Friday 21 July 2017

In the world

(AFP )

International fears over Venezuela's growing unrest soared on Friday as prosecutors said the death toll in months of anti-government protests had passed 100, and a political gridlock between President Nicolas Maduro and the opposition worsened.

The climbing tally of fatalities, rising to 103 since April, underscored the spiralling chaos in the oil-rich but increasingly impoverished South American nation.

(AFP )

White House press secretary Sean Spicer and a member of President Donald Trump's legal team resigned Friday in a one-two punch to a reeling administration, as pressure mounts from a broadening investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia.

Spicer resigned in opposition to Trump's naming of Anthony Scaramucci, a Wall Street financier and longtime supporter of the billionaire investor-turned-president, as the new White House communications director, a White House official told AFP.

(AFP )

President Vladimir Putin on Friday took part in a live television show, fielding questions from Russian youngsters in an apparent bid to connect with teenagers who have been flocking to opposition rallies.

Putin, his shirt collar unbuttoned, faced his young audience at an educational centre for gifted children from 10 to 17 year of age in the Black Sea city of Sochi for a show called "A Grown-up Conversation" televised by the pro-Kremlin NTV channel.

(AFP )

France should create more reception centres for migrants to ensure decent conditions as arrivals pick up pace in the summer months, the head of an independent rights watchdog said Friday.

Former government minister Jacques Toubon, the head of the Defenseur des Droits (Protector of Rights) body, made the claim as he visited a humanitarian centre for migrants in the La Chapelle area of northern Paris.

More than 2,800 people were evacuated earlier this month from a makeshift camp that sprung up around the centre, but a new camp is already forming.

(AFP )

The crew of a Navy destroyer that collided with a Philippine-flagged cargo ship will "certainly" be held accountable for the crash that killed seven American sailors, a US defense official said Friday.

"The way it looks now, it seems that the crew on the (USS) Fitzgerald is going to be at fault," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"They are certainly going to be held accountable in some way for their actions," the official added, noting that the determination was based on preliminary findings from the probe.

(AFP )

A Turkish court on Friday issued new arrest warrants for four activists previously detained but then released in a controversial case that has raised tensions with the West.

The four were among 10 people detained earlier this month in a raid by police on a workshop session of human rights activists held on an island off Istanbul.

A Turkish court on Tuesday ordered six of the human rights activists, including Amnesty International's Turkey director Idil Eser, be remanded in custody on charges of aiding a "terror" group.

(AFP )

The death toll in anti-government protests in Venezuela since April has reached 100, after a third death was reported from a day-long nationwide strike against embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's rule, prosecutors said Friday.

A 15-year-old boy was killed in skirmishes on the sidelines of Thursday's national strike in the western state of Zulia, they said, without explaining the circumstances of his death.

(AFP )

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday told Germany it cannot scare Ankara with threats, in an escalating row over a wave of arrests that prompted Berlin to step up warnings to German tourists and investors.

"They (Germany) cannot scare us with these threats, they should know this," Erdogan said in a speech in Istanbul. "You (Germany) do not have the power to smear Turkey... or the power to scare us," he added.

(AFP )

The daughter of slain Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov has filed an appeal against the verdict in his murder trial, calling for the case to be reexamined, her lawyer said Friday.

A court last week handed lengthy jail terms to five Chechens convicted of the contract killing of Nemtsov, even though his allies insisted the masterminds remain unidentified.

Nemtsov's daughter called for prosecutors to change the classification of the case from murder to political assassination, her lawyer Olga Mikhailova told Interfax news agency.

(AFP )

A key member of Trump’s legal team said he resigned his post Friday, a shake-up as Trump drew fire for apparent efforts to influence a former FBI director's probe into collusion with Russia.

Mark Corallo, who coordinated the Trump legal team's public response to the crisis, told AFP in an email that he had resigned from his post.

No reason was given, but the move comes after Trump waded into potentially perilous legal territory by warning investigators not to look into his family finances.

(AFP )

Lebanon's powerful Hezbollah group said on Friday its fighters had begun an operation against militants on both sides of the country's border with Syria.

The operation has been anticipated for several weeks, and comes after Lebanese soldiers carrying out raids on Syrian refugee camps in the area were met with suicide bombings and a grenade attack.

That attack heightened tensions over the presence in Lebanon of more than a million refugees from the civil war across the border.

(AFP )

Justin Bieber is not welcome to perform in China because of his "bad behaviour", Beijing authorities have said, after the pop idol angered many Chinese in 2014 by visiting a controversial Japanese war shrine

The Beijing Municipal Bureau of Culture revealed it was not a "Belieber" when it said the 23-year-old Canadian, who last played in the country in 2013, had a lot of growing up to do if he wanted to return.

The statement came after Chinese fans posted comments on the agency's website demanding to know when their heart-throb would be allowed to perform in China again.

(AFP )

The chairman of Pakistan's financial regulator was arrested Friday, accused of forging documents in a corruption case against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that has gripped the country.

Head of the Securities and Exchange Commission Zafar Hijazi was accused by investigators of doctoring the records of a sugar mill owned by the Sharif family.

Hijazi, who is seen as a trusted ally of Sharif, had appeared in court on Friday morning for a bail hearing and was arrested during the proceedings.

(AFP )

The United Nations on Friday blamed a Saudi-led coalition for a deadly air strike on civilians in Yemen this week, saying there were no military targets in the area hit.

The attack on Tuesday in the Mawza district of the southwestern province of Taez killed at least 20 people, including four children, according to residents.

The UN human rights office, which put the death toll at 18, said the strikes hit three families who were staying in a makeshift straw house after being displaced from their homes three months ago by fighting.

(AFP )

Surrealist master Salvador Dali's trademark moustache is in perfect shape in its "ten past ten" position, the foundation that runs his estate said Friday, a day after his remains were exhumed to settle a paternity claim.

Narcis Bardalet, who was responsible for embalming Dalí's body 28 years ago was at his grave the moment he was exhumed on Thursday night for DNA tests.

"It was a moving moment for him and for us," Lluis Penuelas Reixach, the secretary general of the Salvador Dali Foundation, told a press conference.

(AFP )

Peruvian authorities have revealed the reconstructed face of the Lord of Sipan, a pre-Columbian ruler whose remains were discovered in 1987 and hailed as one of the country's most stunning archaeological finds.

A full body representation of the ancient ruler, believed to have died around the year 250, was unveiled Thursday at the Museum of the Royal Tombs of Sipan in the northern city of Chiclayo.

Peruvian Culture Minister Salvador del Solar traveled to Chiclayo for the unveiling, which marks the 30th anniversary of the tomb's discovery.

(AFP )

Marines killed eight alleged drug traffickers in a rare Mexico City gun battle on Thursday - and presumed gang members retaliated by burning vehicles in unprecedented unrest in the country's safest city.

The troops killed the suspects, including an alleged drug lord, in a raid in the eastern Tlahuac neighborhood of the sprawling metropolis of some 21 million.

(AFP )

France's far-right National Front (FN) began meeting Friday for a soul-searching exercise after leader Marine Le Pen was routed in May's presidential election.

The two days of discussions at FN headquarters outside Paris are the start of a process that could overhaul the party, including a possible name change, as it seeks a fresh start.

"We will take stock of the elections and look at what worked and what didn't," Le Pen, 48, told France 2 television ahead of the meeting.

(AFP )

The United States confirmed Friday that it plans to ban its nationals from traveling to North Korea, in the wake of the death of an American student who was imprisoned by Pyongyang during a tourist visit.

Travel agencies organizing trips to the isolated country had said earlier Friday they were informed of the impending change.

Strict warnings against travel to North Korea had already been in place, but Washington toughened its stance after the death in June of Otto Warmbier.

(AFP )

India's richest man Mukesh Ambani said Friday that his telecoms venture Jio would launch a free smartphone, escalating a price war that is shaking up the country's ultra-competitive mobile market.

The announcement, made at a boisterous Reliance Industries annual general meeting in Mumbai, sent shares in rival telecoms operator Bharti Airtel plummeting almost six percent.

(AFP )

The suicide of a 23-year-old worker on Tokyo's Olympic stadium was due to overwork, his family said, as Japan races to finish building venues for the 2020 Games.

The construction firm employee, who began working on the project in December, clocked 200 hours of overtime in the month before his body was found in April, attorney Hiroshi Kawahito said in a statement sent to AFP on Friday.

His parents applied for compensation last week and asked the government to recognise his suicide as a case of "karoshi" or death from overwork.

(AFP )

The British government could agree to free movement of people during a Brexit transition period, newspapers reported on Friday in what would be a major reversal of current plans.

The transition period could last between two and four years after Britain leaves the European Union as expected in 2019, the Times and the Guardian reported, citing anonymous sources.

"If you ask business when they want to see it agreed, they'd say tomorrow," a senior cabinet source told the Guardian. The Times quoted "a British source close to the negotiations" with Brussels.

(AFP )

Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli forces outside Jerusalem's Old City on Friday as tensions mounted over new security measures at a highly sensitive holy site and prompted police to restrict access for Muslim prayers.

The unrest came after Israeli ministers decided not to order the removal of metal detectors erected at entrances to the Haram al-Sharif mosque compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, following an attack nearby a week ago that killed two policemen.

(AFP )

Toppled Thai premier Yingluck Shinawatra was mobbed Friday by well-wishers, many bearing red roses, as she arrived for what could be the final hearing in a trial for criminal negligence that carries a 10-year jail term.

She is accused of negligence over a rice subsidy policy that funneled cash to her poor, rural farming base but cost the Thai exchequer billions of dollars.

Her supporters say the case is driven by the junta that booted her from office in 2014 and is determined to expunge her super-rich clan from Thailand's political scene.

(AFP )

South Korea urged the North on Friday to break its silence on an offer of military talks aimed at easing simmering tensions over the hermit state's nuclear ambitions.

Seoul had proposed to hold rare inter-Korea talks this week at the border truce village of Panmunjom to ease hostilities after a series of missile tests this year.

"It is an urgent task to reduce tension between two Koreas... to achieve peace and stability of the Korean peninsula," defense ministry spokesman Moon Sang-Kyun said.

"We urge the North again to respond to our talks proposal," he said.

(AFP )

The jihadists may have been ousted from their Iraqi hometown of Mosul but many Christians like Haitham Behnam refuse to go back and trade in the stability of their new lives.

"There's no security, no protection for Christians back there," said the former resident of the largest city in northern Iraq.

"It's better for us to stay here and keep our mouths shut," said the man in his 40s who resettled in the Iraqi Kurdish capital of Arbil in 2014 after the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group seized control of Mosul.

(AFP )

For modern Olympic host cities, the twin threats of terrorism and financial ruin constantly loom.

But spare a thought for Tokyo 2020 organisers, who face the added risk of a devastating earthquake or tsunami.

Japan is already stepping up efforts to reassure top athletes and hundreds of thousands of visitors when they flock to Tokyo for the Games, which begin on July 24, 2020, that safety will be paramount.

(AFP )

A hugely moving debut drama about exile set in a Vietnamese restaurant has become a surprise hit at the world's biggest theatre festival, with standing ovations every night and the audience in tears.

"Saigon" by Caroline Guiela Nguyen -- whose family fled what is now Ho Chi Minh City in 1956 -- has been hailed for shining a light on the suffering and sacrifice of Vietnamese emigres, whose fate has long been enveloped in silence in the United States and France.

(AFP )

Deep under Shanghai, workers on a flood-lit construction rig carefully install massive concrete wall sections for a new subway tunnel, adding metre-by-metre to the world's longest metro system.

The Shanghai metro's future Line 14 is part of plans to extend the already sprawling network another 35 percent by 2020 to 830 kilometres (515 miles) -- more than the distance from New York to Chicago.

Yet Shanghai is just one player in an unprecedented subway-building boom as China's massive cities race to keep pace with rising urban populations.

(AFP )

A 6.7-magnitude undersea quake hit the Greek holiday island of Kos and the Turkish resort of Bodrum on Friday, killing two people and injuring hundreds in areas abuzz with nightlife.

The epicentre of the quake was about 10 kilometres (six miles) south of Bodrum, a magnet for holidaymakers, and 16 kilometres east of Kos, the US Geological Survey said.

"(There was) this loud rumbling noise and we all ran out... my four friends fell to the ground due to the place shaking so much," 18-year-old Briton Harriet Longley told AFP from Kos.

(AFP )

At least two people were killed on the Greek island of Kos Friday when a magnitude 6.7 earthquake shook the popular summer resort holiday destinations of the Dodecanese Islands in Greece and the Aegean coast of Turkey.

The epicentre of the quake was approximately 10.3 kilometres (6.4 miles) south of the major Turkish resort of Bodrum, a magnet for holidaymakers in the summer, and 16.2 kilometres east of the island of Kos in Greece, the US Geological Survey said.

It had a depth of 10 kilometres, USGS said.

(AFP )

The police chief in Minneapolis, speaking out for the first time Thursday, strongly criticized the actions of one of the city's officers who fatally shot an unarmed Australian woman.

Chief Janee Harteau had been on vacation when Justine Damond was killed by an officer responding to her emergency call Saturday night of a possible assault near her home in the Midwestern US city.

(AFP )

The Brazilian government has deployed a thousand additional personnel to combat insecurity in Rio de Janeiro, which has seen a spike in violence in recent months, authorities said Thursday.

The country's Secretary of Institutional Security, Sergio Etchegoyen, told journalists that the government had dispatched 620 officers of the national force and 380 traffic police to shore up security.

"We are in the process of developing a long-term plan to reduce crime in Rio," Etchegoyen said.

(AFP )

The International Monetary Fund late Thursday approved a one-year, $1.8 billion loan program for Greece but will not release any funds until the eurozone agrees on a debt relief plan, in a highly unusual compromise step.

The approval in principle means the loan "will become effective only after the Fund receives specific and credible assurances from Greece's European partners to ensure debt sustainability, and provided that Greece's economic program remains on track," the IMF said in a statement

(AFP )

US President Donald Trump on Thursday named veteran diplomat John Bass as his choice to become the new US ambassador in Afghanistan, ending his current posting in Ankara.

In a written statement, the White House played up Bass's experience in tackling terrorism.

"Mr. Bass has spent much of the past decade supporting federal government efforts to mobilize allies and marshal resources to combat terrorism and instability in Iraq, Syria, and Southwest Asia."