Friday 22 September 2017

In the world

(AFP )

Chancellor Angela Merkel and her main rival Martin Schulz return to their home bases to make their last-ditch appeal for votes ahead of Sunday's elections, urging Germans to shun anti-migrant populists.

Merkel will end her punishing campaigning schedule in her Baltic coast constituency Saturday.

But far from heading to districts where her Christian Democratic Union enjoys its strongest support, she is visiting districts in the town of Greifswald and the island of Ruegen where the Islamophobic Alternative for Germany topped her party's score in state elections last year.

(AFP )

Thousands of Brazilians demonstrated for gay rights Friday after an uproar over a judge's ruling that psychologists can administer so-called "cures" for homosexuality.

About 5,000 activists marched in central Sao Paulo, Brazil's biggest city and site of the world's largest annual gay pride parade. More than 1,000 turned out in Rio de Janeiro, carrying a huge rainbow-colored flag.

Violence against homosexuals and transgender people is common in Brazil. The country is the world's most deadly for transgender people, according to Transgender Europe.

(AFP )

Pop star Justin Bieber, known more for headline-grabbing scandals than activism, on Friday took an unexpected political turn as he hailed the Black Lives Matter movement.

The 23-year-old, who abruptly cut short a tour in July, took to Instagram to show support for the movement that has arisen in response to police killings of African Americans.

"I am a white Canadian and I will never know what it feels like to be an African American but what I do know is I am willing to stand up and use my voice to shine light on racism," he wrote.

(AFP )

A veteran Syrian opposition activist and her journalist daughter were found stabbed to death at their apartment in Istanbul, Turkish media reported Friday, in a crime supporters claimed was an "assassination" to avenge their work.

Friends raised the alarm after being unable to reach Aroubeh Barakat and her daughter Halla Barakat by telephone for two days, the Dogan and Anadolu news agencies said.

Turkish police then arrived at their apartment in the Uskudar district on the Asian side of Istanbul and found both women dead.

(AFP )

The remains of a feared ex-guerrilla chief killed in a bombing raid seven years ago were laid to rest in Colombia Friday, with tributes led by the new Common Alternative Revolutionary Force (FARC) political party.

Jorge "Mono Jojoy" Briceno -- real name Victor Julio Suarez Rojas -- died in an attack ordered by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in 2010 against the rebel army then also known as the FARC.

(AFP )

Erika Albarran, a 33-year-old street vendor, was feeding her baby when the 7.1-magnitude quake struck Mexico City.

Both survived, but her home was damaged and now she's in a shelter, with no money, not knowing how to face the future.

Like thousands living in the capital, Albarran saw her daily life upended in the long seconds of the earthquake, which killed more than 270 people.

It is estimated that 2,000 homes suffered structural damage, with many too unsafe to return to. Their occupants are homeless.

(AFP )

Prince Harry attended a training session Friday for athletes who will compete in the upcoming Invictus Games for soldiers and veterans wounded or disabled in battle.

The British royal is scheduled to inaugurate the third Invictus Games at a ceremony late Saturday, which US First Lady Melania Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are expected to attend.

Dressed in a black polo shirt and jeans, Canadian television showed the prince grinning in the bleachers poolside, lending encouragement to the swimmers and later chatting with British athletes.

(AFP )

The calamity of Hurricane Maria could not have come at a worse time for Puerto Rico.

The US island territory buckled under the weight of $70 billion in debt and filed for bankruptcy protection in May.

Now, with its power grid wiped out and many roads, homes and buildings water-logged ruins, the Caribbean vacation destination faces months of slow, painful reconstruction.

(AFP )

Donatella Versace authored the defining moment of Milan fashion week on Friday with a blockbuster show honouring her late brother Gianni which closed with a surprise supermodel reunion that brought the cheering crowd to its feet.

Security guards had to brush back the audience when it rushed the catwalk once a white curtain at the head of the room peeled back at the show's close to reveal the guests of honour.

(AFP )

French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday told Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipila of his "total inflexibility" to plans by telecoms giant Nokia to cut nearly 600 jobs in France.

The Finnish group said this month it planned to reduce its headcount in France by 597, a little over 10 percent of its total workforce in the country.

"I told the prime minister of my concerns over this issue and my total inflexibility," Macron told reporters after meeting with Sipila.

(AFP )

More countries could be hit with tough travel restrictions to the United States after the ban on people from six mainly Muslim countries expires from Sunday, Trump administration officials hinted Friday.

White House and Homeland Security officials said that after a 50-day review, they had identified a number of countries that could not or were not willing to meet US standards for identifying potential terror threats.

(AFP )

Bangladesh authorities Friday released two Myanmar photographers covering the Rohingya crisis for a German magazine after they were granted bail by a court, police and a lawyer said.

Minzayar Oo and Hkun Lat were detained early this month in the border district of Cox's Bazar, where more than 420,000 Rohingya Muslims have sought refuge from violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state since August 25.

Police have said they were arrested on suspicion of espionage -- a charge rejected by the pair's lawyers.

(AFP )

Brazilian soldiers deployed by armored vehicle, truck and helicopter Friday to reinforce police after heavily armed drug traffickers rampaged through the country's biggest favela, spraying bullets and terrifying locals.

Intense exchanges of gunfire between police and criminals began early morning inside the Rocinha favela, where approximately 70,000 people live in a teeming cluster of small houses on hillsides overlooking wealthy western Rio.

(AFP )

Former Spanish king Juan Carlos at 79 has been named world sailing champion along with his crew during the classic six competition in Vancouver that also included American Dennis Conner.

Juan Carlos, who abdicated in 2014 to make room for his son Felipe VI, won late Thursday in the Six Meter Class World Championship at the end of the regattas in the Pacific Ocean.

Juan Carlos and his crew aboard the all-new Bribon Gallant outpaced American Peter Hofmannn and Brazil's Lars Grael, according to the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club.

(AFP )

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday described the rhetoric between leaders of the United States and North Korea as a "kindergarden fight between children" and urged calm.

"We have to calm down the hot heads and understand that we do need pauses, that we do need some contacts," Lavrov told a news conference at the United Nations where he was attending the annual General Assembly debate.

(AFP )

He may be famed for portraying the quintessential Englishman but for Italy, British actor Colin Firth has "amore" and more.

Firth took up Italian citizenship on Friday, the interior ministry in Rome announced.

"The celebrated actor, who received an Oscar for his work in the film 'The King's Speech,' has married a citizen of our nation and has repeatedly expressed his love for our country," it said in a statement.

Firth, 57, married Italian producer Livia Giuggioli, 48, in 1997, according to the specialist movie site IMDb. They have two children.

(AFP )

Workers in Moscow on Friday erased the illustration of a gun from a freshly-inaugurated monument of Mikhail Kalashnikov, inventor of the legendary AK-47 assault rifle, after it was found that the drawing was of a Nazi weapon.

"We have checked the information about a mistake. It is confirmed. The sculptor, Salavat Shtsherbakoff, has acknowledged his mistake," the state-supported Russian Military History Society, which backed the monument, told TASS news agency.

(AFP )

US Senator John McCain Friday announced his opposition to the latest Republican attempt to replace Barack Obama's signature health care law, likely dooming the repeal effort.

It is the second time in two months that he has defied his party and President Donald Trump over efforts to replace the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as "Obamacare," which has long been in Republicans' sights.

"I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal," McCain said of the bill proposed by fellow Republican senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy.

(AFP )

President Donald Trump's contentious travel ban expires Sunday with little clarity over whether America's door will reopen for travelers from six majority-Muslim countries.

After the 90-day ban ends, travelers from Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen have been hopeful that US representatives would resume granting visas for trips to the United States for work, study, pleasure or to emigrate.

(AFP )

Ukraine on Friday expressed disappointment after the president of Romania said he would not travel to the ex-Soviet country next month in protest over a bill that obliges schools to teach in the Ukrainian language only.

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said the bill "drastically limits" the access of minorities to education in their native language, adding that the cancellation of his visit is a "very strong signal."

A Ukrainian foreign ministry spokeswoman confirmed that the visit had been cancelled.

(AFP )

Brazilian soldiers deployed Friday to help Rio de Janeiro police after heavily armed drug traffickers rampaged through the country's most heavily populated favela, spraying bullets in the built-up community.

Intense gunfire exchanges between police and criminals began early Friday inside the Rocinha favela, where approximately 70,000 people live in a teeming collection of small houses on steep hillsides overlooking wealthy western Rio.

(AFP )

Indonesian officials raised the highest possible alert for a volcano on the resort island of Bali late Friday, after tremors prompted thousands to flee over fears it could erupt for the first time in more than 50 years.

Mount Agung, about 75 kilometres (47 miles) from the tourist hub of Kuta, has been rumbling since August and officials have recommended that people stay at least nine kilometres away from the crater.

(AFP )

Twenty-one people drowned and up to 15 more were missing on Friday after a fishing boat carrying migrants sank off Turkey's Black Sea coast, the coast guard said.

Forty migrants were rescued but search and rescue efforts were still under way to find seven to nine people missing in the incident off the Kefken district, the statement said. The area lies about 130 kilometres (80 miles) east of Istanbul.

One pregnant woman who was rescued was taken to hospital but lost her baby, state-run Anadolu news agency said.

(AFP )

An increasing amount of Chinese-made components are reaching the US market through Mexico and Canada, at the expense of American manufacturers, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Friday.

On the eve of the third round of talks aimed at revamping the 23-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement -- which US President Donald Trump has vilified and repeatedly threatened to abandon -- the US released figures showing how China is benefiting from the pact, replacing American-made material.

(AFP )

Greece's top administrative court on Friday approved the forced deportation of two Syrian refugees, setting a precedent for hundreds of similar cases, a justice source said.

Over 750 Syrian exiles are likely to be affected by the ruling by the Greek council of state, a source with knowledge of the case told AFP.

The refugees, two men aged 22 and 29, had filed a legal challenge after asylum committees rejected their pleas to not be returned to Turkey, from where they entered Greece last year.

(AFP )

The decision by London transport authorities to oust US ride-hailing firm Uber is "not really justified," US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Friday.

Ross, who acknowledged that the Uber issue is not one he is responsible for, nonetheless criticized European authorities for unfairly targeting American technology firms.

"It looks pretty obvious that they're becoming discriminated against because they're worried our companies are so much stronger than the ones in Europe itself," Ross said on CNBC.

(AFP )

Demonstrators hit the streets of Barcelona on Friday for a third day of protests against the Spanish authorities' crackdown on preparations for a banned independence referendum in Catalonia.

Some 2,000 people, many draped in red and yellow Catalan independence flags, gathered outside a court on the outskirts of Barcelona where six Catalan government officials, who were detained on Wednesday, were summoned for questioning.

(AFP )

Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday outlined plans for a transition period of around two years after Brexit during which Britain would continue paying into the EU budget and accessing EU markets.

Delivering a speech in Florence, May said there would also be a continuation of European Union free movement rules during this "implementation period", although EU citizens would be required to register.

Preparations necessary for Britain to adjust to a new relationship with the EU after Brexit "point to an implementation period of around two years," she said.

(AFP )

Twenty homes caught fire and a bomb was detonated near a mosque in Myanmar's Rakhine state, the government said Friday, the latest unrest in a region that has seen hundreds of thousands of Rohinyga Muslims flee in under a month.

The violence comes days after Myanmar's civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi declared that the military had ceased its "clearance operations" in the border area.

The army claims it is trying to flush out Rohingya militants who attacked police posts on August 25.

(AFP )

A bronze bust of Joseph Stalin was unveiled in Moscow on Friday amid increasing concerns in Russia that the authorities are seeking to whitewash the Soviet dictator's crimes.

Stalin's sculpture -- along with those of major Soviet leaders like Vladimir Lenin and Nikita Khrushchev -- was unveiled outside a museum in central Moscow during a ceremony attended by lawmakers.

The seven sculptures spanning the history of the USSR from Lenin to Mikhail Gorbachev are the latest addition to the recently opened "Alley of Rulers" composition that already features 33 Russian rulers.

(AFP )

French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday made good on a central campaign vow to overhaul the country's complex labour code, overriding objections from some trade unions and the hard-left opposition.

The 39-year-old centrist believes that making the job market more flexible will help drive down the unemployment rate, now at 9.6 percent, but opponents say the reforms are a gift to bosses while workers will suffer more job insecurity.

The reforms overhaul large parts of the 3,300-page labour code which details workers' rights, with some chapters dating back over a century.

(AFP )

A Sri Lankan couple is under investigation for deploying hundreds of school children to carry the train of the bride's saree during a wedding ceremony, authorities said Friday.

About 250 students of a state-owned school carried the train of the 3.2-kilometre (two-mile) long saree worn by the bride as she and the groom walked down a main road in the central district of Kandy Thursday, local media reported. Another 100 students served as flower girls at the wedding.

(AFP )

Hate speech and misinformation on social media have amplified ethnic tensions in Myanmar's Rakhine state, a US official said Friday, urging the country's "better angels" to show compassion for Rohingya Muslims who are fleeing violence in droves.

Western Rakhine, for years a hotbed of tension between Myanmar's Rohingya minority and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists, has been seized by crisis since the army launched a crackdown on Rohingya militants in late August.

(AFP )

London transport authorities said Friday they would not renew Uber's licence to operate in the city when it expires, due to public safety concerns, although the US-based ride-hailing app has said it will appeal.

Transport for London said the conduct of Uber, which has around 40,000 drivers and 3.5 million customers in the British capital, had raised concerns.

"TfL has concluded that Uber London Limited is not fit and proper to hold a private hire operator licence," it said in a statement.

(AFP )

More than 27,000 images of torture and killings allegedly perpetrated by the Assad regime in Syria have been handed to German prosecutors who are investigating possible abuses, a rights group said Friday.

"The photos show the extent and the systematic nature of torture" under Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said Wolfgang Kaleck, general secretary of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR).