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Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron are partly to blame for the current “mess” in Libya, US President Barack Obama has said in comments likely to upset two of his country’s closest allies. In an extensive interview with The Atlantic magazine published Thursday, President Obama discussed the conditions surrounding the 2011 British and French-led NATO bombing campaign that led to the end of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s 41-year-rule.

While the military intervention succeeded in ousting the dictator, the power vacuum it created has seen Libya descend into near-anarchy, ruled by rival militias vying for power while the Islamic State group has gained influence in the country. Obama believes that while deeper than expected Libyan “tribal divisions” are partly to blame, it was largely the failure of France and the UK to “follow-up” on the bombing campaign that led to the current situation. “There's room for criticism because I had more faith in the Europeans, given Libya's proximity, being invested in the follow-up,” he told the magazine.

Sarkozy wanted to ‘trumpet’ own role

Cameron stopped paying attention soon after the military operation, he said, becoming "distracted by a range of other things". Meanwhile, Sarkozy was more interested in promoting the importance of his own role in bringing an end to Gaddafi’s rule, Obama seemed to suggest. “Sarkozy wanted to trumpet the flights he was taking in the air campaign, despite the fact that we had wiped out all the air defences and essentially set up the entire infrastructure [for the intervention],” the US president said.

 

Agence France-Presse has launched a weekly series of reporters' blogs taking readers behind the scenes of the 2016 US election for a look at the events and attitudes shaping the White House race.

The sixth post in the series comes from the economically depressed northern city of Flint, Michigan, where a scandal has erupted over drinking water contaminated with lead and officials' subsequent attempts to hush up the health scare.

Flint, a black majority city of about 100,000 people that once relied heavily on the auto industry, may only be a 90-minute hop on a plane from Washington, but the difference is stark.

We leave the US capital -- its tidy streets, well-dressed government officials and organic salads -- to find a declining city where hopes are limited for many to just clean water, a stable job and something approaching decent health insurance coverage.

 

So when the people of Flint voted on Tuesday in the Michigan presidential primary, their minds were more on the poison spewing from their taps than who might win the Republican and Democratic nomination (in the event, Donald Trump was victorious for the Republicans in the state and Bernie Sanders scored a surprise win over Hillary Clinton in the Democratic race).

Flint residents were glad in a sense to be in the spotlight, a chance to tell their story and highlight their plight. More than once they thanked us journalists for being there, to give them a voice.

Plastic bottles of water seem to be everywhere in Flint. They pile up outside homes, nestled on the ground, buried in snow.

These bottles have become Flint's lifeblood: the only way to cook, brush teeth. Soldiers and volunteers trudge through the snow distributing bottles for free, dropping them off at homes where life sometimes barely appears to flicker inside.

 

 

 

Beijing has surpassed New York City to become the "billionaire capital of the world" with 100 resident billionaires to the US business and cultural capital's 95, a survey showed.

The number of Beijing billionaires rose by 32 from last year, while New York's tally rose by just four, according to the Hurun Report, a China-based publisher of luxury magazines and compiler of an annual list of the country's richest people.

Moscow came in third, with 66 billionaires.

"Despite its own slowdown and falling stock markets, China minted more new billionaires than any other country in the world last year, mainly on the back of new listings," said Rupert Hoogewerf, its chairman and chief researcher.

 

 

Global banking giant HSBC on Monday reported a shock pre-tax loss in the last quarter of 2015 with results for the year missing analysts' expectations, as it grapples with "seismic shifts" in the world economy.

HSBC last year announced a radical overhaul of its business to cut costs that included shedding 50,000 jobs worldwide, exiting unprofitable businesses and focusing more on Asia.

Like many global banks, HSBC is combating turmoil in global financial markets that has seen stocks and commodities plunge, while stricter regulations have driven up costs.

Last week Europe's largest bank said it would keep its headquarters in London, despite concerns about growing regulation in Britain and an upcoming vote on whether it could leave the European Union.

Net profit for 2015 dropped 1.2 percent to $13.52 billion from the previous year, HSBC said in a filing Monday, while pre-tax profit of $18.9 billion missed analysts' forecast of $21.8 billion.

 

 

 

Austria's combative interior minister on Saturday rejected EU criticism of its cap of 80 asylum claims per day, saying a letter of complaint to her from the bloc's migration commissioner was "sent to the wrong address".

"It should be generally known that Austria does not have an external EU border and is therefore not the first safe country that these people (migrants) set foot in," Johanna Mikl-Leitner told the Austria Press Agency (APA).

"If everybody stuck to the content of the letter (from migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos), then Austria would not have a problem with it. But the letter was clearly sent to the wrong address," Mikl-Leitner said.

Instead, the complaints should be sent to safe countries that the migrants pass through on their way to Austria, she said, in a reference in particular to Greece, the main entry point in the European Union for migrants.

In 2015, over one million people reached Europe's shores -- nearly half of them Syrians fleeing the civil war -- causing the bloc a major political headache.

 

Austria last year took in 90,000 asylum seekers, making it one of the highest recipients in the EU on a per-capita basis, while almost 10 times that number passed through, mostly to Germany and Sweden.

Faced with a resurgent far-right opposition topping opinion polls, Austria's centrist government this week imposed the new cap and said only 3,200 migrants could pass through per day.

Border controls are being tightened and the government wants only 37,500 asylum claims this year.

 

 

 

In the latest crackdown on gay rights in Indonesia, the government has demanded all instant messaging apps remove same-sex emoticons or face a ban in the Muslim-majority country.

The emojis -- which are available on the popular apps LINE and Whatsapp as well as Facebook and Twitter -- depict same-sex couples holding hands and the rainbow flag, commonly used to symbolise the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

"Such contents are not allowed in Indonesia based on our cultural law and the religious norms and the operators must respect that," Ismail Cawidu, spokesman for the Communication and Information Ministry, told AFP Friday.

He said of particular concern was that the colourful emojis and stickers could appeal to children.

"Those things might be considered normal in some Western countries, while in Indonesia it's practically impossible," he said.

Cawidu said the ministry had contacted all companies that used such content, including Twitter and Facebook, and failure to comply with the request to remove the emojis could lead to the apps being banned in Indonesia.

 

 

 

 

Pope Francis on Wednesday revealed plans for a new "match for peace" as he met Ronaldinho and other football stars at the Vatican.

The charity match will be staged at Rome's Olympic Stadium on May 29, the day after the Champions League final in Milan.

The first match for peace took place in 2014 and featured Ronaldinho, Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona and a host of other top players or former players.

 

 

 

Densely packed slums, rampant mosquitoes and a history of rapidly spreading infections make Asia particularly vulnerable to the devastating Zika virus, posing a massive challenge for the region, health experts warn.

Thailand confirmed Tuesday that a man contracted the mosquito-borne infection, blamed for a surge in the number of brain-damaged babies in South America, while Indonesia has also reported a domestic case.

The cases in Asia come as top US health authorities confirmed this week a patient in Texas contracted the Zika virus through sexual transmission, fuelling fears the disease may spread rapidly.

Officials in India worry it could be next, noting that the Zika and dengue fever-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquito thrives in the high-density communities of its teeming cities, where sanitation is often poor.

"In India particularly there is a great threat of the Zika virus spreading quickly given the presence of the Aedes mosquito and favourable environment," said Om Shrivastav, an infectious diseases specialist.

 

"It would definitely be a big challenge for Asian countries to control the spread of the virus... considering high population in the region," added Shrivastav, who is based in Mumbai, home to Dharavi, Asia's biggest slum.

More than half of Mumbai's 20 million inhabitants live in slums -- at least one million reside in Dharavi alone -- enduring cramped conditions, poor ventilation and a lack of toilets.

Every summer monsoon, heavy rains lash Mumbai for four months, flooding parts of the city, including the slums' maze of alleyways, which become fertile breeding grounds for mosquitos and lead to a massive spike in tropical diseases.

Soumya Swaminathan, director general of the Indian Council for Medical Research, warned against panicking but said a surge of dengue cases worldwide recently, was a cause for concern.

"(Because of) the way dengue has spread over the last several years across continents and across countries, (and with) Zika being a mosquito borne illness, there is a potential for spread," she told Indian news channel NDTV.

 

Zika, which was first identified in Uganda in 1947, causes relatively mild flu-like symptoms and a rash.

But the World Health Organization (WHO) said it "strongly suspected" the Zika virus of being responsible for a rapid rise in cases of microcephaly, a condition in which a baby is born with an abnormally small head and brain.

Latin American countries, particularly Brazil, have reported a leap in cases of microcephaly since the Zika outbreak was declared in the region last year.

The UN-body has declared the situation a "public health emergency of international concern" and has created a global Zika response unit to contain the virus.

WHO expert Anthony Costello has stressed there is no reason to believe the crisis would remain limited to Latin America, where 25 countries so far have reported Zika cases.

 

 

 

 

A new coffee diet claiming to help lose weight and improve IQ is gaining a major following in the United States -- and raising eyebrows among doctors skeptical of its benefits.

Dave Asprey, the founder and CEO of the "Bulletproof Diet," pulls no punches when making claims for his radical health recipe, cup of coffee in hand.

"You become a better employee, better parent, better friend, better person," said the former Silicon Valley entrepreneur now living in Canada. "My energy changes, my brain changes. I can pay attention, I can follow through."

The cornerstone of Asprey's diet is a drink called Bulletproof Coffee, a modified version of the caffeinated beverage which uses beans stripped of mycotoxins -- essentially mold that forms during the fermentation process.

Add to that butter from grass-fed cows and medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) oil.

The ingredients are blended together to produce a creamy, naturally sweet beverage a bit like a milkshake, taken at breakfast in lieu of a meal.

"So you drink a couple of these and all of a sudden you don't care about food for a very long time," said Asprey. "Your brain has energy that doesn't come from sugar, you didn't want sugar in your coffee and you lose the craving and you sort of have freedom."

Asprey used to weigh 300 pounds, and spent much of his life battling to lose weight.

The coffee diet idea came to him during a trip to Tibet in 2004. He was weak with altitude sickness while traveling in the mountainous region -- until he drank yak butter tea.

Asprey was so impressed by the energetic effect of the drink that he tried to reproduce it at home.

After years of trying all kinds of ingredients and combinations, he unveiled a patented formula in 2009 through his blog and on social media, claiming the coffee and an associated health regimen helped him attain a "bodybuilder" physique.

 

 

 

Holocaust survivor Ruth Klueger on Wednesday lauded Germany for keeping its doors open to thousands of war refugees, calling Chancellor Angela Merkel's "we can do it" slogan "heroic".

"This country, which was responsible for the worst crimes of the century, has won the applause of the world today," the 84-year-old scholar told the German parliament in an address as part of commemorations for International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

"I am one of the many outsiders who has gone from surprise to admiration," Klueger said, describing Merkel's rallying call of "We can do it" as a "simple but heroic slogan".

Merkel has repeated the mantra over recent months as she has resisted fierce opposition -- even from within her conservative camp -- to reverse her policy towards refugees.

Klueger, who now lives in the United States, said it was precisely Merkel's approach toward those fleeing war and misery that had moved her to accept the German parliament's invitation to speak on the 71st anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz death camp.