- - Thursday, November 11, 2010

UNITED KINGDOM

Britain gets tough on welfare recipients

LONDON | Britain announced Thursday the most radical overhaul in decades to its once-generous welfare system, pledging harsh penalties for those who refuse jobs and community work service for the unemployed in return for benefit checks.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith unveiled sharp changes to the country’s cradle-to-grave social safety net, which was first introduced after World War II to better protect newborns, families, the jobless and the sick.

“The message is clear: If you can work, then a life of benefits will no longer be an option,” said Prime Minister David Cameron, whose government last month announced it would slash benefits payments by 18 billion pounds ($29 billion) under a four-year package of spending cuts worth 81 pounds ($128 billion).

Under the new plan, many of the 5 million people who claim jobless benefits in Britain will be ordered to regularly do four weeks of unpaid community work to remain eligible for their 65 pounds ($105) weekly welfare payment. The stints could include manual labor tasks, such as removing graffiti or gardening in public parks.

NIGERIA

Nigerians link Iran to arms shipment

ABUJA | Nigerian intelligence officials and diplomats have concluded that the Iranian government was behind a secret shipment of weapons discovered last month in shipping containers, according to internal documents seen Thursday by the Associated Press.

Immediately after the arms seizure, Israeli officials accused Iran of trying to sneak the shipment into the Gaza Strip, but Nigeria’s security service now thinks the arms were imported by some local politicians to destabilize Nigeria if they lose in the coming general elections.

The cargo that was shipped from an Iranian port was listed as building materials, but when the 13 containers were opened at Nigeria’s main port in Lagos, inspectors found 107mm artillery rockets, rifle rounds and arms.

Contacted by phone, Iranian Ambassador Hussein Abdullahi declined to immediately discuss the allegations, telling the AP he was meeting with Nigerian officials about the same issues. Previously, Mr. Abdullahi said there is no clear evidence linking his government to the weapons.

HAITI

More cholera deaths in capital city

PORT-AU-PRINCE | Haiti’s cholera crisis deepened Thursday, as the toll soared again, and three more deaths in the teeming capital raised fears the epidemic could be set to explode in unsanitary camps full of earthquake survivors.

“We greatly fear a flare-up in the capital, which would be serious, given the conditions in the camps,” Dr. Claude Surena, president of the Haitian Medical Association, told Agence France-Presse.

Haitian authorities have been warned to expect a whole different scale of disaster if cholera takes hold in Port-au-Prince, much of which was flattened by a January earthquake that killed more than 250,000 people.

Most of the estimated 1.3 million Haitians living in refugee camps are in tent cities around the capital, and cholera could spread easily in filthy conditions, where scarce water supplies are shared for cooking and washing.

The Haitian Health Ministry says 724 people have died from the highly contagious water-borne disease and that the number of infections around the country has passed the 11,000 mark.

TURKEY

American Indian tribes seek trade ties

ANKARA | American Indian tribal leaders and businessmen seeking trade ties with Turkish companies have offered them tax incentives to operate in their territories in the United States, the organizer of the trip said Thursday.

American Indian businessmen are increasingly seeking global business partnerships to create jobs and new businesses in their territories. They have held talks with Chinese, Spanish and Australian companies, but their tribal leaders’ trip to Turkey was the first large-scale overseas exploration of new trade ties, they said.

Lincoln McCurdy, president of the Turkish Coalition of America, which organized the trip, said the American Indian tribes are sovereign nations that can strike their own trade deals and offer special tax incentives.

The delegation, representing 17 tribes from at least 10 U.S. states, has been welcomed by the Turkish government, which wants to bolster trade ties with the United States, a key ally and Turkey’s seventh-largest trading partner.

CENTRAL AFRICA

Polio emergency hits three nations

BRAZZAVILLE, Republic of Congo | International aid groups said Thursday they’re launching a mass polio immunization campaign in three Central African nations in response to a polio outbreak suspected in more than 100 deaths and deemed “unusual” because it targets adults more than children.

The World Health Organization, UNICEF and Rotary International said they will begin vaccinating some 3 million people in the Republic of Congo, its larger neighbor Congo and nearby Angola on Friday.

The outbreak of the highly infectious disease was confirmed on Nov. 4 in the Republic of Congo. The emergency immunizations will begin in the coastal port city of Pointe Noire in Republic of Congo and will continue through the end of the year.

The agencies said in a statement Thursday they had counted 97 deaths out of 226 cases of acute paralysis that are suspected to be polio cases. They noted that of those, four have been confirmed as polio.

BRAZIL

Clown’s literacy tested for congressional seat

SAO PAULO | Grumpy the clown won election in a laugher, getting more votes than any other candidate for Brazil’s Congress. Now he has to prove that he can read and write.

The Sao Paulo Electoral Court held a closed-door exam for the clown-turned-congressman-elect on Thursday to determine if he meets a constitutional mandate that federal lawmakers be literate.

Francisco Silva became famous as Tiririca — “Grumpy” in Portuguese — and received about 1.3 million votes, nearly twice as many as the next-highest vote-getter in last month’s congressional elections.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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