- Created on 07 March 2013
NASSAU, Bahamas — A prominent resident of the Bahamas wanted on criminal charges in Canada said Thursday that he has late, stage-four cancer and is too ill to travel to face investigators over allegations of fraud in one of that country's priciest infrastructure projects.
Dr. Arthur Porter told The Associated Press during an interview in his home in an upscale, gated community that Canadian authorities should come to the Bahamas if they want to question him.
"I don't want them to think I would chicken out on anything," he said. "So if they want to come here, absolutely no problem."
Canada's anti-corruption police this week issued an arrest warrant for Porter, a physician and cancer specialist who faces six fraud-related charges stemming from the construction of the $1.3 billion McGill University Health Center in Montreal. Porter was director of the hospital when the alleged fraud occurred between 2008 and 2011. He left the job in 2011 amid allegations of mismanagement.
Porter is also the former head watchdog of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the country's spy agency. He was appointed to that post in 2008 by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, eventually becoming chairman of the Security Intelligence Review Committee in 2010.
Anne Frederick Laurence, a spokeswoman for the Canadian police branch, said Wednesday that procedures to seek Porter's extradition were under way. "Canada and the Bahamas are talking," she said.
Appearing sickly and thinner than he once did, Porter said he is undergoing a second round of chemotherapy for lung cancer that has spread to his liver. During the interview, he coughed repeatedly and breathed with assistance from an oxygen tank beside his leather chair.
He said he would discuss with his lawyer whether to fight extradition to Canada once he has been formally served. Porter denies any wrongdoing.
In Canada, Harper's government is facing questions over its decision to appoint Porter to a committee that reviews some of Canada's most sensitive documents.
Interim Liberal Party leader Bob Rae said Porter would have been privy to highly sensitive information during his time on the committee, known as SIRC.
"All the members of SIRC have top security clearance," said Rae, once a member of SIRC himself. "They would routinely receive any and all information from CSIS (the spy agency) that is asked for."
Canadian Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said the allegations that Porter is facing "do not have anything to do with his former responsibilities."
In the Bahamas, Porter is managing director of a private cancer treatment center in the islands' capital of Nassau. He has made the wealthy community of Old Fort Bay his permanent residence since moving to the archipelago off the eastern coast of Florida in 2011. Three Mercedes stood in his driveway Thursday.
Bahamian Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell has declined to comment on the case.
Porter is one of five men suspected in connection with the alleged hospital construction fraud in Montreal.
Another suspect, Jeremy Morris, is the administrator of a Bahamas-based investment company linked to the fraud allegation. Porter said he has never heard of Morris.
Another suspect, former McGill University Hospital Center executive Yanai Elbaz, was arrested Wednesday in Canada, formally charged with fraud and freed on $100,000 bail.
The circumstances under which Porter resigned from his position as former head watchdog of Canada's spy agency are unclear.
A Canadian newspaper, the National Post, says Porter had to resign after it reported that he had a "secret contract" with an international businessman to solicit $120 million in Russian government financing for the West African nation of Sierra Leone.
On Thursday, Porter said he is a citizen of that country and travels with a Sierra Leone passport. A Sierra Leone flag hung from a landing in his home. He made references to "other roles in other governments," including work with Sierra Leone.
In recent years, Porter had also been working with the government of Antigua and Barbuda to build a cancer treatment center in that eastern Caribbean nation.
Associated Press contributor Jeff Todd reported this story in Nassau and AP writer David McFadden reported from Kingston, Jamaica.
- Created on 05 March 2013
CARACAS, Venezuela — President Hugo Chavez, the fiery populist who declared a socialist revolution in Venezuela, crusaded against U.S. influence and championed a leftist revival across Latin America, died Tuesday at age 58 after a nearly two-year bout with cancer.
Vice President Nicolas Maduro, surrounded by other government officials, announced the death in a national television broadcast. He said Chavez died at 4:25 p.m. local time.
During more than 14 years in office, Chavez routinely challenged the status quo at home and internationally. He polarized Venezuelans with his confrontational and domineering style, yet was also a masterful communicator and strategist who tapped into Venezuelan nationalism to win broad support, particularly among the poor.
Chavez repeatedly proved himself a political survivor. As an army paratroop commander, he led a failed coup in 1992, then was pardoned and elected president in 1998. He survived a coup against his own presidency in 2002 and won...
- Created on 15 February 2013
In this frame grab made from a video done with a dashboard camera, on a highway from Kostanai, Kazakhstan, to Chelyabinsk region, Russia, provided by Nasha Gazeta newspaper, on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013 a meteorite contrail is seen. A meteor streaked across the sky of Russia’s Ural Mountains on Friday morning, causing sharp explosions and reportedly injuring around 100 people, including many hurt by broken glass. AP Photo/Nasha gazeta, www.ng.kz
MOSCOW — The Russian Academy of Sciences is estimating the meteor that streaked into the skies over the Ural Mountains and caused shock waves that injured more than 400 people weighed about 10 tons (11 tons avoirdupois).
The academy said in a statement hours after the Friday morning fall that the meteor entered the Earth's atmosphere at a speed of at least 33,000 mph and shattered about 18-32 miles above ground.
The fall caused explosions that broke glass over a wide area. The Emergency Ministry says more than 500 people sought treatment after the blasts and that 34 of them were hospitalized.
- Created on 28 February 2013
JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- They bound his hands to the rear of a van, and then sped off, dragging the slender taxi driver along the pavement as a crowd of onlookers shouted in dismay. The man was later found dead.
A gut-wrenching video of the scene is all the more disturbing because the men who abused the Mozambican immigrant were uniformed South African police officers and the van was a marked police vehicle.
The graphic scenes of the victim struggling for his life shocked a nation long accustomed to reports of police violence.
"The visuals of the incident are horrific, disturbing and unacceptable. No human being should be treated in that manner," said South African President Jacob Zuma.
The Daily Sun, a South African newspaper, posted video the footage Thursday and it was quickly picked up by other South African news outlets and carried on the Internet. It sparked immediate outrage about police behavior.
`'They are there for safety, but we as a people fear them more," said Johannesburg resident Alfonso Adams. `'You don't know who to trust anymore."
Some of those in the crowd who watched the scene unfold in the Daveyton township east of Johannesburg shouted at the police and warned that it was being videotaped. The police did not seem at all concerned by all the witnesses and the presence of cameras as they tied Mido Macia, a 27-year-old from neighboring Mozambique, to the back of a police vehicle, his hands behind his head. At least three policemen participated in the incident. Macia was found dead in a Daveyton police cell late Tuesday.
"We are going to film this," several onlookers shouted in Zulu as the police tormented Macia. One bystander can be heard on the videotape shouting in Zulu: `'What has this guy done?"
The video can be seen at: http://bit.ly/ZDOj0A
A murder probe is underway on the evidence that Macia suffered head and upper abdomen injuries, including internal bleeding, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, the police watchdog agency, said Thursday. The injuries could be from the dragging and he could also have been beaten later in police custody.
`'The allegations are that he was dragged behind a vehicle and his head was bent on the police vehicle. There are also allegations of assault," said the investigative unit's spokesman Moses Dlamini.
The video evidence of the abuse renewed concerns about brutality, corruption and other misconduct by a national police force whose reputation has suffered in recent years amid reports that many officers lack training. Some have been charged with committing the crimes they are supposed to prevent, including rape and murder.
`'As horrific as it is, it is not exceptional. Hardly a week goes by without such stories of brutality," said Jacob van Garderen, national director of Lawyers for Human Rights.
At first, Macia, dressed in jeans and a red T-shirt, is dragged along the road by the vehicle at slow speed, the footage shows. He awkwardly tries to keep step even though he is almost horizontal above the ground. Then the van stops, two policemen pick up the legs of the taxi driver and drop them to the ground as the van picks up speed and drives off, beyond the view of the camera.
The police watchdog agency said the incident started just before 7 p.m. on Tuesday when the cab driver was allegedly obstructing traffic with his vehicle. Then Macia allegedly assaulted a constable and took his weapon before he was overpowered, the police investigative unit said.
Macia was found dead in a cell over two hours later by another policeman, according to the watchdog agency.
National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega "strongly condemned" what happened. South Africans are `'urged to remain vigilant and continue to report all acts of crime irrespective of who is involved," said Phiyega in a statement.
Phiyega has tried to upgrade the reputation of the South African police since her appointment last year. Last month, Phiyega told a group of police officials the standing of the force `'has been severely but not irreparably tarnished over the past several years."
The problems, though, are immense for a police force that has expanded from some 120,000 to almost 200,000 over the last decade, "often failing to match the increase in quantity with sufficient quality," said Johan Burger, who served for 36 years on the force before becoming a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies.
Several experts contacted by The Associated Press also said that in recent years there has been an increasing willingness to use a shoot-to-kill approach to the crime and violence.
An average of 860 people a year died in police custody or as a result of police action between 2009 and 2010, up from 695 a year from 2003 to 2008, according to Burger of the security studies institute.
Further staining the reputation of the police is the Marikana shootings when, on Aug. 16, 2012, a line of South African police opened fire on a crowd of striking miners, killing 34 at a platinum mine northwest of Johannesburg. A judicial commission is investigating allegations that many were killed in a rocky hill, near the much-filmed initial scene of the attack, shot in the back as they tried to escape.
- Created on 18 January 2013
South African singing sensation Lira says she will dedicate a Zulu love song to United States President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, when she performs at Monday's inaugural ball in Washington, D.C.
Lira says she is blown away by the invitation. She told South African talk show host Redi Tlhabi her career has "gone way beyond my wildest dreams ... I'm extremely excited, it blows my mind."
On Talk Show Radio 702 this week Lira promised to dedicate a song of her own composition called "Ngiyazifela" to America's first couple. "It talks about being so in love with one's partner and I think Michelle and Obama are such an inspiring couple, I just want to pay a tribute to that." Ngiyazifela is Zulu slang for being madly in love.