Tuesday 19 September 2017

In the world

(AFP )

Big screens broadcast Aung San Suu Kyi's speech on the Rohingya crisis nationwide as she tried to mollify the world without riling Myanmar's army or challenging longstanding prejudices -- but few could understand her clipped English.

"We didn't understand a single word," said Cho Cho, who watched the leader's first speech about the fate of the Muslim minority along with tens of thousands of others in the mainly Buddhist nation.

"But we wanted to show our support for her. After her speech finished, we clapped and came back home."

(AFP )

UN human rights investigators on Tuesday said they needed "full and unfettered" access to Myanmar to probe a grave and ongoing crisis, but the government renewed its rejection of the investigation.

"It is important for us to see with our own eyes the sites of these alleged violations", the head of the UN-backed fact-finding mission, Marzuki Darusman, told the Human Rights Council.

"There is a grave humanitarian crisis underway that requires urgent attention", he added, asking for "full and unfettered access to the country."

(AFP )

Spanish police carried out searches on Tuesday across Girona, a fiefdom of Catalonia's pro-separatist president Carles Puigdemont, as part of probe into suspected graft at a local water company, police said.

The operation comes amid mounting tensions as Catalan leaders press ahead with preparations for an independence referendum on October 1 despite Madrid's ban and a court ruling that deems it illegal.

(AFP )

Israel's military fired a Patriot missile on Tuesday to bring down what it said was an Iranian-made drone operated by Hezbollah on a reconnaissance mission over the Golan Heights.

The drone took off from a Damascus military airport before entering the demilitarised zone approaching the Israeli-controlled part of the Golan Heights, Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus told AFP.

"We scrambled fighter jets but they did not engage the UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle)," Conricus said.

(AFP )

British Prime Minister Theresa May will hold a special cabinet meeting on the eve of her Brexit speech, a spokesman said Tuesday, as she seeks to bring her ministers in line behind her EU strategy.

She called Thursday's meeting after Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson set out his own vision of life outside the European Union, prompting a colleague to accuse him of "backseat driving".

"There will be a cabinet meeting on Thursday morning ahead of the speech on Friday", when May will provide an update on her Brexit plans in Florence, Italy, a Downing Street spokesman told AFP.

(AFP )

The Caribbean island of Dominica, battered by Hurricane Maria Tuesday, was also struck by severe storms in 2015 and 1979.

Here are some things know about the small nation.

- "The Nature Island" -

Not to be confused with the much larger Dominican Republic to the northwest, this island of around 750 square kilometres (290 square miles) is situated between Martinique and Guadeloupe.

Marketed as The Nature Island, it is covered in tropical rainforest and has many rivers, lakes and hot springs.

(AFP )

The two main opposition leaders in the Democratic Republic of Congo have called for a political transition without President Joseph Kabila to prepare for long-delayed elections.

Felix Tshisekedi and Moise Katumbe, allied in an opposition coalition called Rally, issued their call on the eve of a crisis meeting at the United Nations in New York on Tuesday to discuss the political stalemate caused by Kabila's refusal to stand down after his second mandate ended in December last year.

(AFP )

Bangladesh police Tuesday evicted Muslim Rohingya refugees from overcrowded roadside camps and farmland as aid groups scrambled to find emergency shelter for tens of thousands living outdoors in squalid conditions.

Around 421,000 Rohingya have crossed into Bangladesh since August 25, the UN says, overwhelming the ill-equipped refugee camps along the border.

Aid groups have warned of an unfolding humanitarian crisis in the camps, where mobs of half-starving people rush passing food trucks in violent stampedes for rations.

(AFP )

Iraqi security forces and paramilitary units launched a dawn assault Tuesday against one of the Islamic State group's last bastions in the vast western province of Anbar bordering Syria.

The Joint Operations Command, which is coordinating Iraqi security forces battling IS, said an offensive had begun to retake the town of Anna and the nearby village of Al-Rayhanna.

(AFP )

Moscow has requested the extradition of a Russian national also wanted in the United States for laundering billions of dollars through a Bitcoin exchange he operated, a judicial source said Tuesday.

Alexander Vinnik, who headed BTC-e, an exchange he operated for the Bitcoin crypto-currency, was indicted by a US court in late July on 21 charges ranging from identity theft and facilitating drug trafficking to money laundering.

He has been languishing in a Greek jail since his arrest on July 25 in the tourist resort of Halkidiki, near the northern city of Thessaloniki.

(AFP )

Nine men were to go on trial Tuesday over a dramatic attack on Paris police in which a patrol car was torched with two officers still inside it.

Videos of the May 2016 assault, which have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times on YouTube, show youths dressed in black, most with their faces covered, surrounding the vehicle in the midst of traffic in the heart of the French capital.

One can be seen kicking in the window on the driver's side, and another hurling a flare into the vehicle, eventually causing it to burst into flames.

(AFP )

Critics of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte have adopted the three-finger salute from the hit "Hunger Games" films as a sign of resistance against his rule and drug war killings.

The sign is in contrast to Duterte's own iconic gesture, a clenched fist raised at or above eye level that is immensely popular with his support but which opponents have likened to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler's hand salute.

(AFP )

Italy's populist 5-Stars are ready to shoot for political gold: the anti-establishment movement will elect a candidate this week it hopes will make history by beating traditional parties to the top job.

Hot favourite Luigi di Maio, 31, the movement's most popular politician, is running in an internal ballot against seven unknowns and is widely believed to have the vote in the bag.

The snappily-dressed lower house deputy has been openly groomed to run for prime minister in the spring 2018 general election by comic Beppe Grillo, who co-founded the 5-Stars (M5S) in 2009.

(AFP )

Stanislav Petrov, a Soviet military officer who is widely credited with helping prevent a nuclear war with the United States, has died aged 77, his son told AFP on Tuesday.

Petrov, whose extraordinary story was told in a documentary titled "The Man Who Saved the World", received several international awards, was honoured at the United Nations and met Hollywood superstars such as Robert De Niro and Matt Damon.

(AFP )

Russian officials and Orthodox priests on Tuesday unveiled a statue in Moscow of inventor Mikhail Kalashnikov, whose iconic AK-47 assault rifle has claimed countless lives worldwide.

A priest sprinkled holy water on the seven-metre tall statue of Kalashnikov gripping his deadly creation, which will now loom over motorists from a traffic island in one of the sprawling capital's central thoroughfares.

(AFP )

Pace bowler Rubel Hossain was prevented from boarding a flight to South Africa with the Bangladesh tour squad after the airline claimed he did not have immigration clearance, officials said Tuesday.

"There is a new a provision that the passenger needs to have some sort of 'OK to Board' clearance from his ultimate destination," Bangladesh Cricket Board chief executive officer Nizamuddin Chowdhury told AFP after Rubel, 27, was refused a boarding pass at Dhaka airport on Saturday.

(AFP )

World leaders open their annual debate at the United Nations on Tuesday, eager to hear US President Donald Trump deliver his maiden address amid global anxiety over North Korea and Iran.

Trump takes the podium at the General Assembly just after Brazil's Michel Temer, presenting his message to the world as he pushes his nationalist "America First" agenda.

At a first UN appearance on Monday, Trump vowed to push for reform at the world body that he once disparaged as a "club" where "people get together, talk and have a good time."

(AFP )

A photo montage published by Al-Qaeda to mark the 16th anniversary of 9/11 shows the face of Osama bin Laden in the flames of the Twin Towers.

At his side is his son Hamza, the "crown prince of jihad".

The young man, now 28, has appeared since childhood in the propaganda network founded by his father.

And now, some officials and analysts believe he might try to unify jihadists around the world, taking advantage of the military weakness of the Islamic State (IS) group.

(AFP )

It's been dubbed the Super Bowl of diplomacy, the Oscars of world statesmanship: the UN General Assembly kicks off on Tuesday with US President Donald Trump in the spotlight as he makes his first address to the 193-nation body.

Here are a few fun facts about this year's gathering:

- Who's coming -

There are 90 heads of state, five vice presidents, 39 heads of government, three deputy prime ministers and 52 ministers.

(AFP )

The North Korea crisis has been like "divine aid" for hawkish Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, experts say, burnishing his nationalist credentials and possibly tempting him into a snap election.

Abe is aiming to capitalise on a public perception of strong leadership in a time of crisis, as well as an opposition in turmoil, and is reportedly considering a vote as soon as late October.

(AFP )

Germany's bone-hard stance on Europe's response to dealing with Greece's debt mountain has hardly endeared it to a nation labouring under the effects of austerity that multiple bailouts have engendered.

Yet, while Germany's role in trying to force Athens back onto the financial straight and narrow has sparked resentment -- with Berlin cast in the villain's role for demanding fiscal rectitude -- most Greeks appear unfazed at Angela Merkel's expected re-election next week.

(AFP )

Syrian student Moataz Ghannam believes many Germans misunderstood Chancellor Angela Merkel when she delivered her now-famous rallying cry at the height of the refugee influx, "We can do it".

"I didn't see it as a statement of fact -- 'we can do it right now' -- but as a goal: we all need to work together, refugees and Germans," the 27-year-old said.

(AFP )

The Chinese and Russian foreign ministers called for a peaceful end to the "vicious cycle" on the Korean peninsula as they met in New York for the UN General Assembly, Beijing said Tuesday.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov urged all parties to seek a "peaceful resolution" to the current stand-off with Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons program, the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.

(AFP )

With an extravagant football stadium and an EU-funded narrow-gauge train famed for its lack of passengers, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's home village of Felcsut makes for an offbeat tourist destination.

But less welcome visitors drop by on Tuesday in the form of European Parliament (EP) inspectors monitoring the use of EU funds by Budapest, which fiercely denies any wrongdoing.

(AFP )

US President Donald Trump will take aim at Iran and North Korea and strike a stridently nationalistic tone in his maiden address to the UN General Assembly Tuesday, rejecting the half-century-old drive toward global governance.

A top aide said Trump will take aim at "rogue regimes that threaten world stability and peace," singling out Pyongyang and Tehran during his half hour remarks and arguing responsible nations must step in to curb their behavior.

(AFP )

Aung San Suu Kyi said Tuesday she does not fear global scrutiny over the Rohingya crisis, pledging to hold rights violators to account but refusing to blame the military for violence that has driven some 421,000 of the Muslim minority out of her country.

In an address timed to pre-empt likely censure of Myanmar at the UN General Assembly in New York -- delivered entirely in English and aimed squarely at an international audience -- she called for patience and understanding of the unfurling crisis in her "fragile democracy".

(AFP )

Martha Gonzalez used to have the soft hands of a homemaker.

But they have grown callused and leathery since she started digging up bodies in search of her son, Alberto, one of Mexico's tens of thousands of missing people.

Gonzalez lives in Veracruz, in eastern Mexico, a state with an ugly record of corrupt politics and turf wars between drug cartels -- a toxic mix that has caused an explosion of violence, leaving the countryside littered with secret graves.

Gonzalez's son, a policeman, was abducted in 2013 at the age of 25.

(AFP )

Surrounded by the sleek hi-tech campuses and luxury condominiums of "Beijing's Silicon Valley", migrants from the countryside recreate village life, cooking in outdoor communal areas, playing cards and showering in the street.

But their community's days are numbered.

Demolition crews will soon arrive to flatten its alleys packed with dilapidated, one-room dwellings as part of a city-wide "clean-up" campaign.

(AFP )

When the heat inside prison became unbearable for the corrupt former governor of Iraq's Salaheddin province he offered to stump up the money himself to air-condition the whole jail.

The authorities readily accepted. After all, this was one way of recuperating some of the cash the former official had skimmed from state coffers.

After three years battling jihadists of the Islamic State group, the authorities have now set their sights on fishing for "sharks".

(AFP )

President Donald Trump warned Monday that Venezuela is "collapsing," suggesting the United States may take additional steps to restore democracy.

Trump told Latin American allies gathered on the fringes of the United Nations General Assembly that President Nicolas "Maduro defied his own people" and was guilty of "disastrous rule" that may necessitate further punitive measures.

"The Venezuelan people are starving. Their country is collapsing," he said.

(AFP )

US investigators wiretapped Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, under secret court order before and after the 2016 US presidential elections, CNN reported Monday.

The wiretapping continued until at least early this year, a period when Manafort was known to talk to Trump, the report said.

It was unclear whether Trump himself was picked up by the wiretaps.

(AFP )

Dominica braced for Hurricane Maria on Monday as the "potentially catastrophic" Category Five storm bore down on the island nation, packing winds of 160 miles (257 kilometers) per hour.

Residents flocked to supermarkets to stock up on essentials as island officials warned people living in low-lying areas or along rivers to move to high ground.

"Just ready to ride out storm at best. With a little prayer on the side," said school teacher Dominica Leandra Lander, a former Miss Dominica.

(AFP )

The US government has frozen arms sales to the bodyguards of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after his aides attacked demonstrators in Washington last May, two senators said Monday.

Senators Patrick Leahy and Chris Van Hollen said the move came after they proposed their own legislation to halt any sales to the Turkish Presidential Protection Directorate.

(AFP )

A blackout at Panama's main international airport -- a major hub for Latin America -- caused more than 200 flights to be canceled and many others delayed on Monday, airport officials said.

A malfunction in a circuit panel distributing power internally to the facility was to blame, according to the airport authority, which set up a "crisis room" to handle the disruption.

Thousands of frustrated passengers faced lines and clogged halls as harried airport staff struggled before blanked-out check-in screens.

(AFP )

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi is poised Tuesday to break her near-silence on communal violence scorching through Rakhine state, in a televised speech on a Rohingya refugee crisis that has shocked the world and prompted the UN to accuse the country's army of ethnic cleansing.

Suu Kyi's refusal so far to defend the Rohingya over nearly a month of violence has baffled and enraged an international community that once feted her as the champion of Myanmar's democracy struggle.