At least 46 people have been killed in a double car bombing in the Syrian city of Homs, a monitoring group has said.
Most of the dead appear to be civilians, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
It is not yet clear who was behind the bombing but the so-called Islamic State (IS) has targeted the area in the past.
At least four explosions were also later heard in the southern Damascus suburb of Sayyida Zeinab, the Observatory said.
Meanwhile US Secretary of State John Kerry has said a "provisional agreement" has been reached with Russia on a partial truce in the conflict.
After speaking with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, Mr Kerry said the world was "closer to a ceasefire today than we have been".
Earlier this month, world powers involved in Syria agreed to seek a "cessation of hostilities" but the Friday deadline has come and gone.
Mr Kerry said on Sunday that he and Mr Lavrov had agreed the terms of the cessation but stressed that details still needed to be resolved.
The attacks in Homs happened in a predominantly Alawite district, the minority sect to which President Bashar al-Assad belongs.
The Observatory warned that, with a large number of people injured, the death toll was likely to rise.
Syrian state television gave a toll of at least 25 dead.
Homs, one of the early centres of the uprising against President Assad, was once dubbed the "capital of the revolution".
But rebels left the city late last year under a ceasefire deal, leaving the city in government hands.
There are few details yet about the explosions in Sayyida Zeinab. The Observatory said there were at least four, targeting al-Tin street, with casualties feared.
The district was hit by suicide attacks last month that left 71 people dead and which IS fighters said they had carried out.
Sayyida Zeinab is the location of Syria's holiest Shia shrine, said to contain the grave of the Prophet Muhammad's granddaughter.
The Observatory also said that at least 50 Islamic State fighters had been killed in an advance by government troops, backed by Russian air strikes, east of the northern city of Aleppo in the past 24 hours.
The latest violence comes as President Assad says he hopes to be remembered as the man who "saved" Syria.
Asked by Spanish newspaper El Pais where he would see himself in 10 years' time, he said: "If Syria is safe and sound, and I'm the one who saved his country - that's my job now, that's my duty."
Mr Assad also said his army was close to encircling rebel-held parts of the key northern city of Aleppo, and were advancing on Raqqa, the main stronghold of IS fighters.
He said he was ready to implement a temporary truce as long as there were guarantees what he called "terrorists" would not use it to improve their positions.
Separately, Amnesty International has criticised Turkey for refusing entry to some Syrians wounded in the latest fighting, urging it to keep its border open.
Amnesty's crisis response director, Tirana Hassan, said: "Turkey's highly selective practice is appalling - only severely injured people are allowed entry to seek medical treatment while everyone else fleeing the violence is left unprotected."
The 2016 presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has assured cocoa farmers across the country of a massive overhaul of the cocoa sector which will ensure that the dwindling fortunes of the sector, as witnessed over the last 8 years of the National Democratic Congress government, are reversed.
According to Nana Akufo-Addo, with Ghana barely managing to produce 740,000 metric tonnes of cocoa in the 2014/2015 crop year, from a peak of 1 million metric tonnes in 2010/2011 which was achieved with programmes initiated by the Kufuor-led NPP administration, the cocoa sector, once a major foreign exchange earner for the country, is in dire need of rescue.
Thus, an Akufo-Addo government, God-willing, from 2017, will institute measures including the payment of significantly higher producer prices of cocoa above the levels which the NDC administration has provided to farmers in the last 7 years; the reintroduction of bonuses scrapped by the NDC government; ensuring that wards of cocoa farmers gain access to COCOBOD scholarships; and the reintroduction and non-politicisation of the mass spraying exercise and the hi-tech programmes. This, Nana Akufo-Addo noted, will increase massively cocoa production, whilst, at the same time, improving the welfare and livelihoods of cocoa farming communities across the country. The NPP flagbearer made this known on Tuesday, February 16, whilst addressing a townhall meeting of identifiable groups, comprising of cocoa farmers, artisans, market women, drivers, the clergy, Moslem clerics, chiefs, amongst others, in Daboase, in the Wassa East constituency, in the Western Region. Recounting the NPP’s record in the cocoa sector under President Kufuor, Nana Akufo-Addo explained that the mass cocoa spraying exercise and subsidized fertilizer programmes, originally introduced under the Kufuor administration, was solely responsible for doubling cocoa production within 2 crop years, from less than 350,000 metric tonnes in 2001/2002 to nearly 700,000 metric tonnes in 2003/2004, and to the peak of 1 million metric tonnes in 2010/2011. Through these initiatives, together with the four-fold increase in producer prices under the NPP government, Nana Akufo-Addo noted that cocoa farmers’ incomes were boosted substantially.These gains, he stressed, have, however, been quickly eroded within a short period of 8 years by President Mahama and his NDC government.“All the initiatives put in place by President Kufuor have collapsed. Mass spraying exercise has collapsed. Subsidised fertilisers no longer get to farmers. Producer price of cocoa has reduced in real terms, and cocoa bonuses which the NPP paid whilst we were in office has been scrapped. It is not surprising, therefore, that, today, producing 700,000 metric tonnes of cocoa has become very difficult. We will reverse all of this,” he assured.Responding to a plea by a representative of cocoa farmers in the constituency, about the discrimination faced by wards of cocoa farmers in trying to access COCOBOD scholarships, Nana Akufo-Addo noted that these scholarships were instituted, primarily, for children of cocoa farmers. “It is sad that children of cocoa farmers are finding it difficult to access these scholarships which are meant for them. I assure you that, God-willing, when we come into office, we are going change that,” he stressed. Nana Akufo-Addo concluded by assuring cocoa farmers across the country that his government, God-willing from 2017, will facilitate the promotion of cocoa farmers’ co-operatives as a means of making their voices heard in the formulation of policies concerning their welfare and their businesses.
The 2016 pesidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has admonished Christians in the country to renew their faith in the future of Ghana, which, despite the difficulties she currently faces, has a bright future under the right management.
Nana Akufo-Addo is urging Ghanaians not to despair in the face of hardships and difficulties, assuring that “there is hope for a brighter Ghana. What we need is that, with the help of the Almighty, our nation remains stable, united and at peace.”
The NPP flagbearer made this known when he worshipped at the St. Cyprian’s Anglican Church, the Grace Baptist Church, and the Calvary Charismatic Church, all in Kumasi, on Sunday February 21, 2016.
At the Grace Baptist Church, Nana Akufo-Addo explained that he was in Kumasi, on Saturday, February 20, for the funeral of the late wife of Mr. Antwi Adjei, the Director of Protocol of the NPP, and a veteran activist of the party. It being Sunday, he, therefore, decided to fellowship with several Christian communities in Kumasi.
He congratulated Rev. Dr. Osei-Wusu, who preached the sermon at the Grace Baptist Church, Amakom, Kumasi, for his inspiring and well-delivered sermon.
According to Nana Akufo-Addo, who was given the opportunity to address the congregation by the head pastor of the Church, Rev. Robert Asante, the heart of Rev. Dr. Osei-Wusu’s sermon is mirrored by the words of Jesus Christ as contained in Matthew 7:21 of the Holy Bible, which states that “Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord shall enter the kingdom of heaven, except he who does the will of my Father which is in heaven.”
“What he is saying is that it is not the screaming, it is not the shouting. It is the faith and being obedient to His word. That is what truly binds all of us as Christians, and I am happy I was in church when Rev. Dr. Osei-Wusu preached this word,” he said.
Nana Akufo-Addo urged the head pastor of the Church to document Rev. Dr. Osei-Wusu’s sermon “and send it round the country, as he spoke to the heart of the Christian faith.”
Difficult year for Ghana
Describing 2016 as a “difficult year for us in Ghana, which will lead to the choosing of a new government for the people”, Nana Akufo-Addo asked for prayers for Ghana, for the NPP, and for himself.
“We pray that, in this difficult year, summed up by insecurity, fear, inexplicable deaths, joblessness, and economic hardships for our people, the Lord protects us, protects Ghana, and ensures that the peace and security of our nation remain intact, even though we are going to have an election. (We pray) that the election, itself, will be conducted in a satisfactory manner whose outcome will bring us together, and not tear us apart,” he asked.
Nana Akufo-Addo also asked for prayers for the NPP, so that “the Lord extends His hands over us, gives us fellowship and solidarity, and, at the end of the day, give us victory in the 2016 election, so we can give Ghana the good governance she deserves to the glory of the Almighty, and to the benefit of the Ghanaian people.”
And “for your servant, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, pray that God gives me strength, courage, wisdom and a good heart so I can be the servant-leader the people of Ghana so ardently require.”
Nana Akufo-Addo, earlier on Sunday, went to his traditional place of worship, the St. Cyprian’s Anglican Church, at Fante Newtown, Kumasi, where the congregation also prayed for God’s strength and wisdom for the NPP leader in the run-up to the November elections.
The NPP flagbearer further attended the morning service at the Calvary Charismatic Church, at Ayigya, where the Founder and Senior Pastor of the Church, Pastor Ransford Obeng, in his sermon, bemoaned the emergence of “election year Christians”, who plague the people with suffering once they secure power.
He stressed that “the things you do to the people of Ghana when you are in power will prove whether you are a Christian or not.”
Nana Akufo-Addo, in his remarks to the congregation, thanked Pastor Obeng for the opportunity to interact with the congregation, and reiterated, to the amusement of the congregation, that “I am not an election year Christian, but a well-established Christian who worships regularly at the Ridge Church in Accra, and, if I find myself in Kumasi, at the St. Cyprian’s Anglican Church.”
He appealed to the congregation to “try me this time. This is my third attempt, and I can assure you that, when you give me the chance, I will, with the guidance of the Almighty, not disappoint you.”
The Electoral Commission has announced that it will organised the Abuakwa North by-election on the 5 April, 2016 to replace the late MP, Hon. Joseph Boakye Dankwa Adu who was gruesomely murdered at his Shiashie residence, on February, 9.
The by-election became necessary following the demise of the late MP and in accordance with Article 112 (5) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, which states:
“Whenever a vacancy occurs in Parliament, the Clerk to Parliament shall notify the Electoral Commission in writing within seven days after the vacancy occurred, and a by-election shall be held within thirty days after the vacancy occurred”
The National Democratic Congress in the Abuakwa North constituency have pledge not to contest in the upcoming election.
Their decision is to honour the memory of the late MP and one time deputy Women and Children's Affairs in the erstwhile Kufour administration.
One suspect is currently standing trail for the murder of the legislator.
19 year old Daniel Asiedu was arrested two days after the murder of the MP.
He allegedly confessed to the crime but when he appeared before the Accra Magistrate Court, he denied going to the residence of the late MP to murder him but to steal.
Vice President Kwesi Amissah-Arthur has charged the military to collaborate with the other security agencies to assuage the anxiety of the public over the November General Election.He stated that in an election year many minor issues were usually magnified out of proportion by politicians and the media to create the apprehension among the people.Vice President Amissah-Arthur made the call when he attended the 2015 West African Soldiers Social Activity (WASSA) durbar at Burma Camp.WASSA is an annual ceremony observed by all units of the Ghana Armed Forces to promote socialisation among military personnel, and to serve as an opportunity to take stock of the working year, to strategise for the coming year.Beside from being an event to have fun, it is also an avenue for renewing camaraderie among officers, other ranks and the civilian employees of the military.Vice President Amissah-Arthur said so early in the year, the country had witnessed a high profile attack on a Member of Parliament, as well as the horrific accident that occurred on the Kintampo Road, this week.He said in such situations, the military were always there to support the civilian authorities to provide safety and relief to the people.He cited the June 3, 2015 flood-fire incident at Nkrumah Circle, in which the military were at hand to protect the citizens from the ravages of the water and fire.That tragedy claimed more than 150 lives and destroyed property valued at millions of Ghana cedis.Vice President Amissah-Arthur commended the Ghana Armed Forces, especially the Airforce, for helping to airlift injured persons from Kintampo to Sunyani and other specialist hospitals for treatment.He urged the Military High Command to integrate their forces with that of the Police to enhance the security situation in the country.He urged the military to continue to support the public.He said this year being an election, one the country needed all the support it could mobilise to help Ghana retain its stability and peaceful nature.Air Vice Marshal Michael Samson-Oje, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), assured of the military’s resolve to work professionally to enhance the peace and security in the country.He said the military would continue to provide support for the public in national emergencies and crisis.Awards were presented to two civilian employees and two military officials who excelled at their various fields of endeovour.Source: GNA
The Philippine Catholic church on Sunday defended boxing hero Manny Pacquiao for his opposition to gay marriage, saying he was only quoting the Bible.
But Father Jerome Secillano also said over radio station DZMM that Pacquiao should respect homosexuals and not judge and condemn them after the eight-division world champion last week described them as worse than animals.
Pacquiao, 37, who converted from Catholicism to an evangelical Protestant faith late in his boxing career, was pilloried by local gay rights groups and celebrities and has lost lucrative commercial endorsements as a result.
Secillano, executive secretary of the Catholic bishops' public affairs office, said: "This is really in the Bible. There is this quote he (Pacquiao) uses from the Bible and we cannot change that."
He said it was "unfair" to condemn Pacquiao for echoing what he reads in the Bible when he was asked about same-sex marriage.
But Secillano also said the boxing hero should not have used such offensive language.
"The church... says that if this is your lifestyle, if this is your orientation, then we respect that, we cannot condemn them," the priest said.
He reiterated that the Catholic church, which counts 80 percent of Filipinos as followers, still opposed legalisation of same-sex marriage.
Church influence has also kept divorce and abortion from being legalised in the Philippines.
However homosexuality is not criminalised and several LGBT figures have become celebrities.
Pacquiao, who intends to retire after his April fight against American Timothy Bradley to pursue a career in politics, issued an apology on social media on Tuesday but later said his apology was qualified.
Nike, Pacquiao's major global sponsor, cancelled its endorsement deal with him in the past week, describing his comments as "abhorrent".
Pacquiao, a former street kid with little education, has used his fame and fortune to launch a political career.
Already a two-term congressman, he is campaigning to win a Senate seat in May elections. Surveys published before the controversy indicated he will win.
Pacquiao has said his ultimate ambition is to be president of the Philippines.
Drama unfolded at Asikasu in the Brong Ahafo after a farmer assaulted and striped naked a 72 year old woman for allegedly stealing his cassava on his farm.
Osei Brimah the farmer, was also attacked and assaulted by the family of the victim, Maame Animmaa for disgracing their grandmother.
Narrating the incident to Nyankonton Mu Nsem, Christopher Anto said, the farmer who owns the cassava farm pounced on the aged woman and stripped her naked in the full glare of the public.
Family members of the victim did not also take it likely with the farmer, attacked him.
A 40 year-old farmer is currently on the run after inflicting wounds on his biological daughter for refusing him sex.
The farmer allegedly attempted having sex with the daughter but she resisted.
Suspect whose Agya Yaw reportedly struggled and strangled his daughter who almost died and threatened to expose him for attempting to sexual abusing her.
The suspect and victim both resides at Praman-Nkwanta near Asenkraguaa in the Western region.
Victim who is in a critical is currently admitted at the hospital receiving medical attention.