United Defender Displays Shaw-Fire Generosity

Luke Shaw #23 (R) and and Juan Mata #8 of Manchester United United warm up prior to the International Champions Cup 2018 match against AC Milan at StubHub Center on July 25, 2018 in Carson, California. AFP

 

Manchester United defender Luke Shaw entered in the Christmas spirit of giving in grand style by spending £10,000 ($12,800) on hampers from luxury London store Harrods for Manchester United staff the Daily Mail reported on Tuesday.

The 23-year-old — whose own fortunes have taken a turn for the better with interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer restoring him to the first team since the sacking of Jose Mourinho — bought 40 hampers worth more than £250 apiece.

The hampers included fudge, mince pies, a Christmas pudding, tea, coffee and champagne among other luxury items.

It is not the first time the England international who earns a reported £165,000 a week has displayed such generosity, having ordered hampers from the equally famous Fortnum and Mason store last year.

The former Southampton star also paid a visit to a children’s hospital, alongside fellow defender Chris Smalling, and invited four of his former school teachers to the 4-1 home win over Bournemouth on Sunday.

AFP

Iraqi Youths Dressed As Santa Distribute Gifts To Children In Mosul

 

Some Youths in Iraq on December 26, walked through streets of the old city of Mosul, dressed in Father Christmas suits to distribute gifts to children.

See Photos Below.

Love Will End Wanton Killings, Says Dogara At Christmas

Dogara Preaches Selfless Love At Christmas
A file photo of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara. Photo: Twitter – @HouseNGR

 

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, has called on Nigerians to show love to one another, irrespective of their religious or ethnic background.

In his Christmas message on Tuesday, he said there is a need to imbibe the spirit of the season, which is the love of God for humanity.

The Speaker noted that as Christians commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ, it was because of the love of God for humanity that he allowed his son to come into the world for the ultimate goal of redemption.

According to him, such selfless love is what Christians should reflect in their dealings with one another.

Dogara stated further that God’s solution to humanity’s problems was love, stressing that embracing his love would put an end to wanton killings, ethnic and religious clashes, and other evils that retard the growth and development of the country.

He urged everyone to be steadfast in prayer for Nigeria and use the occasion to practice the love of God by sharing whatever they have with the needy and underprivileged in the society.

The Speaker wished everyone a peaceful and joyful celebration.

Christmas: Saraki Commends Nigerians For ‘Resilience In Face Of Challenges’

Bukola Saraki

Senate President Bukola Saraki in his Christmas message on Tuesday felicitated with Christians and all Nigerians as they celebrate the Christmas and New Year festivities.

He also congratulated Nigerians for what he described as their resilience in the face of the challenges facing the nation and urged them to pray for improvement in the social, political and economic condition of the country, in the New Year.

Saraki disclosed this in a statement signed on Tuesday by his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, in Abuja.

He urged Nigerians to make it part of their New Year resolution that they will play their constitutional roles to ensure that the country has a peaceful, credible, free and transparent elections in February and March 2019 and that the results of the elections will lead to rapid socio-political and economic development of Nigeria.

“I wish all Nigerians a merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year. I want to call on Christians, in particular, and Nigerians, in general, to emulate the virtues of Christ, who through self-sacrifice brought salvation to humanity.

“This is a time for us to be our brother’s keeper, extend our generosity to one another and ensure that the less-privileged among us are not left out of the ensuing merriments,” he said.

READ ALSO: Embrace Virtues Of Christ, Ekweremadu Tells Nigerians

He added that the upcoming election is another opportunity to lay a new foundation for the growth and prosperity of the nation and to banish poverty from the land.

He prayed for journey mercies for as many Nigerians that would have to travel during the period and urged the police and other security agencies to be alive to their responsibilities and ensure that the lives and property of Nigerians are fully secured at all times.

“The security agencies must of necessity redouble their efforts to ensure that the Christmas and New Year celebrations are observed peacefully across the country,” Saraki said.

Christmas: Ajimobi Urges Citizens To Be Thankful

Oyo State Governor, Abiola Ajimobi, has appreciated the people of the state for standing by his administration and emphasised the need to be thankful.

The governor, during this year’s Christmas Carol and the thanksgiving service, held at the Agodi Gardens, Ibadan, urged citizens to always be thankful to God irrespective of their economic or social status.

He added that it is important for citizens to love and sacrifice for one another beyond the festive season. According to him, these were the virtues that the life and times of the symbol of the season, Jesus Christ, epitomised.

“My message this year is just gratitude, gratitude and gratitude. First, let me thank God for the opportunity given me to govern this state for an unprecedented two consecutive terms. Second, I thank the people of Oyo State for their support.

“I must thank God for His kindness and mercy, which made it possible for us to achieve all we were able to achieve. I must especially thank my wife publicly for her support. She has taught me more about kindness and Godliness. She took many children, especially orphans, off the streets and she is nurturing them the same way she nurtures our children,” he said.

READ ALSO: Ambode Preaches Love, Selflessness At Christmas

Ajimobi also used the opportunity to solicit the support of the people of the state for the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate in next year’s election, Adebayo Adelabu, whom, he said, would be a worthy successor.

The governor congratulated Christians on the Christmas celebration and urged them to spread love to their neighbours in the spirit of the season.

Christmas Dashed For Residents Of Sydney ‘Cracking’ Tower

Fire trucks stays in front of Opal Tower during an inspection by firefighters and engineers in Sydney on December 25, 2018. Australian police evacuated thousands of people in west Sydney late Christmas Eve, after residents reported hearing a “loud crack” from a 38-storey building.
PHOTO: SAEED KHAN / AFP

 

Some residents of a recently completed Sydney high-rise apartment block were on Tuesday spending their Christmas in makeshift camps after they were evacuated by authorities when “cracking noises” in the building were heard.

Hundreds of people in the 38-storey Opal Tower in the Sydney Olympic Park and other nearby buildings were told to leave their homes on Monday after reports of “cracking noises”.

Some two-thirds of the units were declared safe to return to Tuesday morning, but 51 others were declared “structurally unsafe”, New South Wales state police said.

“Residents of these units have been escorted back to gather their belongings and have made their own arrangements for accommodation,” police added in a statement.

“Engineers and building managers remain on scene.”

No one was injured during the evacuation.

The building moved “one to two millimeters” during the incident and authorities said they found a crack on the 10th floor.

But firefighters said they were confident of the building’s integrity, apart from the affected units.

“No, there is no risk that the building can collapse. It’s just the local structure has been compromised,” Superintendent Adam Dewberry of NSW Fire and Rescue told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“What will happen now is the strata manager will work with the local engineers to determine what needs to be done to actually make this building safe and let the full occupancy reoccur.”

Residents spoke of how their Christmas plans were thrown into turmoil, with some saying they had to sleep in their cars.

Others said they were fearful of living in the block despite their apartment being assessed as safe.

“I’m going to be moving, that’s for sure. I don’t want to spend a second in there that I don’t have to. I don’t want to die. I wouldn’t feel safe sleeping there,” 20th floor resident Chris Abram told commercial broadcaster Channel Nine.

The 392-unit tower opened this year and is near the site of the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

AFP

Nigerians Join Christians Worldwide To Celebrate Christmas

A display depicting Christmas decorations and angels holding trumpets illuminate a roundabout ahead of the festive seasons at Victoria Island in Lagos, on December 17, 2018. Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital is wearing new looks as corporate bodies are sponsoring branded Christmas lights across the city to mark the festive season. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

 

Christmas is here again and Christians in Nigeria have joined their fellow believers across the world to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

The Christmas Day is declared as a public holiday not just in the country but also in many other nations.

It is accompanied by the teachings of Christ which include showing love to one another and tolerance among other Christian virtues.

On the eve of Christmas (Monday), President Muhammadu Buhari congratulated Nigerians, especially the Christians.

He stressed the need for the people to live in unity with one another, especially for the troubled and displaced people in the country.


READ ALSO
Embrace Virtues Of Christ, Ekweremadu Tells Nigerians
Ambode Preaches Love, Selflessness At Christmas
Show Love To One Another, Ortom Tells Nigerians


 

President Buhari urged Nigerians to put a smile on the faces of those grieving by showing a little love thereby building relationships with those outside their ethnic, religious and socio-political divides.

He, however, described 2018 as a mixed year as there were both progress and deaths that could have been avoided.

“On the pleasant side, our economy has made significant progress since coming out from recession and our faithful implementation of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan,” the President was quoted as saying in a statement by his Christmas message to the nation.

“We have seen so many unnecessary deaths caused by violent clashes between neighbours, who ordinarily should complement and support one another. We cannot bring back the lives lost to floods, unfortunate fire disasters, road accidents, farmers/herders clashes, and insurgency.”

Similar, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu and some state governors greeted Nigerians at Christmas.

In his message, Senator Ekweremadu urged the people to embrace the virtues of Jesus Christ during the season.

He asked them to show love, fairness, and selfless service to their neighbours, especially as the country prepares for the general elections in 2019.

Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, in a statement asked Nigerians to use the occasion to extend love and kindness to all mankind, especially the less privileged in the society.

He listed the qualities that Jesus Christ represents to which include love, care, selflessness and compassion for persons, especially the weak, vulnerable and less-privileged.

Elsewhere, Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, said, “Let us embrace peace, harmony, tolerance and show love to one another at this Christmas and carry the same virtues into the coming year.”

Christmas: A New App Is Born At The Birthplace Of Jesus

 

Bethlehem is buzzing, with more tourists expected this Christmas than have visited the Biblical city in years, causing the kind of problem that modern technology was almost born to deal with.

Such are the crowds at the church built on the site where Jesus is believed to have been born that the authorities are planning to introduce an advance reservation system through an app.

The app, which will be introduced early next year, is aimed at ensuring a regular flow of tourists at the Church of the Nativity, where at busy times visitors wait hours to see the underground grotto where Christians believe Jesus was born in a manger.

Details of the app, which will be in English to start, are still being worked out.

One priest said it would only apply to tour groups visiting the site in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, but the Palestinian tourism ministry said it would be for everyone.

READ ALSO: US-Led Coalition Air Strikes Leaves 27 Dead In Eastern Syria

While there are concerns visits could become unnecessarily complicated, the three churches that share control of the site — the Catholics, Greek Orthodox and the Armenian Church — say such an app is needed.

“There are times when for us there are specific prayers, celebrations, or masses, or with all the sects praying,” Orthodox priest Issa Thaljieh said outside the church.

“So of course there is a huge squeeze. With the app, everyone will know what time to enter and which groups are there, so it will become more organised.”

The first church was built on the site in the fourth century, though it was replaced after a fire in the sixth century. Its mosaics were recently restored in a major project.

Palestinian deputy tourism minister Ali Abu Srour said the app would also provide information about the church.

“We are going digital with this issue,” he told AFP in his office in Bethlehem.

– Record year –
Barbora Salyova, a 29-year-old tourist visiting Israel and Jordan from Slovakia, said the app could be useful for pilgrims like herself.

“This is a step we definitely planned to make,” she said. “We also came for religious reasons so this was an automatic stop.”

Tourism in Bethlehem is enjoying its best season in years, with hotels reporting especially high occupancy rates for the Christmas period, said Elias Al-Arja, chairman of the Hotels Association Palestine.

“We had occupancy rates of 74 or 72 percent in 2018,” he said, adding that it is expected to rise later in December.

In total around 2.8 million tourists have visited the Palestinian territories this year, up from 2.5 million last year, according to the tourism ministry.

Abu Srour said the primary reason is a decrease in violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank this year.

The ministry has reached out to new tourists in locations across the globe, he said.

Israel is also enjoying record tourism figures and many visitors take day trips to Bethlehem and other West Bank sites from Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and elsewhere in the Jewish state.

Volunteers In Santa Claus Outfits Flood Seoul Street On Christmas Eve

South Korean volunteers in Santa Claus outfits throw Santa hats during a ceremony before the delivery of Christmas gifts in Seoul on December 24, 2018. photo: Jung Yeon-je / AFP

 

Hundreds of volunteers in Seoul, the capital of South Korea, has flood the streets dressed in Santa Claus outfits.

The Seoul Santa Clauses are using the Christmas celebration to reach out to the less privileged, and to share love amongst the poor and the needy.

The volunteers will today, December 24 deliver Christmas gifts to 1,200 kids from 800 poor families in Seoul.

As an act of celebration, the Seoul Santa Clauses throw their hats into the air and dance before offering Christmas gifts to the children.

See photos below..

Christmas Joy Missing In Rubble Of Syria Town

A Syrian man drives past destroyed buildings in Arbin on December 18, 2018. PHOTO: MAHER AL MOUNES / AFP

 

With Christmas approaching, Nabil al-Aash dusts off religious books as he attempts to tidy up the war-scarred Saint George Church in the town of Arbin, northeast of the Syrian capital Damascus.

Retaken in the spring by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad during a brutal offensive to capture the rebel stronghold of Eastern Ghouta, Arbin is anything but festive.

Rubble from razed buildings spills out into deserted streets lined with burned-out cars and twisted scraps of metal. The town looks more apocalyptic than merry.

Arbin’s only church, Saint George’s flame-scorched walls and empty nave are a testament to the seven-year conflict that has left more than 360,000 people dead and displaced millions.

“There’s no celebration here. Christian homes are destroyed and their church is destroyed,” says Aash.

The restoration of the Greek Orthodox church, built in 1873, “will take a lot of time, money and effort”, he adds.

“There’s not a single icon left — all of them were either burned or stolen,” said the 55-year-old, approaching the altar.

“We also found broken crosses.”

Aash fled Arbin in 2012 as fighting engulfed the town, plagued afterwards for years by violence and a crippling siege imposed by Damascus.

But after regime forces retook the area, he decided to return home.

“I grew up in this church, I spent all of my Christmases here… it was once overflowing with joy,” he remembers.

“I almost collapsed when I saw it.”

For him, the festive spirit “won’t return until the residents and parishioners do”.

Contrast

After a blistering offensive backed by Russian air power, government forces in April retook Eastern Ghouta, a key rebel foothold at the gates of Damascus.

The military push and years of shelling flattened large swathes of the area and forced most of its pre-war population to flee.

Before the war, Arbin was home to some 3,000 Christian residents, according to Mayor Khalil Tohme.

But despite the return of relative calm to the capital and its surroundings, Arbin residents are still hesitant to come back.

“We are only five Christians who regularly visit the town, the others go from time to time… most of their homes are destroyed,” says Aash.

A few dozen meters away from the church, Joseph Hakimeh directs a worker on a ladder as he puts the final touches to a freshly painted wall of a restored home.

The contractor is getting ready to hand the keys back to the owner, and is working on three other homes in addition to his own.

“We’re preparing to return as soon as services and infrastructure are ready, but that needs time,” he says.

Sitting on a can of paint, the 39-year-old yearns for the way things once were.

“I hope that next year everything will return to the way it was before –– Christmas trees, decorations, carols and prayers,” he says.

The mood is gloomy is Arbin, but just a few kilometres away, bright coloured lights illuminate the streets of Damascus.

A giant tree decorates Abbasiyyin Square, long avoided due to its proximity to the frontline with the former rebel stronghold.

 ‘Roots’

Festive lights and garlands also decorate homes in the predominantly Christian neighbourhood of Kassaa in eastern Damascus.

But not everyone is in the Christmas spirit.

Since Riad Rajiha’s family arrived to the area after fleeing Arbin in 2012, they have not had the heart to celebrate.

“We left our Christmas tree behind, so we missed out on decorating,” says Rajiha, his eyes brimming with tears.

“What’s the meaning of decorating a tree in a house that’s not yours?”

Leafing through an old photo album, he revisits pictures of the Saint George Church in all its former glory.

Large chandeliers hang from its high ceilings, its wooden pews packed with parishioners.

“Our roots are there and our memories are there,” says the 66-year-old, who dreams of celebrating the holiday in Arbin with his grandchildren.

“I was born in Arbin, I lived in Arbin, and I hope to be die and be buried there.”

AFP

‘Yellow Vests’ Protesters Block Borders Ahead Of Christmas

Protestors wearing “yellow vest” (gilet jaune) gesture on December 8, 2018 near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris during a protest against rising costs of living they blame on high taxes. Paris was on high alert on December 8 with major security measures in place ahead of fresh “yellow vest” protests which authorities fear could turn violent for a second weekend in a row.
Eric FEFERBERG / AFP

 

Three days from Christmas, French “yellow vests” turned out in smaller numbers for the sixth Saturday of protests in cities and border points, as a fatal road accident brought the death toll to 10 since the movement began last month.

Some 23,800 people have joined demonstrations across France, compared with 33,500 a week ago, the Interior Ministry said.

Near the border between France and Spain hundreds of protesters disrupted traffic as they gathered around an autoroute toll booth.

Police fired tear gas to disperse the “yellow vests” who retreated to a bridge, throwing objects on the road, an AFP photographer at the scene said.

“The autoroute is now being cleaned to allow traffic to resume normally,” local authorities said.

France borders the Catalan region of Spain, and the French protesters were joined by dozens of Catalan pro-independence activists, also wearing yellow vests.

The separatists often block highways to protest against Madrid’s rejection of Catalonia’s independence referendum in October 2017.

Even though their goals are different, “this demonstration at the Boulou (toll booth) is symbolic, it shows the solidarity between the Spanish Catalans and the French,” said Marcel, a 49-year-old winegrower.

Roadblocks by protesters were also reported on autoroutes near the border with Italy and at a bridge in Strasbourg near the German border.

A driver died overnight when his car slammed into the back of a truck stopped at a roadblock set up by “yellow vest” protesters at an autoroute entrance in Perpignan on the Mediterranean coast, prosecutor Jean-Jacques Fagni told AFP.

There have now been 10 deaths related to the protests since they began on November 17.

Macron effigy 

In Paris, the scene of violent clashes during previous demonstrations, around 800 protesters joined rallies scattered around the city, police said at mid-day.

But the French capital’s iconic Champs-Elysees avenue was calm, with most shops except for some luxury boutiques open for business in the busy weekend before Christmas.

David Delbruyere, 48, was one of about 20 protesters near the Arch of Triumph, the fifth time he has come to the French capital for a demonstration as he remains “disgusted” with conditions in France.

Paris police said 65 people had been arrested, including a “yellow vest” leader, Eric Drouet.

Authorities were also stationed at the Palace of Versailles outside Paris which has been closed to visitors over fears of unrest.

A Facebook event organised by Drouet had listed thousands of people “interested” in joining the Versailles demonstration but only around 60 have shown up.

Further demonstrations of several hundred “yellow vests” were reported in Lyon, Marseille, Rouen and Bordeaux.

And in Angouleme in southwest France, a puppet effigy of President Emmanuel Macron was decapitated Friday night during a “yellow vest” protest, regional authorities said Saturday.

Meanwhile, police stepped in with tear gas to disperse around 80 protesters who had gathered Saturday outside Macron’s home in the Channel coast town of Touquet.

The number of protesters has however fallen significantly since last week, when Macron, a pro-business centrist, gave in to some of their demands.

Since the peak on November 17 with 282,000 demonstrators, the turnout has fallen to 166,000 on November 24, 136,000 on the first and eighth of December and 66,000 on December 15.

The movement characterised by the high-visibility yellow vests worn by the protesters originally started as a protest about planned fuel tax hikes but has morphed into a widespread demonstration against Macron’s policies and top-down style of governing.

On Friday evening, the French Senate approved Macron’s measures to help the working poor and pensioners — just hours after they were adopted by the lower house of parliament — which aim to quell “yellow vest” anger and should come into force early in 2019.

AFP

Rescued Migrants Face Christmas At Sea In Italy

migrants on the sea (file photo)/AFP

 

Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said on Saturday Italian ports were closed to hundreds of migrants rescued off Libya after a mother and newborn baby were evacuated to Malta.

The anti-immigration minister said that the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms had asked to allow the men, women, children and babies rescued on Friday to disembark in Italy after Malta turned them away.

“My answer is clear: Italian ports are closed!” Salvini tweeted. “For the traffickers of human beings and for those who help them, the fun is over.”

The NGO said a Maltese coastguard helicopter had taken a woman and her baby born on a Libyan beach three days ago who were among those rescued at sea.

“We continue with 311 people on board, without port and in need of supplies,” the NGO tweeted.

Proactive Open Arms said on Friday that it had rescued more than 300 migrants from three vessels in difficulty, including men, women — some of them pregnant — children and babies.

The NGO posted a video of some of those rescued “from certain death at sea. If you could feel the cold in the images, it would be easier to understand the emergency. No port to disembark and Malta’s refusal to give us food. This isn’t Christmas.”

The vessel started patrolling the Mediterranean with two other boats run by migrant aid groups off the Libyan coast in late November.

This area of the Mediterranean has been the most deadly for migrants attempting the crossing to Europe.

More than 1,300 migrants have perished trying to reach Italy or Malta since the beginning of the year, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Aid groups have been sending rescue vessels into these waters despite vocal opposition from Salvini.

Accusing the groups of acting as a “taxi service” for migrants, he has denied them access to Italy’s ports. Malta too has been increasingly unwilling to host rescue vessels.

Another aid group meanwhile, Sea-Eye from Germany, announced Friday that one of its vessels was setting off from the southern Spanish port of Algeciras.

The 18-strong crew includes former volunteers who were on board the Aquarius, a rescue boat run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and SOS Mediterranee.

The two groups said they had to halt activities earlier this month because of obstruction by some European countries.

AFP