Political News from Yahoo

DR Congo opposition leader jailed

A senior opposition lawmaker in the Democratic Republic of Congo was sentenced Thursday to one year in prison for insulting the country's president and government, one of his lawyers said. "The Supreme court Thursday evening sentenced Jean-Bertrand Ewanga to one year in person for offending the head of state, members of the government and parliament," said Richard Mpinda, who called the trial "a parody of justice". Ewanga, the general secretary of the Union for the Congolese Nation (UNC) party, was arrested on August 5 at his home in Kinshasa, a day after a rally to oppose any extension of presidential terms. Thousands of people had demonstrated in the capital to protest over suspicions that the rulers of the vast central African country intend to amend the constitution and enable President Joseph Kabila to stay in power beyond 2016, when he is due to step down after two five-year elected terms.

Washington lawmakers held in contempt on education

SEATTLE (AP) — The Washington Supreme Court issued a decision Thursday holding the Legislature in contempt for its lack of progress on fixing the way the state pays for public education but withheld possible punishment until after the 2015 session.

US force sent to Central African Republic

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama has dispatched 20 U.S. military personnel to the Central African Republic to help reopen the American Embassy there.

Eying Scotland, Spain Catalans seek secession vote

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Hundreds of thousands of Catalans energized by Scotland's upcoming independence referendum protested Thursday for a secession vote aimed at carving out a new Mediterranean nation in what is now northeastern Spain.

Biden returning to key presidential state of Iowa

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden is returning to the key presidential state of Iowa next week, reminding voters not to count him out of the next presidential campaign.

Tensions spiral over Russian gas amid Ukraine crisis

Poland on Thursday accused Russia's Gazprom of slashing gas deliveries by half, which analysts said was likely aimed at sending a message to the EU amid tensions over the Ukraine conflict. Separately, Slovakia reported a 10 percent drop in supplies, while Austria reported a 15 percent fall off. Analysts also saw the cuts to Poland as the Kremlin's way of upping the pressure ahead of key talks on resuming Russian deliveries to war-torn former Soviet Ukraine.

Petrobras scandal clouds Brazil presidential vote

A multi-billion dollar kickback scandal at Brazilian oil giant Petrobras, the country's state-owned industrial jewel, could affect the outcome of next month's presidential election. Now, scandal threatens not just to hurt the company but to affect the October 5 election pitting incumbent president and former Petrobras board chair Dilma Rousseff against ecologist Marina Silva. Paulo Roberto Costa, who headed Petrobras' refining and supply unit between 2004 and 2012, has accused more than 50 politicians, mainly from Rousseff's ruling Workers Party (PT) of taking kickbacks. Former Socialist Party candidate Eduardo Campos, was was killed in an August 13 air crash and replaced on the ticket by his running mate Silva, was also mentioned in the allegations.

White House insists Obama authorized to strike IS

The White House insisted Thursday that President Barack Obama was authorized to strike the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria under a law passed by Congress after the September 11 attacks in 2001. Obama believes he can act under the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), despite previously calling for the law to be revised, and ultimately repealed. "It is the view of this administration that the 2001 AUMF continues to apply," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest, on the somber anniversary of the attacks on New York and Washington.

Ball in politicians' court after ECB rate cut: Draghi

Eurozone governments must get their economies in order if the euro area is to recover from its long crisis, European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi said on Thursday. Following the surprise ECB rate cut last week and the announcement of additional measures to ease monetary conditions in the 18 countries that share the euro, the onus was now on politicians, Draghi told a financial forum in Milan. A copy of his speech was made available by the ECB in Frankfurt. A week ago, the ECB's decision-making governing council voted to cut the bank's key interest rates to new all-time lows to prevent the rot of deflation setting in the faltering eurozone economy.

Fire guts Zimbabwe vice president's farmhouse -- again

A fire on Thursday destroyed a farmhouse belonging to Zimbabwean Vice President Joice Mujuru, whose husband was killed in an inferno on a different farm three years ago. "In a bid to kill the snake, he lit some fire which then got out of control," police spokeswoman Charity Charamba said in a statement. Mujuru, whose husband was Zimbabwe's first post-independence army chief, was not at the farm at the time of the blaze. Her late husband, former army chief Solomon Mujuru, died in a mysterious fire in 2011 at another farmhouse, south of the capital Harare.

US war planes to fly from Iraqi air base: Pentagon

US combat aircraft will soon start flying out of a base in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq as part of a "more aggressive" air campaign against Islamic State jihadists, the Pentagon said Thursday. The use of Arbil air base reflects the broadening US offensive against the IS militants, though attack helicopters already have been flying out of bases in Iraq. Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby confirmed "armed and manned" US aircraft would fly from Arbil, capital of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, but declined to provide more details. American fighter jets and other war planes bombing IS militants in Iraq previously have been flying out of bases and from aircraft carriers in the region outside Iraq.

ICC issues warrant for Darfur rebel leader's arrest

The International Criminal Court on Thursday issued an arrest warrant against Darfur rebel leader Abdallah Banda, saying it was "unlikely" that he would voluntarily attend his war crimes trial, which was postponed indefinitely. Banda faces three war crimes charges for his alleged role in an attack on African Union peacekeepers in September 2007 in northern Darfur. Judges on Thursday said they have had no cooperation from Sudan after asking Khartoum in July to send Banda to the Netherlands for trial.

Mississippi election winner to be chosen at random after tied race

(Reuters) - The election for alderman of a southern Mississippi city ended in a tie, with the winner to be chosen at random, likely by a coin toss or drawing straws, the city's mayor said Thursday. The special election for one of five alderman seats in Poplarville, with a population of about 2,800, ended in a 177-177 tie after one voter who showed up on Tuesday without photo ID, which is required under state law, later produced identification, said Glenn Bolin, one of the candidates. Bolin and his opponent, Stephanie Bounds, a nurse, were not told which candidate the key voter supported, he said. "Now we've got to do what the law says as far as settling this." The tie-breaker, to be overseen by the local election commission, is set to take place Thursday evening, Poplarville Mayor Brad Necaise said.

Swedish far-right set for gains as election looms

Surrounded by drab high-rise buildings in a Stockholm suburb, dressed in an impeccable dark suit, Jimmie Aakesson struggles to make himself heard over the shouts of protesters echoing off grey stone walls. The leader of the Sweden Democrats has been the driving force that has transformed the party from its far-right roots into a signficant political force fed by disaffection with immigration.

Indicted South Carolina House speaker suspends himself from office

South Carolina House Speaker Bobby Harrell suspended himself from the state legislature on Thursday, a day after he was indicted on nine criminal charges related to misuse of campaign money and misconduct in office. Harrell, a Republican, said in a letter that he was taking the step proactively and, according to House rules, had asked the speaker pro tempore to take charge of the legislative body. ...

Mauritania moves its weekend

Nouakchott (AFP) - Mauritania says it is pushing back its weekend to start on Saturday -- instead of Friday -- in a bid to move into line with the rest of the world.

Kerry downplays talk of 'war' against IS

US Secretary of State John Kerry warned against "war fever" on Thursday and said the new American campaign against the so-called "Islamic State" should be understood as a counter-terrorism mission. Speaking the day after President Barack Obama announced a "relentless" campaign of air strikes against IS militants in Iraq and ultimately in Syria, Kerry declined to call the operation a war. "If somebody wants to think about it as being a war with ISIL, they can do so, but the fact is it's a major counter-terrorism operation that will have many different moving parts." Separately, CBS reporter Margaret Brennan tweeted that Kerry had told her: "I don’t think people need to get into war fever on this."

Cash-strapped Zimbabwe to tax mobile phones

Zimbabwe's finance minister on Thursday announced a raft of tax hikes, including on mobile phones, in a bid to boost dwindling government revenue as economic growth stalls. Harare is facing a revenue crisis so severe it has been forced to stagger civil servants' pay days as businesses have closed, foreign investment has slumped and imports have risen. Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa cut his output for economic growth to 3.1 percent this year, from a previous forecast of 6.1 percent, "in view of under-performance in manufacturing". To boost government coffers, Chinamasa announced a five percent increase in mobile phone airtime and a 25 percent import duty on mobile phone handsets.

Portman calls for congressional vote on Syrian airstrikes

“I don’t consider it a new war. I consider it a continuation of something that began 13 years ago [with the Sept. 11 attacks],” Portman said of the president’s open-ended plan for war against the Islamic State. “The president may try to wish it away but this threat continues.” Portman also blamed the worsening situation in Iraq and Syria on the president’s decision to withdraw troops from Iraq. “The vacuum that was left by the way in which we chose to leave Iraq is much of the problem with the current situation,” Portman said. “The president also made it clear that we have not had the kind of leadership that is necessary to deal with this threat.”