Thursday 17 August 2017

In the world

(AFP )

Syrian actress-turned-activist Fadwa Suleiman, who fled to France after taking part in the 2011 uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, died in Paris overnight of cancer, her family said Thursday. She was 44.

"Fadwa has left us, she has left this ugly world," her brother-in-law Hassane Taha said on Facebook.

The stage and television actress, a member of the minority Alawite community like Assad, sought to rally all denominations including Shiite and Sunni Muslims as well as Christians against the regime.

(AFP )

Spanish police on Thursday said they had shut down a gang charging migrants 5,000 euros each to bring them across from Morocco via the Strait of Gibraltar on jet-skis.

The smugglers were making almost daily trips to Spain, taking around 10 minutes to cover the 18-kilometre (11 miles) crossing, said a police statement.

Landing on beaches in the Cadiz or Malaga regions in southern Andalusia, the migrants were then driven to Algeciras. There, they would be held until their relatives on Ceuta, the Spanish territory on Morocco's northern coast, had paid their debt.

(AFP )

Ignore the snobs, because most experts agree: a few drops of water enhance the taste of whiskies, from well-rounded blends to peat bombs redolent of smoke, tobacco and leather.

The only real question is, why is this true?

The answer, a pair of biochemists in Sweden said Thursday, resides in the subtle interplay of molecules that brings those bursting with flavour to the surface of the liquid amber in one's glass.

(AFP )

Russia on Thursday set a hearing date next month for descendants of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who vanished after being jailed in the Stalin-era USSR, as they sue the security service for access to its archive.

Wallenberg used his diplomatic powers to help thousands of Jews flee Nazi-controlled Hungary during World War II and has been compared to Germany's Oskar Schindler.

(AFP )

Criticism grew Thursday over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's limited response to a US white supremacist rally and President Donald Trump's controversial remarks about it, with calls for him to speak out against anti-Semitism.

The issue highlighted Netanyahu's reluctance to be seen as criticising Trump, who has expressed strong support for Israel and whose rise to the presidency was welcomed by the Israeli premier, some analysts said.

(AFP )

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir said Thursday that the construction of Ethiopia's controversial Grand Renaissance Dam on the Nile River would not impact water supplies to Egypt as feared by Cairo.

Visiting Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, for his part, said the project was a "win-win" for the peoples of all three countries if it was not politicised.

Construction of the massive dam on the Blue Nile in Ethiopia has poisoned relations between Cairo and Addis Ababa, with Egypt fearing its share of water from the Nile will be hit once the project is completed.

(AFP )

Muslim clerics in Tunisia on Thursday voiced opposition to President Beji Caid Essebsi's plan to introduce legislation granting equal inheritance rights to women, contrary to Islamic precepts.

Essebsi has announced the formation of a commission to examine "individual liberties" and "equality in all domains", including inheritance rights.

As laid down in the Koran, the Muslim holy book, daughters in the Islamic world inherit half the shares of sons.

(AFP )

The shrines of Muslim saints in Timbuktu in northern Mali are widely believed to protect the fabled city from danger, but were largely destroyed by radical Islamists in 2012.

Five years after their destruction the Timbuktu mausoleums have been restored through work carried out by local craftsmen, with help from the UN's cultural arm UNESCO.

(AFP )

President Donald Trump took a swing at his favorite punching bag Thursday, claiming his comments about the deadly violence in Charlottesville were misrepresented by media.

"The public is learning (even more so) how dishonest the Fake News is. They totally misrepresent what I say about hate, bigotry etc. Shame!," the US president wrote on Twitter.

One protester was killed in violent clashes between neo-Nazi and so-called "Alt-Right" demonstrators and counter-protesters in the Virginia college town of Charlottesville Saturday.

(AFP )

Russia's internet watchdog said Thursday it had called on a domain provider to stop hosting the website of a US white supremacist group under fire following the Charlottesville violence.

The Daily Stormer, which helped organise last weekend's rally that led to deadly clashes with counter-demonstrators, was dropped by its US service providers earlier this week.

But it had registered in Russia at the address dailystormer.ru.

(AFP )

A mayor in an area of the French Alps which is a gateway to Mont Blanc said Thursday he planned to fine climbers attempting to scale the mountain without proper outdoor gear such as crampons and ropes.

Exasperated by a series of accidents on western Europe's highest peak involving ill-equipped tourists, mayor Jean-Marc Peillex has issued a local regulation mandating mountaineering equipment.

The most popular route to scale the 4,810-metre (15,780-feet) mountain, known as the "voie royale", runs through Peillex's Saint-Gervais district.

(AFP )

Pakistan on Thursday criticised the United States for blacklisting the Kashmiri separatist group Hizb-ul-Mujahideen as a terrorist organisation, calling the move "unjustified".

The State Department designation bans US citizens and residents from dealing with the group and any assets found to belong to it in areas under US jurisdiction will be frozen.

(AFP )

Territory still controlled by the Islamic State group in Raqa is "the worst place" in Syria, the UN said Thursday, as fresh reports emerged of more civilians killed by US-led coalition air strikes.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 21 children were among at least 59 civilians killed since Monday in the air strikes aimed at dislodging the jihadists from Raqa.

"The worst place probably today in Syria is the part of Raqa that is still held by the so-called Islamic state," the UN's humanitarian pointman for Syria, Jan Egeland, told reporters in Geneva.

(AFP )

Another Australian politician has became engulfed in the country's dual citizenship crisis after discovering she is a British citizen, putting further pressure on the conservative government as the matter is passed to the high court.

National Party senator Fiona Nash said she sought legal advice from the UK Monday regarding her citizenship status after it emerged her party's leader and Australia's deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce held New Zealand citizenship.

(AFP )

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba said Thursday its net profit almost doubled in the latest quarter on the back of solid revenue growth in its core shopping business and in cloud computing.

Alibaba, which has made billionaire founder Jack Ma one of China's richest men and a global e-commerce icon, has seen its shares soar 80 percent since last December on robust earnings, with the company fast approaching the market worth of industry leader Amazon.

(AFP )

Joshua Wong and two other young leaders of Hong Kong's huge Umbrella Movement rallies were jailed Thursday for their role in the 2014 pro-democracy protests, dealing a fresh blow to the campaign for political reform.

The sentences handed down by the city's Court of Appeal came as fears grow that Beijing is tightening its grip on the semi-autonomous city and that rule of law is being compromised.

(AFP )

Melbourne has topped a list of the world's most liveable city for the seventh year running but terrorism and diplomatic tensions are eroding living conditions worldwide, an annual report from the Economist has found.

The Australian city was ranked number one out of 140 cities, slightly ahead of the Austrian capital Vienna, with the Canadian trio of Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary competing the top five.

"This is a win for all Victorians, who contribute so much to making Melbourne the best place to live in the world," said Victorian state premier Daniel Andrews.

(AFP )

A 10-year-old rape victim whose plea for an abortion was rejected by India's Supreme Court has given birth to a baby girl, a doctor said Thursday.

The girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was raped several times allegedly by an uncle who has since been arrested.

Last month her parents asked the country's top court to allow her to have a late-term abortion but the request was turned down.

Indian law does not allow medical terminations after 20 weeks unless there is a threat to either the life of the mother or her child.

(AFP )

The three Umbrella Movement leaders jailed Thursday in Hong Kong were at the forefront of the 2014 pro-democracy rallies which brought parts of Hong Kong to a standstill for months in an unprecedented rebuke to Beijing.

Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow were sentenced to six to eight months in prison for their role in a protest that sparked the mass demonstrations.

Rights groups and supporters called the case against them "political persecution" and their imprisonment comes as a fresh blow to forces pushing for political reform in the semi-autonomous city.

(AFP )

The United States' top general condemned "racism and bigotry" on Thursday, joining other military leaders in their denunciation of deadly violence in Charlottesville.

The military usually stays out of the political fray, but it has been keen to distance itself from the weekend's neo-Nazi demonstrations because some demonstrators were sporting US military clothes or insignia.

(AFP )

Belgium has ordered Paris terror suspect Salah Abdeslam and another man to stand trial over a police shootout with Belgian police last year, prosecutors said Thursday.

Abdeslam was arrested on March 18 last year, three days after the shootout in Brussels as police pursued the investigation into the November 2015 Paris attacks in which Abdeslam is believed to be the sole surviving assailant.

Judges in Brussels acted on a request from prosecutors to have Abdeslam and Sofiane Ayari to stand trial in the Brussels criminal court, the federal prosecutor's office said.

(AFP )

The Philippine economy grew by 6.5 percent in the three months to June, likely one of the fastest in Asia, the government said Thursday, defying concerns over President Rodrigo Duterte's unconventional leadership.

With solid fundamentals laid by predecessor Benigno Aquino, Duterte has now presided over an economy growing at an average 6.6 percent clip in the past year, despite rule-of-law concerns over his drug war that has left thousands dead.

(AFP )

War crimes judges said Thursday that a Malian jihadist was liable for 2.7 million euros in personal damages for destroying Timbuktu's fabled shrines in 2012, as they ordered reparations in a landmark ruling.

The International Criminal Court ordered that the victims of the razing of the fabled west African city's historic treasures be paid "individual, collective and symbolic" reparations.

(AFP )

Eintracht Frankfurt have confirmed they are interested in signing Ghana international midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng following his hasty exit from Spanish side Las Palmas.

"I can confirm we are busy with the name Kevin-Prince Boateng and are working on it," said Frankfurt coach Niko Kovac, 45, who played alongside Boateng at Hertha Berlin more than 10 years ago.

Frankfurt are hunting for a replacement for Mexican attacking midfielder Marco Fabian, who is out for two months with a back injury.

(AFP )

Joshua Wong and two other young leaders of Hong Kong's huge Umbrella Movement rallies in 2014 were jailed Thursday for their role in the pro-democracy protests.

Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow were sentenced to six months, eight months and seven months respectively after the Court of Appeal upped their previous non-custodial sentences.

Activists say the case is more proof that Beijing is tightening its grip on the semi-autonomous city.

Wong shouted: "Hong Kong people, don't give up!" as he was led away by security.

(AFP )

Peace with North Korea is a "possibility", America's most senior uniformed officer said Thursday, but warned the US has "credible, viable military options" for dealing with the errant regime.

General Joe Dunford, the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, also told reporters during his visit to Beijing that the US has no plans to "dial back" military exercises with South Korea, which have angered both China and North Korea.

(AFP )

Iranian opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi, under house arrest for the past six years, was hospitalised Thursday after going on hunger strike to demand a trial, his family told local media.

"His health condition deteriorated after the hunger strike and he is now hospitalised," said the Sahamnews website, which is affiliated to Karroubi's family.

He was admitted to Shahid Rajaei hospital due to high blood pressure, less than 24 hours after beginning a hunger strike, it said, adding that he was still refusing to eat.

(AFP )

White extremists are having doors to the internet slammed on efforts to promote violent and bigoted agendas.

Internet titans that have contorted to balance free speech with odious content were standing firm this week against being used to glorify killing in the name of race or eliminating those who oppose that kind of ideology.

A consistent message from Silicon Valley firms contacted by AFP was that advocating violence and bigotry violated clearly-outlined terms of service, resulting in accounts being closed or content being removed.

(AFP )

Nobel peace laureate Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by the Taliban for advocating education for girls in her native Pakistan, announced Thursday she has won a place to study at Oxford University.

"So excited to go to Oxford!!" the 20-year-old posted on Twitter, along with a picture of the message she received confirming her acceptance on the philosophy, politics and economics (PPE) course.

The announcement came on the day that students across Britain received the results of their A-levels, exams taken at the end of secondary school.

(AFP )

A suicide bomber killed a Hamas guard in southern Gaza on Thursday, officials said, in what was seen as a rare Islamist attack against the Palestinian group that has run the impoverished enclave for a decade.

The incident occurred at around 1:00 am near the Gaza Strip's lone crossing with Egypt along the Sinai Peninsula, where radical Islamists are waging an insurgency against Egyptian forces.

It would be the first time a suicide attack has targeted Hamas forces in Gaza, security sources said.

(AFP )

South Sudan's brutal civil war has forced more than one million people to flee to neighbouring Uganda alone, with another million seeking refuge elsewhere in the region, the UN's refugee agency said Thursday.

The UNHCR said additional funds were desperately needed to help the refugees flooding into Uganda, adding that most were women and children fleeing "barbaric violence".

Over the past year, an average of 1,800 South Sudanese have arrived in Uganda every single day, it said.

(AFP )

A US soldier has been killed in Afghanistan in an operation targeting Islamic State group insurgents, commanders said Thursday, in the latest blow to American forces in the war-torn nation.

The death brought the number of US soldiers -- who are supposed to be in a non-combat role in Afghanistan -- killed in action in the country so far this year to 10, one above the tally for the whole of 2016.

(AFP )

There will be no war on the Korean peninsula, South Korean President Moon Jae-In said Thursday, saying Seoul effectively had a veto over US military action in response to the North's nuclear and missile programmes.

Tensions have soared on the peninsula in recent months, with Pyongyang carrying out its first successful tests of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), bringing much of the US within range.

(AFP )

Iranian opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi, under house arrest for the past six years, was hospitalised Thursday after going on hunger strike a day earlier to demand a trial date, his family told local media.

"His health condition deteriorated after the hunger strike and he is now hospitalised," said Sahamnews website, which is affiliated to Karroubi's family.

He was admitted to Shahid Rajaei hospital due to high blood pressure, less than 24 hours after beginning a hunger strike Wednesday morning, it said, adding that he was still refusing to eat.

(AFP )

A campaign is gathering momentum in the United States to remove monuments to the pro-slavery Confederacy.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a civil rights advocacy group, there are more than 1,500 symbols of the Confederacy on public land, mostly in the South.

They include monuments, memorials, statues, public schools, highways and county and city names among others.

Here is a brief look at the three major figures in the Southern iconography and their chief symbol, the Confederate battle flag:

- Robert E. Lee -