In the world | Africatime
Tuesday 25 April 2017

In the world

(AFP )

Nuclear-armed North Korea on Tuesday marked a military anniversary with a conventional firing drill, reports said, as the South announced joint naval exercises with a US aircraft carrier in the flashpoint region.

Speculation had mounted that Pyongyang could carry out a sixth nuclear test or another missile launch to mark 85 years since the founding of its army.

But no such event -- which usually happens in the morning -- had taken place by noon, and Seoul's defence ministry said "no unusual development had been detected".

(AFP )

The southern state of Arkansas, rushing to execute several inmates before a lethal drug expires next week, put to death two inmates late Monday, the first double execution in the United States in 17 years.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said that Jack Jones and Marcel Williams, both sentenced to death in the 1990s, were executed by lethal injection after higher courts rejected their final legal appeals.

Arkansas had planned to put eight convicted murderers to death in 11 days -- a record, had it been carried out -- but four have won reprieves.

(AFP )

The world needs to do more to protect the Antarctic wilderness and its wildlife, scientists warned Tuesday, as they marked World Penguin Day.

The flightless seabirds -- a favourite with children for their clumsy, waddling gait -- offer a useful yardstick for researchers to judge the health of their habitat.

"Penguins are great ambassadors for understanding the need to conserve Southern Ocean resources," Christian Reiss, an Antarctic fisheries biologist at the US-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told AFP.

(AFP )

Dozens of suspected Brazilian gangsters blasted into a secure vault containing millions of dollars in southeastern Paraguay on Monday, leaving a policeman dead in what officials called the "robbery of the century."

Some 50 gunmen with explosives and military-grade weaponry left the city of Ciudad del Este looking like a war zone after a two-hour overnight assault on a security firm and police headquarters, authorities and witnesses said.

(AFP )

The Thai junta on Tuesday defended $393 million earmarked for a Chinese submarine, batting back criticism of the secrecy of the deal, its cost and the questionable utility of the warship.

The submarine sale is the latest defence deal between Beijing and Bangkok, who have grown ever closer since Thailand's 2014 coup.

Historically the Southeast Asian kingdom has been a major purchaser of western arms, especially from its traditional Cold War ally the United States.

(AFP )

On the ski fields of Mount Taehwa, groomed pistes snake down wooded hillsides to a luxurious hotel and a giant screen showing a North Korean army choir. But the runs are empty.

Work began on Masikryong ski resort, the only one in the North and the brainchild of Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un, after Pyeongchang in the neighbouring South was awarded the 2018 winter Olympics.

The impoverished, nuclear-armed nation has ramshackle infrastructure and around 40 percent of its people are undernourished, according to the Global Hunger Index.

(AFP )

The modernist architect I. M. Pei, who was once pilloried for plonking a glass pyramid into the courtyard of the Louvre, turns 100 Wednesday with his controversial creation now an icon of the French capital.

The Chinese-American designer endured a roasting from critics before the giant glass structure opened in 1989, with up to 90 percent of Parisians said to be against the project at one point.

"I received many angry glances in the streets of Paris," Pei later said, confessing that "after the Louvre I thought no project would be too difficult."

(AFP )

The southern US state of Arkansas, rushing to execute several inmates before a lethal drug expires at the end of the month, has carried out the first of two executions scheduled for Monday, the attorney general said.

Jack Jones was executed after the US Supreme Court rejected an 11th-hour request from his attorneys asking the justices to reconsider a procedural issue from his trial.

Arkansas had planned to put eight convicted murderers to death in 11 days -- a record, had it been carried out -- but four have won reprieves.

(AFP )

Two conservative groups filed a lawsuit against the University of California at Berkeley claiming that a decision to cancel an appearance by the firebrand pundit Ann Coulter violated their right to free speech.

The Berkeley College Republicans and Young America's Foundation, which had invited Coulter to speak on April 27, accused the university of seeking to silence conservative viewpoints and stifle political discourse at the famously progressive campus by imposing unreasonable demands on campus events involving certain "high-profile" speakers.

(AFP )

A former Haitian coup leader who was elected to be a senator pleaded guilty in the US on Monday to conspiring to launder drug money, American officials said.

Guy Philippe, a 49-year-old former senior police officer accused of taking bribes from drug traffickers, entered the plea in court in Miami, where he has been held since his arrest and extradition from Haiti in January.

He faces up to 20 years in prison in a sentence to be delivered by a judge on July 5, according to a statement by the US Justice Department.

(AFP )

A strong 6.9-magnitude earthquake rattled central Chile on Monday, US geologists said.

The quake, which struck at 6:30 pm (2130 GMT), was centered about 38 kilometers (60 miles) off the coast of the resort city of Valparaiso.

It had a depth of 9.8 kilometers (six miles), according to the US Geological Survey.

The USGS originally said the quake measured 7.1, but later downgraded it.

Authorities urged residents to evacuate coastal areas as a precaution shortly after the quake, but cancelled the order when no large waves were generated.

(AFP )

US President Donald Trump on Monday asked France's envoy to the United Nations about the French presidential elections following a first round of voting at the weekend.

Trump took Ambassador Francois Delattre aside during a meeting of UN Security Council envoys to Washington to ask about the vote that sets up a run-off next month between pro-Europe candidate Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

"He asked me about the elections in France," Delattre told AFP. "I gave him a review of the situation and put things in perspective."

(AFP )

Thousands of Australians and New Zealanders, many braving heavy rain, turned out Tuesday to mark the Gallipoli landing and to pay tribute to soldiers in current conflict zones in moving ceremonies.

Ceremonies are held annually on the April 25 anniversary of the ill-fated 1915 landing of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps in modern-day Turkey during World War I, known as Anzac Day.

More than 10,000 New Zealand and Australian servicemen died in the failed eight-month campaign, and Gallipoli became a defining symbol of courage and comradeship for the two countries.

(AFP )

International judges on Monday unsealed an arrest warrant for Libya's former security chief, accusing him of carrying out war crimes in 2011 to quash opposition to late dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

The warrant, first issued in 2013 by the International Criminal Court (ICC), charges Al-Tuhamy Mohamed Khaled, once head of Libya's internal security agency, with three charges of war crimes and four crimes against humanity.

(AFP )

French voters did exactly what they were expected to do -- to the relief of French pollsters who helped redeem a profession still smarting over getting Brexit and the US election wrong.

The final surveys published on the eve of Sunday's presidential election showed pro-EU centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen qualifying for a run-off vote in two weeks' time.

Macron was projected at 23-24 percent with Le Pen at 22-23 percent -- and those figures were in line with their final scores of 24.01 percent and 21.30 percent.

(AFP )

French politics has entered uncharted territory after the "big bang" that saw off the presidential candidates of both the traditional left and right parties for the first time.

On May 7, voters will be asked to choose between Emmanuel Macron, a centrist upstart who has never held elected office, and Marine Le Pen, the anti-establishment populist of the far right.

Polls currently show that Macron, 39, will defeat the 48-year-old Le Pen by a wide margin.

But will he be able to govern?

(AFP )

Three people were killed in Venezuela on Monday in renewed violence, raising the death toll in three weeks of massive demonstrations against leftwing President Nicolas Maduro to 24, officials said.

Several others were seriously injured and "between life and death," said public defender Tarek William Saab.

The latest casualties come on a day anti-Maduro demonstrators blocked major roads in the South American nation.

(AFP )

Former US president Barack Obama returned to the public spotlight Monday, saying he hopes to spend the next phase of his life helping to "prepare the next generation of leadership."

After three months off, Obama -- looking rested and sporting a coat with no tie -- broke his silence in his adopted hometown of Chicago, speaking to a packed auditorium of more than 400 high school and college students at the University of Chicago.

(AFP )

The EU warned membership candidate Turkey on Monday of a review and possible "redefinition" of ties after a referendum granted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan extra powers.

The warning from Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn came days before ministers from the 28 European Union countries are due to discuss the bloc's troubled relationship with Ankara.

"The time has come for a thorough assessment of EU-Turkey relations and perhaps redefinition," Hahn said.

The "current situation is not sustainable, neither for Turkey nor for us," he said.

(AFP )

Brexit spearhead Nigel Farage on Monday said France's far-right anti-immigration firebrand Marine Le Pen could score a shock upset in her country's upcoming presidential election run-off against European centrist Emmanuel Macron.

"There is still all to play for," Farage, the former UK Independence Party leader who has praised both Le Pen and populist US President Donald Trump, told Fox News.

"And given last year -- Brexit, Trump and all sorts of surprises -- don't write this off," he said about Le Pen's chances.

(AFP )

Greece's port police said Monday at least 16 people including women and children have died in a suspected migrant boat sinking off the Aegean island of Lesbos.

The bodies of six women, a child and two men were recovered in Greek waters, while the Turkish coastguard found the bodies of another six men and a child, the Greek coastguard said in a statement.

Greek authorities had received no distress call prior to finding the bodies, a coastguard spokeswoman said.

Weather conditions in the area are mild.

(AFP )

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who scored her best results in Sunday's presidential vote far from France's biggest cities, was carried to the run-off election by a part of the nation left behind in an era of globalisation.

The results reflect the cleaving of France into two nations: cities reaping the benefits of global links on one side, and small towns and rural areas far from the busiest hubs of employment on the other.

(AFP )

A Philippine lawyer on Monday filed a complaint at the world's only permanent war crimes court against President Rodrigo Duterte, alleging his war on drugs has caused some 8,000 deaths.

Lawyer Jude Sabio urged the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague to investigate Duterte and senior adminstration officials and bring charges of crimes against humanity against them for "the terrifying and gruesome situation of continuing mass murder in the Philippines".

(AFP )

Brussels heaved a sigh of relief Monday after pro-EU Emmanuel Macron led far-right Marine Le Pen in France's presidential vote, hoping for some respite after the Brexit shock and the rise of eurosceptics across the bloc.

Relieved Brussels officials broke with protocol on not intervening in national elections and swiftly congratulated Macron despite the fact he still has to beat Le Pen in a run-off.

(AFP )

A US-backed alliance of Arab-Kurdish forces entered the key jihadist-held town of Tabqa on Monday as they pursued their campaign against the Islamic State group in northern Syria.

The Syrian Democratic Forces have set their sights on Tabqa and the adjacent dam as part of their broader offensive for the city of Raqa, the Syrian heart of the jihadists' self-styled "caliphate" since 2014.

Supported by US-led coalition air strikes and special forces advisers, the SDF surrounded Tabqa in early April.

(AFP )

Germany recorded a sharp rise in politically motivated crimes by foreigners including jihadists and Kurdish militants last year, a trend branded "unacceptable" by Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere on Monday.

Some 3,372 such cases were recorded last year, up 66.5 percent from 2015, according to the latest crime statistics unveiled by de Maiziere.

They include "criminal offences carried out in the name of foreign extremists of the so-called IS, or the (outlawed Kurdish militants) PKK", said the interior minister.

(AFP )

Jews in Germany say they feel a "growing threat" of anti-Semitism, especially from Muslims but also from xenophobic far-right groups, a parliamentary report said Monday.

They are "increasingly concerned for their safety due to everyday experiences of anti-Semitism," said the Independent Experts Group on Anti-Semitism.

In a 2016 survey, Jewish people questioned about verbal and physical attacks against them put "Muslim persons or groups" first as the perpetrators, ahead of "people unknown" or far-right or left groups, said the report, without providing specific data.

(AFP )

Ukraine opened a terror investigation Monday into a mine blast that killed an American medic from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe's monitoring team in the country's rebel-held east.

The OSCE suffered its first casualty in the three-year war in Europe's backyard after an armoured vehicle hit a landmine Sunday in the Russian-backed separatist fiefdom of Lugansk.

An unidentified US medic was killed and two others, German and Czech nationals, were wounded as they travelled on a patrol monitoring the conflict that has claimed more than 10,000 lives.

(AFP )

The results of France's first round of presidential election made front page headlines around the world on Monday.

Many newspapers noted that a likely win for pro-European centrist Emmanuel Macron in the May 7 run-off would be good news for the European Union but warned that his far-right rival Marine Le Pen could still pull off a surprise victory.

- 'Le Pen threat not over' -

Media in neighbouring Britain hailed pro-European Macron's strong showing while adding that Le Pen's second-place success should not be ignored.

(AFP )

The psychedelic clouds in Edvard Munch's iconic "The Scream" have alternatively been interpreted as a metaphor for mental anguish or a literal depiction of volcanic fallout.

On Monday, scientists hypothesised that the Norwegian painter's inspiration may in fact have been rare clouds which form in cold places at high altitude.

The first version of "The Scream" was released in 1893. It depicts a dark humanlike figure clutching its head in apparent horror against the backdrop of a swirling, red-orange sky.

(AFP )

Pro-EU centrist Emmanuel Macron came under fire Monday over a glitzy party in a high-end Paris bistro and his triumphant speech following his success in the first round of France's presidential polls.

Even close allies appeared to caution the inexperienced 39-year-old against complacency ahead of the second round run-off on May 7 against far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

(AFP )

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's lawyer has lodged a complaint against a former French diplomat accusing him of inciting the assassination of Turkey's leader, his spokesman confirmed Monday.

The move follows comments by Philippe Moreau Defarges about the outcome of the April 16 referendum on controversial constitutional changes that will tighten the president's grip on power.

(AFP )

Albania's political opposition blocked the country's main roads for more than an hour on Monday to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Edi Rama, three months before a general election.

The right-wing opposition has been calling for the departure of the Socialist Party premier for more than 18 months in order to make way for a technical transitional government in the run-up to the June 19 vote.

Opposition parties, which are also boycotting parliament, have refused to take part in the election unless this transitional government is set up to ensure a free and fair poll.

(AFP )

Suspected Maoist rebels killed 12 paramilitary commandos on Monday in a remote part of central India, a police official said, the latest attack in the country's simmering internal conflict.

The soldiers were guarding road workers in the Sukma district of Chhattisgargh state, a hotbed of insurgent violence, when they came under fire.

"So far, we know that 12 CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) personnel have been martyred in the Maoist attack," Bhagwati Singh, a police spokesman, told AFP by telephone.

(AFP )

Pro-globalisation centrist Emmanuel Macron and anti-immigration Marine Le Pen are Tuesday to attend a ceremony honouring the policeman killed by a jihadist in an attack on the Champs Elysees, as they push ahead with France's presidential race.

The two candidates differ starkly on how to protect France, with Le Pen calling for the country to take back control of its borders from the European Union and deport all foreigners on a terror watchlist. Macron, an advocate of open borders, has urged French citizens not to "give in to fear".