3 Iraqi refugees arrested in Germany over attack plot
officers are shown in front of a building during a raid in the village of
Meldorf, Germany, Jan. 30. (Bodo Marks/dpa via AP)
David Rising and Frank Jordans
Berlin (AP) — German
authorities arrested three Iraqi refugees on Wednesday on allegations they
were planning an Islamic extremist bombing attack, and searched properties
in three states in connection with their investigation.
Federal prosecutors said Shahin F.
and Hersh F., both 23, and Rauf S., 36, were taken into custody in an early
morning raid by a police SWAT team in the area of Dithmarschen, near the
border with Denmark.
The suspects, who had refugee status
in Germany, had been under surveillance for some time by a task force of
around 200 investigators, said Holger Muench, the head of Germany's federal
"The case shows that the threat of
Islamic terrorism is still present," Muench told reporters.
It wasn't immediately clear when the
suspects came to Germany.
More than 1 million asylum-seekers
entered Germany in 2015-16, most from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. The
involvement of several asylum-seekers in extremist attacks or plots has
helped boost support for the anti-migrant Alternative for Germany party.
Searches were carried out at other
residences in northern and southwestern Germany of people linked to the
three main suspects but not currently to the bomb plot.
The two younger men are suspected of
preparing a bomb attack and violating weapons laws, and the older one is
alleged to have aided them. Their last names weren't given in line with
German privacy laws.
The men appear to have been in the
early stages of planning, said Frauke Koehler, a spokeswoman for the Federal
"We believe that Shahin F. and Hersh
F. were firmly committed to carrying out an attack," she told reporters.
"But (...) according to our information the concrete target and timing of
the attack weren't determined yet."
Prosecutors allege the two men
decided in late 2018 to "carry out an attack motivated by Islamic extremism
in Germany." There are indications that they sympathized with Islamic State,
but Koehler said there was no evidence so far the men were members of, or
directed by, the group.
In December, Shahin F. downloaded
"various instructions" on how to build a bomb, and ordered a detonator from
a contact person in Britain, prosecutors said. Its delivery, however, was
stopped by British law enforcement agencies.
At the same time, the two carried
out tests using around 250 grams (almost 9 ounces) of gunpowder extracted
from New Year's fireworks, and asked Rauf S. to procure a firearm,
He is alleged to have contacted
Walid Khaled Y.Y., also an Iraqi, who offered them a Russian semi-automatic
Makarov 9mm pistol, prosecutors said. But the seller wanted at least 1,200
euros ($1,370) for the weapon, which was considered too expensive so it
Y.Y.'s home in the Schwerin area was
searched as part of Wednesday's operation, and he is being investigated for
alleged weapons and drug violations, prosecutors in the state of
Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania told The Associated Press.
In preparation for the possibility
of using a vehicle in the attack, Shahin F. started taking driving lessons,
federal prosecutors said. All three will appear before federal judges late
Wednesday to decide whether they should be kept in custody while the
Koehler said authorities received a
tip about the alleged plot in late 2018 from Germany's domestic intelligence
service, but didn't say how the agency started tracking the suspects.
In the only mass-casualty Islamic
extremist attack in Germany, Tunisian asylum-seeker Anis Amri hijacked a
truck in 2016 and drove it into a crowded Christmas market in Berlin,
killing 12 people and wounding dozens. IS later claimed responsibility.
Since that attack, Muench said
police had foiled seven planned attacks.
Venezuelans take to streets in walkout to push Maduro out
chant "Free elections" in a walk out against President Nicolas Maduro, in
the financial district of Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, Jan. 30. (AP
Scott Smith and Christine Armario
Caracas, Venezuela (AP) —
Doctors in scrubs, businessmen in suits and construction workers in jeans
gathered on the streets of Venezuela's capital Wednesday, waving their
nation's flag and demanding Nicolas Maduro step down from power in a walkout
organized by the nation's reinvigorated opposition to ratchet up pressure on
the embattled president.
Protesters said they were heeding
the opposition's call for another mass demonstration despite the
heavy-handed response by security forces over the last week to quell
"I'm going out now more than ever,"
said Sobeia Gonzalez, 63. "We have a lot more faith that this government has
very little time left."
The latest walkout comes one week
exactly after opposition leader Juan Guaido proclaimed himself the nation's
rightful president amid a sea of supporters, hurling the nation into a new
chapter of political tumult as the anti-Maduro movement tries to establish a
transitional government and the socialist leader clings to power.
"We are staying in the streets,"
Guaido told students at a surprise appearance at the Central University of
Venezuela. "Not just in protest of the crisis we are living in all of
Venezuela, not just because of how bad things are, but also for the future."
The 35-year-lawmaker has transformed
from a little-known opposition figure into a commanding force in the
nation's politics with the backing of U.S. President Donald Trump and two
dozen other nations recognizing him as Venezuela's interim president.
The turmoil has morphed into a
larger geopolitical standoff as Maduro accuses the U.S. of orchestrating a
coup by backing Guaido and enacting punishing oil sanctions while powerful
Venezuela allies China and Russia continue to stand by the president.
On Tuesday, the government-stacked
Supreme Court barred Guaido from leaving the country and froze his bank
accounts as a probe into his anti-government activities led by Maduro-ally
and chief prosecutor Tarek William Saab advances. U.S. national security
adviser John Bolton warned that if Guaido is harmed Venezuela will face
Guaido has thus far managed to avoid
arrest and the Supreme Court did not strip him of his legislative immunity,
though the new investigation could signal that Maduro's administration is
moving to take a more punitive approach in the days ahead.
Speaking at the walkout, Guaido said
he wasn't losing any sleep over the probe. "We don't want to leave the
country," he said. "We want people to return."
Maduro huddled Wednesday with
military troops, prayed with evangelical supporters and released a video
urging the American people to rise up against Trump and support him as
Venezuela's rightful leader. He said Trump has his eyes on Venezuela's vast
oil reserves and warned against any U.S. military intervention.
"We won't allow a Vietnam in Latin
America," Maduro said. "If the aim of the United States is to invade,
they'll have a Vietnam worse than can be imagined."
Maduro has been overseeing military
training exercises broadcast on state television on a near-daily basis over
the past week in an apparent attempt to show he still has the backing of the
armed forces, whose support is key to either man's claim to the presidency.
In an interview with Russia's
state-owned RIA Novosti news agency, Maduro said he was "willing to sit down
for talks with the opposition for the sake of Venezuela's peace and its
future," an offer he has repeated often but that the opposition is reluctant
to accept. He also accused Trump of ordering a hit on him from Colombia but
offered no proof.
The already distressed nation is
likely to face even tougher times soon after the U.S. imposed sanctions
Monday on Venezuela's state-owned oil company, potentially depriving the
Maduro government of $11 billion in export revenues over the next year.
Maduro called the sanctions
"criminal" and vowed to challenge the U.S. in court.
Violent street demonstrations
erupted last week after Guaido declared during a huge opposition rally in
Caracas that he had assumed presidential powers under the constitution and
planned to hold fresh elections to end Maduro's "dictatorship."
Under Venezuela's constitution, the
head of the National Assembly is empowered to take on the duties of the
chief executive under a range of circumstances in which the presidency is
vacated. The opposition contends that Maduro's reelection was a sham
because, among other things, top opposition candidates were barred from
running and that his new second term is therefore illegitimate.
The U.N. human rights office says
security forces in Venezuela detained nearly 700 people in just one day of
anti-government protests last week — the highest such tally in a single day
in the country in at least 20 years — and that more than 40 people were
Maduro's allies blame the opposition
for the violence and deny the high death toll as well as reports that minors
were among those arrested.
Guaido called on Venezuelans to take
to the streets Wednesday holding signs stating "your reasons for fighting"
and urging the armed forces to join them.
"I want a free Venezuela," several
protesters in the Chacao district of the capital wrote on their signs as
passing cars and trucks honked their horns in support. Others chanted, "Maduro
is a delinquent, not a president!"
A row of National Guardsmen blocked
off one street in Caracas to stop protesters from going through but there
weren't any reports of violent confrontations as happened last week.
The walkout drew a cross-section of
Venezuelan society ranging from professionals to blue-collar workers, though
participation appeared to be lower in some of the poorer enclaves that are
traditional government strongholds.
A few of demonstrators from the
Catia neighborhood, where protesters set barricades on fire last week, said
they didn't feel safe protesting there and joined the walkout from wealthier
Among the protesters was Dr. Hugo
Rosillo, who stood outside a children's hospital just blocks from Maduro's
presidential palace. He said he and others were fed up with not being able
to treat their patients facing life-threatening illnesses like cancer
because of shortages of medical supplies.
The hospital has turned into just "a
storeroom for cadavers," he said.
52 bodies of migrants found after boats capsize off Djibouti
search for survivors on the beach after two boats carrying migrants capsized
off the shore near Godoria, in northeast Djibouti Tuesday, Jan. 29.
(International Organization for Migration via AP)
Johannesburg (AP) — The
remains of 52 people have been found after some 130 migrants went missing
off Djibouti when two boats capsized in rough waters, the U.N. migration
agency said Wednesday, as body bags were laid out on the sand.
Sixteen survivors were recovered,
and the tiny East African nation's coast guard continued a search and rescue
operation after Tuesday's accident, the U.N. said in a statement. Witnesses
said large waves caused the overloaded boats to tip over about a half-hour
An 18-year-old survivor told the
migration agency he had boarded one of the boats with another 130 people,
including 16 women. There were no immediate details on the second boat.
Thousands of migrants from the
turbulent Horn of Africa region set off every year from Djibouti to cross
the Bab al-Mandab Strait for the Arabian Peninsula with hopes of finding
work in rich Gulf countries.
The vast majority of the migrants
are Ethiopian, young and male, the migration agency says.
The crossing is dangerous, with
smugglers in some cases forcing migrants overboard before reaching their
destination. Other boats have been fired on as they approach Yemen, where
fighting continues between pro-government forces backed by a Saudi-led
coalition and Houthi rebels.
"This tragic event demonstrates the
risks that vulnerable migrants face as they innocently search for better
lives," said the migration agency's Djibouti chief of mission, Lalini
The agency's Missing Migrants
Project says at least 199 people have now drowned off the Djibouti coast
near Obock, where the latest capsizing occurred, since 2014.
More than 700 other deaths have
occurred further off shore on the route from the Horn of Africa to Yemen,
according to the project's data.
The route also sees a flow of
migrants from Yemen toward the Horn of Africa as people flee war.
Pakistani Islamists to rally against freed Christian woman
from the Pakistani religious party Sunni Threek protest the Supreme Court's
decision to uphold the acquittal of Aasia Bibi, in Lahore, Pakistan,
Wednesday, Jan. 30. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudhry)
Islamabad (AP) — A radical
Islamist party in Pakistan says it has called on its followers to hold
nationwide protests over the weekend after the country's top court this week
upheld the acquittal of Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman who spent eight years
on death row after being convicted for blasphemy. Mohammad Shafiq Amini, the
Tehreek-e-Labbaik party acting head, is urging transport operators to stay
off the roads on Friday and join their protest. He says police arrested
hundreds of the party's supporters following Tuesday's refusal to re-examine
Bibi's Oct. 31 acquittal. Bibi, who is in hiding at an undisclosed location,
wants to join her daughters abroad but there is no word when that might
happen. Her ordeal began in 2009, when she was sentenced to death, charged
with insulting Islam's Prophet Mohammed.
20 dead as bombs target Sunday Mass in Philippine cathedral
views the site inside a Roman Catholic cathedral in Jolo, the capital of
Sulu province in the southern Philippines after two bombs exploded Sunday,
Jan. 27. (WESMINCOM Armed Forces of the Philippines Via AP)
Jolo, Philippines (AP) — Two
bombs minutes apart tore through a Roman Catholic cathedral on a southern
Philippine island where Muslim militants are active, killing at least 20
people and wounding 111 others during a Sunday Mass, officials said.
Witnesses said the first blast inside
the Jolo cathedral in the provincial capital sent churchgoers, some of them
wounded, to stampede out of the main door. Army troops and police posted
outside were rushing in when the second bomb went off about one minute later
near the main entrance, causing more deaths and injuries. The military was
checking a report that the second explosive device may have been attached to
a parked motorcycle.
The initial explosion scattered the
wooden pews inside the main hall and blasted window glass panels, and the
second bomb hurled human remains and debris across a town square fronting
the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, witnesses said. Cellphone signal
was cut off in the first hours after the attack. The witnesses who spoke to
The Associated Press refused to give their names or were busy at the scene
of the blasts.
Police said at least 20 people died and
111 were wounded, correcting an earlier toll due to double counting. The
fatalities included 15 civilians and five troops. Among the wounded were 17
troops, two police, two coast guard and 90 civilians.
Troops in armored carriers sealed off
the main road leading to the church while vehicles transported the dead and
wounded to the town hospital. Some casualties were evacuated by air to
nearby Zamboanga city.
"I have directed our troops to heighten
their alert level, secure all places of worships and public places at once,
and initiate pro-active security measures to thwart hostile plans," said
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana in a statement.
"We will pursue to the ends of the
earth the ruthless perpetrators behind this dastardly crime until every
killer is brought to justice and put behind bars. The law will give them no
mercy," the office of President Rodrigo Duterte said in Manila.
It said that "the enemies of the state
boldly challenged the government's capability to secure the safety of
citizens in that region. The (Armed Forces of the Philippines) will rise to
the challenge and crush these godless criminals."
Jolo island has long been troubled by
the presence of Abu Sayyaf militants, who are blacklisted by the United
States and the Philippines as a terrorist organization because of years of
bombings, kidnappings and beheadings. A Catholic bishop, Benjamin de Jesus,
was gunned down by suspected militants outside the cathedral in 1997.
No one has immediately claimed
responsibility for the latest attack.
It came nearly a week after minority
Muslims in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation endorsed a new autonomous
region in the southern Philippines in hopes of ending nearly five decades of
a separatist rebellion that has left 150,000 people dead. Although most of
the Muslim areas approved the autonomy deal, voters in Sulu province, where
Jolo is located, rejected it. The province is home to a rival rebel faction
that's opposed to the deal as well as smaller militant cells that not part
of any peace process.
Western governments have welcomed the
autonomy pact. They worry that small numbers of Islamic State-linked
militants from the Middle East and Southeast Asia could forge an alliance
with Filipino insurgents and turn the south into a breeding ground for
"This bomb attack was done in a place
of peace and worship, and it comes at a time when we are preparing for
another stage of the peace process in Mindanao," said Gov. Mujiv Hataman of
the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. "Human lives are irreplaceable,"
he added, calling on Jolo residents to cooperate with authorities to find
the perpetrators of this "atrocity."
Security officials were looking "at
different threat groups and they still can't say if this has something to do
with the just concluded plebiscite," Oscar Albayalde, the national police
chief, told ABS-CBN TV network. Hermogenes Esperon, the national security
adviser, said that the new autonomous region, called Bangsamoro, "signifies
the end of war for secession. It stands for peace in Mindanao."
Aside from the small but brutal Abu
Sayyaf group, other militant groups in Sulu include a small band of young
jihadis aligned with the Islamic State group, which has also carried out
assaults, including ransom kidnappings and beheadings.
Abu Sayyaf militants are still holding
at least five hostages — a Dutch national, two Malaysians, an Indonesian and
a Filipino — in their jungle bases mostly near Sulu's Patikul town, not far
Government forces have pressed on
sporadic offensives to crush the militants, including those in Jolo, a
poverty-wracked island of more than 700,000 people. A few thousand Catholics
live mostly in the capital of Jolo.
There have been speculations that the
bombings may be a diversionary move by Muslim militants after troops
recently carried out an offensive that killed a number of IS-linked
extremists in an encampment in the hinterlands of Lanao del Sur province,
also in the south. The area is near Marawi, a Muslim city that was besieged
for five months by hundreds of IS-aligned militants, including foreign
fighters, in 2017. Troops quelled the insurrection, which left more 1,100
mostly militants dead and the heartland of the mosque-studded city in ruins.
Duterte declared martial law in the
entire southern third of the country to deal with the Marawi siege, his
worst security crisis. His martial law declaration has been extended to
allow troops to finish off radical Muslim groups and other insurgents but
bombings and other attacks have continued.
Auschwitz survivors pay homage as world remembers Holocaust
Survivors of Auschwitz gather on the 74th
anniversary of the liberation of the former Nazi German death camp in
Oswiecim, Poland, on Sunday, Jan. 27. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
Warsaw, Poland (AP) — The world
marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Sunday amid a revival of
hate-inspired violence and signs that younger generations know less and less
about the genocide of Jews, Roma and others during World War II.
In Poland, which was under Nazi German
occupation during the war, a far-right activist who has been imprisoned for
burning the effigy of a Jew gathered with other nationalists Sunday outside
the former death camp of Auschwitz ahead of official ceremonies remembering
the 1.1 million people murdered there.
Since last year's observances, an
85-year-old French Holocaust survivor, Mireille Knoll, was fatally stabbed
in Paris and 11 Jews were gunned down in a Pittsburgh synagogue during
Shabbat services, the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history.
Human Rights First, a U.S.
organization, recalled those killings and warned that "today's threats do
not come solely from the fringe."
"In places such as Hungary and Poland,
once proudly democratic nations, government leaders are traveling the road
to authoritarianism," said Ira Forman, the group's senior adviser for
combatting anti-Semitism. "As they do so, they are distorting history to
spin a fable about their nations and the Holocaust."
The Polish nationalist, Piotr Rybak,
said his group was protesting the Polish government, accusing it of
remembering only murdered Jews and not murdered Poles in yearly observances
That accusation is incorrect. The
observances at the memorial site pay homage each Jan. 27 to all of the
camp's victims, both Jews and gentiles.
Counter-protesters at Auschwitz on
Sunday held up a "Fascism Stop" sign and an Israeli flag, while police kept
the two groups apart.
Former prisoners placed flowers Sunday
at an execution wall at Auschwitz. They wore striped scarves that recalled
their uniforms, some with the red letter "P," the symbol the Germans used to
mark them as Poles.
Early in World War II, most prisoners
were Poles, rounded up by the occupying German forces. Later, Auschwitz was
transformed into a mass killing site for Jews, Roma and others, operating
until the liberation by Soviet forces on Jan. 27, 1945.
The clashes of views at Auschwitz come
amid a surge of right-wing extremism in Poland and elsewhere in the West. It
is fed by a broader grievance many Poles have that their suffering during
the war at German hands is little known abroad while there is greater
knowledge of the Jewish tragedy.
However recent surveys show that
knowledge of the atrocities during World War II is declining generally.
A new study released in recent days by
the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany and the Azrieli
Foundation found that 52 percent of millennials in Canada cannot name even
one concentration camp or ghetto and 62 percent of millennials did not know
that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust.
Its findings were similar to a similar
study carried out a year before in the United States.
The past year in Poland has also seen
high emotions triggered by a Holocaust speech law that criminalizes blaming
the Polish nation for the crimes of Nazi Germany, something that sparked a
diplomatic crisis with Israel and a surge of a surge of anti-Semitic hate
The United Nations recognized Jan. 27
as International Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2005.
France: 'Yellow vest' violence prompts 'red scarves' rally
A man with
his hand wrapped in a red scarf takes part in a rally in Paris, France,
Sunday, Jan. 27. (AP Photo/Rafael Yaghobzadeh)
Paris (AP) — Some 10,000 people
wearing red scarves marched through Paris on Sunday to protest acts of
violence and vandalism on the sidelines of anti-government demonstrations by
the largely peaceful yellow vest movement.
The "red scarves" demonstration came
amid growing divisions around the 11-week-old yellow vest phenomenon, which
has led to rioting in Paris and other cities, exposed deep discontent with
President Emmanuel Macron and prompted national soul-searching.
Protest damage to the Arc de Triomphe
monument in Paris in December was a turning point for many of the
counter-protesters at Sunday's march.
"We don't share all the demands
expressed by the yellow vest movement, for instance demands about
overthrowing the government, brutalizing institutions," Laurent Segnis, a
member of Macron's centrist Republic on the Move party, said.
Others lamented their sense that the
movement — which appeared in mid-November as a grassroots response to a fuel
tax rise — is radicalizing as it approaches February.
Sunday's protesters wore red scarves or
bright blue vests as a way to appropriate the yellow vest movement's
brightly colored symbol of discontent. The movement and its protests are
named after the high-visibility garments French drivers must carry in their
vehicles in case of emergency.
Some 2,000 people have been injured in
protests since the movement began Nov. 17, notably as weekly demonstrations
in Paris routinely descend into clashes between riot police and participants
who throw rocks at officers and set fires in the streets. Separately, 10
people have died in road incidents related to yellow vest blockades of
provincial roundabouts and tollbooths.
The yellow vest movement, which
includes people across France's political spectrum, sees Macron's government
as favoring the wealthy. Many movement supporters dismissed the "red
scarves" as Macron stooges, though the president's party didn't officially
take part in the counter-demonstrations.
Some 69,000 people nationwide took part
Saturday in the 11th week of yellow vest protests, down from more than
80,000 during the previous two weekends, according to the French Interior
Ministry. The protests in Paris were scattered, with different groups
staging events at different sites.
On Sunday, French police were
investigating how a prominent yellow vest protester, Jerome Rodrigues,
suffered an eye injury in Paris. Video images show Rodriguez collapsed on
the ground Saturday near the Bastille monument, where protesters throwing
projectiles clashed with police seeking to disperse them.
Police armed with guns that fire
non-lethal rubber balls - ammunition that has seriously injured a number of
demonstrators - were equipped with body cameras this weekend for the first
time. Officials said the cameras were being used as an experiment to record
use of the non-lethal weapons, providing context and eventual evidence if
Russia and Putin mark 75 years since WWII siege of Leningrad
World War II T-34 tank drives during a military parade at Dvortsovaya
(Palace) Square during the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the end of
the Siege of Leningrad during World War II in St. Petersburg, Russia,
Sunday, Jan. 27. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)
St. Petersburg, Russia (AP) —
The Russian city of St. Petersburg marked the 75th anniversary of the end of
the devastating World War II siege by Nazi forces with a large military
parade Sunday in the city's sprawling Palace Square.
Russian President Vladimir Putin later
laid flowers at a monument in Piskarevskoye Cemetery, where hundreds of
thousands of siege victims are buried.
The siege of the city, then called
Leningrad, lasted nearly 2˝ years until the Soviet Army drove the Nazis away
on Jan. 27, 1944.
Estimates of the death toll vary, but
historians agree that more than 1 million Leningrad residents died from
hunger or air and artillery bombardments during the siege.
On Sunday, more than 2,500 soldiers and
80 units of military equipment paraded as snow fell and temperatures hovered
around minus-18 degrees Celsius (0 Fahrenheit). The vehicles included a T-34
tank; such tanks played a key role in defeating the Nazis and became a
widely revered symbol of the nation's wartime valor and suffering.
During the siege, most Leningrad
residents had to survive on rations of just 125 grams (less than 0.3 pounds)
of bread a day and whatever other food they could buy or exchange at local
markets after selling their belongings.
Among those who succumbed to the
deprivations of the siege was Putin's 1-year-old brother. Putin himself was
born after the siege, in 1952.
The Russian president did not attend
the parade, which some civic groups had objected to as inappropriate, saying
the day should commemorate the victims rather than flaunt military strength.
The Kremlin also announced Sunday that
Putin had signed an order allocating 150 million rubles ($2.3 million) for
creating new exhibits at the state museum of the siege.
"Today we mourn those who died
defending Leningrad, who at the cost of their lives broke through the
blockade. We recall those who worked in the besieged city, who, risking
themselves, delivered bread and medicine along the Road of Life," Prime
Minister Dmitry Medvedev wrote on social media.
Medvedev was referring to the ice road
across Lake Ladoga that was the only conduit for supplies and evacuations
during much of the siege.
Tamara Chernykh, 81, told The
Associated Press that she still can't forget the tiny pieces of bread that
her granny used to put under her pillow as a night treat for a starving
four-year-old girl in besieged Leningrad during the deadly winter of
In the daytime, Chernykh said she and
her baby cousin mostly stayed put under several blankets in the darkness.
There was no heating during the first and the coldest winter of the siege,
when temperatures outside sometimes plunged to -40 degrees Celsius (-40
Chernykh's grandmother, who gave the
bread out of her own scant food ration, said the crumbs would bring good
dreams. She died from starvation before the siege ended.
Germany has allocated 12 million euros
($13.5 million) to modernize a Russian hospital for veterans of the war and
to create a center in St. Petersburg where Germans and Russians can meet,
the German and Russian foreign ministers said Sunday.
"We are sure that this voluntary action
will improve the life quality of the victims of the siege who are still
alive and also serve the historical reconciliation of the peoples of both
countries," ministers Heiko Maas and Sergey Lavrov said in the statement.
Landslides, flooding from dam kill 8 in central Indonesia
ride a makeshift raft as they evacuate their flooded homes in Makassar,
South Sulawesi, Indonesia, Wednesday, Jan. 23. (AP Photo/Masyudi Syachban
Jakarta (AP) — Torrential rains
overwhelmed a dam and caused landslides that killed at least eight people
and displaced more than 2,000 in central Indonesia, officials said
The dead included two infants who
drowned and a man who was electrocuted after the floods began late Tuesday,
said Adnan Purichta Ichsann, the chief of Gowa district near Makassar, the
provincial capital of South Sulawesi.
Rescuers were evacuating residents to
shelters at a government office and mosques, Ichsann said. The national
disaster agency said four people are missing and more than 2,000 were in
temporary shelters. It said nine districts including Makassar were affected.
Indonesian TV and video posted on
YouTube showed half submerged homes and rescuers in boats reaching people
clinging to tire inner tubes in the floodwaters.
Staff at the Bili Bili dam, a rock-fill
embankment, didn't have time to provide advance warning of the water
release, Ichsann said.
"Torrential rain caused a dam to be
overwhelmed by water, forcing us to open it to prevent a greater danger.
This is what caused flooding in some areas," Ichsann said.
Deadly landslides and floods are a
frequent occurrence during seasonal rains in Indonesia. A landslide in
Sukabumi on the main island of Java earlier this month killed 32 people.
Ichsann said the death toll could rise
as areas hit by landslides are still being searched.
Several bridges were damaged by the
flooding and power cut off in affected areas.
Maduro foe claims Venezuela presidency amid protests
head of Venezuela's opposition-run congress, declares himself interim
president of the nation until elections can be held during a rally demanding
President Nicolas Maduro's resignation in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday,
Jan. 23. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
Caracas, Venezuela (AP) —
Venezuela's crisis quickly escalated Wednesday as an opposition leader
backed by the Trump administration declared himself interim president in a
direct challenge to embattled socialist Nicolas Maduro, who retaliated by
breaking off relations with the United States, his biggest trade partner.
For the past two weeks, ever since
Maduro took the oath for a second six-year term in the face of widespread
international condemnation, the newly invigorated opposition had been
preparing for nationwide demonstrations Wednesday coinciding with the
anniversary marking the end of Venezuela's last military dictatorship in
While Maduro has shown no signs of
leaving, his main rival, National Assembly President Juan Guaido, upped the
ante by declaring himself interim president before masses of anti-government
demonstrators — the only way, he said, to rescue Venezuela from
"dictatorship." Outside the capital, seven demonstrators were killed amid
disturbances during protests that rocked several cities.
In a seemingly coordinated action, the
U.S. led a chorus of Western hemisphere nations, including Canada, Brazil,
Argentina and Colombia, that immediately recognized Guaido, with President
Donald Trump calling on Maduro to resign and promising to use the "full
weight" of the U.S. economic and diplomatic power to push for the
restoration of Venezuela's democracy.
"The people of Venezuela have
courageously spoken out against Maduro and his regime and demanded freedom
and the rule of law," Trump said in a statement.
The stunning move, which to some
harkened back to dark episodes of heavy-handed U.S. interventions in Latin
America during the Cold War, drew a strong rebuke from Maduro. He responded
by swiftly cutting off diplomatic relations with the United States, the
biggest importer of the OPEC nation's oil, giving American diplomats 72
hours to leave the country.
"Before the people and nations of the
world, and as constitutional president. .... I've decided to break
diplomatic and political relations with the imperialist U.S. government,"
Maduro thundered while holding up a decree banning the diplomats before a
crowd of red-shirted supporters gathered at the presidential palace.
"Don't trust the gringos," he said,
rattling off a long list of U.S.-backed military coups — Guatemala, Chile,
Brazil — in decades past. "They don't have friends or loyalties. They only
have interests, guts and the ambition to take Venezuela's oil, gas and
Not to be undone, Guaido issued his own
statement, urging foreign embassies to disavow Maduro's orders and keep
their diplomats in the country. A few hours later, U.S. Secretary of State
Mike Pompeo said the United States would abide by Guaido's directive and
ignore Maduro's order to withdraw its diplomats.
The 35-year-old Guaido, a virtually
unknown lawmaker at the start of the year, has reignited the hopes of
Venezuela's often beleaguered opposition by taking a rebellious tack amid a
crushing economic crisis that has forced millions to flee or go hungry.
Raising his right hand in unison with
tens of thousands of supporters, the fresh-faced leader of the
opposition-controlled congress took a symbolic oath to assume executive
powers he says are his right under two articles of Venezuela constitution to
take over as interim president and form a transitional government until he
calls new elections.
"Today, January 23, 2019, I swear to
formally assume the powers of the national executive as president in charge
of Venezuela," he told the cheering crowd as he stood behind a lectern
emblazoned with Venezuela's national coat of arms.
"We know that this will have
consequences," he shouted, moments before quickly slipping away to an
unknown location amid speculation he would soon be arrested.
The price of oil slipped for the third
time in four days Wednesday, an indication that international energy markets
are not overly concerned yet that the situation in Venezuela — America's
third top oil supplier and owner of Houston-based Citgo — will disrupt
global crude supplies.
The assault on Maduro's rule came after
large crowds gathered in Caracas waving flags and chanting "Get out Maduro!"
in what was the largest demonstration since a wave of unrest that left more
than 120 dead in 2017.
While the protests in the capital were
mostly peaceful there were no signs that security forces heeded Guaido's
call to join the anti-Maduro movement and go light on demonstrators.
Hours after most demonstrators went
home, violence broke out in Altamira, an upscale zone of Caracas and an
opposition stronghold, when National Guardsmen descended on hundreds of
youths, some of them with their faces covered, lingering around a plaza.
Popping tear gas canisters sent hundreds running and hordes of protesters
riding two and three on motorcycles fleeing in panic.
Blocks away, a small group knocked a
pair of guardsman riding tandem off their motorcycle, pelting them with
coconuts as they sped down a wide avenue. Some in the group struck the two
guardsmen with their hands while others ran off with their gear and set
their motorcycle on fire.
Elsewhere, four demonstrators were
killed by gunfire in the western city of Barinas as security forces were
dispersing a crowd. Three others were killed amid unrest in the border city
of San Cristobal.
Amid the showdown, all eyes were on the
military, the traditional arbiter of political disputes in Venezuela — and
to whom Guaido has been targeting his message.
Maduro, who lacks the military pedigree
of his mentor and predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez, has sought to shore up
support from the armed forces by doling out key posts to top generals,
including heading the PDVSA oil monopoly that is the source of virtually all
of Venezuela's export earnings. He has also been playing commander in chief,
appearing last week at a military command meeting wearing camouflage
fatigues and receiving the blessing of the defense minister, Gen. Vladimir
Padrino Lopez, who said his troops were prepared to die for Maduro.
But beyond the public displays of
loyalty from the top brass, a number of cracks have started to appear.
On Monday, Venezuelans awoke to news
that a few dozen national guardsmen had taken captive a loyalist officer and
seized a stockpile of assault rifles in a pre-dawn raid. The government
quickly quelled the uprising, but residents in a nearby slum took to the
streets to show their support for the mutineers by burning cars and throwing
stones at security forces, who fired back with tear gas.
Disturbances continued into Tuesday,
with small pockets of unrest in a few working-class neighborhoods where the
government has traditionally enjoyed strong support.
Retired Maj. Gen. Cliver Alcala, a
one-time aide to Chavez and now in exile, said the opposition's newfound
momentum has reverberated with the military's lower ranks, many of whom are
suffering the same hardships as regular Venezuelan families.
"I am absolutely certain that right
now, especially younger troops are asking themselves whether Maduro is their
commander in chief or a usurper," Alcala said.
Though intimidation has worked for the
government in the past, it may not this time, said Dimitris Pantoulas, a
Caracas-based political analyst. Discontent now appears to be more
widespread and the ranks of security forces and government-allied groups
have been thinned by the mass exodus of mostly young Venezuelans, he said.
"The government is resorting to its old
tricks, but the people no longer believe them," Pantoulas said.
Telescopes capture moment of impact during eclipse of moon
from video provided by Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles shows an impact
flash on the moon, bottom left, during the lunar eclipse which started on
Sunday evening, Jan. 20, 2019. (Griffith Observatory via AP)
Cape Canaveral, Fla. (AP) —
Astronomers managed to capture the moment of an impact during this week's
Spanish astrophysicist Jose Maria
Madiedo of the University of Huelva said Wednesday it appears a rock from a
comet slammed into the moon during the total lunar eclipse late Sunday and
early Monday. The strike was seen by telescopes in Spain and elsewhere as a
Madiedo said it's the first impact
flash ever seen during a lunar eclipse, although such crater-forming impacts
The object hit at an estimated 10 miles
(17 kilometers) per second, and was 22 pounds (10 kilograms) and 12 inches
(30 centimeters) across, according to Madiedo.
Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles
also recorded the impact during its livestream of the eclipse. A second
flash was seen a minute after the first by some observers, said Anthony
Cook, an astronomical observer at Griffith.
"It was in the brightest part of the
moon's image," Cook said of the second suspected strike, "and there might
not be enough contrast for the flash to be visible in our video."
Madiedo said lunar impact monitoring
generally is conducted five days before and after a new moon, when flashes
can be easily observed. To take advantage of the three-plus-hour eclipse, he
set up four extra telescopes in addition to the four he operates at the
observatory in Seville. "I did not want to miss any potential impact event,"
he explained in an email.
"I could not sleep for almost two days,
setting up and testing the extra instruments, and performing the observation
during the night of Jan. 21," he wrote. "I was really exhausted when the
eclipse was over."
Then computer software alerted him to
"I jumped out of the chair I was
sitting on. I am really happy, because I think that the effort was
rewarded," he said.
Moon monitoring can help scientists
better predict the rate of impacts, not just at the moon but on Earth,
Madiedo noted. He helps run the Moon Impacts Detection and Analysis System,
or MIDAS, in Spain.
Hong Kong's legislature takes up China national anthem bill
protesters raise the Chinese National flag and the Hong Kong flag during a
protest outside Legislative building in Hong Kong, Wednesday, Jan. 23. (AP
Hong Kong (AP) — Hong Kong's
legislature took up a controversial bill Wednesday that would punish anyone
who "publicly and intentionally insults" the Chinese national anthem with up
to three years in prison, raising concerns about Beijing's growing influence
in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
The move came after soccer fans
repeatedly booed the anthem at the start of international qualifiers,
upsetting leaders of the ruling Communist Party in Beijing. The measure
would also require students to sing and study the song as part of their
Ever since Beijing suppressed the
pro-democracy movement in the semi-autonomous city in late 2014, heckling
China's national anthem has emerged as a form of protest. The bill, which
also includes a maximum fine of $50,000 Hong Kong (US$6,410), will be up for
passage this summer.
A former British colony, Hong Kong was
handed over to Chinese rule in 1997 but continues to enjoy civil liberties
such as freedom of the press that are denied in China. The "one country, two
systems" framework is supposed to last for 50 years but has been
significantly eroded under authoritarian Chinese leader Xi Jinping, critics
"We're worried that by passing the
bill, people's right and liberty to express themselves in terms of political
ideology will be restricted," said Alvin Yeung, a lawmaker in Hong Kong's
Legislative Council, known as LegCo.
Pro-Beijing legislator Holden Chow
disagreed, saying the bill was merely about upholding the sanctity of
"We are simply deterring people from
showing disrespect to the national anthem," Chow said.
Before LegCo went into the morning
session, student pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong and several others
staged a flash demonstration by mounting a black protest banner right under
China's national five-star emblem at Hong Kong's government headquarters.
Emblazoned with the slogan "Freedom not
to sing praises," the banner was swiftly removed by security and no arrests
In 2017, Beijing enacted a national
anthem law and entered it as an amendment to Hong Kong's constitution. The
anthem, "March of the Volunteers," begins with a call for defiance: "Rise
up, you people who refuse to be subjugated."
The bill is virtually assured of
passage since the legislators who tend to side with Beijing outnumber the
pro-democracy camp. But the law wades into untested waters since it
represents Beijing's first effort at requiring Hong Kong to pass a mainland
Chinese law, a potential breach of "one country, two systems."
It shows that more and more laws passed
by the National People's Congress, China's rubber-stamp parliament, will
"sooner or later be fully applicable to Hong Kong," said Willy Lam, a
political analyst and adjunct professor at the Chinese University of Hong
Kong. "This is a distributing trend."
Newspaper columnists have pointed to
the example of American footballers kneeling at the playing of the U.S.
anthem as a form of protest that should be tolerated. Some also decry the
Hong Kong bill as carrying the harshest penalty of any jurisdiction that has
a punitive national anthem law, including Russia, Singapore and Malaysia.
Passage of the national anthem bill
could open up the floodgates to further legislative efforts long opposed in
Hong Kong, including national security legislation that could significantly
increase Beijing's sway over the territory.
Sonia Gandhi's daughter enters India politics ahead of vote
Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, file photo, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, sister of
Congress party President Rahul Gandhi, waves to party supporters during an
election campaign rally in Rae Barelli in the northern Indian state of Uttar
Pradesh. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)
New Delhi (AP) — A scion of
India's most famous political dynasty on Wednesday formally entered
politics, with the opposition Congress party assigning her a position as it
prepares for national elections due before May.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is the
47-year-old daughter of Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi. She has in the past
helped her mother and brother, party president Rahul Gandhi, campaign in
their constituencies in Uttar Pradesh but had never held a party post.
She is a popular figure in Indian
politics, drawing crowds wherever she goes. The party hopes to capitalize on
her popularity in the coming elections where it will be challenging Prime
Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist party.
The Congress party in a statement on
Wednesday announced she will hold the title of All India Congress Committee
general secretary, looking after the eastern parts of Uttar Pradesh state.
The party is expected to face a tough
election battle in the state with two powerful regional parties reaching an
agreement that left the Congress party to fend for itself.
She is expected to campaign for the
party elsewhere in the country, also in view of a formidable challenge from
Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party, which is considered to be a front-runner in
the coming national elections.
She is married to a businessman and
they have a son and a daughter.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will take up the
party position in the first week of February, nearly 14 months after her
brother Rahul took over as the party president from their mother, Sonia
Sonia Gandhi stepped down as the
party's longest-serving chief in 2017, leading the party for 19 years. She
has been unwell in recent years and pushed her son to the fore.
Rahul Gandhi is the sixth member of the
Nehru-Gandhi family to lead Congress. His father, Rajiv Gandhi, grandmother
Indira Gandhi and great-grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru have all served as
prime minister since India's independence from British colonialists in 1947.
Rahul Gandhi entered politics in 2004.
The Congress party lost to Modi's BJP
in 2014 and it suffered humiliating defeats in several state elections
despite Rahul Gandhi's active campaigning to win back support. The trend was
reversed recently as the Congress party won three state elections in
Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh states, raising the party' hopes
for a good showing in the upcoming national vote.
With Trump out, Davos chief eyes fixing world architecture
burn fireworks during a demonstration against the World Economic Forum (WEF)
in Bern, Switzerland, Saturday, Jan. 19. (Peter Klaunzer/Keystone via AP)
Jamey Keaten and Masha Macpherson
Davos, Switzerland (AP) — The
founder of the World Economic Forum says U.S. President Donald Trump would
have been an "interesting discussion partner" at its annual Davos event
starting this week, but acknowledges that the partial U.S. government
shutdown scuttled those plans.
Klaus Schwab says he saw Trump
shortly before Christmas and heard he had been "very much looking forward to
coming back." Last year, Trump was a highlight attendee at the elite
gathering in the Swiss Alps, where he dined with business executives and met
Trump canceled the U.S. delegation's
trip to Davos this year amid the partial government shutdown.
"He would have been an interesting
discussion partner," Schwab said. "But of course, we have understanding: We
see government stand still."
Now, the WEF chief is focusing on
reshaping the "global architecture" that has split populists and globalists
and left many people feeling left out. That could be a tall order as trade
forecasts predict slowdown and economic growth has eased, in part after
Trump tax cuts doped-up the economy and markets last year.
"I'm concerned because we are
walking on very thin ice," Schwab said in an interview at the Davos
conference center. "We are the back-end of a very strong, long positive
economic cycle — maybe boosted by tax relief in the United States."
Schwab, who believes the world is
going through a "Fourth Industrial Revolution" involving rapid technological
change, says too many are being left behind. He wants to see more
"equilibrium" between national or individual needs and imperatives facing
"We are living in an interdependent,
global humanity and there are global challenges like the environment, like
terrorism, like mega-migration for which we have to find common solutions,"
The forum released Sunday a poll in
which more than three-fourths of respondents said it was "important" or
"very important" for countries to work together toward a common goal — a
feeling that was strongest in places like South Asia or sub-Saharan Africa.
Smaller majorities in Europe and North America felt the same way.
The poll of more than 10,000 people
across 29 countries, considered to be a representative sample of various
economic levels and continents, was conducted through online from Jan. 4-17.
WEF said the survey results pointed
to a "rejection of populism."
But Schwab said leaders need to do a
better job of addressing people's problems.
"We have really a gap in terms of
shaping the future," he said. "So, it's not astonishing that people lose
hope because if you don't know how your future looks particularly at times
of rapid change, then you become really egocentric, you revert to a bunker
mentality — and that's reflected not only on the political and national
IRA dissidents suspected in Northern Ireland car bomb blast
taken on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019 shows the scene of a suspected car bomb on
Bishop Street in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. (Steven McAuley/PA via AP)
London (AP) — Police in Northern Ireland said
Sunday they suspect Irish Republican Army dissidents were behind a car
bombing outside a courthouse in the city of Londonderry. Two men in their
20s have been arrested.
The device was placed inside a hijacked delivery
vehicle and exploded Saturday night as police, who had received a warning,
were evacuating the area. There were no reports of injuries.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland posted a
photograph of a vehicle in flames and urged the public to stay away.
Police and army bomb-disposal experts remained at
the scene on Sunday.
Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said the
bomb had been a "crude" and unstable device, and called the attack
"The people responsible for this attack have shown
no regard for the community or local businesses," he said.
Hamilton said the "main line of inquiry" was that
the bomb had been planted by a group known as the New IRA.
More than 3,700 people died during decades of
violence before Northern Ireland's 1998 peace accord. Most militants have
renounced violence, but small groups of IRA dissidents have carried out
occasional bombings and shootings.
Northern Ireland's power-sharing government has been
suspended for two years because of a dispute between the main Protestant and
Catholic political parties. Uncertainty about the future of the Irish border
after Brexit is adding to tensions.
John Boyle, who is mayor of the city also known as
Derry, said violence "is the past and it has to stay in the past."
World's oldest man, 113, dies at his home in northern Japan
April 10, 2018, file photo, Masazo Nonaka, then aged 112 years and 259 days,
receives a certificate from Guinness World Records as the world's oldest
living man. Nonaka died at his home on Sunday at the age of 113. (Masanori
Takei/Kyodo News via AP)
Tokyo (AP) — The world's
oldest man has died at his home — a hot springs inn — in northern Japan at
the age of 113.
Masazo Nonaka died in the early
hours of Sunday while sleeping at home in Ashoro on Japan's northern main
island of Hokkaido, his family said.
He died peacefully from natural
causes, according to his granddaughter Yuko Nonaka.
The supercentenarian, whose family
has run a hot springs inn for four generations, was certified by Guinness
World Records in April 2018 as the world's oldest living man at 112 years
and 259 days.
Born on July 25, 1905, Nonaka grew
up in a large family and succeeded his parents running the inn. The
106-year-old inn is now run by his granddaughter Yuko.
She said her grandfather appeared to
be as usual until her elder sister noticed he was not breathing. He was
pronounced dead by his family doctor.
"He didn't have any health problem.
... He went peacefully and that's at least our consolation," she said.
Nonaka, who enjoyed eating sweets,
used to regularly soak in the springs, and would move about in the inn in a
wheelchair, wearing his trademark knit cap.
He outlived all seven of his
siblings, as well as his wife and three of their five children.
The fastest-aging country in the
world, Japan as of September 2018 had a centenarian population of 69,785,
nearly 90 percent of them women, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor
The world's oldest living person is
also Japanese — Kane Tanaka, a 116-year-old woman from Fukuoka on the
southern main island of Kyushu.
Pakistan arrests officers after shooting that left 4 dead
and local residents shout slogans to protest the alleged killing of a family
by counter-terrorism officers in Lahore, Pakistan, Sunday, Jan. 20. (AP
Asim Tanveer and Munir Ahmed
Multan, Pakistan (AP) —
Authorities in Pakistan have arrested more than a dozen counter-terrorism
officers after police shot and killed a middle-aged couple, their
13-year-old daughter and another man in what they initially claimed was a
shootout with insurgents, officials said Sunday.
The police killed grocery store
owner Mohammad Khalil, his wife Nabila, their daughter Areeba and a family
friend, Zeeshan Javed, after stopping their vehicle late Saturday. Police
said Javed was a wanted terrorist and initially accused him of using the
others as human shields.
Family members and witnesses say
police killed the four in cold blood. They say police rear-ended the vehicle
to stop it after a car chase. The police then removed three small children
from the vehicle before opening fire, killing everyone inside, according to
the witnesses. Video footage shot by a bystander and aired by Pakistani
media appears to support the witnesses' accounts. No weapons were found at
The shooting sparked widespread
outrage, with hundreds of mourners gathering in the eastern city of Lahore,
where the victims of the shooting lived, and chanting against the police.
Area residents left the bodies in the road as a form of protest following
Saturday's shooting, which took place in the nearby town of Sahiwal.
Authorities say they have launched
an investigation and arrested 16 officers involved in the shooting.
Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted
that he was "shocked at seeing the traumatized children who saw their
parents shot before their eyes" and said "swift action will be taken." Usman
Buzdar, the chief minister in the Punjab province, met with the family and
promised that justice would be served.
Pakistan's security forces have been
accused of extrajudicial killings in the past. In one of the most notorious
incidents, a police officer was accused of killing a 27-year-old aspiring
fashion model from a prominent Pashtun tribe last January, sparking
widespread protests and allegations of police brutality. The officer was
suspended and placed under house arrest pending trial.
May plans next move in Brexit fight as chances rise of delay
Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street, in London, Friday, Jan.
18. (Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP)
London (AP) — As Prime
Minister Theresa May prepared her next move in Britain's deadlocked Brexit
battle, a senior opposition politician said Sunday that it's unlikely the
U.K. will leave the European Union as scheduled on March 29.
A government minister, however,
warned that failure to deliver on Brexit would betray voters and unleash a
May is due to present Parliament
with a revised Brexit plan on Monday, after the divorce deal she had struck
the EU was rejected by lawmakers last week. With just over two months until
Britain is due to leave the bloc, some members of Parliament are pushing for
the U.K. to delay its departure until the country's divided politicians can
agree on a way forward.
Labour Party Brexit spokesman Keir
Starmer said "it's inevitable" Britain will have to ask the EU to extend the
two-year countdown to exit that ends on March 29.
"The 29th of March is 68 days away,"
Starmer told the BBC. "We are absolutely not prepared for it. It would be
Britain's political impasse over
Brexit is fueling concerns that the country may crash out of the EU on March
29 with no agreement in place to cushion the shock. That could see tariffs
imposed on goods moving between Britain and the EU, sparking logjams at
ports and shortages of essential supplies. Many economists expect Britain to
plunge into recession if there is a "no-deal" Brexit.
May's government is split between
ministers who think a disorderly departure must be avoided at all costs, and
Brexit-backers who believe it would be preferable to delaying or reversing
Former Brexit secretary Dominic
Raab, who quit the government in opposition to May's agreement with the EU,
said a no-deal Brexit would have "short-term risks," but they would be
International Trade Secretary Liam
Fox wrote in the Sunday Telegraph that "failure to deliver Brexit would
produce a yawning gap between Parliament and the people, a schism in our
political system with unknowable consequences."
He said public anger could trigger
"a political tsunami."
May has spent the days since her
deal was thrown out meeting government and opposition lawmakers in an
attempt to find a compromise. But the talks have produced few signs that May
plans to make radical changes to her deal, or to lift her insistence that
Brexit means leaving the EU's single market and customs union.
Fox said one possible solution could
be to strike a deal with the Irish government guaranteeing there would be no
border controls between EU member Ireland and the U.K.'s Northern Ireland.
He said that could ease concerns
about the deal's most contentious measure — an insurance policy known as the
"backstop" that would keep Britain in an EU customs union to maintain an
open Irish border after Brexit. Pro-Brexit lawmakers worry that Britain
could be trapped indefinitely in the arrangement, bound to EU trade rules
and unable to strike new deals around the world.
Irish Foreign Minister Simon
Coveney, however, tweeted that the Irish government was committed to the
entire withdrawal deal, "including the backstop."
British lawmakers who want a softer
Brexit are preparing to try to amend May's plans in a Jan. 29 debate, and to
use parliamentary rules to try to prevent a no-deal Brexit and take control
of the exit process.
Conservative lawmaker Nicky Morgan
said she and several opposition colleagues planned to introduce a bill to
ensure "that if the prime minister can't get an agreement approved by the
House of Commons by the end of February," the U.K. will ask the EU to
postpone its departure date "so that we can build a consensus and get
ourselves more prepared for Brexit. "
Delaying Brexit would require
approval from the 27 other EU nations.
Starmer said there was a roadblock
in the way of a solution to the Brexit crisis, "and that roadblock is the
"Her mind is closed," he said.
Indonesia leader to free radical cleric behind Bali bombings
March 1, 2018, file photo, ailing radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, center,
arrives for medical treatment at Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital in Jakarta,
Indonesia. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)
Jakarta, Indonesia (AP) — The
ailing 80-year-old radical cleric who inspired the Bali bombers and other
violent extremists in Indonesia will be released from prison, Indonesia's
president said Friday, slashing a 15-year sentence.
The announcement of Abu Bakar
Bashir's imminent release came during campaigning for a presidential
election due in April in which opponents of President Joko Widodo have tried
to discredit him as insufficiently Islamic.
"I have considered this decision for
a long time, involving the National Police chief and legal experts," Widodo
told reporters. "This release was decided because of humanitarian
considerations and also related to his health care."
The 2002 bombings on the popular
Indonesian tourist island of Bali by al-Qaida-affiliated Jemaah Islamiyah
militants killed 202 people, many of them foreigners including dozens of
Australia urged Indonesia last March
against any leniency toward Bashir when the government was considering house
arrest and other forms of clemency.
"Stunned that he is about to be
released," said Jan Laczynski, an Australian who lost five friends in the
bombing of the Sari Club in Bali and narrowly avoided being at the venue
"Truly devastating news as
effectively he gets on with his life whilst everyone else suffers from
seeing him walk out of jail," he said.
Bashir's lawyer, Muhammad
Mahendradatta, said Bashir, who was sentenced and imprisoned in 2011, would
be released within days.
"We haven't had the exact date of
his release, but because Bashir badly needs serious health care the release
will be carried out no later than next week," he told The Associated Press.
Also due to be released from prison
next week is the former governor of Jakarta, a Widodo ally and minority
Christian who was toppled by a conservative Islamic movement in 2016 and
subsequently sentenced to two years in prison on blasphemy charges.
Mahendradatta said he wanted Bahir's
release to be without any conditions, enabling him to meet supporters and
However, another Bashir lawyer who
is also an adviser to Widodo, Yusril Ihza Mahendra, told Indonesian TV that
the cleric accepted conditions and would do nothing except rest and be close
to his family.
Widodo said Mahendra was among the
legal experts he sought advice from.
The firebrand cleric was arrested
almost immediately after the Bali bombings. But prosecutors were unable to
prove a string of terrorism-related allegations. He was instead sentenced to
18 months in prison for immigration violations.
In 2011, he was sentenced to 15
years in prison for supporting a military-style training camp for Islamic
The 2002 bombings were a turning
point in Indonesia's battle against violent extremists, making heavy
security a norm in big cities and forging closer counterterrorism
cooperation with the U.S. and Australia.
Myanmar army ordered to take offensive against Arakan Army
Soe Naing Oo, chairman of the Myanmar's military information committee,
talks to journalists during a press conference at the Military Museum in
Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Friday, Jan. 18. (AP Photo/Aung Shine Oo)
Naypyitaw, Myanmar (AP) —
Myanmar's military announced Friday that the Arakan Army, a Buddhist rebel
group in Rakhine state, has been classified a terrorist organization after
mounting a flurry of recent attacks.
The state earlier was the site of a
brutal counterinsurgency campaign by the military against the Muslim
Rohingya minority, causing more than 700,000 to flee to neighboring
Military officers said at a news
conference in the capital, Naypyitaw, that leader Aung San Suu Kyi ordered
security forces to launch the offensive against the Arakan Army.
The insurgent group, which seeks
autonomy from the central government, killed 13 police officers and wounded
nine in attacks on Jan. 4. The moves to counter the rebels were decided at a
Jan. 7 meeting at Myanmar's presidential offices, the officers said.
Suu Kyi "said the Arakan Army is
just a terrorist group and instructed us to defeat them effectively, quickly
and clearly," Maj. Gen. Nyi Nyi Tun, vice chairman of the Myanmar Military
Information Committee, told reporters. A terrorist designation criminalizes
a group and bans all communication with them.
He said Suu Kyi suggested that if
she did not order the military to attack the Arakan Army, the international
community would accuse her of religious prejudice for attacking the Muslim
guerrillas of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army but not Buddhist rebels who
committed similar actions with similar goals.
The military in Buddhist-majority
Myanmar has been accused of ethnic cleansing, and even genocide, against the
Muslim Rohingya. Its counterinsurgency campaign was triggered when a group
of Rohingya guerrillas attacked security outposts in August 2017.
The officers said the military
clashed with the Arakan Army 15 times in 2015, 26 times in 2016, 56 times in
2017 and 61 times in 2018, while the rebels also planted some mines. They
said there have been at least eight armed encounters this year. The
guerrillas are known to have trained in areas controlled by other ethnic
rebel forces, especially in Kachin state.
The Arakan Army, founded in 2009, is
estimated to have several thousand well-armed and organized uniformed
members, in contrast to the ragtag and virtually dormant Rohingya
Myanmar's military in December
announced cease-fires in five areas where ethnic rebellions are active, but
did not include Rakhine state because it had information that the Arakan
Rohingya Salvation Army planned attacks, the officers said.
Brig. Gen. Zaw Min Tun said he
believed that the fighting with the Arakan Army would not interfere with
plans to repatriate Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh.
At U.N. headquarters in New York,
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spoke about his "enormous frustration
with the lack of progress" by Myanmar's government in creating conditions
for the return of the more than 700,000 Rohingyas who fled to Bangladesh in
2017 and are living in "extremely difficult circumstances."
"It is absolutely essential to
create the conditions of confidence and trust," he told a news conference.
"It's not only physical reconstruction, it's a matter of reconciliation of
communities and strong commitment by the government for that reconciliation
of communities to be possible, and for the safety of the Rohingya population
to be guaranteed."
"Unfortunately, the truth is the
situation on the ground has not been conducive to it. Things have been too
slow," he said. "One of the dramatic aspects when you fail in solving the
root causes of the problem is that violence then tends to erupt again, and
that's what we have seen recently in Myanmar."
"We insist in the need to create
conditions for them to be willing to go back" to Myanmar, Guterres said.
One of first steps could be to solve
the problem of the Rohingya who are internally displaced which would "give
credibility" to future returns, he said.
Russia warns US missile defense plans will fuel arms race
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey
Lavrov, right, and Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas shake hands after
their talks in Moscow, Russia, Friday, Jan. 18. (AP Photo)
Moscow (AP) — Russia said
Friday the Pentagon's new missile defense strategy will trigger an arms race
in space and further undermine global stability.
The tough Russian statement came in
response to the U.S. administration's Missile Defense Review released
Thursday during President Donald Trump's visit to the Pentagon.
The Pentagon's new strategy calls
for a new array of space-based sensors and other high-tech systems to more
quickly detect and shoot down incoming missiles. It makes clear that the new
defense technologies are needed to counter advanced weapons being developed
by Russia and China along with threats from North Korea and Iran.
The Russian Foreign Ministry
described the new U.S. strategy as a proof of "Washington's desire to ensure
uncontested military domination in the world."
It warned that the expansion of the
U.S. missile defense system "will inevitably start an arms race in space
with the most negative consequences for international security and
"Contrary to what the Review's
authors say, the implementation of its plans and approaches will not
strengthen security of the U.S. and its allies," the ministry said in a
statement. "Attempts to take that path will have the opposite effect and
deal another heavy blow to international stability."
Trump, in a speech at the Pentagon,
declared that space is the new war-fighting domain and vowed that the U.S.
will develop an unrivaled missile defense system to protect against advanced
hypersonic and other threats.
The Russian Foreign Ministry
described the Pentagon's review as an attempt to reproduce President Ronald
Reagan's 'Star Wars' missile defense plans on a new technological level and
urged the Trump administration to "come to its senses" and engage in arms
control talks with Russia.
Earlier Friday, Russian Foreign
Minister Sergey Lavrov again rejected the U.S. claim of Russian violations
of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, charging that
Washington hasn't offered any proof.
The U.S. has accused Russia of
testing and deploying a missile that violated provisions of the INF Treaty
that bans production, testing and deployment of land-based cruise and
ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers (310 to 3,400
miles). Washington said it will suspend its treaty obligations if Russian
does not come into compliance by Feb. 2.
Lavrov insisted the Russian missile
has only been launched at the range allowed by the treaty.
"If they think the range was
excessive, they must have satellite images or something else, but they
haven't shown anything to us," he said after the talks with visiting German
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.
Maas called on Russia to destroy the
type of missile that the U.S. alleges is in violation of the treaty, saying
he doesn't think "anyone in Europe would like to see the beginning of a new
Lavrov charged that the U.S. made it
clear during diplomatic contacts back in October that Trump's decision to
abandon the pact isn't subject to talks.
"Our American counterparts told us
during official contacts ... that the decision is final and irreversible and
statement on the U.S. intention to exit the INF Treaty isn't 'an invitation
to dialogue,'" he said.
Kenya court orders 6 suspects held over Nairobi hotel attack
From left to
right, suspects Osman Ibrahim, Guleid Abdihakim, Gladys Kaari Justus, Oliver
Kanyango Muthee and Joel Nganga Wainaina appear at a hearing at Milimani law
courts in Nairobi, Kenya Friday, Jan. 18. (AP Photo)
Nairobi, Kenya (AP) — A
Canadian national and five other people suspected of helping extremist
gunmen stage a deadly attack in the Kenyan capital this week appeared in
court on Friday as prosecutors investigated them for suspected terror
A judge ordered five of the suspects
held for 30 days while authorities look into the assault on the dusitD2
hotel complex that was carried out by al-Shabab, a group that is linked to
al-Qaida and based in neighboring Somalia.
Kenyan authorities say 21 people,
including one police officer, were killed by the attackers, one of whom blew
himself up beside a restaurant. Another four gunmen died.
Prosecutors suspect the alleged
accomplices, including two taxi drivers and an agent for a mobile
phone-based money service, of "aiding and abetting" the attackers who
stormed the Nairobi complex on Tuesday afternoon and were killed by
Wednesday morning, according to a court document. Prosecutors said they were
pursuing more suspects in and outside Kenya.
Suspects who appeared in court were
identified as Joel Nganga Wainaina, Oliver Kanyango Muthee, Gladys Kaari
Justus, Guleid Abdihakim and Osman Ibrahim. Abdihakim is a Canadian
national, according to prosecutors.
Canadian officials are aware of
reports that a citizen was arrested and are in contact with Kenyan
authorities for more information, said Global Affairs spokesman Philip
Hussein Mohammed, another suspect
who was arrested in Mandera county along the border with Somalia, was
brought to court separately, prosecutors said.
"The investigations into this matter
are complex and transnational and would therefore require sufficient time
and resources to uncover the entire criminal syndicate," said Noordin Haji,
director of public prosecutions. He said he has appointed a team of
prosecutors to help ensure that the investigations are "meticulous and
Police earlier identified a Kenyan
military officer as the father of a suspect in the assault. The son, Ali
Salim Gichunge, as well as Violet Kemunto Omwoyo, were named as attackers in
"The attackers were in constant
communications with several phone numbers which are located in Somalia,"
Gichunge's father, who is not
believed to have been involved in the attack, was summoned for questioning
about when he last saw his son and other details, a senior police official
said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to
speak to the media.
The official said a total of 11
people were detained as part of the investigation.
The attack was denounced on Friday
in Eastleigh, a Nairobi neighborhood that is home to many ethnic Somalis and
has been targeted in massive police operations against suspected extremist
cells. Shop owners temporarily closed businesses to protest against
extremism, and crowds gathered.
Al-Shabab also carried out the 2013
attack at Nairobi's nearby Westgate Mall that killed 67 people, and an
assault on Kenya's Garissa University in 2015 that claimed 147 lives, mostly
students. While U.S. airstrikes and a multinational African Union force in
Somalia have reduced the Islamic extremists' ability to operate, al-Shabab
is still capable of carrying out spectacular acts of violence in retaliation
for the Kenyan military's presence in Somalia.
The attackers who stormed the hotel
complex opened fire and set off grenades, sending panicked people running
for cover as security forces converged. Security camera footage released
later showed a suicide bomber blowing himself up in a grassy area.
Authorities identified him as 25-year-old Mahir Khalid Riziki, who was born
in the Kenyan port city of Mombasa and was sought several years ago by
police for alleged extremist activities.
A hotel employee, seen in the video
footage walking past Riziki just before the explosion, described in an
interview with Kenya's K24 television how he heard the man talking on a
"Where are you guys?" the agitated
bomber said at least a couple of times, according to Abdullahi Ogelo, the
employee. Ogelo, who later concluded Riziki had been talking to his
accomplices, said the man was also moving his hand over his chest.
Seconds later, the bomber detonated
in a flash and billowing smoke.
In the television interview, Ogelo
said God saved him and gave him a "second chance."
Drilling machines help frantic search of trapped Spanish boy
Monday, Jan. 14 file photo, emergency services look for a 2 year old boy who
fell into a well in a mountainous area near the town of Totalan in Malaga,
Spain. (AP Photo/Gregorio Marrero)
Madrid (AP) — Heavy machinery
has been brought in by rescuers in southern Spain who plan to drill vertical
tunnels next to a deep borehole to reach a 2-year-old boy trapped there for
"The terrain's geology is
complicated, and that's slowing down the works," said Angel Garcia, the
leading engineer coordinating the search-and-rescue operation, on Friday.
Spaniards are holding their breath
with every setback in the against-the-clock race to reach Julen Rosello, who
fell into the 110-meter (360-foot) deep waterhole on Sunday.
Unable to go down the narrow shaft,
rescuers used machinery first but found a blockage some two thirds of the
way down and are now trying to drill alternative tunnels to reach the boy.
Authorities say there are hopes
Julen could still be alive if there is enough oxygen under the obstruction.
Death penalty for Canadian escalates China-Canada tensions
image taken from a video footage run by China's CCTV, Canadian Robert Lloyd
Schellenberg attends his retrial at the Dalian Intermediate People's Court
in Dalian, northeastern China's Liaoning province on Monday, Jan. 14. (CCTV
Rob Gillies and Christopher
Toronto (AP) — A Chinese
court sentenced a Canadian man to death in a sudden retrial of a drug
smuggling case and Beijing said that it has denied a Canadian diplomatic
immunity, ratcheting up tensions since Canada's arrest of a top Chinese
technology executive last month.
A Chinese court in northeastern
Liaoning province announced Monday that it had sentenced Robert Lloyd
Schellenberg to death, reversing an earlier 2016 ruling that sentenced him
to 15 years in prison.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin
Trudeau strongly condemned Monday's proceeding, suggesting that China was
using its judicial system to pressure Canada over the arrest of Meng
Wanzhou, chief financial officer of the Chinese telecommunications giant
In his strongest comments yet,
Trudeau said "all countries around the world" should be concerned that
Beijing is acting arbitrarily with its justice system.
"It is of extreme concern to us as a
government, as it should be to all our international friends and allies,
that China has chosen to begin to arbitrarily apply a death penalty,"
Canada later updated its travel
advisory for China urging Canadians to "exercise a high degree of caution
due to the risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws."
Further escalating the diplomatic
rift between the two countries, a Chinese spokeswoman said earlier Monday
that Michael Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat taken into custody in
apparent retaliation for Meng's arrest, was not eligible for diplomatic
immunity as Trudeau has maintained.
A senior Canadian government
official said Chinese officials have been questioning Kovrig about his
diplomatic work in China, which is a major reason why Trudeau is asserting
diplomatic immunity. The official, who was not authorized to comment
publicly about the case, spoke on condition of anonymity.
Kovrig, a Northeast Asia analyst for
the International Crisis Group think tank, was on a leave of absence from
the Canadian government at the time of his arrest last month.
Schellenberg was detained more than
four years ago and initially sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2016. But
within weeks of Meng's Dec. 1 arrest, an appeals court suddenly reversed
that decision, saying the sentence was too lenient, and scheduled Monday's
retrial with just four days' notice.
The court gave no indication that
the death penalty could be commuted, but observers said Schellenberg's fate
is likely to be drawn into diplomatic negotiations over China's demand for
the release of Meng.
"Playing hostage politics, China
rushes the retrial of a Canadian suspect and sentences him to death in a
fairly transparent attempt to pressure Canada to free the Huawei CFO," Human
Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth said in a tweet.
The Chinese media began publicizing
Schellenberg's case after Canada's detention of Meng, the daughter of
Huawei's founder, at the request of the United States, which wants her
extradited to face charges that she committed fraud by misleading banks
about the company's business dealings in Iran.
Days after Meng's arrest, Kovrig and
Canadian businessman Michael Spavor were detained on vague national security
allegations. Meng is out on bail in Canada awaiting extradition proceedings
that begin next month.
Schellenberg's lawyer, Zhang
Dongshuo, said prosecutors had not introduced new evidence to justify a
heavier sentence during the one-day trial, during which Schellenberg again
maintained his innocence. He said his client now has 10 days to appeal.
"This is a very unique case," Zhang
told The Associated Press. He said the swiftness of the proceedings was
unusual but declined to comment on whether it was related to Meng's arrest.
The court said it found that
Schellenberg was involved in an international drug-smuggling operation and
was recruited to help smuggle more than 220 kilograms (485 pounds) of
methamphetamine from a warehouse in the Chinese city of Dalian to Australia.
A Chinese man convicted of involvement in the same operation was earlier
given a suspended death sentence.
Fifty people, including Canadian
diplomats and foreign and domestic media, attended Monday's trial, the court
said in an online statement.
Earlier Monday, Chinese Foreign
Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said authorities had determined Kovrig was
not entitled to diplomatic immunity, rejecting a complaint from Trudeau that
China was not respecting longstanding practices regarding immunity.
Hua told reporters that Kovrig is no
longer a diplomat and entered China on an ordinary passport and business
"According to the Vienna Convention
of Diplomatic Relations and international law, he is not entitled to
diplomatic immunity," Hua said at a daily briefing. "I suggest that the
relevant Canadian person carefully study the Vienna Convention ... before
commenting on the cases, or they would only expose themselves to ridicule
with such specious remarks."
A former Canadian ambassador to
China, Guy Saint-Jacques, said interrogating Kovrig about his time as a
diplomat in China would violate Vienna Convention protections of residual
diplomatic immunity that mean a country is not allowed to question someone
on the work they did when they were a diplomat.
"It's difficult not to see a link"
between the case and Canada's arrest of Meng, Saint-Jacques said.
Hua said the allegation that China
arbitrarily detained Canadian citizens is "totally groundless."
Canada has embarked on a campaign
with allies to win the release of Kovrig and Spavor. The United States,
Britain, European Union and Australia have issued statements in support.
Trudeau called U.S. President Donald Trump about their case last week and
the White House called the arrests "unlawful."
Last week, Poland arrested a Huawei
director and one of its own former cybersecurity experts and charged them
with spying for China. The move came amid a U.S. campaign to exert pressure
on its allies not to use Huawei, the world's biggest maker of
telecommunications network equipment, over data security concerns.
The arrests raised concerns over the
safety of Poland's nationals in China, although Hua brushed off such
worries, emphasizing China's desire for the "sound and steady" development
of relations with Poland.
"As long as the foreign citizens in
China abide by Chinese laws and regulations, they are welcomed and their
safety and freedom are guaranteed," Hua said.
Indonesia recovers Lion Air jet's cockpit voice recorder
Navy Commander Rear Admiral Yudo Margin shows the recovered cockpit voice
recorder of Lion Air flight 610 that crashed into the sea in October during
a press conference on board of the navy ship KRI Spica in the waters off
Tanjung Karawang, Indonesia, Monday, Jan. 14. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
Niniek Karmini and Stephen Wright
Jakarta, Indonesia (AP) —
Navy divers have recovered the cockpit voice recorder of a Lion Air jet that
crashed into the Java Sea in October, Indonesian officials said Monday, in a
possible boost to the investigation into why the 2-month-old plane nosedived
at high velocity, killing 189 people.
Ridwan Djamaluddin, a deputy
maritime minister, told reporters that remains of some of the people who
died in the crash were also discovered at the seabed location.
A spokesman for the Indonesian
navy's western fleet, Lt. Col. Agung Nugroho, said divers using high-tech
"ping locator" equipment started a new search effort last week in a
previously identified target area and found the voice recorder beneath 8
meters of seabed mud. The plane crashed in waters 30 meters deep.
The bright orange device was
transported to a port in Jakarta, where it was handed over to the National
Transportation Safety Committee, which is overseeing the accident
"This is good news, especially for
us who lost our loved ones," said Irianto, the father of Rio Nanda Pratama,
a doctor who died in the crash.
"Even though we don't yet know the
contents of the CVR, this is some relief from our despair," he said.
The Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet plunged
into the Java Sea just minutes after taking off from Jakarta, Indonesia's
capital, on Oct. 29, killing everyone on board.
The cockpit data recorder was
recovered three days after the crash and showed that the jet's airspeed
indicator had malfunctioned on its last four flights. Lion Air initially
claimed that problems with the aircraft were fixed before its final flight.
If the voice recorder is undamaged,
it could provide valuable additional information to investigators.
The transport committee's chairman,
Soerjanto Tjahjono, said the device will be taken to the investigators'
"black box" facility. It will take three to five days to dry and clean the
device and to download its data, he said.
"To analyze it, we need more time,
depending on the complexity of the problem. Data obtained from CVR is
expected to complete our investigation data," Tjahjono said.
Data from a preliminary
investigation report, which didn't state any conclusions, showed that the
plane's nose pointed down 26 times on its fatal 11-minute flight despite
repeated efforts by the pilots to manually aim the nose higher.
Rear Adm. Harjo Susmoro, head of the
navy's Center for Hydrography and Oceanography, said the voice recorder was
found just 50 meters from where the data recorder was located.
A "heroic" team of 21 divers removed
debris and carried out "desludging" operations to reach the voice recorder,
Susmoro said the voice recorder's
signal, designed to last 90 days following a crash, would have stopped after
about 15 days.
The family of one of the pilots,
41-year-old Harvino, has sued Boeing Co. in Chicago, alleging that aircraft
sensors provided inaccurate information, causing the plane to nosedive, and
that Boeing failed to provide proper training to pilots on the 737 MAX 8's
Indonesian media reported in
December that Lion Air's chief executive, Edward Sirait, said the airline
was considering canceling its remaining orders for nearly 200 of the Boeing
The Lion Air crash was the worst
airline disaster in Indonesia since 1997, when 234 people died on a Garuda
flight near Medan. In December 2014, an AirAsia flight from Surabaya to
Singapore plunged into the sea, killing all 162 people on board.
Lion Air is one of Indonesia's
youngest airlines but has grown rapidly, flying to dozens of domestic and
international destinations. It has been expanding aggressively in Southeast
Asia, a fast-growing region of more than 600 million people.
Search for 2-year-old Spanish toddler in narrow well
services look for a 2 year old boy who fell into a well, in a mountainous
area near the town of Totalan in Malaga, Spain, Monday, Jan. 14. (AP
Madrid (AP) — More than 100
firefighters and emergency workers in southern Spain searched Monday for a
2-year-old toddler who fell into a narrow and deep borehole.
Rescuers have been unable to get
into the borehole, which is no wider than 25 centimeters in diameter and is
believed to go down more than 100 meters. On Monday afternoon they were
deploying three different approaches to reach the bottom of the well but
without damaging its structure or blocking it with soil and rocks, local
According to rescuers, the boy fell
into the hole early Sunday afternoon after walking away from his parents
while playing in a mountainous area near the town of Totalan, northeast of
the city of Malaga.
The hole, which is too narrow for an
adult to enter, had been bored a month earlier during water prospection
works and had not been covered or protected, local media reported.
The provincial representative of the
Spanish government, Maria Gamez, said that firefighters using a robot camera
in the early hours of Monday found a bag of candy that the boy was carrying
when he went missing. It was some 75 meters down the shaft, where rescuers
were unable to get their equipment further down.
Civil Guard spokesman Bernardo Molto
told Spanish public broadcaster TVE that efforts would now focus on using
more sophisticated equipment to widen the hole while also digging separate
tunnels to access the shaft.
Asked whether the investigation is
also considering any other reasons for the boy's disappearance, Molto told
reporters that the authorities' priorities are "searching, locating and
rescuing the boy."
Russia tells Japan retaking Pacific islands not on horizon
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro
Kono enter a hall for their talks in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Jan. 14. (AP
Moscow (AP) — Russia's top
diplomat threw cold water Monday on Tokyo's hopes for a quick return of four
Pacific islands at the center of territorial dispute, warning Japan it must
recognize the islands as part of Russia as a starting point for talks.
The stern statement from Foreign
Minister Sergey Lavrov, which followed the talks with his Japanese
counterpart Taro Kono, appeared to reflect Moscow's efforts to temper
Japanese expectations of an imminent deal on the Kuril Islands dispute.
It sets a tough stage for Japanese
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's trip to Moscow for talks with Russian President
Vladimir Putin later this month. Abe has recently voiced hope that this year
will mark a breakthrough in solving the dispute and spoke about an imminent
change in the islands' status — remarks that angered Moscow.
Speaking after the talks, Lavrov
said Moscow saw recent statements from Abe as unacceptable.
"Russia's sovereignty over the
islands isn't subject to discussion. They are part of the territory of the
Russian Federation," Lavrov told reporters, noting the U.N. Charter supports
Moscow's ownership of them.
The Soviet Union took the four
southernmost Kuril Islands during the final days of World War II. Japan
asserts territorial rights to the islands, which it calls the Northern
Territories. The dispute has kept the countries from signing a peace treaty.
Speaking at the start of the talks,
Japan's Kono said Russia and Japan needed to solve the territorial problem
to set the stage for expanded economic and other ties.
Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman
Takeshi Osuga said during a separate briefing in Moscow the two ministers
had a "serious and frank exchange." He wouldn't comment on specifics and
said Russian and Japanese diplomats would continue discussions on the issue.
Putin and Abe agreed in November to
accelerate negotiations based on a 1956 Soviet proposal to return two of the
islands to Japan, but Lavrov's somber tone indicated that Japanese
expectations of a quick breakthrough were premature.
Abe's optimism raised concerns in
Russian nationalist circles and fueled criticism of the Kremlin. In an
apparent attempt to contain the damage, the Russian Foreign Ministry
summoned the Japanese ambassador to warn Tokyo not to "artificially incite
the atmosphere regarding the peace treaty problem and try to enforce its own
scenario of settling the issue."
Lavrov struck a similar chord as he
sat down Monday with Kono.
"Once again, I would like to ask our
Japanese colleagues to strictly follow agreements by our leaders," he said.
After their talks, the Russian
diplomat said he also drew Kono's attention to a statement by Abe's
political aide suggesting that solving the territorial dispute with Russia
would help efforts by Japan and the U.S. to deter China.
Lavrov called the statement
"outrageous," adding that it raised new questions about the independence of
Japanese foreign policy.
"We wondered whether Japan could be
independent given such reliance on the U.S. and we were told that Japan
would act proceeding from its national interests," Lavrov said. "We would
like to hope it will indeed be so."
He said the Soviet Union proposed
returning the two islands to Japan before Tokyo struck a military alliance
with the U.S. in 1960.
Lavrov noted that Russia remains
concerned about the U.S. military buildup in the Pacific, including the
deployment of U.S. missile defense components that he said create security
risks for Russia and China.
Too much brine? Study highlights growing toxic brine problem
The Sept. 4,
2015 file photo shows the Carlsbad, Calif. desalination plant in Carlsbad,
Calif. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
Berlin (AP) — The world's
thirst for fresh water is causing a salty problem.
Desalination plants around the world
are producing enough brine waste to swamp an area the size of Florida with a
foot of salty water every year, according to a U.N.-backed report released
The study by researchers from
Canada, the Netherlands and South Korea warned that much of the brine is
being dumped untreated into the sea, and some is laden with toxic chemicals,
causing harm to sea life.
The authors called for better brine
management, particularly in countries that rely heavily on desalination for
their water needs, such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait
"We know that water scarcity is
increasing in many regions across the world due to increased water demands,
which are associated with population increase and economic growth," said one
of the authors, Manzoor Qadir, assistant director of the United Nations
University's Canada-based Institute for Water, Environment and Health.
At the same, climate change is
making the availability of freshwater less predictable, such as by changing
the amount of runoff snow in some regions, he said.
The authors examined 16,000
desalination plants worldwide and found they produce 142 million cubic
meters (5,014 million cubic feet) of brine each day, or 51.8 billion cubic
meters a year. That's about half more than previous studies had estimated,
The researchers called for better
brine management, noting that studies have shown it can be used in
aquacultures to boost yields of salt-tolerant species of fish, and the
metals and salts contained in it — such as magnesium and lithium — could be
Kim looking to 'achieve results' in 2nd summit with Trump
Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, and
Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands as they pose for a photo before
talks at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (Li Xueren/Xinhua via AP)
Beijing (AP) — North Korean
leader Kim Jong Un has reportedly told the leader of his only major ally,
China, that he wants to "achieve results" on the nuclear standoff on the
Korean Peninsula during a second summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.
The comments, contained in Chinese
state media reports Thursday, came a day after Kim left Beijing on his
special armored train after a two-day visit to the Chinese capital.
Kim's trip to China — his fourth in
the past 10 months — is believed to be an effort to coordinate with Beijing
ahead of a possible second summit with Trump. It comes after U.S. and North
Korean officials are thought to have met in Vietnam to discuss the site of
North Korea will "make efforts for
the second summit between (North Korean) and U.S. leaders to achieve results
that will be welcomed by the international community," Kim was quoted as
saying by China's official Xinhua News Agency.
All sides should "jointly push for a
comprehensive resolution of the Korean Peninsula issue" and North Korea will
"continue sticking to the stance of denuclearization and resolving the
Korean Peninsula issue through dialogue and consultation," Xinhua quoted Kim
Kim also said North Korea hopes its
"legitimate concerns" will be given due respect, a reference to its desire
for security guarantees and a possible peace treaty to formally end the
1950-53 Korean War.
He also credited Chinese President
Xi Jinping with helping reduce regional tensions, saying "the Korean
Peninsula situation has been easing since last year, and China's important
role in this process is obvious to all."
The North's Korean Central News
Agency reported that Kim told Xi that the North remains unchanged in its
push to seek a negotiated resolution of the nuclear standoff. It said Kim
also mentioned unspecified difficulties in improving ties with the United
States and moving nuclear diplomacy forward.
Xi was quoted by Xinhua as saying
that China supports the U.S.-North Korea summits and hopes the two sides
"will meet each other halfway." KCNA said Xi accepted an invitation to visit
North Korea, although details of when he might go were not given.
It wasn't clear from the reports if
Kim was in back in North Korea, but his train presumably would arrive
Xi has yet to visit North Korea
since taking office in 2012.
Trump and Kim met in Singapore in
June for the first-ever leaders' meeting between their nations, but there
has been a standoff ever since, with dueling accusations of bad faith.
Kim's Beijing visit was seen as part
of an effort to win Chinese support for a reduction of U.N. sanctions
imposed over his nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. The
sanctions have severely impacted his country's already ailing economy.
While North Korea hasn't conducted
any test launches or detonations in more than a year, it has displayed no
real intention of abandoning the programs that are seen as guaranteeing the
The trip also came after he
expressed frustration in his annual New Year's address over the lack of
progress in negotiations with Washington since the Singapore summit, saying
that if things don't improve — meaning that if sanctions relief and security
guarantees aren't in the offing — North Korea might have to find "a new way"
While Trump says he considers Xi key
to enticing Kim into taking concrete steps toward denuclearization, the
president's own relationship with his Chinese counterpart has frayed over
the U.S.-China trade war.
Officially, at least, China says it
considers the tariff battle and North Korea's weapons programs to be
KCNA reported that Kim on Wednesday
visited a pharmaceutical plant belonging to Beijing Tongrentang Co. Ltd.,
where he watched production processes.
It said he met with Xi at the Great
Hall of the People on Tuesday after a welcoming ceremony. Later Tuesday, Xi
gave a grand banquet for Kim, his wife Ri Sol Ju and other visiting North
At Tuesday's daily Chinese foreign
ministry briefing, spokesman Lu Kang said Beijing remains supportive of
efforts to end tensions over U.S. demands for a halt to North Korea's
nuclear and missile programs.
"We always believe that, as key
parties to the Korean Peninsula issue, it's important for the two sides to
maintain contact and we always support their dialogue to achieve positive
outcomes," Lu said.
Tuesday was Kim's birthday but there
was no word of any official celebration.
Celebrations in Congo's capital as opposition candidate wins
celebrate in Kinshasa Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, after learning that
opposition presidential candidate Felix Tshisekedi had been declared the
winner of the elections. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
Mathilde Boussion and Saleh Mwanamilongo
Kinshasa, Congo (AP) — Joyous
dancing erupted in the streets of Congo's capital to celebrate the surprise
victory of opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi, who was early Thursday
declared winner of the long-delayed, disorganized and controversial
"Today I am happy," said Tshisekedi.
"Happy for you, my base (his supporters). Happy for the people of Congo.
Everyone is celebrating that there is peace. No one could imagine the
scenario where an opposition candidate could be victorious!"
However, rival opposition candidate
Martin Fayulu charged the results had been rigged by outgoing President
Joseph Kabila who made a backroom deal with Tshisekedi. Kabila may have
negotiated with Tshisekedi to prevent anti-corruption crusader Fayulu from
winning, according to Fayulu, diplomats and observers.
Tshisekedi, who received 38 percent
of the vote according to the electoral commission's results, had not been
widely considered the leading candidate and is relatively untested. Long in
the shadow of his father, the now deceased opposition leader Etienne,
Tshisekedi startled Congo shortly before the election by breaking away from
the unified opposition candidate, Fayulu, to stand on his own.
Fayulu quickly denounced
Tshisekedi's victory as fraud. The results were an "electoral hold up" that
were "rigged, fabricated and invented" and do "not reflect the truth of the
ballots," said Fayulu. Speaking to the press shortly after the results,
Fayulu called on the Congolese people to "rise as one man to protect
Fayulu, a former Exxon manager and
Kinshasa lawmaker, received 34 percent of the vote in the electoral
commission's results. He claims that he won a majority of the votes and that
he was deprived of victory because a deal was made with Tshisekedi.
"How long are we going to negotiate
results?" said Fayulu. "In 2006, Jean-Pierre Bemba's victory was stolen, in
2011 Étienne Tshisekedi's victory was stolen. In 2018 victory won't be
stolen from Martin Fayulu."
Fayulu urged the Catholic Church to
release the results from its team of 40,000 observers who recorded voting
tallies posted at each of the polling centers. Last week, the Catholic
Church said their observations showed a clear winner, and many say that was
Several diplomats briefed on the
matter told The Associated Press that the figures compiled by the Catholic
Church showed that Fayulu won an absolute majority of the votes. Two
diplomats also said that all major observation missions, including from the
African Union and the Southern African Development Community, showed similar
results with Fayulu the winner. The diplomats spoke on condition of
anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.
Kabila's government made a deal with
Tshisekedi to declare him the winner, as hopes faded for ruling party
candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, who received just 23 percent of the
official results. The constitutional court has 14 days to validate the
Happy demonstators in Kinshasa,
however, showed no signs of wanting to challenge Tshisekedi's victory. Many
said they were delighted pleased with Tshisekedi's win and to see Kabila
"This is the coronation of a
lifetime," the deputy secretary-general of Tshisekedi's party, Rubens
Mikindo, said shortly after the announcement that his candidate had won,
above the cheers at party headquarters. "This is the beginning of national
The election may enable Congo to
achieve its first peaceful, democratic transfer of power since independence
in 1960. Kabila has ruled since 2001 in the troubled nation rich in the
minerals key to smartphones around the world and has amassed vast wealth. He
is barred from serving three consecutive terms, but during more than two
years of election delays many Congolese feared he'd find a way to stay in
Attention now turns to Congo's
powerful Catholic church and whether it will dispute the official results.
If the church finds that Fayulu won,
"how will the population react?" Stephanie Wolters, analyst with the
Institute for Security Studies, posted on Twitter. She added, will the
African Union "consider a power transfer 'enough' or will they push for
investigation and real result?"
The delayed results, nearly two
weeks after the Dec. 30 vote, came after international pressure to announce
an outcome that reflected the will of the people. The United States
threatened sanctions against officials who rigged the vote.
The largely peaceful election was
marred by the malfunctioning of many voting machines that Congo used for the
first time. Dozens of polling centers opened hours late as materials went
missing. And in a last-minute decision, some 1 million of the country's 40
million voters were barred from participating, with the electoral commission
blaming a deadly Ebola virus outbreak.
Defiantly, tens of thousands of
voters in one of the barred communities held their own ballot on election
day. Fayulu won easily.
Congo's government cut internet
service the day after the vote to prevent speculation on social media. As
the electoral commission met this week, anti-riot police moved into place
Some Congolese weary of Kabila's
18-year rule, two turbulent years of election delays and years of conflict
that killed millions of people said they simply wanted peace. Some said they
would be happy as long as Fayulu or Tshisekedi won, while recalling the
violence that followed past disputed elections.
Many Congolese objected to Shadary,
suspecting that Kabila would continue to rule from behind the scenes.
Now Congo faces a new leader who is
little known after spending many years in Belgium and living in the shadow
of his outspoken father.
The 56-year-old Tshisekedi took over
as head of Congo's most prominent opposition party in early 2018, a year
after his father's death.
Parts of Austria, southern Germany sink deeper into snow
A man makes
his way at the early morning after heavy snow fall in Munich, Germany,
Thursday, Jan. 10. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
Berlin (AP) — Heavy snow is
ongoing in parts of Austria and southern Germany, with several places cut
off and the bad weather expected to last until Friday morning.
Austrian police said Thursday that a
16-year-old boy from Australia was killed in an avalanche in St. Anton am
Arlberg as he was skiing with his family on Wednesday. That brought to at
least 15 the number of weather-related deaths reported in Europe over the
Several railway lines in the Alps
were closed because of the snow, trucks and cars got stuck for hours on a
highway in southwestern Germany and schools were closed in parts of Bavaria.
Roads into several places were
closed, among them Galtuer in western Austria, where a massive avalanche in
1999 killed 31 people.
Macedonian PM struggles to secure majority for name change
to the change of the country's constitutional name protest outside the
parliament building prior to a session of the Macedonian Parliament in the
capital Skopje, Wednesday, Jan. 9. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)
Skopje, Macedonia (AP) —
Macedonia's prime minister was struggling Thursday to get the required
number of lawmakers to finalize constitutional changes that will rename the
country North Macedonia and allow its NATO accession under a deal with
Zoran Zaev told reporters in Skopje
that he has not yet secured support from the required two-thirds of the
120-seat parliament, or 80 lawmakers. A planned parliamentary session on the
matter Friday was postponed.
Zaev's efforts were complicated when
a small ethnic Albanian party demanded that the planned constitutional
designation "Macedonian citizenship" be changed to "citizens of the Republic
of North Macedonia."
The party says this will safeguard
the identity of ethnic Albanians — about a quarter of Macedonia's
Zaev said the reference to
Macedonian citizenship is key for his country in the deal with Greece. He
also said that a group of opposition conservative lawmakers who had
initially supported the constitutional changes — and were subsequently
ejected by their VMRO-DPMNE party — strongly opposed the ethnic Albanians'
Hundreds of opposition supporters
protested in front of parliament for a second day Thursday against the deal,
demanding early elections and the dissolution of parliament.
VMRO leader Hristijan Mickoski
addressed the rally, accusing Zaev of "bargaining" with lawmakers to secure
the two-thirds majority.
He has claimed Zaev exerted pressure
on members of the judiciary on cases involving conservative party lawmakers,
or their family members, accused in connection with a violent parliament
invasion last year.
"Look how publicly, how openly, this
trade is going on with (Macedonia's) name and identity, like at a market
stall," Mickoski said.
4 on trial over theft of huge gold coin from Berlin museum
12, 2010 file photo shows the gold coin 'Big Maple Leaf' in the Bode Museum
in Berlin. (Marcel Mettelsiefen/dpa via AP)
Berlin (AP) — Four young men
went on trial in Germany Thursday over the brazen theft of a 100-kilogram
(221-pound) Canadian gold coin that disappeared from a Berlin museum two
Two brothers and their cousin,
identified in German media as 24-year-old Wayci Remmo, 20-year-old Ahmed
Remmo and 22-year-old Wissam Remmo, are accused of stealing the "Big Maple
Leaf" coin from the Bode Museum in March 2017.
The fourth suspect, identified only
as 20-year-old Dennis W., worked as a security guard at the museum, which is
located in the heart of the German capital. He is accused of scouting out
the scene of the crime.
The opening of the trial at Berlin's
district court drew intense media interest in Germany because of the
Hollywood-style nature of the heist and their families' alleged ties to
Prosecutors believe that the Remmos
smashed a protective case and then managed to lift the coin out of a museum
window before fleeing along a rail track with their haul in a wheelbarrow.
They are suspected of later cutting up the coin, valued at about 3.75
million euros ($4.33 million), and selling the pieces.
The men's lawyers have denied the
accusations leveled against their clients and accused prosecutors of
presenting no evidence linking them to the theft.
If convicted, the men could face up
to 10 years' imprisonment for serious theft, though the three youngest
defendants may be sentenced as juveniles because they were under 21 at the
time of the crime.
North Korea confirms Kim's departure to China for summit
Monday, Jan. 7, 2019 photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walks with his
wife Ri Sol Ju at Pyongyang Station in Pyongyang, North Korea, before
leaving for China. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)
Seoul (AP) — North Korean
leader Kim Jong Un is making a four-day trip to China, the North's state
media reported Tuesday, in what's likely an effort by Kim to coordinate with
his only major ally ahead of a summit with U.S. President Donald Trump that
could happen early this year.
Kim departed for China on Monday
afternoon with his wife Ri Sol Ju and other top officials, the North's
Korean Central News Agency said. It said Kim is visiting China at the
invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
South Korean media reported that
Kim's distinctive armored train was expected to reach Beijing on Tuesday
morning, which happens to be Kim's birthday.
Kim's trip comes after U.S. and
North Korean officials reportedly met in Vietnam to discuss the location of
a second summit between Kim and Trump as the two nations look to settle the
North's decades-long pursuit of a nuclear arsenal.
Washington and Pyongyang seemed
close to war at points during 2017 as the North staged a series of
increasingly powerful weapons tests that got it tantalizingly close to its
nuclear goal of one day targeting with pinpoint accuracy anywhere on the
Possibly fearing the effect on his
country's terrible economy of crushing outside sanctions imposed because of
his weapons' tests, Kim abruptly turned to diplomacy with Seoul and
Washington last year. Three times he visited China, which is North Korea's
most important trading partner and a key buffer against pressure from
But even after what was seen as a
blockbuster summit between Kim and Trump in Singapore last June — the
first-ever between the leaders of the war enemies — there's been little real
progress in nuclear disarmament.
Washington is pressing the North to
offer up a detailed accounting of its nuclear arsenal, while Pyongyang says
it has already done enough and it's time for the U.S. to ease harsh
international sanctions that hold back the North Korean economy.
Despite Trump's repeated assurances
that another summit will allow he and Kim to make a grand deal to settle the
nuclear standoff and change a relationship marked by decades of animosity
and mistrust, outside analysts are highly skeptical that the North will
easily abandon a nuclear arsenal constructed in the face of deep poverty and
likely seen by Kim as his only guarantee of regime survival.
Gabon government thwarts coup attempt, 2 plotters dead
In this image from TV, a soldier who identified
himself as Lt. Obiang Ondo Kelly, commander of the Republican Guard, reads a
statement on state television broadcast from Libreville, Gabon, saying the
military has seized control of the government, Monday Jan. 7. (Gabon State
TV via AP)
Yves Laurent Goma
Libreville, Gabon (AP) — Gabon's government
thwarted an attempted military coup on Monday, retaining control of the
oil-rich West African nation after two plotters were killed and other army
officers were arrested, the government said.
Authorities regained control of
state broadcasting offices and a major thoroughfare in the capital,
Libreville, which were the only areas taken over by the officers, government
spokesman Guy-Betrand Mapangou told Radio France International.
He said five army officers who took
over state radio were arrested. Two other coup plotters were killed when
security forces took over and freed some hostages, according to a
presidential statement reported by RFI.
A curfew was imposed over the
capital, Libreville, and the internet was cut. The city on the Atlantic
Ocean coast was being patrolled by military tanks and armed vehicles.
Earlier Monday a soldier who
identified himself as Lt. Obiang Ondo Kelly, commander of the Republican
Guard, read out a statement saying the military had seized control of
Gabon's government in order to "restore democracy." He was flanked by two
other soldiers holding weapons; all were dressed in camouflage uniforms and
Those soldiers have been taken into
custody and President Ali Bongo's government remains in control, government
spokesman Mapangou said.
Bongo, who has been in power since
2009, has been out of the country since October amid reports that he had a
stroke. He recently addressed the country in a New Year's message that was
filmed in Morocco, where he has been receiving medical treatment.
Gabon, sub-Saharan Africa's
third-largest oil producer, has been ruled for more than half a century by
Bongo and his father, Omar, who died in 2009. Critics have accused the
family of profiting from the country's natural resources while not investing
enough in basic services for the population of more than 2 million. About
one-third of the population lives below the poverty line, according to the
As news of the coup reverberated
through the international community, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
condemned the attempted coup and called on all in the country to follow its
constitutional laws, spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
The African Union also affirmed its
support for the Bongo government.
"The African Union strongly condemns
the coup attempt this morning in Gabon," the head of the African Union
Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, said on Twitter. "I reaffirm the AU's
rejection of all anti-constitutional change."
In his brief New Year's address, the
59-year-old Bongo declared that the country was "indivisible" and
acknowledged his health problems without giving details. "A difficult
period," he called it, and a challenge that he surmounted "thanks to God."
He promised to put all of his efforts into improving the daily quality of
life for Gabon's people.
The French-educated Bongo, who was
the country's defense minister before becoming president, narrowly won
re-election in 2016 in a vote opposition rival Jean Ping claimed was plagued
by irregularities, and he continues to call himself the country's real
Britain testing 'no-deal' scenario as Brexit vote nears
Some 150 trucks leave Manston Airfield during a
'no-deal' Brexit test for where 6,000 trucks could be parked at the airfield
near Ramsgate in south east England, Monday, Jan. 7. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
London (AP) — Britain is
testing how its motorway and ferry system would handle a "no-deal" Brexit by
sending a stream of trucks from a closed local airport to the port of Dover
— even as some legislators try to pressure the government to rule out the
The tests began Monday morning and
are intended to gauge how severe the disruption would be if Britain leaves
the European Union on March 29 without an agreed-upon withdrawal deal.
It is widely expected that an abrupt
departure would lead to the introduction of tariff and customs barriers that
would slow fast-moving ferry and rail traffic that links Britain to
continental Europe. There are concerns that major traffic jams leading in
and out of ferry ports like Dover would greatly hamper trade and leave
Britain without adequate food and medicine.
Parliament is expected to resume its
debate over the government's planned withdrawal deal Wednesday, with a vote
widely expected a week later.
There are no indications that
lobbying over the Christmas and New Year holiday period has garnered Prime
Minister Theresa May more support for her plan.
The withdrawal agreement, which is
required before more wide-ranging discussions on future relations can
commence, foresees relatively close economic ties with Europe, particularly
in the immediate aftermath of Brexit, in order to avoid the imposition of a
hard border between EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of
As well as frustrating a number of
lawmakers who want a complete break from the EU, the plan also raises the
prospect that the U.K. could be "trapped" in a customs arrangement if no
agreement on future trade ties is reached. There are also a number of
lawmakers who have said they will vote against the deal because they want
another referendum on Britain's membership of the EU.
A vote that had been scheduled in
December was delayed as May admitted it would face certain defeat.
May said Monday she is still trying
to get more from EU leaders, who insist they are not willing to sweeten the
deal. She told hospital workers in Liverpool there has been "some further
movement" from the EU but did not provide specifics.
"We are continuing to work on
further assurances on further undertakings from the European Union in
relation to the concern that has been expressed by parliamentarians," she
She was castigated in Parliament by
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who said the prime minister is wasting
precious time by pushing a deal that has no support.
The prospect of the bill's possible
defeat next week has renewed concern about a "no-deal" scenario. Fears about
economic disruption Monday prompted roughly 200 legislators including some
from the prime minister's Conservative Party to write to May asking her to
rule out the no-deal scenario.
May has not spelled out how she will
respond if the withdrawal bill is voted down next week.
Brexit minister Kwasi Kwarteng said
Monday that the government is still focused on winning the vote.
"A week is a very long time in
politics. We don't know what the numbers are," he told BBC. "We have got a
week. I think the situation — as it always does — has developed, it evolves.
I am very hopeful that the deal will be voted through next week."
Cargo ship sinks off Turkey's Black Sea coast; 6 dead
coast guard and a medic help a crew member after a Panama-flagged vessel,
Volgo Balt 214, sank in rough waters off the Black Sea coastal province of
Samsun, Turkey, Monday, Jan. 7. (DHA via AP)
Ankara, Turkey (AP) — A cargo
ship sank in rough waters off Turkey's Black Sea coast on Monday, killing
six crew members including its captain, officials and media reports said.
Seven other crew members were rescued.
Turkish authorities launched a
search and rescue mission off the Black Sea coastal province of Samsun after
receiving a distress signal from the Panama-flagged vessel, Volgo Balt 214,
the governor's office said.
Samsun Gov. Osman Kaymak told
reporters after visiting the survivors in hospital that six crew members,
including the captain, died before rescuers could reach the area. He quoted
one of the survivors as saying that the hull split into two after being hit
by a powerful wave.
The vessel, which was carrying coal,
was heading to Samsun from the Russian port of Azov, the coast guard said.
It was located about 80 nautical miles from Samsun when it sent a distress
signal at 8:10 a.m. (0510 GMT; 12:10 a.m. EST).
The crew included 11 Ukrainians and
two Azerbaijan nationals, Kaymak said.
The Turkish Coast Guard said a
plane, three helicopters and two boats took part in the rescue operation.
Malaysia's king abdicates in unexpected and rare move
In this July 17, 2018, file photo, Malaysian
King Sultan Muhammad V salutes during the national anthem at the opening of
the 14th parliament session at the Parliament house in Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia. (AP Photo/Yam G-Jun)
Kuala Lumpur (AP) — Malaysian King Sultan Muhammad V abdicated on
Sunday in an unexpected move, after just two years on the throne.
The palace said in a statement that
the 49-year-old ruler had resigned as Malaysia's 15th king with immediate
effect, cutting short his five-year term. No reason was given in the
It marked the first abdication in
the nation's history.
Sultan Muhammad V, ruler of
northeast Kelantan state, took his oath of office in December 2016, becoming
one of Malaysia's youngest constitutional monarchs.
He is said to have married a
25-year-old former Russian beauty queen in November while on a two-month
medical leave. Reports in Russian and British media and on social media
featured pictures of the wedding, which reportedly took place in Moscow.
Neither the sultan, the palace nor the government had officially confirmed
Speculation that Sultan Muhammad V
would step down emerged this past week, shortly after he returned from his
leave, but Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Friday that he was unaware
of any abdication plans.
Under a unique system maintained
since Malaysia's independence from Britain in 1957, nine hereditary state
rulers take turns as the country's king for five-year terms.
The Council of Rulers is expected to
meet soon to pick the next king.
The monarch's role is largely
ceremonial, since administrative power is vested in the prime minister and
parliament. But the monarch is highly regarded, particularly among the
ethnic Malay Muslim majority, as the supreme upholder of Malay tradition.
High avalanche risk in Alps amid heavy snow; 1 dead
An aircraft is de-iced at the airport of Munich,
Germany, Sunday, Jan.6. (Stefan Puchner/dpa via AP)
Berlin (AP) — Authorities
warned Sunday of a high risk of avalanches on the northern side of the Alps,
after heavy snowfall in recent days created dangerous conditions in parts of
southern Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
A 20-year-old skier died in an
avalanche Saturday on Mount Teisen, near the Austrian border, German police
said. The woman's five companions were unharmed.
Authorities have closed some roads
and train lines due to avalanche risks, while airports in the region have
seen delays as they struggled to clear the large amount of fresh snow and
Hundreds of passengers were stuck
for hours on a train early Sunday after a snow-laden tree crashed onto the
tracks near Kitzbuehel, Austria. Some 14,000 households were temporarily
left without electricity in northern Austria because of damages to power
Austrian public broadcaster ORF
reported that some 600 residents and tourists were still stuck in the
Austrian village of Soelktal following a road closure. It said an Austrian
army helicopter managed to drop some supplies there on Sunday.
Officials in the nearby Salzburg
region described the situation as "very precarious," noting that large
avalanches could be triggered spontaneously.
The German weather service DWD
forecast a further 40 centimeters of snowfall in some areas by Monday.
Poland shuts down 13 escape game sites due to safety flaws
Forensic and other police experts examine the
site of a fire in an Escape Room, in Koszalin, northern Poland, on Saturday,
Jan. 5. (AP Photo)
Warsaw, Poland (AP) — Polish
officials have shut down 13 escape room entertainment sites for safety flaws
and the prime minister asked people Sunday to report such lapses to
firefighters and police after five teenage girls were killed in a fire.
Players in escape room games are
locked inside a room or building and must solve puzzles and find clues that
lead them to the key that will unlock the door. Regarded as an intellectual
challenge, the games are highly popular among teenagers in Poland.
Fire chief Leszek Suski said the
escape room at a private house in the city of Koszalin, where the
15-year-old girls died Friday locked inside a room celebrating a birthday,
had no emergency evacuation route. They were the first known deaths in an
escape room, a form of entertainment that has been growing in Poland over
the past five years.
Firefighters found the victims'
bodies after they extinguished a fire next to the locked room. Autopsies
showed that the girls, who were friends from school, died of carbon monoxide
inhalation. A young man employed there was hospitalized with burns.
Prosecutors say a leaky gas
container inside a heater is the most likely cause of the blaze.
Police chief Jaroslaw Szymczyk said
other people had previously posted critical remarks online about the safety
of that escape room site, but local officials weren't notified.
The 28-year-old who designed and
runs the site has been detained and will be questioned, Szymczyk said. His
injured employee is also going to be questioned.
During a memorial Catholic Mass at
Koszalin Cathedral, Bishop Edward Dajczak identified the girls by their
first names as Julia, Amelia, Gosia, Karolina and Wiktoria.
Public prayers were planned later
Sunday in front of the house where they died.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki,
along with Suski and Szymczyk, spoke after holding a meeting in which they
discussed with other officials ways of improving safety at entertainment
venues. Morawiecki called the girls' deaths an "immense tragedy."
Since Friday, more than 200 of
Poland's 1,100 escape rooms have been checked, revealing a number of safety
flaws that needed to be immediately fixed. Authorities ordered the closure
of 13 of them.
UK leader May: Brexit critics risk damaging UK democracy
British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves BBC
Broadcasting House in London after appearing on the Andrew Marr show,
Sunday, Jan. 6. (Yui Mok/PA via AP)
London (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa
May said Sunday that a delayed vote in Parliament on her Brexit deal will
"definitely" go ahead later this month, as she promised to set out measures
to win over skeptical lawmakers.
May told the BBC that in the coming
days she will give more details about measures addressing Northern Ireland
and concern over the Irish border. She also promised a greater role for
Parliament in negotiations over future trade relations with the European
Union as a sweetener, and added that "we are still working on" getting extra
assurances from Brussels to secure domestic support for her deal.
May struck a withdrawal agreement
with the EU in November, but that deal needs Parliament's approval. In
December, May decided to postpone a parliamentary vote intended to ratify
the agreement at the last minute after it became clear that it would be
overwhelmingly defeated in the House of Commons.
Lawmakers are resuming debate on the
deal Wednesday, before a vote expected to be held around Jan. 15.
If the deal is voted down, Britain
risks crashing out of the EU on March 29 with no agreement in place, a messy
outcome that could plunge the country into its worst recession for decades.
May's Brexit deal is unpopular with
British lawmakers across the spectrum, and the main sticking point is the
insurance policy known as the "backstop" — a measure that would keep the
U.K. tied to EU customs rules in order to guarantee there is no hard border
between the Republic of Ireland, an EU member, and the U.K.'s Northern
Ireland, which won't belong to the bloc after Brexit.
EU officials have insisted that the
withdrawal agreement can't be renegotiated, although they also stressed that
the backstop was meant only as a temporary measure of last resort.
As part of her efforts to win
support for her deal, May on Sunday reiterated that the agreement she
negotiated was the only one that respects the 2016 referendum result,
protects jobs and provides certainty to people and businesses.
She warned in the Mail on Sunday
newspaper that critics of her Brexit deal risk damaging Britain's democracy
and its economy by opposing her plan.
Congo delays announcing results of presidential election
An exhausted electoral commission official rests
as results are tallied for the presidential election, at a local results
compilation center in Kinshasa, Congo, Sunday, Jan. 6. (AP Photo/Jerome
Mathilde Boussion and
Kinshasa, Congo (AP) —
Congo's government Sunday postponed the release of the results of last
weekend's presidential election, fueling suspicions President Joseph
Kabila's ruling party is maneuvering to cling to power.
No new date for announcing the
winner of the Dec. 30 election was given. Electoral officials have
compiled 53 percent of the votes and will not release any information
until all the ballots have been tallied, said Corneille Nangaa, head of
the electoral commission.
"We handle sensitive data and
have to handle it responsibly," he said. He asked Congo's people to
"We are aware this process has
always been surrounded by distrust," he said, referring to calls from
the Catholic Church, the African Union, the U.S. and other diplomats for
the government to announce accurate results.
Kabila, who is stepping down
after 18 years in power, had delayed the election for two years. The
postponement in announcing the winner was seen by some Congolese as part
of an effort by Kabila's party to manipulate the results in order to
The Catholic Church, an
influential voice in this heavily Catholic nation, turned up the
pressure by saying it already knows there is a clear victor, based on
data compiled by the church's 40,000 election observers. Because Congo's
regulations say only the electoral commission can announce election
results, the church did not name the winner.
Congo's ruling party, which
backs Kabila's preferred candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, called
the church's statement "irresponsible and anarchist."
The leading opposition candidate
is Martin Fayulu, a businessman and lawmaker.
This could be Congo's first
democratic, peaceful transfer of power since independence from Belgium
For the past week, the
government cut off internet access across the vast Central African
country to prevent any speculation on social media about who won. The
government has also blocked transmissions from Radio France
International, which was alleged to have speculated on the winner, and
revoked the press credentials of RFI's correspondent.
Election observers and the
opposition have raised concerns about voting irregularities, including
the government's decision to bar 1 million voters in eastern Congo from
casting ballots because of what it said was the Ebola outbreak in the
region. Eastern Congo is known as a center of the opposition.
Western observers were not
invited to watch the balloting, and the U.S. has threatened sanctions
against those who undermine the democratic process.
While Congo was largely calm
during and after the voting, President Donald Trump said about 80
military personnel and combat equipment had been deployed to neighboring
Gabon to protect American citizens and diplomatic facilities in Congo.
Ahead of the vote, the U.S. ordered non-emergency government employees
and family members to leave the country.
At stake is a vast country rich
in the minerals that power the world's mobile phones and laptops, yet
desperately underdeveloped. Some 40 million people were registered to
Kabila, who took office in 2001
after his father was assassinated, is constitutionally barred from
serving three consecutive terms but has hinted he may run again in 2023.
That has led many Congolese to suspect he will rule from the shadows if
Shadary takes office..