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Daily Archives: February 10, 2017
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Sudan temples shed light on ‘secrets of Africa’
Swiss archaeologist Charles Bonnet and his team have unearthed three temples in Sudan that could help unlock some of the secrets of ancient Africa, a subject that has long challenged researchers of the ancient world.
Bonnet, 83, considered one of the world’s leading experts on Sudan’s archaeologicalheritage, says the sites are unlike anything discovered so far.
The round and oval shaped structures dating from 1,500 to 2,000 BC were found late last year not far from the famed archaeological site of Kerma in northern Sudan.
“This architecture is unknown … there is no example in central Africa or in the Nile Valley of this architecture,” Bonnet told the AFP news agency this week.
The temples were found at Dogi Gel, or “Red Hill”, located just several hundred metres from Kerma, where Bonnet and his team have been digging for decades.
“At Kerma the architecture is square or rectangular shaped… and here just a kilometre away we have round structures,” he explained.
“Nobody knows this architecture… It’s completely new,” Bonnet explained, adding that the new structures did not resemble Egyptian or Nubian architecture – two ancient archaeological influences in the region.
“There are no roots today in Africa and we have to find these roots… this is the secret of Africa.”
Years ago, Bonnet unearthed the seven “black pharaohs” granite statues of Sudan’s Nubian rulers near the banks of the Nile.
The ageing archeologist thereby helped prove that Sudan, with its wealth of ancient relics, was not merely a satellite of neighbouring Egypt.
During this latest dig, Bonnet said, he also discovered “enormous fortifications” at Dogi Gel, an indication that much more awaits to be discovered at the site.
“That means this part of the world was defended by a coalition, probably of the king of Kerma with people coming from Darfur and from central Sudan” against ancient Egyptians, who were interested in controlling trade and commerce in central Africa.
With more and more archaeologists expressing interest in north Sudan’s Nile Valley, where the Kushite kingdom flourished between present day Khartoum and the Egyptian border, Bonnet is convinced that many kingdoms still lay buried waiting to be discovered.
“We have here extraordinary history of the world, maybe after some years we will have Sudanology as strong as Egyptology,” he said.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
I saw this on the BBC and thought you should see it:
Shia LaBeouf’s anti-Trump exhibit shut down over violence – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-38937476
I saw this on the BBC and thought you should see it:
Mexico warns citizens in US after woman deported – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-38939472
French anti-terror arrests thwart ‘imminent attack’
Anti-terrorism forces arrested four people Friday in southern France, including a 16-year-old girl, and uncovered a makeshift laboratory with the explosive TATP and other ingredients for fabricating a bomb.
France’s top security official said the raid thwarted an “imminent attack.”
A police official said the teen had pledged loyalty to the Islamic State group in a recent video.
The prosecutor’s office said around 70 grams (2.5 ounces) of TATP were seized in the Montpellier-area home of a 20-year-old man, along with a liter each of acetone, oxygenated water and sulfuric acid. TATP, which can be made from readily available materials, was used in the deadly November 2015 attacks in Paris and the March 2016 attack in Brusselscarried out by Islamic State extremists.
Two other men were arrested, a 33-year-old and a 26-year-old, along with the teenage girl, according to the prosecutor’s office, which handles terrorism investigations in France.
The police official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the investigation, said one of the suspects was believed to be planning a suicide attack but that the investigation had not yet uncovered a specific target.
He said person in the group had tried to reach Syria in 2015 and was known to intelligence services. The group – notably the girl – attracted new attention with their social media postings, he said.
Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux said the arrests in three locations in the Montpellier area “thwarted an imminent attack on French soil.”
The country’s prime minister praised the work of anti-terror investigators.
“Faced with the heightened threat, there has been an extremely strong mobilization of our intelligence services to ensure the French are protected to the utmost,” said Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve.
France is still under a state of emergency after several deadly attacks in 2015 and 2016.
Trump loses bid to reinstate travel ban, vows to fight
A US court on Thursday slapped down Donald Trump’s effort to bar refugees and nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries from US soil, dealing the new president and his controversial law-and-order agenda a major defeat.
The ruling from the federal appeals court in San Francisco on Trump’s executive order, issued on January 27 with no prior warning and suspended a week later, capped a turbulent first three weeks of the Republican’s presidency.
“We hold that the government has not shown a likelihood of success on the merits of its appeal, nor has it shown that failure to enter a stay would cause irreparable injury,” the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously.
Trump’s decree summarily denied entry to all refugees for 120 days, and travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days. Refugees from Syria were blocked indefinitely.
The Republican leader was quick to react to the court’s decision, tweeting within minutes of its publication: “SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!”
Trump’s administration argued the ban was needed to keep out Islamic State and Al-Qaeda fighters migrating from Middle East hotspots, but it sparked travel chaos and was met with condemnation by immigration advocacy groups.
Critics say the measure targeted Muslims in violation of US law.
The court in San Francisco said aspects of the public interest favored both sides, highlighting the “massive attention” the case had drawn.
“On the one hand, the public has a powerful interest in national security and in the ability of an elected president to enact policies,” the ruling said.
“And on the other, the public also has an interest in free flow of travel, in avoiding separation of families, and in freedom from discrimination.”
While acknowledging that the Seattle judge’s ruling “may have been overbroad in some respects,” the three appellate judges said it was not their “role to try, in effect, to rewrite the executive order.”
“The government has pointed to no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States,” the court added.
Civil rights campaigners politicians and officials — including the National Iranian American Council, Washington Governor Jay Inslee, whose administration initially applied for the measure to be blocked, and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra — applauded the decision, vowing to fight on until the executive order was permanently dismantled.
“The government’s erratic and chaotic attempts to enforce this unconstitutional ban have taken a tremendous toll on innocent individuals, our country’s values and our standing in the world,” Omar Jadwat of the American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement.
The Republican leader had blasted the original suspension, labelling the Seattle federal judge who issued it as a “so-called judge” and branding the courts “disgraceful” and politicized.
Echoing Trump, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly — who is in charge of enforcing the immigration ban — has said the courts do not understand the threat the country faces.
“In their world it is very academic, almost in a vacuum. In their courtrooms, they are protected by people like me,” Kelly told lawmakers.
‘New era’ of justice
Earlier in the day, Trump defended his hardline policies as he declared a “new era of justice” in America and swore in his attorney general Jeff Sessions.
The property mogul-turned-president also signed three executive orders designed to burnish his law-and-order credentials.
The first created a task force on violent crime, the second is aimed at tackling crime directed at law enforcement officials and the last tasks officials with looking at how the United States tackles organized crime syndicates.
“We face the menace of rising crime and the threat of deadly terror,” said the Republican leader, doubling down on his dystopian vision of America.
“A new era of justice begins and it begins right now,” he said.
The rate of violent crime in America’s 30 largest cities rose slightly last year but remains near historic lows, according to the Brennan Center, an independent think tank.
Trump’s tough talk belies a political and legislative agenda that has been beset by missteps and legal challenges.
The blowback from Trump’s outbursts over the travel ban suspension showed no signs of abating, with his own Supreme Court nominee describing the president’s comments as “disheartening” and “demoralizing.”
Opposition Democrats echoed those criticisms, but suggested the nominee, Neil Gorsuch, was trying to smooth his nomination by appearing as an independent voice.
Though Trump’s message has been criticized by experts, it appears to be resonating with supporters.
The billionaire won the election last November with 46 percent of the popular vote, and the RealClearPolitics average of polls shows his job approval at about that level, with the split largely along Republican-Democratic lines.
Trump on Wednesday trumpeted a Morning Consult-Politico poll showing 55 percent voter approval for his immigration ban, with 38 percent disapproving.
Previous studies — which the president dismissed as “fake news” — had shown a majority of Americans opposing the measure.
Russia halts Assad’s army, rebels clash near Syrian town
Russia has intervened to halt a clash between Syrian government forces and Turkey-backed Syrian rebels near the strategic northern town of al-Bab, which both sides are hoping to capture from the Islamic State (IS) group.
Rebel officials said Thursday’s clash took place in a village southwest of al-Bab. An official in a military alliance fighting in support of the Syrian government, which is backed by Russia and Iran, confirmed the fighting had taken place.
“The Russians intervened to control the situation,” said the military source, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Two rebel officials accused the government forces of provoking the incident. One of them said the government forces had moved towards their positions in tanks.
“Rebels shot to warn them not to get any closer, but the tank responded and a clash erupted,” said the first rebel official.
“Later on Russia intervened to calm down the situation,” he added. “This whole incident felt like a test.”
A second rebel official, a commander in the al-Bab area, added: “They opened fire. Fire was returned.”
The clashes came as Russian air strikes accidentally killed three Turkish soldiers on Thursday in northern Syria. It was not immediately clear whether the confrontation described by the sources had taken place in the same area as the air strike.
The Kremlin said on Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin had called Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and expressed his condolences over the air strike, blaming the incident on poor coordination between Moscow and Ankara.
Geopolitical battle for al-Bab
The incident in al-Bab underlined the risk of the parallel offensives igniting new fighting between the Moscow-backed Syrian government and its rebel enemies, supported by Ankara.
Turkey and its rebel allies have carved out a de facto buffer zone in northern Syria in territory captured from the IS group since August in their “Euphrates Shield” operation.
They have been battling to capture al-Bab since December, hoping to prevent its capture by a third party in the conflict: Syrian Kurdish forces, who are allied with Kurdish insurgents in Turkey.
The Syrian army meanwhile mounted its own, rapid advance towards the city in the last few weeks, advancing to within a few kilometres of its southern outskirts.
Russia and Turkey have backed opposing sides in the Syrian conflict war but recently started cooperating, brokering a truce between government forces and rebels and working together to try to revive peace talks.
With the UN planning to convene peace talks in Geneva on Feb. 20, hopes for success hinge on the intentions of the three powers closest to the conflict – Turkey, Russia and Iran – who together pledged to guarantee the tenuous cease-fire.
And nowhere will their intentions crystallize more clearly than in al-Bab, where each side has a stake -Turkey fighting alongside the Syrian rebels, and Russia and Iran backing the Syrian government and allied Shiite militias.
The outcome in al-Bab – whether it is ultimately taken by the government or the rebels, and whether the front between the two sides stabilizes or dissolves into all-out warfare – is likely set the direction of future talks and any settlement.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AP)
I saw this on the BBC and thought you should see it:
Trump loses appeal court bid to reinstate travel ban – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-38927175