Wednesday 23 August 2017

In the world

(AFP )

The head of India's railways has quit after a series of deadly accidents on the crumbling network, an official said Wednesday.

The move came days after 23 people were killed when a train derailed in northern India, the fourth major disaster on the country's railways this year.

K. Mittal, who had been in the post since 2014, will be succeeded by Ashwani Lohani, a former engineer credited with helping state-run Air India turn its first profit after over a decade of losses.

(AFP )

Angry and offended Pakistanis fired back Wednesday against Donald Trump's accusations that their country harbours militants, highlighting the heavy toll they have paid fighting extremism and slamming his embrace of arch-rival India.

The US president unleashed blistering criticism of Pakistan this week as he unveiled his new Afghanistan policy which paves the way for the indefinite deployment of more troops to the war-weary country.

(AFP )

More than 30 people, including civilians, were reported have been killed Wednesday in air raids on Yemen's capital, where a Saudi-lead coalition has been bombing Iran-backed Huthi rebels.

The Huthis, who control Sanaa along with forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, blamed the pro-government Arab military coalition for the attack on Arhab district.

The rebels' claim that the Saudi-led coalition had carried out the attack was made in a statement on their Al-Massira television channel. A spokesperson for the coalition not reachable for comment.

(AFP )

Acclaimed Russian theatre and film director Kirill Serebrennikov was put under house arrest Wednesday after being charged with fraud in a case that has sent shockwaves through the arts community.

The director had already denounced the charges against him as "absurd" after investigators detained him in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday and drove him to the Investigative Committee offices in Moscow. He was then held in jail ahead of the hearing.

(AFP )

Venezuela's fugitive former top prosecutor promised to use an international forum in Brazil on Wednesday to intensify corruption allegations against President Nicolas Maduro, who called for her arrest.

Days after a dramatic escape from Venezuela, Luisa Ortega, 59, arrived in the Brazilian capital Brasilia late Tuesday, promising to dish dirt on Maduro, who in turn asked Interpol to put out a "red notice" warrant for his critic.

Ortega was taking part in a crime-fighting conference with representatives from the Latin American regional trading alliance Mercosur.

(AFP )

Thousands of Rohingya have crossed into Bangladesh since Myanmar announced a military build-up in Rakhine state earlier this month, community leaders said Wednesday.

Rakhine in northern Myanmar has been gripped by violence since October, when militants attacked police posts.

That sparked a bloody military crackdown that the UN believes may amount to ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya, a mainly Muslim minority living in Buddhist Myanmar.

On August 12 authorities in Myanmar said hundreds of troops had moved into Rakhine as it ramps up counterinsurgency efforts there.

(AFP )

French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published Wednesday a provocative front-page cartoon about Islam and the recent terror attacks in Spain, leading to criticism that it risked fanning Islamophobia.

The latest edition of the magazine, which was targeted by Islamist gunmen in 2015, shows two people lying in a pool of blood having been run over by a van next to the words "Islam, eternal religion of peace."

(AFP )

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari cancelled the weekly cabinet meeting he was due to lead Wednesday, the first since returning from a long overseas medical absence, raising questions about his health.

An announcement Tuesday that Buhari will work from home following more than 100 days of medical treatment in London because of a rodent infestation in his official office had already raised questions about his condition.

(AFP )

The Philippines' largest Muslim rebel group said Wednesday it had lost 10 fighters in battles to stop a "growing force" of radical militants who support the Islamic State group.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front is seeking to prevent the militants from gaining a foothold in an area of Mindanao island that the MILF calls its own, senior rebel leader Mohagher Iqbal told AFP.

Iqbal said 50 or so militants had pledged allegiance to IS and had ties to gunmen waging a deadly three-month-old battle with government forces in the southern city of Marawi.

(AFP )

Pentagon chief Jim Mattis held talks with Turkish leaders in Ankara on Wednesday focusing on Washington's arming of a Syrian Kurdish militia viewed as a terror group by Turkey, a move which has strained ties between the NATO allies.

Mattis flew in for the one-day visit after stopping in Iraq to review progress in the campaign against the Islamic State group, urging coalition partners to prevent other political issues from disrupting the growing momentum against the jihadists.

(AFP )

President Donald Trump on Tuesday mounted an aggressive defense of his response to a deadly far-right march in Virginia, using a rally speech to condemn "dishonest" media coverage of his widely criticized remarks.

Trump faced bipartisan outrage after blaming "many sides" for violence at the rally in Charlottesville, in which one anti-fascist protester was killed.

(AFP )

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was in Iraq on Wednesday to warn Iraqi and Kurdish leaders against next month's independence referendum in the country's Kurdish region.

Cavusoglu had already warned last week that the vote planned for September 25 could even bring Iraq "to civil war".

After holding talks in Baghdad, the Turkish minister was due to meet Iraqi Kurdistan president Massud Barzani in Arbil, the capital of the autonomous region.

(AFP )

A UN committee tasked with combatting racism has issued a formal "early warning" over conditions in the United States, a rare move often used to signal the potential of a looming civil conflict.

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said it had invoked its "early warning and urgent action procedure" because of the proliferation of racist demonstrations in the US.

(AFP )

The Czech Republic will go to the polls in January in only the second presidential election in the country's modern history decided by popular vote, the Senate speaker said Wednesday.

About 20 candidates including the incumbent President Milos Zeman have already thrown their hats into the ring ahead of the vote which speaker Milan Stech said would take place on January 12-13.

If no candidate wins an absolute majority, the vote will go to a second round on January 26-27, Stech said on public television.

(AFP )

The European Court of Justice could wield influence in Britain even after Brexit through joint rulings with British officials, the government said on Wednesday in what critics described as a "climbdown".

The proposals outlined also left open the possibility of the ECJ having jurisdiction during any transition periods agreed for after Britain leaves the bloc and before a new UK-EU partnership comes into force.

(AFP )

Police on Wednesday widened their probe into a terror cell that unleashed carnage in Spain last week, after a suspect admitted the jihadists were targeting monuments in Barcelona in an even bigger attack.

Officers carried out new raids overnight to root out a possible support network for the men, accused of ploughing vehicles into pedestrians on Barcelona's busy Las Ramblas boulevard and a seaside promenade in the resort town of Cambrils, claiming 15 lives including a young boy and wounding more than 120 people.

(AFP )

A prominent Chinese-born academic has lost an appeal against Singapore's decision to expel him for allegedly being an "agent of influence" for a foreign government, the interior ministry said Wednesday.

Huang Jing, a US citizen who worked at leading postgraduate school the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, and his wife were stripped of their Singapore permanent residency status on August 4.

Authorities accused him of working as "an agent of influence of a foreign country", and trying to use his prominent position to influence Singapore's foreign policy.

(AFP )

British travel group Thomas Cook, one of the world's biggest tour operators, said it would resume organising holidays to Tunisia, more than two years after a terror attack in which 38 people were killed.

"At the end of July this year, the UK government changed its advice for Tunisia meaning that British holidaymakers can now travel to the majority of the country," Carol MacKenzie, head of customer welfare at Thomas Cook said in a blog post late on Tuesday.

(AFP )

Despite fabulous oil riches, Angola remains one of the poorest countries in the world and is one of the most closed societies on the African continent.

The southern African country was ravaged by a devastating civil war between 1975 and 2002 and has been led since 1979 by President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who is to hand over power after Wednesday's general elections.

Here are five things to know about the country, which at 1,246,700 square kilometres (498,680 square miles), is almost twice as big as the US state of Texas.

- Oil riches, economic rags -

(AFP )

China said Wednesday that new US sanctions targeting Chinese firms linked to North Korea "will not help" cooperation with Beijing in the nuclear crisis.

The US Treasury Department Tuesday slapped punitive measures on a series of Chinese and Russian individuals and companies, accusing them of supporting North Korea's nuclear programme and trying to evade US sanctions.

President Donald Trump has pressed China to do more to persuade its ally North Korea to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

(AFP )

A Taliban suicide bomber killed five people and wounded dozens of others, mainly children as young as five, after detonating a car packed with explosives at a police headquarters in southern Afghanistan Wednesday.

It was the insurgents' first major attack since US President Donald Trump announced in Washington late Monday that he was committing American troops to the war-torn country indefinitely.

(AFP )

The headless torso of a woman found floating at sea is that of a Swedish journalist who authorities believe died aboard a Danish inventor's homemade submarine, police said Wednesday.

"The DNA of the torso matches that of Kim Wall," Copenhagen police announced on Twitter.

In a grisly case that has gripped public imagination, Danish inventor Peter Madsen has been accused of the negligent manslaughter of 30-year-old Kim Wall as she interviewed him aboard his 60-foot (18-metre) submarine on August 10.

She had been missing since then.

- Blood in the submarine -

(AFP )

Walmart, the world's biggest retailer, and Google, the internet's predominant search engine, are teaming up in an attempt to challenge Amazon's growing dominance in online shopping.

The deal will make the retailer's products available on Google Express, and follows Amazon's announcement that it plans to acquire supermarket chain Whole Foods.

(AFP )

Pentagon chief Jim Mattis arrived in Ankara on Wednesday for talks with Turkish leaders expected to focus on Washington's arming of a Syrian Kurdish militia, which Turkey views as a terror group, in the fight against Islamic State.

Mattis flew in for the one-day visit after stopping in Iraq to review progress in the campaign against IS militants, where he urged coalition partners to prevent other political issues from disrupting the growing momentum against the jihadists.

(AFP )

Acclaimed Russian theatre and film director Kirill Serebrennikov was due to appear before a judge Wednesday after being charged with fraud in a case that has sent shockwaves through the arts community.

The director denounced the charges against him as "absurd" after investigators detained him in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday and drove him to the Investigative Committee offices in Moscow, later sending him to jail ahead of the hearing.

(AFP )

A polo-playing prince from Brunei set off frenzied scenes when he was mobbed by fans at the Southeast Asian Games in Malaysia, where a group of athletic royals has been in the limelight.

Dozens of spectators, mainly female, screamed and clamoured for selfies when Prince Abdul Mateen, sixth in line to the oil-rich sultanate's throne, strode out to meet them in his jodphurs.

The 26-year-old, who has more than half-a-million followers on Instagram, looked slightly bemused as he met his excited fans, separated from them by a barrier and closely guarded by minders.

(AFP )

Typhoon Hato left three dead in the gambling hub of Macau Wednesday as it brought chaos and destruction to the enclave after sweeping through neighbouring Hong Kong, where one man also died.

Local media showed severe flooding had left cars underwater and people swimming in Macau's city streets, with the territory's mega-casinos running on back-up generators.

(AFP )

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un is "starting to respect" the United States, President Donald Trump declared, even as Pyongyang revealed plans for its missile development Wednesday and Kim ordered a production boost.

Trump's remarks, at a rally in Phoenix, came hours after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said talks with the nuclear-armed North over its banned weapons programmes might be possible "in the near future".

(AFP )

A Mexican journalist under government protection was shot dead Tuesday in the violent state of Veracruz, officials said, the 10th journalist murdered in Mexico this year.

Candido Rios, a crime reporter for a regional newspaper, was gunned down outside a convenience store in the eastern town of Hueyapan de Ocampo along with two other people, including a former police inspector, police sources said.

(AFP )

Cambodia on Wednesday closed a prominent American NGO and ordered its foreign staff to leave the country, the latest salvo by Prime Minister Hun Sen against perceived critics before a general election next year.

The order comes a day after the strongman premier threatened the Cambodia Daily, one of the country's few remaining critical newspapers, with closure over an alleged unpaid tax bill of $6.3 million, calling them "thieves".

(AFP )

The US Navy confirmed Wednesday it had sacked the commander of its Seventh Fleet after a deadly collision between a destroyer and a tanker off Singapore, the latest of several accidents involving an American warship in Asian waters.

Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin was relieved "due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command", a navy statement said.

The navy is undertaking a fleet-wide global investigation after Monday's incident involving the USS John S. McCain, which left 10 sailors missing and five injured after a gaping hole was torn in the warship's side.

(AFP )

A spate of incidents involving US warships in Asia, including a deadly collision this week off Singapore, has forced the navy to consider whether cyberattackers might be to blame.

While some experts believe that being able to engineer such a collision would be unlikely, given the security systems of the US Navy and the logistics of having two ships converge, others say putting the recent incidents down to human error and coincidence is an equally unsatisfactory explanation.

(AFP )

Gasps echo across the hall as the Myanmar school kids trial virtual reality goggles, marveling at a device that allows some of Asia's poorest people to walk on the moon or dive beneath the waves.

"In Myanmar we can't afford much to bring students to the real world experience," beamed Hla Hla Win, a teacher and tech entrepreneur taking virtual reality into the classroom.

"If they're learning about animals we can't take them to the zoo... 99 percent of parents don't have time, don't have money, don't have the means," she added.

(AFP )

The heir to the Samsung empire faces the verdict in his corruption trial Friday, which threatens to leave the world's biggest smartphone maker rudderless for more than a decade.

Lee Jae-Yong, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics and the son of Samsung group chairman Lee Kun-Hee, has been groomed all his life to take over the giant conglomerate founded by his grandfather in 1938.

It is by far the largest of the chaebols, the family-controlled firms that dominate Asia's fourth-largest economy, which some South Koreans self-mockingly dub the "Republic of Samsung".

(AFP )

A year to the minute that a earthquake struck the Amatrice region, Italy on Thursday will remember the 299 victims killed in the night-time disaster that still haunts the country.

Survivors will hold a candle-lit procession in the early hours, even as Ischia island to the south, recovers from Italy's latest quake -- and critics again criticise the government for failing to shore-up the nation's poorly constructed buildings.