Sunday 22 October 2017

In the world

(AFP )

Slovenian President Borut Pahor won Sunday's first round of presidential elections but is heading for a run-off on November 12, partial results showed.

"It seems like a second round will be needed, as we had expected in the first place," Pahor told journalists.

He added he believed he would win the next round, saying he will convince citizens he is "the best person to be the president for the following five years".

(AFP )

Conjoined twins born in Gaza Sunday need to leave the blockaded Palestinian enclave for treatment crucial to their survival, their doctor and a family member said.

"A woman gave birth this morning to Siamese twins joined at the stomach and pelvis," Allam Abu Hamda, head of the neonatal unit at Gaza's Shifa Hospital, told AFP.

Abu Hamda said the girls' complicated condition "cannot be dealt with in the Gaza Strip, so we hope they will be transferred abroad for a separation."

(AFP )

Thousands of people flocked to a rally Sunday to demand justice for murdered Maltese journalist and anti-corruption blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Crowds packed roads in the capital Valletta as the "national demonstration for justice" began in honour of the 53-year-old, killed in a car bombing Monday.

Initial shock at the slaughter of a woman whose work probed the murky corners of Maltese politics, rattling the government and opposition alike, has since given way to demands for a united front for justice.

(AFP )

US President Donald Trump said in an interview aired Sunday he does not object to France and Germany continuing trade with Iran, despite his refusal to certify the Iran nuclear deal.

"I told them just keep making money," the real estate mogul-turned-president told the Fox News program Sunday Morning Futures. "Don't worry. You just keep making money."

"They are friends of mine. They really are. I get along with all of them. Whether it's Emmanuel or Angela," Trump said, referring to French President Emmanuel Macron and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

(AFP )

A Palestinian city on Sunday cancelled the planned screening of a Lebanese film after activists called for a boycott over the director's "normalisation" with Israel.

"The Insult", which deals with the Lebanese civil war, was scheduled to be screened Monday in Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, as part of the "Days of Cinema" festival.

But Ramallah's municipality decided on Sunday to cancel the showing at a city-run facility after pressure from Palestinian activists who accused French-Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri of promoting "normalisation" with Israel.

(AFP )

Top US diplomat Rex Tillerson pursued efforts to curb Tehran's influence in talks with his country's Gulf allies Sunday, demanding that Iran pare down its involvement in Iraq as the fight against the Islamic State group draws to a close.

Tillerson's visit to the Gulf, his third as secretary of state, also aims at persuading Qatar and a rival Saudi led-alliance to open the door to dialogue -- a goal he said had come to a deadlock Sunday.

(AFP )

A British woman died Saturday night after falling from a boat which hit a beacon in the Rhone river in Avignon, southern France, emergency services said.

The 27-year-old went overboard and was later found by divers at a depth of six metres, the fire service told AFP. Five others, including another Briton, were injured in the incident.

Eight friends aged between 20 and 30 -- four French and four British -- were on board the seven metre boat with a pilot aged around 50 when it struck the beacon at 10:45 pm (2045 GMT) on Saturday.

(AFP )

Pope Francis on Sunday called for constructive dialogue in Kenya where he said he was following the situation with "close attention" over disputed elections.

"I am paying close attention in these days to Kenya, which I visited in 2015," Francis told pilgrims and tourists gathered for the Angelus prayer.

Francis said he was praying "that the whole country might be able to face the current difficulties in a climate of constructive dialogue, having at heart the search for the common good."

(AFP )

Ivory Coast veteran Salomon Kalou rescued Hertha Berlin with a penalty at the second attempt in Sunday's 1-1 draw at Freiburg in the Bundesliga.

Hosts Freiburg took the lead on 52 minutes when the video assistant referee (VAR) confirmed Christian Guenter had been fouled in the penalty area and Janik Haberer drilled home from the spot.

At the other end, Kalou fired his first penalty effort over the bar on 77 minutes after Berlin midfielder Arne Maier was brought down in the area.

(AFP )

A powerful typhoon ripped into central Japan early Monday, leaving two dead and more than 10 injured, hours after millions struggled to the polls for a national election.

Authorities advised thousands living in coastal areas or near rivers to evacuate to shelters as Typhoon Lan, described as "very large and very strong", made landfall in Shizuoka southwest of Tokyo at around 3.00 am (1800 GMT Sunday).

(AFP )

When Haider al-Abadi was tasked with forming a new Iraqi government in August 2014, just weeks after a lightning offensive by the Islamic State group, many believed he would fail.

Three years later, the stocky prime minister with a close-cut white beard has transformed what many in Iraq considered "mission impossible" into a success story.

He has rebuilt the crumbling armed forces, chased IS from more than 90 percent of territory it had seized -- around a third of Iraq -- and retaken disputed areas in the north from Kurdish peshmerga fighters.

(AFP )

Former US president Jimmy Carter says he has offered to go to North Korea on behalf of the White House to try to allay rising tensions, but has not been asked, the New York Times reported Sunday.

"I would go, yes," Carter told the Times in an interview at his home when asked if he would go on such a trip for the Donald Trump administration.

The 93-year-old Democrat, who was president from 1977 to 1981, said he had told the Republican president's National Security Advisor HR McMaster that he "was available if they ever need me."

(AFP )

Afghanistan will play three one-day internationals against Ireland in Sharjah in December while they also eye their inaugural Test against Zimbabwe, an official said Sunday.

"We are hosting a three-match ODI series between Afghanistan and Ireland in December and there are also discussions on Afghanistan playing their inaugural Test at our ground after the ODI series," Mazhar Khan, GM Sharjah cricket stadium, told AFP.

The three ODIs will be played on December 5, 7 and 10.

(AFP )

More than 600,000 Rohingya refugees have fled Myanmar for Bangladesh since violence erupted in northern Rakhine in August, a UN report said Sunday.

The grim new landmark comes as authorities in Bangladesh were bracing for another possible surge in Rohingya arrivals, with thousands from the Muslim minority believed to be stranded along the border waiting to cross.

(AFP )

Indonesia said Sunday its military chief had been refused entry to the United States and asked Washington for an explanation.

General Gatot Nurmantyo was due to attend a conference in Washington at the request of General Joseph F. Dunford, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, but the military said he was unable to board his Emirates flight in Jakarta on Saturday.

Military spokesman Brigjen Wuryanto said the general was refused entry by the US Customs and Border Protection agency.

(AFP )

Catalonia's separatists weighed their options Sunday ahead of a week that will see Spain take the drastic step of sacking the region's government as well as calling fresh elections to try and stop the country breaking up.

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and his regional executive will be booted out, with Madrid taking control of ministries under unprecedented measures announced on Saturday by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

"Yesterday there was a fully-fledged coup against Catalan institutions," said Catalan government spokesman Jordi Turull.

(AFP )

Thousands of demonstrators marched Sunday in Berlin, in protest against the far-right Alternative for Germany's debut in parliament next week.

Bearing posters with slogans like "Stop AfD", "My voice against incitement" or "My heart beats for diversity", the demonstrators rallied two days before AfD lawmakers will join other MPs at the first sitting of Germany's newly-elected parliament.

The Islamophobic and anti-migrant AfD garnered 12.6 percent of the vote in the watershed general election in September and became the country's third biggest party.

(AFP )

Voters in the northern Italian regions of Lombardy and Veneto were voting Sunday in referendums on autonomy, against the backdrop of Catalonia's push for independence from Spain.

The consultative votes are only the beginning of a process which could over time lead to powers being devolved from Rome.

Secessionist sentiment in the two wealthy regions is restricted to fringe groups with little following.

(AFP )

A note that Albert Einstein gave to a courier in Tokyo, briefly describing his theory on happy living, has surfaced after 95 years and is up for auction in Jerusalem.

The year was 1922, and the German-born physicist, most famous for his theory of relativity, was on a lecture tour in Japan.

He had recently been informed that he was to receive the Nobel Prize for physics, and his fame outside of scientific circles was growing.

(AFP )

The head of the World Health Organization on Sunday reversed his decision to name Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe as a goodwill ambassador following widespread uproar against the appointment.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, a former Ethiopian health minister who took charge of the UN agency in July, had earlier this week given Mugabe the honorary role to help combat non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Africa.

(AFP )

As Catalonia's independence crisis deepens, here are the key events that have rocked the region since this month's referendum on splitting from Spain.

- October 1: Violence-hit referendum -

Hundreds of thousands of Catalans vote in an independence referendum that goes ahead despite a court ban deeming it unconstitutional.

Spanish riot police try to block the vote. Shocking footage emerges of them using batons and rubber bullets on crowds and roughing up voters.

(AFP )

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny walked free on Sunday after a 20-day jail term for organising protests against President Vladimir Putin.

Navalny, who has declared his intention to stand for president in 2018, was released in a secret location in Moscow early Sunday to evade media attention.

"Hi. I'm out," Navalny wrote on Instagram, posting a picture of himself on a street. A photographer working for his team later posted photographs of him meeting colleagues at the office of his anti-corruption foundation.

(AFP )

European Parliament chief Antonio Tajani said Europe should "fear" the spread of small nations as Spain struggled Sunday with the Catalonia crisis and the Italian regions of Lombardy and Veneto voted in referendums on greater autonomy.

In an interview with the Rome daily Il Messaggero, the Italian politician said Europe must "of course fear" the proliferation of small nations.

"That's why nobody in Europe intends to recognise Catalonia," he said.

(AFP )

Russia on Sunday accused the US-led coalition in Syria of having flattened Raqa with a Dresden-like bombing campaign and masking the destruction with a rush of humanitarian aid.

In a statement, the defence ministry said that Raqa -- the capital of the Islamic State group's self-proclaimed caliphate -- "inherited the fate of Dresden in 1945, razed to the ground by Anglo-American bombings."

US-backed Kurdish-led forces last week recaptured Raqa, the capital of IS's self-proclaimed caliphate and its last major stronghold in Syria.

(AFP )

A US-backed Arab-Kurd alliance announced on Sunday it had retaken one of Syria's largest oilfields from the Islamic State group in the east of country.

The Al-Omar oilfield in the province of Deir Ezzor produced 30,000 barrels per day before the start of Syria's conflict in 2011 and became a key source of income for the jihadists after they seized it in 2014.

US-led coalition air strikes destroyed the field in 2015, after the jihadists had reaped estimated oil sale revenues from it of between $1.7 million and $5.1 million a month, according to the coalition.

(AFP )

Shinzo Abe, on course to become Japan's longest-serving leader after Sunday's election win, is seen as a pragmatic and canny diplomat who has cozied up to Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin while pushing a nationalist agenda at home.

Groomed for power from birth, the 63-year-old is often viewed as arrogant but has also shown a self-deprecating sense of humour, dressing up as video game icon Super Mario as the Rio Olympics closed to give a zany preview of Tokyo 2020.

(AFP )

Eleven people, mostly foreign workers, were killed in a landslide at a construction site on Malaysia's Penang Island, officials said Sunday, as anger mounted among residents at the accident.

Huge mounds of earth slipped off a hillside Saturday morning and buried the men as they worked on two apartment blocks of affordable housing on the island, which is popular with tourists.

Authorities initially said that 13 foreign workers and a Malaysian supervisor were trapped under the mud and rubble at the site in Tanjung Bungah, north of Penang's historic capital George Town.

(AFP )

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe swept to a resounding victory in a snap election Sunday and immediately vowed to "deal firmly" with threats from North Korea that dominated the campaign.

Abe's ruling conservative coalition was on track to win more than 310 seats in the 465-seat parliament, according to a projection from public broadcaster NHK, handing the premier a two-thirds "super-majority."

(AFP )

A diver separated from his boat off the coast of Australia said Sunday he was lucky to be alive after being forced to swim miles back to shore -- shadowed by a large tiger shark.

The spear fisherman, named in local media as John Craig, was underwater off Western Australia state Friday when his boat was swept away due to engine problems and strong currents.

"I put my head in the water to check I was in the same place and suddenly saw a huge four-metre (13-foot) tiger shark approaching within arm's reach," Craig told commercial broadcaster Channel Nine.

(AFP )

All five of America's living former presidents took the stage Saturday at a benefit concert in Texas to raise money for victims of the hurricane-ravaged southern United States and Caribbean.

Former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter appeared together onstage at Texas A&M , praising Americans for their willingness to help fellow citizens and urging them to do more.

(AFP )

Chancellor Angela Merkel hails from Germany's ex-communist East, yet it is here where the anger against her runs deepest and the far-right protest party AfD has celebrated its strongest gains.

The electoral success of the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany, which scored 12.6 percent in September 24 elections, stunned much of the country.

But in Cottbus, located in the Lusatia coal mining region near the Polish border, many cheered the strong result for the party whose battle cry is "Merkel must go".

(AFP )

The lights go out, the projector whirls and entertainment-starved Saudis sink into plush seats to soak up an experience they have been denied for decades —- a trip to the cinema.

The rare movie night this week in Riyadh was a precursor to an expected formal lifting of the kingdom's ban on cinemas, long vilified as vulgar and sinful by religious hardliners.

Following a decree allowing women to drive, authorities have hinted cinemas would soon be permitted as part of ambitious reforms for a post-oil era that could shake up the austere kingdom's cultural scene.

(AFP )

While Chinese President Xi Jinping and his cohorts chart the nation's future at their leadership conclave in Beijing, his citizen army of red-armbanded foot soldiers are keeping an eye out for trouble outside.

Stationed on street corners, in front of shops and outside bars, civilians with armbands labelled "Public Security Volunteer" have deployed across the capital as the Communist Party holds its crucial five-yearly gathering.

(AFP )

Citizens mourning the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia are calling for Malta's deeply-ingrained tribal politics to be put aside so the shaken island nation can begin healing its wounds.

The initial shock at Monday's car bomb assassination is now turning into demands for a united front -- with tens of thousands, party allegiance aside, expected at a national rally on Sunday demanding justice for the journalist.

(AFP )

After prayers at the Chantelle Abbey in Allier, central France, a marketing meeting between the abbey's nuns and their employees discusses the latest orders for its on-site soap and cosmetics products, the delivery destination: Germany.

The community of Benedictine sisters has been manufacturing cosmetics since 1954, after two sisters, a chemist and a mathematician, began the practice.

Body lotions, shower gels and moisturisers are among the products made in the abbey's own laboratory, where the nuns acknowledge they must now make time for prayer and business.