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12-18 February 2018 - 16-min

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10 12 - 18 February, 2018 Africa News Olympic Games in Africa? A door long shut could be opening O ther than Antarctica, only one continent on the planet has never hosted an Olympic Games: Africa. Finally, though, that could be about to change. But there’ll be a step to take before that happens: hosting the much smaller Youth Olympic Games in 2022. IOC President Thomas Bach says a “mini-Olympic event” will be held on the continent, though a specific country has not been selected. The move could signal the possibility of an eventual Olympics in Africa. Tempering the IOC’s optimism, though, is the reality that the continent’s not quite ready. “This was exactly one of the reasons why we initiated this project with the Youth Olympic Games,” Bach told reporters. “We did not want Africa to have to wait. This, we hope, can inspire one of the other African countries to come up with a feasible candidate for 2032 or 2036.” Eight African countries will field a handful of athletes this month at the Winter Games in Pyeongchang. They include Nigeria, which has drawn international attention with its trio of women bobsledders — the continent’s first team in the sport. More than 50 African countries are IOC members, and African athletes won 45 medals at the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 in the biggest haul yet for the continent. Yet Africa has never hosted a Games. Europe has hosted 30, North America 12 and Asia seven with two more on the horizon: the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo and the next Winter Games in Beijing in 2022. The first hurdle may be money. Just last year, Durban, South Africa — with the continent’s most developed economy and host of the 2010 World Cup — was stripped of the 2022 Commonwealth Games after its scaleddown budget was rejected. At a meeting of the IOC’s roughly 100 members, Gambian member Beatrice Allen made the case for neighboring Senegal and the Youth Olympics. IOC officials have already visited Senegal, making the West African nation the frontrunner. “Senegal is a highly sophisticated country,” Allen said. “I am sure they can do it. They have a rich culture, and we will all be proud as members of the Olympic movement if these games are given to Senegal.” Kenyan member Paul Tergat concurred. “We have been waiting for this,” he said. “The members of the IOC from Africa, we want to make sure that this can become a reality.” Talk of an African Olympics has been circulating for nearly a decade. But the Games are a far larger and more diverse undertaking than the World Cup, which was held in South Africa in 2010. Olympics require more infrastructure and coordination between dozens of sports federations and national Olympic committees. The World Cup involves only soccer and preparing eight to 12 stadiums. The high-priced Olympics are a deterrent for wealthy nations, let alone developing ones. Sochi is reported to have spent $50 billion to organize the 2014 Winter Olympics, and Beijing spent over $40 billon for the 2008 Summer Games. In addition, the majority of sports on an Olympic program are low-profile in Africa, meaning there is no regional fan base and few facilities. In South Africa’s doomed Commonwealth Games hosting bid, for example, local organizers said they wouldn’t build a cycling velodrome because they didn’t have the money and it wouldn’t be used after the Games. That was a big deal for Commonwealth Games officials, who faced having cycling cut from the program. Like Asia and, most recently, South America, Africa could benefit from showcasing its progress in the spotlight of the international stage the Olympics provides. For some, Africa is overdue, “a continent that has been for so long on the margin of our Olympic movement,” said Moroccan IOC member Nawal El Moutawakel. With Olympics organizers eager to welcome them into the fold, Africa could change its status from competitor to host within a generation. At the IOC meeting ,after delegates from Nigeria and Ethiopia weighed in, the chorus of support prompted Bach to ask the full body if an event in Africa had its backing. The room responded with applause. Replied Bach: “Congratulations, Africa. It’s your time.” Credit : Associated Press (AP) Photo Credit : AP Photo P NEW DELHI TIMES Zimbabwe’s top opposition party hurt by power struggles ower struggles are ravaging Zimbabwe’s main opposition party months before the election as party leader Morgan Tsvangirai seeks cancer treatment in neighboring South Africa. Three deputies are vying to act as MDC-T party leader in Tsvangirai’s absence. Spokesman Luke Tamborinyoka tells reporters that Tsvangirai remains unwell but will return to the country “soon.” The spokesman described those interested in succeeding him as “political vultures.” The 65-year-old Tsvangirai has dominated opposition politics for close to two decades as the leading voice against former President Robert Mugabe, who resigned under pressure in November. The upcoming election will be the first without Mugabe, who led the southern African country for 37 years. The opposition is scrambling to counter new President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a longtime Mugabe ally who has vowed that the election will be free and fair as he seeks to re-engage the international community after years of sanctions over alleged human rights abuses. Tamborinyoka announced that Tsvangirai had appointed deputy Nelson Chamisa to act as party leader until his return. But other party members are disputing that, saying deputy Elias Mudzuri, who was acting leader before the announcement, or deputy Thokozani Khupe is acting leader or rightful heir. Tamborinyoka described the disputes as “needless furore.” An opposition alliance has endorsed Tsvangirai as its presidential candidate. But his condition appeared to have deteriorated when he met Mnangagwa in January. The opposition infighting could come as a gift to Mnangagwa as he seeks to stay in power. Credit : Associated Press (AP) Photo Credit : AP Photo China, African Union deny report bloc’s building was bugged C hinese and African officials denounced a report alleging Chinese construction workers bugged the African Union headquarters, suggesting it was a ploy to destabilize relations. African Union chairman Moussa Faki told reporters in Beijing he didn’t believe China would spy on the bloc’s headquarters in Addis Ababa. The allegations are “all lies,” Faki said after meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. “No maneuvers could distract and divert us from our mission” of strengthening relations with China, said Faki, who, flanked by Wang, announced the African Union would open a new office in Beijing later this year. The office is to receive Chinese government support, but it wasn’t clear who would fund its operations. Wang noted that the bugging allegation surfaced in Western media and said “attempts to divide China and Africa will not succeed.” “Some people, some powers don’t want to help Africa’s development,” Wang said, adding that China was a “selflessly” helping Africa’s growth while other countries have their own agendas. French newspaper Le Monde reported last month that China bugged the $200 million facility it funded and built in Ethiopia’s capital in 2012. The report cited unnamed African Union officials. Photo Credit : AP Photo affairs. China has poured investments into Africa in the past decade, including a commitment to offer $60 billion in loans and export credits made by President Xi Jinping in late 2015. Some Western institutions and analysts have questioned whether China-funded projects have been tainted by corruption or handed Beijing undue influence over the continent’s The quality and necessity of some projects has also been questioned, with African countries often saddled with massive debts that they can only repay by handing over assets such as oil reserves. Credit : Associated Press (AP) India’s only International Newspaper

12 - 18 February, 2018 11 North America News India’s only International Newspaper NEW DELHI TIMES Puerto Ricans grab machetes, shovels to help I t took only minutes for Hurricane Maria to kill power to the Puerto Rican town of Coamo, cracking wooden poles, snapping power lines and hurling transformers to the ground. For months, residents begged Puerto Rico’s power company and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to bring back their electricity, with few results. So the people of this town of 40,000 high in the mountains of southern Puerto Rico have started restoring power on their own, pulling power lines from undergrowth and digging holes for wooden posts in a do-it-yourself effort to solve a small part of the United States’ longest-running power outage. “If we don’t do this, we’ll be without power until summer,” said Vice Mayor Edgardo Vazquez, who is using hand-drawn maps to organize a brigade that includes teachers, handymen, a postal worker and an accountant, backed by municipal workers with professional equipment, tools and experience in light electrical work. Puerto Rico’s power company and the Corps of Engineers have thousands of workers and managers from mainland public utilities and private companies working across the island to restore power. The federally funded multibillion-dollar effort has been slowed by rough terrain, slow arrival of supplies and delays in asking for help from power companies on the U.S. mainland after the Sept. 20 Category 4 storm. More than 400,000 power customers across Puerto Rico remain in the dark. In Coamo, frustrated by months of heat and darkness, 60-year-old homemaker Carmita Rivera called a meeting at her home in mid- January to try to find local solutions to the problem. “Desperation set in,” Rivera said. “We all felt like: ‘What about us? We’re human beings. Enough is enough.’” restore power Fifty people showed up and swiftly went to work. In late January, a group of neighbors laid a 300-pound wooden electric post atop two logs and tipped it into a freshly dug fivefoot hole. They hooted as one man hit his pickup truck’s accelerator and dragged the pole alongside the hole. The group then used a neighbor’s tow truck to guide the 35-foot pole into the hole. “We did it!” one man shouted, shaking his fist. By law, only the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, or PREPA, has authority to work on the island’s power grid. Coamo’s vice mayor says a regional PREPA director authorized his public works department and volunteers to work on the town’s lowervoltage distribution system, providing them materials or re-using cables that weren’t Photo Credit : AP Photo damaged in the storm. A power company official comes by afterward to ensure the work is properly done. The higher-voltage lines that bring power to the town itself remain off limits to all but PREPA workers and authorized contractors. No deaths or serious injuries have been reported, but Sue Kelly, president and CEO of the American Public Power Association, said having so many people working Mexico central bank raises key interest rate to 7.5 percent M exico’s central bank has decided to raise its key interbank interest rate from 7.25 percent to 7.5 percent, citing expectations of a U.S. rate increase in March and continued volatility in exchange rates for the Mexican peso. The Bank of Mexico said that inflation in 2017 ran at 6.77 percent, but dropped a bit to 5.55 percent on an annual basis in January. The bank said it expects inflation will continue to decline throughout 2018, and reach the target of 3 percent by the first quarter of 2019. The peso dropped almost 1 percent in value against the U.S. dollar, closing at 18.86 to $1 before the announcement was made. Credit : Associated Press (AP) to restore power is understandable but worrying. “The biggest issue is safety,” she said. “We are making good progress. ... But uncoordinated efforts can result in death.” In the western mountain town of San Sebastian, a group of municipal workers, retired company workers and volunteers have restored power to nearly 2,000 homes despite objections from the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, whose officials have filed complaints with police and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Power company spokesman Geraldo Quinones declined to comment on the community efforts, saying only that municipalities can help out by clearing roads and debris, identifying places without power and delivering materials in hard-to-reach areas. But as the number of mayors complaining about slow power restoration has grown, the administration of Gov. Ricardo Rossello allowed municipalities to sign an agreement with the power company to take over repairs if interested and relieve the agency of any responsibility. Only about a dozen communities have done that so far. In Coamo, the vice mayor, relies on residents to tell him where damaged cables and posts are located, and uses hand-drawn maps to show homes that have power or need it. Vazquez sends pictures and updates daily to power company officials so they know what is being done. On Jan. 30, he and his crew were able to restore power to at least three homes in Coamo, including that of 78-year-old Antonia Pagan, who hugged the workers and cried. The first thing she did after getting her electricity back was to use a blender to A make a smoothie for her son with apples, strawberries, bananas and grapes. “I was in agony,” Pagan said, adding that she lost most of her fingernails while washing clothes in the same river her mother once used before the town got power. Pagan, who lost her right eye to glaucoma, said the best part of having electricity is no longer bumping into things in the dark. Hundreds of others who live around her, however, remain in the dark, including Felipe Rodriguez, a 53-year-old retired carpenter who also has no water and yet receives bills for services he is not getting. “I’m tired of this,” he said. “I wake up every single morning and it’s the same thing over and over.” That hasn’t stopped him from helping others get power. He recently used his beat-up 1986 pickup truck to move a 300-pound wooden post up a steep hill and then balanced himself on the corner of a roof to help guide it into a previously dug hole on a hill. As he and others struggled with the pole, they yelled instructions at one another: “Don’t hit the window! Turn it around! Wrap the rope around it twice, not once!” They finally installed the post, one of more than 60 erected so far in Coamo by volunteers and municipal workers. An estimated 30 percent of people in the town still don’t have power. It’s disheartening for neighbor Oscar Rodriguez, who asked that power company officials finish the job he and his neighbors started. “Sometimes we get depressed since it seems to have fallen on deaf ears because we’re not seeing any movement,” he said. “We put everything on a silver platter for them.” Credit : Associated Press (AP) Man shot dead at protest over Honduras’ disputed election man has been shot dead at a protest over Honduras’ disputed presidential election a week after President Juan Orlando Hernandez was sworn in for a new term. Hugo Maldonado is coordinator of the Committee on Human Rights. He identifies the victim as 40-year-old Guadalupe Ismael Hernandez. Maldonado says witnesses reported Hernandez was killed as military police fired live rounds to clear demonstrators from a highway near the country’s Caribbean coast. Police spokesman Jair Meza says the incident is under investigation. The protest lasted some four hours on the road between Choloma and San Pedro Sula, Honduras’ second-largest city. Opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla alleges there was fraud in the Nov. 26 election, which was marred by numerous irregularities. At least 31 people have died in political unrest since then. Credit : Associated Press (AP)

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