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Friday, December 20, 2013

South Sudan on ‘Precipice’ of Civil War, Says Obama

US President Barack Obama said that the political crisis in South Sudan placed the world’s youngest country “at the precipice”, adding that the US would send 45 troops to the country “to support the security of US personnel and our embassy”. In a letter to Congress, Obama wrote that “in recent years, against great odds, South Sudan has made great progress toward breaking the cycle of violence that characterised much of its history. Today, that future is at risk. South Sudan stands at the precipice. Recent fighting threatens to plunge South Sudan back into the dark days of its past”. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, expressed similar concerns regarding the “rapidly deteriorating security situation in South Sudan and the consequences for the civilian population”. More than 34,000 people have already sought refuge at UN facilities in the country.

Probe into London’s Apollo Theatre Ceiling Collapse

Investigators from Westminster City Council are trying to understand why part of the Apollo Theatre’s ceiling collapsed on the 720-strong audience on Thursday night, injuring 76 people. London had been hit by thunderstorms and heavy rain during the evening and some reports suggested water had been dripping from the ceiling before the plasterwork fell onto the audience. The theatre was built in 1901 with 775 seats across its four levels. “The injuries to the casualties that our colleagues have spoken about are consistent with that”, said Deputy Assistant Commissioner Graham Ellis of the London Fire Brigade. “The whole row stood up and there were suppressed murmurs and shrieks and shortly after that there was this large ornate ceiling rose with a chandelier in the middle just came down and a huge brownish grey cloud of dust came up from the stalls”, said Dermot Kavanagh, who was in the theatre when the ceiling collapsed.

Spanish Police Raids Ruling Party Headquarters in Graft Probe

Spanish police investigators raided the Madrid headquarters of the ruling People’s Party (PP) and searched the premises for 14 hours from Thursday night in an attempt to find documents and invoices that could prove off-the-book payments at the time of the building’s renovation from 2005 to 2011. The investigation, led by Magistrate Pablo Ruz, seeks to ascertain the veracity of the evidence given by former party treasurer Luís Barcenas. He maintains that millions of euros were paid to party leaders from cash donated by construction companies. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and other politicians named by Barcenas denied any wrongdoing, but the government’s poll ratings have taken a dive since the scandal broke.

Uganda Approves Anti-Homosexual Law

An anti-homosexuality bill, first described by US President Barack Obama as “odious” at the time of its first draft in 2010, was approved by the Ugandan parliament on Friday. Homosexuality was already illegal in Uganda, but politicians supportive of the new legislation said that tougher sentences were needed because Westerners threatened to destroy Ugandan families by recruiting “children into gay lifestyles”. Repeat offenders could be face life in prison, while those that to not report gay people to the authorities face a jail sentence. A death sentence clause was dropped before the bill was voted. “I am officially illegal”, said Ugandan gay activist Frank Mugisha after the vote. Separately, Ugandan MPs also approved a bill that bans miniskirts as well as overtly sexual material. Simon Lokodo, the country’s minister for ethics and integrity, said that women who wore “anything above the knee” should be arrested.

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