Wednesday 24 May 2017

In the world

(AFP )

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Wednesday martial law in the southern region of Mindanao could last a year, as he vowed it would be similar to the late Ferdinand Marcos's dictatorship.

"If it would take a year to do it, if it's over within a month, then I'd be happy," Duterte said in a video posted online by the government.

Addressing "our fellow Filipinos", Duterte told them they had experienced martial law during the two-decade Marcos presidency, which ended with a "People Power" revolution in 1986.

(AFP )

Violence has once again struck music fans with a suicide attack on Ariana Grande's Manchester show, but the booming concert industry hopes to withstand the new shock.

The explosion Monday in the British arena, which killed 22 people moments after the US pop idol left the stage, comes a year and a half after another assault claimed by the Islamic State group devastated a rock show at the Bataclan in Paris.

(AFP )

Former CIA director John Brennan said Tuesday he became increasingly concerned last summer over contacts between Donald Trump's campaign officials and Moscow, as a Russian effort to interfere with the US presidential election became evident.

Brennan's testimony before the House Intelligence Committee gave a much clearer view of how seriously US intelligence took the Russian threat, and why the FBI began investigating it in July, well before the American public was aware of the allegations.

(AFP )

The United Nations is proposing that $40.5 million from the unspent budget of the UN mission in Haiti be poured into a special fund to help its cholera victims, according to a report released Tuesday.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made the proposal to the UN General Assembly to address a major shortfall in the $400 million needed to help Haiti recover from the epidemic.

Cholera was introduced by infected Nepalese UN peacekeepers who were sent to Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake. More than 9,500 people have died of the disease.

(AFP )

Taiwan could become the first place in Asia to legalise gay marriage on Wednesday when a court makes a landmark ruling on whether to allow same-sex unions.

Activists are optimistic the decision will go in their favour, with growing momentum behind the push for equal marriage rights on the island.

But there is also anger among conservative groups who have staged mass rallies against a change in the law as the debate divides society.

Campaigners for and against gay marriage are expected to gather in central Taipei on Wednesday afternoon.

(AFP )

Taiwan could become the first place in Asia to legalise gay marriage on Wednesday when a court makes a landmark ruling on whether to allow same-sex unions.

Activists are optimistic the decision will go in their favour, with growing momentum behind the push for equal marriage rights on the island.

But there is also anger among conservative groups who have staged mass rallies against a change in the law as the debate divides society.

Campaigners for and against gay marriage are expected to gather in central Taipei on Wednesday afternoon.

(AFP )

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro Tuesday formally launched moves to rewrite the constitution, defying opponents who accuse him of clinging to power in a political crisis that has sparked deadly unrest.

At an open air rally before thousands of supporters in red t-shirts, Maduro signed a document formally establishing the terms for electing members of a "constituent assembly" that will be tasked with drafting a new constitution.

(AFP )

The US State Department laid out plans Tuesday to put "America first" and to slash Washington's budget for diplomacy and foreign aid by more than 30 percent.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said President Donald Trump's dramatic plan, which will be reviewed by Congress, would make government "leaner and more accountable."

If the proposed cuts are approved by US lawmakers, the State Department and USAID budget for 2018 will be $37.6 billion, down from an estimated final 2017 spend of $54.9 billion.

(AFP )

Former US defense secretary Robert Gates warned Tuesday that the West can expect further attacks like the suicide bombing in Manchester that killed at least 22 people.

Gates, who served under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, said Islamic State jihadists would step up international terror attacks as they lose ground in Iraq and Syria.

"As people scurry away from those sites, that doesn't mean they are defeated individually or have lost their commitment to attacking the 'crusaders,'" Gates said at a Washington conference.

(AFP )

China on Tuesday took a swipe at the United States, saying there was "no reason" to refuse dialogue with North Korea despite a string of missile tests strongly condemned by the UN Security Council.

The council met behind closed doors to discuss tightening sanctions on North Korea following the launch on Sunday of a medium-range missile that again raised alarm over Pyongyang's military capabilities.

But China, the North's main trade partner and ally, made clear that the push for diplomatic talks -- not imposing more sanctions-- was the priority.

(AFP )

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law Tuesday across the southern third of the country, after deadly clashes between security forces and Islamic State group-linked militants in a major city.

The announcement, made by his spokesman at a press conference in Moscow where Duterte was on an official visit, fulfils an often-repeated warning by the president that he would enforce military rule to quell security threats.

(AFP )

The man responsible for bombing a packed pop concert in Manchester, killing 22 people, is believed to be a British-born man of Libyan descent.

He was named by police as 22-year-old Salman Abedi, and died at the Manchester Arena venue on Monday night when the blast went off at the end of the concert by US singer Ariana Grande.

Media reports said he was born in the north-west English city of Manchester to Libyan parents, who fled their home country to escape the regime of former dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

(AFP )

The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor on Tuesday called for an immediate halt to the renewed sectarian bloodshed in the Central African Republic, warning that war crimes will be punished.

Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda's call comes amid an upsurge of attacks on civilians and UN peacekeepers, as well as renewed fighting between factions of the Christian anti-Balaka coalition and the mainly Muslim ex-Seleka rebels.

(AFP )

The United Nations raised questions Tuesday about the Democratic Republic of Congo's probe of the murder of two UN experts investigating mass graves, saying it appeared to have been done in haste.

Congolese authorities on Saturday said they had completed a 10-week investigation and that two men will face trial for the murders of American Michael Sharp and Swedish-Chilean Zaida Catalan in central Kasai province.

(AFP )

Venezuela's government rallied its supporters on Tuesday in defiance of opposition protests after the death toll from weeks of clashes reached 52.

Backers of socialist President Nicolas Maduro gathered in the center of the capital Caracas, waving red, yellow and blue national flags.

The counter-rally came as violence appeared to intensify in recent days with the opposition marching daily to demand early elections.

(AFP )

By targeting children at a pop concert in Manchester, the Islamic State group aimed to cause maximum outrage and sow divisions by turning people against Muslims, experts say.

Ariana Grande, the US pop star who had just finished performing when the bomb ripped through the foyer of Manchester Arena in northwest England on Monday, is hugely popular with pre-teens and teens.

The first of the 22 people killed to be named was an eight-year-old girl.

(AFP )

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law Tuesday in the southern region of Mindanao, where security forces have been battling Islamic State group-linked militants, his spokesman said.

"As of 10:00pm Manila time Duterte has declared martial law for the entire island of Mindanao," spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a nationally televised briefing from Moscow where the president was on an official visit.

Abella said martial law would be in place for 60 days.

(AFP )

Globally renowned for its football teams and music scene, Manchester on Tuesday showed the compassion and defiance on which the city prides itself following Britain's bloodiest terror attack in years.

Citizens mobilised to support victims and those left stranded in the northern English city as soon as the news broke that an explosion had claimed lives at a show by US singer Ariana Grande at the Manchester Arena.

Taxi drivers offered free rides, faith groups served up food and drink on the city's streets and hotels gave up rooms for those affected.

(AFP )

NATO reached a deal Tuesday to unblock partnerships with around 40 non-member countries which had been paralysed by a dispute between Turkey and Austria, officials said.

Turkey, with the second-biggest military in NATO, had vetoed all cooperation with neutral Austria after Vienna called for the European Union to halt membership talks with Ankara.

That in turn blocked the whole partnership programme with dozens of other non-NATO countries covering most of Europe, plus many countries in the Middle East and Asia.

(AFP )

Migrants rescued off the Libyan coast have described discovering a shipwrecked dinghy at sea, saying dozens of people including children were lost to the waves, the UNHCR and IOM said Tuesday.

The migrants, interviewed by the UN refugee agency and International Organization for Migration on Monday, said they had set off from Sabratah on Friday in a dinghy carrying 130 people.

Later that day they came across a dinghy which had almost sunk, with four men still clinging to it, who they rescued.

(AFP )

British actor Roger Moore, who played James Bond for more than two decades with a suave wit, died Tuesday aged 89, drawing tributes for his portrayal of the womanising super-spy, and for his charity work.

"It is with a heavy heart that we must announce our loving father, Sir Roger Moore, has passed away today in Switzerland after a short but brave battle with cancer," his children said in a statement on Twitter.

"We are all devastated," Deborah, Geoffrey and Christian said. "Thank you Pops for being you, and for being so very special to so many people."

(AFP )

Four people were killed and many hurt when police clashed Tuesday with former rebels barricading the road into Bouake, Ivory Coast's second biggest city, in the spillover from a corrosive army mutiny over pay.

The protesters said security forces opened fire to disperse them, but the government denied responsibility.

"Security forces deployed conventional measures to maintain order," Interior Minister Hamed Bakayoko said in a statement.

"But some of the armed demonstrators pulled the pin out of a grenade that exploded among them," he added.

(AFP )

President Evo Morales's ex-girlfriend Gabriela Zapata was sentenced to ten years prison on corruption charges on Tuesday, capping a steamy case that also involved allegations of a hidden love child.

Zapata, a former manager at the Chinese engineering group CAMC, was accused of using her influence with the president to win $560 million in government contracts.

She began dating Morales in 2005, when she was 18 years old. Morales, 57, said the affair ended two years later.

(AFP )

The suicide attack on a Manchester pop concert has sparked criticism about security, but experts said it highlighted the daunting task authorities face in neutralising those bent on destruction.

Police confirmed Tuesday that youngsters were among the 22 victims killed when a suspected lone suicide bomber targeted people leaving a concert by US star Ariana Grande at the Manchester Arena in northern England.

(AFP )

US President Donald Trump's trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories saw the unpredictable leader tightly following protocol, but a few moments provided low-scale scandal and humour.

- Empty handed -

Walking on the red carpet from the plane that had just brought them from the first leg of their trip in Saudi Arabia, Trump reached for his wife Melania's hand, who seemed to deftly yet subtly tap it away in a possible spurn captured by cameras and shared widely on social media.

- 'Recognise Jerusalem' -

(AFP )

Two US astronauts embarked Tuesday on what NASA described as a "critical" spacewalk to repair a failed piece of equipment that helps power the International Space Station.

The spacewalk by NASA's Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer began at 7:20 am (1120 GMT), and was expected to last just 2.5 hours, far shorter than the typical 6.5-hour outing, the US space agency said.

(AFP )

French President Emmanuel Macron got to work Tuesday on his first major agenda item of overhauling the labour code, meeting with union leaders and bosses on an issue that sparked strikes and protests last year.

The centrist former Socialist economy minister has signalled his intention to move quickly to free up businesses by cutting red tape in an attempt to generate much-needed jobs and growth.

Giving himself a September deadline, Macron says he will use executive orders to sidestep parliament.

(AFP )

Spanish mountaineer Kilian Jornet has set a record for the fastest ascent of Mount Everest without fixed ropes or supplementary oxygen, climbing the world's highest peak in just 26 hours, his team said Tuesday.

Jornet scaled Everest's north face, starting from the base camp on the Tibet side of the mountain, and reached the summit alone early Monday.

"We believe Kilian established a new fastest known time for the route (from) Everest Base Camp," Laura Font from his press team told AFP.

(AFP )

German Chancellor Angela Merkel vowed Tuesday to work to convince climate change "doubters" as the world waits to see whether US President Donald Trump will endorse the Paris agreement.

"Protecting the climate matters to all of us," said Merkel, whose country will host a G20 summit and UN climate talks this year.

"We all feel the impacts of climate change... We are responsible for each other, we are liable for each other, we share a common destiny."

(AFP )

The Eiffel Tower's lights will be turned off at midnight Tuesday in homage to victims of the Manchester Arena attack that claimed at least 22 lives, the Paris mayor said.

In Britain's deadliest terror attack in 12 years, police said a man detonated a bomb in the northwest English city at a concert by US pop star Ariana Grande late Monday.

The Eiffel Tower similarly went dark after recent jihadist attacks in London, Saint Petersburg and Stockholm, as well as after the November 2015 attacks in Paris and in support of the people of the Syrian city of Aleppo in December 2016.

(AFP )

The deadly bombing at a pop concert in the British city of Manchester which killed 22 people including children was the latest attack against targets in Europe, most of them by radical Islamists.

Police say they believe Monday night's attack, just after US star Ariana Grande, a favourite among teens and pre-teens, had ended her performance, was committed by one man.

Islamic State (IS) extremists claimed responsibility.

Here are some of the major attacks in Europe over the past two years:

- Belgium -

(AFP )

Ukraine's parliament on Tuesday backed tough limits on the amount of Russian allowed to be aired on television in a step that is likely to raise the Kremlin's ire.

A bill requiring major channels to broadcast at least three-quarters of their programmes in the Ukrainian language passed parliament by an overwhelming 269-15 margin.

The bill was adopted just a week after Ukraine blocked Russia's most popular social media networks and a top internet search engine in a self-proclaimed effort to prevent Kremlin propaganda from reaching the crisis-torn former Soviet state.

(AFP )

Bahraini police opened fire Tuesday on a protest by supporters of a top Shiite cleric, with at least one demonstrator reported dead in the latest unrest to hit the Sunni-ruled Gulf state.

The Britain-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) announced the "tragic death of a peaceful protester in the crackdown" in Diraz, the scene of a long-running sit-in outside the home of cleric Isa Qassim.

Eyewitnesses told AFP multiple civilians were wounded when police opened fire at demonstrators throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at security forces.

(AFP )

Beyond the gleaming towers of modern high-tech Seoul, it is the dark past of South Korea's years of dictatorship, violence and upheaval that have inspired the country's staggering rise as a cinematic powerhouse.

No fewer than five South Korean movies are showing in the elite selection of this year's Cannes film festival.

And Bong Joon-Ho's Netflix creature feature "Okja" is one of the early favourites for its top prize, the Palme d'Or.

But two of the other Korean films in competition are crime and action thrillers typical of the booming "Korean noir" genre.

(AFP )

Like an advancing army in a historical epic, the world's film studios are massing on the frontier of China's movie market, desperate to conquer the other side of the Great Wall.

At the Cannes film festival, it's difficult to find a producer who isn't interested in a slice of the Chinese box office, set to be the globe's most valuable by 2019.

With a burgeoning middle class among its 1.3 billion-strong population, China already has the most movie screens -- with new ones popping up at a dizzying rate of 27 per day last year, according to analysts IHS Markit.