Friday 19 January 2018

In the world

(AFP )

When Dawa Yangzum Sherpa first set her sights on being a mountain guide, she was told it was no job for a girl. Now she has proved her doubters wrong, becoming Nepal's first woman to earn a prestigious international qualification.

Last month, the 27-year-old completed a rigorous course run by the Swiss-based International Federation of Mountain Guides, often described as a PhD in mountaineering.

(AFP )

Haiti's killer cholera epidemic could be over this year, the United Nation's children's fund said on Friday, as the number of cases declines following the world's most virulent outbreak in modern times.

Roughly 100 suspected cases were recorded in January, which is the lowest level since the epidemic began in October 2010, and there was no explosion of cases last year even during the rainy season.

"It's possible to eliminate cholera this year," said Marc Vincent, UNICEF's representative in the impoverished Caribbean nation.

(AFP )

A year ago, Gambians wept for joy as Yahya Jammeh went into exile, bringing the curtain down on a brutal 22-year rule.

Today, many say freedom of speech in this small west African state is a right they cherish under President Adama Barrow's administration.

"There is a democracy, everybody feels free. Disappearances without a trace -- all that's over now," said teacher Kalipha Dampha, referring to the dreaded work of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and the "Junglers," as Jammeh's death squad was called.

(AFP )

French police fired tear gas to break up a picket line of striking prison guards at Europe's biggest jail on Friday, as a fresh assault by inmates on staff at a facility in Corsica fuelled demands for better security.

The scuffles at the huge Fleury-Merogis prison just south of Paris came as unions were pressing a fourth day of strikes across France sparked by a string of attacks on guards.

The latest came in Borgo on the island of Corsica on Friday when three inmates, including one under surveillance for Islamic radicalisation, attacked two guards with a knife.

(AFP )

Pope Francis sounded a stark warning about the future of the Amazon and its peoples during a visit to the region on Friday, saying they had "never been so threatened."

In a speech to thousands of tribe members on the edge of the rainforest in Peru, he said the Amazon and its peoples bore "deep wounds."

Francis lamented "the pressure being exerted by great business interests that want to lay hands on its petroleum, gas, lumber, gold" and industrial scale farming.

He later highlighted the "endless violence" endured by the region's women.

(AFP )

US Vice President Mike Pence set off for the Middle East on Friday for a trip overshadowed by controversy over plans to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Pence had been due to travel in December last year, but Arab anger over President Donald Trump's decision to declare Jerusalem Israel's capital saw many planned meetings cancelled.

The deadly protests that erupted at the time have subsided, but Pence may still face a cold welcome in some capitals and concern over the fate of the UN aid agency for Palestinians (UNRWA).

(AFP )

The United States condemned Sudan's arbitrary detention of journalists Friday after an AFP reporter and two colleagues were arrested covering a street protest.

Abdelmoneim Abu Idris Ali of Agence France-Presse and at least two more journalists were taken away by authorities on Wednesday as they reported on a demonstration against rising food prices.

They have not been allowed contact with their families or employers and authorities say they are being held "for investigation" by Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS).

(AFP )

A British teenager managed to access the communications accounts of top US intelligence and security officials including the then CIA chief John Brennan, a London court heard Friday.

Kane Gamble, now 18, was aged 15 and 16 when, from his bedroom in Coalville, central England, he managed to impersonate his targets to gain highly sensitive information.

"Kane Gamble gained access to the communications accounts of some very high-ranking US intelligence officials and government employees," prosecutor John Lloyd-Jones told England's Old Bailey central criminal court.

(AFP )

US President Donald Trump plans to meet Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May at the World Economic Forum in Davos next week, the White House said Friday.

The announcement came after Trump cancelled a planned trip to London, casting further doubt on the strength of the vaunted trans-Atlantic "special relationship."

"President Trump looks forward to having a bilateral meeting with UK Prime Minister May in Davos next week to further strengthen the US–UK special relationship," spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.

(AFP )

More than half a million Venezuelans have taken refuge in Colombia to escape the crippling economic crisis in their country, Bogota's migration authority said Friday.

It said the number of Venezuelans entering the country -- 550,000 -- had increased by 62 percent in the last year.

Venezuela's crisis "has not only forced thousands of nationals to return to Colombia, but also caused Venezuelans to see our country ... as a means to transit to other destinations, to settle or to purchase essential products," said Migration Colombia director Christian Kruger.

(AFP )

Facebook announced Friday it will ask its two billion users to rank their trust in news sources, in its latest attempt to combat the spread of misinformation on the social network.

The change comes as the online giant seeks to address charges that it has failed -- along with Google and Twitter -- to prevent the spread of bogus news, most strikingly ahead of the 2016 US presidential election.

In a Facebook post, co-founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said the network would seek to "prioritize news that is trustworthy, informative, and local."

(AFP )

The US Supreme Court said Friday it will review President Donald Trump's latest travel ban affecting citizens from six Muslim majority countries plus North Korea and Venezuela.

In what could prove decisive in a legal battle that has roiled the first year of the Trump administration, the high court will rule on whether the president exceeded his powers and engaged in religious discrimination in the third rendering of the ban.

Lower courts in California, Hawaii and other states have repeatedly ruled that Trump's order targets Muslims in violation of the US Constitution.

(AFP )

A Canadian jury on Friday cleared three railway workers of criminal negligence in one of the nation's worst train disasters, which killed 47 people in Lac-Megantic, Quebec in 2013.

Former Montreal, Maine & Atlantic (MM&A) train conductor Thomas Harding, operations manager Jean Demaitre, and railway traffic controller Richard Labrie, faced 47 counts of criminal negligence -- one for each death.

(AFP )

Greenpeace activists who hung a banner from the Eiffel Tower in protest against far-right leader Marine Le Pen should be given 500 euro fines and suspended sentences, French prosecutors said Friday.

Demonstrators from the environmental campaign group unfurled the banner which read "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity #Resist" from the iconic tower on May 5 last year, two days before the second round of the election.

(AFP )

Pope Francis sounded a stark warning about the future of the Amazon and its peoples during a visit to the region on Friday, saying they had "never been so threatened."

In a speech to thousands of tribe members on the edge of the rainforest in Peru, he said the Amazon and its peoples bore "deep wounds."

Francis lamented "the pressure being exerted by great business interests that want to lay hands on its petroleum, gas, lumber, gold" and industrial scale farming.

He later highlighted the "endless violence" endured by the region's women.

(AFP )

Mobile phone access was partially restored in war-torn eastern Ukraine on Friday after it was lost more than a week ago, the last major Ukrainian provider in the area said.

Almost two million people lost mobile connection in the devastated region after a Vodafone Ukraine fibre optic line was cut on January 11 as a result of fighting.

The provider sought to restore service after its workers had received security assurances from the warring parties in a conflict that has claimed more than 10,000 lives in nearly four years.

(AFP )

Tourist hotspots in Mexico's Baja California Peninsula were shaken Friday by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake -- but no injuries or damage were reported, authorities said.

The epicenter was located in the Gulf of California, 76 kilometers northeast of Loreto, a small city in the state of Baja California Sur, the National Seismological Service said.

"There are no reports of people being affected or material damage," Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto posted on Twitter.

(AFP )

French President Emmanuel Macron said Friday that his ambitious EU plans to reform the European Union need German backing, as Chancellor Angela Merkel gears up for a crucial vote on forming a new coalition government.

"Our ambition cannot come to fruition alone," Macron told a joint press conference with Merkel before talks in Paris. "It needs to come together with Germany's ambition."

Merkel's immediate focus is domestic, with her political future on the line after more than 12 years in power.

(AFP )

Unions representing staff on the Paris metro staged strikes on Friday to denounce rising crime linked to crack and heroin use on the network.

The CGT and SUD unions called for the walkout to protest the increasing presence of drug addicts at stations on the northern end of the lines 4 and 12.

Some conductors have resorted to skipping stations to avoid groups of users and dealers on the platforms, worried about them confronting their passengers.

"Employees and passengers are angry, exasperated and can't put up with it anymore," the CGT union said in a statement.

(AFP )

French President Emmanuel Macron said Friday that his ambitious EU plans to reform the European Union needed German backing, as Chancellor Angela Merkel gears up for a crucial vote on forming a new coalition.

"Our ambition cannot come to fruition alone," Macron told a joint press conference with Merkel before talks in Paris. "It needs to come together with Germany's ambition."

On Sunday, some 600 delegates from Germany's Social Democrat (SPD) party will be asked to give the green light to a preliminary coalition agreement reached with Merkel's conservatives last week.

(AFP )

The funeral of Cranberries singer Dolores O'Riordan, who died suddenly in London this week, will take place near Limerick, Ireland on Tuesday, the church where she will be buried said Friday.

"The Funeral Mass for the late Dolores O'Riordan... former member of the Cranberries will take place in the Church of Saint Ailbe, Ballybricken, at 11.30am on Tuesday 23 January followed by private family burial," the church announced.

(AFP )

Greece on Friday won a green light for more bailout cash from its eurozone creditors after pushing through a wave of controversial reforms that drew angry strikes and protests earlier this week.

A meeting of senior officials from the 19 countries that make up the single currency bloc rubber-stamped the reforms, which will now go to finance ministers on Monday for a formal decision to disburse bailout loans.

(AFP )

Russia's foreign minister on Friday described a new US national defense strategy as "confrontational" after Washington singled out China and Russia as growing threats.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov rejected US suggestions that China and Russia were undermining international efforts to strengthen global security.

(AFP )

An Australian man, one of 17 people injured when a car crashed into a crowd at Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana beach, was in a serious condition Friday, health officials said.

A nine-month-old baby girl was killed when a man having an epileptic seizure crashed his car into the tourist-packed crowd.

The 68-year-old Australian was among 10 people still in hospital on Friday, most suffering multiple fractures after the accident, a statement from the Rio de Janeiro health secretariat said.

(AFP )

President Donald Trump admitted Friday that chances were "not looking good" that 11th-hour talks in Congress would break an impasse over spending and avert a US government shutdown.

Less that two-and-a-half hours before a midnight deadline to reach a short-term deal to keep the federal government running at full capacity, Trump lashed out at Democrats.

"Not looking good for our great Military or Safety & Security on the very dangerous Southern Border," he tweeted, citing some of the government projects and agencies that will find themselves unfunded.

(AFP )

Former president Dilma Rousseff said Friday Brazil will be ungovernable if a court decision due next week blocks Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva from running in October polls, and upholds his corruption conviction.

"Any government that assumes power by winning the 2018 elections, without a transparent and correct electoral process, without maneuvers to invalidate candidates -- as in Lula's case -- will not be able to govern this country," Rousseff told AFP in an interview.

(AFP )

Russian police searching a suspect's home for a weapons stash in the northwestern city of Saint Petersburg were surprised to encounter a large crocodile living in the basement, city police said Friday.

Officers were inspecting a property owned by a man suspected in a case of illegal arms possession and trafficking in Petergof, a suburb of Saint Petersburg famous for its tsarist palace.

"In the basement of the house, the officers uncovered a crocodile," the police statement said.

(AFP )

Turkey on Friday started fresh shelling of the Syrian town of Afrin in a move to oust a US-backed Kurdish militia that Ankara considers "terrorists" and vowed to press on with a full-scale operation against them.

The Turkish government has repeatedly warned it will strike Syrian towns controlled by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia, including Afrin, after the US said it was training a 30,000-strong border force there.

"The Afrin operation will take place," Defence Minister Nurettin Canikli told A Haber television.

(AFP )

A recent arson attack on Russian rights group Memorial and the arrest of its Chechnya head are the latest steps by Chechen authorities to quash dissent as strongman Ramzan Kadyrov's influence continues to grow, activists and observers told AFP.

It has become "practically impossible" for rights workers to do their job in the region, said Oleg Orlov, a member of Memorial rights centre.

The group's office in Ingushetia, which borders Chechnya, was torched Wednesday in an arson attack.

(AFP )

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Friday that America is facing "growing threats" from China and Russia, and warned that the US military's advantages have eroded in recent years.

Mattis's assessment came as he unveiled the Pentagon's vision for the future detailed in a document called the national defense strategy.

"We face growing threats from revisionist powers as different as China and Russia, nations that seek to create a world consistent with their authoritarian models," Mattis said.

(AFP )

US forces in Somalia said Friday that four Al-Shabaab militants were killed in an airstrike as part of the ongoing offensive against the jihadist rebels.

The US Africa Command said the strike took place on Thursday in southern Somalia, around 50 kilometers (30 miles) northwest of the port city of Kismayo.

Africa Command did not provide details on the attack, which it said was undertaken "in coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia."

But it said no civilians were killed.

(AFP )

The Czech parliament on Friday stripped billionaire Prime Minister Andrej Babis of immunity as a lawmaker, allowing the police to investigate his alleged role in EU subsidy fraud from 2007.

"The decision was adopted," said deputy parliament speaker Tomio Okamura in a 111-69 vote.

Police have charged Babis with fraud, alleging the 63-year-old Slovak-born chemicals, food and media tycoon pulled his Stork Nest farm out of his sprawling Agrofert holding to make it eligible for an EU small-company subsidy before eventually putting it back in the holding.

(AFP )

China's Communist Party proposed on Friday to engrave President Xi Jinping's guiding philosophy in the country's constitution, further cementing his status as its most powerful leader in decades.

Xi's eponymous "thought" was already enshrined in the Communist Party constitution at the 19th Party Congress in October, elevating him to the same status as modern China's founder Mao Zedong.

The architect of China's economic reforms, Deng Xiaoping, is the only other leader whose name appears alongside his guiding principle in both the state and party constitutions.

(AFP )

A quarter of a century after Greece saw an unprecedented million-strong march in its name row with Macedonia, nationalists are trying to whip up similar sentiment amid a new push to solve the festering issue.

Athens argues that its neighbour's name -- adopted after the Balkan country won independence in 1991 -- suggests that Skopje also has territorial claims to the northern Greek region of Macedonia.

The region boasts the important port cities of Thessaloniki and Kavala and was the centre of Alexander the Great's ancient kingdom, a source of Greek pride.

(AFP )

French President Emmanuel Macron said Friday that the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq would be defeated militarily "in the coming weeks," as he laid out plans for bolstering France's defence capabilities.

"Today, thanks to the efforts of all the nations involved, the Daesh military organisation in the Levant is almost completely defeated," Macron said in a speech aboard a helicopter carrier in the southern port of Toulon, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

"I'm confident that in the coming weeks we will achieve a military victory on the ground," he said.