Saudi Gazette, Friday, June 23, 2017
30 dead as car bomb hits Afghan bank
Thirty people were killed Thursday when a powerful car bomb
struck a bank in Afghanistan’s Lashkar Gah city as government
employees were queueing to withdraw salaries, the latest bloody
attack during the holy month of Ramadan. At least 50 wounded
people were rushed to hospital after the bombing at New Kabul Bank
which upturned vehicles, left the area littered with charred debris
and sent a plume of smoke rising in the sky. No group has claimed
responsibility for the brazen attack, but it comes as the Taliban ramp
up their nationwide spring offensive despite government calls for a
ceasefire during Ramadan. “The blast killed 30 people and left 50
others wounded, both civilians and military officials,” government
spokesman Omar Zwak said, warning that the toll could rise. The
bomb tore through a queue of civilians and government employees
who had lined up outside the bank to collect their salaries. The bank
is believed to have been especially crowded ahead of the Eid holidays
marking the end of Ramadan.
Germany ‘spied’ on White House
Germany’s foreign intelligence service long spied on numerous
official and business targets in the United States, including the White
House, Spiegel weekly reported Thursday. The magazine said it had
seen documents showing that the intelligence service, the BND, had
a list of some 4,000 so-called selector keywords for surveillance
between 1998 and 2006. These included telephone or fax numbers,
as well as email addresses at the White House as well as the US
finance and foreign ministries. Other monitoring targets ranged from
military institutions including the US Air Force or the Marine Corps,
space agency NASA to civic group Human Rights Watch. Hundreds
of foreign embassies as well as international organization like the
International Monetary Fund were not spared, Spiegel said. The BND
declined comment in the Spiegel report.
Tycoon backs charges against Park
A top South Korean business tycoon on Thursday in court backed
prosecutors allegations that the ousted South Korean president
Park Geun-Hye solicited bribes from businesses in return for policy
favors. Chey Tae-Won, chairman of SK, the country’s second largest
conglomerate after Samsung, became the first business mogul
who took the stand at what is being dubbed in South Korea “the
trial of the century”. Chey was one of seven tycoons that Park held
confidential meetings with in February last year. She denies the
allegations, arguing companies made voluntary donations to two
foundations she said were aimed to help develop sports and culture.
Chey admitted in court that he had sought government approval for a
merger and acquisition project, a license for duty free shop and the
early release of his brother who was in jail for embezzlement when
he met Park near the presidential Blue House.
Illegal drugs market ‘thriving’: UN
The global narcotics market is “thriving”, with production of cocaine
and opium substances soaring and opioids wreaking havoc, the UN
crime and drugs agency said Thursday in a gloomy annual assessment.
“As the report... clearly shows, there is much work to be done to
confront the many harms inflicted by drugs, to health, development,
peace and security, in all regions of the world,” UNODC head Yury
Fedotov said. Around 29.5 million people worldwide, or 0.6 percent of
the adult population, suffered from drug use disorders in 2015, with at
least 190,000 mostly avoidable deaths annually, mostly from opioids. In
2016, global production of opium — extracted from poppy resin and
refined to make heroin — rocketed by a third, mostly due to bumper
harvests in Afghanistan, the report said, providing Taliban insurgents
with millions of dollars. This rise, aided by better weather, came despite
a decade of international efforts to stabilize the country and billions
of dollars to persuade Afghan farmers to grow other crops. But the
UNODC said global opium production was 20 percent lower than at its
peak in 2014, and close to the average of the past five years.
AIM AT CORRUPTION
HANA’S government is fac-
ing growing calls to keep its
promises after it won elec-
tions on a pledge to stamp
President Nana Akufo-
Addo and his administration
have in recent weeks seen protesters take to
the streets to raise awareness about the issue.
In May, hundreds marched on the Eco-
nomic and Organized Crime Office in the
capital Accra with a petition calling for the
arrest and prosecution of offenders, and for
stolen money to be recovered.
The action is similar to OccupyGhana, a
citizen pressure group, which began taking
corruption cases to court last year.
This month, the Supreme Court ruled in
its favor after it submitted a petition calling
on the auditor-general to fine anyone found to
have misappropriated state funds.
“If you want to strengthen democracy,
you have to strengthen the legal system,”
said OccupyGhana spokesman Nana Sarpong
“If the judiciary is strengthened and we
put in more confidence in them, I don’t think
people in the executive and legislature can get
away with what they do.”
Ghana’s previous government under John
Dramani Mahama was hit by a succession of
corruption scandals, including in the judiciary.
Undercover journalist Anas Aremeyaw
Anas in 2015 released secretly filmed footage
of magistrates, circuit and high court judges
taking bribes to influence verdicts.
Anas, whose motto is “name, shame and
jail”, told AFP that every citizen should fight
corruption and no institution should be “sacro-
sanct because of their names”.
Anas operates in a variety of disguises and
has been called “the James Bond of journal-
He said in the 15 years he has worked as
an investigative reporter, there had been an
increasing response to his stories.
“When I look at the past and I look at
today, it is clear to me the average Ghanaian is
beginning to understand that fighting corrup-
tion is not the job of government only but it’s
everybody’s job,” he said.
“We have moved forward as a country, we
have moved forward as a people, there has
Protestors march with a banner during a demonstration dubbed ‘Fabewoso — Bring it on’ to raise awareness about the high rate of corruption in
the country, in Accra. — AFP photos
Scam clouds outlook for Japan’s Abe; Tokyo poll crucial
By Linda Sieg
UST a few months ago, Prime
Minister Shinzo Abe looked to be
cruising to a third term that would
make him Japan’s longest serving
leader and put him on track to
achieving his dream of revising its post-
war, pacifist constitution.
But suspicions he may have helped
a friend get favored treatment for a busi-
ness, then rammed legislation through
parliament to close the session and end
debate over the issue, have led to a sharp
slump in support.
Ametropolitan assembly election in
Tokyo on July 2, campaigning for which
starts on Friday, could give clues about
how stable his administration really is —
a key concern of global investors.
“Things are unravelling fast for Abe
and his inner circle,” said Gerry Curtis, a
professor emeritus at Columbia Universi-
ty. “I still put my money on Abe surviving
and getting a third term, but I am willing
to wager much less than I would have put
on the table a week ago.”
At the core of Abe’s troubles are
concerns he may have intervened to
help Kake Gakuen (Kake Educational
Institution), whose director, Kotaro Kake,
is a friend, win approval for a veterinary
school in a special economic zone.
The government has not granted such
an approval in decades due to perceived
glut of veterinarians.
Abe has repeatedly denied doing
Kake any favors.
Potentially more troublesome than
the suspicions themselves is the impres-
sion among many voters that Abe and his
aides, unchallenged and arrogant after
more than four years in office, tried to
suppress the scandal, in part by smearing
an ex-official who went public with alle-
gations and by rushing a contentious bill
through parliament to close off debate.
“Chief Cabinet Secretary (Yoshi-
hide) Suga’s haughty attitude at his news
conference and his attack on the former
official personally were a mistake,” said
one Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker.
“That sort of condescending attitude
makes people angry.”
Abe, who resigned abruptly after a
troubled 2006-07 tenure as premier, can
seek another three-year consecutive term
as LDP leader, and hence premier, from
No general election need be held until
late 2018, but Tokyo voters have a chance
to express their views soon.
On the surface, the Tokyo Metropoli-
tan assembly election is a referendum on
Governor Yuriko Koike, a former defense
minister now challenging the old-boy
network dominated by the LDP.
Koike, sometimes floated as a poten-
tial successor to Abe after the 2020 Tokyo
Olympics, hopes her “Tokyo Residents
First” party and its allies will take a
majority in the 127-seat local legislature.
Among her allies is the Komeito party,
Abe’s national coalition partner.
The capital’s poll is often a bellwether for
national trends. “If the LDP loses half of
its seats in the July Tokyo election, there
will be worries about instability of the
Abe administration,” said Tomoaki Fujii,
head of the investment research division
at Akatsuki Securities Inc.
Koike may have lost some of her
luster lately after a year in office and de-
lays in deciding whether the move of the
world-famous Tsukiji fish market would
go ahead. The main opposition Demo-
cratic Party, meanwhile, is struggling with
single digit support rates.
But the LDP is worried.
“Past Tokyo assembly elections have
definitely affected national politics,”
Hakubun Shimomura, head of the LDP’s
Tokyo chapter and an Abe ally, told
reporters this week.
The prime minister’s ratings tumbled
in surveys released this week, sliding 10
points to 36 percent in a Mainichi news-
paper survey and 12 points to 49 percent
in one by the Yomiuri newspaper.
Abe’s support rates have dipped and
then rebounded in the past.
If they remain limp or worsen, LDP
rivals would be encouraged to mount a
challenge, and revising the constitution
— a politically divisive step — would be
Shinzo Abe’s support rates have dipped
and then rebounded in the past. If they
remain limp or worsen, LDP rivals
would be encouraged to mount a
challenge, and revising the constitution
would be tough.
Protestors against corruption enact a play on the subject.
been consistent education.
“People are beginning to see that it is
important for us to put ourselves together and
In Transparency International’s Corruption
Perception Index, which measures perceived
levels of public sector corruption, Ghana
scored 43 out of 100 last year.
A score of 100 indicates corruption free.
Ghana’s score dropped from 47 in 2015
but a new report by the Ghana Integrity Initia-
tive Consortium indicated that citizens are
more ready to tackle the problem.
Nearly two-thirds of the 18,000 people
from across Ghana who responded suggested
corruption had increased in the 12 months to
May last year.
Just over three-quarters (76 percent) said
they had to pay a bribe to tax officials and
more than half (61 percent) reported having to
hand over cash to the police.
But 86 percent said they would get in-
volved in fighting corruption.
Akufo-Addo’s government, which took of-
fice in January this year, has by some accounts
not got off to a good start.
In March, he was forced to defend his
decision to appoint a 110-minister government
against opposition charges of “jobs for the
Then in May, a number of customs of-
ficials were arrested in Accra and accused in
connection with the loss of some 1.2 billion
cedi ($273 million, 244 million euros) in
The president has promised to set up a spe-
cial prosecutor’s office to investigate corrup-
tion allegations by late this year.
Last week, he promised: “I am going to
do my best to make sure that the fight against
corruption is won.”
The executive-secretary of the Ghana
Anti-Corruption Coalition, Beauty Emefa
Narteh, said Ghanaians needed to ensure that
Akufo-Addo did not make it “business as
usual” when it comes to corruption.
Narteh said indications of public willing-
ness to get involved was encouraging. “We are
moving from the previous era where citizens
were very apathetic towards what was hap-
pening... Now they see themselves as part of
government,” she said.