Sunday 19 November 2017

In the world

(AFP )

Saudi Arabia warned Sunday that it would not stand idly by in the face of Iranian "aggression", as Bahrain said the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement was "in total control" of Lebanon.

The foreign ministers of both Gulf states spoke at an extraordinary general meeting of the Arab League at its Cairo headquarters, called by Riyadh.

The Arab League meeting comes as tensions soar between regional arch-rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran, including over League member Lebanon.

(AFP )

Bahrain's foreign minister said Sunday that Lebanon is under the "total control" of the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement, in a speech at an Arab League meeting called by Riyadh.

"The Lebanese Republic, in spite of our relations with it as a brotherly Arab nation... is under the total control of this terrorist party," said Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, referring to the powerful Shiite movement.

"Iran's biggest arm in the region at the moment is the terrorist Hezbollah arm," Sheikh Khalid charged.

(AFP )

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday formally rejected a request to pardon a soldier convicted of manslaughter for shooting dead a prone Palestinian assailant, Rivlin's office said.

"President Reuven Rivlin today took the decision to deny the request for pardon filed by Elor Azaria," it said in an English-language statement, exactly one month after the jailed soldier submitted his request.

On July 30, a military court turned down Azaria's appeal against his conviction for manslaughter and upheld an 18-month prison sentence, which he began serving on August 9.

(AFP )

Brazil promotes itself as a harmonious blend of races, but the reality as the country celebrates Black Awareness Day on Monday is that the darker your skin, the less chance you have of getting ahead.

The numbers are hard to ignore.

According to the state statistics office, only about five percent of management jobs are held by non-whites, who account for 54 percent of the population, according to the latest census.

(AFP )

At least 15 women were killed and five injured Sunday in a crush as food aid was distributed near the coastal tourist town of Essaouira in western Morocco, authorities and witnesses said.

The accident happened in the village of Sidi Boulaalam, around 60 kilometres (35 miles) from Essaouira.

A witness told AFP that hundreds of women had gathered at a village marketplace for a distribution of flour organised annually by a prominent benefactor from the region who lives in the commercial capital, Casablanca.

(AFP )

A 31-year-old French police officer shot three people dead before turning the gun on himself, in a killing spree sparked by a row with his girlfriend, authorities said Sunday.

The news comes with France already grappling with a surge in police suicides this year

The Paris officer, Arnaud Martin, finished his shift on Saturday evening and went to meet his girlfriend in Sarcelles, a suburb north of the capital city, to discuss ending their relationship.

(AFP )

French authorities will stop Muslims from praying in a street north of Paris, the country's interior minister said Sunday, after a series of protests by lawmakers and locals over what they view as an unacceptable use of public space.

"They will not have prayers on the street, we will prevent street praying," Interior Minister Gerard Collomb told Questions Politics (Franceinfo, France Inter, Le Monde).

(AFP )

European Council President Donald Tusk on Sunday questioned whether tensions between Poland's rightwing government with Ukraine and the EU is a "Kremlin plan".

"Alarm!" warned Tusk, a former liberal prime minister of Poland, on his personal Twitter account.

"Intense dispute with Ukraine, isolation within the European Union, departure from the rule of law and judicial independence, attack on the non-governmental sector and free media - is this PiS strategy or the Kremlin's plan? Too similar to sleep peacefully," he said in Polish.

(AFP )

The Syrian army and loyalist militiamen Sunday retook full control of Albu Kamal from the Islamic State group, a military source said, ousting the jihadists from their last urban stronghold in Syria.

Albu Kamal has changed hands several times, with government forces announcing the capture of the town near the Iraqi border earlier this month but losing it to a blistering IS counter-attack a week ago.

"Syrian troops and allied forces took full control of Albu Kamal, and are removing mines and explosives left by IS," the military source in Deir Ezzor told AFP on Sunday.

(AFP )

Chinese authorities on Sunday launched an investigation into a fire in a low-income Beijing housing block that killed 19 people, as workers evacuated hundreds from nearby apartments and demolished other buildings.

Authorities are still probing the cause of the Saturday night blaze that also injured eight people, according to a statement from the Beijing city government.

(AFP )

Pope Francis called on Sunday to fight indifference to poverty on what has been dubbed the first "World Day for the Poor" by the Catholic Church.

Celebrating the event in Rome at a mass attended by about 7,000 poor people at St. Peter's Basilica, the Pope urged people not to ignore poverty by believing that "it's not my business, it's the fault of society".

"We have the talents, we are talented in the eyes of God. Consequently, no one can think that he or she is useless, so poor as to be incapable of giving something to others," he said.

(AFP )

Turkish authorities on Sunday announced a ban on all LGBTI cultural events in Ankara province until further notice to "maintain public order".

The move follows a ban on a festival of German-language gay films in the capital on Thursday, imposed on the grounds it could incite hatred and be at risk from terror attacks.

"Since (Saturday) 18 November and until further notice, all film and theatre events, screenings, panels, colloquium, exhibitions, etc... have been banned," the Ankara adminstration said on its website.

(AFP )

The EU's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Sunday she would discuss ways to end the Rohingya crisis with Aung San Suu Kyi when she meets the Myanmar leader in Yangon.

Mogherini and foreign ministers from Asia and Europe toured refugee camps along Bangladesh's border with Myanmar and heard harrowing testimony from displaced Rohingya there before their meeting Monday with Suu Kyi.

(AFP )

European investigators are looking into allegations that alcohol imported by the EU's diplomatic mission in Kabul was illegally sold on the city's black market, an EU spokesman confirmed on Sunday.

Bottles of wine and spirits meant for European officials were allegedly smuggled out of the compound and bootlegged in the Afghan capital, the Guardian reported, citing social media messages now being examined by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF).

(AFP )

NATO has taken 'disciplinary action' against an individual over an incident in which Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the country's modern founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk were portrayed as enemies, the alliance's secretary general has said.

The incident happened during a NATO military exercise in the southern Norwegian city of Stavanger and resulted in Ankara withdrawing its 40 troops last week.

(AFP )

Arab foreign ministers gathered in Cairo on Sunday at Saudi Arabia's request for an extraordinary meeting to discuss alleged "violations" committed by Iran in the region.

The Arab League meeting comes as tensions have been rising between long-standing rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran, including over League member Lebanon.

Sunni Muslim powerhouse Saudi Arabia and Iran, the predominant Shiite power, have for decades stood on opposing sides of conflicts in the Middle East including in Syria and Yemen.

(AFP )

Israel's cabinet voted on Sunday to close a migrant detention centre, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced an agreement to deport 40,000 Africans who entered the country illegally.

Ministers unanimously approved plans to shutter the Holot centre in southern Israel and gave migrants a three-month deadline to leave the country or face deportation, said the interior and public security ministries.

"The infiltrators will have the option to be imprisoned or leave the country," the public security ministry said in a statement.

(AFP )

Proving that love knows no boundaries, a Mexican woman and a US man meet at a gate that has been briefly opened in the fence separating their countries to exchange marriage vows.

The US Border Patrol opened the gate at Playas de Tijuana, known as the Door of Hope, for one hour on Saturday, allowing quick meetings for friends and relatives from both sides.

In the crowd on the Mexican side was Evelia Reyes, who arrived wearing a white wedding dress, a long flowing train and a white veil.

(AFP )

North Korea's foreign minister is to visit Cuba on Monday in a trip that comes at a time when both Pyongyang and Havana have strained relations with Washington.

Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho will meet with his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla and participate in other unspecified activities, according to a brief statement late Saturday from Cuba's foreign ministry.

The visit comes as Washington and Pyongyang are locked in a dangerous standoff over North Korea's development of nuclear-tipped missiles capable of hitting the continental United States.

(AFP )

Tens of thousands of runners Sunday choked through smog for the Delhi half marathon, ignoring dire health warnings from doctors who fought for the controversial race in the heavily polluted capital to be postponed.

More than 30,000 people, some sporting pollution masks, braved a hazy morning to run through the Indian capital despite almost two weeks of hazardous smog that forced schools shut for several days.

(AFP )

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to be questioned by police on Sunday for the second time this month over two alleged cases of corruption, media reports said.

Netanyahu is suspected of having received luxury gifts from wealthy supporters, including Israeli businessman and Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.

Milchan, a longtime friend of Netanyahu who reportedly sent him boxes of expensive cigars and other items worth tens of thousands of dollars, was himself questioned in September.

(AFP )

Chileans went to the polls Sunday in the first round of the country's presidential election, with former leader Sebastian Pinera hoping to capitalize on his front-runner status to succeed Socialist leader Michelle Bachelet.

But pundits believe Pinera, a conservative 67-year-old billionaire who was president from 2010 to 2014, may not gain enough support to avoid a runoff next month -- likely against Alejandro Guillier, an independent supported by Bachelet's Socialists.

(AFP )

Australians paid tribute to AC/DC co-founder and fellow countryman Malcolm Young on Sunday, a day after the legendary guitarist passed away aged 64.

Young, who founded the rock group with his brother Angus in 1973, died Saturday after suffering from dementia for several years, according to his family and the band.

Best known for their hit song Highway to Hell, AC/DC formed produced 17 studio albums, selling more than 200 million records.

"AC/DC were incredibly special," Australian rock historian Glen A. Baker told national broadcaster ABC Sunday.

(AFP )

They have revolutionised the way we live, but are US tech giants the new robber barons of the 21st century, banking billions in profit while short-changing the public by paying only a pittance in tax?

With public coffers still strained years after the worst of the debt crisis, EU leaders have agreed to tackle the question, spurred on by French President Emmanuel Macron who has slammed the likes of Google, Facebook and Apple as the "freeloaders of the modern world".

(AFP )

From the graveside to the dinner plate, olive oil is being harvested from centuries-old trees at a Australian cemetery in a bid to shake up people's attitudes towards death and burial sites.

The full-bodied oil from Adelaide city's West Terrace Cemetery is the latest effort by Australian authorities to attract not just the dead -- but also the living -- to the historic sites.

(AFP )

Swimming with wild dolphins is something most can only dream of, and jumping into pools with captive animals has become increasingly controversial with environmentalists condemning it as cruel.

But a Dutch non-profit believes it has found a way to bring people, especially the disabled, closer to such a joyful experience through the technological, immersive advances offered by virtual reality (VR).

(AFP )

A driverless, electric car is only a swipe away in the cities of the future, where pollution clampdowns and rapid advances in technology will transform the way we travel, despite lagging infrastructure.

As more and more countries announce a phasing-out of pure petrol and diesel cars, early versions of tomorrow's models are already on the streets: hybrid cars, fully electric motors and vehicles that can partially drive themselves.

Attitudes to vehicle ownership in cities are changing as smartphone apps make a ride available in minutes.

(AFP )

For the past six years, home for the man who once commanded fear across a swathe of Bosnia has been a small, spartan cell in a UN prison, close to the dunes and the stormy North Sea.

In the imposing jail, part of a Dutch prison complex in the seaside resort of Scheveningen, Ratko Mladic, accused of genocide as well as crimes against humanity and war crimes, has been free to walk his corridor during daylight hours.

(AFP )

The UN court dealing with crimes committed during the wars that followed the break-up of Yugoslavia hands down its penultimate ruling on Wednesday, having delivered 83 convictions.

Ahead of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) judgement of Bosnian Serb army chief Ratko Mladic, here is a rundown of the fate of other key players in the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

- Milosevic, Serbian president: charged -

(AFP )

Ratko Mladic, who faces judgement Wednesday for alleged genocide, believed himself a crusading defender of the Serbs but was dubbed the "Butcher of Bosnia" for mass slaughter at the hands of his forces.

The ruthless commander of Bosnian Serb troops in the 1990s civil war, Mladic came to symbolise a barbaric plan to rid swathes of Bosnian territory of Croats and Muslims and carve out a Serb-only state.

Captured in 2011 after 16 years on the run, Europe's most wanted man was by then an ailing shadow of his former stocky self.

(AFP )

Ahead of the judgement Wednesday of Bosnian Serb army chief Ratko Mladic, here is a timeline of the 1990s Balkans conflicts that tore apart the former Yugoslavia.

- Bickering after Tito dies -

Communist Yugoslavia, which emerged shortly after the end of World War II, was made up of six republics: Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro and Macedonia.

Following the death of its autocratic leader Josip Broz Tito in 1980, the Yugoslav federation found itself in crisis, with bickering between ethnic groups and surging nationalist sentiments.

(AFP )

"Islamic State - Euphrates Province" reads an abandoned sign covered by dust and sand in the Iraqi town of Rawa.

A day after government forces ousted the Islamic State group from the last town it held in the country, the banner is now just a reminder of the vast "caliphate" the jihadists once ruled.

Hamza Mahmud, 13, has seen the past three years of his young life dominated by the harsh demands and tight control of IS in this desert region on the border with Syria.

(AFP )

Chancellor Angela Merkel will make a last push Sunday to forge a government, in a twin battle to save her political future and avert fresh electionsthat could destabilise Germany and Europe.

Elections in September had left the veteran leader without a majority and weakened as some of her party's voters turned to the far-right AfD because of anger over her liberal refugee policy.

(AFP )

A multinational armada of aircraft and vessels battled high winds and giant waves Sunday as they intensified their search for a missing Argentine submarine, after attempted distress calls raised hopes the 44 crew members may still be alive.

There has been no contact with the ARA San Juan, a German-built diesel-electric sub, since early Wednesday.

An air and sea search is underway with help from countries including Brazil, Britain, Chile, Uruguay and the United States.

(AFP )

Immigration policy is emerging as one of the thorniest issues dividing German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and left-leaning Greens as they seek to forge a coalition government in marathon talks.

Here are the three main stumbling blocks on which they will have to reach common positions to avoid snap elections.

- Immigration -