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Read The White House Response To The Senate Impeachment Trial Summons : NPR


The White House released its formal response to the summons sent by the Senate last week, a procedural part of the impeachment process ahead of the trial that begins next Tuesday.

“The articles of impeachment submitted by House Democrats are a dangerous attack on the right of the American people to freely choose their president,” the White House’s response says. “This is a brazen and unlawful attempt to overturn the results of the 2016 election and interfere with the 2020 election.”

The White House response is part of the legal paperwork required in the process initiated Thursday by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The House impeachment managers filed Saturday their own “trial brief” on their arguments for the two articles of impeachment. The White House has until Monday to file its brief.

The House of Representatives voted last month to impeach President Trump for obstructing Congress and abuse of power. The process was linked to his phone call with his newly elected Ukrainian counterpart. Democrats say Trump sought an investigation into the Bidens in exchange for a release of frozen military aid and a White House visit. Trump has dismissed those allegations.

The Senate trial, where two-thirds of the 100 senators must vote to remove the president, begins Tuesday; Trump is almost certain to be acquitted.



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Avalanche in Nepal Leaves at Least 7 Missing


KATHMANDU, Nepal — An avalanche that swept a popular Himalayan trekking route has left at least four South Koreans and three Nepali guides missing, the authorities said on Saturday.

The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the avalanche hit at an altitude of 10,600 feet before noon on Friday along the popular Annapurna circuit trekking route, which encircles Mount Annapurna in Nepal.

Rescuers plucked 30 trekkers who had been trapped by the avalanche blocking the trail and flew them to safety. An official with Nepal’s Department of Tourism, Meera Acharya, said that at least one Chinese national injured in the avalanche had been rescued by helicopter. Efforts were being made to rescue others.

Weather conditions were poor, with temperature dropping in the past two days, making the operation more difficult.

The missing trekkers, two women in their 30s and 50s and two men in their 50s, were teachers who were in Nepal for volunteer work, the ministry said, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.

The ministry said that five other South Korean members of the same team were safe and taking shelter in a lodge.

In October 2018, at least eight climbers, including a South Korean world-record holder, were killed after a violent snowstorm ripped through their camp in the Himalayas.

It was the deadliest accident to hit Nepal’s climbing community since 2015, when an avalanche set off by a series of earthquakes pummeled climbers on Mount Everest, killing 18 people. The quake killed nearly 9,000 people and injured about 5,900.



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Cow Dung Holds the Key to Nepal’s Green Economy — Global Issues


A company in Pokhara has enlarged household digesters into an industrial scale plant that uses climate-friendly technology that could ultimately be scaled nationwide to reduce Nepal’s balance of trade gap.
  • by Kunda Dixit (kaski, nepal)
  • Friday, January 17, 2020
  • Inter Press Service

Over the past 30 years, Nepal has become a world leader in spreading locally-designed household biogas digesters. There are now 300,000 of them, helping reduce deforestation, improving people’s health and lifting women out of drudgery and poverty.

Now, a company in Pokhara has enlarged household digesters into an industrial scale plant that uses climate-friendly technology that could ultimately be scaled nationwide to reduce Nepal’s balance of trade gap.

Kushal Gurung’s grandfather was in the British Army, and he also applied for recruitment but failed the eyesight test. So, he set up Gandaki Urja in Pokhara that works with wind, solar and hydropower, but he believes Nepal’s best option for sustainable growth lies in energy from waste.

“Nepal must abandon fossil fuels, but even among renewable energy sources biogas has a three-fold advantage. It reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and is therefore climate friendly. It allows us to manage raw waste. And it can slash our import bill for LPG and chemical fertiliser,” says Gurung. “It is a win-win-win.”

A tipper truck has just arrived from Gorkha at Gandaki Urja’s biogas plant at Kotre near Pokhara, which with its dome digester looks like a nuclear reactor. The truck tilts its container to empty 5 tons of smelly poultry waste into a pit where rotting vegetables and cow dung from a farm in Syangja are all being mixed before being fed into the 4,000 cubic meter digester that is kept inflated.

In the absence of oxygen, bacteria already in the cow dung go to work to break down the waste into methane, carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide. The impurities are removed by filters to produce 200 cylinders of bio-CNG a day which are sold to big hotels and restaurants in Pokhara.

Customers pay a deposit for the cylinders and pressure regulators, and usually use up about two cylinders a day. The cost per kg for the bio-Compressed Natural Gas (bio-CNG) is the same as the state subsidised Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG). However, customers prefer the biogas because it saves them up to 30% cost because it has higher calorific value than LPG, and there is no residue that goes waste.

“So far, the customers are satisfied, and we see demand growing in the future as word spreads,” says Ashim Kayastha, Director of Gandaki Urja.

Half the plant’s revenue comes from bio-CNG and the other half from the effluent which is dried and sold as organic fertiliser. The plant can produce up to 11,000 tons of fertiliser a year and is sold to surrounding farms.

The future of bio-CNG depends on scaling up the technology since any municipality generating more than 40 tons of biodegradable waste per day could have its own biogas plant. Nepal imports 500,000 tons of chemical fertiliser a year, and if each of 100 municipalities produced 5,000 tons of organic fertiliser Nepal could slash its import bill.

This could also significantly reduce the country’s annual import of Rs33 billion worth of LPG from India which grew four-fold in the past 10 years, making up 2.5% of Nepal’s total import bill. But to scale up, industrial biogas needs the same government incentives as hydro, solar and wind power.

At the moment hydropower investors enjoy a 100% corporate tax holiday for 10 years, and 50% for the next five years. There is only 1% tax on imports of equipment for solar, wind and hydropower, there is no such provision for the equipment for industrial scale biogas. Instead, there is a tax on interest, and also VAT on bio-CNG.

 

 

“The government should look at this not only as an energy project, but at its multifaceted benefits,” says Kushal Gurung of Gandaki Urja. “There is a waste-to-energy and fertiliser angle, too. If we want to make Nepal fully organic in the next ten years, projects like these need to be prioritised.”

Gandaki Urja got a boost from an unlikely source, Business Oxygen (BO2) in Kathmandu which helps entrepreneurs running Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to scale up by injecting equity and providing technical assistance.

Says Siddhant Pandey of BO2: “We are always on the lookout for climate investments, and we realised that bio-CNG would be an incredible adaptive resilience investment. It would displace imports of LPG and fertiliser. It was going to be clean, no carbon footprint, and it made business sense because it met our internal return on investment expectation.”

The challenges are ensuring reliable sources of raw material and building knowhow for the technology within Nepal.

Says Pandey: “The Pokhara plant is a drop in the ocean, it can abe replicated in all 7 provinces. We know it is scalable, and it depends how proactive provincial governments will be.”

 

This story was originally published by The Nepali Times

© Inter Press Service (2020) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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Meghan Markle Won’t Destroy The Royals — But They Might Do It Themselves



Carlo Allegri / Reuters

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, exits a hotel in New York City, Feb. 19, 2019.

It was a declaration of independence that left the royal family reeling. On January 8, Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, posted on Instagram about their plans to relinquish their positions as “senior” members of the British royal family, split their time between North America and the UK, and establish financial independence. The suddenness of the announcement was surprising — it was reportedly released in a rush to beat a potential leak to the press, and seemed to catch Buckingham Palace unprepared — but the move itself was not entirely unexpected, particularly to those who’ve been following the young couple’s saga in dealing with the (often racist and sexist) media coverage of Meghan.

While Queen Elizabeth has since said in a statement on Monday that she’s “entirely supportive” of Prince Harry and Meghan’s decision, she also made clear, with unusually personal language, that she “would have preferred them to remain full-time working Members of the Royal Family.” Their departure is a loss to the Windsor family during a turbulent time (see: Brexit, the scandal of Prince Andrew’s friendship with and defense of Jeffrey Epstein, and the Duke of Edinburgh’s waning health), as well as to the monarchy as an institution. After all, Harry is the second-most popular royal, after the 93-year-old Queen. Meanwhile, as the lone woman of color to ever be a senior royal in modern society, Meghan Markle has become something of a global icon herself.

And yet, while Meghan enjoys worldwide popularity, the British press has been consistently, intensely critical of her. The “Megxit” narrative has been an occasion to recycle a lot of the same labels and accusations it has already deployed: that she is ungrateful and selfish for breaking up the royal family.

It’s worth keeping things in perspective, however. The Sussexes haven’t renounced the royal family on an ideological level (their website details the couple’s plans to continue to serve the monarchy and strengthen the Commonwealth). The move to be financially independent from the Sovereign Grant, which opens up the possibility of Harry and Meghan earning incomes in other careers, could raise questions (Might this be an option for more royal family members, particularly those far down the line in succession?). But it’s unlikely to have immediate, ruinous effects on an institution that has always had a knack for durability. As Peter Morgan, creator of The Crown, once described the British royals: “They’re survival organisms, like a mutating virus.”

At this rate, it seems more likely that if anything is to destroy the monarchy, it will be the British royals themselves. It is a tenacious institution. But by not enforcing or understanding the need to protect Meghan from vicious, racist press coverage in a more deliberate way, they are losing her and what she had to offer: a new, modern, more progressive image to associate with the monarchy — a brand that is ultimately rooted in appearances.


Daniel Leal-Olivas / Getty Images

Meghan reacts during a visit to Canada House in London with thanks for the warm Canadian hospitality and support she had received in Canada recently, Jan. 7.

Meghan Markle has been accused of destroying her husband’s life and painted as a palace-wrecker who’s putting the future of the monarchy — particularly post–Queen Elizabeth — in peril. (Granted, some of these declarations are made gleefully by anti-monarchists, wanting to burn it all down.) She’s also been called a modern-day Yoko Ono on social media, a comparison that stirs up some interesting connotations.

These tweets have primarily been made in jest, some affectionate and some less so. But other likenings have been less lighthearted, with one tweet claiming that, like Ono, Meghan is “trampling on tradition, causing chaos, ruining everything and then runs and hides.”

By not enforcing or understanding the need to protect Meghan from vicious, racist press coverage in a more deliberate way, the royal family is losing her and what she had to offer.

Ono is a complicated and certainly not faultless public figure, but the widespread cultural narrative around her as the woman who “broke up the Beatles” is clearly misguided and misogynist. As a 1994 New York Times interview with Ono established, her public reputation was one of a woman whose “greatest achievement, it would seem, came from brainwashing that third husband into marrying her in the first place. He was, in the end, a god. She was, all along, the Devil.” And Ono has become the namesake of a tired, untrue trope that suggests women are often a (if not the) problem, seducing and bewitching men into misfortune and bad decisions. The so-called Yoko Effect is a fallacy, not an actual phenomenon.

But there are some notable parallels between Meghan and Ono, as two women who stand accused of breaking up historic and beloved British institutions. Maybe most important to keep in mind is that the distrust and demonization they face is, at least in part, rooted in their race.

“Every time we saw her, we shouted awful things,” a fervent Beatles fan recalled about Ono in Philip Norman’s book Shout!: The Beatles in Their Generation. “‘Yellow!’ ‘Chink!’ Subtle things like that… Once, outside Abbey Road, we’d got this bunch of yellow roses to give Yoko. We handed them to her thorns first. Yoko took them and backed all the way down the stairs, thanking us. She hadn’t realized they were meant to be an insult. Nor did John. He turned back and said, ‘Well, it’s about time someone did something decent to her.’”

Meanwhile, Meghan consistently attracts racist news coverage from the British press, teeming with coded language and dog whistles. Daily Mail columnist Sarah Vine claimed the Sussexes’ engagement photo gave her a “niggling worry,” while other Daily Mail pieces have mentioned Meghan’s “rich and exotic DNA” and (inaccurately) invoked her upbringing in a “gang-scarred” LA neighborhood.

Even when the tabloids don’t use race-baiting language, Meghan is targeted in ways that are disproportionate to the typically harsh, often absurd criticism all royal family members get. While Meghan’s wedding florals nearly murdered Princess Charlotte, Kate Middleton’s choice of the same flowers was “elegant and understated.” When Kate eats an avocado, it’s a cure for morning sickness, but when Meghan eats one? A source of human rights abuse and environmental devastation, naturally. Time and time again, Meghan has been portrayed in a villainous light.

“I think what Meghan Markle’s experience has shown me is that when you put a woman of color into that space, which has always been abusive, there are particular issues,” said British journalist and author Afua Hirsch in a BBC interview on Monday. “She’s more vulnerable because she’s visibly different.” The level of hostility both Ono and Meghan have faced is proof of how significant it is that they are occupying spaces where they are othered, spaces not constructed for them. And yet, when they’ve made efforts to change that space, or to find a more protected and sustainable role within it, they get the blame.


Another implication of the Yoko Effect (or rather, Yoko Myth) is that it assigns no power, responsibility, or culpability to a man in such a relationship — a fact that’s pretty rich considering the level of fame, privilege, and influence held by John Lennon and Prince Harry. Even the term “Megxit” in itself, while quippy, puts the onus of the duke and duchess’s joint decision on Meghan.

Like Lennon — who was, to be clear, the sole instigator of the Beatles’ breakup — Prince Harry has been known to be outspoken, a bit stubborn, with a rebellious streak. And based on his past comments, it doesn’t seem all that likely he was strong-armed by his wife into defecting from the royal family. He’s spoken of having “wanted out” before, as well as his desire for a semblance of regular life. “My mother took a huge part in showing me an ordinary life,” the prince told Newsweek in 2017. “I am determined to have a relatively normal life, and if I am lucky enough to have children, they can have one too.”

The reason why Harry would want to put more distance between his family and the British press is a no-brainer. He’s always blamed the media for the death of his mother and when the paparazzi began to report on Meghan as they were dating, he was quick to call the press out for hounding her. In an unprecedented statement from Kensington Palace in 2016, he condemned the tabloids’ coverage as racist and sexist: “Prince Harry is worried about Ms. Markle’s safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her.”

The reason why Harry would want to put more distance between his family and the British press is a no-brainer.

“I will always protect my family, and now I have a family to protect,” Harry told journalist Tom Bradby when the couple was touring southern Africa in October 2019. “Everything that [my mother] went through and what happened to her is incredibly real every single day. And that’s not just me being paranoid — that’s just me not wanting a repeat of the past. And if anybody else knew what I knew — be it a father, be it a husband, be it anyone — you’d probably be doing exactly what I’m doing as well.”

The Sussexes’ infant son, Archie, is no doubt a key factor in their decision to distance themselves from the monarchy and all the attention that comes with it. If they had hoped that their child would be spared from the realities of being a biracial royal, that hope was quickly quashed; days after Meghan gave birth, a BBC broadcaster likened the couple’s newborn to a well-dressed chimpanzee. To face racism, even as a child, is to live with a chronic, damaging stressor — one that afflicts both the mind and body. If casual, constant racism and the denial of one’s humanity is part and parcel of a publicly funded royal life — which, based on Meghan’s experience so far, it seems to be — then that royal life itself has become a clear threat to Harry’s family.


Jeff J. Mitchell / Getty Images

Queen Elizabeth II sits and laughs with Meghan during a ceremony to open the new Mersey Gateway Bridge in the town of Widnes in Cheshire, England, June 14, 2018.

Since Harry and Meghan announced they were dating, the Queen has made active efforts to ensure that Meghan feels welcome and accepted in the royal family. And in the Windsors’ defense, it’s essentially a royal tradition to endure bad press, to keep calm and carry on. Plus, given the overwhelming whiteness of the monarchy, it’s not surprising they aren’t cognizant of a crucial factor in being an active ally: stepping up and speaking out (much like Harry has done through his warnings to the press, frank interviews, and pending lawsuits). It’s not a matter of coddling, but a gesture of care and consideration. If you want growth and evolution — that is, if the monarchy wants to modernize — emotional inertia can’t be an option.

It’s a common phenomenon: Historically white businesses and brands claim they want to diversify, but they fail to do the work to nurture and support newcomers. You can’t expect to benefit from the perks, PR, and fanfare of having a “biracial princess” if she isn’t given the space to feel empowered, heard, and accepted. The family spends millions on palace guards and security — a means to protect their physical bodies — but the notion of humanity doesn’t seem to be given the same weight or value. The racism Meghan has experienced is treated as benign, when in reality it chips away and infects, as evidenced by her emotional, viral interview with ITV in October.

And when royals lead pampered, sheltered lives — lives that provide little experience in resisting the prejudice baked into British and Western society — it’s not surprising they don’t (at least yet) understand this. The same seems true of many others, in the media and beyond. Only the two panelists of color on last Thursday’s episode of BBC’s Question Time were willing to suggest that Meghan’s unfair treatment may be tied to the way she looks. (For the record, when the moderator asked whether anyone in the audience thought Harry and Meghan had made a bad decision, not one hand was raised.)

Meanwhile, on BBC’s Newsnight that same evening, singer Jamelia — who is a black woman — shared that she too had been a victim of covert racism living in the UK and “it pales in comparison to what I’ve seen happen to Meghan Markle… It’s not just social media; it’s not. It’s mainstream media; it’s tabloid media.” In response, author and historian Robert Lacey (a white man) was skeptical: “I’d like to see the evidence of that.” Piers Morgan is another example of someone who repeatedly squawks at black women for evidence and then balks when it’s offered.

Harry and Meghan’s decision to quit senior royal life and spend time outside of the UK is not a symbol of defeat: It is an act of self-respect and self-preservation.

On Monday, Phillip Schofield, co-host of This Morning, also requested examples of racism that Meghan has endured, to which guest Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, a black lawyer and activist, responded: “It makes me question where have you been the last two years… Let me explain what racism looks like from the lens of white privilege. White privilege whitewashes racist and inflammatory language as unconscious bias. It perpetuates the bigotry of intolerant white people as ignorant. It defends and protects their private views once spoken as misspeak, and then camouflages racist behavior as error of judgment.”

The persistent demand for proof of racism during the “Megxit” news cycle has become at best exhausting and at worst triggering. I don’t find it surprising that Meghan herself, who was in Canada as the “Sandringham summit” occurred, felt it wasn’t necessary to be physically present for the talks between Prince Harry, Prince William, Prince Charles, and the Queen. It’s tiring to ask that your humanity be acknowledged only for your mistreatment to be downplayed or denied, over and over again.

It’s possible that Harry and Meghan’s decision and the dialogue it’s creating could help push both the monarchy and British media to evolve into something that’s not just more diverse and inclusive, but more self-aware (whether it be in revisiting and reframing old myths or simply setting the tone for the future). Still, it’s not the responsibility of black people or other minorities to teach Racism 101 to their white peers, not through interviews and certainly not through their lives. Meghan may have married someone whose family comes with a lot of baggage, but she didn’t sign up to be a case study.

Harry and Meghan’s decision to quit senior royal life and spend time outside of the UK is not a symbol of defeat: It is an act of self-respect and self-preservation. The move has been and will no doubt continue to be painted by critics as a selfish shirking of responsibilities, but it’s more of a shifting. It’s not a question of whether the Sussexes are dutiful or not, but to whom.

In a 2015 essay for Elle, before becoming a duchess was even on her radar, Meghan recalled an especially formative memory: “I was home in LA on a college break when my mom was called the ‘N’ word. We were leaving a concert and she wasn’t pulling out of a parking space quickly enough for another driver. My skin rushed with heat as I looked to my mom. Her eyes welling with hateful tears, I could only breathe out a whisper of words, so hushed they were barely audible: ‘It’s OK, Mommy.’ I was trying to temper the rage-filled air permeating our small silver Volvo.”

Even then, Meghan knew that some fights just aren’t worth picking, not when your adversary doesn’t deserve your time or energy, not when your family’s well-being is at stake. As they drove out of the parking lot, Meghan sat with a simple reason for their disengagement: “I shared my mom’s heartache, but I wanted us to be safe.”●


Sandi Rankaduwa is a Sri Lankan Canadian writer, comedian, and filmmaker who’s written for the Believer, Rolling Stone, This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Exclaim!, and the Coast. She splits her time between Brooklyn and Halifax.





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What DeAndre Jordan-less Nets need from Jarrett Allen



The Nets had no update on DeAndre Jordan’s dislocated right middle finger, suffered during Wednesday’s loss in Philadelphia.

Jordan was examined Thursday in New York, and more information is expected at Friday’s practice. The Nets play host to the NBA-leading Bucks on Saturday, with starter Jarrett Allen, rookie Nic Claxton and possibly even Wilson Chandler having to pick up the slack if Jordan misses time.

Allen is coming off a strong, bounce-back performance on Wednesday in Philadelphia. He had been dominated the night before by the Jazz’s Rudy Gobert, mustering eight points and tying his season low with two rebounds in a 118-107 defeat. But he had 17 points and 10 boards in the 117-106 loss to the 76ers, who were playing without Joel Embiid.

“I was doing it for my teammates. I haven’t been playing well these past couple of games, so just going out there first with a defensive effort and it translated on the offensive end,” Allen said.

“That’s the Jarrett Allen we need,” coach Kenny Atkinson said. “That’s huge for us. I think that was a big reason we were in the game and able to compete with them. He kind of got back to his high-energy Jarrett Allen, that stretch where he was playing great, protecting the rim and then rolling and finishing. That was a huge positive.”

With Jordan sidelined, Allen played through foul trouble and logged 31:24, the second most minutes he had played in roughly a month. But if his veteran backup misses several games, Allen insisted he won’t have to pace his play.

“I don’t think so,” Allen said. “Nothing against DJ, but I’m young. I have more energy than him. I think I can be able to play for as long as they need me.

“One thing on that — I know DeAndre’s tough, so he’s going to try to get back as quickly as he can. But for me, we’ve had this trouble before where one of our bigs gets hurt and I’ve had to step up and take up the brunt of it, so I’m ready to do that again.”

With Jordan hurt and Claxton on G-League assignment, the Nets were forced to give the 6-foot-8 Chandler his first-ever minutes at center Wednesday. But they recalled Claxton from Long Island on Thursday, and Atkinson said he won’t hesitate to use the wiry, 6-foot-11, 215-pound second-round pick.

“I have no qualms about playing Nic Claxton. I think he’ll be an excellent player,” Atkinson said. “If — it’s a big if — if DeAndre misses any time, I have no hesitation playing him.”

Claxton has logged a total of 120 minutes over 10 NBA games so far. But the overwhelming majority of that came earlier in the season, with just a single 1:31 cameo since Nov. 27.



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Angola’s Isabel dos Santos: Africa’s richest woman eyes presidency


Isabel dos SantosImage copyright
Reuters

Image caption

Isabel dos Santos is one of the wealthiest women in the world

Angolan billionaire Isabel dos Santos, who is embroiled in a huge financial scandal, has suggested that she may seek to become the country’s president.

In a BBC interview, Ms Dos Santos pointedly declined four times to rule out running for the presidency.

Her father José Eduardo dos Santos ruled Angola for 38 years. Prosecutors are seeking to recover $1bn (£760m) Ms Dos Santos and her associates are alleged to owe the state.

She has denied any wrongdoing.

Ms Dos Santos, 46, is one of the world’s richest women, with Forbes magazine estimating her fortune to be worth $2.2bn.

Her father controversially appointed her as the head of Angola’s state-owned oil firm Sonangol in 2016.

She was sacked from the post in 2017 by President Joao Lourenço, her father’s handpicked successor.

  • Africa Live: Updates on this and other stories
  • Find out more about Angola

In an interview in London, she repeatedly stressed that her life was at risk if she returned to Angola in the current circumstances.

Refusing to rule out the possibility of running for president, she said she had a strong sense of patriotism and duty to her country.

“To lead is to serve, so I will do whatever my life takes me,” she said.

Ms Dos Santos later told a Portuguese television channel that “it’s possible” she might run for the presidency in 2022.

The announcement marks a dramatic shift for a woman who has consistently portrayed herself as an entrepreneur with no interest in politics.

Image copyright
AFP

Image caption

José Eduardo dos Santos (l) handed power to Joao Lourenço in 2017

A court in the Angolan capital, Luanda, last month ordered the freezing of her bank accounts and of her vast business empire in the oil-rich country, following a string of investigations into alleged corruption by the Dos Santos family which prosecutors say has robbed the state of more than $2bn.

“These are false allegations and this is part of… an orchestrated attack by the current government that is completely politically motivated,” she said.

Her half-brother, José Filomeno dos Santos, is on trial in Angola on charges of corruption.

The prosecution alleges that he and his co-accused helped spirit $500m out of the country during his time as head of Angola’s Sovereign Wealth Fund. They have pleaded not guilty.

Ms Dos Santos repeatedly lashed out at President Lourenço, who succeeded her father two years ago as president.

Despite coming the same party, the MPLA, he has since stunned many Angolans by appearing to target the Dos Santos family as part of a broader anti-corruption drive.

“President Lourenço is fighting for absolute power. There’s a strong wish to neutralise any influence that [former] President Dos Santos might still have in the MPLA,” Ms Dos Santos said.

“If a different candidate would appear [ahead of the 2021 presidential election] supported by former President Dos Santos or allies linked to him, that would really challenge [Mr Lourenço’s] position because his current track record is very, very poor,” she added, citing rising unemployment, a stagnant economy and a wave of strikes.

‘Patronage network’

But the allegations of corruption aimed at Ms Dos Santos and her half-brother have been given new weight by the criminal investigations launched against her in Angola.

Image caption

José Filomeno dos Santos is on trial for corruption

“The reality is that there is more than enough evidence against her. She’s a key figure in the Dos Santos family and a credible threat to Lourenço,” said Darias Jonker, a regional analyst for the Eurasia Group, who said that legitimate allegations of corruption were being wielded by the state as part of a vicious power struggle within the MPLA.

“Lourenço is sending a signal that there’s a new sheriff in town, with new rules,” Mr Jonker added.

“He needs his own patronage network, but his model is much more modest – he won’t allow the multi-billion-dollar patronage deals that were a hallmark of the Dos Santos era. Would Isabel support some sort of palace coup? I think it’s something she’d certainly consider.”

Ms Dos Santos insisted she was being used as a “scapegoat” by President Lourenço, and lashed out at the justice system in Angola, accusing the attorney general of “lying” and of refusing to allow her lawyers to see the evidence against her.

“I regret that Angola has chosen this path. I think that we all stand to lose a lot. A good leader is a prudent leader,” she said, calling for a negotiated political solution to end her current legal battles and any further damage to the Angolan economy.

‘The Princess’

But could she, or perhaps a proxy or ally, oust the current president and pave the way for a triumphant homecoming?

“I am a businesswoman. A lot of people… do like me and do understand what I do and do believe in what I do.

“There are thousands of people whom we gave their first job,” she said, highlighting her business credentials, and rejecting the widespread perception that she owes much of her fortune to her father’s long presidency as “voices that come from the political opposition”.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Angola’s economy has boomed because of oil

But some observers have been quick to play down the idea of a Dos Santos dynasty with Isabel – derided, for years, as “The Princess” in Angola – filling her father’s shoes.

“Isabel doesn’t have a strong constituency in her favour inside the party. For now, the party is behind Lourenço, at least when it comes to the targeting of Isabel,” said Ricardo Soares de Oliveira, an Oxford professor and expert on African politics.

“If he turns what is still a focused vendetta against the Dos Santos family into a systemic clean-up, the MPLA would not accept it and might even rediscover Dos Santos as the guy who enabled all of them to get rich. But there is no sign of this,” the Oxford professor added.

“Dos Santos and Isabel remain deeply unpopular in the country and the party alike. I am not writing her off entirely but she is genuinely weakened by these ongoing revelations and her international standing is deteriorating fast.”

With much of her fortune still thought to be intact outside Angola, Ms Dos Santos remains a formidable force.

If she were to seek the presidency – and in the interview, she stressed that her commercial battles were not necessarily best resolved by political manoeuvres – she would first need the law to change in Angola as she is currently ineligible to stand because her mother is Russian.

But those who have watched her remarkable business career, and her furious public assault on Angola’s current political elites, agree that such an obstacle is unlikely to prove insurmountable.



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Experts say Med Sea altered by Suez Canal’s invasive species


TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — As Egypt marks the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Suez Canal, marine biologists are bemoaning one of the famed waterway’s lesser known legacies — the invasion of hundreds of non-native species, including toxic jellyfish and aggressive lionfish.

The canal, which connects the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, revolutionized maritime travel by creating a direct shipping route between the East and the West. But over the years, the invasive species have driven native marine life toward extinction and altered the delicate Mediterranean ecosystem with potentially devastating consequences, scientists say.

The influx has increased significantly since Egypt doubled its capacity in 2015 with the opening of the “The New Suez Canal,” raising alarm in Europe and sparking criticism from various countries along the Mediterranean basin. The sharpest criticism comes from neighboring Israel, which once battled Egypt in war alongside the 193-kilometer (120-mile)-long canal.

Bella Galil, an Israeli marine biologist who has studied the Mediterranean for over three decades, said much of the ecological damage is irreversible.

But with the invasive fish and crustaceans buoyed by warming water temperatures and rapidly spreading toward European shores, she argued that urgent action is needed to minimize its long-term impact. Galil, of Tel Aviv University’s Steinhardt Museum of Natural History, said the continued widening and deepening of the canal had created a “moving aquarium” of species that, if unchecked, could make coastal waters inhospitable for humans.

Galil said the number of invasive species, currently about 400, has more than doubled over the past 30 years, a phenomenon she called a “historic example of the dangers of unintended consequences.”

Already, Israel is coping with an unprecedented wave of toxic jellyfish that has damaged coastal power plants and scared off beach-goers and tourists. Several other venomous species, including the aggressive lionfish, have established permanent colonies, creating a potential health hazard when they end up on plates of beach-side restaurants. Most worrisome has been the arrival of the Lagocephalus Sceleratus, an extremely poisonous bony fish commonly known as the silver-cheeked toadfish.

Galil said half of all the Israeli fish intake — and all the crustaceans — are now of the invasive variety.

With the “rolling invasion” now reaching as far as Spain, European countries are increasingly taking note. The issue is set to feature prominently at a United Nations ocean sustainability workshop this month in Venice.

“These non-indigenous organisms present serious threats to the local biodiversity, at the very least comparable to those exerted by climate change, pollution and over-fishing,” Galil said.

She said the new species have caused “a dramatic restructuring” of the ecosystem, endangering various local species and wiping out native mussels, prawns and red mullet.

Israel’s Environmental Protection Ministry said it was monitoring the process with concern since its coasts were the new species’ “first stop” in the Mediterranean. It stressed that Israel could not stop the phenomenon alone but is promoting regulation to protect the most vulnerable marine habitats. With Israel increasingly reliant on the Mediterranean Sea for drinking water, the ministry said protecting the country’s marine environment was “now more important than ever.”

Lebanese scientists at the American University of Beirut recently wrote that failing to mitigate the ecological risks associated with the expansion of the Suez Canal would place a large part of the Mediterranean ecosystem in jeopardy, an opinion shared by marine scientists across the eastern Mediterranean, from Turkey to Tunisia.

A relatively simple option for damage control seems to be available in the form of the Qatari-funded desalination plants the Egyptians are building along the canal, the first of which is expected to be opened later this year.

If carried out properly, Galil said the brine output of the plants could be funneled into the canal to recreate a “salinity barrier” that could stem the flow of species from south to north. The Great Bitter Lakes, about 45 kilometers (30 miles) north of Suez, once created such an obstacle. But as the canal widened and Egyptian cities and farms flushed agricultural wastewater into the lakes, that bulwark disappeared.

Egypt, which signed a peace accord with Israel in 1979 and recently signed a massive deal with it to import natural gas, has largely rejected the dire warnings of the Israeli scientists as politically motivated.

“Invasive species is a huge and nonspecific category,” said Moustafa Fouda, an adviser to Egypt’s environment minister. “They can even be productive, replacing species that are overfished, bringing economic benefits or simply adapting to the new environment.”

He estimated that less than 5% of invaders could be regarded as “disruptive” and that most of the shrimp, mollusks, puffer fish and crabs caused no harm. He said even toxic invaders, such as lionfish, were edible if their venomous spines were removed.

Egyptian experts also denied the invasions resulted directly from the Suez expansion. They argue that rising water temperatures brought on by global warming and untreated ballast water discharged by cargo ships spurred the exotic arrivals.

“Invasions are a global trend due to pollution and climate change, the natural result of which is every species struggling to survive and searching for its optimal environment,” said Tarek Temraz, a marine biology professor at Suez Canal University, and author of the environmental ministry’s impact assessment of the canal expansion.

The Suez Canal Authority, the government agency that operates the canal, claimed environmental concerns over its enlargement have been overstated. It said water volume flowing into the Mediterranean increased by 4%, creating “little impact on water flow and plankton movement.

Canal officials say they are closely monitoring species migration, imposing regulations on ships that unwittingly ferry invasive creatures and curtailing water contamination in hopes of restoring salinity to the lakes.

The canal authority said a recent drive to divert agricultural wastewater away from the Bitter Lakes has successfully raised salinity there by 3% over the past years.

Galil says that’s not enough, insisting that salinity must increase significantly to serve as an effective barrier against newcomers.

“One day we will wake up to a compete and irreversible change and know that there was something we could have done about it if only it had been done on time,” she said.

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DeBre reported from Cairo.

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Follow Aron Heller at www.twitter.com/aronhellerap and Isabel Debre at www.twitter.com/isabeldebre





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Jennifer Garner Freaking Out On A Rollercoaster Will Make Your Week



Jennifer Garner is willing to face some major fears for her acting career.

The 47-year-old actor buckled up on the Twisted Colossus ride at Six Flags Magic Mountain while shooting her new movie, “Yes Day,” which makes for some excellent viewing given she can’t stand rollercoasters.

“Shooting #YesDay at #SixFlagsMagicMountain is a dream come true. Unless you hate roller coasters,” she wrote on Instagram, adding in a hashtag that she cried. She tagged her co-stars, “You” actor Jenna Ortega, and Julian Lerner.

The two youngsters appeared to enjoy themselves a little more. “BEST DAY SHOOTING EVER,” Lerner wrote on his Instagram, while Ortega said she could “still feel this death grip,” when she shared the clip.

Responding to comments, Garner said the Lazy River was more her style. “I love life, I do not need to ask for a heart attack,” she wrote, adding that it was worse when she had to ride it again “for takes two and three.”

The upcoming “Yes Day” Netflix comedy revolves around the concept of parents saying “yes” to everything their kids request for a day each year ― a tradition that Garner herself endures each year.

Fingers crossed her character was supposed to be terrified of rollercoasters, because she certainly played it that way.





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UK weather forecast: 121mph winds to destroy Britain as heavy floods cause travel misery | Weather | News


The Met Office issued a statement telling commuters that an overfall of water on roads will make journey times longer and tumultuous. There is currently a yellow warning in place as more than 1,000 properties were left without power. “Flooding of homes and businesses is likely,” they added.

Flights have been canceled at both Gatwick and Edinburgh airports, adding to the ongoing travel nightmare.

The warnings come after images were shared across social media of a roof being blown off a block of flats in Slough went viral.

The roof is pictured strewn across the high street and people have been warned to avoid the area.

The road is now closed and emergency services are at the scene, though Thames Valley Police said no-one was believed to be injured.

A taxi driver who narrowly missed being hit by the debris said it was “a miracle no-one was killed”.

Taxi driver Haris Baig, 30, from Slough, said his car was only metres away from being hit by the falling roof.

“At first I thought it was scaffolding, but then I realised the whole roof had come down,” he said.

“There was a massive amount of noise.

READ MORE: Solar storm warning: Space weather is ‘the greatest hazard to humanity

“I was about 15 metres away and slammed on my brakes. I got out to see if everyone was alright.

“That was my first reaction, but at the same time I was thinking is this even safe?”

“It was a disaster. It was a miracle no-one was killed,” he added.

The gale-force winds have also caused delays on the railway lines, with National Rail says it will be enforcing speed restrictions in the worst affected parts of the country.



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Tomorrow’s world – VoxEurop (English)


Europe goes – eventually – green: some good news for starting the year. Cofounder Catherine André’s editorial.

Screen-Shot-2020-01-08-at-22-46-53-copyIn many respects, in Europe and across the world, 2020 has gotten off to a bad start — just as 2019 proved a bad ending to a decade which will be noted for its environmental catastrophes. The ice is melting at accelerated speed, flood and drought are hitting harder than ever, December’s COP25 in Madrid was a failure, uncontrollable forest fires are ravaging south-eastern Australia, bringing untold devastation to unique wildlife: quite literally, the planet is drowning, or roasting, depending on where you look.

Yet we also know: the coming decade, and the year 2020 in particular, will have to be a time of radical choices when it comes to environmental policy. The clock is ticking, as we’re so often reminded by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Meanwhile, global CO2 emissions have never stopped rising, despite the commitments undertaken by the 183 signatory states of the 2015 Paris agreement. At COP26, set to take place next November in Glasgow, governments will have to propose new action plans to limit the impact of global warming — while so little time remains.

The European Green Deal, presented on 11 December by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, shows new ambition. Is it capable of making Europe the first carbon neutral continent? How will this Deal, finally setting in stone Europe’s recognition of the climate emergency, produce a “just and socially fair” transition, one which will supposedly orient all of European policy? How will the influence of industrial lobbies in Brussels be held in check? As for the member states, whose attitudes towards climate change are hardly homogeneous — can they conform, unflinchingly, to the tendency now promoted by Brussels, which breaks with the earlier language of laissez-faire?

So many questions we need to ask ourselves, while acknowledging the radical paradigm shift the Deal represents, of which no-one has managed to grasp all the consequences. After the green wave in the last European elections, with particularly strong support from young Europeans, let’s bet on this proposal proving a genuine turning point, marking the beginning of a new era, and let’s make sure it doesn’t just remain on paper.

We thank our readers for all of their support and wish them an excellent 2020, under the banner of safeguarding the planet, a commitment we pledge ourselves to as a media outlet. This transition will never happen without a powerful mobilisation of citizens, a European public opinion which comes through loud and clear, and which we’re helping to forge.

In the coming weeks, in order to get closer to the concerns of Europeans, we’re going to make it possible for our community to become more involved in VoxEurop. Other surprises will be revealed over the course of the year.



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