Foreign News

 
 
 

Algerian leader resigns amid protests

 

BY AFP

Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has resigned after weeks of massive streets protests.

Mr Bouteflika, who has been in power for 20 years, had already dropped plans to seek a fifth term as opposition to his rule grew.

The powerful Algerian army had called for the 82-year-old to be declared incapable of carrying out his duties.

The ailing leader suffered a stroke six years ago and has rarely appeared in public since.

He made a rare appearance on state TV to relinquish power hours after military chief Lt Gen Ahmed Gaed Salah had called on him to leave office immediately.

Car horns could be heard in the streets of the capital, Algiers, as hundreds celebrated the announcement.

People waved Algeria's national flags and sang.

However, one protest leader, Mustapha Bouchachi, said before the announcement that any decision by Mr Bouteflika to quit would still change nothing and that the protests would continue.

Pressure had been building since February, when the first demonstrations were sparked by Mr Bouteflika's announcement that he would be standing for a fifth term.

Tens of thousands protested across the country on 1 March. Mr Bouteflika's promise not to serve out a fifth term if re-elected, along with a change of prime minister, failed to quell the discontent.

 
 

737 MAX pilots used Boeing emergency procedures before crash

 
 
 

 

SINGAPORE/ADDIS ABABA (Reuters)

The pilots of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX jet that crashed last month had initially followed Boeing Co’s emergency procedures but later deviated from them as they tried to regain control of the plane, the Wall Street Journal said on Wednesday.

The crash killed all 157 people on board and led to a global grounding of 737 MAX jets and scrutiny of the certification process for the Boeing plane.

Boeing had issued guidelines to pilots on how to disable an automated anti-stall system after a deadly crash in Indonesia in October, that were followed by an emergency airworthiness directive by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The Journal report, citing unidentified people briefed on the matter, said the pilots had initially shut off the MCAS anti-stall system that was pushing the airplane’s nose down shortly after it took off from Addis Ababa.

The pilots then cranked a manual wheel in an attempt to stabilise the plane, the report said, but they eventually decided to restore power to the usual electric trim on their control yokes, likely because the manual attempt did not achieve the desired results.

“We are not commenting on an active accident investigation per international protocols,” a Boeing spokesman said.

The planemaker said on Monday a proposed software enhancement package to MCAS would be submitted in the “coming weeks”, having previously said it would deliver the fix for U.S. approval by last week.

A 737 pilot told Reuters last week it was “not physically easy to make large trim changes to correct, say, an MCAS input” by using the wheel.

“You - or more than likely the other pilot - have to flip out a little handle and wind, much like a boat winch,” the pilot said.

The Ethiopian Airlines pilots appeared to have restored power to the electric system to cope with a persistent steep nose-down angle, the paper said.

Their actions reactivated MCAS and allowed it to continue its strong downward commands that they were unable to counteract using electric thumb switches, the paper said.

The FAA directive after the Indonesian crash had instructed pilots to use cut-out switches in the centre console to shut off the electric power to the system.

The switches should remain off for the remainder of the flight, the FAA directive said.

A preliminary report by Ethiopian investigators is due within 30 days of the March 10 disaster, according to international rules governing crash investigations.

Ministry of Transport spokesman Musie Yehyies said there were no plans to publish the report on Wednesday.

 
 

Ebola outbreak spreading faster than ever in Congo

 
 
 

 

CONGO

Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ebola outbreak is spreading at its fastest rate yet, eight months after it was first detected, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday.

Each of the past two weeks has registered a record number of new cases, marking a sharp setback for efforts to respond to the second biggest outbreak ever, as militia violence and community resistance have impeded access to affected areas.

Less than three weeks ago, the WHO said the outbreak of the haemorrhagic fever was largely contained and could be stopped by September, noting that weekly case numbers had halved from earlier in the year to about 25.

But the number of cases hit a record 57 the following week, and then jumped to 72 last week, said WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier. Previous spikes of around 50 cases per week were documented in late January and mid-November.

More alarmingly, more than half of the Ebola deaths last week occurred outside of treatment centres, according to Congo health ministry data, meaning there is a much greater chance they transmitted the virus to those around them.

“People are becoming infected without access to response measures,” Lindmeier told Reuters.

The current outbreak is believed to have killed 676 people and infected 406 others. Another 331 patients have recovered.

In the past two months, five Ebola centres have been attacked, some by armed militiamen. That led French medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) to suspend its activities in two of the most affected areas.

Another challenge has been a mistrust of first responders. A survey conducted last September by medical journal The Lancet found that a quarter of people sampled in two Ebola hotspots did not believe the disease was real.

Lindmeier said new approaches to community outreach were showing signs of progress and that some previously hostile local residents had recently agreed to grant health workers access.

One treatment centre that closed in February after being torched by unknown assailants reopened last week.

More than 11,000 people died in West Africa’s 2013-16 Ebola outbreak. Since then, health authorities have worked to speed up their responses and deployed an experimental vaccine and treatments, both of which have been considered effective.

 
 

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