Wednesday 28 June 2017

In the world

(AFP )

Shipping giant FedEx said Wednesday that deliveries were slowed at its Dutch unit TNT Express after the firm was hit by the latest major computer virus attack.

Trading in FedEx shares was halted for nearly an hour Wednesday ahead of the announcement, although operations of the parent company and other units were not impacted.

FedEx said TNT's operations were "significantly affected" by the information system virus, which was causing delays at TNT Express' domestic, regional and inter-continental services.

(AFP )

Wayde van Niekerk had promised to get "ridiculous" and the South African tyro hailed as Usain Bolt's likely successor did just that when sprinting to a world record in the rarely-run 300m on Wednesday.

The 24-year-old raced home at the Golden Spike meet at the Mestsky Stadium in the northeastern Czech city of Ostrava in an outstanding 30.81 seconds.

The previous world record of 30.85sec was set at altitude in Pretoria in 2000 by American Michael Johnson.

(AFP )

Thousands of computer users across the globe scrambled to reboot on Wednesday as calls grew to step up defences after a fresh wave of ransomware cyberattacks spread from Ukraine and Russia worldwide.

The virus, which demanded a payment worth $300 as it locked up files at companies and government agencies including the Chernobyl nuclear site, was reminiscent of the WannaCry ransomware that swept the world last month, hitting more than 200,000 users in more than 150 countries.

(AFP )

Mexican journalists protested Wednesday after a colleague's charred body was found -- the sixth murder of a reporter this year in one of the world's most dangerous countries for the media.

Colleagues of slain journalist Salvador Adame painted the words "SOS Press" in giant letters on the ground in Michoacan -- the western state where he was abducted and killed -- as well as the capital Mexico City and six other states around the country.

(AFP )

Russia "assumes" that President Vladimir Putin will meet his US counterpart Donald Trump during next week's G20 summit in Germany, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday.

Any such meeting would see the presidents address "several questions", Lavrov said, without elaborating other than to add that "above all, we must normalise dialogue" with Washington.

(AFP )

A new court established to try crimes committed in the 1990s Kosovo conflict took a step closer Wednesday to receiving its first indictments, with fierce speculation over who could be targeted.

The Kosovo specialist chambers, funded by the European Union and set up in The Hague, was established to investigate and prosecute allegations of crimes -- including assassinations, unlawful detentions and organ trafficking -- during and after the Kosovo guerillas' war of independence from Serbia.

(AFP )

US President Donald Trump has accepted an invitation to join his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron at Bastille Day celebrations in Paris on July 14, French and US officials said Wednesday.

Trump will attend the traditional military parade for France's national day on the Champs-Elysees avenue, where US soldiers will march alongside French troops to commemorate the centenary of America joining World War I, Macron's office said.

The White House confirmed the visit.

(AFP )

Humanity must put carbon dioxide emissions on a downward slope by 2020 to have a realistic shot at capping global warming at well under two degrees Celsius, the bedrock goal of the Paris climate accord, experts said Wednesday.

A world that heats up beyond that threshold will face a crescendo of devastating impacts ranging from deadly heatwaves to mass migration caused by rising seas, the experts warned in a commentary published in the science journal Nature.

(AFP )

As many as 100,000 civilians are trapped in Syria's Raqa, as US-backed fighters battle to retake the city from the Islamic State group, the UN rights chief warned Wednesday.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein voiced grave concern for the fate of civilians caught up in the anti-IS offensive in Raqa.

According to data collected by his office, at least 173 civilians have been killed by air and ground strikes in the city since June 1, but it acknowledged that that estimate was likely conservative, and the real death toll could be much higher.

(AFP )

Italy has threatened to prevent vessels flying under foreign flags from disembarking migrants rescued in the Mediterranean in its ports, a source close to the government said Wednesday.

"We can't go on like this," the source told AFP after media reported that Italy's representative to the European Union, Maurizio Massari, delivered a letter to the bloc warning that the country was considering closing its doors.

(AFP )

Barack Obama took his wife and daughters to the ancient Borobudur temple on Java on Wednesday on a family vacation to Indonesia, where the former US president spent part of his childhood.

The Obamas arrived in the city of Yogyakarta in central Java and headed straight to explore the Borobudur, an ancient Buddhist temple built in the 8th and 9th centuries.

"Obama is fascinated by Borobudur, and he remembers that he has seen this temple when he was a child," said Edy Setijono, head of the temple management complex, who accompanied the family at the site.

(AFP )

Pope Francis on Wednesday created five new cardinals in a colourful ritual ceremony at the Vatican that blended centuries of tradition with the Argentine pontiff's vision of a remodelled Church for the 21st century.

Four of the five new cardinals come from countries that have never had a cardinal before: El Salvador, Laos, Mali and Sweden. The fifth is from Spain.

In a hard-hitting homily, Francis told them they should regard themselves as servants of the most vulnerable and not be misled by the traditional description of cardinals as 'Princes of the Church'.

(AFP )

Hong Kong student pro-democracy campaigner Joshua Wong was detained by police on Wednesday after an anti-China protest ahead of a visit by President Xi Jinping.

Wong was among around 30 protesters who had staged a three-hour sit-in at a harbourfront statue and were led away into police vans.

Xi's visit this week marks 20 years since Hong Kong was handed back to China by Britain and comes at a time when fears are growing that Beijing is tightening its grip on the semi-autonomous city.

(AFP )

North Korea threatened on Wednesday to "impose the death penalty" on the South's former president Park Geun-Hye over an alleged plot to assassinate its leader Kim Jong-Un.

Park had "pushed forward" a supposed plan by Seoul's intelligence services to eliminate the North's leadership, Pyongyang's security ministry and prosecutors said in a statement carried by its official Korean Central News Agency.

"We declare at home and abroad that we will impose death penalty on traitor Park Geun Hye," it said.

(AFP )

British children's writer Michael Bond, the creator of the much-loved character Paddington Bear, has died at the age of 91, his publisher HarperCollins said on Wednesday.

Bond's famous series about a friendly teddy bear from "deepest, darkest Peru" sold more than 35 million copies worldwide and was turned into a blockbuster film in 2014.

"He was a true gentleman, a bon viveur, the most entertaining company and the most enchanting of writers," Ann-Janine Murtagh, executive publisher at HarperCollins Children's Books, said in a statement.

(AFP )

Trapped in their homes in Raqa and running out of supplies, Ahmad Shaabu, his family and their neighbours were increasingly desperate. It was the children who finally helped them to escape.

Shaabu was among some 20 civilians who managed this week to flee the northern Syrian city, which a US-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab forces are battling to take from the Islamic State group.

Tens of thousands of civilians are believed to remain in Raqa, seized by IS three years ago and turned into the jihadist group's de facto Syrian capital.

(AFP )

Kenyan literary icon Ngugi wa Thiong'o, often tipped for the Nobel literature prize, has pulled out of an annual Swedish book fair in protest at the presence of a right-wing extremist newspaper, his publisher said Wednesday.

(AFP )

A Russian military officer fighting alongside Moscow-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine was killed and another Russian captured in recent skirmishes with Ukrainian forces, Kiev said Wednesday.

A reconnaissance group of the self-proclaimed separatist Lugansk People's Republic clashed with Ukrainian government troops on June 24, resulting in the death of two rebel gunmen, Ukraine's General Staff said in a statement.

It said one of the gunmen was a group commander and "professional Russian soldier," who it named as Captain Alexander Shcherbak.

(AFP )

Football and showbiz stars will gather in northern Argentina on Friday for Latin America's celebrity wedding of the decade when Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi marries his childhood sweetheart Antonella Roccuzzo.

Here is what we know from the few details given by Messi's spokespeople as well as media reports and local people close to the event in his home city of Rosario.

- Shakira and friends -

Pop star Shakira and her husband, Messi's teammate Gerard Pique, are expected among the 260 guests.

(AFP )

A tentative deal on nearly $600 million in cuts to the UN peacekeeping budget has been reached following weeks of tough negotiations over US demands for sharp cost reductions, UN diplomats said Wednesday.

The United Nations will spend $7.3 billion on peacekeeping in the coming year, down from the current budget of $7.87 billion -- roughly a seven percent cut -- according to diplomats familiar with the negotiations.

(AFP )

Hong Kong student pro-democracy campaigner Joshua Wong was detained by police on Wednesday after an anti-China protest ahead of a visit by President Xi Jinping.

Wong was among at least 20 protesters who had staged a three-hour sit-in at a harbourfront statue and were led away into police vans.

Xi's visit this week marks 20 years since Hong Kong was handed back to China by Britain and comes at a time when fears are growing that Beijing is tightening its grip on the semi-autonomous city.

(AFP )

US President Donald Trump's warning to the Syrian government not to carry out a chemical weapons attack appears to have worked, Pentagon chief Jim Mattis said Wednesday.

"It appears that they took the warning seriously," Mattis said, referring to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer warned Monday night that if "Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price."

(AFP )

British children's writer Michael Bond, the creator of the much-loved fictional character Paddington Bear, has died at the age of 91, his publisher HarperCollins said on Wednesday.

Bond's famous series about a friendly teddy bear from darkest Peru sold more than 30 million copies worldwide and was turned into a blockbuster film in 2014.

"He was a true gentleman, a bon viveur, the most entertaining company and the most enchanting of writers," Ann-Janine Murtagh, executive publisher at HarperCollins Children's Books, said in a statement.

(AFP )

At least 30 civilians were killed in air strikes on an area of eastern Syria held by the Islamic State group on Wednesday, a monitoring group said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it was not immediately able to say whether the strikes in Deir Ezzor province were carried out by the US-led coalition, or by the Syrian army or its Russian ally.

They came just two days after a suspected coalition strike on an IS jail in the province killed 42 prisoners and 15 jihadists, according to an Observatory toll.

(AFP )

Pope Francis has defrocked an Italian priest found guilty of the sexual abuse of minors, reversing an earlier decision to reduce his punishment, the diocese at the heart of the scandal said Wednesday.

Mauro Inzoli, 67, was defrocked in 2012 after he was first accused of paedophilia, but that decision was reversed in 2014, when Pope Francis ordered him to stay away from minors and retire to "a life of prayer and humble discretion".

(AFP )

Germany is set to legalise same-sex marriage Friday after a heated coalition spat sealed an election-year divorce between Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and her centre-left governing partners.

The reform would grant full marital rights, including child adoption, to gay and lesbian couples, who in Germany are now only able to enter so-called civil unions.

Granting all couples marriage equality would put Germany in line with a host of other democracies, including the United States, Canada and many EU member nations.

(AFP )

Pro-democracy protesters climbed a statue in Hong Kong Wednesday and staged a sit-in ahead of a visit by President Xi Jinping to mark 20 years since the city was handed back to China by Britain.

Xi's visit this week comes at a time when fears are growing that Beijing is tightening its grip on semi-autonomous Hong Kong.

High-profile student activist Joshua Wong was among more than 20 demonstrators who encircled the sculpture of a golden bauhinia flower which became the emblem of Hong Kong in 1997.

(AFP )

Four former senior policemen were among six people charged Wednesday over the 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster in England which killed 96 Liverpool football supporters.

Prosecutors said there was "sufficient evidence to charge six individuals with criminal offences" including manslaughter by negligence, perverting the course of justice and misconduct in public office.

Barry Devonside, whose 18-year-old son Christopher died in the tragedy, was with other relatives when the charges were announced.

(AFP )

The European Union on Wednesday formally rolled over damaging economic sanctions against Russia for another six months, saying Moscow had failed to live up to its Ukraine ceasefire commitments.

EU leaders endorsed the move last week, charging that Russia had not halted its support for pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine nor put pressure on them to respect a ceasefire brokered by France and Germany which was meant to help end a deadly conflict dating back to early 2014.

(AFP )

European NATO allies and Canada will increase defence spending this year by 4.3 percent, alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday, amid pressure from President Donald Trump to spend more.

"In 2017 we foresee an even greater annual real increase of 4.3 percent. That is three consecutive years of accelerating defence spending," Stoltenberg told reporters on the eve of a defence ministers' meeting in Brussels.

"So we are really shifting gears, the trend is up and we intend to keep it up," he added.

(AFP )

Berlin police said Wednesday its officers were "only human" after they were kicked off the security force for next week's G20 summit over hardcore partying that earned them hero status from the German capital's clubbing scene.

Around 220 officers from Berlin were unceremoniously released from duty by the Hamburg authorities hosting the July 7-8 summit after they threw a wild party that involved public sex, brawling, urinating in a group and a bathrobe-clad female officer strip-dancing with her service weapon.

(AFP )

Senegalese international forward Famara Diedhiou will lead second tier Bristol City's line next season after the Championship side paid a club record £5.3million (5.9m euros, $6.8m) to prise him away from French outfit Angers.

The 24-year-old -- who attracted City's attention after scoring nine times in 36 Ligue 1 appearances for Angers last term -- signed a four year contract with the west country team who flirted with relegation last season.

His sale represents good business for Angers, who signed him from Sochaux last year for £1.36m.

(AFP )

Myanmar on Wednesday charged three journalists for reporting on an armed ethnic group in a case that has fuelled alarm at the erosion of press freedom.

Five men, including the trio, have now been transferred to Hsipaw prison in Shan State to await their first day in court, a police officer in the station told AFP.

They were charged under section one of the draconian Unlawful Associations Act, which carries a sentence of up to three years in prison.

(AFP )

Authorities in a deeply conservative Indian state were accused Wednesday of reinforcing entrenched gender discrimination after describing veiled women as the "pride" of the region.

The advertisement sponsored by the government of northern Haryana state featured the image of a woman, her face shrouded by a traditional scarf, with a tagline saying "the veil is Haryana's pride".

(AFP )

Germany's parliament is set to vote on a bill to legalise same-sex marriage Friday after the lower house legislative committee put it on the agenda, its chairwoman said.

"The path to equality is open," said the chairwoman, Renate Kuenast of the left-leaning ecologist Greens opposition party, in a tweet on Wednesday.

The bill is widely expected to pass as it is backed by most parties and Chancellor Angela Merkel has told lawmakers of her centre-right party that they can vote according to their conscience.