In the world | Africatime
Wednesday 29 March 2017

In the world

(AFP )

Four Syrian towns are to be evacuated under an agreement between pro-government forces and rebels, in the latest of a series of deals to end crippling years-long sieges.

The agreement, brokered by rebel supporter Qatar and regime ally Iran, is expected to involve more than 30,000 people, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The deal reached late Tuesday involves Zabadani and Madaya, besieged by regime fighters near Damascus, and Shiite-majority Fuaa and Kafraya in northwest Syria that are encircled by rebels.

(AFP )

Music icon Bob Dylan is to receive his Nobel Literature Prize this weekend at a meeting with the Swedish Academy in Stockholm, it was announced Wednesday.

"The good news is that the Swedish Academy and Bob Dylan have decided to meet this weekend. The Academy will then hand over Dylan's Nobel diploma and the Nobel medal, and congratulate him on the Nobel Prize in Literature," Sara Danius, permanent secretary of the Academy, wrote in a blog post.

(AFP )

Syrian engineers were expected to carry out urgent maintenance Wednesday on the country's largest dam, where US-backed fighters have been battling Islamist State group jihadists who still control most of it.

The maintenance work, which entails opening a spillway to relieve the pressure of water on the dam, will involve the engineers entering areas held by IS, a technician inside the complex told AFP.

(AFP )

A bomb attack on a bus in Syria's third city Homs killed five people and wounded at least seven on Wednesday, state media reported.

The blast hit a small bus carrying passengers in the Al-Zahraa neighbourhood, which has repeatedly been targeted in bombings.

Most of the neighbourhood's residents belong to the same Alawite religious sect as President Bashar al-Assad.

In December, four people were killed in a blast at a Red Crescent centre in the neighbourhood, and in February a double bomb attack claimed by the Islamic State group killed 57 people.

(AFP )

Ghana's new government is looking to fix a crippling power crisis with a complete overhaul of its deficit-ridden energy sector including a boost for solar energy.

Intermittent power supply issues have dogged the west African nation since the 1980s and became particularly acute in the last five years -- although there has been some improvement recently.

President Nana Akufo-Addo blames his predecessor John Dramani Mahama whose energy policies, he said last month, had led to "gargantuan debt".

(AFP )

Arab leaders gathered for an annual summit in Jordan Wednesday looking to overcome divisions on regional crises including the devastating wars in Syria and Yemen.

A show of unity was expected on the Israeli-Palestinian question, but on other issues analysts said any breakthrough was highly unlikely.

As the summit of the 22-member Arab League opened in Sweimeh on the Dead Sea coast, Jordan's King Abdullah II suggested that failing to come together would leave the region open to outside influence.

(AFP )

The British ambassador to the European Union arrived at the bloc's headquarters Wednesday ahead of the formal handover of a historic letter announcing Britain's intention to leave.

Tim Barrow, wearing a waistcoat and dark suit and carrying a leather briefcase, left Britain's EU embassy in Brussels and stepped into a dark Jaguar car, AFP reporters said.

Minutes later he arrived at the Europa building less than a quarter of a mile (300 metres) away where he is due to deliver by hand the letter to EU President Donald Tusk at around 1120 GMT.

(AFP )

France's former prime minister Manuel Valls endorsed the presidential bid of centrist Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday, the most high-profile Socialist to back the ex-banker over their party's nominee.

His support for Macron, which had been expected, is another boost for the reformist liberal, who left Valls's Socialist government last year to form his own political movement, which he says is "neither right nor left."

The first round of the election is on April 23, with Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen predicted to go through to the second round run-off on May 7.

(AFP )

South Korean authorities faced a deluge of criticism Wednesday for announcing that human remains had been found from the sunken Sewol ferry, only to correct itself within hours to say they were animal bones.

Newspapers said relatives of the missing had been put through "heaven and hell", and accused the maritime ministry of recklessness.

Nine of the 304 people killed nearly three years ago in one of the South's worst maritime disasters have never been found.

(AFP )

A plum-sized pink diamond is expected to break the world record for a gemstone early next month when it goes under the hammer in Hong Kong, Sotheby's auction house said Wednesday.

The 59.60-carat "Pink Star" is the largest in its class ever graded by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). But Sotheby's was been forced to buy back the flawless diamond after a previous buyer defaulted on what was then a record sale in 2013.

That sale in Geneva saw a New York-based diamond cutter secure the stone for $83 million.

(AFP )

"I am completely against death," declared Claude Lanzmann, the maker of the landmark documentary on the Holocaust, "Shoah", who lost his 23-year-old son Felix to cancer two months ago.

His face wracked with grief, the former French Resistance fighter insisted that at 91 he is far from finished himself -- with a film on North Korea to complete.

"Why should I stop?" he told AFP in an interview at his home in Paris. "I still believe in life. I love life to distraction even if often it is not very funny.

(AFP )

France's former prime minister Manuel Valls endorsed the presidential bid of centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday, saying he would vote for him in the first round of the election on April 23.

Asked on French television if he would vote for Macron, 39 and a former economy minister, Valls said: "Yes, because I think you should not take any risks for the Republic. So, I will vote for Emmanuel Macron," who is predicted to face far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the second round run-off.

(AFP )

From making illegal cross-border deliveries to China in a minivan to buying a fleet of Boeing aircraft, the boss of SF Express has ridden a wave of online shopping to become one of the country's richest men.

Though secretive and media-shy, founder Wang Wei has found himself thrust into the spotlight after the listing of his SF Express courier service on the Shenzhen stock exchange made him a billionaire twenty times over.

(AFP )

For decades Myanmar's people dreamed of democracy, but a year into office Aung San Suu Kyi's elected government is struggling to revive a sluggish economy and shake off the vestiges of the still powerful military.

Swept into power on a wave of optimism and hatred of the generals who ruled for 50 years, Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) vowed to boost prosperity and end decades of bloody civil war.

But while "The Lady", as she is widely known, still draws widespread personal adoration in many areas of the country, dissenting voices are rising.

(AFP )

Police stepped up security Wednesday in a northern Indian city where a mob attacked African students following the death of a local teenager from a suspected drug overdose.

Five people were arrested over the assault in Greater Noida in which the students were beaten with sticks and metal chairs, with police examining CCTV footage to identify other attackers.

"We are increasing security checkpoints and police presence around Greater Noida," Superintendent Sujata Singh told AFP, referring to the satellite city outside India's capital New Delhi.

(AFP )

Three turbulent decades after the Philippines shed dictatorship, President Rodrigo Duterte is offering a return to authoritarian rule as a solution to all the problems democracy has failed to fix.

In a series of recent speeches, Duterte has repeatedly said martial law may be needed to save his nation of 100 million people from descending into drug, crime and terrorism-induced anarchy.

(AFP )

In the Iraqi Christian town of Qaraqosh, time stands still. The Islamic State group was expelled in October 2016, but life has not returned to its once-vibrant and wealthy neighbourhoods.

It has a ghostly air: wide avenues silent but for the rattle of an empty tin can nudged by the breeze or dead leaves rustling in front gardens abandoned by residents.

The town sits on a main route from the city of Arbil, so cars occasionally speed through, but few people stop any more.

(AFP )

The Sopochin family has seen oil majors gradually encroach on the land in Siberia where they have herded reindeer for generations, but the latest project has made them draw the line.

"All of our territory sits on top of oil," says 26-year-old Stepan Sopochin, whose family is indigenous to the Siberian Khanty-Mansi region.

Two companies are keen to expand production nearby, he said.

"We have Lukoil coming up from the south telling us to move north, but in the north, Gazprom Neft is expanding, telling us to go south."

(AFP )

There are just 30 pools in Afghanistan, only one which welcomes girls -- and it is facing militant threats for doing so. Nevertheless a handful are diving in, pioneers racing to achieve Olympic glory in Tokyo.

The story of the 25-year-old coach and head of the newly created Women's Swimming Committee, Elena Saboori, epitomises the struggle to swim in a conservative, landlocked, conflict-plagued country that largely opposes women taking part in sports.

(AFP )

Britain formally launches the process for leaving the European Union on Wednesday, a historic step that has divided the country and thrown into question the future of the European unity project.

Just days after the EU's 60th birthday, Britain will become the first country ever to seek a divorce, striking a blow at the heart of the union forged from the ashes of World War II.

Nine months since the shock referendum vote to leave the EU, Prime Minister Theresa May will trigger Article 50 of the bloc's Lisbon Treaty, meaning Britain is set to leave in 2019.

(AFP )

The day after Britain voted to leave the European Union last June, British pensioner David Frost noticed his left leg was severely swollen.

He walked over to his local public health clinic in the southern Spanish city of Malaga and was promptly diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis, in which a blood clot blocks off blood flow deep in the veins, a potentially fatal condition.

Frost, who has lived in Spain since 1991, received daily injections of expensive blood thinners for several months at virtually no cost to himself until his life was out of danger.

(AFP )

On the baked sands of northern Mexico, barefoot tribeswomen chant and dance in clouds of incense, calling on the eagle to save them from US President Donald Trump's border wall.

The US-Mexico frontier runs through more than just the deserts of Sonora and Arizona. For the Tohono O'odham with their eagle totem, it divides their people.

These are their ancestral lands, a nation that was here thousands of years before the modern states of America and Mexico were drawn on the map in the 19th century.

(AFP )

Gibraltarians voted by 96 percent to remain in the European Union but as Brexit looms, they say their attachment to the United Kingdom still prevails, unlike some in Scotland who would rather remain in the bloc.

The tiny British overseas territory on Spain's southern tip has long been the subject of an acrimonious sovereignty row between London and Madrid, which wants Gibraltar back after it was ceded to Britain in 1713.

(AFP )

Satellite images suggest North Korea could be in the final stages of preparations for a new nuclear test according to US-based analysts, who echoed similar conclusions by the US military.

The images, taken Saturday, show up to four vehicles or equipment trailers continuously present at the entrance to the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site, with communications cables likely laid on the ground.

(AFP )

Death row inmates in Arkansas filed a lawsuit Tuesday to contest the US state's plan to end their lives over a shortened period of just 10 days.

The state's Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson has stirred intense controversy since announcing the executions of eight men in 10 days, citing shortages of a drug used in lethal injections.

The inmates said the accelerated schedule did not give them enough time to prepare their appeals, adding that the shortened timeframe violated Arkansas rules.

(AFP )

New Zealand were left frustrated on Wednesday after rain washed out the last day's play of the final Test against South Africa, denying them a series-levelling win.

At the start of the day, South Africa were on the ropes at 80 for five in their second innings, still 95 runs short of making New Zealand bat again.

But the rain which had disrupted part of each of the first four days fell persistently on Wednesday, forcing the umpires to abandon play without a ball being bowled.

(AFP )

A decade after a bike crash that left an American man paralysed from the shoulders down, he can again feed himself, researchers hailing a medical first reported Wednesday.

The remarkable advance hinges on a prosthesis which circumvents rather than repairs his spinal injury, using wires, electrodes as well as computer software to reconnect the severed link between his brain and muscles.

(AFP )

The final day of the deciding third Test between New Zealand and South Africa was abandoned because of persistent rain in Hamilton on Wednesday, giving the Proteas a 1-0 series victory.

The umpires called the game off as further showers swept across the ground just after the scheduled lunch break.

New Zealand, who were in command after four days, were left frustrated to be denied the opportunity to draw level and snap a 13-year winless streak against South Africa.

(AFP )

Penelope Fillon, long a low-profile political wife, has been thrust into the spotlight with a scandal bearing her name -- "Penelopegate" -- that is dimming her husband Francois Fillon's hopes of becoming France's next president.

She was charged Tuesday with complicity in the abuse of public funds in a case involving alleged fake jobs as a parliamentary aide to her conservative husband over a number of years for which she was paid hundreds of thousands of euros.

(AFP )

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday signed the historic letter that will launch Brexit when it is delivered to Brussels on Wednesday, a photo released by her office showed.

Sitting in front of a lone Union Jack national flag and a portrait of Britain's first prime minister, Robert Walpole, a serene-looking May signed the letter to begin the country's departure from the European Union.

(AFP )

The wife of France's conservative presidential candidate Francois Fillon was charged Tuesday with complicity in the abuse of public funds in a scandal that has engulfed her husband's campaign.

He has already been charged in the case involving allegedly fictitious jobs as a parliamentary aide for which the Welsh-born Penelope Fillon was paid hundreds of thousands of euros.

The 61-year-old Penelope was also charged over a salary she received from a literary magazine owned by a billionaire friend of her husband's, Marc Ladreit de Lacharriere.

(AFP )

The White House announced Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will make an "official visit" to Washington on April 3, ending years in which the Egyptian president had been kept at arm's length amid rights concerns.

"President Trump and President Al-Sisi will use the visit to build on the positive momentum they have built for the United States-Egypt relationship," the White House said in a statement Tuesday.

Sisi's visit to Washington would be the first to the White House since the former army chief became president in 2014.

(AFP )

Penelope Fillon, wife of France's conservative presidential candidate Francois Fillon, was charged Tuesday with complicity in the abuse of public funds in a scandal that has engulfed her husband's campaign, a judicial source said.

Francois Fillon has already been charged in the case involving allegedly fictitious jobs as a parliamentary aide for which his Welsh-born wife Penelope was paid hundreds of thousands of euros.

(AFP )

FIFA said Tuesday it had launched an investigation into incidents which led to the abandonment of a friendly match between Ivory Coast and Senegal in Paris following a series of pitch invasions.

The sides were level at 1-1 late Monday when French referee Tony Chapron called off the match in the 88th minute as fans from both sides flooded onto the pitch.

Images showed rowdy supporters chasing across the pitch after climbing over fences while one fan was seen tackling a player in the middle of the pitch.

(AFP )

President Donald Trump declared the end of a "war on coal" Tuesday, as he moved to curb rules that underpin American emissions targets and a major global climate accord.

Following through on an election promise, Trump signed an order to review some of his predecessor Barack Obama's climate legacy, declaring an end to "job-killing regulations."

In a maiden trip to the Environmental Protection Agency, he ordered a review of emission limits for coal-fired power plants and eased up restrictions on federal leasing for coal production.