World

Iceberg forces Greenland villagers to flee

BERLIN — An iceberg that has drifted perilously close to a remote Greenland village is so big it can be seen from space. The European Space Agency released an image Tuesday showing the giant iceberg just off the coast of Innaarsuit in northwestern Greenland. Dozens of residents were evacuated to higher ground last week due to concerns that the 11 million-ton iceberg could break apart, creating high waves that could wash away coastal buildings. The image captured July 9 by ESA’s Sentinel-2 satellites also shows several other large icebergs in the vicinity. Separately, Greenland broadcaster KNR published a video taken by a resident showing a time lapse of the huge iceberg drifting past the village. KNR reported that strong winds and elevated tides moved the iceberg northward, away from the harbor, over the weekend.

Air strikes kill 12 in rebel town

BEIRUT, Lebanon -- Unidentified air strikes have killed 12 civilians in a rebel-held pocket of southern Syria as regime ally Russia presses talks for Damascus to retake the area, a monitor said Wednesday. The deadly strikes late Tuesday hit Nawa, the last town under rebel control in the southern province of Daraa, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The Britain-based monitor said it could not determine whether the strikes on the town in the west of the province were carried out by the regime or its Russian ally. The regime has in less than a month retaken more than 90 percent of Daraa province, which borders Jordan and was the cradle of Syria’s ill-fated 2011 uprising. But opposition fighters in Nawa -- where tens of thousands of people live -- have resisted. After regime forces launched a ferocious offensive on June 19, Russia pressured rebels to hand over eastern parts of the province in early July, and the provincial capital last week. Other towns in the west of the province have also joined the deal. “Negotiations were ongoing Wednesday towards Nawa joining the reconciliation deal” with the regime for the wider province, Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said. A ceasefire deal announced earlier this month between the regime and rebels in Daraa province did not include jihadists. On Wednesday, Russian air strikes and regime barrel bombs targeted hills outside Nawa held by the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham group, led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate. Heavy air strikes also pounded a southwestern corner of the province controlled by the Islamic State jihadist group.

2 Koreas restore hotline

SEOUL -- South Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) completely restored a military hotline in the western region, allowing the military authorities of the two sides to contact through phone call and fax, Seoul’s defense ministry said Tuesday. The military communications line was completely restored Monday, marking the first restoration in about 29 months since it was cut off with the closedown of the Kaesong Industrial Complex on Feb. 11, 2016, the ministry said in a press release. The inter-Korean factory park, in the DPRK’s border town of Kaesong was unilaterally shut down by the prior South Korean government over Pyongyang’s nuclear test in January 2016.

Elon Musk apologizes for slur

WASHINGTON, United States -- Elon Musk has apologized for calling a British caver who helped rescue 12 Thai boys from a cave a “pedo”, retracting a comment that had drawn widespread outrage and briefly sent shares in Tesla tumbling. “Pedo” is short for pedophile. Tesla CEO Musk issued the apology on Wednesday to Vernon Unsworth, who worked on the rescue of the “Wild Boars” football team and had ridiculed Musk’s plan to recover the trapped group using a miniature submarine. “(H)is actions against me do not justify my actions against him, and for that I apologize to Mr. Unsworth and to the companies I represent as leader,” Musk wrote on Twitter. Musk’s extraordinary tirade against Unsworth was widely condemned, raising concerns over the entrepreneur’s leadership following a series of previous social media attacks on Wall Street analysts, journalists and employees. His spat with Unsworth began after the British caving expert dismissed Musk’s plan to rescue the Thai football team from the Tham Luang cave as a “PR stunt”. Unsworth had said the plan to use the device to extract the boys through a narrow series of twisting, flooded tunnels would have had “absolutely no chance of working”. He added that Musk could “stick his submarine where it hurts.”

Obama ‘rebukes’ Trump

JOHANNESBURG — In his highest profile speech since leaving office, former U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday denounced the policies of President Donald Trump without mentioning his name, taking aim at the “politics of fear, resentment, retrenchment,” and decrying leaders who are caught lying and “just double down and lie some more.” Obama was cheered by thousands in Johannesburg’s Wanderers Stadium as he marked the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth by urging respect for human rights, the free press and other values he said were under threat. He rallied people to keep alive the ideals that the anti-apartheid activist worked for as the first black president of South Africa, including democracy, diversity, gender equality and tolerance. Obama opened by calling today’s times “strange and uncertain,” adding that “each day’s news cycle is bringing more head-spinning and disturbing headlines.” “We see much of the world threatening to return to a more dangerous, more brutal, way of doing business,” he said. A day after Trump met in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Obama criticized “strongman politics.” The “politics of fear, resentment, retrenchment” are on the move “at a pace unimaginable just a few years ago,” Obama added. “Those in power seek to undermine every institution ... that gives democracy meaning,” he said. The first African-American president of the United States spoke up for equality in all forms.

Xi visit to UAE ‘great booster’

‘The Silk Road Initiative will improve commercial relations in the future between China and Abu Dhabi’ ABU DHABI -- It is a much eagerly anticipated visit, said The Gulf Today, in its Wednesday editorial on the upcoming Chinese President’s state visit to the UAE. “The arrival of President Xi Jinping of China in the UAE on Thursday will be a great booster economically and add considerable weightage to this country’s culture,” the Sharjah-based daily said. “It should be noted that China is a global political and economic powerhouse, and you can’t tinker with that fact. According to the BBC, China’s economy grew at an annual pace of 6.7 percent in the three months to June. In what may be termed a landmark move, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged US$20 billion in loans and $1.6 billion in financial aid to countries in the Middle East, as part of an ‘oil and gas plus’ model to revive economic growth in the region. “Beijing has amped up involvement in the Middle East in recent years as Arab nations play an important role in Xi’s signature Belt and Road foreign policy plan for strong trade routes linking China with central and southeast Asia. The Silk Road Initiative will improve commercial relations in the future between China and Abu Dhabi. The initiative includes the construction of roads, harbours, railways and industrial zones in 65 countries,” the English language daily continued. The Gulf Today went on to say that foreign direct investments from China in the UAE hit $9.1 billion last year. “The value of Abu Dhabi’s exports to China reached around AED4.2 billion in 2017. The burgeoning interest of Chinese companies and investors in Emirati markets is due to the UAE’s attractive business environment, which is reflected by the considerable presence of Chinese companies that operate in both Abu Dhabi and the UAE, especially through the country’s free zones. The UAE is the first country from the Middle East taking part in the Belt and Road Initiative, and received a mutual visa exemption for ordinary passports in 2017.” “China has reportedly maintained a low-key role in the Middle East events, despite its reliance on the region for energy supplies. However, the Chinese leader sees development as an antidote for security woes plaguing the Middle East. China will offer aid worth 1 billion yuan ($150 million) to Palestine to support economic development, besides providing a further 600 million to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen,” the paper continued. The daily concluded: “The coming period will witness the establishment of new partnerships between Emirati and Chinese companies in many key sectors, such as industry, manufacturing, finance, education, energy and agriculture and culture. The Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Centre for Arabic Language and Islamic Studies is a cultural beacon in the People’s Republic of China, which is well known to knowledge seekers in Beijing. Let’s hope the relations between the two nations help realise their mutual goals.”

Shooting victims sued

LAS VEGAS — MGM Resorts International has sued hundreds of victims of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history in a bid to avoid liability for the gunfire that rained down from its Mandalay Bay casino-resort in Las Vegas. The company argues in lawsuits filed in Nevada, California, New York and other states this week and last that it has “no liability of any kind” to survivors or families of slain victims under a federal law enacted after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The lawsuits target victims who have sued the company and voluntarily dismissed their claims or have threatened to sue after a gunman shattered the windows of his Mandalay Bay suite and fired on a crowd gathered below for a country music festival. High-stakes gambler Stephen Paddock killed 58 people and injured hundreds more last year before killing himself. Victims with active lawsuits against MGM don’t face the company’s legal claim. MGM says the 2002 law limits liabilities when a company or group uses services certified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and mass attacks occur. The company says it is not liable because its security vendor for the concert, Contemporary Services Corp., was federally certified at the time of the Oct. 1 shooting. MGM claims the victims — through actual and threatened lawsuits — have implicated CSC’s services because they involve concert security, including training, emergency response and evacuation. “If defendants were injured by Paddock’s assault, as they allege, they were inevitably injured both because Paddock fired from his window and because they remained in the line of fire at the concert. Such claims inevitably implicate security at the concert — and may result in loss to CSC,” according to the MGM lawsuits.

Thai youth soccer team meets with the media

CHIANG RAI, Thailand — The 12 boys and their soccer coach who were rescued from a cave in northern Thailand have appeared at a news conference, entering to applause from the media and classmates. The boys put on a quick demonstration of their ball-handling skills in a special miniature soccer field set up in the hall where they are meeting the media on Wednesday. They then hugged their friends before taking seats up front with doctors and others who helped them during their ordeal. Doctors took the first two questions, and said the 13 were healthy in body and mind. Doctors said the boys gained around 3 kilograms (6.6 pounds) on average since they were rescued from the cave last week. The boys were said to have lost an average of 4 kilograms (9 pounds) during the more than two weeks they were trapped in the cave. p: wjg

‘Shameful and disgraceful’

“I never thought I would see the day when our American president would stand on the stage with the Russian president.” WASHINGTON — Donald Trump returned late Monday from his European tour to face ire in Washington, where US intelligence officials and senior Republicans were denouncing the president as “shameful” and “disgraceful” after he refused to challenge Russian leader Vladimir Putin over interference in American elections. Republican Sen. John McCain said Trump’s seeming acceptance of Putin’s denial was a historical “low point” for the US presidency and the Helsinki summit between the two leaders a “tragic mistake.” “Today’s press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory. The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naivete, egotism, false equivalence and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate,” McCain said in a blistering statement. “No prior President has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant,” he added. Senior Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said Trump’s answer on meddling “will be seen by Russia as a sign of weakness.” Bent on forging a personal bond with the Kremlin chief, Trump headed into the summit blaming the “stupidity” of his predecessors for plunging ties to their present low. “This is shameful,” said Sen. Jeff Flake, a fellow Republican and staunch critic of the president. “I never thought I would see the day when our American president would stand on the stage with the Russian president and place blame on the United States for Russian aggression.” Taking direct issue with the president who appointed him, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said US spy agencies have been “clear” and “fact-based” in their assessment that Moscow interfered in the presidential race two years ago -- an assessment that Trump refused to endorse in Helsinki. It was an extraordinary press conference closing out the Trump-Putin summit, in which the American president delivered what amounted to a warm embrace to the man who for years has been isolated by the US and Western allies for Russia’s activities in Ukraine, Syria and beyond. Trump said he and Putin “spent a great deal of time” discussing allegations of Russian election meddling as they met for several hours Monday. But Trump declined the opportunity to denounce Putin for the interference efforts, which US intelligence agencies insist did occur, including hacking of Democratic emails, the subject of last week’s indictment of 12 Russians. Trump said, as he has countless times, that there was “no collusion” between his campaign and the Russians. “We ran a brilliant campaign and that’s why I’m president,” he said. Putin also suggested Monday that Moscow and Washington could jointly conduct criminal investigations into a dozen Russian intelligence officials accused of hacking during the 2016 US election campaign — an idea Trump hailed as an “incredible offer.” Asked if Russia could extradite the 12 Russian military intelligence officers, Putin challenged the US to take advantage of a 1999 agreement envisaging mutual legal assistance. He said the agreement would allow US officials to request that Russian authorities interrogate the 12, adding that US officials could request to be present in such interrogations. AP and AFP
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