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Surrounded by glittering waters, Rwanda's remote Iwawa island appears idyllic, but it has housed thousands of drug users, as well as reputedly those the authoritarian government deems unsuitable for society.

Isaac Mugange was an alcoholic and heavy smoker of cannabis, but the 24-year computer technician was sent to the Iwawa Rehabilitation and Vocational Training Centre, a tiny island in the vast waters of Lake Kivu, to wean himself off drugs.

"A family council decided to send me here to rehabilitation, and I agreed," said the young man, who comes from a wealthy background. His large eyes are still reddened by years of abuse.

The jungle-clad island ringed by beaches could appear at times like a holiday camp.

But it has a darker reputation: on the mainland, Iwawa is spoken of by some as a "Guantanamo" or "Alcatraz", a reference to the infamous US prisons.

Critics say Iwawa, officially set up to help drug addicts, also houses beggars, homeless people, street children and petty criminals -- or anyone who might taint the clean image Rwanda seeks to promote.

Rwanda's tough leaders have sought to rebuild a society left in ruins after the 1994 genocide, pouring energy into creating an orderly nation with smooth roads, efficient administration and tight security -- efforts that critics say can also go too far, suppressing dissent.

 

Like nearly 2,000 others aged between 18 and 35, Mugange spent a year on the island some 28 kilometres (17 miles) from the mainland of southwestern Rwanda. After six months attending sessions with a psychologist, he is now learning carpentry.

Rwandan authorities insist it is a drug detox and rehabilitation centre, not a detention island or prison.

"This centre is a training school that helps youths, first to get rid of drugs, but also to develop professional skills that can help them earn a living... and become a solution for the government rather than a burden," said Servilien Bizimana, deputy director of the centre.

In a workshop nearby, Mugange and 20 companions cut and sand down wood. Behind a basketball court, dozens of youths sitting under shade trees listen to lessons on hygiene.

Others wait at the health centre to be circumcised, as part of a government program aimed to reduce the risk of AIDS.

The centre's leaders insist all residents are on the island voluntarily.

While the government "reserves the right to help the addicts" by sending them to Iwawa, centre coordinator Nicolas Niyongabo said they are all still free to leave the island if they wish.

 

 

 

But in Rwanda's capital Kigali, one former resident insists that several escape attempts resulted in drowning. The centre's management says two people drowned due to swimming accidents in 2013.

On the island, Olivier, a man in his 30s, admits to being a drug addict and alcoholic.

"I was arrested by police in Kigali. I was drunk and I didn't have my papers," he said, sitting at a sewing machine.

"I want so much to go to Kigali... my wife does not know where I have been for the past five months, because I do not know the phone number."

Centre residents are allowed to make telephone calls and receive visits, but many families are not informed when their relatives are sent to the island, often on simple administrative orders without legal processes.

 

 

 

 

Daily, long-term doses of aspirin can slash the risk of cancer of the digestive tract, according to research published on Wednesday.

Aspirin greatly reduces the risk of developing and dying from bowel, stomach and oesophageal cancer, its authors said.

They found that taking aspirin for 10 years could cut bowel cancer cases by around 35 percent and deaths by 40 percent.

Rates of oesophageal and stomach cancers were cut by 30 percent and deaths from these cancers by 35-50 percent.

To gain these benefits meant people had to start taking a daily dose of 75-100 mg for at least five years and probably 10 years between the ages of 50 and 65.

No benefit was seen while they took aspirin for the first three years, and death rates were only reduced after five years.

Aspirin has long been considered to be a boost in the fight against cardiovascular disease and has also been investigated for reputed anti-cancer effects.

This is the first to throw up broad evidence that it can be a shield against these types of cancer, the scientists said.

The study, published in the European cancer journal Annals of Oncology, was led by Jack Cuzick, a professor at the the Centre for Cancer Prevention at Queen Mary University of London.

It looked at more than 200 clinical trials and other studies that explored aspirin's anti-cancer effects.

“Our study shows that if everyone aged between 50-65 started taking aspirin daily for at least 10 years, there would be a nine-percent reduction in the number of cancers, strokes and heart attacks overall in men and around seven percent in women," Cuzick said in a press release.

"The total number of deaths from any cause would also be lower, by about four percent over a 20-year period. The benefits of aspirin use would be most visible in the reduction in deaths due to cancer."

 

 

 

Iraq's Kurdish peshmerga forces are coordinating a counter-offensive against jihadists around the Iraqi city of Mosul with Kurdish fighters from Syria and Turkey, a political leader said on Wednesday.

 

 

 

 

Poland's capital ground to a halt on Friday and television and radio stations fell silent nationwide for 70 seconds as air-raid sirens wailed to mark seven decades since Polish insurgents launched the doomed Warsaw Uprising against the Nazis.

Traffic halted and pedestrians stood in silent homage at 1500 GMT in memory of the nearly 200,000 mostly civilian victims of the 63-day insurrection launched on August 1, 1944 in a doomed bid to secure Poland's post war independence.

"The uprising broke out because there was no other way to avenge the humiliation, the camps, all the tragedy that was inflicted on Poland," veteran Bogdan Horoszowski told AFP at a wreath-laying ceremony at Warsaw's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

"We pay homage to the insurgents, knowing that the Warsaw Uprising paved the way to our peaceful transition to freedom 25 years ago," Warsaw mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz said at the ceremony, referring to Poland's negotiated end to communism in 1989.

The uprising by Polish Home Army (AK) partisans is sometimes confused with the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in which Jewish partisans imprisoned by the Nazis in an area of the Polish capital launched their own doomed insurgency.

In 1944, around 50,000 AK partisans, mostly young men and women in their late teens and early twenties, scouts and even children, took up arms against the Nazi Germans occupying the capital, as the Soviet Red Army was poised to invade it from the east.

Vastly better equipped, the Nazis slaughtered insurgents and civilians, many in aerial bombardments.

Sixty-three days of savage battles turned the capital into a smouldering heap of rubble.

 

 

 

US Secretary of State John Kerry told Narendra Modi that India's stance on a key WTO trade deal sent the wrong message, as he met the country's new prime minister for the first time on Friday.

Kerry has expressed optimism about expanding cooperation between the world's two largest democracies during a first visit aimed at reviving a relationship clouded by mistrust.

But a raft of disputes has cast a shadow over hopes for a warmer relationship, with India on Thursday blocking a major World Trade Organization pact on customs procedures.

During the meeting -- aimed at breaking the ice with a leader once shunned by Washington -- Kerry told Modi India's stance on the deal was at odds with his desire to open up the country's economy.

 

 

"We note that the prime minister is very focused on his signal of open to business and creating opportunities and therefore the failure of implementing TFA (Trade Facilitation Agreement) sends a confusing signal and undermines that very message that he is seeking to send about India," a US official quoted Kerry as saying.

"While we understand India's food security concerns, the trade facilitation agreement is one that will bring tremendous benefit, particularly to the world's poor. India's actions therefore are not in keeping with the prime minister's vision."

Kerry urged India to work with the United States to move the WTO process forward, the official said.

 

 

 

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official also said Modi told Kerry that while areas of difference would always exist, "what is critical is what we do to enhance and build on our trust".

Earlier, Kerry said the United States wanted to "try to really take the relationship to a new place", following a series of diplomatic spats with India.

Washington has little relationship with Modi, a Hindu nationalist who was refused a US visa in 2005 over allegations that he turned a blind eye to anti-Muslim riots as leader of the western state of Gujarat.

The United States caught up with other Western nations during the election campaign, sending its ambassador to meet Modi who since taking office has shown no visible signs of holding a grudge over his past treatment.

But US officials, who value frank and free-wheeling relationships with foreign leaders, are unsure what to expect from Modi who is known for his austere, solitary lifestyle and is not believed to be at ease in English.

Modi, who as a young man wandered the Himalayas, is seen as a very different character than his predecessor Manmohan Singh, a bookish Oxford-educated economist with whom President Barack Obama had found a kinship.

 

 

 

 

Two rare Sri Lankan leopard cubs have been born in a zoo in northern France, a boost for a sub-species that numbers only about 700 in the wild, the head of the facility said Tuesday.

"There are only a few of them in captivity with about 60 spread across some 20 European zoos," said Jimmy Ebel, of Maubeuge Zoo. "These leopards are under great threat due to deforestation and poaching."

 

 

 

 

Nigerian teenage weightlifter Chika Amalaha has been provisionally suspended from the Commonwealth Games after testing positive in a doping test taken after she won gold in the women's 53kg category, the Commonwealth Games Federation announced Tuesday.

The 16-year-old Amalaha provided an 'A' sample on July 25 which revealed traces of diuretics and masking agents.

She will have a 'B' sample tested at a laboratory in London on July 30.

Commonwealth Games Federation chief executive Mike Hooper said: "We [have] issued a formal notice of disclosure to an athlete following an adverse analytical finding as a consequence of an in-competition test.

 

 

 

The arbitration court in The Hague has ordered Russia to pay shareholders of Yukos $50 billion in compensation over its seizure of the one-time oil giant, main shareholder GML Ltd said in London on Monday.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruled on July 18 that Russia pay the claimants "in excess of $50 billion" after finding it had forced Yukos into bankruptcy and sold its assets to state-owned businesses for political purposes, the claimant's lawyer Emmanuel Gaillard said.

The claims were brought in 2005 by Hulley Enterprises Limited and Veteran Petroleum Limited, both based in Cyprus, and Isle of Man-based Yukos Universal Limited.

The arbitral tribunals unanimously held that the Russian Federation had effectively expropriated the claimants' assets, according to the ruling on the PCA website.

 

 

 

 

An Australian senator who told breakfast radio she would only date men who were rich and "well-hung" apologised Tuesday, saying she had tried to hide her embarrassment with a joke.

Jacqui Lambie, who took her seat in the national parliament's upper house earlier this month, told Tasmania's Heart 107.3 that she had not been in a relationship for more than a decade.

When the breakfast hosts suggested they help her find love, she replied: "Now they must have heaps of cash and they've got to have a package between their legs, let's be honest.

"And I don't need them to speak, they don't even need to speak."

The 43-year-old's comments prompted a young male listener to ring in to say he was confident he met her criteria, in part because he had inherited some money and had experience with older women.

"I'm just a bit concerned because you're so young, I'm not sure you'd be able to handle Jacqui Lambie," the outspoken politician, who served a decade in Australia's armed forces, said.

The senator then asked: "Are you well-hung?"

 

 

 

 

Chinese reports about a giant inflatable toad have been deleted from the Internet after social media users compared the puffed-up animal to a former Communist Party chief.

The installation of a giant inflatable duck in Hong Kong's harbour last year sparked a national craze for oversized blow-up wildlife, with several Chinese cities launching their own imitations.

The latest, a 22-metre-high (72-feet) toad, appeared in a Beijing park last weekend, but met with mockery from social media users who compared its appearance to that of former President Jiang Zemin.

The website of China's official Xinhua news agency and popular web portal Sina had deleted their reports on the animal -- seen as a symbol of good fortune in traditional Chinese culture -- by Wednesday.