Macedonia parliament votes in Social Democrat Zaev as PM

Macedonia’s parliament voted in Social Democrat leader Zoran Zaev as prime minister late Wednesday, in a first step towards ending the country’s two-year political crisis.The 42-year old Zaev, an economist by training, won the support of 62 lawmakers i…

Macedonia's parliament voted in Social Democrat leader Zoran Zaev as prime minister late Wednesday, in a first step towards ending the country's two-year political crisis.

The 42-year old Zaev, an economist by training, won the support of 62 lawmakers in the 120-seat parliament, obtaining votes from MPs of his SDSM party and the main ethnic Albanian parties.

"I conclude that the parliament voted in the government of Macedonia," parliamentary speaker Talat Xhaferi said after the vote.

The parliamentary vote came six months after a snap general election in December.

The country of around two million people, which aspires to join both the European Union and NATO, has been mired in a deep political crisis for two years since a huge wiretapping scandal erupted.

Nikola Gruevski, who leads the rival conservative VMRO-DPMNE party, stepped down last year after a decade as premier ahead of the early election, which was called in a bid to end the turmoil.

Although his party narrowly won the most seats in the December vote, Gruevski was unable to strike a deal with kingmaking Albanian groups.

Zaev's social democrat SDSM party then won their support.

The Albanian parties, who have eight out of the 25 ministers in the new government, have demanded that Albanian be made an official language throughout Macedonia as the ethnic group makes a quarter of the country's population.

Highlighting the key demand of the minority's parties in joining the government, parliamentary speaker Talat Xhaferi opened the session on Tuesday in Albanian.

However, Xhaferi -- an ethnic Albanian who also served as defence minister in Gruevski's government -- quickly switched to Macedonian "until a new language law is adopted."

"We are pledging to enable an adequate implementation of all languages," Zaev said in his address to lawmakers.

The issue sparked protests by nationalists and initially prompted conservative President Gjorge Ivanov to refuse to task Zaev with forming a new government.

Under strong international pressure following violence that broke out in the parliament last month, Ivanov eventually agreed to do so.

Zaev vowed to relaunch the process of country's accession to the European Union and NATO, blocked by his predecessor.

"Our goal is EU and NATO membership, in the shortest possible time," Zaev told the parliament as he presented the program of his cabinet.

Under Gruevski, Macedonia drifted away from its proclaimed goal to join the two blocs, in particular since 2008, when Greece vetoed its NATO membership due to a long-lasting row over the country's name.

Athens says the country should not call itself Macedonia as Greece's northern province bears the same name.

The Balkan nation plunged into crisis in 2015 after Zaev, who has repeatedly locked horns with Gruevski, released tapes that appeared to show official and widespread wiretapping and top-level corruption by the then government.

Russia expels Estonian, Moldovan diplomats as part of ‘retaliatory measure’

Preview Russia’s Foreign Ministry has ordered two Estonian and five Moldovan diplomats to leave the country in response to what it called the “unfriendly actions” of the Estonian and Moldovan governments, which earlier expelled Russian diplomats.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview Russia’s Foreign Ministry has ordered two Estonian and five Moldovan diplomats to leave the country in response to what it called the “unfriendly actions” of the Estonian and Moldovan governments, which earlier expelled Russian diplomats.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Study highlights high death risk for Africa twins

One in five children born with a twin sibling in sub-Saharan Africa dies before the age of five — three times the rate among singletons, said a study Thursday. Almost two-thirds die in the first month of life — often succumbing to the after-effects o…

One in five children born with a twin sibling in sub-Saharan Africa dies before the age of five -- three times the rate among singletons, said a study Thursday.

Almost two-thirds die in the first month of life -- often succumbing to the after-effects of a difficult birth or entering the world too early or underweight, according to research published in The Lancet medical journal.

And while rates of under-five deaths in the sub-Saharan African region have declined over two decades, the improvement has been much slower for twins than for single-borns.

"Twins account for 10.7 percent of all under-five deaths and 15.1 percent of neonatal (newborn) deaths in the region and these percentages are increasing," the study said.

"The total number of twins dying before five years of age is estimated at about 315,000 per year."

The researchers used data on 1.69 million children born in 30 sub-Saharan African countries between 1995 and 2014.

They included 56,597 twins.

Under-five mortality of single-borns in the region halved over the period, but declined by about a third for twins, the researchers found.

The trend is not unique -- twins globally are two to five times less likely than singletons to make it to the age of five, depending on where they are born, the researchers said.

Twin births are much more common in sub-Saharan Africa than anywhere else in the world, with about three or four percent of children belonging to a twin pair, the researchers said.

But pregnant women in the region are also much less likely to receive antenatal care or deliver their offspring in a medical setting.

"What needs to be done is prioritising early diagnosis of twin pregnancies and increasing facilities for women with twins to give birth in a hospital," study co-author Christiaan Monden of the University of Oxford told AFP.

"Obviously to achieve the latter there are financial as well as cultural challenges."

The true rate of twin deaths is likely to be even higher than in the study, the authors noted. When a twin is stillborn, its sibling is commonly registered as a singleton birth, which could skew the global picture.

Aquarium art brings climate debate to NY Times Square

Performance art in a giant water tank is bringing climate science to New York’s Times Square as Donald Trump has the world guessing on whether the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord.The transparent aquarium, in which performers s…

Performance art in a giant water tank is bringing climate science to New York's Times Square as Donald Trump has the world guessing on whether the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord.

The transparent aquarium, in which performers somersault, dive and react as the tank rapidly fills, empties and re-fills with water, cost upwards of $750,000 and is the brain child of an artist wanting to raise awareness about climate change.

The 12-ton glass unit will periodically flood and drain from Thursday to Saturday as part of the World Science Festival, as a rotating cast of performers respond creatively to the changing levels of water.

The "Holoscenes" installation has already exhibited in London, Miami, Sarasota and Toronto, but its creator said Times Square -- "the most famous public space in the world" -- was the perfect setting.

"I wanted to actually move 3,500 gallons of water very fast with a human body in the midst of it, because I think that makes people feel something in their gut," said Lars Jan, artistic director of the Early Morning Opera performance and art lab.

With nearly 450,000 people a day estimated to pass through Times Square, the beating heart of Manhattan crammed with advertising boards next to New York's famed theater district, the organizers are hoping for a big response.

"Climate is the focus of our footprint here this year," said Brian Greene, co-founder of the World Science Festival, celebrating its 10th anniversary and designed to change public perception of science.

US media reports saying that Trump intends to pull the United States out of the Paris Accord are "very disturbing," Greene said.

"Science is something that should unite the world," he said. "And for people to not feel connected to these vital ideas, that is disastrous for the future," he added.

Jan said he was inspired by images of flooding from around the world and paid tribute to hydraulic engineers, performers, designers, artists and scientists who had collaborated for years on the project.

"I think it's short-sighted to think too much about the Trump administration," he told reporters.

"On whatever side of the political aisle you happen to be on, we need to think about changing fundamentally our habits in order to adapt to the realities of climate science. So I hope this is a small part in that conversation," he said.

The festival also features an interactive dance floor in Times Square that translates human movement into electrical power, lighting up a monitor depending on how much energy the dancers put into their performance.

Owner of Paris café convicted for selling CCTV video of terrorist attack to Daily Mail

Preview The proprietor of the Casa Nostra restaurant in Paris has been fined and ordered to pay compensation to five victims featured in a CCTV video he sold without consent of the café being shot at in November 2015 during the terror attacks that killed 130.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview The proprietor of the Casa Nostra restaurant in Paris has been fined and ordered to pay compensation to five victims featured in a CCTV video he sold without consent of the café being shot at in November 2015 during the terror attacks that killed 130.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Europol using everyday objects to trace child sex abusers

A particular shampoo brand, a magazine cover, a shopping bag or even a wallpaper pattern are among the clues Europol posted online Thursday, hoping they may help trace child sex abusers and their victims.Europe’s police agency launched a new website th…

A particular shampoo brand, a magazine cover, a shopping bag or even a wallpaper pattern are among the clues Europol posted online Thursday, hoping they may help trace child sex abusers and their victims.

Europe's police agency launched a new website that shows everyday objects spotted in the background of child sex abuse images, which they hope will help police around the world to crack the case, leading them to victims and to the arrest of perpetrators.

The 20 images on the site, called "Stop Child Abuse - Trace an Object" feature "mundane objects... which can sometimes end up being a key lead in an investigation, resulting in the victims' identification and rescue," said Steven Wilson, chief of Europol's EC3 Cybercrime centre.

Europol unveiled the images at its fortress-like headquarters in The Hague on Thursday, where Wilson asked for help from the public to identify the items on the site.

There are even distinctive markings on a victim's clothes -- such as a kitten or a unicorn -- or a picture of a snow-filled field with homes in the background, believed to have been taken by one victim.

"We're looking to identify particular parts, particular items in there that may be unique to a particular region in the world, a particular country or even a particular town or village," Wilson told AFP.

"From that we can then work very closely with other law enforcement authorities and actually identify the people responsible for this."

The website found at www.europol.europa.eu/stopchildabuse is designed to enable anonymous tip-offs, Wilson said.

"Once the origin of an object is identified, Europol will work with the relevant police forces in a country and hopefully that will lead to the identification of the victim and the arrest of the offender," he said.

Europol last year warned that online child pornography including the live-streaming of child sexual abuse was on the rise.

In the Netherlands, a newspaper report said Wednesday that Dutch police were for the first time describing child pornography as a "national threat."

Criminals and paedophile networks often use the "Dark Web" and the Tor encryption system to mask their identities and distribute child sex abuse images online.

"This project seeks to use the global reach of the internet to allow the public to contribute to this investigation and play a real part to prevent global child abuse," Europol chief Rob Wainwright said.

Pieces of eight as little Italy crush San Marino

AC Milan striker Gianluca Lapadula starred with a hat-trick as a second-string Italy crushed friendly opponents San Marino 8-0 at Empoli’s Castellani stadium on Wednesday.The Champions League final between Juventus and Real Madrid on Saturday may have …

AC Milan striker Gianluca Lapadula starred with a hat-trick as a second-string Italy crushed friendly opponents San Marino 8-0 at Empoli's Castellani stadium on Wednesday.

The Champions League final between Juventus and Real Madrid on Saturday may have limited Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura's selection choices, but the Italy boss had intended to use this friendly to gauge potential recruits for the 2022 World Cup.

And the 'Azzurini', or baby Italians, seized the day to come close to equalling Italy's all-time highest victory -- a 9-0 win over the United States in 1948.

San Marino are ranked 204th in the world, and the second worst in Europe behind Gibraltar.

But even Ventura couldn't fail to be impressed by a slick performance that was too fast for San Marino, whose desperate defence was powerless as Italy struck quickly and clinically.

Goalkeeper Simone Scuffet, Atalanta defender Andrea Conti, Sassuolo forward Domenico Berardi and 19-year-old Fiorentina forward Federico Chiesa -- 21 years and two days after his father Enrico -- were among the players making their Italy debut.

But Lapadula stood out, heading a great Conti cross past goalkeeper Elia Benedettini on 10 minutes before grabbing his second from a great move with Berardi to give Italy a 4-0 half-time lead following goals in between by Crotone centre-back Gianmarco Ferrari and Atalanta's Andrea Petagna.

Ventura made four changes for the second half, and the fresh legs had the desired effect as Italy found the net twice in the opening five minutes after the restart.

When Conti's smart ball in behind the defence found Atalanta forward Mattia Caldara unmarked, he made no mistake to fire inside Benedettini's near post.

Lapadula sealed his hat-trick with a well-taken lob from the edge of the area on 50 minutes.

Thirteen minutes after his arrival, Sassuolo forward Politano beat the keeper with a great curling lob from the right side of the area.

San Marino's woes continued when Giovanni Bonini, minutes after coming on, scored an own goal on 65 minutes.

Skipper Warburton to start in Lions opener

The British and Irish Lions have thrown captain Sam Warburton straight into the fray as they look to make a winning start to their tour of New Zealand.Warburton, who is returning from a knee injury that sidelined him in April, will lead a powerful line…

The British and Irish Lions have thrown captain Sam Warburton straight into the fray as they look to make a winning start to their tour of New Zealand.

Warburton, who is returning from a knee injury that sidelined him in April, will lead a powerful line-up against a Provincial Barbarians XV in Whangarei on Saturday.

The 28-year-old Welsh flanker will start alongside three national captains -- Wales' Alun Wyn Jones, Ireland's Rory Best and Scotland's Greig Laidlaw.

Ireland fly-half Johnny Sexton will also bring a wealth of experience as the Lions face a Barbarians team widely regarded as their weakest opponent on the 10-match tour.

Coach Warren Gatland said he was looking at his veterans to provide leadership in a team that combined youth and experience.

Gatland said he was "excited and bit apprehensive" about the much-anticipated tour kicking off in the first visit since 2005 by the composite team of players from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

"It's a great opportunity to lay down a marker in terms of hopefully getting the tour off to a good start," said the New Zealander, who won 17 caps for the All Blacks.

The starting XV includes five players from England, four from Wales and three each from Ireland and Scotland.

Gatland said he was looking forward to seeing Sexton and Laidlaw combine in the backline and was pleased to have Warburton return for the opening match.

"The balance of the squad is really good, we have selected the majority of players who were together for the training weeks in Wales and Ireland and they have worked together and prepared well for a number of weeks," he said.

Gatland said he hoped to give the majority of his 41-man squad a run in the opening two matches, the second of which is against the Auckland Blues next Wednesday.

Gatland's son Bryn, 22, is expected to start at inside centre for the Barbarians and could also turn out for the Blues next week.

Former hooker Gatland, who coached the Lions to a Test series win over Australia in 2013, said his son's appearance was "awesome" and the pair enjoyed some banter ahead of the Barbarians match.

"I said 'perhaps you could give me all your calls and moves' and he said 'as long as you let me run through a big hole in the first few minutes'," Gatland told reporters after arriving Wednesday.

Lions team (15-1)

Stuart Hogg (Glasgow, Scotland); Anthony Watson (Bath, England), Jonathan Joseph (Bath, England), Ben T'eo (Worcester, England), Tommy Seymour (Glasgow, Scotland); Johnny Sexton (Leinster, Ireland), Greig Laidlaw (Gloucester, Scotland); Taulupe Faletau (Bath, Wales), Sam Warburton (c)(Cardiff, Wales), Ross Moriarty (Gloucester, Wales); Iain Henderson (Ulster, Ireland), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys, Wales); Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins, England), Rory Best (Ulster, Ireland), Joe Marler (Harlequins, England)

Replacements: Jamie George (Saracens, England), Mako Vunipola (Saracens, England), Tadhg Furlong (Leinster, Ireland), George Kruis (Saracens, England), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys, Wales), Rhys Webb (Ospreys, Wales), Owen Farrel (Saracens, England), Jared Payne (Ulster, England)

It’s a girl! Venus lets Serena baby secret slip

Serena Williams will be the mother of a baby girl, if sister Venus is to be believed after she appeared to let the secret slip on Wednesday.Venus, playing at the French Open in Paris, told a TV interviewer: “She’s going to call me her favourite aunt.””…

Serena Williams will be the mother of a baby girl, if sister Venus is to be believed after she appeared to let the secret slip on Wednesday.

Venus, playing at the French Open in Paris, told a TV interviewer: "She's going to call me her favourite aunt."

"We all like 'baby V, baby Lyn, baby Isha'. We all want the baby to be named after us," the 36-year-old told Eurosport.

Serena, who revealed she was pregnant in April, has refused to discuss the sex of the baby she is expecting with fiance, Alex Ohanian, the founder of Reddit.

She was at Roland Garros on Wednesday watching her older sister defeat Kurumi Nara in the second round on the showpiece Philippe Chatrier court.

With or without Trump, US businesses moving on climate

President Donald Trump may be dragging out his decision on whether to ditch the Paris climate agreement, but major American corporations have not waited for a government signal to start cutting their carbon emissions.Before Trump had even raised the po…

President Donald Trump may be dragging out his decision on whether to ditch the Paris climate agreement, but major American corporations have not waited for a government signal to start cutting their carbon emissions.

Before Trump had even raised the possibility of scrapping US involvement in the landmark 2015 treaty, Coca-Cola and the engineering giant General Electric already had pledged to reduce their carbon footprints by 25 percent and 20 percent, respectively, by 2020.

Apple meanwhile boasts of running its US operations on 100 percent renewable energy.

"We believe climate change is real and the science is well accepted," GE's CEO Jeff Immelt said last month, offering a stark contrast to an administration that features prominent climate change deniers.

Agribusiness giant Monsanto told AFP it was "committed" to helping "farmers adapt to and mitigate climate change."

Even energy-sector heavyweights -- those who seemingly have the most to lose from tougher environmental rules -- are joining the trend started by the Paris Agreement, which aims to keep global warming "well below" two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

Oil giant Chevron "supports continuing with the Paris Agreement as it offers a first step towards a global framework," spokeswoman Melissa Ritchie said.

Rival ExxonMobil recently implored the White House not to exit the climate treaty in order to respond effectively to climate "risks."

- Shifting attitudes -

Just a few years ago, the US business world was using all its weight to impede climate talks, notably leading to the collapse of a 2009 summit in Copenhagen.

But many companies now find their image at stake in the United States, where opinion polls indicate the public are concerned by global warming and want to remain in the Paris agreement.

While growing environmental awareness has played a role, corporate America's conversion is not solely the result of do-gooder impulses.

"The companies are increasing their commitments in the climate area irrespective of (Trump's) decision, because it saves them money, it reduces their risks and most importantly, it's a massive market opportunity," said Kevin Moss of the World Resources Institute.

The bottom line has indeed shifted for businesses. Major investors are exiting fossil fuels and companies are facing increasing pressure to adapt their growth models to a world without carbon.

"Our customers, partners and countries are demanding technology that generates power while reducing emissions, improving energy efficiency and reducing cost," said GE's Immelt.

Oil prices have fallen through the floor in recent years, with a barrel of benchmark crude hovering around $50, down from more than $80 a decade ago. As a result, investing in the sector is much less profitable.

As a sign of the times, Exxon shareholders on Wednesday voted to force the company to factor in tougher climate policies on emissions and disclose how they may affect company revenues.

- Structural changes -

Trump also has pledged to revive the coal industry but given the boom in natural gas, which produces 50 percent less carbon dioxide and is far cheaper than coal, most experts say that will be difficult to accomplish on a large scale.

Still, fracking, or hydraulic fracturing -- a principal means of natural gas extraction -- also faces stiff criticism for its environmental impacts.

The costs of renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, also have come down sharply, thanks in part to investment and public subsidies that have made the sector more attractive.

Melissa McHenry, a spokeswoman for the major US generator American Electric Power, said her company had diversified into renewables and was investing "in renewable generation and other innovations that increase efficiency and reduce emissions."

Lynn Good, head of Duke Energy, told The Wall Street Journal that "because of the competitive price of natural gas and the declining price of renewables, continuing to drive carbon out makes sense for us."

There is still skepticism in certain quarters, particularly on the costs of climate policies.

The American Petroleum Institute, an industry body representing 625 businesses, is wary of "government mandates that could increase energy costs," according to spokesman Eric Wohlschlegel.

But Moss of the World Resources Institute said withdrawal from the Paris accord will not stop the momentum, and companies will continue down their current path "even without it, because everybody else is doing it."

"The only countries we'll be in the company of if we pull out are Syria and Nicaragua," he said.

Mystery over football star Garrincha’s remains grips Brazil

Mane Garrincha, the Brazilian football genius renowned for leaving defenders in confusion, is now baffling his many fans from beyond the grave with the ultimate mystery: where are his bones?The question, three decades after he was buried in 1983 at the…

Mane Garrincha, the Brazilian football genius renowned for leaving defenders in confusion, is now baffling his many fans from beyond the grave with the ultimate mystery: where are his bones?

The question, three decades after he was buried in 1983 at the age of 49, was revealed in Brazilian media Wednesday.

Turns out that while the graveyard in Mage, north of Rio de Janeiro, is known, the location of the 1958 and 1962 World Cup winner's remains is not.

Globo newspaper reported that there are two tombs marked with his name, about 200 meters apart. However, he may or may not be in either one.

"From what people have found out, it's not certain that he's buried. We have information that the body was exhumed and taken to a wall vault, but there is no documentation to prove this," Globo quoted cemetery administrator Priscila Liberio as saying.

Rosangela Santos, one of Garrincha's daughters, told UOL news site that the supposed exhumation took place some years ago without the family's permission.

"We have no document. We don't know what happened to him," Santos said. "It's indecent to think that someone did this and did not inform anyone."

The bizarre mystery only came to light, Brazilian reports said, because the local mayor, Rafael Tubarao, had been preparing an event to mark Garrincha's birthday this October, when he would have been 84.

Garrincha was one of Brazil's most unusual and loved players, a rival with Pele for title of the country's greatest of all time.

Born with disfigured legs, his career as an athlete looked improbable, yet he turned into an unpredictable and supremely mobile dribbler, credited during the 1962 World Cup in Chile with masterminding the Brazilian team's victory.

His personal life, including serial marital problems and multiple children born out of wedlock, veered from colorful to tragic as health problems and a liking for alcohol took over, dooming him to an early death.

He was born Manuel Francisco dos Santos but known to all by his childhood nickname Garrincha, which is Portuguese for "wren."

Ohio sues five drugmakers over role in opioid crisis

The US state of Ohio on Wednesday sued five major producers of prescription opioid medications, accusing them of lying about the deadly risks the painkillers — at the center of a nationwide addiction crisis — posed to public health.

The suit seeks to hold the companies accountable for harm to patients by blocking the drugs’ allegedly deceptive marketing, as well as awarding compensation for the state and for consumers.

Prescription opioid overdoses have hit record levels in the United States, killing more than 15,000 people in 2015 alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. West Virginia has also targeted drugmakers over the crisis.

In a statement, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said the drugmakers had knowingly caused patients to become addicted, with many addicts then switching to heroin and other drugs.

“These drug manufacturers led prescribers to believe that opioids were not addictive, that addiction was an easy thing to overcome, or that addiction could actually be treated by taking even more opioids,” DeWine said.

“They knew they were wrong but they did it anyway.”

State officials say parts of Ohio are believed to be the hardest hit in the nation by the current opioid addiction crisis, with 2.3 million patients, or about 20 percent of the population, having been prescribed an opioid drug last year.

The suit names Purdue Pharma, which markets drugs such as OxyContin and Dilaudid, Johnson & Johnson, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Endo Health Solutions and Allergan.

The US state of Ohio on Wednesday sued five major producers of prescription opioid medications, accusing them of lying about the deadly risks the painkillers -- at the center of a nationwide addiction crisis -- posed to public health.

The suit seeks to hold the companies accountable for harm to patients by blocking the drugs' allegedly deceptive marketing, as well as awarding compensation for the state and for consumers.

Prescription opioid overdoses have hit record levels in the United States, killing more than 15,000 people in 2015 alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. West Virginia has also targeted drugmakers over the crisis.

In a statement, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said the drugmakers had knowingly caused patients to become addicted, with many addicts then switching to heroin and other drugs.

"These drug manufacturers led prescribers to believe that opioids were not addictive, that addiction was an easy thing to overcome, or that addiction could actually be treated by taking even more opioids," DeWine said.

"They knew they were wrong but they did it anyway."

State officials say parts of Ohio are believed to be the hardest hit in the nation by the current opioid addiction crisis, with 2.3 million patients, or about 20 percent of the population, having been prescribed an opioid drug last year.

The suit names Purdue Pharma, which markets drugs such as OxyContin and Dilaudid, Johnson & Johnson, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Endo Health Solutions and Allergan.

Cyprus rival leaders agree to meet UN chief in New York

Rival Cypriot leaders are to meet UN chief Antonio Guterres in New York at the weekend in a bid to resolve a deadlock in Cyprus reunification talks, officials said Wednesday.”The secretary general today invited Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci and…

Rival Cypriot leaders are to meet UN chief Antonio Guterres in New York at the weekend in a bid to resolve a deadlock in Cyprus reunification talks, officials said Wednesday.

"The secretary general today invited Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci and Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades to New York for a joint meeting," said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN chief.

Dujarric, in a statement on his website, said: "Both leaders have accepted his invitation. The secretary general looks forward to welcoming the leaders, together with his special adviser on Cyprus, Espen Barth Eide," on June 4.

A UN drive to hold a crunch Cyprus peace conference in Geneva collapsed last week, leaving the future of two years of talks on reunifying the island in limbo.

Eide has since travelled to Athens and Ankara to try to rescue the peace process.

It was agreed that talks on Cyprus could go no further and only an international conference involving the three guarantors of the island's sovereignty -- Britain, Greece and Turkey -- could achieve real progress.

A previous conference involving the guarantor powers in Geneva in January failed to agree on a post-peace security strategy.

The UN-backed talks seek to reunite Cyprus under a federal roof.

Anastasiades and Akinci remain at loggerheads over core issues such as power sharing, territorial adjustments, security arrangements and property rights.

Anastasiades, who heads the island's internationally recognised government, faces re-election in February, a factor complicating the talks process.

The government's drive to explore for offshore oil and gas has also clouded the negotiations, with Ankara calling for it to be halted until a settlement has been reached.

The two sides have been engaged in fragile peace talks since May 2015 that observers see as the best chance in years to reunify the island.

Much of the progress until now has been based on the strong personal rapport between Anastasiades and Akinci, leader of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

But in recent months there has been a negative climate of blame and mistrust.

The eastern Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded its northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece.

After a UN reunification blueprint was rejected by Greek Cypriots in a 2004 referendum, Cyprus joined the EU still a divided island, with the breakaway north recognised only by Turkey.

No wind, no racing in America’s Cup qualifiers

Light winds postponed Wednesday’s four scheduled races in the second round-robin phase of America’s Cup qualifying on Bermuda’s Great Sound.After waiting in vain for two hours for winds to pick up, organizers said the day’s program would be pushed to T…

Light winds postponed Wednesday's four scheduled races in the second round-robin phase of America's Cup qualifying on Bermuda's Great Sound.

After waiting in vain for two hours for winds to pick up, organizers said the day's program would be pushed to Thursday, which was originally scheduled as a day off.

Winds between six and 24 knots are required to race, under the rules of the 35th America's Cup.

"America's Cup Race Management have now confirmed that unfortunately wind is too light to allow for racing today," the event posted on its website.

"Good news is that we have a spare race day on the schedule tomorrow for exactly this reason, and Races 4-7 will now shift to Thurs 1st June."

First up on Thursday will be Groupama Team France against SoftBank Team Japan.

There are also key duels between Britain's Land Rover BAR and Emirates Team New Zealand, and Britain v France.

Ben Ainslie's BAR lost to both New Zealand and France in the first round-robin as they dropped four in a row before a victory over Sweden's Artemis Racing on Tuesday.

Thursday will also see Oracle Team USA, the two-time defending champions, taking on Japan.

In the first America's Cup qualifying competition to see the holders take part, Team USA top the standings with six points.

If they finish the round-robin in front, they will take a bonus point into the championship match.

One of the five prospective challengers will be eliminated at the end of the round robin, with the other four advancing to semi-finals and a final for the right to take on the United States for the coveted Cup.

Team New Zealand are in second place in the standings with five points. BAR -- boosted by the two bonus points they brought in from the America's Cup World Series -- are in third place on four points, while Sweden, Japan and France are all tied on two points.

Wednesday's postponement was the second of the event. The scheduled opening day was postponed 24 hours because of near gale-force winds that precluded racing.

PSG look to dethrone Lyon in women’s Champions League final

Two days before Real Madrid and Juventus clash in the Champions League final, the women’s showpiece will be played in Cardiff on Thursday with holders Lyon taking on French rivals Paris Saint-Germain.The match, to be played at the Cardiff City Stadium,…

Two days before Real Madrid and Juventus clash in the Champions League final, the women's showpiece will be played in Cardiff on Thursday with holders Lyon taking on French rivals Paris Saint-Germain.

The match, to be played at the Cardiff City Stadium, across the Welsh capital from the Principality Stadium where the men will lock horns, will feature a host of leading female players led by US superstar Alex Morgan.

But there will be nothing like the same level of global interest, with the women's game as a whole still lacking anything like the same profile, even with much increased investment and interest in recent years.

On the eve of the final, Lyon coach Gerard Precheur was left fuming after traffic jams meant his pre-game press conference was late in starting.

"Would that have happened with the boys? I don't think so," he raged.

"We had problems with the UEFA shuttle, which was an hour late. We waited 45 minutes in the hotel lobby when we have work to do.

"We don't have the time to waste when we are professionals."

Lyon, who signed World Cup winner and former Olympic champion Morgan earlier this season, are appearing in the final for the sixth time in a competition that was inaugurated in 2001, and they have won it three times so far.

Last year they beat Wolfsburg on penalties in a final played in Italy, and a successful title defence will see them equal FFC Frankfurt's record of four titles.

"We can win two consecutive trebles. No one has ever done that, that is great motivation," said Precheur, who will step down after the game to be replaced by former France midfielder Reynald Pedros.

Lyon have utterly dominated at home in recent years and are fresh from winning an 11th consecutive French title and a sixth straight French Cup.

Their only league defeat came against PSG in December but they won 3-0 when the sides met in the league three weeks ago and triumphed on penalties in the French Cup final.

"Lyon are favourites, because they are the best team in the world," said PSG's Spanish star Vero Boquete.

"Over the course of a season, it is practically impossible to beat them. But we know it is possible, because we have done it."

Lyon beat Manchester City in the semi-finals to secure a berth in the final.

PSG have emerged as a force in the women's game under the club's Qatari owners and boast stars like Brazil's Cristiane and Costa Rican midfielder Shirley Cruz.

They lost the 2015 final but are hoping to go one step further this time after ousting Bayern Munich in the last eight and Barcelona in the semis.

Their coach Patrice Lair has already won the trophy with Lyon and admitted he is now dreaming of becoming the first person to coach PSG to a Champions League crown.

Nobody at the club needs reminding of the men's miserable defeat to Barcelona in the last 16 this season.

LA Olympics officials deny 2028 deal, say ‘focused’ on 2024

Los Angeles Olympic bid officials insisted on Wednesday they remain focused on 2024, despite a Wall Street Journal report of a looming deal that would see them host the 2028 Games with Paris given 2024.”While the IOC is reviewing its bid process, we re…

Los Angeles Olympic bid officials insisted on Wednesday they remain focused on 2024, despite a Wall Street Journal report of a looming deal that would see them host the 2028 Games with Paris given 2024.

"While the IOC is reviewing its bid process, we remain focused on the 2024 Games," LA 2024 said in a statement. "We're honored that Los Angeles is a 2024 Candidate City at this important time for the Olympic and Paralympic Movements, and we look forward to collaborating with the IOC in the months ahead."

The Wall Street Journal reported that the International Olympic Committee "is progressing toward an agreement that would give Paris the Summer Olympics in 2024 and Los Angeles the event four years later".

The newspaper, citing "people familiar with the matter", said details still had to be worked out but wrote that top officials with each bid "are conceptually lining up behind the plan".

The IOC executive board is scheduled to meet in Lausanne, Switzerland, in June to discuss whether it would be feasible to award both the 2024 and 2028 Summer Olympics when it meets in Lima in September.

Paris and Los Angeles have emerged as the finalists in the race to host the 2024 Games, with the venue long scheduled to be decided at the IOC's Lima meeting in September.

A Summer Olympics in Paris in 2024 would come on the 100th anniversary of the 1924 Paris Games. Los Angeles last hosted the sporting extravaganza in 1984.

According to the Wall Street Journal, IOC president Thomas Bach backs the idea of selecting both hosts simultaneously.

"According to the people involved, the tide toward a 24/28 deal - as it has become known to Olympic insiders - gained momentum in recent months after Mr. Bach held separate private conversations with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and USOC chairman Larry Probst, who has become an influential IOC member over the past four years," the newspaper said.

A deal giving Paris the 2024 Games and Los Angeles the 2028 event would be contingent on "Los Angeles and the US Olympic Committee securing enough incentives that waiting an additional four years for the Games remains financially viable and beneficial to the city," sources told the newspaper.

Serbia’s new president calls for ‘dialogue’ over Kosovo

Serbia’s Aleksandar Vucic, who was sworn in as the country’s president on Wednesday, wants to open a debate over the future of Kosovo, the breakaway province whose independence Belgrade has refused to recognise.”I will preserve Serbia’s integrity but I…

Serbia's Aleksandar Vucic, who was sworn in as the country's president on Wednesday, wants to open a debate over the future of Kosovo, the breakaway province whose independence Belgrade has refused to recognise.

"I will preserve Serbia's integrity but I will always accept talks with Kosovo Albanians," Vucic told lawmakers after taking his oath of office in parliament.

"I want that we open an internal dialogue over Kosovo... without prejudices, while respecting our constitution" which says Kosovo is part of Serbia, he said, adding that Serbia "should get rid of a mythic approach towards Kosovo."

Many Serbs consider Kosovo the cradle of their country's history, religion and culture.

Its independence was declared a decade after the 1998-1999 war between ethnic Albanian Kosovo rebels and Serbian armed forces, a conflict that claimed 13,000 lives, of which 10,000 were ethnic Albanians.

The Serbian forces, led by Slobodan Milosevic, were eventually ousted from the breakaway territory after a three-month NATO bombing campaign.

But 100,000 to 150,000 Serbs remained in Kosovo, mainly in the northern region of Mitrovica, under supervision of NATO-led troops.

Vucic, a former hardline nationalist, won the presidential election in April with a pledge to pursue Serbia's bid for EU membership, while maintaining ties with Russia.

Kosovo is also hoping to join the EU, and both sides agreed in 2011 to open talks aimed at normalising ties, under the auspices of the European Union.

"There should be no doubt into the European path to which we are dedicated," Vucic said.

Kosovo's independence has been recognised by over 110 countries, but not by Russia nor by five EU members: Greece, Spain, Cyprus, Slovakia and Romania.

Macron vows to renegotiate sale of French shipyard

French President Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday that his government would seek to renegotiate the sale of the STX France shipyard to Italy’s Fincantieri, in order to “guarantee job preservation” at the site.Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire will negotiat…

French President Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday that his government would seek to renegotiate the sale of the STX France shipyard to Italy's Fincantieri, in order to "guarantee job preservation" at the site.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire will negotiate "a new shareholding structure" for the sale "in the coming weeks", Macron said during a visit to the Saint-Nazaire shipyard, the last gem in France's once-thriving shipbuilding industry.

The government of former president Francois Hollande approved the sale in April, and in May Fincantieri paid 79.5 million euros ($89 million) to buy a 67 percent stake in the company from its current owner, South Korea's STX Shipbuilding,

France would keep its minority 33 percent stake, and Fincantieri has agreed to reduce its stake to 48 percent by selling shares to an Italian investment consortium, while France's state-controlled naval shipbuilder DCNS would take 12 percent.

Fincantieri was the only company to lodge a bid, and has pledged to maintain jobs and activity at the site, which employs 2,600 people and supports a further 5,000 subcontracting jobs.

But labour unions and local officials contested the plan, saying Fincantieri would have de facto control and could steer contracts to its Italian shipyards.

Macron said he wanted a new deal that would "consolidate the industrial project and guarantee long-term jobs, because in no case should one site be favoured over another because of the shareholders."

French daily Le Monde reported that the government wants to exclude the Italian consortium from the deal, selling a stake instead to Swiss-Italian MSC Cruises and the US cruise giant Royal Caribbean, two of the shipyard's main clients.

The move would prevent Fincantieri from having majority control, the report said.

Pilot error likely to blame for Tu-154 Sochi crash – official commission

The captain of the Tu-154 military plane headed for Syria that crashed near Sochi last December probably lost his bearings and caused the accident that killed 92 people, the official investigative commission has concluded. Read Full Artic…

Preview The captain of the Tu-154 military plane headed for Syria that crashed near Sochi last December probably lost his bearings and caused the accident that killed 92 people, the official investigative commission has concluded.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Fears US set to pull out of Paris climate deal

There’s been no announcement, but White House officials say the decision has all but been made: that the US president will pull his country out of the international agreement to combat climate change.

There's been no announcement, but White House officials say the decision has all but been made:
that the US president will pull his country out of the international agreement to combat climate change.

Macron stands by cabinet ally Ferrand as ethics row rages on

With critical legislative elections looming in June, French president Emmanuel Macron could have done without allegations of impropriety against a close associate – and cabinet minister – splashed across newspaper front pages.

With critical legislative elections looming in June, French president Emmanuel Macron could have done without allegations of impropriety against a close associate – and cabinet minister – splashed across newspaper front pages.

Spain lawmakers approve long-delayed 2017 budget

Spain’s lower house on Wednesday approved the long-delayed 2017 national budget after Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who leads a minority government, secured the support of smaller parties in exchange for investment pledges and tax benefits.The move giv…

Spain's lower house on Wednesday approved the long-delayed 2017 national budget after Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who leads a minority government, secured the support of smaller parties in exchange for investment pledges and tax benefits.

The move gives Rajoy considerable breathing space until 2019 as even if he fails to get agreement on next year's budget the constitution allows him to simply renew the previous spending plan.

Rajoy's Popular Party (PP) has only 137 of the 350 seats in parliament, far short of a majority, but the centre-right Ciudadanos and several regional parties also backed the budget in exchange for various concessions.

Ciudadanos, for instance, managed to incorporate some four billion euros ($4.5 billion) in social spending in the budget, while the PNV Basque nationalist party demanded more rail investment and a tax reform in its northern region.

Rajoy also promised more than a billion euros in investment over three years and tax benefits to lawmakers in the Canary Islands -- one of whom only confirmed this weekend he would support the budget, giving Rajoy his much-needed majority.

The budget does not contain the spending cuts that marked years of crisis in Spain.

It plans for an increase in tax revenues compared to 2016 thanks in part to a rise in corporate tax, although business groups counter this may be too optimistic.

The text is now due to be validated mid-June by the upper house Senate, where Rajoy's PP has a majority, after which it will finally be adopted -- eight months later than usual.

Spain went through a difficult political year in 2016 as two inconclusive general elections left the country without a fully-functioning government for 10 months.

But at the end of October, Rajoy, whose PP came first in both elections but without a majority, took power again thanks to his rival Socialists who abstained in the obligatory parliamentary vote that sees a candidate through to the premiership.

But he is now ruling at the head of a minority government, a far cry from his first election victory in 2011 when the PP got an absolute majority.

Meanwhile the Socialists have re-elected their former ousted chief Pedro Sanchez as leader and he has promised to make things difficult for the PP.

Fed sees modest to moderate US growth; optimism waning

Most regions of the United States continue to see modest to moderate growth, but optimism about the economic outlook has waned, partly due to concerns over government policies, the Federal Reserve said Wednesday.Labor shortages, especially for skilled …

Most regions of the United States continue to see modest to moderate growth, but optimism about the economic outlook has waned, partly due to concerns over government policies, the Federal Reserve said Wednesday.

Labor shortages, especially for skilled workers, are forcing companies to offer more generous and flexible conditions, but so far that has not translated into worrisome wage pressures, the Fed said in its periodic survey of the economy.

The so-called beige book prepared ahead of the June 14-15 monetary policy meeting, did not seem to offer any reports from the frontlines of the economy to alter the widespread expectation the Fed will raise the benchmark lending rate in June.

The central bank raised rates in March and December, amid a wave of economic optimism in the early days of President Donald Trump's term, with his promises of tax cuts, deregulation and big infrastructure spending.

The minutes of the May 2-3 meeting, when the Fed kept the interest rate unchanged, indicated it likely would be time to hike rates again "soon." Most analysts expect two more rate increases this year, in June and again in September.

But though the minutes said central bankers would need a clear sign that the slow first quarter was only "transitory" before making another move, it is unlikely the beige book cast enough doubts to alter the expected schedule.

"A majority of districts reported that firms expressed positive near-term outlooks; however, optimism waned somewhat in a few districts," according to the report that covers early April through late May.

The Dallas Fed cited a few firms that said "they were in wait-and-see mode due to uncertainty surrounding US trade policies," a view echoed by the San Francisco Fed, which also pointed to the strong dollar as a concern for some manufacturers.

The St Louis Fed said some manufacturing firms "expressed concerns about regulatory uncertainty and the difficulty finding employees," while in the Philadelphia region, "the breadth of optimism has narrowed."

Companies and investors initially were cautiously optimistic that Trump's promises of tax cuts and reduced regulation could spur economic growth in the near term, but so far there have been few concrete policy proposals, while a series of controversies and missteps cast doubt on whether his program can be implemented quickly.

- Labor shortages -

The situation in the labor market is always central to Fed decision making, since higher wages usually translate to increased spending and rising prices, but so far there are no signs of that, according to the beige book.

In fact, there were reports that consumer spending slowed or even declined in many districts, while "pricing pressures were little changed from the prior report."

"Labor markets continued to tighten, with most Districts citing shortages across a broadening range of occupations and regions," the Fed said.

But across the country companies "noted little change to the recent trend of modest to moderate wage growth, although many firms reported offering higher wages to attract workers where shortages were most severe."

Some of the reports were surprising, including a Chicago firm that raised wages for unskilled workers by 10 percent to attract "better applicants" and improve retention.

In New York, employers were "increasingly negotiable on pay" for skilled and specialized workers, while in Atlanta and other districts firms created training and development programs to attract workers.

Even with shortages especially of engineers and technical positions, hiring continued, according to the report.

However, despite the increased hiring, "consumer spending softened in many Districts," the Fed said.

Musk to quit advisory panels if Trump withdraws from climate deal

Tesla founder and technology luminary Elon Musk said Wednesday he would quit President Donald Trump’s business advisory councils if Washington pulls out of the Paris climate accord.

Musk’s move, announced on Twitter, could deepen the rift between the tech world and the Trump administration, which have been at odds over immigration and other issues.

The comments came after media reports said Trump would withdraw from the global agreement to curb emissions. The White House did not confirm the report, and Trump himself tweeted that he would announce a decision in the “next few days.”

Musk indicated that he had been trying to persuade Trump to remain part of the climate agreement.

“Don’t know which way Paris will go, but I’ve done all I can to advise directly to POTUS, through others in WH & via councils, that we remain,” the founder of electric carmaker Tesla and the private space exploration firm SpaceX tweeted.

Asked by another Twitter user what a decision to withdraw would mean, Musk answered, “Will have no choice but to depart councils in that case.”

Musk has been among the few from tech sector to work with the Trump administration, participating in the president’s Economic Advisory Board and Manufacturing Jobs Initiative.

In February, Uber chief Travis Kalanick quit the economic panel, saying his presence had been viewed as an endorsement of the Trump administration.

Musk, who has also faced criticism for working with Trump, stated in February that his participation “does not mean that I agree with actions by the Administration.”

Tesla founder and technology luminary Elon Musk said Wednesday he would quit President Donald Trump's business advisory councils if Washington pulls out of the Paris climate accord.

Musk's move, announced on Twitter, could deepen the rift between the tech world and the Trump administration, which have been at odds over immigration and other issues.

The comments came after media reports said Trump would withdraw from the global agreement to curb emissions. The White House did not confirm the report, and Trump himself tweeted that he would announce a decision in the "next few days."

Musk indicated that he had been trying to persuade Trump to remain part of the climate agreement.

"Don't know which way Paris will go, but I've done all I can to advise directly to POTUS, through others in WH & via councils, that we remain," the founder of electric carmaker Tesla and the private space exploration firm SpaceX tweeted.

Asked by another Twitter user what a decision to withdraw would mean, Musk answered, "Will have no choice but to depart councils in that case."

Musk has been among the few from tech sector to work with the Trump administration, participating in the president's Economic Advisory Board and Manufacturing Jobs Initiative.

In February, Uber chief Travis Kalanick quit the economic panel, saying his presence had been viewed as an endorsement of the Trump administration.

Musk, who has also faced criticism for working with Trump, stated in February that his participation "does not mean that I agree with actions by the Administration."

De Gaulle grave vandal was drunk: prosecutor

A man arrested after damaging the grave of French World War II resistance leader and postwar president Charles de Gaulle has admitted to being “extremely drunk” at the time, a prosecutor said Wednesday.The motives of the man, aged in his thirties, rema…

A man arrested after damaging the grave of French World War II resistance leader and postwar president Charles de Gaulle has admitted to being "extremely drunk" at the time, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

The motives of the man, aged in his thirties, remain unclear but he "regrets his deed," prosecutor Frederic Nahon told a news conference.

The desecration of the grave in the eastern village of Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises on Saturday sparked outrage, not least because it occurred on a national day to commemorate the resistance.

The vandal, arrested on Tuesday in a nearby town, has grasped the "seriousness of his action" but otherwise said he does "not remember much", Nahon said.

Surveillance cameras filmed him stepping onto De Gaulle's modest grave, then kicking the base of a stone cross at its head, causing the cross to topple over and strike the cemetery's low wall nearby.

The cross, which stood some 1.5 metres (five feet) tall, broke into pieces, while the gravestone itself was undamaged.

The individual, who has not been named, had drunk heavily during a family meal but did not have an alcoholism problem, investigators said.

He will be tried on Friday, with descendants of De Gaulle as civil plaintiffs. The charges comprise theft, criminal damage and desecration of a grave, which carry a potential jail term of up to five years.

His girlfriend was also held as a suspected accomplice, but is unlikely to be tried, Nahon said.

The grave draws tens of thousands of visitors each year to the village of fewer than 700 inhabitants.

The main occasions are the anniversary of De Gaulle's death on November 9, 1970, and that of his call for resistance to the Nazi occupation of France on June 18, 1940.

De Gaulle led the Free French Forces in London from 1940-44 and reshaped the country's political landscape after the war, founding the Fifth Republic in 1958.

He remains a revered figure to many French people. His newly-elected successor, Emmanuel Macron, was among those who expressed their indignation.

De Gaulle died in 1970 shortly before his 80th birthday. He is buried next to his wife Yvonne and daughter Anne.

The late president and general was buried "without flowers or wreaths" at his own request.

Agony for Afghan civilians in deadly Kabul truck bombing

Anguished Afghans scoured hospitals and morgues in Kabul Wednesday, sifting through disfigured and charred bodies for missing relatives after a catastrophic truck bombing left at least 90 people dead and hundreds wounded.The bomb, hidden inside a sewag…

Anguished Afghans scoured hospitals and morgues in Kabul Wednesday, sifting through disfigured and charred bodies for missing relatives after a catastrophic truck bombing left at least 90 people dead and hundreds wounded.

The bomb, hidden inside a sewage tanker, detonated close to the presidential palace and a number of foreign embassies, but in what has become a woefully familiar pattern ordinary civilians bore the brunt of the carnage.

A young Afghan man sobbed quietly outside Kabul's Emergency Hospital as he struggled to locate his uncle and cousins.

"They were going to their work like any other day and now they are lost," he told AFP.

"I have searched in three hospitals and haven't found them. I don't know where else to look."

Some more fortunate wept and hugged blood-stained relatives after tracing them inside.

Others gathered anxiously around medical staff as they read out names of the victims. Some of the mutilated bodies, the staff announced, were unrecognisable. But many teary relatives still insisted on sifting through them for identification.

As the wounded poured into hospitals, mainly of them critical, the interior ministry issued urgent appeals for blood, drawing dozens of volunteers from across Kabul.

"My two sons are severely wounded. I saw them, they are bleeding, they are dying," said a woman, breaking down into tears.

"I can't live without them. I will die without them."

The Emergency Hospital also sustained damage, but tweeted that its staff were nevertheless treating scores of wounded patients.

The nearby Wazir Akbar Khan hospital was packed beyond capacity, with doctors forced to treat two patients on one bed, many of them critically wounded by shrapnel and shards of glass.

President Ashraf Ghani slammed the attack as a "war crime", as health officials warned that the toll could rise still further.

"Today's bombing in a crowded area of central Kabul was yet another reminder of how deadly the war has become for ordinary Afghan civilians," said Patricia Gossman, a researcher with Human Rights Watch.

"Civilian casualties have reached record levels as the Afghan conflict has intensified this past year. Attacks of this kind that deliberately or indiscriminately target civilians are war crimes."

Two Afghan media workers were among those killed in the bombing, which also caused extensive damage to 1TV, a private news channel located close to the bombing site.

But in an act of defiance, the news channel managed to resume operations within a few hours.

"We are live and on air again," tweeted 1TV's editor-in-chief Abdullah Khenjani.

"Terror can't stop us."

Schwarz takes over as Mainz head coach

Bundesliga club Mainz on Wednesday confirmed former player Sandro Schwarz as their new coach, promoting him from his job in charge of their reserve team.The 38-year-old was coaching the club’s under-23 team, which has just been relegated from Germany’s…

Bundesliga club Mainz on Wednesday confirmed former player Sandro Schwarz as their new coach, promoting him from his job in charge of their reserve team.

The 38-year-old was coaching the club's under-23 team, which has just been relegated from Germany's third division.

Schwarz made 100 appearances as a midfielder for Mainz between 1998 and 2004.

He replaces Martin Schmidt, who was sacked last week, despite having a year left on his contract, after Mainz finished 15th in the Bundesliga -- only avoiding relegation on goal difference.

"I'm really up for this," Schwarz said in his first press conference as head coach.

"I am looking forward to working with the team, bringing on the players and developing a style of football which will be successful and please the fans.

"That's the main part of my job.

"Personally, it's a very emotional step to be able to coach my Bundesliga team in my town."

Mainz have a history of putting inexperienced coaches in charge of their first team.

Thomas Tuchel, who has just left Borussia Dortmund, made his breakthrough at Mainz, and twice steered them to the Europa League in his five seasons in charge from 2009-14.

Before Tuchel, Jurgen Klopp, a former Mainz player like Schwarz, spent seven years as coach before joining Dortmund in 2008, then Liverpool in 2015.

"I played under 'Kloppo' as a player, which helped shape me," said Schwarz.

"He was a big part of developing the game here of defending from the front.

"When I was the under-19 coach here, I had some experience with Tuchel and I took a lot out of it."

Uganda probes Chinese diplomats over ivory trafficking

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has ordered an investigation into possible collusion between the country’s wildlife agency and two Chinese diplomats in the trafficking of ivory.Poaching has risen sharply in recent years across Africa, fuelled by risi…

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has ordered an investigation into possible collusion between the country's wildlife agency and two Chinese diplomats in the trafficking of ivory.

Poaching has risen sharply in recent years across Africa, fuelled by rising demand in Asia for ivory and rhino horn, coveted as a traditional medicine and a status symbol. Uganda is a major transit country for the illegal trade.

The Chinese embassy officials are suspected of colluding in the movement of ivory from the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and South Sudan, using Uganda as a transit point, a government official said.

Ali Munira, spokeswoman for the Inspectorate General of Government (IGG) ombudsman, did not name the Chinese diplomats but said the Ugandan Wildlife Authority (UWA) was under suspicion.

The Chinese embassy could not be reached for comment.

Museveni has also ordered a new probe into the theft of ivory worth more than $1-million in November 2014.

"The president's directive to the IGG is to have all these accusations investigated and if there is a prima facie case, the executive director (of the UWA) should be suspended alongside other officials," said Munira.

Five top officials were suspended from the UWA after the disappearance of the 1,335 kilogrammes (2,943 pounds) of ivory from supposedly secure stockpiles.

The outcome of the initial investigation, which involved Interpol, was never made public, although the international police network did carry out sting operations on trafficking networks throughout East Africa in 2015.

A police source involved in earlier investigations said it appeared Museveni was not pleased with the prior probe and that new intelligence showed the likely involvement of Chinese officials.

More than 35,000 elephants are killed across Africa every year for their tusks.

Paris’s Eiffel Tower to go dark for Kabul bombing victims

The lights at the Eiffel Tower will be switched off Wednesday night to honour the scores of victims from the huge truck bomb that struck Afghanistan’s capital, the Paris mayor said.”The Eiffel Tower will again go dark from midnight tonight to show Pari…

The lights at the Eiffel Tower will be switched off Wednesday night to honour the scores of victims from the huge truck bomb that struck Afghanistan's capital, the Paris mayor said.

"The Eiffel Tower will again go dark from midnight tonight to show Paris's solidarity with Kabul," Mayor Anne Hidalgo said in a Twitter post.

"After Baghdad, Kabul has been the victim of a barbaric attack. Solidarity and thoughts for the victims and their loved ones," she wrote.

The iconic monument's lights had already been turned off on Tuesday night after a series of suicide blasts in Baghdad killed at least 42 as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan got underway.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack which struck Kabul's diplomatic quarter Wednesday at rush hour, which left at least 90 people dead and hundreds more wounded.

Paris regularly dims the Eiffel Tower, an emblem of the city, to show its solidarity with victims of terror attacks.

Trump reviews option to move US embassy to Jerusalem

US President Donald Trump will decide on Thursday whether to renew a legal waiver that delays an eventual move of the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.Any decision to move the US mission from Tel Aviv to the city claimed by both Israel and the Palesti…

US President Donald Trump will decide on Thursday whether to renew a legal waiver that delays an eventual move of the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Any decision to move the US mission from Tel Aviv to the city claimed by both Israel and the Palestinians as their capital would be controversial.

Trump's administration has sent mixed signals over its intent, heightening tensions in a region where a new outbreak of unrest is rarely far away.

Congress passed a law in 1995 making it US policy to move the embassy to Jerusalem, symbolically endorsing Israel's claim on the city as its capital.

But the law contained a clause that has allowed each president since to issue and renew a six-month waiver on carrying out the move.

US officials told AFP they expect Trump to renew the waiver once again on Thursday, but none were willing to go on the record in case he changes his mind.

During his campaign for office, Trump expressed support for moving the embassy and has appointed a strong supporter of such a move as his ambassador to Israel.

But he did not renew this call -- which would anger many Palestinians and neighboring Arab states -- when he visited Jerusalem last week on his first foreign trip.

Jerusalem was divided between Israeli rule in the west and Jordanian in the east until 1967, when Israel was attacked by allied Arab armies.

Israel fought back and its victory left it in control of East Jerusalem and the wider West Bank beyond.

Israel's government is based in the city, and Israeli settlements have been built around it on occupied land.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem -- including the Old City and its sites holy to Muslims, Jews and Christians -- to become the capital of an eventual state.

As NKorea threat grows, US plans next anti-ICBM test in 2018

The US military will follow up its experimental shoot-down of an intercontinental ballistic missile by firing two interceptors simultaneously at an incoming dummy warhead in a “real world” test next year, a Pentagon official said Wednesday.The high-tec…

The US military will follow up its experimental shoot-down of an intercontinental ballistic missile by firing two interceptors simultaneously at an incoming dummy warhead in a "real world" test next year, a Pentagon official said Wednesday.

The high-tech, extremely costly tests of US missile defenses come as North Korea continues to push ahead with development of potentially nuclear-tipped ICBMs.

Wednesday's first-ever success at knocking a mock-up ICBM out of the sky as it headed toward the United States was called a "critical milestone" in firming up the country's missile defenses.

But, with only 44 of the expensive ground-based interceptor missiles expected to be in service at the end of this year, the next test will not take place until late 2018, Vice Admiral Jim Syring, director of the Missile Defense Agency, said.

"We want to exercise the GMD (ground-based missile defense) system with more than one interceptor to gather data," Syring said in a Pentagon press briefing.

Shooting two interceptor missiles at one incoming ICBM target would help understand what the second one does after the first destroys the target, he said.

This scenario is "the next step in ever increasing operational realism," he told journalists.

Tuesday's successful test saw an interceptor missile blast into space from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and then deploy its "exo-atmospheric kill vehicle," which smashed into the dummy ICBM, destroying it.

The US military describes the interception as akin to hitting a bullet with another bullet -- though at far higher speeds.

Syring said after the test that it "demonstrates that we have a capable, credible deterrent against a very real threat."

- North Korea threat -

The missile defense trial came a day after North Korea test-fired yet another ballistic missile, the latest in a series of launches that have ratcheted up tensions over Pyongyang's quest to develop weapons capable of hitting the United States.

So far North Korea's tests have involved short- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles.

But on Wednesday, after the US test, Pyongyang suggested it was prepared to launch a long-range ballistic missile in the near future.

"We're prepared to test-fire ICBMs anywhere and anytime on orders from the supreme commander (Kim Jong-Un)," the Rodong Sinmun paper said in an article entitled: "No one can stop the nuclear power state, rocketry master in the East."

The paper added: "The United States must know our declaration that we can turn the devils' den into ashes with nuclear weapons is not an empty threat."

Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said Tuesday's trial was not timed specifically in response to Pyongyang but that "in a broad sense, North Korea is one of the reasons why we have this capability."

He also pointed to Iran's increasing missile capabilities.

With its interceptor missiles based in California and Alaska, the GMD system remains highly experimental and expensive. Tuesday's test alone cost some $244 million to carry out.

It showed that under certain conditions it can stop a fast-moving, high-altitude single ICBM threat.

But the interceptors would be overwhelmed by a full-scale attack from countries like Russia or China, which could fire dozens of missiles at a time.

EU, China summit to back climate deal even without US: EU official

The European Union and China will throw their full weight behind the Paris climate accord at a summit on Friday, EU officials said, in a bid to fill the void if the US quits the pact.The summit in Brussels could mark a dramatic shift in global politics…

The European Union and China will throw their full weight behind the Paris climate accord at a summit on Friday, EU officials said, in a bid to fill the void if the US quits the pact.

The summit in Brussels could mark a dramatic shift in global politics, with the EU taking over from the United States in working with China to fight climate change.

Signalling a new level of cooperation, the two sides will stress the "highest political commitment" to implement all aspects of the historic 2015 agreement, according to a copy of a draft joint statement seen by AFP on Wednesday.

The EU-China summit follows a tense international tour by US President Donald Trump in which he spurned pleas by his European counterparts to adhere to the deal.

US media reported Wednesday that Trump had decided to pull his country out of the accord but the unpredictable US tycoon indicated he would keep the world guessing for another few days.

"We will issue a joint statement on climate change that will stress that China and the EU... will implement the agreement," a senior EU official told reporters on Wednesday, on condition of anonymity.

"The Paris Agreement will continue with full force of implementation even if the US pulls out," he added.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will arrive in Brussels late Thursday for talks with EU president Donald Tusk and European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker, with climate change at the top of the agenda.

"The EU and China consider the Paris Agreement as an historic achievement further accelerating the irreversible global low greenhouse gas emission and climate resilient development," the draft joint statement said.

"The EU and China underline their highest political commitment to the effective implementation of the Paris Agreement in all its aspects," according to the nine-page draft.

They will "significantly intensify" their political, technical, economic and scientific cooperation on climate change and clean energy to help the world shift to an economy based on low greenhouse gas emissions.

- 'New driver' -

Hoping to make the climate fight a "main pillar" of their bilateral partnership, including economic relations, the two underlined that their cooperation will fuel job creation, investments and economic growth, the statement said.

Europe and China will also expand their cooperation on developing carbon markets, so-called emissions trading systems.

"If US-China climate cooperation gave birth to the Paris Agreement, now it is up to EU and China to defend and enhance it," said Li Shuo, climate policy advisor of Greenpeace East Asia.

"The pair has the potential to become the new driver for international climate diplomacy," Li said in a statement.

Former US president Barack Obama and the Chinese leadership were instrumental in building momentum toward the climate deal.

It was signed by 196 countries that set themselves goals to minimize carbon emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change.

If the United States, by most measures the world's second-biggest polluter after China, were to pull out or reduce its goals, efforts to reduce the global temperature increase might fail.

But European officials insisted that the deal would remain on track.

"I understand that if they decide to pull out it will be disappointing but I really don't think this will change the course of mankind," European Commission vice president for energy, Maros Sefcovic, said at a briefing.

"Despite this possible rollback of the US administration, Europe is ready for the leadership (on climate change) and we will definitely provide it," he added.

EU Commissioner for Energy and Climate Action Miguel Arias Canete said the world could count on European climate leadership.

"No one should be left behind, but the EU and China have decided to move forward. More on Friday," Canete tweeted.

James’s LA home vandalized with racial slur

A racial slur was spray-painted on the front gate of Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James’s $20 million (17.8 million euros) Los Angeles home, police said on Wednesday.Los Angeles police officer Aareon Jefferson said police were called to the house in…

A racial slur was spray-painted on the front gate of Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James's $20 million (17.8 million euros) Los Angeles home, police said on Wednesday.

Los Angeles police officer Aareon Jefferson said police were called to the house in the upscale Brentwood neighborhood around 6:45 am, and by the time they arrived the graffiti had been painted over by property management staff.

The case is being investigated by personnel from the Los Angeles Police Department's West Los Angeles Station.

Public records show that James bought the house in 2015 for just under $21 million.

James is currently in Northern California, where his reigning NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers are preparing to take on the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.

Game one of the best-of-seven championship series is on Thursday in Oakland, California.

Jabeur first Arab woman in tennis Slam third round

Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur became the first Arab woman to reach the third round of a Grand Slam on Wednesday when she defeated sixth seed Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia 6-4, 6-3 at the French Open.Jabeur, ranked 114 and who only earned her place in the Rolan…

Tunisia's Ons Jabeur became the first Arab woman to reach the third round of a Grand Slam on Wednesday when she defeated sixth seed Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia 6-4, 6-3 at the French Open.

Jabeur, ranked 114 and who only earned her place in the Roland Garros main draw as a 'lucky loser' after being beaten in qualifying, bettered the previous best by an Arab woman at the majors.

That mark was set by compatriot Selima Sfar who made the second round at Roland Garros twice, three times at Wimbledon and once at the US Open.

The 22-year-old Jabeur, who was the French Open girls' champion in 2011, goes on to face Swiss 30th seed Timea Bacsinszky for a place in the last 16.

A match made in heaven, or in the brain?

It’s a tale as old as time. Meet someone you like, spend time together, get physical, settle down.This is a normal pattern for the hopelessly romantic prairie vole, a rare monogamist among mammals, whose tiny brain has now yielded a sneak peak into the…

It's a tale as old as time. Meet someone you like, spend time together, get physical, settle down.

This is a normal pattern for the hopelessly romantic prairie vole, a rare monogamist among mammals, whose tiny brain has now yielded a sneak peak into the neurobiology of partnering up.

When choosing a mate for life, the decision-making part of the vole's brain -- the prefrontal cortex -- activates another area that controls how the creature experiences pleasure and reward, neuroscientists reported on Wednesday.

Not only does the cortex switch on the reward centre -- called the nucleus accumbens -- but also controls how active it becomes, which in turn determines how quickly the rodent falls in love.

Bonding in lab voles is measured by how soon they start cuddling with a new partner, which they will most likely stick with for life.

It is possible that the newly-discovered mechanism works by allowing a new partner's features, such as odour and sound, "to become stamped into the reward system (of the brain) so that the partner becomes rewarding," said study co-author Robert Liu of the Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

And the entire process is accelerated by sex.

"We showed that the change in (brain) activity around the first mating event was correlated with how quickly animals began huddling," Liu told AFP.

The scientists sought to recreate this effect by stimulating female voles' cortical neurons with light while in the company of a potential male partner, but without allowing them to copulate.

It worked.

- Remote control -

The next day, light-stimulated voles showed a clear preference for their experimental partners than for strangers -- to a similar degree than if they had had intercourse.

"By simply recreating the control by the cortex of the reward area when the female was near the male, we influenced how affectionately she acted towards him," Li told AFP by email.

"It's like remote control of the brain circuitry to influence pair bonding."

The research has implications for the study of human social behaviour, and may aid treatment of conditions, such as autism or schizophrenia, which prevent sufferers from forming social bonds, said the team.

This could include stimulating communication between the two brain areas, for example, to allow afflicted people to experience the enjoyment normally gotten from spending time with loved ones.

"Pair bonding in voles likely shares many of the underlying neural mechanisms as falling in love in humans," said Liu.

It was already known that similar parts of the reward system studied in voles light up when humans look at pictures of their romantic partners, smell their scent or hear their voice.

"But, until now, we haven't known how the brain's reward system works to lead to those feelings," said Liu's colleague Elizabeth Amadei.

‘Liar, Liar’ election protest song races up UK charts

A general election protest song branding British Prime Minister Theresa May a liar was heading for the top of the charts on Wednesday — despite the BBC refusing to play it.”Liar, Liar GE2017″ by seven-piece band Captain Ska was released last Friday an…

A general election protest song branding British Prime Minister Theresa May a liar was heading for the top of the charts on Wednesday -- despite the BBC refusing to play it.

"Liar, Liar GE2017" by seven-piece band Captain Ska was released last Friday and currently stands at number three, according to the Official Charts company.

"She's a liar, liar. you can't trust her, no, no, no no," they sing, interspersed with audio clips from May as well as references to school, health service and police cuts.

"Sales of 'Liar, Liar' are being driven by downloads, with over 30,000 people picking up a digital copy of the track in five days," the company said in a statement.

"The song has so far been streamed just over 100,000 times."

BBC Radio 1 said the song would not be played as part of the official chart countdown on Friday due to rules governing the campaign ahead of the June 8 vote.

"We do not ban songs or artists, however our editorial guidelines require us to remain impartial and the UK is currently in an election period, so we will not be playing the song," it said in a statement.

All proceeds of the song -- a remix of a 2010 tune --- sold before election day will be donated to food banks and to The People's Assembly Against Austerity.

"Just a quick one to say thanks so much everyone. I'm so overwhelmed by the response and so happy that we've raised so much money," the band said on its Facebook page.

"Keep it up, people, this is massive!"

Humans pose ever-bigger extinction risk to animals: review

An ever-expanding human population and exploding demand for food, water and living space, will place animals at “unprecedented” extinction risk in the next 50 years, experts warned Wednesday.Facing the highest level of threat are more than 360 species …

An ever-expanding human population and exploding demand for food, water and living space, will place animals at "unprecedented" extinction risk in the next 50 years, experts warned Wednesday.

Facing the highest level of threat are more than 360 species of large mammals in Africa, Asia and South America -- the most biodiverse regions of the world, said a review published in the journal Nature Insight.

But all is not lost, and a drastic change to human diets and farming methods could provide "healthy diets" for 10 billion people by 2060, while also preserving liveable habitats for most remaining species, it concluded.

"With forethought and timely action, these goals can be achieved."

Successive waves of species extinctions have followed in the wake of modern humans' spread out of Africa to the rest of the world.

By 3,000 years ago, Earth had lost half of its terrestrial mammal mega-species -- animals which weigh more than 44 kilogrammes (97 pounds) -- and 15 percent of its birds.

The human population at seven billion is now 25 times larger than it was then, and projected to add another four billion mouths to feed by century's end.

Already, a quarter of mammal species and 13 percent of birds are threatened with extinction, said the review authors.

"Extinction rates for birds, mammals and amphibians are similar at present to those of the five global mass-extinction events of the past 500 million years that probably resulted from meteorite impacts, massive volcanism and other cataclysmic forces," they wrote.

One such event is thought to have wiped out the dinosaurs.

Hunting, culling and poaching imperils up to half of threatened bird and mammal species, said the paper.

- Farm better, eat better -

Designated protected areas now cover about 14 percent of Earth's land surface, yet biodiversity continues to decline worldwide.

In parts of Africa, for example, lion populations have fallen to 10 percent of their potential largely due to human encroachment.

Between 1970 and 1998, bushmeat consumption in Ghana led to a near 80-percent population decline in 41 mammal species.

Threats to animal survival increase in step with a rise in human population and disposable income.

Globally, a further 710 million hectares would need to be cleared to meet the projected demand for food by 2060. Of the total, 430 million hectares -- almost half the size of the United States -- would be in sub-Saharan Africa.

Safeguarding Earth's precious creatures amid such pressures will require the expansion and better management of conservation areas, the authors argued.

"The ultimate drivers of hunting and poaching must be addressed, for example, by providing people with alternative livelihoods or sources of protein."

Also, agricultural yields -- the crop produced per available hectare of land -- must be increased through measures that include protecting soil fertility, and using more pest- and drought-resistant seeds.

Modifying diets can play a crucial role, said the review.

The more money a society has, the more it tends to splurge on meat and other animal products, sugar and starch -- all commodities that require a lot of land and water to grow.

The authors advise eating more fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds.

Slovak foreign minister elected UN General Assembly president

The United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday picked Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak to be its next president.He will succeed Fiji’s former ambassador to the United Nations, Peter Thomson, in September and chair the assembly’s 72nd session t…

The United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday picked Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak to be its next president.

He will succeed Fiji's former ambassador to the United Nations, Peter Thomson, in September and chair the assembly's 72nd session that month. The post lasts a year.

The sole candidate for the position, Lajcak was elected by an overwhelming majority. He will be the first Slovak in the job.

Under the current rotation system, regional groups in the assembly put forward consensus candidates for president.

Addressing the assembly, the 52-year-old career diplomat set out a series of priorities, including "preventive diplomacy," responding to the global migrant crisis, defending human rights and reducing inequality.

"We can do more to bring the UN closer to the world's citizens," he said.

He also stressed the importance of the Paris climate accord, refusing to comment about an expected withdrawal by the United States.

The issue of climate change "is a priority and a question of survival for a number of UN member states," he said.

"The Paris agreement is one of the biggest successes of the international community lately," he added. "We must implement it."

Although US media on Wednesday reported that President Donald Trump has decided to pull America out of the Paris accord, he is keeping the world guessing, saying only that an announcement would come in the "next few days."

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Tuesday that it is "absolutely essential" the Paris agreement be implemented.

Lajcak was a contender to succeed Ban Ki-moon as UN Secretary General last year, a post that went to Portugal's Antonio Guterres.

The polyglot became the youngest Slovak ambassador -- and the youngest ambassador posted in Japan -- at the age of 31.

Later, he played a role in stabilizing the former Yugoslavia in the aftermath of the wars that tore the Balkans apart in the 1990s.

He was in charge of organizing a referendum on the independence of Montenegro from Yugoslavia in 2006 before his appointment the following year as the European Union's special representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

TV reporter kiss incident ‘uncomfortable’ viewing – Nadal

Rafael Nadal admitted a French tennis player’s attempt to kiss a television reporter against her will during a live broadcast made for “uncomfortable” viewing.Maxime Hamou, 21, grabbed Eurosport journalist Maly Thomas around the neck and shoulders whil…

Rafael Nadal admitted a French tennis player's attempt to kiss a television reporter against her will during a live broadcast made for "uncomfortable" viewing.

Maxime Hamou, 21, grabbed Eurosport journalist Maly Thomas around the neck and shoulders while she interviewed him following his first-round defeat on Monday.

Thomas described the incident as "frankly unpleasant" and said she "would have punched him" had it not occurred while live on air.

Hamou, the world number 287, was banished from the Roland Garros site as a result by tournament organisers, who slammed his "reprehensible behaviour".

Nadal was reluctant to comment in depth on Hamou's actions, but he said: "The only thing that I can say is I watched the video, and it was a little bit uncomfortable for the girl."

The Spaniard, seeking a 10th French Open title at this year's event, added it was up to tournament officials in terms of taking disciplinary action.

"I cannot talk much about that. That's not -- something that happened in our sport, but they take a position, so they are free to do what they want."

Hamou later made a public apology to Thomas.

"I want to offer my deepest apologies to Maly Thomas if she felt hurt or shocked by my attitude during her interview," Hamou was quoted as saying by L'Equipe daily on Tuesday.

Legionnaires test Olympic judo champ Riner

Olympic judo champion Teddy Riner was put through his paces by France’s Foreign Legion on Wednesday, in the build-up to the world championships.The double Olympic and eight-time heavyweight world champion Riner and his France team-mates tackled an obst…

Olympic judo champion Teddy Riner was put through his paces by France's Foreign Legion on Wednesday, in the build-up to the world championships.

The double Olympic and eight-time heavyweight world champion Riner and his France team-mates tackled an obstacle course and practised shooting at the Legionnaire camp at Aubagne, near Marseille, on Wednesday.

"It's great, you do things you're not used to -- it reminds me of fights where your opponent takes you out of your comfort zone," said Riner.

"Heart pounding, short of breath -- that's what we're looking for."

Carrying full military kit over a 3km course that included climbing walls, Riner's giant 140kg frame was something of a hindrance, though.

It's not the first time France's judo team has attended a military training camp, they did so also last year ahead of the Rio Olympics.

The World Championships begin on August 28 in Budapest and last a week.

German students clash with police over deportation of Afghan refugee (VIDEO)

At least nine police officers were injured as violent clashes between students and police broke out in the German city of Nurnberg when a group of students tried to block the deportation of an Afghan fellow learner. Read Full Article at R…

Preview At least nine police officers were injured as violent clashes between students and police broke out in the German city of Nurnberg when a group of students tried to block the deportation of an Afghan fellow learner.
Read Full Article at RT.com

New on Pornhub: Corruption allegations video that court ordered Russia’s Navalny to delete

Preview A Moscow district court has ruled that a video released by opposition activist and anti-corruption blogger Aleksey Navalny that accuses top government officials and big businessmen of corruption is “inconsistent with reality” and must be deleted.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview A Moscow district court has ruled that a video released by opposition activist and anti-corruption blogger Aleksey Navalny that accuses top government officials and big businessmen of corruption is “inconsistent with reality” and must be deleted.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Canada urges US to remain in Paris climate deal

Canada urged the United States not to abandon the Paris climate accord on Wednesday, saying it remains committed to the deal whether or not Washington leaves.Environment Minister Catherine McKenna made the comments following US media reports that US Pr…

Canada urged the United States not to abandon the Paris climate accord on Wednesday, saying it remains committed to the deal whether or not Washington leaves.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna made the comments following US media reports that US President Donald Trump had decided to pull out of the historic 196-party pact signed in Paris 18 months ago.

Canada would continue "marching on," she told reporters at an event in Toronto.

"I have had conversations with my US counterpart to make the economic case and also to make the case that 90 percent of the Paris agreement remains to be negotiated and so it's better to be at the table," she said, adding that she "hopes the US will stick with the Paris accord."

"We certainly will be at the table playing our role because we think it's the right thing to do and it makes economic sense," McKenna added, pointing to a "huge economic opportunity" in the development and roll-out of "clean technologies."

Washington's withdrawal would deal global efforts to combat climate change a devastating blow.

Trump tweeted on Wednesday that an announcement would come in the "next few days."

Sri Lanka saves pod of stranded whales

Sri Lanka’s navy and local residents rescued a pod of about 20 stranded pilot whales off the island’s northeastern coast on Wednesday, an official said.Navy spokesman Chaminda Walakuluge said sailors with the help of residents pushed the whales back i…

Sri Lanka's navy and local residents rescued a pod of about 20 stranded pilot whales off the island's northeastern coast on Wednesday, an official said.

Navy spokesman Chaminda Walakuluge said sailors with the help of residents pushed the whales back in to deeper waters after they washed up on the Sampur coast near the port of Trincomalee.

"It was a delicate task to push them back without hurting them," Walakuluge told AFP. "But there was a happy ending when all of them could be sent back to deeper waters."

He said it was not clear why the mammals got stranded in the area, but noted that the sea was rough due to the effects of Cyclone Mora in the Bay of Bengal and which hit Bangladesh on Tuesday.

In April 2011, a sperm whale was stranded inside the Trincomalee harbour and two navy boats were deployed to guide the mammal out into deeper waters where it was reunited with waiting whales.

Trincomalee, 260 kilometres (160 miles) northeast of Colombo, is a natural harbour and is also a popular tourist spot for whale watching.

Trincomalee is also known as the location where both of the world's two largest mammals -- elephants and whales -- can be seen.

The waters around Trincomalee, which was used by Allied forces as a staging post during World War II, have a high concentration of blue and sperm whales while the surrounding jungles have herds of wild elephants.

Shareholders vote for ExxonMobil transparency on climate impact

ExxonMobil’s shareholders voted decisively Wednesday to push the oil giant to test how the fight against global warming could affect its business, handing a victory to environmentalists at a critical juncture for climate policy worldwide.The proposal, …

ExxonMobil's shareholders voted decisively Wednesday to push the oil giant to test how the fight against global warming could affect its business, handing a victory to environmentalists at a critical juncture for climate policy worldwide.

The proposal, backed by 62.3 percent of shareholders, urges Exxon to come clean on what tougher public policies -- in line with the Paris accord on curbing global emissions -- would mean for its portfolio.

The advisory vote came as President Donald Trump weighs whether to pull the United States out of the Paris agreement.

Exxon chief executive Darren Woods, who praised the Paris accord but argued the shareholder proposal was unnecessary, said the oil giant would consider its policy position in light of the vote.

Exxon has for years successfully beaten back previous shareholder votes on climate change, but some leading institutional investors signaled they were considering changing their stance following pressure from activist investors.

Environmentalists have argued that Exxon's petroleum-dominated portfolio could become uneconomic under tougher climate policies, and the company has not thoroughly analyzed this risk. They call on Exxon to invest more in renewable energy and less in oil.

The proposal, submitted by the New York State Common Retirement Fund, seeks an annual assessment of Exxon's assets under different policy scenarios, including those that limit temperature increases to under two degrees Celsius, consistent with the 2015 Paris accord.

Exxon had argued that its planning already took into account the possibility for stricter climate policies and that oil would remain a vital source of global energy for years to come, even under the toughest policy scenarios.

Woods said during his presentation at the meeting, that even under the Paris accords, some $11 trillion in new oil investment would be needed.

Venezuela pushes constitution bid amid deadly unrest

Venezuelan authorities on Wednesday began signing up candidates for a planned constitutional reform body, a move that has inflamed deadly unrest stemming from anti-government protests.Opponents of socialist President Nicolas Maduro say he aims to keep …

Venezuelan authorities on Wednesday began signing up candidates for a planned constitutional reform body, a move that has inflamed deadly unrest stemming from anti-government protests.

Opponents of socialist President Nicolas Maduro say he aims to keep himself in power by stacking the planned "constituent assembly" with his allies.

He says it is a democratic way to respond to an economic and political crisis that has sparked food shortages and deadly violence in the oil-rich country.

The electoral authorities have called on candidates to sign up online on Wednesday and Thursday to seek election to the 545-member assembly, which will be tasked with writing a new constitution.

The center right-led opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable, has vowed not to take part.

"I hope no one will commit treason by taking part in such an absolutely fraudulent process," opposition leader Henrique Capriles said.

The opposition complains that Maduro plans to have a chunk of the assembly's membership elected from groups that are traditionally loyal to him.

Attorney General Luisa Ortega and a handful of other public officials have broken ranks with Maduro, criticizing the authorities' crackdown on protesters.

"If that hole gets bigger, it will open a breach that could divide the government side into two blocs: one that defends the constitution and another that defends the stability of Maduro's leadership," said electoral analyst Hector Briceno.

Maduro however retains the public backing of the military.

- Bursting point -

Opposition and government supporters on Wednesday planned the latest in two months of street protests, which prosecutors say have left 60 people dead.

The opposition vowed to march towards the foreign ministry in Caracas. Maduro's supporters planned a counter-rally in their stronghold in the center of the city.

"The game seems to be deadlocked. The government is becoming more and more repressive and the opposition is continuing its protests in the street," said political analyst Luis Salamanca.

"There could be a total, serious confrontation, permanent chaos. Anything could happen here -- even a popular uprising."

Legal expert Jose Ignacio Hernandez said the constituent assembly "is not a channel, it is a blockage."

"What happens in a country where there is a political crisis, a social crisis and an economic crisis where there is no exit channel? It is a society on the verge of exploding."

A real scorcher: NASA probe to fly into sun’s atmosphere

A new NASA mission aims to brush by the sun, coming closer than any spacecraft in history to its scorching heat and radiation in order to reveal how stars are made, the US space agency said Wednesday.After liftoff from Kennedy Space Center in Florida i…

A new NASA mission aims to brush by the sun, coming closer than any spacecraft in history to its scorching heat and radiation in order to reveal how stars are made, the US space agency said Wednesday.

After liftoff from Kennedy Space Center in Florida in July 2018, the Parker Solar Probe will become the first to fly directly into the sun's atmosphere, known as the corona.

The plan for the unmanned spacecraft is to orbit within 3.9 million miles (6.3 million kilometers) of the sun's surface.

Temperatures in that region exceed 2,500 Fahrenheit (1,377 Celsius), for which the spacecraft is equipped with a 4.5-inch-thick (11.43 cm) carbon-composite shield.

Roughly the size of a small car, the probe will make seven flybys of the sun over a seven-year period, in what NASA described as a "mission of extremes."

Traveling at a speed of 430,000 mph, the spacecraft will move fast -- like going from New York City to Tokyo in less than a minute.

Scientists hope its data will improve forecasts of solar storms and space weather events that affect life on Earth, satellites and astronauts in space.

- Time for a visit -

The spacecraft will measure plasma waves and high-energy particles, and carry a white light imager to capture images of the structures through which it is flying, according to Nicola Fox, mission project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.

"We will brush closely by it," she said at an event in Chicago to unveil the mission, which NASA has touted as promising to provide humanity's closest-ever observations of a star.

"You can learn so much from looking out the window," Fox said. "You can see the sun is shining, you can see the birds are singing. But until you actually go out, you have no idea quite how hot it is out there or how windy it is, or what the conditions are like."

"I think we have really come as far as we can with looking at things and now it is time to go up and pay it a visit," she added.

A 20-day launch window for the spacecraft's liftoff atop a Delta IV Heavy rocket opens July 31, 2018.

- Re-named after astrophysicist -

Initially called Solar Probe Plus, the mission was renamed after the astrophysicist Eugene Parker, 89, professor emeritus at the University of Chicago.

He published the first paper to describe solar wind -- the high-speed matter and magnetism constantly escaping the sun -- in 1958.

"This is the first time NASA has named a spacecraft for a living individual," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

"It's a testament to the importance of his body of work, founding a new field of science that also inspired my own research and many important science questions NASA continues to study and further understand every day."

Parker, who is days away from his 90th birthday, described the mission as "very exciting."

"One would like to have some more detailed measurements of what's going on in the solar wind," he said.

"I'm sure that there will be some surprises," he added. "There always are."

Rome not so sweet for Caroline Wozniacki

Danish tennis star Caroline Wozniacki revealed Wednesday that she refuses to play in Rome because the Eternal City makes her permanently ill.Wozniacki, 26, said playing the tournament in the Italian capital compounds her hay fever, but that the problem…

Danish tennis star Caroline Wozniacki revealed Wednesday that she refuses to play in Rome because the Eternal City makes her permanently ill.

Wozniacki, 26, said playing the tournament in the Italian capital compounds her hay fever, but that the problem is unique to the Foro Italico where the event is staged.

Unfortunately for the two-time US Open runner-up, the clay court event is a key warm-up tournament ahead of the French Open which is ongoing.

"I literally can't breathe," she said. "But it's really strange. It's really only at the courts, which is even more strange.

"Any time I get on-site, I think it's those big trees that do it, because when I'm into the city centre and walk around I'm feeling fine.

"I have tried all the medicine we are allowed to take and nothing really helps, or it puts me to sleep, which either way isn't really great."

Wozniacki missed the Madrid event this year through injury and was forced to retire from her opening match in Strasbourg with a back injury.

That put her participation in Paris, where she was a quarter-finalist in 2010, in doubt.

However, she showed little rustiness on Wednesday with a 6-0, 6-0 demolition of Canadian qualifier Francoise Abanda in just 52 minutes.

"I'm feeling pretty good. Clay isn't my favourite surface of all surfaces, but at the same time, I feel like I'm hitting the ball well," said the 11th seed, who missed last year's French Open with an ankle injury.

"I felt like I have been very comfortable and confident all season, so hopefully I can just keep that going in the second half of the season."

Islamist militants resist week-long military assault in southern Philippines

A full ground- and air assault by Philippine forces against pro-Islamic State (IS) group militants entered its second week on Wednesday, a reminder of decades of deadly violence in the country’s restive southern provinces.

A full ground- and air assault by Philippine forces against pro-Islamic State (IS) group militants entered its second week on Wednesday, a reminder of decades of deadly violence in the country’s restive southern provinces.

Trial of soldiers for attack on foreign aid workers highlights violence in S. Sudan

Thirteen South Sudanese soldiers accused of gang raping foreign aid workers and killing a local journalist last July appeared in a military court on Tuesday. The soldiers face trial for rape, torture, killing and looting during the attack.

Thirteen South Sudanese soldiers accused of gang raping foreign aid workers and killing a local journalist last July appeared in a military court on Tuesday. The soldiers face trial for rape, torture, killing and looting during the attack.