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Wednesday 21 March 2018

Putin ratchets up rhetoric and racism rears its head

Oil prices took a nosedive last week, there was an ugly racist incident in Paris, and Isil committed another atrocity, leading Italy to put soldiers on the streets

Dominique Strauss-Kahn
Dominique Strauss-Kahn

Russian President Vladimir Putin said last Thursday that other countries should not have "the illusion that they can gain military superiority over Russia, put any kind of pressure on it. We will always have an adequate answer for any such adventures," he said.

Also last Thursday, a Moscow court jailed prominent Russian opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, for 15 days, for breaching a law that restricts demonstrations, barring him from a planned rally on March 1. Navalny left the courthouse handcuffed and was whisked away in a police car. He appealed, nonetheless, to his followers to turn up for the rally against Putin's policies.

The oil price slipped downwards again last week as markets prepared for data expected to show rising output from US wells.

Brent crude was trading at $58.85 (€52) a barrel on Friday, down from a two-month high of $63 (€55) on Tuesday. The plunging oil price had gone into reverse in the previous two weeks, prompting some traders to suggest that the oil market had reached a bottom. But according to new analysis by Bloomberg, oil prices could be set to fall sharply again and could even reach $10 (€9) per barrel.

The victim of a racist incident involving Chelsea FC fans on the Paris metro did not know the incident was filmed and widely broadcast and will now lodge an official complaint with police, he told Le Parisien.

"I don't speak a word of English ... but it was clear to me they were picking on me because of the colour of my skin," said the victim, identified by the French daily as Souleymane, 33. The Paris prosecutor's office has started an investigation to find the people responsible for chanting: "We're racist and that's the way we like it," as they stopped a black man boarding a train on Tuesday. Chelsea reacted by suspending five people from its Stamford Bridge stadium following an internal investigation.

Tanzanian police said on Wednesday they had found the mutilated body of a one-year-old albino boy whose abduction renewed calls for tougher action to stop the killing of albinos for their body parts, prized in black magic. An armed gang snatched Yohana Bahati from his mother at their home in north western Tanzania's Geita region last Sunday, a month after the Government announced a nationwide ban on witch doctors, who are accused of encouraging attacks on albinos. He was the second albino child in two months to be abducted in the Lake zone of Tanzania. A four-year-old girl who was kidnapped in December is still missing.

The European Union has announced that it will resume sending aid to Zimbabwe, but travel bans for Robert Mugabe and his wife will remain in effect. The €235m "olive branch" will be channelled into developing the country's health and agricultural sectors. Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since it gained independence from Britain in 1980 and has frequently clashed with the West. EU states were divided in their response when Mugabe won a fifth term in a 2013 election that was endorsed as free by African observers, but denounced as fraudulent by the opposition.

In a video that shocked the world, Egyptian Christian workers in Libya captured by Islamic State were shown being beheaded in a grisly piece of theatre. Several were seen to whisper the name of Jesus as they died. Egypt's Copts face discrimination and marginalisation, but for once the country was united in outrage for them; Egyptian warplanes bombed Islamic State targets in revenge.

Last Tuesday, Italian security chiefs approved a plan to put 4,800 soldiers on the streets throughout the country to help guard against potential militant attacks, the Interior Ministry said. In the past, Islamist websites have posted vague threats against Pope Francis and the Roman Catholic Church but Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said at an event with Vatican officials on Tuesday that there was no specific threat.

Thailand's interim parliament has passed a law that bans foreigners from seeking surrogacy services to end a "rent-a-womb" industry that made the Southeast Asian country a top destination for fertility tourism.

Thailand was rocked by several surrogacy scandals last year, including allegations that an Australian couple had abandoned their Down syndrome baby with his Thai birth mother, taking only his healthy twin sister back to Australia with them. Another case involved a Japanese man who fathered at least 16 babies using Thai surrogates, in what local Thai media called the "baby factory".

The widely respected Daily Telegraph journalist Peter Oborne had been unhappy with the direction the newspaper was taking for some time, and agreed a quiet parting of the ways with his employer.

However, its failure, as he saw it, to give adequate coverage to the HSBC tax evasion scandal, led him to tell the public exactly why he was going. He cited a general decline in standards, and undue influence on editorial decisions by the advertising department.

Walmart announced it is to spend €1bn to boost the wages of half a million low-paid workers, as the biggest private sector employer in the US responded to disquiet over income inequality.

As his trial entered its third and final week, it was looking increasingly likely that the one-time presidential contender in France, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, might walk away with a clean criminal record.

The former IMF chief has testified to having orgies while he was managing the world financial crisis, to being "rough" with his sexual "conquests," and to needing sex with exceptional frequency.

But no evidence has emerged during the prostitution trial in northern France that he did anything illegal.

Sunday Independent

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