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Malaysia to swear in world’s oldest leader Mahathir Mohamad, aged 92

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Malaysia’s former authoritarian ruler Mahathir Mohamad is set to become the world’s oldest elected leader – after making a stunning comeback that has toppled the country’s government of 60 years.

The 92-year-old has steered the first opposition party to victory since the country was liberated from British rule in 1957.

Mr Mohamad, leader of the Pakatan Harapan coalition, is expected to be made prime minister despite concerns his opponents are trying to cling to power.

However, anxiety has stirred among his supporters as he was not sworn in by the king this morning as expected.

He insists he will be made leader once again.

“We expect today for me to be sworn in as prime minister,” he told a news conference.

“There is an urgency here. Currently there is no government in Malaysia.”

The veteran politician previously ruled the country for 22 years as leader of the Barisian National coalition (BN) before stepping down in 2003.

He came out of retirement and defected to Pakatan Harapan, formed in 2015.

Mr Mohamad’s unexpected victory has now toppled the BN, which had ruled the country for 60 years.

Malaysia’s defeated prime minister Najib Razak said after his loss: “I accept the verdict of the people and BN is committed to the principles of democracy.”

However, he did not give a clear concession, saying it was up to the king to decide as no single party was the outright winner.

Najib Razak, right, was defeated in the election after an investment fund scandal
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Najib Razak, right, was defeated in the election after an investment fund scandal

Despite Pakatan Harapan picking up the most votes, no party won an overall majority.

Official results show Mr Mohamad secured 113 of the 222 seats available, while the BN took 79 seats.

Political analysts have warned that Mr Razak could be trying to buy time to win defections from other parties so he can stay in power.

During his previous tenure, Mr Mohamad was credited with modernising Malaysia, but also imprisoned opponents and subjugated the courts.

He emerged from political retirement after being angered by a scandal at the state-owned investment fund 1MDB.

The US justice department claims $4.5bn (£3.3bn) was looted from 1MBD by associates of Mr Razak between 2009 and 2014, including $700mn (£514m) that landed in the prime minister’s bank account.

Mr Razak has denied any wrongdoing.

Mr Mohamad says the new government will not conduct a witch-hunt, but that his predecessor will have to face the consequences if he has broken the law.

His victory is expected to inspire hope for wholesale change on rights protections, press freedom, anti-corruption measures, changes to divisive race-based policies, and true democratic rule.

Mahathir Mohamad supporters celebrated in the streets after the 92-year-old's victory
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Mr Mohamad’s supporters celebrated in the streets after the victory

After the votes were counted, he made a lively speech, saying Malaysia had been left in a “mess” by Mr Razak and his coalition.

Mr Mohamad competed in the election in an alliance of opposition parties he crushed while in power, which included jailed opposition icon Anwar Ibrahim.

He has pledged to get Mr Ibrahim, who is due out of jail in June, a royal pardon.

Mr Mohamad reportedly plans to eventually pass the premiership on to the man who is one of the country’s most charismatic and popular politicians.

Supporters of the incoming government took to the streets of Kuala Lumpur to celebrate the unexpected victory.

The world’s oldest elected leader is currently Tunisia’s 91-year-old president Beji Caid Essebsi.

Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe was the holder of the title until he resigned aged 93 in 2017.

Queen Elizabeth II, who is 92, is the world’s oldest-serving head of state, but was not elected.

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Daniel Pearl murder: British-born man acquitted over journalist’s killing to be released from Pakistan prison | World News

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The Supreme Court in Pakistan has ordered the release of British-born Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh who was convicted, and later acquitted, over the beheading of a US journalist in 2002.

Mr Sheikh has been on death row since his initial conviction for Daniel Pearl’s murder 19 years ago, but his lawyer argued that his client “should not have spent one day in jail”.

Lawyer Mehmood A Sheikh added that the court also ordered the release of three other Pakistanis who had been sentenced to life behind bars for their part in Mr Pearl’s kidnapping and murder.

An appeal hearing in the Daniel Pearl murder case was held at the Supreme Court, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021. The court on Thursday has ordered the release of Ahmad Saeed Omar Sheikh who was convicted and later acquitted in the gruesome beheading of American journalist Pearl in 2002. The court also dismissed an appeal of Sheikh's acquittal by Pearl's family. (AP Photo/Waseem Khan)
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The Supreme Court voted two to one in favour of Mr Sheikh. Pic: Associated Press

Mr Sheikh was formally acquitted of his involvement in April 2020.

The court also dismissed an appeal by the family of Mr Pearl and the Pakistani government over the acquittal of Mr Sheikh.

In statement released by their lawyer, Mr Pearl’s family said: “Today’s decision is a complete travesty of justice and the release of these killers puts in danger journalists everywhere and the people of Pakistan.”

The country’s three-judge Supreme Court ruled two to one in favour of upholding Mr Sheikh’s acquittal and ordered his release, Pearl family lawyer Faisal Siddiqi said.

The US government has previously said it would demand that Mr Sheikh be extradited to the US to be tried there.

“We urge the US government to take all necessary actions under the law to correct this injustice. We also hope that the Pakistani authorities will take all necessary steps to rectify this travesty of justice,” the Pearl family said.

Mr Siddiqi said that the only legal avenue left to pursue would be to ask for a review of the court’s decision, but added that would be carried out by the same court that upheld the appeal, meaning “in practical terms” there is no further legal route in Pakistan.

FILE - In this April 15, 2007, file photo, Dr. Judea Pearl, father of American journalist Daniel Pearl, who was killed by terrorists in 2002, speaks in Miami Beach, Fla. Pakistan's Supreme Court on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021, ordered the release of Ahmad Saeed Omar Sheikh who was convicted and later acquitted in the gruesome beheading of American journalist Pearl in 2002. The court also dismissed an appeal of Sheikh's acquittal by Pearl's family. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)
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Daniel Pearl (R) was beheaded after being lured to a meeting in Pakistan. Pic: Associated Press

Mr Sheikh was convicted of helping to lure Mr Pearl to a meeting in the Pakistani city of Karachi before the journalist was kidnapped.

Mr Pearl had been looking in to the link between Pakistani militants and Richard C Reid – the “shoe bomber”, who tried to blow up a flight between Paris and Miami with explosives in his shoes.

He went missing on 23 January, with his body being found in a shallow grave shortly after a video of his beheading was sent to the US consulate in Karachi.

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Kate Moss and daughter Lila star in Paris catwalk show together | Ents & Arts News

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She is one of the most famous supermodels in the world, and in recent years her daughter has been following in her catwalk footsteps.

So it was inevitable that British star Kate Moss and teenager Lila would one day walk the same runway.

Model Kate Moss, left, and her daughter Lila Grace Moss wear creations for Fendi's Spring-Summer 2021 Haute Couture fashion collection. Pic: AP
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It is reported to be the first time the mother and daughter pair have walked the same fashion show catwalk. Pic: AP


British model Kate Moss leaves the Topshop Unique Spring/Summer 2014 collection with her daughter Lila Grace during London Fashion Week
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Kate and Lila Moss pictured in 2014

Modelling for the Fendi spring/summer show in Paris on Wednesday, the mother-daughter pair were the stars of the show.

In 2016, they appeared on the cover of Vogue together, but this is believed to be the first time they have appeared on the same catwalk.

Lila, 18, whose father is Kate’s ex-partner Jefferson Hack, was pictured wearing a beaded caped dress, while Kate, 47, wore a silver satin dress.

Model Naomi Campbell wears a creation for Fendi's Spring-Summer 2021 Haute Couture fashion collection. Pic: AP
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Fellow British supermodel Naomi Campbell also walked the Fendi catwalk. Pic: AP
Demi Moore. Pic: Fendi/Shutterstock
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As did Hollywood star Demi Moore. Pic: Fendi/Shutterstock

Several other high profile stars and supermodels – including Naomi Campbell – also featured in the show, which featured clothing by designer Kim Jones.

Actress Demi Moore was dressed in a dramatic black top, trousers and long headpiece as she took to the Fendi runway.

Model Cara Delevingne wears a creation for Fendi's Spring-Summer 2021 Haute Couture fashion collection. Pic: AP
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Cara Delevingne and Bella Hadid (below) were also among the show’s stars. Pics: AP
Model Bella Hadid wears a creation for Fendi's Spring-Summer 2021 Haute Couture fashion collection. Pic: AP

Cara Delevingne walked the catwalk wearing a camouflage suit, while Bella Hadid wore a black gown underneath a cape.

Moss’s fellow 1990s supermodel Campbell, 50, wore a long metallic dress and headpiece for her appearance.

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COVID-19: South African coronavirus variant ‘between 20 and 200%’ more infectious than original | World News

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The KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform does not exactly trip off the tongue.

That’s probably why the people who work there, along with sister-organisation the Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI), call it KRISP.

And the researchers at KRISP, led by Professor Tulio de Oliveira, have done some really important work in the last few months.

The identification of the so-called South African variant of COVID-19, a hardy and more infectious strain of coronavirus, was done in a congested KRISP laboratory tucked away on the ground floor.

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At the peak of the second wave in January, more than 20,000 people were being infected every day

It was a difficult moment for members of the team to describe – a brilliant piece of detective work that revealed a dangerous new episode in the pandemic.

Professor de Oliveira told me how it happened. “We got very busy in the middle and end of November,” he explained.

Clinical staff at one of main hospitals in Nelson Mandela Bay were seeing a very unusual increase of new cases.

“They were convinced that there was probably something different about the virus so we answered their call very quickly,” Prof de Oliveira added.

By extracting the genetic material from the variant, which they call 501YV2, and tracking the way it was spreading around the country, the team at KRISP was able to determine that it was anywhere between 20 to 200% more infectious that the original.

In an equally disturbing finding, their partners at AHRI discovered that antibodies developed by people in response to the original strain of COVID-19 are “much less able” to neutralise the South African variant.

It raises the prospect that people who have already had coronavirus could get it again.

Prof de Oliveira told me that his team had seen “multiple samples” of this viral re-infection.

The genomic surveillance performed at KRISP has been utilised in neighbouring states, with the South African variant identified in countries including Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia and Malawi.

“In Zambia, the last 23 genomes that have been done, 22 of those were the 501YV2 variant,” the professor said.

“We have just finished analysing samples from Mozambique and informed the minister of health about the lineages that are circulating in the country. I believe today he will go to the public to announce (the results).”

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Prof de Oliveira, from KRISP, says his team has seen multiple samples of viral re-infection

Prof de Oliveira would not give me advance notice of their findings but it seems inevitable that 501YV2 has indeed been identified in Mozambique.

This research will concern people – and politicians – right across the continent.

South Africa, which boasts relatively modern infrastructure, has struggled to deal with this now dominant variant of COVID-19.

At the peak of the country’s second wave in early January, more than 20,000 people were being infected every day.

Hospitals and clinics faced chronic shortages of staff, beds and critical supplies like oxygen.

In other parts of Africa, people are largely on their own.

I asked KRISP’s Dr Richard Lessells, an infectious diseases specialist, whether the institute has pushed a proverbial alarm bell by identifying the variant and describing many of its characteristics.

“Yes, we are certainly trying to push the alarm bell and trying to make this point that we need help,” he said.

“We need help in South Africa (and) in the region and we need people to understand that this is a global pandemic and that if we leave Africa and African countries to try and deal with this themselves we are going to have a big problem.”

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