In the world | Africatime
Saturday 25 March 2017

In the world

(AFP )

At least 16 people were killed overnight in air strikes on a prison in the rebel-held city of Idlib in northwest Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said Saturday.

It said the dead included prisoners and prison guards, but did not have an immediate breakdown of the toll.

The strikes were believed to have been carried out by Russian warplanes, which have been flying sorties in support of President Bashar al-Assad's government since Moscow began a military intervention in September 2015.

(AFP )

Dubai International Airport and its flag carrier Emirates began implementing a ban on laptops and tablets on direct flights to the US Saturday, on one of the busiest travel weekends of the year.

Around 1.1 million people are expected to pass through the world's busiest international airport as the city marks UAE spring break, Dubai Airports said.

An estimated 260,000 travellers were expected to pass through each day from Friday through Monday. Dubai International Airport expects 89 million passengers this year.

(AFP )

European Union leaders will renew their vows on the 60th anniversary of the troubled bloc's founding treaties Saturday at a special summit in Rome designed to show unity despite Britain's looming divorce.

Meeting in the same Renaissance-era palace where six founding countries signed the Treaty of Rome on March 25, 1957, the 27 leaders minus Britain will endorse a declaration of intent for the next decade.

They will have the words of Pope Francis ringing in their ears, after he warned on the eve of the summit that the crisis-ridden bloc "risks dying" without a new vision.

(AFP )

The Republican Party's longstanding ideological divisions were laid bare in very public fashion this week, sinking President Donald Trump's Obamacare repeal plan and threatening other elements of his agenda.

The health care bill fell victim to bickering between two competing groups in Trump's party: a band of grass roots conservatives, centered around the House Freedom Caucus, who routinely buck leadership; and establishment-leaning moderates who are more likely to seek consensus over confrontation.

(AFP )

South Korea's sunken Sewol ferry has been successfully hauled onto a giant heavy lifting ship, officials said Saturday, a step towards returning the vessel to port.

Nearly three years after it went down killing more than 300 people, the wreck was safely placed onto a semi-submersible ship that will finally bring it to shore.

Almost all the victims were schoolchildren and it is thought that nine bodies still unaccounted for may be trapped inside.

(AFP )

Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has spoken to a Hong Kong audience by hologram, showcasing the growing reach of a technology which is making inroads into politics, entertainment and business.

The British scientist appeared Friday before an audience of hundreds who cheered and snapped pictures with their phones as he discussed his career and answered questions about the possibility of life on other planets, the use of technology in education and the impact of Brexit on Britain.

(AFP )

Jailed by the junta after Turkey's 1980 military coup and again after last year's failed putsch, veteran Kurdish politician Ahmet Turk still hopes for peace but fears the consequences of next month's referendum.

In an interview with AFP, Turk said the referendum of April 16 on whether to approve an executive presidency was a "test" for the Kurds.

"Whether it is a 'yes' or a 'no' result, of course, it is important for Turkey... but especially regarding the Kurds, I see this as a test," the former mayor told AFP at his home in the city of Mardin.

(AFP )

Israel's arrest of a Jewish teenager accused of masterminding dozens of anti-Semitic threats could encourage racism and ease pressure on US President Donald Trump to tackle anti-Semitism, Jewish groups have warned.

Far-right groups claimed vindication that attacks previously blamed on rightwingers and alleged hatred resulting from Trump's election may actually have been carried out by a young Jewish American Israeli.

(AFP )

Pope Francis visits Milan Saturday where he will meet families on a housing estate, nap in a prison and hold a mass for hundreds of thousands of believers in nearby Monza.

Bells in church towers across over 1,000 diocese will ring out when Francis gets off the plane at Milan-Linate airport outside the northern Italian city at 0800 GMT (7am).

The Argentine will make his first stop at the Case Bianche (White Houses), a run-down, soulless collection of concrete tower blocks from the 70s on the fringe of a wealthy city better known for its football clubs and fashion weeks.

(AFP )

If gender bending fashion is suddenly all the rage in the West, think Pharrell Williams promoting Chanel's new unisex handbag, then nowhere has the look excelled more than in Tokyo.

Japan, for decades a pioneer of the androgynous look in the style of Comme des Garcons, Yohji Yamamoto and Kenzo, is spawning young designers blurring the lines expertly between masculine and feminine.

(AFP )

New Zealand's muddled use of the review system allowed Faf du Plessis and Hashim Amla to lead a South African recovery on a rain-hit day one of the third Test in Hamilton on Saturday.

New Zealand had lost their two reviews by the 29th over, and were powerless to react 13 balls later when the umpires missed a faint edge which should have seen du Plessis caught behind for 16.

At stumps, the Proteas' captain had advanced to 33, Temba Bavuma was on 13 and South Africa were 123 for four.

(AFP )

President Donald Trump suffered a bitter defeat in his first major legislative challenge as Republican lawmakers shot down his effort to repeal Obamacare. It was the latest in a string of major setbacks to have hit his two-month-old presidency.

- Travel bans -

Just one week after his inauguration, Trump issued an executive order banning travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries and all refugees. Unveiled with no prior warning, it sowed travel chaos and confusion, and ignited worldwide outrage.

(AFP )

A Singaporean teenager who was jailed twice after insulting the island's late leader Lee Kuan Yew and religious groups has been granted political asylum in the United States, his US lawyer said Saturday.

Amos Yee, 18, shocked Singaporeans in March 2015 after posting an expletive-laden video attacking Lee as the founding prime minister's death triggered a massive outpouring of grief in the city-state.

(AFP )

Men unable to have an erection after prostate surgery enjoyed normal intercourse thanks to stem cell therapy, scientists are to report Saturday at a medical conference in London.

In first-phase clinical trials, eight out of 15 continent men suffering from erectile dysfunction had sex six months after the one-time treatment, without recourse to drugs or penile implants.

The positive result showed no signs of flagging during a subsequent year-long monitoring period.

(AFP )

New York state launched an immigrant legal defense initiative with more than $1 million in public and private funding in response to "overwhelming" demand for help from non-profit organizations.

A statewide coalition of 182 advocacy organization and legal entities, as well as a network of pro bono attorneys, law students and legal professionals will provide legal assistance and representation to immigrants "threatened by recent changes in immigration policies," a statement read.

(AFP )

Gunmen in the Gaza Strip on Friday shot dead a Hamas official who was freed by Israel in a 2011 prisoner swap, the interior ministry in the Palestinian enclave said.

Mazen Faqha was released along with more than 1,000 other Palestinians in exchange for Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier Hamas had detained for five years.

Iyad al-Bozum, an interior ministry spokesman in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, said that gunmen opened fire on Faqha in the Tell al-Hama neighbourhood.

"An investigation has been launched," he said, giving no further details.

(AFP )

An anti-Trump art project by actor Shia LaBeouf was shut down for a fourth time on Friday a day after it opened in its latest location, the British city of Liverpool.

The project "He Will Not Divide US," by LaBeouf and two other artists, began the day of Donald Trump's January 20 presidential inauguration as a streaming video performance installation that aimed to provide a forum for anti-Trump expression outside New York's Museum of the Moving Image.

(AFP )

President Nicolas Maduro said Friday he had asked the United Nations to help address severe shortages of medicine in Venezuela, a rare acknowledgement of the crisis-hit country's desperate situation.

"I have asked the United Nations to regularize the whole medicine issue. The United Nations has the most advanced plans to recover the pharmaceutical industry's productive capacity," the leftist leader said in a speech broadcast on national television.

(AFP )

United Nations peacekeeping missions, under threat from budget cuts if Washington's promise to slash its UN spending goes ahead, are already costing as little as possible, a UN official said Friday.

The comments come after US President Donald Trump this month proposed to cut Washington's contribution to UN peacekeeping operations -- the largest share of funding for the organization's missions -- to 25 percent of their total budget, compared to just under 30 percent today.

(AFP )

Israel has ignored a United Nations resolution demanding it halt settlement building in the occupied Palestinian territory that was criticized by the Trump administration, the world body's Middle East envoy said Friday.

Although the UN Security Council resolution passed December 23 demanded that Israel immediately cease all settlement activities, "no such steps have been taken," envoy Nickolay Mladenov said in his first report to the council since the resolution was adopted.

"The January spike in illegal settlement announcements by Israel is deeply concerning," he said.

(AFP )

Panama's president on Friday presented a new elite counternarcotics police unit to combat smuggling of increased cocaine production in neighboring Colombia.

The Eagle force, as it is called, consists of 300 officers with access to intelligence.

They are tasked with cracking down on drug-related criminal activity in Panama City and the major Atlantic coast city of Colon, each located at either entrance to the Panama Canal.

"Unfortunately, in the cities of Panama and Colon there are powerful narco gangs operating," President Juan Carlos Varela said.

(AFP )

The US military is wrapping up operations against the Lord's Resistance Army in central Africa, even though its leader Joseph Kony is still at large, a top US general said Friday.

"This thing is coming to an end," said General Thomas Waldhauser, head of the US military's Africa Command.

A self-styled mystic and prophet, Kony launched a bloody rebellion three decades ago seeking to impose his own version of the Ten Commandments on northern Uganda.

The UN says the LRA has slaughtered more than 100,000 people and abducted 60,000 children since it was set up in 1987.

(AFP )

Cuban President Raul Castro's son, Alejandro, was the communist island's envoy for secret negotiations with the United States that led to the countries' historic rapprochement, a cardinal close to the talks said.

Speculation had long swirled that Alejandro Castro Espin, the president's 51-year-old son, headed up the secret talks.

But the confirmation from Cardinal Jaime Ortega, the former archbishop of Havana, is the most official namedrop to date -- and further boosts the profile of Castro Espin, who is touted as a possible future president of Cuba.

(AFP )

Brazil's consumer protection agency Senacom ordered recalls Friday of meat from three meatpacking companies involved in a tainted produce scandal that has hit the Latin American giant hard.

Three plants run by Souza Ramos, Transmeat and Peccin meatpackers in the southern state of Parana must begin recalling products "within five days," the agency said in a statement.

(AFP )

Three dismembered bodies were found in a Mexican resort town as local and national officials held a meeting there on public security, authorities said Friday.

The gruesome discovery was made on Thursday night in luxury getaway destination Los Cabos near the Hotel Playa Grande, where the security officials were gathered for a conference.

The identity of the victims -- two men and a woman -- has not yet been established, said the public prosecutor's office for the state of Baja California Sur.

(AFP )

Guatemala busted a ring of at least 15 customs agents, port workers and transport company workers on Friday accused of using falsified documents to avoid paying customs duties.

The revelation by prosecutors came two years after the previous government fell when it was discovered senior officials took bribes to allow businessmen to escape import taxes.

The president and vice president from that administration, Otto Perez and Roxana Baldetti, are in jail pending possible trial.

(AFP )

Russia is trying to expand its influence in Libya through a combination of military means and oil and weapons sales, a top US general said Friday.

General Thomas Tom Waldhauser, who heads the US military's Africa Command, said Russia is "on the ground" in the border region between Egypt and Libya.

"They are trying to influence the action, we watch what they do with great concern," Waldhauser told Pentagon reporters.

(AFP )

The team of health inspectors strode into the Rio supermarket Friday and before long had two trolleys filled to the brim -- except they weren't shopping.

"That will all be destroyed," a member of the team said.

Since federal investigators stunned Brazil -- and its worldwide trade partners -- a week ago by announcing they were investigating meatpackers for selling rotten produce with faked certificates, health police have been on the warpath.

(AFP )

Syrian rivals will tackle all agenda items at peace talks this week, including political transition, the United Nations mediator Staffan de Mistura said Friday, warning not to expect "miracles."

The fifth round of stalled UN-backed negotiations have started in Geneva, with a mandate to discuss governance, drafting a new constitution, elections and combating terrorism in the war-ravaged country.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's delegation has sought to keep terrorism as the focus, accusing the main opposition High Negotiations Committee of partnering with extremists.

(AFP )

Eleven Syrian refugees drowned after a migrant boat sank off Turkey's Aegean coast on Friday, the coast guard command said, with local media reporting that five children were among the dead.

The bodies of the migrants, including two women, were discovered in the western province of Aydin, the private Dogan news agency reported.

"Nine migrants were rescued while 11 migrants' bodies were taken from the sea," the coast guard said in a statement on its website.

(AFP )

Syrian government troops on Friday recaptured all points taken by rebels in a surprise offensive launched late last week in the east of the capital Damascus, state media said.

"The army has retaken all the areas infiltrated by the terrorists in the area between the Jobar and Qabun neighbourhoods... after intensive military operations," the official SANA news agency reported.

State television showed a reporter greeting cheering soldiers near Abbasid Square, which had been emptied of its usual traffic at the beginning of the rebel assault on Sunday.

(AFP )

A new Hungarian law on the systematic detention of all asylum seekers could expose migrant children to sexual exploitation, said Europe's top rights watchdog Friday, adding its voice to criticism of the measure from human rights groups.

In a letter addressed to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban published Friday, the Council of Europe expressed concern that, under the new law, unaccompanied children would be treated as adult asylum applicants.

(AFP )

One in five youths in several North African countries and Lebanon would like to emigrate in search of better prospects, including those with university degrees, according to a survey conducted for the European Commission.

The survey of 10,000 people in Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia found a deep sense of "frustration and social exclusion", according to Elena Sanchez-Montijano at the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (CIDOB), who coordinated the study.

(AFP )

Six Russian soldiers were killed in Chechnya Friday when gunmen tried to storm their base in an attack claimed by the Islamic State group.

The base belongs to Russia's National Guard, a branch established last year to defend borders and counter extremism.

It is subordinate directly to President Vladimir Putin and has bases in the country's volatile North Caucasus regions, including Chechnya.

(AFP )

Pope Francis on Friday warned European Union leaders the bloc risks dying without a new vision of the future based on the principles of solidarity on which it was founded.

In a hard-hitting message on the eve of the troubled EU's 60th anniversary celebrations in Rome, the Argentine pontiff spelled out the many problems facing a Union soon to lose Britain from its ranks.

And while he said problems such as the economic and migration crises and the rise of populism could be overcome by the remaining 27 members, he said they could prove fatal if not treated.