Tuesday 23 May 2017

In the world

(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 Front 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 )

Tunisian officials warned Tuesday that tensions in the country's south could escalate following a protester's death after clashes with security forces at an oil and gas plant.

The young demonstrator died of wounds sustained Monday when he was "accidentally" run over by a national guard vehicle outside the El Kamour pumping station, the health and interior ministries said.

Protesters have been camping outside the El Kamour installation for around a month, blocking trucks from entering, to demand a share of resources and jobs in the sector.

(AFP )

Lawmakers in Kano state, northern Nigeria, have indefinitely suspended a probe into allegations of graft against one of the country's most respected traditional rulers, ending proceedings that could have seen him removed from office.

The speaker of the state assembly, Kabiru Alhassan Rurum, told members that the investigation of the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, had been stopped on the request of state governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje.

(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.

(AFP )

Parents were searching desperately Tuesday for children caught up in the attack on a pop concert in the British city of Manchester, after police confirmed youngsters were among the 22 victims.

Screaming fans fled the venue after the bomb blast at the end of a concert by US star Ariana Grande, who is popular among teens and pre-teens.

Charlotte Campbell called hospitals, police and set up an appeal on social media before calling radio and television networks to try to find her 15-year-old daughter Olivia.

(AFP )

Efforts are underway to remove hundreds of refugees from an unhygienic makeshift camp at an ex-Olympics facility in greater Athens, a migration ministry source said Tuesday.

"We are down there today to register the refugees' needs and officially inform them that they should relocate to organised camps," the source told AFP.

Some 700 mainly Afghan refugees are living at the camp at Hellinikon -- which until 2001 was the Athens airport -- in crumbling flight lounges and abandoned sports facilities later built for the 2004 Olympics.

(AFP )

At least 10 Afghan soldiers were killed when militants attacked their army base in the southern province of Kandahar, the defence ministry said Tuesday, in the latest attack on Western-backed forces.

The assault in Shah Wali Kot district late Monday came just a day after 20 Afghan policemen were killed when Taliban fighters stormed their outposts in the neighbouring province of Zabul.

(AFP )

World leaders on Tuesday expressed shock and horror at the suicide bombing in Manchester which killed at least 22 people, including children.

Here are some of the reactions:

- Britain -

Prime Minister Theresa May called it an "appalling terrorist attack" and suspended her campaign ahead of a general election on June 8 along with chief opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn.

"All our thoughts are with the victims and the families of those who have been affected," said May.

(AFP )

South Korea fired warning shots Tuesday at a flying object that entered the country's airspace from North Korea across the Demilitarized Zone, Seoul's military said.

The object had not been identified and its radar course was being investigated, the military said in a statement.

One official told AFP it appeared to be a drone.

The official gave no details, but previous drones flown across the border have been similar in size to hobby drones.

(AFP )

A protester was killed Tuesday in a Bahraini police raid on a sit-in by supporters of a leading Shiite cleric put on trial in the Gulf state, a rights group said.

The Britain-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy reported the "tragic death of a peaceful protester in the crackdown" in Diraz, the hometown 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 )

China's imports from North Korea fell in April to a near three-year low, data showed Tuesday, as Beijing faces calls to put more economic pressure on its nuclear-armed ally.

China -- the North's sole major diplomatic ally and key trading partner -- has stopped buying coal from it, denying the regime access to a key source of the hard currency needed to fund its weapons programmes.

But the United States has been pushing China to do more.

(AFP )

US President Donald Trump on Tuesday condemned the "evil losers" behind a bomb attack at a pop concert in the British city of Manchester that killed at least 22 people.

"So many young, beautiful, innocent people living and enjoying their lives murdered by evil losers," Trump said after meeting Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in the occupied West Bank.

"I won't call them monsters because they would like that term. They would think that's a great name."

(AFP )

The Lazarus hacking group, widely believed to be connected to North Korea, is "highly likely" responsible for the WannaCry global cyberattack that hit earlier this month, US anti-virus firm Symantec said.

North Korea has angrily dismissed earlier reports linking its isolated regime to the worm that crippled hundreds of thousands of computers, demanding payment in Bitcoin to return control to users.

(AFP )

Myanmar's army on Tuesday cleared itself of allegations that troops may have carried out ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims, but said a soldier had been jailed for taking a motorbike.

More than 70,000 members of the persecuted minority fled to neighbouring Bangladesh after the military launched a widespread crackdown late last year in the north of Rakhine state to hunt down insurgents who attacked police border posts.

(AFP )

Two Indonesian men were caned Tuesday in front of a jeering crowd as a punishment for gay sex, in a first for the Muslim-majority country where there is mounting hostility towards the small LGBT community.

The pair received 83 strokes of the cane each after being found guilty of breaking sharia rules in conservative Aceh province, the only part of Indonesia that implements Islamic law.

The men, aged 20 and 23, were led onto a raised stage outside a mosque in front of a crowd of thousands, who jeered and booed loudly.

(AFP )

US President Donald Trump arrived for talks with Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday as they seek ways to renew Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.

Trump arrived at the presidential palace in the West Bank city, located only about a 20-minute drive from Jerusalem but across Israel's controversial separation wall.

On Monday, Trump held talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

(AFP )

Aborigines belonging to Australia's so-called "Stolen Generations" Tuesday accused the government of prolonging their suffering by failing to implement recommendations from a landmark report 20 years ago that investigated the forced removal from their families.

The term "Stolen Generations" refers to the thousands of indigenous children who were taken from their homes and put in foster care with white families or institutions under assimilation policies that ended only in the early 1970s. Many never saw their parents or siblings again.

(AFP )

US forces have carried out a ground raid on an Al-Qaeda compound in Yemen, killing seven militants, the Pentagon said late Monday.

The raid took place in Marib Governorate in the early hours of Tuesday local time and was conducted with the support of Yemeni authorities.

"During this operation, US forces killed seven AQAP (Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) militants through a combination of small arms fire and precision airstrikes," Centcom, the US military command in the Middle East, said in a statement.

(AFP )

Hoping for the best, fearing the worst: EU and NATO leaders are braced for their first meeting with US President Donald Trump on their home turf on Thursday.

The trepidation in Brussels, a city Trump once dubbed a dangerous "hellhole," is palpable as he has up-ended one long-held certainty about US ties after another.

(AFP )

One of the feistiest personalities in Latin American politics, Ecuador's Rafael Correa hands power Wednesday to his quieter ally Lenin Moreno, who is tasked with steering a leftist political flagship through troubled economic waters.

President for a decade, Correa, 54, is one of a generation of colorful leftist leaders who governed the mineral-rich region over recent decades.

But unlike his allies in Brazil, Argentina and Peru, his side managed to win re-election this year. His successor Moreno, 64, will be sworn in by congress on Wednesday.

(AFP )

Two Indonesian men will Tuesday be publicly caned for having sex, in a first for the Muslim-majority country where there are concerns over mounting hostility towards the small gay community.

The pair, aged 20 and 23, were last week found guilty of having broken sharia rules in conservative Aceh province -- the only part of Indonesia that implements Islamic law -- and sentenced to 85 strokes of the cane each.

(AFP )

South Korea's ousted president Park Geun-Hye, grim-faced and brought to court in handcuffs, went on trial Tuesday over a sprawling corruption scandal that saw millions take to the streets and led to her downfall.

Only two months after leaving the presidential palace in disgrace, Park appeared at the Seoul Central District Court with a badge bearing her prisoner number pinned to her blue trouser suit, and no make-up.

She avoided meeting the glance of her longtime secret confidante and co-accused Choi Soon-Sil.

(AFP )

US President Donald Trump called on Israelis and Palestinians to make compromises for peace Tuesday as he wrapped up a closely watched visit, but offered no specifics on how he would resolve the decades-old conflict.

In a speech toward the end of his visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, Trump offered a forceful defence of the Jewish state and pledged to protect the country against common enemies, including Iran.

But he also touched on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, again vowing he was "personally committed" to helping the two sides reach a deal.

(AFP )

The World Health Organization's 194 members on Tuesday choose among three candidates to replace Margaret Chan as global health supremo, with each pledging to reform an agency under scrutiny.

Chan steps down on June 30 after a decade in which new epidemics such as bird flu and Ebola and decades-old campaigns against malaria, AIDS and malnutrition highlighted the complex health burden shouldered by the WHO.

(AFP )

Washington has announced a bumper arms deal with Saudi Arabia, heralding the package as a major boost to long-standing security ties and a way to further isolate Iran.

Administration officials claim the agreement -- worth $110 billion over the next decade -- is the biggest single arms deal in American history, and it will see US defense firms flow everything from ships and tanks to the latest anti-missile systems to the kingdom.

(AFP )

After Irish republicans ended regular bombings in 2001, terror attacks in Britain became more rare. Most attacks since have been carried out by homegrown Islamists, the deadliest remains the July 2005 assault on London transport:

- 2003: Airliner attack foiled -

Al-Qaeda plans to hijack planes leaving London Heathrow airport and crash them into the airport and into a high-rise building in London's Canary Wharf business district are foiled.

- 2004: Multiple attacks foiled -

(AFP )

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility Tuesday for a suicide bombing at a packed Manchester pop concert, killing at least 22 people including an eight-year-old girl in Britain's deadliest terror attack for more than a decade.

Prime Minister Theresa May said the police knew the identity of the bomber, who died in the blast late Monday, saying he intended to cause "maximum carnage".