Death penalty for Canadian escalates China-Canada tensions
image taken from a video footage run by China's CCTV, Canadian Robert Lloyd
Schellenberg attends his retrial at the Dalian Intermediate People's Court
in Dalian, northeastern China's Liaoning province on Monday, Jan. 14. (CCTV
Rob Gillies and Christopher
Toronto (AP) — A Chinese
court sentenced a Canadian man to death in a sudden retrial of a drug
smuggling case and Beijing said that it has denied a Canadian diplomatic
immunity, ratcheting up tensions since Canada's arrest of a top Chinese
technology executive last month.
A Chinese court in northeastern
Liaoning province announced Monday that it had sentenced Robert Lloyd
Schellenberg to death, reversing an earlier 2016 ruling that sentenced him
to 15 years in prison.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin
Trudeau strongly condemned Monday's proceeding, suggesting that China was
using its judicial system to pressure Canada over the arrest of Meng
Wanzhou, chief financial officer of the Chinese telecommunications giant
In his strongest comments yet,
Trudeau said "all countries around the world" should be concerned that
Beijing is acting arbitrarily with its justice system.
"It is of extreme concern to us as a
government, as it should be to all our international friends and allies,
that China has chosen to begin to arbitrarily apply a death penalty,"
Canada later updated its travel
advisory for China urging Canadians to "exercise a high degree of caution
due to the risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws."
Further escalating the diplomatic
rift between the two countries, a Chinese spokeswoman said earlier Monday
that Michael Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat taken into custody in
apparent retaliation for Meng's arrest, was not eligible for diplomatic
immunity as Trudeau has maintained.
A senior Canadian government
official said Chinese officials have been questioning Kovrig about his
diplomatic work in China, which is a major reason why Trudeau is asserting
diplomatic immunity. The official, who was not authorized to comment
publicly about the case, spoke on condition of anonymity.
Kovrig, a Northeast Asia analyst for
the International Crisis Group think tank, was on a leave of absence from
the Canadian government at the time of his arrest last month.
Schellenberg was detained more than
four years ago and initially sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2016. But
within weeks of Meng's Dec. 1 arrest, an appeals court suddenly reversed
that decision, saying the sentence was too lenient, and scheduled Monday's
retrial with just four days' notice.
The court gave no indication that
the death penalty could be commuted, but observers said Schellenberg's fate
is likely to be drawn into diplomatic negotiations over China's demand for
the release of Meng.
"Playing hostage politics, China
rushes the retrial of a Canadian suspect and sentences him to death in a
fairly transparent attempt to pressure Canada to free the Huawei CFO," Human
Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth said in a tweet.
The Chinese media began publicizing
Schellenberg's case after Canada's detention of Meng, the daughter of
Huawei's founder, at the request of the United States, which wants her
extradited to face charges that she committed fraud by misleading banks
about the company's business dealings in Iran.
Days after Meng's arrest, Kovrig and
Canadian businessman Michael Spavor were detained on vague national security
allegations. Meng is out on bail in Canada awaiting extradition proceedings
that begin next month.
Schellenberg's lawyer, Zhang
Dongshuo, said prosecutors had not introduced new evidence to justify a
heavier sentence during the one-day trial, during which Schellenberg again
maintained his innocence. He said his client now has 10 days to appeal.
"This is a very unique case," Zhang
told The Associated Press. He said the swiftness of the proceedings was
unusual but declined to comment on whether it was related to Meng's arrest.
The court said it found that
Schellenberg was involved in an international drug-smuggling operation and
was recruited to help smuggle more than 220 kilograms (485 pounds) of
methamphetamine from a warehouse in the Chinese city of Dalian to Australia.
A Chinese man convicted of involvement in the same operation was earlier
given a suspended death sentence.
Fifty people, including Canadian
diplomats and foreign and domestic media, attended Monday's trial, the court
said in an online statement.
Earlier Monday, Chinese Foreign
Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said authorities had determined Kovrig was
not entitled to diplomatic immunity, rejecting a complaint from Trudeau that
China was not respecting longstanding practices regarding immunity.
Hua told reporters that Kovrig is no
longer a diplomat and entered China on an ordinary passport and business
"According to the Vienna Convention
of Diplomatic Relations and international law, he is not entitled to
diplomatic immunity," Hua said at a daily briefing. "I suggest that the
relevant Canadian person carefully study the Vienna Convention ... before
commenting on the cases, or they would only expose themselves to ridicule
with such specious remarks."
A former Canadian ambassador to
China, Guy Saint-Jacques, said interrogating Kovrig about his time as a
diplomat in China would violate Vienna Convention protections of residual
diplomatic immunity that mean a country is not allowed to question someone
on the work they did when they were a diplomat.
"It's difficult not to see a link"
between the case and Canada's arrest of Meng, Saint-Jacques said.
Hua said the allegation that China
arbitrarily detained Canadian citizens is "totally groundless."
Canada has embarked on a campaign
with allies to win the release of Kovrig and Spavor. The United States,
Britain, European Union and Australia have issued statements in support.
Trudeau called U.S. President Donald Trump about their case last week and
the White House called the arrests "unlawful."
Last week, Poland arrested a Huawei
director and one of its own former cybersecurity experts and charged them
with spying for China. The move came amid a U.S. campaign to exert pressure
on its allies not to use Huawei, the world's biggest maker of
telecommunications network equipment, over data security concerns.
The arrests raised concerns over the
safety of Poland's nationals in China, although Hua brushed off such
worries, emphasizing China's desire for the "sound and steady" development
of relations with Poland.
"As long as the foreign citizens in
China abide by Chinese laws and regulations, they are welcomed and their
safety and freedom are guaranteed," Hua said.
Indonesia recovers Lion Air jet's cockpit voice recorder
Navy Commander Rear Admiral Yudo Margin shows the recovered cockpit voice
recorder of Lion Air flight 610 that crashed into the sea in October during
a press conference on board of the navy ship KRI Spica in the waters off
Tanjung Karawang, Indonesia, Monday, Jan. 14. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
Niniek Karmini and Stephen Wright
Jakarta, Indonesia (AP) —
Navy divers have recovered the cockpit voice recorder of a Lion Air jet that
crashed into the Java Sea in October, Indonesian officials said Monday, in a
possible boost to the investigation into why the 2-month-old plane nosedived
at high velocity, killing 189 people.
Ridwan Djamaluddin, a deputy
maritime minister, told reporters that remains of some of the people who
died in the crash were also discovered at the seabed location.
A spokesman for the Indonesian
navy's western fleet, Lt. Col. Agung Nugroho, said divers using high-tech
"ping locator" equipment started a new search effort last week in a
previously identified target area and found the voice recorder beneath 8
meters of seabed mud. The plane crashed in waters 30 meters deep.
The bright orange device was
transported to a port in Jakarta, where it was handed over to the National
Transportation Safety Committee, which is overseeing the accident
"This is good news, especially for
us who lost our loved ones," said Irianto, the father of Rio Nanda Pratama,
a doctor who died in the crash.
"Even though we don't yet know the
contents of the CVR, this is some relief from our despair," he said.
The Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet plunged
into the Java Sea just minutes after taking off from Jakarta, Indonesia's
capital, on Oct. 29, killing everyone on board.
The cockpit data recorder was
recovered three days after the crash and showed that the jet's airspeed
indicator had malfunctioned on its last four flights. Lion Air initially
claimed that problems with the aircraft were fixed before its final flight.
If the voice recorder is undamaged,
it could provide valuable additional information to investigators.
The transport committee's chairman,
Soerjanto Tjahjono, said the device will be taken to the investigators'
"black box" facility. It will take three to five days to dry and clean the
device and to download its data, he said.
"To analyze it, we need more time,
depending on the complexity of the problem. Data obtained from CVR is
expected to complete our investigation data," Tjahjono said.
Data from a preliminary
investigation report, which didn't state any conclusions, showed that the
plane's nose pointed down 26 times on its fatal 11-minute flight despite
repeated efforts by the pilots to manually aim the nose higher.
Rear Adm. Harjo Susmoro, head of the
navy's Center for Hydrography and Oceanography, said the voice recorder was
found just 50 meters from where the data recorder was located.
A "heroic" team of 21 divers removed
debris and carried out "desludging" operations to reach the voice recorder,
Susmoro said the voice recorder's
signal, designed to last 90 days following a crash, would have stopped after
about 15 days.
The family of one of the pilots,
41-year-old Harvino, has sued Boeing Co. in Chicago, alleging that aircraft
sensors provided inaccurate information, causing the plane to nosedive, and
that Boeing failed to provide proper training to pilots on the 737 MAX 8's
Indonesian media reported in
December that Lion Air's chief executive, Edward Sirait, said the airline
was considering canceling its remaining orders for nearly 200 of the Boeing
The Lion Air crash was the worst
airline disaster in Indonesia since 1997, when 234 people died on a Garuda
flight near Medan. In December 2014, an AirAsia flight from Surabaya to
Singapore plunged into the sea, killing all 162 people on board.
Lion Air is one of Indonesia's
youngest airlines but has grown rapidly, flying to dozens of domestic and
international destinations. It has been expanding aggressively in Southeast
Asia, a fast-growing region of more than 600 million people.
Search for 2-year-old Spanish toddler in narrow well
services look for a 2 year old boy who fell into a well, in a mountainous
area near the town of Totalan in Malaga, Spain, Monday, Jan. 14. (AP
Madrid (AP) — More than 100
firefighters and emergency workers in southern Spain searched Monday for a
2-year-old toddler who fell into a narrow and deep borehole.
Rescuers have been unable to get
into the borehole, which is no wider than 25 centimeters in diameter and is
believed to go down more than 100 meters. On Monday afternoon they were
deploying three different approaches to reach the bottom of the well but
without damaging its structure or blocking it with soil and rocks, local
According to rescuers, the boy fell
into the hole early Sunday afternoon after walking away from his parents
while playing in a mountainous area near the town of Totalan, northeast of
the city of Malaga.
The hole, which is too narrow for an
adult to enter, had been bored a month earlier during water prospection
works and had not been covered or protected, local media reported.
The provincial representative of the
Spanish government, Maria Gamez, said that firefighters using a robot camera
in the early hours of Monday found a bag of candy that the boy was carrying
when he went missing. It was some 75 meters down the shaft, where rescuers
were unable to get their equipment further down.
Civil Guard spokesman Bernardo Molto
told Spanish public broadcaster TVE that efforts would now focus on using
more sophisticated equipment to widen the hole while also digging separate
tunnels to access the shaft.
Asked whether the investigation is
also considering any other reasons for the boy's disappearance, Molto told
reporters that the authorities' priorities are "searching, locating and
rescuing the boy."
Russia tells Japan retaking Pacific islands not on horizon
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro
Kono enter a hall for their talks in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Jan. 14. (AP
Moscow (AP) — Russia's top
diplomat threw cold water Monday on Tokyo's hopes for a quick return of four
Pacific islands at the center of territorial dispute, warning Japan it must
recognize the islands as part of Russia as a starting point for talks.
The stern statement from Foreign
Minister Sergey Lavrov, which followed the talks with his Japanese
counterpart Taro Kono, appeared to reflect Moscow's efforts to temper
Japanese expectations of an imminent deal on the Kuril Islands dispute.
It sets a tough stage for Japanese
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's trip to Moscow for talks with Russian President
Vladimir Putin later this month. Abe has recently voiced hope that this year
will mark a breakthrough in solving the dispute and spoke about an imminent
change in the islands' status — remarks that angered Moscow.
Speaking after the talks, Lavrov
said Moscow saw recent statements from Abe as unacceptable.
"Russia's sovereignty over the
islands isn't subject to discussion. They are part of the territory of the
Russian Federation," Lavrov told reporters, noting the U.N. Charter supports
Moscow's ownership of them.
The Soviet Union took the four
southernmost Kuril Islands during the final days of World War II. Japan
asserts territorial rights to the islands, which it calls the Northern
Territories. The dispute has kept the countries from signing a peace treaty.
Speaking at the start of the talks,
Japan's Kono said Russia and Japan needed to solve the territorial problem
to set the stage for expanded economic and other ties.
Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman
Takeshi Osuga said during a separate briefing in Moscow the two ministers
had a "serious and frank exchange." He wouldn't comment on specifics and
said Russian and Japanese diplomats would continue discussions on the issue.
Putin and Abe agreed in November to
accelerate negotiations based on a 1956 Soviet proposal to return two of the
islands to Japan, but Lavrov's somber tone indicated that Japanese
expectations of a quick breakthrough were premature.
Abe's optimism raised concerns in
Russian nationalist circles and fueled criticism of the Kremlin. In an
apparent attempt to contain the damage, the Russian Foreign Ministry
summoned the Japanese ambassador to warn Tokyo not to "artificially incite
the atmosphere regarding the peace treaty problem and try to enforce its own
scenario of settling the issue."
Lavrov struck a similar chord as he
sat down Monday with Kono.
"Once again, I would like to ask our
Japanese colleagues to strictly follow agreements by our leaders," he said.
After their talks, the Russian
diplomat said he also drew Kono's attention to a statement by Abe's
political aide suggesting that solving the territorial dispute with Russia
would help efforts by Japan and the U.S. to deter China.
Lavrov called the statement
"outrageous," adding that it raised new questions about the independence of
Japanese foreign policy.
"We wondered whether Japan could be
independent given such reliance on the U.S. and we were told that Japan
would act proceeding from its national interests," Lavrov said. "We would
like to hope it will indeed be so."
He said the Soviet Union proposed
returning the two islands to Japan before Tokyo struck a military alliance
with the U.S. in 1960.
Lavrov noted that Russia remains
concerned about the U.S. military buildup in the Pacific, including the
deployment of U.S. missile defense components that he said create security
risks for Russia and China.
Too much brine? Study highlights growing toxic brine problem
The Sept. 4,
2015 file photo shows the Carlsbad, Calif. desalination plant in Carlsbad,
Calif. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
Berlin (AP) — The world's
thirst for fresh water is causing a salty problem.
Desalination plants around the world
are producing enough brine waste to swamp an area the size of Florida with a
foot of salty water every year, according to a U.N.-backed report released
The study by researchers from
Canada, the Netherlands and South Korea warned that much of the brine is
being dumped untreated into the sea, and some is laden with toxic chemicals,
causing harm to sea life.
The authors called for better brine
management, particularly in countries that rely heavily on desalination for
their water needs, such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait
"We know that water scarcity is
increasing in many regions across the world due to increased water demands,
which are associated with population increase and economic growth," said one
of the authors, Manzoor Qadir, assistant director of the United Nations
University's Canada-based Institute for Water, Environment and Health.
At the same, climate change is
making the availability of freshwater less predictable, such as by changing
the amount of runoff snow in some regions, he said.
The authors examined 16,000
desalination plants worldwide and found they produce 142 million cubic
meters (5,014 million cubic feet) of brine each day, or 51.8 billion cubic
meters a year. That's about half more than previous studies had estimated,
The researchers called for better
brine management, noting that studies have shown it can be used in
aquacultures to boost yields of salt-tolerant species of fish, and the
metals and salts contained in it — such as magnesium and lithium — could be
Kim looking to 'achieve results' in 2nd summit with Trump
Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, and
Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands as they pose for a photo before
talks at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (Li Xueren/Xinhua via AP)
Beijing (AP) — North Korean
leader Kim Jong Un has reportedly told the leader of his only major ally,
China, that he wants to "achieve results" on the nuclear standoff on the
Korean Peninsula during a second summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.
The comments, contained in Chinese
state media reports Thursday, came a day after Kim left Beijing on his
special armored train after a two-day visit to the Chinese capital.
Kim's trip to China — his fourth in
the past 10 months — is believed to be an effort to coordinate with Beijing
ahead of a possible second summit with Trump. It comes after U.S. and North
Korean officials are thought to have met in Vietnam to discuss the site of
North Korea will "make efforts for
the second summit between (North Korean) and U.S. leaders to achieve results
that will be welcomed by the international community," Kim was quoted as
saying by China's official Xinhua News Agency.
All sides should "jointly push for a
comprehensive resolution of the Korean Peninsula issue" and North Korea will
"continue sticking to the stance of denuclearization and resolving the
Korean Peninsula issue through dialogue and consultation," Xinhua quoted Kim
Kim also said North Korea hopes its
"legitimate concerns" will be given due respect, a reference to its desire
for security guarantees and a possible peace treaty to formally end the
1950-53 Korean War.
He also credited Chinese President
Xi Jinping with helping reduce regional tensions, saying "the Korean
Peninsula situation has been easing since last year, and China's important
role in this process is obvious to all."
The North's Korean Central News
Agency reported that Kim told Xi that the North remains unchanged in its
push to seek a negotiated resolution of the nuclear standoff. It said Kim
also mentioned unspecified difficulties in improving ties with the United
States and moving nuclear diplomacy forward.
Xi was quoted by Xinhua as saying
that China supports the U.S.-North Korea summits and hopes the two sides
"will meet each other halfway." KCNA said Xi accepted an invitation to visit
North Korea, although details of when he might go were not given.
It wasn't clear from the reports if
Kim was in back in North Korea, but his train presumably would arrive
Xi has yet to visit North Korea
since taking office in 2012.
Trump and Kim met in Singapore in
June for the first-ever leaders' meeting between their nations, but there
has been a standoff ever since, with dueling accusations of bad faith.
Kim's Beijing visit was seen as part
of an effort to win Chinese support for a reduction of U.N. sanctions
imposed over his nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. The
sanctions have severely impacted his country's already ailing economy.
While North Korea hasn't conducted
any test launches or detonations in more than a year, it has displayed no
real intention of abandoning the programs that are seen as guaranteeing the
The trip also came after he
expressed frustration in his annual New Year's address over the lack of
progress in negotiations with Washington since the Singapore summit, saying
that if things don't improve — meaning that if sanctions relief and security
guarantees aren't in the offing — North Korea might have to find "a new way"
While Trump says he considers Xi key
to enticing Kim into taking concrete steps toward denuclearization, the
president's own relationship with his Chinese counterpart has frayed over
the U.S.-China trade war.
Officially, at least, China says it
considers the tariff battle and North Korea's weapons programs to be
KCNA reported that Kim on Wednesday
visited a pharmaceutical plant belonging to Beijing Tongrentang Co. Ltd.,
where he watched production processes.
It said he met with Xi at the Great
Hall of the People on Tuesday after a welcoming ceremony. Later Tuesday, Xi
gave a grand banquet for Kim, his wife Ri Sol Ju and other visiting North
At Tuesday's daily Chinese foreign
ministry briefing, spokesman Lu Kang said Beijing remains supportive of
efforts to end tensions over U.S. demands for a halt to North Korea's
nuclear and missile programs.
"We always believe that, as key
parties to the Korean Peninsula issue, it's important for the two sides to
maintain contact and we always support their dialogue to achieve positive
outcomes," Lu said.
Tuesday was Kim's birthday but there
was no word of any official celebration.
Celebrations in Congo's capital as opposition candidate wins
celebrate in Kinshasa Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, after learning that
opposition presidential candidate Felix Tshisekedi had been declared the
winner of the elections. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
Mathilde Boussion and Saleh Mwanamilongo
Kinshasa, Congo (AP) — Joyous
dancing erupted in the streets of Congo's capital to celebrate the surprise
victory of opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi, who was early Thursday
declared winner of the long-delayed, disorganized and controversial
"Today I am happy," said Tshisekedi.
"Happy for you, my base (his supporters). Happy for the people of Congo.
Everyone is celebrating that there is peace. No one could imagine the
scenario where an opposition candidate could be victorious!"
However, rival opposition candidate
Martin Fayulu charged the results had been rigged by outgoing President
Joseph Kabila who made a backroom deal with Tshisekedi. Kabila may have
negotiated with Tshisekedi to prevent anti-corruption crusader Fayulu from
winning, according to Fayulu, diplomats and observers.
Tshisekedi, who received 38 percent
of the vote according to the electoral commission's results, had not been
widely considered the leading candidate and is relatively untested. Long in
the shadow of his father, the now deceased opposition leader Etienne,
Tshisekedi startled Congo shortly before the election by breaking away from
the unified opposition candidate, Fayulu, to stand on his own.
Fayulu quickly denounced
Tshisekedi's victory as fraud. The results were an "electoral hold up" that
were "rigged, fabricated and invented" and do "not reflect the truth of the
ballots," said Fayulu. Speaking to the press shortly after the results,
Fayulu called on the Congolese people to "rise as one man to protect
Fayulu, a former Exxon manager and
Kinshasa lawmaker, received 34 percent of the vote in the electoral
commission's results. He claims that he won a majority of the votes and that
he was deprived of victory because a deal was made with Tshisekedi.
"How long are we going to negotiate
results?" said Fayulu. "In 2006, Jean-Pierre Bemba's victory was stolen, in
2011 Étienne Tshisekedi's victory was stolen. In 2018 victory won't be
stolen from Martin Fayulu."
Fayulu urged the Catholic Church to
release the results from its team of 40,000 observers who recorded voting
tallies posted at each of the polling centers. Last week, the Catholic
Church said their observations showed a clear winner, and many say that was
Several diplomats briefed on the
matter told The Associated Press that the figures compiled by the Catholic
Church showed that Fayulu won an absolute majority of the votes. Two
diplomats also said that all major observation missions, including from the
African Union and the Southern African Development Community, showed similar
results with Fayulu the winner. The diplomats spoke on condition of
anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.
Kabila's government made a deal with
Tshisekedi to declare him the winner, as hopes faded for ruling party
candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, who received just 23 percent of the
official results. The constitutional court has 14 days to validate the
Happy demonstators in Kinshasa,
however, showed no signs of wanting to challenge Tshisekedi's victory. Many
said they were delighted pleased with Tshisekedi's win and to see Kabila
"This is the coronation of a
lifetime," the deputy secretary-general of Tshisekedi's party, Rubens
Mikindo, said shortly after the announcement that his candidate had won,
above the cheers at party headquarters. "This is the beginning of national
The election may enable Congo to
achieve its first peaceful, democratic transfer of power since independence
in 1960. Kabila has ruled since 2001 in the troubled nation rich in the
minerals key to smartphones around the world and has amassed vast wealth. He
is barred from serving three consecutive terms, but during more than two
years of election delays many Congolese feared he'd find a way to stay in
Attention now turns to Congo's
powerful Catholic church and whether it will dispute the official results.
If the church finds that Fayulu won,
"how will the population react?" Stephanie Wolters, analyst with the
Institute for Security Studies, posted on Twitter. She added, will the
African Union "consider a power transfer 'enough' or will they push for
investigation and real result?"
The delayed results, nearly two
weeks after the Dec. 30 vote, came after international pressure to announce
an outcome that reflected the will of the people. The United States
threatened sanctions against officials who rigged the vote.
The largely peaceful election was
marred by the malfunctioning of many voting machines that Congo used for the
first time. Dozens of polling centers opened hours late as materials went
missing. And in a last-minute decision, some 1 million of the country's 40
million voters were barred from participating, with the electoral commission
blaming a deadly Ebola virus outbreak.
Defiantly, tens of thousands of
voters in one of the barred communities held their own ballot on election
day. Fayulu won easily.
Congo's government cut internet
service the day after the vote to prevent speculation on social media. As
the electoral commission met this week, anti-riot police moved into place
Some Congolese weary of Kabila's
18-year rule, two turbulent years of election delays and years of conflict
that killed millions of people said they simply wanted peace. Some said they
would be happy as long as Fayulu or Tshisekedi won, while recalling the
violence that followed past disputed elections.
Many Congolese objected to Shadary,
suspecting that Kabila would continue to rule from behind the scenes.
Now Congo faces a new leader who is
little known after spending many years in Belgium and living in the shadow
of his outspoken father.
The 56-year-old Tshisekedi took over
as head of Congo's most prominent opposition party in early 2018, a year
after his father's death.
Parts of Austria, southern Germany sink deeper into snow
A man makes
his way at the early morning after heavy snow fall in Munich, Germany,
Thursday, Jan. 10. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
Berlin (AP) — Heavy snow is
ongoing in parts of Austria and southern Germany, with several places cut
off and the bad weather expected to last until Friday morning.
Austrian police said Thursday that a
16-year-old boy from Australia was killed in an avalanche in St. Anton am
Arlberg as he was skiing with his family on Wednesday. That brought to at
least 15 the number of weather-related deaths reported in Europe over the
Several railway lines in the Alps
were closed because of the snow, trucks and cars got stuck for hours on a
highway in southwestern Germany and schools were closed in parts of Bavaria.
Roads into several places were
closed, among them Galtuer in western Austria, where a massive avalanche in
1999 killed 31 people.
Macedonian PM struggles to secure majority for name change
to the change of the country's constitutional name protest outside the
parliament building prior to a session of the Macedonian Parliament in the
capital Skopje, Wednesday, Jan. 9. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)
Skopje, Macedonia (AP) —
Macedonia's prime minister was struggling Thursday to get the required
number of lawmakers to finalize constitutional changes that will rename the
country North Macedonia and allow its NATO accession under a deal with
Zoran Zaev told reporters in Skopje
that he has not yet secured support from the required two-thirds of the
120-seat parliament, or 80 lawmakers. A planned parliamentary session on the
matter Friday was postponed.
Zaev's efforts were complicated when
a small ethnic Albanian party demanded that the planned constitutional
designation "Macedonian citizenship" be changed to "citizens of the Republic
of North Macedonia."
The party says this will safeguard
the identity of ethnic Albanians — about a quarter of Macedonia's
Zaev said the reference to
Macedonian citizenship is key for his country in the deal with Greece. He
also said that a group of opposition conservative lawmakers who had
initially supported the constitutional changes — and were subsequently
ejected by their VMRO-DPMNE party — strongly opposed the ethnic Albanians'
Hundreds of opposition supporters
protested in front of parliament for a second day Thursday against the deal,
demanding early elections and the dissolution of parliament.
VMRO leader Hristijan Mickoski
addressed the rally, accusing Zaev of "bargaining" with lawmakers to secure
the two-thirds majority.
He has claimed Zaev exerted pressure
on members of the judiciary on cases involving conservative party lawmakers,
or their family members, accused in connection with a violent parliament
invasion last year.
"Look how publicly, how openly, this
trade is going on with (Macedonia's) name and identity, like at a market
stall," Mickoski said.
4 on trial over theft of huge gold coin from Berlin museum
12, 2010 file photo shows the gold coin 'Big Maple Leaf' in the Bode Museum
in Berlin. (Marcel Mettelsiefen/dpa via AP)
Berlin (AP) — Four young men
went on trial in Germany Thursday over the brazen theft of a 100-kilogram
(221-pound) Canadian gold coin that disappeared from a Berlin museum two
Two brothers and their cousin,
identified in German media as 24-year-old Wayci Remmo, 20-year-old Ahmed
Remmo and 22-year-old Wissam Remmo, are accused of stealing the "Big Maple
Leaf" coin from the Bode Museum in March 2017.
The fourth suspect, identified only
as 20-year-old Dennis W., worked as a security guard at the museum, which is
located in the heart of the German capital. He is accused of scouting out
the scene of the crime.
The opening of the trial at Berlin's
district court drew intense media interest in Germany because of the
Hollywood-style nature of the heist and their families' alleged ties to
Prosecutors believe that the Remmos
smashed a protective case and then managed to lift the coin out of a museum
window before fleeing along a rail track with their haul in a wheelbarrow.
They are suspected of later cutting up the coin, valued at about 3.75
million euros ($4.33 million), and selling the pieces.
The men's lawyers have denied the
accusations leveled against their clients and accused prosecutors of
presenting no evidence linking them to the theft.
If convicted, the men could face up
to 10 years' imprisonment for serious theft, though the three youngest
defendants may be sentenced as juveniles because they were under 21 at the
time of the crime.
North Korea confirms Kim's departure to China for summit
Monday, Jan. 7, 2019 photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walks with his
wife Ri Sol Ju at Pyongyang Station in Pyongyang, North Korea, before
leaving for China. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)
Seoul (AP) — North Korean
leader Kim Jong Un is making a four-day trip to China, the North's state
media reported Tuesday, in what's likely an effort by Kim to coordinate with
his only major ally ahead of a summit with U.S. President Donald Trump that
could happen early this year.
Kim departed for China on Monday
afternoon with his wife Ri Sol Ju and other top officials, the North's
Korean Central News Agency said. It said Kim is visiting China at the
invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
South Korean media reported that
Kim's distinctive armored train was expected to reach Beijing on Tuesday
morning, which happens to be Kim's birthday.
Kim's trip comes after U.S. and
North Korean officials reportedly met in Vietnam to discuss the location of
a second summit between Kim and Trump as the two nations look to settle the
North's decades-long pursuit of a nuclear arsenal.
Washington and Pyongyang seemed
close to war at points during 2017 as the North staged a series of
increasingly powerful weapons tests that got it tantalizingly close to its
nuclear goal of one day targeting with pinpoint accuracy anywhere on the
Possibly fearing the effect on his
country's terrible economy of crushing outside sanctions imposed because of
his weapons' tests, Kim abruptly turned to diplomacy with Seoul and
Washington last year. Three times he visited China, which is North Korea's
most important trading partner and a key buffer against pressure from
But even after what was seen as a
blockbuster summit between Kim and Trump in Singapore last June — the
first-ever between the leaders of the war enemies — there's been little real
progress in nuclear disarmament.
Washington is pressing the North to
offer up a detailed accounting of its nuclear arsenal, while Pyongyang says
it has already done enough and it's time for the U.S. to ease harsh
international sanctions that hold back the North Korean economy.
Despite Trump's repeated assurances
that another summit will allow he and Kim to make a grand deal to settle the
nuclear standoff and change a relationship marked by decades of animosity
and mistrust, outside analysts are highly skeptical that the North will
easily abandon a nuclear arsenal constructed in the face of deep poverty and
likely seen by Kim as his only guarantee of regime survival.
Gabon government thwarts coup attempt, 2 plotters dead
In this image from TV, a soldier who identified
himself as Lt. Obiang Ondo Kelly, commander of the Republican Guard, reads a
statement on state television broadcast from Libreville, Gabon, saying the
military has seized control of the government, Monday Jan. 7. (Gabon State
TV via AP)
Yves Laurent Goma
Libreville, Gabon (AP) — Gabon's government
thwarted an attempted military coup on Monday, retaining control of the
oil-rich West African nation after two plotters were killed and other army
officers were arrested, the government said.
Authorities regained control of
state broadcasting offices and a major thoroughfare in the capital,
Libreville, which were the only areas taken over by the officers, government
spokesman Guy-Betrand Mapangou told Radio France International.
He said five army officers who took
over state radio were arrested. Two other coup plotters were killed when
security forces took over and freed some hostages, according to a
presidential statement reported by RFI.
A curfew was imposed over the
capital, Libreville, and the internet was cut. The city on the Atlantic
Ocean coast was being patrolled by military tanks and armed vehicles.
Earlier Monday a soldier who
identified himself as Lt. Obiang Ondo Kelly, commander of the Republican
Guard, read out a statement saying the military had seized control of
Gabon's government in order to "restore democracy." He was flanked by two
other soldiers holding weapons; all were dressed in camouflage uniforms and
Those soldiers have been taken into
custody and President Ali Bongo's government remains in control, government
spokesman Mapangou said.
Bongo, who has been in power since
2009, has been out of the country since October amid reports that he had a
stroke. He recently addressed the country in a New Year's message that was
filmed in Morocco, where he has been receiving medical treatment.
Gabon, sub-Saharan Africa's
third-largest oil producer, has been ruled for more than half a century by
Bongo and his father, Omar, who died in 2009. Critics have accused the
family of profiting from the country's natural resources while not investing
enough in basic services for the population of more than 2 million. About
one-third of the population lives below the poverty line, according to the
As news of the coup reverberated
through the international community, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
condemned the attempted coup and called on all in the country to follow its
constitutional laws, spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
The African Union also affirmed its
support for the Bongo government.
"The African Union strongly condemns
the coup attempt this morning in Gabon," the head of the African Union
Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, said on Twitter. "I reaffirm the AU's
rejection of all anti-constitutional change."
In his brief New Year's address, the
59-year-old Bongo declared that the country was "indivisible" and
acknowledged his health problems without giving details. "A difficult
period," he called it, and a challenge that he surmounted "thanks to God."
He promised to put all of his efforts into improving the daily quality of
life for Gabon's people.
The French-educated Bongo, who was
the country's defense minister before becoming president, narrowly won
re-election in 2016 in a vote opposition rival Jean Ping claimed was plagued
by irregularities, and he continues to call himself the country's real
Britain testing 'no-deal' scenario as Brexit vote nears
Some 150 trucks leave Manston Airfield during a
'no-deal' Brexit test for where 6,000 trucks could be parked at the airfield
near Ramsgate in south east England, Monday, Jan. 7. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
London (AP) — Britain is
testing how its motorway and ferry system would handle a "no-deal" Brexit by
sending a stream of trucks from a closed local airport to the port of Dover
— even as some legislators try to pressure the government to rule out the
The tests began Monday morning and
are intended to gauge how severe the disruption would be if Britain leaves
the European Union on March 29 without an agreed-upon withdrawal deal.
It is widely expected that an abrupt
departure would lead to the introduction of tariff and customs barriers that
would slow fast-moving ferry and rail traffic that links Britain to
continental Europe. There are concerns that major traffic jams leading in
and out of ferry ports like Dover would greatly hamper trade and leave
Britain without adequate food and medicine.
Parliament is expected to resume its
debate over the government's planned withdrawal deal Wednesday, with a vote
widely expected a week later.
There are no indications that
lobbying over the Christmas and New Year holiday period has garnered Prime
Minister Theresa May more support for her plan.
The withdrawal agreement, which is
required before more wide-ranging discussions on future relations can
commence, foresees relatively close economic ties with Europe, particularly
in the immediate aftermath of Brexit, in order to avoid the imposition of a
hard border between EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of
As well as frustrating a number of
lawmakers who want a complete break from the EU, the plan also raises the
prospect that the U.K. could be "trapped" in a customs arrangement if no
agreement on future trade ties is reached. There are also a number of
lawmakers who have said they will vote against the deal because they want
another referendum on Britain's membership of the EU.
A vote that had been scheduled in
December was delayed as May admitted it would face certain defeat.
May said Monday she is still trying
to get more from EU leaders, who insist they are not willing to sweeten the
deal. She told hospital workers in Liverpool there has been "some further
movement" from the EU but did not provide specifics.
"We are continuing to work on
further assurances on further undertakings from the European Union in
relation to the concern that has been expressed by parliamentarians," she
She was castigated in Parliament by
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who said the prime minister is wasting
precious time by pushing a deal that has no support.
The prospect of the bill's possible
defeat next week has renewed concern about a "no-deal" scenario. Fears about
economic disruption Monday prompted roughly 200 legislators including some
from the prime minister's Conservative Party to write to May asking her to
rule out the no-deal scenario.
May has not spelled out how she will
respond if the withdrawal bill is voted down next week.
Brexit minister Kwasi Kwarteng said
Monday that the government is still focused on winning the vote.
"A week is a very long time in
politics. We don't know what the numbers are," he told BBC. "We have got a
week. I think the situation — as it always does — has developed, it evolves.
I am very hopeful that the deal will be voted through next week."
Cargo ship sinks off Turkey's Black Sea coast; 6 dead
coast guard and a medic help a crew member after a Panama-flagged vessel,
Volgo Balt 214, sank in rough waters off the Black Sea coastal province of
Samsun, Turkey, Monday, Jan. 7. (DHA via AP)
Ankara, Turkey (AP) — A cargo
ship sank in rough waters off Turkey's Black Sea coast on Monday, killing
six crew members including its captain, officials and media reports said.
Seven other crew members were rescued.
Turkish authorities launched a
search and rescue mission off the Black Sea coastal province of Samsun after
receiving a distress signal from the Panama-flagged vessel, Volgo Balt 214,
the governor's office said.
Samsun Gov. Osman Kaymak told
reporters after visiting the survivors in hospital that six crew members,
including the captain, died before rescuers could reach the area. He quoted
one of the survivors as saying that the hull split into two after being hit
by a powerful wave.
The vessel, which was carrying coal,
was heading to Samsun from the Russian port of Azov, the coast guard said.
It was located about 80 nautical miles from Samsun when it sent a distress
signal at 8:10 a.m. (0510 GMT; 12:10 a.m. EST).
The crew included 11 Ukrainians and
two Azerbaijan nationals, Kaymak said.
The Turkish Coast Guard said a
plane, three helicopters and two boats took part in the rescue operation.
Malaysia's king abdicates in unexpected and rare move
In this July 17, 2018, file photo, Malaysian
King Sultan Muhammad V salutes during the national anthem at the opening of
the 14th parliament session at the Parliament house in Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia. (AP Photo/Yam G-Jun)
Kuala Lumpur (AP) — Malaysian King Sultan Muhammad V abdicated on
Sunday in an unexpected move, after just two years on the throne.
The palace said in a statement that
the 49-year-old ruler had resigned as Malaysia's 15th king with immediate
effect, cutting short his five-year term. No reason was given in the
It marked the first abdication in
the nation's history.
Sultan Muhammad V, ruler of
northeast Kelantan state, took his oath of office in December 2016, becoming
one of Malaysia's youngest constitutional monarchs.
He is said to have married a
25-year-old former Russian beauty queen in November while on a two-month
medical leave. Reports in Russian and British media and on social media
featured pictures of the wedding, which reportedly took place in Moscow.
Neither the sultan, the palace nor the government had officially confirmed
Speculation that Sultan Muhammad V
would step down emerged this past week, shortly after he returned from his
leave, but Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Friday that he was unaware
of any abdication plans.
Under a unique system maintained
since Malaysia's independence from Britain in 1957, nine hereditary state
rulers take turns as the country's king for five-year terms.
The Council of Rulers is expected to
meet soon to pick the next king.
The monarch's role is largely
ceremonial, since administrative power is vested in the prime minister and
parliament. But the monarch is highly regarded, particularly among the
ethnic Malay Muslim majority, as the supreme upholder of Malay tradition.
High avalanche risk in Alps amid heavy snow; 1 dead
An aircraft is de-iced at the airport of Munich,
Germany, Sunday, Jan.6. (Stefan Puchner/dpa via AP)
Berlin (AP) — Authorities
warned Sunday of a high risk of avalanches on the northern side of the Alps,
after heavy snowfall in recent days created dangerous conditions in parts of
southern Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
A 20-year-old skier died in an
avalanche Saturday on Mount Teisen, near the Austrian border, German police
said. The woman's five companions were unharmed.
Authorities have closed some roads
and train lines due to avalanche risks, while airports in the region have
seen delays as they struggled to clear the large amount of fresh snow and
Hundreds of passengers were stuck
for hours on a train early Sunday after a snow-laden tree crashed onto the
tracks near Kitzbuehel, Austria. Some 14,000 households were temporarily
left without electricity in northern Austria because of damages to power
Austrian public broadcaster ORF
reported that some 600 residents and tourists were still stuck in the
Austrian village of Soelktal following a road closure. It said an Austrian
army helicopter managed to drop some supplies there on Sunday.
Officials in the nearby Salzburg
region described the situation as "very precarious," noting that large
avalanches could be triggered spontaneously.
The German weather service DWD
forecast a further 40 centimeters of snowfall in some areas by Monday.
Poland shuts down 13 escape game sites due to safety flaws
Forensic and other police experts examine the
site of a fire in an Escape Room, in Koszalin, northern Poland, on Saturday,
Jan. 5. (AP Photo)
Warsaw, Poland (AP) — Polish
officials have shut down 13 escape room entertainment sites for safety flaws
and the prime minister asked people Sunday to report such lapses to
firefighters and police after five teenage girls were killed in a fire.
Players in escape room games are
locked inside a room or building and must solve puzzles and find clues that
lead them to the key that will unlock the door. Regarded as an intellectual
challenge, the games are highly popular among teenagers in Poland.
Fire chief Leszek Suski said the
escape room at a private house in the city of Koszalin, where the
15-year-old girls died Friday locked inside a room celebrating a birthday,
had no emergency evacuation route. They were the first known deaths in an
escape room, a form of entertainment that has been growing in Poland over
the past five years.
Firefighters found the victims'
bodies after they extinguished a fire next to the locked room. Autopsies
showed that the girls, who were friends from school, died of carbon monoxide
inhalation. A young man employed there was hospitalized with burns.
Prosecutors say a leaky gas
container inside a heater is the most likely cause of the blaze.
Police chief Jaroslaw Szymczyk said
other people had previously posted critical remarks online about the safety
of that escape room site, but local officials weren't notified.
The 28-year-old who designed and
runs the site has been detained and will be questioned, Szymczyk said. His
injured employee is also going to be questioned.
During a memorial Catholic Mass at
Koszalin Cathedral, Bishop Edward Dajczak identified the girls by their
first names as Julia, Amelia, Gosia, Karolina and Wiktoria.
Public prayers were planned later
Sunday in front of the house where they died.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki,
along with Suski and Szymczyk, spoke after holding a meeting in which they
discussed with other officials ways of improving safety at entertainment
venues. Morawiecki called the girls' deaths an "immense tragedy."
Since Friday, more than 200 of
Poland's 1,100 escape rooms have been checked, revealing a number of safety
flaws that needed to be immediately fixed. Authorities ordered the closure
of 13 of them.
UK leader May: Brexit critics risk damaging UK democracy
British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves BBC
Broadcasting House in London after appearing on the Andrew Marr show,
Sunday, Jan. 6. (Yui Mok/PA via AP)
London (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa
May said Sunday that a delayed vote in Parliament on her Brexit deal will
"definitely" go ahead later this month, as she promised to set out measures
to win over skeptical lawmakers.
May told the BBC that in the coming
days she will give more details about measures addressing Northern Ireland
and concern over the Irish border. She also promised a greater role for
Parliament in negotiations over future trade relations with the European
Union as a sweetener, and added that "we are still working on" getting extra
assurances from Brussels to secure domestic support for her deal.
May struck a withdrawal agreement
with the EU in November, but that deal needs Parliament's approval. In
December, May decided to postpone a parliamentary vote intended to ratify
the agreement at the last minute after it became clear that it would be
overwhelmingly defeated in the House of Commons.
Lawmakers are resuming debate on the
deal Wednesday, before a vote expected to be held around Jan. 15.
If the deal is voted down, Britain
risks crashing out of the EU on March 29 with no agreement in place, a messy
outcome that could plunge the country into its worst recession for decades.
May's Brexit deal is unpopular with
British lawmakers across the spectrum, and the main sticking point is the
insurance policy known as the "backstop" — a measure that would keep the
U.K. tied to EU customs rules in order to guarantee there is no hard border
between the Republic of Ireland, an EU member, and the U.K.'s Northern
Ireland, which won't belong to the bloc after Brexit.
EU officials have insisted that the
withdrawal agreement can't be renegotiated, although they also stressed that
the backstop was meant only as a temporary measure of last resort.
As part of her efforts to win
support for her deal, May on Sunday reiterated that the agreement she
negotiated was the only one that respects the 2016 referendum result,
protects jobs and provides certainty to people and businesses.
She warned in the Mail on Sunday
newspaper that critics of her Brexit deal risk damaging Britain's democracy
and its economy by opposing her plan.
Congo delays announcing results of presidential election
An exhausted electoral commission official rests
as results are tallied for the presidential election, at a local results
compilation center in Kinshasa, Congo, Sunday, Jan. 6. (AP Photo/Jerome
Mathilde Boussion and
Kinshasa, Congo (AP) —
Congo's government Sunday postponed the release of the results of last
weekend's presidential election, fueling suspicions President Joseph
Kabila's ruling party is maneuvering to cling to power.
No new date for announcing the
winner of the Dec. 30 election was given. Electoral officials have
compiled 53 percent of the votes and will not release any information
until all the ballots have been tallied, said Corneille Nangaa, head of
the electoral commission.
"We handle sensitive data and
have to handle it responsibly," he said. He asked Congo's people to
"We are aware this process has
always been surrounded by distrust," he said, referring to calls from
the Catholic Church, the African Union, the U.S. and other diplomats for
the government to announce accurate results.
Kabila, who is stepping down
after 18 years in power, had delayed the election for two years. The
postponement in announcing the winner was seen by some Congolese as part
of an effort by Kabila's party to manipulate the results in order to
The Catholic Church, an
influential voice in this heavily Catholic nation, turned up the
pressure by saying it already knows there is a clear victor, based on
data compiled by the church's 40,000 election observers. Because Congo's
regulations say only the electoral commission can announce election
results, the church did not name the winner.
Congo's ruling party, which
backs Kabila's preferred candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, called
the church's statement "irresponsible and anarchist."
The leading opposition candidate
is Martin Fayulu, a businessman and lawmaker.
This could be Congo's first
democratic, peaceful transfer of power since independence from Belgium
For the past week, the
government cut off internet access across the vast Central African
country to prevent any speculation on social media about who won. The
government has also blocked transmissions from Radio France
International, which was alleged to have speculated on the winner, and
revoked the press credentials of RFI's correspondent.
Election observers and the
opposition have raised concerns about voting irregularities, including
the government's decision to bar 1 million voters in eastern Congo from
casting ballots because of what it said was the Ebola outbreak in the
region. Eastern Congo is known as a center of the opposition.
Western observers were not
invited to watch the balloting, and the U.S. has threatened sanctions
against those who undermine the democratic process.
While Congo was largely calm
during and after the voting, President Donald Trump said about 80
military personnel and combat equipment had been deployed to neighboring
Gabon to protect American citizens and diplomatic facilities in Congo.
Ahead of the vote, the U.S. ordered non-emergency government employees
and family members to leave the country.
At stake is a vast country rich
in the minerals that power the world's mobile phones and laptops, yet
desperately underdeveloped. Some 40 million people were registered to
Kabila, who took office in 2001
after his father was assassinated, is constitutionally barred from
serving three consecutive terms but has hinted he may run again in 2023.
That has led many Congolese to suspect he will rule from the shadows if
Shadary takes office..