Sunday 10 December 2017

In the world

(AFP )

Cryptocurrency Bitcoin made its debut on a major bourse Sunday, opening at $15,000 per unit at the Chicago board options exchange.

Around 23:20 GMT, the price of the currency had risen to $15,940 dollars on a futures contract scheduled for settlement on January 17 according to data provided by the Chicago board options exchange (Cboe).

A futures contract is a financial product that allows investors to bet on whether the currency's price will rise or fall.

It is the first opportunity for professional investors to invest in bitcoin.

(AFP )

Prime Minister Theresa May will tell British lawmakers Monday there is a "new sense of optimism" around Brexit talks after striking an initial agreement last week with the European Union.

In a statement to parliament following the preliminary deal reached Friday with the EU over Britain's divorce bill, citizens' rights and the Irish border, May will say both sides compromised to defy the doubters.

"Of course, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed," she is expected to tell MPs.

(AFP )

A vote by Bermuda's lower chamber to rescind same-sex marriage rights granted only months ago has drawn sharp criticism from island groups and many politicians in the British overseas territory.

The House of Assembly voted late Friday, by a margin of 24-to-10, to replace same-sex marriage rights with a domestic partnership status.

Jeffrey Baron, shadow minister for national security, told AFP that if ultimately approved, the bill would cast a stain on Bermuda and its legislature as the first "ever to re-ban same-sex marriages."

(AFP )

More than 10,000 people Sunday braved biting cold to stage protests across Romania to denounce the left-wing government for backtracking on efforts to fight corruption.

The demonstrators want the withdrawal of proposed legislation that would overhaul Romania's justice system and reduce the powers of the respected anti-corruption directorate, the DNA.

Critics say the changes would dent progress in tackling graft, which Brussels has long complained about in the 10 years since Romania joined the European Union.

(AFP )

A fierce wildfire raged on north of Los Angeles Sunday, threatening other towns after already charring vast swaths of land, but other blazes were largely contained after burning for days.

The so-called Thomas fire is only 15 percent contained, now threatening the city of Santa Barbara and the nearby coastal town of Carpinteria, making it one of the worst wildfires in California history.

(AFP )

Honduras's President Juan Orlando Hernandez maintained his lead in disputed election results after a partial recount, the head of the electoral tribunal said on Sunday.

An official winner of the November 26 election has still not been announced, and the small Central American nation of 10 million has been mired in uncertainty since the vote.

"The result is consistent" with that which previously put Hernandez ahead by 1.6 percent, David Matamoros, the president of the tribunal, said following the recount of 4,753 votes.

(AFP )

Turkish football giants Besiktas paid tribute Sunday to 46 people killed in twin bombings near the team's stadium, as others held commemorations to mark the first anniversary of the attacks.

"The pain is as raw as the first day," the club said in a statement.

Later Sunday, about 100 people gathered at the Vodafone Park near the stadium and laid wreaths and held a minute's silence at 22:29 pm (1929 GMT) -- the time of the attack, an AFP reporter said.

(AFP )

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro announced Sunday that leading opposition parties will be barred from taking part in next year's presidential vote after they boycotted mayoral polls, in a move set to further consolidate his grip on power.

That includes the groups of key figures who have led street protests against his rule such as Henrique Capriles, Leopoldo Lopez and others, Maduro told reporters after casting his vote in the municipal polls.

(AFP )

Demoralised and divided, France's traditional centre-right party is expected to move closer to the far-right on Sunday after picking a tough-talking devout Catholic as its new leader to take on centrist President Emmanuel Macron.

The Republicans party, which represents the dominant conservative force in post-war French politics, turned to Laurent Wauquiez as it looks to recover from a disastrous year.

The 42-year-old gained 74.6 percent of the Sunday's vote, outstripping his two rivals as widely expected.

(AFP )

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began a trip to Europe on Sunday facing widespread criticism of the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state and pressure to engage in the peace process.

In his first meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, he was urged to re-engage with the Palestinians to build goodwill following widespread protests over the capital move.

(AFP )

Brexit Secretary David Davis said Sunday Britain will not honour financial commitments agreed this week with the European Union if they fail to secure a future trade deal, contradicting finance minister Philip Hammond.

"No deal means that we won't be paying the money," he told the BBC.

"It is conditional on an outcome. It is conditional on getting an implementation period, it is conditional on a trade outcome," he said.

(AFP )

The heaviest snowfall in four years in Britain caused travel mayhem Sunday, while more than 300 flights were cancelled at Germany's busiest airport and a ferry ran aground in the French port of Calais.

Hundreds of air passengers were stranded in Frankfurt, Germany's financial capital, as well as Britain, and many took to Twitter to complain.

Some 330 flights were cancelled by 5:00 pm (1600 GMT) after heavy snow and sub-zero temperatures struck the region around Frankfurt, a spokesman for airport operator Fraport told AFP.

(AFP )

President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital might hinder the US drive for an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Sunday.

His comments were in stark contrast to those of the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, who said it would "move the ball forward."

The new US stance, criticized by Palestinians, Arab leaders and others as gravely damaging any prospects for peace, has given rise to swelling protests across the region in recent days.

(AFP )

Thousands of people rallied Sunday in central Kiev to demand the release of detained former Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili and the impeachment of his rival, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

Saakashvili, 49, who entered Ukrainian politics after serving as president of Georgia, was arrested last week in Kiev, accused of trying to stage a coup sponsored by Russia.

(AFP )

A Thai army recruit whose death captured national attention after his organs were removed in mysterious circumstances showed signs of being physically assaulted, his family said Sunday, citing the results of an autopsy ahead of the teenager's funeral.

The army said 18-year-old Pakapong Tanyakan died of heart failure at a training school outside Bangkok in October.

(AFP )

Relations between Israel and Turkey took a bitter turn Sunday as their leaders traded accusations of involvement in terrorism, days after the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would fight against the controversial declaration, describing Israel as a "terrorist state" that kills children, in a speech in Istanbul.

Hours later Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hit back, calling his counterpart a leader who bombs Kurdish villagers and supports terrorists, during an official visit to Paris.

(AFP )

Israel's defence minister called Sunday for an economic boycott of Arab citizens from area where unrest erupted over Donald Trump's Jerusalem declaration, saying they "don't belong" in the country.

Avigdor Lieberman's comments about Arab Israelis, who account for some 17.5 percent of the country's population, drew condemnation for their harshness.

"Those who demonstrate in Israel holding Hezbollah, Hamas and PLO flags are not part of the state of Israel," Lieberman said, referring to the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

(AFP )

Two years to the day after 195 nations adopted the Paris Agreement, French President Emmanuel Macron will convene a follow-up climate summit Tuesday to jump-start the lagging transition to a greener global economy.

Launched in part to counter US President Donald Trump's decision to exit the landmark 2015 treaty, the One Planet Summit -- co-sponsored by the United Nations and the World Bank -- will centre on how to finance the shift in developing countries trying to simultaneously reduce their carbon footprints, adapt to climate change impacts, and accommodate growing populations.

(AFP )

The heaviest snowfall to hit Britain in four years caused widespread disruption on Sunday, with roads becoming hazardous and flights grounded following runway closures.

Birmingham Airport, serving the country's second biggest city, suspended flights for all of Sunday morning, as staff worked to clear the runway amid heavy snow.

A spokeswoman told AFP they expected it to reopen early afternoon.

(AFP )

A ferry with more than 300 people on board ran aground Sunday in high winds at Calais in northern France, interrupting traffic in one of Europe's busiest passenger ports but causing no injuries.

"The vessel is stable. Port officers are looking at how to refloat it," an official in the local administration told AFP, without giving his name.

A spokeswoman for the P&O shipping company said the ferry, The Pride of Kent, ran aground around noon after it hit a gangway while making to leave for Dover, its destination in Britain.

(AFP )

Police in Sweden on Sunday arrested three people over a failed arson attempt at a synagogue in the country's second largest city, Gothenburg.

The three were detained on suspicion of attempted arson, police said in a statement, after a burning object was thrown at the building but did not catch fire late on Saturday night.

Jewish community members told local media the synagogue was attacked by a group of masked men who threw multiple burning objects.

Some 20 youngsters briefly took shelter in a cellar during the attack, they added, but no one was injured.

(AFP )

French baby-milk maker Lactalis and health authorities have ordered a major international product recall because of fears of salmonella contamination, following 26 cases of children falling sick in France.

Company spokesman Michel Nalet told AFP "nearly 7,000 tonnes" of production may have been contaminated, but the company is unable to say currently how much remains on the market, has been consumed or is in stock.

(AFP )

Setsuko Thurlow, 85, was 13 years old when she was rescued from the ruins of the world's first atomic bombing in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.

On Sunday she receives the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, along with its head Beatrice Fihn.

Here is how Thurlow recalled the horrors of that day 72 years ago, in her speech during the ceremony in Oslo:

- Blinding flash -

"I still vividly remember that morning. At 8:15, I saw a blinding bluish-white flash from the window.

(AFP )

Pope Francis on Sunday renewed a call for "wisdom and prudence" over US President Donald Trump's controversial decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital, which has sparked protests and clashes.

"The Holy Father renews his appeal for the wisdom and prudence of everyone, and raises fervent prayers so that the leaders of nations, in this time of special gravity, commit themselves to avert a new spiral of violence," a statement from the Vatican said.

(AFP )

Thousands of Indonesian Muslims protested Sunday in Jakarta against US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in the latest global show of solidarity with the Palestinians.

Demonstrators -- many in white Islamic robes and skullcaps -- gathered outside the US embassy in the world's most populous Muslim-majority country to vent their anger against the unilateral decision.

Protesters carried Palestinian flags and banners saying "We are with the Palestinians" and "Pray for Palestine".

(AFP )

Britain's foreign minister Boris Johnson met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday, wrapping up a "worthwhile" visit in which he pushed for the release of imprisoned dual nationals.

In a series of meetings over two days, the foreign secretary took flak from Iranian officials for not doing more to build on the nuclear deal signed with world powers in 2015.

"Relations between the two countries have not matched the potential expected in the post-JCPOA (nuclear deal) atmosphere," Rouhani told Johnson, according to a statement from his office.

(AFP )

Honduras's President Juan Orlando Hernandez maintained his lead in disputed election results after a partial recount, the head of the electoral tribunal said on Sunday.

An official winner of the November 26 election has still not been announced, and the small Central American nation of 10 million has been mired in uncertainty since the vote.

"The result is consistent" with that which previously put Hernandez ahead by 1.6 percent, David Matamoros, the president of the tribunal, said following the recount of 4,753 votes.

(AFP )

Israel's military said it demolished a tunnel Sunday stretching from Gaza into its territory in an operation that comes at a time of increased tension over US President Donald Trump's recent Jerusalem declaration.

Military spokesman Jonathan Conricus said intelligence showed the tunnel belonged to Islamist movement Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip. Israel was not aware of any casualties, he said.

It was the second such operation in recent weeks, with the last tunnel destroyed on October 30 belonging to Islamic Jihad.

(AFP )

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani promised high economic growth as he laid out next year's budget on Sunday, despite uncertainty over whether the United States will pull out of the nuclear deal.

Presenting the budget to parliament, Rouhani said overall economic growth would hit 6.5 percent in the fiscal year starting in March 2018, and seven percent with the oil sector excluded.

Significant economic growth was a cornerstone of Rouhani's campaign when he was re-elected in May.

(AFP )

When Alabama voters cast ballots to select a US Senator they will face a choice that echoes the country's partisan political divide: elect a Democrat or pick a man accused of preying on teenaged girls.

The Republican candidate -- backed by President Donald Trump -- is Roy Moore, a former state judge known for his battles to publicly display the Ten Commandments. He has more recently made headlines over accusations that he pursued girls as young as 14 when he was in his 30s.

(AFP )

Japan will hold a drill with the United States and South Korea this week to practise jointly detecting airborne missiles, officials said Sunday amid rising security threats from North Korea.

The announcement of the joint exercise, a sixth such drill since 2016, comes less than two weeks after Pyongyang test-fired a ballistic missile which dropped into the sea inside Japan's exclusive economic zone in late November.

The drill will be held in waters near Japan on Monday and Tuesday, Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera said as he visited a garrison in northern Japan.

(AFP )

India cricket captain Virat Kohli is set to marry long-time girlfriend and Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma in a much-anticipated wedding in Italy this week, according to media reports on Sunday.

Rumours started swirling when Kohli pulled out of India's limited-overs matches against Sri Lanka and Sharma also ducked out of her busy acting schedule in December.

Indian TV channels have gone into overdrive over what they have billed as the "wedding of the year".

(AFP )

Nationalists on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica are set to cement their gains in regional elections on Sunday and then push ahead with their demands for greater autonomy from Paris.

The outcome is widely expected to pose a new challenge to President Emmanuel Macron who will have to decide whether to cede some control or maintain France's tradition of highly centralised government.

(AFP )

Lebanese security forces fired tear gas and water cannons on Sunday at demonstrators near the US embassy as they protested Washington's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

An AFP correspondent in Awkar outside the capital Beirut said several hundred pro-Palestinian demonstrators had gathered near the US embassy, located in the area.

They were blocked from reaching the complex by a metal gate sealing the road leading to the embassy, and security forces fired tear gas and water cannons to repel demonstrators who tried to open the gate by force.

(AFP )

Iraq may have announced a final victory over the Islamic State group in the country, but Baghdad's triumph remains fragile and the root causes for the jihadists' rise have not been tackled.

It has taken a long and devastating campaign to wipe IS from the map after the jihadists threatened Iraq's very existence by seizing roughly one third of its territory in 2014.

Troops backed up by the air power of a US-led coalition have waged some of the fiercest urban warfare seen anywhere in decades to oust the jihadists from a string of cities and towns across the country.