Tuesday 20 February 2018

In the world

(AFP )

A Malaysian artist was jailed for a month Tuesday for publishing a caricature of scandal-plagued Prime Minister Najib Razak looking like a clown, the latest government critic to be imprisoned.

Fahmi Reza's picture of the premier wearing powder-white clown make-up, with evilly arched eyebrows and blood-red lips, went viral and the image was widely used in demonstrations against Najib.

(AFP )

Iranian search teams found the wreckage on Tuesday of a plane that went missing in the Zagros mountains two days earlier with 66 people on board, a spokesman said.

Aseman Airlines flight EP3704 disappeared in the Zagros range on Sunday morning, around 45 minutes after taking off from Tehran.

After two days of heavy snow and fog, the weather finally cleared on Tuesday morning, giving helicopter teams much better visibility.

(AFP )

Nepal's ruling party has merged with a former Maoist rebel group to form a super bloc that experts say will reshape politics after years of turbulence in the Himalayan nation.

Officials said Tuesday the new alliance, the Nepal Communist Party, was formally signed into agreement following late-night negotiations between the two sides Monday.

They forged a political alliance to trounce the incumbent party in last year's landmark general elections, but this formal merger creates a political behemoth unprecedented in Nepali politics.

(AFP )

Bangladesh and Myanmar were to hold a border meeting Tuesday on the fate of some 6,000 Rohingya refugees stranded in no man's land between the two countries, officials said.

The 6,000 at first refused to enter Bangladesh in the influx that poured across the border after the Myanmar military launched a crackdown against the Muslim minority last August.

Now they say they are not allowed to enter Bangladesh and the United Nations and aid groups have called on the Dhaka authorities to let them in.

(AFP )

The US and South Korea will go ahead with joint military drills after the Paralympics, both of them confirmed Tuesday, despite the exercises always infuriating Pyongyang and the Olympics having driven a rapprochement on the peninsula.

Washington previously agreed to a request from Seoul to delay the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises -- which usually begin in late February or early March -- until after the Pyeongchang Games in the South, to try to avoid stoking tensions.

(AFP )

A Japanese court on Tuesday ordered the operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant to compensate relatives of a 102-year-old man who killed himself at the prospect of fleeing his home.

The Fukushima District Court ordered Tokyo Electric Co (TEPCO) to pay 15.2 million yen ($143,400) in damages to the family of Fumio Okubo, according to their attorney Yukio Yasuda.

(AFP )

Israeli police revealed Tuesday that two close associates of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were among the suspects in a new corruption probe, with five others central figures in the Bezeq telecommunications group.

The seven were arrested on Sunday, just days after police said there were grounds to indict Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of public trust, in the biggest challenge yet to the right-wing premier's long tenure in power.

(AFP )

Separatists in Cameroon's restive English-speaking regions have faced a violent crackdown since declaring the creation of "Ambazonia", a self-proclaimed republic independent from the majority French-speaking country.

The violence has helped fuel support for a growing separatist movement, including armed groups, who in turn have carried out a string of attacks on police and the military. Dozens on both sides have died, and tens of thousands have fled into neighbouring Nigeria.

(AFP )

Unrest has spread in Cameroon's English-speaking regions since October as a secessionist movement has pushed for independence.

Tensions can be traced back to events a century ago, when Britain and France occupied Cameroon, taking over Germany's major colony in West Africa.

- World War I split -

Cameroon was a Germany colony until 1916, when British and French troops forced the Germans out.

The two countries divided it into separate spheres of influence that were later formalised by the League of Nations, the forerunner to the UN.

(AFP )

The theft of a thumb of an ancient Terracotta Warrior statue on display in the US incited a wave of criticism on Chinese social media Tuesday, following China's calls to "severely punish" the thief.

Michael Rohana, 24, has been arrested over the theft during an after hours "ugly sweater party" just before Christmas at the Franklin Institute in Pennsylvania where 10 of the figures are on display.

According to an arrest affidavit filed by an FBI agent, Rohana snuck into the closed exhibit and snapped a selfie with the warrior, worth $4.5 million.

(AFP )

Japan's defence ministry demanded explanations Tuesday from the US military after a fighter jet experiencing an engine fire dropped two fuel tanks into a lake in the country's north.

The incident, which caused no injuries, is the latest in a string of accidents involving the US military that have prompted concern from Japanese officials and renewed criticism of the US military presence in the country.

(AFP )

Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas will urge world powers at the UN Security Council on Tuesday to stand up to the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and establish a revamped peace process.

President Donald Trump's decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem infuriated the Palestinians who declared that the United States could no longer play a role as lead mediator in the Middle East peace process.

(AFP )

Turkey's offensive against a Kurdish militia in northern Syria will enter a second month Tuesday having made little progress while straining relations with Washington and The European Union.

Ankara on January 20 launched a cross-border air and ground operation against the People's Protection Units (YPG) supporting Syrian rebels in the Afrin region.

Turkey views the YPG as a Syrian offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has been waging an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.

(AFP )

The US Secret Service denied Monday reports that one of its agents and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly wrestled with Chinese security officials over the "nuclear football" during President Donald Trump's visit to Beijing in November.

Chinese security officials blocked the US military aide carrying the briefcase that carries the procedures and communications equipment that allow the US leader to launch nuclear missiles as the official entered the Great Hall, according to the Axios news website.

(AFP )

A wealthy Japanese man was Tuesday granted "sole parent" rights to 13 children he fathered through Thai surrogate mothers, in a court ruling that paves the way for him to take them in Japan.

Mitsutoki Shigeta, 28, became the centre of a "baby factory" scandal in 2014 after Thai police linked him via DNA to nine infants found under the care of 24-hour nannies in a plush Bangkok apartment.

(AFP )

A Bangkok court on Tuesday granted a Japanese man "sole parent" rights to 13 children he fathered through Thai surrogate mothers, a ruling that paves the way for him to take custody of the group.

Mitsutoki Shigeta caused a "baby factory" scandal in 2014 after Thai police said DNA samples linked him to nine infants found in a Bangkok apartment, plus at least four other babies born by surrogates.

The murky case threw the spotlight on Thailand's then unregulated rent-a-womb industry, and helped push authorities to bar foreigners from paying for Thai surrogates in 2015.

(AFP )

The heart-rending photo went round the world in 2015, showing an eight-year-old boy from Ivory Coast crammed into a suitcase that was found at a Spanish border crossing.

His father goes on trial Tuesday in Ceuta, a Spanish overseas territory in northern Morocco which migrants from Africa regularly try to reach by scaling high border fences, hiding behind car dashboards or in bus chassis.

Prosecutors are seeking a three-year prison term for Ali Ouattara for facilitating his son's illegal entry into Europe and endangering the child's life.

(AFP )

A rejected Uzbek asylum seeker who had admitted to a Stockholm truck attack that killed five people last year will address the court at his trial on Tuesday.

Rakhmat Akilov, 40, is accused of terrorism for stealing a beer delivery truck on Friday, April 7, and mowing down pedestrians on a busy shopping street, swerving wildly to hit as many people as possible.

Three Swedes were killed including an 11-year-old girl, as well as a 41-year-old British man and a 31-year-old Belgian woman. Ten others were injured.

(AFP )

One of Germany's top courts will decide Thursday whether some diesel vehicles can be banned from parts of cities like Stuttgart and Duesseldorf to reduce air pollution, a possible landmark judgement for the "car nation".

Eyes have turned to the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig after years of failure by federal, state and local governments to slash harmful emissions.

Fine particle pollution and nitrogen oxides (NOx) contribute to as many as 400,000 premature deaths from respiratory and cardiovascular disease per year in the European Union.

(AFP )

When Amir al-Awad fled Syria for Egypt, he intended to cross the Mediterranean for a European country.

But instead, the boyhood Syrian wrestling champion opted against the risky sea journey and found work at a restaurant in Alexandria, where he was introduced to the city's Syrian community.

Together they established the Syrian Sports Academy, and he replaced his dream of an Olympic medal with a goal to "create champions from the young refugees" from his country, says Awad.

(AFP )

The counter-terrorism plot seems more far fetched than many action thrillers, yet "7 Days in Entebbe", which premiered at the Berlin film festival Monday, depicts a real-life airline hijack drama.

The movie recounts what is often called the most audacious hostage rescue mission ever staged, Israel's 1976 "Operation Thunderbolt" in Uganda, but aims to be more than a tale of military heroism.

(AFP )

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro took to the US president's favorite medium, Twitter, on Monday to ask him to start a dialogue between the two countries.

"@RealDonaldTrump campaigned pledging to promote non-interference in the domestic affairs of other countries. It's time to keep your pledge," Maduro wrote, encouraging Trump to hold a meeting in Washington or Caracas.

(AFP )

Iraq must stabilise the northern region of Sinjar to help the Yazidi minority brutalised at the hands of the Islamic State group return home, the International Crisis Group said Tuesday.

A report by the conflict analysts said Baghdad must set up a local administration and mediate between factions who hold sway over Sinjar to pave the way for the return of the Yazidis.

The Kurdish-speaking Yazidis follow their own non-Muslim faith that earned them the hatred of the Sunni Muslim extremists of IS, who seized Sinjar in 2014 and unleashed a brutal campaign against the minority.

(AFP )

Archaeologists who have been exploring the world's largest underwater cave -- recently discovered in Mexico -- presented their findings Monday, including fossils of giant sloths and an elaborate shrine to the Mayan god of commerce.

Researchers discovered last month that two large networks of underwater caves in Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, the Sac Actun and Dos Ojos networks, are in fact connected, forming the largest such structure on Earth.

(AFP )

Babies born in the world's poorest countries, most of them in Africa, still face "alarming" risks of death that can be 50 times as high as those in the richest countries, according to a UNICEF report released Tuesday.

While the last quarter-century has seen broad improvements in older children's health, "we have not made similar progress in ending deaths among children less than one month old," said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF's executive director.

"Given that the majority of these deaths are preventable, clearly we are failing the world's poorest babies."

(AFP )

A Peruvian court ordered former president Alberto Fujimori on Monday to stand trial for the 1992 killings of six farmers, arguing that he lacks immunity despite a recent pardon for a different crime.

The National Criminal Court said the pardon granted to Fujimori in a human rights case for which he was serving a 25-year sentence did not apply to the murders of the group.

Prosecutors asked to try the ex-president and 23 others for the death squad killings.

(AFP )

A former first lady, a horse-riding governor known as "The Bronco" and a senator who calls himself "The Jaguar" jumped into Mexico's presidential race Monday after gathering the required signatures to run as independents.

The July 1 election will be the first time Mexico has allowed independent presidential candidates in its modern history.

(AFP )

At first glance, the cost-benefit ratio of a blood-only diet suggests that vampire bats -- the only mammals to feed exclusively on the viscous, ruby-red elixir -- flew down an evolutionary blind alley.

Blood is not only teeming with bacterial and viral disease, it is also very poor in nutrients -- too few carbs and vitamins, way too much salt.

It's a miracle Dracula lived as long as he did.

(AFP )

Oxfam formally apologized to Haiti on Monday over the prostitution scandal rocking the aid charity, expressing its "shame" and vowing to do better as it handed over a damning internal report into the allegations.

Made public earlier in the day, Oxfam's 2011 report into the behavior of aid workers sent to Haiti following a devastating earthquake revealed that a former top official admitted to paying for sex and that three staff physically threatened a witness.

(AFP )

Five Central American nations are to sign a free trade deal with South Korea on Wednesday after more than two years of talks to ease tariffs and barriers on a range of products, El Salvador's government announced.

Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama will seal the pact with the Asian country, sending their economy ministers to the signing ceremony.

Six Central American countries had been involved in the negotiations, but one of them -- Guatemala -- was staying outside the deal at this stage.

(AFP )

Canada, which takes in more African refugees from Israel than any other nation, has voiced concerns to the Jewish state over its planned mass deportation of African migrants, an official said Monday.

A spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Ottawa is "concerned" that Israel is working to expel thousands of Eritreans and Sudanese who entered illegally over the years, giving them an ultimatum: leave by April 1 or risk being imprisoned indefinitely.

(AFP )

Oxfam formally apologized to Haiti Monday over the prostitution scandal rocking the aid charity, expressing its "shame" and vowing to do better as it handed over a damning internal report into the allegations.

Made public earlier in the day, Oxfam's 2011 report into the behavior of aid workers sent to Haiti following a devastating earthquake revealed that a former top official admitted to paying for sex and that three staff physically threatened a witness.

(AFP )

Dutch and French art historians on Monday unveiled the surprising results of 18 months of painstaking restoration work on a pair of 17th century portraits by Dutch master Rembrandt.

The portraits of a newly married Dutch couple were jointly bought in 2015 by the Netherlands and France for 160 million euros ($174 million) from the wealthy Rothschild banking family in an unprecedented deal.

(AFP )

French Holocaust survivor and rights icon Simone Veil, who died last year aged 89, will receive the rare honour of a burial in July at the Pantheon in Paris, the president's office said Monday.

Veil will become only the fifth woman to be buried in the Paris monument, which houses the remains of great national figures, and only the fourth to be interred there on her own merits.

(AFP )

Poland's government had hoped the uproar over its new Holocaust bill would quickly die down, but by mentioning supposed "Jewish perpetrators" Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has reignited a row with Israel.

The head of the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party government had tried to defend the law, which was meant to protect Poland from false accusations of complicity in the Holocaust.