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Update June, 2019


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Cyclone Vayu poised to hit India as year's 2nd major storm

A waves crashes as people stand on boats on the Arabian Sea coast in Veraval, Gujarat, India, Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)

Emily Schmall

New Delhi (AP) — Indian authorities evacuated tens of thousands of people on Wednesday as a severe cyclone in the Arabian Sea approached the western state of Gujarat, lashing the coast with high winds and heavy rainfall.

Cyclone Vayu, named after the Hindi word for wind, was poised to glance the Gujarat coast Thursday afternoon as India's second major storm of the season. Winds gusting up to 180 kilometers (112 miles) per hour were forecast and a storm surge up to 2 meters (6.5 feet) above astronomical tides, which would inundate low-lying areas, according to the India Meteorological Department.

K. Sathi Devi, the New Delhi-based government scientist in charge of monitoring the cyclone, said a low pressure system over the ocean was causing water to "get piled up." When the storm makes landfall, so will the accumulated sea water, she said, threatening to flood roads and uproot trees, contaminate drinking water supplies, and disrupt communications and power supplies.

Vayu was forecast to skirt the coast as it traveled west toward Pakistan, retaining its intensity for as long as 12 hours as it straddled land and sea.

"Very strong wind will likely remain for a longer period," said R.K. Jenamani, another government scientist. "It's a very unique kind of system."

In the ancient city of Dwarka, where many Hindu pilgrims travel every year to pray at a temple considered the center of Lord Krishna's kingdom, a rescue worker from India's National Disaster Response Force warned children to leave the beach.

After India's home minister, Amit Shah, held a meeting Tuesday with government and military officials, the air force airlifted 40 National Disaster Response Force rescue and relief teams to the western coast.

Both Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi hail from Gujarat.

Modi said on Twitter that he had "been constantly in touch with state governments" and that he was "praying for the safety and wellbeing" of all those affected.

By midday, rescue teams had begun evacuating more than a quarter of a million people in towns and villages likely to bear the brunt of the storm.

The scale of the possible damage when Vayu makes landfall wasn't immediately clear, but meteorologists predicted the destruction of thatched homes, flooding of escape routes and widespread damage to crops. They recommended that authorities focus evacuation efforts on residents of makeshift housing, from beachside huts to urban slums.

Authorities appeared to have taken some cues from Cyclone Fani, which hit India's eastern coast on the Bay of Bengal in May, killing 34 people in India and 15 in neighboring Bangladesh.

Authorities in the eastern state of Odisha, where Fani made landfall, were praised for precautionary measures — including evacuating more than a million people — that likely prevented a much higher death toll.

In India's financial capital of Mumbai, police tweeted that because of the high winds, heavy rainfall and lightning expected from Vayu, people "should not venture into sea and should keep safe distance from shoreline."

Gujarat's chief minister, Vijay Rupani, requested on social media that tourists leave coastal areas by Wednesday afternoon.


Philippines slams sinking of boat by suspected China vessel

A protester burn a Chinese national flag during a rally outside the Chinese Consulate in Manila, Philippines, Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

Jim Gomez

Manila, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine defense secretary said Wednesday that an anchored Filipino fishing boat sank in the disputed South China Sea after being hit by a suspected Chinese vessel which then abandoned the 22 Filipino crewmen.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana called for an investigation of the June 9 sinking at Reed Bank off the western Philippine province of Palawan and asked that diplomatic steps be taken to prevent a repeat of the incident.

It's a delicate development in the long-contested waters, which are regarded as a potential flashpoint in Asia. Tensions have escalated in recent years after China transformed seven disputed reefs into islands which can serve as forward military bases and can intimidate rival claimant states.

The Philippine coast guard said it was checking whether Chinese fishermen were involved or those from other neighboring countries like Vietnam and if the collision was intentional.

There was no immediate comment from Chinese officials.

The 22 Filipino crewmen of the sunken F/B Gimver 1 were rescued by a Vietnamese vessel. A Philippine navy frigate which was patrolling the area later helped secure them, Lorenzana said in a statement.

"We condemn in the strongest terms the cowardly action of the Chinese fishing vessel and its crew for abandoning the Filipino crew," Lorenzana said. "This is not the expected action from a responsible and friendly people." He said the F/B Gimver 1 had been anchored "when it was hit by the Chinese fishing vessel."

Lorenzana thanked the Vietnamese crew for saving the Filipinos.

He revealed the incident after about 300 protesters burned a mock Chinese flag and yelled anti-China slogans in a rally outside the Chinese Consulate in Manila's Makati financial district. The mostly left-wing activists timed their protest for Philippine Independence Day.

A regional military spokesman, Lt. Col. Stephen Penetrante, said the incident at Reed Bank, which happened at night, appeared "like a hit and run," with the vessel immediately moving away after hitting the Filipino boat.

There has been a recent history of Chinese ships blocking Philippine military and civilian vessels at Reed Bank and nearby Second Thomas Shoal, where Philippine marines keep watch on board a long-marooned Philippine navy ship while being constantly watched by Chinese coast guard ships in a years-long standoff.

A Filipino official said a Philippine vessel on its way to provide the marines at Second Thomas Shoal with food and other supplies was approached by a Chinese ship "in a close encounter" in February. The Philippine vessel maneuvered to avoid the Chinese ship and managed to reach the marines, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly. The Philippines has raised its concern over the incident, the official added.

China's coast guard and military tried to block such resupply missions in the past but later allowed them through after talks with Philippine officials amid better relations between Beijing and Manila under current President Rodrigo Duterte.

Chinese authorities, however, still occasionally approach Philippine resupply vessels to make sure they're not carrying construction materials to the disputed shoal, the Philippine official said.

China has long demanded that the Philippines remove the rusting navy ship which Filipino marines use as an outpost, but the Philippines has refused.

In 2011, the Philippine military deployed a bomber plane and another light plane to Reed Bank after a Philippine ship searching for oil complained it was approached and harassed by two Chinese patrol boats.

The patrol boats had left the area by the time the Philippine aircraft arrived, military officials said at the time.

Aside from its potential oil and gas deposits, the disputed region has rich fishing grounds and straddles busy sea lanes that are a crucial conduit for oil and other resources fueling Asia's bustling economies.


5-year-old dies of Ebola as outbreak crosses Congo border

People crossing the border have their temperature taken to check for symptoms of Ebola, at the border crossing near Kasindi, eastern Congo Wednesday, June 12, 2019, just across from the Ugandan town of Bwera. (AP Photo/Al-hadji Kudra Maliro)

Rodney Muhumuza and Al-Hadji Kudra Maliro

Kasindi, Congo (AP) — A 5-year-old boy vomiting blood became the first cross-border victim in the current Ebola outbreak on Wednesday, while his 3-year-old brother and grandmother tested positive for the disease that has killed nearly 1,400 people in Congo.

The outbreak's spread into Uganda prompted the World Health Organization to revisit whether the second-largest Ebola epidemic in history should be declared a global health emergency. A WHO expert committee meets on Friday. Such declarations almost always boost attention and donor funding.

The boy's mother had taken him and his brother from Uganda into Congo, where her father was ill. WHO said he died of Ebola, and officials believe those who mourned him became infected, too.

The family then crossed back into Uganda via an unguarded foot path, bypassing official border crossings where health workers have been screening millions of travelers since the outbreak was declared in August.

Authorities in both countries now vow to step up border security.

Experts have long feared Ebola could spread to neighboring countries because of rebel attacks and community resistance hampering containment work in eastern Congo, one of the world's most turbulent regions. The virus can spread quickly via close contact with bodily fluids of those infected and can be fatal in up to 90% of cases.

The 5-year-old boy's mother and grandmother, along with several other children, were stopped at a border post before crossing into Uganda. A dozen of them already showed symptoms of Ebola.

Congo's health ministry said those 12 were put in an isolation center, but in fact they were told to remain where they were staying until transport was found to an Ebola treatment unit, Dr. Dominique Kabongo, a local coordinator of response teams, told The Associated Press.

Instead, six family members quietly crossed into Uganda.

"Many people are evading (border) customs and using small footpaths and it is difficult for us to follow the contacts," Kabongo said.

On arrival in Uganda, where authorities had been alerted by Congolese colleagues, the boy received treatment while relatives were isolated and tested. The boy's uncle is among seven suspected cases now identified in Uganda.

On the Congo side, five family members who did not cross into Uganda have tested positive for Ebola, the health ministry said.

Health teams in Uganda "are not panicking," Henry Mwebesa, the national director of health services, told the AP. He cited the East African nation's experience battling previous outbreaks of Ebola and other hemorrhagic fevers.

This outbreak "is not going to go beyond" the boy's family in Uganda, he added.

While officials vowed to close unauthorized crossings, an AP reporter in the border area where the family crossed saw surveillance teams patrolling the Ugandan side. Some footpaths, however, remained unguarded. Some people wade across the shallow Lubiriha River.

The "stubbornness of Congolese" is a challenge in screening, a Ugandan Red Cross official, Francis Tumwine, told the AP at one border crossing last week. "They have failed to understand that Ebola is there, they think that it is witchcraft which is killing them."

A Congolese trader, Muhindo Kaongezekela, added: "We are not sure if there's Ebola in Congo. In Congo, if they find you with a headache, they take you to the hospital and later say they died of Ebola."

This is the first time this restive part of vast Congo, veteran of several Ebola outbreaks, has experienced the virus.

Resistance by residents wary of authorities has hurt containment efforts in an outbreak where an experimental but effective Ebola vaccine is being widely used for the first time. More than 130,000 people have received the vaccine.

Uganda is more stable than eastern Congo, and it has vaccinated nearly 4,700 health workers. WHO is shipping another 3,500 doses this week for health workers and contacts of those infected.

The WHO expert committee has twice decided that this outbreak, while of "deep concern," is not yet a global health emergency . But international spread is one of the major criteria the United Nations agency considers before making a declaration. WHO has advised against travel restrictions.

The first cross-border case is "tragic but unfortunately not surprising," said Dr. Jeremy Farrar with the Wellcome Trust, which funds Ebola vaccine research.

While Uganda is well-prepared, he added, "we can expect and should plan for more cases in (Congo) and neighboring countries. This epidemic is in a truly frightening phase and shows no sign of stopping anytime soon."


UN marks what would have been Anne Frank's 90th birthday

 

A photo of Anne Frank stands on a replica of the writing desk she once used in her family's former apartment in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael C. Corder)

Edith M. Lederer

United Nations (AP) — A sapling from the horse chestnut tree that Anne Frank watched from her World War II hiding place in an attic in Amsterdam was planted and dedicated at U.N. headquarters Wednesday to mark what would have been the 90th birthday of the teenager who died in a Nazi concentration camp.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement read at the ceremony that the sapling "is a living symbol of both the legacy of Anne Frank" and the values of the United Nations, which was established in the aftermath of the war and the Holocaust.

"The tree into which the sapling will grow will stand as a beacon of hope, a living reminder of the importance of continuing the work for a just and peaceful world in which we celebrate diversity and where men and men, young and old can thrive without fear," Guterres said.

Sharon Douglas, CEO of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect which donated the sapling, said, "The tree lived in the free air and represented to Anne a living symbol of hope and freedom."

The Frank family's hiding place for two years in the secret annex behind a canal-side house was discovered, and Anne was taken to the Bergen-Belsen Nazi concentration camp where she died in February 1945 at age 15.

Her father, Otto, the only member of the family to survive the war, later published her diaries, which have been read around the world and are considered one of the most important books of the 20th century.

One special guest at the ceremony, Gaby Rodgers Leiber, who was a childhood friend of Anne's, said, "It's very moving to celebrate her life."

"We played marbles together and we both cheated! That was the fun of it," said Leiber, who is 92 and lives in Los Angeles.


D-Day at 75: Nations honor aging veterans, fallen comrades

A World War II veteran salutes as he poses for a photograph at the end of a ceremony to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day at the Bayeux War Cemetery in Bayeux, Normandy, France, Thursday, June 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

People on a tank watch fireworks in Arromanches in Normandy region of France, Thursday, June 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Rafael Yaghobzadeh)

Raf Casert, John Leicester and Elaine Ganley

Omaha Beach, France (AP) — Standing on the windswept beaches and bluffs of Normandy, a dwindling number of aging veterans of history's greatest air and sea invasion received the thanks and praise of a world transformed by their sacrifice.

The mission now, they said, was to honor the dead and keep their memory alive, 75 years after the D-Day operation that portended the end of World War II.

"We know we don't have much time left, so I tell my story so people know it was because of that generation, because of those guys in this cemetery," said 99-year-old Steve Melnikoff of Maryland, standing at Colleville-Sur-Mer, where thousands of Americans are buried.

"All these generals with all this brass that don't mean nothing," he said. "These guys in the cemetery, they are the heroes."

Thursday's anniversary was marked with eloquent speeches, profound silences and passionate pleas for an end to bloodshed.

French President Emmanuel Macron and U.S. President Donald Trump praised the soldiers, sailors and airmen who took part in the invasion, codenamed Operation Overlord, saying it was the turning point that ended Nazi tyranny and ensured peace for Europe.

"You are the pride of our nation, you are the glory of our republic, and we thank you from the bottom of our heart," Trump said of the warriors who took part in what he called the ultimate fight of good against evil in World War II.

"They battled not for control and domination, but for liberty, democracy and self-rule," Trump said in a speech at the Normandy American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach, the bloodiest of five landing beaches.

Macron saluted the courage, generosity and strength of spirit that made them press on "to help men and women they didn't know, to liberate a land most hadn't seen before, for no other cause but freedom, democracy."

He expressed France's debt to the United States for freeing his country from the Nazis. Macron awarded five American veterans with the Chevalier of Legion of Honor, France's highest award.

"We know what we owe to you, veterans, our freedom," he said, switching from French to English. "On behalf of my nation I just want to say 'thank you.'"

About 160,000 troops were took part in D-Day, and many more fought in the ensuing Battle of Normandy. Of those 73,000 were from the United States, while 83,000 were from Britain and Canada. Troops started landing overnight from the air, then were joined by a massive force by sea on the beaches of Omaha, Utah, Juno, Sword and Gold, carried by 7,000 boats.

"The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you," Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower had said in his order of the day. "The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory."

On Wednesday, a commemoration was held in Portsmouth, England, the main embarkation point for the transport boats. Then the dignitaries came to the bluffs and beaches of Normandy, where veterans recalled what they saw 75 years ago.

"The water was full of dead men, the beach had burning landing craft," said Jim Radford, 90, a British D-Day veteran from Hull, describing the scene near Gold Beach, where British landed.

He was there again to watch the unveiling of a statue at Gold Beach, where a memorial to British fighters is to be erected.

At dawn Thursday, hundreds of civilians and military alike from around the world gathered on Omaha Beach.

Dick Jansen, 60, from the Netherlands, drank Canadian whisky from an enamel cup on the water's edge. Others scattered carnations into the waves. Randall Atanay, the son of a medic who tended to the dying and wounded, waded barefoot into the water, bonding with his dad, who has since died.

Up to 12,000 people attended the ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery, with U.S. veterans, their numbers fast diminishing as years pass, the guests of honor.

A 21-gun salute thundered into the waters below the cemetery, on a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach, and across the rows of white crosses and Stars of David. The final resting places of more than 9,380 of the fallen stretched out before the guests.

Britain's Prince Charles, his wife, Camilla, and Prime Minister Theresa May attended a remembrance service at the medieval cathedral in Bayeux, the first Normandy town liberated by Allied troops after D-Day.

Hundreds of people packed the seaside square in the town of Arromanches to applaud veterans of the Battle of Normandy that ensued. A wreath was placed outside the town's D-Day Museum.

Gratitude was a powerful common theme.

Macron thanked soldiers "so that France could become free again" at the Gold Beach ceremony with May and uniformed veterans laid the cornerstone of the memorial that will record the names of thousands of troops under British command who died in Normandy.

"If one day can be said to have determined the fate of generations to come, in France, in Britain, in Europe and the world, that day was the 6th of June, 1944," May said.

As the sun rose that morning, not one of the thousands of men arriving in Normandy "knew whether they would still be alive when the sun set once again," she said.

Passing on memories is especially urgent, with hundreds of World War II veterans now dying every day.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hailed those who "took a gamble the world had never seen before."

Speaking at Juno Beach where 14,000 Canadians came ashore, Trudeau lauded the resulting world order including the United Nations and NATO that have helped preserve peace.

But postwar tensions were evident. Not invited to the remembrance was Russian President Vladimir Putin, who had been present for the 70th commemoration of D-Day.

On Wednesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said it was a "gift of history" that she was able to participate in the ceremony on Britain's southern coast. Some 22,000 German soldiers are among those buried around Normandy.

The D-Day invasion was a defining moment of military strategy complicated by unpredictable weather and human chaos in which soldiers from the U.S., Britain, Canada and other Allied nations applied relentless bravery to carve out a beachhead on ground that Nazi Germany had occupied for four years.

The Battle of Normandy hastened Germany's defeat less than a year later.

Still, that single day cost the lives of 4,414 Allied troops, 2,501 of them Americans. More than 5,000 were injured. On the German side, several thousand were killed or wounded.

From there, Allied troops would advance, take Paris in late summer and race with the Soviet Red Army to control as much German territory as possible by the time Adolf Hitler died in his Berlin bunker and Germany surrendered in May 1945.

The Soviet Union also fought valiantly against the Nazis — and lost more people than any other nation in World War II — but those final battles would divide Europe for decades between the West and the Soviet-controlled East, the face-off line of the Cold War.

"War is the most idiotic thing that man ever created," said Charles Levesque, 93, who served in the Pacific theater. "Our enemies now are our friends, and our friends are our enemies. It doesn't make any sense."


Huawei warns US would hurt itself by cutting off tech ties

Mika Lauhde, Huawei's vice-president for cybersecurity and privacy attends a panel discussion at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg, Russia, Thursday, June 6, 2019. (TASS News Agency Pool Photo via AP)

Harriet Morris

St. Petersburg, Russia (AP) — A senior executive for Chinese technology giant Huawei said Thursday that he hopes the company's animosity with the United States will be resolved and warned that the U.S. would be shooting itself in the foot if it were to shun Chinese technology.

Mika Lauhde, Huawei's vice-president for cybersecurity and privacy, told The Associated Press that he hopes for a "positive resolution" of the standoff with the U.S. government and added that his company is not the "nucleus of the issue," pointing to the wider trade war between the U.S. and China.

The U.S. has imposed sanctions against the world's No. 1 network equipment provider and second-largest smartphone maker, arguing that it is legally beholden to the Chinese government, which could use the company's products for cyberespionage. Huawei denies these accusations.

Lauhde said he doesn't think that the U.S. will be severing all ties with Huawei and other Chinese technology companies, as that would be "driving itself into a corner."

"If they are disconnecting themselves from everybody, that's (going to) happen vice versa as well," he said, alluding to possible Chinese reaction.

Some cybersecurity experts say that Washington, by going as far as warning other countries against working with Huawei actions, will only further encourage China to become more technically self-reliant and will be dividing the world into two tech camps.

Lauhde rejected suggestion of a full split in the tech industry.

"I don't believe that we would be establishing two different camps," he told the AP. "I still believe that we are working together."

Technical ties between China and Russia, for one, are expanding. Russia's major mobile operator MTS and Huawei on Wednesday announced a deal to jointly develop 5G networks in Russia. Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping attended the ceremony at the Kremlin.


Sudanese vow to keep up protests after crackdown

Worshippers gather at a mosque behind a roadblock set by protesters on a main street in the Sudanese capital Khartoum to stop military vehicles from driving through the area on Wednesday, June 5, 2019. (AP Photo)

Bassam Hatoum and Noha Elhennawy

Khartoum, Sudan (AP) — Sudan's pro-democracy movement vowed Thursday to press its campaign of civil disobedience until the ruling military council is ousted and killers of protesters are brought to justice, as security forces fanned out across the capital and appeared to thwart any new demonstrations.

The African Union, meanwhile, suspended Sudan from all activities "with immediate effect" over the deadly military crackdown on protesters that left 108 dead this week. It threatened "punitive sanctions" if the military does not quickly hand over power to civilians.

The crackdown marked the start of a violent new chapter in the uprising that began in December and led to the military overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir in April. The protesters had remained in the streets while holding talks with the military to demand a handover of power to civilians. Those negotiations were suspended after the violent dispersal of the main sit-in outside the military headquarters in the capital, Khartoum, on Monday.

The Sudan Doctors' Central Committee, one of the protest groups, said Wednesday that troops were seen pulling 40 bodies of people slain by the security forces from the Nile River in Khartoum and taking them away.

It said Thursday that more bodies had been pulled from the river, without giving an exact number. The committee said it was not known where the bodies were taken. It also said more than 500 protesters have been wounded in the crackdown, and that three children were among those killed.

Sudan's military-controlled Health Ministry disputed the death toll, with the ministry's undersecretary, Soliman Abdel Gabbar, saying only 61 people died in this week's violence. He said those include 52 killed in Khartoum, and that only two corpses were pulled from the Nile.

Clashes have erupted in other parts of the country as well. The Sudanese Professionals Association, which has been spearheading the protests since December, said security forces have attacked demonstrators in more than a dozen cities and towns, in some cases beating, killing and raping civilians. The SPA did not provide further information about the attacks.

The group urged people to block main roads and bridges to "paralyze public life" across the country.

"Our success depends on our full adherence to peaceful protests, no matter how hard the criminal militias seek to drag us into violence," the association said Thursday.

Hundreds of armored vehicles of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces could be seen across the capital. The paramilitary force grew out of the Janjaweed militias used by al-Bashir's government to suppress the Darfur insurgency in the early 2000s, a scorched-earth campaign that led to his indictment by the International Criminal Court on charges including genocide.

Barricades erected earlier this week by protesters near the site of the dispersed sit-in were removed and roads were opened. Most stores were closed and few people were seen on the streets.

Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the head of the ruling military council, has called for a resumption of negotiations with the protest leaders, which they have rejected.

"All members of the military council belong to the old regime, and that is why we are betting now on lower-rank officers," said Amal al-Zein, an activist and a leader of Sudan's Communist Party, part of the protest movement.

"We are hoping patriotic policemen and military officers will act to protect the Sudanese people," she said, implying they might overthrow their superiors.

The military and protest leaders had spent weeks negotiating the makeup of a transitional council meant to run the country until elections. The protesters demanded civilians dominate the council, which the generals resisted.

After the crackdown, the military suspended the talks and canceled all agreed-on points. It said it would form a government and hold elections within seven to nine months.

From Ethiopia, the African Union's Peace and Security Council said Sudan's suspension will remain in effect until "the effective establishment" of a civilian-led transitional authority, calling it the only way of exiting the crisis.

The council said it would impose "punitive sanctions" if Sudan's ruling military council does not hand over power to civilians, and called for "the immediate resumption of negotiations, without pre-conditions, between all Sudanese stakeholders."

The council is in charge of enforcing union decisions, somewhat similar to the U.N. Security Council.

The suspension deprives Sudan's ruling military council of international legitimacy, according to Amani Africa, an independent think tank based in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. The United Nations, European Union and other bodies are expected to take their cues from the AU's action.

In practical terms, Sudan now cannot participate in any AU meeting and any AU financial or other support will cease, the think tank said, though Sudan's peacekeeping obligations are expected to continue.

The AU has suspended countries in the past over what were considered unconstitutional changes of government, including Egypt, Burkina Faso, Mali, Madagascar, Mauritania and Niger. In certain cases, a suspension can last for years. No other country of the 55-member continental body is currently suspended.

The AU could take further steps, imposing sanctions and calling on the U.N. to do the same, the think tank said.

The chairman of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, earlier this week strongly condemned the violence in Sudan and urged the military "to protect the civilians from further harm."

In Moscow, a top diplomat said Russia, which has largely stayed on the sidelines of the crisis in Sudan, opposes "any foreign intervention" and believes a compromise is needed.

Mikhail Bogdanov, chief of the Foreign Ministry's Middle East desk, told local news agencies that Russian diplomats are in touch with all political players in Sudan, including the opposition. Bogdanov visited Khartoum earlier this year.


NZ judge allows images of man charged in mosque shootings

Brenton Tarrant, the man charged in the Christchurch mosque shootings, appears in the Christchurch District Court, in Christchurch, New Zealand in this Saturday, March 16, 2019 photo. (AP Photo/Mark Mitchell, Pool)

Nick Perry

Wellington, New Zealand (AP) — A New Zealand judge ruled Thursday that media outlets can now show the face of the man accused of killing 51 people at two Christchurch mosques.

Two New Zealand courts had previously ruled that television stations, websites, newspapers and other media could only publish images which pixelated the face of Brenton Harrison Tarrant, the 28-year-old Australian white supremacist accused of the March 15 mass shooting.

But High Court Judge Cameron Mander wrote in a court note that prosecutors had advised him there was no longer any need to suppress images of Tarrant's face and he was lifting the order.

The previous rulings hadn't stopped images of Tarrant from circulating on the internet, and questions remained about whether the court's rulings could be applied to media operating outside of New Zealand's borders.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers, who have not commented on the case publicly, did not return calls from The Associated Press seeking comment on Thursday.

Retired law professor Bill Hodge said the initial argument for suppressing images of Tarrant was likely made to ensure witnesses weren't tainted — that they could identify the gunman from their own recollection and not from seeing a picture in a newspaper.

"I can only assume that neither side is concerned about poisoning the well of identification witnesses," Hodge said.

The gunman livestreamed much of his attack on Facebook. The chilling 17-minute video, in which he shows his face, was copied and widely viewed on the internet even as tech companies scrambled to remove it.

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has vowed never to say the accused man's name, and last month helped lead a global pledge named the "Christchurch Call," aimed at boosting efforts to keep internet platforms from being used to spread hate, organize extremist groups and broadcast attacks.

The White House did not endorse the pledge, citing respect for "freedom of expression and freedom of the press."

Hodge said Ardern and other politicians might be making a nice gesture by trying to avoid giving Tarrant the publicity he's likely seeking. But Hodge said that's been somewhat undermined after police decided last month to add a terrorism charge against Tarrant to the charges of murder and attempted murder he already faced.

Hodge said the terrorism charge had never been previously tested in New Zealand's court system and it could backfire by giving Tarrant a platform to broadcast his white supremacist views, since defending himself against that charge could give him more scope to express his alleged motives.

A spokesperson for Ardern said the prime minister had no comment to make on a matter for the court.

Tarrant is next scheduled to appear in court via videolink on June 14, when he is expected to enter pleas to 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one count of terrorism.
 


Queen Elizabeth honors D-Day veterans at moving ceremony

Britain's Queen Elizabeth meets veterans during commemorations for the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day landings at Southsea Common in Portsmouth, England, Wednesday, June 5, 2019. (Jeff J Mitchell/Pool Photo via AP)

An honor guard marches on stage during a ceremony to mark the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, Wednesday, June 5, 2019, in Portsmouth, England. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Canadian World War II veteran Dick Brown, second right, and Rod Deon, right, salute as they attend a ceremony at the Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery in Reviers, Normandy, France, Wednesday, June 5, 2019. A ceremony was held on Wednesday for Canadians who fought and died on the beaches and in the bitter bridgehead battles of Normandy during World War II. (AP Photo/David Vincent)

 U.S. World War II D-Day veteran Tom Rice, from Coronado, CA, parachutes in a tandem jump into a field in Carentan, Normandy, France, Wednesday, June 5, 2019. (AP Photo)
Danica Kirka and Jill Lawless

Portsmouth, England (AP) — Queen Elizabeth II and world leaders including U.S. President Donald Trump gathered Wednesday on the south coast of England to honor the troops who risked and sacrificed their lives 75 years ago on D-Day, a bloody but ultimately triumphant turning point in World War II.

Across the Channel, American and British paratroopers dropped into northwestern France and scaled cliffs beside Normandy beaches, recreating the daring, costly invasion that helped liberate Europe from Nazi occupation.

With the number of veterans of World War II dwindling, the guests of honor at an international ceremony in Portsmouth were several hundred men, now in their 90s, who served in the conflict — and the 93-year-old British monarch, also a member of what has been called the "greatest generation."

The queen, who served as an army mechanic during the war, said that when she attended a 60th-anniversary commemoration of D-Day 15 years ago, many thought it might be the last such event.

"But the wartime generation — my generation — is resilient," she said, striking an unusually personal note.

"The heroism, courage and sacrifice of those who lost their lives will never be forgotten," the monarch said. "It is with humility and pleasure, on behalf of the entire country — indeed the whole free world — that I say to you all, thank you."

Several hundred World War II veterans, aged 91 to 101, attended the ceremony in Portsmouth, the English port city from where many of the troops embarked for Normandy on June 5, 1944.

Many will recreate their journey, with less danger and more comfort, by crossing the Channel by ship to Normandy overnight. They are due to attend commemorations Thursday in Bayeux, the first major town liberated by Allied troops after D-Day.

Mixing history lesson, entertainment and solemn remembrance, the ceremony in Portsmouth was a large-scale spectacle involving troops, dancers and martial bands, culminating in a military fly-past. But the stars of the show were the elderly veterans of that campaign who said they were surprised by all the attention: They were just doing their jobs.

"I was just a small part in a very big machine," said 99-year-old John Jenkins, a veteran from Portsmouth, who received a standing ovation as he addressed the event.

"You never forget your comrades because we were all in it together," he said. "It is right that the courage and sacrifice of so many is being honored 75 years on. We must never forget."

The event, which kicked off two days of D-Day anniversary observances, paid tribute to the troops who shaped history during the dangerous mission to reach beachheads and fight in German-occupied France.

D-Day saw more than 150,000 Allied troops land on the beaches of Normandy in northwest France on June 6, 1944, carried by 7,000 boats. The Battle of Normandy, codenamed Operation Overlord, was a turning point in the war, and helped bring about Nazi Germany's defeat in May 1945.

Wednesday's ceremony brought together presidents, prime ministers and other representatives of more than a dozen countries that fought alongside Britain in Normandy.

The leader of the country that was the enemy in 1944 , German Chancellor Angela Merkel, also attended— a symbol of Europe's postwar reconciliation and transformation.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who attended 70th anniversary commemorations in France five years ago, has not been invited. Russia was not involved in D-Day but was instrumental in defeating the Nazis on the Eastern Front.

The ceremony sought to take people back in time, with world leaders, reading the words of participants in the conflict.

Trump read a prayer that President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered in a radio address on June 6, 1944, extolling the "mighty endeavor" Allied troops were engaged in.

British Prime Minister Theresa May read a letter written by Capt. Norman Skinner of the Royal Army Service Corps to his wife, Gladys, on June 3, 1944, a few days before the invasion. He was killed the day after D-Day.

"Although I would give anything to be back with you, I have not yet had any wish at all to back down from the job we have to do," he wrote.

French President Emmanuel Macron read from a letter sent by a young resistance fighter, Henri Fertet, before he was executed at the age of 16 years old.

"I am going to die for my country. I want France to be free and the French to be happy," it said.

The ceremony ended with singer Sheridan Smith performing the wartime hit "We'll Meet Again," as many of the elderly assembled veterans sang along.

Then WWII Spitfire and Hurricane fighter jets, modern-day Typhoons and the Royal Air Force's Red Arrows aerobatic unit swooped over the dignitaries, veterans and large crowd of spectators.

The crowd beyond the security barriers loved the planes but loved the veterans even more. Whenever their images came up on the big screen, people cheered. The former servicemen have reacted to such shows of attention with humility and surprise, as many believed they had been forgotten.

"What happened to me is not important. I'm not a hero. I served with men who were," said Les Hammond, 94, who landed at Juno Beach with the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers. "I'm very lucky I'm a survivor."

On Thursday the focus shifts to France, where commemorations will be held at simple military cemeteries near the Normandy beaches.

Events in France began early Wednesday morning with U.S. Army Rangers climbing the jagged limestone cliffs of Normandy's Pointe du Hoc to honor the men who scaled them under fire 75 years ago.

They were recreating a journey taken in 1944 by the U.S. Army's 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions to destroy Nazi guns atop the cliffs, helping prepare the way for Allied troops to land on the coast.

Elsewhere in Normandy parachutists jumped from C-47 transporters in WWII colors and other aircraft, aiming for fields of wild flowers on the outskirts of Carentan, one of the early objectives for Allied troops.

Among the jumpers was American D-Day veteran Tom Rice, 97. He jumped into Normandy with thousands of other parachutists in 1944 and recalled it as "the worst jump I ever had."

Like many other veterans , Rice said he remains troubled by the war.

"We did a lot of destruction, damage. And we chased the Germans out and coming back here is a matter of closure," he said. "You can close the issue now."


Rescue chopper unable to reach bodies on Himalayan mountain

 

A senior Indo Tibetan Border Police force officer wishes best luck to a team of soldiers before they set off to try and retrieve the bodies of international climbers, in Pithoragarh, Uttarakhand state, India, Wednesday, June 5, 2019. (Indo Tibetan Border Police force via AP)

Emily Schmall

New Delhi (AP) — Indian officials on Wednesday were reconsidering a plan to retrieve five bodies believed to be members of a team of international climbers that went missing on a notoriously dangerous Himalayan mountain that a rescue helicopter was unable to reach.

All eight of the climbers who disappeared May 26 on Nanda Devi East are presumed dead, and the five bodies photographed by air Monday are thought to be from the missing expedition, said Vijay Kumar Jogdande, an official in Uttarakhand state, where the mountain is located.

The mountaineers, led by veteran British climber Martin Moran, had set out to reach the top of an unclimbed, unnamed 6,477-meter (21,250-foot) ridge, but lost contact with their base camp after an avalanche swept through a section of the mountain.

Nanda Devi East is a twin peak of Nanda Devi, India's second-highest mountain, and the two are connected by a razor-sharp 2-kilometer (1.2-mile) ridge at an elevation of 6,666 meters (22,000 feet).

Indo-Tibetan Border Police, who are responsible for rescues in the range where the peaks are located, called off the operation because of the high elevation, which a helicopter was unable to reach after three attempts, spokesman Vivek Pandey said.

Officials had devised a plan to use helicopters and a ground team to retrieve the bodies, spotted at an altitude of 5,000 meters (16,404 feet), and to search for the three other mountaineers. Pandey said the rescue team returned to the town of Pithoragarh on Wednesday afternoon to reconsider its strategy.

"It is not feasible to hover in the air and land near the site of the avalanche where bodies can be seen," according to a status report seen by The Associated Press.

The report said the challenges include the "bowl-like" geography of the terrain, wind turbulence and the risk of further avalanches. It recommended an expedition on foot, though it would take the rescuers a week to acclimate first.

The mountaineers began their ascent on May 13, according to Moran Mountain, Moran's Scotland-based company. The team includes four Britons, two Americans, an Australian and an Indian liaison officer. Before attempting to reach the peak of Nanda Devi East, the team had set out to climb the slightly smaller ridge.

Maninder Kohli, a mountaineer who runs a trekking company from New Delhi that has taken groups to Nanda Devi East base camp, said the snow level in the Indian Himalayas this year has been abnormally high.

"Apparently the walk-up to the base camp alone was a tedious task because of the snow accumulation," he said.

Kohli said the typical route to the peak is along the southeast ridge, which Polish mountaineers used on the first documented ascent in 1939.

Moran and another mountaineer made an unsuccessful attempt over an unproven northeastern route in 2015.


German nurse accused of 100 deaths says sorry to families

 

Former nurse Niels Hoegel, accused of multiple murder and attempted murder of patients, attends a session of the district court in Oldenburg, Germany, Wednesday, June 5, 2019. (Mohssen Assanimoghaddam/dpa via AP, Pool)

David Rising

Berlin (AP) — A former nurse on trial on allegations he killed 100 patients at two hospitals in northern Germany apologized to his victims' relatives in a final statement to the court Wednesday, saying he realized how much pain and suffering he had caused with his "terrible deeds."

"To each and every one of you I sincerely apologize for all that I have done," Niels Hoegel, 42, told the Oldenburg regional court after his defense attorneys had made their closing arguments, according to the dpa news agency.

His defense attorneys argued for acquittals in 31 of the 100 counts of murder against him, suggesting there was not enough evidence in those cases.

In total, the deaths — which took place at a hospital in Oldenburg between 1999 and 2002 and another hospital in nearby Delmenhorst from 2003 to 2005 — are thought to be the largest string of serial killings in post-war Germany. Hoegel's alleged victims ranged in age between 34 and 96.

"Neither we nor Mr. Hoegel deny that he is the perpetrator in many cases," one of his defenders, Ulrike Baumann told the court. "But he can only be convicted for crimes he committed and not for crimes he could have committed."

Hoegel was convicted in 2015 of two murders and two attempted murders. He said at his first trial that he intentionally brought about cardiac crises in some 90 patients in Delmenhorst because he enjoyed the feeling of being able to resuscitate them. He later told investigators that he also killed patients in Oldenburg.

Authorities subsequently investigated hundreds of deaths, exhuming bodies of former patients.

Pleas are not entered in the German legal system but during the seven-month trial, Hoegel admitted to 43 of the killings, disputed five and said he couldn't remember the other 52.

Both the defense team and prosecutors have asked for a sentence of life in prison, but prosecutors have also asked the court to recognize the "particular seriousness of the crime," making it likely he'd have to serve more than the standard 15-year sentence.

Prosecutors are asking for a conviction on 97 counts of murder, saying that in three cases insufficient evidence was presented.

During the trial, Hoegel testified that he had a "protected" childhood, free of violence. He said his grandmother and his father, who were both nurses, had been his role models for going into the profession.

"Now I sit here fully convinced that I want to give every relative an answer," Hoegel said during the trial. "I am really sorry."

But Christian Marbach, a spokesman for the affected families whose grandfather was among the victims, doubted Hoegel's sincerity.

"Hoegel is and remains a liar," Marbach said. "He tactically only admitted what could already 100 percent be proven against him."

A verdict is expected on Thursday.


Japanese police arrest 7 Chinese in record drug smuggling

The boat in which police confiscated drug is seen at a wharf in Minami Izu town, Shizuoka prefecture, south of Tokyo, Wednesday, June 5, 2019. (Kyodo News via AP)

Mari Yamaguchi

Tokyo (AP) — Japanese authorities have arrested seven Chinese men on suspicion of smuggling what is believed to be a record amount of stimulants, police and media reports said Wednesday, amid concern about growing drug use among ordinary people following a series of recent arrests of government officials and celebrities.

Tokyo police said seven Chinese were arrested this week on suspicion of possessing "large amounts" of stimulants on the Izu coast, west of Tokyo. Police on a stakeout arrested the men while they were unloading bags from their boat onto the beach, Kyodo News reported.

They allegedly possessed nearly 1 ton (2,450 pounds) of amphetamines, a record one-time seizure in Japan estimated to be worth 60 billion yen ($550 million), according to public broadcaster NHK. The drugs are believed to have been smuggled from Hong Kong, NHK said.

The amount is about the same as the annual total seized over the past three years. Last year, authorities seized 1.1 tons (2,508 pounds) of stimulants, including 784 kilograms (1,728 pounds) smuggled into the country from overseas, according to the National Police Agency.

Drug smuggling has been on the rise, the agency said, with more than 150 people arrested in 2018 for alleged stimulant smuggling from overseas, or 1.6% of the total number of people arrested for violations of stimulant control laws. While most stimulant law violators are linked to gangster groups, the police agency expressed concern about growing drug use among ordinary people and younger age groups.

In late May, police arrested a 44-year-old education ministry bureaucrat for alleged possession of stimulants and marijuana. Days earlier, prosecutors charged a 28-year-old trade ministry official with stimulant use and possession. Popular musician and actor Pierre Taki, whose real name is Masanori Taki, is on trial after being arrested in March for alleged cocaine use.

Illegal drugs are sold at higher prices in Japan than elsewhere, making it a lucrative market, and its coastline provides convenient access for smugglers, experts say.

The arrests of the Chinese suspects were part of an ongoing investigation into international drug rings and gangster groups following reports of suspicious ships in the Izu area.

The previous record one-time seizure was about 600 kilograms (1,320 pounds) of stimulants on a boat docked at a port on Okinawa in southern Japan..
 


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