In the world | Africatime
Wednesday 22 March 2017

In the world

(AFP )

Syrian rivals were to resume UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva on Thursday, with escalating violence and deadlock on key issues dimming hopes of a breakthrough.

UN envoy Staffan de Mistura tried to strike an optimistic note when the previous round ended last month.

He insisted government and rebel negotiators had agreed on a "clear agenda" and that "everything is ready" for the talks to move forward.

(AFP )

Josleidy Ramirez, a FARC guerrilla, never had a chance to raise the son she gave birth to 15 years ago in the middle of Colombia's civil war.

Now, with peace on the horizon, she is four months pregnant and looking forward to the chance to finally be a mom.

A baby boom has swept the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, as the leftist rebel group has embarked on a historic peace process with the government.

Dozens of babies have been born to guerrilla parents since peace talks opened in 2012.

(AFP )

A house clad in mirrors pops out of the California desert. It blends into the landscape, reflecting a kaleidoscope of the urban grid and arid valley of Palm Springs -- to the delight of photographers and selfie-seekers.

This is Doug Aitken's "Mirage," one of the showstoppers of Desert X, an exhibition of 16 site-specific monumental works by international artists that spans southern California's Coachella Valley.

(AFP )

New Zealand and South Africa were both hit by injuries Thursday, two days from the start of the third Test, with Tim Southee ruled out and Quinton de Kock in doubt.

New Zealand bowling spearhead Southee has a torn hamstring while de Kock is nursing a ligament injury to the index finger on his right hand.

Southee's injury left New Zealand sweating on the fitness of his new-ball partner Trent Boult who missed the second Test, won by South Africa by eight wickets, because of leg soreness.

(AFP )

South Korea’s sunken Sewol ferry emerged from the waters Thursday, nearly three years after it went down with the loss of more than 300 lives and dealt a crushing blow to now-ousted president Park Geun-Hye.

Television pictures showed one side of the 6,825-tonne vessel, its white structure rusted and filthy, above the waves between two giant salvage barges.

The complex operation -- one of the largest raisings of an entire ship ever attempted -- comes as the third anniversary approaches of one of the country's worst-ever maritime disasters.

(AFP )

World leaders unanimously condemned the attack in the heart of London by a man who was shot dead by armed police, with many saying they stand with Britain.

At least four people were killed and more than 40 injured in the attack outside parliament Wednesday when a man mowed down pedestrians with a car then leapt out and stabbed a police officer.

In an address outside her Downing Street office, Prime Minister Theresa May described the attack as "sick and depraved" saying the assailant chose the site as an assault on Britain's democratic values.

- Germany -

(AFP )

Amnesty International on Thursday condemned the United States and Britain for transferring arms to Saudi Arabia to use in its war in Yemen.

The rights group said the two countries had together sent more than five billion dollars (4.6 billion euros) worth of arms to Riyadh since a Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015.

That was more than 10 times their humanitarian aid to Yemen during the same period, it said.

The London-based watchdog described the alleged arms transfers as a "shameful contradiction" of aid efforts by the United States and Britain.

(AFP )

Donald Trump's communications may have been swept up in intelligence gathering on suspected foreign agents, according to explosive allegations made by the Republican head of the House intelligence committee.

Devin Nunes -- who worked on Trump's transition team and is now leading an investigation into possible links between that campaign team and Russia -- said Trump's communications may have been intercepted late last year.

(AFP )

Four people were killed and 40 injured after being run over and stabbed in a lightning attack at the gates of British democracy attributed by police to "Islamist-related terrorism".

The attack unfolded on Wednesday across Westminster Bridge in the shadow of Big Ben, a towering landmark that draws tourists by the millions and stands over Britain's Houses of Parliament -- the very image of London.

(AFP )

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte warned Thursday he may impose martial law and suspend elections for tens of thousands of local posts, fuelling concerns about democracy under his rule.

Duterte said he was considering both measures as part of his controversial campaign to eradicate illegal drugs in society, and that martial law would solve a range of other security threats.

"If I declare martial law, I will finish all the problems, not just drugs," Duterte told reporters in a pre-dawn briefing after returning from neighbouring Thailand, which is under military rule.

(AFP )

Tens of thousands of Argentine public school teachers protested Wednesday for higher salaries, the latest salvo in an increasingly nasty dispute with President Mauricio Macri's government.

A sea of teachers and students marched on the Plaza de Mayo, the square in front of the presidential palace, many waving signs reading "I got stuck in public school, but I'm learning."

That was a reference to a gaffe by Macri on Tuesday, when he lamented the fate of those "stuck" in Argentina's public schools.

"Argentine teachers are angry," said protest leader Sonia Alesso.

(AFP )

Brazil's government fought Wednesday to save the country's meat industry from getting burned in a corruption scandal that has prompted several countries to pull Brazilian beef and chicken from the menu.

Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi did not mince his words.

"What we are suffering now is a blow, a punch to the stomach," he told the Senate.

"We have to recover, to reorganize our forces, to travel around the world and to show that what happened here was that a few people did wrong but that the system or the industry was not at fault."

(AFP )

The United Nations has raised less than a third of the funding needed to prevent famine in Somalia, a spokesman said Wednesday, ahead of a Security Council meeting on the crisis in the drought-hit country.

The humanitarian crisis is worsening in Somalia with more than 300 deaths from cholera and diarrhea since the beginning of the year, according to UN figures.

About $864 million is needed for Somalia this year and so far only 31 percent has been pledged, said UN spokesman Farhan Haq.

(AFP )

A new vaccine that is cheap to make and does not require refrigeration has shown promise in preventing rotavirus, a contagious and fatal disease that disproportionately strikes children in Africa, researchers said Wednesday.

A trial in Niger found that the new vaccine was almost 67 percent effective in preventing gastroenteritis caused by rotavirus, which is the most common cause of severe diarrheal disease in the world.

(AFP )

A Luxembourg court on Wednesday denied a demand by Tehran to repatriate $1.6 billion of Iranian assets claimed by the US as compensation for the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The judge ruled that the assets could remain frozen in the small EU nation for now, awaiting a separate judgment on the details of the case.

In 2012, a New York judge ordered Iran to pay $7 billion in damages to the families and estates of victims from the attacks, arguing that the country had aided Al-Qaeda by allowing the group's members to travel through its territory.

(AFP )

Three French pupils on a school trip were among those hurt in Wednesday's deadly car ramming attack near the British parliament in London, two seriously.

French foreign ministry spokesman Romain Nadal said three students were hurt in the assault that claimed three lives and left around 20 others injured.

Local officials in the western region of Brittany, where the French students are from, said two of them were in serious condition.

French President Francois Hollande sent a message of "solidarity" and "support" for Britons and Prime Minister Theresa May.

(AFP )

Britain must reach a deal on what it owes the EU and on the fate of European citizens post-Brexit before talks can start on a future trade deal, EU negotiator Michel Barnier said Wednesday.

Frenchman Barnier's comments were the first major statement of intent from Brussels since Britain announced on Monday that it will trigger the two-year divorce process on March 29.

He set out what he said were the key areas including the exit bill, the rights of 4.5 million EU nationals living in Britain and vice versa, and what will happen to the border in Northern Ireland.

(AFP )

Austria said on Wednesday it would double the amount of money paid to migrants who voluntarily return home, as part of a campaign to speed up the repatriation of around 50,000 asylum seekers.

They would be offered 1,000 euros ($1,080) instead of 500 euros, Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said.

The scheme, run in collaboration with pro-refugee groups, is primarily aimed at "those who are not likely to be granted the right to long-term residence", he told a press conference in Vienna.

(AFP )

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres travels to Jordan next week to attend an Arab summit following a row over the release of a UN report accusing Israel of being an apartheid state.

Guterres arrives in Amman on Monday for talks with King Abdullah II and to visit a refugee camp ahead of the Arab League's annual summit near the Dead Sea on Wednesday, said a UN spokesman on Wednesday.

Last week, Jordanian diplomat Rima Khalaf resigned in protest after Guterres asked her to withdraw a report accusing Israel of imposing apartheid on the Palestinians.

(AFP )

A lengthy strike at the world's largest copper mine, BHP Billiton's Escondida in Chile, forced the Anglo-Australian mining giant to suspend plans Wednesday for two major investments there.

BHP Billiton, which owns a 57.5 percent stake in the mine, said its plans to build new desalination and concentration plants there were on hold because of the strike.

The company said in a statement the strike had made it impossible for contractors to resume work on the two facilities.

(AFP )

Travellers across the Middle East expressed frustration Wednesday at a ban on large electronic devices for flights to the United States and Britain that has sparked confusion and speculation.

From Saturday, passengers on flights to the United States and Britain from major hubs in Turkey and the Arab world will have to check in any device larger than a smartphone, including laptops and tablets.

The United States and Britain have cited intelligence indicating passenger jets could be targeted via explosives planted in electronic devices.

(AFP )

Seven people were injured Wednesday when a train travelling from the Italian city of Milan to Basel in Switzerland derailed, police and railway officials said.

The Eurocity train, which was carrying 160 passengers and was operated by Trenitalia, had just left the station when several carriages overturned and fell across the track near the central Swiss city of Lucerne.

"Five of the injured have been taken to hospital," a Lucerne police spokesman said.

(AFP )

Three people were killed and 20 injured in a "terrorist" attack at the gates of British democracy Wednesday when a man mowed down pedestrians, then stabbed a policeman in front of parliament before being shot dead.

The attack unfolded in the shadow of Big Ben, along the broad walkway across Westminster Bridge which draws tourists by the millions for its iconic view of the towering landmark that stands over Britain's Houses of Parliament -- the very image of London.

(AFP )

While their American and European peers twisted and shouted to The Beatles in the 1960s, in Cuba childhood sweethearts Gisela and Hector kept their Beatlemania a naughty secret.

Now, still Beatles-crazy after all these years, but with the communist island's Cold War-era censorship of rock music a thing of the past, they are making up for lost time.

"We are very happy that Cuba is becoming reconciled to the Beatles," says Gisela, 64.

She and Hector, 65, have decorated their home with pictures, posters and souvenirs dedicated to the British band.

(AFP )

Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem on Wednesday expressed "regret" over his comments that southern European countries blew their money on "drinks and women" but rejected calls to resign.

Dijsselbloem faced a firestorm with Portugal's prime minister and former Italian premier Matteo Renzi calling for his immediate departure, and the head of the European Parliament condemning the "racist and sexist" remarks.

(AFP )

The US-led coalition against the Islamic State group vowed to crush the jihadists Wednesday at a meeting overshadowed by an attack in London and civilian deaths in Syria.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson welcomed his counterparts from the mainly Western and Arab 68-nation alliance to Washington with a promise to hunt down IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

But he also warned the coalition is "not in the business of nation-building or reconstruction," amid concerns President Donald Trump is preparing to slash the US foreign aid budget.

(AFP )

Salvage operators raised part of South Korea's sunken Sewol ferry early Thursday, Yonhap news agency reported, nearly three years after the disaster killed more than 300 people and dealt a crippling blow to now-ousted president Park Geun-Hye.

Emotional parents of victims -- the vast majority of the dead in the country's worst-ever maritime tragedy were schoolchildren -- had earlier urged people to pray for a successful recovery.

(AFP )

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine spread to the Eurovision Song Contest on Wednesday after Kiev banned a Russian contestant from entering the country over a past performance in Moscow-annexed Crimea.

Ukrainian security service (SBU) spokeswoman Olena Gitlyanska told AFP that Yuliya Samoilova had been banned from entry "for three years" for being "in violation of Ukrainian legislation."

The move infuriated Moscow, which rebuked Kiev for banning the 27-year-old singer, who uses a wheelchair.

(AFP )

Approximately one in four children worldwide will live in regions with extremely scarce water resources by 2040, UNICEF said in a report Wednesday.

In research released on World Water Day, the United Nations children's agency warned that in just over two decades nearly 600 million children will be living in areas with severely limited safe water sources, as population growth and surging demand for water clash with the effects of climate change.

(AFP )

A Singaporean woman inseminated with a stranger's sperm in a startling in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) mistake cannot be compensated in full for raising the child, the city-state's top court ruled Wednesday.

Allowing the woman compensation would go against public policy on one's obligations as a parent, the Court of Appeal said, adding that the expenses incurred in raising the child should not be considered as a loss.

(AFP )

China Wednesday denied plans to build an environmental monitoring station on a disputed shoal near the Philippines' coastline, after a local official last week announced the plan.

"As we have learned from relevant authorities, the report on establishing an environmental monitoring station is false. This is not true at all," foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters at a regular briefing in Beijing.

(AFP )

The Scottish parliamentwas expected to vote on Wednesday for a second independence referendum -- amid dire warnings about the damage that constitutional wrangling was having on Scotland's economy.

Lawmakers were set to back First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's call for a second referendum when they vote following a two-day debate in the semi-autonomous assembly in Edinburgh.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has suggested she will rebuff Sturgeon's demand for a referendum re-match before Britain leaves the European Union.

(AFP )

US-led coalition strikes reportedly killed more than 40 civilians within 48 hours in northern Syria, as the Pentagon on Wednesday announced reinforcements to allies battling the Islamic State group in Raqa.

In the deadliest raid, a suspected coalition air raid hit a school being used as a temporary shelter for displaced families between IS's main stronghold in Raqa city and Tabqa, a key town it controls further west.

(AFP )

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Wednesday that Europeans risk being unsafe on the world's streets, as a crisis between Ankara and the EU showed no signs of abating.

"If you continue to behave like this, tomorrow in no part of the world, no European, no Westerner will be able to take steps on the street safely and peacefully," Erdogan said during a speech in Ankara.

Erdogan did not expand on what he meant by his comments but appeared to imply that Europeans risked receiving the same treatment that, he says, is endured by Turks and Muslims in Europe.

(AFP )

Hong Kong's richest man Li Ka-shing said Wednesday he would vote for the candidate who is willing to cooperate with Chinese authorities in the city's upcoming leadership vote.

Li, 88, was speaking after his flagship CK Hutchison Holdings posted a net profit of HK$33.01 billion (US$4.25 billion) for 2016, six percent up year-on-year, despite global economic and political uncertainty.