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Surfers or seals all the same prey to near-blind sharks



White, tiger and bull sharks are the usual suspects for the majority of attacks on humans

Sharks suffer such poor vision that they are unable to distinguish people surfing or swimming from animal prey like seals and walruses, according to a study published Wednesday. 

But a new study published by the Royal Society’s Interface review found that the sharks barely pick up colour and have a very poor ability to distinguish shapes.

Originally published as Surfers or seals all the same prey to near-blind sharks




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Ethiopia launches air strike on rebel ‘training centre’: govt



Ethiopia’s military on Tuesday launched another air strike in war-torn Tigray, hitting what a government official called a rebel training facility just outside the regional capital Mekele. 

Tigray was pounded by near-daily aerial bombardments last week in a sign the military was stepping up its use of air power in the year-long war against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). 

The latest strike was in Quiha, a town five kilometres (three miles) east of Mekele, which the TPLF recaptured from government forces in June and has held ever since. 

“(A) large number of the group’s illegally recruited military personnel were taking military trainings at this center.” 

“So far, the information we have is that there was no casualties from the airstrike,” the network reported.

Most were in and around Mekele. But on Sunday the military confirmed strikes further afield in Adwa to the north of the capital, and another along the ‘western front’ of the war at Mai Tsebri.

The TPLF said the strikes were evidence of the government’s disregard for civilian lives. 

The escalation in aerial assaults coincides with ramped-up fighting in Amhara region, south of Tigray. 

A strike Friday on Mekele forced a UN flight carrying 11 humanitarian personnel to turn back to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, and the UN subsequently announced it was suspending its twice-weekly flights to the region.

The UN said last week that fuel shortages had forced some relief groups to suspend food distribution in a region where 5.2 million need aid.

AFP has documented starvation deaths in multiple parts of Tigray, based on internal documents from aid groups active there. 

The 2019 Nobel Peace laureate said the move came in response to TPLF attacks on army camps and promised a swift victory, but by late June the rebels had regrouped and retaken most of the region, including Mekele. 

Originally published as Ethiopia launches air strike on rebel ‘training centre’: govt




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Final show in France for looted Benin treasures



A Paris museum on Tuesday exhibited over a dozen colonial-era treasures taken from Benin, the last time they will be shown in France before being handed back in a landmark gesture. 

The 26 pieces, from a trove of objects snatched by French forces in 1892, are being shown for just six days at the Quai Branly museum before being shipped to the West African country later this month.

The move is part of a drive by French President Emmanuel Macron to improve his country’s image in Africa, especially among young people. 

Macron will visit the exhibition Wednesday afternoon. 

Earlier this month, Macron announced that a “talking drum” cherished by Ivory Coast’s Ebrie people, also at the Quai Branly, would be handed back as well.

But Quai Branly president Emmanuel Kasarherou said he welcomed the “soul-searching” that those calls had triggered about the provenance of artworks.

The Quai Branly, which has a vast trove of African artefacts, has begun a sweeping review of its collection of 300,000 objects. 

“Not all objects that are in European collections have been stolen,” he emphasised, but “what proportion were? Our objective is to find out.”

In a speech to students in Burkina Faso soon after taking office, he vowed to facilitate the return of African cultural heritage within five years.

The restitution calls culminated last year in a vote in the French parliament, where lawmakers overwhelmingly backed returning a group of artefacts to Benin and Senegal, another former French colony.

They will be exhibited at various sites in Benin, including a former Portuguese fort in the city of Ouidah, once a slave-trading hub, while awaiting the completion of a museum in Abomey to house them.

– Tracing origins –

Some were seized by colonial administrators, troops or doctors and passed down to descendants who in turn donated them to museums in Europe.

France is not the only former colonial power to have been targeted by restitution requests. 

Nigeria said last month it had agreed with Germany on the return of hundreds of so-called Benin Bronzes — metal plaques and sculptures from the 16th to 18th centuries that were stolen from the palace of the ancient Benin Kingdom in present-day Nigeria.

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Originally published as Final show in France for looted Benin treasures




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‘Facebook Papers’ explode ahead of platform’s earnings report



Facebook was hit Monday by scathing reports from at least a dozen US news outlets based on internal documents, just hours before the company was to release its earnings report.

The company was due to release its quarterly earnings on Monday, which have boomed during the pandemic period when much of the world used online tools while sheltering at home against the virus.

Originally published as ‘Facebook Papers’ explode ahead of platform’s earnings report




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Armed forces detain PM and other leaders in Sudan ‘coup’



Sudanese protesters lift national flags as they rally on 60th Street in the capital Khartoum

Armed forces detained Sudan’s prime minister over his refusal to support their “coup” on Monday, the information ministry said, after weeks of tensions between the military and civilian figures sharing power since the ouster of autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

Civilian members of Sudan’s ruling council and ministers in Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s transitional government had also been detained, the ministry said in a statement on Facebook.

Soldiers stormed the headquarters of Sudan’s state broadcaster in the capital’s twin city of Omdurman, the ministry said, as patriotic songs were aired on television.

“Civilian members of the transitional sovereign council and a number of ministers from the transitional government have been detained by joint military forces,” the ministry said.

It added that “after refusing to support the coup, an army force detained Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and took him to an unidentified location”.

“Any changes to the transitional government by force puts at risk US assistance,” Feltman said on Twitter.

“I am calling on security forces to immediately release all those unlawfully detained or put under house arrest,” said Volker Perthes, chief of the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan.

“The EU calls on all stakeholders and regional partners to put back on track the transition process,” EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell tweeted.

The Sudanese Professionals Association, an umbrella group of trade unions which were key in leading the 2019 anti-Bashir protests, denounced what it called a “military coup” and urged demonstrators “to fiercely resist” it.

Sudan has been undergoing a precarious transition marred by political divisions and power struggles since Bashir was toppled in April 2019.

The ex-president has been wanted by the International Criminal Court for more than a decade over charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan’s Darfur region.

But the main civilian bloc — the Forces for Freedom and Change — which led the anti-Bashir protests in 2019, has splintered into two opposing factions.

“We renew our confidence in the government, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, and reforming transitional institutions — but without dictations or imposition,” Arman added.

Protesters took to the streets in several parts of Khartoum carrying the Sudanese flags.

“We will not accept military rule and we are ready to give our lives for the democratic transition in Sudan,” said demonstrator Haitham Mohamed.

– Rival protests –

Last week tens of thousands of Sudanese marched in several cities to back the full transfer of power to civilians, and to counter a rival days-long sit-in outside the presidential palace in Khartoum demanding a return to “military rule”.

On Saturday, Hamdok denied rumours he had agreed to a cabinet reshuffle, calling them “not accurate”.

Also on Saturday, Feltman met jointly with Hamdok, the chairman of Sudan’s ruling body General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and paramilitary commander Mohamed Hamdan Daglo.

Analysts have said the recent mass protests showed strong support for a civilian-led democracy, but warned street demonstrations may have little impact on the powerful factions pushing a return to military rule.

Originally published as Armed forces detain PM and other leaders in Sudan ‘coup’




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Ugandan president says deadly blast a ‘terrrorist act’



Map of Uganda locating the capital Kampala.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said Sunday an explosion in the capital Kampala that killed one person and injured five was “a terrorist act”, vowing to hunt down those responsible.

Police said a “serious blast” occurred at around 9 pm (1800 GMT) on Saturday at a grilled pork joint in Komamboga, a northern Kampala suburb popular with roadside diners.

“It seems to be a terrorist act but we shall get the perpetrators,” Museveni said on Twitter.

“The public should not fear, we shall defeat this criminality like we have defeated all the other criminality committed by the pigs who don’t respect life,” Museveni said.

Police forensic officers in white overalls could be seen examining areas close to the scene.

Security forces rushed to the scene in Komamboga, a fast-growing suburb about eight kilometres (five miles) north of Kampala city centre.

Local mayor Emmanuel Sserunjogi said the bombing took place in an area popular with revellers looking for roasted meat and drinks on a night out.

– Terror warnings –

But it followed an uptick in recent weeks of signs and warnings that a strike could be imminent. 

In a statement issued through its communication channels, the group claimed a unit from its Central Africa operation had detonated an improvised explosive device that resulted in injuries and damage to police infrastructure.

However in the following days, both the UK and France updated their travel advice for Uganda, urging vigilance in crowded areas and public places like restaurants, bars and hotels.

In 2010, twin bombings in Kampala targeting fans watching the World Cup final left 76 people dead.

The attack, the first outside Somalia by the insurgents, was seen as revenge for Uganda sending troops to the war-torn country as part of an African Union mission to confront Al-Shabaab.

Originally published as Ugandan president says deadly blast a ‘terrrorist act’




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