Tuesday 27 June 2017

In the world

(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 )

Sudan expressed hopes on Tuesday that a US court's decision to partially reinstate a travel ban that includes its citizens will not harm its bid to have American sanctions lifted.

The US Supreme Court on Monday partially reinstated President Donald Trump's travel ban imposing restrictions on citizens from Sudan, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Syria.

The ruling comes just weeks ahead of an expected decision by Trump on whether to permanently lift the United States' 20-year-old trade embargo on the North African country.

(AFP )

The bodies of at least 25 migrants who drowned trying to reach Europe were found near Tripoli Tuesday, the Libyan Red Crescent said.

Some of the corpses were washed ashore on a beach near the Libyan capital, but most were on rocks off the suburb of Tajoura in a state of decomposition, an AFP photographer at the scene said.

The onset of warm weather has seen a surge in migrants boarding boats for the perilous journey across the Mediterranean, putting pressure on rescue services.

(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, listing 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.

(AFP )

US President Donald Trump and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron agreed during a telephone call Tuesday on the need for a "joint response" in the event of another chemical attack in Syria, the French presidency said.

Their call came a day after Washington said that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may be preparing another chemical weapons attack and warned that his regime would pay a "heavy price" if it went ahead with such an assault.

(AFP )

A major cyberattack unfolded on Tuesday, striking banks, corporations and infrastructure in Ukraine and Russia before spreading to western Europe and then the United States.

Experts say the virus is a modified version of the so-called Petya ransomware, which hit last year and demanded money from victims in exchange for their data.

A similar virus called WannaCry infected more than 200,000 computers in more than 150 countries last month.

Following is a list of companies and organisations which say they have been a victim of the latest attack:

(AFP )

The leader of Colombia's leftist FARC rebels formally declared the force's historic disarmament complete on Tuesday at a ceremony to mark the end of the UN-supervised process.

"Today, we are not letting Colombia down. Today, we are laying down our weapons," said commander Rodrigo Londono, alias Timochenko, in a speech in the central town of Mesetas, site of one of the group's demobilization camps.

"Farewell to arms, welcome to peace!"

The move, part of a 2016 peace deal, is a key part of efforts to end the long territorial and ideological conflict.

(AFP )

The automated teller machine (ATM) marked its 50th anniversary on Tuesday, with a British bank decorating the site of the world's first cashpoint in gold to mark the occasion.

The first ATM was unveiled by Barclays at their Enfield branch in north London on June 27, 1967.

"The invention of the ATM was a historical moment that completely changed the way the world thought about and used cash," Barclays said.

(AFP )

The radiation monitoring system at Ukraine's Chernobyl nuclear site has been taken offline after a massive cyberattack, forcing employees to use hand-held counters to measure levels, officials said Tuesday.

"Due to the cyberattack, the website of the Chernobyl nuclear plant is not working," said Ukraine's exclusion zone agency which oversees the Soviet plant that exploded in 1986 and is now surrounded by an uninhabited contaminated zone.

(AFP )

Sri Lanka on Tuesday named a 13-member squad, including a 19-year-old uncapped batsman, for the five-match one-day international series against Zimbabwe.

Wanidu Hasaranga, who has played 12 first class matches and scored 775 runs, was brought into the squad led by skipper Angelo Mathews and Vice Captain Upul Tharanga.

Zimbabwe begin their first tour of Sri Lanka in 15 years by playing the first one-day international Friday at the Galle International Stadium, which will host its first limited-overs match in 17 years.

(AFP )

President Donald Trump's administration hit China Tuesday over its rights record, listing 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 trafficking or protect 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 )

Several major companies said Tuesday they were targeted in an international cyberattack which started in Russia and Ukraine before spreading to western Europe.

Danish sea transport company Maersk, British advertising giant WPP and the French industrial group Saint-Gobain all said they came under attack and put protection protocols in place to avoid data loss.

(AFP )

The jury in the trial of five men accused of organising and carrying out the contract killing of Russian opposition opposition leader Boris Nemtsov begun deliberations on their verdicts on Tuesday.

The 12 jurists retired to weigh their decision at the end of a marathon trial into the 2015 slaying of the former deputy prime minister just yards from the Kremlin in central Moscow.

Nemtsov's murder was the most high-profile political killing in Russia since former KGB agent President Vladimir Putin rose to power some 17 years ago.

(AFP )

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Tuesday postponed plans for a second independence referendum, after a British general election in which her secessionist party suffered major losses.

"We will not introduce the legislation for an independence referendum immediately," the Scottish National Party (SNP) leader told Scotland's parliament in Edinburgh.

Sturgeon said she would "reset" the timetable for holding a referendum by spring 2019, when Britain is expected to leave the European Union.

(AFP )

President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord has triggered a bipartisan push from US mayors to stick to the emissions cuts Washington had pledged to hit, the mayor of Atlanta said Tuesday.

Mayor Kasim Reed said he was sending a signal of "optimism, passion and action" on fighting climate change to mayors worldwide despite the pullout Trump announced this month.

(AFP )

Chinese police and prosecutors are banned from using torture to obtain evidence under rules released Tuesday, in the latest attempt to curb forced confessions in the country's criminal justice system.

Confessions obtained through torture, threats and illegal detention are inadmissable in court, the Supreme Court said on its website.

(AFP )

China said Tuesday it opposed outside interference after the Vatican reported that one of its bishops in the country was being held at an undisclosed location after he was forcibly removed from his diocese.

It was the latest dispute in an decades-long argument over who in the Communist country has the authority to appoint bishops.

The Vatican on Monday expressed "grave concern" over the unexplained removal of Peter Shao Zhumin from his diocese in Wenzhou in Zhejiang province.

(AFP )

Russian state oil giant Rosneft said Tuesday that its servers had suffered a "powerful" cyberattack, but insisted that production had not been hit.

"A powerful hacking attack has been carried out against the company's servers," Rosneft said on Twitter.

The firm added that it "hopes" the incident was "not connected to current legal proceedings".

Rosneft is currently suing private firm Sistema for 170 billions rubles (2.55 billion euros, $2.88 billion) over the state giant's acquisition of oil company Bashneft.

(AFP )

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday promised a "major national investigation" into exterior cladding on high-rise buildings following the deadly Grenfell Tower fire, after safety tests on 95 similar blocks recorded a 100 percent failure rate.

An estimated 600 tower blocks in England are believed to have cladding similar to that used on the 24-storey tower in west London, which was devastated in a blaze on June 14 that left 79 people presumed dead.

(AFP )

Michel Temer on Monday became the first president of Brazil to face criminal charges while still in office. Here are the five main people to watch in the growing scandal.

- Michel Temer -

The Brazilian political veteran was a behind-the-scenes operator before sweeping to power a year ago.

A conservative member of the PMDB party, he was in an uncomfortable alliance as vice president with leftist president Dilma Rousseff. When the PMDB turned on her and helped get her impeached for breaking budget rules, Temer automatically took over.

(AFP )

US-led coalition air strikes killed nearly 60 people at a Syrian prison run by the Islamic State group, a monitor said Tuesday, as critics hit out at Washington for threatening action against Damascus.

The coalition has been striking IS in Syria and Iraq since mid-2014 but has also been involved in recent confrontations with President Bashar al-Assad's forces, raising fears of the United States being drawn into Syria's civil war.

(AFP )

More than 8,000 migrants have been rescued in waters off Libya during the past 48 hours in difficult weather conditions, Italy's coastguard said Tuesday.

"On Monday, we rescued about 5,000 people from four large boats, one smaller one and 18 rubber dinghies," a spokesman told AFP.

People were pulled to safety by coastguard vessels, military ships operating under the EU's border agency Frontex and aid boats run by privately funded organisations. Their efforts were coordinated by the coastguard.

(AFP )

South African track sensation Wayde van Niekerk vowed to get "ridiculous" when he competes in the little-run 300m at Wednesday's Golden Spike meet in Ostrava.

The world and Olympic 400m champion, who broke Michael Johnson's long-standing world record when winning gold in Rio, said he would do everything to break the meeting record set by his role model Usain Bolt, back in 2010.

The world record of 30.85sec, set at altitude in Pretoria in 2000 by Johnson, is seconded by Bolt's 30.97, with van Niekerk third in the rankings, having run 31.03 in Kingston last year.

(AFP )

Modern-day Hong Kong is best known for its sprawl of skyscrapers, a bustling financial hub off the southern coast of mainland China and a regional conduit for trade.

But the territory was once a quiet backwater of rural hamlets and fishing communities, where mountainous terrain dominated sparse human settlement.

Twenty years since the city was handed back to China by colonial power Britain here are key points in its evolution:

- Ancient history -

Remnants of burial grounds and early rock carvings show human life in Hong Kong as far back as the Stone Age.

(AFP )

The EU hit Google with a record 2.4-billion-euro fine Tuesday for illegally favouring its shopping service in search results, in a fresh assault on US firms that risks the wrath of President Donald Trump.

Hard-charging European Commission competition chief Margrethe Vestager said the tech giant "abused its market dominance" as the world's most popular search engine to give an advantage to its Google Shopping service.

"What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules," Denmark's Vestager told a news conference in Brussels.

(AFP )

US President Donald Trump and his policies are broadly unpopular around the world -- with the notable exceptions of Russia and Israel, according to a poll released Monday.

The Pew Research Center survey, which surveyed people in 37 nations, showed a sharp decline in the average trust for America's leader to do the right thing when it comes to international affairs.

Twenty-two percent reported they had faith in Trump to guide America's role in the world, compared with a 64 percent level of confidence in Barack Obama in the final years of his presidency, Pew Research said.

(AFP )

The United States will not be drawn into Syria's civil war, Defence Secretary Jim Mattis has said, despite an increasingly complicated battle space that has seen US warplanes down pro-regime aircraft.

Speaking to reporters on a military plane late Monday as he headed for meetings in Europe, Mattis said the US-led coalition was determined to keep a strict focus on fighting the Islamic State group.

We won't fire "unless they are the enemy, unless they are ISIS," he said, using an acronym for the jihadist organisation.