Saturday 24 February 2018

In the world

(AFP )

Three bombs exploded in different locations around Rakhine's state capital Sittwe early Saturday morning, including at the home of a high ranking official, Myanmar police told AFP, adding that no deaths were reported.

It is the latest violence to hit Rakhine, which is festering with ethnic tensions and has been roiled by communal violence in the north against the Rohingya and insurgencies in other parts of the state.

Bombings in the state capital are rare however.

(AFP )

Wes Anderson's "Isle of Dogs", an animated movie with political bite, and a controversial dramatisation of Norway's 2011 massacre of teenagers by a neo-Nazi gunman led the award favourites Saturday at the Berlin film festival.

The Berlinale, Europe's first major cinema showcase of the year, will hand out its coveted Golden and Silver Bear top prizes at a gala ceremony starting at 1800 GMT.

A six-member jury headed by German director Tom Tykwer ("Run Lola Run", Netflix series "Babylon Berlin") will choose among 19 contenders from around the world.

(AFP )

With his "Italians first"rallying cry and his tub-thumping against Islam and a "migrant invasion", Matteo Salvini has rebranded himself and his party, aiming to lead a far-right surge in Italy's elections on March 4.

Salvini, who will turn 45 soon after the elections, has changed the once secessionist Northern League by removing the location from the party's name. He has even made moves to gain votes in southern Italy, until recently enemy territory for what is now simply named "The League".

(AFP )

Derided as an empty-headed puppet by his opponents, telegenic young gun Luigi Di Maio has been tasked with completing the Five Star Movement's rise from populist insurgency to Italy's party of government.

With boyish good looks and an easy-going manner, 31-year-old Di Maio symbolises a strategic shift for the anti-establishment party from the frantic conspiratorial ranting of iconoclast founder and stand-up comedian Beppe Grillo to a new measured, reassuring style.

(AFP )

As night falls near the Piazza Vittorio, a crowd of men stand silently waving Italian flags and another, blood red with a black tortoise emblem.

The 50-strong group unfurls a large banner on this square in Rome's city centre, reading: "Rape, theft, violence, enough degradation in this area."

Patrolling the multi-ethnic Esquilino district, this is CasaPound: a neo-fascist grassroots group turned political party.

It is one of a handful of anti-immigration groups that have become household names ahead of March 4 elections in Italy.

(AFP )

The ghosts of Brazil's dictatorship are stirring in the wake of President Michel Temer's order for the army to take over policing in Rio de Janeiro.

There's no direct comparison between the Rio operation and the 1964 coup that brought two decades of military rule to Latin America's biggest country. In this case, the military isn't overturning a president -- it's just taking charge of Rio state's security situation after months of escalating crime.

But the echoes have been loud enough to force the government into extraordinary denials.

(AFP )

The European Union has offered some of the six Balkan states who hope to join the bloc the prospect of becoming new members by 2025, but warned them they still have many obstacles to overcome.

The European Commission's roadmap for the region unveiled earlier this month said the countries must root out problems with corruption and the rule of law, and, especially, settle a series of simmering territorial disputes.

"The EU door is open to further accessions when, and only when, the individual countries have met the criteria," the plan said.

(AFP )

Since the start of the conflict in Syria in 2011, the United Nations has expressed outrage and indignation but has been powerless to stop the carnage.

The latest attempt to secure agreement on a 30-day humanitarian ceasefire, has once more run into Russian resistance with a Security Council vote planned for Friday pushed back to allow more time for negotiations.

- Numerous vetoes -

(AFP )

EU President Donald Tusk warned Poland on Friday against "anti-semitic excesses" and other behaviour that risked ruining Warsaw's global standing.

Tusk, a former Polish premier, said he had told Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on the sidelines of an EU summit in Brussels that negative opinions about Warsaw were turning into a "tsunami".

"I told Mr Morowiecki that the situation is very serious, it directly affects Polish interests, the reputation of Poland and Poland's standing in the world," Tusk said when a Polish journalist asked him about tensions with the EU.

(AFP )

Donald Trump papered over superpower rivalries with China on Friday, saying relations had never been better but trade was a major problem.

"I don't think we've ever had a better relationship with China than we do right now," Trump said, using trademark hyperbole.

"Other than the fact that they've been killing us on trade for the last long period of time. Killing us."

Trump regularly claims that his presidency has led to the "best ever" relationship with countries from Australia to Britain to China.

(AFP )

The United States said Friday it will relocate its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem in May, bringing forward the contested move to coincide with the Jewish state's 70th birthday -- and enraging Palestinians, who called it a "blatant provocation."

Palestinians object to recognition of the disputed city as Israel's capital and say the embassy move could destroy a two-state solution to the decades-old Middle East conflict.

(AFP )

EU President Donald Tusk on Friday dismissed plans for post-Brexit relations with London, reportedly devised by the British government, as "based on pure illusion".

Tusk's comments came after Prime Minister Theresa May's cabinet agreed Britain's plans for the future relationship at a marathon meeting. She is due to unveil them in a speech next Friday.

"I'm glad that the UK government seems to be moving towards a more detailed position," said Tusk, who will meet May in London the day before her speech.

(AFP )

Ecuador's efforts to negotiate the release of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from its London embassy have failed, the South American country's foreign minister admitted Friday.

"On the issue of mediation, I have to say very honestly that it has not been successful because two parties are needed to mediate. Ecuador is willing, by not necessarily the other party," said Foreign Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa, referring to Britain.

But she said her country would "continue looking for mechanisms, ways" to try to solve the standoff.

(AFP )

US President Donald Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull traded compliments and declarations of enduring "mateship" at the White House Friday, striving to put an ill-tempered first phone call behind them.

From the moment Trump strode out to greet Turnbull on the South Lawn and they shared a side-by-side stroll along the colonnade to the Oval Office, it was clear the pair were ready to put on a show.

(AFP )

The United States asked the United Nations Security Council on Friday to blacklist a number of North Korean entities involved in smuggling oil and coal in violation of sanctions resolutions.

The US request came after President Donald Trump announced new sanctions against North Korea-linked shipping assets in a package he described as the "heaviest" ever against Pyongyang.

The US mission said it had submitted a list to the council's sanctions committee "aimed at shutting down North Korea's illicit maritime smuggling activities to obtain oil and sell coal."

(AFP )

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Friday previewed a fresh wave of sanctions against Russia, which he said could come within weeks.

"I don't want to leave here without emphasizing -- you haven't asked me yet -- we are working on Russia sanctions," Mnuchin told reporters during a discussion about sanctions on North Korea.

"I can assure you that is in the process. I will be back here within the next several weeks to talk about that," he said.

The White House this week stepped up efforts to counter allegations that it is a soft touch on Moscow.

(AFP )

The United States will relocate its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem in May, coinciding with Israel's celebration of the 70th anniversary of its independence, US officials said Friday.

The decision sparked a furious reaction from Palestinians, who object to the US recognition of the disputed city as Israel's capital and call May 14 -- which in 2018 marks 70 years since Israel's declaration of independence -- Naqba, their "day of catastrophe."

(AFP )

Chinese billionaire Li Shufu has bought a near 10-percent stake in Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler, making him the German group's largest single shareholder, a stock market filing showed Friday.

Li, who chairs auto giant Geely Automobile Holdings, bought a 9.69-percent stake in the carmaker, worth around 7.2 billion euros ($8.9 billion), according to the filing.

The size of the stake leapfrogs a 6.8-percent stake in the Stuttgart-based group held by Kuwait and Renault-Nissan's 3.1-percent holdings.

(AFP )

The International Committee of the Red Cross said Friday more than 20 staffers have left the organisation since 2015 after "paying for sexual services," as it called for change in a humanitarian sector facing "a watershed moment".

Following reports of sexual misconduct involving aid workers across multiple agencies, the secretary general of the ICRC, Yves Daccord, said the Geneva-based organisation had conducted a thorough internal review.

(AFP )

A German artist complained Friday after his gallery took down a painting that depicts Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with a banana in his buttocks.

The provocative painting entitled "Turkish dictator" by Thomas Baumgaertel has sparked noisy complaints and protests at the art Karlsruhe fair.

The fair organisers tweeted that, amid the row, not they but the gallery owner had "decided to take down the caricature".

Gallerist Michael Oess said he took the decision "to avoid trouble."

(AFP )

The Dutch government Friday defended a decision by the ruling coalition to vote in favour of scrapping a controversial referendum law -- which in 2016 saw voters reject a EU-Ukraine pact.

"Not everybody agrees with it, but it's in the accord between the ruling coalition parties to withdraw the law," Dutch Deputy Prime Minister Hugo de Jonge said.

"There are better ways to involve citizens in the decision-making process," De Jonge told journalists at government's weekly press conference.

(AFP )

More than one in ten French women have been raped at least once, according to a study on sexual violence published Friday as the global abuse scandal widens.

Twelve percent of the 2,167 women polled by the Fondation Jean Jaures think tank said they had suffered "sexual penetration with violence, constraint or surprise", the legal definition of rape in France.

Five percent said it had happened more than once.

Of these, 31 percent said they were raped by their partner, 19 percent by someone else they know and only 17 percent by a stranger.

(AFP )

Two people were shot dead in central Zurich Friday, police said, as media reported numerous shots had been fired in what appeared to have been a private dispute.

The shots rang out around 2:30 pm outside a UBS bank branch just a stone's throw from Zurich's railway station.

"Rescue workers were dispatched and found one dead and one person badly injured, who later died of their injuries," Zurich city police said in a statement.

Police cordoned off a large area around the scene and insisted that the "situation is under control."

(AFP )

More than 100 girls are missing after a Boko Haram attack on a school in northeast Nigeria earlier this week, parents told AFP on Friday.

Parents in Dapchi, in Yobe state, said had they set up a support group after Monday's raid, which has revived memories of the 2014 abduction of more than 200 girls in Chibok.

"Our first step was to compile a comprehensive list of all the missing girls. So far, we have compiled the names of 105," said Bashir Manzo, the chairman of the newly created group.

(AFP )

US President Donald Trump has rolled out fresh sanctions against North Korea-linked shipping assets, hailing the package as the "heaviest sanctions ever" levied on the Pyongyang regime.

Trump used a speech to conservatives just outside Washington to step up his campaign of "maximum pressure" designed to force North Korea to roll back its weapons programs.

"We imposed today the heaviest sanctions ever imposed on a country before," Trump claimed at the end of a lengthy campaign-style address Friday.

(AFP )

A police officer will be stationed at every public school in Florida, the state's governor announced Friday as part of a plan to improve security following last week's deadly high school shooting.

President Donald Trump repeated his call, meanwhile, for arming some of America's teachers and claimed the controversial proposal was increasingly drawing support.

(AFP )

A Degas painting stolen from a museum in Marseille nine years ago has been found on a bus near Paris, the French culture minister said Friday.

Francoise Nyssen said customs officials found the pastel -- thought to be worth around 800,000 euros ($893,000) -- hidden in the luggage compartment of a bus stopped in a motorway layby.

None of the passengers on the bus admitted to knowing anything about the painting, she added.

(AFP )

The world's largest carmaker Volkswagen said Friday it more than doubled net profits in 2017, with record sales helping it overcome headwinds including its long-running diesel scandal.

VW said in a statement it had booked an 11.4-billion-euro ($14 billion) bottom line last year, up from the 5.1 billion euros earned in 2016.

Record sales of some 10.74 million vehicles worldwide helped the group based in Wolfsburg, Germany to boost revenues 6.2 percent year-on-year, to 230.7 billion euros.

(AFP )

A UN rights commission in South Sudan said Friday there was sufficient evidence to charge at least 41 senior officers and officials with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

South Sudan's four-year-old civil war has been characterised by extreme brutality and attacks on civilians.

But no high-ranking officials have been held to account, despite African Union (AU) promises to establish a special court to try alleged crimes.

(AFP )

A suicide bomber who blew himself up after throwing a grenade into the US embassy compound in the Montenegro capital Podgorica left a farewell note seeking forgiveness from his family, local media reported Friday.

Montenegrin authorities continued to investigate the motive for Thursday's attack, in which no one else was injured. There have been no indication so far it was linked to terrorism.

(AFP )

Three police officers have been injured after clashes with anti-fascist protesters in the northwestern Italian city of Turin as tensions mount ahead of the country's general election, judicial sources said on Friday.

The protesters were demonstrating against a meeting of the far-right CasaPound movement in the city centre on Thursday night when violence broke out.

Protesters, many with their faces covered, threw bottles at the police, while officers fired tear gas and used water cannons.

Two students were arrested.

(AFP )

Turkey on Friday summoned the Dutch charge d'affaires to condemn the vote by lawmakers in the Netherlands to recognise as "genocide" the massacre of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire.

The Dutch diplomat was called to the foreign ministry in Ankara, which "condemned" the parliament's vote, a ministry official told AFP. Thursday's vote saw MPs voting 142 to 3 in favour of the proposal that the parliament refer to the massacre as "the Armenian genocide".

(AFP )

Armenia and Turkey are at odds over whether the World War I massacres and deportations of Armenians by their Ottoman rulers should be described as genocide.

Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their kin were killed between 1915 and 1917, and have long sought international recognition that this was genocide.

Turkey rejects the term and puts the number of dead at between 300,000 and 500,000. It says what happened was civil conflict and a collective tragedy.

(AFP )

Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke out against separatism Friday in an apparent warning to his Canadian counterpart, whose week-long visit to India has been marred by claims his administration is soft on Sikh extremists.

Standing next to visiting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Modi said India would not tolerate those who sought to challenge its integrity.

"There should be no place for those who misuse religion for political motives and promote separatism," Modi said.

(AFP )

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker took a dig at London over Brexit talks on Friday, saying it would be "good for Britain" if he was prime minister.

Juncker made the comment at an EU summit when asked about a high-level British cabinet meeting chaired by premier Theresa May aimed at thrashing out a plan for a future partnership with the EU.

"I am not the British prime minister, it would be good for Britain if I was it, but I am not," Juncker told a reporter who quizzed him on when he expected to get details of the outcome.