NIGERIA LOSES $4.8 BILLION IN OIL REVENUE BECAUSE OF MILITANT ATTACKS IN 2016: OFFICIAL

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From Newsweek:

“Nigeria’s state oil company lost more than 1.5 trillion naira ($4.8 billion) as a result of attacks on pipelines and facilities by militants in 2016, its managing director said Wednesday.

Militants in the Niger Delta—a vast, oil-rich swampland in southern Nigeria—have launched frequent attacks on oil facilities throughout the year. Groups like the Niger Delta Avengers(NDA) say their aim is to ensure a fairer distribution of Nigeria’s oil wealth.

The attacks have slashed Nigeria’s oil production by as much as half and were a major factor in the country slipping into recession in August. Nigeria relies on oil products for more than 90 percent of its export revenues, according to OPEC.”

Hatred spills beyond South Sudan along with refugees

Women who fled fighting in South Sudan carry water in plastic container on arrival at Bidi Bidi refugee’s resettlement camp near the border with South Sudan, in Yumbe district

From Reuters:

“Besides bags, blankets and tales of horror, some of the thousands of refugees fleeing South Sudan’s civil war each day carry something else – the ethnic hatred the United Nations says is “fertile ground” for genocide.

That hatred, fueled by continuing reports of ethnic-based killings inside the country, is turning refugee camps on its borders into tinder-boxes and threatening to destabilize the wider region.

More than a million people have fled the world’s youngest nation since fighting erupted in late 2013, the biggest cross-border exodus from any central African conflict since the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

They are going in all directions, including Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan, but Uganda, directly south, has received the most – 600,000 refugees so far.”

Nowhere to run for the children of South Sudan

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From Al Jazeera:

“Seven-year-old Nyajima still thinks about when the soldiers came to her village. The fighting had been getting closer each day.

“Many people who lived in our village were killed,” she says. “The soldiers stole all the food and left us with nothing except our saucepans, so we took them and started to walk to the POC.”  This was the Protection of Civilian Camp run by the UN peacekeeping force UNMISS. “It was a long walk and one night we slept outside on the way. This dress I am wearing is the only dress that I have.”

Nyajima is just one of thousands of children to have been displaced by the on-going war in South Sudan: a recent report from UNICEF estimated the number at 900,000 since the conflict between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and those who support the once vice-president, Riek Machar began in 2013.

She is one of the lucky ones – her family all survived and now live in a UN protected camp in Bentiu. “Once we lived in a house made of bamboo – now we live in a house of plastic sheeting,” she says.

Children are the biggest victims of the conflict: 17, 000 of them are reported to have been recruited by armed forces and armed groups looking for child soldiers to fuel the conflict which has been going on since 2013; another 14,000 are registered as unaccompanied or missing; and more than 2,000 have been killed or maimed during this time.”

Congo braces for unrest as president’s mandate expires

Democratic Republic of Congo's President Joseph Kabila arrives for a southern and central African leaders meeting to discuss political crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo in Luanda, Angola

From Reuters:

“When protests erupt in Kinshasa, Congo’s sprawling riverside capital, politicians usually trot out the adage that they won’t last more than a couple days because people need to find food for their families.

That assumption faces its sternest test in years on Dec. 19, a date that marks the end of President Joseph Kabila’s second term in office and which was intended to herald the Democratic Republic of Congo’s first peaceful transition of power.

Kabila’s allies say the president now plans to stay on beyond that date, thanks to a deal with some rivals to delay an election due last month to April 2018, ostensibly because of logistical difficulties registering millions of voters.

However, the main opposition bloc has rejected this plan, accusing Kabila of postponing elections to cling to power. It wants demonstrations to force him out if talks mediated by the Catholic Church fail to produce a last-ditch compromise.

The last major flare-up over election delays killed at least 50 people, mainly protesters, in September.”

World Bank Group Commits $1.3 Billion Support for Madagascar

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From ReliefWeb:

“The World Bank Group pledged $1.3 billion over the next three years to support Madagascar’s development through its national development plan. The announcement was made at the Donors and Investors Conference for Madagascar, held in Paris on December 1 and 2, 2016.

Madagascar is renowned for its exceptional biodiversity and abundant natural resources. However, due to successive crises, 90% of the population live below the poverty line and half of the children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition.

“Madagascar recovers from a long political, economic and social crises. In order to accompany the country on the right track of an inclusive and sustainable growth, the World Bank decided to provide an exceptional funding to Madagascar to help the Government pursue the necessary reforms that will boost the economy and expand the access to basic services and markets by the population,” said Makhtar Diop, World Bank Vice President for the Africa Region.”

DEA: Heroin Haul Largest Ever in Afghanistan, ‘If Not The World’

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From ABC News:

“A joint U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, American Special Forces and Afghan counter-narcotics operation last October resulted in an eye-popping seizure of 20 tons of drugs, which officials said was the “largest known seizure of heroin in Afghanistan, if not the world.”

The operation was kept under wraps until today, when a DEA official confirmed the contents of a field intelligence report obtained by ABC News but did not explain why a successful “super lab” take-down — which agency veterans agreed is an unprecedented narcotics haul — was not officially announced.

“This drug seizure alone prevented not only a massive amount of heroin hitting the streets throughout the world but also denied the Taliban money that would have been used to fund insurgent activities in and around the region,” DEA spokesman Steven Bell told ABC News yesterday.”

US military: 250 al Qaeda operatives killed or captured in Afghanistan this year

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From The Long War Journal:

“American counterterrorism forces have killed or captured approximately 250 al Qaeda operatives in 2016, according to US military officials.

The jihadists taken off the battlefield include 50 leaders and 200 other members of al Qaeda and Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), which is the newest regional branch of Ayman al Zawahiri’s global network.

The figures were first announced by General John W. Nicholson Jr., the commander of NATO’s Resolute Support and US Forces Afghanistan, during a briefing on Dec. 2. FDD’s Long War Journal followed up with some additional questions regarding the number of al Qaeda and Islamic State jihadists targeted.

For more than six years, FDD’s Long War Journal has warned that official estimates of al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan were too low and inconsistent with publicly available evidence. Officials finally conceded earlier this year that the number of al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan exceeds the US government’s longstanding claim.”

Report: China put weapons on disputed islands

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From USA Today:

“China’s military has installed anti-aircraft guns and other weapons on man-made islands in the South China Sea, according to a U.S. think tank’s analysis of satellite imagery published late Wednesday.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies’ report said China has built “significant point-defense capabilities” on all seven of its outposts in the Spratly Islands archipelago, a key trade channel where Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines and others claim territory.

The claim comes as President-elect Donald Trump has accused Beijing of constructing a “massive military complex” in the South China Sea, made aggressive comments about China’s trade policy and questioned U.S. protocol and policy over China’s rival Taiwan.”

China expected to lose top U.S. creditor crown to Japan as yuan struggles

Chinese 100 yuan banknotes and a Japanese 1,000 yen banknote are seen in this picture illustration in Beijing, China

From Reuters:

“China will soon be dethroned by Japan as the top holder of U.S. government debt as the Chinese central bank has been dipping into its foreign exchange reserves to support the yuan, while its Japanese counterpart has been content to allow the yen to weaken, economists said.

Investors are paying close attention to declines in China’s holding of U.S. Treasuries as any sharp sell-off could add further upward pressure to U.S. interest rates, which in turn can undermine the Chinese currency. The figures for foreign ownership of U.S. Treasuries in October are due out on Thursday afternoon in Washington.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Federal Reserve raised interest rates and signaled a faster pace of rate increases in 2017, sending yields on shorter-dated Treasuries to their highest levels in more than five years.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s attacks on Beijing over its trade and currency policies, as well as his questioning of the stance of current and past U.S. administrations concerning Taiwan, has triggered fears that China could decide to sell U.S. Treasuries in response.

However, Chinese government policy advisers, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject, say they believe that’s highly unlikely.”

French Guiana Deforestation Linked To Increase In Infectious Tropical Disease

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From Science World Report:

“Deforestation by humans in French Guiana has reportedly led to an increase in the number of insects and animals infected with the tropical disease, Buruli ulcer, according to an international team of researchers. The scientists conducted a study to know more about the possible impact of cutting down rain forests on the spread of infectious diseases.

The Washington Post reported that the researchteam went to French Guiana where Buruli ulcer is a common occurrence. The scientists collected 3,000 organisms from 17 places around the country and then examined each for M. ulcerans. Subsequently, it was found that the bacteria can infect a vast range of fish, insects and other invertebrates. Furthermore, the infections were more widespread in the lower levels of the food chain.

The researchers also observed the locations of the organisms they gathered and saw that in areas where deforestation had taken place. There were fewer organisms that lived higher up on the food chain. This, in turn, led to increases in the numbers of lower level organisms that the higher order animals normally preyed upon, and that led to more infections by M. ulcerans in lower order animals as they continued to flourish due to not being preyed upon.”