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Trump administration must return press pass to CNN reporter Jim Acosta

A judge has ordered the Trump administration to immediately return White House press credentials to CNN's Jim Acosta. The journalist's press pass was revoked after a contentious press conference with President Trump. A US District Court on Friday ordered the White House to temporarily restore the press credentials of CNN journalist Jim Acosta. The journalist, who is CNN's chief White House correspondent, was barred from the White House after a contentious press conference with President Donald Trump. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders accused Acosta of "placing his hands" on an intern as she sought to take the microphone from him after the president indicated he would not answer a question from Acosta. The White House agreed to temporarily reinstate Acosta's press pass after the order. Judge Timothy Kelly, a Trump appointee, ordered the administration to restore Acosta's press pass while the case is pending. Kelly said there should be a due process in place for limiting a journalist's access to the White House. Describing the White House's reasons for revoking Acosta's credentials, Kelly said the "belated efforts were hardly sufficient to satisfy due process." Sanders had spelled out the reasons in a series of tweets only after CNN filed its lawsuit. 'Let's go back to work' The judge also found that Acosta suffered "irreparable harm," as he dismissed the Trump administration's argument that CNN could just send other reporters to report on the White House in Acosta's place. "Let's go back to work," Acosta told reporters after the hearing. CNN said in a statement it "looked forward to a full resolution in the coming days" and thanked "all who have supported not just CNN, but a free, strong and independent American press." Trump has made no secret of his dislike for the US broadcaster, often describing the network as "fake news." But in court, US government lawyers said Acosta was penalized for acting rudely at the conference and not for his criticisms of the president.

A judge has ordered the Trump administration to immediately return White House press credentials to CNN’s Jim Acosta. The journalist’s press pass was revoked after a contentious press conference with President Trump. A US District Court on Friday ordered the White House to temporarily restore the press credentials of CNN journalist Jim Acosta. The journalist, who is CNN’s chief White ... Read More »

EU calls on Turkey to release 13 people arrested for links to Gezi Park protests

The 13 people arrested were reportedly accused of trying to create "chaos and mayhem" and overthrow the government. More than 50,000 people have been arrested in Turkey since a failed coup attempt in 2016. The European Union has called for the immediate release of 13 people arrested by Turkish police for alleged links to the businessman and activist, Osman Kavala, during early morning raids on Friday. "Repeated detentions of critical voices and the continued widespread pressure on civil society representatives run counter to the Turkish government's declared commitment to human rights," the EU statement said. Police had issued arrest warrants for 20 people associated with Kavala's Anatolia Culture Association prior to the raids, according to Turkey's DHA news agency. They are suspected of "creating chaos and mayhem" and "seeking to overthrow the government," state-owned Anadolu Agency reported. The Cumhuriyet newspaper said they were also accused of trying to bring in foreign "activists" to support anti-government protests. The dean of the law school at Istanbul Bilgi University and mathematics professor Betul Tanbay, who also serves as the vice president of the European Mathematical Society, were among those arrested. 'Brutal assault on Turkish civil society' Kavala, Anatolia Culture Association's chairman, was arrested more than a year ago but has not yet been charged with any crime. He is accused of working with foreigners in a 2016 failed coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and supporting anti-government protesters who rallied in Gezi Park in 2013. The European Parliament's Turkey rapporteur, Kati Piri, also denounced Friday's arrests, writing in a tweet that they were "another brutal assault on Turkish civil society." Opposition lawmaker Sezgin Tanrikulu wrote in a tweet that "those who expect normalization from this regime should continue to dream." Gulen connection Separate raids in the capital Istanbul ended with the arrest of 14 people accused of financing "terrorism" in connection with Fethullah Gulen, according to DHA. Erdogan accuses the exiled Islamic cleric of orchestrating the 2016 coup. Other anti-Gulen operations on Friday saw police arrest 17 people in the city of Izmir and another 86 people, most of them military personnel, across the country, Anadolu and DHA reported. Turkish authorities have arrested more than 50,000 people working in academia, journalism, the military, the civil service and human rights organizations as part of a broad crackdown following the 2016 coup.

The 13 people arrested were reportedly accused of trying to create “chaos and mayhem” and overthrow the government. More than 50,000 people have been arrested in Turkey since a failed coup attempt in 2016. The European Union has called for the immediate release of 13 people arrested by Turkish police for alleged links to the businessman and activist, Osman Kavala, ... Read More »

Khashoggi killing: Saudi prosecutor seeks death penalty for five suspects

Saudi Arabia's top prosecutor has recommended the death penalty for five of the suspects charged in the murder case of dissident writer Jamal Khashoggi. However, he denied Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's involvement. Saud al-Mojeb, the kingdom's top prosecutor, announced on Thursday that he was recommending the death penalty for five of the 11 suspects who have been charged with ordering and carrying out the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. He did not name the suspects. In total, 21 people have been arrested in connection with the case. Crown Prince bin Salman exonerated Khashoggi, a regular contributor to US newspaper The Washington Post, was a staunch critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. His murder caused international outrage, and many believe it could not have been carried out without bin Salman's knowledge. The prosecutor, however, claimed the crown prince was not involved in the killing. He said the highest-ranking member of the Saudi leadership implicated in the operation was former deputy intelligence chief Ahmad al-Assiri, who has since been fired for ordering Khashoggi's forced return. A spokesman for the prosecution told reporters that plans to assassinate Khashoggi were set in motion on September 29. "The crime included a fight and injecting the citizen Khashoggi with a drug overdose that led to his death," the official said. The body was dismembered and handed over to a local collaborator, he added. He did not give any details on the location of the body. Khashoggi entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to get paperwork for his upcoming wedding. His fiancée raised the alarm when he did not return. After weeks of denials and under growing international pressure, Riyadh finally admittedthat Khashoggi was killed in the consulate in a "rogue" operation. US issues sanctions On Thursday, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that the US was placing harsh economic sanctions on 17 Saudis for their alleged involvement in the Khashoggi murder. In a statement, Mnuchin said: "The Saudi officials we are sanctioning were involved in the abhorrent killing of Jamal Khashoggi. These individuals who targeted and brutally killed a journalist who resided and worked in the United States must face consequences for their actions." Three of the individuals targeted in Thursday's sanctions were Saud Al-Qahtani and Maher Mutreb, both of whom are top aides to Salman, and Mohammed Alotaibi, consul general at the Istanbul consulate at the time Khashoggi was murdered. The US treasury secretary said Qahtani "was part of the planning and execution of the operation" to kill Khashoggi. The secretary stopped short of accusing the crown prince of involvement. The sanctions fall under the Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and were issued as part of the US Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. Such sanctions freeze targets' assets if they fall under US jurisdiction. The sanctions also forbid Americans and US companies from conducting business with them. Mnuchin's statement also said: "The Government of Saudi Arabia must take appropriate steps to end any targeting of political dissidents or journalists." Trouble with the Turks The case has caused a row between the kingdom and Turkey, whose government insists the suspects should be tried in Turkey. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called the Saudi prosecutor's statement "positive but insufficient," insisting that Khashoggi's murder was "premeditated." Cavusoglu said the Thursday announcement by Saudi Arabia's top prosecutor fell short of his own country's expectations: "I want to say that we did not find some of his explanations to be satisfactory" and that "those who gave the order, the real perpetrators, need to be revealed. This process cannot be closed down in this way." Cavusoglu also questioned why Saudi Arabia had only indicted 11 of the 18 suspects detained. He pointed out that the Saudi prosecutor made no mention of where Khashoggi's remains were taken: "There is a question that has not been answered yet. Where is Khashoggi's body? Where was he disposed of, where was he buried, where was he burned? There is still not an answer on this issue."

Saudi Arabia’s top prosecutor has recommended the death penalty for five of the suspects charged in the murder case of dissident writer Jamal Khashoggi. However, he denied Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s involvement. Saud al-Mojeb, the kingdom’s top prosecutor, announced on Thursday that he was recommending the death penalty for five of the 11 suspects who have been charged with ... Read More »

UK leadership challenge: How does it work?

A slew of ministerial resignations over the draft UK-EU Brexit deal has put even more pressure on embattled UK Prime Minister Theresa May. Is a leadership challenge on the cards? British Prime Minister Theresa May battled to save her draft Brexit deal Thursday. After several high-profile resignations from her Cabinet, she could now face a fight to save her premiership if a leadership challenge is called. What needs to happen? A challenge can be triggered if 15 percent of the Conservative MPs write a letter to the chairman of the influential "1922 Committee" [the parliamentary group of all backbench Conservative lawmakers] demanding a vote of confidence in the leader. The party currently has 315 MPs, so 48 would need to submit such letters. Have any done so already? Leading euroskeptic Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg submitted his letter of no confidence on Thursday. "It is of considerable importance that politicians stick to their commitments or do not make such commitments in the first place. Regrettably, this is not the situation," he wrote. Although lawmakers do not have to reveal their intentions, a total of 14 MPs have publicly confirmed they have sent their letter. Others may have also already done so privately. Only the chair of the committee, Graham Brady, knows the exact number. What happens during a confidence vote? Once the required number of no confidence letters is reached, Brady would announce a vote of no confidence in the prime minister. All Conservative MPs can vote, either in favor of or against the leader staying on. May would need a simple majority to win. That would currently mean 158 votes. What happens next? In the event of a victory, she remains in office and gets immunity from another formal challenge for a year. If she loses she has to resign and is barred from standing in the ensuing leadership election. Her successor would also become prime minister. A general election would not automatically be triggered.

A slew of ministerial resignations over the draft UK-EU Brexit deal has put even more pressure on embattled UK Prime Minister Theresa May. Is a leadership challenge on the cards? British Prime Minister Theresa May battled to save her draft Brexit deal Thursday. After several high-profile resignations from her Cabinet, she could now face a fight to save her premiership ... Read More »

Marco Reus to miss Russia game as Löw continues Germany’s slow evolution

Germany face Russia in a friendly on Thursday, but will be without Dortmund forward Marco Reus. Joachim Löw is expected to field some younger players but has warned that the evolution of the team will be a slow process. Marco Reus will play no part in Germany's friendly game against Russia in Leipzig, coach Joachim Löw has confirmed. Reus suffered a bruised foot in Borussia Dortmund's victory over Bayern Munich and will sit out the game in Leipzig, but could feature in Germany's potentially crucial Nations League game against the Netherlands on Monday. "Marco Reus will not be able to play tomorrow," Löw told reporters on Wednesday. "He arrived with a foot injury from the game against Bayern. He will not train tonight and we will have to see if it works for Monday." Chance for youth Reus' absence appears to be a precaution with the more important test to come, meaning Löw could give youth a chance to shine against Russia. But even with Leroy Sane, Serge Gnabry and Timo Werner all expected to start, Löw warned that the team won't evolve overnight. "Building a new team is not something that happens out of nothing. It is a process," said Löw, who has dropped Jerome Boateng for this round of fixtures. "The rebuilding phase has started and the process is ongoing." "Every successful team will have a good mix between young and more experienced players," he said, when asked about out-of-form Thomas Müller, another World Cup winner, who was part of the squad. "Young players need some players to guide them in difficult moments. We do not have too many players who have this experience." Relegation 'not end of the world' Germany could be relegated from their Nations League group if results don't go their way when France play the Netherlands followed by Germany's game against the Dutch — but that's not a scenario that overly concerns Löw. "We don't have things in our own hands anymore in order to stay in the league," admitted Löw, after Germany managed just one point from their first three games. "Perhaps we made the mistake of putting too much emphasis on the Nations League — it would not be the end of the world if we have to play in a lower division in 2020."

Germany face Russia in a friendly on Thursday, but will be without Dortmund forward Marco Reus. Joachim Löw is expected to field some younger players but has warned that the evolution of the team will be a slow process. Marco Reus will play no part in Germany’s friendly game against Russia in Leipzig, coach Joachim Löw has confirmed. Reus suffered ... Read More »

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas calls for China transparency over Uighur Muslims

Despite warnings from China that Germany should not interfere in its internal affairs, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called on Beijing to be transparent about the human rights conflict surrounding the Uighur Muslims. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas began his visit to China on Monday by calling for more transparency from the Chinese government regarding the human rights conflict surrounding reports about the mass detention of a million Uighur Muslims. UN experts have said there are credible reports that as many as a million Uighurs, ethnically Turkic Muslims which reside in western China, have been interned in camps in the last year. "We cannot accept re-education camps," Maas said after meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in Beijing, adding that more information was needed to assess the situation. On Monday, Maas said his talks with Vice Premier Liu were "free of controversy" and that all sides had an interest in matters being ransparent. When asked if human rights organizations should enter the camps, the German minister said: "At first, it is of secondary importance who ensures transparency." Bundestag condemnation Last Thursday, members of Germany's Bundestag condemned the Chinese government for its treatment of the Uighur population, accusing Beijing of violating human rights. In a motion, the Greens party called on the German government to demand that Beijing grant independent observers and journalists access to the Xinjiang region. The discussion in the Bundestag prompted a fierce response from China. The Chinese Embassy in Berlin said that Beijing was "extremely dissatisfied" and accused the Bundestag of "blatant interference in internal affairs and a gross violation of China's sovereignty." Bundestag condemnation Last Thursday, members of Germany's Bundestag condemned the Chinese government for its treatment of the Uighur population, accusing Beijing of violating human rights. In a motion, the Greens party called on the German government to demand that Beijing grant independent observers and journalists access to the Xinjiang region. The discussion in the Bundestag prompted a fierce response from China. The Chinese Embassy in Berlin said that Beijing was "extremely dissatisfied" and accused the Bundestag of "blatant interference in internal affairs and a gross violation of China's sovereignty." Xinjiang belongs to the territory of the People's Republic of China, and issues concerning Xinjiang fall within China's jurisdictions and internal affairs," a statement published last Friday by the Embassy read. China has said the camps are "training centers" to equip people with employable skill to help combat Islamist extremism in the still bloodied Xinjiang province. However, rights activists say the centers are political indoctrination camps where Uighurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities are taught Communist propaganda and forced to renounce their religion. Two-day visit The minister also said that issues relating to arms control and disarmament should be the subject of multilateral agreements, especially in the case of new weapons systems. "We want to talk to China about this," the ministry said via Twitter: Germany wants to expand bilateral consultations between Germany and China, on cooperation at the UN among other issues. Before he left Germany, Maas had said "China is more than just our most important trading partner in Asia," and needed a strong relationship to tacle issues such as security and climate change. Maas also stressed that Berlin and Beijing had a common interest in ending trade disputes. China was Germany's most important trade partner in 2017 with a trade volume of over €186 billion ($209 billion). The minister was also to meet with economy officials and with Yang Jiechi, the director of China's foreign affairs office, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi as part of his two-day visit.

Despite warnings from China that Germany should not interfere in its internal affairs, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called on Beijing to be transparent about the human rights conflict surrounding the Uighur Muslims. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas began his visit to China on Monday by calling for more transparency from the Chinese government regarding the human rights conflict surrounding reports ... Read More »

Lawyer says Asia Bibi ‘wants to leave for Germany’

Asia Bibi, a Pakistani-Christian woman accused of blasphemy, was released from jail on Wednesday amid violent Islamist protests against her Supreme Court acquittal. But Bibi can reportedly still not leave the country. Bibi's lawyer, Saif-ul-Mulook,told the Bild am Sonntag German newspaper that Asia Bibi "would be happy if she could leave for Germany with her family." Bibi, who was acquitted by Pakistan's Supreme Court on blasphemy charges on October 31, is reportedly still in Pakistan despite her release from jail on Wednesday. Mulook fled Pakistan to the Netherlands a day after the court's decidion. Bibi's was one of the most high-profile blasphemy cases in Pakistan, with international rights groups and Western governments demanding a fair trial in her case. In 2015, Bibi's daughter met with Pope Francis, who offered prayers for her mother at the Vatican. Bibi was arrested in June 2009, after her neighbors complained she had made derogatory remarks about Islam's Prophet Muhammad. A year later, Bibi was sentenced to death, despite strong opposition from national and international human rights groups. Despite her acquittal by the Supreme Court, Bibi remained in prison due to Islamist protests, spearheaded by the Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP) party. Blasphemy is punishable by death in Pakistan, where 97 percent of its 180 million inhabitants are Muslims. Rights activists have demanded reforms of the controversial blasphemy laws, which were introduced by the Islamic military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s. Activists say the laws have little to do with blasphemy and are often used to settle petty disputes and personal vendettas Several European countries are willing to take Bibi and her family in, but it is unclear when she would be allowed to leave the South Asian country. What next for Bibi? Haroon Janjua, DW's correspondent in Islamabad, said Prime Minister Imran Khan's government wants to complete all legal requirements before Bibi, who is reportedly under protective custody currently, can leave the country. A review petition against Bibi's acquittal was filed right after the Supreme Court's October 31 verdict. The country's highest court is likely to make a decision on the petition in the next few days. Experts say it is unlikely that the top court's judges, including the Supreme Court's chief justice, would accept the petition, as it would require a larger bench to hear it. After violent protests against the suspension of Bibi's death erupted across the country, Khan's government opted to make a deal with Islamists to "avoid bloodshed." The move was heavily criticized by rights groups. But Khan recently told media that his government would not compromise on legal decisions. "I want to make it clear that the government stands with the decision of the Supreme Court and there will be no compromise on it," Khan said on Saturday. "The rule of law depends on following verdicts of the Supreme Court and if you do not follow the top court's decision then law finishes in the country," he added. Earlier this week, Bibi's attorney told S. Khan, DW's Islamabad correspondent, that he does not think that PM Khan's government has taken any U-turn on the Supreme Court's decision. "I believe that religious hardliners needed a way out, and the authorities gave them that. The conditions of the government-TLP agreement do not amount to the surrender of the state. Having said that, it is a citizen's constitutional right to file a review petition in the Supreme Court." "Almos all blasphemy cases in Pakistan are fabricated. There are people who misuse blasphemy laws. Even if there is a blasphemy charge against anyone, there should be a fair trial without fear and intimidation," Mulook added. Persecution of religious minorities Pakistan's Christians and other religious minorities have often complained of legal and social discrimination in their country. In the past few years, many Christians and Hindus have been brutally murdered over unproven blasphemy allegations. In one case, a young Christian girl with Down syndrome was accused in August 2012 of burning pages upon which verses of the Koran were inscribed. Rimsha Masih was taken into police custody and only released months later, when charges were dropped. The case caused an uproar in her hometown and beyond and sparked riots and violence against Christians in the region. In 2013, she and her family relocated to Canada. In 2014, a Christian couple was beaten to death for allegedly desecrating a copy of the Koran. Their bodies were subsequently burned in a brick kiln. In September last year, a Christian man in Pakistan was sentenced to death for sharing "blasphemous" material on WhatsApp.

Asia Bibi, a Pakistani-Christian woman accused of blasphemy, was released from jail on Wednesday amid violent Islamist protests against her Supreme Court acquittal. But Bibi can reportedly still not leave the country. Bibi’s lawyer, Saif-ul-Mulook,told the Bild am Sonntag German newspaper that Asia Bibi “would be happy if she could leave for Germany with her family.” Bibi, who was acquitted ... Read More »

World leaders gather to mark 100 years since WWI armistice

Leaders of some 70 countries are commemorating the armistice that ended World War I a century ago. Some 10 million soldiers lost their lives in the conflict. In London, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier became the first German head of state to place a wreath at the Cenotaph war memorial in central London. He arrived with Prince Charles, who laid the first wreath on behalf of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, who looked on from a nearby balcony. The wreath that Steinmeier laid at the cenotaph bore the following handwritten message: "Honored to remember side by side/Grateful for reconciliation/Hopeful for a future in peace and friendship." Ahead of the ceremony, the British government said Steinmeier's wreath was laid "in a historic act of reconciliation." Paris, Arc de Triomphe Some 70 world leaders gathered at the famous Arc de Triomphe in the French capital to mark 100 years since the end of World War I. Commemorations in Paris had been scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. local time (1000 UTC), the time that the Armistice signed by the Allies and the Germans on November 11, 1918, went into force. However, the proceedings were slightly delayed, with leaders arriving too late for the exact moment. The large number of countries represented in Paris reflects the widespread nature of a conflict in which an estimated 37 million people, including 10 million soldiers, lost their lives. The city of Paris itself was a key objective in the war, with the Allies fighting successfully against German efforts to capture it in 1914. The solemn ceremony, held in rainy conditions, featured schoolchildren reading moving messages written by soldiers in eight languages, as well as musical performances, including by French-born Chinese-American cellist Yo-Yo Ma and West African singer Angelique Kidjo. Patriotism, not nationalism French President Emmanuel Macron held an address in which he described the joy at the end of the conflict, but also remembered the horrors and millions of dead and wounded. In his speech, he called the nationalism that underlay the war a betrayal of patriotism. He appealed for friendship and dialogue between the nations to create a peaceful future. "The old demons are rising again," Macron said. "We must reaffirm before our peoples our true and huge responsibility: that of passing on to our children the world that previous generations dreamed of." "Together, we can banish the specters of climate change, poverty, hunger, illness, all the inequalities and every ignorance," he added Far-flung conflict The Paris commemorations were preceded by ceremonies in New Zealand, Australia, India, Hong Kong and Myanmar, former British colonies that lost tens of thousands of people sent to fight in the war. Although Sunday's ceremonies celebrate an act that brought a short-lived peace to the world, they are taking place at a time of growing nationalism and international tensions. US President Donald Trump, one of the leaders attending the event, is seen by many as undermining the Western alliance and world bodies such as the UN with his self-declared nationalism. Trump will not be present at the Paris Peace Forum conceived by Macron to highlight the importance of international institutions for global peace and prosperity. The Forum is to be opened with a speech given by German Chancellor Angela Merkel alongside UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. Some of those who participated in Sunday's commemorations had relatives who fought in what is often known as the "Great War," and had come a long way to be in Paris, as DW's Bernd Riegert reported. Some protest Other attendees of the memorial service and Forum included Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump and Putin greeted each other and shook hands at the ceremony, Russian television showed. The gesture comes as relations between their two countries remain strained, among other things because of alleged Russian interference in recent US elections. The US president pointedly did not extend his hand to Trudeau. Earlier this year, Trump described the Canadian premier as "dishonest and weak" amid a dispute over what he alleges are Canada's "unfair" trade practices. As Trump's motorcade made its way up the Champs-Elysees, it was temporarily halted after two topless protesters approached it wearing slogans on their bodies. Police quickly overpowered the protesters, whom the feminist group Femen claimed as its own.

Leaders of some 70 countries are commemorating the armistice that ended World War I a century ago. Some 10 million soldiers lost their lives in the conflict. In London, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier became the first German head of state to place a wreath at the Cenotaph war memorial in central London. He arrived with Prince Charles, who laid the first ... Read More »

Sri Lanka president Maithripala Sirisena sacks parliament

After failing to push through a new prime minister into the Sri Lankan parliament, the country's president, Maithripala Sirisena, fired all of the lawmakers. China and India are keenly interested in the power struggle. Amid an escalating political crisis in Sri Lanka, President Maithripala Sirisena dissolved the parliament on Friday. Previously, Sirisena's party admitted to not having the votes to confirm ex-strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa as the new prime minister. The crisis started two weeks ago when Sirisena sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe and named Rajapaksa as his successor. Wickramasinghe disputes the president's authority to fire him and has refused to leave the prime ministerial residence. New elections are likely to be held in early January, nearly two years earlier than originally planned, a government minister told the AFP news agency. Between two giants Sri Lanka boasts a key strategic location in relation to global shipping lines. Its biggest city, Colombo, is set to become part of China's New Silk Road project to transport goods to the West. Former President Rajapaksa drifted close to Beijing during his 2005-2015 rule, while Wickramasinghe is considered closer to India and pro-Western. The power struggle between the factions feeds into the Asia-wide tug of war between Beijing and New Delhi. Sirisena vs. the parliament President Sirisena has failed to persuade the parliament to support his ouster of his one-time ally Wickramasinghe. Sirisena had suspended the assembly's work until mid-November when first moving against his prime minister. Later, the president said he had to fire Wickramasinghe because one of his ministers was involved in a "plot to assassinate" the head of state himself. Parliamentary speaker Karu Jayasuriya, however, slammed Sirisena's actions as a "coup, albeit without the use of tanks and guns." Jayasuriya also said that some of the lawmakers were offered bribes and ministerial posts in the new government if they supported the move. At least eight have switched sides, but at least 120 deputies in the 225-seat parliament remain loyal to Wickramasinghe. Faced with pressure from the UN, the US and the EU, Sirisena twice promised to lift the suspension of parliament, but then changed his mind.

After failing to push through a new prime minister into the Sri Lankan parliament, the country’s president, Maithripala Sirisena, fired all of the lawmakers. China and India are keenly interested in the power struggle. Amid an escalating political crisis in Sri Lanka, President Maithripala Sirisena dissolved the parliament on Friday. Previously, Sirisena’s party admitted to not having the votes to ... Read More »

New research reveals how toxoplasmosis alters the brain

Scientists have shown how the toxoplasmosis parasite hides away in the brain, altering synapses and potentially causing depression, schizophrenia and autism. Mice infected with toxoplasmosis parasites behave strangely: they lose their natural fear of cats. Presented with the smell of cat urine, they even seem attracted to the deadly predator, scientists have found. Toxoplasmosis is caused by the pathogen Toxoplasma gondii, a unicellular parasite that occurs worldwide. It affects birds and mammals, including humans. However, it can reproduce only the digestive system of a cat. Somewhere it might quickly end up if it happened to be stowed away in an unusually fearless mouse. From cat poo to car crashes Cats excrete the toxoplasmosis pathogen in their feces, meaning you might pick it up cleaning the family pet's litter box, or gardening. Humans can also become infected by eating contaminated food. And a great many of us do. Up to half of all adults are infected with toxoplasma pathogens. But mostly, the parasite goes unnoticed. Toxoplasmosis is dangerous to people with a weakened immune system or unborn children whose mothers are infected during pregnancy. But for most of us, the most we might suffer is a brief bout of flu-like symptoms with fever, fatigue, muscle pain and diarrhea. Once you're infected, however, the parasite often sticks around in muscle or brain tissue for the rest of your life — what doctors call a "hidden infection." And, just as it makes a timid rodent dangerously brave, research suggests it may change the way unwitting human carriers behave, too. Toxoplasmosis has been linked to schizophrenia, depression, autism — and even an increased risk of being involved in traffic accidents. Messing with the brain's messengers Scientists from the Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg and the Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology (LIN) have shown that Toxoplasma gondii influences the metabolism of its host's brain. The parasite alters the molecular composition of synapses, which are responsible for signal-processing in the brain, according to the research published in the Journal of Neuroinflammation. "Toxoplasma gondii is absorbed by humans via digestion, enters the bloodstream and also migrates into the brain to get into in nerve cells for the rest of one's life," said Karl-Heinz Smalla of the Special Laboratory for Molecular Biology Techniques at LIN. In cooperation with the Helmholtz Center for Infection Research, the team was able to prove that the infection alters the quantities of a 300 synaptic proteins in the brains of infected mice. In particular, the animals had significantly fewer proteins in the vicinity of glutamate-releasing excitatory synapses. At the same time, proteins involved in immune responses were up. "Malfunctions of glutamatergic synapses are associated with depression, schizophrenia and autism. Components of the immune response also show links to these diseases," said Ildiko Rita Dunay, an immunologist who worked on the study. "This suggests that immune reactions may cause changes in the synapse that may lead to neuropsychiatric disorders," she added. Treatment at hand The good news is, sulfadiazine, an antibiotic used to treat toxoplasmosis infections, restored the infected mice's brain metabolism to normal. "All investigated proteins responsible for the glutamatergic signal transmission were back to normal. The inflammatory activity also decreased measurably," said Björn Schott of the team in Magdeburg. And hopefully, the rodent's aversion to ending up as lunch was back, too.

Scientists have shown how the toxoplasmosis parasite hides away in the brain, altering synapses and potentially causing depression, schizophrenia and autism. Mice infected with toxoplasmosis parasites behave strangely: they lose their natural fear of cats. Presented with the smell of cat urine, they even seem attracted to the deadly predator, scientists have found. Toxoplasmosis is caused by the pathogen Toxoplasma ... Read More »

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