In the world | Africatime
Thursday 30 March 2017

In the world

(AFP )

China's President Xi Jinping will meet Donald Trump next week in Florida, China's foreign ministry said Thursday, ending weeks of speculation that they were set for face-to-face discussions on thorny issues dividing the world's top two economies.

The visit, which will take place at President Trump's resort Mar-a-Lago, follows a rocky start to US-China relations under the billionaire politician, who has repeatedly blasted Beijing for its trade policies and reluctance to bring pressure on North Korea over its nuclear and missile programmes.

(AFP )

UN chief Antonio Guterres called Thursday for protection of civilians to be the "absolute priority" as he visited Iraq, where hundreds of thousands are caught up in the battle for Mosul.

More than 200,000 people have fled west Mosul since the operation to oust the Islamic State group began last month, and officials and witnesses say that air strikes have taken a devastating toll on civilians who remained in the city.

(AFP )

Britain will Thursday begin the messy task of disentangling itself from EU laws, as the first signs of rancour between London and Brussels emerged at the start of their two-year divorce proceedings.

As some of the EU's top leaders gathered to flesh out their strategy for the hard talks ahead, Britain was to publish its plan to extricate itself from four decades of European regulation.

(AFP )

A Hong Kong democracy activist was jailed Thursday over Umbrella Movement mass protests while nine more campaigners face charges, as fears grow that freedoms are under threat in the semi-autonomous city.

The cases come days after pro-Beijing leader Carrie Lam was selected as city leader by a committee skewed towards the mainland camp.

They also precede an expected visit by China's President Xi Jinping in July to mark the 20th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong back to China by Britain in 1997.

(AFP )

Lawmakers in the US state of North Carolina have reached an agreement to repeal a controversial law setting rules on which bathrooms transgender people can use in public buildings.

But the deal reported by US media still has to pass a series of hurdles in the state legislature on Thursday.

And gay and lesbian groups complained that even the new arrangement is unfair to them.

The initial legislation in the generally conservative southern state was a highlight of the broader cultural war between conservatives and liberals in contemporary America.

(AFP )

Torrential rain hampered relief efforts Thursday after a powerful cyclone wreaked havoc in northeast Australia, with floods sparking emergency rescues as fed-up tourists began evacuating from resort islands.

Cyclone Debbie has pummelled Queensland state since crashing ashore as a category four storm on Tuesday between Bowen and Airlie Beach, ripping up trees, washing boats onto land and causing widespread damage.

(AFP )

UN chief Antonio Guterres arrived in Baghdad on Thursday to review the humanitarian situation, calling for protection of civilians to be the "absolute priority" as Iraqi forces battle to retake Mosul.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians remain in Mosul, which was seized by the Islamic State group in 2014, and officials and witnesses have said that air strikes have taken a devastating toll on civilians in the city this month.

(AFP )

The Waikato Chiefs have been told to get their act together for their Super Rugby clash with the Northern Bulls after an unconvincing win over the struggling Melbourne Rebels.

Coach Dave Rennie read the riot act to the two-time champions after they needed a late burst to overcome Australia's bottom-placed team in their last outing.

"There were some carefully chosen words," Rennie said, after showing his players images from the Rebels match. "When the guys looked at it, they were pretty embarrassed."

(AFP )

One year after Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party was sworn in as Myanmar's first elected government in half a century, opinions are mixed on its performance.

Many have a saint-like adoration for "The Lady", who championed a decades-long democracy struggle against the country's former military oppressors.

But after 12 months with dubious progress on economic reform and repressive legislation still on the books, some supporters are starting to lose patience.

Here are some views from Myanmar:

'Penis poet' Maung Saungkha

(AFP )

An Israeli minister has gone against the tide in proposing a way he says would alleviate conditions in the Gaza Strip while maintaining his country's security control -- build an island nearby.

The unusual proposal has gained backing among some in the Israeli security establishment, but he is a long way from convincing everyone.

(AFP )

The judge who halted President Donald Trump's revised travel ban on refugees and arrivals from six mainly Muslim countries has extended his order, dealing another blow to the White House.

After a hearing lasting several hours, US District Judge Derrick Watson in Hawaii said Wednesday he had turned his original temporary restraining order into a preliminary injunction.

Such an injunction generally has no set expiration date, said Hawaii state Attorney General Doug Chin, meaning Trump will be barred from enforcing the ban while it is contested in court.

(AFP )

It feels strange, but a few times each year Vietnamese bodybuilder Kendy Nguyen must strap a bikini top over his rock-hard pecs and pretend for a day he is once again a woman.

He's not happy about the official rules that force him to compete with other women, but it's a small price to pay to live the rest of his life as a man, says Vietnam's first openly transgender competitive bodybuilder.

(AFP )

With the clock ticking on Britain's EU membership, the bloc's leadership vowed unity while in London the government was set to begin the arduous task of disentangling itself from Brussels.

"This is a moment to unite," European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker said on Wednesday, hours after Britain formally started procedures to end its 44-year membership of the EU.

With just two years foreseen for negotiations, Juncker said the rights of EU citizens will be top of the agenda.

(AFP )

First daughter Ivanka Trump is about to take on another title as an unpaid adviser to her father President Donald Trump, the White House announced on Wednesday.

Ivanka, whose husband Jared Kushner also works as a senior aide to the president, will not receive a salary for her work as a federal employee. Kushner, a real estate developer, is also unpaid.

"We are pleased that Ivanka Trump has chosen to take this step in her unprecedented role as first daughter and in support of the president," a White House statement said.

(AFP )

South Korea's ousted president Park Geun-Hye appeared in court Thursday at a hearing to decide whether she should be arrested over the corruption and abuse of power scandal that brought her down.

Looking grim-faced and pale, Park ignored a barrage of press flashbulbs and did not speak when she arrived at the Seoul Central District Court.

(AFP )

The answer to the question of whether Britain's exit process from the European Union is revocable is simple: it just depends who you ask.

British Prime Minister Theresa May insisted after triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty on Wednesday that it was a "historic moment from which there can be no turning back".

But hours later European Parliament President Antonio Tajani said the clock could in theory be reversed, if only with the approval of the other 27 member states.

(AFP )

Argentina's Senate voted unanimously to legalize medical marijuana, joining the lower house and setting the country on course to become the latest to relax its laws on pot.

President Mauricio Macri is all but certain to sign the bill, which garnered an unusual level of cross-party support and was applauded by patients and their families.

A group of mothers with sick children burst into tearful applause in the Senate as lawmakers voted 58-0 to pass the bill.

(AFP )

At least 10 bodies were found in a ravine in western Mexico, authorities said, the latest mass grave discovered in a country haunted by a grisly drug war.

The bodies were found at the bottom of a deep gully near the town of Queseria, on the border between the states of Jalisco and Colima, said Colima Governor Jose Ignacio Peralta.

"Some of them are already in an advanced state of decay. Some are practically just skeletons," he told journalists.

"An investigation will have to be carried out. We have counted 10 so far, but that's a preliminary report."

(AFP )

A Lithuanian historian on Wednesday claimed to have found a rare original copy of the country's 1918 act of independence, which reestablished the Baltic state after more than a century of Russian rule.

Lithuanian officials responded with cautious applause, while a photo of the document shared by Professor Liudas Mazylis, who unearthed the act inside the German foreign ministry's archives in Berlin, immediately went viral on social media.

(AFP )

A fierce Russian opponent of President Vladimir Putin who was poisoned in his homeland told US lawmakers Wednesday it was imperative that Washington remain engaged with that country's pro-democracy movement.

Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Russian human-rights champion, also urged US President Donald Trump's administration to keep pressure on Moscow, warning that ignoring evidence that Russia interfered in last year's US election would only hand the Kremlin an invitation to ramp up its domestic oppression and its aggression abroad.

(AFP )

Lawyers for a German-Turkish journalist detained by Ankara on terrorism-related charges have lodged an appeal for his release with Turkey's highest court, his employer said Wednesday.

A court in Istanbul on Monday ordered provisional detention for Deniz Yucel, 43, a correspondent of the German newspaper Die Welt who holds dual German and Turkish nationality.

Yucel has been in custody since February 18 over reports on an attack by hackers on the email account of Turkey's energy minister Berat Albayrak, who also is President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's son-in-law.

(AFP )

The head of the powerful Senate Intelligence Committee warned Wednesday that Russia is interfering in the French election just as it did in the US presidential campaign last year.

Senator Richard Burr, who has access to some of the most highly classified US intelligence, said Moscow has shown a clear will and ability to disrupt elections in Western democracies.

"What we might assess was a very covert effort in 2016 in the United States, is a very overt effort, as well as covert, in Germany and France," he told reporters.

(AFP )

Nicaragua has restored diplomatic ties with Israel suspended nearly seven years ago when the Jewish state sent commandos to attack a flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.

The normalization was announced by both countries in statements on Tuesday.

Nicaragua, which is led by former leftist guerrilla-turned-president Daniel Ortega, also recognizes Palestine as a state.

(AFP )

The people who stripped naked at the former German Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau last week before slaughtering a lamb were trying to take a stand against war, a statement said Wednesday.

The group of seven men and four women -- Poles, Belarussians and one German -- carried out the unprecedented stunt on Friday in front of the camp's infamous "Arbeit macht frei" ("Work makes you free") gate, where they draped a white banner with "love" written in red.

(AFP )

Turkey on Wednesday announced its military campaign inside northern Syria was over, without specifying whether it will pull its troops out from the neighbouring country.

Turkey's top advisory national security council chaired by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the half-year long offensive in Syria has been "concluded successfully," in a statement.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim also said the operation has been completed but did not rule out new military campaigns inside Syria under a different name.

(AFP )

Brazil may be in the midst of an economic storm, but sitting back in a leather seat on Embraer's latest luxury jet, Gustavo Teixeira says the aviation industry is dodging the turbulence.

The crisis "is on our radar but hasn't hurt us," the Embraer executive said in an interview aboard a glistening Legacy 500 jet displayed at the inaugural International Brazil Air Show, held at Rio de Janeiro's Tom Jobim Airport.

(AFP )

South African coach Russell Domingo is uncertain about his future and said Thursday he has not yet decided whether he will apply to renew his contract after the July-August Test series in England.

As the South African side prepared to fly home following their 1-0 series win over New Zealand, Domingo reflected on the past year in which he guided the Proteas from seventh to second in the world rankings.

But what happens next "is out of my control", he said. "At the moment, I'm going fishing for a couple of weeks so it's the last of my worries.

(AFP )

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said on Wednesday he is working on "a new relationship" with the US and thanked Latin American neighbors for support as Mexico faces "big challenges" with its vital trading partner.

His comments were made at a one-day summit in Costa Rica's capital San Jose that gathered leaders from Mexico, Central America and Colombia.

US President Donald Trump, who took office in late January, has vowed to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the United States, Mexico and Canada.

(AFP )

The United States warned Wednesday that it would use its presidency of the UN Security Council to review the performance of peacekeeping missions worldwide.

The council is due to vote in the next few days on whether to extend or to cut back the 19,000-strong UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

And US President Donald Trump made it clear in his first budget request to Congress that he hopes to cut America's funding to the United Nations.

(AFP )

Britain's ambassador to the United Nations vowed Wednesday that the launch of European Union exit negotiations would not hurt his country's role on the world stage.

Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said Britain would continue to align itself with shared EU positions on issues before the Security Council while Brexit talks are continuing.

And he promised that, even after London and Brussels have completed their divorce, Britain would retain its powerful permanent seat on the UN council.

(AFP )

Turkey on Wednesday voiced anger after it emerged that the US consulate in Istanbul had contacted a chief suspect in last year's failed coup, who is currently on the run.

But the US embassy in Turkey said its Istanbul consulate contacted theology lecturer Adil Oksuz only to inform him that his American visa had been revoked.

The affair comes on the eve of a key visit by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who is due to meet in Ankara with Turkish leaders including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

(AFP )

Once reviled symbols of rogue capitalism, Iceland's ex-bankers now say they were scapegoats: jailed for their roles in the 2008 financial crisis, they're taking their cases to the European Court of Human Rights.

In 2008, after Iceland's inflated financial system imploded, the three main banks Kaupthing, Glitnir, and Landsbanki collapsed. The government urgently nationalised them, then asked the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for an emergency bailout, a first for a western European country in 25 years.

(AFP )

Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak said Wednesday his government was engaged in "very sensitive" talks with North Korea over nine Malaysians being prevented from leaving Pyongyang after the assassination of Kim Jong-Nam.

Kim, the estranged half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, was poisoned with a lethal nerve agent at the Kuala Lumpur airport on February 13 in a brazen Cold War-style assassination that has damaged bilateral ties.

(AFP )

A young fisherman flew home to the Philippines on Wednesday after being given up for dead at sea, battling hunger, thirst and despair for nearly two months on a tiny boat that drifted all the way to Papua New Guinea.

Rolando Omongos, 21, recounted an astonishing tale of survival as he arrived from his first-ever plane ride at Manila airport, three weeks after his rescue by a Japanese fishing vessel.

"I cried non-stop when I was finally rescued. I was too weak to stand up and they had to carry me," the diminutive fisherman told reporters.

(AFP )

Less than a month to the first round of the French presidential election, current frontrunner Emmanuel Macron received a key endorsement and outgoing President Francois Hollande looked forward to his retirement.

Here are three things that happened in the campaign on Wednesday:

- Socialist heavyweight backs Macron -

Former prime minister Manuel Valls endorsed the centrist Macron, becoming the most high-profile Socialist to back the 39-year-old ex-banker and former Socialist minister over the party's own nominee.