Latest Africa News | Trending Topics - Food, Culture, Music, Lifestyles, Politics, Economics | Africa Tue, 24 Jan 2017 01:45:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Latest Africa News | Trending Topics 32 32 Valls Faces Harder-Core Hamon in France’s Socialist Runoff Tue, 24 Jan 2017 01:45:00 +0000

Center-leaning Manuel Valls will face more liberal Benoit Hamon in a runoff January 29 when French left-wing voters will choose their candidate to confront conservative and nationalist rivals in the April-May presidential election.

Hamon, a former education minister, won more than 36 percent of the vote, with former prime minister Valls trailing at 31 percent, according to nearly complete results from polling stations.

A defiant Valls, 54, told his supporters the Socialist primary runoff would be “a clear choice between unachievable promises and a credible left.”

Hamon, 49, said he offered hope to a party ailing after five years under President Francois Hollande beset by economic sluggishness and mass protests.

With Europe shifting to the right and the deeply unpopular Hollande ruling himself out, the competition is expected to be tough for the Socialist nominee in the race for the two-round presidential election on April 23 and May 7.

The far-right National Front party of Marine Le Pen, running against conservative former prime minister Francois Fillon, and 39-year-old former economy minister Emmanuel Macron, is generally expected to dominate the first round, reflecting a wider populist backlash in Europe and the U.S., where President Donald Trump took office Friday.

World Must Not Miss Early Signals of Any Flu Pandemic Tue, 24 Jan 2017 01:17:04 +0000

The World Health Organization called on all countries on Monday to monitor closely outbreaks of deadly avian influenza in birds and poultry and to report promptly any human cases that could signal the start of a flu pandemic.

Different strains of bird flu have been spreading across Europe and Asia since late last year, leading to large-scale slaughtering of poultry in certain countries and some human deaths in China. Experts fear the virus could mutate to spread more easily among people.

Nearly 40 countries have reported new outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza in poultry or wild birds since November, according to the WHO.

“The rapidly expanding geographical distribution of these outbreaks and the number of virus strains currently co-circulating have put WHO on high alert,” Margaret Chan told the start of the U.N. agency’s executive board.

The world is better prepared for the next influenza pandemic – following the H1N1 “mild” pandemic in 2009-2010 – “but not at all well enough”, she said.

Chan said that under an agreement with drug makers, in return for countries sharing virus samples from which a pandemic vaccine would be derived, WHO is promised 350 million doses of vaccine for distribution.

“We cannot allow so many countries to be without tools,” Chan later told Reuters. “Remember, it takes four to six months to get the vaccine.”

China has had a “sudden and steep increase” in human cases of H7N9 since December and the WHO has not been able to rule out limited human-to-human spread in two clusters of cases although no sustained spread has been detected thus far, she said.

Under the International Health Regulations, WHO’s 194 member states are required to detect and report human cases promptly, Chan said, adding: “We cannot afford to miss the early signals.”

China’s delegation, led by Zhang Yang of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, told the meeting China would carry out its obligations on communicating and responding to any outbreaks.

“Currently H7N9 overall statistics remain the same,” Zhang said. “China will continue to strengthen its cooperation and exchange with WHO in this regard.”

David Nabarro, an international public health expert and one of six candidates to succeed Chan in the top WHO post, said that addressing the threat of avian flu jumping the barrier to pose a serious threat to humans was a “central priority”.

“This group of viruses are persistent in moving between wild birds and poultry. We should always have a good high guard and never be complacent,” Nabarro, a former U.N. coordinator for avian and human influenza, told Reuters.

Paris Tests Driverless Bus Service to Fight Pollution, Congestion Tue, 24 Jan 2017 01:10:15 +0000
Paris on Monday launched its first driverless electric shuttle bus service, aiming to curb congestion and pollution that many Parisians blame for coughing, eye irritation and runny noses.

Sensors and cameras tell the EZ10 bus when to stop and start, how fast to go and in which direction.

The 130-meter (142-yard) test route links Gare de Lyon and Austerlitz train stations, two of the city’s busy transport hubs on either side of the Seine River. Other routes will be introduced this year, the city authority said in a statement.

Lyon in central France has also been testing a driverless bus service.

Separately on Monday, Paris introduced a color-coded sticker scheme to cut down the number of cars in the city center.

Lockdown at US Air Force Base Lifted Tue, 24 Jan 2017 00:41:11 +0000

A brief lockdown at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona has been lifted Monday, an Air Force spokesman told VOA.

Air Force spokesman Major Andrew Schrag said the base went on lockdown Monday after unconfirmed gunshots were fired. The lockdown was lifted a couple of hours later.

Schrag said people on base are now “free to resume normal operations.”

Former US President George H.W. Bush Recovers From Pneumonia Tue, 24 Jan 2017 00:16:31 +0000

Doctors said Monday that the health of former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, who is suffering from bacterial pneumonia, is improving and that he has been moved out of the intensive care unit of a Houston hospital.

“He still has a fair amount of coughing,” Dr. Clint Doerr, a pulmonologist, said at Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas, where the 92-year-old Bush has been hospitalized. Doerr said the 41st president still needs breathing medication and antibiotics, but that “everything is progressing.”

The doctor said Bush could be released from the hospital in several days if he continues to get better.

Another doctor, Amy Mynderse, said Bush’s 91-year-old wife, Barbara Bush, who had been treated in recent days at the same hospital for viral bronchitis, had recovered and was discharged Monday. She was to return later in the day to be at her husband’s side. The two have been married for 72 years.

Some material for this report came from AP.

Caution Urged Against Over-Browned Potatoes and Toast Tue, 24 Jan 2017 00:06:06 +0000
A British regulatory agency is urging consumers to avoid burnt or very well toasted bread and deeply browned potatoes.  Instead, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) says people should “Go for the Gold” when it comes to starch-containing foods, cooking them to a golden brown, enough to retain the desirable taste and crunch.  

The danger, say regulators, is posed when starchy foods are browned to a crisp or possibly even burned. The concern is a chemical called acrylamide, a possible cancer-causing substance, that is produced naturally in food during cooking at high temperatures.

Steve Wearne, the Director of Policy at the FSA, says most people are not aware that acrylamide exists or that it poses a potential health hazard.

The Food Standards Agency undertook a study looking at acrylamide exposure in the British population.  The research found that most people are exposed to too much of the chemical, which could increase their overall lifetime cancer risk.

The study found that the main sources of acrylamide are various cereals and food groups that include starchy foods like potatoes.

Studies are underway to better understand how acrylamide forms in some overcooked foods and how consumers may be affected by home cooking practices.

Britain’s Leader Faces Difficult Balancing Act When Meeting Trump Mon, 23 Jan 2017 23:37:42 +0000

Britain’s power since 1945 has depended on hugging the United States as hard as it can — the trans-Atlantic partnership between Washington and London has magnified Britain’s global clout.

The country’s politicians and press fret when there’s any perceived chill. Comparisons are made inevitably to the strength of the “special relationship” that ideological allies Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan had.

Since then, the special relationship has had ups and downs, although there was a strong partnership between Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George W. Bush.

Following Bill Clinton’s election in 1992, there were reports he was angry with Britain’s ruling Conservatives and Prime Minister John Major for allegedly trying to help the Republicans during the presidential race.

The Clinton-Major relationship never warmed and many in Britain was felt the government’s clout in Washington diminished.

On Friday in Washington, British Prime Minister Theresa May will become the first foreign leader to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump since the inauguration.

President Donald Trump sits at his desk as he waits for White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, left, to deliver three executive orders for his signature, Jan. 23, 2017, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington.

President Donald Trump sits at his desk as he waits for White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, left, to deliver three executive orders for his signature, Jan. 23, 2017, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington.

Brexit concerns

Brexit, or Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, is just two years away and for all the outward confidence of British officialdom, and talk of how Global Britain will be a huge success, there is alarm. A Britain standing alone will be weakened economically and its global political strength potentially much diminished outside the EU.

The British are eager for a trade deal with the United States to help improve post-Brexit economic prospects. Trump has promised to deliver, but it is not clear how quickly a trade deal can move through Congress.

The British are desperate also to ensure they are seen as America’s indispensable partner for the foreseeable future. “The United States is the only game in town for us,” a British official told VOA.

A former British intelligence official said, “The Trump team realizes it needs a good international friend. I think you will see them turning to three countries in particular: Australia, India and most of all Britain,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Britain remains committed to NATO, seeing it as the bedrock of Western security. During the presidential campaign and since his election, Trump has questioned the military alliance’s relevance, recently dubbing it “obsolete.”

Trump is unpopular in Britain, and May’s ruling Conservative Party is wary of him, worried that a close association could tarnish them.

Nigel Farage waits for the start of a debate on the last European Summit at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, Oct. 26, 2016.

Nigel Farage waits for the start of a debate on the last European Summit at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, Oct. 26, 2016.

Trump-Farage relationship

Conservative wariness has grown because of the ties developing between the Trump team and Nigel Farage, a key figure in last year’s Brexit referendum campaign and a founding member of Britain’s United Kingdom Independence Party, which remains a threat to the Conservatives.

On Thursday night at a lavish Washington inauguration party attended by Farage and other Brexiters, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, a key Trump ally, said Farage would be an informal adviser to Trump about Britain.

“I don’t want to speak for the president, but I know that the president has a great deal of trust in Nigel Farage, and I think he is going to turn to him as an adviser and there would be none better,” Bryant said. He added “There’s an opportunity for him to work directly with the president; we call it ‘close but unofficial.’”

Downing Street fears Farage’s influence will be stronger with Trump than May’s.

Another complexity for May, say British officials, comes with Trump’s determination to improve relations with Moscow, including a possible lifting of Western sanctions on Russia in return for nuclear arms reductions and the possibility of accepting the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea.

Change on Crimea?

Last week in Kyiv, British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said Britain will stand alongside Ukraine in its confrontation with Russia because freedom cannot be “traded.” He announced new British military training for Ukrainian forces battling Russian-backed separatists and said a Royal Navy warship will visit the country soon.

Still, a former senior British intelligence official said he could see the British government accepting Russia’s annexation of Crimea, if pushed by Trump. “We may well have to accept the annexation,” he said. “The tectonic plates have shifted.”

May told the BBC Trump has said he wants “a very strong relationship between the U.K. and the U.S.,” but, she insisted she would stand up to him when it comes to issues on which they disagree.

“It is going to be a difficult balancing act for May,” a senior British official told VOA.

Silicon Valley Company Helps Immigrants Stay in US to Build Startups Mon, 23 Jan 2017 23:15:27 +0000

Inspired by the movie Terminator, Yingzhe Fu has wanted to make robots ever since he was a child.

That dream is now being realized in the form of a smart device for new homes, created by a startup called Togg that he co-founded. The computer would be built into the infrastructure for new homes, so it can turn lights on and off, respond to commands, such as giving a weather report, and even tell jokes.

“So we are basically making a mini computer. Home builders directly build our devices into the wall, and that device will help you to connect with your mobile phone, [and] with your other smart devices,” said Fu.

Being from China, Fu said there was little chance he could have stayed in the United States to start a company without the aid of an early-stage venture capital firm called Unshackled.

“Without their help, without them sponsoring me, I don’t think I would do that,” said Fu.

Foreign nationals

Unshackled was created to help immigrant entrepreneurs stay in the United States as they pursue their dreams of entrepreneurship.

A smart device, created by a startup called Togg, would be built into the infrastructure for new homes.

A smart device, created by a startup called Togg, would be built into the infrastructure for new homes.

One of Unshackled’s founding partners, Manan Mehta, is an American, but he learned first-hand the challenges facing foreign nationals who aspire to be entrepreneurs in the U.S.

“Both me and my co-founder Nitin, respectively, had to shut our own companies down due to co-founders on visas, so for the last two and a half years,” said Mehta. “We’ve been putting our minds to how do we navigate and solve the problem that a lot of immigrant founders face which is, ‘How do I start my business and maintain sponsorship in the United States so I can dedicate every waking hour to my entrepreneurial desires?'”

Foreign nationals often stay in the United States by getting a job with a company that can sponsor a special workers’ visa called the H-1B. But getting this type of visa is not easy.

In 2017, there were 236,000 applications for a skilled workers visa. There are just 85,000 visas available, some of them requiring an advanced degree. H-1B visas also make it tough for foreign nationals to start their own businesses in the U.S.

“As a H-1B holder, you’re not supposed to be unemployed at any given point of time,” said India native Prateek Joshi. “You have to be under employment contract, so the thing is, you cannot just quit your job and start working on your product because that’s not allowed. So you have to do it nights and weekends.”

That is why Mehta’s earlier startup failed.

“We were left to work with them on nights and weekends, and in this day of improbable innovation, if you don’t move fast, you’re falling behind,” noted Mehta.

Undivided attention

Mehta and his partners created Unshackled to solve that dilemma and allow immigrant entrepreneurs to work on their startup fulltime, in the United States.

Unshackled invests in the startups and provides a free co-working space in the heart of Silicon Valley.

Unshackled invests in the startups and provides a free co-working space in the heart of Silicon Valley.

Unshackled sponsors work visas and hires founders of startups to work fulltime on their own projects. The firm invests up to $300,000 in the startups and provides entrepreneurs with a free co-working space in the heart of Silicon Valley.

“In the initial days of a startup, any cost saving is very, very helpful. For example, we would not be able to afford this space in the middle of Palo Alto if you’re going to pay rent,” said Joshi who now is able to work on his startup, Pluto AI, a platform for water management.

Unshackled also provides a network of resources, legal help and mentors for entrepreneurs who may be relatively new to the United States.

“One of the biggest challenges we see with immigrant founders is that they don’t have deep networks,” Mehta said. “Someone like myself who’s born and raised in the U.S., I have 32 years of networks that’s been built. But if you came to this country for university or for a job, you may be limited to five or seven years at most.”

Invaluable information

Fu said the “business idea development, marketing and how to do the pitch for investors to get funding” were particularly helpful pieces of information that Unshackled provided for his startup.

“So by having this ecosystem where we have everyone working out of our space, they now also create a community which allows them to share and move faster on experiences and things that work and oftentimes things that don’t work,” said Mehta.

Unshackled has invested in founders from 15 different countries, on almost every continent, with the hope that the company will benefit financially from startups like Togg and Pluto AI as they become successful in the future.

January 23, 2017 Mon, 23 Jan 2017 22:57:08 +0000
A look at the best news photos from around the world.

African Christian Preachers Converge on Gabon for Africa Cup of Nations Mon, 23 Jan 2017 22:37:03 +0000

Some fans approach football with near religious fervor, and Christian preachers in Africa have been converging on Gabon, hoping to capitalize on the excitement surrounding the Africa Cup of Nations tournament and send out a message for peace.

One hundred singers from seven Pentecostal churches lead people to dance at the Boulevard Triomphal in Libreville. This has become a regular event on the evenings of the group A matches that are happening nearby.

Pastor Imohi Peter is from Nigeria, one of several clerics from revivalist churches around the region who have come to Gabon for the Africa Cup of Nations football tournament.

“We are living in a world of chaos, a world of confusion that needs Jesus, so what we do as a church is to pray and say Lord, bring peace to these various areas where there is no peace,” said Peter.

He preaches by the giant screens installed near the Boulevard Triomphal. After the matches, Peter and his church members counsel new converts and direct them to sister churches in the countries where they will return when the tournament ends.

Cameroonian evangelist preacher Mbella David says he is seeing about five new converts a day.

“… I would raise up stones to praise me,” he said. “Would you allow God to raise up stones to praise him? Then praise him well …”

Mbella David is preaching on a bus transporting football fans to the stadium in Libreville.

Passengers listened and some even asked questions, but not everyone approves.

Omar Bongo University of Libreville student Lydwin Nkemke says preaching is a very good thing, but people should know when and where to do it. She says shouting and praying in buses creates total disorder.

The Christian preachers are part of an effort called the AFCON peace campaign, an effort for religious tolerance and an end to conflict.

“It is very difficult to measure peace,” said Kenyan-born Reverend Kamu Stanislos, the main organizer. “Sometimes you work very hard and there is peace here and peace over there, but then when violence erupts, people remember the violence and forget the time of peace. To work for peace is more difficult than to stimulate violence.”

The sidelines of an international football tournament may seem to be an unlikely place for religion. But the pastors gathered here say AFCON is a crossroads. The event draws fans from around the continent, so what better place to get the word out.