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US First Lady Biden makes unannounced visit to Ukraine

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US First Lady Jill Biden made an unannounced visit to Ukraine on Sunday, meeting her Ukrainian counterpart Olena Zelenska at a school sheltering civilians displaced by the war.

“I wanted to come on Mother’s Day. I thought it was important to show the Ukrainian people that this war has to stop and this war has been brutal and that the people of the United States stand with the people of Ukraine,” Biden told reporters.

The 70-year-old wore a large pin in the form of the blue and yellow Ukrainian flag.

She traveled to Ukraine from Slovakia as part of a regional tour that included Romania and was meant to be yet another display of American support for Ukraine and the countries assisting it in the wake of the Russian invasion.

A US official traveling with President Joe Biden’s wife also said it was Zelenska’s first public appearance since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

Zelenska thanked Biden “for this very courageous act”.

“Because we understand what it takes for the US first lady to come here during a war when the military actions are taking place every day, where the air sirens are happening every day, even today,” she told Biden.

Zelenska stressed the symbolism of Biden’s Mothering Sunday visit.

‘Feel your love’
“We also feel your love and support during such an important day,” the Ukrainian said.

Following a closed-door meeting, the first ladies joined local children in a classroom crafting cardboard and tissue paper bears as presents for their mothers.

Biden and Zelenska both crafted their own bear, using white and yellow tissue paper.

During their face-to-face talks, Biden asked Zelenska how she was holding up as a mother during war time. She and President Volodymyr Zelensky have a 17-year-old daughter and a nine-year-old son.

Zelenska said she was grateful that she “is able to hold her children’s hands every night even though she can’t be with her husband,” said Michael LaRosa, a spokesman for Biden.

Zelenska also said her biggest concern right now is the mental health of children, soldiers and other people in Ukraine, he said.

Biden first expressed an interest in March in visiting Ukraine but the opportunity did not arise until later, LaRosa said.

After the unannounced trip to Ukraine, Biden returned to Slovakia.

There she had met earlier with refugees, aid workers and residents in the city of Kosice and the village of Vysne Nemecke. In Bratislava she met with US embassy staff and government officials.

Nearly 5.5 million refugees have fled Ukraine since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his invasion, according to the United Nations. More than 360,000 of them have crossed into Slovakia, according to UN figures.

In Romania, too, Biden met with Ukrainian refugees on Saturday and praised them as “amazingly strong.”

“We stand with you, I hope you know that,” she said at a school in Bucharest, accompanied by her Romanian counterpart Carmen Iohannis, according to images transmitted by TVR public television.

More than 810,000 Ukrainians have entered Romania since the start of the war, according to UN figures released April 29.

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Organ harvesting: Dino Melaye reacts to arrest of Ekweremadu, wife

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Dino Melaye

Former Kogi West Senator, Dino Melaye has expressed his support for ex-Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu amid controversy of alleged organ harvesting.

Melaye said he stands with Ekweremadu because there was no wrongdoing by the Senator.

Ekweremadu and his wife, Beatrice were arrested in London for allegedly plotting to harvest the kidney of a Nigerian minor.

The UK metropolitan police had arrested and charged Ekweremadu and his wife to court, but the duo pleaded not guilty to the charges at the Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court.

“These are serious allegations and these matters are now adjourned until 7 July back here at Uxbridge,” Magistrate Lois Sheard said.

Ms Sheard remanded both defendants in custody ahead of their hearing next month.

Sharing Ekweremadu’s letter via his Twitter handle, Melaye wrote: “Sen. Ike Ekweremadu notified the British authorities on his trip with the said boy. I stand with Ike.”

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Supreme Court set to rule on controversial Electoral Act on Friday

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The Supreme Court of Nigeria will on Friday deliver judgment on the legality or otherwise of the controversial section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act 2022 .

The apex Court is set for its verdict in the suit instituted against the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari and the Attorney General of the Federation AGF and Minister of Justice.

A notice for the judgment delivery has just been sighted, indicating that the apex Court will make its position known this morning.

The notice was served on Buhari and the National Assembly on Thursday, inviting them to appear before the court today for their judgment.

Our correspondent further observed that the suit is the only one for determination today.

Buhari and Abubakar Malami had filed the suit at the Supreme Court, seeking an interpretation of the controversial clause in the Electoral Amendment Act 2022.

In the suit filed on April 29, Buhari and Malami, who are the plaintiffs, listed the National Assembly as the sole defendant.

Section 84 (12) has been a subject of intense litigation and political debate in Nigeria since President Buhari signed the amended Electoral Act 2022 into law in February this year.

Shortly after signing it into law, Buhari had asked the parliament to delete the controversial clause in the Electoral Act, but the National Assembly declined the president’s request.

According to Section 84 (12) of the legislation, “No political appointee at any level shall be a voting delegate or be voted for at the convention or congress of any political party for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election.”

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World’s most livable cities: Vienna climbs back to its No. 1 spot. These are the biggest decliners

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World’s most livable cities: Vienna climbs back to its No. 1 spot
The Stephansplatz is a square at the geographical centre of Vienna. It is named after its most prominent building, the Stephansdom, Vienna's cathedral and one of the tallest churches in the world.

After two years, Vienna has overtaken Auckland as the world’s most livable city, according to a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

Vienna ranked first in 2018 and 2019, but was overtaken by Auckland, New Zealand, during the pandemic and slipped to 12th place in 2021, according to the Global Liveability Index 2022.

The EIU said that Auckland’s position on the index dipped to the 34th place this year because of higher Covid-19 infection rates and strict border controls in 2021. Although lockdowns ended in New Zealand in December, well-vaccinated cities in Europe and Canada had begun easing restrictions earlier.

However, it’s unlikely that Auckland would’ve clinched the top position in this year’s ranking even without a pandemic, according to the EIU.

“Other cities falling was why Auckland was top last time. Without Covid, it would likely be top 10, but not number one,” said Simon Baptist, global chief economist at the research and advisory firm.

Five other European cities — Copenhagen, Zurich, Geneva, Frankfurt and Amsterdam — also made the top ten. Canada’s Calgary and Vancouver took the third and fifth spots respectively. Japan’s Osaka and Australia’s Melbourne shared 10th place — the only two “Asian” cities that made it to the top 10.

The 172 cities that were included in the rating were assessed on these categories: stability, health care, culture and environment, education and infrastructure.

Biggest decliners
Cities in New Zealand and Australia were the biggest fallers in the EIU’s livability ranking.

New Zealand’s capital Wellington dived by 46 places, while Australia’s Adelaide and Perth lost their 2021 positions in the top 10. They are now in the 30th and 32nd place respectively.

Australian and New Zealand cities snagged six of the top 10 spots last year, but were “much, much lower down” on this year’s list as their partial reopening coincided with the spread of the more contagious omicron variant, Baptist told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” on Thursday.

But the EIU is optimistic that these cities would bounce back.

“We can expect to see Australian and New Zealand cities moving up the rankings next year, when we do the next round of the survey. And this will be because they will have relaxed more of their Covid restrictions,” said Baptist.

Other cities in the region saw their rankings slip as well.

Singapore fell three spots to 37th place this year, while Hong Kong dropped to 62nd place from 49th last year.

“This is a long term change, it’s not just about Covid. That is part of it. But Hong Kong’s loss of connectivity is likely to be permanent,” said Baptist, citing the decline of cultural and political freedom in the city.

Russian cities plunged
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine saw Moscow’s livability ranking fall by 15 places, while St. Petersburg dipped by 13 spots, the EIU reported.

“Both cities record a fall in scores owing to increased instability, censorship, imposition of Western sanctions and corporates withdrawing their operations from the country,” the report said.

The war on Ukraine also affected the rankings of other Eastern European cities that have been facing political standoffs security threats, food and energy insecurities, and rising inflation, EIU said.

For example, Poland’s Warsaw and Hungary’s Budapest saw their stability scores slip as a result of rising diplomatic tensions, the EIU added.

Ukraine’s capital Kyiv was also excluded from this year’s report, and 33 new cities — 11 of them in China — were added.

The top 10
These are the world’s most livable cities and their scores, according to The Global Liveability Index 2022:

  1. Vienna, Austria (99.1)
  2. Copenhagen, Denmark (98.0)
  3. TIE — Zurich, Switzerland (96.3)
  4. TIE — Calgary, Canada (96.3)
  5. Vancouver, Canada (96.1)
  6. Geneva, Switzerland (95.9)
  7. Frankfurt, Germany (95.7)
  8. Toronto, Canada (95.4)
  9. Amsterdam, Netherlands (95.3)
  10. TIE — Osaka, Japan (95.1)
  11. TIE — Melbourne, Australia (95.1)

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