'Slain' Russian journalist turns up alive at news conference
journalist Arkady Babchenko, right, and Vasily Gritsak, head of the
Ukrainian Security Service speak to the media during a news conference at
the Ukrainian Security Service in Kiev on Wednesday, May 30. (AP Photo/Efrem
Dmytro Vlasov and Nataliya
Kiev, Ukraine (AP) — To the
gasps, whoops and applause of stunned colleagues, Russian journalist Arkady
Babchenko walked into a news conference Wednesday, less than a day after
police in the Ukrainian capital said he had been assassinated.
Authorities said his death had been
staged to foil a plot on his life by Moscow's security services and one
arrest was made. Russia denounced the faked killing as an outlandish attempt
at defamation by its neighbor and foe.
Even Babchenko's wife was unaware of
the deception, and the 41-year-old Kremlin critic who fled to Ukraine 15
months ago apologized to her "for the hell she had to go through in the past
two days. There was no choice there, either."
Neither Babchenko nor Ukrainian
Security Service chief Vasyl Gritsak gave details of the sting operation or
how they made his wife believe he was dead.
Kiev Police Chief Andriy Krishchenko
had announced Babchenko's death Tuesday, saying the journalist's wife found
him bleeding at their apartment building in Kiev but that he died en route
to the hospital. Lawmaker Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the interior
minister, said the assailant had waited on a staircase in the building and
shot Babchenko in the back as he was going to buy bread.
Just hours before the shooting was
reported, Babchenko wrote on Facebook that he considered the day a "second
birthday" because it was the fourth anniversary of his missing a flight on a
Ukrainian military helicopter that later was shot down in the conflict
between Ukraine and Moscow-backed separatists in the eastern part of the
At the start of Wednesday's news
conference, Gritsak announced the journalist's murder had been solved and
called the day Babchenko's "third birthday."
Babchenko, clad in a black sweatshirt,
walked into the room as other reporters gasped and exclaimed their surprise,
then broke into applause.
"I'm still alive," an uneasy-looking
Babchenko said with a straight face. Then he apologized for the deception.
"I know that sickening feeling when you
bury a colleague," he added.
The news conference produced mixed
"I was shocked. But then a feeling of
happiness rose up," said Serhii Nuzhnenko, a freelance journalist.
Babchenko said he was not allowed to go
into the details of his false death. He said Ukraine's law enforcement had
been aware of a contract on his head for two months. He said he was
approached by the Ukrainian Security Service, or SBU, a month ago.
"The important thing is my life has
been saved and other, bigger terrorist attacks have been thwarted," he said.
It also was unclear why authorities
decided to go to such lengths to make it look as if Babchenko was dead.
Gritsak said investigators had
identified a Ukrainian citizen who allegedly was paid $40,000 by the Russian
security service to organize and carry out the hit. The unidentified
Ukrainian man in turn allegedly hired an acquaintance to be the gunman, he
The suspected organizer of the alleged
hit plot was detained Wednesday, Gritsak said, suggesting the bogus killing
was aimed at flushing him out, and he showed a video of the arrest.
Killing Babchenko was part of a larger
alleged plot by Russian security services, Gritsak said. The Ukrainian man
also was supposed to procure large quantities of weapons and explosives,
including 300 AK-47 rifles and "hundreds of kilos of explosives," to
perpetrate acts of terror in Ukraine, he said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said the
Ukrainian government was "fanning anti-Russian hysteria. We're confident our
foreign partners and the relevant international agencies will draw correct
conclusions from the whole situation."
Konstantin Kosachev, head of the
international affairs committee of the upper house of the Russian
parliament, compared Ukraine's actions to Britain accusing Moscow of being
behind the nerve gas poisonings of a Russian former spy and his daughter in
England. Russia vehemently denies poisoning Sergei Skripal and his daughter,
"The logic is the same — to defame
Russia," Kosachev told the state news agency Tass.
Ukraine also faced a backlash from
international journalism figures.
"I deplore the decision to spread false
information on the life of a journalist. It is the duty of the state to
provide correct information to the public," said Deniz Yazici of the media
freedom office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Reporters Without Borders director
Christophe Deloire tweeted his "deepest indignation at the discovery of the
manipulation of the Ukrainian secret services. It is always deeply dangerous
for states to play with the facts."
Some wondered if the ruse would
ultimately backfire, harming Ukraine's credibility or undermining concern
about violence against journalists.
"There's one nuance — if somebody's
shot now, nobody will believe it," noted journalist Mustafa Nayyem, who
became a parliament member, told The Associated Press.
Babchenko, one of Russia's best-known
war reporters, fled the country in February 2017. He spoke and wrote about
needed to leave Russia because of threats against him and his family. He
said his home address was published online and the threats he received were
made by phone, email and social media.
Moscow's annexation of Crimea and
support for separatists in eastern Ukraine were topics on which the
journalist was scathingly critical of the Kremlin. His flight from Russia
came several months after he wrote in a Facebook post that he wasn't sorry
that members of a military band and state TV journalists died in a plane
crash on their way to Russia's military base in Syria.
Several Russian lawmakers said at the
time that Babchenko should be stripped of his citizenship over the comment,
and Russian state media called him a traitor.
Ilya Ponomarev, a former Russian
lawmaker who also moved to Ukraine, said Babchenko continued being
threatened after he settled last fall in Kiev, where he worked as a host for
the Crimean Tatar TV station.
Belgium shooting rampage was terrorist act, prosecutors say
A police officer looks at a flower memorial at
the scene of a shooting in Liege, Belgium, Wednesday, May 30, 2018. (AP
Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
Lorne Cook and Raf Casert
Brussels (AP) — The man who
killed three people during a knife and shooting rampage through the Belgian
city of Liege carried out an act of "terrorist murder," prosecutors said
Wednesday, and authorities were trying to establish whether he acted alone.
Benjamin Herman, an inmate on a two-day
release, attacked two female police officers with a knife from behind,
stabbing them repeatedly, before stealing their weapons and shooting them as
they lay on the ground, officials said. Crossing the road, he fired several
shots at a 22-year old man who was a passenger in a car, killing him. Herman
then took at least one woman hostage at a nearby school. When police closed
in, he ran out onto the sidewalk firing and police fatally shot him.
He yelled "Allahu akbar," the Arabic
phrase for God is great, several times during the rampage, authorities said.
Belgian federal magistrate Wenke Roggen
said Wednesday that the attack was considered "terrorist murder." She said
it's being treated as terrorism given the way Herman acted, which she says
resembled Islamic State calls via video to attack police with knives and
steal their weapons, the fact that he yelled "Allahu Akbar" and was in
contact with radicalized people.
Earlier, Interior Minister Jan Jambon
confirmed that Herman had already killed another person the day before the
Jambon also said that the woman he took
hostage may have talked the shooter down and helped to avoid more deaths
inside the school.
"He also committed a murder the night
before," Jambon told broadcaster RTL. Jambon confirmed that the fourth
victim was a former inmate who did prison time with Herman. Herman is
alleged to have killed the man on Monday evening by hitting him over the
head with a blunt object.
Jambon, Prime Minister Charles Michel
and King Philippe visited the woman in hospital, where she was being treated
"She was very courageous and perhaps,
but this we will have to verify, she helped avoid more victims in the
school," Jambon said.
The minister said an investigation has
been launched into the incident, including the circumstances surrounding his
release from prison.
"It's really an isolated case. He
wasn't part of a network, he didn't receive instructions from anyone else,
so there is no need to raise the terror threat alert level," Jambon said,
adding that investigators have no precise information that any other attacks
might be likely.
Amid questions about how two officers
could have been disarmed, Jambon praised the work of all involved, saying
"the police did an extraordinary job."
"They reacted well. All the systems,
all the procedures worked. But if you are attacked from behind, as was the
case with the two officers, you can't do anything," he said.
Pakistan, India agree to stop trading fire in Kashmir
Friday May 18, 2018 file photo, People attend the funeral of Pakistani
villagers allegedly killed by Indian shelling in Khanoor Mian, along the
Line of Control in Pakistan. (AP Photo/Shahif Ikram)
Munir Ahmed and Aijaz Hussain
Islamabad (AP) — Pakistan and
India have agreed to stop trading artillery fire in the disputed Himalayan
region of Kashmir, and on Wednesday the situation was calm after months of
routine skirmishes that killed dozens of soldiers and civilians.
Pakistan's military said late Tuesday
that local generals reached the understanding using a special hotline set up
to defuse tensions in Kashmir, which is split between Indian and Pakistani
zones of control. Both nuclear-armed powers claim Kashmir in its entirety,
and the territorial dispute has ignited two wars between Pakistan and India
since they gained independence in 1947.
Both sides "agreed to undertake sincere
measures to improve the existing situation, ensuring peace and avoidance of
hardships to the civilians along the borders," the Pakistani military said
in a statement. It said that if future violence occurs in the disputed
region, "restraint will be exercised and the matter will be resolved through
utilization of existing mechanisms of hotline contacts and border flag
meetings at local commander's level."
The Indian army confirmed the
agreement, saying both sides had pledged to "undertake sincere measures to
improve the existing situation to ensure peace and avoidance of hardships to
the civilians along the borders."
The two sides also agreed to fully
implement a 2003 cease-fire that has been repeatedly violated.
Tensions have soared in recent weeks,
as both sides have launched artillery assaults across the Line of Control
dividing the region. Each side has accused the other of starting the
hostilities in violation of the 2003 accord.
On the Indian side, the fighting has
driven people from villages along the border, and government buildings have
been converted into temporary shelters. Houses have been damaged, and dozens
of schools in villages along the frontier have been closed, with authorities
advising residents to stay indoors.
The shelling has cast a pall over the
holy month of Ramadan in the mostly Muslim region. The shelling typically
flares up in the pre-dawn hours, when families are having a meal known as
"suhoor" ahead of the daytime fast.
India says 25 civilians and 18 soldiers
have been killed this year in over 800 cease-fire violations initiated by
Pakistan accuses Indian forces of more
than 1,050 cease-fire violations this year, resulting in the deaths of 28
civilians and injuries to 117 others.
On Wednesday, Pakistani officials said
villagers who fled to safer locations following recent skirmishes have been
urged to return to their homes.
Paris police clear out migrant camp housing up to 1,500
stands in his tent during the evacuation of a makeshift camp, in Paris,
Wednesday, May 30. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Paris (AP) — Police moved in on
Wednesday to clear out some 1,500 people from the largest makeshift migrant
camp in the French capital, which has become a focal point in France's
The mainly African migrants were being
moved out of their tent camp along a canal used by joggers and cyclists on
the city's northeast edge, put in buses and taken to gymnasiums in the Paris
region. Bulldozers then tore down the tent city along quay.
Two migrants drowned this month in
canals along encampments and others have been injured amid rising tensions
in the filthy, crowded camps, adding pressure for authorities to act. But
the evacuation was delayed amid bickering over what to do with the migrants.
"To stay one month here is very, very,
very bad for me. All the people have sicknesses and not have food," said
Sudanese Farouk Ahmed.
President Emmanuel Macron wants a tough
response to migrants arriving in France. Two days ago, he nevertheless
opened the way to citizenship and a job for a Malian migrant who scaled a
building and saved a young child dangling from a balcony in what Macron
called "an exceptional act." A video of Mamoudou Gassama's feat went viral,
gaining him the nickname "Spiderman."
"This is very good for refugees ...
refugees are helping people," Ahmed said of Gassama's heroism, claiming that
the French regard refugees as "bad."
The camps are at the heart of a
political debate between French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb and Paris
Mayor Anne Hidalgo over how to handle migrants. The mayor and dozens of
associations pressed for the migrants to be sheltered once dislodged from
their encampments, as in the past. The minister dragged his feet.
"This is an issue of dignity," said
Pierre Henry, head of an aid group, France Terre D'Asile."Street camps
should not exist in our country."
Police have cleared out some 28,000
migrants from Paris camps in the past three years, but the arrivals
Man kills 3 in Belgium with guns of stabbed police officers
Special Police are shown at the scene of a shooting in Liege, Belgium,
Tuesday, May 29. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
Raf Casert and Sylvain Plazy
Liege, Belgium (AP) — A
knife-wielding man stabbed two female police officers in the Belgian city of
Liege, stole their service weapons and shot them and a bystander dead in an
attack Tuesday that prosecutors fear could be terror-related.
Justice Minister Koen Geens said the
assailant, who was later killed by police, was released from prison on a
two-day leave Monday. Geens described him as a multiple repeat offender who
had been incarcerated since 2003.
Liege Police Chief Christian Beaupere
said at a news conference that the slain officers were 45-years-old and
53-years-old, the latter the mother of twins. Four other officers were
wounded in the attack, one of them seriously with a severed femoral artery.
State broadcaster RTBF identified the
suspect as Benjamin Herman. Herman, a Belgian national born in 1982, had a
criminal record that included theft, assault and drug offenses, RTBF
The federal prosecutor's office
declined to comment.
Earlier, Liege prosecutors' spokesman
Philippe Dulieu said the man crept up on the two officers from behind
carrying a knife and stabbed them several times.
"He then took their weapons. He used
the weapons on the officers, who died," Dulieu told reporters. The two
police handguns had a total of 17 bullets.
Dulieu said the attacker then shot dead
a 22-year-old man in a vehicle that was just leaving a parking place outside
a nearby high school. The attacker then took a woman hostage inside the
"Liege police intervened. He came out
firing at police, wounding a number of them, notably in the legs. He was
shot dead," the spokesman said.
A senior official at the federal
prosecutor's office told The Associated Press that "there are indications it
could be a terror attack."
Despite this, Belgium's crisis center
said it saw no reason to raise the country's terror threat alert for now.
When asked about the report that the
attack was terror-related, Liege city hall Michel Firket spokesman told the
AP: "I know nothing formal about that. The police is doing its
investigation. There are no formal conclusions."
A spokeswoman for the city mayor's
office, Laurence Comminette, told the AP that the children at the school
were all safe.
Belgium's King Philippe, Prime Minister
Charles Michel and the country's justice and interior ministers traveled to
Liege to confer with local officials.
"I want to offer my government's
support for the victims, for the victims' families," Michel said.
Yves Stevens of Belgium's federal
crisis center said that security in Liege is under control, and that there
was no reason yet to raise the national terror threat level.
"There is absolutely no confirmation
yet that the incident is terror-related," Stevens told the AP.
Video posted on Twitter by a person
claiming to be a witness showed people running in the area. About six
gunshots could be heard.
Belgian police and military have been
on alert since suicide bombers killed 32 people at the Brussels airport and
subway system in 2016.
It's not the first time Liege has been
hit by a similarly violent attack. In December 2011, a man with a history of
weapons and drug offenses left home with hand grenades and guns before he
lobbed the grenades into a square filled with Christmas shoppers and fired
on those who escaped. Five were killed, including the assailant.
Gaza militants strike Israel, drawing Israeli retaliation
tank drives along the border with the Gaza strip, on Israel-Gaza Border,
Tuesday, May 29. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Jerusalem (AP) — Palestinian
militants bombarded southern Israel with dozens of rockets and mortar shells
Tuesday, while Israeli warplanes struck targets throughout the Gaza Strip in
the largest flare-up of violence between the sides since a 2014 war.
The Israeli military said most of the
projectiles were intercepted, but three soldiers were wounded, raising the
chances of further Israeli retaliation. One mortar shell landed near a
kindergarten shortly before it opened.
The sudden burst of violence, which
stretched past midnight with no signs of slowing, follows weeks of mass
Palestinian protests along the Gaza border with Israel. Over 110
Palestinians, many of them unarmed protesters, have been killed by Israeli
fire in that time. Israel says it holds Gaza's Hamas rulers responsible for
"Israel will exact a heavy price from
those who seek to harm it, and we see Hamas as responsible for preventing
such attacks," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
Israel and Hamas are bitter enemies and
have fought three wars since the Islamic group seized control of Gaza in
The last war in 2014 was especially
devastating, with over 2,000 Palestinians killed, including hundreds of
civilians, and widespread damage inflicted on Gaza's infrastructure in 50
days of fighting. Seventy-two people were killed on the Israeli side.
Tuesday's violence bore a striking
resemblance to the run-up to past wars. In the early morning, Palestinian
militants fired over two dozen mortar rounds into southern Israel, including
the shell that landed near the kindergarten.
The Israeli military confirmed over 60
airstrikes throughout Gaza, including an unfinished tunnel near the southern
city of Rafah that crossed under the border into Egypt and from there into
Israeli territory. It said other targets included "sheds of drones," a
rocket manufacturing workshop, naval weaponry, military and training
facilities and a munitions manufacturing site. No Palestinian casualties
Palestinian militants continued to fire
additional barrages toward southern Israel, setting off air raid sirens in
the area throughout the night.
Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, the chief
military spokesman, threatened tougher action and said it was up to Hamas to
stop the situation from escalating.
"These strikes will continue to
intensify as long as necessary if this fire continues," he told reporters
outside Israeli military headquarters.
Hamas and the smaller Islamic Jihad
militant issued a joint statement Tuesday, claiming shared responsibility
for firing rockets and projectiles against Israeli communities near Gaza.
They said Israel "began this round of
escalation" by targeting their installations in the past two days, killing
four militants. It was the first time the armed wing of Hamas has claimed
responsibility for rocket attacks out of Gaza since the 2014 war.
An Islamic Jihad spokesman, Daoud
Shehab, claimed that Egypt had brokered a cease-fire deal to go into effect
at midnight. But more than an hour after the deadline, rocket fire and
Israeli airstrikes were continuing. Shehab said some militants rejected the
cease-fire and were continuing to fire rockets. There was no Israeli comment
on the purported cease-fire plan.
Hamas has been severely weakened by the
three wars with Israel, as well as a stifling Israeli-Egyptian blockade that
has brought the local economy to a standstill.
Hamas initially billed the weekly
border protests as a call to break through the fence and return to homes
that were lost 70 years ago during the war surrounding Israel's
But the protests appear to be fueled
primarily by a desire to ease the blockade. Gaza's unemployment rate is
edging toward 50 percent, and the territory suffers from chronic power
With limited options at its disposal,
and a failure so far of the protests to significantly ease the blockade,
Hamas appears to be gambling that limited rocket fire might somehow shake up
Ismail Radwan, a Hamas official, said
the "resistance is capable of hurting the occupation and it proved this
today by responding to its crimes."
Israel says the blockade is needed to
prevent Hamas from building up its military capabilities.
Also Tuesday, two fishing boats
carrying students and medical patients set sail from Gaza City's port,
aiming to reach Cyprus and break the Israeli blockade, which has restricted
most activity along the coast. Hamas acknowledged it was mostly a symbolic
One of the boats quickly turned around,
while the Israeli navy intercepted the second vessel after it ventured
beyond a six-mile (10-kilometer) limit imposed by Israel.
The Israeli military said the boat was
intercepted without incident, was taken to the Israeli port of Ashdod and
the 17 people aboard would be sent back to Gaza.
In southern Israel, angry residents
complained about the renewed rocket fire.
Adva Klein of Kibbutz Kfar Aza said she
only got about two hours of sleep because of the frequent incoming fire and
the warning sirens. Other residents reported machine- gun fire from Gaza.
"It's been a really scary morning,"
said Adele Raemer of Kibbutz Nirim.
Regional councils near the Gaza border
instructed residents to stay close to bomb shelters.
The high Palestinian death toll in the
border protests has drawn strong international criticism of Israel, with
rights groups saying Israel's use of live fire is illegal because in many
cases it has struck unarmed protesters who did not pose an imminent threat
to Israeli soldiers.
But on Tuesday, the Palestinians came
The United States condemned the attacks
out of Gaza and called for an urgent meeting of the U.N. Security Council.
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said the Security Council "should be outraged
The European Union's foreign policy
chief, Federica Mogherini, called for an immediate halt to the rocket and
"Indiscriminate attacks against
civilians are completely unacceptable under any circumstances," she said.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry said it
had instructed embassies around the world to seek similar condemnations of
the Palestinian fire.
Israel has rejected the criticism of
its response to the protests, saying it is defending its border and nearby
communities. It accuses Hamas of trying to carry out attacks under the cover
of protests and using civilian demonstrators as human shields.
Hamas has vowed to continue the border
Leader of failed MH370 wreckage hunt hopes to search again
In this May
24, 2018, photo, Jiang Hui, whose mother was on board the missing Malaysia
airplane MH370, speaks to journalist in Beijing, China about Texas-based
company Ocean Infinity's search for the aircraft. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (AP) —
The head of a U.S. technology company that scoured the Indian Ocean seabed
for more than three months looking for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 said on
Tuesday he was disappointed the hunt failed to find any wreckage and hoped
to take part in a future search.
Malaysia said last week the search by
Texas-based Ocean Infinity would end on Tuesday after two extensions of the
original 90-day time limit.
Ocean Infinity chef executive Oliver
Plunkett said the search would soon end after covering more than 112,000
square kilometers (43,000 square miles) of remote ocean floor — an area more
than four times larger than the zone targeted by experts as the most likely
"I would firstly like to extend the
thoughts of everyone at Ocean Infinity to the families of those who have
lost loved ones on MH370. Part of our motivation for renewing the search was
to try to provide some answers to those affected," Plunkett said in a
"It is therefore with a heavy heart
that we end our current search without having achieved that aim," he added.
Plunkett said he was pleased to hear
the new Malaysian government had made finding the Boeing 777 that vanished
with 239 people aboard a priority.
"Whilst clearly the outcome so far is
extremely disappointing, as a company, we are truly proud of what we have
achieved both in terms of the quality of data we've produced and the speed
with which we covered such a vast area," Plunkett said.
"We sincerely hope that we will be able
to again offer our services in the search for MH370 in the future," he
Malaysia signed a "no cure, no fee"
deal with Ocean Infinity in January to resume the hunt for the plane, a year
after the official search in the southern Indian Ocean by Australia,
Malaysia and China was called off. Ocean Infinity stood to be paid $70
million if it had found the wreckage or black boxes. No other search is
Grace Nathan, spokeswoman for the
victims' next of kin support group Voice370, said Malaysia's new government
had given the families no information about what would happen next.
"I don't think Voice370 is ready to
give up. We strongly believe this is not the time to give up," Nathan said
in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
"The fact that this current search
didn't find anything has only raised more questions than provided answers. I
believe this means that there is more reason to reinvestigate, reevaluate,
and restart if necessary," said Nathan, who lost her mother on Flight 370.
Australia, Malaysia and China agreed in
2016 that an official search would only resume if the three countries had
credible evidence that identified a specific location for the wreckage.
Flight 370 vanished on March 8, 2014,
while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The original search focused on
the South China Sea before an analysis revealed that the plane had made an
unexpected turn west and then south.
Australia coordinated an official
search on Malaysia's behalf that scoured 120,000 square kilometers (46,000
square miles) and cost 200 million Australian dollars ($150 million) before
it ended last year.
Experts used drift analysis of wreckage
found washed ashore on the west coasts of the Indian Ocean to define the new
search area where Ocean Infinity focused. The area considered the most
likely crash site was only 25,000 square kilometers (9,650 square miles),
roughly the size of Vermont.
Ocean Infinity ship Seabed Contractor
made quick progress operating up to eight remotely controlled underwater
Danica Weeks, an Australian resident
who lost her husband on Flight 370, urged Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to
call on Malaysia's new government to be more transparent about what they
know about the mysterious disappearance.
Jiang Hui of China, whose mother was on
board the plane, said he appreciated Ocean Infinity's efforts but still
hoped for more information on the reason for the disappearance.
The recent seating of a new Malaysian
government under Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad could offer the prospects
of new data becoming available, Jiang told said last week.
"I don't believe a corrupted government
can be efficient or fair," he said, referring to the administration of Najib
Razak, who was Malaysia's prime minister when the flight disappeared and who
has been questioned by police in a money-laundering scandal that tainted his
Financial turmoil engulfs Italy amid political uncertainty
Five-Stars Movement leader Luigi Di Maio is
silhouetted against a giant screen showing premier-designate Carlo
Cottarelli during the Rai Uno TV program 'Porta a Porta' hosted by
journalist Bruno Vespa, in Rome, Italy, Monday, May 28. (Alessandro di
Meo/ANSA via AP)
Milan (AP) — The specter of a
financial crisis came back to haunt Italy on Tuesday, as its markets plunged
on fears that it is heading toward another election that could shape up to
be a referendum on whether to stay in the common currency.
Carlo Cottarelli, a former IMF
official, was tapped as premier of a non-political government of technocrats
after an attempt by two populist parties to form a government foundered. The
president, who in Italy appoints the premier and ministers, had opposed the
populists' choice of a euroskeptic economics minister.
Cottarelli was expected to submit his
list of ministers to President Sergio Mattarella on Tuesday, but left the
president's office without comment after about an hour, unexpectedly
delaying the formation of a government. A spokesman for Mattarella said the
two would meet again Wednesday morning.
The Cottarelli government, which would
see Italy through a period of uncertainty, seems doomed even before it's
created. The populist parties, which got the most votes in the inconclusive
March election, have promised to vote against it in a confidence vote. That
would force Italy to new elections in the late summer or early fall.
The anti-establishment 5-Star Movement
and the anti-euro League have been emboldened by the president's dismissal
of their government in favor of an unelected group of technocrats. They say
it shows the establishment ignores the popular vote.
That could raise the stakes for the
next election by making it more clearly about whether Italy should
reconsider its membership in the euro.
"Italy will be wrapped in a long
drawn-out period of wrangling that will feature intense anti-establishment
and euroskeptic tones," said political analyst Wolfango Piccoli. He said
that while he doubted either populist party would embrace a clear euro-exit
platform, they would be more combative toward Brussels.
The Milan stock index was down more
than 2 percent, weighing particularly hard on banks, and Italian bonds
suffered a plunge reminiscent of the worst days of the financial crisis of
2011. The government's borrowing rate for two-year money more than doubled,
to 2 percent, indicating a surge in investor concern. The 10-year yield rose
to near 3 percent, according to FactSet.
"We should now call this a crisis,"
said Kit Juckes, an analyst at Societe Generale.
Ratings agency Moody's warned that it
would cut Italy's rating — now just two notches above junk level — if the
next government doesn't present a budget that puts Italy on a trajectory to
reduce its debt, now at 132 percent of GDP, the second highest rate in the
eurozone after Greece.
If Cottarelli does not pass a vote of
confidence, as is nearly certain, his government would not get a chance to
set out such a budget.
In an annual speech on the state of the
Italian economy, Bank of Italy governor Ignazio Visco tried to sound a
warning against the tide of populism, saying that "Italy's destiny is that
"We are part of a very large and deeply
integrated economic area, whose development determines that of Italy and at
the same time depends on it," he said. "It is important Italy has an
authoritative voice in forums where the future of the European Union is
decided," Visco said, referring to upcoming EU decisions regarding the
governance of the bloc, multi-year budgets and the revision of financial
Visco warned that investors would flee
the system if they see their wealth eroded because of an economic crisis,
noting that "foreign investors will follow suit even more quickly. The
financial crisis that would ensue would put us back significantly. It would
taint Italy's reputation forever."
Addressing populists who have raised
fears that outside forces are calling the shots in Italy, he said, "we are
not constrained by European rules, but by economic logic."
Looming Italian election seen as plebiscite on EU and euro
premier-designate Carlo Cottarelli arrives to address the media after
meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, at the Quirinale
Presidential Palace, in Rome, Monday, May 28. (Alessandro Di Meo/ANSA via
Rome (AP) — Italian populists
vowed Monday to convert voter anger over their thwarted bid to govern for
the first time into a kind of plebiscite on the European Union, financial
markets and eurozone membership as the country found itself propelled to
fresh elections as soon as late summer.
Amid the political turmoil, Carlo
Cottarelli, an economist with International Monetary Fund experience, was
asked by the Italian president to assemble a technocrat government to take
the country to elections.
With weeks of political uncertainty
taking a toll on Italy's bond and stock markets, Premier-designate
Cottarelli said the return to the polls could come as early as after the
August vacation break or, at the latest, at the start of 2019.
Only five days ago, another
premier-designate, political novice Giuseppe Conte, stood in the same spot
in the Quirinal presidential palace and declared he would he would work to
create a "government of change" in what would have been Italy's — and
western Europe's — first populist government.
That dream deflated dramatically Sunday
night when President Sergio Mattarella refused to submit to populist demands
that he approve their proposed economy minister, who in the past has
recommended having a "Plan B" to exit the eurozone if EU strictures become
too tight for Italy.
"This isn't democracy, this isn't
respect for the popular vote," railed Matteo Salvini, a firebrand populist
whose right-wing League was one of the anti-EU parties foiled by Mattarella.
"It's just the last gasp of the strong powers who want Italy as a
frightened, precarious slave."
"The next elections will be a
plebiscite: the people and real life versus the old castes and the 'Lords of
the Spread,'" Salvini said, referring to financial speculators.
Milan-based economist Nicola Nobile
said it appeared that the upcoming election could shape up as a "de facto
referendum on Italian membership in the eurozone."
Sharing Salvini's anger was 5-Star
Movement leader Luigi Di Maio, the populist who had hoped to govern with
Di Maio repeatedly called for
Mattarella's impeachment for vetoing their pick for economy minister.
He also urged those angry like him to
rally in Rome on Saturday. The gathering, likely to double as a campaign
rally, coincides with a national holiday celebrating the Republic and
features a military parade and VIP reviewing stands in the heart of the
Opposition Democrats contended that the
populists, by calling the rally, wanted to stage the equivalent of the 1922
March on Rome that paved the way for Benito Mussolini's ascension to power
and his Fascist regime.
"The campaign that's being prepared
will be frightening," wrote La Stampa political commentator Marcello
The commentator predicted the
impeachment threat against the president "who only was defending his
institutional role and the Constitution is only a taste of what will come."
When Italians voted March 4, the result
was a Parliament with no clear-cut majority. As weeks passed without a
government, Mattarella warned he would reluctantly appoint a nonpolitical
Cabinet to take the country to fresh elections if a viable coalition could
not be forged.
Cottarelli pledged that his government
would uphold Italy's "essential" role in both the EU and in the eurozone.
And he promised "prudent management of our public accounts."
But markets have remained on edge, with
the prospect of anti-euro political sentiment suddenly gaining traction in
Italy and Cottarelli's own tenure seen as limited, with another election
The government's benchmark borrowing
rate increased further, the Milan stock market slipped and the euro weakened
against the dollar.
Cottarelli, who earned the nickname
"Mr. Scissors" with his reputation for finding fat to trim in public
spending, said elections could come as soon as "after August" if his Cabinet
fails to get the required confidence votes in both chambers of Parliament.
The numbers aren't on his side.
Immediately giving him a thumbs-down were the 5-Stars and the League, whose
lawmakers together have the votes to sink his government.
Also vowing to vote against Cottarelli
were two of Salvini's campaign alliance partners: Forza Italia, the
center-right party of former Premier Silvio Berlusconi and a smaller
Instead, the populists were already
looking to a new attempt to gain power.
Political analyst Massimo Franco said
Salvini's attempt to force Mattarella's hand over the ministry appointment
appeared to be a "provocation" aimed not at forming a populist government
but to "possibly make it fail before it started."
That way, Salvini, whose League has
made stunning gains in recent regional elections, could try for a stronger
mandate to govern after new elections.
For his northern base, which
traditionally is suspicious of the centralized powers in Rome, Salvini, whom
Corriere della Sera described as the "undisputed master of public
indignation," is likely seen as a hero for refusing to back down from
Di Maio has decreed that 5-Star
lawmakers can't serve more than two terms to avoid becoming part of the
political "caste." If he applies that to himself, he would be ineligible to
But he already broke a big promise to
his web-based constituency when he agreed to forge a coalition with
Salvini's League. He ran for premier in March with the pledge the Movement
would never enter a coalition government.
Waiting in the wings is a more
hard-line Movement leader, Alessandro Di Battista, who sat out the March
election. That means he's ripe for a run for office and is considered less
likely to compromise with those outside the populist fold.
2 women taking selfies struck by lightning in Germany
In this May
27 photo thunderbolts are reflected near Premnitz, eastern Germany. (Julian
Staehle/dpa via AP)
Berlin (AP) — Two young women
suffered serious injuries after lightning struck them while they were taking
selfies in western Germany, officials said Monday.
A spokesman for Bochum police said
first responders found the 23 and 21-year-old women lying on the ground with
their clothing torn in the city's Wattenscheid district on Sunday evening.
Paramedics had to resuscitate the
23-year-old and she remains in intensive care with life-threatening
injuries, Bochum police spokesman Volker Schuette said.
The younger woman told police the last
thing she remembered was walking with her friend on a footpath and recording
each other with their smartphones, Schuette told The Associated Press.
"Clearly they were surprised by the
storm," he said.
The 21-year-old was also hospitalized,
but her life is not thought to be endangered.
Western Europe has experienced heavy
storms in recent days, following an unusually long stretch of very warm
weather this month.
Flash floods as high as 1.6 meters (5.3
feet) submerged roads and basements Sunday in parts of central Germany.
Firefighters in the state of Hesse rescued two women who were trapped in
their car by a mudslide. Dozens of flights were canceled at Frankfurt
Airport, Germany's busiest, because of storms.
Meteorologists predict temperatures in
Germany will hit 33 C (91.4 F) this week, with high humidity raising the
prospect of further summer storms.
In Britain, an elderly man died after
his car was submerged in water during heavy flooding in Rushall, about 135
miles (215 kilometers) north of London.
The man was taken to a hospital Monday
but pronounced dead shortly after arrival. He was believed to have been in
his 80s, West Midlands police said.
Britain's Met Office weather service
said some areas of the country received the equivalent of one month's
average rainfall in just one hour.
Multiple flood warnings were put in
place in various parts of the country Monday. The rains followed severe
lightning strikes that hit southern England on Saturday night, causing
flight delays at Stansted Airport north of London.
Malaysia says it will axe high-speed railway to Singapore
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad speaks during a press conference in Petaling
Jaya, Malaysia, Monday, May 28. (AP Photo/Sadiq Asyraf)
Kuala Lumpur (AP) — New
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Monday that a planned
high-speed railway that would cut travel time between Kuala Lumpur and
Singapore to just 90 minutes will be axed because it isn't beneficial.
Mahathir said the 350-kilometer rail
project slated to be completed by 2026 is too costly.
"It is a final decision, but it will
take time because we have an agreement with Singapore," Mahathir said. "It
is not beneficial. It is going to cost a huge sum of money. We will make no
money at all from this operation."
The two countries signed an agreement
in December 2016 to build the rapid rail line with speeds of over 300
kilometers an hour and dubbed a "game-changer" that will boost connectivity
and strengthen economic ties between the neighbors. Currently, it takes at
least four hours to travel by car.
Mahathir said Malaysia may have to pay
a penalty and will discuss the matter with Singapore, adding that "we will
try to manage it at the least cost possible."
Mahathir's alliance won a stunning
victory in May 9 elections to oust scandal-tainted former Prime Minister
Najib Razak and end his coalition's 60-year grip on power.
The new government has said it will
review large-scale infrastructure projects, including Chinese investment, to
cut costs after revealing that national debt and liabilities was over a
trillion ringgit ($251 billion), or 80 percent of gross domestic product,
taking into account government guarantees and other payments.
The huge debt is partly due to a
massive corruption scandal at the 1MDB state investment fund set up by Najib
that led voters to abandon him, and sparked investigations in the U.S. and
several other countries. U.S. investigators say Najib's associates stole and
laundered at least $4.5 billion from the fund.
Mahathir has reopened an investigation
into 1MDB that was suppressed during Najib's rule. Najib, who denies any
wrongdoing, and his wife have been barred from leaving the country.
New Zealand to kill 150,000 cows to end bacterial disease
In this May
21, 2017 photo, cows rest in a paddock on a farm near Invercargill, New
Zealand. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
Wellington, New Zealand (AP) —
New Zealand plans to slaughter about 150,000 cows as it tries to eradicate a
strain of disease-causing bacteria from the national herd.
Politicians and industry leaders
announced the ambitious plan on Monday. They say it will cost hundreds of
millions of dollars, and, if successful, would be the first time an infected
country has eliminated Mycoplasma bovis.
Farming is vital to the economy in New
Zealand, whose isolation has helped protect it from some diseases which
affect herds elsewhere.
Last July, Mycoplasma bovis was found
in the country for the first time. Found in Europe and the U.S., the
bacteria can cause cows to develop mastitis, pneumonia, arthritis and other
diseases. They are not considered a threat to food safety, but do cause
Officials say they plan to kill all
cows on any farms where the bacteria are found, even if some of the animals
are healthy. They say many of the cows will be slaughtered at processing
plants and used for beef, but some cows will have to be killed and buried on
the farms or dumped in approved landfills.
Officials have the legal authority to
forcibly enter farms and kill animals even in cases where a farmer might
resist, but they said they hope they don't have to use those powers.
Katie Milne, the national president of
the advocacy group Federated Farmers, said it was important to try to get
rid of Mycoplasma bovis while there was still a chance. She said they would
try to make sure affected farmers had all the support they needed, including
"This is a tough time, and the pain and
anguish they're going to go through is really hideous," she said of the
affected farmers. "And we have to support them as neighbors, community
members, farmers, friends."
New Zealand is home to some 10 million
cows, about double its human population. About two-thirds are dairy cows and
the rest beef cattle. Milk products represent the country's largest single
export, and much of it is sold to China and used in infant formula.
Mycoplasma bovis has so far been found
on 38 farms throughout New Zealand, officials say, a number they expect to
rise to at least 142 farms based on computer modeling. They say all the
infections found so far can be traced back to a single farm, and that the
bacteria likely arrived in New Zealand 18 months before they were first
identified. Officials are still trying to figure out how the bacteria got
into the country despite strict biosecurity controls.
About 24,000 cows have already been
killed in recent months and at least 128,000 more will have to be culled,
most over the next year or two. The cost of the eradication program is
estimated at 886 million New Zealand dollars ($616 million) over ten years.
The government plans to pick up about two-thirds of the tab while farmers
and the cattle industry will pay the rest.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she
believes it's still possible to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis.
"We don't know, in the long-term, what
impact it could collectively have on an industry that is incredibly
important to New Zealand's economy," she said. "So if we have an opportunity
to be the country that eradicates this disease, then we'll take it."
Officials say they expect to know by
the end of the year whether the eradication plan is working.
Poland says Russian gas pipeline is a 'new hybrid weapon'
shows the NATO Parliamentary Assembly Spring Session in Warsaw, Poland,
Saturday, May 26. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)
Warsaw, Poland (AP) — Poland's
prime minister on Monday called a planned Russian gas pipeline, Nord Stream
2, a "new hybrid weapon" and says Moscow wants to use it to undermine NATO
and the European Union.
Mateusz Morawiecki called Nord Stream 2
"a poisoned pill of European security" as he addressed a NATO Parliamentary
Assembly meeting in Warsaw.
The Nord Stream 2 project would double
the amount of natural gas Russia can funnel directly to energy-hungry
Germany from newly tapped reserves in Siberia, intentionally skirting
Eastern European nations like Poland and Ukraine.
The United States and some other EU
members share Poland's opposition to the project, warning that it could give
Moscow greater leverage over Western Europe.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has
suggested that the U.S. opposition to the Nord Stream 2 stems from President
Donald Trump's desire to encourage exports of the U.S. liquefied natural
gas, which is supplied by ship and is considerably more expensive than
Polish President Andrzej Duda also gave
his own warning of Russian intentions in Eastern Europe.
"With regret it must be said that
Moscow has never come to terms with the collapse of the imperial Soviet
Union. The invasion of Georgia and the unlawful annexation of Crimea and
military intervention in Ukraine illustrate the real intentions of Russia,"
He was referring to the Russia-Georgia
war of 2008, and of Russia's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and
support for pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine's east, where a war is still
Power eludes Italy's populists, angry over president's veto
Premier-Designate Giuseppe Conte addresses the media after meeting Italian
President Sergio Mattarella in Rome, Sunday, May 27. (Fabio Frustaci/ANSA
Rome (AP) — Italy's president on
Sunday vetoed a euro-skeptic choice for economy minister, foiling a bid by
populists to form Italy's next government and increasing the prospects of a
quick return to the polls, 12 weeks after national elections produced a
The pair of rival populists who had
agreed to forge a governing coalition together exploded in anger after
President Sergio Mattarella announced at the Quirinal presidential palace
that he was refusing to appoint a minister whose views could rattle already
nervous markets and drive up Italy's already staggeringly high debt.
Luigi Di Maio, who was determined to
see his anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, Parliament's largest party,
achieve government power for the first time, raised the specter of a move to
impeach Mattarella, who, as head of state, must give his approval to any new
"If we go to vote (again) and we win,
and then we go back to the Quirinale and they tell us we can't go into a
government, for this I say, we must put the president under accusation" in
Parliament, Di Maio said in a phone call to a late-night talk show.
Right-wing leader Matteo Salvini, who
overcame rivalry with Di Maio to try to forge a coalition with him, told a
rally of his League party supporters after learning his pick for economy
minister was rejected: "If we're not free to decide, better to go back to
vote." He added: "we're not a free country" but have "limited sovereignty."
The political novice and 5-Star
supporter selected by Di Maio and Salvini to be premier told reporters at
the palace he had tried his best but didn't succeed, four days after
Mattarella formally gave him a mandate to try to form the government on
behalf of the populists.
"Good luck to anyone" who next gets
tapped by Mattarella to be premier-designate, Giuseppe Conte, a law
professor at the University of Florence, told reporter. He said he did best
to try to give the country "a government of change."
An irritated-looking Mattarella said he
would reveal his next move "in a few hours."
Italian media said the president would
convene Carlo Cottarelli, an economist who assisted a former center-left
government, to the palace late Monday morning. Mattarella was expected to
ask the former International Monetary Fund official to assemble and lead a
government of "technocrats" until early elections.
But as analyst Wolfango Piccoli noted
early Monday that such a government risks losing mandatory confidence votes
in each chamber of Parliament. The 5-Stars and the League together command
just over half the lawmakers' seats. "This means that Italy will be left
with no effective government backed by a clear political majority in
Parliament until the end of the year," said Piccoli, co-president of Teneo
"The main risk is that the stand-off
will further embolden the 5-Star Movement, and, especially, the League. The
two populist parties will blame the 'establishment' for denying them the
right to govern," Piccoli said.
Mattarella had previously warned that
if a political government failed to take shape, he would be forced to
appoint a non-political premier to guide the country to fresh elections
before year's end.
On Sunday night, he said he would
"dutifully" consider requests by political parties for early elections.
Salvini had virtually given an
ultimatum to Mattarella over his pick for economy minister, Paolo Savona.
Mattarella told reporters he had approved all of the coalition's Cabinet
candidates except that of Savona.
"The designation of the economy
minister always constitutes an immediate message of trust or alarm" for
financial markets, Mattarella said, adding that he insisted on someone who
was not "supporting a position expressed more than once that could probably,
or in fact inevitably, provoke Italy's exit from the euro."
Last week, the spread of points between
Italy's bonds and benchmark German bonds grew alarmingly, and Milan's stock
market suffered losses as investors were spooked about the intentions of the
"The losses in the stock market, day
after day, burn resources and the savings of our companies and of those who
invest in them," Mattarella said. "And they portend concrete risks for the
savings of our fellow citizens and for Italian families."
Savona, who served as industry minister
in a government in the 1990s, has questioned whether Italy at some point
should ditch the euro as its official currency.
Outgoing Economy Minister Pier Carlo
Padoan contended that the real problem wasn't Savona, but the "clearly
unsustainable" platform of a populist government "that doesn't rule out a
Plan B: that is, in the face of European pressures, one must leave Europe."
With the prospect of elections possibly
looming in a few weeks or months, Salvini might see a boost in what already
has been steadily growing popularity, said political analyst Maurizio
Molinari, who is La Stampa newspaper's editor-in-chief.
Salvini was "much stronger" in opposing
Mattarella, posturing that could expand his sovereignty-leaning base,
Molinari said. The League has triumphed in several recent regional elections
since March 4.
Ebola vaccinations begin in rural Congo on Monday: Ministry
UNICEF staffer Jean Claude Nzengu, center, talks
with members of an Ebola vaccination team as they prepare to administer the
vaccine in an Ebola-affected community in the north-western city of
Mbandaka, in Congo, Friday, May 25. (Mark Naftalin/UNICEF via AP)
Kinshasa, Congo (AP) — Ebola vaccinations will begin Monday in the
two rural areas of Congo where the latest deadly outbreak was declared this
month, the health ministry said Saturday, as the number of confirmed Ebola
cases rose to 35, including 10 deaths.
A vaccination campaign is already under
way in Mbandaka, the city of 1.2 million on the Congo River where four Ebola
cases have been confirmed. About 100 health workers have been vaccinated
there as front-line workers face high risk from the virus, which is spread
via contact with the bodily fluids of those infected, including the dead.
The vaccination campaign will begin
Monday in the rural areas of Bikoro and Iboko in the country's northwest,
health ministry spokeswoman Jessica Ilunga told The Associated Press.
"The health minister can be found at
this moment in Bikoro for assessing the preparations for the vaccination
campaign," Ilunga said.
Of the 10 confirmed Ebola deaths, five
have occurred in Bikoro, two in Iboko and three in the Wangata area of
In addition to the confirmed Ebola
cases there are also 13 probable cases and six suspected ones, the health
The World Health Organization
emergencies chief has said the next few weeks are crucial in determining
whether the outbreak can be brought under control. Complicating factors
include its spread to a major city, the fact that health workers have been
infected and the existence of three or four "separate epicenters" that make
finding and monitoring contacts of infected people more difficult.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom
Ghebreyesus told a meeting in Geneva on Saturday that "I am personally
committed to ensuring that we do everything we can to stop this outbreak as
soon as possible."
This is Congo's ninth Ebola outbreak
since 1976, when the hemorrhagic fever was first identified.
There is no specific treatment for
Ebola. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain and at times
internal and external bleeding. The virus can be fatal in up to 90 percent
of cases, depending on the strain.
WHO is using a "ring vaccination"
approach, targeting the contacts of people infected or suspected of
infection and then the contacts of those people. More than 600 contacts have
WHO also is accelerating efforts with
nine neighboring countries to try to prevent the Ebola outbreak from
spreading there, saying the regional risk is high. It has warned against
international travel and trade restrictions.
Pakistan approves bill to merge tribal regions with country
of the hard-line religious party, Jamiat Ulema Islam, protest at the main
entrance of the provincial assembly in Peshawar, Pakistan, Sunday, May 27.
(AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)
Peshawar, Pakistan (AP) — The
assembly of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province approved a bill Sunday
to merge the tribal regions along the Afghan border with its territory,
paving the way to granting equal rights to about 5 million people in the
The milestone step comes after both
houses of parliament had earlier approved granting equal rights to the
tribes that have been governed by discriminatory laws since British colonial
rule. The bill now goes to President Mamnoon Hussain to be signed into law.
Haji Abdul Rehman, a tribal elder from
the Mohmand tribal area and member of the Grand Tribal Jirga (Council),
welcomed the step saying it will give the tribes rights other Pakistanis
enjoy, in addition to bringing development and facilities to the region.
Likely fearing loss of political
influence in the region, hardliner religious Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party,
however, opposed the process saying the region's population should have been
consulted before any decision was taken. Outside the assembly hundreds of
the party's charged supporters tried to block entry to the assembly; police
used batons and tear gas to disperse them. Protesters threw stones injuring
six policemen, damaging vehicles belonging to media outlets in the process,
said police officer Kamal Hussein.
Maulana Lutfur Rehman of JUI said in
the assembly that the tribes have a right to determine their fate.
The regions remain effectively lawless
and in recent years have become a haven for militants.
Neighboring Afghanistan also expressed
reservations over the process saying it should have involved a consensus
among the region's residents.
The Afghan presidential palace said in
a statement Saturday that the Afghan government has repeatedly shared its
concerns through diplomatic channels with Pakistan and the international
community regarding any unilateral moves along the Durand Line that
separates the two countries.
"There is a military situation in the
Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Any decision should have been made
while the situation was clam where the real desire of its people could be
reflected," said the statement, adding that "any military and political
approach without bilateral consultation regarding the tribal regions will be
seen as unilateral and against the 1921 pact between British India and
Islamabad rejected Kabul's stance
saying Parliament's decision reflects the will of the people.
Afghanistan's national security adviser
Hanif Atmar is in Islamabad leading a delegation. It is not clear whether
his presence was related to this development but he will meet with his
Pakistani counterpart and other political and military officials during his
German nationalists march in Berlin, face counter-protests
of German AfD wave flags in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin,
Germany, Sunday, May 27. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
Berlin (AP) — Supporters of the
nationalist Alternative for Germany party marched through central Berlin to
protest against Chancellor Angela Merkel's government Sunday, and were kept
away from a raft of counter-demonstrations by a heavy police presence.
Police said over 5,000 people turned
out for the demonstration organized by the anti-migration Alternative for
Germany, known by its German acronym AfD. A variety of counter-protests
against the far right attracted well over 25,000 people in total, they said.
The AfD event opened with German flags,
placards such as "No Islam in Germany" and chants of "Merkel must go"
outside Berlin's central train station. The party's supporters then marched
to the landmark Brandenburg Gate. Opponents chanted "Nazis out" from the
other side of the monument.
Some of the counter-protesters took to
rafts on the Spree river, within sight of the train station. Groups
organizing protests against AfD included artists and a coalition of Berlin
music clubs hoping to "blow away" the party with loud techno beats.
About 2,000 police officers were in
place to prevent trouble, including reinforcements from other parts of
Germany. The march concluded without significant trouble.
AfD won 12.6 percent of the vote to
enter Germany's national parliament last year on anti-migrant and
anti-establishment sentiment. It is now the largest of four opposition
parties after the country's two biggest parties finally agreed to continue a
centrist "grand coalition" under Merkel earlier this year.
Its march Sunday, an unusual move for a
German political party, was headlined "Germany's Future." An AfD regional
leader, Andreas Kalbitz, proclaimed that "this is a signal" and argued that
it shows "AfD is the center of society."
In parliament, AfD's novice lawmakers
have sometimes struggled to grasp basic procedures and stood out with blunt
attacks on minorities, particularly Muslims, who made up the majority of the
more than 1 million asylum-seekers to enter Germany in 2015 and 2016. Recent
polls have put the party's support around the same level as in last year's
Prominent AfD lawmaker Beatrix von
Storch told Sunday's demonstrators that "the vital question for us is:
freedom or Islamization?"
Among the protesters was Silke
Langmacker, an accountant, who carried a sign reading "Taxpayers First."
"We are here to stop the uncontrolled
influx into the German welfare system," she said. "The refugees must return
to Syria and rebuild their country there."
S. Korea relieved about Trump-Kim summit revival efforts
undated photo provided on Saturday, May 26 by the North Korean government,
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the construction site of the
Wonsan-Kalma coastal tourist area in Gangwon-do, North Korea. (Korean
Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)
Seoul, South Korea (AP) — South
Korea on Saturday expressed cautious relief about the revived talks for a
summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
following a whirlwind 24 hours that saw Trump canceling the
highly-anticipated meeting before saying it's potentially back on.
The statement by Seoul's presidential
office came hours after Trump welcomed North Korea's conciliatory response
to his Thursday letter withdrawing from the summit with Kim and said that
the meeting might be getting back on track. Trump later on Saturday tweeted
that the summit, if it does happen, will likely take place on June 12 in
Singapore as originally planned.
"We see it as fortunate that the embers
of dialogue between North Korea and the United States weren't fully
extinguished and are coming alive again," Seoul's presidential spokesman Kim
Eui-kyeom said in a statement. "We are carefully watching the developments."
South Korea, which brokered the talks
between Washington and Pyongyang, was caught off guard by Trump's abrupt
cancellation of the summit over hostility in recent North Korean comments.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Trump's decision left him "very
North Korea issued an unusually
restrained and diplomatic response to Trump's cancellation of the meeting,
saying it's still willing to sit for talks with the United States "at any
time, (in) any format."
"The first meeting would not solve all,
but solving even one at a time in a phased way would make the relations get
better rather than making them get worse," North Korean Vice Foreign
Minister Kim Kye Gwan said in a statement carried by Pyongyang's official
Korean Central News Agency, which mainly targets external audience.
Notably, the statement did not appear
in Saturday's edition of Rodong Sinmun, the official mouthpiece of the
North's ruling party that's widely read by North Koreans.
The newspaper instead focused on Kim
Jong Un's visit to the coastal town of Wonsan to inspect the construction of
a beachfront tourist complex. Kim ordered the complex to be finished by
April 15 next year to mark the birthday of his late grandfather and North
Korea founder Kim Il Sung. Kim Jong Un's comments published by the newspaper
did not include any mention of his potential meeting with Trump.
Analysts say Kim's diplomatic outreach
in recent months after a flurry of nuclear and missile tests in 2017
indicates he is eager for sanctions relief to build his economy and the
international legitimacy the summit with Trump would provide. But there's
also skepticism whether Kim will ever agree to fully relinquish his nuclear
arsenal, which he likely sees as his only guarantee of survival.
Comments in North Korea's state media
indicate Kim sees any meeting with Trump as an arms control negotiation
between nuclear states, rather than a process to surrender his nukes.
Officials: Deadly Nipah virus has not spread in south India
Thursday, May 24, photo, paramedics wear protective suits as a precautionary
measure against the Nipah virus as they bury a body in Kozhikode, Kerala,
southern India. (AP Photo/K.Shijith)
New Delhi (AP) — An outbreak of
a deadly virus has not spread beyond two areas in south India, officials
said, but they have issued a series of warnings to people living in the
A total of 12 people have died of Nipah
virus since the outbreak began a few weeks ago in the state of Kerala, an
unidentified senior Health Ministry official told the Press Trust of India
news agency. Another 40 people with Nipah symptoms, which can include high
fever, vomiting and convulsions, are being treated in area hospitals.
There is no vaccine for Nipah, and no
treatment beyond supportive care to make patients comfortable. The virus
kills up to 75 percent of those infected.
While officials believe this outbreak
began with someone infected somehow by a fruit bat, the ministry official
said every subsequent infection came from human-to-human contact, sometimes
passing to relatives or medical workers caring for the sick. About 100
families where someone has had contact with infected people are being
On Thursday, medical workers in white
plastic suits and breathing masks buried the latest victim in the town of
Kozhikode, placing his plastic-wrapped corpse in the red earth. Many of the
handful of mourners who turned out for the burial were also wearing
Meanwhile, officials have issued a set
of warnings to two parts of Kerala, including telling the public to avoid
consuming partially eaten fruit from date palms and raw liquor made from
dates. People have also been told to avoid abandoned wells.
Fruit bats eat dates from palm trees,
and sometimes nest in wells.
The central government has dispatched
teams from the National Centre for Disease Control to the area to monitor
Explosion in Canadian restaurant wounds 15 people
Police stand outside the Bombay Bhel restaurant
in Mississauga, Canada Friday May 25. (Doug Ives/The Canadian Press via AP)
Toronto (AP) — An explosion
caused by an "improvised explosive device" ripped through an Indian
restaurant in a mall in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga, wounding 15
people, Canadian police said.
Peel Region Sergeant Matt Bertram said
two suspects with their faces covered to conceal their identity entered the
Bombay Bhel restaurant late Thursday, dropped some sort of IED device and
"We have no indication to call it a
hate crime or any kind of terrorism act," Bertram said.
Peel Region paramedic Joe Korstanje
said three people suffered critical injuries and were taken to the hospital
while the remaining 12 victims suffered what he described as minor and
superficial injuries. Police later updated the condition of the three
critically injured patients to stable.
The explosion happened just after 10:30
p.m. on Thursday, and the plaza where the restaurant is located was still
sealed off on Friday.
"Nothing was said by these
individuals," Bertram said. "It appears they just went in, dropped off this
device, and took off right away."
Bertram said they couldn't say what the
device was yet.
"Different callers called in and said
it was firecrackers or some said gunshot sort of noises. I don't think it
was an explosion that was rocking anything," he said. "Until we can get in
there and analyze the material after the search warrant we won't be able to
say what it was."
Andre Larrivee, who lives in a nearby
condo, said he was watching television and heard a loud explosion
"It was really loud," he said,
comparing the noise to an electric generator that had exploded at a nearby
construction site recently.
Police asked for the public's help and
released a photo of the suspects, with dark hoodies pulled over their heads
and their faces covered.
Peel region police, in a tweet,
described the first suspect as in his mid-20s, 5-foot-10 to 6-feet with a
stocky build, wearing dark blue jeans, a dark zip-up hoodie and a baseball
cap with a light gray peak.
The second suspect is described as a
little shorter with a thin build, wearing faded blue jeans, a dark zip-up
hoodie pulled over his head, gray T-shirt and dark colored skate shoes.
Hours after the incident, the Indian
consulate in Toronto tweeted it had opened a helpline for those seeking
assistance following the explosion. Vikas Swarup, India's High Commissioner
to Canada, tweeted that India's Consul General in Toronto visited the
injured in the hospital. He also said that the three Indian-Canadians who
were reported to be critically injured are stable.
Netherlands, Australia hold Russia liable for downing MH17
In this July 17, 2014 file photo, people walk
amongst the debris at the crash site of a passenger plane near the village
of Grabovo, Ukraine. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
The Hague, Netherlands (AP) —
The Netherlands and Australia said Friday that they are holding Russia
legally responsible for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which
was shot down over war-ravaged eastern Ukraine nearly four years ago,
killing all 298 people on board.
The announcement by the foreign
ministers of both countries came a day after international investigators
announced that the missile system that brought down the Amsterdam-Kuala
Lumpur flight came from a Russia-based military unit. They displayed photos
and videos from social media tracking a large convoy of rocket launchers
Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said
that following that conclusion, "the government is now taking the next step
by formally holding Russia accountable."
"The Netherlands and Australia today
asked Russia to enter into talks aimed at finding a solution that would do
justice to the tremendous suffering and damage caused by the downing of
MH17," Blok said in a statement. "A possible next step is to present the
case to an international court or organization for their judgment."
Russia denies involvement in the July
17, 2014, missile strike that blew the Boeing 777 out of the sky at 33,000
feet (about 10,000 meters) over war-ravaged eastern Ukraine.
Bodies, debris and burning wreckage
were strewn over a field of sunflowers near the rebel-held village of
Hrabove in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, about 40 kilometers (25
miles) from the Russian border, where fighting had been raging for months.
The father of one of the passengers
welcomed the move.
"This is great news," said Hans de
Borst, who lost his daughter, Elsemiek. "I understand why the government
waited, but now the evidence is clear."
Australian Foreign Minister Julie
Bishop called for support from the international community for the move.
"This represents a threat to
international security," she said. "If military weapons can be deployed and
then used to bring down civilian aircraft in what was essentially a war
zone, then international security is at risk and we call on all countries to
inform the Russian Federation that its conduct is unacceptable."
N. Korea demolishes nuclear test site as journalists watch
Thursday, May 24, photo, smoke rises from a nuclear test site after a
demolition explosion in Punggye-ri, North Korea. (Korea Pool/Yonhap via AP)
Punggye-RI, North Korea (AP) —
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made good on his promise to demolish his
country's nuclear test site, which was formally closed in a series of huge
explosions Thursday as a small group of foreign journalists watched.
The explosions at the test site deep in
the mountains of the North's sparsely populated northeast were supposed to
build confidence ahead of a planned summit next month between Kim and
President Donald Trump. But Trump canceled the meeting on Thursday, citing
"tremendous anger and open hostility" in a North Korean statement released
earlier in the day.
The blasts were centered on three
tunnels at the underground site and a number of buildings in the surrounding
area. North Korea held a closing ceremony afterward with officials from its
nuclear arms program in attendance.
The group of journalists that witnessed
the demolition, which touched off landslides near the tunnel entrances and
sent up clouds of smoke and dust, included an Associated Press Television
North Korea's state media called the
closure of the site part of a process to build "a nuclear-free, peaceful
world" and "global nuclear disarmament."
"The dismantling of the nuclear test
ground conducted with high-level transparency has clearly attested once
again to the proactive and peace-loving efforts of the DPRK government being
made for assuring peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and over the
world," the North's official news agency reported late Thursday.
North Korea's formal name is the
Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Kim announced his plan to close the
site, where North Korea has conducted all six of its underground nuclear
tests, ahead of a summit with South Korea's President Moon Jae-in in April
and the planned summit with Trump next month.
But even as North Korea made good on
its gesture of detente, it lobbed a verbal salvo at Washington, calling Vice
President Mike Pence a "political dummy" and saying it is just as ready to
meet in a nuclear confrontation as at the negotiating table.
Trump responded by canceling the
summit, saying in a letter to Kim, "Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and
open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is
inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting."
North Korea's decision to close the
Punggye-ri nuclear test site had generally been seen as a welcome gesture by
Kim to set a positive tone ahead of the summit. In a statement earlier
Thursday, South Korea's National Security Council called the closing the
North's "first measure toward complete denuclearization."
Not everyone was as optimistic,
The closing of the site is not an
irreversible move and would need to be followed by many more significant
measures to meet Trump's demand for real denuclearization.
North Korea also did not invite
international nuclear weapons inspectors, opting instead for the impact of
the television footage to impress the world.
The event was, indeed, impressive.
The first blast the visiting
journalists witnessed came at around 11 a.m. after they made a 12-hour plus
trip by train and convoy through the night and over bumpy dirt roads. That
explosion collapsed the complex's north tunnel, which was used for five
nuclear tests between 2009 and last year.
Two other explosions, at around 2:20
p.m. and 4 p.m., collapsed the west and south tunnels, according to
officials. North Korea's state media stressed that those two tunnels could
have been used to conduct future tests, countering reports the Punggye-ri
site had been rendered largely unusable by its earlier tests.
Also blown up were observation posts
and barracks used by guards and other workers at the facility. A tunnel on
the eastern side had already been shut down after an initial nuclear test in
North Korea said the demolition did not
cause any leakage of radioactive materials or have any "adverse impact on
the surrounding ecological environment."
The journalists were allowed to stay at
the site for about nine hours.
Getting to the remote site required an
overnight train ride from Wonsan, a port city east of the capital,
Pyongyang. In typically secretive fashion, officials instructed the media
not to open the blinds that covered the windows of their train cars. They
also were not allowed to shoot photos from the vehicles they took to the
site from the nearest train station, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) away.
Back in Pyongyang, the outburst
directed at Pence, issued in the name of a top Foreign Ministry official,
came on the heels of another sharp rebuke of Trump's newly appointed
national security adviser, John Bolton, and raised concerns that a major gap
had opened between the two sides.
Choe Son Hui, a vice minister of
foreign affairs, was quoted by the state-run news agency as slamming
"ignorant" and "stupid" comments Pence made in an interview with Fox News
that compared nuclear-capable North Korea to Libya. Libya gave up its
nuclear program at an early stage only to see its longtime dictator
overthrown and brutally killed years later.
The summit plan had hit a number of
speed bumps recently as both sides began trading barbs and taking tougher
Trump met with South Korean President
Moon at the White House on Tuesday for consultations, and suggested then the
summit could be delayed or called off entirely.
Cyclone Mekunu pounds Yemen island on its path to Oman
Men walk on
a road flooded after heavy rain and strong winds caused damage in Hadibu as
Cyclone Mekunu pounded the Yemeni island of Socotra, Thursday, May 24. (AP
Salalah, Oman (AP) — Cyclone
Mekunu pounded the Yemeni island of Socotra in the Arabian Sea on Thursday
morning, lashing it with heavy rain and strong winds as the powerful storm
remained on a path to strike Oman this weekend. At least 17 people were
With winds now gusting up to 160 kph
(100 mph), meteorologists expected the "very severe" cyclone to strike Oman
on Saturday near Salalah, the sultanate's third-largest city and home to
some 200,000 people near the country's border with Yemen.
"It is very likely to intensify further
during next 24 hours," India's Meteorological Department warned in a
bulletin Thursday. It said gusts from the storm will likely reach 190 kph
(118 mph) by Saturday.
Yemen's pro-government SABA news agency
reported that 17 people were missing after two ships capsized in the storm
and three vehicles washed away. It said Yemen's government, exiled in Saudi
Arabia, had declared Socotra a "disaster" zone after the storm.
Images circulated online from Socotra
show soaking wet residents attempting to find shelter from the storm. The
photos and video footage, which went viral Thursday, show strong winds with
rain, flash flooding and mudslides.
Mohammed al-Arqabi, a resident of the
island who works as a local journalist, described the situation as "very
bad," saying "the water level has greatly increased, and floods are
everywhere ... washing away cars."
"More than 200 families have been
displaced from their homes in the suburbs of Hadibu and areas close to the
northern coast," he said. "Two Indian cargo ships have gone missing, losing
five of their crew members."
Rajeh Bady, a spokesman for the exiled
government, said the island was in need of "urgent" aid, according to SABA.
The island, listed by UNESCO as a world
natural heritage site, has been the focus of a dispute between the United
Arab Emirates and Yemen's internationally recognized government amid that
country's war after Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, seized the Yemeni
Saudi troops recently deployed on
Socotra as a confidence-building measure over complaints by Yemen's
government that the UAE deployed troops there without its permission.
Socotra has a unique ecosystem and is
home to rare species of plants, land snail and reptile species that can be
found nowhere else around the planet. It is known for its
flower-and-fruit-bearing dragon blood tree, which resembles an umbrella and
gets its name from the dark red sap it secretes. Socotra hosts endangered
species of land and sea birds and its waters hold hundreds of distinctive
species of reef-building corals and fish.
A cyclone is the same as a hurricane or
a typhoon; their names only change because of their location. Hurricanes are
spawned east of the international date line. Typhoons develop west of the
line. They are known as cyclones in the Indian Ocean and Australia.
Seasonal rains are nothing unusual for
southern Oman this time of year. While the rest of the Arabian Peninsula
bakes in areas where temperatures near 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees
Fahrenheit), those in the sleepy port city of Salalah enjoy rainy weather
that sees fog and cool air at wrap around its lush mountainsides.
Temperatures drop down around 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit)
during its annual monsoon festival.
Powerful cyclones, however, are rare.
Over a roughly 100-year period ending in 1996, only 17 recorded cyclones
struck Oman. In 2007, Cyclone Gonu tore through the sultanate and later even
reached Iran, causing $4 billion in damage in Oman alone and killing over 70
people across the Mideast.
The last hurricane-strength storm to
strike within 100 miles (160 kilometers) of Salalah came in May 1959,
according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's
archives. However, that cyclone was categorized as a Category 1 hurricane,
meaning it only had winds of up to 95 mph (152 kph). Mekunu, which means
"mullet" in Dhivehi, the language spoken in the Maldives, is on track to
potentially be as powerful as a Category 3 hurricane.
Ahead of the storm, Omani media
reported lines at gas stations in Salalah, the hometown of Oman's longtime
ruler, Sultan Qaboos bin Said. The Royal Oman Police urged citizens to seek
safety and warned that floods were likely in valleys. It also said it
planned to deploy more ambulances and police officers to areas likely to be
affected by the cyclone.
Also, the Health Ministry said it
evacuated critically ill patients at locations of the Sultan Qaboos Hospital
in Salalah, flying them by air north to Muscat, the country's capital. State
television aired images of others being evacuated from remote villages in
the path of the cyclone.
The port of Salalah, crucial to Qatar
amid a boycott by four Arab nations over a diplomatic spat with Doha, said
it also had taken precautions and secured cranes ahead of the cyclone.
Australian sentenced to death in Malaysia drugs case
Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017, file photo, Australian Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto,
center, is escorted by police during a court hearing at Shah Alam High Court
in Shah Alam, Malaysia. (AP Photo/Sadiq Asyraf)
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (AP) — An
Australian woman accused of drug trafficking in Malaysia was sentenced to
death after an appeals court on Thursday overturned a lower court's
acquittal, her lawyer said.
Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto was
exonerated by the High Court last December on grounds that she didn't know
there were 1.5 kilograms (3.3 pounds) of crystal methamphetamine in her bag
when she was arrested in December 2014 at Kuala Lumpur's international
airport. The prosecution appealed.
Exposto had claimed that she went to
Shanghai to meet a U.S. serviceman with whom she had an online romance, and
had been asked to carry a bag full of clothes. She said she was unaware that
the bag also contained drugs.
Exposto's lawyer Tania Scivetti said a
three-member appeals court "found there was merit" in the prosecution's
appeal, though it didn't say on what grounds. She said Exposto was shocked
"It's disappointing as there was clear
evidence that she was the victim of an Internet romance scam. She was a drug
mule," Scivetti told The Associated Press, adding that they have appealed to
Malaysia's top court.
Malaysia has a mandatory death sentence
for anyone found guilty of carrying more than 50 grams of a prohibited drug.
Exposto, a 54-year-old mother of four
from Sydney and also a grandmother, had arrived from Shanghai and was to
catch a connecting flight to Melbourne when she was detained in Malaysia.
The drugs were discovered when she put two bags through the security scanner
when exiting the airport.
After her acquittal in December,
Scivetti said Exposto was immediately arrested by immigration officials as
her visa has expired. Following the prosecution's appeal, she remained in
custody as she couldn't afford to pay bail.
Three Australians have been hanged for
drug offenses in Malaysia since 1986.
Landmark abortion vote in Ireland may change constitution
protests against a demonstration by volunteers from Reproductive rights,
against Oppression, Sexism & Austerity (ROSA) in Dublin, Wednesday May 23,
as they call for a 'Yes' vote in Ireland's upcoming abortion referendum on
Friday. (Niall Carson/PA via AP)
Dublin (AP) — An abortion debate
that has inflamed passions in Ireland for decades will come down to a single
question on Friday: yes or no?
The referendum on whether to repeal the
country's strict anti-abortion law is being seen by anti-abortion activists
as a last-ditch stand against what they view as a European norm of
abortion-on-demand, while for pro-abortion rights advocates, it is a
fundamental moment for declaring an Irish woman's right to choose.
Opinion surveys suggest a continuing
change of attitudes in Ireland, a traditionally Roman Catholic country that
surprised many by voting in favor of same-sex marriage in 2015. Both sides
generally agree that the frenzied campaign ahead of Friday's vote has not
produced the dramatic shift in public opinion that anti-abortion campaigners
were hoping for.
Still, David Quinn of the socially
conservative Iona Institute says the "no" forces opposed to abortion rights
still have "a fighting chance," and recalled other recent political upsets.
"Remember: Brexit wasn't supposed to
pass, and Donald Trump wasn't supposed to get elected," he said.
Activists from both sides have put up
thousands of emotional signs pleading their case and there were small
demonstrations in Dublin on Wednesday as the vote neared.
Friday's poll will be the fourth time
in as many decades that Irish voters have been asked to decide on the issue
But this time the debate has been
roiled by two factors that voters have not faced before: The extraordinary
power of social media and the increased availability through on-line
telemedicine websites of new drugs that allow women to make profound
decisions over whether to end a pregnancy in the privacy of their homes.
Facebook and Google have both taken
steps to restrict or remove ads relating to the referendum in a move
designed to address global concerns about social media's role in influencing
political campaigns, from the U.S. presidential race to Brexit.
At the heart of this vote is whether or
not to reverse a far-reaching 1983 referendum that inserted an amendment
into Ireland's constitution that committed authorities to equally defend the
right to life of a mother and that of a fetus from the moment of conception.
The issue has been revisited repeatedly
after heartrending "hard cases" that, abortion rights activists say, exposed
vulnerable women to miserable choices — and even, at times, death.
Abortion is legal in Ireland only in
rare cases when the woman's life is in danger, and several thousand Irish
women travel each year to terminate pregnancies in neighboring Britain.
That number has fallen dramatically in recent years as women turned to
online websites to illegally import drugs that end pregnancies.
Pro-abortion rights activists have
sought to focus public attention on the difficult cases, including the fate
of Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old Indian dentist who had sought and been
denied an abortion before she died after a miscarriage in a Galway hospital
on Ireland's west coast in 2012. The man who led the Irish health service's
inquiry into her death has called for the constitutional ban on abortion to
In an effort to neutralize the "hard
cases" argument, some prominent anti-abortion campaigners have lately
shifted their stance, even suggesting that new laws could be enacted to
permit abortions in certain limited cases.
But that compromise was dismissed by
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, a medical doctor who favors repealing the
constitutional ban. He said it is the country's "hard laws that create hard
Friday's referendum has placed the
abortion debate on center stage, with many on Dublin's crowded city streets
wearing buttons or T-shirts that align them with the "yes" or "no" side.
Jessie Carton was walking down
O'Connell Street last week in a "Repeal the Eighth" T-shirt, a reference to
the amendment behind the constitutional ban. The 17-year-old is too young to
vote — but she would vote "yes" if she could.
"My auntie was forced to maintain her
pregnancy, even though they told her the baby would die," Carton said,
adding that she would vote to repeal "so other women don't have to go
through what she did."
An elderly Dublin man, John Byrne, wore
a "no" button on his lapel.
"I believe in life. I believe God is
the giver of life," the 78-year-old said, adding that he credits God with
helping him overcome alcohol addiction.
"I drank, and I remember sleeping in
the bushes in Merrion Square. God bailed me out. ... It's high time I did
something for him," he said. "We've gone too liberal in Ireland altogether,
and we would be better off if we respected our Christian values."
The "no" forces are fearful that the
urban vote in cosmopolitan Dublin could overwhelm their bid to keep the
constitutional ban in force.
Quinn, the "no" backer from Iona
Institute, says that if turnout is high in Dublin, the "yes" side is likely
to triumph. A high rural turnout would keep the ban in place, he predicted.
Even if "yes" prevails, there will not
be an immediate change in abortion rules. It will be up to parliament to
enact a new law — a debate widely expected to be fractious.
Scars, unexploded bombs have lingered since Philippine siege
light placards on fire to mark the anniversary of the siege by Islamic State
group-aligned militants of Marawi city in southern Philippines exactly a
year ago Wednesday, May 23. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
Marawi, Philippines (AP) —
Thousands of displaced remain in emergency shelters and the threat of
Islamic extremists and unexploded bombs lingers in the rubble of a southern
Philippine city, where survivors on Wednesday remembered a disastrous
five-month siege by Islamic State group-aligned fighters that began a year
The Rev. Teresito Soganub, who survived
117 days of captivity by the extremists in Marawi city, said that aside from
the devastation, it would take years for him and other civilians to overcome
the horror of having lived through airstrikes and gunbattles that threatened
them day and night.
"I'm still very, very far from a full
recovery," Soganub said by telephone. "If it takes long to rebuild and
reconstruct, it's more difficult to deal with this psychological and
The government is finalizing a plan to
rebuild the most devastated commercial and residential districts, where the
carcasses of pockmarked homes, buildings and mosques stand eerily and
gathering weeds in an urban wasteland guarded by troops.
The city's journey back to normalcy may
take years at a huge cost, said officials, some of whom have warned that if
the rehabilitation falters, the restiveness it would generate could be
exploited by Muslim militants.
"There were lots of bullets, a lot of
cannon fire and airstrikes that targeted us because we were with the IS
group that was being pounded by troops," Soganub said from his southern home
province, where he held Mass with family and friends. "Each day of the 117
days, 24 hours, we were facing death every time and our lives depended on
the temperament of our hostage takers."
Residents, officials and military
officers released dozens of white balloons and doves into the blue sky from
a government complex in lakeside Marawi and prayed for peace and recovery.
The May 23 siege that was crushed in
October killed more than 1,100 mostly militants, left the mosque-studded
city's heartland in rubbles, prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to place the
southern third of the country under martial law and reinforced fears that
the Islamic State group was gaining a foothold in the Asian region. The
months of intense fighting forced hundreds of thousands of residents of
Marawi and outlying towns to flee for their lives.
While many have returned home after the
attack was quelled, thousands more whose houses were destroyed in the main
battle area that remains off-limits to civilians are still living in
evacuation centers and temporary shelters, officials said. At least 50
people are still listed as missing and many human remains have not yet been
identified and have been buried in numbered graves.
A regional official, Zia Alonto Adiong,
said it was crucial to keep the public informed.
"One day in an evacuation center is
already too long for someone who has lost everything," Adiong said. "I think
the frustration comes from the fear of expulsion, fear of not knowing what's
going to happen."
Presidential adviser Jesus Dureza
called for patience after some disgruntled Marawi residents held a noisy
"We are working, government is doing
its best to restore as much as possible what was destroyed and I think we
are on the road," Dureza said. "But we'd like to call on all those who have
gone through suffering to please be patient. There is no magic formula here.
There is no reconstruction that will happen overnight. There will be a lot
of challenges. Not everybody will agree, there will be contrary voices and
Malaysia says search for MH370 to end next week
general of the Malaysian Department of Civil Aviation, Azharuddin Abdul
Rahman, right, shows the search area map during a press conference as
Malaysian Transport Minister Anthony Loke Siew Fook looks on in Putrajaya,
Malaysia on Wednesday, May 23. (AP Photo)
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (AP) —
The search by a private U.S. company for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 will
end next week, Malaysia's transport minister said Wednesday, while families
of those who died onboard urged the government to review all matters related
to the jet's disappearance four years ago.
Malaysia signed a "no cure, no fee"
deal with Texas-based Ocean Infinity in January to resume the hunt for the
plane, a year after the official search in the southern Indian Ocean by
Australia, Malaysia and China was called off.
So far, the search has not turned up
anything that could shed light on one of the world's biggest aviation
Transport Minister Anthony Loke said
Wednesday that the 90-day search deal with Ocean Infinity was due to end in
April but was extended twice until May 29 following the firm's request.
"There will be no more extensions. It
cannot continue forever. Let's wait until May 29 and we will then decide how
to proceed," he told The Associated Press.
The plane vanished March 8, 2014, while
flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board.
Under the deal, the government will pay
Ocean Infinity up to $70 million based on the size of the area searched if
the mission is successful within three months. Officials have said there was
an 85 percent chance of finding the debris in a new 25,000-square-kilometer
(9,650-suqare-mile) search area identified by experts.
The official search was extremely
difficult because no transmissions were received from the aircraft after its
first 38 minutes of flight. Systems designed to automatically transmit the
flight's position failed to work, according to a final report issued in
January 2017 by the Australian Transport Safety Board.
Voice 370, which represents families of
those aboard the flight, in a statement Wednesday urged the new government
to review all matters related to the jet's disappearance including "any
possible falsification" or elimination of maintenance records and any
omission that may have impaired tracking, search, rescue and recovery of the
Loke said the new government, which
took power after the May 9 elections, is committed to transparency and will
release details for public scrutiny in due time.
Tensions soar between India, Pakistan along Kashmir frontier
An Indian man walks as smoke rises from a
residential area that was gutted from firing allegedly from the Pakistan
side of the border in Ranbir Singh Pura district of Jammu and Kashmir,
India, Tuesday, May 22. (AP Photo/Channi Anand)
Munir Ahmed and Aijaz Hussain
Srinagar, India (AP) — Tensions
soared Wednesday along the volatile frontier between India and Pakistan in
the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, as rival soldiers shelled dozens
of villages and border posts for a sixth straight day.
A total of six civilians and a soldier
were killed on both sides, officials from the two countries said, in
escalating violence in the disputed region that both countries blame the
other for initiating.
Indian police said Pakistani soldiers
continued targeting dozens of Indian border posts and villages with mortars
and automatic gunfire in the Jammu region. At least five civilians were
killed and 30 others injured on the Indian side, said a top police officer,
In Pakistan, two security officials
said Pakistani and Indian troops exchanged fire near Sialkot city in eastern
Punjab province. They said the two sides had traded fire over the past 48
hours, killing a civilian and a soldier.
The officials said several people were
also wounded, including three border guards. The officials spoke on
condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to
As in the past, each country accused
the other of initiating the latest border skirmishes and violating a 2003
Wednesday's fighting follows days of
confrontations that left four civilians on each side and two Indian soldiers
The fighting has sent tens of thousands
of villagers fleeing from their homes in dozens of affected villages along
the border to government buildings converted into temporary shelters or to
the houses of friends and relatives living in safer places.
Dozens of schools in villages along the
frontier have been closed and authorities advised residents to stay indoors
as shells and bullets rained down. Some damage to houses was also reported
on the Indian side.
Pakistan says Indian forces have
carried out more than 1,050 cease-fire violations this year, resulting in
the deaths of 28 civilians and injuries to 117 others.
India says 25 civilians and 18
government troops have been killed this year in over 800 cease-fire
violations initiated by Pakistan. They say dozens have been injured and
scores of cattle have perished.
This year, soldiers from the two
nations have engaged in fierce border skirmishes along the rugged and
mountainous Line of Control, as well as a lower-altitude 200-kilometer
(125-mile) boundary separating Indian-controlled Kashmir and the Pakistani
province of Punjab, where the latest fighting occurred.
India and Pakistan have a long history
of bitter relations over Kashmir, which both claim. They have fought two of
their three wars since 1947 over their competing claims to the region.
The fighting has become a predictable
cycle of violence as the region convulses with decades-old animosities
between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, where rebel groups demand that the
territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent
India accuses Pakistan of arming and
training anti-India rebels and also helping them by providing gunfire as
cover for incursions into the Indian side.
Pakistan denies this, saying it offers
only moral and diplomatic support to the militants and to Kashmiris who
oppose Indian rule.
Rebels have been fighting Indian rule
since 1989. Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the
ensuing Indian military crackdown.
Legend of Loch Ness Monster will be tested with DNA samples
This undated file photo shows a shadowy shape
that some people say is a photo of the Loch Ness monster in Scotland. (AP
Wellington, New Zealand (AP) —
The stories seem as tall as the lake is deep. For hundreds of years,
visitors to Scotland's Loch Ness have described seeing a monster that some
believe lurks in the depths.
But now the legend of "Nessie" may have
no place left to hide. A New Zealand scientist is leading an international
team to the lake next month, where they will take samples of the murky
waters and conduct DNA tests to determine what species live there.
University of Otago professor Neil
Gemmell says he's no believer in Nessie, but he wants to take people on an
adventure and communicate some science along the way. Besides, he says, his
kids think it's one of the coolest things he's ever done.
One of the more far-fetched theories is
that Nessie is a long-necked plesiosaur that somehow survived the period
when dinosaurs became extinct. Another theory is that the monster is
actually a sturgeon or giant catfish. Many believe the sightings are hoaxes
or can be explained by floating logs or strong winds.
Gemmell said that when creatures move
about in water, they leave behind tiny fragments of DNA. It comes from their
skin, feathers, scales and urine.
He said his team will take 300 samples
of water from different points around the lake and at different depths. They
will filter the organic material and extract the DNA, he said, sequencing it
by using technology originally created for the human genome project.
He said the DNA results will then be
compared against a database of known species. He said they should have
answers by the end of the year.
"I'm going into this thinking it's
unlikely there is a monster, but I want to test that hypothesis," Gemmell
said. "What we'll get is a really nice survey of the biodiversity of the
He said the real discoveries may come
in determining things like the prevalence of invasive species.
Gemmell, 51, said he first visited Loch
Ness in his late 20s while on vacation. Like thousands of tourists before
him, he gazed out over the lake trying to catch sight of a monster. He said
he first came up with the idea of testing DNA from the lake a couple of
years ago and it resonated with many, including his children, aged 7 and 10.
Graeme Matheson, chief of the Scottish
Society of New Zealand, said he, too, has visited Loch Ness and gazed out
over the water, and that he wishes Gemmell all the best.
"I hope he and his cohorts find
something, although I think they'll be battling," Matheson said. "Still,
it's a good way to get a trip to Scotland."
Gemmell said that even if they don't
find any monster DNA, it won't deter some Nessie believers. He said they've
already been offering him theories, like that Nessie might be on vacation
after swimming to the sea via hidden underwater caves, or that the creature
might be extraterrestrial and not leave behind any DNA.
"In our lives we want there still to be
mysteries, some of which we will ultimately solve," Gemmell said. "That's
part of the spirit of discovery. And sometimes, what you find may not be
what you were expecting."
French government orders evacuation of Paris migrant camp
photo taken on Friday May 18, 2018, migrants camp under a bridge in Paris,
France. (AP Photo/Elaine Ganley)
Paris (AP) — A burgeoning
migrant camp in Paris, on a canal used by joggers and cyclists, is at the
center of a tug-of-war over how best to respond to the unrelenting arrivals
of migrants in the French capital — with humanity or with muscle.
Two migrants drowned this month in
canals and others have been injured in fights, increasing the pressure to
France's interior minister on Wednesday
ordered the evacuation of some 2,300 migrants at the camp and others around
Paris. But he and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo remain at odds over where to take
them, and how to find a lasting solution.
The debate raises a question shared
across European nations seeking to manage the migrant flux, which has ebbed
since the mass Syrian refugee crisis a few years ago but remains a steady
Collomb expressed "regret" at Hidalgo's
refusal to clear out the migrants, and said he had no choice but to order an
evacuation, expected in the coming days.
The mayor and aid groups want the
migrants put in shelters, not just evacuated in a police operation and
dispersed or summarily deported. Paris police have already cleared out some
28,000 migrants from Paris camps in the past three years, but the arrivals
Collomb is behind the government's
tough immigration bill that has rained criticism on President Emmanuel
Macron, who is working to stop migration at its source and use a police
approach at home. Refusing to shelter the Paris migrants exemplifies the
Side-to-side and back-to-back, hundreds
of small tents are packed under bridges on the side of a canal in far
northeastern Paris, beside a shopping center, banks and other businesses.
The tents, filled mainly with African
migrants, hold stories of horrific stays in Libya, desperate boat trips
across the Mediterranean, frozen journeys on foot through the Alps — and
visions of the good life that fuels the dreams of all migrants.
Joggers, cyclists and those working in
the area pass in the narrow space available, as river shuttles and barges
ply the canal's waters.
The surrealistic scene is repeated
along the Canal Saint-Martin, a scenic stretch popular with tourists in the
heart of Paris where an estimated 450 migrants, many Afghan, are camped.
"It's not the best vision from the
office window," said Kevin Sadoun, who works at a major bank with offices
around the largest encampment, known as the "Millenaire" after the shopping
center overlooking the tents. "We see people pee, defecate ... But they have
no choice," he said.
There are few portable toilets and
urinals, and just one set of spigots where migrants wash clothes.
Naby Sylla, a 20-year-old Guinean, is
among migrants who crossed into France via the Alps, after traveling by raft
from Sabratha, Libya, to Italy. He left Italy, he said, after being twice
attacked, once with a bottle and needing hospital treatment.
"In Africa, we thought that Europe was
a place of welcome. Unfortunately, we don't find that," he told The
Stars urge Indonesia to ban 'brutal' trade in dog meat
In this undated photo, dogs for sale are seen in
cages put on cart at a market in Langowan, North Sulawesi, Indonesia. (Dog
Meat Free Indonesia via AP)
Jakarta, Indonesia (AP) — International stars of acting, music and
sports have urged Indonesia's president to ban what they say is a brutal
trade in dog and cat meat for human consumption.
The appeal comes after Indonesian
campaigners against animal cruelty and Humane Society International in
January exposed markets on the island of Sulawesi where dogs were bludgeoned
by the thousands and blow-torched alive to remove their hair before
onlookers including children.
The letter to President Joko "Jokowi"
Widodo released Monday said if Indonesia joined other Asian nations that
have already banned the cruel trade, it would be "celebrated globally" and
end a stain on the country's reputation.
The coalition of campaigners, calling
itself Dog Meat-Free Indonesia, also warned of health risks posed by the
trade due to its potential to spread rabies.
"These animals, many of them stolen
pets, are subjected to crude and brutal methods of capture, transport and
slaughter, and the immense suffering and fear they must endure is
heartbreaking and absolutely shocking," the letter said.
Actress Cameron Diaz, talk show host
Ellen DeGeneres, talent spotter Simon Cowell, comedian Ricky Gervais,
Indonesian pop singer Anggun and musician Moby are among the more than 90
celebrities listed in the letter.
Dog meat is eaten by only a small
percentage of Indonesians but in a country of more than 250 million people
it still represents a significant trade.
Thousands of dogs and cats are
slaughtered weekly in North Sulawesi, most of which are imported from other
provinces in Indonesia, according to the anti-animal cruelty groups.
After the blaze of bad publicity in
January, the infamous Tomohon Extreme Market in North Sulawesi stopped the
public slaughter of dogs but video shot by campaigners showed dog carcasses
were still being delivered from other locations.
"We are so grateful to these global and
Indonesian superstars who have come together to support Dog Meat-Free
Indonesia's efforts to end this cruel and dangerous industry," Humane
Society International President Kitty Block said in a statement.
"We respectfully urge President Widodo
to work with us on a solution that protects not only Indonesia's dogs and
cats but also the health of its people," she said.
Congo announces 6 new confirmed cases of Ebola virus
A health worker prepares an Ebola vaccine to
administer to health workers during a vaccination campaign in Mbandaka,
Congo Monday, May 21. (AP Photo/John Bompengo)
Saleh Mwanamilongo and Carley Petesch
Kinshasa, Congo (AP) — Congo's
health ministry announced six new confirmed Ebola cases and two new
suspected cases Tuesday as vaccinations entered a second day in an effort to
contain the deadly virus in a city of more than 1 million.
Dozens of health workers in the
northwestern provincial capital, Mbandaka, have received vaccinations amid
expectations that some will be deployed to the rural epicenter of the
epidemic. Front-line workers are especially at risk of contracting the
virus, which spreads in contact with the bodily fluids of infected people,
including the dead.
"In the next five days 100 people must
be vaccinated, including 70 health professionals," Health Minister Oly
Ilunga said. "The priority of the government is to ensure that all these
brave health professionals can do their job safely."
Congo's health ministry said there are
now 28 confirmed Ebola cases, 21 probable ones and two suspected. The six
new confirmed cases were in the rural Iboko health zone, it said. Of the
confirmed Ebola cases, 14 are in Iboko, 10 are in Bikoro where the outbreak
began and four are in the Wangata area of Mbandaka.
The death toll from hemorrhagic fever
stands at 27, with three of them confirmed as Ebola. Two of the Ebola
victims were nurses, one in Iboko and the other in Bikoro.
"Concerned about Iboko as access
remains difficult," Dr. Peter Salama, the World Health Organization's
emergency response chief, said Tuesday on Twitter. Roads in the region are
unpaved and infrastructure is poor.
The WHO said 33 people received the
first vaccinations Monday, including a few people in two communities of
Mbandaka. More than 7,500 doses are available in Congo, WHO said Monday, and
another 8,000 doses will be available in the coming days.
Allowing Congolese to watch health
officials receive vaccinations is crucial, health worker Ezela Elange told
The Associated Press.
"Our hope is that ... the sick will
heal, the whole province will be healed," Elange said.
The vaccination campaign eventually
will move to cover the two other health zones where confirmed cases have
been reported. A major challenge will be keeping the vaccines cold in this
vast, impoverished, tropical country where electricity is patchy.
The vaccine, provided by U.S. company
Merck, is still in the test stages but it was effective toward the end of
the Ebola epidemic that killed more than 11,300 people in Guinea, Sierra
Leone and Liberia from 2014 to 2016.
Those who are vaccinated in outbreak
areas still will have to strictly follow infection-control measures,
especially since the vaccine doesn't protect immediately. It takes a week to
10 days, said Dr. Pierre Rollin, an epidemiologist with the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention and a veteran of more than a dozen Ebola
Rollin warned that the large geographic
area between Mbandaka and the remote towns where the outbreak's first cases
were reported must be scoured for the infected and the people who have come
into contact with them.
"Travel from Mbandaka to Bikoro can
take four hours to four days" depending on transportation and if it's
raining, he said. "Before making any assumption we're going to have to look
along this road and all the villages."
The U.S. Agency for International
Development on Tuesday said it was contributing another up to $7 million to
combat the outbreak on top of the $1 million it committed last week.
The International Federation of Red
Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Congo warned that the outbreak is far
from over. It said it will expand operations for community-based
surveillance and safe burials.
"The risk of spreading within the
country and to neighboring nations remains real," said Dr. Fatoumata
Nafo-Traore, IFRC's regional director for Africa.
This is Congo's ninth Ebola outbreak
since 1976, when the disease was first identified. While all of the
outbreaks were based in remote rural areas the virus has twice made it to
Kinshasa, the capital of 10 million people, but was effectively contained.
Mbandaka is an hour's flight from
Kinshasa and several days' travel by barge.
There is no specific treatment for
Ebola. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain and at times
internal and external bleeding. The virus can be fatal in up to 90 percent
of cases, depending on the strain.
Airlines caving to Beijing despite White House protest
In this May 21, 2018, photo, a computer screen
displays the booking website of British Airways showing "Taiwan-China" in
Beijing, China. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
Shanghai (AP) — Global airlines
are obeying Beijing's demands to refer to Taiwan explicitly as a part of
China, despite the White House's call this month to stand firm against such
"Orwellian nonsense." The Associated Press found 20 carriers, including Air
Canada, British Airways and Lufthansa, that now refer to Taiwan, the
self-ruled island that Beijing considers Chinese territory, as a part of
China on their global websites.
There are just three days left for
dozens of foreign airlines to decide whether to comply with Beijing's
orders, or face consequences that could cripple their China business,
including legal sanctions. Many have already sided with Beijing.
The spread of "Taiwan, China" on the
drop-down menus and maps of airline websites represents another victory for
China's President Xi Jinping and his ruling Communist Party's nationalistic
effort to force foreign companies to conform to their geopolitical vision,
even in operations outside of China. Critics say China's incremental push to
leverage its economic power to forge new international norms — in this case
regarding Taiwan's status — create worrying precedents and that beyond fiery
missives there is little Washington can do to unify a fractured global
response and effectively push back against Beijing's demands.
"What's at stake is that we're allowing
a revisionist regime with a terrible track record on freedom of speech to
dictate what we say and write in our own countries," said J. Michael Cole, a
Taipei-based senior fellow with the China Policy Institute and the
University of Nottingham's Taiwan studies program. "If Beijing does not
encounter red lines, it can only keep asking for more."
For Beijing, there is only one China
and Taiwan, which has been a democracy since the 1990s, is part of it. The
People's Republic of China and Taiwan separated during a civil war in 1949.
Washington officially recognizes Beijing rather than Taipei, but despite the
lack of formal ties, the U.S. is legally bound to respond to threats to
Taiwan and is the island's main supplier of foreign military hardware.
"We strongly object to China's efforts
to bully, coerce, and threaten their way to achieving their political
objectives," Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement to the
AP. "We call on all countries around the world to stand together to uphold
the freedom of speech and freedom to do business. We also call on private
firms to collectively reject China's unreasonable demands to change their
designation of "Taiwan" to "Taiwan, China."
Xi has warned a Taiwanese envoy that
the issue of unification cannot be put off indefinitely, and the People's
Liberation Army has sent fighter planes near Taiwan's coast. As China steps
up efforts to isolate Taiwan diplomatically, the list of multinationals that
have bent to Beijing's will is long — and growing.
U.S. clothing retailer The Gap
apologized this month for selling T-shirts with a map of China that omitted
Taiwan and pulled the offending merchandise from stores around the world. In
January, Delta Airlines, Marriott, Zara and medical equipment maker
Medtronic all publicly apologized for referring to Taiwan as a country.
"You can't just say 'no,'" said Carly
Ramsey, a regulatory risk specialist at Control Risks, a consultancy in
Shanghai. "Increasingly, for situations like this, non-compliance is not an
option if you want to do business in and with China."
The day after Delta apologized for
"emotional damage caused to the Chinese people," the Civil Aviation
Administration of China published a notice on its website saying it requires
foreign airlines operating in China to avoid referring to Taiwan, Hong Kong
and Macau as countries.
Some foreign carriers began changing
drop-down menus on their websites from "country" to "country/region."
But Beijing wanted more.
On April 25, the Civil Aviation
Administration of China sent a letter to 36 foreign airlines ordering them
to explicitly refer to Taiwan as a part of China. The regulator did not
respond to requests for comment.
In a strongly-worded statement 10 days
later, the White House called that demand "Orwellian nonsense."
"China's efforts to export its
censorship and political correctness to Americans and the rest of the free
world will be resisted," it said.
China's foreign ministry hit back the
next day, saying Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau are "inalienable" parts of
China's territory and foreign companies operating in China "should respect
China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, abide by China's laws and
respect the national sentiment of the Chinese people."
A growing number of airlines have
heeded Beijing's call.
The AP found that Air Canada,
Lufthansa, British Airways, Finnair, Garuda Indonesia, Asiana Airlines, and
Philippine Airlines all have changed the way they refer to Taiwan to bring
their global websites in line with the Chinese Communist Party's vision. SAS
airlines, Swissair, Malaysia Airlines, Cebu Pacific Air, Aeroflot, Italy's
Alitalia, Austrian Airlines, Air Mauritius, Etihad Airways, Spain's Iberia,
Israel's EL AL, MIAT Mongolian Airlines and Russia's S7 Airlines all also
refer to Taiwan as part of China, but it was not immediately clear how long
they had been using that formulation.
Lufthansa, British Airways, Air Canada
and Finnair said they abide by laws and regulations internationally and in
the jurisdictions in which they work.
"This includes taking customs of the
international clientele into consideration," Lufthansa said in a statement,
adding that we "seek your understanding for the situation."
Finnair said a decision was taken to
amend the website earlier this year and "in line with the general view taken
in Europe, Taiwan is not shown as an independent country in our list of
Major U.S. carriers have not yet caved.
United Airlines, American Airlines, Delta and Hawaiian Airlines, as well as
Australia's Qantas Airways — all of which received April letters from the
regulator — did not refer to Taiwan as part of China on their websites as of
The airlines told AP they were
reviewing the request.
But the sweep of concessions will
likely make it harder to resist Beijing's call.
"If they make individual corporate
decisions, they will likely accede, individually but entirely, to Chinese
demands," said Robert Daly, the director of the Kissinger Institute on China
and the United States at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for
Scholars. What Washington could do, he added, is "launch and sustain a
global discussion of the implications of Beijing's insistence on the
worldwide jurisdiction of Chinese law. That kind of effort would require a
commitment to global leadership and strong alliances that this
administration has not yet demonstrated."
In one apparent exception to Beijing's
rules the national flag carrier Air China seems not to have gotten the
regulator's memo. On its US site, Taipei is a part of "Taiwan, China." But
its Taiwan website lists it as "Taipei, Taiwan."
Air China did not immediately respond
to requests for comment.
Populists' pick to be Italian premier scorns bureaucracy
Giuseppe Conte smiles during a meeting in Rome,
Italy in this photo taken on March 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Rome (AP) — Giuseppe Conte, a
bureaucracy-allergic law professor, is hardly a household name in Italy. Yet
the 53-year-old academic is the candidate two rival political leaders have
chosen to head what they hope will be the country's first populist
Say the name "Conte" and the one who
comes to the mind of many ordinary Italians is Antonio Conte, the former
coach of the Azzurri, Italy's national soccer team. The front page of Milan
newspaper Corriere della Sera carried an editorial cartoon Monday
playing on the possible premier's lack of a comparable profile.
"For sure, if he were the ex-trainer of
the Azzurri, he'd also have some international experience," the cartoon read
along with a caricature of a puzzled-looking Italian President Sergio
Conte also has international
experience, but it's academic, not political. His resume lists brief periods
of study or research at Yale, Cambridge and the Sorbonne, as well as
teaching positions at public, private and Catholic universities in Italy.
Until 5-Star Movement leader Luigi Di
Maio and League leader Matteo Salvini announced him as their pick to take
the helm of Italy's next government, the accomplishment of Conte's most
Italians might remember hearing about was a kind of "MeToo" achievement.
An expert in civil and commercial law,
Conte has served on a government administrative justice council. In that
role, he presided over a commission that ousted a public administration
official who had demanded that female students in his law course for
aspiring magistrates wear mini-skirts to class.
The professor's background features
aspects that could please both Di Maio's 5-Star Movement's base, which
includes many disgruntled former supporters of the center-left Democrats, as
well as Salvini's right-wing constituency.
Dear to the hearts of both Salvini and
Di Maio, who rail against the strangling effect of the often byzantine
bureaucratic rules Italian businesses and citizens must follow, Conte has
declared that given the opportunity, he would slash hundreds of such
When, a few days before the election,
the 5-Star Movement presented Conte as the ideal person to be minister for
public administration, the professor said the laws needing elimination
number "many more than the 400 ones indicated by Luigi Di Maio."
Conte is "an expert of simplification,
de-bureaucratization and streamlining the administrative machine, that's
what so many businesses want," Salvini said Monday night.
Conte also has pushed for stronger
safeguards against corruption, which often finds fertile ground among those
trying to circumvent government bureaucracy.
What Salvini might have had to swallow
for the price of putting his League in power is Conte's past political
affinity for the left.
"In the past, I voted for the left.
Today, I think that the ideological schemes of the 20th century are no
longer adequate," Conte said earlier this year, when Di Maio was touting him
for a Cabinet post. "I believe it's more important to evaluate how a
political force works, in terms of its positions on its respect for rights
and fundamental liberties. And on its ability to elaborate programs useful
In a recent TV program, he put it more
succinctly: "My heart has traditionally beat toward the left."
Conte isn't a member of Parliament, but
that's not a requirement to be premier. Matteo Renzi, a former Florence
mayor, served nearly three years as premier as leader of the Democratic
Party and without holding elected office.
Earlier in the haggling between Di Maio
and Salvini to cobble together a governing coalition, each man boasted the
right to be premier.
Di Maio heads Parliament's largest
party after the Movement captured some 32 percent of the votes cast in the
March 4 parliamentary election. Salvini's League was the biggest
vote-getter in a center-right coalition that together clinched 37 percent.
But after shedding his campaign
coalition partners, which included former Premier Silvio Berlusconi's
center-right party, Salvini alone commands far fewer seats in Parliament
than rival Di Maio.
Each eventually agreed to "take a step
aside" and quit demanding the premiership for himself. But with Di Maio
aware he would lose his party's base if he agreed to a deal that would put
the 5-Stars in government for the first time but without a loyal cheerleader
as premier, the choice of Conte made sense.
Born in Volturara Appula, a town of 467
residents near Foggia, in the region of Puglia, Conte is the son of a
retired city hall office worker and an elementary school teacher.
His southern roots might please the
electorate that helped propel the 5-Stars into power. The Movement's
popularity has soared in the south, where its campaign pledge for a
guaranteed basic monthly income of 780 euros (then some $950) resonated in a
region where youth unemployment tops 50 percent.
Despite his lack of name recognition,
Conte has a reputation for being a dapper dresser. When he appeared with Di
Maio before the election, Conte was turned out in a three-piece suit with
his tie tucked under a button-down gilet and a handkerchief neatly poking
out of a breast pocket.
Indonesia raises alert for Merapi volcano, sets no-go zone
A man watches as Mount Merapi spews volcanic
smoke in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Tuesday, May 22. (AP Photo/Slamet Riyadi)
Jakarta, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian authorities raised the alert for
the country's most volatile volcano, located on the densely populated island
of Java, and ordered people within 3 kilometers (2 miles) to evacuate.
Mount Merapi has erupted four times
since Monday, sending out a 3,500 meter (11,483 feet) column of volcanic
material and dusting the surrounding region in ash.
Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the national
disaster mitigation agency's spokesman, said some 660 people living within
the exclusion zone have evacuated since early Tuesday.
Indonesia's geological agency raised
Merapi's alert from normal to "beware," because of its increased activity.
There have been no reports of
casualties and operations at Adi Sucipto airport in Yogyakarta have not been
The 2,968-meter (9,737-foot) mountain
is about 30 kilometers (18 miles) from the Yogyakarta city center is the
most active of more than 120 active Indonesian volcanoes.
Its last major eruption in 2010 killed
347 people and caused the evacuation of 20,000 villagers.
Nugroho said climbing on Merapi is
prohibited and only disaster agency personnel or related researchers should
enter the restricted area.
Indonesia, an archipelago of more than
250 million people, sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire" and is prone to
earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
Maduro declared winner in disputed Venezuela election
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, holding a
copy of the country's constitution, addresses supporters at the presidential
palace in Caracas, Venezuela, after electoral officials declared he was
re-elected on Sunday, May 20. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
Joshua Goodman and Scott Smith
Caracas, Venezuela (AP) —
Embattled socialist incumbent Nicolas Maduro won Venezuela's presidential
election by a landslide in a disputed vote marred by irregularities and mass
absenteeism that led his main rivals to call for a re-run to prevent a
national social crisis from exploding.
The National Election Council announced
that with more than 92 percent of polling stations reporting, Maduro won
nearly 68 percent of the votes Sunday, beating his nearest challenger Henri
Falcon by more than 40 points.
As the results were being announced,
residents of downtown Caracas just a few blocks from where Maduro supporters
were celebrating banged on pots and pans in protest. Falcon accused the
government of buying votes and dirty tricks to boost turnout among poor
voters most hurt by widespread food shortages and hyperinflation in what was
once Latin America's wealthiest nation.
The election "without any doubt lacks
legitimacy and we categorically refuse to recognize this process," Falcon
told supporters minutes before the results were announced, vowing to fight
on instead of joining a growing list of beleaguered anti-government
politicians who've fled into exile of late.
The disputed victory is likely to
heighten international pressure on Maduro. Even as voting was taking place
Sunday, a senior U.S. official said the Trump administration might press
ahead on threats of imposing crippling oil sanctions and Secretary of State
Mike Pompeo warned "sham elections change nothing."
Falcon was joined in his demand for a
new election by third-place finisher Javier Bertucci, who won around 11
percent of the vote. Bertucci, a TV evangelist who handed out soup at his
campaign rallies, stopped short of challenging the results, partly blaming
what he called a mistaken opposition boycott that led to a turnout of around
46 percent — the lowest in a presidential race in two decades of revolution.
But he said he nonetheless favors a new
election soon and urged Maduro to do the courageous thing and desist from
running. If Maduro presses forward, he warned, Venezuela will explode before
his new six-year term is scheduled to begin in January.
A social crisis years in the making has
worsened as Venezuela's oil production — the source of almost all of its
foreign income — has collapsed to the lowest level in decades and financial
sanctions by the Trump administration has made it impossible for the
government to renegotiate its debts. More than 1 million people have fled
the country in the past two years and 14,000 percent inflation has crushed
the minimum wage to less than $2 a month.
Maduro, 55, immediately called for
dialogue with his opponents and put the best face forward on what analysts
said were nonetheless disappointing results underscoring how vulnerable his
hold on power remains. Despite energetic campaigning his overall vote haul
slipped by 1.6 million from 2013, when he was first elected after Hugo
Chavez's death from cancer.
But he showed no sign of replaying
"We will be the most powerful and
largest political force in Venezuela for a long time," he told a festive
crowd of die-hard supporters who poured into the grounds of the presidential
palace to celebrate. "It doesn't faze me when they say I'm a dictator."
He promised to spend the next two years
before scheduled congressional elections repairing an economy he says has
been badly damaged by mafias backed by Colombia and the U.S. He also slammed
Falcon, who like him was an acolyte of Chavez, saying he had never seen a
candidate dispute results before they were even announced.
"Sooner or later, they all break in the
face of threats from the imperialists," he said, pleading with the U.S. to
reconsider its belligerence.
Both of Maduro's opponents accused
electoral authorities of being blind to blatant violations before the vote
and on election day. Falcon said that at 86 percent of voting centers ruling
party activists set up so-called "Red Points" where they scanned on
cellphones QR codes on government-issued "Fatherland Cards."
Some poor cardholders in Caracas —
there are 16.5 million nationwide — said they hoped Maduro would deliver on
his campaign promise of a "prize" to those who demonstrated their loyalty.
Maduro accused his opponents of trying to "demonize" a program intended to
address the social crisis and not assert political control.
Under Venezuela's electoral law, any
political activity must take place at least 650 feet (200 meters) from
voting centers. But most "Red Points" were just a few steps away. As in past
elections, government supporters driving around in vans with Maduro posters
could also be seen transporting voters to polling sites.
Luis Emilio Rondon, the sole opposition
voice on the electoral council, backed Falcon and Bertucci's claims of
irregularities and said he too refused to recognize the results.
National Electoral Council President
Tibisay Lucena acknowledged a handful of complaints, but insisted they were
minor compared to past elections.
"The people of Venezuela have made
their pronouncement and we ask everyone, nationally and international, to
respect the results," she said.
Voting centers appeared largely empty
in opposition areas across Venezuela and were even lackluster in government
strongholds. Turnout in the previous three presidential elections averaged
Opposition leaders said the lifeless
voting centers were evidence that Venezuelans heeded their call to abstain
from voting in an election they contended was certain to be rigged in
"This was a farce by a dictator that
wants to stay in power without popular support," said lawmaker Juan Pablo
Guanipa, speaking on behalf of the newly created Broad Front coalition that
had been behind the stay-at-home strategy.
Opinion polls say the overwhelming
majority of Venezuelans distrust the electoral council. Turnout figures in
last year's elections for a constitutional assembly, which the opposition
also boycotted, were inflated by at least 1 million votes, according to the
company that provided technology for Venezuela's electronic voting machines
for more than a decade.
But despite the unleveled playing field
and concerns of fraud, some government critics nonetheless questioned the
wisdom of not participating in an election that looked to be its best chance
in years to defeat Chavismo.
"If you're sick and the doctor gives
you few days to live, you don't lie in bed waiting to die. You seek
treatment," said Nayra Martinez, a city employee in the wealthy Caracas
district of Chacao who decided to buck her party's call to abstain. "That's
what we need to do with our country. Venezuela is very sick and we the
people are the medicine."
Japanese and Macedonian climbers die on Mount Everest
The body of 63-year-old Macedonian Gjeorgi
Petkov is unloaded from a helicopter at Teaching Hospital in Kathmandu,
Nepal, Monday, May 21. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)
Kathmandu, Nepal (AP) — Two foreign climbers attempting to scale
Mount Everest have died on the world's highest peak, a Nepal mountaineering
official said Monday.
Members of their expedition teams
reported a Japanese climber died Monday and a Macedonian died on Sunday,
said Gyanendra Shrestha, who is stationed at Everest's base camp during the
climbing season and received the reports of the deaths.
The Japanese climber was identified as
35-year-old Nobukazu Kuriki and the Macedonian as 63-year-old Gjeorgi
Kuriki was a known mountaineer who
climbed many mountains and made several attempts on Everest. He lost most of
his fingers due to frostbite during an unsuccessful attempt in 2012.
The bodies were retrieved from the
mountain on Monday and were flown by helicopters to Kathmandu, where they
were expected to have autopsies.
It was still unclear how they died but
the Macedonian is believed to have suffered from cardiac arrest, Shrestha
Some 340 foreign climbers and their
Sherpa guides are attempting to scale Everest this month and many succeeded
in the past week during good weather. Teams have to end their attempts by
the end of this month as weather conditions deteriorate.
China launches relay satellite for far side moon landing
A Long March-4C rocket carrying a relay
satellite launches from southwest China's Xichang Satellite Launch Center,
Monday, May 21. (Cai Yang/Xinhua via AP).
Beijing (AP) — China launched a relay satellite on Monday as part of
a groundbreaking program to be the first to land a spacecraft on the far
side of the moon later this year.
The satellite, lofted into space
aboard a Long March-4C rocket, will facilitate communication between
controllers on Earth and the Chang'e 4 mission, the China National Space
Administration said on its website.
China hopes to become the first
country to soft-land a probe on the moon's far side, also known as the
dark side because it faces away from Earth and is comparatively unknown.
The satellite, named Queqiao, or
"Magpie Bridge," after an ancient Chinese folk tale, was launched from
the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the southwestern province of
Sichuan, the Space Administration said.
The launch is a "key step," but the
satellite's mission must still overcome challenges including making
multiple adjustments to its orbit, "braking" near the moon and using
lunar gravity to its advantage, project manager Zhang Lihua was quoted
as saying by the official Xinhua News Agency.
According to the administration and
website space.com, Queqiao was expected to arrive shortly at the
Earth-moon Lagrange point 2, a gravitationally stable spot located
64,000 kilometers (40,000 miles) beyond the far side of the moon.
Without such a communications relay
link, spacecraft on the far side would have to "send their signals
through the moon's rocky bulk," space.com said.
China previously landed its Jade
Rabbit rover on the moon and plans to land its Chang'e 5 probe there
next year and have it return to Earth with samples — the first time that
has been done since 1976.
China conducted its first crewed
space mission in 2003, making it only the third country after Russia and
the U.S. to do so and has put a pair of space stations into orbit.
Upcoming missions include the
launch of the 20-ton core module for the still orbiting Tiangong 2
station, along with specialized components for a 60-ton station that is
due to come online in 2022 and a Mars rover planned for the mid 2020s.
However, the failure of China's
Long March 5 rocket last year was seen as dealing a rare setback to the
highly successful space program, delaying some missions and offering
rival India a chance to move ahead in the space rankings.