Wednesday 16 August 2017

In the world

(AFP )

A German state minister charged Wednesday that over three times more eggs contaminated with the insecticide fipronil had entered the country than the national government has admitted.

While Berlin puts the total at 10.7 million eggs, the agriculture minister of the state of Lower Saxony said that 35 million possibly tainted eggs had made it to his state alone from the Netherlands.

The state minister, Christian Meyer of the ecologist Greens party, accused Berlin of "playing down the problem" and said his figures were backed by EU data.

(AFP )

Daniel Craig, the British actor who famously complained he'd rather slash his wrists than play James Bond a fifth time, has finally confirmed he's returning as 007 after all... one last time.

The New York Times first reported last month that the 49-year-old's return to the big screen in 2019 was a "done deal" for the 25th movie in a franchise that has thrilled generations of cinemagoers.

But the actor had previously stopped short of confirming the reports.

(AFP )

The United States added the Kashmiri separatist group Hizb-ul-Mujahideen to its blacklist of terrorist organizations on Wednesday, amid renewed protests against Indian rule in the region.

US authorities had already designated the group's leader, Syed Salahuddin, a "global terrorist", but he is still able to operate in Pakistani Kashmir, where his group has strong support.

The State Department designation bans US citizens and residents from dealing with the group and any assets found to belong to the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen in areas under US jurisdiction will be frozen.

(AFP )

Donald Trump found himself in the eye of a political storm Wednesday after his stunning remarks on the unrest in Charlottesville, which sparked unease within his own camp and could be a turning point in his already chaotic presidency.

Just about 200 days into his term, the US leader crossed a red line in saying there was "blame on both sides" for the melee, which began when a rally by white supremacists over the removal of a Confederate statue turned violent, as they clashed with counter-protesters.

(AFP )

A bill to restrict transgender people's use of bathrooms in Texas has collapsed after a grand coalition of rights activists and big business united against the controversial legislation.

The bill, which would have required transgender people to use bathrooms matching their birth gender, roiled the ruling Republican Party for months in the country's second most populous state and was seen as reflecting a wider national cultural divide.

(AFP )

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro paid tribute to the late leftist icon Fidel Castro during a surprise visit to Cuba, state media reported Wednesday.

The daily Granma said Maduro traveled Tuesday to Castro's tomb in Santiago de Cuba.

Maduro was accompanied by his wife Cilia Flores, Cuban President Raul Castro -- Fidel's brother -- and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, according to the newspaper.

(AFP )

Jailed South African Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius briefly left his Pretoria prison on Wednesday to attend his grandmother's funeral.

"He left in the morning under supervision of our officials and by 20-minutes-past-one he was back at the facility," Correctional Services spokesman Singabakho Nxumalo told AFP.

He was driven from Atteridgeville prison in Pretoria after he had been granted permission to bury his maternal grandmother‚ Joyce Bekker, who according to local media, died last week aged 93.

(AFP )

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's wife was once dismissed as a lightweight shopping addict with no political interests, but Grace Mugabe has recently emerged as a potential challenger for power.

Aged 52, the first lady is increasingly active in public life and in 2014 became the head the ZANU-PF party's women's wing.

Court politics are complex in Zimbabwe, but she is thought to be backed by the "G-40", a group of young activists of the under-40 generation that has earned a reputation for aggression.

(AFP )

A tweet by former president Barack Obama about the violence in Charlottesville has become the most liked message in the history of Twitter, the company said Wednesday.

The tweet by the country's first black president quoted Nelson Mandela.

"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion," Obama tweeted on Sunday, following deadly clashes in the Virginia city between neo-Nazi sympathizers and counterprotesters.

(AFP )

US President Donald Trump on Wednesday praised North Korea's leader for backing off on plans to fire missiles toward the US Pacific territory of Guam.

"Kim Jong-Un of North Korea made a very wise and well reasoned decision. The alternative would have been both catastrophic and unacceptable!" Trump wrote on Twitter.

(AFP )

The head of the US military said during a visit to Beijing that it was increasingly urgent for China to step up pressure on North Korea, according to a Pentagon spokesman on Wednesday.

General Joe Dunford, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told General Fang Fenghui during a meeting on Tuesday that the United States was ready to use military options if diplomacy fails, Captain Darryn James said in a statement.

(AFP )

Lebanon's parliament on Wednesday scrapped a controversial law allowing rapists who marry their victims to go free, official media and activists said, after a high-profile campaign for its repeal.

A proposal to repeal Article 522 of the penal code -- which deals with rape, assault, kidnapping and forced marriage -- was introduced last year and approved by a parliamentary committee in February.

On Wednesday, it was ratified by the full parliament, the official National News Agency and activist group ABAAD said.

(AFP )

Nigeria must step up security for those displaced by Boko Haram violence, a global humanitarian agency said Wednesday after suicide bombers killed 28 people at the entrance to a refugee camp.

"Camps sheltering innocent families fleeing war should be places of refuge. But instead they are turning into death traps," said a statement by Ernest Mutanga, head of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in Nigeria.

"We need to see the Nigerian government stepping up to protect civilians in displacement camps. It's their primary responsibility."

(AFP )

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday urged police to kill dozens of drug suspects every day, as he praised officers who shot dead 32 people this week in "shock and awe" raids.

Duterte's incendiary comments came as he acknowledged major problems in his drug war, which has claimed thousands of lives, admitting he could not win it as quickly as promised and lamenting a corrupt police force.

(AFP )

Inside the decrepit children's ward at an Indian hospital where 85 infants died last week, Ram Prasad prayed his two-year-old daughter would escape the same fate as he scanned the overcrowded hallways for a doctor.

His plight in 'ward 100', where the death of so many children has sparked outrage, is emblematic of a healthcare crisis where doctors are stretched to breaking point and hospitals run out of oxygen due to unpaid bills.

(AFP )

Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific on Wednesday reported a massive net loss of HK$2.05 billion ($262.07 million) for the first half of the year as the airline struggled with intense competition from rivals.

The results, which were worse than analysts predicted, came after Cathay saw its first annual loss in eight years in 2016, as lower cost Chinese carriers eat into its market share.

Wednesday's results pave the way for the first ever back-to-back annual losses in the company's 70-year history.

(AFP )

Police backed by heavily armed troops swooped on one of Rio de Janeiro's main suburbs Wednesday in the latest large-scale crackdown against crime in the increasingly violent city, authorities said.

The operation was launched at 5:00 am (0800 GMT) in Niteroi, across the Bay of Guanabara from Rio, which hosted the Olympics exactly a year ago but is now in the grip of a crime wave.

"The civil and military police, supported by the armed forces, launched a public security operation at dawn today," the Rio state security office said in a statement.

(AFP )

A defiant Joshua Wong, who became the face of Hong Kong's huge Umbrella Movement, said Wednesday he had no regrets as he prepared for a possible prison sentence for his leading role in the mass pro-democracy protests.

But the student activist said he felt "guilty and sorry" for what he described as the burden he has put upon his family, a day ahead of a court ruling that could see him and two other prominent young activists jailed.

(AFP )

Some 300 Japanese and US military personnel on Wednesday carried out live-fire artillery training in northern Japan, officials said, amid high regional tensions over North Korean missile threats.

The drill, part of a 19-day exercise, came after a tense war of words between the United States and North Korea over Pyongyang's threats to fire missiles towards the Pacific island of Guam.

Troops from Japan's Ground Self-Defence Force (GSDF) and US Marines fired live ammunition from armed vehicles at a manoeuvre area on the northern island of Hokkaido.

(AFP )

Several "probably man-made" objects were floating near the suspected crash site of MH370 just weeks after it vanished, Australian researchers revealed Wednesday, more than six months after the hunt for the doomed jet was called off.

A massive underwater search for the Malaysia Airlines plane, which disappeared in March 2014 with 239 people on board, ended in January after no trace of the aircraft was found in a 120,000 square kilometre (46,000 square mile) zone in the remote southern Indian Ocean off Australia's west coast.

(AFP )

Philippine police killed 32 people in "shock and awe" raids aimed at scaring drug traffickers, authorities said Wednesday, after President Rodrigo Duterte admitted to setbacks in his controversial crime war.

Duterte has waged an unprecedented crackdown on drugs during his 14 months in power that has seen police and suspected vigilantes kill thousands of people, leading to warnings by rights groups that he may be overseeing a crime against humanity.

(AFP )

Russia's ex-economy minister Alexei Ulyukayev on Wednesday accused the head of state oil giant Rosneft, a powerful ally of President Vladimir Putin, of personally entrapping him as he is accused of taking a massive bribe.

Russia on Wednesday began the first full hearing in Ulyuakyev's bribery trial, the highest-profile criminal case against a top official in decades.

(AFP )

Fresh from shattering China's box-office record, patriotic blockbuster "Wolf Warriors 2" has claimed another slice of history by becoming the first non-Hollywood film to break into the top 100 all-time grossing movies worldwide.

The flag-waving action movie's plotline of Chinese soldiers saving war-ravaged Africans from Western baddies has resonated in an increasingly self-assured China, and the film last week became the country's all-time top earner less than two weeks after its release.

(AFP )

Pakistan's former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has hit back against his ouster by the Supreme Court over corruption allegations, demanding a review of his case.

The Supreme Court sacked Sharif in late July following an investigation into corruption allegations against him and his family, making him the 15th premier in Pakistan's 70-year history to be sacked before completing a full term.

(AFP )

Australia's opposition Labor Party on Wednesday rejected extraordinary claims from the country's top diplomat that it conspired with New Zealand leftists to try to topple the government.

Labor's Penny Wong accused Foreign Minister Julie Bishop of "a Kiwis under-the-bed scare campaign" to divert attention from government woes, invoking anti-communist "Reds under the beds" fears of the Cold War.

"This sort of behaviour, I don't think is particularly good for democracy," Wong told reporters.

(AFP )

Japan on Wednesday launched a study into whether precious coral was being illegally poached by Chinese fishermen off its shores to be sold for use in jewellery.

The Fisheries Agency investigation will use an underwater camera to check the condition of the coral off the southern island of Kyushu.

It also aims to find evidence such as traces of fishing nets possibly used for poaching precious coral, an official said.

(AFP )

Sizzling property prices, a groaning debt load, wealthy tourists and tycoons willing to slap down eye-popping sums for art: China is starting to look like Japan before its economic bubble burst in the early 90s.

The similarities are not lost on Beijing: President Xi Jinping has commissioned a study to help China avoid Japan's pitfalls, according to Bloomberg, as growth slows and ratings agencies sound the alarm over its debt.

(AFP )

Indian and Chinese troops clashed briefly on a disputed area of land in the Himalayas, officials said Wednesday, exacerbating tensions during a months-long stand-off between the two armies.

Chinese troops threw stones at Indian soldiers near Pangong Lake, a major tourist attraction in the picturesque mountain region of Ladakh on Tuesday, an Indian defence official said.

He said Chinese soldiers had twice tried to enter the Indian territory but had been pushed back.

(AFP )

A kerosene lamp flickers beside a Macbook in a jungle camp as ageing Philippine communist leader Jaime Padilla plots the next step in one of Asia's oldest insurgencies with a new generation of fighters.

Fuelled by one of the world's starkest rich-poor divides, a Maoist rebellion that began months before the first human landed on the moon plods on even though the country now boasts one of the world's fastest-growing economies.

(AFP )

Standing in a warehouse in a Moscow suburb, Dmitry Marinichev tries to speak over the deafening hum of hundreds of computers stacked on shelves hard at work mining for crypto money.

"The form of currency we are used to is about to disappear," predicts the 42-year-old entrepreneur, who also works as President Vladimir Putin's adviser on internet matters.

(AFP )

Two decades on from the death of princess Diana, her sons Princes William and Harry are working to keep her legacy alive with unusually emotional tributes after years of official silence.

As the 20th anniversary of her death on August 31 approaches, the brothers have opened up for the first time about their mother, her life, and her impact on them and on the causes she championed.

William was 15 and Harry 12 when Diana died in a car crash in Paris in 1997.

How deeply their loss affected them is something they have only recently begun to discuss.

(AFP )

An oddball, vegetarian dinosaur with the silhouette of a flesh-ripping velociraptor, whose fossilised remains were unearthed in southern Chile 13 years ago, is a missing link in dino evolution, researchers said Wednesday.

A revised assessment of the kangaroo-sized Chilesaurus, reported in the journal Biology Letters, bolsters a theory unveiled earlier this year that threatens to upend a long-standing classification of all dinosaurs.

(AFP )

Princess Diana revolutionised the royal dress code with the help of some of the world's greatest designers during a glamorous life that came to a tragic end 20 years ago this month.

"Diana has become a fashion icon in the same way as Jackie Kennedy or Audrey Hepburn -- timeless, elegant, and still so relevant," said Eleri Lynn, curator of "Diana: Her Fashion Story", an exhibition at her Kensington Palace home in London.

(AFP )

President Juan Manuel Santos declared Colombia's 50-year conflict with FARC guerrillas finally over on Tuesday, as the last truckloads of decommissioned weapons rolled away to be melted down.

Santos himself shut a padlock on the last lot of decommissioned rifles before it was taken out of a remote demobilization camp to formally seal the UN-supervised disarmament by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

(AFP )

David Attenborough finally earned his wings Wednesday after scientists named a 100-million-year-old damselfly after the veteran British broadcaster and naturalist.

The delicate creature, dubbed Mesosticta davidattenboroughi, was discovered in Myanmar's Kachin province locked inside a nugget of amber dating from the mid-Cretaceous, when dinosaurs still lorded over the planet.

Researchers decided to honour the TV personality for his long-standing passion for dragonflies and to belatedly celebrate his 90th birthday, they said in a statement.