Tuesday 27 June 2017

In the world

(AFP )

Modern-day Hong Kong is best known for its sprawl of skyscrapers, a bustling financial hub off the southern coast of mainland China and a regional conduit for trade.

But the territory was once a quiet backwater of rural hamlets and fishing communities, where mountainous terrain dominated sparse human settlement.

Twenty years since the city was handed back to China by colonial power Britain here are key points in its evolution:

- Ancient history -

Remnants of burial grounds and early rock carvings show human life in Hong Kong as far back as the Stone Age.

(AFP )

The EU hit Google with a record 2.4-billion-euro anti-trust fine Tuesday for favouring its own shopping service, in a fresh assault on a US tech giant that risks the wrath of President Donald Trump.

Hard-charging European Commission competition chief Margrethe Vestager said Google had "abused its market dominance" as the world's most popular search engine to give illegal advantage to its Google Shopping service.

(AFP )

US President Donald Trump and his policies are broadly unpopular around the world -- with the notable exceptions of Russia and Israel, according to a poll released Monday.

The Pew Research Center survey, which surveyed people in 37 nations, showed a sharp decline in the average trust for America's leader to do the right thing when it comes to international affairs.

Twenty-two percent reported they had faith in Trump to guide America's role in the world, compared with a 64 percent level of confidence in Barack Obama in the final years of his presidency, Pew Research said.

(AFP )

The United States will not be drawn into Syria's civil war, Defence Secretary Jim Mattis has said, despite an increasingly complicated battle space that has seen US warplanes down pro-regime aircraft.

Speaking to reporters on a military plane late Monday as he headed for meetings in Europe, Mattis said the US-led coalition was determined to keep a strict focus on fighting the Islamic State group.

We won't fire "unless they are the enemy, unless they are ISIS," he said, using an acronym for the jihadist organisation.

(AFP )

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has dropped her opposition to same-sex marriage, giving gay and lesbian groups reason to cheer Tuesday while depriving opposition parties of a key campaign issue three months before elections.

Speaking at a forum Monday evening, Merkel said she was open to a vote of conscience on the issue, in which lawmakers are freed from toeing the party line -- and in which the reform would almost certainly pass.

(AFP )

A Dutch appeals court on Tuesday ruled the state was partly to blame for the deaths of some 350 Muslim men in the 1995 Srebrenica genocide, ordering it to pay partial compensation.

"The court finds that the Dutch state acted unlawfully," judge Gepke Dulek said in an hour-long ruling, which largely upheld a 2014 ruling by a lower court.

"The conclusion is that the Dutchbat (Dutch peacekeepers) knew that during the evacuations by the Bosnian Serbs to separate the Muslim men and boys there was a real risk they could face inhumane treatment or execution," she said.

(AFP )

A former supporter of France's anti-immigration National Front went on trial Tuesday for helping her Iranian refugee lover sneak across the Channel to Britain.

Beatrice Huret faces up 10 years in jail if convicted of helping Mokhtar -- whom she met while volunteering at the since-demolished "Jungle" migrant camp in Calais -- slip out of France under cover of night, on a rickety boat.

(AFP )

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has softened her opposition to gay marriage, which is legal in about 20 countries around the world, 13 of which are in Europe.

- European pioneers -

In April 2001 the Netherlands became the first country in the world to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry in a civil ceremony.

Twelve European countries followed: Belgium, Britain (except Northern Ireland), Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.

(AFP )

Talks in Switzerland this week on Cyprus's decades-long partition represent the "best chance" to resolve the conflict, the UN mediator said Tuesday.

"It's a unique opportunity, because after all of these decades of division it is possible, it is possible to solve, and I really hope that this is the spirit by which everybody goes into this meeting," Espen Barth Eide told reporters in Geneva.

His comments came as rival Cypriot leaders were headed to Switzerland for a make-or-break summit aiming to seal a long-elusive peace deal for their divided island.

(AFP )

Former British mercenary Simon Mann, who led a failed 2004 coup in Equatorial Guinea, has accused US billionaire George Soros of since plotting to overthrow its president, in testimony at a high-profile trial in Paris.

He also accused William Bourdon, a lawyer for the anti-corruption NGO Transparency International, of being part of a plot to topple President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, Africa's longest serving leader after ruling his country with an iron fist for nearly four decades.

(AFP )

Mongolia's third-place finisher in the presidential vote demanded a recount on Tuesday, claiming fraud after election officials declared he had narrowly lost a spot in a runoff poll next month.

"We should recount it, otherwise we lose our democracy," Sainkhuu Ganbaatar of the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) told AFP.

His party officially filed a request for a new count with the General Election Committee and will make a similar demand with the courts.

(AFP )

More than 200 Dutch former UN peacekeepers are suing the government for damages for sending them to defend the Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica in 1995, after the defence minister called it a "mission impossible."

"As from tomorrow (Tuesday), 206 of my clients are claiming compensation of 22,000 euros each," their lawyer told Dutch late night talk show Jinek on Monday.

Total damages would amount to around 4.5 million euros ($5 million).

(AFP )

China has made a formal protest after accusing Indian border guards of crossing from Sikkim state into its Tibetan territory, China's foreign ministry said Tuesday.

The two countries have long been embroiled in a bitter dispute over their border, with both sides accusing soldiers of crossing over into the other's territory.

"Our position to uphold our territorial sovereignty is unwavering," spokesman Lu Kang told a regular briefing, adding China has lodged "solemn representations" with India.

(AFP )

China on Tuesday rejected criticism over its treatment of cancer-stricken Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo after the United States urged Beijing to give the paroled activist freedom to move and to choose his own doctors.

The US embassy in Beijing joined a growing chorus of Chinese and foreign human rights lawyers and activists demanding the unconditional release of the democracy campaigner amid dismay at his condition.

(AFP )

China's treatment of cancer-stricken democracy activist Liu Xiaobo reflects Beijing's hardening crackdown on political dissent and heightens concern over lesser-known campaigners still languishing in jail, supporters say.

Liu, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 while serving an 11-year sentence for subversion, has been transferred from prison to a hospital on medical parole for terminal liver cancer treatment, his lawyer said Monday.

(AFP )

Takata executives faced angry investors Tuesday after the company at the centre of the world's biggest auto safety recall filed for bankruptcy and said it was being bought by a US company.

The filing all but destroys any value left in the Japanese airbag maker's shares, which will be delisted from the Tokyo stock exchange next month.

Many who attended the shareholder meeting Tuesday expressed outrage at how the auto parts giant handled the crisis caused by a defect in the firm's airbags that has been blamed for at least 16 deaths and scores of injuries.

(AFP )

When Xi Jinping lands in Hong Kong on Thursday for the first time since becoming China's president, he will step into a deeply divided city uncertain of its future.

The visit marks 20 years since Hong Kong was handed back to China by Britain and comes at a time when many fear the semi-autonomous city's freedoms are being lost to an ever more assertive Beijing.

Protests are expected during Xi's three-day trip, which will be shielded by huge security and culminate in the inauguration of new city leader, Carrie Lam.

(AFP )

When Pakistani authorities burst into a makeshift hospital in Lahore this year, doctors were caught mid-way through two illegal kidney transplants, the local donors and Omani clients still unconscious on the tables.

The doctors were allowed to finish the operation then arrested, along with their assistants and the Omanis, in a raid Pakistani authorities say is a turning point in their battle against organ trafficking.

(AFP )

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will meet with his Qatari counterpart Tuesday in Washington, after the US department voiced confusion over the Saudi-backed embargo of the country.

Tillerson's meeting with Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani at the State Department also comes days after Doha dismissed a list of demands from Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The ultimatum demands that Qatar comply with 13 points in return for an end to a three-week-old diplomatic and trade blockade of the country.

(AFP )

The third-place finisher in Mongolia's presidential vote cried foul and demanded a recount on Tuesday after electoral authorities declared he was narrowly beaten for a spot in next month's runoff election.

The drama capped a campaign marked by corruption scandals plaguing all three candidates that overshadowed voter concerns over unemployment in the debt-laden country wedged between Russia and China.

The result of Monday's vote was put off by several hours until Tuesday morning, angering supporters of Sainkhuu Ganbaatar of the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP).

(AFP )

Khalid, a 13-year-old from Afghanistan, spends his days in squalor repeatedly trying to scale a metal fence separating him from the better life he dreams about at night.

He is one of around 200 migrants camped next to the Greek port of Patras, dodging police patrols and irate truck drivers, attempting to board a boat to Italy after other countries shut down the overland route to northern Europe.

"One day I will make it, I know," says the boy, who hopes to become an engineer in Germany or Switzerland.

(AFP )

North Korea compared US President Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler on Tuesday in its latest diatribe, amid high tensions over Pyongyang's military ambitions and ahead of a visit to Washington by South Korea's new leader.

The latest attack came a week after nuclear-armed Pyongyang called Trump a "lunatic" as tensions rose following the death of US student Otto Warmbier, who was detained for 18 months in the North and then sent home in a coma.

(AFP )

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may be preparing another chemical weapons attack, one that would result in the "mass murder" of civilians, the White House said Monday, warning the regime would pay a "heavy price" if it went ahead with such an assault.

The White House said the preparations were similar to those undertaken by the Assad regime ahead of an apparent chemical attack on a rebel-held town in April.

Washington launched a retaliatory cruise missile strike days later against a Syrian airbase from where it said the chemical weapons attack was launched.

(AFP )

A former supporter of France's anti-immigration National Front (FN) goes on trial Tuesday for helping her Iranian migrant lover smuggle across the Channel to Britain.

Beatrice Huret faces possible jail time if convicted of helping Mokhtar -- whom she met while volunteering at the since-demolished "Jungle" migrant camp in Calais -- slip out of France under cover of night, on a rickety boat.

(AFP )

Israeli airstrikes hit a series of targets in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip overnight, officials said, hours after a rocket from the Palestinian enclave landed in the Jewish state.

Strikes were recorded in at least three locations in Gaza, Palestinian security sources and eyewitnesses said, with Hamas bases struck near the southern city of Rafah and Gaza City, as well as open land southeast of Gaza City.

(AFP )

Every Friday night, fighters trade blows in a ring in the dimly lit Monster Club in southwest China, competing for a $75 payday as a crowd cheer them on.

This joint in Chengdu is owned by a former Chicago resident who was inspired by the 1999 US film "Fight Club", starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton as the creators of an underground club of pugilists.

Huoche, a man in his 30s who refuses to give his full name and exact age, founded the club in November 2015.

More than 4,000 fighters have faced off in some 2,000 bouts since then.

(AFP )

US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi embraced each other as friends and partners Monday, pledging their quest for economic growth would strengthen rather than undermine ties between the world's two largest democracies.

While Trump's relations with some traditional allies had a rocky start, he and Modi appeared to strike up an immediate rapport in their first meeting, exchanging hugs in the White House Rose Garden in front of reporters.

(AFP )

The US Supreme Court on Monday partially reinstated Donald Trump's controversial travel ban targeting citizens from six predominantly Muslim countries, prompting the president to claim a victory for national security.

The nine justices will examine the case in full in October but said the ban could now be enforced for travelers from the targeted countries "who lack any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States."

(AFP )

Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube announced Monday the launch of an anti-terror partnership aimed at thwarting the spread of extremist content online.

The "Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism" intends to share engineering, research and knowledge to help "continue to make our hosted consumer services hostile to terrorists and violent extremists," the companies said.

Each of the technology giants has been working individually to prevent its platforms or services from being used to promote or spread extremist views.

(AFP )

A boy travelled at least 230 kilometres from Morocco to Spain hanging underneath a bus, officials said on Monday, in another example of desperate measures taken by migrants to get to Europe.

Emergency services in the southern Spanish city of Seville tweeted a video of the boy being led away from a bus they said came from Tangier, some 230 kilometres (143 miles) away, wearing a dirtied white t-shirt.

They said he had been taken to hospital but was in good condition.

A police spokesman told AFP the boy appeared to be Moroccan.

(AFP )

The body of an American who had been reported missing near the ancient Inca capital of Cusco was found Monday at the bottom of a ravine after he tried to climb a mountain, police said.

Seth Thomas, 24, was found in the 300-meter (980-foot) deep abyss at Apu Picol mountain in the southeastern Peruvian tourist region of Cusco. He had been missing since Friday.

"Brigadiers from the High Mountain Rescue Department went down the steep slope to remove the body," a police report said.

(AFP )

Leading French chef Alain Senderens, one of the founders of the Nouvelle Cuisine movement, has died aged 77, food critic Gilles Pudlowski told AFP on Monday.

"He was one of the last great creators of Paris. This creator was a visionary," he said of Senderens, who along with Paul Bocuse, Michel Guerard and others was a stalwart of France's Nouvelle Cuisine in the 1960s and 1970s. "We will never forget you dear Alain. We miss you already," Pudlowski wrote on his blog.

(AFP )

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday softened for the first time her opposition to gay marriage, as her conservative party comes under growing pressure on the issue ahead of elections in September.

Merkel, who had repeatedly voiced her opposition to gay marriage, said that lawmakers could vote according to their conscience, and not toe the party line.

Germany introduced civil unions for gay and lesbian couples in 2001, but they do not have the right to marry.

(AFP )

Police in Mexico found the burned remains of a journalist who was kidnapped in May, the sixth reporter killed this year in the country, a state prosecutor said Monday.

With the grisly find, Salvador Adame, the head of a local TV station in the state of Michoacan, becomes the latest name on the list of more than 100 journalists killed in Mexico since 2000.

More than 90 percent of these killings remain unpunished.

Adame, 44, was surrounded by gunmen and abducted in the western town of Nueva Italia on May 18.

(AFP )

Colombia's leftist FARC rebel force celebrates its disarmament on Tuesday after half a century of war against the state, ending Latin America's oldest civil conflict.

FARC leader Rodrigo Londono, alias Timochenko, is scheduled to formally conclude the disarmament process at a ceremony with President Juan Manuel Santos in the central town of Mesetas at 1500 GMT.

Part of a 2016 peace deal with the FARC, the move is a key part of efforts to end the conflict. But the process has been blighted by ongoing violence involving other armed groups in recent weeks.