In the world | Africatime
Sunday 26 March 2017

In the world

(AFP )

A social worker in the drab eastern German city of Frankfurt an der Oder admits she feels isolated at work whenever talk turns to the country's record influx of refugees.

"I have to say that my colleagues are not very friendly towards foreigners and I am almost alone in my opinion," Elisabeth, who gave just her first name, told AFP.

Foreigners are rarely seen in the former communist city about 100 kilometres (60 miles) east of Berlin, but as in much of eastern Germany, there is deep suspicion toward migrants.

(AFP )

The Pentagon under President Donald Trump is enjoying greater freedom to run its wars the way it wants -- and not constantly seek White House approval on important decisions.

Many in the military appreciate this increased autonomy, but critics charge it is raising civilian death rates, puts the lives of US troops at greater risk and leads to a lack of oversight of America's conflicts.

(AFP )

Uber has grounded its fleet of self-driving cars pending an investigation into the crash of an Uber autonomous vehicle in Arizona, a spokesperson for the car-hailing service said Sunday.

No one was seriously injured in the accident which occurred Friday in Tempe, Arizona while the vehicle -- a Volvo SUV -- was in self-driving mode, the company said.

"We are continuing to look into this incident and can confirm we had no backseat passengers in the vehicle," the Uber spokesperson said.

(AFP )

The target is behind a slope, the advance is unprotected: crawl, fire! Italian instructors in western Afghanistan have been using the relatively quiet winter to bolster Afghan troops against the Taliban.

The war-torn country's security forces are being killed in horrific numbers as they grapple with a militant resurgence, raising questions about how much more they can endure.

But under the banner of NATO's Resolute Support mission, Italian forces at Camp Arena in Herat province are racing the coming spring to give their Afghan counterparts a fighting chance.

(AFP )

Wood fashioned into lace and sculpted into evening dresses: the Hanae Mori Manuscrit label led the way this Tokyo Fashion Week in showing the world the original craftmanship that helps set Japan apart from the crowd.

Dresses of persimmon wood lace paired with soft falling black fabric were the star of the show at designer Yu Amatsu's autumn/winter 2017 collection for the brand that left fashionistas giddy with excitement.

(AFP )

Britain will take an unprecedented step into the unknown on Wednesday with the first formal move towards leaving the European Union, starting a two-year process that has already divided the country.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of London on Saturday to protest against Brexit, and Scotland's parliament on Tuesday is set to vote in favour of holding an independence referendum.

(AFP )

German voters go to the polls Sunday in tiny Saarland state where a resurgent centre-left hopes to strike a first blow in their battle to topple Chancellor Angela Merkel this year.

Although the state bordering France is home to just one million people, its vote half a year before national elections is seen as a test of the Social Democrats' rising fortunes under new leader Martin Schulz.

The SPD, having long played second fiddle to Merkel in a national right-left grand coalition, has been re-energised since the folksy and plain-spoken Schulz became its leader in January.

(AFP )

Bulgarians vote in elections Sunday with the Socialists, seen as closer to Russia, aiming to prevent another comeback by two-times centre-right premier Boyko Borisov.

Opinion polls in the European Union's poorest country, where the average monthly salary is just 500 euros ($540) and corruption is rife, indicate a tight race and a strong showing by nationalists.

The karate-kicking Borisov's enthusiastically pro-EU GERB party and the Socialist Party (BSP), newly led by the energetic Kornelia Ninova, are both seen garnering around 30 percent.

(AFP )

Brexit challenges Britain's global image of openness and tolerance, but Cool Britannia has what it takes to avoid being suddenly rebranded as uncool just because it quits the EU, advertising professionals say.

From music to film and fashion, Britain has for decades enhanced its image as a modern and dynamic culture. The ease of immigrating and working in Britain helped it build a reputation as a welcoming and hospitable society.

But the vote to leave the European Union last June sent a troubling message of tighter border controls and an exit from the EU's single market.

(AFP )

A quarter of a century after the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia is finally set to pay off all the foreign debt it inherited from the vanished Communist empire.

Keen to establish a reputation of a reliable borrower -- despite Western financial sanctions over the Ukraine conflict -- Moscow announced last week it would pay off $125.2 million in Soviet-era debt to Bosnia-Herzegovina within 45 days.

The payment "completes the settlement of the external public debt of the former USSR, which is a historic event," said Russia's deputy finance minister Sergei Storchak.

(AFP )

Deeply divided and weakened by the rise of far-left party Podemos, Spain's Socialists are gearing up for a leadership contest that will see ousted chief Pedro Sanchez attempt a comeback.

The 45-year-old former economics professor will be up against two other prominent candidates in a contest that will prove decisive for the future of a party that has run out of steam, much like fellow socialists in France and Britain.

(AFP )

Friends, family and hundreds of wellwishers gathered in the Hollywood Hills on Saturday to celebrate the lives of beloved celebrity mother and daughter Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher.

Comedy actor Dan Aykroyd and singer James Blunt were among the stars who made their way to the Forest Lawn cemetery, where the pair are interred side by side following their deaths just one day apart in December.

Fisher, who catapulted to worldwide stardom as rebel warrior Princess Leia in the original "Star Wars" trilogy, died in Los Angeles after suffering a heart attack. She was 60.

(AFP )

A US drone strike in eastern Afghanistan on March 19 killed the senior Al-Qaeda military commander Qari Yasin, who has been linked to numerous attacks in his native Pakistan, the US military confirmed on Saturday.

"The death of Qari Yasin is evidence that terrorists who defame Islam and deliberately target innocent people will not escape justice," Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in a statement.

(AFP )

Quinton de Kock frustrated New Zealand with a defiant 90 to lift South Africa's first innings up to 314 on a rain disrupted second day of the third Test in Hamilton.

New Zealand were set to face 29 overs before stumps, although there was the probability this would be affected by bad light and further rain.

On another frustrating day for the players, only 26 balls were possible between lunch and tea after nearly three hours of play were lost to rain the previous day.

(AFP )

British police admitted Saturday they may never know the motive behind this week's terror attack on parliament, after releasing all but one of 11 people held over the assault.

They have named 52-year-old Briton Khalid Masood as the man who killed four people in Westminster on Wednesday, but issued a fresh plea for any information that might explain why he did it.

"We must all accept that there is a possibility we will never understand why he did this. That understanding may have died with him," said senior counter-terrorism officer Neil Basu.

(AFP )

Beijing favourite Carrie Lam was selected as Hong Kong's new leader on Sunday by a mainly pro-China committee, in an election dismissed as a sham by democracy activists who fear the loss of the city's cherished freedoms.

It is the first leadership vote since mass "Umbrella Movement" rallies calling for fully free elections in 2014 failed to win reforms and comes after a turbulent term under current chief executive Leung Chun-ying.

Leung, who is seen by opponents as a Beijing puppet, will step down in July after five years in charge.

(AFP )

Brazil won a major victory Saturday in the fight to restore credibility amid a tainted meat scandal, with key markets China, Egypt and Chile lifting their bans on its products.

The three countries, which had totally closed their markets to Brazilian meat at the beginning of the week, said they would open them to all but imports from the 21 Brazilian processing plants under investigation.

Brazil, South America's largest economy and the world's largest meat exporter, has been reeling since March 17, when Brazilian police announced "Operation Weak Flesh."

(AFP )

Venezuelan defense minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez denied Saturday that troops from his country had intruded on Colombian territory.

Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos said Thursday he had complained to his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro about the "totally unacceptable" move by Venezuelan troops who had camped out for more than 48 hours near the Colombian border town of Arauquita.

Colombia said the troops withdrew Thursday only after Bogota's energetic protests.

But Padrino insisted that his troops had never left Venezuelan soil.

(AFP )

Polish prosecutors on Saturday said they had pressed charges against 11 people who slaughtered a lamb and then stripped naked at the former German Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The unprecedented stunt, carried out on Friday in front of the camp's "Arbeit macht frei" ("Work makes you free") gate, was apparently intended as a call for world peace.

After killing the lamb, the seven men and four women, all aged between 20 and 27, draped a white banner with "love" written in red over the infamous gate, removed their clothes and chained themselves together.

(AFP )

Monaco police were hunting for two suspects Saturday after a daring afternoon robbery at the famous French jeweller Cartier, prompting a brief lockdown of the tiny principality and jet set haven.

Three men entered the boutique toward 3:40 pm (1440 GMT) while a driver waited in a car, the Monaco prosecutor's office said, adding that no shots were fired and no one was wounded or taken hostage.

The area -- which is also home to Monte Carlo's famed casino -- was sealed off by the police as soon as the alarm was sounded, they said, adding that at least one man was armed.

(AFP )

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday it would be "easier" if the EU blocked Ankara's bid to join the bloc, suggesting he could even hold a referendum on the matter.

It was the latest barb in the bitter dispute between Turkey and Europe after Germany and The Netherlands blocked Turkish ministers from campaigning among expats for a "yes" vote in next month's referendum on boosting Erdogan's powers.

(AFP )

With 29 days to go before the first round of France's two-stage presidential election, outgoing head of state Francois Hollande has urged candidates to keep faith with the European Union even as Britain prepares to leave the bloc.

Here are three things that happened in the campaign on Saturday:

- Let them throw eggs -

(AFP )

Pope Francis went to Milan on Saturday where he met families on a working-class housing estate and visited a prison before celebrating mass for hundreds of thousands of faithful in nearby Monza.

During his visit to Milan, better known for football, fashion and luxury, the Argentine pontiff put the spotlight on those less fortunate.

Francis's first stop was at the Case Bianche (White Houses), a run-down collection of concrete tower blocks from the 1970s on the edge of the wealthy city.

(AFP )

Air strikes have killed dozens of civilians in west Mosul in recent days, officials said Saturday, as the number of people fleeing fighting against jihadists in the area topped 200,000.

Hundreds of thousands more are still in danger inside the city, where Iraqi forces have recaptured a series of neighbourhoods since the operation to retake west Mosul from the Islamic State group began last month.

Both Iraqi aircraft and those from an international US-led coalition are carrying out strikes against IS in the Mosul area.

(AFP )

President Donald Trump sought Saturday to put a good face on his most stinging political setback yet, declaring that Obamacare would collapse and vowing to develop a "great" replacement.

"ObamaCare will explode and we will all get together and piece together a great healthcare plan for THE PEOPLE. Do not worry!" the Republican said on Twitter.

But it was far from clear how soon Trump and fellow Republicans would be willing to wade again into the perilous political minefield of health care reform after failing to repeal Barack Obama's signature program.

(AFP )

Brazil, trying to recover from a rotten meat scandal that has pummeled its agribusiness industry, said Saturday that major trading partner China had lifted a ban on imports of its products.

"China announced today it has fully reopened its market to Brazilian meat," Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi said in a statement.

Maggi did not say when the resumption of Brazilian meat imports, suspended Monday by China, would take effect.

(AFP )

The US-led coalition against the Islamic State group said Saturday that it struck a location in west Mosul where civilians were reportedly killed by aerial bombing.

"An initial review of strike data... indicates that, at the request of the Iraqi security forces, the coalition struck (IS) fighters and equipment, March 17, in west Mosul at the location corresponding to allegations of civilian casualties," it said in a statement.

(AFP )

Tens of thousands of pro-EU protesters took to London's streets Saturday, in defiance of the terror threat, to mark the bloc's 60th anniversary just days before Brexit begins.

Organisers said around 80,000 people joined the march calling for Britain to stay in the European Union, even as Prime Minister Theresa May prepares to start the withdrawal process on Wednesday.

A sea of blue EU flags stretched down Piccadilly and past Trafalgar Square, interspersed by signs saying "I am European" and "I'm 15 -- I want my future back!"

(AFP )

Russia's army on Saturday dismissed a French claim that Raqa, the Islamic State's stronghold in Syria, was surrounded by troops who were poised to storm it, saying it had "no relation to reality."

Russia's curt dismissal came a day after French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the jihadist group's de facto capital was "surrounded" and that the battle to prise it from IS control "will begin in the coming days."

"This will be a very hard battle but essential," he told France's CNEWS television, drawing a sceptical response from Russia.

(AFP )

Donald Trump sat in the Oval Office on Friday evening in an unfamiliar position -- having to own failure.

His health care reform, his very first significant legislative proposal, had fallen at the first hurdle in a friendly Congress.

For sure, the 70-year-old businessman had faltered before -- from bankrupt casinos to shuttered hotels. But until now bravado was enough to keep his brand intact, and carry him all the way to the White House.

Now -- in the fiercest spotlight in the world, as president of the United States -- there was nowhere to hide.

(AFP )

Air strikes carried out in recent days have killed dozens of civilians in west Mosul, where Iraqi forces are battling jihadists, officials said on Saturday.

Both Iraqi aircraft and a US-led international coalition are bombing the Islamic State group in the Mosul area.

"There are dozens of bodies still under the rubble," Bashar al-Kiki, the head of the Nineveh provincial council, told AFP.

(AFP )

Pro-democracy activists and hundreds of supporters marched in Hong Kong Saturday ahead of a vote for the city's next leader which they reject as a sham.

Hong Kong's next chief executive will be chosen by a pro-China committee on Sunday morning with former deputy leader Carrie Lam widely seen as Beijing's favourite for the job, but intensely disliked by the democracy camp who view her as a hardliner.

(AFP )

At least 16 civilians were killed and dozens wounded on Saturday in an air strike on a rebel-held area outside Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said.

It said it was not immediately clear who was responsible for the strike on the town Hammuriyeh in the opposition bastion of Eastern Ghouta, which has been targeted by both the government and its ally Russia in the past.

(AFP )

Britain's anti-immigration, anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP) lost its only MP on Saturday when Douglas Carswell quit the party, just days before Prime Minister Theresa May is to launch the formal Brexit process.

Carswell defected from the ruling Conservative Party in 2014 to become the only UKIP member of the 650-seat House of Commons, but he has long been at odds with the party's founder, Nigel Farage.

In a blog post, Carswell said the party had played a leading role in last year's referendum vote to leave the European Union, but it was "job done".

(AFP )

A controversial ban on carry-on laptops and tablets on flights from the Middle East to the United States and Britain went into effect Saturday -- with less fanfare and frustration than expected.

From Dubai to Doha, passengers on dozens of flights checked in their electronic devices, many shrugging off the measure as yet another inconvenience of global travel.

"It's a rule. I follow the rules," said Rakan Mohammed, a Qatari national who flies from Doha to the US two to three times a year.