In the world | Africatime
Friday 28 April 2017

In the world

(AFP )

Arkansas executed another inmate on Thursday, the last in a series of lethal injections that the state has squeezed into a compressed timeline, even as the daughter of one of his victims appealed for clemency.

A plan by the conservative southern state to execute eight prisoners in 11 days -- before its stock of a drug used in legal injections expires -- set off a huge legal battle.

It was challenged not only by lawyers for the condemned men but also pharmaceutical companies opposed to their products being used to put people to death.

(AFP )

A dozen people have been found stuffed inside a closet-sized cell hidden behind a book shelf in a Philippine police station, triggering further alarm about abuse under President Rodrigo Duterte's deadly war on drugs.

Members of the government's human rights commission, accompanied by journalists, found the men and women in a surprise visit to the station in the heart of Manila's slum area on Thursday evening.

(AFP )

Joseph Joffo's childhood came to an end at the age of 10, when his father gave him and his brother 5,000 francs each and instructions to flee Paris and escape the Nazis.

The boys were told they must never let anyone know they were Jews as they went on the run -- by foot, train and ferry -- from Hitler's feared SS secret police in occupied France.

Joffo's 1973 autobiographical novel "A Bag of Marbles" recounted their incredible journey, their capture and subsequent escape, and became a global phenomenon, made into a film and a graphic novel.

(AFP )

Southeast Asian countries will express "grave concern" over North Korea's nuclear weapons tests and ballistic missile launches, despite Pyongyang's appeal for support, according to a draft statement due to be released Friday.

In a rare move, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-Ho wrote to the ASEAN regional bloc's secretary general appealing for backing in its row with the United States to prevent what it warned could be a "nuclear holocaust".

(AFP )

Seoul on Friday brushed aside US President Donald Trump's suggestion it should pay for a $1 billion missile defence system the two allies are installing in South Korea to guard against threats from the North.

The first parts of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system have already been delivered to a former golf course in the South -- infuriating China -- at a time of heightened tensions over Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programmes.

Top US officials have said THAAD will be operational "within days".

(AFP )

The Afghan Taliban launched their "spring offensive" Friday, heralding fresh fighting in the drawn-out conflict as embattled security forces struggle to recover from a devastating attack on a military base one week ago.

Operation Mansouri -- named after the group's former leader, who was killed in a US drone strike in May 2016 -- will target foreign forces with tactics including "conventional attacks, guerrilla warfare, complex martyrdom attacks, insider attacks", a statement from the insurgents said.

(AFP )

Hipsters in flowing skirts and crop tops sway to the Thai band's hypnotic groove at an exclusive music festival in Thailand, while a clutch of cleaning staff quietly look on from the fringes.

"I had no idea foreigners like molam," says 55-year-old Saengyan Promduang, referring to the folk tunes unique to her rural home region that are captivating the well-heeled crowd outside Bangkok.

Alternately sunny and haunting, the molam sound was once sneered at by wealthy Thais as 'poor people music' from the rice-farming northeast, a region with closer cultural links to Laos.

(AFP )

Just like Asterix's small village held out against the Romans, 2,000 years later in Romania a fight is on to keep Latin alive just as it dies elsewhere in Europe.

Latin is compulsory at all Romanian schools for one hour a week in the final year of middle school -- ages 13 to 14 -- and for older pupils studying literature.

This makes Romania an outlier in Europe. Even Italy, the cradle of Roman civilisation, abandoned compulsory Latin for all middle school pupils in 1977.

(AFP )

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's deadly drug war is part of a worrying assault on human rights and democracy across Southeast Asia, activists said as regional leaders gathered in Manila on Friday.

Duterte has been condemned in the West for the crackdown, which has claimed thousands of lives since he took power last year, but he is expected to enjoy the support of most of his guests as he hosts the heads of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

(AFP )

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte hosts Southeast Asian leaders this week, and there is much interest in how the popular politician who boasts about not being a statesman will handle the event.

Many Filipinos love Duterte, 72, for his man-of-the people habits, such as eating food with his hands, wearing casual clothes even in formal situations and lacing his language with street-level curses.

(AFP )

Global press freedom has hit a 13-year low, threatened by US President Donald Trump's media bashing and restrictions pursued by both democratic and authoritarian governments, a watchdog said Friday.

A survey by Freedom House, a US-based human rights organization, highlighted growing concerns over efforts by governments around the world to clamp down on media and dissent.

(AFP )

Demonstrators stormed Macedonia's parliament Thursday and attacked MPs, including the opposition leader, in protest against a vote for a new parliamentary speaker.

Zoran Zaev, who leads the main opposition Social Democrats, was seen with blood on his face amid the chaos, while Interior Minister Agim Nuhiu told media that 10 deputies had been injured, as well as some police and journalists.

The violence erupted after around 100 nationalist protesters supporting the rival VMRO-DPMNE party entered parliament waving Macedonian flags and singing the national anthem.

(AFP )

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will chair a UN Security Council meeting on Friday to push for a tougher response to North Korea and pile pressure on China to rein in its ally.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will attend the meeting that follows weeks of warnings from the US administration that it will no longer tolerate North Korea's missile launches and nuclear tests.

The United States has called for stronger UN sanctions on North Korea, but it wants China to take the lead in diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis.

(AFP )

Two suspected jihadists arrested in Spain have admitted being in Brussels airport at the time of the deadly March 2016 attack but deny involvement, a court spokesman said.

Mohamed Lamsalak and Youssef Ben Hammou were arrested earlier in the week as part of a joint investigation between Spanish and Belgian police. Officers seized firearms, drugs and cash in raids connected to the operation.

(AFP )

A pair of filmmakers at the prestigious TED Conference used virtual reality to allow people to experience the ravages of deforestation -- from the perspective of a tree.

A presentation Thursday simply titled "Tree" combined sound, sight, smell and touch to let people feel first-hand what is lost when lush forest burns down.

"It was very real: At one point I was going to take the headset off and ask about the fire," TED attendee Elle Luna said after trying "Tree."

"Your thinking mind sort of stops and you just feel it all."

(AFP )

A woman was shot by police in London during an anti-terror raid on Thursday following an intelligence operation, the city's Metropolitan Police said.

The woman in her twenties was shot at an address in north-west London during an "ongoing counter terrorism investigation", police said in a statement.

She was one of the subjects of the terror probe and remains under police guard in hospital.

The evening raid saw three people arrested on terrorism charges, including two at the scene -- a 16-year-old boy and a 20-year-old woman -- as well as a 20-year-old man nearby.

(AFP )

El Salvador on Thursday became the first country in the world to ban the mining of metals in what campaigners called a landmark move for environmental protection.

The law bans "prospection, exploration, exploitation, extraction or processing of metallic minerals in El Salvador," according to the text published Thursday in the official journal.

"This is more than just a novelty," the president of the Salvadoran Ecological Unit, Mauricio Sermeno, told AFP.

(AFP )

EU leaders will discuss at a summit this weekend whether to back automatic membership for Northern Ireland after Brexit if it ever reunifies with Ireland, sources said on Friday.

Ireland is expected to ask the 27 European Union leaders to endorse the idea when they meet in Brussels on Saturday without Britain to adopt guidelines for Brexit negotiations.

(AFP )

The US prosecution of the massive corruption scandal rocking world soccer scalped a new head on Thursday: the football chief on the tiny Pacific island of Guam.

Richard Lai, a 55-year-old US citizen, pleaded guilty Thursday in a federal court in New York to accepting nearly $1 million in bribes from 2009-2014, US prosecutors announced.

He pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud conspiracy and one count of failing to disclose foreign bank accounts, and agreed to pay $1.1 million in fines and forfeiture.

(AFP )

German lawmakers on Thursday approved a partial ban on the full-face burqa Islamic veil and a package of security measures aimed at preventing extremist attacks.

The new laws follow several jihadist attacks, including a truck rampage through a Berlin Christmas market that claimed 12 lives, and come ahead of September elections.

The new law on facial coverings falls short of a total ban in public places demanded by right-wing parties, like that in effect in neighbouring France since 2011.

(AFP )

The UN Security Council on Thursday postponed voting on a draft resolution on the Western Sahara conflict amid signs the Polisario Front independence movement was preparing a pullback from a tense zone of the contested territory, a council diplomat said.

The US-drafted text included a strong appeal to the Polisario Front to immediately withdraw from the Guerguerat strip, which has become a potential flashpoint between the independence fighters and Moroccan troops.

(AFP )

Arkansas was set to execute another inmate on Thursday, the last in a series of lethal injections that the state has squeezed into a compressed timeline, even as the daughter of one of his victims appealed for clemency.

A plan by the conservative southern state to execute eight prisoners in 11 days -- before its stock of a drug used in legal injections expires -- set off a huge legal battle.

It was challenged not only by lawyers for the condemned men but also pharmaceutical companies opposed to their products being used to put people to death.

(AFP )

Russian President Vladimir Putin's principal opponent Alexei Navalny was briefly hospitalised Thursday after being hit in the eye by green dye that he said had damaged his cornea.

"Shrek 2: now one-eyed," he wrote on his blog alongside a picture showing his face spattered and one eye half-shut.

"At the hospital they wrote: 'Chemical burn to the right eye" + it's pretty unpleasant: it's hard to anaesthetise, my eye burns from the fire of hell and I cannot open it," Navalny added.

(AFP )

Macedonia's opposition leader was among at least 10 people injured in parliament Thursday after protesters stormed the building following an allegedly unfair vote for a parliamentary speaker, witnesses and local media reported.

An AFP reporter saw Zoran Zaev, who leads the main opposition Social Democrats, with blood on his face in the chaos, while Macedonian media quoting hospital sources said ten people were injured, including two deputies.

(AFP )

Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka on Thursday demanded that his billionaire Finance Minister Andrej Babis, a leading candidate in October elections, explain past business activities amid media speculation he could be axed.

"I'm worried by the way the finance minister has reacted to doubts raised in connection with his business dealings," Social Democrats (CSSD) leader Sobotka told reporters in Prague.

"I'm waiting for his explanation by the end of April, then I'll take my decision," Sobotka said.

(AFP )

Hundreds of thousands of Dutch citizens on Thursday celebrated the 50th birthday of King Willem-Alexander with shows, parties and street sales with many sporting quirky outfits and hats in the national colour orange.

The beaming monarch spent the day with his family in the southern city of Tilburg where he was feted by 50 pianists and a colourful dance performance.

About 150,000 orange-clad revellers joined the celebrations in Tilburg, the Dutch news agency ANP said, quoting the local municipality.

(AFP )

Italian authorities on Thursday placed six people, including senior local officials, under criminal investigation over the avalanche that engulfed the Rigopiano hotel in January, killing 29 people.

Among those informed they could face charges are the local mayor Ilario Lacchetta, the president of the province of Pescara, Antonio Di Marco, and Bruno Di Tommaso, the manager of the hotel, located in the Abruzzo region of central Italy.

The suspects are being investigated for "negligence, imprudence and recklessness" in relation to the disaster, according to local media.

(AFP )

Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday accused the other 27 EU countries of lining up to oppose Britain over Brexit after Germany's Angela Merkel said the UK should have no "illusions" over the exit process.

EU nation leaders have stressed a united stance as they plan to meet Saturday to set down the bloc's "red lines" -- although the talks will not begin until June, after a snap British election called by May to strengthen her negotiating hand.

(AFP )

US Ambassador Nikki Haley urged the UN Security Council on Thursday to ratchet up pressure on Russia to end sieges in Syria and help advance peace talks.

"All eyes and all pressure now need to go to Russia, because they are the ones who could stop this if they wanted to," Haley told a council meeting on the worsening humanitarian crisis in Syria.

Haley argued that years of appeals to Bashar al-Assad to allow aid deliveries to reach civilians in besieged areas had failed and that the focus must now squarely be on the Syrian president's main ally.

(AFP )

US President Donald Trump said Thursday he was saddened by the crisis in Venezuela, where waves of anti-government unrest has claimed the lives of 29 people.

"Venezuela is a mess," Trump said in response to a reporter's question as he received Argentine President Mauricio Macri to the White House.

"I'm very sad for Venezuela, very sad to see what's happened in Venezuela," he said. "Venezuela is a very sad situation."

(AFP )

Facebook said Thursday it is stepping up its security to counter efforts by governments and others to spread misinformation or manipulate discussions for political reasons.

The new effort expands Facebook's security efforts beyond "abusive" actions such as hacking and financial scams to "more subtle and insidious forms of misuse, including attempts to manipulate civic discourse and deceive people," according to a white paper released by the world's leading social network.

(AFP )

President Vladimir Putin on Thursday agreed to start flights for former residents to visit a disputed island chain as he and Japanese premier Shinzo Abe again struggled to make progress on a decades-old territorial dispute.

Russia and Japan have been blocked from signing a formal treaty to end World War II hostilities for seven decades over the island disagreement, hampering closer ties.

The Soviet Union seized the islands off Japan's northern coast -- called the Southern Kurils by Moscow and the Northern Territories by Tokyo -- in 1945 in the closing days of the war.

(AFP )

The Pentagon said Thursday it is investigating President Donald Trump's former national security advisor Michael Flynn over payments he received from Russian government-linked firms.

The Department of Defense said it was probing whether the retired lieutenant general failed to obtain required prior approval before accepting money from foreign governments.

Flynn was specifically warned when he retired in 2014 that he had to get advance permission before accepting consulting fees, salaries, gifts, or travel expenses from a foreign government.

(AFP )

Prosecutors on Thursday requested a 28-year prison term for a one-eyed, far-right extremist who was the alleged kingpin of a mafia gang that preyed on Rome's City Hall.

The request came during summing up for the prosecution in the final stages of what has been an 18-month trial held in a high-security prison.

Known as "Mafia Capitale", the case has exposed how organised crime infiltrated Rome's corridors of power and, for years, used extortion, fraud and inside accomplices to steal millions of euros destined for public services.

(AFP )

Police swooped on a man armed with knives metres away from the Houses of Parliament in London on Thursday, arresting him on suspicion of preparing "acts of terrorism".

The 27-year-old man was pinned to the ground in the middle of the road close to the Treasury and entrances to Westminster station on the London Underground train network.

The area has been on a state of heightened alert since a deadly attack on March 22 perpetrated by Khalid Masood, a 52-year-old convert to Islam.