Wednesday 28 June 2017

In the world

(AFP )

Myanmar's civilian government on Wednesday defended the detention of three journalists who were reporting on an armed ethnic group, an incident that has fuelled alarm at the erosion of press freedom.

The journalists were among seven people detained by the military on Monday as they left a drugs-burning ceremony organised by the Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), one of several rebel groups fighting the state.

(AFP )

Authorities in a deeply conservative Indian state were accused Wednesday of reinforcing entrenched gender discrimination after describing veiled women as the "pride" of the region.

The advertisement sponsored by the government of northern Haryana state featured the image of a woman, her face shrouded by a traditional scarf, with a tagline saying "the veil is Haryana's pride".

(AFP )

Germany's parliament is set to vote on a bill to legalise same-sex marriage Friday after the lower house legislative committee put it on the agenda, its chairwoman said.

"The path to equality is open," said the chairwoman, Renate Kuenast of the left-leaning ecologist Greens opposition party, in a tweet on Wednesday.

The bill is widely expected to pass as it is backed by most parties and Chancellor Angela Merkel has told lawmakers of her centre-right party that they can vote according to their conscience.

(AFP )

Tourists tucking into their cuttlefish risotto have little idea that the local seafood delicacy was caught in waters subject to one of the EU's longest-standing border feuds opposing Slovenia and Croatia.

Nestled on a craggy peninsula, the southwestern town of Piran is the pearl of Slovenia's tiny coastline, with medieval buildings tumbling down to a port where boats gently bob on the turquoise Adriatic Sea.

(AFP )

A Japanese budget airline apologised Wednesday for forcing a wheelchair-bound man to crawl up a set of stairs to board his flight.

Hideto Kijima, 44, was returning earlier this month to Osaka from a vacation in Amami, a small island off southern Japan, when an Vanilla Air employee told him that company safety rules banned anyone from carrying him up the stairs.

The carrier, the budget arm of All Nippon Airways, did not have a lift at the small airport to move disabled passengers from the tarmac up to the jet's door.

(AFP )

Taiwan said Wednesday that it was willing to offer cancer-stricken Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo treatment after prison officials granted him medical parole, in a move likely to rile Beijing.

The offer came a day after China rejected criticism over its treatment of Liu, as the United States urged Beijing to give the paroled activist freedom to move and choose his own doctors.

Liu's lawyer Mo Shaoping revealed on Monday that the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate had been hospitalised after being diagnosed with late-stage liver cancer in May.

(AFP )

Qatar on Wednesday condemned Saudi Arabia's refusal to negotiate the demands of the kingdom and its allies for ending a crippling embargo on the emirate.

Speaking from Washington, where he held talks with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said the Saudi position was unacceptable.

"This is contrary to the principles that govern international relations because you can't just present lists of demands and refuse to negotiate," Sheikh Mohammed said in comments published in Doha.

(AFP )

When Naomi Wu was a teenager, she and her friends would ride the train from mainland China to Hong Kong several times a year to shop for clothes and designer handbags.

But the 23-year-old computer programmer, who lives across the border in Shenzhen, now shuns a city that two decades after the handover from Britain has lost its allure for many mainlanders.

"Chinese gadgets are as good or better than foreign," said Wu, who prefers to shop online from her home in Shenzhen, which has transformed from a shabby backwater into an industrial powerhouse.

(AFP )

An elderly passenger who threw coins at the engine of a plane at a Shanghai airport for good luck will not face police action, Chinese state media said on Wednesday.

The superstitious 80-year-old woman delayed the China Southern Airlines flight on Tuesday for nearly six hours after she tossed nine coins at the engine from the tarmac while boarding, with one nestling inside.

(AFP )

Sri Lanka are looking to pick themselves up as the series against Zimbabwe begins this week in Galle after a string of poor performances prompted their coach to quit.

Angelo Mathews leads the Sri Lankans who take on Zimbabwe in the first of five one-day internationals on Friday as they look to get over their first-round exit in the Champions Trophy.

South African Graham Ford quit as coach last week with assistant Nic Pothas taking over in an interim capacity for the clashes against Zimbabwe, whose tour will end with a single Test match next month in Colombo.

(AFP )

The new US ambassador to Beijing, known for his friendship with China's president, said Wednesday he wanted terminally-ill dissident Liu Xiaobo to get treatment abroad, as Taiwan offered to care for the Nobel laureate.

Ambassador Terry Branstad arrived in Beijing on Tuesday, one day after Liu's lawyer revealed that prison authorities granted the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate medical parole after diagnosing him with late-stage liver cancer in May.

(AFP )

Forty minutes into an interview, noted Mexican journalist Carmen Aristegui picks up her phone and jokingly greets the government agents she alleges have been spying on her.

"Hello? Interior ministry?... Thanks for listening!" says the veteran anchorwoman, who is famous for hard-hitting reports on government corruption.

Humor is helping Aristegui, 53, get through the unsettling discovery that her cell phone -- and her teenage son's -- were hacked with a spyware called Pegasus, which accesses a target's communications, camera and microphone.

(AFP )

Aeronautics giants are treating the idea of a flying car with caution, as such a project raises more questions than it answers, experts say -- it's a child's dream, a millionaire's toy.

But is it really the next big thing in transport?

At this year's Paris Air Show, you had to search hard to find an aircraft that looked anything like an automobile: but one such model, the AeroMobil, was tucked away under the old Concordes at the Air and Space Museum, just outside the capital.

(AFP )

In three years, Lebanese grocer Ali Khiami hired six staff, invested in property and funded his children's university education. Business is booming -- thanks to Syrian refugees using UN debit cards.

Displaced Syrian families in Lebanon are using electronic cards, topped up each month by the United Nations' World Food Programme with $27 (24 euros) per person, for their grocery shopping.

The WFP scheme has both helped refugees and delivered a windfall to cash-strapped Lebanese shop owners.

(AFP )

A global wave of cyberattacks exploited an already patched vulnerability in Windows software and appeared to have Ukraine as a primary target, according to computer security specialists.

The first reports of trouble came from Ukrainian banks, Kiev's main airport and Rosneft, in a major incident reminiscent of the recent WannaCry virus.

WannaCry was a version of ransomware that, once in a computer, locked away data from users who were then told to pay to have access returned to their own files.

(AFP )

Venezuela's army has been put on alert after four grenades were hurled at the Supreme Court from a helicopter, President Nicolas Maduro said Tuesday, in a potentially dramatic escalation of the violence gripping the oil-rich South American country.

The helicopter assault comes a day after Maduro announced the arrests of five opponents he accused of plotting against him to clear the way for a US invasion.

(AFP )

Rival Cypriot leaders meet on Wednesday to resume efforts to solve one of the world's longest-running political crises in what the island's UN envoy billed as the "best chance" for peace.

The make-or-break talks in Switzerland are geared towards ending the decades-old division of the island and striking a lasting deal between its Greek- and Turkish-speaking communities.

Despite a daunting list of unresolved disputes, UN envoy Espen Barth Eide said he was confident on the eve of the talks.

(AFP )

Three former executives at Fukushima's operator stand trial this week on the only criminal charges laid in the 2011 disaster, as thousands remain unable to return to homes near the shuttered nuclear plant.

The hearing on Friday comes more than a year after ex-Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, 77, and former vice presidents Sakae Muto, 66, and Ichiro Takekuro, 71, were formally charged with professional negligence resulting in death and injury.

(AFP )

Throughout its 4.5-billion-year history, Earth has been repeatedly pummelled by space rocks that have caused anything from an innocuous splash in the ocean to species annihilation.

When the next big impact will be, nobody knows.

But the pressure is on to predict -- and intercept -- its arrival.

"Sooner or later we will get... a minor or major impact," Rolf Densing, who heads the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany, told AFP ahead of International Asteroid Day on Friday.

(AFP )

It wasn't until he got to medical school that Narong Khuntikeo finally discovered what caused the liver cancer that took both of his parents' lives: their lunch.

Like millions of Thais across the rural northeast, his family regularly ate koi pla -- a local dish made of raw fish ground with spices and lime.

The pungent meal is quick, cheap and tasty, but the fish is also a favourite feast for parasites that can cause a lethal liver cancer killing up to 20,000 Thais annually.

(AFP )

In August 2014, Anastasiya Chub could not wait to share wonderful news with her husband -- that she was pregnant with the couple's second child.

But her joy quickly turned to grief and despair when she learned that Sergiy, who was fighting Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine, had gone missing after his unit was ambushed on the frontline.

"The phone connection with him was lost," the 33-year-old blonde from Mariupol, a major Kiev-controlled city close to the war zone, said.

(AFP )

Some will never know if their books were appreciated by readers, many of whom aren't born yet. Every year for 100 years, a different author will contribute to the "Future Library", a collection of works to be published only in the next century.

So far, 1,000 Norwegian spruces planted three years ago are the only visible sign of this internationally and stylistically diverse project, each little shrub decorated with a red ribbon in a modest clearing in a forest on the outskirts of Oslo.

(AFP )

The bankruptcy of Japanese auto parts giant Takata may frustrate the legal challenges by victims harmed by the company's exploding airbags, which were part of the largest auto safety recall ever.

The United States has been by far the hardest hit by the scandal over the defective airbags, which in some cases exploded with deadly force and are tied to 11 deaths on US soil out of the 16 recorded worldwide.

Of the 100 million airbags involved in the recall, some 70 million were sold in the United States.

(AFP )

Venezuela's embattled president Tuesday repeated claims of a US-backed coup attempt against him and angrily warned President Donald Trump that Venezuela would fight back against such a move.

President Nicolas Maduro's comments came a day after he announced the arrests of five opponents he accused of plotting against him to clear the way for a US invasion.

It was one of the more dramatic in a regular series of anti-US harangues by the socialist leader, 54, who is resisting opposition calls for elections to remove him.

(AFP )

A Mexican former governor wanted on corruption charges agreed on Tuesday to be extradited from Guatemala back to his country.

"I accept the extradition" requested by the Mexican government, former Veracruz state governor Javier Duarte, 43, said in a court hearing.

Duarte has accused the Mexican government of political persecution.

He is one of several Mexican ex-governors under arrest for corruption, fraud, money laundering or links to organized crime.

(AFP )

Once fierce rivals, the leaders of Spain's two main left-wing parties agreed Tuesday to attempt to form an alternative to conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's minority government.

Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez and the head of new anti-austerity party Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, discussed possible joint initiatives in areas ranging from youth unemployment to the defence of Spain's pension system during a meeting in parliament, the two parties said.

The two formations will form joint working groups on these and other topics, Iglesias told reporters after the meeting.

(AFP )

Charles Darwin, Mr. Evolution himself, didn't know what to make of the fossils he saw in Patagonia so he sent them to his friend, the renowned paleontologist Richard Owen.

Owen was stumped too. Little wonder.

"The bones looked different from anything he knew," said Michael Hofreiter, senior author of a study published Tuesday in Nature Communications that finally situates in the tree of life what Darwin called the "strangest animal ever discovered".

(AFP )

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday she wanted to resume talks between the European Union and the United States on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

"I am in favour of resuming negotiations on such a free trade accord -- and also resolving all the problems together," Merkel told an economic symposium of her ruling Christian Democratic Party.

(AFP )

France's new President Emmanuel Macron invited US President Donald Trump on Tuesday to attend the country's national day parade next month, his office said, adding that the US leader promised to examine the possibility.

Macron, who has made clear his differences with Trump notably on climate change, invited Trump and his wife Melania to attend the July 14 parade in Paris.

This year, the event will mark "the 100th anniversary of the US joining the war with French troops in World War I," an official in Macron's office said.

(AFP )

Family and colleagues of slain Mexican journalist Salvador Adame demanded a new investigation Tuesday, insisting authorities examine his reporting as a possible motive.

The demand came a day after the prosecutor for the state of Michoacan announced police had found Adame's charred body -- more than a month after he was kidnapped by gunmen -- and were investigating a "personal" dispute with a regional crime boss as the motive.

(AFP )

Facebook said Tuesday it now counts two billion active monthly users, as the social giant's founder Mark Zuckerberg highlighted his new mission -- not just connecting people, but helping them find common ground.

"As of this morning, the Facebook community is now officially 2 billion people!" Zuckerberg wrote in a post marking the milestone.

"We're making progress connecting the world, and now let's bring the world closer together," he wrote. "It's an honor to be on this journey with you."

(AFP )

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi jetted into The Netherlands for a one-day working visit Tuesday to boost ties between the major trading partners.

Some 20 percent of India's exports to Europe flows through The Netherlands and both leaders said the lowlands country is seen as a "major gateway" to the continent.

"As far as bilateral investments are concerned, until now The Netherlands stands as the fifth-largest source of foreign direct investment," Modi said after meeting Rutte at his official residence in The Hague.

(AFP )

President Donald Trump's administration hit China Tuesday over its rights record, placing the country alongside Sudan and North Korea on a list of the world's worst human trafficking offenders.

The State Department downgraded China in its annual "Trafficking in Persons Report," saying Beijing is doing little to combat the phenomenon or protect its victims.

It pointed to ethnic Uighurs, a Muslim minority in China's west, being coerced into forced labor, and to Beijing's wholesale repatriation of North Koreans without checking to see if they were trafficking victims.

(AFP )

Northern Ireland's squabbling politicians were in crunch talks Tuesday to form a government, a day after Prime Minister Theresa May promised £1 billion for the province in a deal to keep her in power.

If the feuding main parties cannot agree to form a semi-autonomous government in Belfast by 4:00pm (1500 GMT) Thursday, then the province will instead be fully governed from London.

"Time to achieve a deal is running out and everybody is working intensively to achieve that agreement," May's spokesman said.

(AFP )

German authorities on Tuesday evacuated a high-rise apartment building in the western city of Wuppertal, over fire safety fears in the wake of London's Grenfell Tower tragedy.

Wuppertal authorities said they had carried out a fire safety review following the Grenfell inferno, which left 79 people presumed dead, and found that the insulation on an 11-storey building posed a risk as it is flammable.