Monday 29 May 2017

In the world

(AFP )

Sri Lanka appealed for volunteers Tuesday to help with a massive recovery operation in the wake of devastating flooding that left 183 dead and tens of thousands without clean drinking water.

State television broadcast calls for public assistance to clean drinking wells contaminated by the monsoon floods, the worst in 14 years after record rainfall in the island's southwest.

The Disaster Management Centre said nearly 600,000 people had been forced from their homes, with thousands suffering structural damage from flood inundation and landslides.

(AFP )

Philippine authorities on Tuesday urged Islamist militants occupying parts of a southern city to surrender for the sake of trapped civilians, as attack helicopters pounded the gunmen's strongholds with rockets.

More than 100 people have been confirmed killed in the fighting, which began on Tuesday last week when gunmen waving black flags of the Islamic State (IS) group rampaged through the mostly Muslim-populated city of Marawi.

(AFP )

North Korea on Tuesday boasted its test of a precision-guided missile was "successful", saying it had zeroed in within a few metres of a target provocatively close to Japan the day before.

The North's leader Kim Jong-Un supervised the launch of the guided ballistic rocket -- the third missile test by the nuclear-armed regime in less than three weeks and carried out in defiance of US threats of military action and UN sanctions.

(AFP )

An Indonesian and a Vietnamese woman accused of assassinating the half-brother of North Korea's leader with a deadly nerve agent, appeared in a Malaysian court Tuesday, wearing bullet-proof vests and under heavy security.

Both women, aged in their twenties, could face the death penalty, though they have denied murdering Kim Jong-Nam, saying they were duped into believing they were taking part in a reality TV show.

Seoul accuses North Korea of being behind the February killing, a charge Pyongyang denies.

(AFP )

Panama's former dictator Manuel Antonio Noriega, who died in Panama City late Monday, was physically diminished after decades of imprisonment for crimes committed during his 1983-1989 rule.

Noriega, 83, passed away in the Panama City public Santo Tomas hospital where he had been recovering from early March surgery to remove a brain tumor, and a subsequent operation to clean up cerebral bleeding.

The announcement of his death was made by government communications secretary Manuel Dominguez.

"Mr. Noriega died tonight (late Monday)," Dominguez told AFP.

(AFP )

The late Manuel Antonio Noriega's public persona was extinguished nearly three decades ago, when the United States toppled him in an invasion that spoke volumes about Cold War tensions at the time.

Noriega, 83, died in a hospital late Monday as he was recovering from surgery to remove a brain tumor. He was dictator of Panama 1983-1989.

(AFP )

China will implement a controversial cybersecurity law Thursday despite concerns from foreign firms worried about its impact on their ability to do business in the world's second largest economy.

Passed last November, the law is largely aimed at protecting China's networks and private user information at a time when the recent WannaCry ransomware attack showed any country can be vulnerable to cyber threats.

(AFP )

Peter Dallos shouts above the rumble of his smoke-belching engine urging passengers to clamber quickly on to his dilapidated red jeepney.

Such scenes may soon disappear from Manila's gridlocked streets as authorities move to phase out the Philippines' iconic World War II-era minibuses, citing pollution and safety concerns.

Dubbed 'jeepneys' and once hailed as the 'King of the Road' they are a cultural symbol in the Phillipines to rival New York's yellow taxis -- and for decades they provided cheap and regular transport for millions.

(AFP )

Cyclone Mora hit Bangladesh Tuesday, packing winds of up to 135 kilometres (84 miles) per hour, damaging thousands of homes as more than 300,000 people fled coastal villages.

The severe storm made landfall on the coast between Cox's Bazar and the main port city of Chittagong at 6:00 am (0000 GMT), the Bangladesh Meteorological Department (BMD) said.

No immediate casualties were reported but there was major damage in many towns and villages.

(AFP )

Convicted paedophiles will have their passports cancelled to prevent them travelling overseas to offend again under tough new laws which Australia Tuesday hailed as a "world first".

Legislation will be introduced to parliament this month making it illegal for registered offenders to leave or attempt to leave the country as part of a crackdown on child-sex tourism.

"The new laws will prohibit registered child sex offenders from leaving Australia or holding Australian passports," Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said.

(AFP )

Colombia's FARC guerrillas will disarm in 20 days, rather than this week as originally planned, with guerrillas returning to civil life in 60 days, President Juan Manuel Santos said.

Santos insisted that the delay "does not impact in any way the government and the FARC's firm decision and clear commitment to the (peace) accord" signed in November.

The weapons deadline was originally set for Tuesday. Santos explained that it was pushed back due to repeated delays, and that the move was completed in coordination with the United Nations and the FARC.

(AFP )

Four hungry chickens clawed at rubbish in a deserted street that smelt of corpses as military helicopters skimmed the rooftops firing rockets while the Philippines' most beautiful Muslim city burned.

Marawi, a lakeshore city of minarets that is the centre of culture for the mainly Catholic Philippines' Muslim minority, is nearly empty after gunmen wielding black flags of the Islamic State (IS) group went on a rampage last week.

(AFP )

Barefoot and wearing shabby clothes, the two-year-old wanders through the dirty streets of Cairo alongside her mother, who has also spent all her life without a home of her own.

For Egypt's government and civil society groups, tackling the growing problem of street children -- some from second- and even third-generation homeless families -- is proving difficult.

In the low-income district of Sayeda Zeinab, workers from the ministry of social solidarity set out to help street children, this time to give them first-aid training.

(AFP )

Beer cans, newspapers drenched in vomit and aluminium foil litters the ground inside a parking garage where young Afghan asylum seekers smoke heroin as they shelter from the cold in central Sweden.

"When we smoke... we're calm and don't worry about anything," says Mahdi, a 16-year-old Afghan refugee, who started using heroin after he arrived and quickly got hooked.

Uppsala, a university town an hour's drive north of Stockholm, has taken in nearly 1,000 unaccompanied asylum seekers under the age of 18.

(AFP )

A suicide bomber detonated an explosives-rigged vehicle at a popular Baghdad ice cream shop, killing at least eight people, security officials said on Tuesday.

The overnight attack in the Karrada district in central Baghdad also wounded at least 30 people, officials said.

The Islamic State group-linked Amaq propaganda agency said the suicide bomber targeted a "gathering of Shiites."

IS considers members of Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority to be heretics and frequently carries out attacks against them.

(AFP )

Russian President Vladimir Putin is a bigger threat to world security than the so-called Islamic State group, according to veteran US Senator John McCain who also admits Donald Trump makes him "nervous".

Republican McCain -- one of US President Trump's most outspoken critics in his own party -- said Russia's alleged meddling in elections was a danger to democracy.

"I think he (Putin) is the premier and most important threat, more so than ISIS," McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation late Monday.

(AFP )

Ecuador's new President Lenin Moreno criticized Julian Assange as a "hacker" but stressed his country would continue providing asylum to the WikiLeaks founder fleeing international arrest.

Moreno, who took office this month, has struck a more critical tone toward Assange than his predecessor, Rafael Correa, who said earlier his country had "done its duty" by granting Assange asylum in 2012.

(AFP )

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn took diverging tacks over Brexit negotiations on Monday as they faced a live televised grilling ahead of June's general election.

Ten days before the snap polls on June 8, the two rivals separately faced wide-ranging questions from members of the public before interrogations by veteran bulldog broadcaster Jeremy Paxman.

May declined a face-to-face debate with Corbyn, whose opposition party has in recent days narrowed the gap in opinion polls, though the ruling Conservatives remain in front.

(AFP )

North Korea confirmed its test-firing of a precision-guided ballistic missile was "successful", the state-run news agency KCNA reported Tuesday, a day after the projectile landed in waters provocatively close to Japan.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un supervised the launch of the "new-type precision guided ballistic rocket" -- the third missile test by the nuclear-armed regime in less than three weeks and carried out in defiance of UN sanctions warnings and US threats of possible military action.

(AFP )

Thousands of Venezuelans demonstrated Monday after the opposition vowed to intensify pressure on President Nicolas Maduro as they seek to stop him from strengthening his grip on power.

Masked and helmeted protesters hurled stones and petrol bombs at riot cops who fired tear gas, water cannon and buckshot as demonstrators tried to advance toward the state ombudsman's office in central Caracas.

Maduro's political opponents vowed earlier to step up protests over his plan to reform the constitution, which they say is a bid to cling to power.

(AFP )

Police arrested eight people including a government minister in the Dominican Republic on Monday in a corruption probe into disgraced Brazilian firm Odebrecht, prosecutors said.

They were the latest arrests in a graft scandal spanning several Latin American countries which has caused political ructions in Brazil.

The Dominican Republic's Trade and Industry Minister Juan Temistocles Montas was among those arrested in dawn raids on the Caribbean nation, a source in the public prosecution service told AFP.

(AFP )

Bangladesh has evacuated nearly 300,000 people as Cyclone Mora barrelled towards its southeastern coast at speeds of more than 85 kilometres (53 miles) per hour, officials said Monday.

The cyclonic storm was 385 kilometres from the port city of Chittagong and likely to make landfall early Tuesday, meteorologists said.

Evacuation efforts were ongoing, with nearly 300,000 people already shifted to cyclone shelters, disaster management authority spokesman Abul Hashim said.

(AFP )

Greece's finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos on Monday said he was "confident" that an upcoming eurozone meeting would reach a "good solution" on debt relief, whilst calling on creditors to end their "procrastination".

"We're looking for a good solution. We're not looking for a perfect solution. I'm confident we'll get a good solution," Tsakalotos told reporters in reference to the June 15 meeting.

"The pressure is on all sides...don't procrastinate at the cost of the Greek economy," Tsakalotos said.

(AFP )

More than 30 migrants were rescued at the weekend off the coast of Spain after their rubber speed boat caught fire, forcing them into the water in a dramatic moment caught on camera and broadcast Monday.

The video tweeted by EU border agency Frontex shows the 34 migrants travelling on board a black boat Sunday when flames suddenly erupted at the back near the engine, and rapidly spread through the small vessel.

(AFP )

A rattled White House braced Monday for a fresh wave of scrutiny in the ever-widening investigation into Russian election meddling, as President Donald Trump rallied behind his embattled son-in-law and top aide Jared Kushner.

The US leader visited Arlington National Cemetery to mark Memorial Day, a day of remembrance for the nation's war dead, but had to quickly pivot his attention to the Russia scandal after returning to Washington late Saturday from his first international trip since taking office.

(AFP )

Germany unleashed a volley of criticism Monday against US President Donald Trump, slamming his "short-sighted" policies that have "weakened the West" and hurt European interests.

The sharp words from Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel came after Trump concluded his first official tour abroad which took him to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Brussels and then Italy for a G7 summit.

They followed Chancellor Angela Merkel's warning on Sunday that the United States and Britain may no longer be completely reliable partners.

(AFP )

Ukraine's security service on Monday searched offices of Russian internet giant Yandex as part of a treason probe after Kiev banned its popular search engine earlier this month.

"Employees of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) conducted sanctioned searches in the offices of the subsidiary of the Russian company Yandex in Kiev and Odessa", the SBU said in a statement.

The security agency said the searches were part of a treason probe and accused Yandex of passing on the personal details of Ukrainian citizens, including military personnel, to authorities in Russia.

(AFP )

A violent storm swept through Moscow area Monday, leaving 13 people dead and dozens injured as freak winds toppled hundreds of trees, officials said.

"The storm killed 11 people and 70 others have been seriously injured," Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin said, according to Interfax.

"The victims are receiving proper care".

Two more deaths were reported later, with the investigative committee of the Moscow region saying that an 11-year-old girl and a 57-year-old man were killed, one by a falling tree and the other a flying fence.

(AFP )

Up to 200,000 civilians caught between fanatical jihadists and advancing Iraqi forces are in grave danger in the final stages of the battle for Mosul, a senior UN official said Monday.

More than seven months into the massive operation to recapture Mosul from the Islamic State group, Iraqi forces have retaken the city's east and large parts of its western side, but the jihadists are putting up tough resistance in areas they still hold.

(AFP )

Pope Francis on Monday met Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was expected to seek an apology over the abuse of indigenous Canadians at church-run boarding schools.

A Canadian truth and reconciliation commission sought an apology from the Roman Catholic church in an extensive list of recommendations in a 2015 report.

The report into a "cultural genocide" of more than a century of abuse collated evidence over six years from some 7,000 former students in Canada.

(AFP )

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Monday held talks in Cairo with Russia's foreign and defence ministers on ways to battle "terrorism", his office said.

A statement said the talks with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu focused on "the struggle against terrorism" and bilateral cooperation.

Lavrov earlier discussed the situation in chaos-riddled Libya with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry, the foreign ministry in Cairo said.

(AFP )

The European Union imposed sanctions Monday on nine more officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo, including government spokesman Lambert Mende and Kalev Mutondo, the head of the National Intelligence Service, amid unrest after President Joseph Kabila's refusal to step aside.

The people targeted by asset freezes and travel bans "hold positions of responsibility in the state administration and in the chain of command of the security forces," the EU said in a statement.

(AFP )

The European Union moved Monday to crack down on emissions cheating after the Volkswagen "Dieselgate" scandal by giving the EU executive more powers to monitor testing and fine automakers.

The European Council of 28 member states overcame the initial objections of Germany and agreed the broad lines to reform the system for approving vehicles in Europe.

The draft now goes for negotiations with the Commission, the EU executive's arm, and the European Parliament where the auto industry holds a strong influence.

(AFP )

President Donald Trump on Monday called North Korea's latest missile test a slap in the face for its main ally China, which the US leader praised for trying to rein in the regime.

"North Korea has shown great disrespect for their neighbor, China, by shooting off yet another ballistic missile... but China is trying hard!" Trump said in a tweet.

North Korea launched its 12th ballistic missile test this year on Monday, this one falling provocatively close to Japan.

(AFP )

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, a fiercely pro-European conservative, announced Monday his plans to stand for re-election in January 2018, where he is seen as a favourite.

Niinisto, 68, was elected to a first term in 2012 at a time when Finland -- which joined the eurozone under his tutelage as finance minister from 1996 to 2003 -- was experiencing a severe economic crisis.