EU parliament votes to punish Hungary over ‘breaches’ of core values

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

EU parliament votes to punish Hungary over ‘breaches’ of core values

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban addresses the European Parliament. 11 Sept 2018Image copyrightEPA
Image caption Viktor Orban launched an impassioned defense on Tuesday – but it was not enough

The European Parliament has voted to pursue unprecedented disciplinary action against Hungary over alleged breaches of the EU’s core values.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government has been accused of attacks on the media, minorities, and the rule of law – charges which he denies.

More than two-thirds of MEPs backed the censure motion – the first such vote against a member state under EU rules.

If also approved by national leaders, Hungary could face punitive measures.

The ultimate sanction, the suspension of Hungary’s voting rights, is unlikely as Poland is likely to veto any such move.

The BBC’s Nick Thorpe in Budapest says Mr Orban appears increasingly isolated among European conservatives but is being applauded by nationalist parties.

What is Hungary accused of?

Since coming to power, Mr Orban’s government has taken a hardline stance against immigration. It introduced a law which made it a criminal offence for lawyers and activists to help asylum seekers, under the banner of “facilitating illegal immigration”.

But there have also been reports of pressure being put on the courts and the electoral system, and of widespread corruption.

After the vote, the European Parliament said it was also concerned about:

  • The constitutional and electoral system
  • Privacy and data protection
  • Freedom of expression and religion
  • Academic freedom and freedom of association
  • Equal rights, particularly for refugees and minorities such as Roma and Jews

Mr Orban addressed the parliament on Tuesday in defence of his government, labelling the threat of censure as a form of “blackmail” and an insult to Hungary.

Rapporteur Judith Sargentini is congratulated after members of the European Parliament took part in a vote on the situation in HungaryImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionJudith Sargentini, author of the report on Hungary, was applauded by many MEPs after the vote

He claimed a report by Dutch Greens MEP Judith Sargentini was an “abuse of power”, and included “serious factual misrepresentations”.

Ms Sargentini’s report into Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party alleged such actions were “a clear breach of the values of our union”.

Grey lines

Centre-right split over Hungary action

Analysis by BBC Brussels reporter Adam Fleming

The opposition to Viktor Orban received a boost last night when Manfred Weber, leader of the European Parliament’s centre-right group the European People’s Party (EPP), lost patience with his erstwhile ally and announced he would vote to trigger Article 7.

But it has created a split within the EPP because Forza Italia, some Bulgarians, a few Germans and assorted others gave their backing to Budapest.

Most British Conservative MEPs supported the Hungarian government, arguing that the EU had intruded into purely national matters. They strongly deny it was to secure Hungary’s support in the Brexit process or out of admiration for the country’s leader.

However, this episode might not bother Mr Orban at all, as it boosts his image back home as a scourge of the European establishment.

Grey lines

What could happen now?

Under an EU rule called Article 7, breaching the union’s founding principles can lead to the suspension of a member state’s rights as a punitive measure.

However, Hungary is currently facing “preventative” measures, which the parliament says are designed to avoid sanctions entirely.

The BBC Reality Check team has explained the Article 7 process in detail. Broadly, the decision on Hungary will now be referred to the heads of the 28 EU member states to consider.

However, because this step has never been taken before, it is not clear what will happen next, or when.

Suspension of Hungary’s voting rights is the most serious possible consequence – but is considered unlikely.

Poland is also facing disciplinary proceedings, launched by the European Commission in December last year. The case has yet to reach the European Parliament.

What has the reaction been?

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto reacted angrily to the vote, calling it the “petty revenge” of “pro-immigration” politicians.

Some politicians from other countries also defended Mr Orban’s government. Britain’s Nigel Farage, a pro-Brexit MEP, wrote that the decision demonstrated “the authoritarian grip of the EU”.

Anti-Islam Dutch populist Geert Wilders tweeted: “Hungary is the example for all EU countries and Orban is a hero and deserves the Nobel Prize.”

But Ms Sargentini, who wrote the report on Mr Orban’s government, said the decision sent an important message that the EU would stand up for citizens’ rights.

“Viktor Orban’s government has been leading the charge against European values by silencing independent media, replacing critical judges, and putting academia on a leash,” she said.

“Individuals close to the government have been enriching themselves, their friends and family members at the expense of Hungarian and European taxpayers. The Hungarian people deserve better.”

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto holds a news conference in Budapest, September 12, 2018Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionHungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto reacted angrily to the vote

Amnesty International’s expert on human rights in the EU, Berber Biala-Hettinga, hailed the vote as “historic”.

“The European Parliament rightly stood up for the Hungarian people and for the EU. They made it clear that human rights, the rule of law and democratic values are not up for negotiation,” she said.

Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, said that he would have voted for the measure if he was an MEP.

“The European Commission is using the tools we have, launching infringement procedures against countries that don’t respect EU law. [I] am in harmony with today’s decision,” he said through a spokeswoman’s Twitter account.

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    19 July 2018
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Europe

China officials ‘faked water tests with bottled water’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

China officials ‘faked water tests with bottled water’

A row of unbranded plastic water bottlesImage copyright GETTY CREATIVE
Image captionThe officials reportedly faked the data by using bottled water instead of river water

China is sending investigators to Hunan province after local officials were accused of faking data at a water monitoring station, state media report.

The officials are alleged to have placed sensors intended to measure the water quality of Lujiang River inside bottles of mineral water instead.

The river, in Zhuzhou, is badly polluted by sewage water, reports say.

There is widespread suspicion that some local officials and companies in China ignore environmental policies.

The environment ministry says it is investigating in Zhuzhou and “will seriously punish” any “violations”.

One monitoring sensor was even placed in a cup of tea instead of the Lujiang River, Xinhua news agency says.

Water monitoring currently takes place at 2,050 sites in the country, China Daily reports.

The Chinese government has vowed to improve its efforts to monitor and combat pollution – but there continues to be concern about air and water quality in China.

In 2016, one government report said more than 80% of rural wells in the north-east contained water unsafe for drinking.

Meanwhile, a separate 2017 government survey found more than 13,000 companies in China failed to meet environmental standards.

North Korea ‘working on new missiles’, US officials say

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

North Korea ‘working on new missiles’, US officials say

A launch of a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missilesImage copyrightKCNA
Image captionNorth Korea carried out a series of long-range missile tests in 2017

North Korea appears to be building new ballistic missiles despite recent warming ties with the Trump administration, media reports say.

Unnamed US officials told the Washington Post that spy satellites had spotted continuing activity at a site that has produced ballistic missiles.

Reuters news agency quotes an official as saying it is unclear how far the work has gone.

President Donald Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in June.

After the first meeting between sitting leaders from the two countries, the two men pledged to work towards denuclearisation. Mr Trump later said North Korea was “no longer a nuclear threat”.

But Mr Trump was criticised at home for making concessions without securing any firm commitment from Mr Kim to end the nuclear and missile programmes.

US President Donald Trump (R) shakes hands with North Korea"s leader Kim Jong-un (L) as they sit down for their historic US-North Korea summitImage copyrightAFP
Image captionThe two leaders shook hand at a landmark summit in June

What do the latest reports say?

On Monday, the Washington Post newspaper quoted officials as saying North Korea appeared to be building one or two new liquid-fuelled intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) at the Sanumdong facility near the capital, Pyongyang.

The factory is known to have produced the Hwasong-15, the first North Korean ICBM capable of reaching the US.

However, a US official told news agency Reuters that a liquid-fuelled ICBM didn’t “pose nearly the threat that a solid-fuelled one would because they take so long to fuel”.

Reuters also added that satellite imaging showed vehicles moving in and out of the facility, but not the extent of any missile construction.

What are experts saying about this?

These are not the first reports that North Korea may be continuing its weapons programme, casting doubt on the real impact of the summit in Singapore.

Satellite imagery of the Sanumdong facility shows that the site is “active”, Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS) told the Washington Post.

“[The facility] is not dead, by any stretch of the imagination,” said Mr Lewis. “We see shipping containers and vehicles coming and going. This is a facility where they build ICBMs and space-launch vehicles.”

Another North Korean expert from MIIS, Melissa Hanham, told the BBC that the facility had “regular traffic in and out of the building”, adding that this “traffic pattern” on the site stayed “about the same through the Panmunjom and Singapore meetings”.

This indicated that there had not been a complete stop in activity during the summit talks.

She also noted that large “brightly coloured containers” also showed up in satellite imagery, saying that “containers similar to these have appeared during previous ICBM inspections by Mr Kim.”

Ms Hanham added that while that experts at MIIS could not “find a way to confirm the [intelligence] leak”, the information has matched evidence from satellite imagery.

What was agreed on in the Singapore summit?

North Korea has carried out a total of six nuclear tests, the most recent of which took place in September last year. It has in the past two years quickly advanced its nuclear programme.

But at their landmark meeting in Singapore, Mr Trump and Mr Kim agreed to work towards the “complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula”.

The signatures of US President Donald Trump and Korean leader Kim Jong-unImage copyrightAFP
Image captionThe pair signed a document pledging they would work towards new relations

It’s been unclear what both sides mean by “complete denuclearisation”, and no further details have been released about when or how Pyongyang would renounce its nuclear weapons nor how the process would be verified.

Experts have also cast doubt on whether Pyongyang has been genuine in its apparent commitment to “denuclearise”.

Last week, it appeared North Korea had begun dismantling part of a key rocket launch site, but according to recent reports based on US intelligence leaks, Pyongyang might still secretly be continuing its nuclear weapons programme.

Reports had indicated that North Korea was upgrading its only official nuclear enrichment site, and was stepping up enrichment at other secret sites.

Last week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was forced to admit that North Korea was continuing to produce nuclear fissile material, though he insisted that “progress is happening”.

Japan executes seven cult leaders behind Tokyo Sarin attacks

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Japan executes seven cult leaders behind Tokyo Sarin attacks

Shoko AsaharaImage copyrightAFP
Image caption Shoko Asahara headed the Aum Shimrikyo cult

Seven members of the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult which carried out a deadly chemical attack on the Tokyo underground in 1995 have been executed, including cult leader Shoko Asahara.

The Sarin attack, Japan’s worst terror incident, killed 13 people and injured thousands more.

The executions took place at a Tokyo detention house on Friday morning.

Japan does not give prior notice of executions, but they were later confirmed by the justice ministry.

Shoko Asahara and his followers were also accused of several other murders and an earlier Sarin gas attack in 1994 which killed eight and left 600 injured.

Their execution, by hanging, had been postponed until all those convicted had completed their final appeals. That happened in January.

Another six members of the cult are still on death row.

What was the Tokyo attack?

On 20 March 1995, cult members released the Sarin on the subway in the Japanese capital. They left punctured bags filled with liquid nerve agent on train lines going through Tokyo’s political district.

Witnesses described noticing the leaking packages and soon afterwards feeling stinging fumes hitting their eyes.

The toxin struck victims down in a matter of seconds, leaving them choking and vomiting, some blinded and paralysed. Thirteen people died.

In the following months, members of the cult carried out several failed attempts at releasing hydrogen cyanide in various stations.

Media captionWitness: Tokyo attack

The attack shocked Japan, a country that prided itself on low crime rates and social cohesion.

Scores of Aum members have faced trial over the attack – 13 were sentenced to death, including Asahara.

Another six are serving life sentences.

What is the Aum Shinrikyo cult?

The cult, whose name means “supreme truth”, began in the 1980s as a spiritual group mixing Hindu and Buddhist beliefs, later working in elements of apocalyptic Christian prophesies.

The group’s founder, Shoko Asahara, also known as Chizuo Matsumoto, declared himself to be both Christ and the first “enlightened one” since Buddha.

Aum cultist in Japan - 1999 file picImage copyrightAFP
Image captionAum Shinrikyo is believed to still have thousands of followers

Aum Shinrikyo gained official status as a religious organisation in Japan in 1989 and picked up a sizeable global following. At its peak, Asahara had tens of thousands of followers worldwide.

The group gradually became a paranoid doomsday cult, convinced the world was about to end in a global war and that only they would survive.

The cult went underground after the 1995 attack, but did not disappear, eventually renaming itself Aleph or Hikari no Wa.

Aum Shinrikyo is designated a terrorist organisation in the US and many other countries, but Aleph and Hikari no Wa are both legal in Japan, although designated as “dangerous religions” subject to surveillance.

It still has followers both in Japan and also worldwide, in particular in some countries of the former Soviet Union.

In 2016, police in Russia conducted a number of raids on suspected cult members in Moscow and St Petersburg.

Why has the execution been so delayed?

In Japan, death sentences are not carried out until the verdict against all accused and accomplices are final, with no pending appeals left against any of the group.

The trials against the cult members only wrapped up in January this year after the Supreme Court upheld the verdict against one member sentenced to life in prison.

There has been strong public support for the Aum convicts to be put to death.

Since an effective moratorium ended in 2010, Japan has executed as many as eight people a year.

The death penalty is only used for serious cases of murder and is carried out by hanging.

Officials do not give advance public notification – condemned prisoners themselves are usually only told they are to die a few hours before the sentence is carried out.

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Asia

Thailand Cave Rescue: Boys Found Alive After Nine Days Trapped In Flooded Cave

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Thailand cave rescue: Boys found alive after nine days

The boys being foundImage copyrightTHAI NAVY SEAL
Image caption Divers released images of the group being found

All 12 boys and their football coach have been found alive after nine days missing in caves in Thailand, in a drama that gripped the nation.

All of them are safe, an official confirmed, speaking after the mammoth search operation in the Tham Luang caves in Chiang Rai.

The challenge now will be to extract the party safely, with rising water and mud impeding access.

Families of the missing group were ecstatic at news of the rescue.

Media captionJonathan Head reports from the scene on the obstacles rescuers will need to overcome

Live updates

The missing group were discovered by naval special forces, Chiang Rai governor Narongsak Osottanakorn said.

Rescuers had hoped they would find safety on a ledge in an underground chamber nicknamed Pattaya Beach but they were found 400 metres (440 yards) away having moved to higher ground to avoid the rising water.

In video posted on Facebook by Thai Navy SEAL, one of the rescuers can be heard speaking in English to the group, as they sit on a ledge above water in a cavern, picked out by torchlight.

“How many of you?” the rescuer, who appears to be English, asks.

“Thirteen!”

“Thirteen? Brilliant!”

Family members celebrate while camping out near Than Luang cave following news all members of children's football team and their coach were alive in the cave at Khun Nam Nang, 2 JulyImage copyrightAFP
Image captionThere was jubilation among family members camping near the caves

The group’s plight has gripped the country and led to an outpouring of support.

The boys aged 11 to 16 and their coach went to explore the caves on 23 June.


An uplifting breakthrough

By Jonathan Head, BBC News, Tham Luang

There are scenes of jubilation here at the cave entrance – drowned out by the generators powering the water pumps and filling the air tanks for the dozens of divers whose persistence in the toughest of underground conditions has paid off.

Family members celebrate while camping out near Than Luang cave following news all members of children's football team and their coach were alive in the cave at Khun Nam Nang, 2 JulyImage copyrightAFP
Image captionFamily members celebrated near the cave

Now the authorities must figure out how to extract them. The first priority is to get them medical treatment and food where they are, to rebuild their strength.

The whole country has watched every stage of this operation, holding its breath for what seemed an increasingly unlikely happy ending.

They are not out yet but this is an uplifting breakthrough after the Thai government threw everything it could to try to save these boys’ lives.


Who are the group in the cave?

Group of teenage boys with coachImage copyrightFACEBOOK/EKATOL
Image captionA Facebook photo shows the coach with some of the missing children
  • The 12 boys are members of the Moo Pa – or Wild Boar – football team.
  • Their 25-year-old assistant coach, Ekkapol Janthawong, is known to have occasionally taken them out on day trips – including a trip to the same cave two years ago.
  • The youngest member, Chanin “Titan” Wibrunrungrueang, is 11 – he started playing football aged seven.
  • Duangpet “Dom” Promtep, 13, is the team captain and said to be the motivator of the group.
  • The club’s head coach Nopparat Kantawong who did not join the group on their excursion, says he believes the boys, who dream of becoming professional football players in the future, will stick together.
  • “I believe they won’t abandon each other,” he told media outlets. “They will take care of each other.”

“They are all safe but the mission is not completed,” the Chiang Rai governor told a press conference at the command centre at the cave entrance.

Media captionFootage from the Thai Navy shows rescuers at the Tham Luang caves in Chiang Rai

“Our mission is to search, rescue and return. So far we just found them. Next mission is to bring them out from the cave and send them home.”

BBC graphic

The governor said they would continue to drain water out of the cave while sending doctors and nurses to dive into the cave to check the health of the boys and their coach.

“If the doctors say their physical condition is strong enough to be moved, they will take them out from the cave,” he said.

“We will look after them until they can return to school.”

More than 1,000 people have been involved in the rescue operation, including teams from China, Myanmar, Laos, Australia and the US.

Asia

G7 summit: War of words erupts between US and key allies

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

G7 summit: War of words erupts between US and key allies

Photo from the G7 summit of the leaders, tweeted by the German government on 9 June 2018Image copyrightAFP
Image captionThe final communique had been intended as a face-saving agreement after a bad-tempered summit

A war of words has erupted between the US and its G7 allies, hours after the group had put on an apparent show of unity at the end of a tense summit.

US President Donald Trump and two of his advisers lashed out at Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, accusing him of engaging in “bad faith diplomacy”.

Germany’s Angela Merkel said Mr Trump’s decision to reject a joint communique was “sobering” and “depressing”.

That statement had sought to overcome deep disagreements, notably over trade.

In recent weeks, trading partners of the US have criticised new tariffs on steel and aluminium imports imposed by the Trump administration.

So how did the latest spat unfold?

In a news conference after the summit, the Canadian leader reasserted his opposition to the US tariffs, and vowed to press ahead with retaliatory moves on 1 July.

“Canadians are polite and reasonable but we will also not be pushed around,” he said.

Media captionTrudeau: “I don’t want to hurt American workers”

Mr Trump responded by tweeting en route to his next summit, in Singapore, that he had instructed US officials “not to endorse the communique as we look at tariffs on automobiles”.

He said the move was based on Mr Trudeau’s “false statements… and the fact that Canada is charging massive tariffs to our US farmers, workers and companies”.

His top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, and trade adviser, Peter Navarro, then took to the Sunday morning news shows to further attack Mr Trudeau.

“He really kind of stabbed us in the back,” Mr Kudlow said, while Mr Navarro said: “There is a special place in Hell for any leader that engages in bad faith diplomacy with President Donald J Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door.”

Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland responded by saying Mr Trump’s argument for imposing tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminium was “absurd and frankly insulting to Canadians”.

Mr Trump has cited national security as his reason, telling a news conference on Saturday that “to have a great military you need a great balance sheet”.

Canada, she said, is “the closest and strongest ally the United States has had. We can’t pose a security threat to the United States and I know that Americans understand that”.

Other G7 partners also seemed stunned by Mr Trump’s reaction, and pledged to support the communique.

Media captionWho left their mark on President Trump at the G7 summit?

French President Emmanuel Macron said international co-operation could not be “dictated by fits of anger and throwaway remarks”.

“Let’s be serious and worthy of our people,” a statement from the French presidency said. “We make commitments and keep to them.”

What is in the joint communique?

In the communique after the summit in La Malbaie, Quebec province, the group of major industrial nations – Canada, the US, the UK, France, Italy, Japan and Germany – had agreed on the need for “free, fair, and mutually beneficial trade” and the importance of fighting protectionism.

Other agreements reached include:

Mr Trump’s twitter attack on Mr Trudeau came minutes after the communique had been published.

What are the tariffs?

On 1 June, the US imposed a 25% tariff for steel and 10% for aluminium on imports from the European Union (EU), Canada, and Mexico. Mr Trump said the move would protect domestic producers that were vital to US security.

The EU then announced retaliatory tariffs on US goods ranging from Harley-Davidson motorcycles to bourbon. Canada and Mexico are also taking action.

Media captionDairy wars: Why is Trump threatening Canada over milk?

What is the G7?

It is an annual summit bringing together seven major industrialised nations which represent more than 60% of global net worth between them.

Economics tops the agenda, although the meetings now always branch off to cover major global issues.

Russia was suspended from the group – then called the G8 – in 2014 because of its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

On Friday, Mr Trump made a surprise call for Moscow to be readmitted but German Chancellor Angela Merkel said other members were against the idea.

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US & Canada

G7: Trump says Russia should be part of summit

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

G7: Trump says Russia should be part of summit

Media captionTrump to G7: ‘They should let Russia come back in

US President Donald Trump says he wants Russia to be part of the G7 group of key industrialised nations.

Russia was expelled in 2014 following its annexation of Crimea, but Mr Trump said he wanted the country readmitted.

The build-up to the meeting has seen major disagreements between the US president and other nations over his imposition of trade tariffs.

There are also likely to be disagreements with Mr Trump over Iran and climate change.

The G7 summit, which groups Canada, the US, the UK, France, Italy, Japan and Germany, is being held in the town of La Malbaie in Quebec, Canada.

The leaders of the nations, which represent more than 60% of global net worth, meet annually. Economics tops the agenda, although the meetings now always branch off to cover major global issues.

What did Mr Trump say about Russia?

Mr Trump said he regretted the meeting had shrunk in size, putting him at odds with most other G7 members on yet another issue.

“You know, whether you like it or – and it may not be politically correct – but we have a world to run and in the G7, which used to be the G8, they threw Russia out. They should let Russia come back in,” he said.

He found support in the shape of the newly installed Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who tweeted that it was “in the interests of everyone” for Russia to be readmitted.

Canada, France and the UK though immediately signalled they remain opposed to Russian re-entry. A Kremlin spokesperson said they were interested in “other formats”, apart from the G7.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is currently in Beijing, where he was presented with a friendship medal by Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

Fellow members of what was then the G8 suspended Russia after it took control of Crimea, saying it would remain until Russia “changes course”.

Presentational grey line

Trump arrives with a bang

By the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent, James Robbins

Relations between Donald Trump and America’s leading allies were already at a new low over trade tariffs before the president casually dropped his Russia hand-grenade.

Most G7 leaders think the decision to expel Russia in 2014 was right then, and remains right today. Even Russia itself seems lukewarm about rejoining.

In many ways, this seems to be a deliberate Donald Trump tactic, to distract attention from his war of words with the rest of the G7 over trade and protectionism.

President Trump dislikes the whole idea of the G7: a club of nations which traditionally comes together around shared values rooted in a world order based on agreed rules. Last to arrive, he’ll also be first to leave.

Presentational grey line

What were the exchanges on the eve of the summit?

It was mainly France and Canada v Donald Trump, sparked by Mr Trump’s imposition of steel and aluminium tariffs.

Appearing alongside host leader Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron said: “A trade war doesn’t spare anyone. It will start first of all to hurt US workers.”

For his part Mr Trudeau described Mr Trump’s citing of national security to defend his steel and aluminium tariffs as “laughable”.

Never one to back down, Mr Trump fired off a series of tweets, keeping up the tirade on Friday.

Speaking to reporters before the summit he again criticised other nations for their treatment of the US but predicted tensions would ease and “we’ll all be in love again”.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May appeared to take a more conciliatory approach, saying she wanted the EU to act with restraint and proportion in retaliating to the US tariffs.

Unlike Mr Macron and Mr Trudeau, she won’t be having a bilateral meeting with Mr Trump, but insisted on Friday it was not a snub.

The EU has called Mr Trump’s tariffs “protectionism, pure and simple” and are among others in announcing retaliatory measures.

Media captionDairy wars: Why is Trump threatening Canada over milk?

What else can we expect in Quebec?

Mr Trump is leaving early to head to Singapore for his landmark summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, meaning he will miss some of the topics advanced by Mr Trudeau.

The five themes for this year’s summit are:

  • Inclusive economic growth
  • Gender equality and women’s empowerment
  • World peace and security
  • Jobs of the future
  • Climate change and oceans

According to the leaders’ programme, Mr Trump will be around for the economic and security issues being discussed on Friday but will miss climate change, the environment and probably gender equality on Saturday.

The US president was very much the odd man out on climate change during the G7 in Italy last year, later announcing his intention to withdraw from the landmark Paris agreement.

Media captionG7 summit: Trapped in the world’s most secure house

Iran is also a big sticking point. Mr Trump recently ditched the 2015 agreement with Tehran that aimed to curb its nuclear programme. This angered the other signatories who have since sought to shore it up.

Previous G7 meetings have seen huge protests, and about 8,000 soldiers and police officers are expected to be on hand during the Quebec event.

Protester in QuebecImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionA protester with a flare at a protest march in Quebec City, ahead of the summit

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    1 June 2018
  • China warns US sanctions will void trade talks
    3 June 2018

Guatemala volcano: Dozens die as Fuego volcano erupts

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Guatemala volcano: Dozens die as Fuego volcano erupts

Fuego volcano, GuatemalaImage copyrightGUATEMALA GOVERNMENT
Image captionThis eruption of Fuego is the biggest since 1974, experts say

Twenty-five people have been killed and hundreds injured after Guatemala’s Fuego volcano erupted, officials say.

The volcano, about 40km (25 miles) south-west of the capital Guatemala City, has been spewing rock, black smoke and ash into the sky.

The National Disaster Management Agency (Conred) said a river of lava hit the village of El Rodeo, destroying houses and burning people inside.

In Guatemala City, La Aurora airport has been closed due to ash.

President Jimmy Morales said a national emergency response had been launched.

“We think that there could be a state of devastation in at least three areas,” President Morales said.

This eruption is the biggest since 1974, according to local experts.

The Conred head Sergio Cabañas told a local radio station that a river of lava had changed course towards El Rodeo.

“It’s a river of lava that overflowed its banks and affected the El Rodeo village. There are injured, burned and dead people.

“Unfortunately El Rodeo was buried and we haven’t been able to reach the La Libertad village because of the lava and maybe there are people that died there too.”

Police carry a wounded man in El Rodeo villageImage copyrightAFP/GETTY
Image captionHundreds have been wounded by the eruption

Mr Cabañas later said the dead included a member of his agency’s staff.

Several children are among those confirmed dead.

Videos published by local media show bodies lying on top of a lava flow and rescuers attending to people covered in ash.

woman rests at a temporary shelterImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionThousands have been evacuated

One woman told the Diario de Centroamerica that lava had poured through corn fields and she thought more people may have died.

“Not everyone escaped, I think they were buried,” Consuelo Hernandez said.

A total of about 1.7 million people have been affected by the eruption, the Guatemalan government says.

Officials have advised citizens to wear masks due to falling ash, which has been raining down in four of Guatemala’s administrative regions.

Bikes covered in ashImage copyrightAFP/GETTY
Image captionFalling ash has coated streets
man covers faceImage copyrightAFP/GETTY
Image captionOfficials have advised people to wear masks

A disaster authority spokesman said a change in wind direction was to blame for the volcanic ash falling on parts of the capital.

The Guatemalan military said it was providing assistance from rescue operations to setting up temporary shelters and clearing volcanic ash from La Aurora airport’s runway.

Latin America & Caribbean

Syria blames Israel for missile strike near Damascus

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Syria blames Israel for missile strike near Damascus

Screenshot from Syrian state TV apparently the downing of Israeli missiles near DamascusImage copyrightAFP
Image captionSyrian state TV broadcast footage it said showed the downing of Israeli missiles near Damascus

Israel is reported to have carried out a missile strike on a military outpost south of the Syrian capital, Damascus.

Syria’s state news agency Sana said two missiles were shot down in the Kiswah area on Tuesday night, and that two civilians were killed in an explosion.

But a monitoring group said the missiles hit an Iranian weapons depot, killing 15 pro-government fighters.

Israel declined to comment. But the reports came after it noted “irregular activity” by Iranian forces in Syria.

The Israeli military placed its troops in the occupied Golan Heights on high alert and urged civilians to prepare bomb shelters.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meanwhile flew to Moscow to discuss Syria with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a key ally of the Syrian government.

Syrian state television broadcast video footage overnight which it said showed air defences intercepting two missiles fired towards Kiswah, about 10km (6 miles) south-west of Damascus.

Sana reported that a man and his wife were killed by an explosion resulting from the interceptions as they drove along the Damascus-Deraa motorway.

A commander in a regional military alliance supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told Reuters news agency that the missiles targeted a Syrian army base.

However, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, reported that the missiles struck weapons depots and missile launchers belonging to Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards force.

Eight members of the Revolutionary Guards and several other non-Syrian nationals were among at least 15 pro-government fighters who were killed, it said.

Presentational grey line

‘Deepening sense of crisis’

By Jonathan Marcus, defence correspondent, BBC News

Israel’s reported pre-emptive strike on an Iranian missile battery in Syria last night underscores the deepening sense of crisis in the region.

These are the opening skirmishes in what could develop into a brutal war that may sweep across Israel, Lebanon and Syria.

Both the US and Russia (which the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is visiting on Wednesday) have a crucial role in determining both the context and scope of any conflict; of determining whether it will be more or less likely. US President Donald Trump is likely to embolden Iran’s hardliners with his decision to pull out of the nuclear deal.

Russia’s support for the Assad regime in Syria and its relationship with Tehran present worrying possibilities for Israel. If it wanted, Moscow could significantly limit the Israeli Air Force’s freedom of action, either by supplying advanced air defences to Syria or by using its own assets already located in the country.

Mr Netanyahu and Mr Putin have a lot to talk about.

Presentational grey line

Last year, a Western intelligence source told the BBC that the Iranian military had established a compound near Kiswah. It was subsequently targeted in a missile strike attributed to Israel.

Iran is an ally of Mr Assad and has deployed hundreds of troops to Syria. Thousands of militiamen armed, trained and financed by Iran – mostly from Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, but also Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen – have also been fighting alongside the Syrian army.

Israel has not commented on the reports, but its government has vowed to stop what it considers Iran’s military “entrenchment” in Syria.

On 8 April, Israeli missiles are alleged to have hit an airbase in Homs province – reportedly serving as an Iranian drone command centre and containing an advanced Iranian air defence system – killing seven Iranian personnel.

And on 29 April, a suspected Israeli missile strike on an Iranian missile depot near the city of Hama reportedly killed a number of pro-government fighters.

High alert

Tensions in the region escalated on Tuesday when the Israeli military said it had detected “irregular Iranian activity” by Iranian forces in Syria and placed troops on “high alert for an attack”.

The military said it was “prepared for various scenarios” and warned Iran and its proxies that “any aggression against Israel will be met with a severe response”.

Local media said it was the first time there had been an order for local authorities in the Golan to prepare shelters in the occupied area since the Syrian civil war began.

Israeli outlets also reported that the military was calling up a number of reservists.

It came as President Donald Trump said the US would quit the Iran nuclear deal.

Going against advice from European allies, he said he would reimpose economic sanctions that were lifted when the deal was signed in 2015.

Israel’s prime minister said he fully supported Mr Trump’s decision, asserting that the deal had “dramatically increased” Iranian “aggression” across the Middle East.

Map of Golan Heights

Croatia Has To Close Border Withe Serbia: Too Many Refugees Crossing

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS AND THE BBC)

 

A baby cries as migrants board a bus in Tovarnik, Croatia, on Sept. 17, 2015
A baby cries as migrants board a bus in Tovarnik, Croatia, on Sept. 17, 2015
Antonio Bronic—Reuters
By HELEN REGAN

September 18, 2015

Croatia closed seven out of eight border crossings with Serbia Thursday after 10,000 refugees entered in two days.

Croatia’s Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic told reporters that the country was “absolutely full” and could no longer take any more refugees, reports the BBC.

“Don’t come here anymore,” he said. “Stay in refugee centers in Serbia and Macedonia and Greece. This is not the road to Europe. Buses can’t take you there. It’s a lie.”

According to the BBC, Croatia has been overwhelmed by the new arrivals. On Thursday, crowds of people tried to break through police lines at two towns on the border with Serbia, in the hope of getting to the Croatian capital, Zagreb. Scuffles broke out at Tovarnik and Batina, two of the crossings that are now closed.

Buses arrived to take the refugees to a registration center, but there was not enough transport to take everyone, and thousands of people reportedly spent Thursday night sleeping on the roadside or in fields.

Hungary sealed off its southern border with Serbia on Wednesday, forcing thousands of desperate people to turn to neighboring Croatia in order to attempt to make their way to northern Europe and their preferred destination: Germany.

In chaotic scenes at the Serbian border town of Horgos, riot police on the Hungarian side of the border used tear gas and water cannons to repel crowds of refugees back into Serbia. Hungary has defended its actions and has vowed to continue to forcefully defend its border, reports the Guardian.

The border closures in Croatia and Hungary mean the main land route from Greece to northern Europe has effectively been cut off, reports the BBC.

Meanwhile, Slovenia said it stopped a group of refugees on a train at the border and would return them to Zagreb. Slovenia, which lies to the north of Croatia and shares a border with Austria, is part of the E.U. border-free Schengen area. On Thursday, Slovenian officials told the European Commission that its border with Hungary would be closed for at least 10 days.

[BBC]