Wednesday 20 September 2017

In the world

(AFP )

Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has issued a new call for Myanmar to take back the some 420,000 Rohingya Muslims who have fled violence in the Buddhist-dominated country.

Hasina, speaking to Bangladeshi activists in New York where she is attending the UN General Assembly, also called for greater international pressure on Myanmar over the new crisis which has unfolded in the past three weeks, media reports said.

(AFP )

An exotic island paradise in French Polynesia bought by Marlon Brando in the sixties is using its Hollywood image to tackle environmental issues -- with a little help from its jet-set visitors.

The tiny, palm-fringed atoll of Tetiaroa was once a favourite holiday spot for Tahitian royalty before the late American movie star fell in love with it while filming "Mutiny on the Bounty" in 1961 on islands close by.

(AFP )

Chancellor Angela Merkel may be on track to win a fourth term in Sunday's election, but exactly what Germany's next government will look like is anyone's guess as thorny coalition talks loom.

Despite having a double-digit poll lead, Merkel's conservative CDU/CSU bloc is expected to fall short of a parliamentary majority and the kingmakers they choose could shake up Berlin's stance on anything from eurozone reforms to refugee policies.

(AFP )

A first wave of refugees will leave remote Pacific detention camps and be resettled in the United States in coming weeks, Australian authorities said Wednesday, under a deal that has rankled President Donald Trump.

Canberra sends asylum-seekers who try to enter the country by boat to processing facilities on Nauru and Papua New Guinea's Manus Island, with those found to be refugees barred from resettling in Australia.

They are instead relocated to third countries, or resettled elsewhere in PNG.

(AFP )

A major attack in Australia is "inevitable", one of the nation's top counter-terrorism police officers said Wednesday, warning that "anything can happen at any time".

Australian authorities say they have prevented 13 terror attacks on home soil in the past few years, including an alleged plot in July to bring down a plane using poisonous gas or a crude bomb disguised as a meat mincer.

Canberra also released a national strategy last month to help venue operators prevent vehicle terror attacks carried out in crowded public places following deadly assaults in Europe.

(AFP )

Spain has taken control of Catalonia's finances to prevent funds being used for an independence referendum it deems illegal, a move that limits the region's autonomy and puts in doubt the payment of thousands of public workers' salaries.

"It is a total irresponsibility. They are leading us to an administrative collapse," Catalonia's vice president Oriol Junqueras said Monday, adding the measure was "unprecedented".

(AFP )

President Donald Trump's debut speech at the United Nations featured saber-rattling aplenty, but it also showed glimmers of a Trump doctrine that could transform America's place in the world.

It was described by one observer as a "42-minute tweetstorm" and by another as president George W. Bush's "'axis of evil' speech on steroids."

But in most respects, Trump's first stint before the green marble rostrum was everything you might expect from the truculent, norm-shattering businessman-turned-politician.

(AFP )

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Tuesday urged Palestinians to unite and "be ready to co-exist" in peace with Israelis, in his address to the United Nations.

Speaking a day after a first meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Sisi said an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal was a "necessary precondition for the entire region" to enjoy stability.

Egypt has been leading mediation efforts between Palestinian arch-rivals Fatah and Hamas as part of a push to return to the forefront of Middle East diplomacy.

(AFP )

Hurricane Maria slammed into the US Virgin Islands Tuesday, lashing the archipelago with rain as Puerto Rico braced for the Category Five storm's expected landfall on Wednesday.

On St John Island, which was also battered by Hurricane Irma two weeks ago, locals reported seeing trees dramatically swaying in swirling winds, with rain pouring "sideways."

Judi Buckley, former senator for St Croix Island, traveled to St John from her South Carolina home to help with the Irma relief effort -- only to get caught up in Maria.

(AFP )

Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort called Tuesday for a federal investigation into leaks after CNN reported he had been wiretapped by the FBI in a national security probe.

In a rare statement while he is under investigation in the sprawling Russia election interference probe, Manafort's spokesman said it was a felony to reveal the existence of orders -- such as the wiretaps -- authorized by the court handling Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests.

(AFP )

When the earthquake hit, it sent panicked people running into the street but many weren't so lucky. The dust settled minutes later to reveal a landscape of flattened buildings and rubble in the heart of Mexico City.

"Awful. I think it was one of the strongest we've felt. I don't know what magnitude, but it was awful," said Pedro Cruz Martinez, a public servant cradling his little girl, after joining the rush of fearful parents to a local school.

After the screams and the shock, people quickly set to work digging for survivors.

(AFP )

The number of asylum seekers illegally entering Canada from the United States increased by more than six times in July and August compared to previous months, official data showed Tuesday.

Canada's immigration ministry said more than 5,700 people were intercepted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in August, while over 3,150 were detained in July.

The monthly average for the first half of the year was 727 people intercepted.

(AFP )

"We have been attacked. We are at war," says Morgan Freeman. He adds: "This is no movie script."

In a video that shot across social media Tuesday, the star of dozens of big-screen hits lent his solemn, trust-inducing voice to a new campaign by a mix of Hollywood stars and Washington security VIPs to highlight Moscow's interference in last year's election: the Committee to Investigate Russia.

(AFP )

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday demanded that Iraqi Kurds call off a referendum on independence, hinting at consequences if they go ahead.

"Steps such as demands for independence that can cause new crises and conflicts in the region must be avoided. We hereby call on the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government to abort the initiative they have launched in that direction," Erdogan said in a speech to the UN General Assembly.

(AFP )

At least 248 people were killed when a powerful 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck Mexico on Tuesday, including 21 children crushed beneath an elementary school that was reduced to rubble.

The destruction revived horrific memories in Mexico on the anniversary of another massive quake in 1985, the disaster-prone country's deadliest ever.

One of the most gut-wrenching scenes was at the Enrique Rebsamen primary school on Mexico City's south side, whose three floors collapsed into one, trapping students and teachers inside.

(AFP )

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Tuesday to fight an "Iranian curtain" descending on the Middle East, pledging to prevent Tehran from ever establishing a permanent foothold in Syria.

Netanyahu -- who in recent years has coined his own sort of theater at the annual United Nations speech marathon with podium props and dramatic warnings -- was in a lighter mood for 2017, cracking jokes and rejoicing over the rise of US President Donald Trump.

(AFP )

Brazilian police said Tuesday that a British woman missing during an attempt to paddle the entire Amazon by kayak has been murdered and that three people are in custody.

The Amazonas state police force said a 17-year-old suspect has confessed to being part of a gang that shot Emma Kelty, 43, stole her electronic gear and cash, then dumped her body in a river.

The adolescent was arrested in Codajas, 240 kilometers (150 miles) from the state capital Manaus. Two more people have been arrested and a further four are still wanted, police chief Frederico Mendes in a statement.

(AFP )

French President Emmanuel Macron stood firm Tuesday that landmark agreements on Iran and climate change would not change as he gently nudged Donald Trump to return to the fold.

Macron, like the US president, was appearing for the first time at the annual United Nations gathering of world leaders, but struck a different tone.

Trump devoted much of his own address at the General Assembly denouncing Iran, calling the seven-nation agreement on Tehran's nuclear program championed by his predecessor Barack Obama an "embarrassment to the United States."

(AFP )

Brazil's scandal-plagued former leftist president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and a tough-talking rightwing congressman lead voter intentions ahead of next year's presidential elections, a poll said Tuesday.

Underlining the turmoil in Brazilian politics, the poll also confirmed plummeting support for the current center-right government, with 75.6 percent saying it is doing a bad job. Only 3.4 percent said the government is doing a good job, down from 10.3 percent in February.

(AFP )

A powerful earthquake shook Mexico City on Tuesday, destroying building and causing an un unknown number of casualties inhabitants on the anniversary of a devastating 1985 quake.

The quake sowed panic in the sprawling city of 20 million people, many of whom have memories of the quake 32 years ago that killed some 10,000 people in Mexico City.

"I'm so worried. I can't stop crying. It's the same nightmare as in 1985," one resident in a plaza in the capital, Georgina Sanchez, 52, sobbed to AFP.

(AFP )

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Myanmar leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi on Tuesday to urge her government to address "deeply troubling allegations of human rights abuses and violations."

More than 400,000 members of Myanmar's Rohingya minority have fled fighting in Rakhine state, amid what rights activists and some world leaders have alleged is a military-led campaign of "ethnic cleansing."

(AFP )

A Czech zoo on Tuesday burnt 33 kilos (72 pounds) of rare rhino horns, including some it sawed off its own animals in the wake of a brutal attack on a French zoo.

Poachers broke into the Thoiry zoo near Paris in March and killed a critically endangered white rhino, hacking off its horns and putting zoos across the world on high alert.

The brazen attack prompted a zoo in the central Czech Republic city of Dvur Kralove nad Labem to remove and burn the horns from its herd.

(AFP )

Puerto Ricans scrambled Monday to board up windows and get last minute supplies as a potential catastrophic Hurricane Maria headed toward the US commonwealth two weeks after it was raked by Hurricane Irma,

"I'm not denying I'm scared. I feel worried because it's the first time I'll see a hurricane of this magnitude," said schoolteacher Noemi Aviles Rivera, 47, who experienced Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and Georges in 1998.

"I am well prepared, I have everything I need for the moment, but I worry about the anxiety it causes people because it is contagious," she told AFP.

(AFP )

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari urged fellow leaders at the United Nations General Assembly to condemn Myanmar's "ethnic cleansing" of the Rohingya people.

Comparing the situation in Myanmar's Rakhine province to the massacres in Bosnia in 1995 and Rwanda in 1994, the leader of Africa's most populous nation declared: "The international community cannot remain silent."

(AFP )

A bellicose President Donald Trump used his maiden address to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday to warn "Rocket Man" Kim Jong-Un that he will "totally destroy" North Korea if it threatens the United States or its allies.

Appearing before the 193-member body that emerged from the ashes of World War II, Trump boasted of America's military strength, signaled he is ready to rip up a nuclear accord with the "murderous regime" in Tehran, and berated US foes from Pyongyang to Caracas.

(AFP )

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned Tuesday that the United States would forfeit the trust of the international community if it abandons a nuclear accord with Tehran.

"If the United States were not to adhere to the commitments and trample upon this agreement, this will mean it will carry with it the subsequent lack of trust of countries," Rouhani, in New York to attend the UN General Assembly, told NBC.

"After such a possible scenario, which country would be willing to sit across a table from the United States of America and talk about international issues?

(AFP )

The European Union unveiled plans Tuesday to step up its response to cyber attacks, including a new intelligence-sharing agency, cyber war games and product safety labels.

The proposals by the European Commission, the executive arm of the 28-nation bloc, come amid growing concerns over election hacking by foreign states, ransomware attacks and other cybercrime like identity theft and bank fraud.

(AFP )

Russia on Tuesday accused US-backed rebels in Syria of targeting regime forces to try to halt their advance against Islamic State jihadists around the city of Deir Ezzor.

In a statement the Russian military said it had received reports from Syrian generals that regime forces that crossed the strategic Euphrates River were faced with "gunfire from the north" near Deir Ezzor.

Moscow claimed that shooting came from a zone controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) supported by Washington.

(AFP )

Twitter on Tuesday touted victories in the battle against tweets promoting extremist violence, saying it has been vanquishing those kinds of accounts before governments even ask.

Twitter highlighted progress in its latest transparency report, noting that between the start of August in 2015 and June 30 of this year it has suspended 935,897 accounts for "promotion of terrorism."

(AFP )

A German NGO whose migrant rescue boat was impounded by Italian authorities on suspicion of collusion with people traffickers said Tuesday it had been the victim of a "despicable smear campaign".

Humanitarian group Jugend Rettet went to court to demand the immediate release of its 33-metre boat the Iuventa, which was seized on August 2 on the island of Lampedusa.

A judge in Trapani, Sicily will rule on the request for the vessel's release by Friday.

(AFP )

The United States on Tuesday added South African twin brothers accused of plotting attacks on the US embassy and Jewish institutions to its terror blacklist.

Tony-Lee Thulsie and Brandon-Lee Thulsie were arrested in South Africa in July 2016.

Besides allegedly conspiring to bomb the US embassy in Pretoria and unspecified Jewish facilities they are also accused of planning to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State group.

Their arrests were the first in South Africa relating to alleged IS membership.

(AFP )

President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen said Tuesday he had no ties to Russian interference in the 2016 election and saw "not a hint" that Trump himself was involved, labelling such allegations political.

But Cohen's decision to go public with his statement ahead of a planned closed-door hearing by the Senate Intelligence Committee added to the rising tensions between investigators and the White House over the probe into possible collusion with Russian election meddling.

(AFP )

Bangladesh has launched a birth control drive in its overcrowded Rohingya refugee camps, an official said Tuesday, fearing a population boom would worsen the humanitarian crisis unfolding along its border.

Family planning teams have been deployed to offer advice and distribute condoms and other contraceptives throughout its ill-equipped camps, which have been overwhelmed by the arrival of 420,000 Rohingya refugees since August 25.

(AFP )

Hungary is set to launch another state "national consultation" about US financier and philanthropist George Soros, the government said Tuesday, six months before expected general elections.

The campaign would be to investigate public views on the "Soros plan", and would likely be launched next month, government spokesman Bence Tuzson told public radio, without giving further details.

(AFP )

President Donald Trump warned Tuesday that the United States is ready to "totally destroy" North Korea and vowed to confront Iran's "murderous regime" over its weapons program.

In his first address to leaders gathered at the United Nations General Assembly, Trump warned North Korea not to pursue its nuclear missile program in his starkest language yet, deriding its young leader Kim Jong-Un with the nickname "Rocket Man" and threatening to end his country.