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Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Boko Haram spared women in Yobe school Attack, told them to go home and get married

DAMATURU, Nigeria (AP) — A spokesman for a Nigerian governor says soldiers who were guarding a checkpoint near a government school were mysteriously withdrawn from the checkpoint, just hours before an attack today by suspected Islamic extremists.
The attack left at least 29 students dead at a school dormitory.
Officials say female students at the co-ed school were spared -- and that the attackers instead told them to go home and get married and to abandon their Western education.
The attackers set a locked dormitory on fire. As students escaped through the windows, they were shot and their throats were slit. Some were burned alive.
The governor's spokesman says he will be asking questions about why the school was apparently left unprotected.
Nigeria's military has reported arresting several soldiers accused of aiding and passing information to extremists of the terrorist network Boko Haram (BOH'-koh hah-RAHM'). The nickname means "Western education is forbidden."
More than 300 civilians have been killed this month in Nigeria in a series of deadly attacks.

President Jonathan condemns Boko Haram killing of Yobe students

The Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday condemned the killing of scores of students at a college in Yobe State, describing the incident as callous and senseless.  
 Jonathan said he received the news of the incident with immense sadness and anguish. 
His reaction was contained in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati.
 President extended his condolences on behalf of himself and the Federal Government to the parents and relatives of the murdered students. He promised that his administration would not relent in his anti-terrorism fight.

Sanusi's Suspension: Corruption allegations can't be withdrawn - IKE OKONTA

ABUJA – It was only a matter of time before Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan moved against Lamido Sanusi, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, who has spent much of the last year waging an anti-corruption campaign against the government. But, while Sanusi has been suspended, his corruption allegations cannot be withdrawn – and the public outcry that they have provoked cannot be silenced.

Suspension: Sanusi says will challenge President Jonathan in the courts

The ousted governor of  says no one can say how many billions of petrodollars are missing from state coffers until there is an investigation.

The internationally respected Lamido Sanusi says he will challenge his suspension in the courts because it threatens the future independence of the apex bank of Africa's largest oil producer.
President Goodluck Jonathan insisted at a news conference Monday that he has "absolute power" to suspend but not dismiss the governor.

Niger Delta: JTF, police, SSS comb creeks for Jonathan’s adopted father

The Nigerian security outfits operating in Bayelsa State have murdered sleep following Sunday’s abduction of the 70-year-old Inengite Nitabai, the cousin of President Goodluck Jonathan. In a daring move, 10 heavily armed men stormed the expansive compound of Nitabai at Otuoke, hometown of President Jonathan in Ogbia Local Government Area and whisked the old man away.
But 48 hours after the incident, security agencies had been ordered to find Nitabai who is said to be the adopted father of the President.

NIGERIA: APC Criticises Jonathan over Comments on Borno Governor

Nigeria Opposition Party, All Progressives Congress (APC) has deplored  President Goodluck Jonathan's remarks against Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima during his media chat on Monday night, calling it unwarranted, unpresidential and petty.
The party's position over the President's comment came just as the former Vice President of the country Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, in his  reaction Tues day accused the Federal Government of chasing shadows rather that tackling the security menace squarely.

Over 43 Sleeping Students Killed in Yobe by Boko Haram Islamists

Dozens of Nigerian secondary school pupils have been killed by suspected Boko Haram Islamists as they slept in student housing.

Suspected Boko Haram Islamists killed 43 people today when they attacked secondary school students as they slept in the latest school massacre to hit Nigeria's troubled northeast. The raid at 2:00 am (0630 IST) targeted the Federal Government College in the town of Buni Yadi in Yobe state and bore the hallmarks of a similar attack last September in which 40 died.

In the attack on the Federal Government College in the town of Buni Yadi in Yobe state, explosives were thrown into accommodation and rooms sprayed with gunfire. The attackers reportedly hurled explosives into student residential buildings, sprayed gunfire into rooms and hacked a number students to death. 


The Nigerian Politicians who buy voters’ cards from unsuspecting members of the public would not be able to use them in the 2015 general elections, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Professor Attahiru Jega has said.

Jega said this is because plans have been concluded to issue all duly registered voters with chip-based permanent Voter Cards swiped with card readers to ensure 100 percent authentication and verification of voters.

Parliament votes to drag Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich before ICC

Ukraine’s parliament approved a measure on Tuesday to send deposed president Viktor Yanukovich to the International Criminal Court for trial as political uncertainty continued to reign over the country.

A resolution overwhelmingly supported by the lawmakers said Yanukovichshould face charges linked to the death of dozens of civilians during the past week of unrest in the deeply divided nation.
The text said the fugitive president was responsible for “issuing and carrying out openly criminal orders,” including the summary detention and torture of protesters.
Volunteers in Yanukovich’s abandoned residence in Kiev were also working to preserve and recover hundreds of paper documents they say prove he was at the head of widespread corruption.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Boko Haram:Hundreds flee north Nigeria town fearing attack

Residents of a northeast Nigerian town said Saturday hundreds of them have fled their homes for fear of attacks by Boko Haram militants who killed 43 people this week in a nearby village.
About 400 men fled Bama on Friday to Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, 35 kilometres away following warnings from residents of Gombale village, where Boko Haram Islamists gathered for a planned attack on Bama, Usman Adam, one of the fleeing residents said.
"All able-bodied men, around 400 in all, have fled to Maiduguri after we received warning from Gombale residents across the river that Boko Haram were converging in the town for an impending attack on Bama," Adam told AFP.

BEHOLD! Eagles' Kits for 2014 World Cup

  Todos Sobre Camisetas are just amazing with locating new strips. Yet again the Uruguayan website have come up with the goods, perhaps they infiltrated the Adidas factory?!
And, today have revealed both Nigeria kits for the 2014 World Cup.
Its pretty standard fare for the Super Eagles – the home kit is particularly classy!

Mob Attacks More Than a Dozen Gay Activist in Abuja

A mob attacked gay people in a neighborhood in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, dragging young men from their homes, beating them with nail-studded clubs and whips, and shouting that they were “cleansing the community” of gays, several Nigerian activists and a witness said Saturday.

The attack took place late Wednesday night in the Gishiri neighborhood, and one victim was beaten nearly to death, the witness said. Afterward, the mob of about 50 young men dragged four of the victims to a nearby police station, where the police further beat and insulted them, said the witness, who gave his name as John. His last name is being withheld for his safety.

The attack came in the wake of a new law signed by President Goodluck Jonathan prescribing prison sentences of up to 14 years for gay people. There have been recent episodes of similar mob violence in the Muslim-dominated north of Nigeria.

In Abuja, the witness and the activists said, some in the mob were shouting, “We are working for Jonathan!”

About 14 young men were assaulted, the activists said, and no members of the mob were arrested.

“They all had weapons,” John said. “Some were having wires, whips. Some had broken furniture. They said they wanted to kill. They were moving around from one person’s house to another.”

John said he was cowering in his apartment, extinguishing his candle and hiding as the mob tried to break down his door.

“I heard them beating one guy up,” he said. “The guy was pleading with them and begging them. They beat until he could not fight back.”

The violence continued at the police station. “The police were calling them names, saying, ‘You guys are the ones spreading H.I.V.,’ ” John said. “They were slapping them and beating them.”

When the attack was over, the attackers wrote on the walls of the houses that were stormed, “Homosexuals, pack and leave,” according to an activist, Ifeanyi Kelly Orazulike, who went to help rescue some of the victims.
Activists said the mob violence was a sign that the new law appeared to have given mobs license to act on widespread antigay sentiment in Nigeria.

“The government has given a go-ahead authority to mob jungle justice,” said Mr. Orazulike of the International Center for Advocacy on the Right to Health. “This is unacceptable. You can’t attack people violently because of whom they choose to love.”

Another activist, Dorothy Aken’Ova, accused the government of tacit complicity. “The leaders are just watching, and now the Nigerian social fabric is being disintegrated by acts of mob violence,” she said. “Now we have this new category as a result of the new law. And the government is quiet.”

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Boko Haram: Borno needs more troops - Shettima

The governor of the north-eastern Nigerian state of Borno has called for more troops to be deployed to combat Boko Haram Islamist militants.
Kashim Shettima was speaking during a visit to the town of Konduga, where 39 died in an attack on Tuesday.
A mosque and more than 1,000 homes were also razed to the ground, residents said.
Boko Haram has been conducting a four-year campaign of violence to push for Islamic rule in northern Nigeria.
Last May, President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in Borno and the neighbouring states of Adamawa and Yobe in a bid to stop their insurgency.
But  military is once again facing criticism for not doing more to protect the people of the north-east and failing to detect and attack another convoy of Boko Haram militants.
'Better motivated'
An eyewitness in Konduga, about 35km (22 miles) from the Borno state capital Maiduguri, said the militants arrived in many vehicles, planted a black flag in the middle of the town before going on the rampage shooting people, slitting the throats of some of their victims and torching buildings.
"Frankly speaking officers and men of the Nigerian army and the Nigerian police force are doing their best given the circumstances but you and I know that Boko Haram are better armed and better motivated," Mr Shettima said.
"They are putting in their best given the circumstances they have found themselves in but there is a need for additional troops and support for the military," the governor said.
It is not clear how many troops are in the region, but thousands more were deployed last year when Mr Jonathan imposed emergency rule, saying every resource of the armed forces would be used to combat the militants.
Frustrated by their efforts, the president then replaced his top military brass on 16 January.
The attack on Konduga is thought to have been the biggest in the restive region since those new appointments.

Italian PM to tender resignation on Friday

Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta has said he will resign on Friday after his Democratic Party backed a call for a new administration.
Party leader Matteo Renzi had earlier called for a change of government at a party meeting, saying the country could not go on in "uncertainty".
Speculation has been rife that Mr Renzi wants to take over as prime minister.
He is eight years younger than Mr Letta and was elected leader of the party in December.
Mr Letta said in a statement that his decision followed "the decision taken today by the national leadership of the Democratic Party".
He said he would formally submit his resignation to President Giorgio Napolitano at the presidential palace on Friday.
Relations between Mr Letta and Mr Renzi had become increasingly fraught, the BBC's Alan Johnston reports from Rome.
The Democratic Party now hopes that Mr Renzi will be able to replace him, and form a new administration, our correspondent adds.
Mr Renzi has previously accused Mr Letta of a lack of action on improving the economy, with unemployment at its highest level in 40 years and the economy shrinking by 9% in seven years.
Correspondents say that although the prime minister has kept a careful lid on public expenditure, he has not been able to carry out much-needed administrative reforms and stimulate economic growth.
The latest political turmoil has so far had little impact on financial markets, in contrast with the volatility seen before the current coalition was formed.

Mr Letta did not attend Thursday's party meeting, which had been brought forward from next week.
At the meeting, Mr Renzi thanked Mr Letta for his "remarkable work" but said the country could not go on in "uncertainty".
He said his proposal - a new government to take over until the end of the current parliamentary term in 2018 - was a way out of the "morass".
Mr Letta, 47, formed a coalition with the centre-right last year but there had been mounting speculation over his future after Mr Renzi was elected party leader in December.
After Mr Letta announced his intention to resign, Angelino Alfano, leader of a centre-right faction that has been part of Mr Letta's government, gave a guarded welcome to Mr Renzi's plans.
There was no guarantee that an attempt to form a new government under Mr Renzi would work, Mr Alfano said, saying he would not support a new administration whose policies were too left-wing.

Captain Yobo recalled to Eagles' camp for Mexico international friendly

Super Eagles' Coach recalled Norwich City's Joseph Yobo to their squad for a friendly with Mexico in USA on 5 March.
The 33-year-old has not played for Nigeria since they won the Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa last year.
Yobo is Nigeria's most-capped player with 93 and has been given a chance to earn a place at June's World Cup.
"I've always said Yobo is my captain and he'd be recalled when needed so people shouldn't be surprised," coach Stephen Keshi told BBC Sport.
As expected uncapped trio Imoh Ezekiel, Ramon Azeez and Michael Uchebo are in the squad too.
Continue reading the main story
The Technical and Development Committee would want to restate its stand that at no time did it contemplate, approve or recommend for the appointment of any foreign technical assistant to head coach of the Super Eagles, Stephen Keshi
NFF statement
But there is no place in the squad for regular quintet Sunday Mba, Brown Ideye, John Ogu, Nnamdi Oduamadi and Chigozie Agbim.
In-form Villarreal striker Ikechukwu Uche and Stoke City's Peter Odemwingie have also been overlooked for the game in the United States.
It will be the second time in 10 months that the sides have met in a friendly in the US - they played out a 2-2 draw in Houston on 31 May.
"This friendly against Mexico will give us [coaches] a chance to look at some new players before our final World Cup camp," Keshi continued.
"We are hoping to give everyone a chance to show what they can add to the team.
"It is important to emphasis that the Super Eagles door is not completely closed on anyone."
Nigeria face Argentina, Iran and Bosnia-Herzegovina in Group F at the 2014 World Cup, while Mexico play in Group A against hosts and five-time winners Brazil, Croatia and Cameroon.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Football Federation [NFF] has denied media reports and speculation that they want to hire a foreign assistant for coach Stephen Keshi.
Local media reports have been suggesting the NFF have finalised plans to bring in a foreigner ahead of the World Cup in Brazil but the football authority issued a statement denying the rumour.
"The Technical and Development Committee would want to restate its stand that at no time did it contemplate, approve or recommend for the appointment of any foreign Technical Assistant to Head Coach of Super Eagles, Mr. Stephen Keshi," read a statement.
"Committee reiterates the fact that it has given, and will continue to give, its unflinching support to Mr. Keshi and the team to do Nigeria proud at the 20th FIFA World Cup finals, Brazil 2014."
Super Eagles to face Mexico in Atlanta:
Goalkeepers: Vincent Enyeama (Lille FC, France); Austin Ejide (Hapoel Be'er Sheva, Israel)
Defenders: Elderson Echiejile (AS Monaco, France); Efe Ambrose (Celtic, Scotland); Godfrey Oboabona (Rizespor, Turkey); Azubuike Egwuekwe (Warri Wolves); Kenneth Omeruo (Middlesbrough, England); Juwon Oshaniwa (Ashdod FC, Israel); Joseph Yobo (Norwich City, England); Kunle Odunlami (Sunshine Stars)
Midfielders: John Mikel Obi (Chelsea, England); Ramon Azeez (Almeria FC, Spain); Ogenyi Onazi (SS Lazio, Italy); Victor Moses (Liverpool, England); Shehu Abdullahi (Kano Pillars); Ejike Uzoenyi (Enugu Rangers)
Forwards: Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow, Russia); Shola Ameobi (Newcastle United, England); Emmanuel Emenike (Fenerbahce, Turkey); Obinna Nsofor (Chievo Verona, Italy); Bright Dike (Toronto FC, USA), Imoh Ezekiel (Standard Liege, Belgium); Michael Uchebo (Cercle Brugge, Belgium)

Four people injured in Oakland shooting

Four people are injured after a shooting on 37th Avenue and International Boulevard in Oakland.
The shooting happened about an hour ago and police were still on the scene late Wednesday night.
Two men and two women were shot.

It was learned one of the victim's injuries are life-threatening.

South Sudan's foreign minister vows accountability for all behind violence as New round of peace talks holds in Ethiopia

(APF)London - South Sudan's foreign minister warned on Wednesday that all those behind the recent violence would be held accountable, regardless of ethnic origin, as he announced the arrests of about 100 army officers from President Salva Kiir's Dinka ethnic group. "We will equally hold accountable those who got engaged in targeting, killing, trying to use the ethnic card, definitely within the organised forces," Barnaba Marial Benjamin told reporters during a visit to London.

"A good number of officers have been arrested - about 100 who were engaged in this - of the Dinka members within the army who targeted the Nuer community [of former vice-president Riek Machar]. They will be held accountable."

British Foreign Office minister Mark Simmonds, who met Benjamin earlier on Wednesday, welcomed this assurance and stressed the need for a "credible and independent process to provide accountability".

Thousands of people have been killed in South Sudan in the last two months in fighting pitting soldiers loyal to President Kiir against a loose coalition of army defectors and ethnic militia nominally led by Machar.

Many fear the conflict has slid out of the control of political leaders, with ethnic violence and revenge attacks between the Dinka people of Kiir and the Nuer of Machar, the country's two largest groups.

"There is a Dinka-Nuer ethnic sort of fight," Benjamin acknowledged, but said it was "in a limited zone, it is within the national army as well as the rebel army. It is not among the citizens".

New round of peace talks

He added: "We don't want these internal problems to look like what we see in our neighbours like Central Africa."

The minister said his government was "completely determined and committed" to the 23 January ceasefire, which has been repeatedly violated.

Benjamin said that four political prisoners held in Juba since mid-December, a source of contention between the two sides, would stay behind bars until the necessary "legal processes" were complete.

If they are found guilty, he said, "it will be up to the president becau

se our constitution gives the prerogative to the president where he can sometimes issue pardons".

At their meeting, Simmonds stressed that the new round of peace talks taking place in Ethiopia this week "must be inclusive, and have a role for those political leaders who were detained at the start of the conflict".

Responding to criticism about the presence of Ugandan troops in South Sudan, Benjamin explained they were there to drive out the Lord's Resistance Army guerrilla group.

"Ugandan forces will move out after we have completed the project, that is the elimination of the LRA in the region," he said.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Afghanistan President frees 65 inmates from Parwan prison over strong U.S. objections

Afghanistan released 65 accused militants from a former U.S. prison on Thursday despite protests from the American military, which says the men are Taliban fighters who will likely return to the battlefield to kill coalition and Afghan forces. 
The release had been ordered by President Hamid Karzai several weeks ago, after his government took over the prison from U.S. troops. 
The decision had prompted angry denunciations from Washington and strained relations between the two countries ahead of the year-end withdrawal of most international combat troops. U.S. forces in Afghanistan say the men have the blood of international and Afghan soldiers on their hands. 
The prisoners were freed just after 9 a.m. from the Parwan Detention Facility near Bagram Air Field, about 28 miles north of Kabul, prison chief Gen Faroq Barekzai Bagram told CBS News.
Maj. Nimatullah Khaki, a prison spokesperson, says they boarded a bus to leave the facility, laughing and smiling.
In a statement Thursday, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul called the release "deeply regrettable."
"Releasing these individuals is contrary to Afghanistan’s commitment in our 2012 Memorandum of Understanding to take all necessary steps to ensure that detainees do not pose a continuing threat to Afghanistan, the international community or the United States," the statement said.  
"The Afghan government bears responsibility for the results of its decision.  We urge it to make every effort to ensure that those released do not commit new acts of violence and terror, and to immediately bring to justice any who do so." 

The U.S. has argued for the detainees to face trial in Afghan courts - citing strong evidence against them, from DNA linking them to roadside bombs to explosive residue on their clothing - but Kabul has cited insufficient proof to hold them. 
Karzai has referred to the Parwan prison as a "Taliban-producing factory" where innocent Afghans are tortured into hating their country. 
The U.S. military late Wednesday night issued a strongly worded statement condemning the then-imminent release, which it said would include detainees directly linked to attacks that have killed or wounded 32 U.S. or coalition personnel and 23 Afghan security personnel or civilians. 
Among those who were expected to walk free Thursday morning were Mohammad Wali, who the U.S. military says is a suspected Taliban explosives expert who allegedly placed roadside bombs targeting Afghan and international forces. The military said Wali had been biometrically linked to two roadside explosions and had a latent fingerprint match on another improvised explosive device, as well as testing positive for explosives residue. 
Others in the group include Nek Mohammad - who the U.S. says was captured with extensive weapons, and a man identified as Ehsanullah, who is claimed to have been biometrically matched to a roadside bomb and who tested positive for explosives residue. 
The U.S. military had formally disputed the prisoners' release, but an Afghan review board had effectively overruled those challenges. 
The detainees' release has been in the works for weeks, and comes as Karzai's government has taken an increasingly hostile tone toward the U.S. ahead of the withdrawal of NATO combat troops at the end of 2014.

South African soldiers robbed in South Sudan

A group of South African soldiers was robbed in South Sudan during a peacekeeping mission, the SA Navy said on Thursday

"There was no loss of life, but some of their equipment was taken away from them," Captain Jaco Theunissen told Sapa.
He said the troops were on a convoy when they were ambushed on Saturday.
Theunissen was unable to say how many troops were there at the time, and what sort of equipment was stolen.
"We don't want to speculate. We are just waiting for more information from the investigation [team]."

Boko Haram Gunmen Kill 39, Burn 1,000 Homes, Schools, Clinics in Borno

No fewer than 39 persons have been buried amidst tears in Kondugu village of Borno State after gunmen believed to be Boko Haram insurgents attacked the community on Tuesday night and set ablaze over 1,000 homes, injuring several others, security and government officials said.
The attack, which occurred at about 6pm, was described as one of the worst, as the gunmen who rode into the village in military trucks and tanks, used sophisticated arms like rocket launchers and Improvised Explosive Devises that destroyed several schools, clinics and shops.
Residents said the soldiers didnot act well during the attack, even as some said the air force jet that came hovering over the village, dropping some bombs only came about three hours into the attack, and did not make any impact as the attackers mobilised and fled in their trucks.
Borno State governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, who wept profusely as he visited the villages as some of the burnt structures were still smoking, said the gunmen were about 400 in number and destroyed over 70 percent of the town. He called for "additional troops, and additional support from the military."
Shettima immediately directed the commissioner for local government and chieftaincy affairs to effect the release of N100 million for the immediate renovation and rebuilding of the burnt homes, schools, clinics, and other worship places, and said he would in the next three days relocate his office to Konduga, irrespective of any security challenges.
A village provisions seller, Mustapha Umar, told LEADERSHIP's reporter who was also in Konduga, that the attackers stormed the village from all directions.
"We had to flee for our dear lives; even the few soldiers in town could not stand them because their guns were mounted on vehicles while some threw explosives that brought down the Central mosque, Konduga, the maternity clinic, the District Head's palace and several other places. More than 50 people were injured and taken to the hospital, while we are now preparing to bury 39 of our people that died. We don't know how many would be found in the bushes later," said Umar.
Governor Shettima, who walked for three hours all over the charred villages, consoling the old and young villagers that sat helplessly outside their burnt homes,described the attack as wicked and ungodly.
He said: "We will never give in to the antics of the Boko Haram; this is our land; we will stay here and salvage it together. We will never be frustrated. Look at what these lunatics did; they burnt down mosques; churches, they burnt hapless people's homes and so on."

US Ambassador Nancy Powell meets India's Narendra Modi

US Ambassador to India Nancy Powell has held talks with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi marking an end to a decade-long US boycott of the controversial leader.
 Mr Modi is the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party's candidate for PM in the forthcoming elections.He was criticised for doing little to prevent religious riots in Gujarat in 2002 in which more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, died.

Mr Modi has always denied wrongdoing. 
Riots erupted after 60 Hindu pilgrims died in a train fire which Muslims were blamed for igniting.
Many Western governments broke off contact with Mr Modi's government after the riots. The US continues to refuse him permission to enter the country.
Correspondents say Thursday's meeting is an attempt by the US to build bridges with Mr Modi, whose Hindu nationalist BJP is widely expected to win the elections due by May.
On Thursday morning, Ms Powell shook hands with Mr Modi at his residence in Gujarat's capital Gandhinagar, before going in for closed-door talks, the Associated Press news agency reported.
Ms Powell and her entourage arrived in four official cars, but she did not speak to waiting reporters.
The US Embassy in a statement said that the "meeting was part of the US Mission's outreach to senior leaders of India's major political parties in advance of the upcoming national elections".
The statement said Ms Powell would also meet "representatives from non-governmental organisations and US and Indian businesses" in Gujarat.
"Her discussions focus on the importance of the US-India relationship, regional security issues, human rights, and American trade and investment in India," the statement said.
Under Mr Modi's leadership, Gujarat has been turned into one of India's economic powerhouses.
But he continues to be seen as a divisive figure and has not expressed remorse or offered an apology for the 2002 violence.

Severe Flood alerts and warnings in place as UK hit by storms

There are currently 16 severe flood warnings in place, 134 flood warnings and 276 flood alerts, as the UK is battered by high winds and heavy rains.

Berlin festival to honor anti-Israel filmmaker

 BERLIN – A film director who backs boycotting Israeli artists is to receive the highest honorary award at the International Film Festival in Berlin

Jewish leaders in Germany have reacted with dismay to the decision to award an honorary Golden Bear to Ken Loach, British director of such films as “My Name Is Joe” (1998) and “Bread And Roses” (2000). He is set to receive the award on Thursday.

“Ken Loach uses his prominence to call for a cultural boycott of Israel, singling out the only democracy in the Middle East where there is complete freedom of expression. It is a disgrace that a prominent German film festival panders to a film producer who has distinguished himself through bigotry and the denial of the right to existence of Israel,” Deidre Berger, head of the Berlin office of the American Jewish Committees, said. ”It is not possible to judge his work on the basis of art alone, as he himself judges the work of others solely on the basis of nationality.”
Festival director Dieter Kosslick said in a statement on the festival’s website that he admires Loach for his “profound interest in people and their individual fates, as well as his critical commitment to society.”
According to the online magazine Haolam.de, Loach called for a boycott of the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 2009 after he learned that Israeli filmmaker Tali Shalom Ezer had been invited, and that the Israeli government had helped finance her trip. Also in 2009, he canceled plans to attend the Melbourne International Film Festival after learning that the Israeli government had paid for the flight of animation artist Tatia Rosenthal.
In a recent interview with Berlin’s Tagesspiegel newspaper, Loach was asked why he supported boycotting Israel. He responded that “Israel presents itself as a western democracy… and at the same time breaks international agreements, fails to uphold the Geneva Convention, takes land to which it has no right, throws children in prison and lies to the world about its nuclear weapons.”
Loach said he supported an academic and cultural boycott because “it’s the only thing we can do” to accomplish what “neither the UN nor Obama has managed to do,” to get Israel to give up what he called occupied land.
He said that he had refused to go to the Tehran Film Festival out of respect for opponents of that regime.
This year’s Berlin Film Festival includes fewer films from Israel than in recent years.