Showing posts with label vietnamnews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label vietnamnews. Show all posts

Abbas calls for Mideast peace conference in rare UN speech

Viet Nam News

UNITED NATIONS, United States — Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas on Tuesday called for an international conference to be held later this year to launch a new, wider Middle East peace process and pave the way to Palestinian statehood.

In a rare address to the UN Security Council, Abbas presented a plan to revive Israeli-Palestinian talks under a new international peace process that would replace the US-led mediation.

President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital infuriated the Palestinians, who declared that Washington could no longer play a role as peace broker.

"To solve the Palestine question, it is essential to establish a multilateral international mechanism emanating from an international conference," Abbas said.

Abbas said the conference would be attended by Israel and the Palestinians, regional players, the five permanent Security Council members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- and the diplomatic Quartet comprised of the European Union, Russia, the United States and the United Nations.

The gathering should lead to full UN membership for the state of Palestine, mutual recognition of Israel and Palestine, and the creation of a new international mechanism to reach a final settlement, he said.

The Palestinian leader immediately left the council chamber following his address, leading Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon to complain that Abbas was "running away" from dialogue.

Path to ’nowhere’

Addressing the council, US Ambassador Nikki Haley warned that turning to the United Nations and rejecting the US role in peace talks "will get the Palestinian people exactly nowhere toward the achievement of their aspirations."

Haley was accompanied to the council meeting by Jason Greenblatt, the US envoy for Middle East peace and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser on Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.

"Our negotiators are sitting right behind us, ready to talk," she said, before adding: "But we will not chase after you. The choice, Mister President, is yours."

The Israeli-Palestinian peace process has been deadlocked since a major push by the administration of Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama ended in failure in April 2014.

The Trump administration is preparing a new peace plan even though chances for agreement appear dim.

The Palestinians hope that greater international involvement in the peace process will serve to counter what they see as a US stance biased in favor of Israel after Trump’s decision on Jerusalem.

Israel, which often accuses the European Union and the United Nations of bias against it, is reluctant to accept any other mediator than the United States.

US envoys meet ambassadors

Greenblatt and Kushner later met with council ambassadors behind closed doors to discuss US peace efforts, but they did not provide specific details of the Trump plan.

"They talked about the progress in their efforts and contacts, and this was useful," said French Ambassador Francois Delattre.

France, which hosted a Middle East peace conference in Paris last year, is ready to examine Abbas’s proposal for a revamped approach, but this "would not cast doubt" over the "indispensable" role of the United States, Delattre told the council.

The Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state and UN resolutions call on countries to refrain from moving their embassies to the city until its status is resolved in an Israeli-Palestinian deal.

In December, the General Assembly voted 128-9, with 35 abstentions, to reject the US decision to recognise Jerusalem.

That vote in the 193-nation assembly came after 14 of the 15 council members voted in favor of a similar measure. The United States vetoed that draft resolution.

Tensions have also flared over the US decision to cut funding to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).

The United Nations granted Palestine non-member observer state status in 2012, but an upgrade to full membership would require unanimous backing from the Security Council -- an unlikely outcome, given the near-certainty of a US veto. — AFP




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Albanian PM moots co-presidency with Kosovo

PRISTINA — Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said Sunday his country and Kosovo could one day have a single president as a "symbol of national unity" between Tirana and Pristina.

In a remark certain to anger Belgrade, Rama noted that the two neighbours, both predominantly ethnic Albanian, already share diplomatic missions around the world, adding: "Why not a single president, as a symbol of national unity?"

Rama was addressing Kosovo’s parliament to mark the 10th anniversary of the country’s unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia, a move recognised by more than 110 countries, though not by Belgrade or Moscow.

Serbia has repeatedly accused Tirana of wanting to build a "Greater Albania", an aspiration it denies.

Efforts to normalise ties between Belgrade and Pristina, begun in 2011, have stalled.

Rama said he saw a future in which "Albanians and Serbians will co-exist... like two countries with good neighbourly relations that are an integral part of the European Union."

The 1998-99 Kosovo war, the last of the conflicts that broke up Yugoslavia, claimed more than 13,000 lives including more than 11,000 ethnic Albanians of Kosovo.

The conflict ended after a three-month NATO air campaign that forced Serbs out of Kosovo and put it under UN protection. — AFP




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Florida students to march on Washington in call for gun reform

Viet Nam News

WASHINGTON — Students who survived a mass shooting at their Florida school on Sunday (February 18) announced plans to march on Washington in a bid to "shame" politicians into reforming laws that make firearms readily available.

The "March for our Lives" will take place on March 24, with sister rallies planned across the country, a group of students told ABC News’ "This Week."

They pledged to make Wednesday’s slaughter in Parkland, Florida a turning point in America’s deadlocked debate on gun control.

Nikolas Cruz, 19, a troubled former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, confessed to killing 17 people with a legally-purchased AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the latest such atrocity in a country with more than 30,000 gun-related deaths annually.

Among the students announcing the march was Emma Gonzalez, who captured worldwide attention with a powerful speech in which she assailed President Donald Trump over the multi-million-dollar support his campaign received from the gun lobby.

She vowed Stoneman Douglas would be "the last mass shooting."

On Sunday, Gonzalez, 18, urged politicians to join a conversation about gun control - citing Trump as well as his fellow Republicans Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Governor Rick Scott.

"We want to give them the opportunity to be on the right side of this," she said, as she and her four classmates called on students nationwide to help push the message.

Trump will host a "listening session" with high school students and teachers on Wednesday, the White House said in a statement, though it did not specify who would attend the event.

Singling out the links between politicians and the powerful National Rifle Association, fellow student Cameron Kasky said any politician "who is taking money from the NRA is responsible for events like this."

"This isn’t about the GOP," he said, referring to the Republican Party. "This isn’t about the Democrats."

The NRA, a traditional ally of the Republicans who currently control Congress and the White House, defends a literal view of the US Constitution’s 2nd Amendment which promises a right "to keep and bear arms."

Even after last October’s killing of 58 people by a gunman in Las Vegas who amassed 47 firearms to commit the worst mass shooting in recent US history, legislators accomplished nothing in the way of tighter controls.

Accusing the NRA of "fostering and promoting this gun culture," Kasky said the students seek "a new normal where there’s a badge of shame on any politician who’s accepting money from the NRA."

’THEY WANT ACTION’

"People keep asking us, what about the Stoneman Douglas shooting is going to be different, because this has happened before and change hasn’t come?" said Kasky.

"This is it," he continued. "We are going to be marching together as students begging for our lives."

The students did not indicate how many people they expected to join their rallies. But their aims won support from Florida Democratic Congressman Ted Deutch, who said they can make a difference.

"After what they saw, the worst things imaginable, they’re not going to just sit back and take it," he told "This Week." "All I’ve heard all week is how frustrated people are with rhetoric. They want action."

Florida Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo, speaking on the same programme, said he is working towards bipartisan solutions that could prevent similar tragedies.

"There are a lot of Republicans who are prepared to support reasonable, common-sense gun safety laws," he said.

Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff said that although Republicans have faced a bigger hurdle in making gun control a priority, "it’s been a challenge in the Democratic Party as well."

Speaking on CNN’s "State of the Union," Schiff asked, "How much more of this are we gonna to take? How many more shootings?"

Congress has to get "off its backside" to "stare down the NRA and do the right thing," he said.

The student survivors’ calls for change "should matter," said Mark Kelly, a retired astronaut whose wife, former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was shot and wounded by a deranged gunman.

He said on "Fox News Sunday" that the student activists "are going to vote on this issue probably for the rest of their lives and they’re going to encourage others to do that as well."

Speaking on CNN’s "State of the Union," Schiff asked, "How much more of this are we gonna to take? How many more shootings?"

Congress has to get "off its backside" to "stare down the NRA and do the right thing," he said.

The student survivors’ calls for change "should matter," said Mark Kelly, a retired astronaut whose wife, former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was shot and wounded by a deranged gunman.

He said on "Fox News Sunday" that the student activists "are going to vote on this issue probably for the rest of their lives and they’re going to encourage others to do that as well."

But conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, speaking on the same show, said neither legislation nor marches are the answer.

"It’s not the fault of the NRA," he said, calling for concealed weapons to be allowed in schools. "If we are really serious about protecting the kids, we need a mechanism to be defensive." — AFP




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Five Women Killed In Dagestan Church Shooting Claimed By ISIS

MOSCOW — Five women were shot dead in an apparent radical Islamist attack on an Orthodox church in the North Caucasus region of Dagestan on Sunday, as the ISIS claimed responsibility for the assault.

An unidentified gunman fired at worshippers at the church in the town of Kizlyar in the mainly Muslim region, local press reports said.

The regional internal affairs ministry said in a statement that the assailant used a hunting rifle, and that four women were killed on the spot, while the attacker was "eliminated".

A fifth woman died of her injuries in hospital, health ministry spokeswoman Zalina Mourtazalieva told TASS news agency.

Two Russian police officers were injured in the attack.

According to a local official the assailant was a local man in his early twenties, the Interfax news agency reported.

The Russian RBK daily quoted an Orthodox priest saying the attacker had opened fire on churchgoers following an afternoon service.

"We had finished the mass and were beginning to leave the church. A bearded man ran towards the church shouting ’Allahu Akbar’ (’God is greatest’) and killed four people," Father Pavel told RBK.

"He was carrying a rifle and a knife," he added.

’Soldier of Islam’

The ISISl claimed responsibility for the attack.

"A soldier of Islam, Khalil Daghestani, attacked" a church in the town of Kizlyar in Dagestan," ISIS said via the Telegram messaging app.

"He targeted them with his gun, killing five of them and wounding four others," it added.

A spokesman for Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill strongly condemned the attack, branding it a "monstrous crime" aimed at "provoking a confrontation between Orthodox Christians and Muslims" in the North Caucasus.

Images published by the local press showed the body of a bearded man dressed in military fatigues who was identified as the assailant.

Next to his corpse lay two of his victims, covered in a white shroud.

Dagestan, bordering Chechnya, is one of the poorest and most unstable regions of Russia.

Islamist rebels from the region, which lies immediately east of Chechnya, are known to have travelled to Syria to join ISIS.

In 2015, ISIS declared it had established a "franchise" in the North Caucasus.

It has claimed a number of attacks on police in Dagestan in the last couple of years that have involved guns and explosives, as local security forces battle a simmering Islamist insurgency.

Sunday’s shooting comes exactly one month before the March 18 presidential election that Vladimir Putin is almost guaranteed to win. — AFP




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Iran postpones hunt for plane lost in mountain blizzard

Viet Nam News

TEHRAN — The hunt for a plane that disappeared with 66 people onboard in Iran’s Zagros mountains was stopped until morning as blizzard conditions made progress impossible for rescue teams, state television said on Sunday.

"With the wind intensifying, and with snow, rain and darkness, it is not possible for rescue and relief teams to reach high altitudes and the search operation has been postponed until tomorrow," broadcaster IRIB announced.

"Five helicopters are on alert to resume the search at dawn if the weather conditions are better."

Aseman Airlines flight EP3704 disappeared from radar 45 minutes after taking off from Tehran.

The ATR-72 twin-engine plane, in service for 25 years, left the capital’s Mehrabad airport around 8.00am (0430 GMT) and was heading towards the city of Yasuj, some 500 kilometres to the south.

The Red Crescent said 45 teams had been deployed to the Dena mountain of Iran’s southwestern Zagros range, but there was still no sign of any wreckage.

"The mountainous terrain is impassable. Thick fog and snow and rain have made it impossible to use helicopters," said Morteza Salimi, head of its rescue and relief section.

The airline said 60 passengers, including one child, were on board flight EP3704, as well as six crew.

It was the third disaster to strike Iran in recent months, after an earthquake that killed at least 620 people in Kermanshah in November and 30 Iranian sailors were lost in an oil tanker collision off China’s coast last month.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei sent a message of condolence, saying the news had "left our hearts overwhelmed with sadness and sorrow", according to state television.

AGEING FLEETS

Families of the passengers gathered at a mosque near Mehrabad airport.

"I can’t bring myself to believe it," said a woman whose husband was on board.

A man who missed the doomed flight told reporters of his conflicting emotions.

"God has been really kind to me but I am so sad from the bottom of my heart for all those dear ones who lost their lives," the unnamed man told the Tabnak news website, which showed a picture of his unused ticket.

A Greek seismologist was also scheduled to take the flight but missed it after getting stuck in traffic, Greece’s ANA news agency reported.

"I had planned to go to Yasouj on this flight, or the next if I missed it, but because of huge traffic jams in Tehran, I didn’t get on board the plane in the end," Akis Tselentis was quoted as saying.

Decades of diplomatic isolation have left Iran’s airlines with ageing fleets of passenger planes which they have struggled to maintain and modernise.

Aseman’s fleet includes at least three ATR-72s that date back to the early 1990s, according to the IRNA news agency.

France’s air safety agency BEA said it would take part in the investigation led by Britain’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch. "Three investigators and our technical advisers will go to the site," a BEA spokesman told AFP.

President Hassan Rouhani ordered the transport ministry to set up a crisis group to investigate the crash and coordinate rescue efforts, ISNA reported.

Aseman’s three Boeing 727-200s are almost as old as the country’s 1979 Islamic revolution, having made their first flights the following year.

Iran has suffered multiple aviation disasters, most recently in 2014 when 39 people were killed when a Sepahan Airlines plane crashed just after take-off from Tehran, narrowly avoiding many more deaths when it plummeted near a busy market.

Lifting sanctions on aviation purchases was a key clause in the nuclear deal Iran signed with world powers in 2015.

Following the deal, Aseman Airlines finalised an agreement to buy 30 Boeing 737 MAX jets for US$3 billion last June, with an option to buy 30 more.

However, the sale could be scuppered if US President Donald Trump chooses to reimpose sanctions in the coming months, as he has threatened to do.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered his condolences over Sunday’s crash, just moments after he launched a blistering attack on Tehran’s government.

"I take this opportunity to send condolences to the families of the 66 civilians that lost their lives," Netanyahu said at the Munich Security Conference.

"We have no quarrel with the people of Iran, only with the regime that torments them," he added.

The US Treasury Department, which must approve aviation sales to Iran, has done so for 80 Boeing jets and 100 Airbus planes for national carrier Iran Air.

The first few Airbus jets have already arrived in Tehran. — AFP




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’Shame on you!’ student tells Trump at Florida anti-gun rally

Viet Nam News

FORT LAUDERDALE, United States — A survivor of the Parkland school shooting called out US President Donald Trump on Saturday over his ties to the powerful National Rifle Association, as several thousand rallied in Florida to demand urgent action on gun control.

Three days after a troubled teen armed with an assault rifle killed 17people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, 18-year-old Emma Gonzalez delivered a fiery address to a crowd of students, parents and residents in nearby Ft. Lauderdale.

"To every politician taking donations from the NRA, shame on you!" she thundered, assailing Trump over the multi-million-dollar support his campaign received from the gun lobby. The crowd chanted in turn: "Shame on you!"

"We are going to be the last mass shooting... We are going to change the law," she vowed -- slamming the fact 19-year-old gunman Nikolas Cruz was able to legally buy a semi-automatic firearm despite a history of troubling and violent behavior.

"The question on whether or not people should be allowed to own an automatic weapon is not a political one. It is question of life or death and it needs to stop being a question of politics," Gonzalez told AFP following her speech.

In Washington, the political response has made clear that the powerful NRA pro-gun lobby remains formidable, while Trump himself suggested the root cause of mass shootings was a crisis of mental health -- making no mention of gun control.

"If the president wants to come up to me and tell me to my face that it was a terrible tragedy and... how nothing is going to be done about it, I’m going to happily ask him how much money he received from the National Rifle Association," Gonzalez said in her impassioned address.

"It doesn’t matter because I already know. Thirty million," she said, citing the sum spent by the NRA to support Trump’s election bid and defeat Hillary Clinton.

She then ran through a list of the pro-gun lobby’s talking points -- for example, that "a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun," that no law could ever stop a madman intent on killing -- answering each argument with "We call BS."

The young woman’s powerful address immediately went viral, with her name a top trending topic on Twitter.

Trump tweeted a day after the massacre that neighbors and fellow students had failed to flag Cruz to the authorities.

"We did," Gonzalez fired back, her voice shaking with emotion as she insisted the community had done its best to raise the alarm. "Time and time again. Since he was in middle school. It was no surprise to anyone who knew him to hear that he was the shooter."

Missed warnings

US authorities have come under mounting scrutiny for failing to act on a series of warning signs.

The FBI admitted Friday it received a chilling warning in January from a tipster who said Cruz could be planning a mass shooting, but that agents failed to follow up.

Cruz was also known to local police after his mother repeatedly reported him for violent outbursts, while records obtained by the South Florida Sun Sentinel show authorities investigated Cruz in 2016 after he cut his arms on messaging app Snapchat and threatened to buy a gun.

The newspaper, citing Department of Children and Family Services documents, said the investigation came four days after Cruz turned 18 -- legally an adult, and thus able to buy a firearm.

Investigators said there were "some implications" for the teen’s safety, but concluded that his "final level of risk is low as (he) resides with his mother, attends school and receives counseling" as an outpatient at a mental health center, the Sun Sentinel said.

Cruz later passed a background check, allowing him in February 2017 to buy the AR-15 rifle used in the massacre.

School safety

Trump spoke by phone Saturday with the Parkland mayor, the county commissioner and the principal of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to express his condolences and offer his support.

He then turned political in a tweet Saturday night, asking "why didn’t the Democrats pass gun control legislation when they had both the House & Senate during the Obama Administration. Because they didn’t want to, and now they just talk!"

Trump is staunchly opposed to additional restrictions on guns or gun ownership, but Vice President Mike Pence said at an event in Dallas the president would make school safety "a top priority" when he meets with governors of US states in the coming days.

"Let’s pray for wisdom. For all in positions of authority that we might find a way to come together as a nation to confront and end this evil in our time once and for all," Pence said. — AFP




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Islamic scholar facing rape charges hospitalised in France

Viet Nam News

PARIS — Prominent Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan, who was remanded in custody in France on rape charges earlier in the month, has been hospitalised due to multiple sclerosis, his support group said Saturday.

The 55-year-old Oxford University professor, who will now undergo an independent medical evaluation to determine if he is to remain in jail before trial, was sent to hospital on Friday night, a source close the case confirmed.

"His state of health is getting worse, particularly since the judges refused to issue a visit permit to his wife and children yesterday," a source close to Ramadan said on Saturday.

Another source close to the case said he would remain in hospital at least until Sunday.

Ramadan’s lawyers said that their client’s condition was "not compatible with detention", based on an initial medical examination on Tuesday.

Charged with rape and rape of a vulnerable person, Ramadan had been held at the Fleury-Merogis prison near Paris since February 2.

A court ordered Ramadan be detained ahead of his trial, saying he was a possible flight risk and fearing potential pressure on women who testified anonymously.

A Paris appeals court ordered the medical evaluation on Thursday and postponed its ruling on his detention until February 22 after Ramadan went to the hearing in an ambulance.

#MeToo campaign

The arrest of the influential academic -- a regular on TV debates with more than two million Facebook followers -- has rocked the French Muslim community.

Two Muslim women have accused Ramadan, a Swiss citizen whose grandfather founded Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood movement, of rape. They went public with the allegations late last year when women began sharing accounts of sexual harassment and assault as part of the "Me Too" and "Balance Ton Porc" (Expose your pig) campaign triggered by the revelations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

Ramadan, who took leave of absence from Oxford in November after the allegations surfaced, is the most high-profile figure to be held in France since the campaign began.

Henda Ayari, a 41-year-old feminist activist who previously practised an ultra-conservative brand of Islam, claims Ramadan raped her in Paris in 2012.

Another woman, a 40-year-old disabled Muslim convert going by the alias "Christelle", claimed he raped and beat her in the southeastern city of Lyon in 2009.

The married father of four has rejected the accusations saying he is the victim of a smear campaign. — AFP




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Israel strikes Gaza after blast wounds four soldiers

Viet Nam News

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories —  Israeli jets struck the Gaza Strip on Saturday after four soldiers were wounded when an improvised explosive device blew up along the border with the Palestinian enclave.

The explosion earlier Saturday, which left two of the Israeli soldiers severely injured, was one of the most serious incidents on the border of the Hamas-ruled enclave since the Islamist movement and Israel fought a war in 2014.

In response Israel’s army said "fighter jets targeted six military targets in Gaza belonging to Hamas, including: a terror tunnel in the Zaytun area and military compounds near Deir el-Balah and Khan Yunis".

The army then reported a "launch was identified from the Gaza Strip at Israeli territory".

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a security conference in Munich called the Gaza border incident "very serious" and pledged to "respond appropriately".

A Palestinian security source said the Israeli air strikes hit three bases belonging to Hamas in the east of the blockaded Gaza enclave.

Two Palestinians were injured in the raids, Palestinian medical sources said.

Earlier in the day the army said "two soldiers were severely wounded, one moderately and one slightly" when an improvised explosive device blew up along the border fence with Gaza.

None of the soldiers’ lives were in danger, a spokesman clarified. In response Israeli forces said a tank quickly opened fire at an "observation post" in southern Gaza, causing no injuries on the Palestinian side.

Palestinian security sources said the explosion took place east of the city of Khan Yunis.

Rogue group

Spokesman Jonathan Conricus said a "rogue group" had claimed responsibility for the blast, likely indicating one of the more radical Islamist groups who are present in Gaza.

But he insisted that "from our point of view Hamas is responsible" and said the explosive had been planted during a protest arranged by the group on Friday.

Israel holds the Islamist Palestinian movement Hamas responsible for any fire coming from the blockaded coastal enclave.

The Israeli army responds automatically to any strikes on its territory, generally targeting Hamas facilities.

Hamas’s armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, in a statement said they had fired at the Israeli jets overhead.

But Israeli army spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus, said there was no truth to the claim.

Hamas and Israel have fought three wars since 2008, and the last conflict in 2014 was waged in part over tunnels from Gaza that were used to launch attacks.

Israeli aircraft hit Hamas targets in the southern Gaza Strip repeatedly in early February, after it said Palestinians there fired a rocket into the Jewish state.

Tensions between the Palestinians and Israel have been high since US President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state in December.

Netanyahu will visit the White House next month, a senior US administration official told AFP on Friday.

The March 5 visit comes after a war of words between close allies Israel and the US over settlements, and a scandal that has seen police recommend Netanyahu be indicted for graft. — AFP




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British PM to warn EU over security cooperation

British PM Theresa May to warn EU over security cooperation. — AFP/VNA Photo
Viet Nam News

MUNICH, Germany British Prime Minister Theresa May will restate her case on Saturday for an unprecedented security partnership with the European Union after Brexit, warning that lives depend on it.

In a speech to the Munich Security Conference, she will acknowledge that no deal currently exists between the EU and a third country "that captures the full depth and breadth of our existing relationship".

But she will warn: "This cannot be a time when any of us allow competition etween partners, rigid institutional restrictions or deep-seated ideology to inhibit our cooperation and jeopardise the security of our citizens.

"We must do whatever is most practical and pragmatic in ensuring our collective security."

Her comments come after the heads of key British, French and German spy agencies warned in a rare joint statement that intelligence sharing and cooperation must continue even after Britain leaves the EU.

Media reports suggest May will announce that Britain wants to maintain the European arrest warrant (EAW) and stay part of Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency.

However, some experts have warned that cooperation on police and security matters could be limited by Britain’s refusal to accept the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) after Brexit.

May has previously drawn criticism for appearing to link security – in which Britain is a major player -- with her hopes for a new trade deal with the EU.

"There is precedent for comprehensive, strategic relationships between the EU and third countries in other fields, such as trade," she will say Saturday.

"And there is no legal or operational reason why such an agreement could not be reached in the area of internal security." AFP




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Trump visits Florida shooting survivors, FBI admits it missed tip

Viet Nam News

POMPANO BEACH, United States US President Donald Trump on Friday visited a Florida hospital to offer comfort to those wounded in a mass school shooting, after the FBI admitted it mishandled a tip about the troubled teen behind the massacre that left 17 dead.

The arrival of Trump and his wife Melania came at the end of a difficult day for the families of those killed in Wednesday’s rampage at a high school in Parkland, Florida, who learned that the carnage could perhaps have been averted.

The FBI, the top US law enforcement agency, admitted it had received a chilling warning in January from a tipster who said the 19-year-old gunman, Nikolas Cruz, could be planning a mass shooting, but that agents failed to follow up.

At Broward Health North Hospital, where Trump met with survivors of the shooting, the president thanked the doctors, nurses and first responders for their "incredible" work, and described the carnage as "very sad."

He and his wife were also expected to visit the Broward County sheriff’s office "to meet with the law enforcement officials whose bravery helped save lives," a White House official said.

The president’s visit to Parkland -- an area about 80 kilometers north of Miami -- came amid growing anger among parents and students in the south Florida city over America’s seeming unwillingness to toughen gun control laws.

"My princess wasn’t safe in that school," said Andrew Pollack, speaking at the funeral of his 18-year-old daughter Meadow. "Please pray that this horrific tragedy never happens to another family."

Lori Alhadeff, whose 14-year-old daughter Alyssa was killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, made an emotional appeal to Trump on camera with tears rolling down her face.

"We need action! Action! Action!" Alhadeff urged in an interview with CNN, addressing Trump as the father of an 11-year-old son of his own.

"Let’s protect Barron, and let’s also protect all these other kids here in Parkland, in Florida, and everyone everywhere else," she said.

Admitting error ‘isn’t going to cut it’

The FBI made a stunning admission earlier in the day, saying a "person close to Nikolas Cruz" made a call to the agency’s public tipline on January 5 to "report concerns about him."

"The caller provided information about Cruz’s gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting," the FBI said in a statement.

The information from the caller "should have been assessed as a potential threat to life" and forwarded to the agency’s Miami field office, it said.

Instead, "no further investigation was conducted."

"We have spoken with victims and families, and deeply regret the additional pain this causes all those affected by this horrific tragedy," said Federal Bureau of Investigation director Christopher Wray, who took up his post in August.

Wray said he was "committed to getting to the bottom of what happened," and Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered an immediate review to ensure "effective response to indications of potential violence."

But Florida Governor Rick Scott nevertheless called for the FBI chief to step down, saying the failure to act was "unacceptable."

"Seventeen innocent people are dead and acknowledging a mistake isn’t going o cut it," Scott said.

The January warning to the FBI was not the first it had received about Cruz, who used an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle that he legally purchased a year ago to spray classrooms with bullets.

In September, the FBI was alerted to a message posted on YouTube, in which a user named Nikolas Cruz vowed: "I’m going to be a professional school hooter."

The FBI said it had looked into it at the time but was unable to identify the person who made the post.

‘Illogical’

Trump’s visit to the Parkland area -- not far from his Mar-a-Lago resort, where he was spending the long President’s Day weekend -- was not announced in advance, perhaps because he risked being greeted with angry demands for action on laws that allowed Cruz to amass an arsenal.

"It’s illogical that the law says a minor can’t have a drink, but can buy a gun," said 47-year-old Mavy Rubiano, whose child survived the shooting.

In Washington, the political response so far makes it clear that the powerful pro-gun National Rifle Association -- which spent $30 million to support Trump’s election in 2016 -- remains formidable.

On Thursday, Trump’s nationally televised address made no mention of guns, or of previous mass shootings.

The president focused instead on offering sympathy to the families of the victims and the need to provide better mental health care.

Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan said it was not a time for arguing over gun control, while Republican Florida Senator Marco Rubio said new gun laws alone would not stop shootings.

As with previous mass shootings, the focus of gun control advocates was the easy availability of the AR-15, a civilian version of the US military’s M16.

Millions have been sold around the United States, and AR-15-style rifles were used in the mass shootings in Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, Texas and Newtown, Connecticut. AFP




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Strong quake shakes Mexico, no reports of damages

Viet Nam News

MEXICO CITY A strong earthquake shook a large swathe of southern and central Mexico on Friday, triggering the quake alarm system in Mexico City and causing buildings to sway.

There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries from the quake, which measured 7.2 in magnitude, according to Mexico’s National Seismological Service and the US Geological Survey.

Panicked residents flooded into the street, fearing a repeat of two earthquakes last September that caused buildings to collapse and killed 465 people combined.

"To be honest, we’re all pretty upset. We start crying whenever the (earthquake) alarm goes off. We’re stressed out, we have flashbacks. So we run out into the street. It’s all we can do," 38-year-old publicist Kevin Valladolid said through tears after evacuating from his building in La Roma, in central Mexico City.

On the north side of the city, Julia Hernandez said she felt like she was "in a boat" as the ground swayed beneath her feet.

"Is it ever going to stop?" she said.

"We live in constant fear, with the memory of what happened" in previous quakes, her daughter added.

Officials in affected states said they were already inspecting buildings damaged by last year’s quakes, which are especially vulnerable to collapse.

"Obviously people are afraid," said the emergency response chief for the city of Puebla, Gustavo Ariza.

The latest tremor comes less than six months after last year’s devastating earthquakes in central and southern Mexico.

On September 7 last year, an 8.2 earthquake shook the nation and killed 96 people, mostly in the states of Oaxaca and Chiapas.

Then on September 19 -- the 32nd anniversary of a huge 1985 quake that killed 10,000 people -- another 7.1 quake rocked the country, leaving 369 people dead.

The US Geological Survey put the latest quake’s epicenter 37 kilometers northeast of Pinotepa de Don Luis, in the southwestern state of Oaxaca.

The US National Weather service said it was not issuing a tsunami alert. AFP




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South Africa’s Zuma resigns, forced out by own party

Viet Nam News

PRETORIA, South Africa — South African President Jacob Zuma resigned on Feb 14 as the ruling ANC party finally turned against him after nine years of corruption scandals, economic slowdown and falling popularity.

Zuma railed against the African National Congress (ANC) for "recalling" him from office and threatening to oust him via a parliament no-confidence vote due on Thursday.

In a 30-minute national television address, Zuma said he had "come to the decision to resign as president of the republic with immediate effect".

Zuma has been in a power struggle with multi-millionaire former businessman Cyril Ramaphosa, the deputy president who now becomes interim president.

Ramaphosa, who won control of the ANC when he was elected as its head in December, is set to be voted in by lawmakers as South Africa’s new president on Thursday or Friday.

Zuma, whose reputation has been stained by years-long allegations of graft, complained that the ANC party had never explained to him why he had to leave office.

In an earlier TV interview on Wednesday he said he had received "very unfair" treatment from the party he joined in 1959 and in which he had fought for decades against apartheid white-minority rule.

He said he was angered over "the manner in which the decision is being implemented... I don’t agree as there is no evidence of if I have done anything wrong."

Police raid

The party’s national executive committee ordered his recall from office on Tuesday, after a 13-hour meeting at a hotel outside Pretoria.

ANC officials had said that if Zuma did not resign on Wednesday, the party’s lawmakers in the Cape Town parliament would vote out Zuma on Thursday.

But senior party official Jesse Duarte said after the resignation that "we are not celebrating".

"We have had to recall a cadre of the movement that has served this organisation for over 60 years, it’s not a small matter," she added.

On Wednesday morning, police had raided the Johannesburg home of the Gupta business family, which is accused of overseeing a web of corruption under Zuma’s rule.

Police said three unidentified people had been arrested in investigations into "Vrede Farm" - allegations that millions of dollars of public money meant for poor dairy farmers were syphoned off by the Guptas.

Local media reported that Zuma had been pushing for an exit deal that included covering his potentially ruinous legal fees fighting multiple criminal charges - but he denied the allegations in his resignation speech.

One case against him relates to 783 payments he allegedly received linked to an arms deal before he came to power.

Many other graft allegations have centred on the three Gupta brothers, who are accused of unfairly obtaining lucrative government contracts and even being able to choose Zuma’s ministerial appointments.

Zuma has admitted he is friends with the Guptas, originally from India, but has denied any wrongdoing.

The political wrangling in recent weeks plunged South Africa - the continent’s most developed economy - into confusion over who was running the country, with last Thursday’s annual State of the Nation address cancelled at the last-minute.

Decline of Mandela’s Party

Zuma’s presidency was marred by slow economic growth, continuing racial inequality and record unemployment that fuelled public frustration.

He was scheduled to stand down next year after serving the maximum two terms since coming to power in 2009.

In local polls in 2016, the ANC recorded its worst electoral result since coming to power in 1994 with Nelson Mandela at the helm as white-minority rule fell.

Ramaphosa, 65, the deputy president, must revive the economy and crack down on what he has admitted is rampant government corruption if he is to boost the party’s tarnished reputation before a tricky election next year.

He is a former trade unionist and Mandela ally who led talks to end apartheid in the early 1990s and then became a hugely wealthy businessman before returning to politics.

Zuma’s hold over the ANC was shaken in December when his chosen successor - his former wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma - narrowly lost to Ramaphosa in a vote for the new party leader. — AFP




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17 killed in Florida school shooting by former student: sheriff

Viet Nam News

PARKLAND, United States — A former student armed with an AR-15 rifle opened fire at a Florida high school on Wednesday, killing at least 17 people, officials said, in a harrowing shooting spree that saw terrified students hiding in closets and under desks as they texted for help.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel identified the gunman as Nikolas Cruz, 19, a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland who had been expelled for "disciplinary reasons."

Cruz was arrested without incident in the nearby town of Coral Springs after the Valentine’s Day rampage and taken to hospital with minor injuries, the sheriff said.

"We have already begun to dissect his websites and things on social media that he was on and some of the things... are very, very disturbing," Israel said.

"He had countless magazines, multiple magazines, and at this point, we believe he had one AR-15 rifle," the sheriff added.

Israel said both students and adults had been killed. He was uncertain about the exact number of people injured, but at least 14 were taken to hospital and two had died there of their wounds.

The shooting, one of nearly 20 since the start of the year, will once again throw the spotlight on the epidemic of gun violence in the United States and the ready accessibility of weapons in a country with 33,000 gun-related deaths annually.

"This is a terrible day for Parkland," Israel said, speaking of the city of about 30,000 people, located 50 miles (80 kilometres) north of Miami.

"My very own triplets went to that school."

A teacher at the school told The Miami Herald that Cruz had been identified previously as a potential threat to his classmates.

"We were told last year that he wasn’t allowed on campus with a backpack on him," math teacher Jim Gard said. "There were problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus."

Cruz was also said to have been in the Junior ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) program while at school.

A law enforcement source told CBS News that the gunman pulled a fire alarm before opening fire, but Israel said he could not confirm that report.

’Everyone started running’

Parkland Mayor Christine Hunschofsky told CNN she had spoken to a number of students after the shooting erupted shortly after 2:00 pm (1900 GMT).

"They were very scared," she said. "And almost in shock when they came out."

Television images showed students, some with their hands in the air, being led out of the school by heavily armed police officers and an armoured vehicle filled with a SWAT team on the scene.

Student Jeiella Dodoo told CBS News that she and her schoolmates had evacuated their classroom calmly after hearing what they thought had been a routine fire alarm.

"The alarm went off so we had to evacuate from our classes," she said.

"Then we heard gunshots.

"I heard about six gunshots," she said, "and then some people started running and then everyone started running because we were like ’If it’s real, then just run.’"

Teacher Melissa Falkowski told US networks that she had helped 19 students squeeze into a closet with her.

"We were in there for probably 40 minutes. We were locked in the closet until SWAT came and got us," she told CNN.

Police officers in helmets, bulletproof vests and armed with automatic weapons could be seen stationed at several points around the sprawling school complex, which serves nearly 3,000 students.

"Just a horrible day for us," said the superintendent of the county’s school district, Robert Runcie.

"This is very sad to me and our family too," 61-year-old Joseph Panikulangara, whose 17-year-old niece Dhiya attends the school, told AFP.

The FBI said it was assisting local law enforcement with the investigation.

When asked about security, Hunschofsky said a police officer is always stationed at the school and there was a "single point of entry."

No child should ’feel unsafe’

President Donald Trump offered his "prayers and condolences to the families of the victims.

"No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school," he said on Twitter.

Since the December 2012 massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in

Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 children and six adults were shot dead, warning procedures and emergency drills have multiplied at US schools.

But since January 2013, there have been at least 291 school shootings across the country -- an average of about one a week, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, a non-profit group that advocates for gun control.

"It is pretty clear that we’re failing our kids here," said Falkowski, the teacher who helped shield her students from harm in a closet.

"I’m not saying the solution is one thing or another, but this does not happen in other countries the way it happens here." — AFP




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Tonga declares state of emergency as cyclone looms

NUKU’ALOFA — Tonga declared a state of emergency on Monday as a powerful cyclone bears down on the Pacific island nation after wreaking havoc in neighbouring Samoa.

Acting Prime Minister Semisi Sika issued the nationwide alert, saying he was "satisfied that an emergency is happening or is about to happen in the kingdom".

Severe Tropical Cyclone Gita is intensifying as it approaches and the Fiji Meteorological Service predicted it will become a maximum category five storm before reaching Tonga on Monday night.

It is already packing wind gusts of 220 kmh as it gathers strength some 370 kilometres east of Tonga’s most populous island Tongatapu.

Tonga’s Fua’amotu Weather Forecasting Centre warned residents could expect "very destructive hurricane force winds".

Gita slammed into Samoa overnight Friday, forcing the evacuation of some 200 people and causing widespread flooding, leaving many without power and electricity.

Tonga’s information ministry said evacuation centres were being prepared across the kingdom and advised residents to avoid unnecessary travel.

"Every family should have an emergency kit packed in their homes," it said.

"Everyone should be mindful of what might cause damage within their homes such as large trees that can potentially damage a house."

Cyclones are common in the Pacific at this time of year, with top-of-the-scale category five systems proving highly destructive when they make landfall.

Cyclone Winston killed 44 people in Fiji in 2016 and Cyclone Pam claimed 11 lives and damaged 65,000 homes in Vanuatu in 2015. — AFP




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British tourists dead in US Grand Canyon chopper crash

LONDON — Three British tourists have been killed in a US helicopter crash after the chopper went down in the Grand Canyon, Britain’s foreign ministry said late Sunday.

A further three British people and the pilot were injured when the accident happened at around 5:20 pm (0020 GMT) on Saturday.

"We are providing support to the families of six British visitors involved in a helicopter accident at the Grand Canyon on 10 February, and we are in close contact with the US emergency services," a spokeswoman for the foreign ministry said.

Local media reported the Eurocopter EC130 helicopter, whose operator was unknown, was travelling on a tour.

Francis Bradley, Hualapai Nation police chief, said the chopper went down in Grand Canyon West, located in northwestern Arizona.

"The investigation is ongoing," Bradley said on Saturday, adding that there was no information immediately available on the circumstances surrounding the tragedy.

Allen Kenitzer, of the Federal Aviation Authority’s Office of Communications said that the aircraft sustained "substantial damage."

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash, he added. — AFP




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London City Airport closed after WWII bomb found

LONDON — London City Airport announced its closure on Sunday after a World War Two bomb was discovered in the nearby River Thames.

The ordnance was discovered in King George V Dock, close to the runway of London’s most central airport, during planned works.

"A 214m exclusion zone has been implemented as a precaution by the Met Police. As a result, London City Airport is currently closed," the airport said in a statement.

Travellers were told to avoid the airport: "All passengers due to travel from London City on Monday are advised to contact their airline for further information."

City Airport operates short-haul flights and is located in east London, close to the Canary Wharf business district.

The Metropolitan Police said the discovery was reported before dawn on Sunday, at around 0500 GMT, and the exclusion zone was put in place at 2200 GMT.

The decision was taken "to ensure that the ordnance can be safely dealt with whilst limiting any risk to the public," police said in a statement.

The unexploded ordnance is being dealt with by specialist police officers working alongside the Royal Navy.

Thousands of bombs were dropped on London during the "Blitz" by German Air Forces between September 1940 and May 1941. — AFP




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UN agrees sanctioned N.Korea official to attend Olympics

UNITED NATIONS The UN Security Council on Thursday gave permission for a North Korean official under international sanctions to travel to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics along with Kim Jong Un’s sister, diplomats said.

South Korea presented on Wednesday a request to the council’s sanctions committee for an exemption to the travel ban imposed on Choe Hwi, chairman of North Korea’s National Sports Guidance Committee.

North Korea agreed in January to send a delegation to the Olympics and to hold talks with South Korea, easing tensions that have soared over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile tests.

Choe was sanctioned in June last year as a senior director of the propaganda and agitation department of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party.

The committee granted the exemption to Choe after no council member raised objections to the request, a council diplomat said.

North Korea is under multiple sets of UN Security Council sanctions over its banned nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes, which have seen it develop rockets theoretically capable of reaching the US mainland.

The exemption will also be extended to all members of the delegation, meaning that a ban on luxury goods to North Korea will be temporarily lifted - a measure that would allow for gifts, for instance.

Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of North Korea’s leader and a senior member of the Workers’ Party, will be part of the delegation due to arrive on Friday.

The 23-member delegation will be led by North Korea’s ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam and will also include Ri Son Gwon, who as head of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country is responsible for inter-Korean affairs.

Aside from the four top officials, the delegation will comprise 16 support staff, South Korea told the sanctions committee.

UN diplomats said the approval was expected as council members support the sports détente between North and South Korea.

In a letter to the committee, South Korea said the visit "will serve as a timely opportunity to reduce tensions on the Korean peninsula and beyond by promoting an environment conducive to a peaceful, diplomatic, and political solution concerning the situation on the peninsula".

A total of 78 individuals and 54 entities are currently on the UN sanctions blacklist, hit with a global travel ban and assets freeze. AFP




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Paris suspect Abdeslam stays away for trial defence

Viet Nam News

BRUSSELS — Lawyers for Salah Abdeslam will launch their defence in their client’s absence at his trial in Belgium on Thursday after the last surviving Paris attacks suspect refused to return to court.

Abdeslam’s show of defiance comes after he berated judges for being anti-Muslim, said he would not answer questions and proclaimed he put his "trust in Allah" on the first day of the high-security trial on Monday.

The court said he had refused to return from the French jail where he is being held for the resumption of the trial, which is over a shootout with police in Brussels in March 2016 that led to his arrest.

Abdeslam’s Belgian lawyer, Sven Mary, has given no indication of the line he intends to take in defence of a client whom he has previously criticised for refusing to talk to investigators.

"We’re preparing it," Mary’s associate lawyer Romain Delcoigne said.

Abdeslam’s co-defendant Sofiane Ayari, a 24-year-old Tunisian, is now expected to appear alone in the dock at the Palais de Justice for the second and possibly final day of the trial.

The pair face terrorist-related charges of attempted murder and possession of banned weapons over the shootout with police which saw three police officers wounded and an Algerian fellow jihadist killed.

Prosecutors have asked for 20-year jail sentences for both Abdeslam and Ayari.

Belgian media quoted legal experts questioning how best to defend a client who had called the court’s judges illegitimate and alleged that all Muslims were mistreated by the justice system.

’Researched Koran on internet’

Mary initially represented Abdeslam after his arrest in Brussels, which happened three days after the gunbattle, but then dropped the former bar owner because of his attitude.

However Mary then took Abdeslam back on as a client ahead of the trial and managed to delay the hearings from December last year to have more time to prepare.

Mary has previously said Abdeslam had shown few signs of religion, telling French daily Liberation: "I asked him if he had read the Koran, and he replied that he had researched it on the internet."

Abdeslam was extradited to France after his arrest.

He was transferred under police escort from a prison in the Paris suburbs to the court in Brussels overnight on Monday, then taken back to another jail in northern France on Monday night.

The Brussels court will on Thursday first hear from victims of the shootout -- six police officers who were fired at during the gunbattle -- before giving the floor to defence lawyers.

Prosecutors have said that DNA links Abdeslam to the apartment in the Forest district of Brussels where the shooting took place, but not to the weapons themselves that were used.

Prosecutor Kathleen Grosjean told the trial on Monday that the police officers -- a joint Belgian-French team -- "faced a veritable war zone" and that it was a "miracle" that none was killed.

The Belgian trial is a prelude to a bigger one that Abdeslam will face in France at a later date over the November 13, 2015, Paris attacks claimed by the Islamic State group, in which 130 people were killed.

Abdeslam’s brother Brahim was one of the suicide bombers. Abdeslam’s DNA or fingerprints were allegedly found at five sites in Belgium used by the cell behind both the Paris and Brussels attacks. — AFP




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Two dead, over 200 injured in Taiwan quake

Viet Nam News

TAIPEI   A 6.4-magnitude quake on the east coast of Taiwan has left two dead and more than 200 injured, the island’s authority said, after buildings crumbled and trapped people inside.

A hotel and an apartment block were the worst hit by the quake in the port city of Hualien, according to Taiwan’s fire agency.

Five more buildings including a hospital have also been damaged with roads strewn with rubble, cracks along highways and damaged buildings tilted at angles.

The worst-hit Marshal Hotel partly crumpled into the ground, leaving it slanting on its side, as rescuers on cranes attempted to free people from its upper floors.

"It’s the biggest quake I’ve experienced in Hualien in more than 10 years," resident Blue Hsu said, who said his home shook violently.

Describing the scene at the hotel, Hsu said its bottom storeys had been crushed.

"The lower floors sunk into the ground and I saw panicked tourists being rescued from the hotel," he said.

Hualien is one of Taiwan’s most popular tourist hubs as it lies on the picturesque east coast rail line and is near to popular Taroko Gorge.

Facebook user Sun Chen-hsiang, who was livestreaming the scene at the hotel from a distance, told how the building next to his home had also collapsed.

"All the people watching this livestream, please get yourself to a safe place and don’t stay home," he said.

Another resident said how an apartment block near his flat had also partially collapsed.

"I saw the first floor sink into the ground. Then it sunk and tilted further and the fourth floor became the first floor," said Lu Chih-son, 35, adding he saw 20 people rescued from the building.

"My family were unhurt, but a neighbour was injured in the head and is bleeding. We dare not go back home now. There are many aftershocks and we are worried the house is damaged."

There had been at least 15 aftershocks following the quake, Taiwan’s weather bureau said.

Quake anniversary

Officials from Hualien fire department said 149 people had been rescued from damaged buildings.

Authorities said some people remained trapped but were unable to give an overall figure.

Rescuers from around the island were preparing to help, Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen said on her Facebook page, promising rapid disaster relief.

The quake hit at 23:50pm around 21km northeast of Hualien, according to the United States Geological Survey.

It follows almost 100 smaller tremors to have hit the area in the last three days and comes exactly two years since a quake of the same magnitude struck the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan, killing more than 100 people. Most of the deaths from the February 2016 earthquake were from the 16-storey Wei-kuan apartment complex, which toppled on its side with many of its residents buried in the rubble.

It was the only high-rise in Tainan to crumble completely in the quake, which came two days before Lunar New Year, when many people would have been visiting relatives for the biggest celebration of the Chinese calendar.

The safety of the building was called into question immediately after the disaster, when metal cans and foam were found to have been used as fillers in the concrete and residents said there had been cracks in the structure.

Five people were found guilty and sentenced to five years imprisonment over the disaster, including the developer and two architects, with prosecutors saying they "cut corners" that affected the building’s structural integrity. Taiwan lies near the junction of two tectonic plates and is regularly hit by earthquakes.

The island’s worst tremor in recent decades was a 7.6 magnitude quake in September 1999 that killed around 2,400 people.  AFP




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100 years on, real women’s equality remains elusive

LONDON  A century after women won the right to vote in Britain, the ideals of equality are resonating again in the global wave of sexual harassment allegations seen in recent months, a leading academic said.

"In both cases, it’s a discussion of equality," Myriam Boussahba-Bravard, a professor of women’s history and gender studies at Paris Diderot University, said ahead of the February 6 anniversary.

"The right to vote gave formal equality... But the question now is real equality," Boussahba-Bravard said, adding: "The Suffragettes... knew this."

"They too were confronted with sexual harassment, particularly at their demonstrations. Except that at the time that was not their priority because formal equality was not there yet," the academic said.

Scores of women came forward in October last year to accuse US movie mogul Harvey Weinstein of harassment and abuse, sparking a chain reaction of denunciations in the world of entertainment and far beyond.

"Women have always had a voice... but perhaps it is being heard for the first time... by other women but also by many men," said Boussahba-Bravard, editor of "Suffrage Outside Suffragism: Women’s Vote in Britain, 1880-1914"..

The academic said there was "common ground" between Suffragism and groups such as the recent #MeToo movement against sexual harassment.

"It’s a question of network, which is now done via internet. At the time, it was associations communicating with each other and building numbers.

"Membership was possible for all women and from all social classes," which helped in building momentum, she said.

’Snowball effect’

Boussahba-Bravard said that movements such as #MeToo in the United States or #balancetonporc ("expose your pig") in France had attained "a snowball effect sufficiently large that it can no longer be stopped".

The fact that celebrities are speaking out gives ordinary women the courage to speak out, she said, describing this new trend as "liberating".

"It helps women who are victims of harassment.... They are not just victims, they are also agents of change. ’We are discriminated against but we fight’".

She said attitudes were also changing among men, particularly those who would have previously dismissed "feminist" arguments.

"It shows them that there is still a difference between formal equality and real equality."

For the future, Boussahba-Bravard said tackling workplace harassment would be a good start but there should also be a wider emphasis on education.

"There are cultural norms which are still very firmly fixed in people’s minds. Men internalise these norms that women are in some way inferior and women, that they are less good than men," she said.

"Women have to reject being taken for fools."  AFP




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