Saturday, December 31, 2022

South Africans Mourn Football Legend Pele

Pele’s grace, athleticism and mesmerising moves transfixed players and fans

By Africa News

South Africans in Sebokeng township reacted on Friday to the death of Pelé, the Brazilian king of soccer who won a record three World Cups and became one of the most commanding sports figures of the last century following his death on Thursday at the age of 82.

Pele had undergone treatment for colon cancer since 2021 and had been hospitalised for the last month with multiple ailments.

Widely regarded as one of soccer's greatest players, Pelé spent nearly two decades enchanting fans and dazzling opponents as the game's most prolific scorer with Brazilian club Santos and the Brazil national team.

In Johannesburg, Confederation of African Football (CAF) instructor and former player and coach Kenneth Kubheka agreed with popular opinion that Pele was the greatest player of all time.

Those sentiments were shared by another former player, Peter 'Fire' Khoabane, who said Pele would always be remembered as a legend of the sport.

Pele’s grace, athleticism and mesmerising moves transfixed players and fans.

He orchestrated a fast, fluid style that revolutionised the sport — a samba-like flair that personified his country's elegance on the field.

He carried Brazil to soccer's heights and became a global ambassador for his sport in a journey that began on the streets of Sao Paulo state, where he would kick a sock stuffed with newspapers or rags.

Tanzania Blames its Trading Partners for Underperformance


High food prices are one of the main drivers of rising inflation in Tanzania. FILE PHOTO | NMG


The Bank of Tanzania has blamed high inflation on most of the country’s trade partners, and the high commodity prices for continued pressures on its domestic market.

“Because of this unpleasant external environment, combined with elevating domestic supply-side constraints, inflation continued to trend upward, reaching 4.8 percent in September 2022 in Tanzania mainland,” the central bank said in its economic bulletin for the third quarter of 2022 ending September published December 26.

It cited the same reasons for average inflation rising to 4.6 percent during the quarter compared to 4.1 percent in Quarter 2 of 2022 and 3.9 percent year-on-year from Quarter 3 of 2021.

Monetary policy tightening

The rising inflationary pressures due to persistent global shocks had “complicated the conduct of monetary policy by heightening the inflation-growth trade-off,” the central bank said.

It added: “In view of this, and given the inflationary pressures are driven by supply-side factors, the Bank has opted for lessening monetary policy accommodation rather than full-blown tightening.”

“This cautious policy stance aims at aligning liquidity with monetary targets set forth under the IMF Extended Credit Facility (ECF) programme and safeguarding growth of economic activities while containing inflationary pressures.”

BoT noted that similar rising patterns of inflation were experienced in the East African Community (EAC) and Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional blocs to which Tanzania belongs, and trades with most of the other member states.

But the central bank also underlined that despite edging up, inflation remained in line with the country’s 2022/2023 fiscal year target and both EAC and SADC convergence criteria.

The main drivers of rising inflation during the quarter were prices of food, transport and building materials, it reported.

Importation bill

The rise in headline inflation in Zanzibar was much worse, up to an average of 5.6 percent from 2.2 percent in the third quarter of 2021, also driven by rising food prices.

According to the BoT quarterly bulletin, Tanzania’s current account recorded a deficit of $1.7 billion compared with just $331.3 million in the corresponding quarter of 2021, saying this was “largely explained” by a higher imports bill.

“The external sector continued to be affected by the war in Ukraine and prolonged Covid-19 outbreaks and lockdowns in China that have led to disruptions of supply chains, causing high commodity prices.”

Government revenue and grants amounted to Tsh6.31 trillion ($2.7 billion) during the quarter against an expenditure of Tsh8.45 trillion ($3.6 billion).

National debt increased by almost $180 million to $38.44 billion at the end of September 2022 from $38.26 billion at the end of June 2022.

South Sudan to Send 750 Troops to DR Congo to Fight Rebels

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

South Sudan will send 750 soldiers to the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo soon to join a regional force fighting a rebel offensive, a military spokesman said Wednesday.

Fierce fighting in recent months between Congolese troops and the M23 rebel group prompted the East African Community (EAC) bloc to deploy a joint regional force to quell the violence, with Kenya and Uganda also sending soldiers to the DRC.

South Sudanese soldiers "will leave for the DR Congo as soon as possible," a spokesman for the South Sudan People's Defence Forces (SSPDF), Major General Lul Ruai Koang, said during a ceremony in the capital Juba.

The 750-strong battalion has been undergoing training for more than six months for their deployment, he added.

At the Juba event, President Salva Kiir instructed the troops to "keep order", urging them to "protect the civilians and their properties from any harm".

North Kivu province

The ceremony came barely four months after thousands of fighters including former rebels loyal to Kiir and his rival, Vice President Riek Machar, were integrated into South Sudan's army -- a key condition of a peace deal to end the country's brutal civil war.

Nearly 400,000 people died during the 2013-2018 conflict.

"I want to tell you that you are one army and no matter which division that you come from, now you are going as soldiers of South Sudan," Kiir said on Wednesday.

The fighting in the DRC has also reignited regional tensions, with Kinshasa accusing its smaller neighbour Rwanda of backing the M23, allegations supported by UN experts as well as the United States, France and Belgium.

Kigali denies supporting the M23, which has conquered swathes of territory from the Congolese army and allied militias and advanced towards Goma, the capital of North Kivu province.

Cease fighting

It delivered the strategic town of Kibumba to a regional military force last week after heavy international pressure to cease fighting, saying the move was a "goodwill gesture done in the name of peace".

But the Congolese army dismissed the withdrawal as a "sham" aimed at reinforcing the group's positions elsewhere.

The M23, a largely Congolese Tutsi militia, first leapt to prominence 10 years ago when it captured Goma in 2012, before being driven out and going to ground.

But it re-emerged late last year, claiming the DRC had failed to honour a pledge to integrate its fighters into the army, among other grievances.

The EAC regional force is expected to include soldiers from Kenya, Burundi, Uganda and South Sudan. But its intended total size remains unclear. 

Kenyan soldiers arrived in the country on November 12, with the Ugandan military later announcing that it would deploy 1,000 troops by the end of November.

DRC Conflict: M23 Rebels to Withdraw Soldiers from Rumagambo by January 5

Saturday, December 31, 2022

East African Community Regional Force (EACRF)'s Commander Major General Jeff Nyagah (left) during a meeting that confirmed M23's withdrawal from Kibumba on December 31, 2022.

By Mary Wambui Nation Media Group

M23 armed group shall withdraw its soldiers from Rumagambo, the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo by Thursday next week and later on from Kishishe, the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) has announced.

This comes following their successful withdrawal from Kibumba last week.

In a statement, EACRF's Commander Major General Jeff Nyagah said the withdrawal shall be systematic and coordinated by the rebel group after which EACRF will take over the vacated locations.

The statement follows a meeting by Major General Nyagah, the Ad hoc Verification Mechanism and the Extended Joint Verification Mechanism at Kibumba on Saturday.

Kibumba has now been taken over by EACRF forces in compliance with the Luanda communique of November 23, 2022.

The move gave way to the return of displaced persons and the opening of supply routes for humanitarian assistance. 

M23 rebels look on in Kibumba in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, on December 23, 2022. 

Glody Murhabazi| AFP

Major General Nyagah has called on all parties to the conflict in Eastern DRC to immediately observe the cease-fire call outlined in the Luanda communique and end attacks targeted at civilians whom he said continue to bear the brunt of the ongoing conflict.

He added that an independent probe into the killings that occurred in Kishishe early this month in what was termed as a reprisal killing between the M23 and rival armed groups will bring those culpable to account.

At the same time, he asked those who fled Kishishe following the killings to return to their homes after the withdrawal of the rebel group to give witness accounts of the incident.

“The local leadership must take the lead in the resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons in areas vacated by M23 and subsequently occupied by EACRF and I appeal to humanitarian agencies to enhance aid to the affected. Vandalism and looting of property belonging to the people of Eastern DRC by any party must be brought to an immediate stop," the general said in the statement.

A statement by the UN said Kishishe victims were arbitrarily executed with bullets or bladed weapons.

Today's meeting happened two days after EACRF's top command briefed President Felix Tshisekedi in Kinshasa on the overall security situation in Eastern DRC, the force's ongoing operations and its future plans.

“The M23 has committed to fully comply with the Luanda communique on total withdrawal from areas under their control to the designated areas and further to the East Africa Community Chiefs of Defence Forces’ decision of Dec 18, 2022 in Dar es Salaam," the statement added.

DR Congo Recalls Ambassador to France Isabel Tshombe Over Suspected Graft

Saturday, December 31, 2022

The Democratic Republic of Congo's ambassador to France Isabel Machik Ruth Tshombe.


Kinshasa, DR Congo  

The Democratic Republic of Congo has recalled its ambassador to France over suspected "financial misappropriation" in running its embassy in Paris, a letter verified by AFP has shown.

Isabel Machik Ruth Tshombe, who had held the post since January 2022, on Saturday rejected the allegations.

Tshombe has been ordered to return "before January 15, 2023", Foreign Minister Christophe Lutundula wrote to the diplomat on December 27.

The order followed suspicions of "financial misappropriation in which your personal responsibility seems implicated for an amount of 2,653,142.76 euros ($2.8 million) in 11 months" of running the embassy, he said, following an audit last month.

In particular, he asked her to account for a "treasury deficit" of around 1.8 million euros ($1.9 million) in passport, visa and other administrative fees from January to November.

He accused her of "transforming the embassy coffers into a private kitty", illegally granting herself and other diplomatic staff handsome financial privileges.

Tshombe rejected the charges on Twitter on Saturday, describing the note from the foreign minister as "drenched in acid" and an "abuse of power".

The DRC is one of the poorest countries in the world, despite its vast reserves of minerals ranging from gold and copper to cobalt.

Corruption is endemic: the country ranks 169th out of 180 nations in the 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index by NGO Transparency International.

Senegal: Hundreds Rally against Mismanagement of Covid Funds

The Senegalese government has denied that there was gross mismanagement, saying only a tiny fraction of the funds was lost

By Africa News with AFP

Hundreds of Senegalese demonstrated in Dakar on Friday to demand legal action after numerous irregularities were found in a report by the Court of Auditors on the management of anti-Covid funds, an AFP journalist noted.

The crowd gathered at the Place de la Nation in Dakar, under the call of a dozen civil society organisations, shouting "To the thieves" and "You will not digest our billions!

A large police force was deployed around the square to supervise the rally, which was authorised by the prefect and supported by the opposition, which has repeatedly denounced the authorities' "theft" in recent days.

In mid-December, an audit by the Court of Auditors of Senegal on the "Response Fund against the effects of Covid-19" amounting to more than 740 billion CFA francs (more than 1.1 billion euros), financed by donors and the state in 2020 and 2021, pointed to "shortcomings", "overbilling" or "lack of evidence" of expenditure.

Civil society is demanding the resignation of all those implicated and the reimbursement of the alleged misappropriations.

The government has defended itself by stressing that the reported shortcomings concern less than one percent of the total amount of the fund and has promised to follow the recommendations of the Court of Auditors.

"Let justice be done. I am here to denounce the misappropriation of the funds," said Alioune Tine, founder of the Afrikajom Center and a civil society figure.

"I am here to denounce impunity and the impartiality of justice. I am outraged to see that our leaders have embezzled our billions while we were between life and death," said Papis Diatta, a 35-year-old demonstrator.

The slogan "No to the third term" appeared on several placards, because of the doubt that persists on the decision of President Macky Sall, elected in 2012 for seven years and re-elected in 2019 for five years, to run again for president in 2024.

The demonstrators also chanted the name and called for the release of Pape Alé Niang, a journalist detained for more than a month for "disclosing information likely to harm the national defence", who was released and then returned to detention on 20 December.

46 Ivorian Soldiers Sentenced to 20 Years in Mali Prison


TIMBUKTU, Mali (AP) — Forty-six soldiers from Ivory Coast were sentenced to 20 years in prison for undermining state security in Mali and for attacks on Mali’s government, the African nation’s prosecutor general said Friday.

The soldiers were also fined more than $3,000 and convicted of carrying and transporting weapons, Prosecutor General Ladji Sara said in a statement.

Sara added that three other defendants, all women who were released in September, were tried in absentia and sentenced to death.

The 49 soldiers were detained in July when they went to work for Sahelian Aviation Services, a private company contracted to work in Mali by the United Nations.

Mali’s government said it considered the Ivorians to be mercenaries because they were not directly employed by the U.N. mission and accused them of undermining state security. Malian authorities said the aviation company should entrust its security to Mali’s defense forces.

The conviction of the soldiers comes days ahead of the Jan. 1 deadline set by West African leaders for Mali to release the soldiers. Ivory Coast’s defense minister visited Mali’s capital, Bamako, earlier this month to appeal for their release.

Mali has little to gain from antagonizing a key neighbor, said Alexander Thurston, assistant professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati. “The junta is compounding its isolation and adding to the likelihood that (the UN peacekeeping mission) will collapse,” he said.

The case has added to escalating tensions between Mali’s military junta and the international community. The junta’s leader, Col. Assimi Goita, has faced growing isolation since he seized power in a coup two years ago and then failed to meet an international deadline for organizing democratic elections.

Goita has also allowed Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group to help fight jihadis linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group. The Russians came into Mali as French and other regional forces left.

Amid growing tensions with the junta, France withdrew its troops after nine years of operations in Mali against jihadi forces.

In June, Malian authorities said they would not authorize the U.N. mission to investigate possible human rights violations in Mali, including the deaths of more than 300 civilians earlier this year.


Associated Press writer Toussaint N’Gotta in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, contributed to this report.

Algerian Journalist Jailed and His Media Offices Shut Down

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — A prominent Algerian journalist is behind bars and the offices of his website and radio station were shut down based on accusations that they threaten state security, according to a defense lawyer.

Ihsane El-Kadi was detained Dec. 23 at his home and held in a police facility until Thursday, when he appeared in an Algiers court. An investigating judge ordered him kept in custody, according to Zoubida Assoul, a lawyer who is part of a collective that is defending the journalist.

El-Kadi, who was active in Algeria’s Hirak pro-democracy protest movement in 2019, appears to be the latest target of an encroaching crackdown on dissenting voices in the North African country.

The case against him is linked to the crowdfunding used to finance his media outlets, Maghreb Emergent and Webradio, Assoul said. The website and radio station operated in Algeria for years but did not have government recognition as official media organizations.

El-Kadi is accused of violating an article in the criminal code targeting anyone who receives funds aimed at “inciting acts susceptible to threaten state security,” stability or Algeria’s fundamental interests, the lawyer said. If convicted, he could face five to seven years in prison.

His supporters view El-Kadi’s arrest as punishment for articles that angered Algerian authorities.

His outlets were seen by many as outposts of free debate in Algerian media that provided journalists and opposition politicians a platform to point out contradictions or shortfalls in the government’s policies.

Police questioned El-Kadi in the past then released him. the past then released. His family and friends expected that to happen again Thursday, but instead were disappointed and indignant at the decision to hold him.

“Algeria is sliding dangerously into an Orwellian universe,” Madjid Madhi, who is also a journalist, said.

Algerians expressed dismay online, including some who said they disagreed with El-Kadi’s views.

Libya Says Boat with 700 Europe-bound Migrants Intercepted


CAIRO (AP) — A vessel carrying at least 700 migrants was intercepted off the eastern coast of Libya, the coast guard said. It was one of the largest interceptions in recent months of migrants seeking a better life in Europe through the war-torn North African country.

The coast guard said the boat was stopped Friday off the Mediterranean town of Moura, 90 kilometers (56 miles) west of the eastern city of Benghazi.

It said in a statement that the migrants hail from different nations and that those who illegally entered Libya would be handed over to their home countries.

The statement did not provide further details.

The coast guard posted images on Facebook showing a large, overcrowded vessel with most of those on board appearing to be young people.

It was one of the largest interceptions in recent months of migrants sailing to Europe, a destination for thousands fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.

In August last year, Italian military vessels aided a boat crammed with 539 migrants off the southern island of Lampedusa. The boat was launched from Libyan shores.

Libya has in recent years emerged as the dominant transit point for migrants seeking a better quality of life in Europe. The oil-rich country plunged into chaos following a NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime autocrat Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

Human traffickers in recent years have benefited from the chaos in Libya, smuggling in migrants across the country’s lengthy borders with six nations. The migrants are then packed into ill-equipped rubber boats and other vessels and set off on risky sea voyages. Officials didn’t say what kind of vessel was found over the weekend.

The International Organization for Migration has reported 1,522 dead or missing migrants in the Mediterranean this year. Overall, the IOM says 24,871 migrants have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean since 2014, with the real number believed to be even higher given the number of shipwrecks that never get reported.

Friday, December 30, 2022

Brazil Mourns Pelé, Who Made Every Part of the Country Proud


A man walks his dog past a mural of Brazilian soccer stars Pele, left, and Garrincha in Rio de Janerio, Brazil, Friday, Dec. 30, 2022. Edson Arantes do Nascimento, known to the world as Pele, died in Sao Paulo Thursday at the age of 82. (AP Photo/Bruna Prado)

Bocaina de Minas, BRAZIL (AP) — Down a dirt road in the mountains of Minas Gerais, Pelé’s home state, Jorge Tavares received the news of the star’s death from a 4 a.m. newscast.

As a boy, Tavares and his cousins listened to Pelé’s World Cup games on the radio. His dazzling performance inspired them to play a game they had never seen, at first using a ball of socks and string.

“He leaves a legacy, a person of color who was crowned king of soccer, and he also brought a lot of peace outside Brazil,” Tavares, a 67-year-old school-van driver, said at the barbed-wire fence outside his home. “He represented Brazil to everyone abroad.”

With Pelé’s death, Brazilians have lost a piece of their hearts.

On Rio de Janeiro’s Ipanema beach, the news broke when Paulo Vinicius was playing soccer with his 9-year-old nephew.

“Pelé represents the best of Brazil: its people, its working class,” said Vinicius, 38, a physical-education instructor. “Pelé gives a sense of identity to the Brazilian people.”

Roseli Augusto, 55, was at her little bar in the mountains of Minas Gerais when she heard the news.

“Pelé is an idol, the best player in the world,” said Augusto. She recalls her father taking a bus to the coastal city of Santos to watch Pelé play. “Many kids, many players, were inspired by him. He is our biggest sports idol.”

As a girl, Lucia Cunha listened to Pelé’s World Cup exploits while huddled around a radio with her siblings. She read about him in newspapers used to wrap bread.

“He was a symbol of soccer, a great player, a simple, humble person, a person of God, a good person, who did everything that he could,” Cunha said.

In Santos, Nicolas Oliveira, 18, was outside the stadium along with about 200 other people. Oliveira said that even replays of Pelé’s sensational playing make him swell with emotion.

“Pelé is a Black man from the interior of Minas Gerais state,” Oliveira said. “I’m here because of what he did, for the soccer he played, for the soccer he improved and for the future players he helped mold and inspire.”

Everton Luz, a 41-year-old lawyer, was crying outside the hospital with a Santos club flag wrapped around him. He had come directly from work to pay tribute to the player whose performances had electrified his own dad, and prompted decades of stories.

Luz recounts those stories to his own two children, and shows them videos of the idol. He recalled seeing Pelé in person once, watching a game at a stadium.

“We managed to get close to his box, and he waved goodbye,” Luz said. “He was an example of the Brazilian, of what we could become.”


Biller reported from Minas Gerais state. AP writer Carla Bridi contributed from Sao Paulo.

Pelé Invigorated US Soccer, Paved Way for ’94 World Cup, MLS


FILE - New York Cosmos' Pele stands with others at news conference in New York on June 10, 1975. Dozens of meetings over four years led to Pelé agreeing to sign with Cosmos in June 1975. His 2 1/2 seasons in New York elevated the sport, putting U.S. soccer on a path to hosting the World Cup in 1994 and launching Major League Soccer two years later. (AP Photo, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Clive Toye traveled to Jamaica and walked unannounced into the hotel where the Brazilian club Santos was staying ahead of a friendly against the Reggae Boyz in January 1971. Pelé was sitting by the pool, and the New York Cosmos general manager began the cold call that changed U.S. sports history.

“You could go to Juventus, you could go to Real Madrid, yeah, you could win a championship. But so will other people,” the 90-year-old Toye recalled telling Pelé. “You come to us, you can win a country and nobody else could do that except you.”

Dozens of meetings over four years led to Pelé agreeing to sign with Cosmos in June 1975. His 2 1/2 seasons in New York put U.S. soccer on a path to hosting the World Cup in 1994 and launching Major League Soccer two years later.

“There are probably two athletes that have transcended their sport and transcended sport overall in our lifetime,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said Thursday night after Pelé’s death at age 82. “One was Muhammad Ali and the other was Pelé.”

The Cosmos averaged 3,578 fans in 1974 — a figure that nearly tripled to 10,450 the next year, with people lining the sides of the Triborough Bridge approach to watch games at Downing Stadum on Randalls Island.

In 1976, the Cosmos averaged 18,227 at Yankee Stadium and then 34,142 at Giants Stadium in New Jersey the following year for Pelé’s final season. Boosted by the Pelé buzz — along with players Franz Beckenbauer and Giorgio Chinaglia — the Cosmos averaged over 40,000 the following two years before a tailspin saw the league fold after the 1984 season.

From that first meeting in Kingston, where Toye brought along U.S. Soccer Federation Kurt Lamm for support, Toye traveled to Brazil several times and finally persuaded Pelé to agree during a meeting in Brussels. The formal offer came a few days later in Rome.

Pelé signed the contract in Bermuda for tax reasons, what Toye recalls as a $2.7 million, three-year deal, and the Brazilian was introduced during a news conference at “21,” a hangout for New York’s movers and shakers.

When Pelé had led Brazil to his third and final World Cup title in 1970, the primary way to watch the tournament with English-language commentary in the U.S. was on closed-circuit television in arenas like Madison Square Garden. Toye and North American Soccer League commissioner Phil Woosnam had the league purchase U.S. rights that year for $15,000 but couldn’t find a TV network that would agree to broadcast.

“There were still people, you’d say to them soccer, and they’d say, `What’s soccer?’” Toye said, speaking from his home in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. “And then we’d talk to people about the World Cup, and they would say, ‘Oh, what’s the World Cup?’ This last World Cup you couldn’t bloody switch on any channel without seeing something about it.”

Pelé was 34 when he joined the Cosmos and scored 37 goals in 64 regular and postseason matches. He agreed to countless interviews and promotional appearances as part of a mission to make soccer mainstream.

“The Cosmos was the spark that lit the fire that has become a conflagration of soccer in our country,” said Alan Rothenberg, a former U.S. Soccer Federation president and the head organizer of the 1994 World Cup. He had vivid memories of leaving the Plaza Hotel with Pelé and jaywalking through traffic to Central Park.

“Cabs came screeching to a halt. They started screaming ‘Pelé! Pelé!’ It was like the Red Sea parted,” Rothenberg said.

Pelé played for Santos from 1956-74 and for Brazil from 1957-71, making his mark on a sport that had largely bypassed an American fanbase fixated on Major League Baseball, the NFL, NBA, college football and college basketball.

“The NASL set the stage for what soccer in America is today, both from a grassroots perspective but also at the professional level,” Garber said. “He came here and said: This sport matters. I’m going to make it bigger than anybody ever dreamed it could be. And all of us who are in the sport today, whether a lover of the game or a player or administrator, we would not be where we are today if it wasn’t for Pelé deciding to come to the United States.”

Sunil Gulati, another past USSF president and a member of FIFA’s ruling Council, first met Pelé when he got an autograph at Dillon Stadium in Hartford, where the Cosmos played the Connecticut Bicentennials.

About 30 years later, Gulati accompanied Columbia women’s All-American soccer player Sophie Reiser to a suite at Hofstra because she wanted an autograph.

“Pelé, one more, please?” Gulati recounted. “He turned to me and smiled and said, ‘There’s always one more.’ It was absolutely fantastic. He did everything with a smile.”

Ghana’s Vintage Enthusiasts Give Fresh Life to Western Clothing Waste

By Reuters

Dec 28, 2022 09:09 PM

Ghanaian girls in national costume. Photo: Ghana Tourism Authority

As the sun set on a courtyard of shipping containers in Ghana's capital Accra, young men and women in Pink Floyd, Grateful Dead and tie-dye tees bartered over army surplus jackets and Adidas sneakers while a live deejay spun Afrobeat classics.

The Vintage Gala, as 23-year-old founders Prince Quist and James Edem Doe Dartey dubbed it, brought together a movement of young vintage enthusiasts pushing back against the global fast fashion industry by encouraging their peers to shop secondhand.

"If you wear clothes that were made back in the day ... you're helping the environment by not using the raw materials and other things needed to make new ones," Quist said, seated in front of the booth for his and Dartey's online shop, TT Vintage Store. "The idea is just to inspire everybody to thrift vintage, because secondhand goods aren't second-class stuff," Dartey added. "Shopping vintage makes recycling even better."

Ghana receives around 15 million items of used clothing each week from Western countries, offloaded in bulk, often at negligible prices and questionable quality. Around 40 percent of this ultimately ends up in massive urban landfills, according to the US-based Or Foundation. Much of it passes through Accra's Kantamanto, one of the largest garment markets on the continent, where bales of used clothes are sold based on the expected quality of the garments wrapped up inside. 

Hours before sunrise several times per week, vintage enthusiasts like Quist and Dartey comb through Kantamanto's rivers of imported clothes, searching for gems they can resell on Instagram pages with thousands of followers in Ghana and abroad.

They believe buying secondhand not only helps to reduce fashion's environmental impact, but also allows them and their customers to express unique styles apart from current trends.

Nigeria Dance Carnival Helps Residents Reclaim Streets

By Reuters

Dec 28, 2022 08:03 PM

Nigerians wearing traditional costumes perform during the Irewha Hunt Festival at Shafa Abakpa town in Toto Local Government Area of Nasarawa State, Nigeria on December 26, 2016. Photo: IC

In a street in a poor neighborhood of Lagos, a bare-chested young man, Gift Eze, holds his screaming partner, helping calm the rage within and stop him fighting.

Residents of Oworonshoki have seen their share of violence, with robberies and tit-for-tat gang murders once commonplace in this part of Nigeria's vast, boisterous commercial capital.

But the scene on Christmas Eve, a dance routine between two men caked in chalk, showed how far the community has come since the annual Slum Party, an art event using dance to tell stories of the local community, was established four years ago.

Days of dance workshops culminated with an all-day carnival aiming to reclaim the streets and reduce tensions between rival gangs. Before long, onlookers were dancing along with the drums, blurring the lines between performers and their audience.

"We are using dance as a focal point... to come to the community and just talk about the various socio-political issues that needed to be addressed, using a party as the template," said Sunday Ozegbe-Obiajulu, who founded the event.

Eze, one of the Slum Party's participants, said the event has been transformational.

"I've been able to achieve a big goal in my life, and Slum Party has really changed a whole lot for me," he said.

Community leader Oriyomi Akeem said Slum Party has helped bring peace to a neighborhood once known as a no-go area overrun by gangs. "Now everything is calm and good," Akeem said.

100 Million People Displaced Globally in 2022, Says UN

Efforts underway to save refugees

By Xinhua

Dec 27, 2022 09:03 PM

Palestinian boys play football in a street at the Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, on Nov. 30, 2022. (Photo: Xinhua)

A hundred million people across the world were forced to leave their homes in 2022 and the United Nations is continuing to help those in need in a myriad of ways, UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, said on Monday.

Filippo Grandi, head of the agency, described the figure as "a record that should never have been set," UN News said.

The figure is up from some 90 million in 2021. 

Outbreaks of violence, or protracted conflicts, were key migration factors in many parts of the world, including Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Syria and Myanmar.

Thousands of desperate migrants looked to Europe as a preferred destination, putting their lives in the hands of human traffickers, and setting off on perilous journeys across the Mediterranean, UN News warned. 

It has now been more than seven years since the protracted conflict began in Yemen, which precipitated a humanitarian catastrophe and has forced more than 4.3 million people to leave their homes.

In May, the UN migration agency IOM and the European Union's humanitarian aid wing, ECHO, announced that they were scaling up efforts to respond to the needs of more than 325,000 displaced, including migrants and the communities that host them.

"The situation is also getting worse for migrants in Yemen, especially women, who are living in dire conditions in Yemen with little control over their lives," said Christa Rottensteiner, chief of the IOM mission in the country.

In Syria, war has now been upending lives for 11 years: Nearly 5 million children have never known the country at peace, UN News added.

More than 80,000 Syrians call the huge Za'atari camp in Jordan "home," and many of them may have to remain outside of their country for the foreseeable future.

"Prospects for return for the time being do not look promising," said Dominik Bartsch, UNHCR representative in the Jordanian capital Amman, in July. "We are not seeing an environment in Syria that would be conducive to returns."

Overall, Jordan hosts around 675,000 registered refugees from Syria, and most of them live in local communities, with only 17 percent in the refugee camps, Za'atari and Azraq.

More than five years ago, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fled their homes in Myanmar. Almost a million live in the vast Cox's Bazar camp across the border in neighboring Bangladesh.

In March, the UN launched its latest response plan, calling for more than 881 million US dollars for the refugees, and neighboring communities, who are also reliant on aid.

According to UN News, refugees also found themselves under direct attack. In February, thousands of Eritreans were forced to flee a camp in the Afar region, after armed men stormed in, stealing belongings and killing residents.


Rebels Kidnap Civilians in Democratic Republic of the Congo Clashes

Over 18 civilians captured by insurgents


Dec 27, 2022 07:23 PM

Photo taken on Nov. 21, 2022 shows soldiers operating near Kibumba, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). (Photo: Xinhua)

M23 rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo are holding civilians hostage for suspected collaboration with enemy militias as fighting erupted despite recent peace efforts, local sources told AFP.

The group - one of scores in the volatile region - has conquered swathes of territory from the army and allied militias in North Kivu province in recent months and advanced towards its capital Goma.

It delivered the strategic town of Kibumba to a regional military force last week after heavy international pressure to cease fighting, saying the move was a "goodwill gesture done in the name of peace."

But the Congolese army dismissed the withdrawal as a "sham" aimed at reinforcing the group's positions elsewhere and security sources told AFP clashes resumed in North Kivu on Sunday.

The rebels initially detained around 50 people accused of collaborating with two anti-M23 militias in and around the Tongo settlement, local civil society representative Cyprien Ngoragore said.

He said at least 18 civilians were still in rebel hands, suspected of working with an anti-M23 armed group, the Nyatura, and the FDLR, a militia with Rwandan Hutu origins.

Two people told AFP the hostages were taken to the locality of Rutshuru-center, seen as an M23 stronghold.

A nephew of one of the hostages, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they were "displaced people who were returning to look for food" and that the M23 told him they were still alive.

"We are requesting that our brothers are released, that the government gets involved," he added.

Another man said the rebels arrested his 76-year-old father and others last week on suspicion of working for the Nyatura and the FDLR, tied them up and moved them to Rutshuru-center.

The reports came as local residents told AFP fighting between the M23, the army and self-defense militias continued on Monday after breaking out at the weekend.

A military source told AFP on condition of anonymity that the army and local militias battled the M23 in the Bishusha and Tongo settlements. A security source said the army "was holding its positions."

A Tutsi-led movement, the M23 had lain dormant for years until it resumed fighting in late 2021, accusing the Congolese government of failing to honor a deal to integrate its fighters into the army.

The DRC has accused its smaller central African neighbor Rwanda of backing the group, something which Kigali denies. 

But the United States and France, among other Western countries as well as United Nations experts, agree with the DRC's assessment.


Pandemic Caused by More Virulent Variant Unlikely but Coronavirus Mutation Always a Possibility: Experts

By GT staff reporters

Dec 30, 2022 05:43 PM

Photo: VCG

It's always possible to see new coronavirus variants emerge, but it will be less likely to see a pandemic caused by a more virulent variant, Chinese experts said, stressing the need to strengthen monitoring of mutated virus strains amid public concerns over possible variation during the present surge.

The BA.5.2 and BF.7 are the absolute prevalent Omicron sub-strains present in China, which together account for more than 80 percent of cases. Seven other subtypes have also been detected, Xu Wenbo, director of the National Institute for Viral Disease Control and Prevention of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told the media recently. However, Xu said that no characteristic genomic mutations were found in these subvariants.

Lan Ke, director of the State Key Laboratory of Virology at Wuhan University, told the Global Times on Thursday that the COVID-19, as a kind of RNA virus, has random mutations in its genes as it reproduces in the host.

With the wide spread and replication of Omicron variants in the population, the mutations of the virus will increase and the possibility of new variants will always exist. Therefore, it is still necessary to strengthen the monitoring of mutant strains, Lan said.

China's National Health Commission (NHC) announced on late Monday night that the management of COVID-19 will be downgraded from Class A to Class B from January 8. China will continue to monitor the spread of COVID-19 and keep tracking the epidemic development, including changes in the virus' transmissibility, virulence and ability to escape the immune system. Appropriate measures will also be imposed to curb gatherings and people's mobility so that the peak number won't overwhelm the medical system, said the NHC.

Liang Wannian, head of the expert panel overseeing the national COVID-19 response, told media on Thursday that China pays close attention to the monitoring of pathogen variation and takes an active part in global pathogen monitoring.

China will notify the WHO in a timely manner when a new variant is discovered or when the mutation causes a change in virulence or transmissibility of the virus, Liang said.

Chen Yu, deputy director of the Department of Virology of the School of Life Sciences in Wuhan University, told the Global Times on Thursday that virus evolution is the result of interaction between viruses and their living environment. After natural selection, the variant strains that are more conducive to survival can get the chance to spread and reproduce, while the virus variant strains can't adapt will be gradually eliminated.

In the transmission and mutation of COVID-19, antibodies produced in the recovered body, combined with the use of vaccines and drugs, will inevitably provide pressure for the evolution of the virus, which makes the virus evolve in two directions: one is inclined to be more transmissible, the other is that viruses evolve to escape their host's immunity, Chen said.

Even if a more virulent strain emerges, it is unlikely that it will become a dominant strain, making it less likely to become a prevalent strain, Chen said, noting that it's unlikely to see a pandemic caused by a more virulent variant.

The COVID-19 is more likely to evolve into another relatively mild "seasonal" respiratory infection with symptoms similar to the common cold, Chen said.

With the renewal of vaccines and the increase of vaccination coverage, as well as the research and development of antiviral drugs, a stronger protecting umbrella for human health and security is expected, Lan said.

It is entirely possible for individuals to have some recurring infections. But the initiative of COVID-19 prevention and control is still in the hands of humans... Lan said, "Regular vaccination may become normal depending on the mutation of COVID-19."

It would be more ideal to start with basic research and develop broad-spectrum vaccines and drugs that will help humans completely rid themselves of the influence of viral evolution, Lan said.

Severe Cases Account for 3-4% of Total Hospitalized Patients in Beijing, Lower Than Early 2020 Outbreak Level: Experts

By GT staff reporters

Dec 30, 2022 03:29 PM

Photo: CFP

While in recent days hospitals in Beijing have been fully gearing up to battle against COVID infections and adopting various measures in treating severe illness, some prominent doctors and experts said that the overall rate of severe and critical cases is lower than that of the early outbreak in 2020 and that severe cases account for only about 3 percent to 4 percent of total hospitalized cases. 

Tong Zhaohui, an expert in respiratory critical diseases under the National Health Commission, said that some COVID patients who visited the hospitals had a common form of pneumonia, but a very small number presented signs of "white lung" - an indicator of severe illness. 

"Whether it's severe pneumonia, hypoxemia or acute respiratory failure, we have relatively mature treatment methods and there are corresponding guidelines and strategies from both domestic and foreign sides," Tong was quoted as saying in media reports on Thursday. 

The proportion of patients showing "white lung" symptoms or severe and critically ill account for three to four percent of the current infections, Tong said. The clinical treatment of respiratory failure caused by pneumonia is very effective and as long as the treatment is provided in a timely manner. Doctors can deal with it using oxygen inhalers, ventilators and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, improving the conditions of a considerable number of patients, the expert noted. 

A number of hospitals in Beijing have seen a surge in COVID patients in recent weeks, and hospitals have taken measures to mobilize medical staff and allocate resources to fully guarantee the treatment of critically ill patients. 

Zeng Guang, a former chief epidemiologist from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told an online forum that although we still lack accurate statistics, probably over 80 percent of the population in Beijing had been infected with COVID and the percentage could be higher. 

Zeng also told the forum that other cities should learn from Beijing's experiences in handling the surge of infections to prioritize the treatment of critical illness and to shift focus from preventing infections to medical treatment. Additionally, Beijing called for infected medical workers and those with mild infection symptoms to continue working and asked medical workers who had retired within the last five years to return to work. 

In the past two weeks, visits to emergency department remained at a high level with the number of patients increasing to 450 to 550, Zhang Yuhua, deputy director of the outpatient office of Chaoyang hospital, was quoted as saying in media reports. The number of ambulances daily entering the emergency department is as high as 75 to 90 and the number of patients received is about 100, Zhang said. Hospitalized patients are mainly elderly and critically ill patients with preexisting conditions. The patients are treated in a variety of ways in accordance with the severity of their conditions, according to media reports.

Some doctors who have been on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19 for the past three years showed confidence in dealing with the surging number of patients hospitalized, as Omicron's virulence is further declining, leading to fewer critical cases and deaths. 

"Although we lack the statistics about the overall death rate for now, the rate of the severe cases is much lower than that of the outbreak in Wuhan," Wang Guangfa, a respiratory expert from Peking University First Hospital, told the Global Times in a recent interview. 

China Greenlights Conditional Import of US’ Antiviral Molnupiravir for COVID-19 Treatment

By Global Times

Dec 30, 2022 09:27 PM

Antiviral molnupiravir Photo: VCG

China has greenlighted the conditional import of antiviral molnupiravir, known by the brand name Lagevrio, developed by US pharmaceutical giant Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD) for urgent use of COVID-19 treatment, the National Medical Products Administration said on Friday.

Lagevrio is a small-molecule oral antiviral drug that can be used for treating mild-to-moderate COVID-19 patients who face risks of developing more serious symptoms: patients that are aged, obese or have chronic conditions like coronary heart disease, diabetes or a chronic respiratory disease, according to a statement on the authority's website.

Patients should take the drug only under the guidance of doctors, it stressed.

In September, China's large vaccine producer Sinopharm and MSD signed a cooperation framework agreement in September, under which Sinopharm would be a dealer and exclusive commission agent of MSD's antiviral COVID-19 medicine in China.

Molnupiravir is one of the two most used oral COVID-19 treatments. The other is Pfizer's Paxlovid.

Recently, the first batch of Pfizer's COVID-19 treatment drug Paxlovid has become available at some community health centers in Beijing, but the amount is limited and prescription has to been made through close evaluation, Beijing-based health news outlet reported on Friday.

Paxlovid prescription requires proof that patients infected with COVID-19 were diagnosed within 5 days by a hospital of or above secondary level and the patient must be above 65 years old, have a chronic condition or be at risk of developing serious symptoms, the report said, citing a director of a community clinic in Beijing's Shijingshan district.

A staffer at a community clinic in Beijing's Dongcheng district confirmed to the Global Times on Friday that the clinic has received the drug and patients that are above 65 years old and have at least one chronic condition can buy the drug with a prescription.

"One person can only buy one box of Paxlovid at the price of 1,890 yuan (about $271), which is fully or partly covered by the country's medical insurance," the staffer said.

Global Times

China Boosts Spending During Holiday Season Following New COVID-19 Measures

By Ma Jingjing

Dec 30, 2022 03:51 PM

Photo: CFP

Chinese government agencies, localities and the business community will hold a series of intensive online and offline shopping promotion events and issue consumption vouchers during the upcoming New Year holiday and Spring Festival holiday in late January to boost consumers' confidence and spur consumption following the country's major adjustment and optimization of COVID-19 measures. 

On Friday, a month-long online Spring Festival shopping spree was launched in Guangzhou, South China's Guangdong Province. Held jointly by government agencies including the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM), the State Administration for Market Regulation and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the event will last from this Friday to January 28, 2023.

Shu Jueting, a MOFCOM spokesperson, said at a press briefing on Thursday that this is the third consequent year that government agencies organize such an event, as the authorities are trying their best to meet consumers' shopping demand and to ensure that they have a happy Spring Festival. "Currently, localities are actively organizing e-commerce platforms, manufacturers and logistic firms to plan relevant activities," she said.

Domestic e-commerce platform launched an online shopping spree at 8 pm on Thursday, offering discounts, payment by instalments and red envelopes. 

Yunda Express, a leading delivery company, told the Global Times that they have prepared incentives to encourage couriers to keep working during the upcoming holidays and they reached a deal with short video platform Douyin to ensure smooth delivery of the good sold on the platform.

In addition, many provinces and cities plan to issue consumption vouchers and conduct promotion activities to spur consumption recovery during the upcoming holidays.

Zhengzhou, capital city of Central China's Henan Province launched the first round of consumption vouchers worth 20 million yuan ($2.87 million) on Friday, while Jinan, capital city of East China's Shandong Province will launch digital vouchers worth 10 million yuan for the purchase of cars on Saturday, according to local governments.

"As the first holiday after the optimization of COVID-19 epidemic measures, the New Year holiday is expected to see a consumption peak," Zhang Yi, CEO of iiMedia Research Institute, told the Global Times on Friday.

He said that catering, accommodation, transport, tourism and the entertainment industry will gradually recover, with catering and daily consumption taking the lead in the rebound.

At the tone-setting Central Economic Work Conference held from December 14 to 15, reviving and expanding consumption was explicitly described as a top priority in supporting growth.

The Chinese government may extend some supportive measures for consumption in 2023, enhance support for employment, especially jobs for youth and college graduates and boost household income growth, according to UBS economists led by Wang Tao.

"Residential consumption in China is expected to recover significantly, as the peak of the latest round of COVID-19 outbreak will end in the first quarter of 2023," they wrote in a note sent to the Global Times recently.

The authorities will continue to cement traditional consumption sectors and accelerate the development of new types of consumption, according to Shu, the spokesperson of MOFCOM. 

"Automobiles, home appliances, home decoration and catering are the pillar of the country's consumption and account for around one-fourth of the country's total retail sales," she said. 

The official also vowed efforts to stabilize car consumption and support the recovery of the catering industry as well as other service sectors and to boost rural residents' spending on green and smart home appliances.

West’s Attempts to Deny China’s Three-year Effort against COVID by Criticizing a Short Period of Imperfection will End Up in Vain

By Global Times

Dec 29, 2022 11:42 PM

After easing epidemic restrictions, China is facing a new wave of COVID infections. And Western media is wasting no time promoting the narrative that China's three-year fight against the virus is ending in failure. Take a CNN article published on Wednesday. It suggests that zero-COVID was supposed to prove China's supremacy, but it went so wrong. 

CNN compared the start of 2022 - "when Beijing showcased the success of its COVID containment measures by keeping the coronavirus largely at bay from the Winter Olympics" - with the "chaos and disarray" by the end of the year. 

It's not hard to find that those who once smeared China as "authoritarian" because of strict COVID containment measures are the same group of forces who are now accusing China of walking into "chaos and disarray" after its COVID policy is optimized. This time, they have a vicious goal - to deny China's whole efforts over the past three years, to discredit China's national governance fundamentally. 

China's 2022 journey started from the Winter Olympic Games, the first global comprehensive sports event that has been successfully held as scheduled since the outbreak of the pandemic. Later, some cities and regions, represented by Shanghai, went through a rebound of COVID cases. At the end of the year, China gradually adjusts its policies, initiating a transition mode toward returning to normalcy. 

Unlike the previous two years, the major virus that confronts China in 2022 is Omicron. Soon after the virus was spotted in China by the end of 2021, it is realized that Omicron spreads fast and outpaces other variants of coronavirus where community transmission occurs. China's epidemic prevention and control measures in 2022 can be argued as a process of constant adjustment and optimization in the face of the changing situation of the epidemic. As it turned out, Omicron can hardly be blocked, but is less virulent than earlier strains like Alpha and Delta. Against this backdrop, China has decided to open up. The result now does prove that it is more transmissible, but the percentage of cases causing severe illness is low.

However, one can feel the barely contained glee in Western journalists' reporting when touching upon this round of infections. After all, China's previous response made the policies of quite a few Western countries look inept by comparison and, because of the same reason, made their elites anxious. 

Yet those Westerners' attempts to deny China's three-year effort against COVID by criticizing a short period of imperfection will end up in vain. In terms of China's fight against the epidemic, one cannot separate 2022 from the two previous years. To grade China's handling of the public health crisis, one should examine it based on the big picture. 

First, whether people's lives and health are well protected is beyond all doubt the top criterion. China not only avoided the high mortality rates like those in the US and European countries, but also witnessed a steady growth in life expectancy. By contrast, US life expectancy has dropped to the lowest level since 1996. 

Second, China's economic development was not so much disturbed. China is the only major economy in the world with positive GDP growth in 2020. As grocery store shelves across the US were wiped clean and have stayed empty for quite a long time, there is no such situation in China. Nor has China ever faced severe inflation like in developed countries. China's domestic market supply is basically operating in full motion. Against the backdrop of this winter, this can be described as a miracle, Lü Xiang, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times. 

Neither is there social turmoil in China, expected by the West. Some people have complaints, but most trust the government. Because the achievements made over the past three years are solid, thanks to China's institutional advantages. Take two examples. China has always put the people and their lives first when dealing with the epidemic; China is capable of pooling resources and mobilizing forces from all quarters to confront major challenges. Quite a few Western countries have failed that test. 

Omicron did cause a shocking wave in China. Yet as Liang Wannian, head of China's COVID-19 response expert panel under the National Health Commission, said, some Chinese cities have passed or are passing the first wave of peak infections without frightening widespread levels of death. This is because we have postponed the easing of restriction, kept away from the time when the virus was the most savage.

By the end of 2022, there are problems and imperfections. But China has done relatively the best in battling the virus. There is no major panic during the latest COVID wave, because people know that the principle "nothing is more precious than people's lives'' still prevails. And the Chinese society will never head toward a point where the natural selection of the human species is becoming a reality, or in other words, Social Darwinism, like what has been going on in the West. 

Western media outlets and elites are only accusing China to make themselves feel better. The truth is, there will be pains in China's transition period, but the day the West wants to see - when China is trapped in a worse quagmire of the epidemic than the West - will not come.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Pelé, Brazil’s Mighty King of ‘Beautiful Game,’ Has Died


FILE - Pelé, the Brazilian king of soccer who won a record three World Cups and became one of the most commanding sports figures of the last century, died in Sao Paulo on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. He was 82.

SAO PAULO (AP) — Pelé, the Brazilian king of soccer who won a record three World Cups and became one of the most commanding sports figures of the last century, died Thursday. He was 82.

The standard-bearer of “the beautiful game” had undergone treatment for colon cancer since 2021. The medical center where he had been hospitalized for the last month said he died of multiple organ failure as a result of the cancer.

“Pelé changed everything. He transformed football into art, entertainment,” Neymar, a fellow Brazilian soccer star, said on Instagram. “Football and Brazil elevated their standing thanks to the King! He is gone, but his magic will endure. Pelé is eternal!”

Widely regarded as one of soccer’s greatest players, Pelé spent nearly two decades enchanting fans and dazzling opponents as the game’s most prolific scorer with Brazilian club Santos and the Brazil national team.

His grace, athleticism and mesmerizing moves transfixed players and fans. He orchestrated a fast, fluid style that revolutionized the sport — a samba-like flair that personified his country’s elegance on the field.

He carried Brazil to soccer’s heights and became a global ambassador for his sport in a journey that began on the streets of Sao Paulo state, where he would kick a sock stuffed with newspapers or rags.

In the conversation about soccer’s greatest players, only the late Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are mentioned alongside Pelé.

Different sources, counting different sets of games, list Pelé’s goal totals anywhere between 650 (league matches) and 1,281 (all senior matches, some against low-level competition.)

The player who would be dubbed “The King” was introduced to the world at 17 at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, the youngest player ever at the tournament. He was carried off the field on teammates’ shoulders after scoring two goals in Brazil’s 5-2 victory over the host country in the final.

Injury limited him to just two games when Brazil retained the world title in 1962, but Pelé was the emblem of his country’s World Cup triumph of 1970 in Mexico. He scored in the final and set up Carlos Alberto with a nonchalant pass for the last goal in a 4-1 victory over Italy.

The image of Pelé in a bright, yellow Brazil jersey, with the No. 10 stamped on the back, remains alive with soccer fans everywhere. As does his trademark goal celebration — a leap with a right fist thrust high above his head.

Pelé’s fame was such that in 1967 factions of a civil war in Nigeria agreed to a brief cease-fire so he could play an exhibition match in the country. He was knighted by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II in 1997. When he visited Washington to help popularize the game in North America, it was the U.S. president who stuck out his hand first.

“My name is Ronald Reagan, I’m the president of the United States of America,” the host said to his visitor. “But you don’t need to introduce yourself because everyone knows who Pelé is.”

Pelé was Brazil’s first modern Black national hero but rarely spoke about racism in a country where the rich and powerful tend to hail from the white minority.

Opposing fans taunted Pelé with monkey chants at home and all over the world.

“He said that he would never play if he had to stop every time he heard those chants,” said Angelica Basthi, one of Pelé’s biographers. “He is key for Black people’s pride in Brazil, but never wanted to be a flagbearer.”

Pelé’s life after soccer took many forms. He was a politician -- Brazil’s Extraordinary Minister for Sport -- a wealthy businessman, and an ambassador for UNESCO and the United Nations.

He had roles in movies, soap operas and even composed songs and recorded CDs of popular Brazilian music.

As his health deteriorated, his travels and appearances became less frequent. He was often seen in a wheelchair during his final years and did not attend a ceremony to unveil a statue of him representing Brazil’s 1970 World Cup team. Pelé spent his 80th birthday isolated with a few family members at a beach home.

Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, in the small city of Tres Coracoes in the interior of Minas Gerais state on Oct. 23, 1940, Pelé grew up shining shoes to buy his modest soccer gear.

Pelé’s talent drew attention when he was 11, and a local professional player brought him to Santos’ youth squads. It didn’t take long for him to make it to the senior squad.

Despite his youth and 5-foot-8 frame, he scored against grown men with the same ease he displayed against friends back home. He debuted with the Brazilian club at 16 in 1956, and the club quickly gained worldwide recognition.

The name Pelé came from him mispronouncing the name of a player called Bilé.

He went to the 1958 World Cup as a reserve but became a key player for his country’s championship team. His first goal, in which he flicked the ball over the head of a defender and raced around him to volley it home, was voted as one of the best in World Cup history.

The 1966 World Cup in England — won by the hosts — was a bitter one for Pelé, by then already considered the world’s top player. Brazil was knocked out in the group stage and Pelé, angry at the rough treatment, swore it was his last World Cup.

He changed his mind and was rejuvenated in the 1970 World Cup. In a game against England, he struck a header for a certain score, but the great goalkeeper Gordon Banks flipped the ball over the bar in an astonishing move. Pelé likened the save — one of the best in World Cup history — to a “salmon climbing up a waterfall.” Later, he scored the opening goal in the final against Italy, his last World Cup match.

In all, Pelé played 114 matches with Brazil, scoring a record 95 goals, including 77 in official matches.

His run with Santos stretched over three decades until he went into semi-retirement after the 1972 season. Wealthy European clubs tried to sign him, but the Brazilian government intervened to keep him from being sold, declaring him a national treasure.

On the field, Pelé’s energy, vision and imagination drove a gifted Brazilian national team with a fast, fluid style of play that exemplified “O Jogo Bonito” -- Portuguese for “The Beautiful Game.” His 1977 autobiography, “My Life and the Beautiful Game,” made the phrase part of soccer’s lexicon.

In 1975, he joined the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League. Although 34 and past his prime, Pelé gave soccer a higher profile in North America. He led the Cosmos to the 1977 league title and scored 64 goals in three seasons.

Pelé ended his career on Oct. 1, 1977, in an exhibition between the Cosmos and Santos before a crowd in New Jersey of some 77,000. He played half the game with each club. Among the dignitaries on hand was perhaps the only other athlete whose renown spanned the globe — Muhammad Ali.

Pelé would endure difficult times in his personal life, especially when his son Edinho was arrested on drug-related charges. Pelé had two daughters out of wedlock and five children from his first two marriages, to Rosemeri dos Reis Cholbi and Assiria Seixas Lemos. He later married businesswoman Marcia Cibele Aoki.


Azzoni reported from Madrid.

Ethiopian Police Enter Tigray Capital Under Peace Agreement

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Ethiopia’s federal police said Thursday that its members have entered the Tigray region’s capital Mekele for the first time in more than a year, under last month’s peace deal between the federal government and Tigray leaders.

The peace agreement ended the conflict between federal and regional forces that started in November 2020 and according to U.S. estimates claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, displacing millions of people.

The federal police said on Facebook that officers in Mekele will “protect federal properties as part of the country’s constitution,” and will be guarding airports, power and telecom installations and banks.

Photos shared by state media outlets in Ethiopia showed hundreds of police officers entering Mekele in convoys.

Basic services and humanitarian aid deliveries are gradually resuming in the northern Tigray region. On Thursday, the towns of Adirkay, Enchiko, May Tsebri and Rama were reconnected to the power network after more than a year and half off the grid.

Ethiopian Airlines, which launched a scheduled flight to Mekele on Wednesday, also announced it was resuming services to the town of Shire and increasing flights to Mekele due to strong demand.

On Thursday, a delegation from the African Union and the Ethiopian government arrived in Mekele to set up an agreed mission to monitor progress in implementing the peace deal.

Three African army generals have been assigned to lead the monitoring team and ambassadors from 32 countries entered Mekele on Thursday.

3 Men in South Africa Charged for Racist Attack at Swimming Pool


JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Three white men in South Africa have been charged with crimes including attempted murder after an alleged racist attack on two Black boys that has sparked public outrage.

The men were caught on video assaulting the Black teenagers who were using a swimming pool at the Maselspoort resort in the Free State province.

The men were trying to prevent the teenagers from swimming, claiming that the pool was reserved for white people.

In the video, widely viewed on social media in South Africa, the men shouted at the boys and hit them. One of the men pushed one of the boys underwater.

Further security video footage shows the men attempting to prevent the teenagers from entering the pool and the group of white people that were swimming at the time exiting the pool as soon as the Black teenagers entered it.

According to police, Johan Nel, 33, and Jan Stephanus van der Westhuizen, 47, were released on a warning and are expected to appear again in court next year.

“The two appeared in court on charges of assault common and crimen injuria and the matter was postponed to 25 January 2023 while being released on warning,” said Police Commissioner Baile Motswenyane.

The third suspect was expected to appear in court on Thursday, where various political parties and activities were protesting outside the courthouse.

The incident has been widely condemned, including by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

“As Black and white South Africans, we should be united in condemning all manifestations of racism and attempts to explain or defend such crimes. Racism is not a problem to be fought by Black South Africans only,” Ramaphosa said in a statement.

Members of the leftist Economic Freedom Fighters party visited the resort and demanded answers from the manager, who claimed the resort did not have a racial segregation policy.

Racism remains a thorny issue in South Africa nearly 30 years after South Africa’s transition from white-minority rule, known as apartheid, to democracy.

In 2018, real estate agent Vicky Momberg was sentenced to three years in prison for shouting racial insults at a Black policeman in a landmark judgment that was the first to imprison a person for a racist act.

In 2020, Adam Catzavelos, a white man, was convicted of crimen injuria and given a suspended sentence after using racist slurs in a video that circulated on social media.

‘I Think of Them’: Abducted Nigerian Schoolgirls Remembered


Sculptures created by French artist Prune Nourry, inspired by ancient Nigerian Ife terracotta heads, titled "Statues Also Breathe," and representing the remaining 108 Chibok still in captivity are displayed in Lagos, Nigeria, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022. On April 14, 2014, Boko Haram stormed the Government Girls Secondary School in the Chibok community in Borno state and forcefully took the girls as they prepared for science exams, sparking the #BringBackOurGirls social media campaign that involved celebrities worldwide including former U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Margret Yama’s phone screensaver is a picture of her cousin, Rifkatu Galang, who is still held by Boko Haram extremists nearly nine years after she and 275 other girls were seized from their school in northeastern Nigeria.

Yama was among those taken but later freed. Dozens of others have been rescued or found, but 94, including her cousin, remain missing in what was one of the Islamic extremist group’s most daring attacks in Nigeria.

“I saved her as my screensaver so that any time I see her face, it will remind me to be praying for her to return” along with the others, 25-year-old Yama said. “They are in my prayers every day.”

On April 14, 2014, Boko Haram stormed the Government Girls Secondary School in the Chibok community in Borno state and abducted the girls as they prepared for science exams. Many of the girls remained missing, sparking the #BringBackOurGirls social media campaign that involved celebrities worldwide including former U.S. first lady Michelle Obama.

Now, the missing girls are being remembered in new sculptures created by French artist Prune Nourry in collaboration with Obafemi Awolowo University.

Inspired by ancient Nigerian Ife terracotta heads, the series titled “Statues Also Breathe” tries to recreate the girls’ facial expressions and hair patterns. Nourry hopes the sculptures on display in Nigeria’s commercial hub of Lagos will remind the world of a largely forgotten tragedy.

“These heads personify the absent girls, still missing, so that we don’t forget them, and raise the question of the rights of girls to a safe education on a global scale,” the artist told The Associated Press.

This year, about a dozen of the missing girls returned amid news that some had died in custody. Brief hope quickly faded into more anguish for families of the ones still missing.

Zanna Lawan, whose daughter was 16 when she was abducted, said one of the girls who returned this year told him that “Aisha has two children with Boko Haram but lost one of her elder sons.”

All of the girls in captivity are married now, Lawan said. “There is nothing I am feeling good for because of this. All that I am now looking for is to see my daughter alive.”

The girls who regained their freedom this year did not come home alone. All had children, 24 total, from the extremists, the parents said.

Over the years, freed girls have spoken of how the fighters forced them into marriages. As the years went by, others who resisted eventually gave in.

“If you see anyone that got married, it is her choice. She is the one that decided that she has lost hope,” said Yama, who regained her freedom in 2017. “Most of them, I think, it is losing hope that made them to marry.”

Yama recalled life in the militants’ camps: The girls, when not separated to make their whereabouts difficult for Nigerian security forces to trace, were usually together, often doing nothing. Access to them was restricted except for their husbands.

“We were just together like one family,” Yama said.

Her mother died shortly after she was abducted in 2014. At least 30 other parents have died in various circumstances since their daughters were taken, according to Lawan, one of the leaders of the Chibok parents’ association.

“Even if you are well, when you are traumatized, anything can happen. If you have a sickness, that will increase to another sickness because of your daughter,” he said.

A year after the girls were kidnapped, now-President Muhammadu Buhari rode a wave of goodwill to power after promising to rescue them. Last week, the nation’s national security adviser, Babagana Monguno, said the military remains committed to the cause but said it involves an “intelligence-driven process, which means it is going to be, unfortunately, painstaking.”

Many parents, however, are beginning to question the government’s commitment to the girls’ freedom. And the Chibok community continues to suffer attacks from Boko Haram and a breakaway faction that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.

“I know the Nigerian army, they can finish this work within 24 hours, but I don’t know what makes it to be so difficult” said Yakubu Nkeki, whose niece was among the girls freed.

As chair of the Chibok girls’ parents union, Nkeki tries his best to offer hope to families.

“Even though my own has regained freedom, I don’t have peace of mind,” he said.

While studying law at American University of Nigeria, Yama continues trying to navigate her life back to normalcy after years of living with the extremists.

Studies can be challenging because books are one of the luxuries the girls never had while in captivity, she said. Her biggest challenge, though, is staying hopeful that her cousin and all the other girls will return home one day.

Florida Police Officer Drags Woman into Jail, is Fired

In this image taken from video released by the Tampa Police Department, police officer Gregory Damon drags a woman across the floor at Orient Road Jail in Tampa, Fla., on Nov. 17, 2022. Damon, who was videotaped dragging a handcuffed woman on the floor has been fired, authorities said. An internal investigation determined that former officer violated department policies during the Nov. 17 incident, the Tampa Police Department announced Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2022 in a news release. (Tampa Police Department via AP)

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A police officer in Tampa, Florida, who was videotaped dragging a handcuffed woman into jail has been fired, authorities said.

An internal investigation determined that former officer Gregory Damon violated department policies during the Nov. 17 incident, the Tampa Police Department announced Tuesday in a news release.

The woman was being arrested for trespassing, according to the release. A body camera video shows her refusing to leave Damon’s vehicle while parked at the Orient Road Jail and telling the officer, “I want you to drag me.”

Damon then removes the woman from the vehicle and pulls her by the arm across a concrete floor, stopping once to tell her to get up but the woman refuses. Damon drags the woman to a doorway then buzzes for additional officers to assist him before the body camera video released by the Tampa Police Department cuts off.

The agency said it revised policy in 2013 to forbid officers from dragging uncooperative suspects on the ground. Officers should instead seek assistance from jail booking staff or other law enforcement, police said.

Damon had been with the Tampa Police Department since 2016.