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Opposition supporters in Venezuela were set to take to the streets Monday after leader Juan Guaido called for mass protests against President Nicolas Maduro — as the self-declared interim president prepared to return after a week touring Latin American allies.

Guaido’s reappearance in Venezuela would pose an immediate challenge to the embattled Maduro, who will have to decide whether to arrest him for defying a travel ban — thereby provoking strong international condemnation — or allow him to enter unmolested, which would undermine his authority, analyst say.

“I’m announcing my return to the country. I am calling on the Venezuelan people to mobilize all over the country tomorrow at 11:00 am (1500 GMT),” Guaido wrote Sunday on Twitter.

Later, in a video with his wife shared on his social networks, he said if Maduro’s government “tries to kidnap us … it will be one of the last mistakes it makes.”

Guaido, who has been recognized by more than 50 countries as Venezuela’s interim president, did not say how or when he would return, though speculation is rife that a flight from the Colombian capital Bogota to Caracas is the most likely route.

However, it is possible that he plans to slip across the border with Colombia in the same way he left Venezuela, claiming on that occasion that he had help from Maduro’s military.

Guaido held talks in Salinas — a coastal resort town west of Guayaquil — on Saturday with President Lenin Moreno, and met with Venezuelan refugees.

On Sunday around noon, he flew out of Salinas without revealing his destination.

‘Must return to Venezuela’

Defying a Venezuelan government travel ban, Guaido slipped across the border to Colombia on February 23 in an attempt to escort in truckloads of international humanitarian aid. While in Colombia he met with visiting US Vice President Mike Pence.

The 35-year-old political newcomer then traveled to Brazil, where he met the country’s new right-wing president, Jair Bolsonaro, and on Friday traveled to Paraguay and Argentina.

In a poke at Maduro during his trip, he said he was invited to visit Chile later this month.

Guaido, who heads the opposition-led National Assembly, stunned the world on January 23 when he proclaimed himself Venezuela’s acting president after the legislature declared Maduro a usurper and illegitimate over his May 2017 re-election, which was widely criticized as fraudulent. Maduro’s new term in office began on January 10.

Guaido wants to oust Maduro and set up a transitional government ahead of new elections.

Guaido “must return to Venezuela and continue to press internally, as the international support is enormous,” Eufracio Infante, 64, a Venezuelan lawyer and history teacher, told AFP.

“We are facing a very delicate situation and every minute we are approaching an outcome we hope will not be catastrophic,” he said.

Maduro — who retains the support of Venezuela’s powerful military — enjoys strong support from Russia, which accuses Washington of interventionism, and China, which is concerned over the fate of billions of dollars in loans to Maduro’s regime.

The socialist president warned last week that Guaido should “respect the law” and would have to “face justice” if he returns to the country.

Guaido said last week he intended to return to Venezuela “despite threats” to arrest him. The United States and other allies have expressed concern for his safety.

“The challenge has gone very far,” political analyst Luis Salamanca told AFP. “If he comes in and they stop him, it will generate strong internal reaction as well as internationally. Maduro is at permanent risk.”

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini warned on Saturday that any measure that would put at risk Guaido’s “freedom, safety or personal integrity would represent a major escalation of tensions and meet the firm condemnation of international community.”

“Guaido has grown so much politically that they haven’t been able to touch him, in the traditional ways … which is to put him in prison or force him to flee the country, harass him,” said Salamanca.

Separately, Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera sharply criticized UN rights commissioner Michelle Bachelet — Chile’s president 2006-2010 and 2014-2018 — on Sunday for failing to condemn Maduro for human rights violations.

Pinera, a Chilean billionaire elected president for the second time in 2017, is a key supporter of Guaido, and joined the Venezuelan opposition leader in Cucuta, Colombia last weekend in a failed attempt to send international humanitarian aid into Venezuela.

Pinera said in an interview published in the El Mercurio newspaper that Bachelet’s predecessor at the UN, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein of Jordan, “was much clearer, more categorical in condemning human rights abuses.”

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Theresa May resigns: British Prime Minister cry tears when she decide to step down on June 7

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It’s been the honour of my life to serve the country I love’: Theresa May breaks down as she announces she will stand down on June 7 in emotional announcement and pleads for politicians to find Brexit compromise that eluded her

PM spent the night at home in Berkshire with her husband Philip before returning to Downing Street today
Theresa May announce plans to step aside as Tory leader on June 7 and leave No10 over the summer
Mrs May began the day with a meeting with the Tories’ backbench 1922 shop steward Sir Graham Brady
She then address the nation from Downing Street to explain why she has decided to leave ‘the job I love’

It will be recalled that her predecessor, David Cameron also resigned in what can be seen as an abrupt end to his six-year premiership, after the British public took the momentous decision to reject his entreaties and turn their back on the European Union.

There is serious problem facing great Britain

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Pope Francis announces new rule for Catholics

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Catholic Pontiff, Pope Francis, on Thursday, announced that henceforth, bishops would be accountable for sexual abuses or cover ups in their jurisdictions.

The pronouncement, which signalled a change in Catholic Church law, makes reporting of sexual cases obligatory for clerics and allows anyone to complain directly to the Vatican if necessary.

The papal decree, which covers abuse of children and adults, also obliges every Catholic diocese in the world to set up simple and accessible reporting systems and encourages local churches to involve lay experts in investigations.

The decree, whose preparation was reported first by Reuters in April, is the second of such papal provision since a summit on abuse by senior Church bishops at the Vatican in February.

It sets time limits for local investigations and the Vatican’s response to them and allows for retroactive reporting.

It also says bishops with conflicts of interest should recuse themselves from investigations and that they can also be held accountable for abuse of power in sexual relations with adults.

The 19-article decree called “Vos Estis Lux Mundi” (You Are the Light of the World), raises 16 to 18, the age of adulthood in cases of sexual abuse.

It also covers possession of child pornography.

The decree says local Church officials cannot order those, who report abuse to remain silent and that senior bishops should make provisions to prevent documents from being destroyed by subordinates if needed.

It directed that clerics should follow local law on whether they are obliged to report alleged sexual abuse to civil authorities.

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Fire breaks out at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris

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A huge fire swept through the roof of the famed Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris on Monday evening, sending flames and huge clouds of grey smoke billowing into the sky.

The flames and smoke plumed from the spire and roof of the gothic cathedral, visited by millions of people a year.

A spokesman for the cathedral told AFP that the wooden structure supporting the roof was being gutted by the blaze.

The fire service said the blaze could be “potentially linked” to ongoing renovations.

President Emmanuel Macron cancelled a major televised policy speech he was due to give on Monday evening over the “terrible fire ravaging Notre-Dame.”

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo in a tweet described it as a “terrible fire”.

“The Paris fire service is trying to control the flames,” she wrote on Twitter, asking residents to respect the security cordon thrown up around the site.

A spokesperson for the cathedral said the fire, which comes as French Catholics prepare to celebrate Easter, broke out at around 1650 GMT.

Fire trucks could be seen speeding through Paris towards the scene on the Ile de la Cite — an island in the Seine at the heart of Paris.

The Paris police department in a tweet called on residents to avoid the area and to “make way for rescue vehicles”.

US President Donald Trump in a tweet said: “So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!”

Hundreds of people gathered on the bridges of Paris downriver to witness the scene, some filming the images with their smartphones, an AFP reporter said.

A burning smell filled the air.

(AFP)

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Trump tax showdown!! U.S. Democrats set April 23 deadline for IRS

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U.S. congressional Democrats on Saturday headed for a showdown with the Internal Revenue Service over President Donald Trump’s tax returns, setting a new hard deadline of April 23 for the federal tax agency to hand the documents over to lawmakers.

In an April 13 letter that appeared to move Democrats closer to a federal court battle against the Trump administration, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal warned the IRS that failure to comply with his request for six years of Trump’s individual and business returns by April 23 would be interpreted as a denial.
The Trump administration has already missed an initial April 10 deadline for providing the tax records, which Neal first set when he made his request on April 3. Democrats based their request on the panel’s jurisdiction over IRS enforcement of the tax laws regarding U.S. presidents.
But Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Saturday that Neal was “just picking arbitrary dates” in setting deadlines and said it was more important to get the decision “right” to ensure the IRS would not be “weaponized” in a political dispute.
“I do intend to follow the law. But I think these raise very, very complicated legal issues. I don’t think these are simple issues. There are constitutional issues,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank spring meetings in Washington.
He could not say whether the Treasury, which oversees the IRS, would complete its review of Neal’s request by April 23.
Mnuchin, who has consulted with the White House and Department of Justice about Trump’s tax returns, said earlier this week that Neal’s request raised concerns about the scope of the committee’s authority, privacy protections for U.S. taxpayers and the legislative purpose of lawmakers in seeking the documents. He said he has not spoken personally to Attorney General William Barr about the request.
“Those concerns lack merit. Moreover, judicial precedent commands that none of the concerns raised can legitimately be used to deny the committee’s request,” Neal told IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig in his letter.
“It is not the proper function of the IRS, Treasury or Justice to question or second guess the motivations of the committee or its reasonable determinations regarding its need for the requested tax returns and return information.
“Please know that, if you fail to comply, your failure will be interpreted as a denial of my request,” Neal wrote.
As Ways and Means chairman, Neal is the only lawmaker in the House of Representatives authorised to request individual tax information under a federal law that says that the Treasury secretary “shall furnish” the data.
Despite the law’s clarity, Democrats have long acknowledged that the request, if denied, would mean a federal court battle that could ultimately be settled by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Legal experts say lawmakers could vote to hold administration officials in contempt of Congress, which would provide a basis for the House to ask a federal judge to order the Treasury Department to comply.
Congressional Republicans have condemned Neal’s request as a political fishing expedition by Democrats, while the White House has said the documents will “never” be turned over.
But Congress would likely win a court fight, though it could take months or even years to unfold, experts say. Neal’s request for the returns of a sitting president is unprecedented, and legal experts say its success or failure may depend on a court ruling about the committee’s legislative purpose for seeking the documents.
Neal said in his letter that the request is needed to further “legislative proposals and oversight related to our Federal tax laws, including but not limited to, the extent to which the IRS audits and enforces the Federal tax laws against a President.”
Democrats want Trump’s tax returns as part of their investigations of possible conflicts of interest posed by his continued ownership of extensive business interests, even as he serves the public as president.
Trump broke with a decades-old precedent by refusing to release his returns as a presidential candidate in 2016 and continues to do so as president, saying his tax returns are under IRS.

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Pope Francis literally begs for peace at retreat for South Sudan leaders

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Pope Francis, on Thursday, knelt to kiss the feet of South Sudan’s previously warring leaders, in a dramatic gesture after an unprecedented retreat at the Vatican.
The Pope, however, urged them to not return to a civil war.
He also appealed to President Salva Kiir, his former deputy turned rebel leader Riek Machar, and three other vice presidents to respect a peace agreement they signed and commit to forming a unity government in May.
“I am asking you as a brother to stay in peace. I am asking you with my heart, let us go forward.
“There will be many problems but they will not overcome us. Resolve your problems,” Francis said in improvised remarks.
The leaders appeared to be stunned as the 82-year-old pope, helped by aides, knelt with difficulty to kiss the shoes of the two main opposing leaders and several other people in the room.
The Pope’s words were made even more pressing as anxiety grew in South Sudan over whether Thursday’s coup in neighbouring Sudan could scupper a fragile peace deal that ended South Sudan’s brutal five-year civil war.
The Vatican brought together South Sudanese leaders for 24 hours of prayer and preaching inside the pope’s residence in a last ditch attempt to heal bitter divisions a month before the war-ravaged nation is due to set up a unity government.

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President al-Bashir steps down, government sources say

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Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has stepped down and consultations are underway to form a transitional council to run the country, government sources and a provincial minister said on Thursday.

The Minister of Production and Economic Resources in North Darfur, Adel Hussein, told the Dubai-based al-Hadath TV that “there are consultations to form a military council to take over power after President Bashir stepped down”.

Sudanese sources confirmed the report that al-Bashir was at the presidential residence under “heavy guard”.

The military will make an announcement soon, state television said as troops were deployed in Khartoum.

“The armed forces will present an important statement shortly. Be ready for it,” the announcement on state television read, without giving further details.

The army and security services deployed troops around the Defence Ministry and on major roads and bridges in the capital as thousands of people flocked to an anti-government protest outside the ministry, a witness said.

Tens of thousands of Sudanese took to the streets in the centre of Khartoum in jubilation, dancing and chanting anti-Bashir slogans.

Protesters outside the defence ministry chanted: “It has fallen, we won.”

State television and radio played patriotic music, reminding older Sudanese of how military takeovers unfolded during previous episodes of civil unrest.

Bashir, a former paratrooper who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1989, has been a divisive figure, who has managed his way through one internal crisis after another while withstanding attempts by the West to weaken him.

Sudan has suffered prolonged periods of isolation since 1993 when the U.S. added Bashir’s government to its list of terrorism sponsors for harbouring Islamist militants.

Washington followed up with sanctions four years later.

Bashir has also been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague over allegations of genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region during an insurgency that began in 2003.

The latest crisis has escalated since the weekend when thousands of demonstrators began camping out outside the Defence Ministry compound in central Khartoum, where Bashir’s residence is located.

Clashes erupted on Tuesday between soldiers trying to protect the protesters and intelligence and security personnel trying to disperse them.

The Information Ministry said a police report showed that at least 11 people died in the clashes, including six members of the armed forces.

Since Dec. 19, Sudan has been rocked by persistent protests sparked by the government’s attempt to raise the price of bread, and an economic crisis that has led to fuel and cash shortages.

Opposition figures have called for the military to help negotiate an end to Bashir’s nearly three decades in power and a transition to democracy.

The demonstrators at the defence ministry had said that they wanted to submit a petition for the armed forces to take their side in their attempt to remove Bashir and his Islamist-backed administration.

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WikiLeaks co-founder, arrested in London

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julian Assange, Wikileaks co-founder, has been arrested at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Assange, who was accused of releasing secret documents that embarrassed the United States government, was arrested by the British police on Thursday at the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he had lived for years.

“Julian Assange, 47, has today, Thursday 11 April, been arrested by officers from the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) at the Embassy of Ecuador, Hans Crescent, SW1 on a warrant issued by Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 29 June 2012, for failing to surrender to the court,” the Metropolitan police said in a statement.

“He has been taken into custody at a central London police station where he will remain, before being presented before Westminster Magistrates’ Court as soon as is possible.

“The MPS had a duty to execute the warrant, on behalf of Westminster Magistrates’ Court, and was invited into the embassy by the Ambassador, following the Ecuadorian government’s withdrawal of asylum.”

It is believed that the Australian native has been a resident of the embassy after Ecuador withdrew the asylum it had granted him seven years ago.

He took refuge in the embassy in June 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faced questions about sexual assault allegations.

But Lenin Moreno, Ecuador’s president, said it withdrew Assange’s asylum after his repeated violations to international conventions.

Assange founded WikiLeaks in 2006 as a medium where people could publish sensitive and often classified materials anonymously.

The website, however, gained huge attention in 2010 after classified documents and videos belonging to the United States on the wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq were made public.

 

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Why Nigeria Should Be Careful Borrowing From China — IMF

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The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned Nigeria and other emerging market countries taking loans from China to consider the terms of such facilities, especially their compliance with the Paris Club arrangements.

Speaking yesterday at the ongoing IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings in the United States, Director, IMF Monetary and Capital Markets Department, Tobias Andrian, said there was nothing bad in borrowing from China, except that the terms of such loans are always questionable.

He said: “Loans from China are good, but the countries should consider the terms of the loans. And we urge countries that when they borrow from abroad, that the terms are favourable for the borrower, and should be conforming to the Paris Club arrangements.”

Andrian, who spoke on the Global Financial Stability Report (GFSR), said: “Let me reiterate that in many frontier markets, we see that the share of debt that is not conforming to the Paris Club standards is on the rise. And that means that if there is any debt restructuring down the road one day, that can be very unfavourable to those countries. So, the borrowing terms, the covenants, are extremely important. And we do see a deterioration in that aspect.”

Data from the Debt Management Office (DMO) showed that Nigeria’s total public debt rose to N24.39 trillion or $79.44 billion as at December 31, 2018 representing a year-on-year growth of 12.25 per cent. The 2018 debt stock is higher than that of 2017 by N2.662 billion.

DMO said that as at June 2018, loans obtained by the Federal Government from China represented about 8.5 per cent of Nigeria’s external debt and that they were taken under concessionary terms. But Nigeria was last year seeking  $6 billion from China to fund the construction of the  Ibadan-Kano rail line project.

Andrian said Nigeria had been borrowing from international markets, which gives the IMF some worries. He, however, noted that such loans are good as they allow the country to invest more, but expressed concerns over rollover or repayment risks.

“At the moment, funding conditions in economies such as Nigeria and other Sub-Saharan African countries, are very favourable but that might change at some point. And there is risk of rollovers and whether the need for refinancing can be met in the future,” the IMF director said,  advising that Nigeria should seek higher capital for its banks through recapitalisation and also tackle rising non-performing loans in the sector.

Adrian said that where there are financial stability concerns, authorities are expected to use prudential tools, such as higher capital in the banking system and more conservative underwriting standards to reduce financial stability risks.

He said: “We advise countries that where those downside risks are increasing, to take more steps to ensure that vulnerabilities are not rising too much. Addressing non-performing loans is a first order importance for financial stability. Many countries have tackled that by developing secondary market for non-performing loans. And by being aggressive in writing off non-performing loans and through provisioning and use of improved accounting standards through International Financial Reporting Standards 9 (IFRS 9)”.

According to Adrian, many countries do not have all the tools that are necessary to ensure that the system is financially stable, hence the financial stability concerns can feed into monetary policy decisions. He, therefore, urged monetary policy makers to also look at risks to financial stability both in the short term and in the medium term.

As a way out of the crisis, the IMF director  advised policymakers to develop and deploy macro-prudential tools which can mitigate vulnerabilities and make the financial system more resilient.

“Emerging markets facing volatile capital flows should limit their reliance on short-term overseas debt and ensure they have adequate foreign currency reserves and bank buffers. Besides,  monetary policy should be data dependent and well communicated,” he said.

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