Wednesday 23 August 2017

In the world

(AFP )

The EU is a "real step" closer to overhauling a controversial rule on detached workers, after talks with leaders from eastern and central Europe, French President Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday.

The so-called Posted Workers Directive allows firms to send temporary workers from low-wage countries to other member states without paying local social charges.

The regulation has come under fire from rich nations like France whose president has described it as a "betrayal of the European spirit".

(AFP )

Separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine said Wednesday that a fresh ceasefire would come into force on Friday, ahead of the start of the new school year.

The new truce, set to extend an existing ceasefire agreement, will begin after midnight on Thursday. It was agreed at a meeting of the Contact Group for Ukraine attended by the separatists, the separatists' main news site quoted rebel negotiator Denis Pushilin as saying.

(AFP )

Czech authorities have agreed to extradite to Germany a Vietnamese national wanted over the alleged kidnapping in Berlin last month of an oil tycoon who subsequently turned up in Vietnam, local media reported Wednesday.

According to German media, 51-year-old Vietnamese oil tycoon Trinh Xuan Thanh -- who was in Germany seeking asylum, but sought by Hanoi for allegedly causing huge losses to a state-run company -- was snatched by armed men on July 23 in Berlin's Tiergarten park.

(AFP )

It can be deadly to ask questions about multibillion-dollar drug cartels or government corruption in Mexico, where more than 100 journalists have been killed since 2006.

Ninety percent of those cases remain unsolved.

At least 10 journalists have been killed here so far this year:

1. Cecilio Pineda, 39

Pineda, the editor of regional newspaper La Voz, was shot by gunmen on March 2 as he relaxed in a hammock near his house in the southern state of Guerrero.

(AFP )

Egypt criticised a US decision to freeze $195 million in military aid on Wednesday, as a US delegation including presidential adviser Jared Kushner visited Cairo for meetings on the Middle East peace process.

The decision to withhold some financial and military aid in response to Egypt's poor record on democracy and civil liberties came as a surprise, after President Donald Trump pledged strong tries with the key US ally after they had deteriorated under his predecessor Barack Obama.

(AFP )

Two hundred Muslims rallied in the streets of Granada, southern Spain, on Wednesday in protest against a surge in anti-Islamic hate crimes following last week's deadly attacks in the country.

The protest was called after the city's main mosque was attacked with flares on Saturday by a handful of members from a far-right group, Hogar Social, who also unfurled a Spanish flag outside building, according to images on Spanish TV.

(AFP )

Hundreds of people staged an angry protest Wednesday in the Moroccan city of Casablanca against sexual harassment after footage of a woman being assaulted on a bus caused outrage across the North African country.

"We are not afraid! Liberate public space!" chanted the protesters, gathered in the centre of Morocco's economic capital, near where the assault took place.

Six teenage suspects were arrested on Monday after footage emerged online showing bare-chested teenagers assaulting a weeping young woman in broad daylight, laughing as they touched her private parts.

(AFP )

British firefighters were feeling the heat on Wednesday after eating "fantastic" sausages made from piglets they themselves had saved from the flames, prompting the ire of animal rights activists.

Firefighters in the village of Pewsey, south-west England, were delighted to "sample the fruits of our labours" when a farmer delivered sausages made from piglets the crew had rescued from a barn fire.

(AFP )

Mexico on Wednesday downplayed Donald Trump's latest threat to scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement, which its foreign minister put down to the US President's "peculiar" negotiating style.

Trump took his latest stab at the trade agreement with Mexico and Canada at a rally Tuesday in Phoenix, Arizona, telling a crowd of fervid supporters the US will "end up probably terminating NAFTA at some point."

(AFP )

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis arrived in Ukraine Wednesday for talks on expanding US support for the country's military in its fight with Russian-backed rebels.

Kiev is hoping for more lethal weaponry from the United States, including anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons to push back the well-armed separatists who have occupied large parts of eastern Ukraine.

Although the US military has supported the move -- categorising the proposed weapons as "defensive" in nature -- President Donald Trump has yet to approve it, amid fears it could escalate the conflict.

(AFP )

Western Europe accounted for less than one percent of the 34,676 people killed in terror attacks in 2016 and only two percent of attacks, according to a new report.

The Middle East and North Africa bore the brunt of last year's extremist violence, according to figures from the Global Terrorism Database maintained by the University of Maryland.

The report offers a different perspective after carnage in France, Britain and other European countries including Spain, where police are probing a terror cell behind attacks last week.

(AFP )

France said Wednesday it wants the UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon to stick to its current mandate, opposing US calls to strengthen the force's authority to deal with arms movements by Hezbollah, the Shiite militia.

Anne Gueguen, France's deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, told reporters her government saw no need to change the 2006 Security Council resolution that sets the mission's current mandate, which expires at the end of August.

(AFP )

Finnish police said Wednesday they had arrested two new suspects over last week's stabbing spree that killed two people and which investigators are treating as the country's first terror attack.

"Two men have been arrested suspected of preparing an offence to be committed with terrorist intent," the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said in a statement.

News agency STT reported that the men were arrested in Turku, the southwestern city where the stabbings took place. The attacker killed two Finnish women in the attack in a market square, wounding eight other people.

(AFP )

Brazil's Odebrecht construction conglomerate runs projects worldwide but its most sophisticated international activity may have been a corruption network involving politicians across Latin America.

One of the world's biggest construction companies, Odebrecht has built everything from the Grand Parkway highway in Texas to the Mariel port in Cuba. But the reach of its pay-to-play corruption scheme was no less ambitious.

Here's what we know about the scope and fallout of a scandal first uncovered by Brazilian prosecutors and rippling steadily out across the region.

(AFP )

Fighting in the troubled southern Philippine region of Mindanao has combined with extreme weather events to create a "humanitarian catastrophe", French aid groups said Wednesday.

Around one million people have fled their homes in the region, according to Thibault Henry, head of the Philippines chapter of the charity Acted.

"Basic needs are not covered," Henry told AFP.

"Clearly it's a huge humanitarian crisis, a catastrophe, that will affect the region for many years," he said, noting that more than half of the population lives in poverty.

(AFP )

A Canadian parliamentary committee will hold emergency hearings on the threat posed by North Korea's missile and nuclear programs, an official said Wednesday.

A date for the hearing has not yet been set, but is expected by mid-September, Liberal committee member Mark Gerretsen's office said.

It will hear from government officials and experts on Canada's ability to defend itself against an attack by North Korea, and whether Canada should join the US ballistic missile defense system.

(AFP )

Barcelona will boost police patrols at tourist sites including the iconic Sagrada Familia church and major sports and cultural events in the wake of last week's deadly vehicle attacks in Spain, officials said Wednesday.

One of the four suspects arrested over the attacks which killed 15 people and injured over 100 others told a court Tuesday that the jihadists wanted to carry out a major attack targeting monuments with explosives.

(AFP )

French President Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday that an EU rule allowing companies to send temporary workers from low-wage countries to other member states without paying local social charges was a "betrayal of the European spirit".

The regulation has come under fire from critics in rich nations, who say it amounts to "social dumping" in which payments to costly health and welfare systems are avoided.

Faced with faltering ratings at home, Macron seeks to drum up support for his plan to overhaul the rule during a diplomatic blitz through eastern and central Europe.

(AFP )

Iraqi forces Wednesday recaptured several districts and advanced towards the centre of Tal Afar, one of the Islamic State group's last strongholds in the country, as aid workers braced for an exodus of civilians fleeing the fighting.

Armoured personnel carriers full of soldiers and fighters of the Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary coalition moved into Al-Nur district early in the morning as warplanes flew overhead, said an AFP photographer on the ground.

(AFP )

The hashtag, the symbol attached to keywords to tag topics online, on Wednesday celebrates 10 years making social media just a bit more navigable.

The sign has preceded the keywords that mark out all major events around the world since 2007, when it got its first outing on Twitter.

Before long, it had spread to other social media including Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr.

It was Chris Messina, an American designer and social media expert, who originally proposed using the hash sign (#) -- pound sign in American English -- to group tweets by subject.

(AFP )

The head of India's railways has quit after a series of deadly accidents on the crumbling network, an official said Wednesday.

The move came days after 23 people were killed when a train derailed in northern India, the fourth major disaster on the country's railways this year.

K. Mittal, who had been in the post since 2014, will be succeeded by Ashwani Lohani, a former engineer credited with helping state-run Air India turn its first profit after over a decade of losses.

(AFP )

Angry and offended Pakistanis fired back Wednesday against Donald Trump's accusations that their country harbours militants, highlighting the heavy toll they have paid fighting extremism and slamming his embrace of arch-rival India.

The US president unleashed blistering criticism of Pakistan this week as he unveiled his new Afghanistan policy which paves the way for the indefinite deployment of more troops to the war-weary country.

(AFP )

More than 30 people, including civilians, were reported have been killed Wednesday in air raids on Yemen's capital, where a Saudi-lead coalition has been bombing Iran-backed Huthi rebels.

The Huthis, who control Sanaa along with forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, blamed the pro-government Arab military coalition for the attack on Arhab district.

The rebels' claim that the Saudi-led coalition had carried out the attack was made in a statement on their Al-Massira television channel. A spokesperson for the coalition not reachable for comment.

(AFP )

Acclaimed Russian theatre and film director Kirill Serebrennikov was put under house arrest Wednesday after being charged with fraud in a case that has sent shockwaves through the arts community.

The director denounced the charges against him as "absurd" after investigators detained him in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday and drove him to Moscow where he was charged by the Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes.

He was then held in jail ahead of the hearing on whether to keep him behind bars.

(AFP )

Venezuela's fugitive former top prosecutor resurfaced in Brazil on Wednesday claiming to possess "a lot" of proof of President Nicolas Maduro's corruption and warning that her life remains in danger.

Days after a dramatic escape from chaotic Venezuela, Luisa Ortega, 59, turned up the heat on Maduro, who has asked Interpol to issue a "red notice" warrant for the arrest of his critic.

(AFP )

Thousands of Rohingya have crossed into Bangladesh since Myanmar announced a military build-up in Rakhine state earlier this month, community leaders said Wednesday.

Rakhine in northern Myanmar has been gripped by violence since October, when militants attacked police posts.

That sparked a bloody military crackdown that the UN believes may amount to ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya, a mainly Muslim minority living in Buddhist Myanmar.

On August 12 authorities in Myanmar said hundreds of troops had moved into Rakhine as it ramps up counterinsurgency efforts there.

(AFP )

French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published Wednesday a provocative front-page cartoon about Islam and the recent terror attacks in Spain, leading to criticism that it risked fanning Islamophobia.

The latest edition of the magazine, which was targeted by Islamist gunmen in 2015, shows two people lying in a pool of blood having been run over by a van next to the words "Islam, eternal religion of peace."

(AFP )

The Philippines' largest Muslim rebel group said Wednesday it had lost 10 fighters in battles to stop a "growing force" of radical militants who support the Islamic State group.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front is seeking to prevent the militants from gaining a foothold in an area of Mindanao island that the MILF calls its own, senior rebel leader Mohagher Iqbal told AFP.

Iqbal said 50 or so militants had pledged allegiance to IS and had ties to gunmen waging a deadly three-month-old battle with government forces in the southern city of Marawi.

(AFP )

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday told visiting Pentagon chief Jim Mattis of Turkey's uneasiness over Washington arming a Syrian Kurdish militia viewed as a terror group by Ankara, a policy which has strained ties between the NATO allies.

Mattis made the one-day visit after stopping in Iraq to review progress in the campaign against the Islamic State group, urging coalition partners to prevent other political issues from disrupting the growing momentum against the jihadists.

(AFP )

President Donald Trump on Tuesday mounted an aggressive defense of his response to a deadly far-right march in Virginia, using a rally speech to condemn "dishonest" media coverage of his widely criticized remarks.

Trump faced bipartisan outrage after blaming "many sides" for violence at the rally in Charlottesville, in which one anti-fascist protester was killed.

(AFP )

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was in Iraq on Wednesday to warn Iraqi and Kurdish leaders against next month's independence referendum in the country's Kurdish region.

Cavusoglu had already warned last week that the vote planned for September 25 could even bring Iraq "to civil war".

After holding talks in Baghdad, the Turkish minister was due to meet Iraqi Kurdistan president Massud Barzani in Arbil, the capital of the autonomous region.

(AFP )

A UN committee tasked with combatting racism has issued a formal "early warning" over conditions in the United States, a rare move often used to signal the potential of a looming civil conflict.

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said it had invoked its "early warning and urgent action procedure" because of the proliferation of racist demonstrations in the US.

(AFP )

The Czech Republic will go to the polls in January in only the second presidential election in the country's modern history decided by popular vote, the Senate speaker said Wednesday.

About 20 candidates including the incumbent President Milos Zeman have already thrown their hats into the ring ahead of the vote which speaker Milan Stech said would take place on January 12-13.

If no candidate wins an absolute majority, the vote will go to a second round on January 26-27, Stech said on public television.

(AFP )

The European Court of Justice could still wield influence in Britain even after Brexit through joint rulings with British officials, the government said Wednesday, in what critics called a "climbdown".

The proposals outlined also left open the possibility of the ECJ having jurisdiction during any transition periods agreed for after Britain leaves the bloc and before a new UK-EU partnership comes into force.

(AFP )

Police on Wednesday widened their probe into a terror cell that unleashed carnage in Spain last week, after a suspect admitted the jihadists were targeting monuments in an even bigger attack.

Officers carried out new raids overnight to root out a possible support network for the men, accused of ploughing vehicles into pedestrians on Barcelona's busy Las Ramblas boulevard and a seaside promenade in the resort town of Cambrils, killing 15 including a young boy and wounding more than 120 people.