"You decide, at home or in this box!" is the phrase that crowns four coffins placed in the streets of the Guatemalan municipality of Escuintla in a desperate attempt by local authorities to stop the spread of COVID-19.
South Africa restaurateurs protested on Wednesday against a coronavirus curfew and an alcohol ban that they said were wrecking their industry. President Cyril Ramaphosa imposed a lockdown in March, restricting movement and gatherings. "What the government has put in place has been knee-capping," Sean Barber, founder of the Rockets chain of restaurants, told AFP.
Female leaders are doing a better job handling the coronavirus crisis, European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde said Wednesday, praising them for their honest communication and for showing they cared. Lagarde, who is the ECB's first female president, singled out German Chancellor Angela Merkel for praise. "It became very quickly sort of a common lingua franca, common knowledge that people would understand those scientific elements," Lagarde said.
The coronavirus death toll in the United States has spiked again with President Donald Trump conceding the pandemic crisis is likely to get worse, as governments across Asia and Europe battled second waves of infections. Australia set a new daily high of 500 cases on Wednesday, likewise Hong Kong broke its record, and infections were also on the rise in Tokyo and Belgium -- all four had managed to dampen down infection rates months ago. Belgian officials urged people to take precautions to halt a "snowball effect before it provokes a new avalanche" of a virus that has now killed 615,000 people globally from almost 15 million infections.
US-Chinese tensions, already rising because of the coronavirus pandemic and crackdown in Hong Kong, ratcheted up another notch on Wednesday as the United States ordered the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston within 72 hours. China reacted angrily to the US move, which came a day after the unveiling of a US indictment of two Chinese nationals for allegedly hacking hundreds of companies worldwide. "We're setting our clear expectations for how the Chinese Communist Party is going to behave," US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a visit to Denmark.
Venezuela's government blasted a $5 million US reward offer for information leading to the arrest of the country's Supreme Court president, likening it to something out of the Wild West. Washington "disrespects the Supreme Court of Justice, in the person of its president, Maikel Moreno, through false accusations and the offer of rewards in the style of the cowboys and the wild and far west," the foreign ministry said late Tuesday. Venezuela "rejects once again the illegal and coercive actions of the Donald Trump government against the Venezuelan people and its constitutional institutions," it said.
The self-confessed middleman in the murder of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was in a critical condition Wednesday, after what police said looked like a botched suicide attempt. Taxi driver Melvin Theuma, who was granted a presidential pardon last year to give evidence on the deadly 2017 car bombing, was found late Tuesday lying in a pool of blood, according to police commissioner Angelo Gafa. "The indications are that Theuma's wounds were self-inflicted," Gafa told journalists at a press conference Wednesday.
An Afghan girl who shot dead two Taliban fighters after they gunned down her parents said Wednesday she was ready to confront any other insurgents who might try to attack her. Qamar Gul, 15, killed the militants when they stormed her home last week in a village in the Taywara district of the central province of Ghor. "I no longer fear them and I'm ready to fight them again," Gul told AFP by telephone from a relative's home.
Rival interests in the Arctic topped the agenda when the US Secretary of State visited Denmark Wednesday, a year after the countries butted heads over President Donald Trump's offer to buy Greenland. Following a visit to the UK where he called on the "entire world" stand up to China, Mike Pompeo urged "free nations" to "enshrine shared values like freedom, transparency, sovereignty and sustainability in the Arctic region". "This mission is all the more urgent as we face new competition in the region from countries that don't always play by those rules, if at all," Pompeo said at a joint press conference with his Danish counterpart Jeppe Kofod.
Kuwait's 91-year-old ruler Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah will travel to the United States on Thursday for medical treatment after he underwent surgery this week, his office said. Sheikh Sabah, who has ruled Kuwait since 2006, underwent surgery on Sunday that his office described as successful, for an unspecified condition. Last year, Sheikh Sabah was admitted to hospital in the United States while on an official visit there after suffering what his office described as a health setback in Kuwait in August.
An unprecedented global survey has revealed a shocking decline in the number of reef sharks, with the predators "functionally extinct" on nearly 20 percent of sites studied. The four-year study used more than 15,000 baited and remotely operated cameras -- so-called "chum cams" -- to obtain the first comprehensive picture of where reef sharks are thriving and where they are virtually non-existent. "These nations are places where we're saying that reef sharks... play no role in the ecosystem there and they're functionally extinct," MacNeil, an associate professor at Dalhousie University said.
French authorities have told telecoms operators planning to buy Huawei 5G equipment that they won't be able to renew licences for the gear once they expire, effectively phasing the Chinese firm out of mobile networks, three sources close to the matter said. Like other countries in Europe, France is laying the ground for its next-generation 5G mobile market in the middle of a growing geopolitical storm between two global superpowers. The United States say the company's equipment could be used by the Chinese government for espionage - a charge denied by Huawei and Beijing - and has pressed its allies to ban it.
Yury Dmitriyev, the local head of prominent rights group Memorial in Karelia in northwestern Russia, was facing up to 15 years in a penal camp under the charges. After a trial held behind closed doors, a judge in the city of Petrozavodsk found Dmitriyev guilty of sexually abusing his adopted daughter, sentencing him to three-and-a-half years in prison. "Such a verdict following such serious charges can mean only one thing: the prosecution has no real proof of Dmitriyev's guilt," Memorial said in a statement after the decision.
The United States on on Tuesday signed a $1.95 billion agreement with US pharma giant Pfizer and Germany's BioNTech for 100 million doses of their experimental COVID-19 vaccine, part of an aggressive push to start immunizing Americans early next year. It is the biggest deal to date under Operation Warp Speed, intended to accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of coronavirus vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics. Pfizer and BioNTech, which are developing the drug together, said in statements that the American people would receive the future vaccine "for free" in line with the Trump administration's pledge.
German prosecutors arrested three former top executives at Wirecard <WDIG.DE> on Wednesday, saying they now suspected them of an organised criminal enterprise to bilk creditors of billions of euros based on faked accounts. Former Chief Executive Markus Braun, who is already a suspect, was re-arrested along with Wirecard's former chief financial officer and chief accounting officer on testimony from a cooperating witness, the prosecutor's office said. The three ex-executives are suspected of having conspired with others to inflate revenues by faking business with third-party acquiring partners, Anne Leiding, spokeswoman for the Munich State Prosecutor's Office, said.
Seven women announced Wednesday that they would seek leadership roles in the French Catholic Church that are officially reserved for men, the latest push to give women a place in the Church hierarchy. After submitting their candidacies for posts including deacon, priest and bishop to Pope Francis's envoy to Paris, the women attended a mass at the Madeleine church to mark the feast of Saint Mary Magdalene. "The Church is experiencing a deep crisis, and we need to open up its doors," Soupa, who accompanied the women to Paris, told AFP.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Wednesday lauded the "historic" early filling of a massive dam on the Blue Nile River that has stoked tensions with downstream neighbours Egypt and Sudan. "The completion of the first round of filling is a historic moment that showcases Ethiopians' commitment to the renaissance of our country," Abiy, the 2019 Nobel Peace laureate, said in a statement read on state television. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has been a source of tension in the Nile River basin ever since Ethiopia broke ground on it in 2011.
Pledging a record sum of money to slow climate change is one thing. Spending it wisely is another. After 90 hours of intense negotiations, European Union leaders reached a recovery deal on Tuesday that included devoting nearly 550 billion euros to green projects over the next seven years - the largest single climate pledge ever made.
When asked about the message the United States is sending by shutting a Chinese consulate in Texas, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said President Donald Trump remains unhappy with China over its handling of an outbreak of the novel coronavirus that has killed more than 140,000 Americans. "I think this president has made very clear that he's unhappy with China - the fact that China virus was unleashed onto this country and around the world with very little information, honesty and transparency from China," Conway said in response to a reporter's question on the shuttering hours earlier. Washington "abruptly demanded" closure of the Houston consulate on Tuesday, China's foreign ministry said.
Global stocks sank Wednesday after US President Donald Trump warned that the coronavirus crisis in the US was likely to "get worse before it gets better". Trump issued the gloomy warning in his first formal White House virus briefing since the end of April -- and sent Asian and European stocks sliding on Wednesday. "It will probably, unfortunately get worse before it gets better," Trump told reporters during his first formal pandemic briefing for nearly three months.
For the first time in history, Swedish female priests outnumber their male counterparts, sixty years after they were first allowed to don the clerical collar, the Church of Sweden said Wednesday. Of the 3,060 priests currently serving in Sweden, 1,533 are female, or 50.1 percent, according to Cristina Grenholm, secretary for the Church of Sweden. Unlike the Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church of Sweden has allowed female priests since 1958 and first ordained three women in 1960.