Saturday 21 October 2017

In the world

(AFP )

US President Donald Trump said Saturday he will allow long blocked secret files on the 1963 assassination of John F Kennedy to be opened to the public for the first time.

The November 22, 1963 assassination -- an epochal event in modern US history -- has spawned multiple theories challenging the official version that Kennedy was killed a lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald.

So the release of all the secret documents has been eagerly anticipated by historians and conspiracy theorists alike.

(AFP )

The World Health Organization on Saturday cited Zimbabwe's anti-tobacco record and efforts against non-communicable diseases as justifications for making President Robert Mugabe a "goodwill ambassador", as International criticism of the move mounted.

The UN health agency, led since July by former Ethiopian health minister Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has asked Mugabe to serve in the role to help tackle NCDs like heart attacks, strokes and asthma across Africa.

(AFP )

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in Saudi Arabia Saturday, his second visit to the region in recent months as he seeks a breakthrough in a diplomatic crisis gripping the Gulf.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt cut ties with Qatar in June, accusing it of supporting terrorism and cozying up to Iran. Doha denies the charge.

Tillerson made an unsuccessful attempt to resolve the dispute during a trip to the region in July.

(AFP )

A suicide bomber killed 15 Afghan army trainees as they travelled home from their base in Kabul on Saturday, officials said, as militants intensify a deadly rampage that has claimed more than 200 lives this week.

It was the second suicide bombing in the Afghan capital in 24 hours and the seventh major assault in Afghanistan since Tuesday, capping one of the bloodiest weeks in the war-weary country in recent memory.

(AFP )

The Tanzanian government said Saturday it had suspended an NGO it had accused of promoting gay marriage in contravention of local "customs, traditions and laws".

The move followed a police raid on a Community Health Education Services and Advocacy (CHESA) centre, which is accused of being involved in "the promotion of marriage between people of the same sex".

The government said "marriages between people of the same sex are unacceptable in Tanzania as (they are) contrary to the customs, traditions and laws of the country".

(AFP )

Spain said Saturday it will move to dismiss Catalonia's separatist government and call fresh elections in the region in a bid to stop its leaders from declaring independence.

Speaking after an emergency cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said his government had no choice after the administration of Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont acted in a way that was "unilateral, contrary to the law and seeking confrontation" in holding a banned independence referendum in the northeastern region.

(AFP )

A journalist was shot dead by three gunmen in northern India on Saturday, police said, the latest attack on media in one of Asia's deadliest countries for reporters.

Rajesh Mishra, a 40-year-old reporter at the Hindi-language daily Dainik Jagran -- one of India's largest newspapers -- was shot in the head by three gunmen on a motorcycle in Uttar Pradesh state, additional director general of police Anand Kumar said.

"Three thugs fired the shots. Two of the three have been identified," Kumar told reporters.

(AFP )

A suicide bomber killed 15 Afghan army trainees as they were leaving their base in Kabul on Saturday, the defence ministry said, in the latest deadly attack in the capital.

"This afternoon when a minibus carrying army cadets was coming out of the military academy, a suicide bomber on foot targeted them, martyring 15 and wounding four," defence ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri told AFP.

Kabul Crime Branch chief General Mohammad Salim Almas said police have launched an investigation into the attack which happened in the west of the city.

(AFP )

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu insisted on Saturday the Catalan giants cannot be used by either side of a political battle over Catalonia's drive to gain independence from Spain.

A powerful symbol of Catalonia across the world, Barca have been caught in the political crossfire in the weeks following an independence referendum, deemed illegal by Madrid, was marred by violence.

(AFP )

The death toll in the Shiite mosque attack in Kabul has jumped to 56, officials said Saturday, as the Afghan capital reels from the latest deadly violence.

"The toll from yesterday's Imam Zaman mosque attack has increased to 56 killed, including women and children, and 55 wounded," an interior ministry spokesman told AFP.

Officials had previously put the number of dead at 39 and 45 wounded in the attack claimed by the Islamic State group, which belongs to the rival Sunni branch of Islam.

(AFP )

A knife-wielding man randomly attacked passersby in central Munich on Saturday, lightly injuring eight people, police said as they excluded terrorism as a motive after detaining the suspected perpetrator.

The 33-year-old suspect already has a police record for theft and violence and appears to suffer from "psychiatric problems", Munich police chief Hubertus Andrae told a news conference.

He expressed confidence that they had detained the perpetrator of the attacks and that there was no longer any threat to the public.

(AFP )

The battle between Spain's central government and the separatist leaders of Catalonia escalates day after day, forcing Catalan society to take a stand.

Political parties, football clubs, businesses and civic society groups have picked their side -- for or against independence, for or against holding a referendum -- and they are all trying to convince Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont.

- Football clubs -

FC Barcelona, one of the world's most popular football teams whose motto is "more than a club", has long been a symbol of Catalan nationalism.

(AFP )

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has offered to shoot criminals himself, while warning he may bring police back to the frontlines of his deadly war on drugs.

Duterte made the comments late Friday following his announcement on October 11 to withdraw the police from his anti-drug war after they were accused of rights abuses in killing thousands of people while following his orders to eradicate illegal drugs in society.

He replaced them with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), which has about 2,000 officers compared with 165,000 for the police force.

(AFP )

The smell of death permeated the Imam Zaman mosque in Kabul on Saturday hours after dozens of Shiite worshippers were slaughtered by a suicide bomber during evening prayers.

Broken glass and dust covered the red carpet, soaked in the blood of the men, women and children who had been praying on Friday when the attacker blew himself up, causing carnage in the cavernous prayer hall.

(AFP )

Two workers were found dead and 12 others were missing Saturday after a landslide at a construction site on the popular Malaysian tourist island of Penang, officials said.

Rescuers rushed to the Tanjung Bungah area on the north of Penang after the accident was reported just before 9:00 am (0100 GMT), the fire and rescue department said.

Pictures showed large piles of earth had slipped off a hillside onto the site, where houses were being built.

(AFP )

When the ground started shaking in Mexico City on September 19, many people ran out into the street.

Not David Arellano.

In the middle of performing open-heart surgery on a newborn, the pediatric surgeon just concentrated harder.

"The shaking was very violent, very intense. We had to hold down our equipment in the operating room," he said of his experience during the 7.1-magnitude earthquake that hit Mexico a month ago, killing 369 people.

Arellano, 57, knows a thing or two about working under pressure.

(AFP )

Marx might struggle to recognise his heirs among the billionaires, skyscrapers and stock exchanges of modern China.

But as the country's ruling Communist Party meets for its twice-a-decade congress this week, it boasts an 89 million-strong membership that still attracts people motivated by ideology -- and self-interest.

"When I was younger, in the 1960s, we were told in school that being in the party signified being someone good," 53-year-old Liu Shimin, a former employee at a state-owned enterprise and long-standing party member, told AFP.

(AFP )

Spain announced Saturday that it will move to dismiss Catalonia's separatist government and call fresh elections in the semi-autonomous region in a bid to stop its leaders from declaring independence.

The drastic escalation of Spain's worst political crisis in decades will see separatist leader Carles Puigdemont and his administration stripped of their jobs, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told reporters after a crisis meeting of his cabinet.

(AFP )

A Korean drama about desperate teens and a movie that exposes the hardships of daily life in the Iranian capital Tehran shared the top prize at Asia's premier film festival on Saturday.

The two grim tales left award jurors at the 22nd Busan International Film Festival concerned that modern cinema was heading "towards visions of darkness and desperation".

Korean director Kim Ui-seok's teen-themed drama "After My Death" and "Blockage" from Iran's Mohsen Gharaei were announced as the two winners of this year's New Currents award for first or second-time filmmakers.

(AFP )

A century after its revolution shook the world, Russia strives to strike an odd balance between remembering the uprising that brought about the Soviet Union, while stopping short of romanticising regime change.

In a series of seismic events, the year 1917 saw Tsar Nicholas II abdicate in March and the Bolsheviks led by Lenin seize power in October.

Civil war erupted immediately afterwards, followed by the creation in 1922 of the USSR, built on the ruins of the Russian empire.

(AFP )

Australian police offered a record $4.75 million in rewards Saturday to catch the serial killer or killers behind the murders of six Melbourne women in the 1980s.

The women, ranging in age from 14 to 73, disappeared in separate incidents as they traveled on foot around Melbourne over an 18-month period in 1980-1981.

Their remains were found in scrubland in several locations on the outskirts of the city.

(AFP )

An elderly woman hunched over a cane stares intently as Japanese political hopeful Asami Miwa greets locals in the rural voting district the former flight attendant is contesting in Sunday's election.

Waving her white-gloved hands and bowing to potential voters in drizzly Saitama, an hour north of Tokyo, the 30-year-old Party of Hope candidate is a welcome splash of colour in a sepia-tinged world dominated by men in grey suits.

"Japan talks a good game about women's role in society," Miwa told AFP as the leathery-faced pensioner wished her luck before shuffling away.

(AFP )

Tears streaming down her freckled face, 35-year-old Asya took in the shattered glass, gutted storefronts and crumbling cafes -- all that remain of her favourite shopping street in Syria's Raqa.

"This was once the most beautiful city, my God," said the woman in a mustard-coloured headscarf, gesturing out of the back seat of a car moving slowly down Raqa's once-bustling Tal Abyad boulevard.

"Now look around you. Look at our homes," she wailed.

(AFP )

It took the fall of a US movie mogul to breach the culture of silence around sexual assault and harassment in France, but French feminist Caroline De Haas believes the country has turned a corner.

"There will be a before and an after #balancetonporc," she told AFP.

The #balancetonporc (expose your pig) hashtag is the French variant of the #metoo campaign launched in response to the plethora of abuse allegations that toppled movie producer Harvey Weinstein.

(AFP )

From campaign mini-vans staffed by "warbler birds" to "gutter lid" politics, a Japanese election has many quirks.

Here are five good ways to win votes in the world's number three economy:

- He who bows, wins -

To an outsider, Japanese bow a lot at the best of times and rarely more often or deeper than when politicians are looking for votes.

Campaigners bob up and down in campaign speeches, seeking to demonstrate the proper democratic deference towards voters.

And when the big boss comes to town, there's no limit to the back-breaking amount of bowing.

(AFP )

With voters upset over traditional parties and orders from Brussels, a billionaire populist dubbed the "Czech Trump" has taken a huge lead in the Czech Republic's election followed by an anti-EU and anti-Islam party with links to France's National Front.

State election officials citing results from nearly 73 percent of polling stations said Babis's anti-corruption and anti-euro ANO (Yes) movement was ahead with 30.87 percent support with the far-right Freedom and Free Democracy (SPD) in second place on 11.19 percent.

(AFP )

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Saturday vowed to step up pressure on North Korea to protect the Japanese people as he wrapped up an election campaign dominated by threats from Pyongyang.

Polls show Abe and his conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) are clear favourites to win Sunday's election, handing him a fresh mandate for his hardline stance on North Korea and "Abenomics" growth strategy.

Abe's coalition is on track to win around 300 seats in the 465-seat lower house of parliament, according to a projection published by the Nikkei daily.

(AFP )

Three men were arrested after a shooting following white supremacist Richard Spencer's controversial speech at the University of Florida, police said Friday.

Spencer, leader of the so-called "alt-right" movement -- encompassing white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan -- appeared Thursday on campus in Gainesville, in the north of the state.

Just over an hour after his speech ended, three of Spencer's followers stopped their car in front of a group of anti-racism protesters at a bus stop, police said in a statement.

(AFP )

International experts announced Friday that Chilean Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda did not die of cancer, but could not conclusively determine if he was assassinated by late dictator Augusto Pinochet's regime.

Neruda, a celebrated poet, politician, diplomat and bohemian, died in 1973 aged 69, just days after Pinochet, then the head of the Chilean army, overthrew Socialist president Salvador Allende in a bloody coup.

(AFP )

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis thanked his French counterpart Friday for France's assistance in the immediate aftermath of a Niger ambush that killed four US troops, as questions mounted in Washington about what happened.

French warplanes flew overhead and armed helicopters evacuated the US wounded following the October 4 attack near the Mali border, which is thought to have been carried out by jihadists.

(AFP )

At least 35 Egyptian troops and police officers were killed in clashes with Islamist fighters in the Bahariya oasis in the country's Western Desert on Friday, security and medical sources said.

An interior ministry statement confirmed the incident and said some of the "terrorist" attackers had died, without giving any figures for casualties or further details.

The small extremist group Hasm claimed the attack, saying in a statement that 28 members of the security forces were killed, with 32 injured.

(AFP )

A body recovered from a river bed in southern Argentina was that of a missing activist who disappeared two months ago during a police operation, his brother confirmed Friday.

Santiago Maldonado, a 28-year-old tattoo artist, was last seen being detained by paramilitary police as they moved to disperse a protest march by the Mapuche indigenous group in Chabut, Patagonia on August 1.

The case has embroiled President Mauricio Macri's government in a political storm and revived dark memories of the country's years of dictatorship and the forced disappearances of opponents.

(AFP )

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis visited Congress on Friday to assure Senator John McCain that lines of communication were open, amid demands the Pentagon reveal more about a Niger ambush that killed four US servicemen.

Tempers have flared in recent weeks between President Donald Trump's administration and lawmakers frustrated about the lack of clarity regarding the clash with suspected jihadists in an area where an Islamic State group affiliate operates.

(AFP )

The United States called Friday for Iraqi federal forces to limit their "movements" in areas claimed by both them and the country's Kurds to avoid more violence between Washington's allies.

Iraqi forces clashed with Kurdish units in the northern province of Kirkuk on Friday, part of a largely bloodless operation that saw them retake swathes of disputed territory from the Kurds in a matter of days.

(AFP )

Spain's King Felipe VI on Friday blasted what he said was an "unacceptable secession attempt" by Catalonia as the government prepared for unprecedented steps to take back some of the crisis-hit region's powers.

European Union leaders, in Spain to collect a prestigious peace prize, gave their backing to Madrid with EU parliament chief Antonio Tajani warning that attempts to redraw European borders have often "resulted in a hellish mess".