Monday 26 June 2017

In the world

(AFP )

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday softened for the first time her opposition to gay marriage, as her conservative party comes under growing pressure on the issue ahead of elections in September.

Merkel, who had repeatedly voiced her opposition to gay marriage, said that lawmakers could vote according to their conscience, and not toe the party line.

Germany introduced civil unions for gay and lesbian couples in 2001, but they do not have the right to marry.

(AFP )

Police in Mexico found the burned remains of a journalist who was kidnapped in May, the sixth reporter killed this year in the country, a state prosecutor said Monday.

With the grisly find, Salvador Adame, the head of a local TV station in the state of Michoacan, becomes the latest name on the list of more than 100 journalists killed in Mexico since 2000.

More than 90 percent of these killings remain unpunished.

Adame, 44, was surrounded by gunmen and abducted in the western town of Nueva Italia on May 18.

(AFP )

Colombia's leftist FARC rebel force formally completed its disarmament process on Monday to end half a century of war against the state, the United Nations said.

UN monitors "today have the entirety of the FARC's registered individual arms stored away," except for some that were exempted for transitional security at demobilization camps, the body said in a statement.

The disarmament by the roughly 7,000 members of Colombia's biggest rebel group under a 2016 peace accord brings Latin America's oldest civil conflict close to a complete end.

(AFP )

President Donald Trump called on Monday for the threat posed by North Korea's nuclear and ballistic programs to be "rapidly" tackled, as he thanked visiting Indian leader Narendra Modi for rallying behind sanctions on Pyongyang.

"The North Korean regime is causing tremendous problems and is something that has to be dealt with, and probably dealt with rapidly," Trump told reporters in the White House Rose Garden after holding his first talks with Modi.

Trump also thanked India for "joining us in applying new sanctions against the North Korean regime."

(AFP )

Police in Mexico found the burned remains of a journalist who was kidnapped in May, the sixth reporter killed this year in the country, a state prosecutor said Monday.

"DNA samples have confirmed that these remains are those of Salvador Adame," said the public prosecutor for the central state of Michoacan, Jose Martin Godoy.

Police and soldiers found the body on June 14 near a highway between the towns of Lombardia and Nueva Italia, Godoy told a news conference.

Adame was the owner of a local television channel.

(AFP )

Brazil's top prosecutor was expected soon to file corruption charges against President Michel Temer but the embattled conservative leader defiantly vowed Monday that nothing can "destroy" him.

Prosecutor General Rodrigo Janot has until the end of Tuesday to file a request for charges with the Supreme Court. The lower house of Congress would then have to vote by a two thirds majority on whether to send Temer to trial, at which point he would be suspended for 180 days.

(AFP )

Canada is close to implementing a free trade deal with the European Union, but one last detail remains to be ironed out -- what cheeses Canadian distributors can import, sources said Monday.

The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) foresees a gradual doubling of the volume of European cheeses currently imported by Canada.

The pact has been approved by both the European and Canadian parliaments but must still be ratified by all EU member states.

A European diplomat and a spokeswoman for Canada's trade minister said it will be implemented within weeks.

(AFP )

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday urged US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to prevent "provocations" against Syrian government forces, the foreign ministry said.

In a phone call initiated by Tillerson, Lavrov "called on Washington to take steps to prevent provocations against Syrian government forces carrying out operations against terrorists," it said in a statement.

The communique was issued after Israel said it had fired on Syrian regime positions on Sunday in response to projectiles from Syria that landed in the occupied Golan Heights.

(AFP )

The US Supreme Court gave new hope Monday to the family of a Mexican boy shot on the American frontier, ordering a lower court to reconsider their lawsuit against the border patrol agent who killed him.

Justices said the appeals court made a significant legal error when it ruled that the family of Sergio Hernandez Guereca had no constitutional right to sue the agent who killed him in American courts.

(AFP )

A former nurse who confessed to murdering eight elderly residents who were under her care at retirement homes in eastern Canada was sentenced Monday to life in prison.

Elizabeth Wettlaufer faced a possible 200 years in jail, but the judge in Canada's Ontario province opted for eight concurrent sentences with no parole for at least 25 years.

The stout, bespectacled 50-year-old came forward and admitted having fatally injected her victims with insulin at two Ontario care facilities where she worked, often in charge of night shifts, between 2007 and 2014.

(AFP )

Chelsea forward Bertrand Traore has joined Lyon for 10 million euros (£8.8m, $11.2m) on a five-year deal, the French club announced on Monday.

Chelsea will earn 15 percent of any profit from a future sale of the player and the English champions will have first refusal on Traore should he eventually move on, Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas said at a press conference to announce the signing.

"I was really keen to come to Lyon," admitted the 21-year-old Burkina Faso international, who spent last season on loan at Europa League runners-up Ajax.

(AFP )

US President Donald Trump welcomed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the White House for their first face-to-face meeting, seeking to forge a chemistry that can add new fizz to a flourishing relationship between the world's two largest democracies.

Despite differences over issues such as immigration and climate change, Modi is expected to assure Trump that the United States has nothing to fear from India's growing economic clout.

(AFP )

Romania's outgoing economy minister Mihai Tudose was designated as the new premier on Monday, days after the ruling Social Democrats torpedoed its own government following an internal power row.

Tudose, 50, now has 10 days to gain the vote of confidence in his government and his programme.

The Social Democrat party (PSD) filed a no-confidence motion in former prime minister Sorin Grindeanu last Wednesday, accusing him of "delays" in implementing reforms in the European Union's second-poorest country.

(AFP )

Citizens from Europe's wealthier nations accept that their countries should take more asylum seekers than poorer ones, researchers said on Monday.

In a survey of 18,000 eligible voters from 15 European nations a "large majority" said countries with more "capacity" should host more migrants.

Capacity is measured by a country's population size and gross domestic product, among other factors.

Simply leaving migrants in the country where they first arrive is not the answer, the survey participants said.

(AFP )

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe weighed in on a row between his environment and agriculture ministers on Monday to rule that a pesticide found harmful to bees would be banned in 2018 as scheduled.

A ban on neonicotinoids, set down in a 2016 law on protecting biodiversity, has been fiercely opposed by cereal and sugar-beet farmers, who dispute research highlighting the chemicals' risk to bees.

In the first sign of discord in the week-old French government, Agriculture Minister Stephane Travert has been lobbying for the upcoming ban to be eased.

(AFP )

Giant Montpellier striker Steve Mounie is on the verge of completing a transfer to English Premier League newcomers Huddersfield Town, the French side announced on Monday.

"Steve Mounie has left. He will have a medical before signing in England," said the new Montpellier coach Michel Der Zakarian as the Ligue 1 club began pre-season training.

Mounie, a Benin international, is expected to move for 13 million euros ($14.5 million, £11.4 million).

(AFP )

Spanish firefighters on Monday beat back a wildfire which threatens a renowned national park that is home to endangered species and has forced the evacuation of over 2,000 people from homes, campsites and hotels.

"The weather is evolving as we predicted, winds are clearly more moderate than yesterday," said the official in charge of the environment with the regional government of Andalusia, Jose Fiscal Lopez.

"With all the prudence in the world, we are moderately optimistic," he added.

(AFP )

US President Donald Trump on Monday demanded an apology over the Russia investigation rocking his presidency, as he kept up a days-long attack on Barack Obama for his handling of intelligence about election meddling by Moscow.

Trump's young administration has been consumed by allegations -- under investigation both by Congress and the FBI, and furiously denied by the Republican president -- that members of his campaign team colluded with a Russian effort to tip the electoral scales in his favor.

(AFP )

The US Supreme Court agreed Monday to review whether a Colorado baker discriminated against a gay couple by refusing to make their wedding cake on religious grounds.

The high court took up the case exactly two years after it legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

Lower courts had ruled against Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado, saying his right to exercise religious freedom did not outweigh the couple's protection under anti-discrimination laws -- decisions seen by activists as victories for gay rights.

(AFP )

British Prime Minister Theresa May faced a backlash Monday after setting out proposals for the rights of EU nationals after Brexit that include new residency permit requirements and family reunion rules.

May promised to end the "anxiety" of 3.2 million European nationals but is on a collision course with Brussels after vowing that the European Court of Justice would not be allowed to protect their rights.

(AFP )

Donald Trump hailed Monday's Supreme Court ruling which partially reinstates the US president's travel ban targeting citizens from six mainly Muslim countries as "a clear victory for our national security."

Trump said the top court's ruling "allows the travel suspension for the six terror-prone countries and the refugee suspension to become largely effective."

"As president, I cannot allow people into our country who want to do us harm," he added, in a White House statement.

(AFP )

The UN food agency's director urged the European Union on Monday to help raise the $1 billion needed over the next few months to save hundreds of thousands of children from starving to death in Yemen and three African countries.

In an interview with AFP, World Food Programme Director David Beasley said 20 million people were "on the brink of famine" in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria in the worst humanitarian crisis since 1945.

(AFP )

Liu Xiaobo, who won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize from behind bars, was for decades a vocal champion of democracy and human rights until Chinese authorities locked him up for speaking out.

The 61-year-old, who was previously jailed for his involvement in the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy protests, was sentenced in 2009 to 11 years in prison for subversion -- a punishment that earned international condemnation.

To Beijing's fury, he was awarded the Nobel prize a year later -- and was represented by an empty chair at the ceremony in Oslo.

(AFP )

The family of a black motorist fatally shot by a Minnesota police officer, whose dying moments were livestreamed on Facebook, said Monday it had reached a nearly $3 million civil settlement with the US city that employed the acquitted cop.

The death of Philando Castile -- one in a series of high-profile shootings of African-Americans by police -- stunned the nation. His girlfriend Diamond Reynolds took to Facebook to livestream his agony as blood spread on Castile's shirt and the officer continued to yell orders with his gun drawn.

(AFP )

US President Donald Trump on Monday demanded an apology over the Russia investigation rocking his presidency, as he kept up a days-long attack on Barack Obama for his handling of intelligence about election meddling by Moscow.

In a storm of morning tweets, Trump charged that his predecessor "colluded and obstructed" by failing to act after the CIA informed him Russian President Vladimir Putin personally ordered an operation to help defeat Trump's Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the November vote.

(AFP )

Britain set out its offer on Monday to secure the rights of around 3.2 million European citizens living in the country after its exit from the European Union.

The 17-page policy paper stresses that Europeans are "valued members of their communities" in Britain, but makes clear any deal is contingent on Brussels agreeing reciprocal rights for around one million British expats living elsewhere in Europe.

Here are the main points in the proposal:

- 'Settled status' -

(AFP )

The US Supreme Court on Monday partially reinstated Donald Trump's controversial travel ban targeting citizens from six predominantly Muslim countries, prompting the president to claim a victory for national security.

The court said it would examine the case in full in October but said the ban could now be enforced for travelers from the targeted countries "who lack any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States."

(AFP )

Author J. K. Rowling on Monday marked the "wonderful" two decades since her Harry Potter creation first hit the shelves, starting a global literary phenomenon which has inspired a generation.

"20 years ago today a world that I had lived in alone was suddenly open to others. It's been wonderful. Thank you," she wrote on Twitter.

A pair of rounded glasses and a lightning bolt accompanied the social media site's special "HarryPotter20" hashtag -- a nod to the boy and a zigzag scar, who emerged from a cupboard under the stairs to become the world's most famous wizard.

(AFP )

A Swede who had been held hostage by Al-Qaeda in Mali since 2011 has been freed and has returned home, the Swedish government said Monday, but the fate of a fellow hostage from South Africa remains unknown.

"I'm very pleased to announce that Johan (Gustafsson) has today been able to return to Sweden and be reunited with his family," Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom told reporters late Monday as she showed a picture of Gustafsson surrounded by his family after he arrived home.

(AFP )

Nine people have been killed in a string of suicide attacks in Maiduguri, a city in Nigeria's restive northeast where Boko Haram Islamists began a deadly insurgency in 2009, police said.

The attacks occurred as Nigeria began a two-day public holiday for Eid al-Fitr which marks the end of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan.

Police said the bombings, which began late on Sunday, were carried out by seven suicide bombers, six of whom were women.

(AFP )

A Brazilian court sentenced Antonio Palocci, an influential minister during the leftist governments of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, to 12 years prison for corruption Monday.

Palocci, in custody since September, had been convicted of taking bribes and money laundering as part of a huge corruption network centered on the state-owned Petrobras oil company.

He was sentenced to 12 years and two months behind bars by Judge Sergio Moro, who heads the "Car Wash" probe dismantling the embezzlement and kickbacks scheme at Petrobras.

(AFP )

The world is watching Hong Kong as a "test case" of whether Chinese promises mean anything, Britain's last governor said ahead of the 20th anniversary of his tearful departure from the city.

Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit Hong Kong to mark the anniversary of its handover from British rule on July 1, and Chris Patten said Xi should reaffirm Beijing's respect for the city's unique brand of autonomy dubbed "one country, two systems".

By and large, he said, China had respected its treaty obligations to Hong Kong and Britain in the years after the 1997 handover.

(AFP )

Germany's election campaign battle heated up Monday, with accusations of mud-slinging flying after Chancellor Angela Merkel's rival accused her of an "attack on democracy".

Social Democrats chief Martin Schulz lashed out Sunday at the German leader, saying the famously cautious Merkel caused voters to disengage by refusing to air her views or engage in forceful debate.

(AFP )

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the increasing "convergence" of US-Indian interests and values, as he prepared for his first face-to-face meeting Monday with President Donald Trump.

Modi brimmed with optimism about the future of trade and diplomatic relations between the world's two largest democracies in an opinion piece appearing in Monday's Wall Street Journal.

Following a visit to the United States one year ago, when he addressed a joint session of the US Congress, Modi wrote that he returns "confident in the growing convergence between our two nations."

(AFP )

Dutch scientists on Monday celebrated the discovery of only the sixth meteorite found in recent history in The Netherlands, which at 4.5-billion years old may hold clues to the birth of our solar system.

"Meteorites are very special because we do not have rocks of this age on earth," said geologist Leo Kriegsman from the Naturalis biodiversity centre in Leiden in a YouTube video marking the occasion.