Mobs kill 2 more as ‘vampire hysteria’ spreads in Malawi

Lynch mobs have killed two people in Malawi’s second largest city, Blantyre, as public hysteria grows over “blood-sucking vampires” in the developing African nation.

The violence, which has already claimed the lives of six people, began in the south of the country last month.

Speaking about events in Blantyre Thursday, national police spokesman Ramsy Mushani said mobs “torched a 22-year-old epileptic man in Chileka, and another man was stoned to death …after being suspected of being a blood sucker.”

READ MORE: Vampires not a total myth & science can prove it, study finds

A Reuters reporter witnessed the first incident at a police checkpoint on the road to the city’s airport. A member of the victim’s family confirmed the man was epileptic and was killed while walking home from the hospital.

The United Nations pulled staff from two districts in southern Malawi after the vampire scare began last week.

“These districts have severely been affected by the ongoing stories of blood sucking and possible existence of vampires,” the UN Department on Safety and Security (UNDSS) said in a security report on the Phalombe and Mulanje districts that was seen by Reuters.

READ MORE: South African shaman sentenced to life for ordering woman beheaded for rituals

Malawian president Peter Mutharika said the reports were “distressing and agonising” and has set up a ministerial committee to look into the matter.  

“This development has been of grave concern to the president and the entire government,” his office said in a statement.

In a meeting with community leaders in the district of Mulanje on October 13, Mutharika had warned people to stop using witchcraft to “suck people’s blood.”

“If people are using witchcraft to suck people’s blood, I will deal with them and I ask them to stop doing that with immediate effect,” he said.

There is a widespread belief in witchcraft in Malawi, with some believing that the government is colluding with vampires to collect blood for international aid agencies.  

A man was stoned to death in the southern village of Thyolo during the last outbreak of violence linked to rumours of vampirism in 2002.

READ MORE: Selfies with human remains: Russian ‘cannibal couple’ detained after gruesome find

At the time, radio journalist Maganizo Mazeze was arrested after broadcasting an interview with a man who claimed to have been attacked by a vampire.

A judge later dismissed the charges of broadcasting false information likely to cause public alarm.

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‘We gave you uranium, you repaid us by bombing Belgrade’: Putin slams US over nuclear treaties

Vladimir Putin has criticized the US for failing to keep their end of the bargain in a host of international disarmament agreements. He says Moscow will not exit any existing treaties, but promised an “instant, symmetrical response” if Washington decides to quit first.

‘US decided to do away with international law’

Speaking during a Q & A session at the Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi, an annual meeting with international journalists and Russia experts, Putin began by recalling the Megatons to Megawatts program, which ran between 1993 and 2013, and saw Russia downblend enriched uranium from the equivalent of about 20,000 of its nuclear warheads into low-enriched uranium to be used as fuel by US power stations.

Putin said that as part of what he called “one of the most effective disarmament efforts in history,” US officials made 170 visits to top secret Russian facilities, and “set up permanent workplaces in them adorned with American flags.”

READ MORE: Putin on Catalonia: EU triggered rise of separatism by supporting Kosovo independence

“From the Russian side unprecedented openness and trust were demonstrated,” said Putin, saying that through the 1990s, about 100 US officials were entitled to carry out surprise inspections of Russian nuclear facilities, as part of Gorbachev and Yeltsin-era agreements.

“What we got in return is well-known – a complete disregard for our national interests, support for separatism in the Caucasus, a circumvention of the UN Security Council, the bombing of Yugoslavia, the invasion of Iraq, and so on. The US must have seen the state of our nuclear weapons and economy and decided to do away with international law.”

‘They have no money for disarmament, but we do?’

Putin said that Washington’s hostile policies “are returning the relationship between the two countries to the 1950s” though noted that at least during the Cold War “there was at least more mutual respect” between the two superpowers.

“We can’t actively participate in several international treaties, because the US is not doing anything itself. We can’t just do it unilaterally,” said Putin, citing the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, as an example of the US taking advantage.

Last month, Russia declared that all its chemical weapons stockpiles had been disposed of – news that Western media “decided to stay silent on,” according to Putin – while the US has persistently delayed its own destruction schedule, and now plans to complete the process in 2023 at the earliest.

“We destroyed everything, and then our American partners said – ‘Not yet, we don’t have money.’ So, they have a dollar printing press, yet they don’t have money. But we, on the other hand, do?” said Putin with heavy sarcasm.

‘We will fulfil our obligations’

Putin dated a key point in the breakdown of the post-Soviet world order to the US decision to withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) in 2002, during George W. Bush’s first term in office, to pave the way for the construction of the missile defense shield, to which the Kremlin continues to object vehemently.

“This treaty was the cornerstone of the entire international security framework in the area of strategic weapons. But despite spending years trying to persuade our colleagues otherwise, we weren’t able to hold our partners inside the agreement,” said Putin.

US President Donald Trump has criticized another treaty between Russia and the US that is still in force – New START. Signed in 2011 through to 2021, it stipulates that both sides are allowed to have up to 1,550 active nuclear warheads. Trump called it out as poor Obama-era deal in his campaign, and reportedly was annoyed with the Russian president for bringing it up in a phone conversation earlier this year.

“We are hearing that the other side is also not pleased with New START,” Putin said. “We are not going to quit it. Maybe we are ourselves dissatisfied with certain aspects of it, but there is always an element of compromise. So, we are going to fulfil our obligations.”

‘Instant and symmetrical response’

The treaty under the biggest threat is the INF, signed in 1987, which bans land-based missiles – both nuclear and conventional – with ranges between 500-5,500 km. The US has said that several of the latest Russian rockets violate the agreement.

Putin bemoaned that by not banning air-based and naval launchers the treaty allowed a loophole beneficial predominantly to NATO states, and said that it represented “another case of Russia making unilateral concessions.”

“Nonetheless, we are going to comply with its terms providing our partners do so,” Putin said. “If they decide to abandon it, however, our response will be instant and symmetrical.”

‘Others talk about nuclear disarmament when they develop newer weapons’

While Putin insisted that Russia “still wants and will pursue” new agreements with the US to achieve nuclear disarmament, these may be harder to negotiate in an era of more diverse weapons systems, being produced more states than ever before.

“Countries’ readiness to talk about getting rid of nuclear weapons is in direct proportion to their advances in other weapons systems,” said Putin, noting that both conventional and high-tech weapons delivered with modern targeting systems “offer almost as much damage, with far superior accuracy.”

“We are carefully monitoring what is happening around the world, just as our own country is acquiring these non-nuclear weapons system,” Putin said.

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Bangladeshi flower seller saves ‘desperate’ Italian woman from threat of gang rape

An Italian woman says she narrowly escaped being sexually assaulted by a group of around 25 young men as she was walking one evening in Florence. Luckily, a Bangladeshi flower-seller was nearby to avert the attack.

The 25-year-old was walking alone on the street at 11:30pm local time, when a group of some two dozen men approached her, the woman wrote on her Facebook page. The men started to joke and asked for a selfie. But the situation apparently got worse after they offered her “a gang bang” and said she would have “a good night with them.”

After the woman tried to walk away, some of the males spat at her and grabbed her by the arm.“I started crying like a little girl, I was desperate,” she told Corriere Della Sera, adding that passers-by didn’t lift a finger to intervene. However, a Bangladeshi man named Hossein Alamgir spotted the altercation at Piazza della Repubblica, where he usually sells flowers. Speaking to Direttanews, Hossain, who lives in Italy since 2005, said he did not notice anything suspicious at first when he saw the woman and the company “of drunken youngsters,” since they were joking and laughing. 

READ MORE: ‘Wizard’ and two others arrested for gang rape in Italy

However, after seeing the young woman’s reaction and her attempts to get away from the men, he said he didn’t hesitate to tell the group to leave the woman alone, threatening to call the police and dragging her away.

“I was desperate, choking,” the woman said, adding that her rescuer calmed her as if she were his daughter, giving her a handkerchief and snacks. “This is a face I’ll never forget,” the woman wrote on her Facebook page after uploading a picture of the rose-seller. She is now mulling whether to file a complaint against the group of men, according to the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera. 

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‘Giving up territories is a sin’: Putin refers to Torah when asked about values

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin referred to the Jewish holy book the Torah, stating that technologies and science cannot completely replace basic traditional values.

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© Grigoriy Sisoev

Vladimir Putin made the comment while responding to a question about whether modern technologies and science can replace values, such as territories and people.

“All that you’ve mentioned remain the eternal main values. It’s not a coincidence that the Torah says that giving up the territories is a great sin,” Putin said at the Valdai Forum in Sochi on Thursday.

“The territories, the natural treasures and the people remain the most important factors.”

The importance of technology, which supplements basic values, however, is great and increasing, Putin said.

“But changes are coming at such a pace… that it’s obvious: the science and technology factor becomes decisive in the military and foreign policy spheres. And these changes have an irreversible nature,” the president said.

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Smart move: UAE appoints 27yo as its first-ever Artificial Intelligence minister

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) appears to be spearheading new trends in government reshuffles, now saying it has introduced its first Minister for Artificial Intelligence.

After establishing a post of the Minister of Happiness last year, the Gulf Kingdom has taken another unorthodox step. The introduction of the new futuristic position was announced by Vice President and Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum on Thursday.

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© Ruptly

“Today we announce the appointment of a minister for artificial intelligence. The next global wave is artificial intelligence and we want the UAE to be more prepared for it,” the Sheikh tweeted.

The new position will be assumed by 27-year-old Omar Sultan Al-Ulama, who has been the Deputy Director of the Future Department. He also held a position on the Executive Committee of the World Government Summit (WGS) since 2014. WGS is an UAE-based international organization, designed for sharing government-building experiences and innovations among different nations.

The Gulf state has also introduced the post of Minister for Advanced Sciences. Thirty-year-old Sara Al Amiri will assume the office, she has already held leading roles in the UAE Council of Scientists and the UAE’s Mars Mission team. In April this year, the Gulf state started “a 100-year national program” that includes plans to set up a scientific base on Mars.

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Putin: Moscow will respond immediately if Washington moves against Russian media

Russia will swiftly implement tit-for-tat measures if the US imposes restrictions on Russian media, President Vladimir Putin said.

We will act only symmetrically and quite swiftly,” Putin said. “As soon as we see concrete steps limiting the activities of our mass media [in the US], a tit-for-tat response will follow immediately.

The Russian leader made the comments at the Valdai forum in Sochi, while responding to a question from Margarita Simonyan, the editor-in-chief of RT and Sputnik, about the US pressure on the Russian media.

What’s happening to the Russian media in US is confusing to say the least, Putin said.

It has nothing to do with democracy,” the president added.

It’s absurd, undemocratic to put pressure on any legally operating media outlets,” Putin said.

There’s only one democratic method to fight what you don’t like – be it the authorities or the opposition – it is to express your own view, but in such a bright, imaginative, talented fashion as to make people believe your point of view, follow your position, join your position. Everything else is undemocratic,” he added.

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US uses Iran nuclear deal as leverage – fmr Pentagon official

The US is using Iran nuclear agreement as a stepping stone to get more cooperation from the Europeans, and Washington’s UN ambassador is trying to leverage US position against Iran for that purpose, says former Pentagon official Michael Maloof.

The US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley lashed out at Iran during the latest Security Council meeting on Wednesday.

“As a Council, we’ve adopted a dangerously short-sighted approach. Judging Iran by the narrow confines of the nuclear deal misses the true nature of the threat. Iran must be judged in the totality of its aggressive, destabilizing, and unlawful behavior. To do otherwise would be foolish,” she claimed.

Last week, US President Donald Trump announced he would decertify the nuclear agreement with Iran. Meanwhile, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged the international community to make a stand against the White House moves.

RT: What do you make of Nikki Haley calling Iran’s behavior the main reason for all the unrest in the Middle East?

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U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley. © Stephanie Keith

Michael Maloof: It is an overblown statement as usual. Iran is not the main culprit here. What she is trying to do is leverage the US position against Iran in order to get more cooperation, if you will, from the Europeans in a variety of areas… And they are using the nuclear agreement as a stepping stone for that purpose. The president, even though he announced the decertification, he really didn’t decertify, he bucked it to Congress, Congress may or may not act. And if the Congress doesn’t act, the president has the option of either terminating the US role, or he can just say what is going to be in the national interest, US security interest to continue on and still try to undertake the issues that are has, the myriad of issues. US policy toward Iran really mirrors what the Israelis are saying. Nikki Haley only speaks from the talking point she is handed by the State Department. She had no prior experience in international affairs. I think what has happened here is that Trump is trying to leverage. If you read his The Art of the Deal Chapter two: The elements of the deal, this is precisely the way he operates. He goes for bombastic ways and then he tries to leverage the opposition of the opponent. And this is precisely how he is operating in international affairs. And it can be very dangerous. And I think more and more people are understanding this, as are the Europeans.

RT: Washington’s UN ambassador even compared Iran to North Korea. “The list of Iran’s dangerous and destructive behavior that I just outlined does not even include the regime’s most threatening act: Its repeated ballistic missile launches, including the launch this summer of an ICBM-enabling missile. That should be a clarion call to everyone in the United Nations. When a rogue regime starts down the path of ballistic missiles, it tells us that we will soon have another North Korea on our hands. If it is wrong for North Korea to do this, why doesn’t that same mentality apply to Iran?” she said. To what extent is that a fair comparison?

MM: Again, it is one in which she is trying to use the agreement to gain other concessions and try to get the UN to act on other UN resolutions that have to do with limiting Iran’s missiles. There is nothing in that agreement per se that addresses the missile issue. Leveraging – they use that agreement to get the UN to act in other areas such as limiting the missile capabilities of Iran. I think what Trump is trying to do also is to get the UN and the Europeans particularly to tighten up on the financial side, to stop alleged shipments of arms that might be going from here to there, to stop support of Hezbollah which the US has deemed to be a terrorist group. A lot of other countries do not regard it as such…

RT: Nikki Haley has called for the international community to stand up to Iran, while Iran has called on Europe to oppose US actions. Whose side will they come down on?

MM: The US at the end is not going to get what it wants. It is not going to get this kind of action, in fact, they may get a retrenchment on the part of the Europeans who have all agreed to this agreement. They are looking at the agreement, they have already opened up trade, they have opened up other avenues of rapprochement with the Iranians which is economically beneficial, but they also don’t want to have a fight with the Iranians ultimately…The whole idea of Obama and going along with this agreement was that during the tenure period it would be a time in which we could lessen tensions with Iran and open up further avenues of cooperation. Instead, under Trump we are doing just the opposite.

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‘Ecological Armageddon’: Plummeting insect populations could ravage life on Earth

The stark decline in insect populations has placed the world on a path to “ecological Armageddon,” according to a study.

Researchers from Raboud University in the Netherlands made the discovery following a decades-long study of nature reserves across Germany.

Since 1989, the team has been collecting insect samples across 63 sites using mesh tents known as malaise traps. After measuring each year’s samples by weight, scientists found that the average fell by more than 75 percent over the 27-year period. During the summer months, the fall was measured at around 82 percent.

Insects are essential for life on Earth as they act as pollinators and prey for other species. Increased urbanization, habitat loss and pesticide use are being blamed for the declining population.

Caspar Hallmann, a member of the research team at Radboud, described the figures as “very alarming.”

“All these areas are protected and most of them are managed nature reserves. Yet, this dramatic decline has occurred,” Hallmann said in a statement.

In recent years, biologists have begun to cite the ‘windshield phenomenon’ as a measure of the decline, noting that they are no longer scraping splattered insects from their car windshields after lengthy drives.

Another member of the Raboud team, Professor David Goulson of Sussex University in the UK, told the Guardian that he believes the phenomenon is a symptom of the vanishing population.

“I think that is real,” said Goulson. “I drove right across France and back this summer – just when you’d expect your windscreen to be splattered all over – and I literally never had to stop to clean the windscreen.”

Plummeting insect numbers have been highlighted at various times throughout the last decade.

Numbers of grassland butterflies have plummeted across Europe over the last two decades, according to research published by the European Environment Agency in 2013.

According to a Center for Biological Diversity report published in March this year, more than 700 North American bee species are declining due to habitat loss and pesticide use.

A 2015 report from a United Nations group found that populations are declining for more than 35 percent of bee species, while 9 percent of butterfly and bee populations face extinction.

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Putin: EU triggered rise of separatism by supporting Kosovo independence (LIVE)

EU countries bolstered separatist sentiment in Europe when they bowed to US pressure and supported Kosovo breaking away from Serbia. They now face such consequences as the Catalan crisis, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin says.

As for the situation with Catalonia, we have seen a unanimous condemnation of the independence supporters by the EU and a number of other states,” Putin said. “Regarding that, I have to say – you should have thought about it earlier.”

DETAILS TO FOLLOW

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Monk & disorderly: Thai Buddhists get strict on adherents after sex, financial scandals

Thailand’s Buddhist monks have reportedly been told to adhere to tighter discipline, and been banned from collecting donations or selling holy objects at temples. The crackdown comes amid temple scandals over sex and money laundering.

The monks have been instructed to follow new rules, designed to make temples’ financial records more transparent, according to Reuters, which saw the written orders.

READ MORE: ‘Buddhist monk’ watching x-rated film on bus goes viral

Senior monks will also watch out for “inappropriate use of social media” by monks. Adherents in a group of temples in the northeast region were also instructed to report misbehaving fellows.

“Please take care of any monks who are not practicing discipline,” Reuters cited the rule, issued in September.

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Buddhist monk Wiraphon Sukphon speaking to DSI officials in Bangkok. © Department of Special Investigation

Although these regulations have existed before, “their implementation may have been lax,” according to Phra Phrom Moli, a member of the Sangha Supreme Council, the governing body of the Buddhist clergy.

“We must examine ourselves, listen to the people and see what is and is not appropriate for the sake of the public’s faith in the religion,” Phra Phrom Moli said.

The strict measures were introduced starting from September, according to Reuters. These are apparently aimed at cleaning up the tainted image of Thailand’s dominant religion, which has more than 300,000 monks and around 40,000 temples.

The clergy has been tarnished by a series of high-profile scandals over rape, drugs and embezzlement allegations, with the ruling junta trying to reorganize Thai Buddhism. In summer, the government came up with the idea of smart ID cards for monks – which would allow the verification of their background and tracking of any drug or criminal offences – instead of paper documents. 

The news comes as Thailand is set for the funeral ceremony of the revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej next week, as well as the coronation of his son, King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

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