Russia has destroyed 99% of its chemical weapons – supervising general

Preview Russia only has only one percent of its chemical weapons stockpile left. The rest has been destroyed, according to the head of the country’s Federal Administration for the Safe Storage and Destruction of Chemical Weapons, Major General Valery Kapashin.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview Russia only has only one percent of its chemical weapons stockpile left. The rest has been destroyed, according to the head of the country’s Federal Administration for the Safe Storage and Destruction of Chemical Weapons, Major General Valery Kapashin.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Oksana School of Music and Art to Provide ASEPs for Los Angeles Schools

Leading California-based facility offering piano, voice, guitar, violin and online music lessons expands reach of success and achievement via after school enrichment programs.

Leading California-based facility offering piano, voice, guitar, violin and online music lessons expands reach of success and achievement via after school enrichment programs.

U.S. Physicians Raise Serious Questions About FDA Statements Regarding Teething Products

Physicians trained in integrative medicine today raised concerns that the FDA may have overreacted or worse when issuing warnings about homeopathic teething products earlier this year.

Physicians trained in integrative medicine today raised concerns that the FDA may have overreacted or worse when issuing warnings about homeopathic teething products earlier this year.

Bahrain accuses Qatar of ‘military escalation’

Bahrain’s foreign minister on Monday accused Qatar of a “military escalation” in the Gulf diplomatic crisis, an apparent reference to Doha’s allowing Turkish troops on its territory.”The disagreement with Qatar is a political and security dispute and h…

Bahrain's foreign minister on Monday accused Qatar of a "military escalation" in the Gulf diplomatic crisis, an apparent reference to Doha's allowing Turkish troops on its territory.

"The disagreement with Qatar is a political and security dispute and has never been military," Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa said on Twitter.

"But the deployment of foreign troops with their armoured vehicles is a military escalation for which Qatar will bear the consequences."

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are among several countries which announced on June 5 they were suspending all ties with Qatar, accusing it of support for extremist groups -- a claim Doha denies.

They have also closed their airspace to Qatari carriers and blocked the emirate's only land border, a vital route for its food imports.

The countries have presented a 13-point ultimatum to Qatar but Doha has rejected their demands as unrealistic.

Turkey has given some support to Doha, with a bill fast-tracked through the Turkish parliament allowing Ankara to send as many as several thousand troops to a base in Qatar.

Ankara sent a contingent of 23 soldiers and five armoured vehicles to its Gulf ally on Thursday, adding to around 90 Turkish troops already stationed there.

"Certain regional powers are mistaken if they think that their intervention will resolve the problem," Sheikh Khalid said on Twitter.

Gloves off over Merkel ‘attack’ as vote fight heats up

Germany’s election campaign battle heated up Monday, with accusations of mud-slinging flying after Chancellor Angela Merkel’s rival accused her of an “attack on democracy”.Social Democrats chief Martin Schulz lashed out Sunday at the German leader, say…

Germany's election campaign battle heated up Monday, with accusations of mud-slinging flying after Chancellor Angela Merkel's rival accused her of an "attack on democracy".

Social Democrats chief Martin Schulz lashed out Sunday at the German leader, saying the famously cautious Merkel caused voters to disengage by refusing to air her views or engage in forceful debate.

"That's what's called, in Berlin circles, 'asymmetric demobilisation'," said Schulz, referring to Merkel's supposed tactic of making politics so dull that opposition voters don't bother showing up on polling day.

"I call it an attack on democracy," charged Schulz, whose Social Democratic Party (SPD) are now the junior partner in Merkel's right-left coalition.

But Schulz, who also accused Merkel of "arrogance", was swiftly met with a torrent of protest and accused of having crossed a line.

"Even if Mr Schulz is frustrated by the polls, he should remain measured," tweeted Peter Tauber, the general secretary of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

"The desperation must never be so deep that democrats accuse democrats of attacks against democracy," he said.

Tauber pledged that the CDU would pursue a "fair campaign", adding that "that's what we're expecting from the SPD, too".

But, defending his SPD party boss, its parliamentary group head Thomas Oppermann said Schulz has struck the right tone.

"An election campaign is not a pillow fight, one needs to be concrete. I find that he succeeded in this case," Oppermann told public broadcaster ARD.

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert declined to comment on issues of party politics but stressed that it was "clear" for the coalition that "we are all working for democracy".

- 'Sounds like panic' -

Schulz revitalised SPD support and enjoyed soaring popularity ratings when he took his party's reins in January, but the trend has since reversed.

Three months before Germany heads to the polls on September 24, the SPD is trailing Merkel's centre-right CDU by 15 percentage points, according to a survey published Sunday by Bild am Sonntag.

After four years in a coalition led by Merkel, the SPD has seen falling support as its left-leaning supporters accuse it of shifting too far right to accomodate the German leader's economically liberal policies.

For Horst Seehofer, who heads Merkel's conservative Bavarian allies the CSU, Schulz's harsh words for Merkel bode ill for the SPD candidate himself.

"It seems a little early in the campaign to have lost one's nerves," he said, adding that it's "not a good sign for a chancellor candidate but, actually, rather unworthy".

The head of the pro-business liberal FDP party, Christian Lindner, also waded in.

"When one uses vocabulary as serious as that which Mr Schulz did, then undoubtedly there is a danger of trivialising the real enemies of democracy," he told the Heilbronner Stimme newspaper.

But Lindner also took a swipe at the CDU over its reaction to Schulz's charge.

"The excitement in the (CDU-CSU) is somewhat disingenuous because it is obviously remaining vague and unambitious for tactical reasons," said Lindner, whose party is viewed as a potential candidate for a future governing coalition with Merkel's CDU.

Germany's biggest selling daily Bild also weighed in, saying that "Schulz resorting to accusing the chancellor of 'attacking democracy' sounds like panic".

Modi, in Washington, hails ‘growing convergence’ of US-India interests

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the increasing “convergence” of US-Indian interests and values, as he prepared for his first face-to-face meeting Monday with President Donald Trump.Modi brimmed with optimism about the future of trade and di…

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the increasing "convergence" of US-Indian interests and values, as he prepared for his first face-to-face meeting Monday with President Donald Trump.

Modi brimmed with optimism about the future of trade and diplomatic relations between the world's two largest democracies in an opinion piece appearing in Monday's Wall Street Journal.

Following a visit to the United States one year ago, when he addressed a joint session of the US Congress, Modi wrote that he returns "confident in the growing convergence between our two nations."

"This confidence stems from the strength of our shared values and the stability of our systems," the Indian leader wrote.

"In an uncertain global economic landscape, our two nations stand as mutually reinforcing engines of growth and innovation," he said in the daily.

"Whenever India and the US work together, the world reaps the benefits."

Modi and Trump are due to hold afternoon talks and a working dinner at the White House, though no press conference is scheduled.

On Sunday, the Indian leader met with top American executives, painting for them a picture of a business-friendly India with "minimum" governmental encumbrances.

That message is expected to resonate with Trump, who has proposed streamlining what he calls business-hampering US regulations and cutting the budgets of several US government agencies.

"India believes that a strong America is good for the world," Modi told the CEOs, according to the foreign ministry in New Delhi.

Despite the upbeat rhetoric, the relationship between the two leaders has hit some initial snags.

Trump accused India of seeking to profit from the Paris climate accord as he announced the US withdrawal from the deal this month -- drawing sharp denials from New Delhi.

A proposed overhaul of H-1B visas -- used by thousands of Indian software engineers to work in the United States -- has also caused concern in New Delhi.

N. Ireland’s DUP: A controversial partner for British PM May

Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which struck a deal with the Conservatives on Monday aimed at keeping British Prime Minister Theresa May in power, has caused alarm in some circles over its incendiary views and virulent past.The self-style…

Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party, which struck a deal with the Conservatives on Monday aimed at keeping British Prime Minister Theresa May in power, has caused alarm in some circles over its incendiary views and virulent past.

The self-styled "Christian fundamentalist" party has softened its fiery anti-Catholicism and other harsh stances over the years -- it no longer calls for padlocking children's playgrounds and closing cafes and bars on Sundays.

But the party that in 1977 launched the "Save Ulster (Northern Ireland) from Sodomy" campaign still holds tight to what critics call its puritanical views, particularly on social issues such as abortion and sexual equality.

And its negotiations with May's government had prompted warnings in the Republic of Ireland of a disrupted balance of power in Belfast that could in turn upset a delicate peace struck after decades of sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland known as the Troubles.

In mainland Britain, protests have erupted over the DUPs opposition to gay marriage and abortion, as well as many senior members' support for teaching creationism, and a history of links to paramilitaries who fought Catholic nationalists during the Troubles.

The DUP has blocked same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland's assembly five times in recent years, with senior members threatening to leave the party if it ever votes in favour.

"Peter will not marry Paul in Northern Ireland," senior party member Jim Wells said earlier this year.

- 'Anti-Irish bigotry' -

Some senior DUP members -- many of whom belong to the right-wing, avowedly anti-Catholic Orange Order -- even advocate the literal biblical teaching of creationism in every school at the expense of evolution.

Jon Tonge, a professor of history at Liverpool University who has written extensively about the DUP, has said that while the party has become less dogmatic, it certainly cannot be described as pluralist.

In his 2014 book "The DUP: From Protest To Power", Tonge found that 54 percent of party supporters "would mind a lot" if someone from their family married a person of another religion and 58.4 percent would not want their child to go to a non-Protestant school.

So it was a surprise to many political commentators in 2005 when the party agreed to enter a power-sharing arrangement with its bitter enemy Sinn Fein, once the political mouthpiece of the Irish Republican Army, which fought an armed campaign for Irish unity over three decades.

Although the Belfast assembly appeared to operate with reasonable cordiality for much of a decade, it collapsed spectacularly in January over DUP leader Arlene Foster's involvement in a botched renewable heating scheme.

The clash led Sinn Fein to warn of a breakdown in trust, charging the DUP with "arrogance and a lack of respect" for minorities, particularly Irish nationalists.

"It is disappointing that the deep and overlapping anti-Irish and anti-Catholic bigotry of so many DUP-supporting unionists appears to still play a significant role in Northern life and politics," Andy Pollak, former director of the Centre for Cross-Border Studies, said at the time.

Foster has condemned political violence, but her party has long been criticised for sharing platforms with paramilitaries and for an apparent willingness to endorse armed resistance against perceived attempts to "sell out Ulster".

While the DUP promised to vote in favour of legislation linked to Brexit, it could prove a difficult partner during the negotiations.

The party campaigned for Brexit in last year's referendum but is faced with growing concern in Northern Ireland about the prospect of checks being reimposed the border with the Irish Republic -- a reminder of the bad old days of the Troubles.

In pro-EU circles, that has led some to hope that Foster could moderate May's stance on Brexit.

"The Democratic Unionists have chosen to prop up a government that remains intent on a hard and destructive Brexit," James McGrory, head of the Open Britain campaign, said on Monday.

"It is crucial that they do not betray the voters by going back on their manifesto promises and caving in to ministers' obsession with an extreme and chaotic exit from the EU.

Copernicus Masters and European Satellite Navigation Competition Last Call for Idea Submissions

The Copernicus Masters, Europe’s leading Earth observation (EO) competition, and the European Satellite Navigation Competition (ESNC), Europe’s largest satellite navigation competition, are on the hunt for innovative ideas until 30 June 2017.

The Copernicus Masters, Europe's leading Earth observation (EO) competition, and the European Satellite Navigation Competition (ESNC), Europe's largest satellite navigation competition, are on the hunt for innovative ideas until 30 June 2017.

A Shared European Logistics Intelligent Information Space

Imagine you have planned your inland freight transport operations and wait for the ocean leg to arrive. However, the ocean vessel does not arrive, yet. And you keep on hanging there.

Imagine you have planned your inland freight transport operations and wait for the ocean leg to arrive. However, the ocean vessel does not arrive, yet. And you keep on hanging there.

‘Wicked decision’: Liberal Jews slam Israel for freezing mixed-gender Western Wall prayer space plan

Liberal Jews have slammed the Israeli government for freezing a plan to establish a mixed-gender prayer space at the Western Wall, with one group canceling a planned gala event with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Read Full Article at …

Preview Liberal Jews have slammed the Israeli government for freezing a plan to establish a mixed-gender prayer space at the Western Wall, with one group canceling a planned gala event with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Omokoroa Dental Surgery Goes Through a Revamping Under New Ownership

With new ownership and a new team of dentists now operating at the Omokoroa Dental Surgery, a new vision has been set for the practice to give clients advanced dental services.

With new ownership and a new team of dentists now operating at the Omokoroa Dental Surgery, a new vision has been set for the practice to give clients advanced dental services.

EU to slap Google with record fine this week: sources

The EU’s powerful anti-trust regulator will slap Google with a record fine as early as Tuesday in another European blow against a US tech giant, sources said.Led by hard-charging European Commission competition chief Margrethe Vestager, the EU will imp…

The EU's powerful anti-trust regulator will slap Google with a record fine as early as Tuesday in another European blow against a US tech giant, sources said.

Led by hard-charging European Commission competition chief Margrethe Vestager, the EU will impose a massive penalty against Google that would break the previous record of 1.06 billion euros set in 2009 against Intel, the US chipmaker.

More importantly for Google, Brussels will demand that the US tech giant change its business practices to meet the EU's concerns.

The decision, expected Tuesday or Wednesday, comes a year after Vestager shocked the world and angered the Obama administration with an order that Apple repay 13 billion euros in back taxes in Ireland.

Sources close to the matter said Google's fine would range 1.1-2.0 billion euros. While an EU record, this is well below the maximum possible of about 8.0 billion euros or 10 percent of Google's total revenue last year.

Brussels accuses Google of giving its own online shopping services top priority in search results to the detriment of other price comparison services.

The case is one of three against Google and of several against blockbuster US companies including Starbucks, Apple, Amazon and McDonalds.

In the other Google cases, the EU is examining Google's AdSense advertising service and its Android mobile phone software.

If confirmed, the fine would come after a long period in which the two sides tried to settle the case amicably.

The cases have stoked tensions with Washington and could now face the wrath of US President Donald Trump, who won office on his "America First" slogan.

"We continue to engage constructively with the European Commission and we believe strongly that our innovations in online shopping have been good for shoppers, retailers and competition," said Mark Jansen, a spokesman for Google.

The European Commission refused to comment.

The Commission, which polices EU competition policy, launched an initial investigation into Google in 2010 following complaints from rivals such as Microsoft and Trip Advisor that it favoured its own shopping services when customers ran searches.

Claims that practices by Google Shopping harm competition "are wrong as a matter of fact, law, and economics," Google's general counsel Kent Walker wrote in response to the EU last year.

Vestager's predecessor, Joaquin Almunia, made three attempts to resolve the dispute but in each case intense pressure by national governments, rivals and privacy advocates scuppered the effort.

Italy’s left fears Berlusconi revival after rightwing parties win big

Italy’s right was celebrating Monday after big victories in local elections, with all eyes on a potential comeback for former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi just months before the country holds national elections.Berlusconi’s Forza Italia (Go Italy) …

Italy's right was celebrating Monday after big victories in local elections, with all eyes on a potential comeback for former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi just months before the country holds national elections.

Berlusconi's Forza Italia (Go Italy) party and the anti-immigrant Northern League won 16 of the 22 cities up for grabs Sunday in a shock setback for the governing centre-left Democratic Party (PD).

In the biggest blow of this second round of municipal elections, the northern city of Genoa -- traditionally a bastion of the left -- passed to the centre-right for the first time in more than 50 years.

Former centre-left prime minister Matteo Renzi, who hopes the next general election will return him to power, dismissed the wins as having little bearing on national voter sentiment, but the mood on the left was sombre.

"It couldn't have gone worse. And not just for Matteo Renzi, not just for the PD. But for the whole of the Italian left," editorialist Riccardo Barenghi wrote in the left-leaning La Stampa daily.

It was "as if we'd gone back 23 years to when the left was beaten by the Cavaliere (Berlusconi), who appeared on the scene like a rabbit from a magician's hat, and today reappears like a castigating ghost".

The next general election must be held by spring 2018, but the coalition supporting Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni is fragile and many experts say the government could call elections for late in the year.

At the national level, the PD and the populist Five Star Movement (M5S) are running neck-and-neck in the polls, each with about 30 percent of voter intentions, while Forza Italia and the Northern League are each hovering at around 14 percent.

Political commentator Stefano Folli called Sunday's results "a searing and very painful loss for the left."

"Berlusconi reveals himself to be politically immortal," he wrote in the centre-left daily La Repubblica.

Berlusconi, 80, had been largely absent from politics -- though not the gossip pages -- following his ousting in 2011 and his party had since struggled with internal divisions and corruption scandals.

On Sunday it benefited in part by picking up votes from supporters of Five Star, which performed poorly in the first round and failed to make it into run-offs in any of the largest cities.

"If we can stay united, we will win the legislative elections and govern," a triumphant Berlusconi said.

Renzi, 42, limited himself to admitting that "it could have gone better."

N. Korea voices doubts over South’s Olympic invite: report

A top North Korean sports official voiced doubts over a proposal by South Korean President Moon Jae-In to form a unified Olympic team, citing political tensions and a lack of time, a report said.The comment by Chang Ung, the North’s delegate to the Int…

A top North Korean sports official voiced doubts over a proposal by South Korean President Moon Jae-In to form a unified Olympic team, citing political tensions and a lack of time, a report said.

The comment by Chang Ung, the North's delegate to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) came after Moon suggested that two Koreas pool their athletes to form a joint team for the 2018 Winter Games, which the South is hosting.

The South and the nuclear-armed North are separated by one of the world's most heavily-armed borders and remain technically at war after the Korean War ended with armistice in 1953 instead of a peace treaty, and Pyongyang boycotted the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.

Organisers of Pyeongchang 2018 have urged it to take part to make them a "peace Olympics".

But unlike the summer version, the winter games have minimum qualifications because of the risks inherent in snow and ice sports, and so far no North Korean athletes have met the required standards.

That raises the prospect that none will attend, even if political issues over the North's nuclear and missile ambitions do not intrude.

A unified group could allow North Koreans to take part in team events such as ice hockey.

But with only seven months to go before the Games open in the South Korean resort of Pyeongchang, Chang said there was not enough time to reach an agreement.

"From a point of an Olympics expert, it is already too late," Chang told South Korean cable news outlet Channel A at the opening of the World Taekwondo Championships in the South.

A former national basketball captain and the North's sole IOC member, Chang stressed that so-called sports diplomacy takes months of painstaking preparations and political coordination.

The two Koreas held more than 20 meetings over six months before forming a unified team for the 1991 World Table Tennis Championships in Japan, he added.

"The political situation should be resolved first. Politics lies above sports," Chang told Channel A late Sunday, adding that the ping-pong diplomacy that helped improve China-US ties in the 1970s came after years of political negotiations.

"The achievement was made using ping pong as a catalyst, because a political foundation was already laid out," he said, adding: "The world says ping pong made everything happen, but it's not true."

The South's new President Moon, who took helm in May, advocates engagement with the North to bring it to negotiating table and Seoul's sports minister Do Jong-Hwan has also suggested holding some Olympic events at a ski resort in the North.

But Chang expressed scepticism, saying: "It's easier said than done."

Macron says France will not recognise Crimea ‘annexation’

President Emmanuel Macron said Monday France refuses to recognise Russia’s “annexation” of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.Speaking after talks with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Paris, Macron said: “France is committed to Ukraine’s soverei…

President Emmanuel Macron said Monday France refuses to recognise Russia's "annexation" of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.

Speaking after talks with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Paris, Macron said: "France is committed to Ukraine's sovereignty with its recognised borders."

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday visited Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014, in a trip that Kiev condemned as a violation of its sovereignty.

Western powers accuse Russia of failing to honour its commitments under the Minsk accords framework for ending the violence between government forces and Kremlin-backed rebels in Ukraine's east.

EU leaders agreed last week to extend stringent economic sanctions against Russia for another six months, saying Moscow had failed to meet its commitments on the ceasefire in Ukraine.

The French foreign ministry said OSCE observers in Ukraine were being subjected to "unacceptable intimidation and obstacles".

When Macron met Putin in May, shortly after the new French leader took office, he admitted the two had "disagreed on a number of things".

Netanyahu under fire after reneging on Western Wall deal

Israel’s shelving of a deal to allow mixed-gender prayers at the Western Wall echoed far beyond religion Monday, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused of abandoning reform efforts for political gain.Netanyahu’s cabinet voted Sunday to back out…

Israel's shelving of a deal to allow mixed-gender prayers at the Western Wall echoed far beyond religion Monday, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused of abandoning reform efforts for political gain.

Netanyahu's cabinet voted Sunday to back out of the hard-won deal, provoking a flood of criticism and warnings it could damage Israel's relationship with the United States' influential Jewish community.

That followed pressure from ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties who are part of Netanyahu's right-wing coalition and follow a strict interpretation of religious rules.

Such parties have often played a kingmaker role in Israeli politics and have opposed years of efforts by more liberal Jews to win equal rights for women at the Western Wall, one of the holiest sites in Judaism.

Women and men currently pray in separate areas at the site in Jerusalem's Old City, where religious affairs are overseen by Israel's ultra-Orthodox establishment.

A compromise reached more than a year ago would have created a third space near the wall, open to both women and men.

Sunday's cabinet vote froze the deal -- effectively cancelling it -- despite the government having earlier endorsed it.

In a sign of the tensions the decision provoked, the Jewish Agency, a quasi-governmental organisation that helped mediate the deal, heavily criticised the move and cancelled an event with Netanyahu scheduled for Monday evening in response.

Yair Lapid, an opposition figure and leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party, said the decision meant Israel was "the only democracy in the world without equality for Jews."

"Did Prime Minister Netanyahu and his ministers decide to cancel the framework because they thought it was the right thing for the people of Israel?" Lapid said on his Facebook page.

"Of course not. They did it because the only thing which motivates them is political pressure."

Netanyahu had not publicly commented on the decision.

His coalition, seen as the most right-wing in Israel's history, holds 66 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, or parliament.

Ultra-Orthodox parties control 13 of the coalition's seats. Some 10 percent of Israel's population are considered ultra-Orthodox.

- 'One Western Wall' -

The Western Wall, located in Jerusalem's Old City, is venerated by Jews as a remnant of a wall supporting the Second Temple complex, which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

It is the holiest site where Jews are allowed to pray.

Israel's cabinet initially approved the mixed prayer plan in January 2016 after careful negotiations.

It was however never implemented, as ultra-Orthodox parties, under pressure from their supporters, moved to block it.

A case being examined by Israel's top court has put pressure on ultra-Orthodox parties to move to have the deal revoked.

The supreme court is expected to rule soon on a petition filed by more liberal religious movements to force the government to implement the agreement and create the mixed prayer space.

Sunday's move to back out of the deal prompted anger among Jewish movements in the United States, home to more than five million Jews, most of whom are not Orthodox.

"Prime Minister Netanyahu's decision to say 'no' to his previous 'yes' is an unconscionable insult to the majority of world Jewry," Rabbi Rick Jacobs, head of the US-based Union for Reform Judaism, said in a statement.

It is a sensitive issue for Israel, which relies on the United States as its most important ally, providing it with strong diplomatic support and more than $3 billion (2.7 billion euros) per year in defence aid.

Many Israelis see support from Jewish communities in the United States and worldwide as essential.

"We cannot let narrow-minded politicking threaten the unity of the Jewish people," Yohanan Plesner, president of the respected Israel Democracy Institute think tank, said in a statement.

"If we expect Jews abroad to support the state of Israel, we must also ensure their religious equality. Israel's national security is at stake."

But for Israel's ultra-Orthodox establishment, changes such as mixed prayer betray Jewish tradition.

"There was and shall remain one Western Wall to one people," Religious Affairs Minister David Azoulay of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party told army radio.

"I won't accept attempts to impose a different Jewish law or Torah."

Nestle and L’Oreal shares boom after Third Point move

Nestle and L’Oreal shares rose on Monday after US hedge fund Third Point bought a one percent stake in the Swiss food giant and immediately urged it to sell its large holding in L’Oreal.Third Point has a reputation for aggressively pushing for change a…

Nestle and L'Oreal shares rose on Monday after US hedge fund Third Point bought a one percent stake in the Swiss food giant and immediately urged it to sell its large holding in L'Oreal.

Third Point has a reputation for aggressively pushing for change at target firms, including Sony and Yahoo!, and in a letter to investors on Sunday, Third Point founder Dan Loeb announced the fund had acquired one percent in Nestle, worth $3.5 billion (3.1 billion euros).

The fund says Nestle, which makes Nescafe coffee and Perrier water, has probably the best portfolio of brands in the sector, but has not kept up with changing consumer tastes and buying habits in recent years.

Shares in Nestle were up 4.14 percent at 85.50 in Zurich at 11:38 am (0938 GMT), while in Paris L'Oreal was up 3.83 percent at 195.30 euros.

Third Point welcomed the appointment of Ulf Mark Schneider as chairman in January and urged him to act ambitiously.

The fund, which has had talks with Nestle management, called on the group to increase its margins to 18-20 percent by 2020 and build up funds to buy back stock.

It also said Nestle should sell the rest of its stake in L'Oreal, judging this the right moment to monetise the holding, worth some $25 billion.

Contacted by AFP, L'Oreal declined to comment on the matter.

Stalin tops Putin in Russian poll of greatest historical figures

Russians have picked Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin as the greatest figure in history, a new poll said Monday, beating President Vladimir Putin into joint second alongside poet Alexander Pushkin.In the poll conducted in April by the Levada Centre indepe…

Russians have picked Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin as the greatest figure in history, a new poll said Monday, beating President Vladimir Putin into joint second alongside poet Alexander Pushkin.

In the poll conducted in April by the Levada Centre independent pollster, Russians were asked to pick the ten greatest individuals of all time.

Stalin came out on top with 38 percent, while Putin shared second place on 34 percent with Russia's beloved national bard Pushkin.

Revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, Tsar Peter the Great and first man in space Yury Gagarin came next in the list of 20 people, with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in last place on six percent.

The list includes famed statesmen, writers and scientists but only three foreigners: Napoleon Bonaparte, Albert Einstein, and Isaac Newton.

Stalin topped a similar poll back in 2012 with an even higher score as Russians focus on his role in winning World War II rather the millions who were executed or sent to prison camps under his rule.

Putin's percentage was the highest since he began appearing in the poll in 2003.

In Mongolia, democracy unfolds in a yurt

At 6:55 a.m. on Monday, a man in rural Mongolia stood outside a yurt and looked down at his watch. Five minutes remained until presidential election polls opened in the country of just three million wedged between Russia and China. Clad in a bright gre…

At 6:55 a.m. on Monday, a man in rural Mongolia stood outside a yurt and looked down at his watch.

Five minutes remained until presidential election polls opened in the country of just three million wedged between Russia and China. Clad in a bright green traditional "deel" gown, Sharkhuu Gerelt-Od was ready.

The 39-year-old public servant was the chief organiser of a mobile polling station in Erdene Sum, a small city situated in Mongolia's sprawling steppes, where nomadic herders parked their yurts -- circular, collapsible tents -- and let their livestock graze among the rolling hills.

The polling station was set up to accomodate these herders, who move with the changing seasons to find the best pastures for their goats, horses and yaks.

"We have to provide the conditions for the herders to vote," said Gerelt-Od.

"We have to give them access -- it's their constitutional right."

Soon he was joined inside the yurt by other polling booth officials, all garbed in colourful traditional outfits.

At the centre of the tent was a tall stack of bread carrying curd sweets, cheese pieces and a thick cream.

It is Mongolian tradition to offer guests with the best food that one has on hand. Among herding communities, that food is often dairy.

"The voters are our guests in this yurt," Gerelt-Od said with a smile.

The first voters, a husband and wife herder pair whose yurt was stationed in the area, arrived wearing a suit and a printed dress.

- Dressing up -

Voting is a special event in the young democracy, which started holding elections in 1990 after decades of Soviet control. The day of the presidential elections is a national holiday, and Mongolians dress up for the occasion.

Aside from Western-style business casual and traditional Mongolian attire, several voters also came clad in fedoras and tall leather boots.

Gerelt-Od and the other officials greeted many of the arrivals with a small bottle containing a mixture of herbs and tobacco powder, which the voters passed around and sniffed in turn -- another traditional form of greeting.

This year's election campaign, however, was mired in corruption scandals plaguing all three candidates: Mieygombo Enkhbold of the parliament-ruling Mongolian People's Party, Khaltmaa Battulga of the outgoing president's opposition Democratic Party and Sainkhuu Ganbaatar of the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party.

- Searching greener pastures -

Although the national statistics office estimates that herders make up about a third of Mongolia's population, their nomadic way of life is increasingly threated by "dzuds" -- summer droughts followed by severe winters.

The growing frequency of the extreme weather phenomenon, which causes livestock to freeze to death, is attributed to climate change.

Gerelt-Od's full-time job for the Erdene Sum government involves monitoring the environmental impact of local businesses.

"I wanted to protect my country's natural environment," he said, "and to preserve the land as it was".

Environmental issues were foremost on voters' minds at the yurt polling station.

Vanganjal Tsendmaa drove 13 kilometres from her yurt to vote for Enkhbold.

"This year has been very dry," said Tsendmaa, 60.

"The government can help herders by making sure there are enough wells, especially in remote areas. The most important thing for raising animals is water."

Sundui Nemekhtuya, 58, said the next president should prioritise "issues concerning pasture land."

"If you respect the environment, nature will revive itself," she said.

After the voters filled out their ballots and placed them into a machine, they sat under a canopy and ate snacks with the election officials, who poured them salty Mongolian milk tea.

By 10 a.m., more than 50 people had passed through the station -- about 12 percent of the 443 who were registered for that location.

More voters were expected to arrive at noon, after most herders had finished tending to their animals.

When the polls close later that night, the voting machine will be transported to the city centre for ballot counting.

Until then, Gerelt-Od will tip his fedora at voters, sip his milk tea, and wait.

Hong Kong activists stage China protests ahead of Xi visit

Hong Kong saw multiple protests Monday ahead of a visit by President Xi Jinping to mark 20 years since the city was handed back to China by Britain. Pro-democracy activists including high-profile student campaigner Joshua Wong draped a black flag over …

Hong Kong saw multiple protests Monday ahead of a visit by President Xi Jinping to mark 20 years since the city was handed back to China by Britain.

Pro-democracy activists including high-profile student campaigner Joshua Wong draped a black flag over a statue symbolising Hong Kong's return to China in an early morning act of defiance.

Dozens more campaigners marched to China's representative office in the city in the afternoon in a rally against the detention of hundreds of human rights lawyers on the mainland, while a group of protesters also gathered in central Hong Kong to "sing for democracy".

Xi's visit will be his first since becoming president in 2013 and will culminate with the inauguration of Hong Kong's new leader, Carrie Lam, on Saturday.

It comes as there are increasing concerns Beijing is trampling the handover agreement guaranteeing Hong Kong's semi-autonomous status by interfering in a range of areas, from politics to education and media.

In the morning demonstration, a dozen activists attached a black cloth to the giant golden bauhinia flower on Hong Kong's harbourfront as security tried to stop them climbing on the famous tourist attraction.

The sculpture of the bauhinia, which became the emblem of Hong Kong after the handover, was a present to the city from China in 1997 and stands outside the convention centre where Xi will attend anniversary events during a three-day visit starting Thursday.

Police were called to take the flag down while the protesters chanted "democratic self-determination for Hong Kong's future" and "one country, two systems has been a lie for 20 years", referring to Hong Kong's semi-autonomous status.

- 'Barbaric' treatment -

Campaigners like Wong are calling for democratic reforms, promised in the handover deal, to change a system where the city leader is still chosen by a pro-China committee and the legislature is weighted towards Beijing.

Wong led mass Umbrella Movement rallies calling for fully free leadership elections in 2014, but they failed to win concessions.

Since then calls for self-determination or even full independence from China have emerged.

Wong's party Demosisto wants a public referendum on Hong Kong's future in 2047, the year the handover agreement protecting the city's way of life and liberties expires.

Veteran politician and former legislator Emily Lau was among those who gathered in a separate protest Monday afternoon against the detention of lawyers by China, which she called "barbaric".

"We firmly believe that a regime that does not respect basic human rights... cannot maintain stability and cannot secure legitimacy," added activist Joseph Cheng.

Another group of around 20 protesters, including pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo, sang "Do You Hear the People Sing?" outside the Court of Final Appeal in central Hong Kong in the late afternoon.

The song from the musical "Les Miserables" was a popular chant for the tens of thousands who gathered during the 2014 Umbrella Movement which brought parts of Hong Kong to a standstill for over two months.

Protesters say they are preparing further actions during the handover celebrations and Xi's visit will be shrouded in a huge security operation.

Spain sends reinforcements as fire spreads near wildlife reserve

Firefighters were battling Monday to contain a blaze threatening a renowned national park in southern Spain which has already led to the evacuation of some 2,000 people.Authorities were sending additional firefighters to tackle the flames at the Donana…

Firefighters were battling Monday to contain a blaze threatening a renowned national park in southern Spain which has already led to the evacuation of some 2,000 people.

Authorities were sending additional firefighters to tackle the flames at the Donana Natural Park in southwestern Spain near Huelva, a fire service spokesman told AFP.

"The flames are not under control, they are spreading," he added, though no injuries have been reported.

The blaze comes a week after wildfires killed over 60 people in neighbouring Portugal.

Strong winds and scorching heat were complicating efforts to fight the blaze, which broke out Saturday near the town of Moguer, officials said.

The fire has not yet hit the neighbouring Donana National Park, which has been a UNESCO world heritage site since 1994 and is well known for the extensive biodiversity of its dunes, wetlands and woods.

"The flames have not reached the national park," the official in charge of the environment with the regional government of Andalusia, Jose Fiscal Lopez, told Spanish public television.

"A special effort was made during the night on the front which threatened the park the most," he added.

The national park is one of Spain's most important wildlife sanctuaries and a popular tourist attraction.

It is home to a variety of animals, including endangered species such as the Spanish imperial eagle and the Iberian lynx, a large cat found only in Spain and Portugal.

Officials temporarily evacuated a lynx breeding centre on Sunday as a precaution.

A female Iberian lynx died at the Acebuche captive breeding centre on Saturday "due to stress" during its capture for evacuation, the centre said in a statement.

The other lynxes are "safe and sound", said the mayor of Moguer, Gustavo Cuellar. "Each lynx held in captivity is receiving detailed care."

Over 200 firefighters backed by 15 vehicles and seven planes were battling the blaze on Monday morning, emergency services said.

The cause remained unknown but Fiscal Lopez said officials were "certain" human activity played a role.

"It remains to be seen if this was with (criminal) intent or due to negligence," he added.

The fire prompted the closure of several roads and the evacuation of some 2,000 people, including guests at camp sites and several hotels.

There were no immediate details on how much land had been burned so far.

‘Troll’s Penis’ to be re-erected in Norway

Norwegians have come out en masse to raise nearly 20,000 euros to repair an eye-catching penis-shaped rock formation apparently knocked down by vandals, an online collection showed on Monday.The formation, which local guides had planned to make a touri…

Norwegians have come out en masse to raise nearly 20,000 euros to repair an eye-catching penis-shaped rock formation apparently knocked down by vandals, an online collection showed on Monday.

The formation, which local guides had planned to make a tourist destination, is known as "Trollpikken", or "The Troll's Penis" in a very conservative translation.

Hikers in southwestern Norway on Saturday found the massive rock sectioned off, lying on the ground at the base of the rock face from which it had protruded.

Media accounts of the damage showed traces of drilling on the geological formation. Police have launched an inquiry into potential vandalism.

A local entrepreneur has launched an online collection to raise money to put the pieces back together.

By Monday, almost 1,000 donors had responded to the appeal entitled "The Troll's Penis Will Be Re-Erected", raising more than 160,000 kroner (17,000 euros; $19,000).

May’s Conservatives sign power deal with Northern Ireland’s DUP

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives signed a deal Monday with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party that will allow them to govern after losing their majority in a general election this month.”An agreement has been signed,” May’s…

British Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservatives signed a deal Monday with Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party that will allow them to govern after losing their majority in a general election this month.

"An agreement has been signed," May's spokesman told AFP without revealing the details.

Northern Irish DUP leader Arlene Foster said she was "delighted" that a deal had been struck, while May said the Conservatives and the DUP "share many values" and Monday's agreement was "a very good one".

The agreement was signed by senior Conservative official Gavin Williamson and senior DUP member Jeffrey Donaldson, as May and Foster looked on.

The Conservatives have 317 seats in the 650-seat parliament after the June 8 election and need the support of the DUP's 10 MPs to be able to govern.

Discussions between the two began immediately after the election and centred on a "confidence and supply" deal in which the DUP would support the government in any confidence votes and to pass budgets.

The prospect of a deal with the ultra-conservative DUP has caused consternation in Britain since the party opposes gay marriage and abortion.

Some of its representatives have also been criticised in the past for homophobic comments, climate change denial statements and sectarian rhetoric.

Ireland's former premier Enda Kenny has warned that a deal with the Protestant and pro-British DUP could upset Northern Ireland's fragile peace.

London's neutrality is key to the delicate balance of power in Northern Ireland, which was once plagued by violence over Britain's control of the province.

Trump ends White House tradition of celebrating end of Ramadan

US President Donald Trump broke a two-decade-long tradition this weekend by not hosting a White House dinner to celebrate Eid, marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

US President Donald Trump broke a two-decade-long tradition this weekend by not hosting a White House dinner to celebrate Eid, marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

EDF reviewing Hinkley Point costs and calendar

EDF is carrying out a “full review” of the costs and schedule of Britain’s controversial Hinkley Point nuclear power plant, the French energy giant said Monday, after a press report of major budget overruns.

The project to build Britain’s first new nuclear plant in a generation, awarded to a French-Chinese consortium, has been dogged by controversies, with Britain’s National Audit Office (NAO) warning on Friday that the government had committed to a “risky and expensive” deal.

EDF said Monday that “a full review of the costs and schedule of the Hinkley Point C project is in progress”, as had already been indicated in the company’s annual financial report.

The company said the review would be finished “soon” and results would be published when it was completed.

France’s Le Monde newspaper on Saturday said the “first conclusions” of the review pointed to building costs overrunning the £18 billion ($23 billion, 21 billion euros) budget by one to three billion euros.

The NAO, which audits British public spending, said on Friday that the price guaranteed to EDF under the deal could add an extra £30 billion to energy bills of UK customers.

Critics of the project — which is expected to provide seven percent of the country’s power needs — have focused on an electricity price guarantee to EDF of £92.5 for every megawatt hour of power produced by Hinkley for the next 35 years, rising with inflation, despite falling energy prices.

Environmentalists are also strongly opposed, urging the government to instead focus on renewable sources like wind and solar power to meet Britain’s future energy needs.

EDF is carrying out a "full review" of the costs and schedule of Britain's controversial Hinkley Point nuclear power plant, the French energy giant said Monday, after a press report of major budget overruns.

The project to build Britain's first new nuclear plant in a generation, awarded to a French-Chinese consortium, has been dogged by controversies, with Britain's National Audit Office (NAO) warning on Friday that the government had committed to a "risky and expensive" deal.

EDF said Monday that "a full review of the costs and schedule of the Hinkley Point C project is in progress", as had already been indicated in the company's annual financial report.

The company said the review would be finished "soon" and results would be published when it was completed.

France's Le Monde newspaper on Saturday said the "first conclusions" of the review pointed to building costs overrunning the £18 billion ($23 billion, 21 billion euros) budget by one to three billion euros.

The NAO, which audits British public spending, said on Friday that the price guaranteed to EDF under the deal could add an extra £30 billion to energy bills of UK customers.

Critics of the project -- which is expected to provide seven percent of the country's power needs -- have focused on an electricity price guarantee to EDF of £92.5 for every megawatt hour of power produced by Hinkley for the next 35 years, rising with inflation, despite falling energy prices.

Environmentalists are also strongly opposed, urging the government to instead focus on renewable sources like wind and solar power to meet Britain's future energy needs.

Anger grows in Pakistan town after three attacks in six months

Shiites in Pakistan’s restive northwest protested Monday as the death toll from twin blasts three days earlier rose to 69, marking a grisly Eid for the town worst hit by militancy so far in 2017.Dozens of protesters offered their Eid prayers wearing bl…

Shiites in Pakistan's restive northwest protested Monday as the death toll from twin blasts three days earlier rose to 69, marking a grisly Eid for the town worst hit by militancy so far in 2017.

Dozens of protesters offered their Eid prayers wearing black armbands in the market in Parachinar, where the bombs tore through crowds of shoppers on Friday, local officials said.

"The death toll from Friday's blasts has reached 69," local administration official Basir Khan Wazir told AFP.

He said the local administration was trying to negotiate with the protestors.

Parachinar, capital of Kurram district, a mainly Shiite area of Pakistan's tribal belt, had already suffered two deadly bomb blasts in its markets this year.

It was the site of the first major attack in the country in 2017 when a bomb killed 24 people in January, an attack claimed by the Pakistani Taliban. In March, a second Taliban attack in another market killed a further 22 people.

Friday's assault brought the town's loss of life due to extremist attacks up to 115, more than any one city in Pakistan has suffered so far this year.

It was claimed by a little known group believed to be linked to Lashkar-e-Janghvi, one of Pakistan's bloodiest sectarian outfits.

Kurram, one of Pakistan's seven semi-autonomous tribal districts, is known for sectarian clashes between Sunnis and Shiites, who make up roughly 20 percent of Pakistan's population of 200 million.

"We have been a constant target of the Taliban but the government has always failed us," Muzamil Hussain, a Shia activists from Parachinar told AFP Friday.

Authorities have said that after the first two attacks checkposts and barriers were set up around the city's markets. Hussain said that suggested Friday's attackers had insider help.

"I don't understand how can someone drive a bomb-laden vehicle through all the checkposts of the military and other paramilitary troops and reach here, it simply isn't logical, and this is what we are protesting against," he said.

"We are demanding the government end supporting militant groups," he added.

Pakistan has long had a policy of offering covert support to militant groups it believes can further its own ends, particularly in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

Shiites in other parts of the country also wore black bands in solidarity with those grieving in Parachinar, the Majlis Wahdat-e-Muslimeen Pakistan Shia political party said in a statement.

The Parachinar blasts were the deadliest in a series of militant attacks across Pakistan Friday which killed a total of 77 people, unnerving citizens ahead of Eid, one of Islam's holiest festivals which closes the fasting month of Ramadan.

In Quetta, capital of southwestern Balochistan province, 14 people including 10 policemen were killed in a blast targeting police that was claimed by both Islamic State's local affiliate and an offshoot of the Pakistani Taliban.

While in Karachi four policemen were killed in a drive-by shooting as they ate dinner at a roadside restaurant in the port city.

Abducted priest seen alive as Islamists hold out in Philippines

A Roman Catholic priest abducted by Islamist militants who seized parts of a southern Philippine city has been seen alive, the military said Monday, as troops pressed on with their offensive.Air and artillery bombardment of enclaves occupied by the mil…

A Roman Catholic priest abducted by Islamist militants who seized parts of a southern Philippine city has been seen alive, the military said Monday, as troops pressed on with their offensive.

Air and artillery bombardment of enclaves occupied by the militants in the largely Muslim city of Marawi resumed after an eight-hour truce Sunday to allow residents to celebrate the end of the Ramadan fasting month.

Fires erupted and plumes of dark and white smoke billowed against a blue sky as the bombs slammed into their targets, AFP journalists in Marawi said.

But military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jo-Ar Herrera said the militants were also deliberately burning houses and using improvised bombs, booby traps and hostages as human shields to delay the troops' advance, five weeks into the fighting.

Hundreds of gunmen flying the black flag of the Islamic State (IS) group occupied parts of Marawi on May 23, triggering bloody fighting that has claimed nearly 400 lives according to an official count.

- Priest seen alive -

Father Teresito "Chito" Suganob, a Catholic priest assigned to Marawi, was taken hostage along with some parishioners early in the siege on the largely Catholic Philippines' most important Muslim city.

Herrera, spokesman for the military forces in Marawi, said the priest had been seen alive on Sunday in a part of the city still in the hands of the extremists.

"We don't have details of his health. We were just told that he was sighted alive," he told reporters in Marawi, citing accounts from civilians rescued from the battle zone.

He also said there were about 100 civilian hostages still in the hands of the gunmen, being used as "human shields", ammunition carriers and stretcher-bearers.

Most of Marawi's 200,000 residents have fled the fighting and the lakeside city, a favourite summer vacation destination in the south due to its cool climate, is now a ghost town.

Fighting resumed with renewed fury on Monday, with government fighter jets and other aircraft seen carrying out bombing attacks while sustained bursts of gunfire could be heard.

"Our offensive operations have resumed and will continue so we can liberate Marawi at the soonest time possible," Herrera added.

- Foreign bomb experts -

He said the bodies of two militants believed to be from the Middle East because of their physical features were found at the scene of an earlier airstrike, another sign that foreign fighters had joined the battle.

"These foreign terrorists involved in the hostilities are bomb experts. They are the ones facilitating the rigging of the buildings and houses with bombs," Herrera said.

Eight foreign fighters, including those from Chechnya, Indonesia and Malaysia, were killed in the early days of the battle, the government has said.

In May Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in Marawi and the southern region of Mindanao to quell what he described as a rebellion aimed at establishing an Islamic State caliphate in the area.

Herrera said they were still trying to confirm reports that Isnilon Hapilon, a veteran Filipino militant said to be the leader of the Islamic State group in Southeast Asia, had escaped Marawi despite a military and police cordon.

An attempt by troops to arrest Hapilon in Marawi on May 23 triggered the rampage by the militants.

Hapilon was indicted in Washington for his involvement in the 2001 kidnapping of three Americans in the Philippines. He has a $5 million bounty on his head from the US government and is on its "most wanted" terror list.

The army has said it was checking reports that Omarkhayam Maute and Malaysian militant Mahmud Ahmad, both leaders of the Marawi offensive, had been killed in the fighting.

Colonel Edgard Arevalo, a Manila-based military spokesman, said two other militants leaders -- Maute's brothers Abdullah and Madi -- are still alive.

The pair met with peace emissaries during the truce on Sunday to discuss the release of hostages, he added.

The Maute brothers are leaders of the Maute Group, which joined forces with Hapilon's Abu Sayyaf faction to carry out the Marawi attack. Both groups have pledged allegiance to the IS.

Chile wait on Aranguiz’s fitness for semi-final

Chile coach Juan Antonio Pizzi hopes Charles Aranguiz will be fit for Wednesday’s Confederations Cup semi-final against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal after the midfield enforcer suffered a knock against Australia.A hard challenge from Socceroos veteran …

Chile coach Juan Antonio Pizzi hopes Charles Aranguiz will be fit for Wednesday's Confederations Cup semi-final against Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal after the midfield enforcer suffered a knock against Australia.

A hard challenge from Socceroos veteran Tim Cahill clattered Aranguiz, who had to be substituted at half-time of Sunday's 1-1 draw in Moscow.

The result meant Chile finish runners-up in Group B to face Euro 2016 winners Portugal in Kazan for a place in Sunday's Confed Cup final against either Mexico or Germany who meet on Thursday in Sochi.

Pizzi hopes to have the experienced Aranguiz, 28, fit to partner Arturo Vidal in Chile's defensive midfield core which helped win the Copa America title last year.

"He was in a bit of pain and we hope he will be able to recover, but like his team-mates he is strong, he wants to play," said Pizzi.

If fit, Aranguiz faces a busy night at the Kazan Arena trying to ensure Ronaldo has a quiet night with the Real Madrid star having won man-of-the-match awards in all three of Portugal's games so far in Russia.

Pizzi says the south Americans can hold their own against Fernando Santos-coached Portugal.

"They are a very difficult opponent," said Pizzi.

"It is hard to win the Euro, which includes many of the best teams in the world, and they have the world's best player.

"They have a coach who has vast experience and knows the team very well.

"But it's going to be difficult to play against us too, we'll go toe-to-toe and try to win."

Former S. Korean President Park plotted to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong-un – report

Preview Former South Korean President Park Geun-hye was making plans to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, according to Japan’s Asahi Shimbun national newspaper.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview Former South Korean President Park Geun-hye was making plans to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, according to Japan’s Asahi Shimbun national newspaper.
Read Full Article at RT.com

German business sentiment ‘jubilant’: Ifo

German business confidence soared to a “jubilant” new high in June, having already reached a quarter-century peak the previous month, a survey said Monday.The closely watched Ifo business confidence index set a new record of 115.1 points, defying expec…

German business confidence soared to a "jubilant" new high in June, having already reached a quarter-century peak the previous month, a survey said Monday.

The closely watched Ifo business confidence index set a new record of 115.1 points, defying expectations of analysts of a slight decline after it reached 114.6 in May, the highest since 1991.

The Munich-based Ifo Institute for Economic Research calculates the score from a survey of 7,000 companies, who are asked to give their assessments of the current business situation and their expectations for the next six months.

Analysts surveyed by financial services provider Factset had expected 114.4 points in June.

The strong optimism comes despite challenges for Europe's top exporters, from US President Donald Trump's "America First" stance on trade to Britain's looming exit from the European Union.

"Sentiment among German businesses is jubilant," said Ifo president Clemens Fuest in a statement.

"Companies were significantly more satisfied with their current business situation this month. They also expect business to improve."

The German economy expanded by 0.6 percent in the first quarter, and the government expects growth to hit 1.5 percent for the full year, while several economists have predicted it would reach or top last year's level of 1.8 percent.

Fuest said that "Germany's economy is performing very strongly. In manufacturing, the index rose slightly. Assessments of the current business situation remained unchanged at a very high level."

The optimism was shared by manufacturers -- who planned to ramp up production -- wholesalers and retailers, Ifo said, pointing to a lower index only in construction where the assessments of current and future business nevertheless remained at a high level.

Liu Xiaobo: Freed Chinese intellectual spoke out for change

Liu Xiaobo, who won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize from behind bars, was for decades a vocal champion of democracy and human rights until Chinese authorities locked him up for speaking out.The 61-year-old, who was previously jailed for his involvement in t…

Liu Xiaobo, who won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize from behind bars, was for decades a vocal champion of democracy and human rights until Chinese authorities locked him up for speaking out.

The 61-year-old, who was previously jailed for his involvement in the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy protests, was sentenced in 2009 to 11 years in prison for subversion -- a punishment that earned international condemnation.

To Beijing's fury, he was awarded the Nobel prize a year later -- and was represented by an empty chair at the ceremony in Oslo.

Last month the prominent activist was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer and released from prison on medical parole, his lawyer Mo Shaoping said Monday.

He is being treated in a hospital in the northeastern city of Shenyang.

Liu was arrested in late 2008 after co-authoring Charter 08, a widely circulated petition that called for political reform in the Communist-ruled nation.

The bold manifesto, which was signed by more than 10,000 people after it went online, calls for the protection of basic human rights and the reform of China's one-party system.

Beijing opposes the peace prize "because they fear that it will draw more attention to Liu Xiaobo and to China's situation (on democracy and human rights)," his wife Liu Xia told AFP after he was honoured by the Nobel committee.

"If they didn't fear this, then they would not have sentenced him to 11 years for writing an essay."

Liu Xia herself was placed under house arrest at the time of the Nobel award and could not be reached for comment on Monday.

She suffered a heart attack in 2014, when she was diagnosed with depression after years of detention, a rights group said at the time.

- Words seen 'as crimes' -

Charter 08 specifically demands the abolition of subversion as an criminal offence.

"We should make freedom of speech, freedom of the press and academic freedom universal, thereby guaranteeing that citizens can be informed and can exercise their right of political supervision," it says.

"We should end the practice of viewing words as crimes."

Liu is also known for his efforts to help negotiate the safe exit from Tiananmen Square of thousands of student demonstrators on the night of June 3-4, 1989 when the military bloodily suppressed six weeks of protests in the heart of Beijing.

He was arrested immediately after the crackdown and released without charge in early 1991.

Liu was rearrested and served three years in a labour camp from 1996-1999 for seeking the release of those jailed in the Tiananmen protests and for opposing the official verdict that their actions amounted to a counter-revolutionary rebellion.

Liu, who holds a doctorate in Chinese literature, was once a professor at Beijing Normal University, but was banned from teaching at state institutions over his involvement in the 1989 demonstrations.

As a leading member of the Independent China Pen Centre, a grouping of Chinese writers, Liu remained in close contact with key intellectuals and had been largely free to attend meetings and writer group activities despite constant police surveillance.

Although he has been banned from publishing in China, many of his writings advocating greater democracy and respect for human rights have appeared in Hong Kong and overseas Chinese publications.

Some of these served as evidence in his most recent trial.

- Award under arrest -

Liu still commands great respect among Chinese intellectuals, a fact that some say was central to the Communist Party's decision to bring charges against him.

Western governments, rights groups, scholars, and a coalition of Nobel prize winners have repeatedly called for his release.

Liu is the first Chinese citizen to win the Nobel peace prize and one of only three people to have won it while detained by their own government.

The Nobel announcement sparked renewed calls for his release, led by fellow peace laureates and then by then-US President Barack Obama. Washington has also called on Beijing to end its house arrest of Liu Xia.

Liu has been honoured by Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders and other rights groups. His essay "The Noble Paradise of Power, the Hell for the Meek" won the Hong Kong Human Rights News Prize in 2004.

Germany’s Timo Werner eyes Confederations Cup glory

Ambitious Timo Werner is eyeing Confederations Cup glory with Germany and hopes his two goals against Cameroon are enough to see him start Thursday’s semi-final with Mexico.The 21-year-old sealed the world champions’ 3-1 win in Sochi with a second-half…

Ambitious Timo Werner is eyeing Confederations Cup glory with Germany and hopes his two goals against Cameroon are enough to see him start Thursday's semi-final with Mexico.

The 21-year-old sealed the world champions' 3-1 win in Sochi with a second-half brace by heading home Joshua Kimmich's cross, then drilled in a second to calm German nerves just after Vincent Aboubakar netted Cameroon's consolation goal.

The win over Cameroon means Germany stay in Sochi to play Mexico for a place in Sunday's final in Saint Petersburg with Chile and Portugal to meet the day before in Kazan's other semi-final.

"Mexico will be tough to play, but we have also been good so far and I think we have a chance to go beyond the semi-finals," said RB Leipzig's Werner.

"We're in the semis, so the next aim is to reach the final.

"To say we want to win the final would be over ambitious, but it wouldn't be enough just to play in the third-place match."

The fleet-footed striker has a sharp eye for goal and justified Joachim Loew's faith with a man-of-the-match performance, which could be rewarded with another start against Mexico.

"Timo Werner really put in a lot of leg work," said Germany's head coach.

"At the start, our attacks somehow didn't come to much, on so he wasn't able to really shoot on target.

"It was a different story after the break, he was much more present in the box, that's where he's dangerous, he has a killer instinct.

"Both goals were nicely taken and he really earned them."

Werner is one of only three players have now so far scored twice at this Confed Cup.

He is in the company of global superstar Cristiano Ronaldo and team-mate Lars Stindl, whose place Werner took in Germany's starting line-up against Cameroon.

The inexperienced Germans made a nervous, hesitant start in Sochi and after a frustrating first-half of missed half chances and scuffed shots, Werner's game clicked.

- First-half frustration -

"I needed some time before scoring, I was a bit annoyed because leading up to (the goals), I had a couple of situation which weren't ideal," said Werner.

"I got a couple of good passes, so I have to thank those guys who provided those.

"The man-of-the-match award is a great distinction for me, I am happy we won in Sochi and can have an extra day to prepare for the semi-final.

"Of course, the fact we can stay here helps, it's nice to be by the sea."

Werner headed his first goal to put Germany 2-0 just after Cameroon's Ernest Mabouka was sent off for a dangerous tackle.

The German said he profited from confusion in Cameroon's defence, which was generated when the ref initially dismissed Sebastien Siani before the video assistant referee corrected the decision.

"I believe the red card contributed to the fact we were able to win with that score," said Werner.

"I didn't see whether or not it (the red card) was justified.

"Cameroon kept attacking, even when they were a man down and were courageous, but it meant there was more space for us, so yes, the red card had a contribution."

Werner only made his debut in March and is soaking up the experience of playing in Russia a year before the World Cup.

"The Confed Cup is a huge experience for all us young players," he said,

"We've all got a glimpse of what it is like to be in a big tournament, we're looking forward to every match and the challenges."

Glastonbury getaway after Ed Sheeran closes festival

Tens of thousands of revellers were making the great getaway from Glastonbury on Monday after Ed Sheeran closed the world’s biggest greenfield music festival.The 26-year-old singer-songwriter’s performance on Sunday ended three days of music from some …

Tens of thousands of revellers were making the great getaway from Glastonbury on Monday after Ed Sheeran closed the world's biggest greenfield music festival.

The 26-year-old singer-songwriter's performance on Sunday ended three days of music from some of the world's biggest acts at the celebrated fest, which drew an estimated 175,000 people this year.

Playing Glastonbury -- which is held on a farm in southwest England -- was "a dream of mine", Sheeran said, after performing with just his guitar.

"But I never thought I would even get to the point where I was playing this stage, let alone headlining it."

Radiohead topped the bill on Friday while the Foo Fighters headlined on Saturday.

Highlights on Sunday included Nile Rodgers and Chic, who brought some 1980s magic with disco hits such as "Everybody Dance", "I Want Your Love" and "Upside Down".

And many were dazzled by Barry Gibb, the only surviving member of the Bee Gee brothers, who reeled off hit after hit.

He donned a tight-fitting gold jacket that the exuberant crowd had tossed on the sage to him after chanting "Barry, wear the jacket! Barry, wear the jacket!". He wore it while playing hit song "Tragedy".

Meanwhile The Killers played a surprise set on the John Peel Stage -- the fourth-biggest -- 10 years after they headlined the festival.

Other top acts on the bill during the festival included included Katy Perry, Liam Gallagher, Kaiser Chiefs, Emeli Sande, Status Quo, Goldfrapp, The Pretenders, The Jacksons, Dizzee Rascal, Alison Moyet and Kiefer Sutherland.

Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn got a rapturous welcome from tens of thousands of revellers in a speech that focused on his pacifist, environmentalist and anti-racist policies.

- Litter-picking marathon -

Getting out of Glastonbury, can be a taxing and time-consuming ordeal.

"Take your time leaving the site today and please listen to all cops, stewards and security -- we all want you to get home safe and sound," the festival advised.

A litter-picking crew of up to 800 will begin to clear the vast site of rubbish on Monday, with tractors dragging magnetic strips across the fields.

It could take up to six weeks to convert the site back into a functioning dairy farm.

Glastonbury has a fallow year every five years, and so the next festival will be in 2019.

"The farm needs a rest. So does the village and the wildlife," organiser Michael Eavis said.

Glastonbury started off as a loss-maker in 1970, with 1,500 people paying one pound to watch Marc Bolan top the bill, with free milk from the farm to tempt music-loving hippies.

The festival celebrates its 50th year in 2020.

"We're already booking acts for that one," Eavis said.

"Half a century. It's an incredible feat, actually. We've been through so many struggles to get here."

Tanzania vows to arrest those ‘protecting’ gay interests

Tanzania has threatened to arrest and deport those campaigning for gay rights and de-register organisations protecting homosexual interests, local media reported Monday.”I would like to remind and warn all organisations and institutions that campaign a…

Tanzania has threatened to arrest and deport those campaigning for gay rights and de-register organisations protecting homosexual interests, local media reported Monday.

"I would like to remind and warn all organisations and institutions that campaign and pretend to protect homosexual interests ... we are going to arrest whoever is involved and charge them in courts of law," the state-owned Daily News quoted Interior Minister Mwigulu Nchemba as saying.

In the country's latest attack on its homosexual community, Nchemba also said foreigners involved in such campaigns would be "deported within no time ... they will not have even the time to unplug their mobile phones from the socket."

"Those who are interested in homosexuality should go and live in countries that entertain such businesses. If there's any organisation in the country that supports and campaigns for homosexuality ... it shall be deregistered."

Nchemba's comments come just days after President John Magufuli slammed NGOs who campaign for gay rights, saying they should be countered even if this meant losing foreign aid.

"Those who teach such things do not like us, brothers. They brought us drugs and homosexual practices that even cows disapprove of," Magufuli said in a speech last Thursday.

Gay male sex is punishable by anything from 30 years to life imprisonment under Tanzanian law, but there is no such ban on lesbian relations.

However, politicians have largely ignored the gay community -- which has not experienced the levels of discrimination seen in other countries such as neighbouring Uganda -- until a recent spike in anti-gay rhetoric by the government.

Last July, the regional commissioner for the port city of Dar es Salaam, Paul Makonda, announced a crackdown which was followed by arrests in clubs.

Dozens of men suspected of being gay have been detained and taken to hospital for anal exams to confirm their homosexuality.

In the same month, the government banned the import and sales of sexual lubricants, which Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu said encouraged homosexuality that led to the spread of HIV/AIDS.

And in February, the government said it was stopping many privately-run health centres from providing AIDS-related services after they were accused of providing services to homosexuals.

The government also said it would publish a list of gay people selling sex online, but retracted this threat several days later.

Homosexuality is illegal in 38 of 54 countries in Africa, and is punishable by death in Mauritania, Sudan and Somalia, according to Amnesty International.

Iraq forces combing west Mosul after surprise IS attack

Iraqi forces on Monday were searching neighbourhoods of west Mosul they retook weeks ago after a surprise jihadist attack on their rear that left several dead, officials said.The attack, which was claimed by the Islamic State group, sowed panic among r…

Iraqi forces on Monday were searching neighbourhoods of west Mosul they retook weeks ago after a surprise jihadist attack on their rear that left several dead, officials said.

The attack, which was claimed by the Islamic State group, sowed panic among residents who returned to live in the Tanak and Yarmuk neighbourhoods of west Mosul.

A top commander in the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS), which sent forces to fight the IS gunmen, said the attackers had infiltrated the area by blending in with returning displaced civilians.

"The group came with the displaced and settled in the Tanak district. They regrouped and launched counter-attacks," Staff Lieutenant General Abdulwahab al-Saadi told AFP.

"Yarmuk is being searched house to house," he said, adding that two groups of IS attackers were still believed to be in the area, which lies on the western edge of the city.

A CTS medic said the attack had caused several victims but he could not say how many.

"There are martyrs who were killed by Daesh," the medic said, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

He said 15 to 20 jihadist fighters were also killed in the battle.

Iraqi forces, led by the CTS, have for a week been pressing a perilous assault into the Old City in central Mosul, the last pocket still controlled by the jihadists.

Federal forces backed a US-led coalition launched an offensive to retake the country's second city from IS more than eight months ago.

The east bank of Mosul, a city divided by the Tigris River, was retaken in January and a push to wrest back the western side was launched in mid-February.

More than 800,000 people have been displaced from the Mosul area since October last year and the security forces are struggling to carry out effective screening.

While the exact circumstances were unclear, Sunday night's attack was described as a diversionary tactic by west Mosul "sleeper cells" to ease the pressure on the Old City, where the jihadists appear to be on their last legs.

"The sleeper cells carried out a surprise attack against the security forces, in an attempt to ease the siege on the Old City," a local official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"Operations to flush out pockets controlled by Daesh are ongoing," he said.

Hundreds of families, who in some cases had returned to their homes weeks ago, fled the area again overnight, fearing the return of jihadist rule.

US-backed force has seized a quarter of Raqa from IS: monitor

US-backed fighters have seized a quarter of Syria’s Raqa from the Islamic State group, a monitor said Monday, less than three weeks after they first entered the northern city. Arab and Kurdish militiamen from the Syrian Democratic Forces smashed into t…

US-backed fighters have seized a quarter of Syria's Raqa from the Islamic State group, a monitor said Monday, less than three weeks after they first entered the northern city.

Arab and Kurdish militiamen from the Syrian Democratic Forces smashed into the jihadists' main Syrian bastion on June 6 after a months-long drive to encircle it.

"Since the offensive began, the SDF have captured around 25 percent of the city's built-up neighbourhoods," Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP on Monday.

Backed by US-led coalition air strikes, the SDF has fully seized the southeastern districts of Al-Meshleb and Al-Senaa, as well as Al-Rumaniya and Sabahiya in the west, he said.

From those neighbourhoods, they were bearing down on Raqa's Old City in a pincer movement on Monday, with fighting raging in the western Al-Qadisiya district and parts of the city's east.

SDF fighters also hold part of Division 17 -- a former Syrian army base -- and an adjacent sugar factory on the northern edges of the city.

"They want to cut off the city's northern part, including the Division 17 base, so that there's more pressure on IS in the city centre," Abdel Rahman said.

The battle for Raqa is the SDF's flagship offensive, with heavy backing from coalition air strikes, advisers, weapons and equipment.

The US-led coalition is also backing a major assault on the last IS-held pockets of Mosul in neighbouring Iraq.

IS overran Raqa in 2014, transforming it into the de facto Syrian capital of its self-declared "caliphate".

It became infamous as the scene of some of the group's worst atrocities, including public beheadings, and is thought to have been a hub for planning attacks overseas.

Vettel ‘freaked out’ in Azerbaijan, faces Hamilton retribution: Lauda

A crazy Sebastian Vettel “freaked out” under pressure in his “road rage” eruption during Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix — and is likely to be hit back with Lewis Hamilton’s fist, according to Mercedes boss Niki Lauda.The three-time world champion and …

A crazy Sebastian Vettel "freaked out" under pressure in his "road rage" eruption during Sunday's Azerbaijan Grand Prix -- and is likely to be hit back with Lewis Hamilton's fist, according to Mercedes boss Niki Lauda.

The three-time world champion and non-executive chairman of the "Silver Arrows" team said he had never seen anything like it before after Vettel had driven his Ferrari into Hamilton's Mercedes on lap 19 of Sunday's tempestuous race.

As four-time champion German Vettel woke to face the global reaction -- mostly disappointment -- to his actions and attitude as he sought out Hamilton's phone number for a private chat, many observers said the 10-seconds penalty he received for the incident was not enough.

Lauda's contemporary Briton John Watson suggested that the Ferrari driver should have been given a one-race ban, or other stronger sanction, while Lauda forecast that it would not be long before Hamilton punched back.

"He freaked out in himself," said Lauda. "When you hit somebody up the a*** it is your fault. No question. But then to drive next to him and hit him on purpose, I have never seen anything like this.

"To do that I don't understand. Vettel is a decent guy normally. This I don't understad. He is crazy. Lewis will hit him one day. Not with the car but with his fist."

Hamilton finished fifth, one place behind Vettel, and is now 14 points behind him in the title race after eight of this year's 20 races.

The three-time champion Briton managed to remain calm after the race, despite the provocation, after the stewards had confirmed that he had not 'brake-tested' Vettel, as he alleged, leading to the Ferrari driving into him.

"For him to pretty much get away with driving into another driver is a disgrace," said Hamilton. "He disgraced himself today. If he wants to prove that he is a man we should do it out of the car, face-to-face.

"It is a misjudgement from him and some people don't like to own up to their own mistakes. He was sleeping.

"The stewards looked at my data -- and the reason I didn't get a penalty is because I clearly did not brake test him. It could not be clearer.

"It is as clear as blue skies. Ultimately, what happened was disrespectful. There are kids watching us on TV. You think a multi-time world champion would behave better than that.

"I really hope that kids don?t see that and think that is the right way. That is not how you drive."

- "Gloves off" -

Vettel was also given three points on his driver's licence, increasing his total to nine, and any further misdemeanour before he loses two next month could see him face a one-race ban.

Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff welcomed the arrival of the "gloves off" moment that may signal the end of the two multi-champions' friendly rivalry.

"Nobody wanted to see the schmoozing anyway, so now the gloves are off," said Wolff. "The sport needs the rivalry. What we have seen today is the ingredient of a great championship.

"They are warriors. They are at war at that moment. They are fighting for the race wins and the championship.

"At a certain stage, the best ones that compete for the world championship in that phase of their careers can't be friends. Maybe we've seen the limit of that respect today."

Vettel refused to accept any blame for the incident and said he would call Hamilton to talk it over.

"I don't have a problem with him," insisted Vettel. "I respect him a lot for the driver he is, but now is not the right time to talk. I'll do that just with him and clear it and move on.

"Maybe I'm not clever enough, but I'm not complicated. I'm willing to sort it out with him. I don't think there's much to sort out."

Told of Vettel's planned call, Hamilton said: "He doesn?t have my number."

It was a succinct summary of an incident, and a day, that left Vettel and F1 in disarray.

Russian billionaire buys Holland & Barrett

Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman has bought British health food retailer Holland & Barrett for £1.8 billion ($2.3 billion, 2.0 billion euros), his investment fund said on Monday.

L1 Retail, which is a division of Fridman’s holding company LetterOne, said it has purchased Holland & Barrett from parent company Nature’s Bounty — which is owned by US private equity firm Carlyle.

“Holland & Barrett is a clear market leader in the UK health and wellness retail market, with attractive growth positions in other European and international markets,” said LetterOne managing partner Stephan DuCharme in a statement.

Holland & Barrett is Europe’s largest health food chain with more than 1,150 outlets and a workforce of some 4,200 people.

The group was founded in 1870 and is headquartered in Nuneaton in central England. Its annual revenues last year exceeded £610 million.

Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman has bought British health food retailer Holland & Barrett for £1.8 billion ($2.3 billion, 2.0 billion euros), his investment fund said on Monday.

L1 Retail, which is a division of Fridman's holding company LetterOne, said it has purchased Holland & Barrett from parent company Nature's Bounty -- which is owned by US private equity firm Carlyle.

"Holland & Barrett is a clear market leader in the UK health and wellness retail market, with attractive growth positions in other European and international markets," said LetterOne managing partner Stephan DuCharme in a statement.

Holland & Barrett is Europe's largest health food chain with more than 1,150 outlets and a workforce of some 4,200 people.

The group was founded in 1870 and is headquartered in Nuneaton in central England. Its annual revenues last year exceeded £610 million.

China releases Nobel laureate Liu with terminal cancer: lawyer

China’s jailed Nobel peace prize laureate Liu Xiaobo has been granted medical parole after being diagnosed with terminal liver cancer last month, his lawyer told AFP on Monday.Liu, who had about three years of his 11-year sentence to serve, was diagnos…

China's jailed Nobel peace prize laureate Liu Xiaobo has been granted medical parole after being diagnosed with terminal liver cancer last month, his lawyer told AFP on Monday.

Liu, who had about three years of his 11-year sentence to serve, was diagnosed on May 23 and was released days later, said lawyer Mo Shaoping.

The 61-year-old democracy campaigner was being treated at a hospital in the northeastern city of Shenyang.

"He has no special plans. He is just receiving medical treatment for his illness," Mo said.

The writer was jailed in 2009 for "subversion" after spearheading a bold petition for democratic reforms.

He was awarded the Nobel peace prize a year later. He is one of only three people to have won the award while jailed by their own government.

China strongly condemned his Nobel prize as unwanted foreign interference in its internal affairs, and refused to allow him to attend the ceremony in Oslo -- where he was represented instead by an empty chair.

Asked about Liu's release, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular news briefing: "I am not aware of the situation you?re talking about."

The international community has been calling for his release for years.

Liu was arrested in 2008 after co-writing Charter 08, a bold petition that called for the protection of basic human rights and the reform of China's one-party Communist system.

Charter 08, which was posted online, specifically demands the abolition of subversion as an offence in China's criminal code -- the very crime for which Liu has been jailed.

His wife, Liu Xia, has been under house arrest since 2010. She suffered a heart attack in 2014, when she was diagnosed with depression after years of detention, a rights group said at the time.

She could not be reached for comment on Monday as an automated message said her phone was no longer in service.

- Tiananmen role -

Liu is also known for his efforts to help negotiate the safe exit from Tiananmen Square of thousands of student demonstrators on the night of June 3, 1989 when the military quelled six weeks of protests in the heart of Beijing.

He was arrested immediately after the crackdown and released without charge in early 1991.

Liu was rearrested and served three years in a labour camp from 1996-1999 for seeking the release of those jailed in the Tiananmen protests and for opposing the government's verdict that they amounted to a counter-revolutionary rebellion.

The holder of a doctorate in Chinese literature, Liu was once a professor at Beijing Normal University, but was banned from teaching at state institutions over his involvement in the 1989 demonstrations.

As a leading member of the Independent China Pen Centre, a grouping of Chinese writers, Liu had remained in close contact with key intellectuals and had been largely free to attend meetings and writer group activities despite constant police surveillance.

Although Liu was banned from publishing in China, many of his writings advocating greater democracy and respect for human rights appeared in Hong Kong and overseas Chinese publications.

Some of these writings served as evidence in his most recent trial, according to rights groups.

Morocco king slams development delays in restive north

Morocco’s king has rebuked ministers over delays to a development programme meant to pump investment into a region rocked by months of protests over unemployment and perceived state neglect.Mohammed VI told ministers Sunday of his “disappointment, diss…

Morocco's king has rebuked ministers over delays to a development programme meant to pump investment into a region rocked by months of protests over unemployment and perceived state neglect.

Mohammed VI told ministers Sunday of his "disappointment, dissatisfaction and concern" that the $670 million (600 million euro) programme in the northern Rif region was behind schedule, according to a cabinet statement.

He also cancelled the annual leave of ministers involved in programme so they can "monitor" its progress, it said.

The Rif's main port, Al-Hoceima, has been rocked by protests since October, when a fishmonger was crushed to death in a rubbish truck as he tried to retrieve swordfish that authorities had thrown away because it was caught out of season.

Calls for justice snowballed into a wider social movement dubbed Al-Hirak al-Shaabi, or the "Popular Movement", demanding jobs, development, and an end to corruption in the mainly Berber region.

The government responded by relaunching a 2015 programme to improve the region's infrastructure, health facilities and education services by 2019.

Interior Minister Abdelouafi Laftit said in early June that the projects "respond to 90 percent of the demands of the population".

But security forces have also arrested more than 100 people including Hirak leader Nasser Zefzafi, and clashes between police and demonstrators have continued.

The Rif has long had a tense relationship with central authorities in Rabat, and it was at the heart of the Arab Spring-inspired protests in Morocco in February 2011.

King Mohamed VI relinquished some of his near-absolute control through constitutional reforms following the 2011 protests.

Russia says Telegram app used in Saint Petersburg attack

Russia’s FSB security agency on Monday said the Telegram messaging service was used by those behind the Saint Petersburg metro bombing, the latest salvo by authorities after they threatened to block the app.”During the probe into the April 3 terrorist …

Russia's FSB security agency on Monday said the Telegram messaging service was used by those behind the Saint Petersburg metro bombing, the latest salvo by authorities after they threatened to block the app.

"During the probe into the April 3 terrorist attack in the Saint Petersburg metro, the FSB received reliable information about the use of Telegram by the suicide bomber, his accomplices and their mastermind abroad to conceal their criminal plans," the FSB said in a statement.

They used Telegram "at each stage of the preparation of this terrorist attack," it said.

Fifteen people were killed in the suicide bombing, which was claimed by the little-known Imam Shamil Battalion, a group suspected of links to Al-Qaeda.

Telegram is a free Russian-designed messaging app that lets people exchange messages, photos and videos in groups of up to 5,000. It has attracted about 100 million users since its launch in 2013.

But the service has drawn the ire of critics who say it can let criminals and terrorists communicate without fear of being tracked by police, pointing in particular to its use by Islamic State jihadists.

The FSB charged that "the members of the international terrorist organisations on Russian territory use Telegram".

The app is already under fire in Moscow after Russia's state communications watchdog on Friday threatened to ban it, saying the company behind the service had failed to submit company details for registration.

Telegram's secretive Russian chief executive, Pavel Durov, who has previously refused to bow to government regulation that would compromise the privacy of users, had called that threat "paradoxical" on one of his social media accounts.

He said it would force users, including "high-ranking Russian officials" to communicate via apps based in the United States like WhatsApp.

The 32-year-old had previously created Russia's popular VKontakte social media site, before founding Telegram in the United States.

Durov said in April that the app had "consistently defended our users' privacy" and "never made any deals with governments."

The app is one of several targeted in a legal crackdown by Russian authorities on the internet and on social media sites in particular.

Since January 1, internet companies have been required to store all users' personal data at data centres in Russia and provide it to the authorities on demand.

Draft legislation that has already secured initial backing in parliament would make it illegal for messaging services to have anonymous users.

China releases Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo with terminal cancer: lawyer

China’s jailed Nobel peace prize laureate Liu Xiaobo has been granted medical parole after being diagnosed with terminal liver cancer last month, his lawyer told AFP on Monday.Liu, who had about three years of his 11-year sentence to serve, was diagnos…

China's jailed Nobel peace prize laureate Liu Xiaobo has been granted medical parole after being diagnosed with terminal liver cancer last month, his lawyer told AFP on Monday.

Liu, who had about three years of his 11-year sentence to serve, was diagnosed on May 23 and was released days later, said lawyer Mo Shaoping.

The democracy campaigner was being treated at a hospital in the northeastern city of Shenyang.

"He has no special plans. He is just receiving medical treatment for his illness," Mo said.

The international community had been calling for years for the release of the 2010 Nobel winner.

The writer, now 61, was jailed in 2009 for spearheading a bold petition for democratic reforms.

Philippine army foils militant plot to attack Cotabato City – report

The Philippine army has reportedly foiled a plot by militants to take advantage of the military focusing on its battle in Marawi to launch a similar siege on Cotabato City, the Manila Standard reports, citing an intelligence paper. Read F…

Preview The Philippine army has reportedly foiled a plot by militants to take advantage of the military focusing on its battle in Marawi to launch a similar siege on Cotabato City, the Manila Standard reports, citing an intelligence paper.
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