Thursday 17 August 2017

In the world

(AFP )

Senior US officials insisted they are ready to respond to any North Korean attack Thursday, after a White House aide dismissed talk of a "military option."

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are trying to pressure North Korea to halt its nuclear weapons program and come to the table.

While they stress they want to convince Kim Jong-Un's regime through diplomatic means of the need to disarm, they have not dropped the threat of military action.

(AFP )

A driver deliberately rammed a van into pedestrians on one of Barcelona's most popular boulevards on Thursday, killing 13 people in what Spanish police called a "terrorist attack".

- What happened? -

Around 5pm (1500 GMT), a vehicle slammed into a crowd of pedestrians on the famous Las Ramblas boulevard.

The promenade in the heart of the city centre is one of the city's busiest streets, normally thronged with tourists and street performers until well into the night.

Witnesses described scenes of chaos and panic as they tried to flee.

(AFP )

Barcelona's most famous street was packed with tourists when a van drove into the crowds on a sunny Thursday afternoon, leaving scenes of carnage and panic.

"There were bodies on the floor with people crowding round them. People were crying," Xavi Perez, who sells sports magazines just 100 metres away from the attack, told AFP.

The region's interior minister gave a grim toll from what police said was a terror attack: 13 dead and more than 50 injured.

(AFP )

President Donald Trump on Thursday condemned the "foolish" removal of Confederate statues whose preservation has become a rallying cry for white supremacists, saying US culture and history were being "ripped apart."

Shrugging off a barrage of bipartisan criticism, Trump waded back into the charged racial debate over monuments to the pro-slavery Civil War South with a volley of early morning tweets.

"Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments," Trump said.

(AFP )

The US ambassador to the United Nations on Thursday called for a "full investigation" into the death of two UN experts killed in March in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Michael Sharp, a US citizen, and Zaida Catalan, a Swedish-Chilean dual national, were likely murdered by Congolese militia members while on a mission investigating violence and mass graves in the country's restive Kasai province, a UN inquiry out Wednesday found.

(AFP )

A driver deliberately ploughed a van into pedestrians on one of Spain's busiest streets on Thursday, killing at least one person in what police called a "terrorist attack".

Vehicles have been used as weapons of terror several times over the past year, often by by followers of the Islamic State (IS), attacking nations in the US-led coalition fighting the jihadists in Iraq and Syria.

- Bastille Day Nice attack -

(AFP )

At least 13 people were killed Thursday when a driver deliberately slammed a van into crowds on Barcelona's most popular street in what police said was a "terror attack".

The attack, the latest in a wave of vehicle rammings across Europe in recent years, caused panic on the streets of Spain's largest city and drew condemnation from world leaders.

"We can confirm there are 13 dead and more than 50 injured," regional interior minister Joaquim Forn said in a tweet.

(AFP )

A young violinist who became a symbolic feature of Venezuelan protests against President Nicolas Maduro has been banned from taking part in any more demonstrations following his release from custody, a rights group said Thursday.

Wuilly Arteaga, 23, has orders to report to court every eight days to make sure he is complying with the order, according to the head of the Foro Penal group, Alfredo Romero.

Arteaga was released on Tuesday after being held for 19 days on charges of instigating violence and carrying an incendiary device.

(AFP )

Forest fires cut off a village of 2,000 people in Portugal, as firefighters struggled Thursday to control two major blazes in the centre of the country, local officials said.

And with another wave of hot weather forecast, the government declared a state of emergency in some central and northern regions of the country.

Portugal's Interior Minister Constanca Urbano de Sousa meanwhile blamed arsonists and human negligence for most of the summer's fires.

(AFP )

The wife of French President Emmanuel Macron has said she will adopt the role of first lady, but only in an informal capacity after opposition to plans to give her an official status.

Speaking to Elle magazine in her first interview since her husband's election in May, Brigitte Macron also joked about the couple's age gap -- the young leader is 25 years younger -- and spoke glowingly of their marriage.

(AFP )

Two psychologists who helped design the CIA's post-9/11 interrogation program settled a lawsuit Thursday by detainees alleging they were illegally tortured.

The secret settlement in the suit, brought on behalf of two living ex-detainees and one who died of hypothermia after brutal questioning in US custody, avoided what would have been the first public trial of the Central Intelligence Agency's use of torture on suspected Al-Qaeda members.

(AFP )

Syrian actress-turned-activist Fadwa Suleiman, who fled to France after taking part in the 2011 uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, died in Paris overnight of cancer, her family said Thursday. She was 44.

"Fadwa has left us, she has left this ugly world," her brother-in-law Hassane Taha said on Facebook.

The stage and television actress, a member of the minority Alawite community like Assad, sought to rally all denominations including Shiite and Sunni Muslims as well as Christians against the regime.

(AFP )

Spanish police on Thursday said they had shut down a gang charging migrants 5,000 euros each to bring them across from Morocco via the Strait of Gibraltar on jet-skis.

The smugglers were making almost daily trips to Spain, taking around 10 minutes to cover the 18-kilometre (11 miles) crossing, said a police statement.

Landing on beaches in the Cadiz or Malaga regions in southern Andalusia, the migrants were then driven to Algeciras. There, they would be held until their relatives on Ceuta, the Spanish territory on Morocco's northern coast, had paid their debt.

(AFP )

Ignore the snobs, because most experts agree: a few drops of water enhance the taste of whiskies, from well-rounded blends to peat bombs redolent of smoke, tobacco and leather.

The only real question is, why is this true?

The answer, a pair of biochemists in Sweden said Thursday, resides in the subtle interplay of molecules that brings those bursting with flavour to the surface of the liquid amber in one's glass.

(AFP )

Russia on Thursday set a hearing date next month for descendants of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who vanished after being jailed in the Stalin-era USSR, as they sue the security service for access to its archive.

Wallenberg used his diplomatic powers to help thousands of Jews flee Nazi-controlled Hungary during World War II and has been compared to Germany's Oskar Schindler.

(AFP )

Criticism grew Thursday over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's limited response to a US white supremacist rally and President Donald Trump's controversial remarks about it, with calls for him to speak out against anti-Semitism.

The issue highlighted Netanyahu's reluctance to be seen as criticising Trump, who has expressed strong support for Israel and whose rise to the presidency was welcomed by the Israeli premier, some analysts said.

(AFP )

The shrines of Muslim saints in Timbuktu in northern Mali are widely believed to protect the fabled city from danger, but were largely destroyed by radical Islamists in 2012.

Five years after their destruction the Timbuktu mausoleums have been restored through work carried out by local craftsmen, with help from the UN's cultural arm UNESCO.

(AFP )

President Donald Trump took a swing at his favorite punching bag Thursday, claiming his comments about the deadly violence in Charlottesville were misrepresented by media.

"The public is learning (even more so) how dishonest the Fake News is. They totally misrepresent what I say about hate, bigotry etc. Shame!," the US president wrote on Twitter.

One protester was killed in violent clashes between neo-Nazi and so-called "Alt-Right" demonstrators and counter-protesters in the Virginia college town of Charlottesville Saturday.

(AFP )

Russia's internet watchdog said Thursday it had called on a domain provider to stop hosting the website of a US white supremacist group under fire following the Charlottesville violence.

The Daily Stormer, which helped organise last weekend's rally that led to deadly clashes with counter-demonstrators, was dropped by its US service providers earlier this week.

But it had registered in Russia at the address dailystormer.ru.

(AFP )

A mayor in an area of the French Alps which is a gateway to Mont Blanc said Thursday he planned to fine climbers attempting to scale the mountain without proper outdoor gear such as crampons and ropes.

Exasperated by a series of accidents on western Europe's highest peak involving ill-equipped tourists, mayor Jean-Marc Peillex has issued a local regulation mandating mountaineering equipment.

The most popular route to scale the 4,810-metre (15,780-feet) mountain, known as the "voie royale", runs through Peillex's Saint-Gervais district.

(AFP )

Pakistan on Thursday criticised the United States for blacklisting the Kashmiri separatist group Hizb-ul-Mujahideen as a terrorist organisation, calling the move "unjustified".

The State Department designation bans US citizens and residents from dealing with the group and any assets found to belong to it in areas under US jurisdiction will be frozen.

(AFP )

Territory still controlled by the Islamic State group in Raqa is "the worst place" in Syria, the UN said Thursday, as fresh reports emerged of more civilians killed by US-led coalition air strikes.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 21 children were among at least 59 civilians killed since Monday in the air strikes aimed at dislodging the jihadists from Raqa.

"The worst place probably today in Syria is the part of Raqa that is still held by the so-called Islamic state," the UN's humanitarian pointman for Syria, Jan Egeland, told reporters in Geneva.

(AFP )

Another Australian politician has became engulfed in the country's dual citizenship crisis after discovering she is a British citizen, putting further pressure on the conservative government as the matter is passed to the high court.

National Party senator Fiona Nash said she sought legal advice from the UK Monday regarding her citizenship status after it emerged her party's leader and Australia's deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce held New Zealand citizenship.

(AFP )

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba said Thursday its net profit almost doubled in the latest quarter on the back of solid revenue growth in its core shopping business and in cloud computing.

Alibaba, which has made billionaire founder Jack Ma one of China's richest men and a global e-commerce icon, has seen its shares soar 80 percent since last December on robust earnings, with the company fast approaching the market worth of industry leader Amazon.

(AFP )

Joshua Wong and two other young leaders of Hong Kong's huge Umbrella Movement rallies were jailed Thursday for their role in the 2014 pro-democracy protests, dealing a fresh blow to the campaign for political reform.

The sentences handed down by the city's Court of Appeal came as fears grow that Beijing is tightening its grip on the semi-autonomous city and that rule of law is being compromised.

(AFP )

Melbourne has topped a list of the world's most liveable city for the seventh year running but terrorism and diplomatic tensions are eroding living conditions worldwide, an annual report from the Economist has found.

The Australian city was ranked number one out of 140 cities, slightly ahead of the Austrian capital Vienna, with the Canadian trio of Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary competing the top five.

"This is a win for all Victorians, who contribute so much to making Melbourne the best place to live in the world," said Victorian state premier Daniel Andrews.

(AFP )

A 10-year-old rape victim whose plea for an abortion was rejected by India's Supreme Court has given birth to a baby girl, a doctor said Thursday.

The girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was raped several times allegedly by an uncle who has since been arrested.

Last month her parents asked the country's top court to allow her to have a late-term abortion but the request was turned down.

Indian law does not allow medical terminations after 20 weeks unless there is a threat to either the life of the mother or her child.

(AFP )

The three Umbrella Movement leaders jailed Thursday in Hong Kong were at the forefront of the 2014 pro-democracy rallies which brought parts of Hong Kong to a standstill for months in an unprecedented rebuke to Beijing.

Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow were sentenced to six to eight months in prison for their role in a protest that sparked the mass demonstrations.

Rights groups and supporters called the case against them "political persecution" and their imprisonment comes as a fresh blow to forces pushing for political reform in the semi-autonomous city.

(AFP )

The United States' top general condemned "racism and bigotry" on Thursday, joining other military leaders in their denunciation of deadly violence in Charlottesville.

The military usually stays out of the political fray, but it has been keen to distance itself from the weekend's neo-Nazi demonstrations because some demonstrators were sporting US military clothes or insignia.

(AFP )

Belgium has ordered Paris terror suspect Salah Abdeslam and another man to stand trial over a police shootout with Belgian police last year, prosecutors said Thursday.

Abdeslam was arrested on March 18 last year, three days after the shootout in Brussels as police pursued the investigation into the November 2015 Paris attacks in which Abdeslam is believed to be the sole surviving assailant.

Judges in Brussels acted on a request from prosecutors to have Abdeslam and Sofiane Ayari to stand trial in the Brussels criminal court, the federal prosecutor's office said.

(AFP )

The Philippine economy grew by 6.5 percent in the three months to June, likely one of the fastest in Asia, the government said Thursday, defying concerns over President Rodrigo Duterte's unconventional leadership.

With solid fundamentals laid by predecessor Benigno Aquino, Duterte has now presided over an economy growing at an average 6.6 percent clip in the past year, despite rule-of-law concerns over his drug war that has left thousands dead.

(AFP )

War crimes judges said Thursday that a Malian jihadist was liable for 2.7 million euros in personal damages for destroying Timbuktu's fabled shrines in 2012, as they ordered reparations in a landmark ruling.

The International Criminal Court ordered that the victims of the razing of the fabled west African city's historic treasures be paid "individual, collective and symbolic" reparations.

(AFP )

Eintracht Frankfurt have confirmed they are interested in signing Ghana international midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng following his hasty exit from Spanish side Las Palmas.

"I can confirm we are busy with the name Kevin-Prince Boateng and are working on it," said Frankfurt coach Niko Kovac, 45, who played alongside Boateng at Hertha Berlin more than 10 years ago.

Frankfurt are hunting for a replacement for Mexican attacking midfielder Marco Fabian, who is out for two months with a back injury.

(AFP )

Joshua Wong and two other young leaders of Hong Kong's huge Umbrella Movement rallies in 2014 were jailed Thursday for their role in the pro-democracy protests.

Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow were sentenced to six months, eight months and seven months respectively after the Court of Appeal upped their previous non-custodial sentences.

Activists say the case is more proof that Beijing is tightening its grip on the semi-autonomous city.

Wong shouted: "Hong Kong people, don't give up!" as he was led away by security.

(AFP )

Peace with North Korea is a "possibility", America's most senior uniformed officer said Thursday, but warned the US has "credible, viable military options" for dealing with the errant regime.

General Joe Dunford, the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, also told reporters during his visit to Beijing that the US has no plans to "dial back" military exercises with South Korea, which have angered both China and North Korea.