Wednesday 23 August 2017

In the world

(AFP )

The commander of the US Navy's Seventh Fleet will be relieved of his duty following a deadly collision between a destroyer and a merchant vessel, the latest in a spate of similar accidents, a defense official said Tuesday.

The decision to remove Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin from the post in Japan comes as the Navy is undertaking a fleet-wide global investigation in the wake of the incident Monday involving the USS John S. McCain which left 10 sailors missing and five injured.

(AFP )

A spate of incidents involving US warships in Asia, including a deadly collision this week off Singapore, has forced the navy to consider whether cyberattackers might be to blame.

While some experts believe that being able to engineer such a collision would be unlikely, given the security systems of the US Navy and the logistics of having two ships converge, others say putting the recent incidents down to human error and coincidence is an equally unsatisfactory explanation.

(AFP )

Gasps echo across the hall as the Myanmar school kids trial virtual reality goggles, marveling at a device that allows some of Asia's poorest people to walk on the moon or dive beneath the waves.

"In Myanmar we can't afford much to bring students to the real world experience," beamed Hla Hla Win, a teacher and tech entrepreneur taking virtual reality into the classroom.

"If they're learning about animals we can't take them to the zoo... 99 percent of parents don't have time, don't have money, don't have the means," she added.

(AFP )

The heir to the Samsung empire faces the verdict in his corruption trial Friday, which threatens to leave the world's biggest smartphone maker rudderless for more than a decade.

Lee Jae-Yong, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics and the son of Samsung group chairman Lee Kun-Hee, has been groomed all his life to take over the giant conglomerate founded by his grandfather in 1938.

It is by far the largest of the chaebols, the family-controlled firms that dominate Asia's fourth-largest economy, which some South Koreans self-mockingly dub the "Republic of Samsung".

(AFP )

A year to the minute that a earthquake struck the Amatrice region, Italy on Thursday will remember the 299 victims killed in the night-time disaster that still haunts the country.

Survivors will hold a candle-lit procession in the early hours, even as Ischia island to the south, recovers from Italy's latest quake -- and critics again criticise the government for failing to shore-up the nation's poorly constructed buildings.

(AFP )

Clobbered by coups and courts, Thailand's Shinawatra political dynasty is bracing for another withering blow in its decade-long power struggle with the kingdom's establishment as judges decide whether to convict the clan's ex-premier Yingluck.

The Supreme Court will on Friday rule if Yingluck is guilty of criminal negligence over a rice subsidy that showered cash on her family's rural political heartland, but was riddled with graft and led to billions of dollars of losses.

(AFP )

Hong Kong raised its highest storm warning Wednesday as Severe Typhoon Hato brought the city to a standstill, shutting down the stock market and forcing the cancellation of hundreds of flights as heavy rain and winds pummelled the territory.

The weather observatory raised the storm warning to the city's maximum Typhoon 10 signal -- meaning hurricane force winds are expected.

It was the first such alert in five years and only the third time the Typhoon 10 warning has been issued since 1997, when the former British colony was handed over to China.

(AFP )

A Mexican journalist under government protection was shot dead Tuesday in the violent state of Veracruz, an official said, the 10th journalist murdered in Mexico this year.

Candido Rios, a crime reporter for a regional newspaper, was gunned down outside a convenience store in the eastern town of Hueyapan de Ocampo along with two other people, including a former police inspector.

(AFP )

Brazilian ex-president Fernando Collor was formally charged Tuesday in connection with the massive Petrobras corruption scandal, allegedly taking some nine million dollars.

Collor, who was in office from 1990-1992 and is now a senator, was charged formally with "passive corruption", money laundering and racketeering.

That followed the federal Supreme Court's unanimous decision to allow Collor to be tried despite his immunity as a lawmaker. It did, however, reject additional obstruction of justice and embezzlement charges.

(AFP )

As Hong Kong battens down for Typhoon Hato, weather-obsessed residents are glued to updates from the historic observatory which has the power to shut down the city with a signal.

Early Wednesday the observatory issued the city's highest level Typhoon 10 warning, bringing the city to a standstill with schools shut, hundreds of flights cancelled, and the stockmarket closed.

Founded in 1883, when Hong Kong was a British colony, the observatory originally used harbourside cannon to notify mariners of a storm's arrival.

(AFP )

North Korea's leader Kim Jong-Un has ordered more production of rocket engines and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) nosecones, Pyongyang state media said Wednesday.

Tensions over the North's weapons programmes have mounted this year and it carried out two ICBM tests last month, overseen by Kim, that apparently brought most of the United States within range.

(AFP )

United Nations aid chief Stephen O'Brien told the Security Council on Tuesday there are early signs of genocide in the violence-plagued Central African Republic, according to diplomats.

O'Brien made his remarks in a closed-door meeting -- which was not on the official council agenda and was called for by France -- following his recent visit to the country, one of the diplomats told AFP.

(AFP )

The United States warned an angry Pakistan on Tuesday that it could lose its status as a privileged military ally if it continues giving safe haven to Afghan militant groups.

One day after President Donald Trump unveiled a new strategy to force the Taliban to negotiate a political settlement with the Kabul government, his top diplomat upped the heat on Islamabad.

Trump had warned that Pakistan's support for the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani extremist network would have consequences, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has now spelled these out.

(AFP )

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro called Tuesday for Pope Francis's support against a "military threat" from the United States, as international pressure mounts over the deadly political crisis Caracas is facing.

"May the pope help us prevent Trump from sending troops to invade Venezuela," Maduro told a news conference. "I ask for the pope's help against the military threat from the United States."

Maduro has faced months of deadly mass protests by opponents who blame him for an economic crisis and are demanding elections to replace him.

(AFP )

The European Court of Justice should not have "direct jurisdiction" in Britain after Brexit, the government said Tuesday, in what opponents labelled a "climbdown" from calls to sever ties completely.

The European Union has insisted that the bloc's top court should continue to have jurisdiction, for example to protect the rights of European citizens living in Britain.

But the British government has resisted and will on Wednesday outline fuller proposals ahead of the third round of UK-EU negotiations in Brussels next week.

(AFP )

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro said Tuesday he would seek international cooperation to arrest a fired chief prosecutor who fled the country after defying him amid a deadly political crisis.

"Venezuela is going to ask Interpol to issue a red notice against these people involved in serious crimes," Maduro told a news conference, referring to ex-chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega and her lawmaker husband.

The couple faces court action by Maduro's allies which they have denounced as politically motivated.

(AFP )

The United States said Tuesday that talks with North Korea may be possible "in the near future" after Pyongyang reacted to tough new UN sanctions with a level of restraint.

But, in keeping with a "dual track" strategy of reaching out to the North diplomatically while increasing economic pressure, Washington also imposed new sanctions on Chinese and Russian firms suspected of doing business with Pyongyang.

(AFP )

The world record for the largest samosa was smashed in London on Tuesday by a whopping version of the popular Asian snack weighing in at 153.1 (337.5 pounds) kilogrammes.

A dozen volunteers from the Muslim Aid UK charity built the giant samosa then deep-fried it in a custom-built vat at an East London Mosque.

Adjudicators from Guinness World Records were on hand to oversee the process and certify that the mega-samosa passed the required tests.

The previous record of 110.8 kg was set by Bradford College in northern England in June 2012.

(AFP )

A suspected member of the terror cell that unleashed carnage in Spain last week admitted to a judge on Tuesday that the jihadists had planned to hit monuments in an even bigger attack.

Mohamed Houli Chemlal, 21, said he knew of the plans two months ago, as he, and three other suspects, appeared in court for the first time since twin attacks killed 15 people and wounded more than 100.

(AFP )

A tourist magnet in Spain, adored for its beaches and architecture, Barcelona is working to reassure future visitors in the hope that last week's bloody rampage won't impact a key sector for its economy.

Rooms are scarce and prices are sky-high next week due to the expected arrivals of some 30,000 doctors for a cardiology congress on August 26-30.

The tourism sector sees the event as its first test since the twin vehicle attacks carried out in Barcelona and the nearby seaside resort of Cambrils that killed 15 people and wounded more than 120.

(AFP )

Polish prosecutors on Tuesday said they were looking into whether freedom icon Lech Walesa gave false testimony regarding allegations he collaborated with the communist secret police in the early 1970s.

Walesa, who cofounded the independent Solidarity trade union and then negotiated a bloodless end to communism in Poland in 1989, is a vocal opponent of the governing right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party, which he says is harming Poland.

(AFP )

At least 15 people were killed and more than 100 injured in twin attacks in which vehicles were used to mow down pedestrians on Barcelona's most popular street and in Cambrils, a busy seaside resort town.

- What happened -

Around 4:50 pm (1450 GMT) on Thursday, a white van ploughed into a crowd of pedestrians on the famous Las Ramblas boulevard in Barcelona.

One of the city's busiest streets, the promenade is normally thronged with tourists and street performers until well into the night.

(AFP )

The United States on Tuesday slapped sanctions on 16 Chinese and Russian individuals and companies, accusing them of supporting North Korea's nuclear program and attempting to evade US sanctions.

The sanctions are part of a broader US effort to disrupt the flow of cash funding North Korean weapon's programs and target companies that have dealt in natural resources such as coal and minerals or engaged in financial transactions for North Korean interests.

(AFP )

More than 20 migrants have been injured during mass brawls that broke out between Afghans and Africans near the French port of Calais, local officials said.

The fighting involving up to 200 people began overnight on Monday-Tuesday and continued on Tuesday afternoon, with some of the migrants armed with metal bars and sticks.

The local government in Calais said in a statement that 20 people had been injured in total, most of them overnight, while the local prosecutor's office said five people had been arrested.

(AFP )

The headless torso of a woman found floating in Danish waters could be that of a Swedish journalist who authorities believe died aboard an inventor's homemade submarine, police said Tuesday.

In a grisly case that has captured public imagination in both countries, Danish inventor Peter Madsen has been accused of the negligent manslaughter of Kim Wall.

(AFP )

Nearly a third of people on a French terror watchlist are believed to have psychiatric disorders, Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said Tuesday, a day after a mentally ill man went on a rampage in a stolen van in Marseille.

The incident, in which the man drove into two bus shelters, killing one person and seriously injuring another, immediately drew comparisons with a string of attacks across Europe in which vehicles have been used as killing machines.

(AFP )

An Indian court's decision on Tuesday to ban Islamic instant divorces highlighted a controversial practice that is disputed in Muslim countries and already banned in some.

The instant divorce or "triple talaq" -- when a man says to his wife three times in succession "You are divorced" -- was deemed by the Indian Supreme Court to violate the constitution.

(AFP )

The Venezuelan ex-chief prosecutor who fled her country after being targeted by its President Nicolas Maduro has left her first refuge stop in Colombia for Brazil, migration authorities said Tuesday.

"Venezuelan Chief Attorney Luisa Ortega Diaz today left for Brazil, having carried out the necessary emigration procedure with the Colombian authorities," they said in a statement.

Ortega, 59, had arrived in Colombia on Friday after fleeing with her lawmaker husband from Venezuela where they faced court action after defying Maduro over a deadly political crisis.

(AFP )

Eight people died and dozens were injured in the West African state of Guinea on Tuesday when a rubbish dump on the outskirts of the capital collapsed after heavy rain.

Five bodies, including those of two children, were taken to a morgue in Conakry, senior police official Boubacar Kasse said.

An AFP reporter on the scene later saw three other bodies that were recovered from the landside.

Dozens of injured were taken to hospital, police said.

The incident happened in Hamdallai, located in the district of Ratoma, after week-long heavy rains.

(AFP )

Donald Trump has vowed success in Afghanistan, but analysts say his strategy contains nothing new against enemies which his predecessors could not defeat -- a sobering assessment that points to endless war for weary civilians.

The US and Afghan governments face formidable opponents in the ascendant Taliban, weak and corrupt Afghan institutions and meddling regional powers -- plus the growing menace of the Islamic State group.

The US president vowed to leave American boots on the ground indefinitely while turning away from nation-building.

(AFP )

Russia detained and charged on Tuesday the theatre and film director Kirill Serebrennikov with fraud in a move that critics denounced as the latest sign of increasing censorship of the arts.

Serebrennikov, 47, is the artistic director of Moscow's Gogol Centre theatre and has staged productions at the legendary Bolshoi Theatre. His films have been shown at the Cannes and Venice film festivals.

(AFP )

Chile said Tuesday it has granted diplomatic asylum to five Venezuelans who took refuge in its embassy in Caracas, amid political turmoil as President Nicolas Maduro moves to consolidate power.

The group includes four judges and an opposition politician.

"The government of Chile has decided to grant these five Venezuelan citizens diplomatic asylum," Chilean Foreign Minister Heraldo Munoz said.

(AFP )

In the small Spanish border town of Ripoll, a seven-year-old Moroccan boy suddenly found himself without his big brothers at home -- two had been gunned down by police as suspected jihadists, the other arrested.

"They were addicted to the imam," said the boy, repeating what he heard about his brothers from adults around him.

Five days after a van ploughed into pedestrians on Barcelona's busy tourist boulevard Las Ramblas and a similar assault in the seaside resort town of Cambrils, Ripoll is reeling from the discovery that many of the suspects lived among them.

(AFP )

In the wake of deadly violence following a white supremacist rally, George and Amal Clooney have donated $1 million to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights advocacy organization that monitors hate groups.

The pair, which made the donation via their Clooney Foundation for Justice, join a number of others giving funds in recent weeks to anti-discrimination organizations, which have seen a surge in donations since clashes between white supremacists and anti-racism protestors amid a demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia left one dead.

(AFP )

Widespread flight cancellations were set to bring chaos to Hong Kong's busy international airport as Typhoon Hato churns towards the city Tuesday.

The weather observatory said the storm would pass within 100 kilometres (62 miles) of Hong Kong Wednesday morning, "posing considerable threat" to the territory.

It warned of strong winds, rough seas and possible flooding due to heavy rain.

Flag carrier Cathay Pacific said almost all its flights between 6:00 am and 5:00 pm local time Wednesday would be axed.