PM, cabinet resign in troubled Mali

Malian Prime Minister Abdoulaye Idrissa Maiga presented on Dec. 29, 2017 his resignation and that of his government to President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, announced the Malian presidency in a statement. (AFP)
Updated 29 December 2017
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PM, cabinet resign in troubled Mali

BAMAKO: Mali’s Prime Minister Abdoulaye Idrissa Maiga and his government resigned on Friday, a surprise move just months ahead of presidential polls.
Authorities gave no reason for Maiga, who had been in his post since April, stepping down seven months before President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita seeks re-election.
Maiga “presented to the president his resignation along with that of the members of his government,” the president’s office stated, saying Keita had “accepted” his decision to quit.
The statement added a replacement prime minister and government would swiftly be found for Maiga, who had thanked the president for the opportunity to serve his country.
Maiga, a trained engineer who hails from the northern city of Gao, is vice-chairman of the ruling Rally for Mali (RPM), which Keita founded.
He was Keita’s campaign director during the latter’s successful run for the presidency in 2013.
He resigns with Mali’s north still a theater of unrest almost six years after a French-led military operation chased Islamic extremists linked to Al-Qaeda from a region they had taken control of in early 2012.
Mali’s army, French soldiers and a UN mission (MINUSMA) still have little control over large tracts of the country, which regularly come under attack in spite of a peace accord signed with Tuareg leaders in May and June 2015 with the aim of isolating the jihadists.
The past two years have seen jihadist attacks spread to central and southern areas as well as over the border into neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.
The spread of the unrest this year prompted the G5 regional forum, which also includes Mauritania and Chad, to step up peace efforts with French support.
Maiga was Keita’s fourth prime minister after Oumar Tatam Ly (September 2013-March 2014), Moussa Mara (April 2014-January 2015) and Modibo Keita (January 2015-April 2017).


Scans on US diplomats in Cuba show ‘something happened to the brains’

Dr. Mitchell Valdes-Sosa, General Director of the Cuban Neuroscience Center, speaks during a press conference in Havana, Cuba, on July 23, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 42 min ago
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Scans on US diplomats in Cuba show ‘something happened to the brains’

  • Tablada urged the White House to stop using the issue “as a pretext to impose increasingly aggressive new sanctions” against the Cuban people

WASHINGTON: Brain scans of about 40 US diplomats injured in mysterious circumstances in Cuba reveal visible differences compared to those in a control group, researchers who analyzed them said Tuesday.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and led by professors at the University of Pennsylvania, does not draw any conclusions about the cause of the symptoms suffered by the diplomats from late 2016 into May 2018.
But the MRIs of the patients confirm that “something happened to the brains of these people,” Ragini Verma, a professor of radiology at UPenn and co-author of the study, told AFP.
“It’s not imagined,” she said. “All I can say is that there is a truth to be found.”
Verma added: “Whatever happened was not due to a pre-existing condition, because we test for that.”
From late 2016, diplomats posted in Havana and some of their family members suffered unexplained symptoms ranging from poor balance and vertigo to lack of coordination, unusual eye movements, anxiety and what victims called a “cognitive fog.”
The United States recalled most of its diplomatic personnel from the Cuban capital in September 2017.
Some of them have recovered and returned to work, but others are still undergoing rehab, according to Verma.
The US government never publicly explained the cause of the mysterious illnesses. It neither confirmed nor denied the possibility of attacks using some sort of acoustic weapon, as some US media reported, without offering proof.
Cuba has denied all responsibility for the incidents, which also affected at least 14 Canadian citizens. Ottawa also ended up recalling most of its diplomats from Havana in January.
At the request of the State Department, 44 diplomats and family members were sent from mid-2017 to UPenn’s brain trauma center to undergo MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) exams.
Researchers compared those results with scans from 48 comparable subjects in two control groups. The differences are statistically significant and relate to the brain’s white matter as well as the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls movement.
A State Department spokesman welcomed “the medical community’s discussion on this incredibly complex issue. The Department’s top priority remains the safety, security, and well-being of its staff.”
Verma said it was vital to follow the diplomats and their families over time “to see whether these changes evolve or change.”

Responding to the report, Havana again denied all responsibility in the affair.
The study by the UPenn professors “does not allow clear and final scientific conclusions to be reached,” said Mitchell Valdes-Sosa, head of the Neuroscience Center of Cuba.
Valdes-Sosa told reporters that the study “does not show, contrary to what has been speculated... that the group of diplomats suffered brain damage during their stay in Cuba.”
A senior foreign ministry official in charge of US affairs, Johana Tablada, said that as of now “no evidence exists of any type of attack” against the US diplomats, and called on Washington to stop using that term in such an “irresponsible” way.
Tablada urged the White House to stop using the issue “as a pretext to impose increasingly aggressive new sanctions” against the Cuban people.