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.
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.
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.
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Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), despite previously calling for the law to be revised, and ultimately repealed.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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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. ...
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."
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.
“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.”