Sex abuse survivors describe horrors to world’s bishops

Survivors of clerical paedophilia related their traumatic experiences to the world’s top bishops on Thursday at a landmark summit at the Vatican on the protection of minors. Here are some extracts from their video testimonies, the transcripts of which were provided by the Vatican, without identifying the speakers. – Victim from South America – “The first thing they did was to treat me as a liar, turn their backs and tell me that I, and others, were enemies of the Church. “You are the physicians of the soul and yet, with rare exceptions, you have been transformed — in some cases — into murderers of the soul, into murderers of the faith. “The only thing I ask of you — and I ask the Holy Spirit — to help restore that trust in the Church, so that those who do not want to listen to the Holy Spirit and who want to continue to cover-up, leave the Church to give way to those who want to create a new Church, a renewed Church and a Church absolutely free from sexual abuse.” – Victim from Africa – “From the age of 15, I had sexual relations with a priest. This lasted for 13 years. I got pregnant three times and he made me have an abortion three times, quite simply because he did not want to use condoms or contraceptives. “At first I trusted him so much that I did not know he could abuse me. I was afraid of him, and every time I refused to have sex with him, he would beat me. “And since I was completely dependent on him economically, I suffered all the humiliations he inflicted on me.” – Victim from Eastern Europe – “An encounter with a priest hurt me. As a teenager, after my conversion, I went to the priest so he could teach me how to read the Scriptures during Mass; and he touched my private parts. I spent a night in his bed. This hurt me deeply. “The other thing that hurt me was the bishop to whom, after many years, as an adult, I talked about the incident… I met the bishop and he attacked me without trying to understand me, and this hurt me.” – Victim from the United States – “I still carry pain. My parents still carry pain at the dysfunction, the betrayal, the manipulation that this bad man — who was our Catholic priest at the time — wrought upon my family and myself. “I would ask the bishops for leadership. Leadership and vision and courage.” – Victim from Asia – “I have been sexually molested for a long time, over a hundred times, and this sexual molestation has created traumas and flashbacks all across my life. It’s difficult to live life, it’s difficult to be with people, to get connected with people. “They have all practically covered (up) every issue, covered (up for) the perpetrators and that kills me. “I’ll request the Bishops get their act clear because this is one of the time bombs happening in the church of Asia.BENGBENRO NEWS

Ghana to issue $217.8m bonds

Ghana is issuing $217.8 million bonds to help the country’s lender, National Investment Bank (NIB) to become more liquid.

The government would provide a 100 per cent guarantee for the bond that would be issued under the Ghana Amalgamated Trust (GAT).

The bond, which would be issued before the end of February would be the second tranche after an initial one for four other banks under the GAT.

Chief Executive Officer of the GAT, Eric Otoo, explained in Accra that the money will be injected into the NIB as equity, giving the board and management of GAT an opportunity to have some control in the bank’s affairs.

“We have designed the legal and operational system to make NIB profitable in five years before we exit,” he stressed.

Mr. Otoo also stated that the bond has a five-year term maturity with a 21 percent interest rate guarantee.

He added that investors are demanding 100 percent government guarantee to give them comfort and assurance in case the bank is unable to pay back.

‘But I can tell you we won’t get there, the system we are going to use will rather make NIB financially strong and it will be in a position to pay back the bond’, he added

He pointed out that another tranche of bond will be issued prior to or within the same period to raise about 780 million cedis for the other remaining four banks receiving capital support under the GAT.

The banks are adb, which is expected to receive 127 million cedis, Omni Bank and Sahel Sahara Bank which will both get 130 million cedi, Prudential bank which will get 251 million cedis and UMB which will get 247 million cedis.

The management and board of GAT are optimistic the move will yield a good result since it has been used and tested in some developing countries. Mr. Oto explains.

The GAT is a special purpose vehicle created by government through the Ministry of Finance to support some banks that were said to be doing well but could not meet the 400 million cedis capital requirement announced by the Bank of Ghana.BENGBENRO NEWS.

70 killed in Bangladeshi fire

At least 70 people were killed when fire tore through crumbling apartment blocks in a historic part of Dhaka, Bangladeshi capital, setting off a chain of explosions and a wall of flames down nearby streets, officials said Thursday.

It started in one building where chemicals for deodorants and other household uses were illegally stored and spread at lightning speed to four nearby buildings, the fire service said.

People became trapped by the flames at a nearby bridal party and a restaurant. TV images showed the gates to one building were chained up so residents were unable to escape.

Traffic jams in the clogged narrow streets held up the rescue operation.

Bangladesh fire chief Ali Ahmed said at least 70 people were killed but that the toll would likely rise.

“The number of bodies may increase. The search is still going on,” he told AFP.

Doctors said at least 10 of the scores of injured were in critical condition.

Firefighters who took almost 12 hours to bring the fire under control, went through the blackened floors of the building, littered with spray cans, looking for bodies.

The fire started at about 10.40pm (1640 GMT) on Wednesday at Chawkbazar in the old Mughal part of the capital.

Ahmed said it may have been started by a gas cylinder and quickly spread through the building where chemicals were stored in rooms alongside the apartments.

Chemicals used for household products were also stored in the nearby buildings. They exploded as the fire spread, witnesses said.

“There was a traffic jam when the fire broke out. It spread so quickly that people could not escape,” the fire chief said.

Another fire official told reporters the blaze was under control but was not extinguished despite the efforts of more than 200 firefighters.

“It will take time. This is not like any other fire,” he said, adding that the inferno had been made more devastating by the “highly combustible” chemicals.

Fire trucks had struggled in the narrow streets to reach the scene and there was also a lack of water for the battle, officials said.

The main gate of one five storey building was chained up, trapping residents inside, according to images shown on Bangladesh television.

Members of a bridal party in a nearby community centre were also caught in the fire and many were injured. Others were caught in small restaurants.

Dhaka deputy police commissioner Ibrahim Khan said at least two cars and 10 cycle rickshaws were burned in the fire.

Doctors at Dhaka Medical College Hospital said at least 55 people were injured, including 10 in a critical condition.

Hundreds of people rushed to the hospital looking for missing relatives.

However, most of the bodies of the dead were charred beyond recognition.

Sohag Hossain, one of the injured, told the Daily Star that he and two friends were working at a plastic factory in one of the buildings at the time of the fire.

They heard an explosion and could not escape the flames.

A similar blaze in 2010 in an old Dhaka building, which was also used as a chemical warehouse, killed more than 120 people in one of the worst fire disasters in the city of 20 million people.

Dhaka authorities launched a crackdown on chemical warehouses in residential areas following the blaze, but efforts to rein in the practice have waned.

Many buildings in Bangladesh lack adequate fire safety measures and the enforcement of fire regulations in factories and apartment buildings is lax.

Samsung unsettles Apple with folding smartphone

Samsung Electronics Co Ltd has unveiled a nearly $2,000 folding smartphone in a bid to top the technology of Apple Inc and Chinese rivals and reignite consumer interest amid slumping sales.

The Galaxy Fold will go on sale on April 26 and take advantage of new and faster 5G mobile networks. The device looks similar to a conventional smartphone, but then opens like a book to reveal a display the size of a small tablet at 7.3 inches (18.5 cm).

The device “answers skeptics who said that everything that could be done has been done,” DJ Koh, chief executive of Samsung Electronics, said at an event in San Francisco. “We are here to prove them wrong.”

Samsung remains the world’s largest smartphone maker with nearly a fifth of global unit sales but underperformed a slumping market last year.

Chinese rival Huawei Technologies Co Ltd – whose Mate series of phones also command premium prices – gained market share. Other Chinese makers like Xiaomi Corp have also been increasing prices, leaving Samsung to defend its turf against upstart rivals in addition to its longtime foe Apple.

With the foldable phone, Samsung is going on the offence on two fronts in the smartphone race: It is offering an eye-catching new feature with the big, bending screen and the first 5G connection in a premium phone, a feature analysts do not expect Apple to match until 2020.

Samsung is also making improvements to its flagship Galaxy S devices and plans to offer a 4G version of its folding phone.

It also challenges the notion of what a phone can cost, debuting at nearly twice the price of current top-of-the-line models from Apple and Samsung itself.

Patrick Moorhead, founder of Moor Insights & Strategy, said the new folding device could help Samsung stay at the top and lure consumers to upgrade devices that have looked largely the same over the past five years.

“Samsung and Apple go back and forth” to lead the premium smartphone market, Moorhead said. “I think this is Samsung’s chance to take back the innovation crown.”

And even though the $1,980 starting price is steep, some dedicated Samsung fans said they would pay it. Navneet Kumar Singh, a Samsung enthusiast from India who traveled to San Francisco to watch the launch, is ready to place his order.

“The prices of the flagship models have been a little aggressive in India,” he said, “But in the end, if you invest the money you’re getting a different experience.”

Samsung also introduced several accessories to compete against Apple, including a pair of wireless headphones called Galaxy Buds. The headphones include wireless charging, a feature that Apple has promised to put into is competing AirPods but has not yet released.

Samsung also said that its new Galaxy phones will be able to wirelessly charge its headphones and new smartwatches by setting the accessories on the back of the phone.

Along with the folding phone, Samsung also added new cameras and a 5G version to its Galaxy series of phones.

Verizon Communications Inc will be the first carrier to offer service for Samsung’s 5G phones. The networks are expected to be 10 times faster than current ones, improving viewing of live news and sports events.

With the 5G versions of its flagships, the Korean electronics maker looks to have beaten Chinese rivals in the 5G race, although the device will operate only on the small number of networks launching later this year. Apple is not expected to release a 5G smartphone until late 2020.

China, United States reach tentative deals on trade

The United States and China have started to outline commitments in principle on the stickiest issues in their trade dispute, marking the most significant progress yet toward ending a seven-month trade war, Reuters has reported.

The world’s two largest economies have slapped tit-for-tat tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of goods, slowing global economic growth, skewing supply chains and disrupting manufacturing.

As officials hold high level talks on Thursday and Friday in Washington, they remain far apart on demands made by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration for structural changes to China’s economy.

But the broad outline of what could make up a deal is beginning to emerge from the talks, the sources said, as the two sides push for an agreement by March 1. That marks the end of a 90-day truce that Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to when they met in Argentina late last year.

Negotiators are drawing up six memorandums of understanding on structural issues: forced technology transfer and cyber theft, intellectual property rights, services, currency, agriculture and non-tariff barriers to trade, according to two sources familiar with the progress of the talks.

At meetings between U.S. and Chinese officials last week in Beijing the two sides traded texts and worked on outlining obligations on paper, according to one of the sources.

The process has become a real trade negotiation, the source said, so much so that at the end of the week the participants considered staying in Beijing to keep working. Instead they agreed to take a few days off and reconvene in Washington.

The sources requested anonymity to speak candidly about the talks.

The MOUs cover the most complex issues affecting the trading relationship between the two countries and are meant, from the U.S. perspective, to end the practices that led Trump to start levying duties on Chinese imports in the first place.

One source cautioned that the talks could still end in failure. But the work on the MOUs was a significant step in getting China to sign up both to broad principles and to specific commitments on key issues, he said.

The United States has accused Beijing of forcing U.S. companies doing business in China to share their technology with local partners and hand over intellectual property secrets. China denies it engages in such practices.

Trump administration officials also object to non-tariff barriers in China, including industrial subsidies, regulations, business licensing procedures, product standards reviews and other practices that they say keep U.S. goods out of China or give an unfair advantage to domestic firms.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has pushed for China to open its financial services markets to more foreign firms, including credit card giants Visa and MasterCard, which have waited years for China to make good on promises to allow them to operate there.

On currency, U.S. officials including Mnuchin have warned China against devaluing its yuan to gain a competitive advantage after the Chinese currency weakened significantly against the dollar last year, partly counteracting Trump’s tariffs.

The two sides were discussing an enforcement mechanism for the deal, the source said. Reuters reported last month that the United States was pushing for regular reviews of China’s progress on pledged trade reforms and could reinstate tariffs if it deems Beijing has violated the agreement.

The parties also were looking at a 10-item list of ways that China could reduce its trade surplus with the United States, including by buying agricultural produce, energy and goods such as semiconductors, according to two other sources familiar with the talks.

Time is running short ahead of the March 1 deadline to resolve the dispute or see U.S. tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods rise from 10 percent to 25 percent. Trump said on Tuesday he thought China had an incentive to move swiftly.

“I think they’re trying to move fast so that doesn’t happen,” he told reporters in the Oval Office, while not ruling out the possibility of extending the deadline.

Lower-level officials held a round of talks in Washington on Tuesday and Wednesday. They will be joined on Thursday by the top level negotiators, led by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He.

Vatican’s landmark priests sex abuse summit begins

he summit brings together almost 200 high-ranking Catholic Church figures.

The unprecedented event was organised in response to a new spate of scandals in the U.S., Chile and elsewhere, which exacerbated the Catholic Church’s decades-old paedophile priests crisis.

The summit’s website calls it “A meeting in solidarity, humility, and penitence.’’

Some 114 head bishops from national Catholic Church organisations were invited to take part in the event and urged to meet with abuse survivors before heading to Rome.

One of the summit’s stated aims is to raise awareness of a global crisis in parts of the world, like much of Asia and Africa, where the issue is barely registering.

The summit is not expected to bring fundamental reforms called for by abuse victims, such as the mandatory expulsion from the clergy of any predator priest and bishop who protects them.

The meeting is seen as a key test of Francis’s leadership.

The pope’s record on fighting abuse is under close scrutiny amid continuing criticism of his papacy from conservative circles.

Egypt executes nine persons for killing Barakat, the attorney-general

Egyptian authorities have executed nine men convicted over the 2015 killing of the country’s attorney-general, Hisham Barakat, the Egyptian newspaper, El Watan reported Wednesday.

The men were among a group of 28 who were sentenced to death in the case in 2017. Barakat was killed in a car bomb attack on his convoy in the capital, Cairo.

Egypt blamed the Muslim Brotherhood and Gaza-based Hamas militants for the operation. Both groups denied having a role.

Rights group Amnesty International had appealed on Tuesday for authorities to halt the executions, citing testimony by the defendants that they had been secretly detained and tortured into confessing.

Since 2013, the year that then-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi military ousted President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egyptian criminal courts have issued hundreds of death sentences.

Only a small proportion have been carried out, though the rate of executions has risen since 2015, rights activists say.

El Watan newspaper said the executions were carried out on Wednesday morning. The newspapers gave the names of the executed as Ahmad Taha, Abu Alqasim Ahmed, Ahmed Jamal Hijazi, Mahmoud Al Ahmadi, Abu Bakr Al Sayed, Abdul Rahman Sulaiman, Ahmed Mohammed, Ahmed Mahrous Sayed and Islam Mohammed.

The newspaper also published the confessions of the men about their involvement in the assassination of Barakat by bombing.

Their execution followed six others carried out earlier this month. Three of those were convicted over the killing of a police office in September 2013, and three over the killing of a judge’s son the following year.

In both cases the defendants or their lawyers had said torture was used to extract confessions, according to Amnesty International.

Sisi, who was elected president in 2014 and re-elected last year, says he is working to bring stability and security to Egypt following the turmoil of the 2011 uprising.

Russia accuses US of planning to create new state in Syria

The United States nurtured a plan to split off a part of Syrian territory on the eastern bank of the Euphrates and create a puppet “quasi state” there, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Moscow Tuesday.

“The task of restoring Syria’s territorial integrity, which the entire international community, including the United States, agreed upon, was used by the United States in a deceptive manoeuver,” Lavrov said at a press conference after meeting with Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak.

At the moment, Washington said that its main task is to prevent the Syrian government from returning to the eastern bank of the Euphrates, he said.

The United States openly declares that after withdrawing from Syria, it will support the Kurds, but only if they do not cooperate with the Syrian government and Russia, Lavrov said.

He said that the United States, under the pretext of fighting Islamic State (IS) terrorists and taking main Kurdish structures in the region as allies, has begun building a quasi state in the eastern bank of the Euphrates.

The United States is already actively investing in it, including forcing their allies to pay for development of the region and banning them from investing in the rest of Syria, which is controlled by the legitimate government, he said.

The fate of that part of Syria should not be determined by the whims of the United States, which is illegally present there, Lavrov said.

In December, U.S. President Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, citing that the local IS force has been largely defeated. Former U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis resigned shortly after Trump’s withdrawal decision.

Man City must win Champions League to be among elite — Gundogan

Manchester City must win the Champions League to be considered one of Europe’s elite clubs, midfielder Ilkay Gundogan has said.

City have won the Premier League three times since the Abu Dhabi United Group bought them in 2008, but have never gone past the semi-final stage of Europe’s premier club competition.

“If you want to be in the international elite … you need to clinch this trophy,” Gundogan told ahead of Wednesday’s last 16 tie at Schalke.

“I think that, if we were to win it someday, the club would enter a new era, the same level as Real (Madrid), Barca, Bayern or Juventus, clubs that are maybe a step above us.

“Maybe not in the way they play football, but as a club at least.”

City were knocked out in the last 16 three times in the last five seasons, while their only semi-final appearance came in 2016, when they were knocked out by Real Madrid 1-0 on aggregate.

“We’ve experienced a lot in the Champions League in recent years, not all of it positive, of course. We should’ve won it at least once,” Gundogan added.

“The biggest low was probably being knocked out by Liverpool last season. For that reason, the motivation to go far in this competition is huge and I think we have the quality required.” BENGBENRO SPORT.

Plane of Missing Soccer Player Emiliano Sala Is Found in the English Channel

A search boat hired privately by Sala’s Argentinian family – thanks partly to a crowdfunding appeal – located the wreckage on Sunday morning.

The crew passed the details of the location on to government investigators, who used a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) to examine the spot.

There was no immediate official confirmation of what was found but the shipwreck specialist leading the private investigation, David Mearns, said the plane had been discovered.

No information about whether any bodies were in the plane was given. Two seat covers from the aircraft washed up last week on the coast of France.

UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) will probably make a statement on Monday.

The Piper Malibu N264DB carrying 28-year-old Sala and the pilot, David Ibbotson, 59, disappeared over the Channel on 21 January after leaving Nantes in France at about 7.15pm for Cardiff.