Sunday 23 July 2017

In the world

(AFP )

Eight people were found dead Sunday in a truck in a parking lot in San Antonio, Texas, in an apparent people trafficking case, authorities said.

San Antonio Police Chief William McManus and Fire Chief Charles Hood told reporters that in addition to the dead, there were 28 injured -- 20 of them severely -- who were being treated at seven local hospitals.

"We arrived on the scene and found eight people dead in the back of that trailer," the police chief said, calling it horrific.

(AFP )

The Westerners lined up on Sunday before giant statues of North Korea’s founder Kim Il-Sung and his son and successor Kim Jong-Il and, on command from their guide, bowed deeply.

It is a ritual that the Trump administration intends to stop US tourists performing, with Washington due to impose a ban this week on its citizens holidaying in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), as the North is officially known.

(AFP )

Prolonging the crisis in the Gulf sparked by the isolation of Qatar is not in the interest of anyone, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sunday as he embarked on a key visit to the region.

"No-one has any interest in prolonging this crisis any more," said Erdogan before leaving Istanbul airport on the two-day trip that will take him to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and then Qatar.

He accused "enemies" of seeking to "fire up tensions between brothers" in the region.

(AFP )

Violinist Wuilly Arteaga, who gained fame for playing at many of Venezuela's opposition marches, was injured during a protest Saturday and taken to a clinic.

The 23-year-old was seen with blood gushing from cuts on the left side of his face. He said later he had been hit by buckshot.

Far from his first run-in with authorities, as he protests against President Nicolas Maduro's government, Arteaga has become something of a demonstration icon.

(AFP )

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced mounting pressure Sunday over new security measures at a sensitive Jerusalem holy site after a weekend of violence left eight people dead, with fears more unrest could follow.

Israeli officials signalled they may be open to changing the measures at the Haram al-Sharif mosque compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, after the installation of metal detectors at entrances following an attack that killed two policemen stoked Palestinian anger.

(AFP )

Germany has no right to interfere in Turkey's domestic affairs, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday, his latest broadside in a blistering row sparked by the waves of arrests under the current state of emergency.

Several German nationals are among those being held and Berlin has warned its citizens that their safety cannot be guaranteed in Turkey and that consular access is not assured in case of arrest.

(AFP )

Donald Trump's new communications chief has deleted tweets in which he shared views contrary to the US president's own, saying they were a distraction.

The day after he started his new job Friday, Anthony Scaramucci, a New York financier, cleared up his Twitter trail of remarks in which he differs from Trump on illegal immigration, climate change, Islam and even gun control.

(AFP )

Progress in beating back the AIDS epidemic risks being eroded by a funding shortfall set to grow under Donald Trump's proposed cuts to global health projects, experts and campaigners warned ahead of a major HIV conference.

If adopted by Congress, the 2018 Trump budget could deprive some 830,000 people, mostly in Africa, from life-saving anti-AIDS drugs, according to calculations by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), a California-based health policy NGO.

(AFP )

Indonesia's President Joko Widodo has ordered the police to shoot drug traffickers who resist arrest in the latest effort to eradicate drug use in the country.

In a speech to one of Indonesia's political parties late Friday, Widodo urged law enforcers to crackdown on drug dealers in Indonesia.

"Be firm. Especially to foreign drug dealers who enter the country. If they resist even the slightest, just shoot them," Widodo said.

(AFP )

Yang Qianqian holds out her smartphone to scan a barcode on the mobile of a vendor selling fresh fruit and vegetables at a bustling outdoor market in Beijing.

The dance student is part of an explosion in the use of mobile payment platforms in China as consumers increasingly take out phones instead of cash to pay for everything from a coffee to a language class or a gas bill.

"Even though I have cash on me it's not convenient to get it when I am carrying a lot of bags," said Yang, 25, clutching plastic bags filled with pears, potatoes and watermelon.

(AFP )

An army 'Big Shot' whose influence seeped across the south, Lieutenant-General Manas Kongpan sat at the apex of Thailand's grisly trade in humans, raking in an untold fortune to keep prying eyes off the trafficking route.

As the number of desperate Rohingya and Bangladeshis shuttled through the trafficking operation shot up, so did Manas' rank in the Thai military.

But the silver-haired general was condemned to 27 years in prison on Wednesday for profiting from the trade, an extraordinarily rare conviction of a senior member of an army that dominates the kingdom.

(AFP )

Flood-hit regions of New Zealand were warned to expect more wild weather Sunday after a deluge forced evacuations and emergency declarations in parts of South Island.

The military was called in to help as some towns experienced three times their average monthly rainfall in just two days, topping 250 millimetres (10 inches) near Dunedin.

Rivers burst their banks and landslides closed major roads, with icy conditions creating treacherous conditions for clean-up crews.

(AFP )

Lava-like rocks believed to be melted nuclear fuel have been spotted inside Japan's stricken Fukushima reactor by an underwater robot, the plant's operator said at the end of a three-day inspection.

Large amounts of the solidified lumps and deposit were spotted for the first time by the robot on the floor of the primary containment vessel underneath the core of Fukushima's No. 3 reactor, the Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said.

(AFP )

Ben Affleck dismissed speculation that he is being dropped as Batman during a Warner Bros. presentation Saturday that introduced the "Justice League" and announced a sequel to summer smash hit "Wonder Woman."

Rumors have been swirling in the US entertainment press that the studio was casting around for a replacement for 44-year-old Affleck to lead a standalone Batman franchise.

"Let me be very clear -- I am the luckiest guy in the world," Affleck told a crowd of 6,000 cheering fans at San Diego Comic-Con.

(AFP )

Venezuela's opposition on Saturday called a fresh 48-hour general strike against embattled President Nicolas Maduro's plans to have the constitution rewritten giving him broader powers.

"We are calling out the entire (Venezuelan) people, all groups in society, for a 48-hour strike" Wednesday and Thursday lawmaker Simon Calzadilla said.

With anti-government marchers still clearing streets Saturday, Calzadilla said that the strike would be capped on Friday with a march demanding that Maduro officially scrap his planned Constituent Assembly vote. It is scheduled for July 30.

(AFP )

A poll out Sunday shows the popularity rating of France's new President Emmanuel Macron has slumped 10 points to hit 54 percent over the past month.

While Macron has made a strong start on the world stage and won a solid majority in parliament, his first three months in power have not been completely trouble-free.

He was widely criticised by opponents and the press as heavy-handed after a row over budget cuts that ended with the resignation of a highly-regarded military chief.

(AFP )

France's far-right National Front (FN) said Saturday it would maintain its goal of seeing the nation out of the euro common currency, despite urging by some in the party to ditch the stance as a vote-loser.

The decision came after a two-day, closed-door meeting at the group's headquarters west of Paris, to learn the lessons of May's presidential election that saw its candidate Marine Le Pen lose by double digits.

(AFP )

Polish freedom icon Lech Walesa joined in Saturday the protests against a proposed reform of the nation's Supreme Court, urging Poles to protect their democracy with "all means".

The measure, which opponents say imperils the independence of the judiciary, has already drawn a threat of sanctions from the European Union and massive street demonstrations.

"Our generation succeeded in putting Poland back on track and ensuring the separation of powers," the former president said in the northern city of Gdansk. "We cannot allow anyone to destroy that."

(AFP )

Police on motorcycles fired tear gas Saturday to break up an opposition march on the Venezuelan Supreme Court to press demands that President Nicolas Maduro leave office, as months of sometimes deadly anti-government demonstrations showed no signs of abating.

The rally was also meant as a show of support for a slate of 33 magistrates -- a so-called shadow supreme court -- whose names were put forward Friday by the opposition to replace Venezuela's current high court, which is closely allied with Maduro and frequently rules in his favor.

(AFP )

The tomb of Marshal Philippe Petain, who led France's collaborationist Vichy regime under Nazi occupation, was vandalised on Saturday, the eve of the 66th anniversary of his death, police said.

Police and firefighters were called to the site of the tomb on Ile d'Yeu in western France at 4:00 am (0200 GMT) on reports of a trash bin fire at the Port-Joinville cemetery.

The fire was quickly extinguished, but police then discovered that the cross on Petain's tomb had been broken.

(AFP )

The UN Security Council will hold closed-door talks on Monday about deadly Israeli-Palestinian unrest over new security measures at a highly sensitive Jerusalem holy site, diplomats said.

The meeting -- requested by Sweden, France and Egypt -- would be to "urgently discuss how calls for de-escalation in Jerusalem can be supported," said Sweden's political affairs coordinator Carl Skau.

Tensions have risen throughout the past week because of new Israeli security measures at the Haram al-Sharif compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount.

(AFP )

President Donald Trump on Saturday presided over the commissioning of the US Navy's newest next-generation aircraft carrier -- a trip that offered a brief escape from the swirling political drama in Washington.

Trump appeared to revel in the pomp and pageantry of the ceremony aboard the ship at the sprawling Norfolk naval base in Virginia, which included a 21-gun salute, and the hoisting of the Stars and Stripes on the ship's mast.

(AFP )

Seventy Afghans were abducted Friday from their village along the main highway in the south of the country, and at least seven were killed, police said, accusing the Taliban of the kidnappings.

Around 30 villagers have been released but at least 30 others are still missing, Abdul Raziq, the head of Kandahar provincial police told AFP.

"The Taliban abducted 70 people from their house in a village along the Kandahar-Tarinkot highway, Friday. They killed seven of them today," Raziq said. "Their bodies were found by villagers this morning."

(AFP )

The head of anti-poverty NGO CARE International on Saturday denounced the humanitarian crisis in war-torn Yemen, which is also suffering from a cholera epidemic, as "an absolute shame on humanity".

The conflict in Yemen has escalated dramatically since March 2015, when Saudi-led forces launched a military operation in support of the government against the Iran-backed Huthi rebels.

"We are now in the 21st century and the current situation is an absolute shame on humanity," Wolfgang Jamann told reporters after a five-day visit to the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country.

(AFP )

Syria on Saturday announced a ceasefire in one of the last rebel strongholds near Damascus after rebels and regime ally Russia agreed on a safe zone for the besieged opposition enclave.

With many of its towns and villages ravaged by bombardments in the six-year conflict, Eastern Ghouta near the capital is one of the last bastions of rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

More than 330,000 people have been killed in Syria since its conflict broke out in March 2011 with anti-government protests.

(AFP )

Tens of thousands of people marched through Berlin for the annual Gay Pride parade on Saturday, just weeks after Germany's parliament legalised same-sex marriage.

This year's march had as its official theme the fight against the far right.

But most of those taking part appeared to be celebrating the landmark law which will come into effect in October.

Some posters and placards denounced leaders regarded as homophobic, such as Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump.

(AFP )

Turkish police have over the last week detained at least 15 people for wearing a T-shirt with a slogan the authorities argue is a veiled message backing the alleged mastermind of last year's failed coup.

Police across the country have been detaining people wearing T-shirts with the word "Hero" in English in white capital letters against a black background, with the slogan underneath "Heroes are Immortal".

(AFP )

The remains of a couple, found on a receding glacier in the Swiss Alps 75 years after they had disappeared, were at long last buried on Saturday near their native village.

Their two surviving daughters were present at the funeral service in the church at Saviese in Valais canton, a few kilometres from Chandolin where Marcelin Dumoulin and his wife Francine were living when they disappeared on August 15, 1942.

(AFP )

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday denounced as "excessive" the use of force by Israeli security forces in deadly clashes over sensitive Jerusalem holy site.

"I condemn Israel's insistence on its position despite all warnings... and the excessive use of force by Israeli forces against our brothers gathered for Friday prayers," he said in a statement.

Erdogan said that he was speaking in his capacity as the current chairman of the summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) whose chairmanship Turkey currently holds.

(AFP )

Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni has warned Rome will not accept either "lessons" or "threats" from neighbours on border security amid tension over Europe's migrant crisis.

"We shall not accept lessons and still less threats such as those we have heard from our neighbours in recent days," said Gentiloni.

"We are doing our duty and expect the whole of Europe to do the same alongside Italy," Gentiloni said late Friday in a clear reference to demands by some neighbours that Italy close its borders.

(AFP )

Branden Grace made history on Saturday when he became the first man to shoot a round of 62 in a major in the third round of the British Open at Royal Birkdale, but he admitted he had been unaware of the landmark.

There had been 31 rounds of 63 in the previous 441 major championships, with 10 coming in the British Open including Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson last year at Troon, but never a 62.

The South African's eight-under-par round, featuring eight birdies and no dropped shots, saw him rocket up the leaderboard to four under par overall.

(AFP )

A German 16-year-old girl suspected of joining the Islamic State jihadists in Iraq was arrested last week in Mosul, a German judicial source said Saturday.

"The Dresden prosecutor confirms that Linda W. was identified in Iraq," where she is receiving German consular assistance, said the prosecutor's office in Dresden, near the teen's eastern hometown of Pulsnitz.

(AFP )

Syria's army announced Saturday a halt in fighting in parts of Eastern Ghouta after rebels and regime ally Russia agreed on how a safe zone will function for the besieged opposition enclave.

The army "announces a halt in fighting in some areas of Eastern Ghouta in Damascus province from midday on Saturday (0900 GMT)," it said in a statement carried by state news agency SANA.

"The army will retaliate in a suitable manner to any violation" of the ceasefire, the statement said, without specifying what areas were included.

(AFP )

Two Palestinians died in clashes with Israeli forces Saturday as the army moved in to seal off an attacker's home after violence over security measures at an ultra-sensitive holy site.

The UN Security Council will hold closed-door talks Monday about the spiralling violence after Egypt, France and Sweden sought a meeting to "urgently discuss how calls for de-escalation in Jerusalem can be supported".

(AFP )

Knocked off course by a cold spring snap, French wine production this year slid to a record low, falling 17 percent on 2016, initial ministry of agriculture projections show.

"At 37.6 million hectolitres (993.3 million gallons) the 2017 harvest is set to come in 17 percent lower than in 2016 and 16 percent below the average of the past five years," the ministry's statistics bureau Agreste said Saturday.