In the world | Africatime
Friday 28 April 2017

In the world

(AFP )

Pope Francis landed in the Egyptian capital on Friday to promote dialogue with Muslims and support the country's embattled Christians who have suffered a series of jihadist attacks.

He is scheduled to head from Cairo airport to meetings with Muslim and Christian leaders before visiting a church that had been bombed in December.

Francis, who will lead a mass on Saturday, had said that he hoped his 27-hour visit would support the region's Christians and send a "message of brotherhood" to Muslims.

(AFP )

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan voiced confidence Friday that he and Donald Trump can open a "new page" in troubled Turkey-US ties when they meet next month, after discord over Syria and last year's failed coup.

The May summit between Erdogan and Trump, their first face-to-face encounter as heads of state, is a chance to mend a relationship between two key NATO allies that was strained by a series of disputes under former president Barack Obama.

(AFP )

France's wartime past took centre stage in the presidential race on Friday, with far-right hopeful Marine Le Pen's party scrambling to stamp out a controversy over Holocaust remarks while centrist Emmanuel Macron visited the site of a Nazi massacre.

Nine days before the second round of the keenly-watched election, Le Pen's anti-immigration National Front (FN) found itself again fighting a furore over a senior official's reported remarks about the World War II gas chambers.

(AFP )

China on Friday praised US president Donald Trump's snub of Taiwan, noting that observers had called his decision not to take a second call from the island's president a "slap in the face".

Trump rattled China in December after taking a congratulatory call from the self-ruling island's new Beijing-sceptic president Tsai Ing-wen after his election, smashing decades of diplomatic precedent.

(AFP )

Rap has been called a universal language -- but it can also be a tool to preserve languages at risk.

In small communities around the world, indigenous people have been embracing rap as a means of communication, giving new lifeblood to their languages while reaching unexpected new audiences.

The artists' backgrounds and motivations are diverse -- but one common thread is a realization of the power of hip-hop.

(AFP )

The party of French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen changed its interim leader for the second time in four days on Friday after her first stand-in was accused of praising the work of a Holocaust denier.

Le Pen announced on Monday she was temporarily stepping aside as leader of the National Front (FN) to remain "above partisan considerations" while campaigning in the second round of the presidential election.

She goes head-to-head against centrist Emmanuel Macron in a runoff on May 7.

(AFP )

Russian prosecutors on Friday called for a three-and-a-half year jail sentence for a blogger who hunted Pokemons in church, in a case that has drawn ire from rights activists.

Ruslan Sokolovsky posted a YouTube video in August 2016 showing him playing Pokemon Go on his phone in a Russian Orthodox church in the central city of Yekaterinburg that was viewed more than 1.7 million times.

(AFP )

France's far-right leader Marine Le Pen faces the biggest test yet of her six-year drive to improve the image of her party as she seeks to entice new voters needed to make her president.

To stand a chance of winning, she will need to convince people like pensioner Jacques Villain and student Marina Campana ahead of the final round of the presidential election on May 7.

Both of them backed defeated candidates in the first round last weekend and now face a choice between Le Pen and pro-European centrist Emmanuel Macron in the run-off.

(AFP )

An unprecedented ban on Whatsapp, Facebook and Twitter in Indian Kashmir has highlighted social media's role in energising an insurgency that has roiled the disputed Himalayan region for decades.

Authorities in the Kashmir valley this week ordered internet service providers to block 15 social media services for at least one month, saying they were being misused by "anti-national and anti-social elements".

(AFP )

A toddler born with three legs -- because body parts of a twin had grown inside her -- was returning home to Bangladesh Friday after complex and rare surgery in Australia enabled her to walk and run, her doctor said.

Three-year-old Choity Khatun was given little prospect of survival until she was brought to Melbourne last year by Australian charity Children First Foundation.

A team of surgeons spent several months mapping out a procedure to reconstruct her anatomy.

(AFP )

Ninety-nine days after taking office, President Donald Trump on Friday is set to address the National Rifle Association, the hugely powerful US gun lobby that will surely give him a triumphant welcome.

The event will be heavy with symbolism.

Republican candidates jostling to the doors of the organization that prides itself on its ability to influence local and national elections may be a common sight. However, a sitting president addressing the group's members is far less so, the last time dating back nearly 35 years to Ronald Reagan.

(AFP )

A British soldier jailed for killing an injured Taliban fighter in Afghanistan was freed on Friday after his sentence was reduced from murder to manslaughter, his lawyer said.

Former Royal Marine Alexander Blackman was jailed for life in 2013 for shooting the fighter at close range in Helmand Province on September 15, 2011, after the man was injured by helicopter fire.

The sentence was later reduced to eight years but a judge in March reduced this further to seven years, quashing the murder conviction and replacing it with one of manslaughter by diminished responsibility.

(AFP )

Scores of people were injured as violence erupted in Macedonia's parliament after nationalist protesters stormed the building in anger over a vote for a new speaker, the interior ministry said Friday.

The chaos in Skopje broke out on Thursday evening, with dozens of demonstrators -- including a group of masked men -- breaking a police cordon and entering parliament waving Macedonian flags, shouting and singing the national anthem.

(AFP )

British bank Barclays, whose chief executive faces a regulatory probe, said Friday that first-quarter net profits sank by more than half on a large impairment at its Africa division.

Profit after taxation dived to £190 million ($245 million, 225 million euros) in the first three months of 2017 after taking a vast £884-million charge on its Africa unit, Barclays said in a statement.

However, group pre-tax profit excluding exceptional items more than doubled to £1.68 billion, aided partly by deep cost-cutting and the sale of non-core assets.

(AFP )

Arkansas executed another inmate on Thursday, the last in a series of lethal injections that the state has squeezed into a compressed timeline, even as the daughter of one of his victims appealed for clemency.

A plan by the conservative southern state to execute eight prisoners in 11 days -- before its stock of a drug used in legal injections expires -- set off a huge legal battle.

It was challenged not only by lawyers for the condemned men but also pharmaceutical companies opposed to their products being used to put people to death.

(AFP )

A dozen people have been found stuffed inside a closet-sized cell hidden behind a book shelf in a Philippine police station, triggering further alarm about abuse under President Rodrigo Duterte's deadly war on drugs.

Members of the government's human rights commission, accompanied by journalists, found the men and women in a surprise visit to the station in the heart of Manila's slum area on Thursday evening.

(AFP )

Joseph Joffo's childhood came to an end at the age of 10, when his father gave him and his brother 5,000 francs each and instructions to flee Paris and escape the Nazis.

The boys were told they must never let anyone know they were Jews as they went on the run -- by foot, train and ferry -- from Hitler's feared SS secret police in occupied France.

Joffo's 1973 autobiographical novel "A Bag of Marbles" recounted their incredible journey, their capture and subsequent escape, and became a global phenomenon, made into a film and a graphic novel.

(AFP )

Southeast Asian countries will express "grave concern" over North Korea's nuclear weapons tests and ballistic missile launches, despite Pyongyang's appeal for support, according to a draft statement due to be released Friday.

In a rare move, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-Ho wrote to the ASEAN regional bloc's secretary general appealing for backing in its row with the United States to prevent what it warned could be a "nuclear holocaust".

(AFP )

Seoul on Friday brushed aside US President Donald Trump's suggestion it should pay for a $1 billion missile defence system the two allies are installing in South Korea to guard against threats from the North.

The first parts of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system have already been delivered to a former golf course in the South -- infuriating China -- at a time of heightened tensions over Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programmes.

Top US officials have said THAAD will be operational "within days".

(AFP )

The Afghan Taliban launched their "spring offensive" Friday, heralding fresh fighting in the drawn-out conflict as embattled security forces struggle to recover from a devastating attack on a military base one week ago.

Operation Mansouri -- named after the group's former leader, killed in a US drone strike in 2016 -- will target foreign forces with "conventional attacks, guerrilla warfare, complex martyrdom attacks, insider attacks", an insurgent statement said.

"The enemy will be targeted, harassed, killed or captured until they abandon their last posts," it continued.

(AFP )

Hipsters in flowing skirts and crop tops sway to the Thai band's hypnotic groove at an exclusive music festival in Thailand, while a clutch of cleaning staff quietly look on from the fringes.

"I had no idea foreigners like molam," says 55-year-old Saengyan Promduang, referring to the folk tunes unique to her rural home region that are captivating the well-heeled crowd outside Bangkok.

Alternately sunny and haunting, the molam sound was once sneered at by wealthy Thais as 'poor people music' from the rice-farming northeast, a region with closer cultural links to Laos.

(AFP )

Just like Asterix's small village held out against the Romans, 2,000 years later in Romania a fight is on to keep Latin alive just as it dies elsewhere in Europe.

Latin is compulsory at all Romanian schools for one hour a week in the final year of middle school -- ages 13 to 14 -- and for older pupils studying literature.

This makes Romania an outlier in Europe. Even Italy, the cradle of Roman civilisation, abandoned compulsory Latin for all middle school pupils in 1977.

(AFP )

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's deadly drug war is part of a worrying assault on human rights and democracy across Southeast Asia, activists said as regional leaders gathered in Manila on Friday.

Duterte has been condemned in the West for the crackdown, which has claimed thousands of lives since he took power last year, but he is expected to enjoy the support of most of his guests as he hosts the heads of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

(AFP )

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte hosts Southeast Asian leaders this week, and there is much interest in how the popular politician who boasts about not being a statesman will handle the event.

Many Filipinos love Duterte, 72, for his man-of-the people habits, such as eating food with his hands, wearing casual clothes even in formal situations and lacing his language with street-level curses.

(AFP )

Global press freedom has hit a 13-year low, threatened by US President Donald Trump's media bashing and restrictions pursued by both democratic and authoritarian governments, a watchdog said Friday.

A survey by Freedom House, a US-based human rights organization, highlighted growing concerns over efforts by governments around the world to clamp down on media and dissent.

(AFP )

Demonstrators stormed Macedonia's parliament Thursday and attacked MPs, including the opposition leader, in protest against a vote for a new parliamentary speaker.

Zoran Zaev, who leads the main opposition Social Democrats, was seen with blood on his face amid the chaos, while Interior Minister Agim Nuhiu told media that 10 deputies had been injured, as well as some police and journalists.

The violence erupted after around 100 nationalist protesters supporting the rival VMRO-DPMNE party entered parliament waving Macedonian flags and singing the national anthem.

(AFP )

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will chair a UN Security Council meeting on Friday to push for a tougher response to North Korea and pile pressure on China to rein in its ally.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will attend the meeting that follows weeks of warnings from the US administration that it will no longer tolerate North Korea's missile launches and nuclear tests.

The United States has called for stronger UN sanctions on North Korea, but it wants China to take the lead in diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis.

(AFP )

Two suspected jihadists arrested in Spain have admitted being in Brussels airport at the time of the deadly March 2016 attack but deny involvement, a court spokesman said.

Mohamed Lamsalak and Youssef Ben Hammou were arrested earlier in the week as part of a joint investigation between Spanish and Belgian police. Officers seized firearms, drugs and cash in raids connected to the operation.

(AFP )

A pair of filmmakers at the prestigious TED Conference used virtual reality to allow people to experience the ravages of deforestation -- from the perspective of a tree.

A presentation Thursday simply titled "Tree" combined sound, sight, smell and touch to let people feel first-hand what is lost when lush forest burns down.

"It was very real: At one point I was going to take the headset off and ask about the fire," TED attendee Elle Luna said after trying "Tree."

"Your thinking mind sort of stops and you just feel it all."

(AFP )

A woman was shot by police in London during an anti-terror raid on Thursday following an intelligence operation, the city's Metropolitan Police said.

The woman in her twenties was shot at an address in north-west London during an "ongoing counter terrorism investigation", police said in a statement.

She was one of the subjects of the terror probe and remains under police guard in hospital.

The evening raid saw three people arrested on terrorism charges, including two at the scene -- a 16-year-old boy and a 20-year-old woman -- as well as a 20-year-old man nearby.

(AFP )

El Salvador on Thursday became the first country in the world to ban the mining of metals in what campaigners called a landmark move for environmental protection.

The law bans "prospection, exploration, exploitation, extraction or processing of metallic minerals in El Salvador," according to the text published Thursday in the official journal.

"This is more than just a novelty," the president of the Salvadoran Ecological Unit, Mauricio Sermeno, told AFP.

(AFP )

EU leaders will discuss at a summit this weekend whether to back automatic membership for Northern Ireland after Brexit if it ever reunifies with Ireland, sources said on Friday.

Ireland is expected to ask the 27 European Union leaders to endorse the idea when they meet in Brussels on Saturday without Britain to adopt guidelines for Brexit negotiations.

(AFP )

The US prosecution of the massive corruption scandal rocking world soccer scalped a new head on Thursday: the football chief on the tiny Pacific island of Guam.

Richard Lai, a 55-year-old US citizen, pleaded guilty Thursday in a federal court in New York to accepting nearly $1 million in bribes from 2009-2014, US prosecutors announced.

He pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud conspiracy and one count of failing to disclose foreign bank accounts, and agreed to pay $1.1 million in fines and forfeiture.

(AFP )

German lawmakers on Thursday approved a partial ban on the full-face burqa Islamic veil and a package of security measures aimed at preventing extremist attacks.

The new laws follow several jihadist attacks, including a truck rampage through a Berlin Christmas market that claimed 12 lives, and come ahead of September elections.

The new law on facial coverings falls short of a total ban in public places demanded by right-wing parties, like that in effect in neighbouring France since 2011.

(AFP )

The UN Security Council on Thursday postponed voting on a draft resolution on the Western Sahara conflict amid signs the Polisario Front independence movement was preparing a pullback from a tense zone of the contested territory, a council diplomat said.

The US-drafted text included a strong appeal to the Polisario Front to immediately withdraw from the Guerguerat strip, which has become a potential flashpoint between the independence fighters and Moroccan troops.