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Canada running out of marijuana two days after it became legal

By News Desk, with Agency Report,

Canadians were so excited about getting their hands on some legal, recreational marijuana the country is reportedly experiencing a shortage.

Police were called to help shops struggling to handle long queues and with frustrated people unable to buy cannabis.

Bill Blair, a former Toronto police chief who has led the government’s legalisation programme, told public broadcaster CBC the country was unable to supply enough to meet demand.

“We expected, you know, certain strains might run out and there would be a bit of a run on supply,” he said.

“But, you know, they’ve got a pretty good infrastructure in place and I’m confident it will work.”

On Wednesday Canada became the first industrialised nation and only the second country in the world, after Uruguay, to legalise recreational cannabis as part of a controversial experiment in drug policy.

Under the new law, citizens will be allowed to carry up to 30 grams of cannabis in public and each household will be able to grow up to four marijuana plants.

Woman marries best friend’s dad in U.S.

By News Desk, with Agency Report,

A woman married her best friend’s dad who is twice her age — and now the trio all go on vacation together.

Real estate agent Taylor Lehman, 27, admitted she did feel guilty at first about dating Kern, 54, due to her friendship with his daughter Amanda, 30.

But five years in, the couple from Phoenix, are still going strong – and Taylor says people compare them to Hollywood stars Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas.

Taylor revealed how she and Kern never expected their “rebound fling” to turn into marriage.

After discovering a shared love for music, traveling and having fun, the pair quickly moved in together.

The couple who have been mistaken for father and daughter at one time, now have the support of their families despite initial concern and shock.

Taylor recalled: “When we first met, I worked with Kern’s daughter, she was my best friend and he was married at the time; I was also in a relationship.

“At first I thought he was very handsome. I have always been attracted to older guys. He thought I was cute, and we started flirting at the bar.”

“Amanda and I had been friends for a year before I got with her dad, so I did have a lot of guilt and felt bad at first. But over time I have gotten over that. She knows I will always be there for her in her life and problems,” she said.

At least 59 killed as train hits crowd in northern India

By News Desk,

A commuter train traveling at high speed ran through a crowd of people on the rail tracks in northern India killing at least 59 people on Friday, state officials said, making it India’s worst rail disaster this year.

Video footage from the scene showed hundreds had gathered to watch the burning of an effigy as part of the Dussehra festival celebrations, when a commuter train ran through the crowd.

“We have 59 confirmed dead. The toll can rise,” State police chief Suresh Arora told Reuters, adding emergency officials were still trying to ascertain the extent of the disaster on the outskirts of Amritsar in Punjab state.

A Reuters witness at the scene saw bodies of victims strewn around rail tracks, friends and relatives stood around in shock, many were sobbing and appeared distraught.

An officer in the police control room said it was hard to confirm the toll as there were dismembered body parts all over.

Reuters partner ANI, a domestic news agency, reported that the Chief Medical Officer of the Civil Hospital in Amritsar said 60 people were killed and at least 51 people were injured. Reuters could not immediately confirm that death toll.

Police said it was “freak accident” as people did not hear the train approaching amid the din of festivities and fireworks.

During the festival of Dussehra people all over the country set aflame large effigies of a 10-headed demon from the Hindu epic Ramayana in a ceremony that symbolizes the triumph of good over evil.

In Amritsar, video footage showed the effigy of the demon Ravana had just been lit and firecrackers were going off when the train plowed into the crowd, who were craning their necks and applauding the show.

ANI reported that a witness at the scene said the train that ran over people was traveling at a high speed.

Amarinder Singh, Punjab chief minister, said he was rushing to Amritsar to supervise relief and rescue operations.

“We have also ordered an inquiry as to why this incident has taken place,” Singh told ANI, adding he did not know why the Dussehra celebrations were being held so close to the railway tracks.

DECADES OF UNDERINVESTMENT

Singh declared a state of mourning and said all offices and educational institutions across the state would remain closed on Saturday.

A witness told Indian television channel Times Now that relatives of some of the deceased were picking up dead bodies by themselves and no proper rescue operations were currently taking place.

Bodies of victims lay strewn around the scene and local television stations showed distraught and angry people, including a weeping mother who just lost a child.

“Lot of students were gathered here and we can see so many unknown bodies lying around and there is not even enough light here even now,” one person on the scene told a local channel.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was extremely saddened by the train accident.

“The tragedy is heart-wrenching,” he tweeted. “My deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their loved ones and I pray that the injured recover quickly. Have asked officials to provide immediate assistance that is required.”

India’s state railways, largely built during colonial rule, have an appalling safety record after decades of underinvestment in rail safety infrastructure, as the priority has remained more on keeping fares low for the 23 million passengers who use the network daily.

Seven people were killed and 21 were injured earlier this month when nine coaches of the New Farakka Express derailed in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

Taliban kill powerful police chief in Kandahar

By News Desk, with Agency Report,

The Kandahar police chief had survived previous attempts on his life. Accused of severe human rights abuses, he was a key figure for the US in the fight against the Taliban. A US commander survived the attack.

One of Afghanistan’s most powerful security officials, anti-Taliban strongman and police chief  General Abdul Raziq, was killed on Thursday when the governor’s bodyguard opened fire.

The attack came at the end of a high-level security meeting of US Forces and NATO Resolute Support Mission commander General Scott Miller, provincial governor Zalmay Wesa and
provincial spy chief Abdul Mohmin. Mohmin and an Afghan journalist are also believed to have died.

Miller survived the attack. Two Americans and the governor were among 13 people injured.

The Taliban immediately claimed responsibility for the attack and announced via social media that Miller and Raziq were the targets of the shooting. It came just days ahead of the Afghan elections. “The brutal police chief of Kandahar has been killed along several other officials,” the statement read.

An insider attack

Khalid Pashtun, an Afghan parliamentarian from Kandahar, confirmed to DW that Raziq was one of the first to be shot.

“After the meeting ended and as the officials were saying goodbyes, a member of the governor’s team of bodyguards opened fire,” Pashtun said,

“General Raziq was among the first ones to be shot. The provincial governor, head of intelligence and the commander of the military corps in the region were also shot,” he added.

Raziq had been police chief of Kandahar since 2011 and had been accused of severe human rights abuses, including running a secret torture center. The UN committee against torture in 2017 said that he should be prosecuted over allegations of torture and enforced disappearances. He always denied the accusations.

He had been a key figure in the US strategy of securing the southern region against the Taliban.

Raziq narrowly escaped an attack last year in which five diplomats from the United Arab Emirates were killed in Kandahar.

Elections under threat

The recent attack is a blow to the Afghan government as it gears up for parliamentary elections on Saturday, which the Taliban have vowed to disrupt. Some 2,500 candidates are competing for 249 seats in the lower house. So far, ten of them have been killed during the election campaign.

“General Raziq’s death will have a huge impact on security and the election in the south because a lot of voters may not feel safe to go to vote,” a senior security official commented after the attack.

However, the US military said the attack would have no effect on its military presence aimed at bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table: “This attack will not change US resolve in our South Asia strategy,” Defense Department spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Kone Faulkner said. “If anything, it makes us more resolute.”

 

Zika virus cases spike in India’s Jaipur as peak tourist season nears

By News Desk,

At least 55 people have tested positive for the Zika virus in India’s tourist city of Jaipur, up from 22 a week ago, the local health department said on Sunday, raising fears the virus is spreading just ahead of peak tourist season.

Around 280 health officials are doing the rounds of houses in Jaipur in the western state of Rajasthan to detect larvae to control the mosquito-borne virus, the health department said in a statement late on Saturday.

Known for its palaces and museums and deserts close by, Jaipur is a big draw with both foreign and Indian tourists.

This is the third Zika outbreak in India, with the first in the western city of Ahmedabad in January 2017 and the second in the southern state of Tamil Nadu in July 2017 – both of which were “successfully contained”, the government said last week.

First discovered in 1947, the zika virus reached epidemic proportions in Brazil in 2015, when thousands of babies were born with microcephaly, a disorder that causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads and underdeveloped brains.

Of the 55 people found to have tested positive for Zika over the past month in Rajasthan, 38 are no longer showing symptoms of the disease, the department said, adding that officials were conducting fogging to control the mosquito population.

Women in their first trimester of pregnancy are being paid particular attention, said Veenu Gupta, the additional chief health secretary of Rajasthan. Research has shown women are at greatest risk of microcephaly during this period.

There is no vaccine for Zika yet, though Japan’s Takeda Pharmaceutical and some other companies are trying to developing one.

The latest cases come amid a spike in cases of other mosquito-borne diseases in the country, according to the World Health Organization.

The capital New Delhi has reported a rise in cases of dengue fever this year, with 169 reported in the first week of October, taking the total for the year to 650, according to local channel NDTV.

Pope Francis declares murdered El Salvador’s Archbishop Romero Saint

By News Desk,

 

Thousands of people are converging on the Vatican for the canonization of Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Oscar Romero, two of the towering figures of the 20th-century Catholic Church.

Pope Paul VI oversaw the modernising church reforms of the 1960s, while Archbishop Romero was a human rights icon murdered for his defense of El Salvador’s poor.

Pope Francis is to celebrate Sunday’s saint-making Mass wearing the blood-stained rope belt that Romero wore when he was gunned down in 1980 and using Paul VI’s staff, chalice and pallium vestment — evidence of the strong influence both men had on history’s first Latin American pope.

Some 5,000 Salvadoran pilgrims travelled to Rome for the ceremony, and tens of thousands more stayed up all night to watch it on giant TV screens outside the San Salvador cathedral where Romero’s remains are entombed.

For many it was the culmination of a fraught and politicized campaign to have the church formally honor a man who publicly denounced the repression by El Salvador’s military dictatorship at the start of the country’s 1980-1992 civil war.

“I am here to give glory to Monsignor Romero.

“He is a light for our people, an inspiration for all,” said Aida Guzman, a 68-year-old Salvadoran woman who carried photos of people killed during the war as she joined thousands in an evening procession in San Salvador.

Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador, was gunned down by right-wing death squads as he celebrated Mass on March 24, 1980, in a hospital chapel.

A day before he was killed, he had delivered the latest in a series of sermons demanding an end to the army’s repression – sermons that had enraged El Salvador’s leaders.

Almost immediately after his death, Romero became an icon of the South American left and is frequently listed along with Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi as one of the world’s most influential human rights campaigners.

The United Nations commemorates the anniversary of his death each year.

His influence continues to resonate with El Salvador’s youth as the country endures brutal gang violence that has made the Central American nation one of the most violent in the world — an scourge that Francis has frequently lamented.

“He is my guide, and from what I have read about his life, I want to follow in his steps,” said Oscar Orellana, a 15-year-old who participated in the San Salvador procession wearing a white tunic like the one Romero used to wear.

Paul VI, on his part, is best known for having presided over the final sessions of the Second Vatican Council, the 1962-65 church meetings that opened up the Catholic Church to the world.

Under his auspices, the church agreed to allow liturgy to be celebrated in the vernacular rather than in Latin and called for greater roles for the laity and improved relations with people of other faiths.

Paul is also remembered for his two most important encyclicals, or teaching documents, that have had a profound effect on the church and Francis: One, “The Progress of Peoples” denounced the mounting inequality between rich and poor, and the other, “Humanae Vitae,” reaffirmed the Catholic church’s opposition to artificial contraception.

The stark prohibition empowered conservatives but drove progressives away.

Even today it remains one of the most contested and ignored of papal encyclicals, with studies showing that most Catholics use contraception anyway.

Francis was deeply influenced by Paul, who was the pope of his formative years as a young priest in Argentina and was instrumental in giving rise to the Latin American church’s “preferential option for the poor.”

Francis has styled his papacy on another of Paul’s exhortations, and has adopted the “church of the poor” ethos that Paul embodied when he formally renounced wearing the bejeweled papal tiara.

Turkey renames US embassy road Malcolm X Avenue

By News Desk,

City authorities in Ankara, capital of Turkey have renamed the street where the new U.S. embassy is being built ‘Malcolm X Avenue’ after the U.S. civil rights leader.

The move coincides with a period of strained relations between Turkey and the United States and comes after other politically charged name changes to streets in Ankara.

In February, the Metropolitan Municipality Assembly unanimously accepted the name change, renamed the street outside the current U.S. Embassy “Olive Branch”, which is what Turkey called one of its military campaigns in Syria.

“Ankara is at odds with Washington over its backing of forces led by the Kurdish YPG militia, which Turkey views as a terrorist group.

Radical U.S. civil rights leader Malcolm X remains a divisive figure in U.S. history and Ankara’s move will likely be received negatively by critics who say he stirred racist and anti-U.S. sentiment.

“The street was given the name of U.S. Muslim politician and human rights defender Malcolm X, about whom President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said ‘we will make his name live on in Ankara,” Ankara’s municipality said in a statement published by Anadolu news agency on Saturday.

Last month, Erdogan met Malcolm X’s daughters during a visit to New York. Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin shared the story about the name change on his Twitter account on Sunday.

A major row between Washington and Ankara appeared to have ended on Friday when American pastor Andrew Brunson was released on after two years in Turkish custody, a move which President Donald Trump said was a “tremendous step” toward improved relations.

Construction of the new U.S. embassy in Ankara is scheduled for completion in 2020.

Last December, the mayor of Ankara ordered the street of the United Arab Emirates mission to be renamed after the Ottoman former governor of Medina, following a row between the two countries about the state of the holy city under Ottoman rule

Pope Francis defrocks two Chilean bishops over child sex abuse

By News Desk, with Agency Report,

The two bishops are the latest heads to roll over a child abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church in Chile. The public firings are signs of a new transparency by the Vatican after years of cover-up claims.

Pope Francis has defrocked two Chilean bishops for the alleged sexual abuse of minors, the Vatican said in a statement on Saturday.

The decision to expel former archbishop Francisco Jose Cox Huneeus and former bishop Marco Antonio Ordenes Fernandez was made public following a meeting between the head of the Catholic Church and Chilean President Sebastian Pinera at the Vatican.

The defrocking, officially called “reduced to the lay state,” means the two men are no longer priests. It is the harshest punishment the Church can inflict on a member of the clergy.

No Church trial for the men

The statement added that the pair cannot appeal the decision, and that the evidence against them was so overwhelming that a canonical trial was unnecessary.

The Vatican also said the pope’s private meeting with Pinera concentrated on “the painful scourge of abuse of minors, reiterating the effort of all in collaboration to combat and prevent the perpetration of such crimes and their concealment.”

Huneeus, who was archbishop emeritus of the city of La Serena, and Fernández, archbishop emeritus of Iquique, are among 167 Chilean bishops, priests and lay members of the church who are accused of sexual crimes committed since 1960.

Saturday’s announcement follows a similar defrocking last month of Father Fernando Karadima, an 88-year-old Chilean priest who sexually abused teenage boys over a period of many years.

New approach by Vatican

The public statement suggests the Church is being more transparent in responding to the scandal, after having been previously accused of covering up the sexual abuse of minors by its clergy in several countries, including Chile, the US and Germany.

Francis has repeatedly apologized over the scandal, admitting the church failed “to listen and react” to the allegations, while vowing to “restore justice.”

In May, the Pope accepted the resignation of five other Chilean bishops amid accusations of abuse and related cover-ups.

Italy defies EU, IMF by approving controversial budget targets

By News  Desk,

Italy has approved a controversial new budget law, which includes a 2.4 percent public deficit target. The budget defies the European Union’s fiscal discipline rules, but the government insists it will drive investment.

Italy’s populist government ignored warnings from the European Union and International Monetary by approving a new budget law on Thursday that steeply raises the deficit target to 2.4 percent for 2019.

The Italian Senate approved the new budget targets by 165 votes to 107, with the lower house following suit, passing it by 331 to 191. The Cabinet is slated to sign off the spending plans on Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio said.

The governing Five Star Movement (M5S) welcomed the vote in a statement. The budget “lays the foundation for a change of course in Italian politics,” the anti-establishment party said, adding that the plan would end austerity and drive investment.

“Next week, on Monday, the cabinet will approve the budget, which will then be sent to Brussels and to parliament,” Di Maio, who leads the M5S that governs with the right-wing League party, said.

The proposed budget passed despite it being criticized as unrealistic by the parliament’s own budget office and the Bank of Italy.

€22 billion in the red

The new law triples the previous government’s deficit target. Economy Minister Giovanni Tria told a parliamentary commission on Wednesday that deficit spending would total €22 billion ($25.5 billion) next year. The budget also includes €15 billion in cuts and extra revenue to help cover the additional €37 billion in total spending.

However, by passing the new budget law, the Rome government effectively dismissed fears in Brussels that Italy will pile on further debt. The country is already among the most indebted eurozone members.

Earlier on Thursday, IMF Chief Christine Lagarde said that Italy must abide to the EU’s fiscal discipline rules.

The budget plans are due to be submitted to the European Commission on Monday. Italian ministers have said that EU officials should reserve judgment until further details have been unveiled.

In a bid to soften the impact of their controversial spending plans, Italy’s leaders vowed to lower the deficit in 2020 and 2021. However, that has done little to mitigate fears that M5S and the League will instead continue to boost spending, as both parties try to meet their respective rafts of pricey campaign pledges.

 

Qatar establishes free zone

By News Desk,

Qatar is setting up Umm Al Houl, the country’s first Free Zone, to fast track investment to boost its economy.

It is located next to Hamad International Port, designed to receive local and foreign investors during the first quarter of 2019.

Qatar’s Minister of State and Chairman of the Free Zones Authority H E Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Sayed, said at a session held in the framework of the second day of the International Product Exhibition and Conference (IPEC 2018).

He said the foreign investor will not be a rival to the local private sector, but will be a starting point for communication between Qatar and the global market.

It would provide more opportunities for the local investor and the Qatari private sector.

He noted that the second Free Zone, Abu Fontas, which is located next to Hamad International Airport and has a gate on the airport to facilitate cargo operations and associated matters, will also be launched next year and will be advanced in terms of the technology used.

He said that the Cabinet added some areas to the Free Zones law, including Musheireb which will be very important because of its location and advanced infrastructure.

He revealed that the Free Zones Authority is engaged in early negotiations with some major international companies to reach joint ventures in those areas, stressing that some of these companies will be operating from Qatar.

The Chairman of the Free Zones Authority explained that the economic zones aim at providing a level of an economic security in terms of free flow of goods to the state and the local market, in addition to supporting the process of economic diversification by strengthening the GDP and attracting investors from around the world to add to the process of economic diversification.

He noted that the country is interested in certain sectors in these free zones, especially logistics, because of their location near the port and the airport, adding that there will be sites to store gold, jewelry and expensive antiques, as well as food storage and re-export of food through the port or airport.

He added that spare parts are also an important sector targeted in those areas, which will benefit the local sector, in addition to the pharmaceutical industries, where the Authority plans to make Qatar a headquarters for this vital industry, especially in the presence of Qatar Airways which provides fast and specialized transport lines for the industry, noting that Qatar ranked first in the field of drug transfer.

The Minister said that the Authority is also interested in another strategy related to the gas and petroleum derivatives. He noted that there is an opportunity to engage in many industries, such as petrochemicals, plastics and others, in these Zones.

He noted that the Free Zones Authority is engaged in talks with many bodies in the State, including Qatar Petroleum, in order to encourage the Qatari private sector or the foreign companies to invest in this field, and to make these zones a base for exports in the future.

The idea of the free zone was part of Qatar’s economic development plans.

He explained that the process of the economic construction and economic development in Qatar passed through several phases.

In the 1990s, the focus was on the oil and gas sector, where many state institutions have been built, benefiting from oil and gas revenues.

The development of gas revenues have also been invested.

Meanwhile, the beginning of this century witnessed the planning of many infrastructure projects, especially in the education sector and service institutions such as the airport and the port.

This was reflected on the country’s economy to grow from $8 billion in 1996 to $200 billion this year.

He believed that there are three advantages that make Qatar attractive to invest in free zones, at the forefront the availability of natural resources, including energy.

The second advantage is the availability of strong financial efficiency, which has enabled Qatar to overcome the unjust siege, and affirmed its ability to support any large-scale projects. Thirdly, Qatar enjoys significant infrastructure leverages that make it an attractive platform for local and international investments.

In addition, the strong economic fundamentals pushed Qatar towards a knowledge-based economy, and despite the difficult challenges, the wise leadership of the state is able to achieve this goal, he underlined, noting that Qatar occupies many advanced ranks in many international economic classifications.

He highlighted the importance of Qatar’s geographical location, noting that the world’s longest point takes only about 18 days by ships, making Qatar a strategic location in the world.

He invited foreign investors to invest in the Free Zones in Qatar, because it will an investment with the State of Qatar represented by government companies and institutions, as well as the Qatari private sector.

He reviewed the privileges that investors will enjoy if they invest in the free zones, including full ownership of companies, freedom of capital, entry and direct contact with the port and the airport, and the existence of a special system of employment and large facilities, in addition to the absence of fees in the property and no taxes on income, whether for persons or companies for a period of twenty years renewable.

Referring to another advantage, HE Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Sayed said that the State has also set up a development fund to support some small companies, whether local or international, to invest in the free zone.

He noted that the free zones have a high regulatory environment as they will be subject to Qatar International Court, and that the registration system will be far from bureaucracy and will follow the best international standards in this regard.