Isnin, 18 November 2013

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Toronto council curbs Mayor Ford's powers after chaotic debate


TORONTO (Reuters) - Toronto's City Council voted overwhelmingly at a raucous meeting on Monday to strip embattled Mayor Rob Ford of more of his authority in a move Ford denounced as a coup d'etat while promising political foes election battle next year to rival the Gulf War.

Ford, who has been under fire for his drug use and drinking, as well as the way he has handled the accusations, vowed in an interview to give up alcohol and lose weight.

Earlier at a tumultuous City Council meeting, members voted to slash Ford's office budget and transfer some of his powers to Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, among other limitations, by a vote of 36-5.

"This is a coup d'etat," Ford told council, denouncing the motion.

Ford intends to seek re-election next year and warned councillors that the campaign would rival the 1991 Gulf War.

"This, folks, reminds of when I was watching with my brother when Saddam (Hussein) attacked Kuwait. And President Bush said, 'I warn you, I warn you, do not (attack Kuwait).' Well, folks, if you think American-style politics is nasty, you guys have just attacked Kuwait."

On Friday, the council had suspended Ford's authority to dismiss the deputy mayor and the heads of council committees and removed his powers to act during emergencies.

Ford has admitted to smoking crack cocaine, buying illegal drugs and driving after drinking alcohol but has ignored calls to resign.

In an interview with CBC on Monday after the City Council action, Ford said he had not had a drop of alcohol in three weeks and vowed to stop drinking completely.

"Finished," he said when asked by host Peter Mansbridge about his drinking. "I've had a 'come to Jesus moment' if you want to call it that."

Ford also said he planned to lose 30 pounds within five months.

Monday's City Council meeting turned into a spectacle as Ford stalked around the meeting room, getting into an angry verbal exchange with gallery spectators, some of whom shouted "Shame! Shame!" at him. At one point, while running across the room, he collided with Councillor Pam McConnell, almost knocking her over. He later apologized.

Ford also mimed drinking and driving - apparently a jab at a councillor whose license was briefly suspended after a roadside breathalyzer test. A video clip spread quickly on social media.


The council had been looking for ways to neutralize Ford since he will not quit and the council cannot remove him or strip him of roles laid out in provincial law, such as representing the city at events.

"What we're doing is saying to our deputy mayor, please represent our city until 2014, because we trust you more than we trust the mayor," Councillor Karen Stintz told reporters before the vote. Stintz, once a Ford ally, now plans to run against him in the October 2014 election.

Ford's lawyer, George Rust-D'Eye, told Reuters ahead of Monday's vote that if the mayor cannot carry out roles mandated by provincial law because of the council's decisions, a court could intervene. He reiterated his position to reporters after the vote.

Ford, who told Fox News that he hopes to run for prime minister one day, recently admitted he has driven after consuming alcohol. And in 1999 he was arrested for impaired driving while on vacation in Florida and pleaded no contest.

The mayor's brother, Doug Ford, - who is also a city councillor, meanwhile, brought a motion that was later ruled out of order that would have called a snap mayoral election, something the mayor also has sought.

The revelations about Ford, which started in May when two media outlets said they had seen video of him smoking from what appeared to be a crack pipe, have thrust Toronto into the international spotlight.

A new television show featuring the mayor and his brother debuted on Monday evening on Canada's right-wing Sun News Network.

During the one-hour show, the mayor and his brother took recorded questions from viewers and defended his recent performance as mayor, but revealed nothing new about the scandal.

(Reporting by Allison Martell, additional reporting by Cameron French; Editing by Janet Guttsman, Jeffrey Benkoe, Peter Galloway, Bill Trott and Cynthia Osterman)

Nepal votes to end political gridlock


KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepal started voting on Tuesday to elect a special assembly which will draft a constitution aimed at ending years of political instability after the abolition of the monarchy, but the vote could be split and leave Nepal facing further turmoil.

Nepal's neighbours, India and China, have grown increasingly concerned about its prolonged struggle to build a stable republic to replace the centuries old monarchy that was toppled by a 10-year Maoist revolt.

The fear is that the small nation of nearly 27 million people dependent on tourism, remittances and aid would weaken further and become a haven for militants and criminal gangs.

A previous attempt at writing a constitution after a 2008 election failed with political parties unable to agree on the form of government and the number of states to be carved out of the ethnically diverse country.

Nepal had five governments in as many years as power-hungry politicians formed and broke alliances.

Soldiers stood guard at Phailamchuli on Tuesday, a polling booth outside Kathmandu, as voters lined up hours early to elect the 601-member assembly that will act as a parliament and establish a government until a charter is ready.

"We are giving the politicians a second chance," said Lal Bahadur Lama, 58, as he emerged from the polling station.

But some fear further political instability.

"The stalemate is not going to end anytime soon," said Bimal Koirala who served as a chief secretary or the highest ranking bureaucrat. "All that the political parties are interested in is to rush to power."

The election is being fought by Maoists who joined the political mainstream after signing a peace deal in 2006, the oldest Nepali Congress party, and scores of other parties including a royalist group that wants to reinstate a monarchy.

A 33-party alliance led by a breakaway Maoist faction has called for a boycott of the election and at least 30 people have been wounded in small bomb blasts in the run-up to the vote.

Streets were deserted on Tuesday as the government ordered all vehicles off the roads for election day.

"We have to give a message to the international community that Nepal is able to draft a new constitution," President Ram Baran Yadav said in a statement late on Monday.

Counting of votes will begin on Wednesday, but a clear picture is expected to emerge in a week as votes from remote parts of the mountainous nation are counted.

(Writing by Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Michael Perry)

Argentina's Kicillof, architect of YPF seizure, named economy minister


BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentine President Cristina Fernandez burst back on the scene on Monday after a five-week absence following surgery to treat a head injury, naming as economy minister the government's point man in its 2012 seizure of the country's biggest oil company.

The promotion of leftist economist Axel Kicillof, who had been deputy economy minister, was announced by a government spokesman in a televised address minutes after Fernandez appeared on TV for the first time since early October.

Kicillof, a charismatic and polarizing figure, steered the administration's expropriation of a controlling stake in energy company YPF from its former parent company, Spain's Repsol.

The takeover enraged Argentina's trading partners from the European Union, but was welcomed by many Argentines as a defence of national strategic interests.

Known for his fiery speeches in defence of Fernandez's interventionist policies, Kicillof spent most of his career in academia, giving classes and writing about the theories of economists such as John Maynard Keynes and Karl Marx.

He replaces Hernan Lorenzino, who was named ambassador to the European Union.

Fernandez had an operation on October 8 to remove blood that had pooled on the surface of her brain after she fell and bumped her head. Her absence until earlier Monday evening had left a five-week political vacuum in Latin America's No. 3 economy.

"Thank you ... to the thousands of Argentines who have been praying for me," a smiling Fernandez said in a televised address. Sitting on a sofa, she appeared healthy. On a table was a vase of red roses she said had been sent by a well-wisher.

She briefly held a small white dog she said was sent to her by one of the brothers of Hugo Chavez, the late left-wing leader of Venezuela and a political ally of Fernandez.

Her absence had been conspicuous in a country accustomed to her centralized leadership style and frequent speeches.

Her office said her agenda on Monday was confined to meetings with senior officials. She has not been cleared for air travel and is scheduled for another medical checkup on December 9.

Also on Monday, Argentina designated Carlos Fabrega as the country's new central bank chief, replacing Mercedes Marcó del Pont, and Carlos Casamiquela as agriculture minister, replacing Norberto Yauhar.

Chaco provincial Governor Jorge Capitanich will replace Juan Manuel Abal Medina as Cabinet chief. The newly named officials are scheduled to be sworn in on Wednesday.


As she enters the final two years of her second term, Fernandez faces possible new protests from farmers who say her policies hurt their profits. High inflation, estimated by private analysts at 25 percent, rising crime, an overvalued currency and dwindling foreign reserves are also concerns.

Fernandez's supporters suffered heavy losses in congressional elections on October 27 that ended her chances of securing a change to the constitution that would have enabled her to run for a third term in 2015.

"The appointment of Kicillof is not going to be welcomed by the markets," said Ignacio Labaqui, local analyst for New York-based consultancy Medley Global Advisors.

"It confirms that government policy will not be altered by the results of the midterm election," he said. "It increases the likelihood of a dual exchange-rate scheme, which Kicillof has been advocating, and we can expect that the central bank will continue to be the main source of financing for the Treasury."

Despite his youthful appearance - local media sometimes make as much of his sideburns as of his policymaking - Kicillof is an old-school leftist who shuns the tenets of 21st century globalism and believes Argentina must find its own way to industrial prominence.

(Additional reporting by Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Peter Cooney)


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