Thursday 23 November 2017

In the world

(AFP )

Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi met with Bangladesh's Foreign Minister Thursday to hammer out a deal to return hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who have fled violence in Rakhine state, as global pressure mounts over the refugee crisis.

More than 620,000 people have poured into Bangladesh since August, running from a Myanmar military crackdown that Washington said this week clearly constitutes "ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya."

(AFP )

Australia warned on Thursday against American disengagement from Asia at a time of rising Chinese power as traditional US allies grow nervous about President Donald Trump's isolationist tilt.

In a major Foreign Policy White Paper -- the first to be issued by the Australian government in 13 years -- Canberra outlined its approach to the "Indo-Pacific" region amid "changing power balances".

(AFP )

When Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig entered the "Masterpiece Cakeshop" bakery in a Denver suburb on July 19, 2012, they were giddy about choosing their wedding cake.

The two men could not for a moment imagine that their cake-shopping excursion would wind up before the US Supreme Court five years later and spark a national debate about fundamental rights.

"We sat down with the owner of Masterpiece, and he instantly asked us who the cake was for, and as soon as we told him it was for us, he informed us that would not make a cake for a same-sex wedding," Mullins told AFP.

(AFP )

A Chinese metal trading firm said Thursday it is investigating whether children are toiling in Congolese mines that supply it with cobalt, a key resource for mobile phones and electric cars.

Yantai Cash, a cobalt exporter based in eastern Shandong province, told AFP that it is looking into the supply chain following a request from the London Metal Exchange, which sets prices for the market.

Amnesty International issued a report last week accusing leading technology and electric car companies of failing to ensure that minerals used for batteries are not dug up by children.

(AFP )

Eight warships joined a US aircraft carrier and scores of helicopters and planes Thursday to search for three American sailors who went missing after their plane crashed in the Philippine Sea.

The families of the missing sailors were notified after a C-2A "Greyhound" aircraft with 11 people on board went down Wednesday afternoon around 930 kilometres (500 nautical miles) southeast of Okinawa, the US Navy said in a statement.

(AFP )

Born from the fires engulfing the Balkans in the 1990s, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia closes next month having tried and judged dozens of those behind Europe's worst atrocities since World War II.

From helping to write the history of the bitter conflict, to putting war criminals around the globe on notice that they too could up in the dock, to setting international jurisprudence for such crimes as genocide, law experts say the tribunal leaves an impressive legacy.

(AFP )

Papua New Guinea police raided a shuttered Australian detention camp Thursday, removing dozens of refugees in an effort to end a stand-off that has drawn global attention to Canberra's tough asylum-seeker policies.

Hundreds of men sent to the remote camp on PNG's Manus Island have refused to leave the site for new, PNG-run centres since Australia closed it on October 31.

(AFP )

A boatload of tourists in the far eastern Russian Arctic thought they were seeing clumps of ice on the shore, before the jaw-dropping realisation that some 200 polar bears were roaming on the mountain slope.

"It was a completely unique situation," said Alexander Gruzdev, director of the Wrangel Island nature reserve where the encounter in September happened. "We were all gobsmacked, to be honest."

(AFP )

The only pointer of what lies inside the stone storehouse within the grounds of the prison is a printed note pasted to an old grey door.

"This is to mark the temporary resting place of 325 liberated African slaves brought to St. Helena against their will. They now wait in this room for their final resting place," it reads.

Candles and a bouquet of wilting white arum lilies sit in front of the wooden door on the remote British island of St. Helena in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean.

(AFP )

For many July 12, 1995, was just another day long ago, but it is forever etched in Munira Subasic's mind. It was the day she met Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic, and the last time she saw her son alive.

"I was in Srebrenica in July 1995 when Mladic came, on the 12th of July. And he said that we will all be safe. Until he came all my family was alive. After he came, they were gone," she said.

(AFP )

Father William's 16-strong flock on Myanmar's eastern border is one of the Catholic Church's tiniest outposts, but next week they will join a tide of 200,000 faithful in Yangon for a historic mass led by Pope Francis.

The Pope, renowned for powerful entreaties for peace no matter how highly-charged the issue, arrives on Monday in a country on the defensive over its treatment of the Rohingya Muslim minority.

Some 620,000 Rohingya have been driven from western Rakhine state to Bangladesh since August, prompting allegations of ethnic cleansing of the stateless minority.

(AFP )

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Wednesday named Asdrubal Chavez -- a cousin of late leader Hugo Chavez -- to lead Citgo, the state oil company's US affiliate.

"He's straight off to be Citgo president, to restructure it, to get it back, to strengthen Citgo," Maduro said in a speech broadcast on VTV state television.

Asdrubal Chavez held the critical oil ministry portfolio from 2014-2015.

(AFP )

Russian billionaire senator Suleyman Kerimov was charged Wednesday with tax fraud in Nice, hours after Moscow protested his arrest in the French Riviera resort.

Kerimov was detained upon arrival at the airport on Monday, where he faced two days of questioning over alleged tax evasion involving the purchase of luxury properties.

He has now been released under strict conditions including handing over his passport and posting bail of five million euros. He also faces restrictions on his movement, state prosecutor Jean-Michel Pretre said.

(AFP )

Latin America and the Caribbean is the most violent region in the world for women, the United Nations said Wednesday, highlighting Central America and Mexico as particularly dangerous.

In a report presented in Panama, UN Women and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) found assaults on women persisted in the region despite severe laws aimed at curbing the phenomenon.

(AFP )

Colombia's landmark peace deal with Marxist FARC rebels was supposed to mean peace for all -- but it has made little difference to indigenous and Afro-Colombian minorities, Amnesty International said Wednesday.

A year on, the deal is having a "very limited impact" on the lives of minority communities in Choco – a department where 60 percent of the population are armed conflict victims.

(AFP )

Papua New Guinea police moved into the shuttered Australian refugee camp on the country's Manus Island Thursday in the most aggressive push yet to force hundreds of men to leave, the Australian government and detainees said.

The police operation was confirmed by Australia's Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, who said Canberra was "very keen for people to move out of the Manus regional processing centre".

"I think it's outrageous that people are still there," he told Sydney commercial radio station 2GB. "We want people to move."

(AFP )

Former USA Gymnastics team doctor Lawrence "Larry" Nassar, accused of molesting more than 100 female athletes over several decades, pleaded guilty Wednesday to multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct.

Nassar -- who was involved with USA Gymnastics for nearly three decades and worked with the country's gymnasts at four separate Olympic Games -- could be sentenced to at least 25 years in prison.

Nassar faced 22 criminal counts of sexual assault in Michigan for abusing athletes under the guise of providing medical treatment.

(AFP )

Pope Francis will pay his first visit to the Baltic states next year, when Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania mark 100 years since they gained independence from Russia, the region's three presidents said Wednesday.

"In principle, we have the decision, we've heard it, officially it will be announced in December," Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite told reporters in the country's capital Vilnius.

"The occasion is beautiful because the Baltic states will celebrate the centenary," she said, adding that the visit will take place in the autumn.

(AFP )

Fresh from a regional tour to discuss the dispute over Western Sahara, the new UN envoy said Wednesday he was "encouraged" but did not announce plans for new political talks.

Former German president Horst Koehler was appointed in August as special envoy to lead a new UN push for talks between Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario Front on Western Sahara.

After briefing the Security Council behind closed doors, Koehler told reporters "I am encouraged" but declined to provide details.

(AFP )

Ecuador has told WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to avoid making statements that could affect the country's international relations after he expressed support for Catalonian independence from Spain, the foreign ministry said Wednesday.

Assange, who initially moved into London's Ecuadorian embassy five years ago to avoid arrest over now-dropped Swedish rape charges, angered Madrid after addressing hundreds of people in Barcelona via video link in September.

(AFP )

After vetoing the renewal of a UN-led probe into chemical attacks in Syria, Russia on Wednesday said it was open to establishing a new panel to investigate the use of toxic gases in the six-year war.

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told reporters that the "JIM is dead," referring to the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) that shut down on Friday after two years of work to identify the perpetrators of chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

(AFP )

The number of murders in Mexico in 2017 has already surpassed last year's total, with October the most violent month in 20 years according to official figures released Monday.

From January to October, 20,878 murders were recorded, compared with 20,547 during the whole of 2016, data released by the Ministry of Public Security showed.

Violence has surged across Mexico since the government declared war on the country's powerful drug cartels in 2006.

(AFP )

They were supposed to bring about an energy revolution -- but the popularity of LED lights is driving an increase in light pollution worldwide, with dire consequences for human and animal health, researchers said Wednesday.

The study in the journal Science Advances is based on satellite data showing that the Earth's night is getting brighter, and artificially lit outdoor surfaces grew at a pace of 2.2 percent per year from 2012 to 2016.

(AFP )

Paris councillors on Wednesday voted to axe the city's prominent riverside Ferris wheel, the French capital's version of the London Eye.

Run by "fairground king" Marcel Campion who has also seen his Christmas market on the Champs-Elysees scrapped because authorities deemed it too tacky, the attraction will be closed from July 2018.

City councillors voted almost unanimously against granting him a fresh licence for the "Grande Roue", which has sat intermittently on the Place de la Concorde near the Louvre museum since 1993.

(AFP )

Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic on Wednesday urged his country to look to the future instead of "suffocating in tears of the past" after Ratko Mladic, the wartime Bosnian Serb military chief, was given a life sentence for genocide.

"We should start looking to the future, thinking about our children, peace, stability in the region," Vucic said, to ensure that "war and its horrors are not repeated."

There is a need to "revitalise factories, construct buildings, instead of suffocating in tears of the past," he said.

(AFP )

France on Wednesday called an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council over slave-trading in Libya as President Emmanuel Macron blasted the auctioning of Africans as a crime against humanity.

"France decided this morning to ask for an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council to discuss this issue," Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told parliament.

"We are doing it as a permanent member of the Security Council. We have this capability and we are using it."

(AFP )

A Czech lawmaker from billionaire Andrej Babis's populist ANO party, which won elections last month, was on Wednesday elected speaker of parliament, an important post in the government formation process.

Under the constitution, the president has two attempts to decide who will form the cabinet, leaving the third and final try to the speaker of parliament.

Radek Vondracek, who said before the vote that his "goal" would be to "guarantee regular parliamentary debate," received 135 votes by secret ballot.

(AFP )

Syrian opposition figures met in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday in a bid to form an overhauled delegation to peace talks that analysts say may be more willing to compromise on key demands.

The meeting came as Iran, Russia and Turkey held a summit in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, pressing their diplomatic dash to resolve Syria's six-year conflict with a new round of UN-brokered peace talks set to open in Geneva next Tuesday.

(AFP )

After nearly three weeks of an absence cloaked in rumour and mystery, a crowd of ecstatic supporters welcomed Prime Minister Saad Hariri like a prodigal son on Wednesday.

Hundreds of noisy supporters thronged a beaming Hariri at his Beirut home, a few hours after a jet flew him back to Lebanon.

The unprecedented episode in Lebanese politics saw him announce his resignation in a November 4 televised address from Saudi Arabia in which he said he feared for his life.

(AFP )

EU leaders will meet as planned next month to discuss reforms to the euro despite the crisis in Germany over the collapse of Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition talks, EU President Donald Tusk said Wednesday.

"Just to be clear: The December Euro Summit is on," Tusk said on Twitter, referring to the planned December 15 meeting when leaders of 27 EU countries, except Britain, will mull the future of the single currency.

(AFP )

Venezuela moved closer to a possible all-out default on Wednesday, with ratings agency S&P Global saying the country had failed to make repayments on two more loans.

The oil-rich, cash-poor South American country failed to make $237 million in payments on bonds due 2025 and 2026, now past their 30-day grace period, the US ratings firm said in a statement.

It warned of a "one-in-two chance that Venezuela could default again within the next three months."

(AFP )

Italy's scandal-plagued former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi took his comeback bid to the European Court of Human Rights on Wednesday, asking it to weigh in on his ban from holding elected office.

Ahead of a general election set to be held before May next year, the billionaire four-time premier is hoping the court in the French city of Strasbourg will rule against the six-year ban imposed over his 2012 conviction for tax fraud.

(AFP )

A severed left arm found in waters off Copenhagen is probably dismembered Swedish journalist Kim Wall's, police said Wednesday, but a definitive identification could take weeks.

The arm had been weighed down with metal in a similar manner as the legs of Wall who died after boarding a Danish inventor's submarine.

The arm was found on Tuesday around one kilometre from the location where the 31-year-old's head and legs were discovered earlier, Copenhagen police said in a statement.

(AFP )

The self-proclaimed leader of the Moscow-backed rebel stronghold of Lugansk on Wednesday accused an ex-minister of masterminding a coup attempt as infighting spiralled in eastern Ukraine.

The so-called Lugansk People's Republic, one of two regions controlled by the rebels, has for years been blighted by leadership squabbles and several senior leaders have been assassinated.

(AFP )

Venezuela failed to make repayments totalling $237 million on two loans, which have overrun their 30-day grace period, ratings agency S&P announced Wednesday.

The oil-rich, cash-poor South American country failed to make the payments on bonds due 2025 and 2026, S&P said in a statement.

The ratings agency also warned of a "one-in-two chance that Venezuela could default again within the next three months."