Kim, Trump impersonators draw ire of Vietnam's authorities
President Donald Trump impersonator Russell White, left, and Kim Jong-un
impersonator Howard X pose for photos outside the Opera House in Hanoi,
Vietnam, Friday, Feb. 22. (AP Photo/Minh Hoang)
Hanoi, Vietnam (AP) —
Vietnamese authorities are not amused by the antics of two impersonators of
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump.
The duo has been making rounds of
Hanoi, taking pictures with curious onlookers ahead of the second summit of
the two leaders next week.
However, on late Friday, a Kim
lookalike, the Hong Kong-based impersonator who uses the name Howard X,
posted on Facebook that about 15 police or immigration officers demanded a
mandatory "interview" with them following a talk they gave at the state-run
"They then said that this was a very
sensitive time in the city due to the Trump/Kim summit and that our
impersonation was causing a 'disturbance' and ... suggested that we do not
do the impersonation in public for the duration of our stay as these
presidents have many enemies and that it was for our own safety."
According to Howard X, there was a
back-and-forth with an unnamed Vietnamese officer who "did not seem pleased
with my answer" and threatened the impersonators with deportation, saying
they were breaking immigration rules. Finally, he said they were driven back
to their hotel and told to stay put until authorities decide how to treat
"Although I am not surprised that I got
detained for doing my impersonation in Vietnam, it's still pretty annoying.
What it shows is that Vietnam has a long way to go before they will be a
developed country and I wonder if they ever will under these conditions," he
wrote on his Facebook page. "If the Vietnamese authorities are willing to
give this kind of harassment over something as trivial as an impersonation
to a high profile foreigner, imagine what all the Vietnamese artists,
musicians, film producers and all the political activists have to endure for
simply wanting to release a controversial film, songs or for simply speaking
up about real injustices in this country."
Vietnam is a tightly controlled
communist country that tolerates no dissent.
Howard X was also questioned by
Singaporean immigration authorities when he and his colleague appeared in
the city-state for the first Kim-Trump summit last June.
The impersonator's real name is Lee
Howard Ho Wun.
Counting starts in Nigeria's delayed poll marked by violence
President Muhammadu Buhari leaves after casting his vote in his hometown of
Daura, in northern Nigeria Saturday, Feb. 23. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Ben Curtis and Rodney Muhumuza
and Ismail Alfa Abdulrahim
Daura, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria began counting
votes in a presidential election on Saturday marked by an extremist attack
and other killings, late-opening polling stations and a surprise loss for
top challenger Atiku Abubakar in his hometown.
Voting in Africa's largest democracy took place a week
after a painful election delay. Final results are expected on Tuesday.
Observers and security forces gave scattered reports of torched ballot
boxes, soldiers firing on suspected vote-snatchers and people illegally
selling their votes for as little as 500 naira ($1.38).
President Muhammadu Buhari, who seeks a second term
after largely failing to deliver on fighting insecurity and corruption, was
first in line at his polling station in his northern hometown of Daura.
After cheekily peering at his wife's ballot, he told reporters he was ready
to congratulate himself on victory. He refused to say whether he would
accept a loss.
Billionaire former vice president Abubakar, who had
told reporters that "I look forward to a successful transition," was
embarrassed by his 186-167 loss to the president at his polling station
under a tree in Yola. A large crowd of Buhari supporters exploded in cheers
at the news.
Observers had said the election was too close to call.
Election day began with multiple blasts in Maiduguri,
the capital of northeastern Borno state. Security forces at first denied an
attack but eventually acknowledged that extremists had "attempted to
infiltrate" the city by launching artillery fire. One soldier was killed and
four were wounded, a security official said, insisting on anonymity because
he was not authorized to speak to the press.
The attacks, claimed by the Islamic State West Africa
Province, frightened some voters away from the polls. "I feared for my
life," resident Haruna Isa said. He stayed home and wished the candidates
Asmau Hassan said she lost her voting card in the chaos
after one explosion struck her displacement camp. She wanted to vote for
Buhari but said "I have just turned into an onlooker now." Authorities
confirmed another attack on a military base in Geidam in northeastern Yobe
state, saying it prevented the governor from voting.
In Rivers state in Nigeria's restive south, the army
said it killed six people it described as "political hoodlums" after troops
were ambushed at a road barricade in Abonnema. Spokesman Sagir Musa said a
lieutenant also was killed in the shootout.
Several other election-related deaths were reported.
Police in Rivers state said a former aide to the governor was shot dead
along with his brother. The Nation newspaper reported three people killed in
Lagos, Africa's largest city, when thugs attacked a polling booth and burned
A coalition of civic groups said multiple polling units
had not opened more than four hours after the official start. Delays were
reported in parts of the south and in the north-central state of Nasarawa as
well as in Lagos.
Many of Nigeria's more than 72 million people eligible
to vote pressed on, some walking for hours along roads deserted by traffic
restrictions. Raphael Dele in Yola said he walked over 10 kilometers (6
miles) to his polling station "because there is no room for excuses."
Many Nigerians, appalled that their country recently
became the world leader in the number of people living in extreme poverty,
said the election will be decided by economic issues. Nigeria suffered a
rare, months-long recession under Buhari when global oil prices crashed,
with unemployment growing significantly to 23 percent and inflation in the
Some on Saturday noted a lower turnout than four years
ago, when many Nigerians hoped that Buhari, a former military dictator,
would tame multiple security crises.
"Really this time, there were not many people from what
I observed," said Habiba Bello, a political party agent who attended
vote-counting in Kano, Nigeria's second-largest city. A nearby station
showed just 102 voters out of the nearly 400 expected.
In the dusty schoolyard, party agents recited aloud in
unison as polling officials held ballot papers aloft one by one. "I'm
feeling fine now!" declared Nura Abba, there for the ruling party.
An electoral commission presiding officer, Kabiru al-Haji
Musa, showed another station's presidential results, scrawled in ballpoint
pen. Buhari received 88 votes. Abubakar had eight.
Elsewhere, votes were counted by the light of mobile
phones after sundown. The ruling party warned of possible violence "in the
wee hours" as ballots were compiled in poorly defended locations such as
Observers said the delay of the election from last
week, blamed on logistical challenges, could favor Buhari, with some
Nigerians saying they didn't have the resources to travel a second time to
their place of registration.
Some also warned the delay could hurt the election's
"Unless Atiku is declared the winner, many will still
believe that (the electoral commission) colluded with the government to rig
him out," said Jideofor Adibe, associate professor of political science at
Nasarawa State University.
Some voters, however, dismissed concerns about having
"This election means so much to me. It means the future
of Nigeria. The future of my children unborn. And the future of my entire
family," voter Blessing Chemfas said.
At least 93 die from tainted liquor in India's northeast
attends to a victim, who had consumed bootleg liquor, at a hospital in
Jorhat in northeastern state of Assam, India, Saturday, Feb. 23. ( AP Photo)
Gauhati, India (AP) — At least
93 people have died and about 200 people have been hospitalized after
drinking tainted liquor in two separate incidents in India's remote
northeast, authorities said Saturday.
The victims of one of the most deadly
bootleg liquor-related incidents ever in India were mostly tea plantation
workers in Golaghat and Jorhat districts in Assam state, government official
Julie Sonowal told The Associated Press.
Assam is India's largest tea-producing
state, with more than 1,000 plantations producing more than 50 percent of
The workers consumed the tainted liquor
laced with methyl alcohol, a chemical that attacks the central nervous
system, on Thursday and started falling unconscious. They were rushed to
nearby hospitals and the death toll rose to 93 by Saturday, according to
Assam Home Commissioner Ashutosh Agnihotri.
Himanta Biswa Sharma, Assam's health
minister, said about 200 people who fell sick after drinking the toxic
liquor are in hospitals, some in critical condition.
Manab Gohain, a doctor at the Jorhat
Medical College Hospital, said 34 patients have died in the past 24 hours.
The owner of a local brewing unit and
eight others have been arrested, police official Mukesh Agarwal told the AP.
Awarwal said police are pursuing other people believed to be connected to
the racket as part of an ongoing investigation.
"We shall not spare anyone involved in
manufacture and distribution of the tainted liquor," Sharma said.
Deaths from illegally brewed alcohol
are common in India because the poor cannot afford licensed brands from
government-run shops. Illicit liquor is cheap and often spiked to increase
In India's Uttar Pradesh state earlier
this month, about 80 people died from tainted bootleg liquor.
Soldiers unleash tear gas amid tension on Venezuela's border
demonstrator throws rocks during clashes with the Bolivarian National Guard
in Urena, Venezuela, near the border with Colombia, Saturday, Feb. 23. (AP
Christine Armario and Luis
Cucuta, Colombia (AP) —
Venezuela's National Guard fired tear gas on residents clearing a barricaded
border bridge to Colombia on Saturday, heightening tensions over blocked
humanitarian aid that opposition leader Juan Guaido has vowed to bring into
the country despite President Nicolas Maduro's defiant refusal to accept
The opposition is calling on masses of
Venezuelans to escort trucks carrying the nearly 200 metric tons of
emergency food and medical supplies sent largely by the United States over
the last two weeks across several border bridges.
But clashes started at dawn in the
Venezuelan border town of Urena, when residents began removing yellow metal
barricades and barbed wire blocking the Francisco de Paula Santander bridge.
Venezuela's National Guard responded forcefully, firing tear gas on the
protesters, some of them masked youth throwing rocks, who demanded that the
aid pass through.
Meanwhile, Colombian migration
authorities said four National Guardsmen at another crossing deserted their
posts and asked for help.
There was no immediate word on their
rank, but a video provided by Colombian authorities shows three of the men
wading through a crowd with their assault rifles and pistols held above
their heads in a sign of surrender. The young soldiers were then ordered to
lay face down on the ground as migration officials urged angry onlookers to
keep a safe distance.
"I've spent days thinking about this,"
said one of the soldiers, whose identity was not immediately known. He
called on his comrades to join him in abandoning their support for Maduro's
socialist government. "There is a lot of discontent inside the forces, but
also lots of fear."
The potentially volatile moment for
both Venezuela's government and opposition comes exactly one month after
Guaido, a 35-year-old lawmaker, declared himself interim president based on
a controversial reading of the constitution before a sea of cheering
supporters. While he has earned popular backing and recognition from over 50
nations, he has not sealed the support of the military, whose loyalty to
Maduro is crucial.
Before daybreak Saturday, national
guardsmen in riot gear forced people to move away from the road leading to
the Simon Bolivar bridge connecting Venezuela and Colombia. The Venezuelan
government had said that it was closing three of its bridges on the border.
"We're tired. There's no work,
nothing," Andreina Montanez, 31, said as she sat on a curb crying from the
tear gas that was used to disperse the crowd.
A single mom, she said she lost her job
as a seamstress in December and had to console her 10-year-old daughter's
fears that she would be left orphaned when she decided to join Saturday's
"I told her I had to go out on the
streets because there's no bread," she said. "But still, these soldiers are
scary. It's like they're hunting us."
Guaido and the presidents of Colombia
and Chile gathered early Saturday at the Tienditas bridge where they are
expected to address the media before setting out to deliver the aid loaded
International leaders including U.N.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres are appealing for the sides to avoid
But on Friday, a member of an
indigenous tribe was killed and 22 others injured in clashes with security
forces who enforced Maduro's orders to keep the aid out at a crossing with
In previous waves of unrest, citizens
have been tear-gassed and killed.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge
Arreaza said the military would "never have orders to fire on the civilian
population" and likened the aid push to a media spectacle.
"We can only hope that sanity and good
sense prevail in Cucuta, in Colombia, and that it will remain as a big show,
a big party, and that they don't try to open the doors to a military
intervention," he said at U.N. headquarters in New York Friday.
The push comes on the heels of a giant
concert organized by British billionaire Richard Branson aimed at pressuring
Maduro to accept the aid. Tens of thousands of Venezuelans gathered in a
field to hear pop stars like Juanes sing beneath a scorching sun. Guaido
made a surprise appearance toward the end.
"Juan arrived! Juan arrived!" people
shouted as they spotted him smiling near the stage.
"Here is a Venezuela in search of
freedom," he said at an aid storage facility. "Thank you, to the people of
the world, for opening your doors to us."
The opposition is planning to hold
three simultaneous aid pushes on Saturday. Aside from the events in
Colombia, they also hope to get humanitarian assistance delivered by sea and
through Venezuela's remote border with Brazil. Protests are also planned in
the capital, Caracas.
Venezuela's military has served as the
traditional arbiter of political disputes in the South American country and
in recent weeks top leaders have pledged their unwavering loyalty to Maduro.
However, many believe that lower-ranking troops who suffer from the same
hardships as many other Venezuelans may be more inclined to now let the aid
Opposition leaders are pushing forward
in belief that whether Maduro lets the aid in or not, he will come out
weakened. They also contend that if the military does allow the food and
medical gear to pass, it will signify troops are now loyal to Guaido.
Analysts warn that there may be no
clear victor and humanitarian groups have criticized the opposition as using
the aid as a political weapon.
"I don't know that anyone can give a
timeline of when the dam might break, and it's quite possible that it
won't," said Eric Farnsworth of the Council of the Americas and Americas
Society, a Washington-based think tank.
Fearful of what they might encounter,
some Venezuelans in Cucuta said they planned to stay away from the border
crossings, while others said they'd face the risks and go.
"For my son, I'd risk everything,"
Oscar Herrera, 25, a Venezuelan man who took an 18-hour bus ride to Colombia
to buy his infant medicine for a skin irritation earlier this week.
Hernan Parcia, 32, a father of three,
said he planned to go with his entire family.
"I'm pained by what's happening to my
country," he said. "They can count on me."
China closes Tibet to foreigners for sensitive anniversaries
Feb. 9, 2019, photo, tourists pose for souvenir photos in front of the
Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. (Jigme Dorje/Xinhua via AP)
Beijing (AP) — China is barring
foreign travelers from Tibet over a period of several weeks that includes a
pair of sensitive political anniversaries questioning the legitimacy of
Beijing's rule over the Himalayan region.
Travel agencies contacted Wednesday
said foreign tourists would not be allowed back into Tibet until April 1.
It's not clear when the ban started, although some monitoring groups said it
began this month.
The ban was confirmed by the online
customer service portal of the Tibet Youth International Travel Service, as
well as staff at the Tibet Vista and Go to Tibet travel agencies. Both are
based in the southwestern city of Chengdu — the main jumping-off point for
visits to Tibet.
Staff members declined to give their
names or offer details.
March 10 is the 60th anniversary of an
abortive 1959 uprising against Chinese rule in Tibet, while anti-government
riots occurred March 14, 2008, in the regional capital Lhasa.
Although the foreigner travel ban is an
annual occurrence, the occasion of the 60th anniversary is drawing added
Amid heavy security on the ground,
Tibet is almost entirely closed to foreign journalists and diplomats and
information about actual conditions there is difficult to obtain.
The 1959 uprising resulted in the
flight of Tibet's traditional Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama, into exile in
India and the beginning of increasingly harsh Chinese rule over the region.
Nearly five decades later, anger exploded in a series of protests in an
around Lhasa that culminated in attacks on Chinese individuals and
businesses in which the government says rioters killed 18 people.
An unknown number of Tibetans were
killed by security forces in the aftermath.
China claims Tibet has been part of its
territory for more than seven centuries and regards the Dalai Lama as a
Many Tibetans insist they were
essentially independent for most of that time and have protested what they
regard as China's heavy-handed rule imposed after the People's Liberation
Army's battled its way into the Himalayan region in 1950.
More recently, traditionally Tibetan
regions of western China have been racked by a series of self-immolations by
Buddhist clergy and lay people protesting Chinese rule and calling for the
return of the Dalai Lama, now aged 83.
Despite the suffocating level of
security, Tibet is an increasingly popular destination for tourists looking
for mountain adventure and monuments to its unique Buddhist culture.
In 2017, more than 25 million trips
from around the world were made to Tibet, an increase of 10.6 percent over
the year before, generating 37.9 billion yuan ($5.6 billion) in tourist
revenue, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
Numbers of visits rose again last year
to more than 33 million, a rise of 31.5 percent, Xinhua said.
While Chinese may travel to Tibet at
will, foreigners are required to obtain a special permit in addition to
their Chinese visas.
While China has at times denied closing
Tibet and never offered an explanation for any such measures, monitoring
groups say it's part of a strategy of concealing the extent of repression in
"This most recent development is part
of the overall policy of the Chinese government to restrict access to Tibet
for independent observers in order to maintain an iron grip in the region
while at the same time avoiding any form of external scrutiny," Washington,
D.C.-based International Campaign for Tibet said in an emailed statement.
2nd Trump-Kim summit crucial moment for Moon's presidency
Sept. 18, 2018, file photo, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, left, and
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ride in a car during a parade through a
street in Pyongyang, North Korea. (Pyongyang Press Corps Pool via AP)
Seoul (AP) — South Korean President Moon Jae-in
has staked his legacy on the stunning diplomatic progress he has forged with
North Korea, as well as the behind-the-scenes orchestration of the
U.S.-North Korean summits.
But following months of stalemate on North Korea
nuclear talks, Moon's presidency faces a crucial moment, with President
Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un set to meet for the second
time next week.
Moon, a liberal who took office in May 2017, is
desperate for a breakthrough so he can continue engagement with the North
that has driven the three-way diplomacy but is now held back by tough
U.S.-led sanctions against Pyongyang. There's hope among Moon's supporters
that progress by Trump and Kim on the nuclear issue will allow the partial
sanctions relief needed for the Koreas to resume joint economic projects
that were shelved during previous standoffs.
But Moon may be disappointed in his push for quick
It remains unclear whether Kim is ready to deal away
his nukes, and Washington still sees economic pressure as its best form of
leverage over Pyongyang. If the nuclear negotiations break down, Moon could
face a serious political dilemma over whether to continue to engage with the
North or join another U.S.-led pressure campaign.
A look at the stakes for Moon as Trump and Kim prepare
to meet in Vietnam's capital, Hanoi:
Moon, who has preached that Seoul should be in the
driver's seat when dealing with Pyongyang, has prioritized improving
bilateral relations with North Korea, which he says would help drive nuclear
progress between Washington and Pyongyang.
A son of North Korean war refugees, Moon has vowed to
build on the legacies of former Presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun.
Under their "Sunshine Policy," which Moon had a hand in building as Roh's
chief of staff, economic inducements from Seoul resulted in temporary
rapprochement and summits in 2000 and 2007 with then-North Korean leader Kim
Jong Il, Kim Jong Un's late father. In a phone conversation with Trump on
Tuesday, Moon said the South was ready to proceed with inter-Korean economic
projects to induce further nuclear disarmament steps from Kim.
But Moon is in a tougher spot than his liberal
predecessors, who governed when the North's nuclear threat was nascent.
Kim's arsenal now includes purported thermonuclear warheads and
intercontinental ballistic missiles potentially capable of reaching the U.S.
The Trump-Kim meeting in Hanoi could be pivotal in
determining whether things head toward a stable and nuclear-free Korean
Peninsula, or the cementing of the North as a nuclear power. With crucial
parliamentary elections coming next year, Moon can't afford a major setback
in inter-Korean relations, his strongest issue.
Moon continues to enjoy a good level of public support
for his rapprochement with North Korea. But recent polls show there's also
growing skepticism among South Koreans, especially among older people, over
whether Kim will ever give up his nukes.
"As long as the Kim Jong Un regime is there, North
Korea will never abandon its nuclear weapons, even if we pay them hundreds
of billions of dollars or trillions of dollars," said Thae Yong Ho, a former
North Korean diplomat who defected to the South in 2016.
"The nuclear weapons are gravity that pulls the regime
together," Thae said. "They make up for the North getting behind in the
inter-Korean competition and provide an instant solution to the North's
inferiority in conventional military power against the United States and
WORRIES IN SEOUL
While Moon focuses mainly on North Korea, there's
criticism that huge problems are being mishandled at home.
There's discontent over a rapidly decaying job market —
the 1.22 million South Koreans measured as jobless in January represented
the highest number in 19 years. The bad economy has also compromised
government efforts toward reforming powerful family-owned conglomerates
often accused of monopolistic behavior and corruptive ties with politicians.
There's also worry over the long-term effects of a falling birthrate as many
women put off marriage and child birth because of financial instability,
grueling working hours and limited daycare services.
Deep gender, age and political divides seem to be
coming to the head on the eve of an election year, and the ruling liberals
have seen their popularity decline over scandals, including the arrest of a
pro-Moon provincial governor for his involvement in manipulating online
opinions ahead of the 2017 presidential election.
"Inter-Korean relations have been the only thing going
well for the Moon government," said Yul Shin, a politics professor at
Seoul's Myongji University. "But enthusiasm will quickly wane if we go
through event after event without producing real changes on
HOPES OF RESTARTING JOINT PROJECTS
The Koreas in recent months have taken military
measures to reduce conventional threats, opened a liaison office in the
North Korean border town of Kaesong and vowed to pursue a bid to co-host the
2032 Summer Olympics.
Now they want sanctions dialed back so they can
resurrect two major symbols of rapprochement that provided much-needed hard
currency to North Korea: a jointly run factory park in Kaesong and South
Korean tours to the North's scenic Diamond Mountain resort.
At their third summit in Pyongyang in September, Moon
and Kim agreed to make progress on both projects. Kim said later during his
annual New Year's speech that the North was ready to restart the projects
"without any precondition," while making a nationalistic call for stronger
cooperation between the Koreas.
South Korea suspended tours to Diamond Mountain in 2008
after a North Korean soldier shot a South Korean tourist. Seoul's previous
conservative government closed the Kaesong park in February 2016 following a
North Korean nuclear test.
It's impossible for Seoul to restart the projects under
current international sanctions, which have strengthened significantly since
2016 as North Korea sped up its weapons development.
One potential deal could see Pyongyang agree to
verifiably dismantle its main nuclear complex at Yongbyon and freeze its
nuclear program. Washington, in return, could agree to take steps to free up
inter-Korean activities at Kaesong and Diamond Mountain, said Koh Yu-hwan, a
North Korea expert at Seoul's Dongguk University and one of Moon's policy
The Security Council would probably need to pass an
entirely new resolution on the North for inter-Korean economic activities to
resume, which is difficult to imagine until Kim takes deeper steps toward
verifiably and irreversibly relinquishing his nuclear arsenal, said Lim Soo-ho,
an analyst from the Seoul-based Institute for National Security. Even if
this happens, it still leaves U.S. unilateral sanctions, which would put
South Korean companies doing business in the North under the threat of U.S.
Trump would need to go through an exhaustive process to
soften U.S. sanctions, Lim said, because of a 2016 law that demands
significant progress not only on North Korea's nuclear disarmament but also
on its dismal human rights record for punitive measures to be suspended or
France to adopt international definition of anti-Semitism
president Francis Kalifat, right, welcomes France's President Emmanuel
Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron at the Louvre Carrousel as they arrive
to attend the 34rd annual dinner of the group CRIF, Representative Council
of Jewish Institutions of France, in Paris, Wednesday, Feb. 20. (Ludovic
Marin, Pool Photo via AP)
Paris (AP) — The French
government will adopt an international organization's definition of
anti-Semitism and propose a law to reduce hate speech from being circulated
online, French President Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday.
Macron, speaking at the annual dinner
of a Jewish organization, said France and other parts of Europe have seen in
recent years "a resurgence of anti-Semitism that is probably unprecedented
since World War II."
Macron said applying the working
definition of anti-Semitism drawn up by the International Holocaust
Remembrance Alliance would help guide police forces, magistrates and
teachers in their daily work.
Since the intergovernmental
organization approved the wording in 2016, some critics of Israel have said
it could be used suppress Palestinian rights activists. The definition
states anti-Semitism can take the form of "denying the Jewish people their
right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State
of Israel is a racist endeavor."
Macron said he thinks that view is
"Anti-Zionism is one of the modern
forms of anti-Semitism," the French leader said in Paris at the dinner of
Jewish umbrella organization CRIF. "Behind the negation of Israel's
existence, what is hiding is the hatred of Jews."
Macron mentioned anti-Semitism based on
"radical Islamism" as a rampant ideology in France's multi-ethnic, poor
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu expressed his appreciation at France's adoption of the
international definition of anti-Semitism, in a phone call with the French
leader ahead of the speech, Netanyahu's office said.
Macron also said his party would
introduce legislation in parliament in May to force social media to withdraw
hate speech posted online and use all available means to identify the
authors "as quickly as possible."
He especially denounced Twitter as
waiting days, sometimes weeks, to remove hate contents and to help
authorities so a judicial investigation can be led. At the same time, he
praised Facebook's decision last year to allow the presence of French
regulators inside the company to help improving practices combating online
Macron speech came a day after
thousands of people attended rallies across France to decry an uptick in
anti-Semitic acts in recent months. On Tuesday morning, about 80 gravestones
spray-painted with swastikas were discovered in a cemetery in a small
village of eastern France.
French President Emmanuel Macron
observed a moment of silence Tuesday with parliament leaders at the
Holocaust museum in Paris.
The Paris prosecutor's office said
Wednesday that a man has been arrested over a torrent of hate speech
directed at Jewish philosopher Alain Finkielkraut during a Saturday march by
yellow vest protesters. The insults included words like "Zionist!" and "Go
back to Tel Aviv!" and "We are France!"
The man was taken into custody Tuesday
evening after a police inquiry was opened into a suspected public insult
based on origin, ethnicity, nation, race or religion.
The government last week reported a big
rise in incidents of anti-Semitism last year: 541 registered incidents, up
74 percent from the 311 registered in 2017.
In other incidents this month, swastika
graffiti was found on street portraits of Simone Veil, a survivor of Nazi
death camps and a European Parliament president who died in 2017, the word "Juden"
was painted on the window of a bagel restaurant in Paris and two trees
planted at a memorial honoring a young Jewish man tortured to death in 2006
"That's our failure", Macron said. "The
time has come to act."
UK's May, EU chief call latest Brexit talks 'constructive'
Prime Minister Theresa May, left, is greeted by European Commission
President Jean-Claude Juncker prior to a meeting at EU headquarters in
Brussels, Wednesday, Feb. 20. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
Raf Casert and Jill Lawless
Brussels (AP) — After the resignations of three
of her party's lawmakers over Brexit, British Prime Minister Theresa May
came away from more talks on preventing the U.K. from crashing out of the
European Union with both she and the EU's chief deeming their meeting
No breakthrough was announced from the dinner meeting
at EU headquarters in Brussels between May and European Commission President
But a joint communique from the two promised their
respective negotiating teams "would continue to explore the options in a
Since Juncker had said ahead of time he expected little
to come from the meeting, their second this month, the characterization of
it turning out to be constructive could be considered a decent outcome.
"We've made progress," said May.
She and Juncker agreed to have another meeting before
the end of the month. It could come as soon as an EU-Arab League summit in
Egypt starting Sunday.
May has been trying to persuade the EU to revise the
draft agreement on Britain's withdrawal because lawmakers in Parliament have
refused to approve it.
But the EU has steadfastly refused to reopen the
585-page legal text. The statement from Juncker and May said they discussed
possible "alternative arrangements" and changes to an accompanying political
declaration as potential options.
Brexit is currently set to take place on March 29.
The joint statement said negotiators from the two sides
"will review progress again in the coming days, seized of the tight
timescale and the historic significance of setting the EU and the U.K. on a
path to a deep and unique future partnership."
At home in London, May took big hit. She lost three
Tory legislators earlier in the day over her handling of the Brexit
negotiations. They resigned to join a new centrist group.
Still, it was Juncker who looked most beaten up when
their meeting in Brussels started, with a band aid on his left cheek, the
result of a bad shaving experience.
"I don't want you to think Mrs. May is responsible for
this injury on my face," Juncker said before welcoming the prime minister to
Brussels during a stilted ceremony that did not include a kiss or a
handshake like previous occasions.
The stalemate over the divorce deal has raised fears of
Britain leaving without an agreement on its departure or future relations
with the EU, a scenario that could present severe economic disruptions for
both sides. It has also raised the possibility of May's government seeking
to delay its exit to wrap up negotiations.
"Time is of the essence, and it's in both our interests
that when the U.K. leaves the EU, it does so in an orderly way," said May.
The difficulties finding a proper way out of the crisis
over Brexit has created Britain's biggest parliamentary crisis in decades.
Brexit-driven political cracks yawned wider Wednesday
as three pro-European lawmakers quit May's ruling Conservatives to join a
new centrist group of independents who oppose May's determination to take
Britain out of the EU with or without a divorce deal.
Anna Soubry, Heidi Allen and Sarah Wollaston resigned
to join eight ex-opposition Labour Party lawmakers in an alliance dubbed the
Independent Group. The defections mark the biggest shake-up in decades for
Britain's political parties.
U.K. lawmakers object to a border provision between the
U.K.'s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland that would keep the U.K. in a
customs union with the EU until a permanent new trading relationship is in
May wants to change the deal's phrasing to make sure
that the mechanism to ensure an open Irish border after Brexit would only
Tear gas, hate speech marks 14th yellow vest protest
vest protesters wave a French flag Saturday, Feb.16, 2019 in Paris. (AP
Paris (AP) — Police fired tear
gas and brought in water cannons and a horse brigade to disperse several
thousand yellow vest protesters Saturday massed near a Paris landmark at the
end of a march through the French capital, the 14th straight weekend of
Anti-Semitic remarks hurled by a few at
a noted philosopher on the protesters' route were the bitter finale to a day
Acrid clouds of tear gas filled the
esplanade of Les Invalides monument, obscuring the gold dome that crowns the
monument housing Napoleon's tomb.
Tension also marked demonstrations in
In Rouen, in Normandy, a car blocked by
demonstrators pushed through the crowd, slightly injuring four people, the
all-news channel BFMTV reported. Police used tear gas and water cannon in
Bordeaux, a stronghold of the yellow vest movement, and other cities on the
14th straight Saturday of protests. Another demonstration in the capital was
planned for Sunday to mark three months since the movement held its first
nationwide protests Nov. 17.
In Paris, an array of insults, some
anti-Semitic, by a handful of yellow vest protesters targeted a well-known
French philosopher, Alain Finkielkraut, underscoring excesses that surge
within an increasingly divided movement with radical fringes.
President Emmanuel Macron tweeted that
"the anti-Semitic injuries he received are the absolute negation of what we
are and of what makes us a great nation."
The president's was among a chorus of
tweets, with Interior Minister Christophe Castaner denouncing "the surge of
pure hate," while government spokesman Benjamin Griveau tweeted that "the
ugly beast lurks in the anonymity of the crowd."
The insults included words like
"Zionist!" and "Go back to Tel Aviv!" and "We are France!" Finkielkraut once
showed sympathy for the movement but criticized it in a recent interview
with Le Figaro daily. Some yellow vest protesters have expressed racist or
anti-Semitic views online and on the sidelines of protests.
"I felt an absolute hate," Finkielkraut
told the Sunday paper Le Journal du Dimanche. He expressed relief that
Lines of riot police used tear gas and
an impressive backup, a special horse brigade and water cannons — apparently
not used — to force the agitated crowd to disperse.
The Paris prosecutor's office said 15
people were detained for questioning, far less than the scores detained in
earlier, larger demonstrations that degenerated into scattered rioting and
Violence has marked most of the
protests that started against fuel taxes and grew into a mass movement
against Macron and his pro-business policies. However, the increasingly
divided movement is having trouble maintaining momentum, and support from
the public that initially massively backed protesters, polls showed.
French media quoted the Interior
Ministry as saying that 41,500 protesters nationwide turned out Saturday,
some 10,000 less than the previous week, with 5,000 in Paris.
"No social peace without equitable
sharing ... The people aren't a milk cow," was the message scrawled on a
wooden cross, carried by a protester dressed in monk's garb.
In Paris, tensions mounted as the more
than four-hour march ended at the Invalides, with projectiles thrown at
police, some by masked individuals dressed in black, a uniform for the
ultra-leftist Blackblocs. BFM showed people running after moving police
cars, hitting the windows.
The march — one of seven yellow vest
demonstrations in Paris on Saturday — began hours earlier at the Arc de
Triomphe at the top of the Champs-Elysees, the stage of past rioting, and
wound through Paris, from moneyed Right Bank streets with high-fashion
boutiques to Left Bank student quarters.
Many French are asking aloud how long
the yellow vest movement will keep up its protests, which drain security
forces and have dented the French economy.
Emilie Bidois, from the Normandy town
of Gisors, who was taking part in the Paris protest, admitted she was
growing tired — but remaining determined.
"We're fed up but we won't give up. We
won't give up on anything because they want to muzzle us and we want to be
heard," she said. "I will carry on until the movement runs out of steam, if
it runs out of steam, but I don't think it will."
Leo Peyrade, a 70-year-old Parisian,
referred to the violence that has hit numerous protests, often triggered by
small extremist groups, and said he has learned to be careful. Last week, a
young protester lost four fingers from a grenade. Others have lost eyes.
"Every time I come, some are wounded,
arms, legs. I'm careful," he said. "I can't run like a young person, not as
fast in any event."
8 miners rescued in Zimbabwe; dozens more feared dead
react after hearing eight artisanal miners survived after rains flooded
mines on the outskirts of Kadoma, west of Harare, Zimbabwe, Saturday, Feb,
16. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
Kadoma, Zimbabwe (AP) — Eight
subsistence miners who were trapped underground for several days after heavy
flooding in Zimbabwe have been rescued, though dozens of their co-workers
are still missing and feared dead.
Rescuers on Saturday pulled the
exhausted, muddied survivors from the ground and took them to a tent for
medical treatment. Relatives waiting at the scene ululated, cheered and
hugged each other.
Later came the retrieval of the dead.
One by one the bodies were pulled from one of the tunnels in the gold
fields, put in blue body bags and into a police truck which is transporting
them to a tent for identification.
Dozens of the small-scale gold miners
were caught underground Tuesday on the outskirts of Kadoma, west Zimbabwe's
capital, Harare, when a dam wall collapsed and water rushed into the nearby
It is unclear how many miners remain
trapped, but the government has said between 60 and 70 people were working
underground at the time of the accident. The government has declared it a
Uniformed police, government workmen
and artisanal miners, some of them wearing shorts, T-shirts and sandals, are
working together in the retrieval operation using a hand-powered winch and
Ignoring a strong stench, some people
broke through the police perimeter to catch a glimpse of the process, while
others hoped to identify their friends and relatives.
At least 20 bodies had been identified
underground, while the search for more bodies continued, said Henrietta
Rushwaya, the leader of Zimbabwe's association of small scale miners.
A government statement Friday said that
$200,000 is needed to complete the operation. Local head of the Civil
Protection Unit Cecilia Chitiyo told reporters Saturday that "well-wishers"
should donate body bags, masks, gloves, diesel fuel and other needed items.
Retired Indian general urges caution against Pakistan strike
Oct. 2, 2016 file photo, Indian army soldiers patrol near the Line of
Control in Nowshera sector, about 90 kilometers from Jammu, India. (AP
Srinagar, India (AP) — As India
considers its response to the suicide car bombing of a paramilitary convoy
in the disputed region of Kashmir that killed dozens of soldiers, a retired
military commander who oversaw a much-lauded military strike against
neighboring Pakistan in 2016 has urged caution.
A local Kashmiri militant rammed an
explosive-laden van into a convoy bus on Thursday, killing 41 soldiers and
injuring two dozen others in the worst attack against Indian government
forces in Kashmir's history. India blamed the attack on Pakistan and
promised a "crushing response." New Delhi accuses its archrival of
supporting rebels in Kashmir, a charge that Islamabad denies.
The retired commander, Lt. Gen. D.S.
Hooda, told The Associated Press on Saturday that while "some kind of
limited (military) strike (against Pakistan) is more than likely," he hopes
for "rethinking and reconciliation" from all sides in the conflict.
The former general, who was in charge
of the army's northern command at the frontier with Pakistan in Kashmir and
counterinsurgency operations, oversaw India's "surgical strikes" in
September 2016 after militants attacked a military base in the frontier town
of Uri near the highly militarized Line of Control.
Nineteen Indian soldiers and three
assailants were killed in that attack. India instantly blamed Pakistan for
supporting the attackers, who New Delhi alleged were Pakistani nationals.
At the peak of a 2016 civilian uprising
triggered by the killing of a charismatic Kashmiri rebel leader, Hooda
called for all sides to take a step back from the deadly confrontation,
suggesting that political initiatives be taken instead. It was a rare move
by a top Indian army general in Kashmir.
Later that year when the attack on the
base in Uri happened, Hooda commanded what New Delhi called "surgical
strikes" against militants in the Pakistan-controlled part of Kashmir —
which India said involved the country's special forces killing an unknown
number of insurgents. Pakistan denied that the strikes ever occurred,
demanding that India produce evidence to back up the claim.
Hooda has since said that the constant
hype of "surgical strikes" was unwarranted.
Pakistani Foreign Secretary Tehmina
Janjua rejected India's allegations about Pakistan's involvement in the
attack, saying Saturday that it was part of New Delhi's "known rhetoric and
tactics" to divert global attention from human rights violations. According
to foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal, Janjua called for
implementation of U.N. resolutions to solve the issue of Kashmir.
Kashmir is divided between India and
Pakistan and claimed by both in its entirety. Rebels have been fighting
Indian rule since 1989, demanding Kashmir be made part of Pakistan or become
an independent country. Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the
uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.
A pre-recorded video circulated widely
on social media showed the purported attacker, Adil Ahmed Dar, in combat
clothes surrounded by guns and grenades claiming responsibility for the
attack and calling for more such measures to drive India out of Kashmir.
Since 2016, soldiers from India and
Pakistan have often traded fire along the frontier, blaming each other for
initiating the skirmishes that have resulted in the deaths of dozens of
soldiers and civilians on both sides in violation of a 2003 cease-fire
Hooda said that considering the state
of affairs in Kashmir, he wasn't surprised by the bombing.
"I just hope this all leads to some
introspection, some deep thinking and engagement to do everything afresh and
rethink what we all should be doing to settle issues once for all," he said.
US military planes land near Venezuela border with aid
States Air Force C-17 cargo plane loaded with humanitarian aid lands at
Camilo Daza airport in Cucuta, Colombia, Saturday, Feb. 16. (AP
Cucuta, Colombia (AP) — The U.S.
military airlifted tons of humanitarian aid to a Colombian town on the
Venezuelan border Saturday as part of an effort meant to undermine socialist
President Nicolas Maduro and back his rival for the leadership of the South
Three scheduled Air Force C-17 cargo
planes that took off from Homestead Air Reserve Base in Florida had landed
in Cucuta. That border city, swollen by a flood of migrants from Venezuela,
is a collection point for aid that's supposed to be distributed by
supporters of Juan Guaido, the congressional leader who is recognized by the
U.S. and many other nations as Venezuela's legitimate president. He has
called for the aid.
"This wasn't the first, and it won't be
the last," said USAID Administrator Mark Green, standing on the tarmac in
Cucuta at a ceremony to receive the aid. "More is on the way."
Commercial planes had been used for
earlier shipments of aid, which is aimed at dramatizing the economic crisis
— including hyperinflation and shortages of food and medicine — gripping
Venezuela. Critics say last year's re-election was fraudulent, making
Maduro's second term illegal.
"We are saving lives with these
airplanes," said Lestor Toledo, an exiled politician who is coordinating the
international aid effort for Guaido.
Maduro has been using the military,
which remains loyal, to help him block the aid from entering Venezuela,
describing it as "crumbs" from a U.S. government whose restrictions have
stripped his administration of control over many of its most valuable
"They hang us, steal our money and then
say 'here, grab these crumbs' and make a global show out of it," Maduro told
The Associated Press on Thursday. "With dignity we say 'No to the global
show.' Whoever wants to help Venezuela is welcome, but we have enough
capacity to pay for everything that we need."
His vice president has alleged, without
evidence, that the aid packages are contaminated. Green on Saturday called
the allegations "absurd."
Saturday's 180-ton shipment includes
high-energy food products or hygiene kids of soap, toothpaste and other
goods for more than 25,000 people.
Guaido spoke to a crowd of supporters
gathered in eastern Caracas on Saturday and vowed to form caravans of
activists to reach the border and bring in aid on Jan. 23. He also called
for people to gather in cities across the country to receive the aid — and
called for the armed forces to allow it into the country.
In the crowd was Anibrez Peroza, a
40-year-old nurse, who said she was ready if necessary to go to Cucuta in a
caravan to bring in the aid.
"We have to do something to save so
many people who are suffering and dying for lack of medicine," she said.
Peroza wept as she described a dehydrated child dying in her arms for lack
of a catheter to rehydrate him.
The U.S. and widespread European
recognition of Guaido complicates Maduro's efforts to find funds to keep his
government, and its own food programs, running.
The U.S. has placed Venezuela's U.S.
assets, including oil company Citgo, under Guaido's control and bans
financial transactions by Maduro-controlled entities. Scores of Venezuelan
officials also face personal financial sanctions in the United States.
French yellow vest anti-govt protests turn violent in Paris
burning command car belonging to France's anti-terror 'Vigipirate' squad,
dubbed 'Operation Sentinelle', is pictured during a demonstration as yellow
vests protesters keep pressure on French President Emmanuel Macron's
government, for the 13th straight weekend of demonstrations, in Paris,
France, Saturday, Feb. 9. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)
Paris (AP) — A French yellow
vest protester's hand was ripped apart Saturday during violent clashes in
Paris as demonstrators tried to storm the French National Assembly in a 13th
consecutive week of unrest.
Police said the injured protester lost
four fingers as police swooped in to stop protesters from breaching the
parliament's exterior. Police could not confirm French media reports that
the hand of the demonstrator, who is now being treated in the hospital, was
blown up by a grenade used to disperse unruly crowds.
As scuffles broke out in front of the
National Assembly and French police responded with tear gas, paramedics
huddled around the injured protester at the National Assembly gates.
Police used batons and fired tear gas
in Paris to disperse demonstrators, some of whom threw debris at riot
police. Cars, motorbikes and trash bins were set ablaze as the protest moved
toward the city's Invalides monument and onto the Eiffel Tower.
French Interior Minister Christophe
Castaner went to Twitter to express his "disgust" as protesters set alight
an anti-terror military car. Its yellow smoking plumes, against the backdrop
of the Eiffel Tower, made for a powerful image of rejecting authority.
Such vehicles have been a common sight
in Paris since deadly extremist attacks in 2015.
"Every day the military ... protects
our compatriots from the risk of terrorism. These attacks are intolerable,"
Police said 31 demonstrators had been
arrested in the unrest. But France's Interior Ministry said this week's
protest was significantly smaller than last week's.
The yellow vest activists, who have
brought hundreds of thousands onto the streets over the past three months,
are now trying to achieve electoral success but the movement is politically
divided and has no appointed leader.
French President Emmanuel Macron — the
target of many demonstrators' anger — seems to be clawing back support from
the public as he tries to address the movement's anger with a national
political debate on economic injustice. Recent polls show Macron's approval
ratings are rising.
Earlier Saturday, activists in Latvia
staged a picket in front of the French embassy in Riga, the capital of the
small Baltic EU country, to support the yellow vest movement and urge
Latvians to demand higher living standards.
The activists waved Latvia's
red-and-white flag, shouting slogans like "the French have woken up, while
Latvians remain asleep."
Illegal construction blamed in Istanbul building collapse
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, center, carries a coffin as he joins
hundreds of mourners who attend the funeral prayers for nine members of
Alemdar family killed in a collapsed apartment building, in Istanbul,
Saturday, Feb. 9. (Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool)
Mehmet Guzel and Zeynep Bilginsoy
Istanbul (AP) — Turkish
officials blamed illegal construction practices for the collapse of an
apartment building in Istanbul as they joined hundreds of mourners Saturday
at a funeral for nine members of one family killed in the disaster.
As the overall death toll rose to 18,
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said there were "many lessons to
learn" from the tragedy. He said the government would take "determined"
steps after investigators complete their work and called for speedy urban
The eight-story residential building
collapsed in the city's Kartal district Wednesday. By Saturday, Interior
Minister Suleyman Soylu increased the death toll to 18. He said rescuers had
reached another person under the rubble, who was thought to be dead.
Murat Kurum, Turkey's minister for
environment and urban planning, said the collapsed building had permits for
only six floors. He said someone had illegally built its top two floors with
low quality concrete and sea sand instead of construction-grade concrete and
"In this area, we have faced a very
serious problem with illegal businesses like this done to make more money,"
Erdogan told reporters on his first visit to the site.
Experts say a majority of buildings in
Istanbul lack proper licenses and are built illegally or without engineering
services. They have criticized a government decision to grant amnesty for
illegal construction last year ahead of the country's general election.
Turkish cities have grown massively
under Erdogan's 15 years in power. Istanbul, Turkey's biggest city of more
than 15 million people, is also located on a seismic belt.
Earlier Saturday, Erdogan and other
officials joined mourners at the funeral for nine members of the Alemdar
family who lived in the collapsed building. Five other relatives, including
two children, are among the 13 people hospitalized in the collapse. Seven of
the injured were still in serious condition on Saturday.
Friends and relatives have been waiting
near the apartment building for news of their missing loved ones as
emergency teams, aided by sniffer dogs, worked around the clock. Fourteen
people have been pulled alive from the rubble, including a 16-year-old boy
Officials haven't disclosed how many
people are still unaccounted for. The collapsed building had 14 apartments,
43 registered residents and three businesses.
Woman acquitted of blasphemy still can't leave Pakistan
Nov. 20, 2010, file photo, Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman, listens
to officials at a prison in Sheikhupura near Lahore, Pakistan. (AP Photo)
Islamabad (AP) — A Christian
woman acquitted of blasphemy after spending eight years on death row in
Pakistan has been transferred from a secret location near the capital to
another in Karachi, but is still unable to leave the country to join her
daughters in Canada, a friend said Saturday.
Aman Ullah, who spoke to Aasia Bibi by
telephone Friday, said the 54-year-old Bibi is being held in a room in the
southern port city. He said Bibi, who faces death threats by radical
Islamists, is frustrated and frightened, uncertain of when she will be able
to leave Pakistan.
"She has no indication of when she
will leave ... they are not telling her why she cannot leave," said Ullah,
who fled the country Friday after receiving threats from extremists angered
by his assistance to Bibi, which began while she was on death row.
Ullah has been a liaison between Bibi
and European diplomats, who have sought to assist her. The Associated Press
spoke to Bibi by telephone with Ullah's assistance following her October
acquittal, which was upheld last month.
Bibi's ordeal began in 2009 when two
fellow farmworkers refused to drink from the same container as a Christian
woman. There was a quarrel and the two Muslim women later accused Bibi of
blasphemy. The Supreme Court judges said there were widespread
inconsistencies in the testimony against Bibi, who has steadfastly
maintained her innocence.
The acquittal should have given Bibi
her freedom, but Ullah said diplomats were told that her departure from
Pakistan, where she feels her life would be in danger, would come not in the
short term, but "in the medium term."
He said Bibi told him she is locked in
one room of a house.
"The door opens at food time only,"
said Ullah, and she is allowed to make phone calls in the morning and again
at night. He said she usually calls her daughters.
Bibi's husband is with her, he said.
"She is living with her family and
given requisite security for safety," Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry
said in an email.
He said the government was responsible
for taking "all possible measures" to protect her and her family, adding
that "she is a free citizen after her release from jail and can move
anywhere in Pakistan or abroad."
Bibi told Ullah the security detail
assigned to her refuses to explain why she is still confined.
Bibi's case has brought international
attention to Pakistan's blasphemy law, which carries an automatic death
sentence for a conviction of insulting Islam. There have been widespread
complaints that the law is used to settle scores and intimidate religious
minorities, including Shiite Muslims.
The mere suggestion of blasphemy can
incite mobs to kill. After Bibi's October acquittal the radical
Tehreek-e-Labbaik party called its followers onto the streets, where they
protested for three days demanding Bibi's immediate execution as well as the
death of the judges who acquitted her. The party leadership also advocated
overthrowing Prime Minister Imran Khan's government and incited the military
against the army chief.
Since then the party's leadership has
been arrested along with dozens of their supporters for inciting violence.
Ullah, a rights activist, first began
aiding those falsely charged with blasphemy when his wife was wrongly
accused, and has since helped several people gain their freedom. Bibi's case
brought him to the attention of religious radicals.
In recent months, he has been
physically assaulted, gunmen have opened fire on his home, and several
religious radicals attacked his home. Ullah said he fears being attacked
again or charged with blasphemy.
Bibi hopes to be able to join her
daughters in Canada, where they have been granted asylum.
UK scraps Brexit ferry deal with firm that has no ships
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May talks to journalists after her meeting
with European Council President Donald Tusk at the European Council
headquarters in Brussels, Thursday, Feb. 7. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
London (AP) — The British
government has canceled a contract to ship goods to the country after it
leaves the European Union with a company that turned out to have no boats
and no experience running a ferry service.
Authorities had been criticized for the
13.8 million pound deal with Seaborne Freight, part of plans to keep trade
flowing if Britain leaves the EU without a divorce deal.
The U.K. Department for Transport said
Saturday that it had ended the contract because an Irish firm that was
backing Seaborne Freight, Arklow Shipping, had withdrawn its support.
The department said no taxpayer money
had been transferred to the company. It said the government was "in advanced
talks with a number of companies to secure additional freight capacity" if
there is a no-deal Brexit.
Britain is due to leave the EU on March
29 but British lawmakers have not yet agreed upon a divorce deal outlining
departure rules and future trade terms. A withdrawal agreement between
British Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative government and the EU was
rejected last month by Britain's Parliament, and EU officials are resisting
U.K. attempts to renegotiate it.
British businesses fear a no-deal
Brexit will cause gridlock at ports by ripping up the trade rulebook and
imposing tariffs, customs checks and other barriers between the U.K. and the
EU, its biggest trading partner.
Guy Verhofstadt, the European
Parliament's chief Brexit official, said this week that a no-deal Brexit
would be "a disaster on both sides of the Channel." The 27 other EU nations,
as well as Britain, have started hiring more customs officials and taking
other steps to protect themselves against the worst effects of Brexit.
Seaborne had been contracted to provide
services between Ramsgate in southeast England and the Belgian port of
Ostend to ease pressure on the busiest cross-Channel route between Dover,
England, and Calais, France.
Criticism of the deal increased when it
was discovered that part of Seaborne's website appeared to have been copied
from a food delivery firm.
U.K. opposition Labour Party leader
Jeremy Corbyn said May's Conservative government claimed to have "'looked
very carefully' at Seaborne Freight before giving the company the contract,
but apparently not carefully enough to notice that it didn't have any
Labour transport spokesman Andy
McDonald accused Transport Secretary Chris Grayling of "heaping humiliation
after humiliation on our country" and said he should resign. Grayling has
also been in charge as British commuters have howled about deficiencies in
the country's train services.
Australia police say man in custody after airport evacuation
image made from a video taken on Saturday, Feb. 2, travelers stay outside
Brisbane International Airport after their evacuation during a bomb scare.
(Australian Broadcasting Corporation via AP)
Canberra, Australia (AP) — A man who falsely
claimed to have a bomb and menaced a woman with a knife forced the
evacuation of Brisbane International Airport for more than two hours, police
said on Sunday.
Police ended the emergency late Saturday by shooting
the 50-year-old man with non-lethal bean bag shotgun rounds and arresting
him. There were no injuries reported, and police said the emergency was not
related to terrorism.
The airport reported that the disruption had caused
delays to arrivals and departure of up to three hours.
The emergency began in the terminal's food court when
the man pulled a knife on a screaming woman and placed a metal box on a
Hundreds of panicked travelers fled the scene.
"It was a blood-curdling little scream, and she just
bolted across the forecourt," a man, who was not identified, told Nine
Another man, who also was not identified, told Nine:
"He had one knife to start with, then when he looped back around he pulled
out a second knife."
"They were big carving knife-like things. There weren't
normal little knives, they were big," the same witness added.
A woman, who was not identified, told Nine that the
sound of the woman screaming sent people running. Somebody yelled that a man
was armed with a knife or gun, she said.
"I just grabbed my kids, and I just ran out the door,"
Police opened fire with bean-bags rounds after the man
claimed to have a bomb in the metal box, Police Detective Superintendent
Tony Fleming said. He was arrested soon after.
"His behavior elevated such that they were quite
concerned about him, and some bean bag rounds were discharged and they
struck him in the torso," Fleming told reporters.
"That was important so we didn't have someone whom we
suspected at that time might have been up to no good wandering the airport,"
The man, from Gold Coast city near Brisbane, was
examined by paramedics and had "no significant injuries." Fleming said.
Police locked down the airport for more than two hours
and halted airport train services.
The man was charged on Sunday with contravening a
restraining order, stalking with a weapon, stealing, assaulting police and
making a false statement about a bomb. He has not been publicly named and
will appear in a Brisbane court on Monday.
Philippine troops battle Muslim militants after church blast
attend the scene after two bombs exploded outside a Roman Catholic cathedral
in Jolo, the capital of Sulu province in southern Philippines, Sunday, Jan.
27. (AP Photo/Nickee Butlangan)
Manila, Philippines (AP) —
Philippine troops clashed with Abu Sayyaf gunmen in fierce jungle fighting
that left five soldiers and three militants dead, as the military pushed
forward with a fresh offensive following a deadly church bombing last
President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered
government forces to destroy the Abu Sayyaf after the bombing last Sunday of
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in the Sulu provincial capital of Jolo
that killed 22 people and wounded more than 100. The attack has renewed
terrorism fears across the Philippines, where the national police went on
full alert and security has been strengthened in churches, shopping malls
and other public areas.
Regional military spokesman Col. Gerry
Besana said another five soldiers and 15 militants were wounded in nearly
two hours of fighting Saturday between the army and about 150 Islamic State
group-linked fighters in the jungles near Patikul town.
The militants were led by Abu Sayyaf
commander Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, who is suspected of helping plot the
bombing. The Abu Sayyaf, which has about 300 to 400 armed fighters, has been
blacklisted by the United States and the Philippines as a terrorist
organization because of years of bombings, kidnappings and beheadings in the
predominantly Roman Catholic nation.
Government forces have over the years
pressed on sporadic offensives to crush the group, including in Jolo, a
poverty-wracked island of more than 700,000 people where Muslims are the
majority. A few thousand Catholics live mostly in the provincial capital.
Since the church attack, the air force
has launched airstrikes on suspected militant bases near Patikul and police
killed a suspected militant on a raid in the city.
Duterte told reporters earlier this
week that the church bombing was a suicide attack carried out by a militant
Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano said
Friday that an Indonesian couple was responsible for the bombing aimed at
fomenting sectarian conflict in the south. The Indonesian man reportedly
used the nom de guerre Abu Huda and Philippine authorities said they would
coordinate with their Indonesian counterparts to try to validate the
identities of the two.
Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman
Arrmanatha Nasir said the government had not been able to confirm the
involvement of Indonesian nationals in the attack.
There has been speculation that the
bombing 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 in
2017 by hundreds of IS-aligned militants, including foreign fighters.
Troops quelled the insurrection, which
left more 1,100 people dead, mostly militants, and the heart 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.
Russia to pull plug on nuclear arms pact after US does same
President Vladimir Putin, left, speaks to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu
during a meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Feb. 2. (Alexei
Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Moscow (AP) — Following in the
footsteps of the U.S., Russia will abandon a centerpiece nuclear arms treaty
but will only deploy intermediate-range nuclear missiles if Washington does
so, President Vladimir Putin said Saturday.
President Donald Trump accused Moscow
on Friday of violating the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty
with "impunity" by deploying banned missiles. Trump said in a statement that
the U.S. will "move forward" with developing its own military response
options to Russia's new land-based cruise missiles that could target Western
Moscow has strongly denied any breaches
and accused Washington of making false accusations in order to justify its
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in
explaining that Washington on Saturday formally suspended its treaty
obligations, said in a statement that Russia's "continued noncompliance has
jeopardized the United States' supreme interests." He said the treaty will
terminate in six months unless Moscow returns to "full and verifiable
The collapse of the INF Treaty has
raised fears of a repeat of a Cold War showdown in the 1980s, when the U.S.
and the Soviet Union both deployed intermediate-range missiles on the
continent. Such weapons were seen as particularly destabilizing as they only
take a few minutes to reach their targets, leaving no time for
decision-makers and raising the likelihood of a global nuclear conflict over
a false launch warning.
After the U.S. gave notice of its
intention to withdraw, Putin said Russia would do the same. He ordered the
development of new land-based intermediate-range weapons, but emphasized
that Russia won't deploy them in the European part of the country or
elsewhere unless the U.S. does so.
"We will respond quid pro quo," Putin
said. "Our American partners have announced they were suspending their
participation in the treaty, and we will do the same. They have announced
they will conduct research and development, and we will act accordingly."
The U.S. has accused Russia of
developing and deploying a cruise missile that violates provisions of the
pact that ban production, testing and deployment of land-based cruise and
ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers (310 to 3,410
miles). Trump's move also reflected his administration's view that the pact
was an obstacle to efforts needed to counter intermediate-range missiles
deployed by China, which isn't part of the treaty.
NATO allies have strongly backed
Washington and urged Moscow to save the treaty by returning to compliance.
Russia has rejected the U.S. claims of
violation, charging that the missile, which is part of the Iskander-M
missile system, has a maximum range of 480 kilometers (298 miles). Russian
officials claimed the U.S. assertions about the alleged breach of the pact
by Moscow were intended to shift the blame for the pact's demise to Russia.
The Russian Defense Ministry on
Saturday released a satellite image of what it described as new production
facilities at the U.S. missile maker Raytheon's plant in Tucson, Arizona,
noting that their expansion began in 2017 as the Congress authorized
spending for the development of intermediate-range missiles.
"The character and the timing of the
works provide an irrefutable proof that the U.S. administration had decided
to pull out of the INF treaty years before making unfounded claims of
Russian violations," it said.
Putin has argued it makes no sense for
Russia to deploy a ground-based cruise missile violating the treaty because
it has such weapons on ships and aircraft, which aren't banned by the pact.
Speaking Saturday in a televised
meeting with his foreign and defense ministers, Putin instructed the
military to work on developing new land-based weapons that were previously
forbidden by the INF treaty. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reported to
Putin that they would include a land-based version of the Kalibr ship-based
cruise missile and a new hypersonic intermediate-range ballistic missile.
Putin emphasized that such new weapons
won't be deployed unless the U.S. does so.
"Russia will not station
intermediate-range weapons in Europe or other regions until similar U.S.
weapons appear in those regions," he said.
The Russian leader said Moscow remains
open to talks with Washington, but added it would be up to the U.S. to take
the first step.
"Let's wait until our partners are
mature enough to conduct an equal and substantive dialogue on those issues,"
At the same time, Putin told his
ministers that he would like to review the progress on building other
prospective weapons that don't fall under the INF treaty, including the
intercontinental Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle and the Poseidon
underwater nuclear-powered drone.
He noted Shoigu's report that a key
stage in testing of the Poseidon was completed several days ago. The drone
is designed to carry a heavy nuclear weapon that could cause a devastating
The Russian leader last year unveiled
an array of new nuclear weapons, including the Avangard and the Poseidon,
saying that they can't be intercepted.
Putin also noted during Saturday's
meeting that he would like the military to prepare a response to the
possible deployment of weapons in space.
The Pentagon's new strategy unveiled
last month calls for a new array of space-based sensors and other high-tech
systems to more quickly detect and shoot down incoming missiles.
Putin instructed the military to make
sure the research and development works on new weapons don't swell military
spending. He said the military must reconfigure the existing defense budget
to find money for the new weapons.
"We must not and will not be drawn into
a costly arms race," he said.
French yellow vest protesters condemn injuries, blame police
bleeding demonstrator is taken away by police officers during a yellow vest
protest, Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019 in Paris. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Paris (AP) — France's yellow
vest protesters were back on the streets Saturday to keep up the pressure on
French President Emmanuel Macron's government and to decry the number of
people being injured by police during the anti-government demonstrations.
Multiple protests in Paris and other
cities denounced Macron's economic policies, which they view as favoring the
rich, for the 12th straight weekend of demonstrations. Most were peaceful.
In Paris, scuffles broke out between
some protesters and police around the Republic plaza, northeast of the city
center, where hundreds of demonstrators headed on Saturday afternoon. Police
managed to disperse most of the crowd.
Some clashes between protesters and
police also took place in the southern cities of Bordeaux, Toulouse and
Thousands of demonstrators in the
French capital paid tribute to the yellow vests who have been injured during
clashes with police in an effort to unite the movement despite growing
divisions. Several competing groups of yellow vests are getting ready to
present candidates for the European Parliament election in May, while other
figures insist the movement must remain non-political.
The government says around 2,000 people
have been injured in protests since the movement began Nov. 17, including at
least four serious eye injuries. Separately, 10 people have died in traffic
accidents related to yellow vest actions.
Franck Dideron, 20, said he was
protesting peacefully, speaking on the phone to his mother, when his eye was
injured by a rubber bullet fired by police during a Dec. 1 protest near the
Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
"The policeman shot me voluntarily. And
I was just turning around — how was that violent behavior? How was I
dangerous for him?" he asked The Associated Press. "Today, I would like to
see this policeman come and stand in front of me, look me in the eye and
tell me why he shot me."
Jerome Rodrigues, a prominent member of
the movement who suffered an eye injury last week, was widely applauded by
the crowd Saturday.
A French police investigation is still
trying to determine how Rodrigues was injured. Video images show Rodriguez
collapsed on the ground last Saturday near the Bastille monument, where
protesters throwing projectiles clashed with police.
Antonio Barbetta, a 40-year-old
protester with injured foot, call the police response to the yellow vests
"I'm in contact with a large number of
injured people and I can tell you that these were nonviolent people. I
myself am against all forms of violence on either side," he said.
France's Council of State ruled Friday
that security forces have a right to use controversial high-velocity rubber
bullets for crowd control.
Benjamin Cauchy, a yellow vest
spokesman from southern France who came to the Paris protest, called that a
The weapon "is extremely harmful,
imprecise and in the end is causing more sorrow than security," he told BFM
The Council of State noted the
frequency of violence and property destruction at the protests and concluded
the devices are not a "grave attack" on the freedom to demonstrate and are
not inhumane treatment.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner
tweeted Friday that "if the law was respected, there would be no injured."
The French parliament is debating a
bill to strengthen measures against troublemakers who use protests to attack
police. Rights groups and opposition lawmakers, however, say it goes too far
in restricting the right to protest.
The bill could let local prefects
prevent people they see as a serious threat to public order from taking part
in protests. It could also make it a crime for protesters to conceal their
Around 69,000 people nationwide took
part in French protests last week, down from more than 80,000 the previous
two weekends, according to the French Interior Ministry.
The yellow vests movement began in
November and was named after the fluorescent safety vests that French
motorists must carry.
Malaysia crowns Pahang state's Sultan Abdullah as 16th king
Malaysia's King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, right, prays next to
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad during his welcome ceremony at Parliament
House in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Thursday, Jan. 31. (AP Photo/Yam G-Jun)
Kuala Lumpur (AP) — Sultan
Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah of central Pahang state was crowned Thursday as
Malaysia's 16th king under a unique rotating monarchy system, nearly a month
after the sudden abdication of Sultan Muhammad V.
Garbed in aqua blue regalia, Sultan
Abdullah, 59, took his oath of office in a nationally televised ceremony at
a cavernous hall in the national palace. Dozens of dignitaries, led by Prime
Minister Mahathir Mohamad and his Cabinet ministers, attended the event.
Nine ethnic Malay state rulers take
turns as the country's king for five-year terms under the world's only such
system, which has been maintained since Malaysia's independence from Britain
Sultan Muhammad V, 49, of northeast
Kelantan state, abruptly resigned Jan. 6 as Malaysia's king after just two
years on the throne in the first abdication in the nation's history. No
reason was given, but it came after he reportedly married a 25-year-old
former Russian beauty queen in November.
British-educated Sultan Abdullah, a
prominent figure in sport bodies, was sworn in Thursday after inspecting a
military honor guard and receiving a 21-gun salute at Parliament. He is a
council member of the world football governing body FIFA, president of the
Asian Hockey Federation, and an executive board member of the International
Known as the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong, or
"He Who is Made Lord," Malaysia's king plays a largely ceremonial role,
since administrative power is vested in the prime minister and Parliament.
But the monarch is highly regarded as the guardian of Islam and Malay
tradition, particularly among the ethnic Malay Muslim majority.
The king is the nominal head of the
government and armed forces. All laws, Cabinet appointments and the
dissolution of Parliament for general elections require his assent. The king
also issues pardons for criminals. Malaysia's Constitution allocates some 5
million ringgit ($1.21 million) a year for the expenses of the king and his
household, including palace maintenance, although the sum can be increased
with Cabinet approval.
Migrants disembark in Sicily as latest EU standoff ends
The migrant rescue ship Sea-Watch 3, carrying 47
migrants, comes into dock at the Sicilian port of Catania, southern Italy,
Thursday, Jan. 31. (AP Photo/Salvatore Cavalli)
Rome (AP) — Europe's latest migrant standoff came to a conclusion
Thursday as 47 migrants kept at sea for nearly two weeks while Italy
pressured European countries to take them in finally disembarked from their
rescue ship in Sicily.
The Sea-Watch 3, operated by the German
aid group Sea Watch, pulled into Catania's port and the migrants, who were
rescued off Libya on Jan. 19, were taken ashore to be identified and
processed. Wearing aqua colored scarves to stave off the cold, some of the
migrants waved good-bye to the crew as they walked down to police and Red
Cross workers waiting on shore.
"We wish them all the best. We hope
Europe will welcome them and let them live as they deserve," Sea Watch Italy
Premier Giuseppe Conte announced a
breakthrough in the standoff earlier this week, saying six European
countries had agreed to take in the migrants so Italy didn't have to
shoulder the burden alone. The countries he identified were Germany, France,
Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal and Romania, as well as Italy. On Thursday,
Lithuania said it would take five of the migrants, the Baltic News Service
Italy's populist government has refused
to allow humanitarian ships to dock in a bid to dissuade them from
conducting rescues, and to force other countries to take asylum-seekers. The
Sea-Watch case was just the latest in a series of standoffs that have kept
migrants at sea for days and weeks at a time while Europe scrambles to
determine their fate.
January was officially Australia's hottest month on record
In this Jan. 24, 2019,
photo, a beachgoer jumps off a jetty at Glenelg Beach in Adelaide,
Australia, as temperatures climb to 45 Celsius (113 Fahrenheit).
(Kelly Barnes/AAP Image via AP)
Canberra (AP) — Australia has
sweltered through its hottest month on record in January and the summer of
extremes continues with wildfires razing the drought-parched south while
expanses of the tropical north are flooded.
Australia's Bureau of Meteorology on Friday confirmed
the record heat during January as parts of the northern hemisphere have
recently experienced record cold.
Australia's scorching start to 2019 — in which the mean
temperature across the country for the first time exceeded 30 degrees
Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) — followed Australia's third-hottest year on
record. Only 2005 and 2013 were warmer than 2018.
Rainfall was below average for most of the country, but
the monsoonal trough has brought flooding rains to northern Queensland state
in recent days, leading to a disaster declaration around the city of
King Tut tomb restored to prevent damage from visitors
this Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015, file photo, tourists look at the tomb of
Egypt's famed boy pharaoh Tutankhamun, displayed in a glass case in the
Valley of the Kings, located on the west bank of the Nile River in Luxor,
Egypt. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
Luxor, Egypt (AP) — The
tomb of Egypt's famed boy pharaoh Tutankhamun has undergone restoration
to help minimize damage by tourists.
The work, done by the Getty Conservation Institute
after years of research and officially presented Thursday, aims to
minimize scratches, dust damage and microbiological growth from breath
and humidity brought in by tourists.
The nearly intact tomb of King Tut, who ruled Egypt
more than 3,000 years ago, was discovered in 1922 by Howard Carter in
the Valley of the Kings, located on the west bank of the Nile River in
Luxor. For many, King Tut embodies ancient Egypt's glory, because his
tomb was packed with the glittering wealth of the 18th Dynasty, which
ruled from 1569 to 1315 B.C.