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The Cities This Week: Edition 30




A woman signs a recall petition against San Diego Mayor Bob Filner during a rally in downtown San Diego, Aug. 18, 2013. Mike Blake/Reuters

A woman signs a recall petition against San Diego Mayor Bob Filner during a rally in downtown San Diego, Aug. 18, 2013. Mike Blake/Reuters

SAN DIEGO

Mayor Bob Filner agreed Friday to resign in return for the city’s help defending him against claims he groped, kissed and made lewd comments to women, allegations that shook and embarrassed the city and turned the former 10-term congressman into a national punch line. Filner was regretful and defiant during a City Council meeting as he explained the “the toughest decision of my life.” He apologized to his accusers but insisted he was innocent of sexual harassment and said he was the victim of a “lynch mob.” “The city should not have to go through this, and my own personal failures were responsible and I apologize to the city,” Filner said after the council voted 7-0 on a deal that ended a political stalemate after 17 women publicly accused him of harassment.

SOCHI

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree banning demonstrations and severely restricting vehicle usage in Sochi before, during and after the upcoming Winter Olympics, creating a “forbidden zone” around the city. The country’s official government newspaper, Rossiyskaya Gazeta, published the decree earlier today. It bans all “gatherings, rallies, demonstrations, marches and pickets” from January 7 to March 21. The Winter Games run from February 7 through 23 and the Paralympics run from March 7 to 16. The decree also includes heavy restrictions on vehicle use in Sochi. Only emergency vehicles, vehicles accredited by Olympic organizers, and cars with local license plates will be allowed to enter the city during those ten-and-a-half weeks. Russian authorities say they hope the restrictions will prevent attacks by insurgents in nearby North Caucasus republics.

IRAQI CITIES

A series of attacks in Iraq on Sunday left at least 42 people dead, continuing a recent a surge in violence that authorities have failed to stem despite wide-ranging operations targeting militants. Blasts struck a variety of neighbourhoods across Baghdad and in predominantly Sunni Arab towns and cities to the north. A series of bombings — two car bombs and a roadside bomb — went off between 4:00 pm and 5:30 pm in the capital and its outskirts, killing nine people and wounding 22 others, officials said. Among those confirmed dead in the day of violence was an eight-year-old girl. One of the worst assaults took place near the northern city of Mosul, where police say militants set up a fake security checkpoint, captured five soldiers and shot them dead. Violence has spiraled in the country since a security crackdown in April on a Sunni protest camp.

LAGOS

In the wake of numerous building collapses claiming lives in Lagos in recent months, 1800 buildings have been sealed by the state government and are awaiting demolition. Distressed buildings with poor structural integrity are a risk to residents and violate the physical planning and urban development laws of the state. While some buildings are still set to undergo integrity testing, other demolitions have already begun. This Day reports: the General Manager of the state Building Control Agency (LASBCA), Mrs. Abimbola Animashaun, explained that many of the affected property owners had refused, “to come forward to do the necessary for the re-opening of their properties. Some of the properties owners have removed our seal and we are taking action on those that refuse to do the necessary things for their properties to be re-opened.” She added that the state government would no longer tolerate people violating its town planning laws as such structures would be demolished before they killed people, adding that government was ready to prosecute defaulters.

JERUSALEM

Jerusalem pushed forward Sunday with plans to construct 1,500 apartments in east Jerusalem in a move that could undermine recently renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. City spokeswoman Brachie Sprung said city officials had approved plans to lay down infrastructure for the project. She called the move a “standard and bureaucratic process” and said final government approval was still required. Actual construction is still years away, she said. Still, the move comes just after Israelis and Palestinians resumed talks after a five-year stalemate. Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem is one of the thornier issues separating the two sides.

CAPE TOWN

For the first time in 33 years, Blanche Kensley, 82, has an address in District Six. “Hi everybody, I’m back home to stay,” the delighted woman said, waving her ownership placard about on her burgundy stoep. “I saw this place in my dreams, but now it’s a reality.” Blanche received the placard from city mayor Patricia de Lille, Premier Helen Zille and Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti at a ceremony in District Six on Saturday, when 66 new houses were handed over to claimants. Kensley was one of the last people to be removed from District Six in 1980, when she lived in Constitution Street. The area was declared “whites only” by the government in 1966, and under the Group Areas Act residents were removed to the Cape Flats and their houses bulldozed.

CZECH CITIES

Hundreds of far-right activists have staged anti-Roma marches in towns and cities across the Czech Republic. In some areas, stones were thrown at police who responded with tear gas. At least 75 arrests were made. Amnesty International expressed concern earlier this month over the planned marches, urging officials to protect the Roma community. The Roma are among the poorest people in Czech society and Roma leaders often complain of endemic discrimination. The worst clashes during Saturday’s seven rallies took place in Ostrava and Ceske Budejovice, Radio Prague reported. In both cities, the marchers left the approved route and tried to reach areas with large Roma populations.

MUMBAI

Indian police have arrested all five suspects over the gangrape of a photo-journalist in Mumbai, a crime that prompted anger about women’s safety in the country following a similar attack last year. Sadanand Date, the joint commissioner of Mumbai police, told Reuters that the last two suspects had been arrested, including one detained in the capital New Delhi, hundreds of miles north of Mumbai. New Delhi police declined to comment. The 23-year-old journalist was taking photographs with a male colleague on Thursday evening in an abandoned textile factory compound next to a fashionable area of apartment and office blocks, shops and restaurants. The gang allegedly tied the male colleague up using a belt before repeatedly raping the woman. The victim of the Mumbai assault was in a stable condition in a hospital where she said she wanted to get back to work.

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Melissa Meyer

Future Cape Town London-based correspondent

Urbanist-in-training from Cape Town, currently working in London. MSc City Design & Social Science.

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