Sunday 18 February 2018

In the world

(AFP )

EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said Sunday he does not expect a "perfect" accord on reforming the single currency at an EU summit in June.

"We won't get everything, we won't have a perfect accord, but if there is progress on crisis management, the ability to combat shocks... we will have made a great step forward," he told French radio RFI on the eve of a meeting of EU finance ministers in Brussels.

(AFP )

South Africa's Kevin Anderson bagged only the fourth title of his career with a three-set victory over Sam Querrey to claim the ATP Tour New York Open on Sunday.

Anderson played flawlessly in the third set tie-break to win 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/1) in two hours and 13 minutes, ending Querrey's hopes of a title on home soil.

The 31-year-old Anderson -- who lost in the final of the US Open in New York last September -- expressed delight at bucking a trend which has seen him lose in 11 finals before Sunday.

(AFP )

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said Sunday his country and Kosovo could one day have a single president as a "symbol of national unity" between Tirana and Pristina.

In a remark certain to anger Belgrade, Rama noted that the two neighbours, both predominantly ethnic Albanian, already share diplomatic missions around the world, adding: "Why not a single president, as a symbol of national unity?"

(AFP )

A leader in one of Brazil's most powerful criminal gangs implicated in cocaine trafficking has been murdered along with another gang member, local media reported on Sunday.

Rogerio Jeremias de Simone, a chief in the First Capital Command crime group, was found dead in the northeastern state of Ceara, the reports said.

State authorities confirmed to AFP the discovery on Friday of two unidentified corpses at an indigenous reserve.

(AFP )

Bosnian Roma actor Nazif Mujic, who won a Silver Bear acting award at the Berlin Film Festival in 2013, has died aged 48, following a harrowing descent into extreme poverty despite his film success.

"We were together yesterday, he was all right, and then this morning I received a call and I was told he was dead," the actor's brother, Suljo Mujic, told AFP on Sunday.

The actor, who died in the impoverished hamlet of Svatovac, had been suffering from ill health in recent months.

(AFP )

Students who survived a mass shooting at their Florida school on Sunday announced plans to march on Washington in a bid to "shame" politicians into reforming laws that make firearms readily available.

The "March for Our Lives" will take place on March 24, with sister rallies planned across the country, a group of students told ABC News' "This Week."

They pledged to make Wednesday's slaughter in Parkland, Florida a turning point in America's deadlocked debate on gun control.

(AFP )

Noted French jazz violinist Didier Lockwood, a disciple of the late Stephane Grappelli, died of a heart attack early Sunday, his agent said.

Lockwood, who performed at Paris jazz venue Bal Blomet on Saturday, had turned 62 on February 11.

"His wife, his three daughters, his family, his agent, his co-workers and his record label are sad to announce the sudden passing of Didier Lockwood," his agent said in a statement.

Lockwood was playing at a jazz festival when he met Grappelli, who invited the then 20-year-old to join him on a European tour.

(AFP )

Peter Tauber, secretary-general of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative CDU party, will step down from his post for health reasons, party sources said Sunday.

Tauber, 43, will announce his decision on Monday, the sources said, with a successor to be named at an extraordinary party congress on February 26.

Although Tauber is seen as a close associate of Merkel's, infighting within the CDU (Christian Democratic Union) led the chancellor to designate another party stalwart to draft the party's electoral platform last year.

(AFP )

The death toll from a helicopter crash that followed a strong earthquake in southern Mexico rose to 14 Sunday, as the defense minister said the government assumed full responsibility.

The tragedy struck Friday night as a military helicopter flew the interior minister and other officials to an area near the epicenter of a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that shook Mexico earlier that evening.

(AFP )

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Sunday ratcheted up his fierce anti-immigration rhetoric as he urged voters to reelect him in April for a third term, branding the opposition as out of touch and "hopeless".

"Dark clouds are gathering over Europe because of immigration," Orban told an audience of supporters during an annual state-of-the-nation speech in Budapest.

"Nations will cease to exist, the West will fall, while Europe won't even realise that it has been invaded," he said, claiming that large European cities could soon have Muslim majority populations.

(AFP )

The campaign for Mexico's July 1 presidential election began in earnest Sunday as the country's top parties officially nominated their candidates, with all three front-runners trying to sell a message of change.

It is still a wide-open race to succeed President Enrique Pena Nieto, who is deeply unpopular heading into the final stretch of his six-year term in a Mexico beset by endless corruption scandals and record levels of violent crime.

(AFP )

Five women were shot dead in an apparent radical Islamist attack on an Orthodox church in the North Caucasus region of Dagestan on Sunday, as the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the assault.

An unidentified gunman fired at worshippers at the church in the town of Kizlyar in the mainly Muslim region, local press reports said.

The regional internal affairs ministry said in a statement that the assailant used a hunting rifle, and that four women were killed on the spot, while the attacker was "eliminated".

(AFP )

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Tehran on Sunday over aggressions by Iran and its "proxies" in Syria, saying he would not allow them to "put a noose of terror around our neck".

Calling it "a message to the tyrants of Tehran", he warned in a speech at the Munich Security Conference: "Do not test Israel's resolve."

His fiery comments came as tensions between the arch enemies have mounted after clashes involving Syrian forces this month, sparked by Israel's downing of what it called an Iranian drone sent from Syria.

(AFP )

A Russian Olympic curler has been implicated in a doping case, sources told AFP on Sunday, in a potential setback as the country battles to recover from a major scandal which triggered its ban from the Pyeongchang Winter Games.

A source close to the matter said the case involved meldonium -- the same substance that saw Maria Sharapova banned. The World Curling Federation also said it was aware of the situation, following Russian reports which named a Russian curler.

(AFP )

Students who survived a mass shooting at their Florida school on Sunday announced plans to march on Washington in a bid to "shame" lawmakers into reforming laws that make powerful firearms readily available.

The "March for our Lives" will take place on March 24, with sister marches planned across the country, a group of students told ABC News, vowing to make Wednesday's shooting a turning point in America's deadlocked debate on gun control.

(AFP )

Poland on Sunday sought to defend remarks by its prime minister which Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu called "unacceptable" and tantamount to denying the Holocaust.

"The comments of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki during a discussion in Munich were by no means intended to deny the Holocaust, or charge the Jewish victims of the Holocaust with responsibility for what was a Nazi German perpetrated genocide," Morawiecki's spokeswoman Joanna Kopcinska said in a statement.

(AFP )

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday told his Polish counterpart that his remarks on "Jewish perpetrators of the Holocaust" were unacceptable and unfounded, Netanyahu's office said.

"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today spoke by telephone with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki," a statement said.

"He told him that the remarks that were made were unacceptable and that there was no basis for comparing the actions of Poles during the Holocaust to those of Jews."

(AFP )

President Donald Trump said Sunday that Russia was succeeding beyond its "wildest dreams" in sowing US discord but refrained once more from directly challenging Moscow on its election meddling.

In a flurry of tweets, Trump blamed former president Barack Obama for failing to stop Russia while accusing the FBI of spending "too much time trying to prove collusion with the Trump campaign."

(AFP )

The Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) said Sunday that three of its foreign members were killed in Syria, including two in the northern enclave of Afrin.

The Kurdish militia, the backbone of a US-backed force that has fought the Islamic State group, named the fighters as French national Olivier Francois Jean Le Clainche, 41, Spanish national Samuel Prada Leon, 25, and Dutch national Sjoerd Heeger, 25.

The YPG said Le Clainche and Leon were killed "in the clashes with the occupiers at the Jandairis front on February 10."

(AFP )

Church spires across Britain will be used to boost broadband, mobile phone and WiFi connectivity in rural areas, under a deal struck between the government and the Church of England, it was announced Sunday.

"This agreement with the Church of England will mean that even a 15th century building can help make Britain fit for the future," said Matt Hancock, the minister for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

The CoE has 16,000 church buildings and around 65 percent of its churches are located in rural communities, making them ideal hosts of key digital infrastructure.

(AFP )

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Tehran on Sunday over aggressions by what he called Iran and its "proxies" in Syria, while showing what he claimed was a piece of an Iranian drone shot down in Israeli airspace.

Saying he had "a message to the tyrants of Tehran" during a speech at the Munich Security Conference, he warned: "Do not test Israel's resolve."

He brandished a rectangular piece of dark green metal which he called "a piece of that Iranian drone, or what's left of it, after we shot it down."

(AFP )

Rescuers discovered nine more bodies Sunday beneath the ruins of a Indian hotel, bringing the known death toll from an explosion which tore through a wedding party to 18, an official said.

A gas cylinder exploded late Friday at the hotel in the city of Beawar, in the western state of Rajasthan, reducing the venue to ruins and sparking a huge fire.

By Saturday evening officials said nine bodies had been found.

But the figure rose sharply Sunday as rescue teams, aided by the army, found nine more victims including women and children under rubble.

(AFP )

Hanan anxiously waved goodbye as her 11-year-old daughter headed into class in Syria's capital after more than a week at home under escalating rebel shellfire.

"I can't describe my anxiety from the moment Lina leaves for school, until she returns. It's like she's coming back from some adventure or battle, not from class," the 44-year-old mother told AFP.

Hanan lives with her husband and three daughters in Al-Amin, a neighbourhood at the heart of Damascus's Old City which has been bombarded by rebels entrenched outside the capital.

(AFP )

After the murder of a Philippine maid in Kuwait, domestic helpers are streaming back to Manila with tales of abusive employers -- but many are still prepared to take their chances overseas again.

For them, the sometimes brutal conditions and the hide-and-seek with Kuwaiti police are outweighed by the need to provide for their families at home.

"The mother of my boss, she would hurt me, she would hit me with a shoe with a thick sole. My body was bruised but I would not (go home)," said Marissa Dalot, 40, who laboured for almost five years in the wealthy Gulf state.

(AFP )

Poland on Sunday sought to defend remarks by its prime minister which Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu called "outrageous" and amounted to denying the Holocaust.

"The comments of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki during a discussion in Munich were by no means intended to deny the Holocaust, or charge the Jewish victims of the Holocaust with responsibility for what was a Nazi German perpetrated genocide," Morawiecki's spokeswoman Joanna Kopcinska said in a statement.

(AFP )

Streets around Lhasa's fire-hit Jokhang temple, one of the most sacred sites for Tibetan Buddhism, were reopened to pilgrims Sunday after a blaze broke out the night before, Chinese state media said, but the extent of damage remained unclear.

The official Xinhua news agency said the fire had erupted Saturday evening in part of the more than 1,300-year-old Jokhang temple, but was soon put out.

Images posted on social media of the blaze showed the eaved roof of a section of the building lit with roaring yellow flames and emitting a haze of smoke.

(AFP )

The hunt for a plane that disappeared with 66 people onboard in Iran's Zagros mountains was stopped until morning as blizzard conditions made progress impossible for rescue teams, state television said Sunday.

"With the wind intensifying, and with snow, rain and darkness, it is not possible for rescue and relief teams to reach high altitudes and the search operation has been postponed until tomorrow," broadcaster IRIB announced.

"Five helicopters are on alert to resume the search at dawn if the weather conditions are better."

(AFP )

Brazilian President Michel Temer has announced the creation of a public security ministry after giving the military full control over security in crime-plagued Rio de Janeiro.

Temer came to the city to meet Governor Luiz Fernando Pezao, several ministers and General Walter Souza Braga Netto, who will lead the operation and who was in charge of coordinating security when the city hosted the 2016 Olympic Games.

"From next week or the next, I want to create a Ministry of Public Security to coordinate all efforts," said Temer Saturday after leaving the meeting.

(AFP )

Crime drama "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" captured five British Bafta film awards on Sunday, including best film, topping an emotionally charged ceremony that featured fashion and rhetoric in support of the fight against sexual harassment sweeping Hollywood.

The movie, chronicling a grieving mother's campaign for justice, won for original screenplay and outstanding British film, while Frances McDormand bagged best actress and Sam Rockwell best supporting actor prizes.

(AFP )

Actresses Kate Winslet and Emma Watson joined around 200 British stars in demanding an end to sexual harassment and abuse, in an open letter published Sunday ahead of the Bafta film awards.

Signatories including Emma Thompson, Kristin Scott Thomas, Keira Knightley and Saoirse Ronan, expressed solidarity with the Time's Up movement in the United States and called for donations to a new "justice and equality fund" for victims.

(AFP )

EU leaders face difficult talks this week on the thorny issues of how to plug holes in the post-Brexit budget and choose a successor for European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker.

A special one-day summit in Brussels on Friday of the 27 leaders without Britain is meant to be a key step in the roadmap to a leaner and more unified bloc after Britain leaves in just over a year.

(AFP )

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Saturday vowed to investigate an attack involving Russian citizens on American-allied forces in Syria but stopped short of accusing Moscow of orchestrating the assault.

Russia has acknowledged that five of its citizens were killed in a US-led coalition bombing in the eastern Deir Ezzor province after they were part of a group of pro-regime combatants which led an attack on positions held by the Syrian Democratic Forces.

(AFP )

A fire broke out Saturday at one of the most sacred sites for Tibetan Buddhism, Lhasa's revered Jokhang temple, state media said, but no casualties were reported and the extent of the damage remained unclear.

The official Xinhua news agency said the fire began at 6:40pm but was soon put out at UNESCO World Heritage Site, which has more than 1,300 years of history and lies at the heart of old Lhasa.

(AFP )

A high-profile victim of a disgraced pedophile priest said Saturday he was glad to finally be able to tell his story as the Vatican's top abuse investigator began a probe into an alleged cover-up in Chile.

Pope Francis has come under fire for defending a bishop accused of orchestrating the cover-up.

"For the first time I feel they are listening to us," Juan Carlos Cruz, a victim of priest Fernando Karadima, told reporters in New York after a meeting that lasted about an hour and a half with Archbishop Charles Scicluna in a Manhattan church.

(AFP )

Lindsey Vonn admitted on Sunday that she was "hurt" by accusations that she is anti-American after the US ski star's outspoken stance against President Donald Trump.

And Vonn, one of the most successful skiers of all time, said that she plans to avoid speaking out again for the time being after she was subjected to abuse on Twitter for her opinions.

Vonn, the 2010 Olympic downhill gold medallist, surprisingly failed to reach the podium in coming sixth in Saturday's super-G at the Pyeongchang Olympics.