My *ahem* extensive travels….

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One hundred ISIS fighters surrender in Raqqa

first_imgRick Findler/Getty Images(RAQQA, Syria) — About 100 ISIS fighters have surrendered in Raqqa, Syria, in the last 24 hours and have been removed from the city, the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS told ABC News.The mass surrender is viewed as a sign that the coalition’s battle to retake Raqqa could be nearing its end, with 85 percent of the city now under the coalition’s control.“This is consistent with the trend we have seen in the past month, both in Syria and Iraq. A good number of ISIS fighters are giving up,” said Col. Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the anti-ISIS coalition.In addition, over the last week, about 1,500 civilians in the area have safely made it to locations controlled by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, Dillon said.An estimated 300 to 400 fighters remain in Raqqa.“We still expect difficult fighting in the days ahead and will not set a time for when we think ISIS will be completely defeated in Raqqa,” Dillon added.Separately, the Raqqa Civil Council and local Arab tribal elders have brokered a deal in which they are allowing a convoy of vehicles to leave Raqqa Saturday.In a press release Saturday morning, the coalition, which was not involved in the discussions that led to this deal, said people who are being allowed to leave Raqqa are subject to search and screening by Syrian Democratic Forces.The coalition also states in the release that the arrangement is “designed to minimize civilian casualties and purportedly excludes” foreign fighters.However, the coalition’s director of operations, Brig. Gen. Jonathan Braga, said the coalition is concerned about ISIS fighters fleeing the area.“We do not condone any arrangement that allows Daesh terrorists to escape Raqqah without facing justice, only to resurface somewhere else,” he said in the press release. Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.Powered by WPeMatico Relatedlast_img read more

Fifa awards Tutu’s football spirit

first_imgRay Maota Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutubecame the first black South AfricanAnglican Archbishop of Cape Townin South Africa when he was appointedin 1986.(Image: The Soccer Room) Lionel Messi and Marta Vieira Da Silvaare the inaugural winners of the FifaBallon d’Or award for the best male andfemale footballers during the footballseason.(Image: IMSoccer News)MEDIA CONTACTS• The Tutu Foundation+44 0207 654 3822Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has been honoured with the Fifa Presidential Award for his role in uniting the nation ahead of the 2010 World Cup and embodying the spirit of the Beautiful Game.He was presented with the accolade on 10 January 2011 in Zurich, Switzerland, by Fifa president Sepp Blatter during the Fifa Ballon d’Or 2010 soccer awards ceremony.The 79-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate said: “I’m staggered … when I was told, I felt deeply humbled and also deeply honoured. To be recognised in this way is very significant and I accept this on behalf of the South African people, who really deserve the applause for having hosted such a fantastic World Cup.“It was a fantastic thing; no one could have predicted that South Africans would feel so good about themselves. It was reminiscent of the time, when Nelson Mandela was released from prison or when we first won the Rugby World Cup,” added Tutu.Thabo Makgoba, the current Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, congratulated Tutu by saying: “We are so proud of him. Once again he has shown how, in any and every context, he is able to continue to play a reconciling role in his public ministry, in this country, on this continent, and throughout the world.”Tutu also played an integral role in bringing the 2010 World Cup to South Africa by joining a delegation that went to the Caribbean in 2005 to convince that region’s football federation boss, Jack Warner, to vote for South Africa in the 2010 bid. Tutu was joined on this trip by fellow Nobel laureates Nelson Mandela and FW De Klerk, who preceded Mandela as president of South Africa.Honouring football starsThe Fifa Ballon d’Or award honours male and female players of club and national teams who have excelled throughout the football season. The winners are chosen through a vote by coaches, captains of national teams and high-profile sports journalists.The accolade is a result of a 2010 merger between the Ballon d’Or award, initiated by France Football magazine, and the Fifa World Player of the Year award.Barcelona FC’s Lionel Messi and Marta Vieira Da Silva of Brazil’s women national team were the winners for 2010.For the first time, Fifa also honoured outstanding football coaches during the awards. Real Madrid FC coach Jose Mourinho and Silvia Neid, Germany’s women national team coach, were the winners in this category.Messi faced fierce competition from his Barcelona teammates, Andreas Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez. Although Messi was triumphant in the end, he was an unpopular choice among some fans. In an online poll, the majority of voters tipped Xavi to win the award, with Messi coming second and Iniesta a distant third.Messi said: “I am surprised because the prediction was that either Xavi or Iniesta would win. I would like to thank those who voted for me, but Xavi and Iniesta were equally deserving because they had a great year and a wonderful World Cup.”Iniesta and Xavi were part of the Spanish team that won the 2010 Fifa World Cup.The exuberant archbishopIn 1978 Tutu was appointed the first black general secretary of the South African Council of Churches. A few years later, in 1986, he was elected Archbishop of Cape Town, also being the first black person in the country to assume such a post.He has used his high profile to campaign for human rights and, previously, to fight apartheid in South Africa.Following the deadly Soweto riots of 1976, during which black school pupils took to the streets en masse to protest against being taught in Afrikaans, Tutu supported an economic boycott of South Africa.International companies soon started pulling out of the country and the rand’s value plummeted – this put heavy pressure on the government of the time to consider reforming the apartheid system.Tutu was responsible for coining the phrase “Rainbow Nation”, which became a metaphor for South African society following the first democratic elections in 1994. The term has been so widely used since then, it has become ingrained in the South African psyche.He is also regarded as a figurehead always ready to congratulate, critique and condemn the ruling government.Former president Nelson Mandela once described him as: “Sometimes strident, often tender, never afraid and seldom without humour, Desmond Tutu’s voice will always be the voice of the voiceless.”Tutu has won various awards including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, the Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism in 1986, the Gandhi Peace Prize in 2005 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.The Nobel laureate retired from public life in October 2010 at the age of 79. He said: “Instead of growing old gracefully, at home with my family; reading, writing, praying and thinking; too much of my time has been spent at airports and in hotels.“The time has now come to slow down, to sip rooibos tea with my beloved wife in the afternoons, to watch cricket, to travel to visit my children and grandchildren, rather than to be at conferences, conventions and university campuses,” added Tutu.last_img read more

Alan Dershowitz: ‘An unworthy set of reflexive assumptions?’

first_imgAt the start of the Oscar Pistorius trial, celebrity US lawyer Alan Dershowitz suggested in an interview with Piers Morgan on CNN that Pistorius would not get justice as South Africa was a “failed state”, and the trial “racial”.Watch the broadcast of Dershowitz’s statements, and the responses by both Morgan and University of Cape Town academic Kelly Phelps:• Manusha PillaiCommunications managerBrand South Africa+27 11 483 [email protected] Barber, Brand South Africa’s country manager for the US, wrote this open letter to Dershowitz.Dear Professor Dershowitz,I caught you on CNN the other night doing your talking head thing on the trial of Oscar Pistorius for the murder of his girlfriend, the model Reeva Steenkamp.Your Wikipedia entry reminds us why Piers Morgan had you on his show. You are a media star. In 1967, you became Harvard’s youngest ever full professor of law. You held the Felix Frankfurter professorship for 20 years until your retirement in 2013. You have successfully represented a stellar cast of celebrity defendants, including two, OJ Simpson and Claus von Bulow, charged like Pistorius with killing women they had once supposedly loved.South Africa, you told Morgan and his audience with what seemed invincible certainty, was a “failed country”. Now I recognise the on-air rules of the game for professional talking heads include expressing yourselves in ways that might be considered unprofessional in a Harvard lecture hall. That said, your comment about South Africa would have been outlandish in any setting. In spite of his English tabloid roots, even Morgan was taken aback.Happily, Kelly Phelps, a live resident of the “failed country”, was on hand to help straighten you out. “Failed countries” do not generally boast institutions of the calibre of the University of Cape Town where Phelps teaches law. Nor do they retain talent such as hers. Her resume is worth a read. Her statement that South Africa is “fundamentally sound” should command your respect.Yes, there are failed countries out there, but by no reasonable definition of the phrase can South Africa be counted as one of them. In a genuinely failed country, Pistorius would not be on any kind of trial, let alone one conducted as scrupulously as the case at hand. Not only is justice being done in North Gauteng High Court courtroom GD, it is being seen to be done on television and computer screens the world over in real time.I was struck by your insinuation that Judge Thokozile Masipa, being black, would be unable to give unbiased consideration to the white defendant’s claim he thought he was shooting an intruder – a person he would he would have presumed to be black. What personal knowledge do you have of Judge Masipa to support this? Or is it simply what your gut tells you? And if so, would it be unfair to suggest that what was informing your gut was, principally, an unworthy set of reflexive assumptions?What you will not see in Judge Masipa’s courtroom are defence attorneys cynically attempting, as they did in the OJ Simpson case, to manipulate the racial fears and biases of jurors to secure an against-the-odds acquittal. There is no jury. When Judge Masipa has heard the evidence and reached a verdict, she will be obliged to explain in exhaustive detail how and on what basis she and her two assessors got there. Any trace of bias will be grounds for appeal, all the way to the constitutional court if necessary.Pistorius’ lawyers will naturally do everything they can to establish the plausibility of their client’s version. That’s their job. No doubt they will highlight South Africa’s well-documented rates of crime, including home robberies. They will also seek to undermine the prosecution’s case by impeaching the competence of the police and asserting the contamination of evidence. In much the same way did OJ Simpson’s legal team try to destroy the credibility of the detectives who investigated Nicole Brown’s murder. I am certain, Professor, you know to distinguish between what is said in a courtroom to make a case and the more nuanced realities of the world outside.I happen to have some experience with what legal proceedings look like in a failed, or at least failing, country. In 1977, as a junior reporter, I was part of the team sent by a local newspaper to cover the inquest into the death in police custody of Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko.The inquest, like the present trial, took place in Pretoria, then at the heart of apartheid darkness. There was no justice in that courtroom, nor any hope of it, the extraordinary talent of the Biko family’s legal team notwithstanding. No unprejudiced magistrate could have found that Biko’s fatal brain injuries were the result of something other than the brutality and callousness of his captors. The actual verdict was a cover-up of judicial murder: “The available evidence does not prove the death was brought about by an act or omission involving an offense by any person.”That country, mercifully, did fail. The people of South Africa came together under some remarkable leaders, including the late Nelson Mandela, to build a new one, whose 20th birthday we celebrate this year. The rights and dignity that Biko and countless others were jailed, tortured and died fighting for are now enshrined in a constitution that has been extolled by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg – much to the knee-jerk shock and horror of Fox News – as “a great piece of work” and a model for other emerging democracies.South Africans may sometimes struggle to live up to the high ideals and standards embodied in their re-founding document, but don’t mistake failings – failings we candidly acknowledge and are striving to correct – for failure.Yours sincerely,Simon BarberRead more: Failed state, my foot by Max du Preezlast_img read more

An American Will Play For The World Chess Championship

For the first time since Bobby Fischer captivated the country, a U.S. grandmaster has a shot at becoming the undisputed world chess champion.1In 1996, American Gata Kamsky played in the finals of the FIDE world championship (and lost), but the world championship was divided because Garry Kasparov, the world’s strongest player, had split from FIDE and played in championships under the banner of the Professional Chess Association. Fabiano Caruana, the current world No. 3 and the top American chess grandmaster, won the right today to play for the game’s most coveted prize. He’ll face the reigning world champion, Magnus Carlsen of Norway, in a 12-game, one-on-one match in London in November. It won’t be easy. Carlsen, the current world No. 1, has been champion since 2013 and became a grandmaster when he was 13 years old. He most recently defended his title in 2016 in New York City.Caruana earned his challenge bid by winning the Candidates Tournament, a 14-game tournament featuring eight of the world’s top players, held over the past three weeks in Berlin. For much of the Candidates, Caruana seemed like he might cruise to a relatively painless victory. He notched some early victories and fended off other top rivals with exacting draws. But he stumbled in Game 12, losing to the Russian grandmaster Sergey Karjakin in 48 moves. That created a formidable and complex thicket at the top of the standings — going into the tournament’s final day, four of the eight grandmasters had a chance to win. But in the 14th and final game, held today, Caruana fought Alexander Grischuk of Russia for 69 moves and over six hours, winning the game and securing the tournament.Caruana has been to the world championships before — but only as a spectator. While Carlsen was winning his championship in New York in 2016, Caruana could be found playing speed chess amid throngs of onlookers at a New York chess club. He told me at the time that he was staying up late at night analyzing the championship games. Now he’ll have a chance to put his analysis to use.It’s been a long road to the championship for Caruana. His family moved to Brooklyn from Miami when he was 4 years old, and he began playing chess at age 5 at a synagogue’s after-school program. Within a few months, he was playing in tournaments around the city. Fischer, whose own family moved to Brooklyn when he was young, learned the game 50 years earlier in an apartment about a mile away from the synagogue.Despite these roots in the U.S., Caruana is one of a couple super-strong players who have transferred to the American team from other countries’ teams. Caruana had been a member of the Italian team, having moved to Europe to take advantage of its strong coaches and tournaments. He rejoined the American team in 2015.But there’s still one steep hill to climb. Caruana and Carlsen have played 31 times before in the lengthy sort of games that will be played at the world championship, according to, a website that collects top players’ games. Carlsen leads their series 9 wins to 5, and there have been 17 draws. A simple simulation of the match2I simulated 100,000 instances of the championship match and its potential tie-breakers, using the players’ live ratings from and assuming a draw rate of 30 percent, similar to what I’ve done before previous world championships. using the players’ current Elo ratings puts Caruana’s chances of upending Carlsen’s reign — and claiming the first American title since Fischer — at about 30 percent. read more

Google Unveils Project Zero an Elite Cybersecurity Squad to Fight Hackers

first_img Google loves a good project.Following in the footsteps of Project Ara, Project Loon and Project Tango, the company has just unveiled a new effort to tackle security issues across the Internet: Project Zero.Security is such a critical priority, the SEO giant is now ramping up earlier part-time work by self-governing staffers — which has led to the discovery of bugs like Heartbleed — into a full-fledged security outfit, the company explained in a blog post yesterday.With Project Zero, Google is looking to extend beyond its own workings on the web and “will work to improve the security of any software depended upon by large numbers of people.”Related: Viral App ‘Yo’ Hires Its HackerAdditionally, all security efforts will be undertaken transparently, with every bug “filed in an external database,” the company said.“We will only report bugs to the software’s vendor — and no third parties,” Google added. “Once the bug report becomes public (typically once a patch is available), you’ll be able to monitor vendor time-to-fix performance, see any discussion about exploitability, and view historical exploits and crash traces.”The name Project Zero refers to a “zero-day” attack or vulnerability, which exploits a previously unknown bug that developers have had no time to patch.Best of all for computer whizzes who want to harness their abilities for the Internet’s greater good? “We’re hiring,” writes Project Zero’s researcher herder, Chris Evans. Interested parties can find out more about the effort on the project’s blog.Related: Why Security Should Be Top of Mind When Creating a Business July 16, 2014 2 min read Free Webinar | Sept. 9: The Entrepreneur’s Playbook for Going Globalcenter_img Growing a business sometimes requires thinking outside the box. Register Now »last_img read more

Air Canada CEO hopes Trumps vow to cut US airline taxes will

first_img MONTREAL — The CEO of Air Canada hopes President Donald Trump’s promise Thursday to U.S. airline executives to cut their taxes will spur action on this side of the border.Calin Rovinescu says moves by other countries to become more competitive might prompt Canada to cut fees, charges and taxes that represent about 43 per cent of the average ticket price.Trump promised airline executives at the White House that he would lower their corporate tax burden and roll back regulations. He also said he supports privatizing America’s air traffic control system.Air Canada has long complained about extra costs to fly in Canada that have in the past prompted millions of passengers a year to catch flights from nearby American airports.Rovinescu spoke to reporters in a large Montreal hangar, as the country’s largest carrier unveiled new looks for its planes and the uniforms of its employees.He says the proposal under review by the Canadian federal government to privatize airports would end up costing passengers more as the new owners would raise already high fees so they can earn a rate of return.More news:  Flight Centre Travel Group takes full ownership of Quebec-based agencyMeanwhile, Rovinescu says Canada could ultimately benefit if a ban on immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries is reinstated by U.S. courts.WestJet expressed a similar view earlier this week, saying uncertainty surrounding new U.S. border policies could present a silver lining by increasing interest in Canada by foreign tourists.Air Canada’s CEO says a “small number of passengers” were displaced when Trump signed an executive order imposing the travel ban, but later got to their destinations after it was lifted. Air Canada CEO hopes Trump’s vow to cut U.S. airline taxes will spur change at home Friday, February 10, 2017 << Previous PostNext Post >> By: Ross Marowits Source: The Canadian Press Share Tags: Air Canada, Donald Trumplast_img read more