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South Africa’s ANC meets over ‘Farmgate’ as Ramaphosa allies mount defence

JOHANNESBURG, Dec 2 (Reuters) - Officials in South Africa's governing African National Congress (ANC) met on Friday to decide whether President Cyril Ramaphosa should stay on after an inquiry found evidence of misconduct, but they failed to reach a conclusion.
ANC Treasurer General Paul Mashatile said no decision would be taken on Friday by the National Executive Committee, but that it would reconvene before Dec. 6 to discuss the report.
Ramphosa’s future has been in doubt since publication on Wednesday of a report by a panel of experts that investigated revelations that he kept millions of dollars in cash at his private game farm and failed to even report it missing when the money was stolen from the property in 2020.
The existence of the cash at the Phala Phala game farm and his failure to report the theft to police only surfaced in June.
Ramaphosa has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged with any crime. The president has said the money was much less than the $4 million to $8 million reported, and that it was the proceeds of game sales at the farm.
The media has dubbed the affair “Farmgate”.
By Kopano Gumbi and Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo
(Additional reporting by Tim Cocks, Alexander Winning and Rachel Savage in Johannesburg and Wendell Roelf in Cape Town; editing by James Macharia Chege and Mark Heinrich)

Australia ‘Teacher’s Pet’ podcast subject gets 24-year sentence for 1982 murder

SYDNEY, Dec 2 (Reuters) - An Australian former high school teacher, who was the subject of the hit podcast "The Teacher's Pet", was sentenced on Friday to 24 years in jail for murdering his wife 40 years ago, in a case that has gripped the nation.
The cold case against Christopher Dawson was reopened after the 2018 podcast put pressure on the police to revisit their investigation.
A 2003 inquest had recommended charging Dawson with his wife Lynette’s murder but prosecutors declined, citing a lack of evidence.
“Dawson has enjoyed until his arrest 36 years in the community, unimpeded by the taint of a conviction for killing his wife, or by any punishment for doing so,” New South Wales Supreme Court Judge Ian Harrison said during the sentencing.
“In a practical sense, his denial of responsibility for that crime has benefited him in obvious ways.”
Dawson’s lawyer, Greg Walsh, said he planned to appeal the sentence.
“Our system of justice and our democracy is based upon the presumption of innocence,” he told media on Friday. “He maintains his innocence.”
Lynette Dawson’s brother, Greg Simms, said the family welcomed the sentence.
“We respect and thank Judge Harrison for his sentence, and hope Chris Dawson lives a long life in order to serve that sentence,” he told media.
Dawson will be eligible for parole in 2040, when he will be 92 years old.
Dan Doherty, a homicide detective involved in bringing the charge, said while the sentence would bring comfort to the family, the case remained open as the victim’s body had still not been located.
In August the Supreme Court found Dawson deliberately killed his wife in January 1982 to pursue a relationship with a teenage student he was having an affair with, and who had babysat and lived in his Sydney home.
Dawson, now 74, claimed his wife had left him – a defence that Harrison said was fanciful.
Lawyers for Dawson, who was tried without a jury due to the publicity surrounding the case, argued that the podcast, produced by News Corp’s the Australian newspaper, denied him a fair trial because of the way he was depicted.
Harrison had agreed the podcast – a number-one hit that the newspaper says has been downloaded more than 50 million times – had cast Dawson in a negative light, but had not factored into the verdict.
By Alasdair Pal
(Reporting by Alasdair Pal in Sydney; Editing by William Mallard)

Trump Loses Special Master Review in Mar-a-Lago Files Case

The Justice Department’s criminal investigation into Donald Trump’s handling of White House documents got a major boost Thursday, as a federal appeals court ruled a judge was wrong to interfere with the probe by appointing a special master to review material seized from the former president’s Mar-a-Lago home.
The decision marks the latest setback for Trump in a months-long legal fight that government lawyers say has stymied their work. Prosecutors are exploring whether Trump or anyone else mishandled government records — including material classified at the highest level of secrecy — or engaged in obstruction.
In its order Thursday, the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision of a federal judge in September to appoint a special master and block the Justice Department from using the bulk of the documents while the review was being conducted. The panel featured three judges appointed by Republican presidents, including two nominated by Trump.
“The law is clear. We cannot write a rule that allows any subject of a search warrant to block government investigations after the execution of the warrant,” the appeals court said. “Nor can we write a rule that allows only former presidents to do so. Either approach would be a radical reordering of our caselaw limiting the federal courts’ involvement in criminal investigations.”
Whether the latest order permanently halts the special master’s work wasn’t immediately clear. Trump could petition the full 11th Circuit to reconsider the the ruling by the three-judge panel, or he could ask the US Supreme Court to intervene.
Trump spokesperson Steven Cheung sent a statement describing the appeals court opinion as “purely procedural” and claiming the “decision does not address the merits that clearly demonstrate the impropriety of the unprecedented, illegal, and unwarranted raid on Mar-a-Lago.” The statement didn’t indicate whether Trump would continue to press the case in court.
During arguments before the 11th Circuit last week, one of the judges said there’d been no showing that the search was unlawful. In response, a lawyer for Trump said his team was in the process of trying to establish that.
Justice Department spokesperson Myron Marlin declined to comment.
The appellate panel concluded that Trump had failed to meet the high bar necessary for courts to intervene in a pending criminal investigation and that US District Judge Aileen Cannon in Florida had lacked jurisdiction to step in to the Mar-a-Lago probe. The court agreed that it was “extraordinary” for a search warrant to ...

EU tentatively agrees $60 price cap on Russian seaborne oil -document

BRUSSELS, Dec 1 (Reuters) - European Union governments tentatively agreed on Thursday on a $60 a barrel price cap on Russian seaborne oil - an idea of the Group of Seven (G7) nations - with an adjustment mechanism to keep the cap at 5% below the market price, a document seen by Reuters showed.
By Jan Strupczewski and Kate Abnett\
The agreement still needs to be approved by all EU governments in a written procedure by Friday. EU countries have wrangled for days over the details – with Poland pushing for the cap to be as low as possible to slash Russia’s income from selling the fossil fuel.
The initial G7 proposal last week was for a price cap of $65-$70 per barrel with no adjustment mechanism.
Since Russian Urals crude URL-E already traded lower, Poland, Lithuania and Estonia rejected that level as not achieving the main objective of reducing Moscow’s ability to finance its war in Ukraine.
“The price cap is set at $60 with a provision to keep it 5% below market price for Russian crude, based on IEA figures,” an EU diplomat said.
An EU document seen by Reuters showed the price cap would be reviewed in mid-January and every two months after that, to assess how the scheme is functioning and respond to possible “turbulences” in the oil market that occur as a result.
The document said a 45-day “transitional period” would apply to vessels carrying Russian-origin crude oil that was loaded before Dec. 5 and unloaded at its final destination by Jan. 19, 2023.
Russian Urals crude URL-E had traded at around $70 a barrel on Thursday afternoon.
The G7 price cap on Russian seaborne crude oil is to kick in on Dec. 5, replacing the harsher EU outright ban on buying Russian seaborne crude, as a way to safeguard global oil supply because Russia produces 10% of the world’s oil.
The idea to enforce the G7 cap is to prohibit shipping, insurance and re-insurance companies from handling cargoes of Russian crude around the globe, unless it is sold for less than the price set by the G7 and its allies.
Because the world’s key shipping and insurance firms are based in G7 countries, the price cap would make it very difficult for Moscow to sell its oil for a higher price.
(Reporting by Jan Strupczewski and Kate AbnettEditing by David Goodman, Nick Macfie and Lisa Shumaker)

Fleetwood Mac singer-songwriter Christine McVie has died -BBC

LONDON, Nov 30 (Reuters) - Singer-songwriter Christine McVie, a member of British-American rock band Fleetwood Mac, has died aged 79, BBC reported on Wednesday, citing a statement from her family.
LONDON, Nov 30 (Reuters) – Singer-songwriter Christine McVie, a member of British-American band Fleetwood Mac, died on Wednesday aged 79, her family said in a statement posted on her official Facebook page.
Fleetwood Mac, whose name was inspired by the surnames of its founders – bassist John McVie and drummer Mick Fleetwood – formed in 1967 but had many members come and go over the years.
Born Christine Perfect in northwest England on July 12, 1943, she joined the band as a singer and pianist in 1970 after marrying John following a courtship of two weeks. She ultimately left him to live with a lighting technician.
The band’s 1977 album “Rumours”, which sold more than 40 million copies and is one of the best-selling albums of all time, was recorded as the couple were divorcing.
McVie‘s family said she died peacefully in hospital on Wednesday after a short illness.
“We would like everyone to keep Christine in their hearts and remember the life of an incredible human being, and revered musician who was loved universally,” the statement said.
In a statement posted on Twitter, Fleetwood Mac said she was “truly one-of-a-kind, special and talented beyond measure”.
“She was the best musician anyone could have in their band and the best friend anyone could have in their life. We were so lucky to have a life with her,” the band said. “She will be so very missed.”
(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Chris Reese and Rosalba O’Brien)

Banks Are Devising Ways to ID Mass Shooters Before They Strike

(Bloomberg) -- Banks are developing technology to identify potential mass shooters, according to a CEO backing the push to get credit-card companies to more closely track gun purchases.
“Detection scenarios” are in the works that, if triggered, would prompt banks to file a Suspicious Activity Report to the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, Amalgamated Bank Chief Executive Officer Priscilla Sims Brown said at the New York Times DealBook conference Wednesday.
“We’re at the very early stages of this — this particular code just got approved in October, so those detection scenarios are still being brought together,” Brown said. “But as this is implemented, those scenarios will be used.”
The strategy would mirror ways banks try to identify and stop fraudsters from using customers’ funds.
The International Organization for Standardization approved a new merchant category code earlier this year that banks will use when processing transactions for gun and ammunition stores after Amalgamated submitted an application on the matter. Gun-control advocates were quick to celebrate the move, arguing it would help banks flag suspicious activity at these retailers.
While major payment networks have said they would adopt the new code, some have argued it won’t have its intended effect. Visa Inc., for example, has said it doesn’t have access to data showing the products consumers are actually buying. That means the network and its banking partners would have no idea if a gun-store customer is purchasing an automatic rifle or safety equipment.
Banks, too, have faced pressure from Congress over what they plan to do with the new codes. Some conservative policymakers have said they’re concerned lenders will use the data to create an unofficial list of firearm owners in the US, which certain government agencies are prohibited from doing.
Banks already file thousands of suspicious activity reports every year as they detect a litany of potential misdeeds by customers. The new codes should mean they treat the issue of tracking gun purchases no differently, Brown said.
“What I’m hearing from other banks is that they have been honoring this process and this system, filing Suspicious Activity Reports across a myriad of industries to stop a myriad of crimes — or at least alert authorizes of them,” she said. “And I have every confidence that banks are going to do the same thing here.”

‘End of an era’ – Former Chinese President Jiang Zemin dies at 96

BEIJING, Nov 30 (Reuters) - Former Chinese President Jiang Zemin, who led the country for a decade of rapid economic growth after the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989, died on Wednesday at the age of 96, Chinese state media reported.
Jiang died in his home city of Shanghai just after noon on Wednesday of leukaemia and multiple organ failure, Xinhua news agency said, publishing a letter to the Chinese people by the ruling Communist Party, parliament, Cabinet and the military.
“Comrade Jiang Zemin’s death is an incalculable loss to our Party and our military and our people of all ethnic groups,” the letter read, saying its announcement was with “profound grief”.
Jiang’s death comes at a tumultuous time in China, where authorities are grappling with rare widespread street protests among residents fed up with heavy-handed Covid-19 curbs nearly three years into the pandemic.
The zero-Covid policy is a hallmark or President Xi Jinping, who recently secured a third leadership term that cements his place as China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong and has taken China in an increasingly authoritarian direction since replacing Jiang’s immediate successor, Hu Jintao.
China is also in the midst of a sharp economic slowdown exacerbated by zero-Covid.
Numerous users of China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform described the death of Jiang, who remained influential after finally retiring in 2004, as the end of an era.
“I’m very sad, not only for his departure, but also because I really feel that an era is over,” a Henan province-based user wrote.
“As if what has happened wasn’t enough, 2022 tells people in a more brutal way that an era is over,” a Beijing Weibo user posted.
The online pages of state media sites including People’s Daily and Xinhua turned to black and white in mourning.
Wednesday’s letter described “our beloved Comrade Jiang Zemin” as an outstanding leader of high prestige, a great Marxist, statesman, military strategist and diplomat and a long-tested communist fighter.
Jiang was plucked from obscurity to head China’s ruling Communist Party after the bloody Tiananmen crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in 1989, but broke the country out of its subsequent diplomatic isolation, mending fences with the United States and overseeing an unprecedented economic boom.
He served as president from 1993 to 2003 but held China’s top job, as head of the ruling Communist Party, from 1989 and handed over that role to Hu in 2002. He only gave up the position as head of the military in 2004, which he ...

French baguette makes it onto World Cultural Heritage list

PARIS, Nov 30 (Reuters) - The humble baguette, France's staple bread, has made it onto the United Nation's cultural heritage list.
Paris-based U.N. heritage body UNESCO on Wednesday voted to include the “artisanal know-how and culture of baguette bread” on its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage, which already includes around 600 traditions from over 130 countries.
This “celebrates the French way of life: the baguette is a daily ritual, a structuring element of the meal, synonymous with sharing and conviviality,” said UNESCO chief Audrey Azoulay.
“It is important that these skills and social habits continue to exist in the future.”
The baguette, a fluffy, elongated loaf of bread with a crunchy crust, is a symbol of France around the world and has been a central part of the French diet for at least 100 years, although some believe it has been around for longer.
One legend has it that the bakers of Napoleon Bonaparte came up with the elongated shape to make it easier for his troops to carry, while another posits that it was actually an Austrian baker named August Zang who invented the baguette.
These days a baguette – which means “wand” or “baton” – is sold for around 1 euro ($1.04) each.
Although baguette consumption has declined over the last decades, France still makes around 16 million of the loaves per day – that’s nearly 6 billion baguettes a year – according to a 2019 Fiducial estimate.
Made only with flour, water, salt and yeast, baguette dough must rest 15 to 20 hours at a temperature between 4 and 6 degrees Celcius (39 to 43 degrees Fahrenheit), according to the French Bakers Confederation, which fights to protect its market from industrial bakeries.
But if the ingredients are always the same, each bakery has its own subtle style, and every year there are nationwide competitions to find the best baguette in the land.
(Reporting by Geert De Clercq and Elizabeth Pineau; Editing by Ingrid Melander and Raissa Kasolowsky)

FIFA names first female refereeing trio for a men’s World Cup

Nov 29 (Reuters) - Stephanie Frappart, Neuza Back and Karen Diaz will become the first all-female refereeing team for a men's World Cup match as they have been named to take charge of the Costa Rica-Germany Group E match on Thursday, FIFA announced on Tuesday.
Frappart, the fourth official for the Poland-Mexico Group C clash last week, will be the main referee as she reaches another milestone after being the first female to officiate at a men’s World Cup qualifier in March and Champions League match in 2020.
The 38-year-old Frenchwoman will be joined by Brazilian Neuza and Mexican Diaz as assistants.
Salima Mukansanga of Rwanda and Yamashita Yoshimi of Japan are also taking part at the tournament in Qatar.

Earthquake rattles Greece, felt in Athens

ATHENS, Nov 29 (Reuters) - An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.0 shook central Greece on Tuesday and was felt as far as Athens, according to witnesses, but there were no immediate reports of casualties or serious damage.
The quake occurred at 2006 GMT and its epicentre was 57 km (35 miles) northeast of Athens, according to the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre. Its focal depth was initially estimated at 2 km (1.2 miles).
Earlier on Tuesday, an earthquake measuring 4.7 on the Richter scale shook the island of Evia, in central Greece, damaging old buildings in the area and forcing authorities to shut down schools protectively. Smaller scale tremors followed.

US Supreme Court to hear fight over Biden immigration enforcement policy

WASHINGTON, Nov 29 (Reuters) - The US Supreme Court on Tuesday is set to consider whether President Joe Biden's administration can implement guidelines - challenged by two conservative-leaning states - shifting immigration enforcement toward public safety threats in a case testing executive branch power to set enforcement priorities.
The justices will hear the administration’s bid to overturn a judge’s ruling in favor of Texas and Louisiana that vacated US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) guidelines narrowing the scope of those who can be targeted by immigration agents for arrest and deportation.
The Democratic president’s policy departed from the hardline approach of his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, who sought to broaden the range of immigrants subject to arrest and removal. Biden campaigned on a more humane approach to immigration but has been faced with large numbers of migrants crossing the US-Mexico border.
The guidelines, announced by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in September 2021, prioritized apprehending and deporting non-US citizens who pose a threat to national security, public safety or border security.
In a memo, Mayorkas called the guidelines necessary because his department lacks the resources to apprehend and seek the removal of every one of the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the United States illegally.
Mayorkas cited the longstanding practice of government officials exercising discretion to decide who should be subject to deportation and said that a majority of immigrants subject to deportation “have been contributing members of our communities for years.”
Republicans have criticized Biden’s administration, saying fewer detentions and deportations have encouraged more illegal border crossings. The top Republican in the US House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, last week called on Mayorkas to step down and said the House may try to impeach him when Republicans formally take control of the chamber in January.
Republican state attorneys general in Texas and Louisiana sued to block the guidelines after Republican-led legal challenges successfully thwarted other Biden administration attempts to ease enforcement.
Their lawsuit, filed in Texas, argued that the guidelines ran counter to provisions in immigration laws that make it mandatory to detain non-US citizens who have been convicted of certain crimes or have final orders of removal.
US District Judge Drew Tipton, a Trump appointee, ruled in favor of the challengers, finding that while immigration agents could on a case-by-case basis act with discretion the administration’s guidelines were a generalized policy that contravened the detention mandate set out by Congress.
“Whatever the outer limits of its authority, ...

Smog engulfs Indian capital as winter pollution worsens

NEW DELHI, Nov 29 (Reuters) - Thick smog engulfed India's capital New Delhi on Tuesday as air pollution worsened with the setting in of winter, shooting up concentrations of fine particles in the air three times above the acceptable limits.
The world’s most polluted capital city struggles to breathe easy every winter as cold temperatures and calm winds trap pollutants closer to the ground.
“As the minimum temperature is dropping, gradual fog occurrence during early morning hours is likely to increase, leading to deterioration of air quality index (AQI),” said the federal government’s System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) in a daily bulletin.
The AQI in parts of the city shot up above 400 on Tuesday, which is classified as the ‘severe’ category of air pollution, according to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
The level of fine particles measuring 2.5 micrograms or PM2.5 was 180 micrograms per cubic metre of air as of 10am in the Delhi National Capital Region, CPCB data showed, three times above the 24 hour acceptable limit of 60 micrograms per cubic metre of air.
Authorities have brought in several measures over the years to improve the city’s air quality, including switching Delhi’s fleet of public transport to cleaner fuel, spraying water from on top of towers and on roads and controlling burning of firewood and waste during cold weather.
But experts have said these measures need to be applied across northern India and in cities and towns around New Delhi that form the wider National Capital Region, which also suffer from poor air quality, to effectively control pollution.
By Shivam Patel
(Reporting by Shivam Patel in New Delhi; Editing by Michael Perry)

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