Friday 22 September 2017

In the world

(AFP )

A bronze bust of Joseph Stalin was unveiled in Moscow on Friday amid increasing concerns in Russia that the authorities are seeking to whitewash the Soviet dictator's crimes.

Stalin's sculpture -- along with those of major Soviet leaders like Vladimir Lenin and Nikita Khrushchev -- was unveiled outside a museum in central Moscow during a ceremony attended by lawmakers.

The seven sculptures spanning the history of the USSR from Lenin to Mikhail Gorbachev are the latest addition to the recently opened "Alley of Rulers" composition that already features 33 Russian rulers.

(AFP )

French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday made good on a central campaign vow to overhaul the country's complex labour code, overriding objections from some trade unions and the hard-left opposition.

The 39-year-old centrist believes that making the job market more flexible will help drive down the unemployment rate, now at 9.6 percent, but opponents say the reforms are a gift to bosses while workers will suffer more job insecurity.

The reforms overhaul large parts of the 3,300-page labour code which details workers' rights, with some chapters dating back over a century.

(AFP )

A Sri Lankan couple is under investigation for deploying hundreds of school children to carry the train of the bride's saree during a wedding ceremony, authorities said Friday.

About 250 students of a state-owned school carried the train of the 3.2-kilometre (two-mile) long saree worn by the bride as she and the groom walked down a main road in the central district of Kandy Thursday, local media reported. Another 100 students served as flower girls at the wedding.

(AFP )

Hate speech and misinformation on social media have amplified ethnic tensions in Myanmar's Rakhine state, a US official said Friday, urging the country's "better angels" to show compassion for Rohingya Muslims who are fleeing violence in droves.

Western Rakhine, for years a hotbed of tension between Myanmar's Rohingya minority and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists, has been seized by crisis since the army launched a crackdown on Rohingya militants in late August.

(AFP )

London transport authorities said Friday they would not renew Uber's licence to operate in the city when it expires, due to public safety concerns, although the US-based ride-hailing app has said it will appeal.

Transport for London said the conduct of Uber, which has around 40,000 drivers and 3.5 million customers in the British capital, had raised concerns.

"TfL has concluded that Uber London Limited is not fit and proper to hold a private hire operator licence," it said in a statement.

(AFP )

More than 27,000 images of torture and killings allegedly perpetrated by the Assad regime in Syria have been handed to German prosecutors who are investigating possible abuses, a rights group said Friday.

"The photos show the extent and the systematic nature of torture" under Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said Wolfgang Kaleck, general secretary of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR).

(AFP )

Iraq's Kurds faced mounting international pressure Friday, including from neighbouring Iran, to call off an independence referendum that the UN Security Council warned was potentially destabilising.

It came ahead of a press conference on Saturday at which Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani is expected to announce whether the vote will go ahead as planned on Monday in the autonomous region.

(AFP )

US President Donald Trump on Friday warned "madman" North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un that he would be "tested," the latest in an exchange of insults between the two.

"Kim Jong Un of North Korea, who is obviously a madman who doesn't mind starving or killing his people, will be tested like never before!" Trump tweeted.

Earlier Friday Kim blasted Trump as a "mentally deranged US dotard" who will "pay dearly" for threatening to destroy North Korea.

(AFP )

On his lightning march to power, French President Emmanuel Macron felled several political veterans, but one of them, perennial rebel leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon, has survived to lead resistance to his sweeping reforms.

Like Macron, the firebrand leader of the hard-left France Unbowed party campaigned for president this year on a promise to throw out France's tainted old guard.

Unlike Macron, however, he sees any attempt to renegotiate the protections enshrined in France's social model as an attack on the country's values.

(AFP )

British police said Friday they had charged an 18-year-old man with attempted murder following last week's bombing of a London Underground train, which injured 30 people.

Ahmed Hassan, who was arrested the morning after the attack on September 15, was also charged with use of the explosive triacetone triperoxide (TATP), a statement said.

The teenager, who is believed to be an Iraqi orphan, lived with British foster parents in the London suburb of Sunbury. The house was one of several addresses searched by police after the attack.

(AFP )

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, one of the runners in the race for South Africa's ruling party leadership and newly-appointed lawmaker, faces difficulty distancing herself from her tarnished ex-husband President Jacob Zuma.

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) veteran is an experienced technocrat who has served as minister under all post-apartheid leaders since the end of white minority rule in 1994.

(AFP )

Africa's largest museum dedicated to the continent's contemporary art opened to the public in Cape Town on Friday, becoming the region's most significant new cultural space in decades.

The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa is housed in a clutch of abandoned grain silos at the V&A Waterfront that have been transformed with honeycomb lattice windows reflecting the ocean and Table Mountain.

Its main backer is Jochen Zeitz, a former chief executive of sportswear company Puma, and many of the museum's pieces are from his personal collection.

(AFP )

The head of the powerful Tijaniyya brotherhood of Muslims in Senegal has died, just six months after the passing of his predecessor, Senegalese media reported Friday.

Serigne Abdou Aziz Sy, who was 89, died in Tivaouane, the spiritual home of the Tijaniyya, a Sufi order, the public APS news agency reported.

Around 95 percent of Senegal's population is Muslim and most men join Sufi brotherhoods that combine Islam with distinctive local beliefs.

(AFP )

Kenya's high court on Friday ruled against the country's football federation (FKF) in a case challenging new licensing regulations and an increase in the number of premier league teams proposed by the governing body.

Ruling on a petition brought by former FKF boss Sam Nyamweya, high court judge John Mativo said the introduction of new club licensing regulations without the participation of members and stakeholders was illegal and in violation of FIFA and CAF guidelines.

(AFP )

The United Nations will need $200 million over the next six months to face the "catastrophic" influx of more than 420,000 Rohingya refugees to Bangladesh, a top UN official said Friday.

The Rohingya Muslims, escaping ethnic unrest in Myanmar, have overwhelmed Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar in under a month.

The UN made an emergency appeal for $78 million on September 9, but UN resident coordinator in Bangladesh, Robert Watkins, said much more would be needed as the exodus grows.

(AFP )

America's President is many things to many people but "mentally deranged US dotard" is perhaps the most memorable of names to have yet been coined for the billionaire reality television star-turned world leader.

Kim Jong-Un's rhetorical flourish might seem like an outlandish tongue-lashing of the US leader, but it is rather tame compared to the florid language normally deployed by Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency, which is peppered with flamboyant, imaginative and often antiquated language.

(AFP )

An expectant hush fell on the crowd as the giant screen outside Pyongyang's main train station went black on Friday afternoon.

Workers, students in grey uniforms, travelling families surrounded by piles of bags, women shielding themselves from the late summer sun with frilly parasols, for several minutes they all gazed at the rectangle with anticipation.

White text appeared on a red background: "The faith of the revolutionary is unchangeable even in death."

(AFP )

In a rare show of support, Hungary's populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban urged Hungarians on Friday to pray that German Chancellor Angela Merkel wins this weekend's election despite the pair's clashes over refugees.

"We should say a quiet prayer every evening that the mandate of the current holder of the chancellor's office is extended," the 54-year-old said during a regular public radio interview in Budapest.

Merkel would be "more friendly" to Hungarians than her opponent Martin Schulz, who Orban said had "insulted" them in his electoral campaign.

(AFP )

The Kremlin on Friday distanced itself from the controversy over Russia-linked Facebook ads which may have influenced last year's US election, saying Moscow had nothing to do with them.

"We don't know who places ads on Facebook and how," President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

"We have never done it and the Russian side has never had anything to do with it."

(AFP )

British Prime Minister Theresa May will seek to unlock Brexit talks on Friday with a major speech in Florence, after Brussels demanded more clarity on the crunch issues of budget payments and EU citizens' rights.

May is expected to offer to meet Britain's obligations until the end of the current EU budget period, worth at least 20 billion euros, and will set out plans for a time-limited transition period.

(AFP )

The tiny Caribbean island of Dominica appealed for desperately-needed aid and helicopters following the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria, which left the country struggling to survive without water or electricity.

The island largely lost communications with the outside world after Maria plowed into it on Monday as a maximum-strength Category Five hurricane packing winds of 160 miles per hour (257 kilometers per hour).

At least 15 people were killed on the island, with six deaths elsewhere in the Caribbean as the storm continued its destructive path north on Friday.

(AFP )

Kenya's Uhuru Kenyatta will remain president until a new leader is sworn in, the country's attorney general said Friday, seeking to assuage fears of a constitutional crisis if elections are delayed further.

Questions have mounted over the status of the government after the Supreme Court annulled Kenyatta's victory in August's presidential election due to widespread irregularities.

(AFP )

Bangladesh's refugee camps are on the brink of a "public health disaster," Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has warned, saying filthy water and faeces flow through shanties now bursting with Rohinyga Muslims who have fled violence in Myanmar.

More than 420,000 Rohingya have overwhelmed Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar in under a month, seeking refuge following an army-led crackdown across the border in Myanmar's Rakhine state, which the UN has described as "ethnic cleansing".

(AFP )

A manhunt has begun for the killer of a giant saltwater crocodile in Australia, as authorities warned its death would trigger more aggressive behaviour among younger crocs in the area.

The carcass of a 5.2-metre (17-foot) adult male was found in the Fitzroy River in central Queensland on Thursday with a single gunshot wound to the head, the environment department said.

"It is illegal to 'take' and kill a crocodile without authority and police will work closely with (the environment department) to locate the person responsible," Queensland police said.

(AFP )

Four people drowned and up to 20 were missing on Friday after a fishing boat carrying migrants sunk off Turkey's Black Sea coast, reports said.

Thirty-eight migrants were rescued but search and rescue efforts are in progress to find 15-20 people still missing in the incident off the Kefken district of the Kocaeli province east of Istanbul, the Anadolu and Dogan news agencies said.

It was not clear where the boat had left from and where it was headed.

(AFP )

Two years after her bookseller father vanished into Chinese detention, Angela Gui refuses to give up her campaign to free him, despite growing concerns for her own safety.

Gui Minhai disappeared on October 17, 2015, one of five Hong Kong booksellers known for publishing gossipy titles about Chinese political leaders to go missing.

For the first 18 months, Angela barely slept. But the 23-year-old student has turned her campaign to release him into a kind of job, which she says is helping her to cope.

(AFP )

In a small village in southern Bangladesh, hundreds of Hindu refugees from neighbouring Myanmar are being handed plates heaped with dal and rice, less than a mile from where desperate Muslim Rohingya beg for food and shelter.

The contrast captures the sharp religious and ethnic divides that have only deepened since a convulsion of violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state unleashed a staggering refugee crisis.

(AFP )

New Zealand opposition leader Jacinda Ardern conceded she needed more time to win over wavering voters Friday, as parties made their final pitches in what has been a rollercoaster election campaign.

Ardern electrified the contest when she took over the centre-left Labour Party last month but opinion polls have showed "Jacinda-mania" fading in the lead-up to Saturday's election.

While the polls still indicate Labour could form a coalition government, charismatic 37-year-old Ardern said a "scare campaign" by Prime Minister Bill English had slowed her momentum.

(AFP )

Spanish police have arrested a Moroccan man suspected of cooperating with a cell behind attacks that killed 16 people in Barcelona and another seaside resort last month, the interior ministry said Friday.

The 24-year-old man, who was detained in the eastern town of Castellon, was close to several members of the group, especially Abdelbaki Es Satty, a Moroccan imam believed to have radicalised the youths that carried out the attacks, it said in a statement.

(AFP )

As corruption goes in Latin America, it amounted to small beans, but the excess that ended the Uruguayan vice-president's career this month shows the region's politics are still locked in a cycle of sleaze.

Despite increased public awareness of political corruption, tougher laws and smarter investigative journalism, Latin American politics are tainted by the culture of the backhander, analysts say.

"Unfortunately, corruption has been part of the political DNA of Latin America for many years," said Chilean corruption analyst Raul Ferro.

(AFP )

President Hassan Rouhani vowed on Friday that Iran would boost its missile capabilities despite warnings from Washington that it is ready to ditch a landmark nuclear deal over the issue.

His comments came as Iran displayed a new missile at a military parade marking the anniversary of the outbreak of its devastating 1980-1988 war with Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

"Whether you like it or not, we are going to strengthen our military capabilities which are necessary for deterrence," Rouhani said in a speech broadcast live on state television.

(AFP )

As time ticked away in the final bout of the taekwondo championships in Pyongyang, the North Korean women fighters counted down anxiously, leaping up to hug each other tearfully when their compatriot secured the team sparring gold and the title of world champions.

But they are just one world champion among many in a sport that is even more divided than the nuclear-tension-wracked Korean peninsula where it has its origins.

(AFP )

China on Friday lashed out at the decision by Standard & Poor's to downgrade the country's credit rating, calling the warning against ballooning debt "mistaken" and based on "cliches" about its economy.

The agency slashed China from AA-minus to A-plus on Thursday, a move that followed a similar decision in May by Moody's stemming from concerns that the world's second largest economy is increasingly overleveraged.

(AFP )

To his foes, Ata Ullah is a reckless amateur who has brought untold misery to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya after launching an insurgency in Myanmar.

But to supporters of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, their leader is an intrepid fighter who left a life of luxury in Saudi Arabia to defend the stateless group against overwhelming odds.

"He's very charismatic," Richard Horsey, an independent analyst based in Myanmar, told AFP.

"He inspires people. He speaks in a way that resonates with the grievances felt by that community."

(AFP )

Spain's conservative government has dealt a serious blow to Catalonia's plans to hold an independence referendum but it faces growing indignation in the region, which is closing ranks on Madrid.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has said that after enforcing the law by blocking the referendum he is ready for dialogue with Catalonia, but his margin of manoeuvre is slim since party hardliners and other Spanish regions are hostile to Catalan demands.