PHOTOS: NAOWA President Visits Theatre Command Operation Hadin Kai, Distributes Palliative To Widows


The President of the Nigerian Army Officers’ Wives Association (NAOWA) Mrs Salamatu Faruk Yahaya was at the Headquarters Joint Task Force North East Operation HADIN KAI (JTF NE OPHK) to cheer officers and men, those wounded in action in the theatre as well as provide palliatives to the widows of military personnel in Maiduguri.

On arrival, the NAOWA President was treated to a grand reception and dinner organised by both Headquarters JTF OPHK and 7 Division at the Maimalari Cantonment Officers’ Mess. Mrs Salamatu Yahaya who was thrilled with a series of activities lined up at the reception said the efforts of all officers and men of OPHK deserves a standing ovation, accolades and appreciation for their selfless efforts and sacrifices in the fight against insurgency and for keeping the nation in one piece.

READ ALSO: Troops Neutralise Three Kidnappers, Recover Arms

Earlier in his remarks, the Theatre Commander OPHK, Major General CG Musa said it is a great pleasure and honour to have the presence of the wife of the Chief of Army Staff in the Theatre. He added that her coming is highly appreciated and it is an opportunity for officers and men of OPHK to register their immense appreciation to the COAS for his untiring commitment, efforts and concern for OPHK especially with the supply of the current hardwires in the theatre.

While delivering the opening address at the occasion, the General Officer Commanding 7 Division Major General Waidi Shaibu welcomed the National President and her entourage to the theatre and expressed delight over the rare privilege to host her in the theatre barely a few weeks after assuming command of the division.

In the same vein, the NAOWA President paid a courtesy visit to the Theatre Commander JTF OPHK Major General CG Musa at the Military Command and Control Centre, Maimalari Cantonment. She expressed delight over the warm reception accorded her and her entourage despite the short notice.

The NAOWA President said “NAOWA evolved as an all-female association that seeks to promote bonding and solidarity amongst wives of the military officers”, adding that ” NAOWA provides succour to the people in need in the Barracks and indeed to others in the larger society.

She also used the occasion to offer special prayers to all officers and men of the Nigerian Military involved in the fight against insurgency, sought God’s guidance and protection in all spheres of the various operations across the country and wish the military unparalleled success in all its operational activities against the enemies of the nation.

Also, during the visit, the President and her entourage took a tour to 7 Division medical services and hospital to visit the sick and wounded in action troops recuperating at the facility. While sympathising with them over their plight, she appreciated their sacrifices and prayed for their quick recovery. In a show of appreciation and encouragement, Mrs Salamatu gave them relief items.

The NAOWA President further proceeded to Maimalari Cantonment Officers’ Mess where she distributed palliative to 100 widows of personnel in Operation HADIN KAI. Before the distribution of the items, she consoled and encouraged them over their loss and urged them to keep hope alive as the association will continue to do its best in providing them with basic equipment for skills acquisition so as to assuage their living condition. She also called for special prayers which were offered for the repose of the souls of the departed fallen heroes.

Mrs Salamatu F Yahaya ended the visit with a tour of NAOWA Nursery and Primary School Maimalari Cantonment, where she inspected ongoing projects at the facility which include the NAOWA Secretariate and Wellness Centre, a block of three classrooms amongst others.

The series of activities were attended by the Theatre Commander, Deputy Theatre Commander, GOC, Wife of the Borno state governor ably represented, members of Borno state executive council, national and divisional members of NAOWA, formation and unit commanders, senior officers, troops of OPHK, members of the press and other invited guests.

Tambuwal Declares Intention To Run For Presidency In 2023

A file photo of Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal.


Sokoto Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, on Monday declared his intention to contest for President in 2023 under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The former Speaker of the House of Representatives made the announcement in Sokoto after a stakeholders’ meeting.

Tambuwal explained that his decision was based on calls by the state chapter of the PDP, agreeing to begin a nationwide consultation in the pursuit of his ambition.

“I have listened to our party leaders, women and youths on the call that I should initiate and begin the process of consultations with a view of running and contesting for the President of Nigeria under the banner of our great party,” he said.

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“When members of the House of Representatives of the 7th Assembly approached with their desire for me to contest for the position of Speaker, I gave them certain conditions, one of which was that I have leaders –  late President Shehu Shagari, former Governor Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko and two others in (Sokoto) state.

“I told them to go to my state and consult with these leaders. If they bless your initiative, I will accept your proposal and contest for the Speaker.

“When they came to Sokoto, President Shehu Shagari of blessed memory admonished them that: ‘if you are putting our son forward as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, your efforts must not be sectional or religious.”

The governor stressed that the direction of current political pursuits must be based on a genuine effort to produce a President for the benefit of Nigeria and Nigerians.

Malawi President Warns Cabinet Against Corruption

File photo of Malawi Presidential Lazarus Chakwera. GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP.


Malawi’s new government was sworn in on Sunday after President Lazarus Chakwera’s surprise sacking of seven ministers last week over graft concerns, warning them to shun corruption

“Do not accept a gift in exchange for using your office to give someone preferential treatment in the administration of a public service,” Chakwera said at the swearing-in ceremony. “That is corruption.”

Civic and religious groups had pressured the president to rein in his cabinet after a number of his ministers were embroiled in corruption scandals.

In December, then minister of lands Kezzie Msukwa was arrested on allegations that he had received a bribe from a wealthy businessman to give him land.

Chakwera, elected in 2020 on a campaign to fight corruption in the poor southern African country, sacked his entire 33-member cabinet last Monday.

READ ALSO: African Union Suspends Burkina Faso After Coup

But most were reappointed two days later, and the new lineup includes only two new faces.

Chakwera named prominent businessman and politician Mark Katsonga Phiri to the trade ministry, while ruling party loyalist Sam Kawale takes over as lands minister, replacing Msukwa.

“If you do not follow the law, the law will follow you,” Chakwera said Sunday. “And if you think that I will use my office to save you from facing a law you have broken, then you are gravely mistaken.”

In early December, Malawi police arrested a former finance minister and an ex-central bank chief for fabricating figures in a bid to impress the International Monetary Fund.

Joseph Mwanamveka and Reserve Bank of Malawi former governor Dalitso Kabambe were accused of cooking the books to secure a loan from the Washington-based development and crisis lender.

Israeli President On First-Ever Visit To UAE

A handout picture obtained from the Israeli Government Press Office (GPO) shows Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan (R) shaking hands with Israel’s President Isaac Herzog (L) as the former receives the latter in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi on January 30, 2022. (Photo by Amos Ben GERSHOM / GPO / AFP)


Israel’s President Isaac Herzog started his first visit to the United Arab Emirates on Sunday, the latest high-profile diplomatic trip since the countries normalised ties.

It follows a visit by Naftali Bennett last month, the first by an Israeli premier, during which both sides are understood to have discussed Iran’s nuclear programme, a top Israeli security concern.

Herzog, travelling with the first lady, arrived at around 0800 GMT in the UAE capital, where he met with Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the president’s office said.

“Beginning the first visit by an Israeli president in the United Arab Emirates,” Herzog tweeted upon arrival. “We were delighted and deeply moved by the warm welcome in Abu Dhabi.”

The visit comes some 16 months after the wealthy Gulf country forged diplomatic ties with Israel, becoming the third Arab nation to do so after Egypt and Jordan.

Herzog also met with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan at the presidential palace, the official Emirati news agency WAM said.

“The national anthems of the two countries were played, while 21 rounds of artillery were fired to welcome his visit,” it reported.

Sheikh Mohammed expressed hope that the visit would enhance bilateral relations, WAM said, adding that the pair discussed cooperation in fields including the economy, trade, investment, development, technology and health.

The president’s office said the meeting lasted for over two hours.

– Geopolitical interests –

“We completely support your security requirements and we condemn in all forms and language any attack on your sovereignty by terrorist groups,” Herzog’s office quoted him as saying during the meeting.

Abu Dhabi was hit this month by a missile and drone attack that killed three foreign workers — the first deadly assault on UAE soil claimed by Yemen’s Iran-backed Huthi rebels and acknowledged by the Emiratis.

“We are here together to find ways and means to bring full security to people who seek peace in our region,” he added.

Herzog, whose position is largely ceremonial, was also due to meet the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum during the two-day trip — the first official visit to the UAE by an Israeli head of state.

A 2020 normalisation deal between the two countries was one of a series of US-brokered agreements known as the Abraham Accords.

The deals angered the Palestinians and broke with decades of Arab League consensus against recognising Israel until it signs a peace agreement establishing a Palestinian state with a capital in east Jerusalem.

The accords were negotiated by Bennett’s predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, who said they would offer Israel new regional allies against Iran and bolster its diplomatic efforts to stop Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Iran is Israel’s long-standing nemesis, and the Jewish state is highly sceptical about ongoing efforts by world powers to revive a 2015 deal that gave Tehran sanctions relief in exchange for limits on its nuclear programme.

The UAE has strained relations with Iran, backing government-aligned forces fighting the Tehran-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen’s civil war.

– ‘Transform Middle East’ –

Herzog, who was also set to visit Expo 2020 Dubai and to meet members of the Jewish community, vowed this month that “the bold new partnership” between Israel and the UAE “will transform the Middle East”.

About 200,000 Israelis visited the UAE in the first 12 months after the normalisation deal was signed, and about 40 Israeli businesses have set up there, Israel’s Dubai consulate has said.

Since normalisation the countries have inked economic and trade cooperation deals ranging from tourism to financial services.

Emirati ambassador in Israel Mohamed Al Khaja said ahead of Herzog’s trip that it would enhance bilateral relations “as we aim to sign important economic and trade agreements… in the near future”.

The Abraham Accords were negotiated under former US president Donald Trump and endorsed by President Joe Biden’s administration.

Bahrain and Morocco have also normalised ties with Israel under the accords. Sudan has agreed to do so, but formal diplomatic relations have not yet emerged amid escalating instability in Khartoum.

80-Year-Old Mattarella Re-Elected As Italy’s President

This handout photo taken and released on January 29, 2022, by the press office of the presidential Quirinale Palace shows Italian President Sergio Mattarella delivering a speech after his re-election, following the 8th round of voting, in Rome. Handout / Quirinale Press Office / AFP


Italy’s parties Saturday voted overwhelmingly for outgoing President Sergio Mattarella to remain for another term, averting the political chaos that a failure to elect his successor could have sparked in the eurozone’s third-largest economy.

Electing the 80-year-old ended weeks of hand-wringing over whether prized Prime Minister Mario Draghi should be elevated, with many fearing such a move would have left the government rudderless at a highly sensitive time.

Mattarella needed at least 505 votes from an electoral college of 1,009 lawmakers and regional representatives. He won 759, earning another stint as president in spite of himself.

The former constitutional court judge had repeatedly ruled out serving a second term but gave in Saturday after Italy’s bickering political parties failed to find another viable candidate.

“I had other plans, but if it’s necessary, I’m available,” Mattarella said before the vote, according to party parliamentary representatives.

READ ALSO: Putin, Macron Agree On Need For ‘De-Escalation’ In Ukraine

He was expected to be sworn in on Wednesday or Thursday. Although many expect him to leave before the end of his new seven-year term, he is likely to stay at least past elections scheduled for 2023.

Italy’s presidency is largely ceremonial, but the head of state wields serious power during political crises, from dissolving parliament to picking new prime ministers and denying mandates to fragile coalitions.

Draghi said the result, after eight rounds of voting over six days, was “wonderful news for Italians”.

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted his congratulations to “dear Sergio”, while German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier hailed a “role model” who “understands the importance of Europe”.

Pope Francis hailed Mattarella’s “generous” agreement to stay on during a period of uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which hit Italy hard.

‘Ideal For Financial Markets’ 

This handout photo taken and released on January 29, 2022, by the press office of the presidential Quirinale Palace shows Italian President Sergio Mattarella delivering a speech after his re-election, following the 8th round of voting, in Rome. Handout / Quirinale Press Office / AFP


Draghi, a former European Central Bank chief brought in to lead a national unity government almost a year ago, had been touted for months as the most eligible head of state.

But many feared his departure as prime minister would destabilise debt-laden Italy as it recovers from a lockdown-induced recession.

Italy is banking on almost 200 billion euros ($222 billion) in EU funds to cement the trend, but the money from Brussels is dependent on a tight timetable of reforms.

International investors have been watching the election closely, amid fears Draghi’s exit could undermine the whole programme.

Guido Cozzi, professor of macroeconomics at the University of St. Gallen, told AFP an extension of Mattarella’s mandate was “ideal for the financial markets”.

Draghi has also managed to keep to a minimum squabbling between Italy’s parties, almost all of which share power in his national unity government.

But the Repubblica daily pointed out that, with the campaign for the 2023 election already underway, the year ahead “risks being a replay of the shambles we’ve seen over the past few days”.

It will now fall to Mattarella to keep the peace: “a task more difficult than we can imagine”.

‘Big Sacrifice’ 

Matteo Salvini, head of the far-right League party, was the first to openly propose the popular outgoing president Saturday, after putting forward a candidate Friday that flopped.

Billionaire former premier Silvio Berlusconi, who took a failed shot at the presidency himself, also said his party would ask Mattarella “to make a big sacrifice”, as did the centre-left Democratic Party (PD).

Only the far-right Brothers of Italy party was against asking him to stay on.

A double mandate is not entirely unprecedented.

In 2013, president Giorgio Napolitano was re-elected in an attempt to resolve the political stalemate left by an inconclusive general election. He served nearly two more years.

Mattarella was little-known to the public when elected president in 2015, known mostly for his brother’s murder by the mafia in 1980, and for taking a stand as a minister against Berlusconi.

But the Sicilian has inspired respect and affection across the political sphere, seeking to be a unifying figure through five different governments.


Ramaphosa Rebukes S.African Minister Who Slammed Constitution

South Africa’s President and African National Congress (ANC) party’s President Cyril Ramaphosa (C) speaks during the ANC’s 110th anniversary celebrations at the Old Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane, on January 8, 2022. (Photo by Phill Magakoe / AFP)


South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday reprimanded a senior minister after she slammed the constitution and “mentally colonised” judges in a scathing attack that has fuelled speculation about new rivalries within the ruling party.

Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, daughter of revered anti-apartheid activists Walter and Albertina Sisulu, launched her extraordinary attack on both the judiciary and the constitution in opinion pieces on the Independent Online (IOL) news site in recent days.

The 67-year-old veteran minister is widely seen as a likely candidate to square off against Ramaphosa if he seeks a second term as ANC leader at the party’s next conference scheduled for December.

In her latest article on Sunday Sisulu attacked, for the second consecutive weekend, the ground-breaking post-apartheid constitution, saying that it had has not helped improve the lot of the majority of black South Africans still living in poverty.

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It has failed to embrace “especially the poor, the disenfranchised, the marginalised,. she argued.

“It has failed in its primary function regardless of how it may offend us to accept such.”

Without directly referring to Sisulu’s article, Ramaphosa stressed the “need to protect our constitution, our democratic state and the electoral process from anyone who wants to weaken our democracy”.

“We must safeguard against any and all efforts to diminish our hard-won democracy,” he wrote in his weekly newsletter on Monday.

Ramaphosa also hit back against “attacks on the independence and integrity of our judiciary” after Sisulu derided unnamed judges as “mentally colonised Africans” who are “only too happy to lick the spittle of those who falsely claim superiority”.

– ‘Not holy Scripture’ –

Sisulu’s hard hitting remarks have triggered heated debate and fuelled speculation that she is planning to run for the leadership of the ruling ANC at a party conference in December.

The party of late anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela is riven with factions.

Ramaphosa is expected to seek a second five-year term but could face a challenge from a faction of the party that is loyal to corruption-accused ex-president Jacob Zuma.

Sisulu, daughter of Mandela’s former comrade-in-arms Walter Sisulu, has served as a lawmaker since the advent of democracy in 1994 and been a cabinet minister for more than 15 years.

She went further in her article, saying the much-lauded 1996 constitution “far too often serves the few, the powerful, and the well-connected” while acting as a mere “palliative” for apartheid victims faced with “a sea of African poverty”.

One of the co-authors of the constitution, retired judge Albie Sachs told AFP “the whole of parliament was involved in its creation, the main core of which had been in the resistance to apartheid”.

“It was born out of legitimate aspirations and great intelligence,” he said in an interview in Cape Town.

While conceding that “there is still gross injustice in South Africa, there is still racism, massive unemployment, …utterly unacceptable inequality,” Sachs qualified the Constitution as “strong…a very living and alive document”.

“Political figures are challenging the Constitution. But there is massive broad public confidence in the Constitution. It embodies so much of what we struggled for,” said Sachs.

Former Haiti Senator Arrested In Jamaica Over President’s Murder

In this file photo taken on January 7, 2020 Ex-President of Haiti Jovenel Moise speaks during a joint press conference with the Secretary General of the Organisation of American States (OAS) in Port-au-Prince. CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP


A former Haitian lawmaker who is a suspect in the assassination of the country’s president has been arrested in Jamaica, Jamaican authorities said Saturday.

Ex-senator Jean Joel Joseph, wanted in the July 7, 2021, killing of president Jovenel Moise, was arrested Friday evening, the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) said in a statement.

The JCF “can confirm that a Haitian national; Jean Joel Joseph and three other members (of) his family were arrested in Jamaica on immigration-related charges,” the statement said.

Jamaican investigators contacted Haitian authorities who said Joseph was “wanted in Haiti as a suspect in the alleged assassination of the Haitian President in 2021,” it added.

Joseph was arrested at a house in St. Elizabeth, a parish in the southwest of the island.

A Jamaican police source told AFP that Joseph is “being detained at the moment.”

The source said Jamaican police acted in conjunction with “international law enforcement partners” and that “joint investigations” had been underway.

READ ALSO: Biden Announces Diverse Slate Of Fed Nominees

Moise, who was unpopular in Haiti, was killed and his wife was seriously wounded when a commando of around 20 men burst into the presidential residence and shot them in July.

Dozens of suspects had been arrested previously over Moise’s murder, but much about the assassination remains murky, especially who ordered it.

An arrest warrant was issued for Joseph right after the killing, with authorities describing him as “armed and dangerous.” Joseph was an opposition senator and fierce critic of the president.

More than 40 people, including more than a dozen Colombians and some Americans of Haitian origin, have been arrested in connection with the assassination.

The killing deepened an already dramatic crisis in Haiti, which is suffering from a lack of security, soaring gang violence and a spate of kidnappings.

Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who has in effect been running the country since Moise’s death, told AFP this month that he too had been targeted in an assassination attempt, during national day celebrations.

Earlier this month, US authorities charged a retired Colombian soldier in connection with Moise’s killing.

The Justice Department said 43-year-old Mario Palacios, along with others, “participated in a plot to kidnap or kill the Haitian President.”

US prosecutors said the plot against Moise “initially focused on conducting a kidnapping of the president as part of a purported arrest operation,” but it “ultimately resulted in a plot to kill.”

The US Congress on Thursday ordered a probe into Moise’s assassination.

The Senate voted unanimously Thursday to order the State Department to issue a report within 180 days that would provide a “detailed description” of the circumstances surrounding Moise’s killing.


Bolsonaro Will Not Undergo Surgery, Doctors Say

In this file photo taken on October 22, 2021 Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro gestures during a press conference with his Economy Minister Paulo Guedes (out of frame) at the Ministry’s headquarters in Brasilia.


Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro will not need surgery, his doctors said Tuesday, a day after the far-right leader was rushed to the hospital with a partially blocked intestine.

“President Jair Messias Bolsonaro’s intestinal subocclusion has been eliminated, with no need for surgery,” the Vila Nova Star hospital in Sao Paulo said in a statement.

“The patient is making satisfactory progress in both clinical evaluations and laboratory exams, and will begin a liquid diet today.”

There is no date set for his release, it added.

Bolsonaro, 66, developed abdominal pain during a New Year’s beach vacation in the southern state of Santa Catarina and was rushed to the hospital early Monday on the presidential jet.

It is the latest in a series of health problems since he was stabbed in the abdomen during the 2018 election campaign that brought him to power.

Doctors diagnosed a partially blocked intestine and said he could need surgery, nine months out from Brazil’s October elections.

READ ALSO: Brazil Cruises Suspended Over COVID-19 Outbreaks

However, lead surgeon Antonio Luiz Macedo, who has operated on Bolsonaro in the past, decided surgery was not necessary.

Bolsonaro has undergone at least four surgeries stemming from the knife attack that nearly killed him, perpetrated by a man who claimed he was following God’s orders, and who was later ruled mentally unfit to stand trial.

The president tweeted a picture of himself flashing a thumbs-up from his hospital bed Monday, his face fitted with a nasogastric tube — a device to carry food and medicine to the stomach through the nose.

Bolsonaro’s approval rating is at an all-time low as he prepares to seek re-election, with Brazil stuck in recession and reeling from one of the world’s worst Covid-19 outbreaks.

He currently trails far behind his likely top opponent, leftist ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (2003-2010), who recent polls indicate could win the election in the first round.

Botswana President Tests Positive For COVID-19

This file photo taken on November 1, 2019, shows the President of Botswana, Mokgweetsi Masisi, delivering his speech after being sworn in as the 5th President of the country in Gaborone. Monirul Bhuiyan / AFP


President Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana, which with South Africa was the first country to detect the Omicron variant of coronavirus, is isolating after testing positive for Covid, the government said on Monday.

“The president does not have any symptoms and will continue to receive close medical monitoring by his medical doctors,” it said in a statement, adding that the test had been carried out as a matter of routine.

Vice President Slumber Tsogwane will replace him until further notice, the statement said.

READ ALSO: South Africa Lifts Curfew As Omicron Wave Subsides

On November 25, South African scientists said that cases of a new Covid-19 variant, later called Omicron, had been detected nationally and in neighbouring Botswana.

Omicron is highly contagious, although there are also signs that it is less likely to cause severe illness compared with previous variants, researchers have said.

Last week, South Africa lifted a nightly curfew that had been in place for 21 months, saying that its latest wave of infections had peaked without a surge in deaths or hospitalisations.

Botswana has recently launched booster jabs for people who have already been vaccinated and lowered the age of inoculation to 12.

A diamond-rich country the size of France, Botswana has a reputation for political stability and the richness of its wildlife.

Masisi, 60, first took office as president in 2018, taking over from Ian Khama, who stepped down after two terms in office. He was re-elected in 2019.


South African President Ramaphosa Tests Positive For COVID-19

South Africa and Africa National Congress (ANC) President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers a speech during the launch of the ANC electoral manifesto in Pretoria, on September 27, 2021. (Photo by GUILLEM SARTORIO / AFP)


South African President Cyril Ramaphosa tested positive for Covid-19 on Sunday and is receiving treatment for mild symptoms, the presidency said in a statement.

Ramaphosa, who is fully vaccinated, began feeling unwell after leaving a state memorial service for former deputy president F W de Klerk in Cape Town earlier in the day but was in good spirits and being monitored by doctors, it said.

He would remain in self-isolation in Cape Town for the time being and had delegated all responsibilities to Deputy President David Mabuza for the next week.

On a recent visit to four West African states, the president and the entire South African delegation were tested for Covid-19 in all countries, the statement said.

“The president and the delegation returned to South Africa from the Republic of Senegal on Wednesday, 8 December 2021, after obtaining negative test results.

“The president also tested negative on his return to Johannesburg on 8 December.”

READ ALSO: Omicron Spreads Faster And Weakens Jabs, Says WHO

The statement quoted Ramaphosa as saying that his own infection served as a warning to all citizens of the importance of getting vaccinated and remaining vigilant against exposure.

“Vaccination remains the best protection against severe illness and hospitalisation,” the statement said.

“People who have had contact with the president today are advised to watch for symptoms or to have themselves tested,” it added.

The highly mutated Omicron variant was first detected in South Africa last month and sparked global panic over fears that it is more contagious than other variants.

It has not yet become fully clear, however, if it causes more severe illness or if, or to what it extent, it can evade vaccines.

Panama Ex-President’s Son Arraigned In US On Graft Charges


The son of Panama’s ex-president Ricardo Martinelli was arraigned Saturday by a Brooklyn court on charges of conspiracy to launder tens of millions of dollars in bribes.

The defendant, Ricardo Alberto Martinelli Linares, was extradited to the United States after being captured in Guatemala in 2020 at Washington’s request. His arraignment was virtual due to pandemic-era measures.

His lawyer said Ricardo Alberto has signed a plea agreement and is expected to formally enter a guilty plea during a hearing scheduled for Tuesday.

The judge declared him a flight risk and ruled he will be detained at least until after that hearing.

The US case against Martinelli and his brother Luis Enrique is linked to the wider investigation into the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht.

Prosecutors say the brothers allowed millions of dollars to be paid into secret bank accounts in the name of ghost companies.

Luis Enrique was extradited to the US last month and pleaded guilty in the US Eastern District court to conspiring with his brother to launder more than $28 million in bribes from Odebrecht “for the benefit of his close relative, a high-ranking public official in Panama” from 2009 to 2014.

Federal prosecutors used similar language in detailing Ricardo Alberto’s case.

Investigations into Odebrecht have tarnished many leaders and political parties in Latin America. Former bosses of the company have admitted in court to illegally distributing millions of dollars of bribes in exchange for public contracts.

Former president Martinelli is himself under investigation in the Odebrecht scandal, but has announced his intention to seek re-election in 2024.

In 2016, Odebrecht and the petrochemical affiliate Braskem agreed to pay $3.5 billion in penalties after pleading guilty in the Eastern District court.


Biden Marks World AIDS Day With Plan To Eradicate Disease

File photo: US President Joe Biden announces Jerome Powell as his nominee for Chair and Lael Brainard as Vice Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve Systems during an event at the White House in Washington, DC, on November 22, 2021.  (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP)


President Joe Biden will mark World AIDS Day on Wednesday with a speech laying out his vision for ending the epidemic in the United States by 2030.

The White House said Biden will deliver a speech outlining the plan for “redoubling efforts to confront the HIV/AIDS epidemic.”

The target is for a 75 percent reduction in new infections by 2025 and 90 percent by 2030.

In the 40 years since US researchers encountered the first cases of what later became known as AIDS, there have been 700,000 US dead and more than 36 million fatalities worldwide.

Today, there are 1.2 million people in the US living with the disease, but “we celebrate the remarkable gains we have made,” the White House said in a briefing paper on the 2030 plan.

Between 2015 and 2019, new HIV infections fell eight percent, “a hopeful sign,” the White House said.

The shift Biden is ordering will aim to “aggressively reduce new HIV cases, while increasing access to treatment.”

According to a senior Biden administration official, one of the innovations will be to accelerate participation of the private sector in a “national effort.”

Focus will also be put on “addressing social determinants of health that influence an individual’s HIV risk or outcomes.”

READ ALSO: South Korea Detects First Omicron Cases, Tightens Travel Curbs

According to the official, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic could ultimately strengthen the healthcare system in the even lengthier struggle against AIDS.

The response to the coronavirus has spurred advances in self-testing at home and telehealth, as well as boosting the role for pharmacies — all ways to engage the public in a complex healthcare endeavor.

Top US infectious diseases specialists, including Biden’s lead medical advisor Anthony Fauci, brought years of experience from fighting AIDS to the Covid-19 crisis. Now, new lessons gained during the pandemic may be applied to AIDS.

“We’re looking forward to seeing what additional insights and knowledge and expertise researchers have gained through fighting this virus that can now be applied to our search for a vaccine and a cure for HIV,” the senior official said.

The United Nations said Monday that HIV infection rates are not slowing fast enough around the world to reach the goal of eradicating AIDS everywhere by 2030.