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Smoking to kill 200 million in China this century: WHO

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Smoking-related diseases will claim 200 million lives in China this century and plunge tens of millions into poverty, a report said Friday.

China is the world’s largest consumer and producer of tobacco, and the industry provides the government with colossal sums.

In 2015, it recorded 1.1 trillion yuan ($160 billion) in profits, up 20 percent year-on-year.

But a report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said Friday that the Asian giant will suffer an economic toll if it does not urgently reduce its smoking population.

The paper — called “The Bill China Cannot Afford” — estimated that the total annual economic cost of tobacco use in the country in 2014 was 350 billion yuan, up tenfold from 2000.

“If nothing is done to reduce [the death rate] and introduce more progressive policies, the consequences could be devastating not just for the health of people across the country, but also for China’s economy as a whole,” WHO China representative Bernhard Schwartlander said in a statement.

The calculation includes both the direct costs of treating tobacco-related illness and the indirect costs such as lost work productivity.

“The rapid increase in costs associated with tobacco use in China is unsustainable,” Schwartlander added.

Twenty-eight percent of all adults and 50 percent of men in China are estimated to smoke regularly.

Rural-to-urban migrants are more likely to be smokers, the report said, adding that they risk descending into poverty when smoking-related medical costs become too great — a reality at odds with the government goal of eradicating poverty nationwide by 2020.

The organisations recommended a smoke-free policy across the country akin to laws in Beijing and Shanghai, where smoking is banned in most public places.

However, enforcing anti-smoking measures can be difficult in China as the state-owned China National Tobacco Corp, which enjoys a near-monopoly, shares offices and senior officials with the national tobacco regulator.

The report also urged further raising tobacco taxes to make smoking less affordable. While retail tobacco prices increased following a taxation hike in 2015, the average price of a cigarette pack remains just ten yuan.

A 50 percent increase in the retail price of cigarettes would prevent 20 million premature deaths over 50 years, the report said.

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South Korea court sentences ex-president Park 8 more years in jail

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A South Korean court sentenced former President Park Geun-hye to eight more years in prison on Friday after finding her guilty on charges of causing loss of funds from the state spy agency and interfering in 2016 parliamentary elections.

The Seoul Central District Court ruled that Park, who already received a 24-year jail term over separate corruption charges, colluded with her former aides to cause the loss of government funds worth 3.3bn won ($2.91m) from the National Intelligence Service.



“The accused received some three billion won over three years from the three NIS chiefs. Through this crime, the accused incurred a considerable amount of loss to the state treasury,” said senior judge Seong Chang-ho at the Seoul Central District Court.

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Three former NIS chiefs testified they had funnelled the funds to Park on her orders, the court said.

The judge rebuked Park, who denied the charges, for being “uncooperative” throughout the court hearing and questioning by prosecutors.

She was also found guilty of interfering in the then-ruling Saenuri Party’s selection of candidates for the parliamentary election.

Prosecutors had earlier demanded a 15-year sentence for Park. 

Park, 66, has denied wrongdoing and was not present in court. She was found guilty by a lower court in April of separate charges including bribery, abuse of power and coercion. She was also fined $16m. 

She now faces a total of 32 years in prison. 

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Impeached and removed from office

In December 2016, South Korean legislators overwhelmingly voted to impeach Park but she refused to resign, offering instead an apology while denying any legal wrongdoing.

Three months later, the eight-member Constitutional Court voted unanimously to remove her from office.

She was charged and arrested soon after her dismissal from office in 2017. 

She is the daughter of another former president, Park Chung-hee, who seized power in 1961 and was assassinated eight years later.

Park could potentially get an even longer jail time depending on the rulings of the appeals courts.

Following the earlier ruling in April, prosecutors appealed Park’s 24-year term on charges including bribery and abuse of state power and are now demanding 30 years in prison.

The Seoul High Court will rule on the case on August 24.

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Nigeria: Boko Haram leader exposes rest Chibok girls whereabouts

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One of the arrested Boko Haram leaders and kidnappers of the Chibok schoolgirls, Mallam Mayinta Modu, alias Abor has revealed that each of them received N60,000 as ransom before they freed one batch of the abducted girls.

 Modu, who hails from Bama Local Government Area, Borno State had confessed to being one of the Boko Haram Commanders that coordinated and led the kidnapping of the Chibok schoolgirls in 2014, including several attacks on Bama, Gwoza and Mubi towns in Borno and Adamawa states.

This was following the arrest of 22 suspected Boko Haram members who participated in the kidnapping of the girls.

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 They were paraded at the Borno Police Command, Wednesday, by Deputy Commissioner-led Intelligence Response Team, IRT, of the IGP, Ibrahim Idris.Modu revealed that one Mallam Chingori, is in custody of the remaining Chibok girls at Gulumba village of Bama Council Area following the recent bombardment of the forest by troops.

Upon interrogation, he said: “I cannot ascertain the number of people I slaughtered or killed before my arrest. All I can say is that as a member of the sect and with the roles I played in the course of our fighting against infidels, government and security agencies, I was promoted as one of the sub-commanders.

“I actively participated and coordinated the kidnapping of over 200 Chibok schoolgirls in April, 2014.

“After we abducted the girls, we separated them and put them in different locations in Sambisa Forest under the care of our top commanders.

“The name of my top Commander is Mallam Chingori. He kept some of the girls in his custody in Sambisa hideout before relocating to Gulumba village of Bama Council Area following the recent bombardment of the forest by troops.

“At a point, when we released some of the girls, we were given N60,000 each for escorting the girls to one undisclosed location, before we went back to base, Sambisa.

“I may not know whether our Commander who gave us the ransom money also took his share of the money; all I can say is that we were many that collected such amount.

“As it is, the remaining girls are in the custody of our top Commander (Chingori) who later relocated from Sambisa to Gulumba village of Bama town.”

Modu could, however, not state who paid the ransom, but admitted that some of the girls were still in the custody of the sect in different locations in the forest.

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