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Lebanon appeals for import aid; France to hold meeting
6 December 2019, 1:51 PM

Lebanon said on Friday it had asked friendly states to help finance imports of essential goods, as sources said France is planning an international meeting to mobilise support for its former colony’s deep economic crisis.

Caretaker Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri said that his office had sent an appeal for assistance in securing credit for imports of food and raw materials for manufacturing.

The appeal was sent to Saudi Arabia, France, Russia, Turkey, the United States, China, and Egypt, Hariri said in a statement.

Lebanon is grappling with the worst financial strains since its 1975-1990 civil war.

A European official meanwhile said that invitations had been sent out for the Dec. 11 meeting in Paris.

A Lebanese official said: “It is a meeting to attempt to mobilise assistance to help Lebanon deal with the acute crisis that it is facing.”

The Lebanese official said Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were expected to be invited to the meeting of the International Support Group, which includes the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.

China-built Tesla cars secure new energy vehicle subsidies
6 December 2019, 1:41 PM

Tesla Inc said on Friday its Chinese-built Model 3 cars would receive state subsidies, a move that will help the US electric vehicle maker’s push into the world’s biggest auto market.

China’s industry ministry had earlier said Tesla’s Model 3 cars, being built at its $2 billion factory in Shanghai, were on a list recommended for subsidies for new energy vehicles (NEVs), which include plug-in hybrids, battery-only electric vehicles and those powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

Tesla said in a statement the subsidies had been secured.

Two variants of Tesla Model 3 vehicles are on the list for the generous NEV subsidy programme, according to the website of China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

The California-based electric vehicle maker aims to make more than 1 000 vehicles a week by the end of 2019 for it Shanghai plant and deliver the China-made vehicles before the Chinese new year on Jan. 25.

The annual capacity at the factory in its first phase is expected to reach 250,000 vehicles, equivalent to about 4 800 a week. This will include 150 000 Model 3 cars.

It was not immediately clear how much of a subsidy the vehicles would receive. The starting price for China-made Model 3 cars is 355 800 yuan ($50 550), according to Tesla’s website.

China hopes sales of NEVs which constituted around 4.6% of overall market in 2018, can reach a quarter of car sales in 2025.

Tesla, led by billionaire Elon Musk, is planning a broad after-sales network in China.

Kenya eyes jail sentences for athletes caught doping
3 December 2019, 8:49 PM

Kenya plans to impose criminal penalties – including possible jail terms – on athletes caught doping, and it is now working on new legislation on the matter, its sports minister said on Tuesday.

The East African nation is known for its long- and middle-distance running prowess, but it has been caught up in a string of doping scandals over the last five years.

In 2016, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) put the country on its Category A list of nations on watch for anti-doping violations.

Amina Mohamed, the sports minister, said a team was working on legislation aimed at criminalising doping by mid-2020.

“We are giving it the urgency it deserves,” she told reporters.

Current Kenyan law stipulates jail terms of up to three years for support staff found guilty in connection with doping, but not for athletes.

The original draft of the law, announced in 2016 when Kenya was faced with expulsion from the Rio Olympics due to widespread doping, had stipulated fines and jail sentences for athletes, too, but it was watered down.

From 2004 to August 2018, 138 Kenyan athletes tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, according to a WADA report published in September 2018.

Among the top athletes who have been sanctioned for doping offences are 2008 Beijing Olympics 1,500m champion Asbel Kiprop, 2016 Rio Olympics women’s marathon champion Jemimah Sumgong, and former three-time Boston Marathon champion Rita Jeptoo.

The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) is watching developments in Nairobi closely, a top official said on Tuesday.

“We especially want more comprehensive investigations done on athletes’ support staff and their entire entourage like coaches, managers (and) pharmacists,” AIU’s Thomas Capdevielle told a news conference in the Kenyan capital.

Other countries on WADA’s watchlist include Ethiopia, Ukraine, Belarus and Bahrain.

“It may take some time before Kenya is removed from (WADA’s) Category A list. Implementing these measures will help, but will not mean removing Kenya from the top category. And this should not be seen as a stigma for Kenyan athletics,” Capdevielle said.

Cameroon separatists fire on passenger jet in northwest
1 December 2019, 9:25 PM

Separatist rebels fired on a Cameroon Airlines passenger jet as it approached Bamenda airport in the northwest of the country on Sunday morning, their leader told Reuters.

The scheduled flight from Douala landed safely and there were no casualties, Cameroon Airlines said in a statement confirming the attack.

The airline has grounded the plane while it assesses the damage.

“Thanks to the bravery of the captain, the aircraft was able to land smoothly despite the impact on its fuselage,” it said.

The English-speaking west of Cameroon has been a battleground since 2017 between the army and rebels seeking to form a breakaway state called Ambazonia.

Civilians have been caught up in the conflict from the start. More than 400 people have been killed and half a million have been forced to flee their homes.

However, Sunday’s incident appeared to mark an escalation in the danger they face travelling to and from the richly forested region.

Cho Ayaba, one of the separatist leaders and president of the Ambazonian Council, said that commercial planes were being used to transport soldiers and weapons and he had warned Cameroon Airlines and its passengers that planes will be shot at if they do not provide flight schedules ahead of time.

“If we cannot confirm, we will consider all planes coming inas a security risk,” he said. “This is war.”

What began as peaceful protests in the southwest, calling for greater powers for English speakers in the largely French-speaking country, have degenerated into near daily violence.

Despite tentative efforts to sue for peace, fighting has continued, with both sides accused of atrocities, including the use of bombs and kidnappings by separatists and indiscriminate killings by the armed forces.

United States asks UK to extradite ex-Autonomy boss Lynch from UK
1 December 2019, 9:14 PM

The United States has formally requested the extradition of Michael Lynch, the British tech billionaire who sold his company to Hewlett Packard (HP) in an ill-fated $11.1 billion deal, to face charges including securities fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy.

The U.S. embassy in London submitted the extradition request on Nov. 21 for Lynch to stand trial in the United States,according to a court filing dated Dec. 1.

Lynch, once hailed as Britain’s answer to Bill Gates, is currently battling the American IT giant in London’s High Court.

HP is seeking damages of $5 billion from Lynch and his former chief financial officer Sushovan Hussain, alleging that they inflated the value of their data firm before selling it.

Lynch has denied the accusations, saying HP mismanaged the acquisition. He is counter-suing for loss and damages.

Lynch has been indicted in San Francisco on 17 counts including wire fraud, conspiracy and securities fraud, which carries a maximum term of 25 years in prison.

A spokesman for Lynch said at the time that the charges were “baseless and egregious”.

Hussain was sentenced in San Francisco in May to five years in prison, fined $4 million and ordered to forfeit $6.1 million after being convicted on 16 counts of wire fraud, securities fraud and conspiracy.

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