in Liege.  KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

 

Not all patients who fall into a coma return, and when they do it can mark a moment of joy for their loved ones — but their troubles are rarely over. 

Often, brain damage leaves them paralysed or unable to communicate.

Belgian neurologist Steven Laureys has dedicated himself to the question of how to improve the lives of the formerly comatose, and of their families.

And on Thursday, his work was recognised with a million-euro ($1.1 million) grant from the King Baudouin Foundation, presented by the Belgian king’s sister, Princess Astrid.

The award will support the work of Laureys’ world-class Coma Science Group at the University Hospital of Liege, in the south of the country.

“Our ignorance about the brain is enormous,” Laureys told AFP at his clinic, lamenting that the patients that he sees have been “neglected” by medical science.

Laureys, who leads a team of 30 researchers, sees a “silent epidemic” of cases of patients who were revived from a coma but with their consciousness limited to varying degrees.

Around 150 cases a year are recorded in Belgium alone. Some leave intensive care able to open their eyes, but only move in reaction to outside stimuli.

In other, rarer, cases full consciousness returns but the patient’s body remains paralysed, limiting or preventing two-way communication with carers and loved ones.

The possibilities for treatment are limited, but the 51-year-old doctor says the royal grant will help his team study one promising route — the use of the drug apomorphine.

Bike crash 

 

Already used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and in tackling some addictions, apomorphine could prove effective in the “gentle and gradual” treatment of brain damage.

“For patients with brain injuries, there’s no current treatment that has proven truly effective. If we find one, that will make a great difference to patients’ quality of life,” said researcher Leandro Sanz.

Laureys’ group tackles Belgium’s toughest cases, those where a head trauma, brain haemorrhage or cardiac arrest plunges a patient into a coma and causes serious brain damage.

One of their most celebrated cases was that of Belgian professional cyclist Stig Broeckx, who was involved in a catastrophic crash in May 2016 on the Tour of Belgium.

He suffered several brain injuries and spent six months in a coma. Today, he can ride a bike once more.

“He regained motor control and intellectual function, he’s a true athlete with great motivation,” said Laureys.

Thursday’s ceremony saw Laureys awarded the Generet Prize, a grant from the King Baudouin Foundation named after the former Belgian monarch that manages 44.8 million euros in donations.

The first edition of the prize in 2018 went to Professor Miikka Vikkula, a Finnish specialist in vascular medicine working in Belgium’s Catholic University of Louvain.

AFP

Iran Wants Dialogue, Working To ‘Prevent War’, Says Rouhani

A handout picture provided by the Iranian presidency shows the Islamic republic’s President Hassan Rouhani chairing a cabinet meeting in Tehran on January 15, 2020. AFP

 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Friday he wants to avoid war after Tehran and Washington appeared on the brink of direct military confrontation in early January for the second time in less than a year.

Ahead of parliamentary elections on February 21 — predicted to be a challenge for Rouhani’s camp — and amid high tensions between Tehran and the West over Iran’s nuclear programme, the president said dialogue with the world was still “possible”.

“The government is working daily to prevent military confrontation or war,” Rouhani said in a televised speech.

The region seemed on the brink of new conflict earlier in January after the US killed top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike in Baghdad, prompting Iran to retaliate against US military targets in Iraq with a volley of missiles days later.

The strike caused significant material damage but no casualties, according to the US military.

Rouhani said the strike amounted to “compensation” for the death of Soleimani, the architect of Iran’s Middle East military strategy.

The tensions between the two enemies seemed to subside in the wake of the accidental downing of a Ukrainian passenger airliner hours after the retaliatory strikes, as Iran was on high alert for US reprisals.

The tragedy killed 176 people, mostly Iranians and Canadians.

Canada’s foreign minister on Thursday vowed to push Iran for answers about the tragedy.

“Families want answers, the international community wants answers, the world is waiting for answers and we will not rest until we get them,” Francois-Philippe Champagne said in London.

Better governance 

Ottawa said earlier that US President Donald Trump’s policies had contributed to the heightened tensions that led to the catastrophe.

In June 2019, Iran and the US had also appeared to be on the brink of direct military confrontation after Tehran shot down a US drone it said had violated its airspace.

Trump said he called off retaliatory strikes at the last minute.

The animosity between Washington and Tehran has increased since Trump withdrew the US from the landmark 2015 nuclear deal in 2018 and reimposed biting sanctions.

In Iran, the air disaster sparked outrage and anti-government demonstration took place every day from Saturday to Wednesday.

Concentrated in the capital, they appeared smaller than a wave of national protests in November. Prompted by a fuel price hike, those demonstrations were met with a crackdown that left at least 300 people dead, according to Amnesty International.

Rouhani implicitly acknowledged a crisis of confidence in authorities but looked to regain control on Wednesday, calling for “national unity”, better governance and more pluralism.

On Thursday, Rouhani also defended the policy of openness to the world that he has pursued since his first election in 2013, and which Iran’s ultra-conservatives criticise.

“Of course, it’s difficult,” he acknowledged, but he added, “the people elected us to lower tensions and animosity” between the Islamic republic and the world.

Rouhani said that with the nuclear deal “we have proven in practice that it is possible for us to interact with the world.”

Rouhani was speaking the day before supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is expected to lead the main weekly Muslim prayers in Tehran for the first time since 2012.

Khamenei, who maintains the West is not trustworthy, bans dialogue with Trump.

 ‘High school bully’ 

On Thursday, Rouhani said Iran’s “daily enrichment” of uranium was currently “higher” than before the conclusion of the 2015 nuclear deal.

Rouhani, who instigated the negotiations, made the comments while justifying his nuclear policy and Iran’s progressive disengagement from the accord. He also stated his willingness to continue dialogue on the agreement.

In response to the US withdrawal from the deal and sanctions, an increasingly frustrated Iran has hit back with a step-by-step suspension of its own commitments under the deal, which drastically limited its nuclear activities.

On Tuesday, Germany, the UK and France — the three European parties to the deal — announced they triggered a dispute mechanism in response to the latest step back from the deal by Tehran.

But Germany on Thursday confirmed a Washington Post report that the US had threatened to impose a 25 percent tariff on imports of European cars if EU governments continued to back the nuclear deal.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused the European parties of having “sold out” the deal to avoid trade reprisals from the US and said Trump was again behaving like a “high school bully”.

According to a European Union Statement, foreign policy chief Josep Borrell met Zarif in New Delhi on Thursday and urged Iran to “preserve” the increasingly fragile nuclear deal.

AFP

Trump Impeachment Trial Begins In US Senate

A file photo of US President, Donald Trump. AFP Photo.

 

Amid a solemn silence, articles of impeachment against Donald Trump were read aloud on the Senate floor on Thursday as the bitterly divided chamber began a historic trial of the US president for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Senate Sergeant of Arms Michael Stenger opened just the third impeachment trial of a US president in history with a warning to the 100 senators.

“Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye,” Stenger said after the seven members of the House of Representatives who will serve as prosecutors gathered in the well of the Senate chamber.

“All persons are commanded to keep silent, on pain of imprisonment, while the House of Representatives is exhibiting to the Senate of the United States, articles of impeachment against Donald John Trump, President of the United States,” the sergeant at arms said.

Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee who will serve as lead prosecutor for the trial, then read out the two articles of impeachment passed by the House on December 18.

“I will now read the articles of impeachment,” Schiff said, “impeaching Donald John Trump, President of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors.”

US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is to be sworn in at 2:00 pm (1900 GMT) to preside over the trial.

Roberts, 64, who was appointed to the nation’s top court by president George W. Bush, will then deliver an oath to the 100 senators who will swear to administer “impartial justice.”

The proceedings will then adjourn and the trial will get underway “in earnest” on Tuesday, according to Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell.

Impeachment rules require a two-thirds Senate majority to convict and remove a president and Trump’s acquittal is widely expected in the Republican-dominated Senate.

 ‘The Senate’s time is at hand’ 

Trump is accused of abuse of power for withholding military aid to Ukraine and a White House meeting for the country’s president in exchange for an investigation into his potential presidential election rival Democrat Joe Biden.

The Government Accountability Office concluded in a report released Thursday that the White House violated federal law by putting a hold on the congressionally-approved funds for Ukraine.

“Faithful execution of the law does not permit the President to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law,” according to the GAO, a congressional watchdog.

The second article of impeachment — for obstruction of Congress — relates to Trump’s refusal to provide witnesses and documents to House impeachment investigators in defiance of congressional subpoenas.

McConnell has been extremely critical of Trump’s impeachment by the Democratic-controlled House and pledged on Thursday that things would be different in the Senate.

“It was a transparently partisan performance from beginning to end,” McConnell said. “But it’s not what this process will be going forward.

“This chamber exists precisely so that we can look past the daily drama,” the Republican senator from Kentucky said. “The House’s hour is over. The Senate’s time is at hand.”

The two articles of impeachment were delivered to the Senate on Wednesday in a solemn procession by the seven House Democrats who will prosecute the case against the 45th US president.

“So sad, so tragic for our country, that the actions taken by the president to undermine our national security, to violate his oath of office and to jeopardize the security of our elections, has taken us to this place,” Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said as she signed the articles.

“This president will be held accountable,” she said. “No one is above the law.”

Pelosi held back on delivering the articles to the Senate as she pressured McConnell to agree to subpoena the witnesses and documents that the White House blocked from the House probe.

McConnell has refused to commit, saying the issue will only be decided after the trial’s opening arguments and questioning.

 ‘Con Job’ 

A Trump administration official told reporters they expect the trial to last no longer than two weeks, suggesting McConnell could use his 53-47 Republican majority to stifle calls for witnesses and quickly take the charges to a vote.

Trump ridiculed the investigation and trial on Wednesday, as he has for months.

“Here we go again, another Con Job by the Do Nothing Democrats,” he wrote on Twitter.

Democrats released documents this week that showed Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani worked with Ukrainian-born American Lev Parnas to pressure Kiev to investigate Biden.

They also showed the two, working with Ukrainian officials, trying to force out the US ambassador to the country, Marie Yovanovitch, eventually removed by Trump.

In a televised interview Wednesday, Parnas told MSNBC that “President Trump knew exactly what was going on.”

“He was aware of all of my movements. I wouldn’t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani or the president,” Parnas said.

Aside from Schiff the prosecution team will include Judiciary Committee chair Jerry Nadler; House Democratic Caucus chair Hakeem Jeffries; Zoe Lofgren, a veteran of two previous impeachment investigations; and three others.

FG To Ban Foreign Vessels From Operating In Nigeria

The Director-General of the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dakuku Peterside, speaks on the activities of his agency in 2020.

 

The Federal Government has said there are plans to ban foreign vessels from operating on Nigerian waters in the nearest future.

Speaking through the Director-General of the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dakuku Peterside during an interview on Channels Television’s Business Morning, the Nigerian government said the agency is working towards a time when foreign-owned vessels will not be allowed to trade on Nigerian waters.

“We have rolled out a five-year cabotage waiver cessation plan. That means that in the next five years, there are a number of waivers we would no longer grant,” he said on Thursday.

The NIMASA boss said there is an urgent need to train Nigerians on how to properly utilize the opportunities in the maritime sector.

READ ALSO: Gov Obaseki Signs New Minimum Wage Structure For Edo Workers

According to him, vessels operating in trading activities should be owned by the citizens rather than foreigners.

“We expect that most vessels that would be trading within our waters will be built in Nigeria, we already have shipbuilding yards. Most vessels will be flagged Nigeria and most vessels must be owned by Nigerians, we are not going to allow foreign-owned vessels at some point,” he stated.

On the need to have a national fleet that would be private sector-driven, Peterside explained that President Muhammadu Buhari administration is working to ensure that this is achieved soon.

He noted that once private individuals and corporate bodies operate the nation’s fleet, there will be employment opportunities that will boost economic activities.

He added, “The direction of the world is that the private sector people are in a better position to run businesses. As a country, as a reason for national pride, creating employment, reasons for security consideration and other economic reasons, we pushed for the creation of a national fleet.

“The honourable minister’s dream, which has the president’s endorsement, is that let it be private-sector driven, the country might just have minimal equity in the national fleet. We have that plan and we have set up a team led by the executive secretary of the Shippers Council. We believe that when it comes to fruition, we will have a shipping line that will fly the national flag.”

Lesotho PM To Resign Over Alleged Links To Wife’s Murder

Lesotho political party All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader and candidate Tom Thabane (C) casts his ballot at a polling station in Maseru, during Lesotho’s general election. GIANLUIGI GUERCIA / AFP

 

Lesotho’s prime minister has bowed to pressure to step down over evidence allegedly linking him to the murder of his estranged wife, the ruling party said Thursday.

Senior members of the All Basotho Convention (ABC) party have accused Thomas Thabane of hampering investigations into the killing.

They called for his resignation last week.

In June 2017, unidentified assailants gunned down his wife, Lipolelo Thabane, 58, on the outskirts of Lesotho’s capital Maseru, two days before her husband’s inauguration.

The brutal murder was brought back into the limelight last week by a letter from Lesotho’s police chief Holomo Molibeli.

READ ALSO: Russian New PM Promises ‘Real Changes’ For Citizens

It claimed that communication records from the day of the crime picked up Thabane’s mobile phone number.

Lesotho political party All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader and candidate Tom Thabane (C) casts his ballot at a polling station in Maseru, during Lesotho’s general election.   AFP

The letter — dated December 23, 2019 — became public in court documents filed by Molibeli after Thabane tried to suspend him over a separate matter.

“Mr Thabane has already made known his decision to resign to the cabinet in its seating on Tuesday,” ABC spokesman Montoeli Masoetsa told AFP on Thursday.

He said the next step for the party was to appoint a replacement, which would then need to be approved by parliament.

“There is no exact date in place as to when Thabane shall step down but it’s going to be soon,” Masoetsa added.

Lipolelo’s murder sent shock waves through the tiny poverty-stricken nation, which is entirely ringed by South Africa.

At the time his estranged wife was killed Thabane, now 80 years old, had been embroiled in bitter divorce proceedings with her.

Meanwhile, police have been unable to trace Thabane’s current wife, Maesaiah Thabane, since she failed to appear for questioning on January 10.

A court has issued a warrant for her arrest, which she unsuccessfully appealed.

Other high-profile figures have since also been summoned to provide information on the case, including the minister of water affairs and the government secretary.

“Government cannot be above (the) law,” Communications Minister Thesele Maseribane told reporters in Maseru.

“We would like to see her (Maesaiah Thabane) back home and go to the courts like everybody else.”

AFP

Russian New PM Promises ‘Real Changes’ For Citizens

Mikhail Mishustin, President Vladimir Putin’s nominee for the post of the prime minister, speaks to lawmakers during a session of the State Duma lower parliament in Moscow on January 16, 2020.
Alexander NEMENOV / AFP

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s new prime minister promised “real changes” on Thursday as he was approved by lawmakers after the Kremlin announced sweeping reform plans.

Putin tapped Mikhail Mishustin for the role as part of a series of bombshell announcements on Wednesday, which sparked speculation that Russia’s longtime leader could be preparing his own political future.

The lower house State Duma voted overwhelmingly to approve Mishustin as premier, less than 24 hours after Russia’s political order was shaken by Putin’s announcement of constitutional reforms and the resignation of the government.

No MPs voted against his candidacy, although Communist lawmakers abstained.

Speaking before his approval, Mishustin called on parliament to work with him to urgently enact Putin’s programme.

“People should already now be feeling real changes for the better,” Mishustin said.

Longtime prime minister Dmitry Medvedev resigned along with the cabinet following the constitutional reform announcement.

Putin’s current term as president ends in 2024 and observers say the 67-year-old could be laying the groundwork to assume a new position or remain in a powerful behind-the-scenes role.

Mishustin said his priority would be to “increase citizens’ real incomes” but also said the government must “restore trust” with the business community and drive innovation, echoing the state-of-the-nation speech when Putin announced the reforms.

He assured lawmakers that Russia can afford salary hikes and social payouts announced by Putin, estimating they will cost about four trillion rubles ($65 billion) over the next four years.

His appointment was finalised with a Putin decree. A second decree appointed Medvedev as deputy head of Russia’s Security Council — an advisory body — a post that was created for him.

 ‘Stay number one’ 

In his state of the nation speech, Putin said he wanted more authority transferred to parliament from the president.

He also called for the power of the State Council to be expanded and enshrined in the constitution — adding to conjecture that Putin could take it over after 2024 to preserve power.

Outlining the proposals, which would be the first significant changes to the country’s constitution since it was adopted in 1993, Putin said there was a “demand for change” among Russians.

While his nominee Mishustin was speaking in parliament, Putin met his newly formed working group for amending the constitution.

Putin said the amendments “would have no effect on the foundations of the constitution” but would make authorities “more effective” and ensure Russia’s development.

He said Russia would remain a presidential republic following the reforms, but it would be the parliament, not the president who would be picking the government.

Independent political analyst Maria Lipman said the announcements indicated that Putin wanted to “stay on as number one in the country, without any competitors”.

She said he could be deliberately weakening the presidency before relinquishing the role.

Russia’s opposition also said the proposals indicate Putin’s desire to stay in power.

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny said on Twitter that Putin’s only goal was to “remain the sole leader for life”.

Medvedev, prime minister since 2012, posted a parting message on his VK social networking page on Thursday, saying Putin’s plans “demand a new approach” and thanking cabinet ministers for their work.

 Hockey and pop music 

Mishustin will have a week to propose a new government and ministers.

The former head of an investment group who trained as an engineer, Mishustin has a PhD in economics and has led Russia’s Federal Tax Service since 2010.

He shares Putin’s love for hockey and has played in matches with security services officials. Passionate about the digital economy, he has also composed music for pop songs, newspaper Vedomosti reported.

Navalny, who has alleged wide-scale corruption among Russia’s top politicians, on Thursday said Mishustin possesses a fortune inconsistent with his public service career and called on insiders to share information about his secrets.

AFP

George Weah’s Critic Released In Sierra Leone

(FILES) In this file photo taken on December 19, 2019 Liberian radio show host and opposition leader Henry Costa (C) gestures to supporters after landing in Monrovia.  Zoom DOSSO / AFP

 

Sierra Leone said it had released a leading opponent of Liberian President George Weah after he had been briefly detained at Liberia’s request.

Opposition figure Henry Costa left Sierra Leone for the United States, where he usually resides, an immigration official in Sierra Leone and Liberian media said.

Sierra Leone authorities had stopped him from leaving the country on Tuesday, local media reported, in an affair allegedly related to problems with his travel documents.

READ ALSO: George Weah’s Critic Arrested In Sierra Leone

Costa, chairman of a youth activist group called the Council of Patriots (COP), is a fierce critic of footballer-turned-politician Weah and often attacks him on his popular radio show.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on December 19, 2019 Liberian radio show host and opposition leader Henry Costa (C) gestures to supporters after landing in Monrovia. / AFP

Sierra Leone Information Minister Abdurahman Swarray told local radio on Thursday that Costa had been detained and released.

“There was a call from our counterparts in Liberia to investigate him and we did the due diligence,” Swarray said.

Costa had returned to his native Liberia from the United States last month ahead of an anti-Weah protest which took place on January 6.

He was prevented from boarding a flight in Liberia last week for allegedly possessing forged travel documents, media in Liberia said earlier.

He was supposed to present himself to Liberian authorities on Wednesday but instead turned up in Freetown, capital of neighbouring Sierra Leone, where he was detained at the airport.

COP co-chair Mo Alie confirmed that Costa had been released and was on his way to the United States.

Liberia’s government did not comment on Costa’s detention on Wednesday, and it was not immediately available for comment on Thursday.

The president is under growing pressure to revive the West African country’s economy, which is struggling after back-to-back civil wars and the 2014-2016 Ebola crisis.

AFP

Whitney Houston, Biggie Among Rock Hall Of Fame Inductees

 

Pop icon Whitney Houston and rapper The Notorious B.I.G. are among this year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, the institution announced Wednesday.

The late legends are joined by the synth-pop act Depeche Mode and the industrial experimental group Nine Inch Nails, along with the 1970s rockers The Doobie Brothers and English glam rock band T-Rex.

The 2020 class is marked by legendary artists who died young.

The Notorious B.I.G. — a pride of New York, widely considered one of the greatest rappers of all time — was inducted in his first year of eligibility, which comes 25 years after the release of an act’s first commercial recording.

The artist born Christopher Wallace and colloquially known as Biggie was murdered in 1997 in Los Angeles at age 24, in a still-murky shooting that some speculated was part of a feud between East Coast and West Coast rappers.

Houston, the most awarded female artist of all time, died at 48 years old in 2012 after a public struggle with drugs, following a decade that saw her go from America’s sweetheart to tabloid drama queen.

The induction of Houston and Biggie mark a continuation of the institution’s broadening acceptance of genres into its ranks. Recent classes have included the rapper Tupac Shakur, Radiohead and Janet Jackson.

The organization founded in the early 1980s has faced criticism over the years, however, for its lack of diversity and limited recognition of women.

During last year’s gala, Jackson brought up the issue in her acceptance speech, saying “2020 — please induct more women.”

But just three women were among the short-list of potentials this year: Houston, who made the cut, along with Pat Benatar and Rufus, featuring Chaka Khan.

The new class of inductees will be celebrated with the annual star-powered ceremony set for May 2 in the Hall of Fame’s home city of Cleveland, Ohio.

Inductees are chosen following a survey of more than 1,000 musicians, historians and industry members, who consider an act’s career work, innovation, skill and influence in voting in new members.

AFP