US task force recommends against thyroid cancer screening

Screening for thyroid cancer is not recommended for adults with no symptoms, because there is no evidence it boosts survival and can lead to over-diagnosis and complications, an independent US medical task force said Tuesday. “The US Preventive Servic…

Screening for thyroid cancer is not recommended for adults with no symptoms, because there is no evidence it boosts survival and can lead to over-diagnosis and complications, an independent US medical task force said Tuesday.

"The US Preventive Services Task Force concludes with moderate certainty that screening for thyroid cancer in asymptomatic persons results in harms that outweigh the benefits," said a statement updating the group's 1996 guidelines.

The rate of thyroid cancer has risen faster than any other type of cancer in the last decade in the United States, climbing 4.5 percent per year, said the report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

But the mortality rate from thyroid cancer has not changed substantially, despite the increase in diagnoses.

Often, patients have a good prognosis. More than 98 percent of people diagnosed will survive the first five years.

Experts reviewed 67 studies on the accuracy of screening, whether by ultrasound or by feeling for lumps in the neck, and the benefits and harms of treatment of screen-detected thyroid cancer.

It found "inadequate evidence" to judge the accuracy of either screening technique in people without symptoms.

The panel also found "inadequate direct evidence to determine whether screening for thyroid cancer in asymptomatic persons using neck palpation or ultrasound improves health outcomes."

Any benefit would be small, because thyroid cancer is relatively rare.

The task force did, however find "adequate evidence of serious harms of treatment of thyroid cancer and evidence that over-diagnosis and overtreatment are likely consequences of screening."

An accompanying editorial by Anne Cappola of the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, pointed to research done in South Korea, where low-cost ultrasonography screening for thyroid cancer was widely offered after 1999.

"Since then, thousands of thyroid carcinomas have been detected, resulting in a 15-fold increase in the diagnosis," she wrote.

"Importantly, the number of deaths from thyroid carcinoma in South Korea during this period has remained unchanged at 300 to 400 per year."

Meanwhile, two percent of patients have reported complications of thyroid surgery, including vocal cord paralysis; and 11 percent emerged with damaged glands -- numbers she described as "not trivial."

The USPSTF recommendation does not include people at high risk due to having been exposed to radiation in the head or neck in the past.

US teen breaks internet record, spurred by love of nuggets

An American teenager has broken the world record for the most retweets, in a crusade to win a year’s supply of his favorite food: chicken nuggets.Beating out TV stars Ellen Degeneres and Kim Kardashian, and leaving former US president Barack Obama in t…

An American teenager has broken the world record for the most retweets, in a crusade to win a year's supply of his favorite food: chicken nuggets.

Beating out TV stars Ellen Degeneres and Kim Kardashian, and leaving former US president Barack Obama in the slow lane, 16-year-old Carter Wilkerson started his Twitter challenge on April 5 when he asked the Wendy's fast food chain how many retweets he would need to receive a year's supply of nuggets for free.

"18 million," came back the reply from the fried chicken store's Twitter account.

"Consider it done," replied Wilkerson, despite having only 150 Twitter followers at the time.

He then turned to the Internet with the simple plea, "Help me please. A man needs his nuggs."

And the web responded. On Tuesday, his message had been retweeted more than 3.4 million times, beating the record that Degeneres racked up at the 2014 Oscars, when she posted a selfie with a gaggle of film stars that included Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep and Brad Pitt.

While still far short of the golden number of 18 million, Wendy's not only granted him his wish of a year-long free nugget supply, but also pledged a $100,000 donation to a children's adoption foundation.

Stunned by his new-found fame, Wilkerson told The New New York Times he had simply wanted to beat his own record of a dozen retweets.

In addition to the nuggets and media attention, Wilkerson now has 105,000 Twitter followers.

After the White House, Obama ‘captive to selfies’

Former US president Barack Obama shared Tuesday his relief at no longer being leader of the Free World — but joked he is now “captive to selfies” whenever he is out.”The hardest thing about being the president of the US is it is unique in its isolati…

Former US president Barack Obama shared Tuesday his relief at no longer being leader of the Free World -- but joked he is now "captive to selfies" whenever he is out.

"The hardest thing about being the president of the US is it is unique in its isolation," he told an audience of 3,000 who had paid 650-850 euros ($700-925) to see him Milan, Italy.

Wearing a navy blue suit and shirt without a tie, Obama took questions in a relaxed session led by Sam Kass, his former White House chef and senior advisor on nutrition policy.

The former president, who left office in January, said his eight years in the White House had taught him to be less anxious, but still the job was gruelling.

"The burdens of leadership are true in any country. But in part because of the security apparatus around the US president, you live in what's called the bubble," he said.

While calling it "a very nice prison", he said "you don't have the freedom of movement to just take a walk or sit in a cafe, because there's always the security concern around you.

"I don't miss that," he said.

"Now I am only captive to selfies, which is almost as bad," he quipped. "I can walk anywhere as long as I don't mind taking a selfie every two steps."

Earlier in the conference the former Democrat president said the US and China had to "lead the way" in fighting climate change, acknowledging obvious "differences" with his Republican successor Donald Trump on environmental policy.

"The good news is the private sector has already made a determination that the future is clean energy. Those things are locked in now, into the energy sector," he said.

"Because of the debates taking place in the current administration the steps may be taken more slowly than they would have been done, but I'm confident," he added.

Chibok girl refused to be part of release deal: Nigeria

A schoolgirl who was among more than 200 kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014 refused to be part of a release deal because she is now married to a militant fighter, Nigeria’s government said Tuesday.The disclosure underlines the complex psychological effect…

A schoolgirl who was among more than 200 kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014 refused to be part of a release deal because she is now married to a militant fighter, Nigeria's government said Tuesday.

The disclosure underlines the complex psychological effects of a lengthy captivity, and gives an indication of the work required to rehabilitate and reintegrate those released.

Boko Haram has used kidnapping as a weapon of war, seizing thousands of women and young girls as part of its eight-year quest to create a hardline Islamic state in northeast Nigeria.

Men and boys have also been forcibly recruited to fight in its insurgency, which since 2009 has killed at least 20,000 in Nigeria alone.

Presidency spokesman Garba Shehu said the jihadists had initially agreed to release 83 of the teenagers who were abducted from their school in the town of Chibok in April 2014.

But he told the local Channels television station: "One said, 'No, I have a husband. I'm happy where I am'. And then 82 came back."

The 82 were released on Saturday following months of talks and the exchange of a number of suspected militants held in government custody.

Twenty-one of their classmates were freed in October last year; three had previously been found or escaped. Talks are understood to have started to free all or some of the remaining 113.

- Complex situation -

Testimony from former hostages in the brutal conflict has revealed that Boko Haram forced many women and young girls into marriage, and that rape and sexual violence were commonplace.

Some were forced to work as domestic slaves for extremist fighters and even deployed to the front line carrying ammunition during attacks.

Elizabeth Pearson, a Boko Haram specialist who studies women and conflict, said the case of the Chibok girl who refused to leave was "likely to be quite prevalent".

"From what we know of other young women who've returned, the relationships with their captors is very complex and at times quite ambiguous," she told AFP in an email exchange.

"We assume because they are abducted they are therefore likely to resist their captors. In fact they have to develop relationships of some sort in order to survive."

Genuine relationships will emerge, as not all fighters behave brutally to the women in the camps, particularly if children are involved, she added.

"It's a much more complex situation than the abducted-rescued-victim narrative we've seen at times," she said.

There have been repeated calls for more to be done to support those released, particularly with many women treated as social outcasts because of their time with the rebels.

- Identities checked -

Shehu said the government was working to verify the identities of the 82 released so they can be reunited with their families as soon as possible.

A list of the girls' names was published on Sunday evening and photographs of them have been sent to Chibok and the surrounding area for cross-checking.

"When we had the first 21, because of similarities in names, more than two, three sets of parents came to Abuja. So, we don't want to create that confusion," he said.

"When they get the pictures, they see them and verify, then they come on board to Abuja to see their daughters."

Aisha Yesufu, coordinator of the #BringBackOurGirls pressure group, told AFP: "We have to reach out to the parents and ensure that? we match the parents and the daughters.

"We are still working on it."

Nigeria's government has come under fire for the length of time it has taken to reunite the former hostages with their families.

In December, families who are seen as key to the girls' recovery complained they were blocked from celebrating Christmas together.

Human Rights Watch has accused the government of failing to respect the girls' privacy by publishing their names and for parading them at a photo-call.

Amnesty International said on Saturday that holding the released girls in lengthy detention and for security screening "can only add to their suffering and plight".

Shehu said he hoped the verification process would be concluded soon and pledged: "The government will not stop any parents from immediately establishing contacts with their daughters."

Polanc conquers Etna, Jungels in Giro pink

Slovenian Jan Polanc conquered the prestigious Giro d’Italia fourth stage to Mount Etna on Tuesday as Luxembourg’s Bob Jungels took the pink jersey to keep the race lead with his Quick Step team.Climbing specialist Polanc, who races for the United Arab…

Slovenian Jan Polanc conquered the prestigious Giro d'Italia fourth stage to Mount Etna on Tuesday as Luxembourg's Bob Jungels took the pink jersey to keep the race lead with his Quick Step team.

Climbing specialist Polanc, who races for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) team, was part of a four-man breakaway that pulled free early in the 181 km ride from Cefalu.

Despite being left on his own for the last 16 km of the 18.1 km climb to the summit, Polanc held on to solo over the finish line in just over 4hr 55min.

"It was probably the hardest day of my life," said Polanc. And most of the peloton agreed.

While locals are used to seeing sparks from the regular eruptions on Europe's highest active volcano, a tough headwind ended hopes of a stage four duel between defending champion Vincenzo Nibali and Colombian challenger Nairo Quintana.

"The climb was difficult with a constant headwind, especially after a long break," added Polanc, who finished 19secs ahead of Russia's Ilnur Zakarin after the Katusha rider made a last-gasp bid for glory.

A reduced peloton containing all the main favourites crossed the line 29secs behind the Slovenian, Britain's Geraint Thomas (Sky) beating France's Thibaut Pinot to finish third and claim precious bonus seconds that moved him up to second overall.

The Welshman, leading Team Sky's bid for glory along with Spaniard Mikel Landa, is now six seconds behind Jungels with compatriot Adam Yates (Orica) in third at 10.

- 'Cat and mouse' -

Claiming he felt "good", Thomas said the expected hostilities were tempered by the tough conditions.

"It (the climb) didn't go ballistic, there was a strong headwind and it's the first big stage of the race," said Thomas.

"Everyone was unsure, testing each other, it was a little bit of cat and mouse."

Despite his reputed climbing abilities, Polanc was given little chance of taking his escape all the way to the finish from a four-man breakaway that went early in the stage.

But after the peloton upped the pace significantly with 30km to race to begin eating into their deficit, the Slovenian was given a gentle push to the finish.

A straightforward, right-hand bend on a wide road caused confusion, some riders hesitating to take the bend while others rode straight on.

The scene would have been comical had it not left several stage contenders, including Steven Kruijswijk and Zakarin, among the bodies lying on the ground suffering road rash.

It was the second disaster in four days of racing for the pair, who are among several riders looking for a podium finish.

"I'm not so good. I crashed pretty hard, which wasn't great just before the climb," said Kruijswijk, who saw his hopes of winning the 2016 race crushed by a crash while chasing Nibali on the descent of the Colle dell'Agnello.

A number of solo attacks came and went in the final kilometres, but none stuck.

Astana veteran Paolo Tiralongo, 39, had hoped to dedicate a victory to former teammate Michele Scarponi, whose death in a training ride accident last month has prompted fans to display banners in memory of the 37-year-old Italian.

But the Astana rider was quickly reeled in, as was Frenchman Pierre Rolland after an attempt 12km from the finish that lasted only minutes.

Three kilometres from the finish, Nibali pulled away from the chasing peloton in a move designed more, said Bahrain teammate Giovanni Visconti, to see how his rivals would respond.

"He's (Nibali) obviously not in peak form yet, but it will be different by the time he arrives on the third week," said Visconti.

Flood quits Toulouse, Lyon sign South African duo

English fly-half Toby Flood has quit fallen French Top 14 giants Toulouse by mutual agreement, the club said on Tuesday.The 31-year-old had a year left on his contract but “will not see out his final season with the club” which he joined in 2014. The f…

English fly-half Toby Flood has quit fallen French Top 14 giants Toulouse by mutual agreement, the club said on Tuesday.

The 31-year-old had a year left on his contract but "will not see out his final season with the club" which he joined in 2014.

The former England international has played 60 games for Toulouse scoring 337 points. Capped 60 times for England, he previously played for Newcastle Falcons and Leicester Tigers.

His departure is the 12th from the club which has had a disastrous season, the 19-time French champions failing to make the Top 14 play-offs for the first time in 41 years.

Elsewhere in the Top 14 Tuesday, Lyon signed South African forwards Francois van der Merwe from defending champions Racing 92 and Etienne Oosthuizen from Super Rugby side Sharks.

And Bordeaux-Begles announced the arrival of Rory Teague as their new backs coach.

The 32-year-old has worked on England's coaching staff since last year and will travel with the England squad for the two-Test tour in Argentina next month before taking up his new position in France.

China tests new missile near Korean peninsula

Beijing has tested a new missile close to the Korean peninsula amid heightened tensions in the region, after North Korea, South Korea, and the US recently conducted military drills in the area. Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview Beijing has tested a new missile close to the Korean peninsula amid heightened tensions in the region, after North Korea, South Korea, and the US recently conducted military drills in the area.
Read Full Article at RT.com

European athletics boss acknowledges record-plan critics

European athletics president Svein Arne Hansen accepted Tuesday reaction to the radical plan to wipe out existing European and world records has been “mixed”.Under the proposal put forward to athletics governing body the IAAF all records set before a d…

European athletics president Svein Arne Hansen accepted Tuesday reaction to the radical plan to wipe out existing European and world records has been "mixed".

Under the proposal put forward to athletics governing body the IAAF all records set before a date that has yet to be defined will remain but only on a list of old records.

The project is part of European Athletics' drive to set a clean slate in the fight against doping.

Among its fiercest critics is long jump world record-holder Mike Powell.

The American, who jumped 8.95 metres in August 1991, attacked the plan as "disrespectful, an injustice and a slap in the face".

Another arch critic of the plan which was unanimously approved by the European Athletics Council on May 1 was Britain's Paul Radcliffe.

Radcliffe, who ran a women's marathon world record time of 2hr 15min 25sec in 2003, said the idea was "cowardly" and could "damage her reputation and dignity".

Hansen in a statement confirmed the record-wiping plan and other proposals "to restore the credibility of European and world records" were now under consideration with the IAAF.

He said he welcomed the debate the record-wiping plan has generated.

"As might have been expected, the reactions have been mixed," Hansen commented.

"The most controversy comes from some of the current record holders who, of course, would be personally affected by the proposed reassignment of record recognition. We must be aware of and sympathetic to their concerns."

He invited athletes and other "stakeholders" to submit their thoughts to an email address set up for the consultation process (recordsreview@european-athletics.org).

"If new ideas or better approaches emerge they should be considered and incorporated into the debate," he added.

"Our hope is that in the end the selection of the way forward will be based on calm consideration, rational arguments and a consensus on what is best for all athletes and the sport as a whole."

IAAF President Sebastian Coe backs the plan.

"There will be athletes, current record holders, who will feel that the history we are recalibrating will take something away from them but I think this is a step in the right direction and if organised and structured properly we have a good chance of winning back credibility in this area," Coe said earlier this month.

Diddy sued by ex-chef over ‘post-coital’ dining

Rap mogul Diddy has been sued by a personal chef who says she worked long hours without extra pay and was made uneasy by serving meals after sex parties.Cindy Rueda sought an unspecified amount in damages for allegations — denied by Diddy — that incl…

Rap mogul Diddy has been sued by a personal chef who says she worked long hours without extra pay and was made uneasy by serving meals after sex parties.

Cindy Rueda sought an unspecified amount in damages for allegations -- denied by Diddy -- that include sexual harassment and failure to pay overtime wages.

Rueda said she sometimes worked from 9 am to 2 am as she cooked at the Los Angeles home of Diddy, whose real name is Sean Combs and was formerly known as Puff Daddy.

The lawsuit filed Monday in a Los Angeles court said the rapper would ask Rueda "to prepare and serve entrees and appetizers to him and his guests while Mr. Combs and his guests were engaged in or immediately following sexual activity."

The lawsuit said she at least once "was summoned by Mr. Combs to serve him a post-coital meal" in which he made suggestive remarks.

On at least one other occasion, she said a naked male visitor entered the kitchen as she cooked and asked her "to look at and admire his genitals after he had engaged in sexual activity with another house guest."

A representative for Diddy dismissed the accusations, saying: "This is a frivolous lawsuit by a disgruntled ex-employee who was fired for cause."

Rueda said she was fired last year after being accused of theft. She said she had taken a watch which Diddy's housekeeper said was found in the garbage and that she was given a chance to keep it if she renounced her complaints.

Rueda said she earned $150 a day even if she worked late or traveled with Diddy. She said she was offered a full-time job in June 2015 but declined due to "unreasonable hours and pay."

After a string of successful albums starting in the 1990s, Diddy has become a successful entrepreneur in fashion and beverages, with Forbes magazine putting the 47-year-old's net worth at $750 million.

In 2003, he ordered better conditions for workers in Honduras after activists found sweatshop conditions in the production of his Sean John clothing line.

Brussels relieved, London anxious after France elects pro-EU Macron amid Brexit battle

Brussels exhaled a sigh of relief on Sunday with France’s election of Emmanuel Macron, a Europhile poised to breathe new life into Europe and its Franco-German tandem. But with a Brexit battle looming, London is still holding its breath.

Brussels exhaled a sigh of relief on Sunday with France’s election of Emmanuel Macron, a Europhile poised to breathe new life into Europe and its Franco-German tandem. But with a Brexit battle looming, London is still holding its breath.

US drone back on Earth after nearly two years in space

After a nearly two-year sojourn in space, the US military drone X-37 B is back on Earth, fueling wild ideas about its mystery mission.Looking like a small version of an old NASA space shuttle, the craft touched down Sunday in Florida, ending a 718-day …

After a nearly two-year sojourn in space, the US military drone X-37 B is back on Earth, fueling wild ideas about its mystery mission.

Looking like a small version of an old NASA space shuttle, the craft touched down Sunday in Florida, ending a 718-day voyage around the Earth, the US Air Force announced.

Just under 30 feet (9.1 meters) long and with a nearly 15-foot wingspan, the X-37 B was blasted into low Earth orbit atop a rocket.

Since its first flight in 2010, it has sparked all kinds of speculation about its real purpose.

Some think it might be a space-based bomber that could strike objectives on Earth at a moment's notice.

Others suspect it is a potential "killer satellite," capable of destroying or damaging enemy satellites.

Or perhaps it is a super spy plane, orbiting Earth to keep watch on enemy territory as needed.

Fears that the world is on the brink of an arms race in space is behind some of those theories.

- Weapon of war? -

Satellites are crucial to the functioning of national economies as well as military operations, and the United States, China and Russia are all thinking about ways to defend them against attack.

No doubt they are also looking at ways to attack their adversaries' satellites.

In 2015, the mysterious behavior of a Russian satellite fueled speculation that Moscow was developing attack satellites capable of maneuvering in space to zero in on other satellites.

But many experts doubt that the X-37 B is the prototype for a true weapon of war or espionage.

"The X-37 is the size of a pick-up truck -- it would be difficult to have an effective weapon on board," says Victoria Samson, an expert with the Secure World Foundation, an advocate of sustainable development in space.

Moreover, the X-37 B would not be very maneuverable once in space, because its only source of power are solar panels.

"Generally speaking, to maneuver up in orbit requires a tremendous amount of fuel. So I can't imagine that they would be doing a lot of maneuvering," Samson said.

Mark Gubrud, a physicist and expert on military space technologies at the University of North Carolina, says the idea that it is a maneuverable spy satellite doesn't make much sense either.

"It has very little maneuver capability in orbit, and it can't reach high altitudes, only low Earth orbit," he said in an email.

"If you want to make a stealthy, maneuvering satellite, you will not weigh it down with wings and landing gear and make it so visible from Earth that even amateurs are able to track it."

The X-37 B's fourth flight was spotted six days after its launch in 2015 by a network of amateur satellite trackers, according to the website Spaceflight101.com.

It disappeared for several months in 2015 following a change in orbit, and again in February 2017 after another maneuver, but was later found again, the website said.

- A test bed -

In reality, experts today think the X-37 is more likely a test bed rather than a potential weapon, just as the Air Force said it was in one of its few public statements about the system.

They think it is being used to test sensors and equipment in space that can then be brought to the ground to see how they have performed.

Rocketdyne, a US company, announced that on the latest flight, it tested an ionic thruster used by satellites to move in space.

"If the US military wanted to quell concerns, they could," simply by putting out more information about the X-37 B, said Samson.

"Maybe it's in their interest to keep people guessing."

UN Security Council expected to meet on Syria safe zones deal

Japan and Sweden have requested a UN Security Council meeting to obtain specific details of a Russia-backed agreement on establishing safe zones in Syria, diplomats said Tuesday.The meeting, which is likely to be held this week, would help council memb…

Japan and Sweden have requested a UN Security Council meeting to obtain specific details of a Russia-backed agreement on establishing safe zones in Syria, diplomats said Tuesday.

The meeting, which is likely to be held this week, would help council members decide on whether to endorse the deal signed by Russia, Iran and Turkey.

The agreement signed in the Kazakh capital Astana on May 4 calls for the creation of four "de-escalation zones" to shore up a ceasefire, ban flights and allow for deliveries of humanitarian aid.

The United Nations has described it as a promising step in efforts to end the six-year war that has killed more than 320,000 people.

Russia has presented a draft resolution to the council that welcomes the deal and calls on all parties to abide by its provisions, but no vote has been scheduled on the measure.

French Ambassador Francois Delattre said it was important that the council "get all the clarity needed before engaging on a draft resolution."

"The question today is: Do we have all the elements we need to understand the substance and the way this agreement is going to be implemented? This is really the key question and frankly the answer to this question is 'not yet'," Delattre told reporters.

Japan and Sweden are, along with Egypt, the leaders at the Security Council on humanitarian issues from the Syrian conflict.

Under the deal, Russia, Iran and Turkey have until June 4 to agree on the exact boundaries of the four zones, where fighting between rebels and government forces is meant to stop.

Diplomats said they wanted to see maps to clearly assess the territory that would be covered by the deal which provides for vital deliveries of humanitarian aid.

"We want to have more information," said Swedish Ambassador Olof Skoog.

The agreement has not been signed by the Syrian government or the opposition. Details on whether international monitors will be deployed to the areas remain sketchy.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem has rejected any role by the United Nations in monitoring the designated zones.

Diplomats have raised concerns that the Astana talks will sideline the UN-brokered peace talks. UN envoy Staffan de Mistura on Monday announced that the next round of negotiations will begin on May 16.

Amazon’s new Alexa speaker has a screen too

Amazon on Tuesday unveiled the latest member of its family of devices powered by its Alexa digital assistant — this one with a touchscreen.The new device called Echo Show steps up efforts by Amazon to be part of the connected home, and potentially cre…

Amazon on Tuesday unveiled the latest member of its family of devices powered by its Alexa digital assistant -- this one with a touchscreen.

The new device called Echo Show steps up efforts by Amazon to be part of the connected home, and potentially create a market for a new kind of computing device.

The new device will be sold for $229 and ships starting June 28, according to Amazon's website. It will include the features of its other Echo devices along with video shown on a seven-inch touchscreen.

"With Echo Show, customers can watch video flash briefings and YouTube, and see music lyrics, smart home cameras, photos, weather forecasts, to-do and shopping lists, and more," said a blog post from Amazon developer anc chief evangelist for Echo devices David Isbitski.

Users will also be able to call or message others who also have an Echo or the Alexa application.

Amazon has dominated the category of connected speakers since 2014 when it introduced its first Echo, which responds to voice commands and allows users to order goods or rides and control connected appliances.

A survey released Monday by research firm eMarketer found Amazon's Echo speakers held 70.6 percent of the US market, compared with 23.8 percent for Google Home and 5.6 percent for others including Lenovo, LG, Harmon Kardon and Mattel.

The report said 35.6 million Americans will use a voice-activated assistant device at least once a month this year, a jump of 128.9 percent over last year.

Separately Monday, Samsung-owned Harman Kardon announced the release of its new Invoke speaker powered by Microsoft's digital assistant Cortana and integrating Skype for making calls using the device.

Courtois relishing prospect of title after Chelsea woes

Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois reckons winning the Premier League title with Chelsea this season will be all the sweeter after their struggles last term.The Blues were crowned champions of England in the 2014/15 season only to suffer a dramatic sl…

Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois reckons winning the Premier League title with Chelsea this season will be all the sweeter after their struggles last term.

The Blues were crowned champions of England in the 2014/15 season only to suffer a dramatic slump in form the following season that led to the sacking of manager Jose Mourinho.

Chelsea eventually finished 10th in the table as Leicester, 5,000/1 pre-season no-hopers completed a remarkable title triumph.

But 'normal service' has been resumed under Italian boss Antonio Conte, Mourinho's successor, and now west London club Chelsea will be crowned champions if they win away to West Bromwich Albion on Friday following Monday's 3-0 victory which relegated Middlesbrough.

Even if they slip up against the Baggies, Chelsea will still be overwhelming favourites given they need just three points from their final three league games this season to take the title.

Courtois spent three years on loan at Atletico Madrid, winning La Liga before claiming a Premier League title in his first season in English football.

The Belgium goalkeeper, asked to compare winning the title with Chelsea under Mourinho to this season with Conte, told Talksport Radio on Tuesday: "It's hard to say because obviously in the first year I came here, I came from winning the league in Spain and straight away we won the league, so that was very nice.

"But this year was maybe even more special, because last year was a very bad year.

"We had a lot of critics, the new manager came in at the beginning of the season, we won some games but then we lost and there were again a lot of critics.

"But then we bounced back as a team very hard and we played very well.

"From that point of view I think it's very nice to hopefully be able to lift that Premier League title soon.

"I know we're not there yet, but we're very close and it will be very enjoyable after last year."

Courtois added: "We hope to do it at the first attempt. We know West Brom are a hard team to play against -- we had a very tough game here (a 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge in December).

"Every opponent who goes there has a hard game, they are eighth in the league and have had a very good year."

Chelsea suffered September defeats by both Liverpool and Arsenal but responded by embarking upon a 13-match winning run in the league.

They have since won four matches in a row following a defeat by Manchester United, including an FA Cup semi-final success against London rivals Tottenham Hotspur, their nearest challengers in the league, that left Conte on the brink of completing a domestic 'Double' in his first season in English football.

"After every bad game we always recover very quickly, we always respond very well and win," Blues midfielder Nemanja Matic told Chelsea TV. "We have everything in our hands. We decide our future. On Friday, we have an opportunity to win and to take a title."

China says it tested new missile in northeastern sea

China has recently tested a new type of guided missile in a northeastern sea near the Korean peninsula, the defence ministry said Tuesday, hours after South Korean elections and amid regional tensions.The test in the Bohai Sea was conducted to “raise t…

China has recently tested a new type of guided missile in a northeastern sea near the Korean peninsula, the defence ministry said Tuesday, hours after South Korean elections and amid regional tensions.

The test in the Bohai Sea was conducted to "raise the operational capability of the armed forces and effectively respond to threats to national security," the ministry said in a brief statement.

The statement did not say when the launch took place, only that it happened "recently." It did not give any details about the missile nor the type of platform from which it was launched.

The announcement came on the day that South Koreans elected left-leaning former human rights lawyer Moon Jae-In in a presidential election held after a scandal led to the impeachment of the country's previous leader.

The test also comes as China, the United States and the Koreas are locked in a complex diplomatic spat over Pyongyang's missile launches and potential new nuclear tests.

The US military has installed an anti-missile defence system in South Korea to counter the North Korean threat, but China sees the deployment as a threat to the regional security balance and its own ballistic missile capabilities.

Authenticity of ISIS video showing execution of ‘Russian agent’ denied by MoD

The Russian Ministry of Defense has denied the authenticity of a video purporting to show the execution of a Russian intelligence officer in Syria that was released by the propaganda wing of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL). Read Fu…

Preview The Russian Ministry of Defense has denied the authenticity of a video purporting to show the execution of a Russian intelligence officer in Syria that was released by the propaganda wing of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).
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Grammys to move to New York for 60th edition in 2018

The Grammys will move next year from Los Angeles to New York to mark the 60th edition of the music industry’s premier awards, the Recording Academy announced Tuesday.The Grammys will take place on January 28 at the iconic Madison Square Garden after 14…

The Grammys will move next year from Los Angeles to New York to mark the 60th edition of the music industry's premier awards, the Recording Academy announced Tuesday.

The Grammys will take place on January 28 at the iconic Madison Square Garden after 14 years at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

The move follows a concerted campaign by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who estimated that the awards -- typically accompanied by days of concerts and parties with the music world's elite -- would bring $200 million to the Big Apple's economy.

"Playing host to the music industry's marquee awards show is a unique creative, artistic and economic boon to the rich cultural fabric of our city," de Blasio said in a statement.

The Recording Academy, the body of music professionals that administers the awards, announced the news on social media with a short video by New York director Spike Lee.

The film goes on a celebrity-led tour of music sites in New York from Carnegie Hall to Harlem's Apollo Theater to the defunct CBGB punk bar to Marcy Houses, the public housing complex in Brooklyn where rap mogul Jay Z grew up.

Since the first awards in 1959, the Grammys have alternated between New York and Los Angeles. But Los Angeles has kept the Grammys since 2004 -- in part because it is generally less expensive than New York.

The Recording Academy announced New York as the venue only for 2018, with expectations that the Grammys could return to Los Angeles in subsequent years.

While the decision to shift to New York had long been in the works, a battle had grown over which venue would win the lucrative, live-broadcast show.

Madison Square Garden played host when the Grammys last came to New York in 2003 and is one of the most famous arenas in the world.

But it faced competition from Barclays Center, the Brooklyn arena partially built by Jay Z that has been home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions.

Los Angeles will remain home to the year's most watched award extravaganza, the Oscars, which are scheduled for March 4.

This year's MTV Video Music Awards are also due to take place in Los Angeles after shifting last year to Madison Square Garden.

34 dead, 2,000 sick with suspected cholera in Yemen: WHO

Thirty-four people have died of cholera-related causes and more than 2,000 have been taken ill in less than two weeks in Yemen, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday. “There have been 34 cholera-associated deaths and 2,022 cases of acute watery…

Thirty-four people have died of cholera-related causes and more than 2,000 have been taken ill in less than two weeks in Yemen, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday.

"There have been 34 cholera-associated deaths and 2,022 cases of acute watery diarrhoea in nine governorates, including Sanaa, during the period of April 27 to May 7," a WHO official told AFP.

This is the second wave of cholera-associated deaths in a year in Yemen, where a deadly war has destroyed hospitals and left millions of people struggling to access food and clean water.

The WHO now classifies Yemen as one of the worst humanitarian emergencies in the world alongside Syria, South Sudan, Nigeria and Iraq.

Conflict in Yemen has escalated over the past two years, as the Saudi-supported government fights Iran-backed Huthi rebels for control of the impoverished country.

The United Nations, which has called Yemen "the largest humanitarian crisis in the world", estimates that more than 7,000 people have been killed since 2015 and three million displaced.

Some 17 million also lack adequate food, with one third of the country's provinces on the brink of famine.

Top lab CERN launches key new accelerator

Europe’s top physics lab CERN launched its newest particle accelerator on Tuesday, billed as a key step towards future experiments that could unlock the universe’s greatest mysteries. The Linac 4 accelerator will by 2021 be connected to CERN’s Large Ha…

Europe's top physics lab CERN launched its newest particle accelerator on Tuesday, billed as a key step towards future experiments that could unlock the universe's greatest mysteries.

The Linac 4 accelerator will by 2021 be connected to CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world's most powerful proton smasher.

The Geneva lab has long voiced hope that an enhanced LHC may help uncover new particles, possibly proving the existence of extra space-time dimensions.

The LHC has been connected to an accelerator launched in 1978, called the Linac 2.

The Linac 4 will deliver proton beams with three times more energy than its predecessor, with higher impact particle collisions ideally yielding new data, CERN said in a statement.

The new device "will considerably increase the potential of the LHC experiments" it added.

The 90-meter (295-foot) long Linac 4 took a decade to build and will be put through a series of test runs before being connected to the LHC.

Even with its older accelerator the LHC helped make extraordinary discoveries.

In 2012, it was used to prove the existence of the Higgs Boson -- the long-sought maker of mass, also known as the God particle.

The Higgs fits within the so-called Standard Model -- the mainstream theory of all the fundamental particles that make up matter and the forces that govern them.

A future goal for the LHC is to explore anomalies in the Standard Model that could indicate new dimensions.

Those experiments could possibly help explain dark matter and dark energy, of which we have no understanding but which together make up 95 percent of the universe.

CERN is going to shut down its desire accelerator complex in 2019-2020 to enhance the system.

The Linac 4 is "the first key element of our ambitious upgrade programme", CERN chief Fabiola Gianotti said in a statement, hailing its launch as a "remarkable accomplishment".

A400M delays could leave German air force hanging

Delays to the Airbus A400M plane meeting its full specifications could leave the German air force without transport aircraft after 2021, according to a confidential report.”Given the under-financing of the programme and the compensation claims over del…

Delays to the Airbus A400M plane meeting its full specifications could leave the German air force without transport aircraft after 2021, according to a confidential report.

"Given the under-financing of the programme and the compensation claims over delays in delivery, Airbus will not be able to make the necessary investments to make the needed improvements," read an extract from the German defence ministry report seen by AFP.

"Operational use of the aircraft is therefore in danger," it continued.

The A400M is the most ambitious joint procurement programme ever launched in Europe, involving seven countries: Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and Turkey.

But while the nations ordered the planes in 2003, the first were not delivered until 2013 -- four years after the contract fell due.

Of some 50 bought by Berlin, just eight were delivered by 2016, and those quickly turned out to suffer from technical problems and shortcomings.

"These aircraft will not fulfil important tactical capabilities, or only fulfil them to a limited extent, in the foreseeable future," the report concludes.

That could lead to problems for the Bundeswehr, the German armed forces, after 2021, when its ageing fleet of Transall transport planes is set for retirement.

"The A400M shows in daily deployments that it is a capable aircraft," a defence ministry spokesman told AFP, while refusing to comment on details of the report.

"The fact that it can't do everything it's supposed to according to the contract is well known. Of course the manufacturer is obliged to find solutions" where it has failed to live up to specification, he added.

An Airbus spokesman said the programme has "made significant progress over the past year in the areas of defensive measures and paratrooper deployment".

The A400M's four turboprop engines allow it to transport up to 37 tonnes of freight up to 3,300 kilometres (2,000 miles), and it is capable of landing on rough ground including sand.

It can transport armoured vehicles or helicopters, drop paratroopers and refuel helicopters in mid-air.

US, China must ‘lead the way’ on climate: Obama

The United States and China have to lead the way in the fight against climate change, former US president Barack Obama said Tuesday.Speaking as the future of the landmark Paris climate accord hangs in the balance, he acknowledged differences with his s…

The United States and China have to lead the way in the fight against climate change, former US president Barack Obama said Tuesday.

Speaking as the future of the landmark Paris climate accord hangs in the balance, he acknowledged differences with his successor Donald Trump but said the private sector also had a role to play.

"It's important that big countries that are big emitters like the US and China... lead the way," he told a conference in the Italian city of Milan, saying developing countries were watching them.

"The current administration has differences with my administration in terms of environmental policy," he said, referring to Trump.

"The good news is the private sector has already made a determination that the future is clean energy. Those things are locked in now, into the energy sector."

"Because of the debates taking place in the current administration the steps may be taken more slowly than they would have been done, but I'm confident," he added.

While campaigning last year, Trump called climate change a hoax perpetrated by China, and promised to cancel the deal if he won the presidency.

Now, after months of uncertainty, he appears to be edging toward a decision on whether to honour the landmark 2015 agreement to limit global warming.

A key White House meeting scheduled for Tuesday to discuss whether the United States will honour the Paris accord was postponed, with no new date set.

Wagner’s great-granddaughter abandons festival dream

Nike Wagner, great-granddaughter of legendary German opera composer Richard Wagner, on Tuesday said she had given up hope of ever directing the annual Bayreuth festival dedicated to his works.”Even dreams must one day come to an end,” Nike told the Rhe…

Nike Wagner, great-granddaughter of legendary German opera composer Richard Wagner, on Tuesday said she had given up hope of ever directing the annual Bayreuth festival dedicated to his works.

"Even dreams must one day come to an end," Nike told the Rheinische Post newspaper.

The festival, set up by Wagner in 1876, has always been run by the composer's descendants since his death in 1883.

Wagner was one of Adolf Hitler's favourite composers and the Nazi leader entertained close personal ties with the Wagner family.

The composer's two grandsons Wieland and Wolfgang jointly took over the running of the festival after World War II.

But when Wieland, Nike's father, died in 1996, Wolfgang was left in sole charge, much to the chagrin of Wieland's family who felt they were being sidelined.

The frequently bitter internecine feud for control came to a head not long before Wolfgang's death at the age of 90 in 2010, when he made it clear that he wanted his only daughter by his second marriage, Katharina, to take over.

In the end, however, a compromise solution was found, handing over the joint reins to Katharina, now 39, and her much older half-sister Eva Wagner-Pasquier, now 72.

That arrangement came to an end last year, leaving Katharina in sole charge.

A legal case Nike launched to try and secure more influence over the storied "Green Hill" where the opera house stands failed in December.

But she has not let the long-running feud distract her from other tasks, becoming director of the annual Beethovenfest in Bonn in 2014 -- after previously directing Weimar's Franz Liszt festival, dedicated to another illustrious ancestor.

- 'Abominably boring' -

In any case, it's "abominably boring to always do nothing but Wagner," Nike said.

There is "no personal animosity" between herself and her cousin, she added, despite the fact that she has in the past aimed sharp comments at Katharina's organising the festival "in the image of her father".

"You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs," she said of her criticisms' impact on the family tensions.

A highlight of the year for Germany's political and social elite, the festival in southeastern town Bayreuth opened with Wagner's monumental Ring cycle in 1876, on the stage of a theatre built to Wagner's own designs and partly funded by a loan from "Mad King" Ludwig II of Bavaria.

So vital is the opera event to the cultural life of the nation that both the federal government and the state of Bavaria are shareholders.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is a passionate opera fan and has trodden the Bayreuth red carpet almost every year that she has been head of government.

Her husband Joachim Sauer is jokingly known as the "Phantom of the Opera", as it is one of the rare events where he appears in public.

Last July saw the festival open under heightened security, as southern Germany reeled from two terrorist attacks in the space of a week.

Blast at Mexico fireworks warehouse kills at least 14

An explosion at a fireworks warehouse in Mexico has killed at least 14 people and wounded 22, an official said Tuesday.The blast occurred Monday night in a rural area of central Puebla state, Diodoro Carrasco, a senior official in the state government,…

An explosion at a fireworks warehouse in Mexico has killed at least 14 people and wounded 22, an official said Tuesday.

The blast occurred Monday night in a rural area of central Puebla state, Diodoro Carrasco, a senior official in the state government, told radio station Cinco Radio.

News reports said 11 of the fatalities were minors but the government did not immediately confirm this.

The explosion came during preparations for a religious festival on May 15, the Puebla state government said.

There are people who live in the building where the fireworks were being stored, it said.

The blast was set off by a rocket that was fired from outside the building and struck the stored pyrotechnic material, the government said.

Last December, 42 people died and 70 were injured in a series of explosions at the country's largest fireworks market, in the town of Tultepec outside Mexico City.

Goulart double puts Evergrande into knock-outs

A Ricardo Goulart double steered two-time winners Guangzhou Evergrande into the AFC Champions League last 16 as they drew 2-2 with Suwon Samsung Bluewings on Tuesday.After cancelling out Yeom Ki-Hun’s opener, Goulart looked offside as he headed Evergra…

A Ricardo Goulart double steered two-time winners Guangzhou Evergrande into the AFC Champions League last 16 as they drew 2-2 with Suwon Samsung Bluewings on Tuesday.

After cancelling out Yeom Ki-Hun's opener, Goulart looked offside as he headed Evergrande 2-1 ahead on 68 minutes, before Kim Jong-Woo's late equaliser caused some late jitters.

But the single point was enough to take Evergrande, the 2013 and 2015 champions, into the knock-out rounds in second place in Group G behind Japan's Kawasaki Frontale.

Scolari celebrated wildly on the touchline as the Chinese giants erased memories of last year's embarrassing group-stage exit when they were defending champions.

Japan's Kawasaki smashed Hong Kong debutants Eastern, led by their trailblazing female coach Chan Yuen-ting, 4-0 to rise from third place to top spot.

Elsewhere Ji Xiang's 81st-minute winner handed Group H table-toppers Jiangsu Suning a 1-0 win over 2008 runners-up Adelaide United.

Ji produced a clinical finish when it mattered -- in what was only the Chinese team's second shot on target -- to end Adelaide's faint hopes of progressing.

South Korea's Jeju United made sure of second spot when they beat Gamba Osaka 2-0 thanks to goals from Chung Woon and Hwang Il-Su.

Chung scored on 29 minutes with a deflected shot before Hwang's memorable strike on 66 minutes, when he cut inside a defender and curled in his shot from a distance.

In Guangzhou, Yeom raised tensions among home fans when he scored from a cut-back on nine minutes, before Goulart equalised eight minutes later.

Evergrande then grabbed a 2-1 lead when the Brazilian forward headed in Gao Lin's cross from what replays strongly suggested was offside.

With 10 minutes left, Suwon's Kim made it 2-2 when he made a Cruyff turn outside the box, created some space and rifled his shot in off the woodwork.

But Evergrande, who have won the last six Chinese Super League titles, held on to maintain their bid for a third Asian trophy in five years.

ELN rebel group frees 8 hostages: Colombia president

Eight hostages allegedly taken in Colombia by the left-wing ELN rebel group have been freed, President Juan Manuel Santos said Tuesday, crediting “public pressure” for their release.”The eight kidnap victims… have been freed, thanks to public pressur…

Eight hostages allegedly taken in Colombia by the left-wing ELN rebel group have been freed, President Juan Manuel Santos said Tuesday, crediting "public pressure" for their release.

"The eight kidnap victims... have been freed, thanks to public pressure," Santos wrote on Twitter.

The seven men and one woman were seized by gunmen believed to belong to the ELN in Novita, a small town in the Choco region, the poorest part of the country in northwestern Colombia.

Recent hostage-takings by the ELN, whose initials stand for National Liberation Army, come with the leftist guerrilla group and the government poised to begin peace talks after decades of hostilities.

Colombia's government and the ELN, the country's last active rebel force, are due to resume talks on May 16 in Ecuador after initiating negotiations in February.

In November, a larger rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), signed a peace deal with the government after four years of talks.

The ELN has an estimated 1,500 fighters, compared with the FARC's 7,000.

Hollande’s presidency marked by terrorism, love scandal

Dogged by France’s stubbornly high unemployment throughout his presidency, Francois Hollande also faced an unprecedented wave of jihadist attacks, violent protests over labour reforms and public airing of his tangled private life.Here are some of the d…

Dogged by France's stubbornly high unemployment throughout his presidency, Francois Hollande also faced an unprecedented wave of jihadist attacks, violent protests over labour reforms and public airing of his tangled private life.

Here are some of the defining moments of the Socialist leader's mandate which began in 2012 and, following an unprecedented decision not to run for re-election, ends Sunday.

- Terror attacks -

A series of deadly jihadist attacks has killed more than 230 people since January 2015, mostly the work of French radicals acting in the name of Islamic State (IS) or other extremist groups.

Hollande won praise for rallying a shocked nation after the first attacks in January 2015 on the satirical Charlie Hebdo magazine and a Jewish supermarket.

Around 50 heads of state joined him on a march against terror that saw 3.7 million people take to the streets of France.

Ten months later, he reacted quickly when IS massacred 130 people in Paris at the Bataclan concert hall, at cafes and bars, and outside the national stadium.

Hollande announced a state of emergency, declaring that France was "at war" and deploying troops to patrol the streets.

But in July, when 86 people enjoying Bastille Day festivities in Nice were killed in a truck rampage, accusations mounted that Hollande's government was failing to tackle the extremist threat.

- Tumultuous private life -

Before taking office Hollande took aim at the romantic antics of his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy -- who married supermodel Carla Bruni while president -- vowing that on personal matters, he himself would be "exemplary".

But cracks began to show in Hollande's relationship with long-term partner Valerie Trierweiler, and the couple split after it emerged he was having an affair with Julie Gayet, an actress nearly 20 years his junior.

Trierweiler published a bestselling memoir that proved deeply embarrassing to Hollande, not least with its claim that the Socialist leader disdained the poor.

To make matters more complicated, Hollande has four children from an earlier relationship with Environment Minister Segolene Royal.

- Violent labour protests -

Hollande took power on a leftist platform -- including a top tax rate of 75 percent -- but later shifted towards business-friendly policies, notably trying to tackle France's famously rigid labour laws.

His government suffered months of violent protests in 2016 over reforms designed to make it easier to hire people but also easier to fire them, before finally managing to push through a watered-down version last summer.

Hollande's approval ratings sank to catastrophic lows, dragged down by disappointment over his management of the economy. Despite promises to create jobs, unemployment remains near 10 percent.

- Foreign wars -

Hollande launched a military operation in January 2013 to halt the advance of Islamists who had taken over swathes of northern Mali, a former French colony.

The following December, a second operation was launched in the Central African Republic -- another former colonial possession -- in a bid to restore stability to a country gripped by religious violence.

Jihadists remain active in Mali and a vast portion of the country remains out of government control, while violence also remains rife in CAR.

Hollande also sought to intervene in Syria in 2013, but backed out of air strikes when it became clear then US president Barack Obama did not intend to follow suit.

France began air strikes in Syria only in September 2015 as part of an international coalition targeting IS. French raids against IS in Iraq had begun in September 2014.

- Row over French nationality -

After the Paris attacks, Hollande sought to modify the constitution to allow convicted terrorists to be stripped of their French nationality if they were dual nationals.

The issue sparked fierce debate over the ethics of such a move, with Justice Minister Christiane Taubira quitting in protest.

Hollande finally scrapped the idea. When announcing late last year that he would not seek re-election, Hollande flagged up the row as the one major regret of his presidency.

- Global climate deal -

Hollande campaigned hard for the historic climate agreement signed in Paris last December and hailed it as one of his key achievements.

- Gay marriage -

The Socialist leader had made "marriage for all" one of his election pledges, and same-sex marriages were signed into law in April 2013, despite angry protests by tens of thousands of social conservatives.

- Macron's rise -

Hollande launched the rise of his successor, choosing Emmanuel Macron, a former investment banker with no political experience, as an economic advisor. He then brought Macron into his Socialist government, promoting him to economy minister in 2014.

But Macron turned his back on Hollande, quitting the cabinet to build his own centrist political movement "En Marche" (On the Move), and eventually winning the presidential election.

Exit Francois Hollande, France’s president of paralysis

When Francois Hollande tapped Emmanuel Macron as an aide in his 2012 presidential campaign, little did he know that he was taking advice from his eventual successor.Nor could the French Socialist leader, who hands over power to Macron on Sunday, have f…

When Francois Hollande tapped Emmanuel Macron as an aide in his 2012 presidential campaign, little did he know that he was taking advice from his eventual successor.

Nor could the French Socialist leader, who hands over power to Macron on Sunday, have foreseen that the liberal reforms championed by his protege would turn out to be his undoing.

At 62, Hollande leaves office as one of France's least popular leaders after becoming the embodiment of his country's social and economic paralysis.

Bespectacled and with a receding hairline, he had an easy touch with the public but quickly acquired a reputation for being wishy-washy, with detractors nicknaming him Flanby after a French brand of wobbly pudding.

Vowing to govern as "Mr Normal", he took the helm five years ago on a wave of goodwill from voters eager to turn the page on the "bling-bling" years of the flamboyant, brash Nicolas Sarkozy.

But Hollande's term got off to an inauspicious start as rain drenched his inaugural parade and he flew into a thunderstorm on his maiden foreign trip, to Berlin.

- 'Reverse the curve' -

Hollande set about implementing his left-wing agenda, vowing to "reverse the curve" of unemployment that had risen to around 10 percent in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

One of his crowning achievements was to shepherd France's gay marriage through parliament in 2013 despite mass protests.

He initiated a 75 percent "millionaire's tax", which caused an outcry among high-profile figures such as actor Gerard Depardieu and was quietly scrapped.

Then, with the jobless figures refusing to budge and the economy stuck at near-zero growth, Hollande came under increasing pressure to change course.

He began pushing for a tax cut on businesses in exchange for hiring pledges, known as the Responsibility Pact, triggering dissent on the Socialists' left flank.

Hollande brought in economic liberal Manuel Valls as prime minister in March 2014 -- and a certain Emmanuel Macron as economy minister that August.

- Outright rebellion -

Their push to reform France's ossified labour market turned the dissent into outright rebellion within the party and anger on the streets.

France saw waves of strikes and sometimes violent protests nationwide, with images of tear gas and hooded activists hurling petrol bombs beamed onto TV screens around the world.

Hollande's paralysis as president combined with revelations over his amorous peccadillos -- he was caught cheating on the woman he called the love of his life, Valerie Trierweiler -- dragged down his approval ratings.

Hollande won credit for his leadership throughout a series of jihadist attacks that have killed 239 people since 2015.

In one of the defining moments of his presidency, he led world leaders and one million Parisians in a march against terrorism after the January 2015 attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine and a Jewish store.

After the November 2015 attacks in the capital that killed 130 people, his government imposed a state of emergency that has been renewed repeatedly, over the objections of rights groups.

- 'He owes me' -

Despite his dismal poll ratings that at one stage plunged to just four percent, Hollande held out the hope that a late improvement in unemployment figures would justify a re-election bid.

It was a hope he continued to nurture after Macron walked out on the government and announced his own bid for the presidency.

"He knows what he owes me," he fumed after Macron launched his own En Marche movement.

Hollande's dithering on a second term was toxic for the Socialist Party.

Then a tell-all book came out in October that made many wonder if he was his own worst enemy.

In "A President Shouldn't Say That", a book of interviews by two journalists from Le Monde newspaper, Hollande heaped scorn on the national football team and even his own government's policies.

He finally bowed out of contention in early December, becoming the first president of France's fifth republic, founded 58 years ago, to decide not to seek a second term.

- Accidental president? -

Hollande won the Socialist nomination for the presidency after then IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn -- the hot favourite -- crashed out of the running after being arrested in New York on charges of sexual assault.

The criminal charges were dropped after Strauss-Kahn's accuser was found to be an unreliable witness, but the man known as DSK was forced to quit the International Monetary Fund and abandon his presidential ambitions.

Hollande's scandals were of a different order, less sordid but still sensational.

He split with fellow Socialist traveller Segolene Royal, the partner he never married though they had four children together, for the journalist Trierweiler.

Their stormy relationship ended after it emerged that he was enjoying trysts with actress Julie Gayet -- paparazzi famously photographed him arriving by motorbike at their Paris love nest.

Trierweiler's score-settling book "Thank You for This Moment: A Story of Love, Power and Betrayal", went on to become an international bestseller.

‘We’re not from Beverly Hills’ – Ramos warns Atletico

Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos insists the European champions will not be cowered by an intimidating atmosphere as they visit Atletico Madrid’s Vicente Calderon for the final time on Wednesday.Los Blancos are looking to seal their place in the Champi…

Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos insists the European champions will not be cowered by an intimidating atmosphere as they visit Atletico Madrid's Vicente Calderon for the final time on Wednesday.

Los Blancos are looking to seal their place in the Champions League final once more and enjoy a commanding 3-0 first leg lead.

And Ramos hit back at the simplification of the rivalry between the two Madrid giants as Real's riches against Atletico's hard work.

"It seems like here we have grown up in Beverly Hills," said Ramos on Tuesday.

"Here there are people from humble backgrounds too.

"The sacrifice is what fills you with desire to win."

An already intense rivalry has reached new levels in recent seasons as under Diego Simeone Atletico's status and ability to challenge Real has grown.

However, the red and white side of Madrid has consistently fallen short against Real in the Champions League.

Unless they pull off a remarkable comeback, Atletico will bow out of European competition against their fiercest rivals for the fourth consecutive season.

"We know playing at home is always a plus for us," said Atletico midfielder Saul Niguez.

"We have to give everything and make sure the fans go home proud of their players whether we go through or not."

However, the size of Atletico's task is illustrated by the fact that Real have scored in all of their last 60 games stretching back over a year.

"We can't go crazy," added Saul. "We know it is very difficult, but we need to go step-by-step, we need to keep a clean sheet.

"If they score the tie is even more difficult, but a goal in the first-half would give us a lot of strength and could make them nervous."

- No vertigo -

Even by their standards Real are on the verge of completing the most glorious season in the club's decorated history.

Zinedine Zidane's men are three games away from a first league title in five years and, should they complete a La Liga and Champions League double, it will be Real's first since 1957/58.

Moreover, they could become the first side in the Champions League era to retain the trophy.

And Ramos insisted he is relishing a challenging end to the campaign rather than wilting under the pressure.

"There is no feeling of vertigo. The contrary, it is in our own hands," added the Spanish international.

"The good part of the season is coming, there are two weeks left and we'll see what happens in the end.

"I would settle to be in this position every year."

Despite his stellar record since taking charge of Real 17 months ago, Zidane has been evasive over his future in recent weeks.

However, the Frenchman believes even if Real ended up missing out on both La Liga and the Champions League, it would be unfair to categorise their season as a failure.

"After eight or nine months the players have worked with incredible professionalism, but we have to keep showing that every three days.

"Until now we have done well, but we have to show it again tomorrow and on Sunday.

"An injustice or a failure is not giving your all, and we are giving everything we have."

Zidane is expected to resort back to the side that started the first leg after making nine changes for Saturday's 4-0 win at Granada bar the introduction of Nacho for the injured Dani Carvajal at right-back.

Gareth Bale remains sidelined with a calf injury.

Atletico's injury crisis at right-back is expected to be resolved by the return of Juanfran after three weeks out.

Otherwise, Simeone is also expected to name the same side that started the first leg.

Ban on young boys’ circumcision proposed in Norway

Preview Norway’s Progress Party (FrP), the country’s third largest party and known for its anti-immigration policies, has supported a bill outlawing ritual circumcision of boys aged under 16, a common practice among Jewish and Muslim communities.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview Norway’s Progress Party (FrP), the country’s third largest party and known for its anti-immigration policies, has supported a bill outlawing ritual circumcision of boys aged under 16, a common practice among Jewish and Muslim communities.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Froome’s bike ‘rammed on purpose’ by impatient driver

Reigning Tour de France champion Chris Froome said Tuesday he was deliberately knocked off his bicycle by a hit-and-run driver while training in southern France.

Reigning Tour de France champion Chris Froome said Tuesday he was deliberately knocked off his bicycle by a hit-and-run driver while training in southern France.

Second German soldier held over far-right attack plot

German police on Tuesday arrested a second soldier in a bizarre far-right plot to kill politicians, including former president Joachim Gauck, and blame the attack on Muslim asylum seekers.The suspect, identified only as Maximilian T., 27, was stationed…

German police on Tuesday arrested a second soldier in a bizarre far-right plot to kill politicians, including former president Joachim Gauck, and blame the attack on Muslim asylum seekers.

The suspect, identified only as Maximilian T., 27, was stationed at the same Franco-German base near Strasbourg as army lieutenant Franco Albrecht, who was arrested on April 26.

Albrecht, 28, had managed to create the false identity of a Syrian fruit seller from Damascus and to register himself as a refugee who was granted asylum, a space in a shelter and monthly state benefits.

Their plan, say prosecutors, was to commit an attack, for which they had obtained a pistol and drawn up a hit list of pro-refugee politicians, including Gauck and Justice Minister Heiko Maas.

The pair, along with 24-year-old student Mathias F., had hoped the murder would "be seen by the population as a radical Islamist terrorist act committed by a recognised refugee," said a statement from the prosecution.

Albrecht was first questioned by Austrian police in February at Vienna airport after he tried to retrieve a loaded, unregistered handgun he had hidden in a toilet there days earlier.

This sparked an investigation that threw up the big surprise -- that Albrecht had in December 2015 created a false identity as a Syrian refugee even though he spoke no Arabic.

- Death list -

Germany has taken in more than one million asylum seekers since 2015, many from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, amid an initial wave of goodwill followed by an anti-foreigner backlash and a spate of racist hate crimes.

Prosecutors say the three suspects "planned an attack against a high-ranking politician or public figure who was supportive of what the accused saw as the failed immigration and refugee affairs policies".

Albrecht "was meant to carry out the attack" and had created the fictitious identity of a refugee who was meant to be seen as the perpetrator.

Maximilian T., who served in the same infantry battalion, allegedly made excuses for him during his absences from the Illkirch base, penned the death list, and helped Albrecht procure the French-made handgun in Vienna, prosecutors said.

News portal Spiegel Online said the newly-arrested suspect was also a lieutenant and a close friend of Albrecht, and that both were part of an online chat group in which they shared right-wing extremist content.

The strange case has heaped pressure on Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen, who is often mentioned as a potential successor to Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The scandal worsened after she criticised "attitude and leadership problems" within the military, angering many in the armed services.

It has since emerged that Albrecht had expressed right-wing extremist views in a master's thesis he submitted in 2014, in which he theorised about the end of Western civilisation through immigration, but that he faced no disciplinary action.

Peacekeeper killed in attack in C. Africa: UN

A UN peacekeeper was killed and four others were missing following an attack on their convoy in the southeast of Central African Republic, the UN said Tuesday.The convoy was attacked on Monday evening near Yogofongo village, more than 470 kilometres (2…

A UN peacekeeper was killed and four others were missing following an attack on their convoy in the southeast of Central African Republic, the UN said Tuesday.

The convoy was attacked on Monday evening near Yogofongo village, more than 470 kilometres (290 miles) east of the capital Bangui, close to the border with Democratic Republic of Congo, the MINUSCA peacekeeping mission said.

"One Cambodian peacekeeper was killed and eight peacekeepers were injured, including one Cambodian and seven Moroccans," said a MINUSCA statement.

"Four peacekeepers are missing in action, among them three Cambodian soldiers and 1 Moroccan soldier. The perpetrators of the attack fled into the bush."

Killing a UN peacekeeper is considered a war crime, MINUSCA spokesman Herve Verhoosel told AFP, saying the convoy comprised police and UN military staff.

The UN sent a helicopter and soldiers to secure the area and search for the missing, while the wounded were evacuated to Bangui, the statement added.

China’s Xi vows to defend climate pact in call with Macron

Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to protect the Paris Agreement on curbing climate change during a phone call with French President-elect Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday.China and France “should protect the achievements of global governance, including t…

Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to protect the Paris Agreement on curbing climate change during a phone call with French President-elect Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday.

China and France "should protect the achievements of global governance, including the Paris Agreement", Xi told Macron, according to the foreign ministry.

"China has always regarded France as a high-priority partner... and maintains its support for the process of European integration," Xi was quoted as saying.

The two leaders agreed to meet "as soon as possible".

US President Donald Trump has expressed scepticism about the pact. He had been slated later Tuesday to meet key climate and economic advisers to discuss a possible withdrawal, but a senior White House official told AFP the meeting has been postponed.

During his election campaign Trump promised to "cancel" the climate deal, clinched in 2015 after years of tough bartering and now signed by 196 countries.

The agreement seeks to brake global warming by curbing fossil fuel emissions.

Climate negotiators are currently meeting in Bonn to start drafting a guide for member countries to carry out the accord. But the gathering risks being hamstrung over fears that the US, the world's number two carbon polluter, will pull out and throw the agreement into disarray.

China has called on the US to honour its commitments to tackle climate change.

"The Paris Agreement was hard-earned. All parties of the international community, including China, had a common consensus on it," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in March.

"All parties should conform to the historical trend of the time, seize the opportunity, honour their commitment, take practical and positive actions and implement the agreement."

Such appeals have spurred speculation over whether China, the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, will emerge as a leader in the fight against climate change while the US takes a backseat.

Xi sent Macron a congratulatory note on Monday, following a presidential election victory hailed in the Chinese nationalist tabloid Global Times as a triumph against the "populism trend" bolstered by Trump.

Beijing and Paris maintained good relations during the five-year term of President Francois Hollande, after his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy angered China by meeting the Dalai Lama.

Avalanche in French Alps leaves three dead

A late-season avalanche killed two skiers and their guide in the French Alps near the Italian border Tuesday, local officials said.The avalanche struck in the Albaron area, the mayor of nearby Bonneval-sur-Arc, Gabriel Blanc, told AFP.”We know from a r…

A late-season avalanche killed two skiers and their guide in the French Alps near the Italian border Tuesday, local officials said.

The avalanche struck in the Albaron area, the mayor of nearby Bonneval-sur-Arc, Gabriel Blanc, told AFP.

"We know from a reliable source that there were only three" victims, Blanc added, after the local government said a search was continuing for more possible victims.

The three were headed towards the Greffier col, the mayor said. Authorities do not know what caused the avalanche, which slammed the skiers onto a rocky ridge.

Roberts to lead Wales in rugby tour against Tonga and Samoa

Veteran centre Jamie Roberts will captain a Wales squad featuring 13 uncapped players for the two Tests away to Tonga and Samoa next month.With regular captain Alun Wyn Jones in a British and Irish Lions squad led by former Wales skipper Sam Warburton …

Veteran centre Jamie Roberts will captain a Wales squad featuring 13 uncapped players for the two Tests away to Tonga and Samoa next month.

With regular captain Alun Wyn Jones in a British and Irish Lions squad led by former Wales skipper Sam Warburton for the combined side's upcoming tour of New Zealand, Wales were on the hunt for a new on-field leader for their internationals against Tonga in Auckland on June 16 and Samoa in Apia a week later.

"I'm immensely honoured to be named captain of Wales for this year's summer tour," said Roberts, 30, in a Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) statement on Tuesday as the 32-man squad was announced.

"It's a proud moment for myself, but more importantly my family and a position of responsibility that I will take huge pride in."

Roberts added: "I am excited for the new players in the squad as they get the chance to test themselves at this level, and also for the more established players who now have a chance to become leaders in this team."

There have been alterations to the backroom staff too, with Wales boss Warren Gatland in charge of a Lions squad where interim coach Rob Howley is one of his assistants.

As a result, forwards coach Robin McBryde will be in overall charge against Tonga and Samoa.

Roberts, capped 91 times by Wales, failed to gain selection for this year's Lions after starring in the combined side's 2-1 series triumph in Australia four years ago after also featuring in their 2009 tour of South Africa.

Now at London club Harlequins, Roberts was one of the most experienced players available to McBryde after Gatland selected 12 Wales internationals in his 2017 Lions squad.

"We've got a good mix of experience and youth in this squad," said McBryde who, following the Welsh call-ups to the Lions, named 13 uncapped players in his party for the Tests against the Pacific island nations.

"The senior players will be expected to display their leadership qualities and we want the younger men to show they've got what it takes to handle the intense international environment."

One of the uncapped players is in-form back-row forward Thomas Young.

The son of former Wales and Lions prop David Young, his coach at Wasps, the 24-year-old scored three tries in a 35-15 win over defending champions Saracens on Saturday as the Midlands club finished top of the regular season English Premiership standings ahead of the title-deciding play-offs.

Others also aiming to make their Test debuts next month include Ospreys wing Keelan Giles and Leicester back Owen Williams, set to move to Premiership rivals Gloucester at the end of the European season.

However, in a Wales squad of 14 backs and 18 forwards, there was no recall for hooker Richard Hibbard.

The front-row, who won the last of his 41 Wales caps in 2015, has been in fine form for Gloucester this season and the 33-year-old is set to be a key player for the Cherry and Whites when they face Paris-based Stade Francais in the second-tier European Challenge Cup final at Murrayfield on Friday.

White House meeting on Paris climate accord postponed

A key White House meeting scheduled for Tuesday to discuss whether the United States will honor the Paris climate change accord has been postponed, an administration official said.No new date was given for the session, which aims to bring together Pres…

A key White House meeting scheduled for Tuesday to discuss whether the United States will honor the Paris climate change accord has been postponed, an administration official said.

No new date was given for the session, which aims to bring together President Donald Trump -- who is flirting with pulling out of the agreement -- with top climate and economic advisers.

"It's been postponed," a senior official told AFP on Tuesday.

While campaigning last year, Trump called climate change a hoax perpetrated by China, and promised to cancel the deal if he won the presidency.

Now, after months of uncertainty, he appears to be edging toward a decision on whether to honor the landmark 2015 agreement to limit global warming.

Senior State Department environmental official David Balton said Monday that Trump has indicated he plans to decide over the next couple of weeks whether the US will abide by the accord.

A US withdrawal would seriously undermine global efforts to limit carbon emissions, which the vast majority of experts say are changing the climate in dangerous ways.

The United States is the world's number two carbon polluter, after China.

Activist, lawyer, president: South Korea’s Moon

The projected winner of South Korea’s presidential election is a former special forces soldier, pro-democracy activist and human rights lawyer.An exit poll forecast a landslide victory for left-leaning Moon Jae-In of the Democratic Party, giving him 41…

The projected winner of South Korea's presidential election is a former special forces soldier, pro-democracy activist and human rights lawyer.

An exit poll forecast a landslide victory for left-leaning Moon Jae-In of the Democratic Party, giving him 41.4 percent support, 18 percentage points ahead of his nearest challenger.

Victory will cap a political career that began with student activism in the days of military rule, when he was convicted of taking part in illegal protests.

The election came after millions of South Koreans took to the streets in candlelit demonstrations to demand the removal of Park Geun-Hye, who was sacked by the country's top court in March over a corruption scandal and is now in custody awaiting trial.

The irony is that he was once chief of staff to liberal president Roh Moo-Hyun, who committed suicide in 2009 after being questioned over graft allegations.

"Corruption is the biggest issue in South Korean politics," says Robert Kelly of Pusan National University. "That's absolutely true. Every South Korean president has gotten into trouble for corruption and bribery and graft and things like that, of varying degrees."

But Moon boasts a clean image himself, said Kim Neung-Gou, president of online newspaper Polinews, and has been "riding on waves of protests against Park and accumulated corruption".

- Arrested and expelled -

Moon was born on the southern island of Geoje in 1952 during the Korean War after his parents fled the North.

His father was a menial worker at a prisoner-of-war camp while his mother peddled eggs in the nearby port city of Busan, with the baby Moon strapped to her back, the politician wrote in his autobiography.

He entered law school in Seoul in 1972 but was arrested and expelled for leading a student protest against the authoritarian rule of dictator Park Chung-Hee -- the ousted president's father.

Moon returned to school in 1980 only to be arrested again.

His close friendship with future president Roh began in 1982 when they opened a law firm in Busan focusing on human and civil rights issues.

Both became leading figures in the pro-democracy protests that swept the country in 1987 and led to South Korea's first direct presidential elections the same year.

When Roh entered politics, Moon continued with his legal practice in Busan, defending students and workers arrested for leading protests and labour strikes.

But a year after Roh's unexpected election victory in 2002, Moon joined the administration as a presidential aide, tasked with weeding out official corruption and screening candidates for top government posts, before rising to become his chief of staff.

"I was always happy due to the fact that I was able to help others with what I had been trained to do," Moon said in his autobiography.

- Deeper rifts -

The 64-year-old has promised to curb the concentration of economic power in the hands of the chaebols, the family-oriented business groups whose ties to government have been exposed in the wide-ranging scandal that saw Park impeached.

But his opponents say he is narrow-minded and surrounded by jealous loyalists, whose strong factionalism has contributed to the main opposition party splitting.

"When he becomes president, the rift between liberals and conservatives will deepen all the more, and national reconciliation would be further off," former Yonsei University political science professor Kim Syng-Ho said.

Conservative critics also accuse him of being too soft towards nuclear-armed North Korea.

Tensions between Washington and Pyongyang over the latter's weapons and missile programmes have risen in recent weeks, but Moon advocates dialogue and reconciliation with the North to defuse the situation and eventually lure it to negotiations.

He has shown ambivalence over the US missile defence system THAAD, which has been deployed in the South to the fury of China.

That could all lay the ground for a difficult relationship with US President Donald Trump -- who has demanded that Seoul pay for the "billion dollar" system.

Over 50 wounded in double bombing outside supermarket in Thailand

More than 50 people have been injured in a double bombing that struck outside a supermarket in the town of Pattani in southern Thailand, AFP reported citing police. Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview More than 50 people have been injured in a double bombing that struck outside a supermarket in the town of Pattani in southern Thailand, AFP reported citing police.
Read Full Article at RT.com

US warship & S. Korean fishing boat collide in Sea of Japan

The USS Lake Champlain Ticonderoga-class cruiser has collided with a South Korean fishing vessel during drills in the Sea of Japan, Yonhap state news agency reports.

Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview The USS Lake Champlain Ticonderoga-class cruiser has collided with a South Korean fishing vessel during drills in the Sea of Japan, Yonhap state news agency reports.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Seven anti-corruption activists kidnapped in Baghdad

Armed men have kidnapped seven young Iraqi anti-corruption activists in central Baghdad, security sources and a civil society leader said Tuesday.”Unidentified gunmen in SUVs abducted seven university students early Monday morning,” an interior ministr…

Armed men have kidnapped seven young Iraqi anti-corruption activists in central Baghdad, security sources and a civil society leader said Tuesday.

"Unidentified gunmen in SUVs abducted seven university students early Monday morning," an interior ministry official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

He said the fate of the seven, who were snatched from the Battaween area, was unknown.

Jassem al-Helfi, a leading figure of the anti-graft demonstrations that have been taking place almost weekly for around two years, said the seven were abducted at 1:30 am (2230 GMT on Sunday).

"An armed gang kidnapped seven students who are active in peaceful protests from their apartment in Battaween," he said.

It was not clear who the kidnappers were nor whether any demands had already been made for the activists' release.

However the students' profile and the kidnappers' modus operandi suggest that the motivations are political.

"These young people stood up against corruption and the system of sectarian quotas in politics and in favour of a technocratic government," Helfi said.

He saw the kidnapping as "an attack on freedom of expression and a move aimed at instilling fear in the population and snuffing out the protest movement."

"But this is a national cause and it will not be silenced... Such acts will only increase the determination of the demonstrators," he said.

Almost every week, thousands of protesters have gathered in Baghdad, usually a few blocks from where the kidnapping took place, and across cities in southern Iraq for anti-corruption rallies.

Supporters of the mercurial Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr form the bulk of the protesters but the movement also includes prominent artists as well as activists affiliated to the communist party, among others.

Their main demands are for tougher measures against corruption, reform of the electoral law and a new government run by technocrats instead of political party leaders and their cronies, whom they blame for much of the country's woes.

Iraq forces advance in west Mosul

Iraqi forces announced on Tuesday they had retaken yet another neighbourhood of western Mosul, tightening the noose around jihadists holed up in the Old City.Forces from the elite Counter-Terrorism Service “liberated the Northern Industrial Area on the…

Iraqi forces announced on Tuesday they had retaken yet another neighbourhood of western Mosul, tightening the noose around jihadists holed up in the Old City.

Forces from the elite Counter-Terrorism Service "liberated the Northern Industrial Area on the western side," the Joint Operations Command (JOC) coordinating the war against the Islamic State group in Iraq said.

The JOC said in its statement that the forces "raised the Iraqi flag after inflicting losses to the enemy."

The fresh gain is part of a new push which Iraqi forces launched last week in northwestern Mosul and has already wrested back several neighbourhoods from the jihadists.

On Monday, Iraqi forces retook full control of Al-Haramat, a large neighbourhood on the edge of the city.

The latest operations make it harder than ever to flee for the few hundred IS fighters estimated to remain in Mosul.

The jihadists who have been defending their last major bastion in the country for more than six months have offered limited resistance in recent days, apparently regrouping in the Old City for a last stand.

IS only controls a handful of neighbourhoods around the Old City, where at least 250,000 civilians are still trapped and living in dire conditions, according to aid officials and rights groups.

Dublin Council flies Palestinian flag over city hall in ‘gesture of solidarity’

Preview Dublin City Council, in Ireland’s capital, has voted to fly the Palestinian flag over city hall until the end of the month “as a gesture of our solidarity with the people of Palestine.”
Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview Dublin City Council, in Ireland’s capital, has voted to fly the Palestinian flag over city hall until the end of the month “as a gesture of our solidarity with the people of Palestine.”
Read Full Article at RT.com

Arsene Wenger determined to retain full control at Arsenal

Arsene Wenger has ruled out working alongside a director of football if he stays at Arsenal, saying he must have full control of the Premier League club.The Frenchman’s hardline stance puts him on a potential collision course with members of the Arsena…

Arsene Wenger has ruled out working alongside a director of football if he stays at Arsenal, saying he must have full control of the Premier League club.

The Frenchman's hardline stance puts him on a potential collision course with members of the Arsenal hierarchy who reportedly want to bring in a director of football this summer to work with Wenger.

Wenger has called the shots at the north London club since he joined in 1996 and said he had no interest in having his authority diminished, even as his future remains mired in uncertainty and with the fans restless.

"I'm the manager of Arsenal Football Club and as long as I'm manager of Arsenal Football Club, I will decide what happens on the technical front, that's it," Wenger, 67, said on the eve of Wednesday's league match at Southampton.

"I don't know what director of football means. Is it somebody who stands in the road and directs play right and left? I don't understand and I never did understand what it means."

Wenger previously said that he had made up his mind about his future and would announce it in March or April, but no announcement was forthcoming.

His Arsenal contract expires at the end of this season and while a fresh deal is reportedly on the table, some Arsenal fans have called for his head after a disappointing run that saw them humiliated in the Champions League to Bayern Munich and fall out of the Premier League top four.

Asked Tuesday if he would now reveal his decision over whether to sign the contract, he replied simply: "No."

- Wenger surprised -

Arsenal are in danger of failing to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in Wenger's long reign, even though Sunday's 2-0 win over Manchester United moved them to within six points of fourth-placed Manchester City with a game in hand.

While the Premier League and Europe has been a source of frustration, Arsenal will contest their third FA Cup final in four seasons later this month, while Sunday's success saw Wenger at last get the better of Jose Mourinho at the 13th attempt.

"It gives us still a chance to go into the top four," said Wenger.

Former United defender Phil Neville criticised the cordial way players from both sides were seen joking and hugging each other before kick-off, a far cry from the frosty atmosphere that pervaded his own encounters with the Gunners.

"I think I understand that the pundits are a bit surprised by that because 10 or 15 years ago that did not exist," Wenger said. "But it is an overall, international thing now.

"You can watch Real Madrid against Barcelona -- it's the same because people play together, come from the same country.

"I was surprised as well I must say, but I must confess as well that it doesn't stop the players to focus and concentrate after on the game."

Arsenal, beaten 4-0 by Southampton in last season's corresponding fixture at St Mary's, travel to the south coast with a fitness doubt over Laurent Koscielny after the defender suffered a calf injury against United.

Ride V-Day military hardware through Moscow with RT’s 360 videos

Preview Get a real taste of being a participant in Moscow’s Victory Day parade, rolling at the front of a convoy of combat vehicles on a legendary T-34-85 medium tank and flying with an aerobatic group aces – in a series of RT’s 360-degree videos.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview Get a real taste of being a participant in Moscow’s Victory Day parade, rolling at the front of a convoy of combat vehicles on a legendary T-34-85 medium tank and flying with an aerobatic group aces – in a series of RT’s 360-degree videos.
Read Full Article at RT.com

French police clear up to 1,600 migrants from camp in Paris

Some 1,600 migrants have been evacuated from a refugee camp on the outskirts of Paris near Porte de la Chapelle, according to city authorities. Around 350 police officers participated in clearing the camp. Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview Some 1,600 migrants have been evacuated from a refugee camp on the outskirts of Paris near Porte de la Chapelle, according to city authorities. Around 350 police officers participated in clearing the camp.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Car bomb hits Thailand’s troubled south, injures 51

More than 50 people including children were injured on Tuesday when a car bomb exploded outside a supermarket in Thailand’s insurgency-plagued south, police said, the largest attack for months on a civilian target there.The Muslim-majority border regio…

More than 50 people including children were injured on Tuesday when a car bomb exploded outside a supermarket in Thailand's insurgency-plagued south, police said, the largest attack for months on a civilian target there.

The Muslim-majority border region has seethed with violence for over a decade as ethnic Malay insurgents battle the Buddhist-majority state for more autonomy.

The latest attack hit the town of Pattani around 2pm with two bombs going off outside the Big C, a busy supermarket near the town centre.

The first device was packed inside a motorcycle in the car park, officers said, spreading panic among shoppers.

"The second blast was a car bomb," Pattani police commander Major General Thanongsak Wangsupa told AFP.

Deputy national police spokesman Krissana Pattanacharoen told reporters 51 people were injured by the blasts, four of them seriously.

Video posted by a witness on Twitter showed the second blast detonate in a large fireball, sending bystanders running for cover.

Police were on the scene and appeared to be encouraging people to move back when the second blast struck.

In heavy rain forensic officers started searching through the twisted remains of the car looking for clues, an AFP photographer said.

A large swathe of the supermarket storefront had been blown away, replaced by a twisted mess of charred metal.

"I heard a very loud explosion," a resident who lives close to the supermarket told AFP, requesting anonymity.

"Minutes after that, I heard the sirens of rescue cars and ambulances. I feel bad about it... it happened at a place where people go to buy things."

Near-daily shootings and bomb attacks have claimed more than 6,800 lives since 2004, with both sides accused of rights abuses.

The simmering insurgency plays out far from Thailand's popular tourist resorts and receives little international attention as a result.

The UN children's agency condemned those behind the blasts for targeting an area where youngsters would be present.

"No child's life should ever be put at risk in this way. This is wholly unacceptable," said UNICEF's Thailand representative Thomas Davin.

Talks between the Thai junta and an umbrella group claiming to represent the rebel foot-soldiers have staggered along for years without any result.

Thai negotiators do not believe their rebel interlocutors have the power to stop the violence.

The rebels want peace talks to include international observers, as well as discussions on devolving political power and on protecting their Malay-Muslim culture.

But shortly before Tuesday's attack junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha reiterated his opposition to foreign involvement in solving the festering conflict.

"We must keep this issue away from the reach of the international arena," he told reporters in Bangkok.