• Wallabies aim to turn World Cup hopes to belief

    AFP News - Sat, Aug 29, 2015

    The Wallabies departed for the United States on Saturday with coach Michael Cheika saying he wants to turn hopes for their Rugby World Cup campaign into belief. Australia are in a challenging group at the World Cup, which begins in England on September 18, and Cheika said he had sought counsel from those involved in previous winning campaigns. "They've really given me advice of taking one game as it happens and be in that moment, and I'm going to do that." Cheika had said previously the Wallabies were hoping to bring the World Cup back to Australia, saying while they were not going into the contest as the world's best team, the goal was to leave it as such. More »Wallabies aim to turn World Cup hopes to belief

  • Tseng leads at weather-hit LPGA Classic

    AFP News - Sat, Aug 29, 2015

    Former world number one Tseng Ya-ni fired an eight-under par 64 on Friday to grab a one-stroke lead in the weather-hit second round of the LPGA Classic. Taiwan's Tseng notched six birdies and an eagle en route to a 10-under par total of 134, one stroke in front of American Austin Ernst who carded a 65 for 135. American Lexi Thompson was in the clubhouse on eight-under 136 after posting a 67, with both Paraguay's Julieta Granada and American Sydnee Michaels at eight-under on the course when darkness halted play. More »Tseng leads at weather-hit LPGA Classic

  • Egypt court set to rule in Jazeera reporters' trial

    AFP News - Sat, Aug 29, 2015

    An Egyptian court is set to rule Saturday in the retrial of three journalists with Al-Jazeera television's English-language news channel whose two-year ordeal sparked a global campaign for their release. Canadian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohamed, along with the since-deported Australian Peter Greste, were accused of supporting the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood in their coverage for the Qatari-owned broadcaster. The trial has become an embarrassment for President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the then army chief who ousted the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi from the presidency in 2013 and cracked down on Islamists. More »Egypt court set to rule in Jazeera reporters' trial

  • New Orleans mourns, celebrates 10 years after Katrina

    AFP News - Sat, Aug 29, 2015

    New Orleans will mark the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina Saturday with solemn memorials and boisterous brass bands as the "Big Easy" remembers those lost to the devastating storm and celebrates its resilience. "Come hell or high water -- and we have had both -- New Orleans is coming back," Mayor Mitch Landrieu said at one of many memorials this week. Later in the morning a "Resilience Fest" will feature a New Orleans-style "second line" marching brass band. More »New Orleans mourns, celebrates 10 years after Katrina

  • Kurdish forces free seven villages in Iraq: officials

    AFP News - Sat, Aug 29, 2015

    Western-backed Kurdish fighters freed seven villages from the clasps of the Islamic State group in northern Iraq in recent days, the US-led coalition battling the jihadists. Bolstered by coalition airstrikes, the Peshmerga fighters wrestled back more than 200 square kilometers (80 square miles) near the town of Tuz since August 26, the Combined Joint Task Force said. Planes and drones conducted a total of 25 strikes, helping the Kurdish forces in "liberating seven villages," a statement said. More »Kurdish forces free seven villages in Iraq: officials

  • Malaysians jam capital to demand reform, PM's ouster

    AFP News - Sat, Aug 29, 2015

    Streets near the capital's heart became expanses of yellow, with demonstrators donning the colours of Malaysia's reform movement in a carnival atmosphere of political speeches, musical performances, deafening vuvuzelas and selfies. Members of Prime Minister Najib Razak's cabinet have admitted he received nearly $700 million in mysterious deposits into his personal bank accounts starting in 2013. The revelation, brought to light by the Wall Street Journal last month, has crystallised the frustrations of many Malaysians fed up with recurring government graft scandals. More »Malaysians jam capital to demand reform, PM's ouster

  • Maduro off to China, Vietnam in 'difficult times'

    AFP News - Sat, Aug 29, 2015

    Venezuela's socialist President Nicolas Maduro will go cap in hand to China and Vietnam at the weekend, with his oil-rich country mired in recession. Venezuela, hard-hit by plunging global oil revenues and reeling from soaring crime, needed heavyweight financial support in "difficult times," he said. "Tomorrow I will go to Vietnam and China to make arrangements for the economic and financial security of Venezuela," he told supporters, saying he had invitations from Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Vietnamese counterpart President Truong Tan Sang. More »Maduro off to China, Vietnam in 'difficult times'

  • TV gunman plotted to 'hurt a lot more': state governor

    AFP News - Sat, Aug 29, 2015

    The embittered gunman who shot dead two young American journalists on live TV was seemingly hell-bent on committing more violence before he took his own life, Virginia's governor said Friday. Terry McAuliffe visited the studios of WDBJ television in Roanoke two days after Vester Flanagan killed reporter Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27, as they were conducting an interview. Flanagan, 41, a former WDBJ reporter fired in February 2013, fatally shot himself a few hours later after police caught up with his rented get-away car on a highway that leads into the city of Washington. More »TV gunman plotted to 'hurt a lot more': state governor

  • German court reinstates ban on demos in flashpoint refugee town

    AFP News - Sat, Aug 29, 2015

    The German government said Friday it was sending police reinforcements to the eastern state of Saxony, following violent anti-migrant protests which prompted a ban on rallies in the flashpoint town of Heidenau. Heidenau, a town of around 16,000 inhabitants near Dresden, has become the focus of Germany's struggle to absorb a vast wave of asylum seekers that is expected to reach a record 800,000 this year. "Saxony sought the help of federal police and this support will be provided," interior ministry spokesman Johannes Dimroth said, without saying how many officers would be deployed. More »German court reinstates ban on demos in flashpoint refugee town

  • Venezuela expands Colombian border closure

    AFP News - Sat, Aug 29, 2015

    Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro escalated his country's spat with Colombia Friday by expanding the partial closure of their shared border to four new frontier towns. The countries have been locked in a diplomatic row since Maduro closed part of the border last week after unidentified assailants attacked a Venezuelan anti-smuggling patrol, wounding three soldiers and a civilian. Maduro blamed the attack on right-wing paramilitaries from Colombia. More »Venezuela expands Colombian border closure

  • Venezuelan row with Colombia an election ploy: analysts

    AFP News - Sat, Aug 29, 2015

    The escalating row over Venezuela's mass deportations of Colombians is less about neighborly strains than the economic crisis, crippling shortages and dismal popularity ratings facing Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, analysts said Friday. The images of desperate Colombians streaming across the border with their belongings strapped to their backs captured international attention this week after Maduro's socialist government deported 1,000 Colombians and frightened thousands more into fleeing preemptively. Maduro "needs to change the scenery, divert the focus of debate to an issue where he stands to gain something," said Luis Vicente Leon, the director of polling firm Datanalisis. More »Venezuelan row with Colombia an election ploy: analysts

  • Polish official '99% sure' Nazi train exists

    AFP News - Sat, Aug 29, 2015

    Local media have for days been abuzz with old lore of trains full of gold and jewels stolen by the Nazis after two men -- a German and a Pole -- claimed to have found an armoured train car in the southwestern city of Walbrzych. "I saw a good quality ground-penetrating radar image showing what the train looks like," Deputy Culture Minister Piotr Zuchowski told reporters, adding that he could make out platforms and gun positions on the photo. Friday's revelations elicited a response from the World Jewish Congress (WJC) regarding the mystery contents of the train. More »Polish official '99% sure' Nazi train exists

  • Four held over Austria truck tragedy as migrant deaths mount

    AFP News - Sat, Aug 29, 2015

    Hungary said Friday it had arrested four people over the discovery of the decomposing bodies of 71 migrants, believed to be Syrian, in an abandoned truck in Austria. Hungarian police said three of the suspects held over the latest grim tragedy involving migrants seeking refuge in Europe were Bulgarians and one was Afghan. More »Four held over Austria truck tragedy as migrant deaths mount

  • UN chief urges stronger response to migration tragedies

    AFP News - Sat, Aug 29, 2015

    UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed Friday to governments to step up their response to Europe's migrant crisis following more drownings at sea and the discovery of migrant bodies in an abandoned truck in Austria. "This is a human tragedy that requires a determined collective political response. More »UN chief urges stronger response to migration tragedies

  • Migrant drama hits European screens in film 'Mediterranea'

    AFP News - Sat, Aug 29, 2015

    "Mediterranea", a first feature by US-Italian director Jonas Carpignano who was part of the shooting crew on the well-received 2012 film "Beasts of the Southern Wild", follows two Africans as they make an odyssey to Europe -- and to disillusionment. It starts in Algeria and moves to Libya, a launching-off point for some of the many perilous cross-Mediterranean boat trips being made by hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees each year. It then goes on to show the dangers and hard slog as the two main characters make it to Italy. More »Migrant drama hits European screens in film 'Mediterranea'

  • Italian lesbian author gets papal blessing

    AFP News - Sat, Aug 29, 2015

    Pope Francis has sent his blessing to a lesbian author of children's books dealing with same-sex families, wishing her and her wife well in their work, it emerged on Friday. As Vatican officials scrambled to clarify that the message was simply a standard courtesy which did not signal any change in Church teaching on the subject, the author told AFP she had been pleasantly surprised to have received such a positive response. Francesca Pardi, who writes and publishes books such as "Why you have two mummies", wrote to Francis in June after the publishing company she runs with her wife came under fire from Christian groups. More »Italian lesbian author gets papal blessing

  • European ministers to talk security in Paris after train attack

    AFP News - Sat, Aug 29, 2015

    European ministers gather in Paris Saturday for security talks following last week's "targeted and premeditated" jihadist attack on a high-speed train that was foiled by passengers. Prosecutors have charged 25-year-old Moroccan Ayoub El Khazzani over the attack, which saw him step out of a toilet cubicle in the Amsterdam-Paris train armed with an assault rifle, 270 rounds of ammunition and a Luger pistol strapped to his chest. Following the thwarted bloodbath, interior and transport ministers from European countries that neighbour France, and EU commissioners decided to gather in Paris to discuss security measures. More »European ministers to talk security in Paris after train attack

  • Taiwan warns officials not to attend Chinese WWII parade

    AFP News - Sat, Aug 29, 2015

    Taiwan warned officials and veterans Friday not to attend a military parade organised by China to mark Japan's defeat in the Second World War, as the former bitter rivals vie over the history of the conflict. Beijing claims Communist troops sealed victory against the Japanese in 1945 while Taiwan argues the nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) army -- which later fled to the island -- won the war. Taiwan's objections came after a high-profile former vice president said he would attend the parade in Beijing on September 3. More »Taiwan warns officials not to attend Chinese WWII parade

  • European states to create anti-trafficking taskforce

    AFP News - Sat, Aug 29, 2015

    Switzerland, Germany and Italy are preparing to launch a joint taskforce to detect and dismantle networks smuggling refugees and migrants into Europe, Swiss authorities said on Friday. The taskforce, which has been in the planning stage for months, will begin working next month, federal police spokeswoman Cathy Maret told AFP. The announcement came as Europe was reeling from the discovery on Thursday of 71 decomposing bodies in an abandoned truck in Austria -- in a grim reminder of the ruthlessness of human traffickers. More »European states to create anti-trafficking taskforce

  • Turkey PM forms election government including pro-Kurdish party

    AFP News - Sat, Aug 29, 2015

    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday approved the makeup of the provisional government that will run the country until November 1 elections, including for the first time pro-Kurdish MPs. "Our president... approved the interim cabinet formed under the leadership of Prime Minister Mr Davutoglu," the presidency said in a statement after a nearly one-hour meeting between Erdogan and Premier Ahmet Davutoglu. The two pro-Kurdish lawmakers are from the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), marking the first time a Kurdish party has been represented in the government. More »Turkey PM forms election government including pro-Kurdish party

  • Russia probes smashing of 'Mephistopheles' figure claimed by Orthodox group

    AFP News - Sat, Aug 29, 2015

    Russia has launched a probe after a century-old figure of Mephistopheles was ripped down in Saint Petersburg, with Orthodox activists claiming responsibility amid fears of an increasing intolerance in the country. The attackers damaged several linocuts by renowned Soviet artist Vadim Sidur that will cost more than 1 million rubles ($15,000) to restore, according to the gallery. More »Russia probes smashing of 'Mephistopheles' figure claimed by Orthodox group

  • Hungary mulls stiff penalties for border jumpers, people smugglers

    AFP News - Sat, Aug 29, 2015

    Hungary moved Friday to stiffen penalties for illegal border crossing in a new bid to deter the wave of migrants surging into the country in record numbers. Some 140,000 people, the majority from war-torn parts of the Middle East, have been detained by police on the country's southern border with Serbia this year, over 10,000 so far this week. A razor-wire barrier being built by Hungary along the border to try keep migrants out is due for completion by Monday. More »Hungary mulls stiff penalties for border jumpers, people smugglers

  • Japan hosts women-focused conference amid economy push

    AFP News - Sat, Aug 29, 2015

    Japan on Friday kicked off the "World Assembly for Women" conference, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledging to shake up a corporate culture at home that discriminates against female workers. Since sweeping to power in late 2012 on a ticket to kickstart Japan's flagging economy, Abe has vowed to push for women to get more senior roles in politics and business as one of the pillars of his Abenomics growth blitz. More »Japan hosts women-focused conference amid economy push

  • Tajikistan's Islamic opposition party faces ban amid crackdown

    AFP News - Sat, Aug 29, 2015

    Tajikistan on Friday demanded that the country's largest opposition party halt its "illegal activities" in a move widely seen as an effective ban on the group. The move comes after the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) failed to win a single seat -- a first since the 1997 end of the country's civil war -- in a disputed March vote that left President Emomali Rakhmon's party without real opposition in the parliament. The ex-Soviet nation's justice ministry sent a formal note to the beleaguered party, demanding that it "cease its illegal activities" as it attempted to hold a congress. More »Tajikistan's Islamic opposition party faces ban amid crackdown

  • Greece vote set for Sept 20 as Syriza takes poll lead

    AFP News - Sat, Aug 29, 2015

    Greece geared up Friday for a snap election next month, with an opinion poll showing the leftist party Syriza ahead despite a wave of defections over the country's massive new bailout. President Prokopis Pavlopoulos signed a decree dissolving parliament and confirming the widely-expected date of September 20 for the crisis-hit country's fifth election in six years, a parliamentary statement said. A caretaker government appointed by Pavlopoulos to organise the election took office earlier Friday with Greece's top judge Vassiliki Thanou as prime minister, replacing Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras who resigned last week. More »Greece vote set for Sept 20 as Syriza takes poll lead

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