Ivory Coast Votes for President in Test of Political Stability

Ivory Coast citizens went to the polls Saturday, even as some opposition supporters — heeding a call from two rival candidates of President Alassane Ouattara for a boycott over his bid for a third term — tried to disrupt the vote.Abidjan’s streets were quiet and largely empty, in contrast to the sometimes violent run-up to the election. The vote is seen as a test of stability in Ivory Coast, which is the world’s top cocoa producer and has one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies.Voting went smoothly with orderly lines at polling stations in a number of districts, Reuters witnesses said.But in the city’s Blockhauss neighborhood, around 20 young men blocked the entrance to a school, preventing would-be voters from entering until police dispersed the group.”It’s civil disobedience,” said Bienvenue Beagre, 31, one of the youths trying to obstruct the vote. “He’s done two terms and needs to go away.”It was not immediately clear if significant numbers were not participating in the vote or how the call for a boycott was playing out in the rest of the country.Clashes, fatalitiesElection-linked street clashes have killed 30 people since August and brought back memories of the 2010 election, which Ouattara won but which unleashed a brief civil war that killed 3,000 people when his predecessor, Laurent Gbagbo, refused to step down.The recent violence has pitted the 78-year-old president’s supporters against those of his opponents. Ouattara’s critics say that he is breaking the law by running again because the constitution limits presidents to two terms and that he is jeopardizing the country’s hard-earned economic gains.Ouattara says he can run again under a new constitution approved in 2016 and is doing so only because his handpicked successor died unexpectedly in July. He is seen as likely to win.Ouattara’s two main rivals, former President Henri Konan Bedie and former Prime Minister Pascal Affi N’Guessan, have called for an election boycott. Affi N’Guessan has told supporters to blockade polling places. The government has said it has deployed 35,000 soldiers and police officers for election day.Critics call Ouattara’s candidacy a new blow to West African democracy following a military coup in Mali in August and a successful third-term bid this month by the president of Guinea, Alpha Conde.

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Armenia, Azerbaijan Trade Fresh Accusations of Karabakh Shelling 

Armenia and Azerbaijan once more accused each other of bombing residential areas on Saturday, in defiance of a pact to avoid the deliberate targeting of civilians in and around the mountain enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.   Shelling was reported by both sides within hours of the latest agreement to defuse the conflict, reached after talks in Geneva between the two countries’ foreign ministers and envoys from France, Russia and the United States.   The agreement with the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group fell short of what would have been a fourth ceasefire since fighting began on Sept. 27. The death toll in the worst fighting in the South Caucasus for more than 25 years has surpassed 1,000 and is possibly much higher.   Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but is populated and controlled by ethnic Armenians. About 30,000 people were killed in a 1991-94 war in the region.   The Nagorno-Karabakh Emergency and Rescue Service said the central market in Stepanakert, the enclave’s largest city, had come under fire and that large parts of it had been burned.   Armenia’s defense ministry said several civilians had been wounded in attacks on the city of Shushi, 15 km (9 miles) to the south, while the human rights ombudsman in Nagorno-Karabakh said a civilian in Martuni region had died when a shell hit his home.   Azerbaijan’s defense ministry denied these accusations. It said that the regions of Terter, Aghdam and Aghjabedi had come under artillery fire, as had Gubadli, a town between the enclave and the Iranian border that was taken by Azeri troops this week. Azerbaijan’s recent advances on the battlefield, which also extends to seven surrounding regions, have reduced its incentive to strike a lasting peace deal and complicated international efforts to broker a truce.   The conflict has also brought into sharp focus the increased influence of Turkey, an ally of Azerbaijan, in a former Soviet region considered by Russia to be within its sphere of influence. Russia also has a security alliance with Armenia.  In response to a request by Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to outline the extent of Moscow’s support, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said it would provide “all assistance required” should the conflict spill onto “the territory of Armenia” — land that is outside the current conflict zone.   Nagorno-Karabakh’s army says 1,166 of its soldiers have been killed since Sept. 27. Azerbaijan, which does not disclose its military casualties, updated its civilian death toll to 91. Russia has estimated as many as 5,000 deaths on both sides.  

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WFP Boosts Aid to Kenyan Urban Poor Because of Pandemic 

The World Food Program is increasing cash assistance to hundreds of thousands of Kenya’s urban poor, hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Meanwhile, the World Health Organization says Kenya has recorded 52,612 cases of coronavirus, including 964 deaths.  COVID-19 thrives and spreads easily in crowded urban settlements and poor sanitary conditions.  In Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, about 60% of the population of 4.4 million live in slums, vulnerable to viral infections and contagious diseases.   World Food Program spokesman Tomson Phiri says an estimated 1.7 million people living in these areas are short of food and lack nutrition because of the COVID-19 pandemic.    “Now, with new cases that are surging across the urban centers in Kenya, we fear that many more in COVID-19 hot spot counties may need our assistance,” said Phiri.    In response to this food and nutrition crisis, Phiri says WFP is rolling out cash assistance for more than 400,000 people in Nairobi and Mombasa.  He says people will receive a $40 monthly stipend.  This is enough to cover up to half the food needs for an average family of four.   Phiri says many more people who have lost jobs and income due to the pandemic need aid.  However, he notes WFP does not have the money to help them.  He says the agency’s $64 million emergency appeal is only 36% funded.   With adequate international support, he says WFP would be able to provide food assistance to 725,000 needy people in Nairobi’s informal settlements and other hot spots.  However, with the amount of cash on hand, he says WFP only can reach out to the most vulnerable households.      

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Cameroon Mourns 7 Children Killed at School 

Cameroon observed a day of national mourning Sunday, with the central African state’s flag flying at half-staff and millions of people taking to the streets, mosques, and churches to condemn barbarism and killing. People are also asking for investigations to be opened and for suspected killers and those promoting the separatist crisis that has killed 3,000 people in four years to face justice.Oumarou Mallam Djibril, a Muslim cleric, leads prayers at an ecumenical service at the Multi-Purpose Sports Complex in Cameroon’s capital, Yaoundé. Among the nearly 1,000 civilians who have come out to observe the day of national mourning is 40-year-old Catholic, Stephen Ngwa.  Ngwa says his younger sister’s daughter was killed when gunmen attacked a school in the English-speaking southwestern town of Kumba on October 24. He says the pain inflicted on innocent citizens by the separatist conflict in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions is unbearable. “These acts of barbarism should not continue again,” he said. “I want to use this opportunity to once more plead with boys and girls who are carrying guns in the North West and South West to drop their guns, for we are tired. This is not our portion.” Choir members in OK? Yaoundé, besides praying for the killed children, asked God to bring peace back to Cameroon’s English-speaking regions. The government, along with Cameroon’s Ecumenical Service for Peace, mosques, and Catholic, Baptist and Presbyterian churches reported that similar services took place all over the country. The military held ceremonies in memory of the slain children. Radio and TV stations broadcast special programs in their memory.  An empty classroom is seen following a shooting at a school in Kumba, Cameroon, Oct. 24, 2020, in this screen grab obtained from a social media video.Marie Theres Abena Ondou, Cameroon’s minister of women’s empowerment and the family says Africa should reflect on and condemn the massacre of children at the school in Kumba. She says the killing of Cameroonian children who only wanted education is unconscionable.  “Let us go back to June 16, 1976, when young Hector Pieterson, who was only 12 years old, was killed in his school during the mass killing of Soweto in South Africa,” she said. “Since then this date has been established as the Day of the African Child. On October 24, 2020, it was not just one child. Where did these children go wrong? What crime did they commit?” Gunmen stormed the Mother Francisca International Bilingual Academy on October 24, killing seven children between the ages of nine and 12. Cameroon officials blamed Anglophone separatists for the attack. Separatists said the military killed the children to give their fighters a bad name.   Cameroon has been marred by protests and violence since 2016, when English-speaking teachers and lawyers took to the street to denounce the overbearing influence of French in the bilingual country. The central government in Yaoundé responded with a military crackdown and separatists took weapons, claiming that they were defending English-speaking civilians. Violence in the Anglophone regions has claimed more than 3,000 lives and caused the displacement of more than 530,000 civilians, according to the United Nations. The Norwegian Refugee Council reported in June, that Cameroon tops the list of the most neglected crisis on the planet since 2019.    

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Security Remains High in France After Deadly Knife Attack at Church in Nice 

Security throughout France was high Saturday after this week’s deadly stabbings at a church in Nice as President Emmanuel Macron tried to ease tensions in the country. French leaders have termed Thursday’s incident an Islamist terrorist attack after the perpetrator shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest) as he decapitated a woman and killed two others in Notre Dame Basilica in Nice. Thursday’s attack followed the beheading of teacher Samuel Paty earlier this month after the republication of the Prophet Muhammad by the Paris-based satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.  Macron triggered protests in the Muslim world after the murder of Paty, who showed a cartoon of Prophet Muhammad to his class, by saying France would never renounce its right to caricature. On Saturday, though, Macron sounded a more empathetic tone in an interview with Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera. “I can understand that people could be shocked by the caricatures, but I will never accept that violence can be justified,” Macron said. 
 
Meanwhile, French authorities detained a third man for questioning Saturday in connection with the Islamist knife attack at Notre Dame Basilica in the southern French city of Nice that left three people dead. 
 
The man, a 33-years-old, was present during a police search Friday at the home of a second young Tunisian man suspected of being in contact with the attacker. 
 
France, Tunisia and Italy are jointly investigating to determine the motive of main suspect Ibrahim Issaoui, a 21-year-old Tunisian, and whether he acted alone and whether his act was premeditated. 
 
French police have three people in custody for questioning after they found two telephones on the suspect after the attack. 
 
The first man, age 47, was detained Thursday night after police reviewed surveillance footage and observed the person next to the attacker on the day before the attack. 
 
A second detained subject, 35, suspected of contacting Ibrahim Issaoui, the day before the attack, was arrested Friday. 
 
Macron said earlier in the week he would increase the number of troops deployed to protect schools and churches from 3,000 to 7,000. Indonesian President Joko Widodo, meanwhile, strongly denounced the attacks and remarks Macron made on Oct. 21, when he said Paty “was the victim of a conspiracy of stupidity, hate, lies … hate of the other … hate of what we profoundly are.” “The comments could divide the unity of the world’s religious communities at a time when the world needs unity to curb the COVID-19 pandemic,” Widodo said Saturday during a televised news conference in Jakarta.   Tunisian authorities are reportedly investigating whether a group called the Mahdi Organization carried out the attack. The state news agency TAP reported Friday investigators were also trying to determine whether the group exists and that the probe is based on claims of responsibility on social media.   Issaoui, who transited Italy last month en route to France, remains in critical condition in a French hospital after being wounded by police as they arrested him.   Three people were killed in Thursday’s attack. French anti-terrorism prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard said a 60-year-old woman was decapitated, and a 55-year-old man, the church sexton, had his throat slit. Forty-four-year-old Brazilian national Simone Barreto Silva was stabbed several times before fleeing to a nearby bistro, where she raised the alarm before succumbing to her wounds.     Issaoui was not on Tunisia’s list of suspected militants and was not known to French intelligence services.   Ricard said Issaoui arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa on September 20 and traveled to Paris on October 9.   He said Issaoui was carrying a copy of the Quran. The knife used in the attack was found near him and two other knives not used in the attack were found in a bag that belonged to him.   French leaders have termed Thursday’s incident an Islamist terrorist attack and raised the country’s security alert to its highest level.   

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Former James Bond Actor Sean Connery Dies Aged 90 

Scottish movie legend Sean Connery, who shot to international stardom as the suave, sexy and sophisticated British agent James Bond and went on to grace the silver screen for four decades, has died aged 90. The BBC and Sky News reported his death on Saturday. “I was heartbroken to learn this morning of the passing of Sir Sean Connery. Our nation today mourns one of her best loved sons,” said Scottish First Minster Nicola Sturgeon. “Sean was a global legend but, first and foremost, he was a patriotic and proud Scot.” 
 
Connery was raised in near poverty in the slums of Edinburgh and worked as a coffin polisher, milkman and lifeguard before his bodybuilding hobby helped launch an acting career that made him one of the world’s biggest stars. 
 
Connery will be remembered first as British agent 007, the character created by novelist Ian Fleming and immortalized by Connery in films starting with “Dr. No” in 1962. 
 FILE – In this file photo taken on Oct. 22, 1982 British actor Sean Connery is seen during the making of the film “Never say, never again” in Nice.As Bond, his debonair manner and wry humor in foiling flamboyant villains and cavorting with beautiful women belied a darker, violent edge, and he crafted a depth of character that set the standard for those who followed him in the role. 
 
He would introduce himself in the movies with the signature line, “Bond – James Bond.” But Connery was unhappy being defined by the role and once said he “hated that damned James Bond.” Tall and handsome, with a throaty voice to match a sometimes crusty personality, Connery played a series of noteworthy roles besides Bond and won an Academy Award for his portrayal of a tough Chicago cop in “The Untouchables” (1987). 
 
He was 59 when People magazine declared him the “sexiest man alive” in 1989. 
 
Connery was an ardent supporter of Scotland’s independence and had the words “Scotland Forever” tattooed on his arm while serving in the Royal Navy.FILE – Sir Sean Connery, with wife Micheline (R), pose for photographers after he was formally knighted by the Britain’s Queen Elizabeth at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh July 5.When he was knighted at the age of 69 by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth in 2000 at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, he wore full Scottish dress including the green-and-black plaid kilt of his mother’s MacLeod clan. 
 Became fed up with ‘idiots’  
 
Some noteworthy non-Bond films included director Alfred Hitchcock’s “Marnie” (1964), “The Wind and the Lion” (1975) with Candice Bergen, director John Huston’s “The Man Who Would be King” (1975) with Michael Caine, director Steven Spielberg’s “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (1989) and the Cold War tale “The Hunt for Red October” (1990). 
 
Fans of alternative cinema will always remember him starring as the “Brutal Exterminator” Zed in John Boorman’s mind-bending fantasy epic “Zardoz” (1974), where a heavily mustachioed Connery spent much of the movie running around in a skimpy red loin-cloth, thigh-high leather boots and a pony tail. 
 
Connery retired from movies after disputes with the director of his final outing, the forgettable “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” in 2003. 
 
“I get fed up dealing with idiots,” he said. The Bond franchise was still going strong more than five decades after Connery started it. The lavishly produced movies, packed with high-tech gadgetry and spectacular effects, broke box office records and grossed hundreds of millions of dollars. 
 
After the smashing success of “Dr. No,” more Bond movies followed for Connery in quick succession: “From Russia with Love” (1963), “Goldfinger” (1964), “Thunderball” (1965) and “You Only Live Twice” (1967). 
 
Connery then grew concerned about being typecast and decided to break away. Australian actor George Lazenby succeeded him as Bond in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” in 1969. 
 
But without Connery it lacked what the public wanted and he was lured back in 1971 for “Diamonds Are Forever” with temptations that included a slice of the profits, which he said would go to a Scottish educational trust. He insisted it would be his last time as Bond. 
 
Twelve years later, at age 53, Connery was back as 007 in “Never Say Never Again” (1983), an independent production that enraged his old mentor, producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli. 
 Preferred beer to martinis  
 
In a 1983 interview, Connery summed up the ideal Bond film as having “marvelous locations, interesting ambiance, good stories, interesting characters — like a detective story with espionage and exotic settings and nice birds.” 
 
Connery was a very different type from Fleming’s Bond character with his impeccable social background, preferring beer to Bond’s vodka martini cocktails that were “shaken not stirred.” 
 
But Connery’s influence helped shape the character in the books as well as the films. He never attempted to disguise his Scottish accent, leading Fleming to give Bond Scottish heritage in the books that were released after Connery’s debut. 
 
Born Thomas Connery on Aug. 25, 1930, he was the elder of two sons of a long-distance truck driver and a mother who worked as a cleaner. He dropped out of school at age 13 and worked in a variety of menial jobs. At 16, two years after World War II ended, Connery was drafted into the Royal Navy, and served three years. 
 
“I grew up with no notion of a career, much less acting,” he once said. “I certainly never have plotted it out. It was all  happenstance, really.” 
 
Connery played small parts with theater repertory companies before graduating to films and television. It was his part in a 1959 Disney leprechaun movie, “Darby O’Gill and the Little People,” that helped land the role of Bond. Broccoli, a producer of the Bond films, asked his wife to watch Connery in the Disney movie while he was searching for the right leading actor. 
 
Dana Broccoli said her husband told her he was not sure Connery had sex appeal. 
 
“I saw that face and the way he moved and talked and I said: ‘Cubby, he’s fabulous!'” she said. “He was just perfect, he had star material right there.” 
 
Connery married actress Diane Cilento in 1962. Before divorcing 11 years later, they had a son, Jason, who became an actor. He married French artist Micheline Roquebrune, whom he met playing golf, in 1975.   

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