Monday 19 March 2018

In the world

(AFP )

The ground for the wave of #MeToo accusations sweeping socially conservative South Korea was laid by a defiant saleswoman who took on the corporate might of Samsung, won a harassment case against her boss and changed career to become a lawyer.

Lee Eun-eui now focuses on helping victims of sex abuse herself.

The #MeToo movement against the abuse of women at first met a muted response in the country, where victims fear losing their jobs and public humiliation if they complain.

(AFP )

A former South Korean presidential contender accused of raping two women including his aide has denied the allegations against him, in the highest-profile case linked to the country's growing #MeToo campaign.

Ahn Hee-jung -- who came second to current President Moon Jae-in in the contest for the ruling Democratic Party's presidential nomination last year -- said the sex was "consensual", in comments to reporters before being questioned by prosecutors Monday.

(AFP )

Nyakol was 15, healthy and strong when South Sudanese soldiers attacked her hometown of Leer, forcing her to flee with her mother into the surrounding swamps.

Not for the first time, government troops tore through the northern rebel stronghold, killing, kidnapping and raping, so Nyakol was lucky to escape, but she contracted cerebral malaria while in hiding.

Treatment for the disease came too late, leaving her brain-damaged and unable to walk, talk or eat without help.

(AFP )

North Korea is in talks with the US and Sweden to release three Americans held in the North, reports said, as diplomatic activities gathered pace ahead of Pyongyang's planned summits with Washington and Seoul.

The release of the three Korean-Americans -- all held in the North after being separately charged with unspecified "hostile acts" against the regime -- is under discussion through multiple channels almost two weeks after President Donald Trump agreed to meet the North's Kim Jong Un, reports said.

(AFP )

Former Australia fast bowler Brett Lee says emotion and aggression are part of the game and doesn't want to see robots on the field, but he warned against behaviour "crossing the line".

The ongoing Australia tour of South Africa has been marred by on-field altercations with South African speedster Kagiso Rabada appealing against a two-Test ban for a shoulder barge on Aussie skipper Steve Smith in the second Test.

The 41-year-old Lee, a fearsome fast bowler during a sparkling career for Australia from 1999 to 2012, told AFP that controlled aggression is good for the sport.

(AFP )

International chemical weapons experts were due to arrive in Britain Monday to collect samples of a nerve agent used to poison a former Russian spy as London accused Moscow of stockpiling the toxin used in the attack.

The poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English city of Salisbury on March 4 has triggered a crisis with Britain and Russia expelling diplomats in tit-for-tat measures.

London and its allies have blamed Moscow for the attack which left the Skripals in critical condition after exposure to a nerve agent.

(AFP )

A Greek-Russian businessman of humble origins, PAOK FC owner Ivan Savvidis has put Greek football once again under the spotlight after storming onto the pitch with a holstered gun at his belt.

The Greek government suspended the football league after the incident on March 11 and FIFA has demanded immediate action from Greek authorities, with both PAOK and Savvidis facing stiff penalties.

But in Thessaloniki, Greece's neglected northern metropolis, Savvidis is feted as the man who has saved many of the top enterprises in the Greek north from ruin.

(AFP )

The guaimaro, a highly prized tree bearing nutritious fruit, once abundant throughout South America, is slowly being coaxed back from near extinction in Colombia.

Widely adaptable, the tree is resistant to drought -- though not, sadly, to man. Deforestation has decimated the bountiful tree, whose leaves and fruit have for centuries sustained animals and humans alike.

"Without trees, there is no water, and without water, there are no trees. People cut it, burn it for cultivation, for their livestock. Wood is scarce and the rivers are drying up," lamented Manuel Duran.

(AFP )

Japan's embattled prime minister hit back on Monday at critics over a favouritism and cover-up scandal that has seen his popularity plunge and loosened his iron grip on power.

In a hotly awaited statement in parliament, Shinzo Abe stressed he had not ordered bureaucrats to alter documents relating to a controversial land sale as he comes under mounting pressure over the scandal.

"I have never ordered changes," he said.

The scandal surrounds the 2016 sale of state-owned land to a nationalist operator of schools who claims ties to Abe and his wife Akie.

(AFP )

Forget the vet -- worshippers in Nicaragua appealed to a higher power to cure their beloved canine friends Sunday, during an annual festival in honor of Saint Lazarus.

Dressed up as angels, sports players, sailors and princesses, dogs in the western city of Mayasa joined their owners for a colorful celebration recognizing the patron saint of beggars and the sick.

"I have come to pay tribute to Saint Lazarus to save my dog," said Rosa Blas, 18, holding her German Shepherd, Osa, in her arms. Osa had a fever and could not walk.

(AFP )

Tennis great Martina Navratilova accused the BBC Monday of a "shocking" pay gap which saw her fellow Wimbledon pundit John McEnroe paid at least 10 times more than her.

Navratilova said she was paid around £15,000 ($20,900, 17,000 euros) by the BBC for her role as a commentator at Wimbledon, where she was crowned ladies' champion nine times during her tennis career.

(AFP )

President Vladimir Putin on Sunday rubbished claims that Russia poisoned a former spy in Britain, on the eve of international chemical weapons experts heading to the UK to probe the attack.

"It's complete drivel, rubbish, nonsense that somebody in Russia would allow themselves to do such a thing ahead of elections and the World Cup," Putin told supporters after winning a fourth term as president.

(AFP )

Donald Trump will host Saudi Arabia's crown prince in Washington Tuesday, giving the president a receptive audience to denounce rival Iran and a chance to take stock of significant changes the prince is engineering in the kingdom.

Ten months after the last face-to-face meeting between Trump and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in Riyadh, the 71-year-old president and the 32-year-old strongman prince are expected to deepen an already warm and congenial relationship.

(AFP )

Vladimir Putin won Russia's presidential election on Sunday, giving him a fourth term that will take him to nearly a quarter-century as the head of state or government.

Here are some of the world leaders who have held power the longest -- excluding monarchs enthroned for life.

- More than four decades -

Topping the list with 49 years in power is Cuba's revolutionary hero Fidel Castro, who handed over to his brother Raul in 2008 when he was in his early 80s.

(AFP )

Jose Antonio Meade formally registered Sunday as the Mexican governing party's presidential candidate, promising to end the immunity that has long shielded corrupt officials from prosecution.

"To the Mexican people, who are angry about corruption, we are committed to leading an honest government," the former foreign minister said after registering his candidacy for the July 1 elections with the National Electoral Institute (INE).

(AFP )

In power for almost two decades, Vladimir Putin predictably won a fourth Kremlin term in Russia's presidential election on Sunday, extending his long rule for another six years.

With no successor and no political competition, what are the possible scenarios when his term ends in 2024?

- Leaving power -

Without constitutional reform, Putin will not be able to run for a fifth time -- Russian law forbids serving more than two consecutive terms.

(AFP )

Syrian Turkish-backed forces went on the rampage in Afrin on Sunday, pillaging shops and homes after taking control of the northern city, AFP correspondents and a monitor said.

After chasing Kurdish fighters from Afrin, the pro-Ankara fighters broke into shops, restaurants and houses and left with foodstuff, electronic equipment, blankets and other goods, the correspondents said.

They placed the loot in cars and small trucks and drove them out of the city, they added.

(AFP )

The capture of Afrin from the Kurds by Turkish-led fighters on Sunday could have major repercussions for Syria's protracted war.

Here we look at what it means for Turkey, the Syrian regime and the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia who were in control of the city.

- What has Erdogan won?

Forces led by Turkey launched an offensive on January 20 to retake the enclave of Afrin from the YPG, which Ankara considers to be a "terrorist" offshoot of its own outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

(AFP )

With little doubt that Vladimir Putin would win with a landslide in Russia's presidential poll on Sunday, attention turned to whether the Kremlin could rally a large turnout for the strongman.

For the liberal opposition, the vote was a test of whether celebrity candidate Ksenia Sobchak had enough support to head a new party, while for the Communists, the question was whether a fresh face could revive the party's fortunes.

- Turnout -

(AFP )

A Palestinian stabbed and seriously wounded an Israeli security guard in Jerusalem's Old City on Sunday before being shot dead by a police officer, Israeli authorities said.

The stabbing came with concerns over the potential for an upsurge in unrest in the coming weeks as the United States prepares to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

The security guard was taken to hospital in serious condition suffering a stab wound to his torso, medics said.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld confirmed the assailant had been shot dead.

(AFP )

About 2,000 people marched through the Mare favela in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday in memory of human rights activist Marielle Franco, who was gunned down in an apparent assassination.

The march was the latest in a string of rallies expressing defiance and sorrow at Wednesday's slaying in the center of Rio.

"Marielle's voice will not be silenced," a march leader shouted through a megaphone.

(AFP )

"The voices of 50,000 deported Thessaloniki Jews must not be forgotten. It is time for Greece to delve back into its memory."

Those are the heartfelt words of David Saltiel, president of Thessaloniki's Jewish community which today numbers barely a thousand, three-quarters of a century after it was nearly wiped out by the Nazis.

Sunday saw residents gather at the city's old railway station in memory of the first of 19 convoys of Jewish residents deported to Auschwitz under Nazi occupation.

(AFP )

Briton Andria Zafirakou, who works in a school in one of the UK's poorest areas, on Sunday won the $1 million Global Teacher Prize for 2018 at a star-studded ceremony in Dubai.

The arts and textiles teacher from the Alperton Community College of Brent, an inner-city school in London, was among 10 finalists from around the globe for the annual award. Thirty thousand candidates were in the running.

Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum and British Prime Minister Theresa May were among the first to congratulate her.

(AFP )

Vladimir Putin, who exit polls say won a fourth term as Russian president in Sunday's election, has tightened the Kremlin's grip on society since taking power 18 years ago.

Here are key dates in the life of the 65-year-old former KGB officer:

- October 7, 1952: Putin is born into a poor working-class family in Leningrad, now called Saint Petersburg.

- 1998: He is named head of the FSB security service, the successor to the KGB, having joined the service in 1975.

(AFP )

President Donald Trump Sunday intensified his attacks on Robert Mueller's Russia investigation as biased against him, but stopped just short of targeting the special counsel -- whose ouster lawmakers warned would cross a "massive red line."

In a morning flurry on Twitter, Trump insisted that Mueller's team of investigators is staffed with "hardened" Democrats biased against him.

"Does anyone think this is fair? And yet, there is NO COLLUSION!" Trump wrote. The night before, he had tweeted, "The Mueller probe should never have been started."

(AFP )

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is "taking stock" of US President Donald Trump's surprise decision to accept his invitation for talks on denuclearizing the Korean peninsula, South Korea's foreign minister said in an interview that aired Sunday.

There has been no public North Korean response to Trump in the nearly two weeks since he stunned the world by agreeing to meet with Kim, a diplomatic gambit with huge stakes for both countries.

"We believe the North Korean leader is now taking stock," South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said on CBS's "Face the Nation."

(AFP )

David Sepashvili went to Russia's mountainous Dagestan region to work in a polling station and prevent violations in Sunday's presidential election, but said a group of thugs physically stopped him from doing his job.

About 50 muscular men entered polling station 1126 in the city of Makhachkala and assaulted the independent observer stationed there before telling Sepashvili to get outside too, leaving the ballot box unobserved.

(AFP )

International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde cautioned the United States against putting up barriers to trade in an interview published Sunday.

"Trade wars leave no winners," she said in the interview with Argentine daily La Nacion, responding to a question about President Donald Trump's decision to slap tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.

She said poor countries and poor people in rich countries have benefited from the surge in global trade over the past decade, but acknowledged that some regions and industries have suffered.

(AFP )

There's no escaping water rationing in Brazil's drought-hit capital Brasilia -- unless you're attending an international conference on global water supply problems, local media reported.

Brasilia has been on a schedule of rolling cuts to fresh water supply, neighborhood by neighborhood, since January 2017.

But the estimated 40,000 people expected to attend the 8th World Water Forum starting Sunday will be able to turn the taps on full, Folha de S.Paulo newspaper reports.

(AFP )

A KGB officer turned world leader, Vladimir Putin stamped his total authority on Russia, silencing opposition and reasserting Moscow's lost might abroad while building a strongman image through macho stunts.

Putin, 65, who extended his long rule to 2024 in Russia's presidential election on Sunday, has reimposed the Kremlin's grip on society since taking power 18 years ago after a lawless but relatively free decade following the demise of the USSR.

(AFP )

US President Donald Trump on Sunday attacked special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's election meddling as unfair, insisting the probe is staffed with "hardened" Democrats.

"Does anyone think this is fair? And yet, there is NO COLLUSION!" Trump tweeted.

The salvo was the latest in an intensifying confrontation over Mueller's probe into whether Trump's campaign colluded with Russian attempts to sway the 2016 election in his favor.

(AFP )

US President Donald Trump "will not succeed" in dividing European nations against one another over trade, German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier warned Sunday ahead of a visit to Washington.

In the European Union "we are a customs union and act collectively. It cannot be in the interest of the US government to divide Europe, nor will it succeed," Altmaier told German business daily Handelsblatt.

(AFP )

International Paralympic Committee (IPC) president Andrew Parsons on Sunday declared the Pyeongchang Winter Paralympics closed, and paid tribute to late British physicist Stephen Hawking as an "inspiration".

At a spectacular ceremony that featured dancing, music and light shows, the curtain was officially brought down on nine days of sporting action.

"The time has come for me to declare the Pyeongchang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games closed," Parsons said.

(AFP )

Norway's right-wing government could resign this week if the justice minister loses a no-confidence vote after she triggered outrage among survivors of a 2011 gun massacre, media reported Sunday.

In a Facebook post on March 9, Sylvi Listhaug, a member of the populist and anti-immigration Progress Party (FrP), had accused the opposition Labour Party of considering "the rights of terrorists (to be) more important than the security of the nation".

(AFP )

Turkey's army launched a major operation in northern Syria on January 20 in a bid to oust a US-allied Kurdish militia that Ankara sees as a terror group.

The offensive followed an announcement by a US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group that it would create a thousands-strong border force in northern Syria.

Around half of that force would be retrained fighters from the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, which is mainly made up of fighters from the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia.

Here is a timeline of the main events since: