Neymar Dedicates PSG Goal To Kobe Bryant

 

Neymar dedicated his second goal at Lille to basketball legend Kobe Bryant, whose death on Sunday in a helicopter crash shocked the world.

The Brazilian slotted home the 52nd-minute penalty that put PSG two goals up in the French Ligue 1 clash and went over to the television cameras by the side of the Stade Pierre Mauro pitch to make the number 24 with his fingers in honour of Bryant’s shirt number.

Bryant, who had been nominated for the NBA Hall of Fame in December, was confirmed dead at 41 years old on Sunday after a helicopter crashed and burst into flames in foggy conditions in suburban Los Angeles, leaving five people dead.

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s officials said there were no survivors from the morning crash on a rugged hillside in Calabasas, west of LA.

In an email to AFP, Mayor of Calabasas Alicia Weintraub confirmed Bryant was among the victims.

“Yes, it is confirmed,” Weintraub wrote.

Stowaway Child Found Dead In Plane At Paris Airport

Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle Airport, CDG or Roissy Airport, is an international airport located in Roissy-en-France, 23 km north-east of Paris. AFP

 

A child stowaway was found dead Wednesday in the undercarriage of a plane at a Paris airport, officials said, having probably frozen to death or asphyxiated on the flight from Ivory Coast.

The child, aged around 10, had clambered into the underbelly of the Air France Boeing 777 in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. It took off on Tuesday evening and landed at Charles de Gaulle airport, north of the capital, early Wednesday morning.

The corpse, not warmly dressed, was found in the plane’s undercarriage cavity after landing, in what Air France described as “a human tragedy”.

Sources close to the investigation told AFP the boy was about 10 years of age, and that he had “died either from asphyxiation, or from the cold”.

Temperatures drop to about minus 50 degrees Celsius (-58 degrees Fahrenheit) at altitudes of between 9,000 and 10,000 metres at which passenger planes generally fly.

The undercarriage is neither heated nor pressurised.

In recent years, several clandestine passengers, notably adolescents from Africa, have been found frozen to death or crushed in the undercarriage of Western-bound planes.

“Aside from the human drama, this shows a major failing of security at Abidjan airport,” an Ivorian security source told AFP, asking how a child, alone, could gain such access.

The last such case in France dates to April 2013, when the body of a boy, likely a minor, was similarly found in the undercarriage of a plane from Cameroon.

Laure Palun, director of an association helping migrants, told AFP this type of drama was the inevitable result of the “closure and control of borders”.

“It questions the logic of European migratory policy: As soon as there is no route for legal migration, people have to hide to reach the country they wish to go to, and this results in such tragedies.”

Ivory Coast is a comparatively vibrant economy in Africa with annual growth of eight percent since 2012. But illegal immigration to Europe has skyrocketed in recent years.

In 2017, 8,753 migrants aged between 14 and 24 arrived in Italy from Ivory Coast, including 1,474 unaccompanied minors, according to the CEVI NGO.

AFP

France Crash Out Of ATP Cup

Benoit Paire of France hits a return to Kevin Anderson of South Africa during the men’s singles match on day six of the ATP Cup tennis tournament in Brisbane on January 8, 2020.  AFP

 

Former world number seven Kevin Anderson came back from the brink of defeat in Brisbane Wednesday to down Benoit Paire and end France’s hopes of making it to the quarter-finals of the inaugural ATP Cup.

Paire stormed through the first set and was serving for the match at 5-4 when his serve imploded.

Anderson won the second set but was on the ropes in the third when Paire suffered another meltdown to hand the match to the South African 2-6, 7-6 (7/1), 7-6 (7/5).

“Sometimes you get a little bit lucky — Benoit played a great match and he was the better player for a lot of it,” Anderson said. “I was just able to stick around.”

Earlier, French captain Gilles Simon was forced to step up to the Group A tie with only 15 minutes notice when number one Gael Monfils withdrew injured.

With Paire playing at number one, Simon took on Lloyd Harris and came back from losing the first set to win 2-6, 6-2, 6-2.

South Africa won the doubles to take the tie 2-1 when Ruan Roelofse and Raven Klaasen beat Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin 6-3, 6-4.

In the first tie of the day, Novak Djokovic made it three singles wins from three with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Cristian Garin, the world number 33, to win the tie for Serbia after Dusan Lajovic earlier beat Nicolas Jarry 6-2, 7-6 (7/3).

Jarry and Alejandro Tabilo salvaged some pride for Chile when they beat Viktor Troicki and Nikola Cacic in the doubles 6-3, 7-6 (7/2).

Djokovic said he enjoyed the challenge of the ATP Cup.

“I’ve never minded, to be honest, to face tough adversity from the blocks and have high-intensity matches from day one of the season,” Djokovic, a 16-time grand slam winner, said.

“I had Kevin Anderson who was playing some extraordinary tennis. I thought it was the toughest match I’ve played here in Brisbane.

“And again against (Gael) Monfils, even though it was straight sets, it was still a lot of rallies and it was quite long and exhausting.

“I really am really happy with the challenges that I’ve had in the last six, seven days here, and hopefully that can allow me to build my form for Sydney and Melbourne later.”

Serbia now travel to Sydney, where they will take on Canada in the quarter-finals and Djokovic said he expected to have even more support from Serbian fans there than in Brisbane.

“I’m enjoying it — I enjoy the fact that we will actually go to a different city together, travel today, practice there tomorrow, play in a different environment,” he said.

“Sydney’s got a big Serbian community, hopefully the support can be as good as it was here, even better.”

mp/ind

Western Powers Condemn Iran Attack On US Bases

 

 

Western powers on Wednesday condemned Iran’s missile attack on Iraqi bases housing the US and other foreign troops, urging an end to the escalating crisis.

Iran fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles overnight Tuesday-Wednesday, officials in Washington and Tehran said.

Iran said it was in response to the US killing of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani last week, warning it would hit back even harder if Washington responded.

 Trump: ‘All is well’

“All is well!” US President Donald Trump’s tweeted. “Assessment of casualties & damages taking place now. So far, so good!”

He would be making a statement Wednesday morning, he added.

– ‘Resounding blow’ –
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has described Soleimani as Iran’s “terrorist-in-chief”, made it clear Israel would strike back if attacked.

“Anyone who attacks us will receive a resounding blow,” he warned.

‘Urgent de-escalation’

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called on Iran to end its attacks.

“We condemn this attack on Iraqi military bases hosting Coalition — including British — forces,” he said, urging Iran not to repeat them but instead to “pursue urgent de-escalation.

“A war in the Middle East would only benefit Daesh and other terrorist groups,” he added, referring to the Islamic State group. Britain’s defence ministry said there had been no British casualties.

‘No-one’s interest’

The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the attack was yet another example of “escalation and increased confrontation”.

“It is in no-one’s interest to turn up the spiral of violence even further,” he added. He too warned that the crisis was hampering the fight against Islamic State.

EU foreign ministers will hold emergency talks on the Iran crisis Friday to discuss what the bloc can do to reduce tensions.

‘Violation of… sovereignty’

Iraq’s prime minister’s office said it had received an official message from Iran warning it of the missile attack just before it happened.

Iran had told premier Adel Abdel Mahdi that “the strike would be limited to where the US military was located in Iraq without specifying the locations”, said the statement from his office.

“Iraq rejects any violation of its sovereignty and attacks on its territory,” the premier’s office added.

Civilian flights rerouting

In the wake of the Iranian attack, a number of airlines said they were avoiding Iranian and Iraqi airspace.

The US Federal Aviation Administration said it was banning US-registered carriers from flying over Iraq, Iran and the Gulf.

Its Russian counterpart, the Federal Air Transport Agency, recommended airlines avoid the air space over Iran, Iraq and the Persian and Oman Gulfs.

Air France, KLM And Lufthansa Halt Flying Through Iran, Iraq Airspaces

 

 

A growing number of airlines said Wednesday they were avoiding Iranian and Iraqi airspace or flights to the region after Tehran fired ballistic missiles against bases housing US troops in Iraq.

“As a precautionary measure and following news of airstrikes underway, Air France has decided to suspend until further notice all flights through Iranian and Iraqi airspace,” an Air France spokesman told AFP.

Iran launched a series of missiles at the bases housing US troops in the early hours, officials in Washington and Tehran said.

Iran’s supreme leader later called it a “slap in the face” after a US drone strike killed Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani near Baghdad international airport last week.

Shortly after the missile attacks, the US Federal Aviation Administration said it was banning US-registered carriers from flying over Iraq, Iran and the Gulf.

The regions is an important corridor for flights travelling between Europe and Asia, although planes can be rerouted.

A KLM spokesman told AFP: “Until further notice, KLM has no flights over Iranian or Iraqi airspace. All flights to different Southeast Asian destinations and other destinations in the Middle East will be flown through alternative routes.”

In Germany, Lufthansa said it had cancelled its daily flight to Tehran in addition to halting overflights of Iran and Iraq until further notice.

It added that Saturday’s twice-weekly service to northern Iraqi city Erbil would also not depart.

UAE carriers Emirates Airline and low-cost Flydubai said they had cancelled flights to Baghdad for “operational reasons”.

Australia’s Qantas said one of its London-Perth flights would be rerouted, with the other already flying an alternative route.

“We’re adjusting our flight paths over the Middle East to avoid the airspace over Iraq and Iran until further notice,” said a spokesman.

Both Singapore Airlines and Malaysia Airlines said they would divert flights from Iranian airspace.

Vietnam Airlines said it will make “appropriate adjustments” of routes to avoid areas of potential instability although its regular flight paths to Europe do not pass over Iran and Iraq.

Japanese airlines ANA and JAL, and Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific said their planes do not fly through airspace affected by latest flare-up.

Merkel, Macron, Johnson Agree To Work Towards ‘Reducing Tensions’ In Mideast

 

The leaders of Germany, France and Britain on Sunday agreed to work towards bringing about de-escalation in the Middle East amid heightened tensions following the US drone strike that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, a German government spokesman said.

“The chancellor, the French president, and the British prime minister agreed to work together to reduce tensions in the region,” said the spokesman, after Germany’s Angela Merkel spoke with France’s Emmanuel Macron and Britain’s Boris Johnson on the phone.

Macron Urges Iran To Avoid ‘Escalation’, Voices ‘Solidarity’ With US

Macron Signs Controversial French 'Anti-Rioters' Bill Into Law

 

French President Emmanual Macron on Sunday assured US counterpart Donald Trump of “his complete solidarity” and urged Iran to avoid “military escalation that could aggravate instability in the region.”

Macron noted “mounting tensions in Iraq and in the region”, and expressed concern that Iranian forces that were commanded by slain general Qasem Soleimani could take actions that would destabilise the region, in a statement issued by the Elysee presidential office.

The French president “reiterated the necessity that Iran put an end” to such activities.

“The priority should be pursuing international coalition action against Daesh, with full respect for Iraq’s sovereignty, for its security and for regional stability,” Macron said, using an Arabic name for the Islamic State group.

France Asks Iran To Honour Nuclear Accord After Soleimani’s Killing

A combination of file photos of slain Iranian General, Qasem Soleimani, and US President, Donald Trump. AFP

 

France urged Tehran Saturday to stick with a landmark nuclear accord at risk of falling apart, the day after Washington killed a top Iranian commander in Baghdad.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said he had discussed the issue with his Chinese and German colleagues, hoping to avoid escalation of an already intense stand-off between Iran and the United States.

“France fully shares with Germany the central objective of de-escalation and preservation of the Vienna (nuclear) accord,” Le Drian said in a statement.

With China, “we in particular noted our agreement… to urge  Iran to avoid any new violation of the Vienna accord,” he added.

The 2015 agreement negotiated between Iran and the UN Security Council permanent members — Britain, France, China, Russia and the United States — plus Germany offered Tehran relief from stinging sanctions in return for curbs to prevent it acquiring nuclear weapons.

US President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal last year and reimposed even more sanctions on Iran, which in turn has progressively dropped key commitments in the accord, including limits on uranium stock and enrichment levels.

Tehran recently announced that it would take a further step away from the accord in early January and this was widely expected to be announced on Monday.

The European Union, which helped broker the 2015 deal, has been trying to keep the accord alive despite the US withdrawal, but analysts say that now looks increasingly unlikely after the US killed Major General Qasem Soleimani, a key Iranian figure.

AFP

Iran Attack: The World Is Now ‘More Dangerous’, Says France

 

The US killing of a top Iranian military commander has made the world “more dangerous,” France’s Europe minister said Friday, calling for efforts to de-escalate the deepening conflict in the Middle East.

“We have woken up to a more dangerous world,” Amelie de Montchalin told RTL radio, saying President Emmanuel Macron would consult soon with “players in the region.”

The United States confirmed it was responsible for an airstrike early Friday that killed Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad, ratcheting up the proxy war between the two powers.

“In such operations, when we can see an escalation is underway, but what we want above all is stability and de-escalation,” Montchalin said.

“All of France’s efforts… in all parts of the world aim to ensure that we are creating the conditions for peace or at least stability,” she added.

“Our role is not to take sides, but to talk with everyone,” Montchalin said.

AFP

Sixty Years On, Africa Still Seeks Right Model For Growth

 

 

As 1960 dawned, sub-Saharan Africa braced for historic change: that year, 17 of its countries were destined to gain independence from European colonial powers.

But six decades on, the continent is mired in many problems. It is struggling to build an economic model that encourages enduring growth, addresses poverty and provides a future for its youth.

Here are some of the key issues:

Youth ‘explosion’

Africa’s population grew from 227 million in 1960 to more than one billion in 2018. More than 60 percent are aged under 25, according to the Brookings Institution, a US think tank.

“The most striking change for me is the increasing reality of disaffected youth… a younger population that is ready to explode at any moment,” Cameroonian sociologist Francis Nyamnjoh told AFP.

“They are hungry for political freedoms, they are hungry for economic opportunities and they are hungry for social fulfilment .”

Joblessness is a major peril. Unemployed youths are an easy prey for armed groups, particularly jihadist movements in the Sahel, or may be tempted to risk clandestine emigration, often at the cost of their lives.

The continent’s population is expected to double by 2050, led by Nigeria, Ethiopia and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Poverty and inequality

The proportion of Africa’s population living below the poverty line —- less than $1.90 (1.7 euros) per day —- fell from 54.7 percent in 1990 to 41.4 percent in 2015, according to the World Bank.

But this average masks enormous differences from one country to another, exemplified by Gabon (3.4 percent of the population in 2017) and Madagascar (77.6 percent in 2012).

“The inequalities between countries are as extreme as in Asia and the inequalities within countries as as high as in Latin America, where landless peasants coexist with huge landowners,” said Togolese economist Kako Nubukpo.

Christophe Cottet, an economist at the French Development Agency (AFD), pointed out that inequality in Africa is “very poorly measured.”

“There are notably no figures on inequalities of inherited wealth, a key issue in Africa.”

Mega-cities and countryside

Recent decades have seen the expansion of megacities like Lagos and Kinshasa, typically ringed by shantytowns where people live in extreme poverty, although many medium-sized cities have also grown.

More than 40 percent of Africans now live in urban areas, compared with 14.6 percent in 1960, according to the World Bank.

In 1960, Cairo and Johannesburg were the only African cities with more than a million residents. Consultants McKinsey and Company estimate that by 2030, about 100 cities will have a million inhabitants, twice as many as in Latin America.

But this urban growth is not necessarily the outcome of a rural exodus, said Cottet.

“The population is rising across Africa as a whole, rather faster in towns than in rural areas,” said Cottet.

“There is also the problem of unemployment in towns — (rural) people have little interest in migrating there.”

Lost decades of growth

Growth in Africa slammed to a halt in the early 1980s, braked by a debt crisis and structural adjustment policies. It took two decades to recover.

Per-capita GDP, as measured in constant US dollars, shows the up-and-downs, although these figures are official and do not cover Africa’s large informal economy: $1,112 in 1960, $1,531 in 1974, $1,166 in 1994 and $1,657 in 2018.

“If you do an assessment over 60 years, something serious happened in Africa, with the loss of 20 years. But there is no denying that what is happening now is more positive,” Cottet said.

The IMF’s and World Bank’s structural adjustment programmes “broke the motors of growth,” said Nubukpo, whose book, “L’Urgence Africaine,” (The African Emergency) makes the case for a revamped growth model.

The belt-tightening programmes “emphasised the short term, to the detriment of investments in education, health and training.”

New thinking needed

Africa has a low rate of industrialisation, is heavily dependent on agriculture and its service sector has only recently started to emerge.

“We have not escaped the colonial model. Basically, Africa remains a producer and exporter of raw materials,” said Nubukpo.

He gave the example of cotton: 97 percent of Africa’s cotton fibre is exported without processing — the phase which adds value to raw materials and provides jobs.

For Jean-Joseph Boillot, a researcher attached to the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs, “Africa is still seeking an economic model of development.”

“There is very little development of local industries,” he said.

“This can only be achieved through a very strong approach, of continental industrial protection — but this is undermined by the great powers in order to pursue free trade.

“The Chinese, the Indians and Westerners want to be able to go on distributing their products.”

Governance problem

Lack of democracy, transparency and efficient judicial systems are major brakes on African growth, and wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few, said the experts.

Of the 40 states deemed last year to be the most world’s most corrupt countries, 20 are in sub-Saharan Africa, according to Transparency International.

“Africa is not developing because it is caught in the trap of private wealth and the top wealth holders are African leaders,” said Nubukpo.

“We must promote democracy, free and transparent elections to have legitimate leaders who have the public interest at heart, which we absolutely do not have.”

Nyamnjoh also pointed to marginalised groups — “There should be more room for inclusivity of voices, including voices of the young, voices of women.”

Iran Blasts France For ‘Interference’ Over Jailed Academic

 

Iran accused France on Sunday of “interference” in the case of an Iranian-French academic held in the Islamic republic, saying she is considered an Iranian national and faces security charges.

France said Friday it summoned Iran’s ambassador to protest the imprisonment of Fariba Adelkhah and another academic, Roland Marchal of France, saying their detention was “intolerable”.

Their imprisonment has added to distrust between Tehran and Paris at a time when French President Emmanuel Macron is seeking to play a leading role in defusing tensions between Iran and its arch-foe the United States.

“The statement by France’s foreign ministry regarding an Iranian national is an act of interference and we see their request to have no legal basis,” Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said in a statement.

“The individual in question (Adelkhah) is an Iranian national and has been arrested over ‘acts of espionage’,” he said, adding that her lawyer had knowledge about the details of the case which is being investigated.

Iran does not recognise dual nationality and has repeatedly rebuffed calls from foreign governments for consular access to those it has detained during legal proceedings.

In its statement on Friday, the French foreign ministry reiterated its call for the release of Adelkhah and Marshal.

It also reaffirmed France’s demand for consular access.

In response, Mousavi said Marshal was detained for “conspiring against national security”, that he has had “consular access multiple times” and that his lawyer was in touch with the judiciary.

– Hunger strikes –
A specialist in Shiite Islam and a research director at Sciences Po University in Paris, Adelkhah’s arrest for suspected “espionage” was confirmed in July.

Her colleague Marchal was arrested while visiting Adelkhah, according to his lawyer.

The university and supporters said this week that Adelkhah and another detained academic, Australian Kylie Moore-Gilbert, had started an indefinite hunger strike just before Christmas.

The French statement said the ministry had made clear to the ambassador “our grave concern over the situation of Mrs Fariba Adelkhah, who has stopped taking food”.

“Creating hype cannot stop Iran’s judiciary from handling the case, especially considering the security charges the two face,” Mousavi said.

The latest tensions come after Xiyue Wang, an American scholar who had been serving 10 years on espionage charges, was released by Iran this month in exchange for Massoud Soleimani, an Iranian who had been held in the US for allegedly breaching sanctions.

Iran has said it is open to more such prisoner swaps with the United States.

Tehran is still holding several other foreign nationals in high profile cases, including British-Iranian mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi and his father Mohammad Bagher Namazi.

US-Iran tensions have soared since Washington pulled out of a landmark nuclear agreement with Tehran last year and reimposed crippling sanctions.

21 Poisoned In France During Christmas Mass

 

Twenty-one people were hospitalised in northern France, two in a serious condition, after suffering carbon monoxide poisoning during Christmas mass, emergency services said Wednesday.

Emergency personnel were sent to the church in the Oise department after several people complained of headaches during the religious ceremony on Christmas eve.

The church was evacuated to a nearby community hall where 72 people were treated. Of those, 19 were brought to nearby hospitals and two, with more severe symptoms, to specialist centres where one was placed in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber.

Local emergency official Nicolas Mougin said carbon monoxide levels up to 350 parts per million (ppm) were measured inside the church.

The cause of the poisoning has not been determined but investigators were looking into a gas heater.

The local mayor has ordered the church closed.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odourless, invisible gas produced when burning fuels such as coal, wood, charcoal, oil, kerosene, propane or natural gas.

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website states that exposure to sustained CO concentrations above 150 to 200 ppm can lead to disorientation, unconsciousness and even death.