Wednesday 24 May 2017

In the world

(AFP )

At least 25,000 people massed in Brasilia on Wednesday to demand new elections and an end to austerity reforms in a protest fueled by anger over a corruption scandal swirling around President Michel Temer.

Organized by leftist groups and trade unions, the protesters poured into the center of Brazil's capital.

Brazil's left is sniffing an opportunity for revenge just over a year since Temer took over from Workers' Party president Dilma Rousseff after she was impeached for illegally manipulating government accounts.

(AFP )

US lawmakers have demanded documents from German banking giant Deutsche Bank detailing its ties with President Donald Trump and his dealings with Russia.

It was the latest twist in the high-stakes investigation of Trump's relations with Moscow, and whether there was any collusion between his campaign and an alleged Russian bid to tilt the US election in the Republican's favor.

(AFP )

Two blasts rocked a bus terminal in the Indonesian capital Jakarta on Wednesday and caused casualties, police said.

"There were two blasts at around 9:00 pm (1400 GMT), close to each other, there are three victims," East Jakarta police chief Andry Wibowo told TV station MetroTV, without saying whether the victims had been killed or injured.

"From the damage I can see the explosions were pretty big." It was not immediately clear what caused the blasts at the Kampung Melayu terminal, which is served by minibuses and buses.

(AFP )

Ecuador's new president Lenin Moreno took office Wednesday, tasked with steering a flagship of the Latin American left through troubled economic and political waters.

Congress swore in Moreno, 64, as the quieter successor to one of the feistiest personalities in Latin American politics: Rafael Correa.

Moreno is the first wheelchair-user to become Ecuador's leader, and one of few such leaders in the world ever to serve as president.

His legs have been paralyzed since he was shot during a robbery in 1998.

(AFP )

Hollywood stars Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell said Wednesday they wanted to throw their star power behind more movies made by women, after the Cannes premiere of their battle-of-the-sexes thriller.

"The Beguiled", which drew warm applause, marks the third outing at the world's biggest film festival for Oscar-winner Sofia Coppola, one of three female directors vying for the Palme d'Or top prize this year.

(AFP )

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday said ahead of crunch talks with the EU's leadership it was up to Brussels to decide if it wanted Turkey as a member of the bloc.

Speaking to reporters before leaving Ankara airport for the trip to Brussels which will also see him attend a NATO summit, Erdogan said Turkey was not prepared to behave like a "beggar" to gain membership.

Tensions between Ankara and Brussels spiralled in the run-up to the April 16 referendum on expanding Erdogan's powers, raising questions about the future of the Turkish membership bid.

(AFP )

A new Cyprus peace conference in Geneva to push forward stalled reunification talks could be agreed by the end of this week, a UN official said Wednesday.

"It is both possible and also my ambition to get an agreement on this issue at the end of this week," UN envoy Espen Barth Eide said.

Eide is involved in shuttle diplomacy between Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci to broker agreement on a Geneva summit.

(AFP )

US President Donald Trump told Pope Francis on Wednesday he was committing more than $300 million (270 million euros) to help prevent or tackle famine in Yemen and several countries in Africa.

Trump, meeting the pontiff for the first time, said he had "renewed" the US "commitment to fighting global famine", with the United Nations warning that about 20 million people across Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen are at risk.

The UN has described the situation as the biggest humanitarian crisis in its history, but donor funding is falling far short.

(AFP )

Eight police officers were killed Wednesday when their vehicles hit roadside bombs in two separate incidents in Kenya's restive northeast close to the Somali border.

The first explosion claimed three lives early Wednesday morning while the second killed five later in the afternoon.

The afternoon blast struck the convoy of Mandera county governor Ali Roba who was travelling with a security escort between the towns of Arabia and Fino near the Somali border when one of the vehicles hit an Improvised Explosive Device (IED).

(AFP )

Ecuador's new president Lenin Moreno takes office Wednesday, tasked with steering a flagship of the Latin American left through troubled economic and political waters.

Congress was due to swear in Moreno, 64, at 1500 GMT, as the quieter successor to one of the feistiest personalities in Latin American politics: Rafael Correa.

Moreno is the first wheelchair-user to become Ecuador's leader, and one of few such leaders in the world ever to serve as president.

His legs have been paralyzed since he was shot during a robbery in 1998.

(AFP )

"There is a light that never goes out." As the sun set on a vigil for victims of the Manchester bombing, a lone voice drew on the city's deep well of musical genius for comfort.

The lyric shouted by a mourner in the crowd is from a 1986 song by indie rockers The Smiths, just one of the world-renowned bands and musicians that hail from the city, making the attack on a music venue an attack on the city's essence.

(AFP )

Prominent Russian arts figures including the Bolshoi theatre chief on Wednesday condemned investigators for raiding a top Moscow theatre and the home of its outspoken director in a fraud probe.

Investigators searched the state-funded Gogol Centre theatre and the flat of its artistic director Kirill Serebrennikov in a show of force Tuesday, bringing rehearsals to a halt and confiscating actors' phones.

"What was done to the director was wrong," Bolshoi theatre general director Vladimir Urin told journalists, quoted by Interfax news agency.

(AFP )

Spain's Supreme Court on Wednesday confirmed a 21-month jail sentence and 2.09-million-euro ($2.25 million) fine imposed on Lionel Messi for tax fraud, months after the Barcelona football star lodged an appeal.

The Argentina international and his father Jorge Horacio Messi were in July 2016 found guilty of using companies in Belize, Britain, Switzerland and Uruguay to avoid paying taxes on 4.16 million euros of Messi's income earned from his image rights from 2007-09.

(AFP )

One of French President Emmanuel Macron's closest allies faced accusations of wrongdoing over a property deal on Wednesday, causing embarrassment as the new government prepares a new law to clean up politics.

Richard Ferrand, a crucial early supporter of Macron and a senior minister in his first government, was revealed to have benefited from the deal while he ran a public health insurance fund.

(AFP )

Almost 400,000 children risk dying of hunger in DR Congo's troubled Kasai region where months of violence has driven over a million people from their homes, UNICEF said Wednesday.

The UN children's agency said the conflict in central Kasai has disrupted food supplies and undermined medical facilities.

The crisis has left almost 400,000 children "at risk of severe acute malnutrition", a statement said, meaning they could die without immediate aid.

UNICEF "needs $40.2 million for its urgent response" to the situation, the statement added.

(AFP )

NATO head Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday that the Manchester bombing shows the alliance must agree at a summit with US President Donald Trump to do more to combat terrorism.

Terrorism will be top of the agenda at Thursday's meeting in Brussels which comes amid sharp divisions over joining the US-led coalition against the Islamic State group.

"I expect NATO allies to step up and agree to do more in the fight against terrorism, not least because of the attack we saw in Manchester," Stoltemberg told a news conference on the eve of the summit.

(AFP )

Britain has raised its terror alert to the maximum level and ordered troops to protect strategic sites after 22 people were killed in a suicide bomb attack on a Manchester pop concert.

Here is what we know so far about Monday's attack, the deadliest in Britain since 2005.

- What happened? -

Police said they were called at 10:33 pm (2133 GMT) Monday to reports of an explosion at Manchester Arena during a concert by US pop star Ariana Grande, who is popular with teenagers and pre-teens.

(AFP )

President Emmanuel Macron wants a sixth extension of France's state of emergency since the Paris attacks of November 2015, his prime minister said Wednesday, adding that the terror threat "remains very high".

The new president, elected on May 7, also wants legislation to boost the powers of the security forces, Edouard Philippe said, two days after the Manchester concert suicide bombing that claimed 22 lives.

(AFP )

At least 22 people died in Monday night's bombing attack on a Manchester pop concert, including an eight-year-old girl and several parents who had come to pick up their children.

Here is what we know so far about the victims of the terror attack, the deadliest in Britain since the 2005 London bombings:

- 'Beautiful little girl' -

Eight-year-old Saffie Rose Roussos from Leyland, a town in Lancashire, northwest England, is so far the youngest named victim.

(AFP )

Spain's Supreme Court on Wednesday confirmed a 21-month jail sentence and 2.09-million-euro ($2.25 million) fine imposed on Lionel Messi for tax fraud, months after the Barcelona football star lodged an appeal.

The Argentina international and his father Jorge Horacio Messi were in July 2016 found guilty of using companies in Belize, Britain, Switzerland and Uruguay to avoid paying taxes on 4.16 million euros of Messi's income earned from his image rights from 2007-09.

(AFP )

Young actors are making waves at this year's Cannes film festival -- often in films that are hardly suitable children's viewing.

AFP takes a look at some of the kids who are making a splash:

- Baby faces, dark thoughts -

Starring Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell, family horror "The Killing of a Sacred Deer" has shocked audiences at the world's biggest film festival but features a standout performance from Irish actor Barry Keoghan as obsessive teenager Martin.

(AFP )

At least 30 migrants including young children drowned Wednesday when they fell off an overloaded vessel in the Mediterranean, where tensions are rising between aid ships and the Libyan coast guard.

"There's a critical situation today. About 200 people fell into the water," a coastguard spokesman told AFP, while a humanitarian worker at the scene said 31 bodies had been recovered.

The migrants were on a wooden boat carrying between 500 and 700 people and were just 20 nautical miles off the Libyan coast when the accident happened.

(AFP )

The World Health Organization should expand its donor base to better withstand the "shock" from planned deep budget cuts in Washington, Tedros Adhanom, the newly elected agency head, said Wednesday.

A day after he became the first African to head the WHO, the former Ethiopian health minister told reporters in Geneva he had been in touch with many countries willing to help fill the gap if the United States slashes funding.

(AFP )

US universities are often bastions of progressive Democrats, but Donald Trump's election has spurred a growing number of conservative students to step out of the shadows and become increasingly vocal.

Even though both right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos and conservative firebrand Ann Coulter cancelled planned appearances at the University of California, Berkeley in the face of threats and violent protests, Democrats don't always have a stranglehold on campus.

(AFP )

Taiwan's top court ruled in favour of gay marriage Wednesday, a landmark decision that paves the way for the island to become the first place in Asia to legalise same-sex unions.

Crowds of supporters cheered, hugged and wept as the court said current laws preventing the practice "violated" the constitution's guarantees of freedom of marriage and equality.

It gave the government two years to implement the ruling.

Momentum has been growing behind the push for equal marriage rights, with Taiwan's president Tsai Ing-wen openly supporting the campaign.

(AFP )

Islamist militants battling security forces in a southern Philippine city have taken hostages, including a local priest, the Catholic Church said Wednesday, after President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law to combat the gunmen.

"Father Chito Suganob and others were in the Cathedral of Our Lady Help of Christians when members of the Maute fighting group forced their way into the Cathedral, taking with them Fr. Chito and others as hostages," Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines president archbishop Socrates Villegas said in a statement.

(AFP )

Pope Francis urged Donald Trump to use his US presidency to promote peace around the world as the two leaders swapped sparring for smiles in their first face-to-face meeting, at the Vatican on Wednesday.

Trump's audience with the 80-year-old pontiff, a keenly-anticipated highlight of his first overseas tour, lasted just under half an hour and concluded with both men beaming, for the cameras at least.

"He is something," the president later said of his host. "We had a fantastic meeting."

(AFP )

The attack on a Manchester pop concert that killed 22 people was "likely" the work of more than one person, British interior minister Amber Rudd said Wednesday.

"It was a devastating occasion, it was more sophisticated than some of the attacks we've seen before, and it seems likely -- possible -- that he wasn't doing this on his own," she told BBC radio.

Rudd confirmed that bomber Salman Abedi, a British man of Libyan heritage who died in the explosion on Monday night, had been on the radar of the security services.

(AFP )

Hundreds of representatives from Myanmar's ethnic insurgent groups gathered in the capital on Wednesday for talks aimed at reviving Aung San Suu Kyi's stuttering peace process after months of heavy fighting.

The discussions are the de facto leader's second attempt to end conflict in the country's troubled frontier regions, where various ethnic groups have been waging war against the state for almost seven decades.

(AFP )

The bodies of four climbers were found inside a tent on Everest, an expedition organiser said Wednesday, taking the death toll on the world's highest peak this spring season to 10.

The climbers were found at camp four -- at 7,950 metres (26,085 feet) -- on Tuesday by a rescue team who were there to retrieve the body of a Slovak climber who died on the mountain on Sunday.

(AFP )

A Turkish court has placed under arrest on terror charges an academic and a teacher who have been on a long hunger strike to protest against their dismissal in a purge after last year's failed coup, reports said.

Nuriye Gulmen and Semih Ozakca were remanded in custody ahead of trial by an Ankara court late Tuesday on charges of "membership of a terror organisation", the NTV and CNN-Turk channels said. They had initially been detained on Monday.

(AFP )

One year ago an Eritrean was arrested in Sudan on charges of heading a major people-smuggling network and extradited to Italy, where he has languished in jail ever since -- despite persistent claims the police got the wrong man.

Sicilian prosecutor Francesco Lo Voi hailed the arrest as "a turning point in the fight against human traffickers" after months of trying to break into a ring of smugglers shipping migrants across the Mediterranean.

(AFP )

Flying objects that prompted South Korean forces to fire warning shots this week appeared to be balloons carrying propaganda leaflets from the North, Seoul's military said Wednesday.

On Tuesday the defence ministry said troops had opened fire when an unidentified flying object entered the country's airspace across the tense border with North Korea, with a military official saying it appeared to be a drone.

(AFP )

A Sicilian town beloved by the rich and famous is swapping sun-worshippersfor snipers as the leaders of the G7 descend for a high-security meeting in the hill-top holiday destination.

Drones will fly over Taormina for the Friday to Saturday summit and the army has the site in lockdown following an attack in Britain claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group and a mafia execution in broad daylight in Sicily on Monday.

Around 7,000 members of the security forces will patrol the coastal attraction's cobbled streets, which welcome more than one million visitors a year.

(AFP )

When human rights lawyer Li Heping returned to his home in Beijing after a two-year incarceration, his wife did not recognise the frail white-haired man standing in her hallway.

"He is only 46 years old, but I thought he was an old man," Wang Qiaoling told AFP. "He had lost 15 kilogrammes (33 pounds) and looked completely different."

Wang, speaking on Li's behalf because she said he remains under strict police control, alleges her husband was force-fed medication and sometimes chained for long periods during his detention in the neighbouring city of Tianjin.