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World in Brief: 09/05/14

TANZANIA: Conservationists warned a UN conference today that poachers are slaughtering Tanzania’s elephants for their ivory at such alarming rates that the population could be completely wiped out in just seven years.

“Around 30 elephants a day are killed — at this rate the population will be exterminated by 2020,” the Tanzanian Elephant Protection Society said.

Tanzanian police launched a crackdown on suspected poachers late last year but  the operation was shut down because of allegations of harassment, rape and murder of suspected poachers.

 

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis called today for governments to redistribute wealth to the poorest.

The Pope made the appeal during a speech to UN secretary-general Ban Ki Moon and the heads of major UN agencies who are meeting in Rome this week.

The pontiff has frequently lashed out at the injustices of capitalism and yesterday, he called for the United Nations to promote an “ethical mobilisation” of solidarity with the poor and a new spirit of generosity that also addresses the root causes of poverty and hunger.

 

GUYANA: A US-funded programme allegedly aimed at improving the democratic process has been suspended amid complaints from the government.

The Leadership and Democracy Project will be put on hold while US and Guyanese officials discuss the scope and intention of the programme.

US officials say the £750,000 scheme is intended to promote consensus-building, but supporters of President Donald Ramotar allege the programme was being used to support his political adversaries in the opposition-controlled National Assembly.

 

UNITED STATES: Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed a law yesterday that makes it the first to require labelling of genetically modified foods.

He also announced an online fundraiser to fight expected legal challenges from the food industry.

The law takes effect in mid-2016, but opponents said immediately that they would file a lawsuit. 

The Grocery Manufacturers’ Association claimed government has no compelling interest in warning consumers about GMO foods.

 

PANAMA: Right-wing president-elect Juan Carlos Varela said today that when he takes office July 1 he will implement price controls.

Doing something about rising prices, especially for food, was Mr Varela’s top campaign pledge in his surprise victory.

And yesterday he reaffirmed that his first order of business as president will be to sign a decree imposing emergency price controls on 22 basic goods, everything from rice and eggs to cuts of meat.

 

SYRIA: The last 16 containers of dangerous chemical agents are in a currently inaccessible contested area, the head of the mission charged with destroying them said yesterday.

Sigrid Kaag appealed to countries with influence on armed groups fighting in Syria to help arrange unfettered access to the site at a military air base and safe transport for the chemicals to the port of Latakia, where Danish and Norwegian ships are waiting.

 

INDIA: Police have arrested a New Delhi university professor for alleged links with Maoist rebels.

Professor GN Saibaba was arrested in the capital today and taken to Mumbai for investigation.

Police said Prof Saibaba, an English professor at Ramlal Anand College of New Delhi, was suspected of being a member of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) and was recruiting people for the group.

 

ITALY: Former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi finished his first spell of a year’s community service at a Catholic care home near Milan today.

He was sentenced to four years in prison for tax fraud last year, commuted to four hours work a week with elderly dementia patients.

As he arrived for work, Mr Berlusconi was heckled by a trade unionist in a clown hat who shouted: “Off to prison.”

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