From grace to Sobibor: Former IAAF chief Lamine Diack found guilty of corruption, handed 2 year prison sentence

From grace to Sobibor: Former IAAF chief Lamine Diack found guilty of corruption, handed 2 year prison sentence

Former track federation President Lamine Diack was sentenced on Wednesday to two years in prison for his role in a scheme that allowed Russian athletes who paid hush money to keep competing when they should have been suspended for doping.

The 87-year-old, who headed the IAAF from 1999-2015, was found guilty of corruption and breach of trust.

The guilty verdict in a Paris court represented a spectacular fall from grace for the 87-year-old Diack, who was the powerful head of the IAAF from 1999-2015.

The court also sentenced Diack to another two years of suspended jail time and fined him 500,000 euros (USD 590,000).

Diack was found guilty of multiple corruption charges and of breach of trust but acquitted of a money laundering charge. At Diack’s trial in June, prosecutors requested a four-year jail term and a fine of 500,000 euros (USD 590,000).

Diack, wearing a white robe, sat impassively in front of the chief judge as she read out the guilty verdict and sentence.

The judge, Rose-Marie Hunault, detailed his role in the payoff scheme, dubbed “full protection,” that squeezed Russian athletes suspected of doping of about 3.2 million euros (USD 3.74 million) in hush money.

“The money was paid in exchange for a program of ‘full protection,'” she said, adding the scheme allowed athletes who should have been suspended “purely and simply to escape sanctions.”

The court also handed guilty verdicts to five other people, including Diack’s son, Papa Massata Diack, who worked as an IAAF marketing consultant.

The judge said USD 15 million was funneled to the younger Diack’s companies, including commissions and money creamed off contracts and the sale of TV rights and other transactions while his father was in charge at the IAAF.

The younger Diack lives in Senegal, which has refused to extradite him. He was not in court for the verdict and did not attend the six-day hearing in June. The court sentenced him in his absence to five years in prison and a fine of 1 million euros (USD 1.17 million). AP

Facebook Blocks Terminally Ill Frenchman From Streaming His Death

Facebook Blocks Terminally Ill Frenchman From Streaming His Death

Facebook said Saturday it would block the livestream of a Frenchman suffering from an incurable condition who wanted to broadcast his death on the social media platform.

Earlier, Alain Cocq announced that he was now refusing all food, drink, and medicine after President Emmanuel Macron turned down his request for euthanasia.

Cocq, 57, who suffers from a rare condition that causes the walls of his arteries to stick together, said he believed he had less than a week to live and would broadcast his death from Saturday morning.

“The road to deliverance begins and believe me, I am happy,” he wrote on Facebook shortly after midnight in a post announcing he had “finished his last meal”.

“I know the days ahead are going to be difficult but I have made my decision and I am calm,” he added.

Facebook has been increasingly criticized over the way it polices the content it carries and said Saturday its rules did not allow it to portray suicide.

“Although we respect (Cocq’s) decision to want to draw attention to this complex question, following expert advice we have taken measures to prevent the live broadcast on Alain’s account,” a Facebook spokesman told AFP.

“Our rules do not allow us to show suicide attempts.”

– Calls on supporters –

Cocq had been trying to post another video earlier Saturday when he messaged: “Facebook is blocking my video broadcast until September 8.”

“It is up to you now,” he said in a message to supporters before giving out Facebook’s French address “so you can let them know what you think about their methods of restricting free speech”.

“There will be a back-up within 24 hours” to run the video, he added.

Cocq had written to Macron asking to be given a substance that would allow him to die in peace but the President wrote back to him explaining this was not allowed under French law.

Cocq has used his plight to draw attention to the situation of terminally ill patients in France who are unable to be allowed to die in line with their wishes.

“Because I am not above the law, I am not able to comply with your request,” Macron said in a letter to Cocq, which the patient published on his Facebook page.

“I cannot ask anyone to go beyond our current legal framework… Your wish is to request active assistance in dying which is not currently permitted in our country.”

– ‘With profound respect’ –

In order to show France the “agony” caused by the law in its current state, Cocq planned to broadcast the end of his life — which he believed would come in “four to five days” — on his Facebook page, he told AFP.

Cocq said he hoped his struggle would be remembered and “go down in the long term” as a step towards changing the law.

Macron said in his letter that “with emotion, I respect your action”.

The President added a handwritten postscript: “With all my personal support and profound respect.”

An official from the President’s office told AFP that Macron wanted to hail Cocq’s commitment to the rights of people with disabilities.

Right-to-die cases have long been an emotive issue in France.

Most polarising was the case of Vincent Lambert, who was left in a vegetative state after a traffic accident in 2008 and died in July last year after doctors removed life support following a long legal battle.

The case divided the country as well as Lambert’s own family, with his parents using every legal avenue to keep him alive but his wife and nephew insisting he must be allowed to die.

The appointment of the new Prime Minister “depends on everything”- Villa Somalia strategist

The appointment of the new Prime Minister “depends on everything”- Villa Somalia strategist

34 days in, President is yet to name a PM thus breaking the Somali Constitution

It has been 34 days since former Prime Minister Hassan Ali Kheyre was sacked by parliament, the longest time that the country has not had a Prime Minister, and many analyst are commenting on the reasons why.

What Happened?

Since June this year when the Standing Committee of the Upper House announced the convening of a consultative meeting between the Federal Government and the State Governments to find a solution to the country’s elections, te political situation in the Federal Government has entered a difficult and challenging phase than it has been in the past three years, and the situation had escalated even further when Prime Minister Hassan Ali Kheyre made three key points before his sacking;

  • The election to be on time
    • Extending the government period will lead to political unrest
    • That the election be of any kind, as long as all parties are in agreement.

President Mohamed Farmajo and his closest team, led by National Intelligence Director Fahad Yassin Haji Dahir, have developed a strategy they believe will be successful, following the removal of Prime Minister Kheyre.

  • Appoint a caretaker Prime Minister who has no vision but only told what to do.
    • Break down the opposition and coalitions in Mogadishu, some of which are led by former Presidents, key strong hold’s in the country.
    • To try and take control of the three regional states of Galmudug, Hir Shabelle and KG, after Dhusamareb 2
    • Gain the support of the parliament
    • Eliminate the power of the Upper House

The main weapon to be used by Villa Somalia to implement its plan is appointing a ”yes man Prime Minister” according to our source.

President Farmaajo embarked to Dhusamareeb without naming a new prime minister as the whole country was waiting for him to deliver on his promise with many wondering now how far the president will go in breaking the constitution.

Dhusamareb 3, which did not have representation from Puntland and Jubaland, who play a key role in the country’s politics, has fast become increasingly unpopular due to the mishandling of the Federal Government. Many International observers view the FGS in ”re-igniting clan hostility”, as they had pointed out to President Farmaajo’s in their conference at the airport on his return from Dhusamareb 3.

Nomination of new Prime Minister

So the fourth conference in Mogadishu, which is planned to conclude the Dhusamareb 3, the only card left for President Farmaajo will be to hold the conference without naming a Prime Minister and thus sidelining the Hawiye clan from the consultation of the electoral model for the country with many observers indicating the Presidents intention on provoking the majority residing clan in Mogadishu and nearby areas. However it is questionable whether Puntland and Jubaland, who understand the ”Villa Somalia games” according to our source in Garowe, will allow a fourth conference without the appointment of a prime minister beforehand.

Wakanda forever! ‘Black Panther’ star Chadwick Boseman dies of cancer at 43

Wakanda forever! ‘Black Panther’ star Chadwick Boseman dies of cancer at 43

The actor has been battling colon cancer since 2016 and died at home with his family and wife by his side, according to a statement posted on his Twitter account.

He was 43, his publicist Nicki Fioravante said in a statement.

“A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you so many of the films you have come to love so much,” the statement said.

“From Marshall to Da 5 Bloods, August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and several more, all were filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy.”

The statement said the role of King T’Challa was the “honor of (Boseman’s) career.”

Boseman graduated from Howard University

A South Carolina native, Boseman graduated in 2000 from Howard University, a historically Black college in Washington, DC. While there, he also attended the British American Drama Academy at Oxford in 1998, according to Howard’s website.

“It is with profound sadness that we mourn the loss of alumnus Chadwick Boseman who passed away this evening. His incredible talent will forever be immortalized through his characters and through his own personal journey from student to superhero! Rest in Power, Chadwick!” University President Wayne A. I. Frederick said in a statement.

Boseman’s breakout performance came in 2013 when he played Jackie Robinson in the film “42,” according to Howard’s website.

“His transcendent performance in ’42’ will stand the test of time and serve as a powerful vehicle to tell Jackie’s story to audiences for generations to come,” Major League Baseball tweeted from their official Twitter account Friday.

Boseman made his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in 2016 as T’Challa/Black Panther in “Captain America: Civil War,” according to Howard. Black Panther then got his own stand-alone movie that released in 2018, which broke box office records. Marvel Studios president had previously announced the second movie of the “Black Panther” saga would debut in theaters in May 2022.

The actor starred in other films, including playing James Brown in “Get On Up” and Thurgood Marshall in “Marshall.”

Boseman returned to his alma mater in 2018 to give the commencement speech. He concluded with his iconic “Wakanda Forever” salute.

During his speech, the actor told the graduates about his early days acting on soap operas, saying he was fired from an unnamed production during his early acting days after he questioned what he felt was its stereotypical portrayal of Black characters.

“The struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose,” he said at the time.

‘A superhero to many’

In a statement following Boseman’s death, Martin Luther King III said the actor “brought history to life” with his roles.

“As Black Panther, he was also a superhero to many,” he wrote on Twitter. “And despite his 4 year long battle with cancer, he kept fighting and he kept inspiring. He will be missed.”

The NAACP also paid tribute to the actor, saying Boseman showed “us how to conquer adversity with grace.”

“For showing us how to ‘Say it Loud!’ For (showing) us how to walk as a King, without losing the common touch. For showing us just how powerful we are,” their Instagram statement said. “Thank you #ChadwickBoseman.”

Sen. Kamala Harris, who is also an alumna of Howard, said she was “heartbroken” over Boseman’s death.

“My friend and fellow Bison Chadwick Boseman were brilliant, kind, learned, and humble,” she tweeted. “He left too early but his life made a difference. Sending my sincere condolences to his family.”

Actor Mark Ruffalo, who starred aside Boseman in the Marvel movies as the Hulk, tweeted Boseman’s death contributes to the growing list of tragedies in 2020.

“What a man, and what an immense talent,” Ruffalo tweeted. “Brother, you were one of the all time greats and your greatness was only beginning. Lord love ya. Rest in power, King.”

China cosies up to EU as US tensions high

China cosies up to EU as US tensions high

China’s foreign minister on Tuesday kicked off a tour of a Europe still reeling from coronavirus, as he seeks to shore up economic and diplomatic relations in light of tensions with the US.

Donald Trump’s administration has stepped up anti-China rhetoric in the run-up to the US presidential election on November 3, despite ongoing trade talks.

On his first European stop in Rome, Wang Yi shied away from naming Washington explicitly but lamented “provocation and damage from external forces” hitting the EU — a second favorite punching-bag of Trump’s.

“A united, stable and prosperous Europe is important for the whole of the world,” Wang added.

Italy was the first G7 country to sign on to China’s ambitious “Belt and Road” trade and infrastructure investment plan, and Wang on Tuesday inked two new trade deals with Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio.

Rome was criticized for last year breaking ranks with other European countries over the investment scheme.

Allies have worried that China’s “Silk Road” will destabilize smaller countries by overloading them with debt, boost China’s power, and allow key technologies and trade secrets to slip into Beijing’s hands.

But Italian leaders now hope boosted export opportunities for the country’s main industries — from agricultural products to machinery — can help haul it out of a devastating economic crisis brought about by an over two-month lockdown.

Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Rome in March 2019, signing billions of euros in trade deals.

Di Maio said the latest agreements covered natural gas from Snam, Europe’s biggest pipeline operator, and the export of “Made in Italy” food products to China, as well as “important partnerships in the energy and transport sector”.

– Human rights and Hong Kong –

But there are clear pitfalls for Wang’s stated aim to “consolidate relations” between China and Europe as the top diplomat travels on to the Netherlands, France, Germany, and Norway.

Just as the trade deals were being signed, visiting Hong Kong activist Nathan Law urged Italy to condemn China for human rights abuses.

Law met with an Italian foreign affairs delegation and told reporters Di Maio should “address Hong Kong’s problems and the human rights violations by China”.

Italy should “severely condemn” Beijing’s human rights record, added Law, who recently fled Hong Kong to London after Beijing imposed a controversial security law on the territory in June.

Law called for a “strong alliance” against Beijing, including “sanctioning” Chinese officials responsible for human rights violations against China’s Uighur population in the northwestern Xinjiang province, and in Hong Kong.

Wang said China had passed its law “to fill the gaps that had existed in Hong Kong for years.”

“It is a law to combat the violent acts found everywhere and to hinder certain actions of pro-independence Hong Kong people,” Wang said.

Di Maio said he had told his Chinese counterpart that Hong Kong’s “stability and prosperity are essential.”

“It is essential to preserve the high autonomy of the city and the protection of the fundamental rights of its inhabitants,” he added.

– US trade talks –

Even as Wang looked to bolster ties with Europe, China is in the midst of trade talks with an increasingly prickly US.

The trans-Pacific atmosphere is far frostier since an initial trade agreement was signed in January.

Tensions have mounted over Trump’s charge Chinese leaders allowed the coronavirus to run out of control after it emerged in Wuhan, and the president again dubbed it the “China virus” in a video played during the Republican convention Monday.

The two superpowers are also at odds over technology and China’s human rights record.



Sudan PM Tells Pompeo He Has No Mandate To Normalise Israel Ties

Sudan PM Tells Pompeo He Has No Mandate To Normalise Israel Ties

 Khartoum, Sudan, Aug 25 – Sudan said Tuesday it cannot form diplomatic relations with Israel now, dashing hopes for a speedy breakthrough during a visit by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok told Pompeo that Sudan’s transitional government — which replaced ousted strongman Omar al-Bashir last year and is set to rule until 2022 elections — has “no mandate” to take such a weighty step.

The announcement was a setback to a charm offensive by the US and Israel to forge more ties between the Jewish state and the Arab world following a landmark US-brokered August 13 agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

Israel remains technically at war with Sudan, an East African country which for years supported hardline Islamist forces under its former strongman Bashir, and which remains on a State Department blacklist of backers of terrorism.

Hamdok also urged the US not to link “the subject of lifting Sudan from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list and the subject of normalization with Israel,” his spokesman said.

A handout picture provided by Sudan's Prime Ministers office on August 25, 2020, shows US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) meeting with Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok (R) in Khartoum. Pompeo

The coalition which led Sudan’s protest movement, the Forces of Freedom and Change, had also argued earlier that the government has “no mandate” to normalize ties with Israel, noting “the right of Palestinians to their land and to a free and dignified life”.

Hamdok’s office said he had made the same point to Pompeo, the first US Secretary of State to visit Sudan since Condoleezza Rice went there in 2005.

“The prime minister clarified that the transitional period in Sudan is being led by a wide alliance with a specific agenda — to complete the transition, achieve peace and stability in the country and hold free elections,” government spokesman Faisal Saleh said.

Hamdok had told Pompeo that his interim government “does not have a mandate beyond these tasks or to decide on normalization with Israel”.

– Terror watch-list –

When Pompeo arrived hours earlier, he tweeted the fact that he had flown to Khartoum on a historic “first official non-stop flight” from Tel Aviv.

The US top diplomat also met Sudan’s Sovereign Council chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan for talks which the State Department had said would express US “support for deepening the Sudan-Israel relationship”.

Netanyahu had met Burhan in February in Uganda and later announced that the two leaders had agreed to cooperate towards normalizing ties. Sudan’s cabinet however later denied that Burhan had made such a promise.

Sudan’s new joint civilian-military transitional government has vowed to break with the Bashir era and launched sweeping social and political reforms.

The cash-strapped country hopes Washington will soon take it off its terrorism blacklist as it seeks to fully re-integrate into the international community and attract more aid and investment to rescue its crisis-hit economy.

Sudan has been on Washington’s terror list since 1993 because of its earlier support for jihadists, including Osama bin Laden, who lived in the country for years in the 1990s before heading to Afghanistan.

Sudanese protesters rallied on December 19, 2019 to celebrate the first anniversary of the start of the uprising that toppled Omar al-Bashir / © AFP/File

Sudan has been in talks on compensating the victims of Bashir-era Al-Qaeda attacks, including the 2000 USS Cole bombing in Yemen and the simultaneous 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Hamdok wrote on Twitter that he and Pompeo had a “direct & transparent conversation regarding delisting Sudan” from the terror list and on receiving US government support.

“I continue to look forward to positive tangible steps in supporting the glorious Sudanese revolution,” Hamdok wrote.

Pompeo’s visit came as Sudan faces a deep economic crisis, laid low by long years of US sanctions and the 2011 secession of the oil-rich south.

The United Nations says more than 9.6 million people — almost a quarter of Sudan’s population — suffer severe food insecurity.

Sudan’s ousted president Omar al-Bashir arriving at the start of his trial over the 1989 coup against a democratically elected government that brought him to power / © AFP/File

Bashir is on trial over the Islamist-backed coup that brought him to power over three decades ago, and the transitional government is at pains to distance itself from his legacy.

It has agreed in principle to hand Bashir over to the International Criminal Court in The Hague where he faces charges of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity for his role in the Darfur conflict.

Conflict broke out in the vast western region in 2003 when ethnic minority rebels staged an uprising against the government, citing marginalization and discrimination.

Khartoum responded by unleashing the feared Janjaweed militia, mainly recruited from Arab pastoralist tribes, in a scorched earth campaign that left 300,000 people dead and displaced 2.5 million.

Hamdok has made finding a peace deal with rebel groups a priority, in order to bring stability to restive regions that also include the Blue Nile and South Kordofan.