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Mali Junta Blasts West African Border Closures, Trade Embargo

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Mali’s military regime on Monday strongly condemned West African sanctions including border closures and a trade embargo over delays to a return to civilian rule, saying regional leaders were allowing themselves to be “exploited” by foreign powers.

The junta also announced the recall of its ambassadors and the closure of its borders in a tit-for-tat move.

The leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) meeting on Sunday agreed to cut financial aid and freeze Mali’s assets at the Central Bank of West African States, according to a final declaration.

They also decided to recall their ambassadors to Mali during the extraordinary closed-door gathering in Ghana.

A proposal by Mali’s military rulers to hold elections in December 2026 “simply means that an illegitimate military transition government will take the Malian people hostage during the next five years”, said ECOWAS.

Responding with a statement read on national television Monday, the junta’s spokesman Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga said it “strongly condemned these illegal and illegitimate sanctions”.

The junta said the measures would “affect populations already severely affected by the security crisis and the health crisis” but added that it had made arrangements to ensure normal supplies “by all appropriate means”.

Rising tensions
The meeting followed months of increasing tensions over the timetable for restoring civilian rule in Mali after two coups and a military takeover.

The new sanctions are even tougher than those imposed after the first putsch in August 2020, which are believed to have forced the junta at the time to agree to returning power to civilians within 18 months of elections.

The current military regime says it is not able to organise elections as planned at the end of February, citing the security situation in the country.

Since first coup in which army officers led by Colonel Assimi Goita toppled the elected president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, ECOWAS has pushed for a return to civilian rule as soon as possible.

Under threat of sanctions, Goita promised to restore civilian rule in February 2022 after holding presidential and legislative elections.

But he staged a second coup in May 2021, forcing out an interim civilian government, disrupting the reform timetable, and provoking widespread diplomatic condemnation.

ECOWAS insisted that Mali hold elections in February.

But the junta then said it would set an election date only after holding a nationwide conference, arguing a peaceful vote was more important than speed.

‘It’s a joke’
The junta sent two ministers to Accra on Saturday to submit a new proposed timetable.

The move was intended “to maintain dialogue and good cooperation with ECOWAS”, said Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop, without elaborating.

“Mali’s counter-proposal is for a four-year transition,” said a senior official from Ghana, which holds the ECOWAS chair. “It’s a joke.”

The 15-nation bloc has led the push for the former French colony to honour its commitment to stage elections early this year.

The bloc’s push to ensure a return to civilian rule has put its credibility on the line as it seeks to uphold fundamental principles of governance and contain regional instability.

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Sudan Revokes Licence Of Al Jazeera Live TV Unit

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Sudan has revoked the licence of Al Jazeera Mubasher, part of the Qatar-based network, accusing it of “unprofessional” TV coverage of anti-coup protests, the channel said Sunday.

“The Sudanese authorities announce they revoked the accreditation of Al Jazeera Mubasher and barred its team from working in Sudan,” tweeted the news channel.

Sudan has been gripped by political turmoil since top military leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan launched a coup on October 25.

The military power grab triggered mass protests by pro-democracy movements demanding civilian rule that has met with a deadly crackdown.

At least 64 protesters have been killed, according to pro-democracy medics, and a police officer has also lost his life.

Al Jazeera has given prominent coverage to the demonstrations and late last year also aired an interview with Burhan.

In November, days after the interview, it said that its Khartoum bureau chief Al-Musalami al-Kabbashi had been arrested at his home.

Kabbashi was released three days later with no official charges announced against him.

The editor-in-chief of the armed forces newspaper Ibrahim al-Hory later accused Kabbashi of publishing “false” information and of airing “old video footage… that instigated strife” in the country.

Burhan declared a state of emergency on October 25, ousted the government and detained the civilian leadership.

Prime Minister Abdulla Hamdok was placed under house arrest but later reinstated in a deal with the military.

Hamdok then resigned on January 2 warning that Sudan was at a dangerous crossroads threatening its very “survival”.

Burhan has insisted the military’s move “was not a coup” but a push to “rectify the course of the transition”.

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Mali Ex-President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita Is Dead

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Mali’s former president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who led the West African country from 2013 until he was ousted in a coup in 2020, died at the age of 76 in the capital Bamako on Sunday, his family said.

“President IBK died this morning at 0900 GMT in his home” in Bamako, a family member told AFP using the ex-leader’s initials, with several other family members confirming his passing.


Details later…

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Pig Heart Transplanted Into American Man In Breakthrough Surgery (See Photos)

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Surgeons at University of Maryland Medical Center have performed the first-of-its-kind procedure on a Maryland resident identified as David Bennett.

The 57-year-old man who was out of options, became the first successful recipient of a genetically-modified pig heart.

Bennett was diagnosed with a terminal heart disease and had been hospitalized and bedridden for several weeks after being “deemed ineligible” for a traditional heart transplant.

The patient said in a statement published by the University of Maryland Medical Center; “It was either die or do this transplant. I want to live. I know it’s a shot in the dark, but it’s my last choice.

Pig heart transplanted into American man in breakthrough surgery

“I look forward to getting out of bed after I recover.”

U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted emergency authorization for the surgery under its compassionate use provision on New Year’s Eve.

Researchers said the procedure required 10 unique gene edits to the pig heart in order to prevent the rejection of the organ once transplanted into the human body.

Pig heart transplanted into American man in breakthrough surgery

These edits included deleting four of the animal’s genes responsible for antibody-mediated rejection of pig organs by humans, as well as inserting six human genes into the genome for immune acceptance.

Dr. Bartley Griffith, who performed the surgery said in a statement; “This was a breakthrough surgery and brings us one step closer to solving the organ shortage crisis. There are simply not enough donor human hearts available to meet the long list of potential recipients.

“We are proceeding cautiously, but we are also optimistic that this first-in-the-world surgery will provide an important new option for patients in the future.”

Pig heart transplanted into American man in breakthrough surgery

Three days after the surgery, the university medical center said on Monday January 10 that Bennett is doing well and will continue to be monitored in the coming weeks to ensure the organ isn’t rejected.

He is still connected to a heart-lung bypass machine, but the new heart is functioning and taking on a majority of the work for his body, the surgeons told The New York Times.

Bennett could be taken off the bypass machine as early as Tuesday January 11, if all goes well, his doctors said.

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