Trump erroneously says Lebanon is on the front lines fighting Hezbollah, a partner in the Lebanese government

President Trump shakes hands with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri during a joint news conference in the Rose Garden at the White House on Tuesday. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post). President Trump lumped the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah among militants and terrorists he praised the government of Lebanon for fighting, saying during Rose Garden remarks Tuesday that the tiny Mideast nation was “on the front lines” of a shared battle against extremism. The only problem? Hezbollah is a political partner of the man standing next to Trump, visiting Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

Trump erroneously says Lebanon is on the front lines fighting Hezbollah, a partner in the Lebanese government

U.S.-led airstrikes block ISIS fighters escaping under a Hezbollah-brokered deal

A convoy of Islamic State fighters and their families begins to depart from a besieged enclave on the Lebanese-Syrian border. (Omar Sanadiki/Reuters). BEIRUT - U.S. warplanes on Wednesday blocked a convoy of hundreds of Islamic State fighters who were heading to eastern Syria under the terms of a widely criticized deal brokered by Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement. The 310 fighters were traveling to the Iraq-Syria border in a convoy of buses after Hezbollah and the Syrian government permitted them to withdraw from a besieged enclave on the Lebanon-Syria border. The deal triggered a rare outburst of public anger against Hezbollah even among some of its closest allies, notably in Iraq, which is gearing up for an offensive to reclaim Iraqi territory adjoining the area to which the fighters were relocating.

The Trump administration should not give up on removing Assad in Syria

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on March 11. (SANA/Associated Press) By Michael G. Vickers. Michael G. Vickers served as assistant secretary of defense for special operations, low-intensity conflict and interdependent capabilities and undersecretary of defense for intelligence during the Bush and Obama administrations. Based on recent statements by several senior administration officials, President Trump’s Syria policy now focuses exclusively, in cooperation with Russia, on defeating the Islamic State. President Barack Obama’s goal of removing Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad from power is no longer a U.S. foreign policy objective.

Hezbollah takes journalists in Lebanon on a tour to prove Trump wrong

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri sat down with President Trump in the Oval Office July 25. (The Washington Post) By Liz Sly and Suzan Haidamous. JAROUD ARSAL, Lebanon — When President Trump lumped the Lebanese Hezbollah movement together with the Islamic State and al-Qaeda last week, describing Lebanon’s government as a partner in the fight against all of them, he might not have realized quite how complicated the situation in Lebanon is. So on Saturday, Hezbollah took a party of journalists on a tour that helped explain, trumpeting the results of the militia’s recent fight against Syria’s al-Qaeda affiliate in barren mountains near the northeastern Lebanese town of Arsal.

Hezbollah takes journalists in Lebanon on a tour to prove Trump wrong

With sharp words and stealth strikes, Israel sends a message to Hezbollah and U.S.

Israel’s military carried out a massive exercise this month simulating a conflict with Hezbollah, the largest drill in nearly two decades. (Jalaa Marey/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images). JERUSALEM - Israel has flexed its military muscles in recent months as the regional balance of power has pitched further in favor of its most bitter adversaries: Iran and its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah. Analysts and former senior Israeli military officers say Israel is showing that it will act with force to protect its interests, while using just enough of it to limit its enemies without sparking a war. But it’s a precarious line to tread, and even a small misstep could lead to conflict, they say. Israel is scrambling to adjust as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has taken the upper hand in his country’s six-year war, propped up by an emboldened Iran and an array of Shiite militias, including Hezbollah, which has sent thousands of fighters to back him.

With sharp words and stealth strikes, Israel sends a message to Hezbollah and U.S.

U.S. warplanes are called off surveillance of ISIS convoy, at Russia’s request

Members of the Islamic State and their families are seen in a bus in Qara area in Syria's Qalamoun region on Aug. 28. (Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images) By Liz Sly. BEIRUT — At Russia’s request, the U.S. military on Friday called off its surveillance of a convoy of Islamic State fighters that has been stuck in the Syrian desert for the past 10 days, saying it is now up to the Syrian government to resolve its fate. The decision to withdraw the warplanes that have been circling over the convoy came after Syrian troops advancing through the province of Deir al-Zour passed the point where the convoy is located, leaving it behind Syrian army lines, according to a military statement.

U.S. warplanes are called off surveillance of ISIS convoy, at Russia’s request

Hezbollah accuses the U.S. of putting lives at stake by hounding ISIS convoy

This frame grab from video released on Monday and provided by the government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media, shows buses gathering before a planned evacuation of Islamic State group militants, in the mountainous region of Qalamoun, Syria. (Uncredited/AP). By Liz Sly. BEIRUT — The Lebanese Hezbollah movement on Saturday accused the United States of putting at risk the lives of women and children stranded on a convoy of Islamic State fighters that has been stuck in the Syrian desert for the past three days. The accusation was the latest salvo in an escalating public relations battle between Hezbollah and the U.S. military over the fate of around 600 Islamic State fighters and their families who were permitted under a Hezbollah-brokered deal to leave an area in western Syria, near the Lebanese border, for an Islamic State-controlled town in eastern Syria.

Hezbollah accuses the U.S. of putting lives at stake by hounding ISIS convoy

The Islamic State is on the run in Iraq, but some major battles remain

Shiite Popular Mobilization Forces members clash last month with Islamic State militants in Tal Afar, Iraq. (Reuters). By Tamer El-Ghobashy, Joby Warrick and Mustafa Salim. IRBIL, Iraq — Iraqi security forces have freed most of northern Iraq from the grip of the Islamic State. But U.S. and Iraqi officials warn that thousands of militants remain in the country and are ready to wage a ferocious fight in a desert region bordering Syria. The bulk of the war against the Islamic State was finished when Iraqi security forces reclaimed the cities of Mosul and Tal Afar this summer. But the battle looming in western Anbar province is expected to be one of the most complex to date.

The Islamic State is on the run in Iraq, but some major battles remain

U.S.-backed forces in Syria accuse Russia of airstrike

A fighter from Deir al-Zour military council, which fights under the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), in the village of Abu Fas, in Hasaka province. (Rodi Said/Reuters) By Louisa Loveluck. BEIRUT — The U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State in Syria said Saturday that its partner forces have been attacked by Russian warplanes, escalating tensions on one of the country’s most complex and contested battlefields. The coalition said in a statement that an early morning airstrike targeted positions used by the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, a Kurdish-dominated militia backed by Washington, as well as the international advisers supporting them in a weeks-old offensive to dislodge Islamic State militants from the eastern province of Deir al-Zour.

U.S.-backed forces in Syria accuse Russia of airstrike

As Syrian war winds down, Israel sets sights on Hezbollah

FILE - In this July 21, 2006 file photo, Israeli soldiers cover their ears as an artillery unit fires shells towards southern Lebanon from a position near Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel, near the border with Lebanon. With President Bashar Assad seemingly poised to survive the Syrian civil war, Israeli leaders are growing nervous about the intentions of his Iranian patrons and their emerging corridor of influence across the region. (David Guttenfelder, File/Associated Press) By Josef Federman.

As Syrian war winds down, Israel sets sights on Hezbollah

Trump's plan to stop Iran in Syria is MIA

Opinion A column or article in the Opinions section (in print, this is known as the Editorial Pages). National security adviser H.R. McMaster in July. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post). Again and again, top Trump administration officials claim that a key pillar of U.S. Syria policy is to prevent Iran from expanding its power there as the Islamic State falls, a grave concern of Syrians and allies such as Jordan and Israel. But no Trump officials can explain that plan, because according to current and former officials, that ship may have already sailed.

Trump's plan to stop Iran in Syria is MIA

Italian PM calls for standardised EU rules on granting asylum

LYON  Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni on Wednesday called for asylum regulations to be standardised across Europe, saying immigration was one of the biggest challenges facing the continent and a major concern of EU citizens.

“We have to work on integration, on voluntary repatriations of people who don’t have the right to asylum, and standardise asylum at the European level because we can’t have 27 different asylum policies in Europe,” Gentiloni said

The Italian leader spoke at a press conference in Lyon, France, where he met with French President Emmanuel Macron, who in a speech Tuesday proposed an EU agency to handle asylum requests as part of his vision for reforming the bloc.

“What is considered one of the biggest concerns of our citizens must also be one of the major policies of our European Union,” Gentiloni said about the immigration crisis facing the continent since 2015.

The European Commission on Wednesday again called on the 27 member states -- excluding Britain, which is leaving the bloc -- to quickly adopt a “lasting reform” of common regulations on asylum in Europe, which has been stalled for more than a year.

The right to asylum in Europe is currently the responsibility of the EU country where the asylum seeker arrive, a procedure Brussels wants to maintain while adding a “correction mechanism” to help countries that are coping with a huge influx of migrants -- such as Italy and Greece.

Brussels is looking for a new solution after the EU’s troubled migrant quota scheme for distributing new arrivals around the bloc wrapped up Wednesday after two years.

The plan had deepened a rift between the older western members and the newer eastern states, with Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic refusing to be obliged to take in asylum seekers.

The migration issue has also fuelled the rise of populism in several EU member states, seen most recently in Germany, where the anti-immigrant AfD party garnered 12.6 per cent in national elections on Sunday and will enter the federal parliament for the first time.  AFP

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Ireland to hold abortion referendum in 2018

DUBLIN — Ireland announced it will hold a referendum next year on whether to repeal its constitutional ban on abortion in almost all cases – just a few weeks before Pope Francis visits.

The government is also planning votes to remove Ireland’s anti-blasphemy law and to reduce the time couples must spend apart before divorcing.

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has previously said the eighth amendment of the constitution, which makes abortion illegal unless there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother, was "too restrictive".

His government has decided Tuesday that a referendum – which must be agreed by parliament – should take place in May or June 2018, just before the pope visits in August to attend the World Meeting of Families.

Abortion has always been illegal in Ireland but was inserted into the constitution in 1983 following a referendum, in which 67 per cent of voters were in favour and 33 per cent against.

The eighth amendment recognises the equal right to life of the unborn child and the mother – and a woman convicted of having an illegal termination faces 14 years in prison.

However, women are free to travel abroad for abortions and thousands do so every year, mainly to England.

Opinion polls in recent years have consistently indicated strong support for reform in Ireland, which remains largely Catholic but where scandals have dented the church’s authority.

Thousands of people are expected in Dublin on Saturday for the annual "March for Choice", declaring: "We are ready for change."

"We need access to free, safe and legal abortion for all who need or want it. And we need it now," organisers said.

The Abortion Rights Campaign said it "cautiously" welcomed the announcement.

"It depends on the wording of the referendum," spokeswoman Linda Kavanagh said, fearing that it could be watered down from broad access to abortion.

Meanwhile, Cora Sherlock, spokeswoman of the Pro-Life Campaign, said: "If the eighth amendment were to be amended or repealed, we would inevitably end up with a situation similar to every other country which introduced abortion on ’restrictive’ grounds but subsequently ended up with abortion on wide-ranging grounds."

Consideration by the people

The Irish constitution can only be amended by referendum, and in 2015 it became the first country to legalise gay marriage that way.

The government set out a timetable Tuesday for several votes over the next two years, including on reducing the time couples must wait before a divorce from four to two years.

In October 2018, it proposes a referendum on the constitutional amendment which makes illegal the "publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious or indecent matter".

At the same time, it proposes a vote to repeal or change a section relating to a woman’s duties in the home, perhaps to make it gender neutral and to include other caring responsibilities.

"Any amendment to our constitution requires careful consideration by the people," Varadkar said in a statement.

"They should be given ample time to consider the issues and to take part in well-informed public debate," he said.

"Setting a timetable for the referendums to be held over the next two years will allow all involved in campaigning on the issues to plan ahead and to facilitate that public debate." — AFP

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From Hanoi to Ha Long Bay to have fun should not ?

From Hanoi to Ha Long how many km? From Hanoi to Ha Long how many kilometers to travel, visit, travel or work ... from Ha Noi to Ha Long should determine the shortest, most convenient routes. Ha Long is a popular tourist destination with important and upgraded transport links. The center of Hanoi capital about 170 km by road and many routes for you to choose. Ha Noi - Bac Ninh - Ha Long route: take 2 - 3 hours by car. From Hanoi follow Route 5 to Sai Dong junction and continue along Route 1 to Bac Ninh. From Bac Ninh, go along Highway 18 passing Pha Lai - Chi Linh - Dong Trieu - Drinking and then going to Ha Long.

From Hanoi to Ha Long Bay to have fun should not ?

Hurricane Irma death toll rises to 72 in Florida

MIAMI - Hurricane Irma killed 72 people in Florida when it battered the southern state on September 10, according to an updated death toll that includes figures from individual counties.Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) spokesman Alberto Moscoso confirmed an official toll of 54 on Tuesday. But this figure does not include eight known victims in the Florida Keys, or 10 elderly victims who died in a nursing home north of Miami.

Tokyo governor Koike vows break from the past with new party

Viet Nam News

TOKYO — Popular Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike Wednesday vowed a break with old-school politics as she unveiled a new party she hopes will shake up the upcoming snap election in Japan.

Pledging to bring back "hope" to the Japanese people, she said she was launching the party to "reset Japan."

"Now is the time for us to carry out reforms that are un-tied to" vested interests, Koike told a nationally televised news conference.

Koike lamented that Japanese firms had lost their former glory, complaining that Chinese and American companies, like Amazon and Apple, "have become number one."

"The snap election is a chance to change," said the 65-year-old former anchorwoman, accusing the ruling conservative LDP party of being too hesitant in its reform programme.

Most commentators say Koike’s new party, called the "Party of Hope", will not have enough time to mount a serious nationwide challenge to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe before elections widely expected on October 22.

Abe called a snap election on Monday, hoping to capitalise on a weak and fractured opposition as well as a recent bump in the polls due to voter approval of his hard line on North Korea.

Surveys put him a long way of his nearest rivals but Yoel Sano, Head of Global Political and Security Risk at BMI Research, said Koike’s entry into the fray was a "major wild card."

Voters may view Abe’s snap election as a "cynical and opportunistic move, especially given the severity of the North Korean crisis, which does not need the ’distraction’ of an early election," said Sano.

Koike said a "political vacuum" had been created by Abe’s decision to call an election at a time when tensions over North Korea are at fever pitch.

Elected governor of Tokyo a year ago, Koike has already begun pulling disillusioned opposition lawmakers into her powerful orbit amid rumours that she could bring the largest opposition party, the Democratic Party, into the fold.

She reportedly held talks with Seiji Maehara, a former foreign minister and leader of the largest opposition party, with a view to possibly joining forces.

Maehara’s struggling party, which changed name from the DPJ after a smaller opposition group joined it in March last year, has already suffered more than a dozen defectors, several of them to Koike’s party. — AFP

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N. Korea, Venezuela, Chad among 8 countries on new US travel ban

WASHINGTON President Donald Trump issued a new travel ban on Sunday that saw North Korea, Venezuela and Chad among a list of eight countries cited for poor security and lack of cooperation with US authorities.

Trump ordered the new restrictions to replace an expiring measure that had locked him into political and legal battles over what critics alleged was an effort to block Muslims from entry into the country since he took office in January.

"Making America Safe is my number one priority. We will not admit those into our country we cannot safely vet," Trump said in a tweet.

Sudan, one of the six majority-Muslim countries on the original travel ban, was removed from the list. Under the new restrictions, eight nations now have complete or partial blocks on travel to the United States.

Full travel bans were placed on nationals from North Korea and Chad, while the restrictions for Venezuela were limited to officials from a long list of government agencies and their families.

Other countries included in the ban were Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.

In a presidential order, Trump said the action was needed to press the countries to improve procedures for identifying their nationals and sharing information with the United States.

In addition, he said, the list was created to "advance foreign policy, national security and counterterrorism objectives."

"These restrictions are both vital to national security and conditions-based, not time-based," a senior administration official said, noting that countries can be removed from the list if they can rise to US traveler vetting standards.

Officials stressed that while Iraq was not included on the new list, it was deeply deficient in security vetting of immigrants and travelers to the United States.

But Baghdad is a close ally and supports the presence of large numbers of US troops and civilian officials. But acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke recommended tough restrictions on travelers to the United States.

Not a ‘Muslim ban’

Speaking on background, government officials said the addition of North Korea and Venezuela demonstrated that the measure was set on the basis of security and was not a "Muslim ban," as detractors have argued.

"Religion, or the religious origin of individuals or nations, was not a factor," a senior government official told reporters.

"The inclusion of those countries, Venezuela and North Korea, was about the fact that those governments are simply not compliant with our basic security requirements."

Chad was added to the list even though Trump’s order called it "an important and valuable counterterrorism partner."

But the order noted the presence in Chad of several designated terror groups like the so-called Islamic State, Al-Qaeda and Boko Haram.

Nevertheless, "Chad does not adequately share public-safety and terrorism-related information," it said. And, the order added, the country failed on one "key" but unspecified criterion used in a broad review of countries for the travel ban.

North Korea, locked in a dangerous face-off with Washington over its nuclear weapons programme, was added, the order said, because Pyongyang "does not cooperate with the United States government in any respect."

Venezuela, in a political and economic crisis due to its embattled, increasingly oppressive regime, was listed for a limited ban.

The order placed a prohibition on officials from state agencies responsible for weak security vetting and lack of cooperation with the United States, including the interior and foreign ministries and the main police and intelligence services.

The bans for the five countries from the previous 90-day order, which expired Sunday, would immediately continue under the new order. For North Korea, Chad, and Venezuela, the restrictions will be implemented starting October 18. AFP

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Brexit talks seek "clarity" after May speech

BRUSSELS - Britain and the EU kick off a fourth round of Brexit talks on Monday, in hopes of a breakthrough after a cautiously well-received speech by British Prime Minister Theresa May. During an expected four days of talks, chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier will look closely for details from UK counterpart David Davis after May signalled concessions on key deadlocked issues. The talks were delayed by one week in order to await May’s speech which was delivered in Florence on Friday and tipped as a turning point in the stalled negotiations. In her speech, May promised to meet Britain’s existing EU budget commitments until 2020 and outlined new legal guarantees for the rights of around three million EU nationals living in Britain.

Brexit talks seek clarity after May speech

Weakened Merkel wins fourth term, hit by nationalist earthquake

Viet Nam News. BERLIN - Chancellor Angela Merkel clinched a fourth term in Germany’s election Sunday, but her victory was clouded by the entry into parliament of the hard-right AfD in the best showing for a nationalist force since World War II. Merkel, who after 12 years in power held a double-digit lead for most of the campaign, scored around 33 per cent of the vote with her conservative Christian Union (CDU/CSU) bloc, according to preliminary results. It was their worst score since 1949. Its nearest rivals, the Social Democrats and their candidate Martin Schulz, came in a distant second, with a post-war record low of 21 per cent.

Eleven killed in eastern China house fire

SHANGHAI  Eleven people died when a blaze engulfed two houses early Monday in an eastern China city prone to fatal fire disasters, the government said.

The fire broke out shortly after midnight in the city of Taizhou in Zhejiang province, and left two other people hospitalised in serious condition, a local government statement said.

Ten more people sustained minor injuries.

The fire was soon brought under control and its cause was being investigated.

Deadly fires are common in China, where fire safety regulations are widely flouted and enforcement is often lax.

Taizhou has seen a number of deadly fires in recent years.

In 2007, at least 17 people were killed and several others injured when a fire engulfed a building of shops and apartments in Taizhou.

Sixteen people perished in 2014 when a fire tore through a shoe factory in the city, and another 18 died in February of this year in a blaze at a foot massage parlour on the city’s outskirts.

Four people in charge of the massage establishment were detained following that disaster. — AFP

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18th World Knowledge Forum to be held in S Korea

Viet Nam News. SEOUL —Some 250 well-known figures from around the world will gather at the 18th World Knowledge Forum next month to share their knowledge and insights on a wide range of global issues. The personalities will include Ban Ki-moon, former secretary general of the United Nations; Francois Hollande, former French president; Hillary Rodham Clinton, former US secretary of state; and Oliver Hart, 2016 Nobel laureate in economics.

18th World Knowledge Forum to be held in S Korea

US ratchets up sanctions on North Korea

UNITED NATIONS, United States - The United States on Thursday sharply ramped up sanctions aimed at curtailing North Korea’s nuclear weapons drive, targeting the regime’s trading partners with a sweeping ban on business. President Donald Trump unveiled the new measures as he met with the leaders of allies Japan and South Korea, even as key players China and Russia voiced unease with his more aggressive approach. Two days after threatening in his first address to the UN General Assembly to "totally destroy North Korea", Trump signed an executive order that would ban firms from operating in the United States if they deal with North Korea.

US ratchets up sanctions on North Korea

Iraq begins offensive to retake IS bastion Hawija: PM

BAGHDAD — Iraq has begun an offensive to retake Hawija, one of two remaining bastions of the Islamic State (IS) group in the country, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced on Thursday."At the dawn of a new day, we announce the launch of the first stage of the liberation of Hawija, in accordance with our commitment to our people to liberate all Iraqi territory and eradicate Daesh’s terrorist groups," he said in a statement, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

Iraq begins offensive to retake IS bastion Hawija PM

Nearly 140 killed in powerful Mexico quake

Viet Nam News

MEXICO CITY — Nearly 140 people were killed when a powerful, 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck Mexico on Tuesday (local time), toppling buildings in the capital and sowing panic on the anniversary of a devastating 1985 quake.

Rescue crews and volunteers in Mexico City -- home to 20 million people -- clawed through the rubble of at least 49 collapsed buildings looking for survivors and bodies.

Local media reported that families were getting Whatsapp messages pleading for help from desperate relatives trapped under the debris.

Mexico City recorded 36 of the deaths, while Morelos state directly south of it saw 64 killed. The others were registered in Puebla (29), a town southeast of the capital, and in Mexico state (nine), which lies just to the west of the capital.

National Coordinator for Civil Protection Luis Felipe Puente said a total of at least 138 people died.

Memories of the devastating 1985 earthquake that killed 10,000 people in Mexico City spurred panic on Tuesday. Many quickly ran for safety outdoors when walls around them swayed and cracked.

"I’m so worried. I can’t stop crying. It’s the same nightmare as in 1985," Georgina Sanchez, 52, sobbed in a plaza in the capital.

Amamia Sanchez, a 45-year-old secretary cried out: "It’s just not possible that this happened also on September 19."

The quake -- which occurred in the early afternoon, hours after city authorities had conducted an earthquake drill -- caused damage in the bustling centre of the city, and to areas south and west of the capital.

"We ran outside thinking all was going to collapse around us," said Lazaro Frutis, a 45-year-old who escaped an office building before it crumbled to the ground. "The worst thing is, we don’t know about our families or anything."

"It was horrible," said resident Leiza Visaj Herrera, 27. "I didn’t want to get close under any tree. I had to hold on to the ground."

Scenes of chaos permeated the city straight after the earth shuddered.

Traffic jammed to a standstill before blanked-out stop lights, and anxious people ran between vehicles as ambulances tried to make headway, sirens squealing.

Emergency officials warned people in the streets to avoid smoking because of the risk of igniting gas leaking from ruptured pipes.

In several locations, people were seen clambering on buildings that were now piles of stone and tangled metal to pull people out.

’Everyone was frantic’

Jorge Lopez, a 49-year-old Spaniard living in Mexico City, said that he raced to the school in the central Roma district where his children aged six and three were in class, to find it collapsed but his offspring safe but terrified.

"We arrived at the school and everyone was crying, everyone was frantic, and the kids were holding on to a rope," he said.

"It’s uncontrollable. You can’t do anything against nature."

Witnesses said another school was smashed to rubble in Cuernavaca, a town just south of the capital. The fate of the pupils and teachers was unknown.

An office building of around five stories in the chic Condesa district of central Mexico City collapsed. Volunteers scrambled among the debris, pulling out three survivors and looking for more.

"There are people trapped there!" yelled one woman.

Similar efforts were made at other smashed buildings nearby. At one, an emergency worker held up a sign commanding "Silence" so crews could listen for the sounds of any survivors.

Patients were evacuated from a hospital in the adjoining Roma district, wheeled out on beds and wheelchairs as staff set up makeshift wards outside.

President Enrique Pena Neto said on Twitter he had ordered the evacuation of damaged hospitals "and the transfer of their patients to other medical facilities."

At one collapsed building in the Roma district, dozens of people dug through rubble as they waited for the arrival of heavy machinery to move the massive chunks of stone. Officials called out for more volunteers, and for water.

A woman standing and watching the efforts with her husband, a doctor, turned to him and said, "Darling, if you want to help, give me your glasses and take care."

The city’s international airport closed for more than three hours following the quake, and the stock market was forced to shut down.

Hours after the quake, residents stood around outside, in the streets, fearing aftershocks.

On the clogged roads, many without lights, muggers came out at night to assault trapped motorists.

Appeals for missing people multiplied on television.

Trump’s prayers

Officials in other countries began to react to the disaster, with many offering to help.

"With rising casualties & many collapsed buildings, my thoughts are with those impacted by the Mexico earthquake. The UN is ready to support," tweeted the UN’s emergency relief coordinator, Mark Lowcock.

Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis, who was in New York with other world leaders for the UN General Assembly, expressed his "solidarity" with the Mexican people.

US President Donald Trump, who has forged an antagonistic relationship with Mexico since coming to office, tweeted: "God bless the people of Mexico City. We are with you and will be there for you."

Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada, tweeted: "Devastating news from Mexico City. My thoughts are with those affected by today’s earthquake - Canada will be ready to help our friends."

Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray responded by saying "Mexico sincerely thanks the displays of international solidarity that we are receiving."

Mexico is prone to earthquakes, being located in a seismically active region. Its last major quake, on September 7, killed 96 people in the southern part of the country. — AFP

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EU firms want ’concrete action’ from China on access

BEIJING — European companies suffer from "promise fatigue" over China’s failure to follow through on pledges to open its market, the EU Chamber of Commerce in China said Tuesday.

The chamber issued an annual 400-page report detailing the regulatory barriers that continue to hinder investment in the world’s second-largest economy.

European businesses are "suffering from accumulated ’promise fatigue’, having witnessed a litany of assurances over recent years that never quite materialised," the position paper said.

The chamber urged the country to "supplant words with concrete actions and provide reciprocal access to its market".

The restrictions imposed on foreign investments force companies from abroad to partner with local firms and often share vital technology -- if they are not barred altogether from accessing a certain market, the chamber said.

Chinese firms face no such restrictions in EU markets, Chamber president Mats Harborn told reporters prior to the report’s release.

"We are now calling for the abolition of foreign investment laws," he said, stating that they made China’s investment climate too complex, unpredictable and opaque to attract foreign capital.

"The numbers speak for themselves: Chinese investments in Europe rose 77 per cent last year, while EU investments in China fell by a quarter," Harborn said. 

EU investment fell a further 23 per cent in the first quarter of 2017.

A May survey published by the Chamber showed 54 per cent of EU companies operating in China felt they were treated worse than local counterparts.

A study in January by the American Chamber of Commerce in China found more than four in five US companies feel the country is less welcoming to foreign businesses than in the past.

The lack of access belies the rhetoric of Chinese leaders.

In January, President Xi Jinping hailed globalisation at the World Economic Forum in Davos and insisted that China was committed to "opening up".

Later that month a government circular pledged to "create an environment of fair competition" and "strengthen efforts to attract foreign investment". — AFP

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France leads push to urge Trump to save Iran deal

UNITED NATIONS, United States — France stepped up global efforts to convince US President Donald Trump not to abandon the Iran nuclear deal on Monday, suggesting a way could be found to prolong its effects. 

Trump has signalled he is ready to declare Iran in breach of its side of the 2015 accord -- which he has branded the "worst deal ever" -- as early as next month.

And if the White House "decertifies" Iran’s compliance, this would open the way to the US Congress reimposing sanctions and perhaps provoke Iran to itself pull out.

The other world powers -- France, Britain, Germany, China and Russia -- who signed the accord continue to see it as the best way to prevent Iran from building a bomb.

But Washington argues that by pursuing a banned missile programme and fomenting militant violence in its region, Iran is in breach of the spirit of a weak deal.

Not all US officials share Trump’s total antipathy to the pact, but they want stronger controls on Iran’s ability to resume weapons development when it begins to expire.

Sunset clause

America’s European allies are desperate to save the deal and -- as world leaders gathered on Monday in New York for the UN General Assembly -- France spoke out.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian warned that scrapping the "essential" agreement would launch a regional arms race between "neighbouring countries".

But he also said: "France will try to persuade President Trump of the importance of this choice, even if it can be completed by work for after 2025."

Le Drian was speaking ahead of a meeting between Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron, who also suggested in a speech last month that the accord could be improved.

Under the deal, limits on Iran’s uranium enrichment will begin to expire in 2025 under "sunset clauses" and critics have said this is the weakest part of the deal.

"It’s essential to maintain (the agreement) to prevent a spiral of proliferation that would encourage hardliners in Iran to pursue nuclear weapons," Le Drian said.

Under the nuclear deal, Iran surrendered much of its enriched uranium, dismantled a reactor and submitted nuclear sites to UN inspection.

For their part, Washington and Europe lifted some sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear programme, while retaining others tied to its "destabilising" actions.

Hawks in Washington, with winks from Trump and some in his inner circle, are calling for tougher sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile programme.

These, they argue, would not breach their side of the nuclear-only deal.

Meanwhile, Trump’s top foreign policy officials, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, have upped their rhetoric.

Haley went to Washington this month to deliver a speech laying out the case for Trump to find Iran in breach of the deal when he reports to Congress on October 15.

Tillerson is reportedly not convinced that destroying the accord is the best way forward, but tougher measures from allies would help him make this case to Trump. — AFP

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Protesters back on St Louis streets after violence, arrests

CHICAGO — Protests simmered for the fourth straight day Monday in St Louis, Missouri amid outrage over the acquittal of a white former police officer in the shooting death of a black man.

Dozens marched peacefully, some carrying "Black Lives Matter" signs, through the Midwestern city’s downtown streets and in front of city hall, while some 250 high school students also briefly marched out of school.

After dark, a large crowd of demonstrators gathered outside the St Louis City Justice Center, a prison.

Police said there were no arrests or incidents, after a weekend in which dozens were arrested as largely peaceful protests turned violent three days running. On Sunday alone, police booked 123 demonstrators.

"The days have been calm and the nights have been destructive," Mayor Lyda Krewson said at an early morning news conference.

"After the demonstration, organisers announced that the daytime protest was over. But a group of agitators stayed behind, apparently intent on breaking windows and destroying property. This is not acceptable."

The public outcry is over a judge’s ruling Friday that there was not enough evidence to convict former police officer Jason Stockley of murdering Anthony Lamar Smith, a black man, following a 2011 car chase.

Protesters have marched through city streets, clashed with police, thrown bricks through the windows of businesses and overturned trash cans.

Protesters broke a window and splattered paint on the mayor’s home as well.

The violence led to the cancellations of several cultural events over the weekend -- including concerts by rock giants U2 and pop star Ed Sheeran.

Police suffered minor injuries and responded with force, appearing in riot gear and arresting protesters.

Journalist arrested

"Once again, a group of criminals set out to break windows and destroy property. Tonight, those criminals are in jail," acting police chief Lawrence O’Toole said.

"Some criminals assaulted law enforcement officers and threw chemicals and rocks at them."

But activists and observers fired back on social media, claiming police had been excessively aggressive toward protesters.

They also challenged reports of confiscated chemicals, claiming the substances were merely apple cider vinegar used to counteract weapons such as pepper spray.

Among those arrested Sunday was a journalist for the St Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper, who was caught up with a crowd as police corralled about 100 people who they said had not complied with orders to disperse.

"We are closed in on all four sides now I have no idea where people are supposed to go. People freaking out," Mike Faulk wrote in one of his final dispatches on Twitter prior to his arrest. He was released more than 13 hours later Monday afternoon.

In an account published by the newspaper, Faulk said several officers knocked him down and a foot pushed his head into the pavement before an office squirted pepper spray in his face.

It cited other witnesses as saying police hit and roughed up people who would not obey orders to keep their hands behind their backs.

The police union, meanwhile, was taking donations for officers working long shifts during the turbulence.

The American Civil Liberties Union criticized the St Louis police response, saying officers have at times acted illegally.

"From eyewitness and filmed accounts, we continue to see the St Louis Metropolitan Police Department engage in unacceptable, unlawful and unconstitutional behavior," the civil rights group said.


The ACLU claimed an officer dangerously drove a police car backwards into a crowd, and that other officers used excessive force and unlawfully detained people.

"We urge everyone to ask themselves a bigger question: Why are these protests happening?" the rights group said.

Stockley’s acquittal was the latest example of the difficulty US prosecutors face in charging law enforcement officers following controversial deaths of citizens.

A number of cases brought against officers in various US cities have failed to send officers to jail -- including in the nearby states of Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin.

St Louis has a history of tension between police and its black communities.

The city and its suburb Ferguson became the focus of national attention following the 2014 police killing of Michael Brown, which sparked protests and disturbances.

Brown, an 18-year-old African American, was shot to death by white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.

Wilson was not charged by local or federal prosecutors, but the incident led to a Justice Department investigation that found a pattern of civil rights violations by the Ferguson police.

Eric Holder, president Barack Obama’s attorney general, concluded that Ferguson police "routinely violate" constitutional rights, including unjustified arrests and unreasonable use of force. — AFP

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Japan deploys missile defence to northern island: official

Viet Nam News

TOKYO — Japan will Tuesday deploy an additional missile defence system on its northern island of Hokkaido, a defence ministry spokesman said, days after North Korea launched a missile over the island.

"We are deploying a PAC-3 system at about noon" to a base of the nation’s Ground Self-Defense Force in the southern tip of Hokkaido, said Kensaku Mizuseki.

According to local officials, Japan has already deployed the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile defence system to another part of Hokkaido.

But Mizuseki declined to confirm where in Japan other PAC-3 systems were deployed, citing the sensitive nature of defence information.

The move comes with tensions on the Korean peninsula at fever-pitch after Pyongyang carried out its sixth nuclear test and fired two missiles over Japan in the space of less than a month, sparking emergency warnings to take cover.

North Korea has threatened to "sink" Japan into the sea and said Saturday that it sought military "equilibrium" with arch-enemy the United States by developing a full nuclear arsenal.

For his part, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said he would "never tolerate" the North’s "dangerous provocative action" and has urged the international community to ramp up pressure on Pyongyang.

The UN Security Council, which condemned the launch as "highly provocative," will hold a new ministerial-level meeting Thursday on the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, focused on enforcing sanctions on the North Korean regime.

US’ military options

The United States has "many" military options against North Korea, including some that don’t put Seoul at risk, Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said Monday.

His comments come after President Donald Trump’s administration ramped up pressure on North Korea on Sunday, warning Pyongyang will be "destroyed" if it refuses to end its "reckless" nuclear and ballistic missile drive.

"There are many military options, in concert with our allies, that we will take to defend our allies and our own interests," Mattis told Pentagon reporters.

He did not provide details, but he responded affirmatively when asked if these included options that would not put Seoul at grave risk.

Mattis also confirmed that the US and Seoul had discussed the option of sending limited-size "tactical" nuclear weapons to South Korea.

North Korea’s weapons drive is set to dominate Trump’s address to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday and his meetings with South Korean and Japanese leaders this week.

Tensions flared when North Korea tested what it termed a hydrogen bomb many times more powerful than its previous device.

The North also fired a ballistic missile over Japan and into the Pacific on Friday, responding to fresh new UN sanctions with what appeared to be its longest-ever missile flight.

Amid calls for the United States and Japan to shoot down such missiles, Mattis said there was no need to do so because they were not a direct threat.

"The bottom line is that in the missiles, were they to be a threat, whether it be the US territory Guam, obviously Japan, Japan’s territory, that would elicit a different response from us," he said. — AFP

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Hurricane Maria bears down on battered Caribbean

Viet Nam News. POINTE-À-PITRE - Hurricane Maria strengthened into a "potentially catastrophic" Category Five storm as it barrelled into eastern Caribbean islands still reeling from Irma, forcing residents to evacuate in powerful winds and lashing rain. The maximum-strength storm packed winds of 257 kilometres per hour as it bore down on the Caribbean island of Dominica Tuesday, the US National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said.

Hurricane Maria bears down on battered Caribbean

5,000 'Dieselgate' deaths in Europe per year: study

PARIS — Emissions from diesel cars rigged to appear eco-friendly may be responsible for 5,000 air pollution deaths per year in Europe alone, according to a study published on Monday.

The numbers are in line with previous assessments of deaths due to the so-called "Dieselgate" scandal, which erupted when carmaker Volkswagen admitted in 2015 to cheating on vehicle emissions tests.

Many other carmakers have since fallen under suspicion.

In May this year, a study in the journal Nature said "excess" emissions from diesel vehicles exceeding certification limits were associated with about 38,000 "premature" deaths globally in 2015.

The new study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, focuses on the perils for Europe.

The researchers from Norway, Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands calculated that about 10,000 deaths in Europe per year can be attributed to small particle pollution from light duty diesel vehicles (LDDVs).

Almost half of these would have been avoided if emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from diesel cars on the road had matched levels measured in the lab.

Volkswagen admitted installing illegal software devices in cars that reduced emissions only for the duration of tests.

If diesel cars emitted as little NOx as petrol ones, almost 4,000 of the 5,000 premature deaths would have been avoided, said the authors.

The countries with the heaviest burden are Italy, Germany, and France, the team added, "resulting from their large populations and high share of diesel cars in their national fleets".

Touted as less polluting, the share of diesel cars in Europe rose fast compared to petrol since the 1990s, and now comprise about half the fleet.

There are more than 100 million diesel cars in Europe today, twice as many as in the rest of the world together, said the study authors.

Diesel engines emit less planet-warming carbon dioxide than petrol ones, but significantly more NOx.

Road transport, said the study authors, contributed about 40 per cent of NOx emissions in the countries of the European Union plus Norway and Switzerland.

Composed of nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide, NOx gases contribute to acid rain and suffocating smog.

Through long-term exposure, they can cause breathing problems, eye irritation, loss of appetite, corroded teeth, headaches, and chronically reduced lung function.

"Excessive premature deaths will continue into the future until LDDVs with high on-road NOx emissions have been replaced," said the study authors.

Earlier this month, tougher emissions tests came into force in Europe. — AFP

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US may close Cuba embassy after ’attacks’ on diplomats

NEW YORK — The United States may again close its embassy in Cuba, which reopened two years ago after a half-century stand-off, following a series of mystery "health attacks" on its diplomats, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Sunday.

At least 21 members of the US mission in Havana and a smaller number of Canadians have suffered brain injuries and hearing loss in what have been reported as "acoustic attacks", although US officials say their origin remains unclear.

The incidents began last year, and the latest was recorded in August.

Some of those hurt were evacuated to Florida and some treated in place.

The mission remains open, and US officials have warned that Cuba is responsible for the safety of diplomats on its soil.

With the injury toll continuing to rise, some US lawmakers have called for the embassy to be closed down once again.

Asked about this on CBS News’ Face the Nation, Tillerson did not rule this out.

"We have it under evaluation. It’s a very serious issue with respect to the harm that certain individuals have suffered," he said.

US officials have told reporters they believe some kind of sonic device was used to covertly undermine the health of staff members at the mission, who began reporting sick last year.

The American Foreign Service Association -- the labor union representing US diplomats -- spoke to 10 of those who received treatment and said their diagnoses included mild traumatic brain injury and permanent hearing loss.

At least five Canadian diplomats and their families were also affected by "sonic attacks", though none suffered permanent injury, public broadcaster CBC reported Friday. Canada has said Cuban officials are not suspected.

The Cuban foreign ministry has said it is cooperating with the US investigation into the "alleged incidents".

On Thursday, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert confirmed the number of Americans hurt had risen to 21.

"We hope that that number will not increase. We certainly can’t count that out. We are having our people medically tested," she told reporters.

"Our folks are able to leave Havana, leave Cuba, and return back home if they wish to do so -- I think we call it compassionate curtailment or something like that -- where they’re able to switch out a job," she said.

Washington has not said whether it suspects any nation or militant group of ordering the "health attacks", and no country is known to possess the kind of acoustic weapon that could cause such apparently targeted distress. — AFP

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Fuel pipe leak disrupts flights at Auckland airport

An Air New Zealand Boeing 737 sits at a departure gate at Auckland Airport, Auckland. —AFP/VNA Photo
Viet Nam News

WELLINGTON — Thousands of airline passengers were stranded in Auckland on Monday after a pipeline leak cut jet fuel supplies to New Zealand’s largest airport, forcing planes to remain grounded, authorities said.

The pipeline operator, Refining NZ, said repairs would take at least a week, possibly two, raising the prospect of ongoing major disruption.

Air New Zealand said 2,000 passengers were affected by flight cancellations on Monday alone as it attempted to minimise fuel usage.

It said the leak meant fuel supplies at Auckland airport were down to 30 per cent of normal capacity and some long-haul flights were having to make additional refuelling stops in Brisbane and Fiji.

"Aviation is a critical transport industry and the lifeblood for tourism. We are naturally extremely disappointed with this infrastructure failure," the airline said.

Refining NZ said it believed the pipeline from its refinery to the airport was accidentally damaged by a digger and a 30-strong team was working around the clock to fix the pipe.

But the danger posed by spilled fuel was slowing progress.

"We need to be absolutely clear that it is safe to work in before we can start welding in the new section of pipe," it said.

Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett said it was not the government’s fault that such an important piece of infrastructure had been left so vulnerable.

"It’s a private company that owns it and you would expect them to have better contingency plans," she told Radio New Zealand.

"(It’s) a very rare occurrence, it hasn’t happened for 30 years and we don’t expect it to happen again." — AFP

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Libya, Italy net 5,000 migrants in a week

TRIPOLI - Libya's coastguard has rescued over 3,000 migrants aiming to cross the Mediterranean to Europe in the past week, while Italy picked up another 2,000 in recent days, official and reports said on Sunday. Though the numbers attempting the dangerous journey have dropped off significantly in recent months, these new rescues indicate the route is still very much open. The tally was the highest reported out of Libya for a one-week period since mid-July saw a dramatic fall in the number of migrants trying to reach Europe.

Libya, Italy net 5,000 migrants in a week

Powerful wind storm kills eight in Romania

BUCHAREST — A storm packing powerful winds ripped off roofs and toppled trees in Romania on Sunday, killing eight people and injuring dozens more, authorities and witnesses said.

With gusts that reached nearly 100 kilometres an hour, the storm pounded the area around the western city of Timisoara before heading north toward Ukraine.

Most of the victims were outside when the winds swept in. One man was hit by a falling tree, another by a billboard. Two children were in hospital in critical condition.

The interior ministry reported that 67 people were injured in the unexpected storm.

"Trees and roofs were torn off. Trucks were flipped over, water and electricity were cut off," Timisoara’s mayor Nicolae Robu told TV channel Digi 24.

"We weren’t warned about this. The weather report only called for rain," he added.

Teodora Cumpanasu of Romania’s national meteorology agency, classified the storm as having a "rare intensity" and being "unexpected".

In particular Cumpanasu blamed an abnormal, several-day long accumulation of hot air that stagnated in the atmosphere. Temperatures were above 30 degrees Celsius in Romania on Sunday.

The storm killed five around Timisoara before travelling 400 kilometres north and striking other areas along the way.

"Everything happened very fast," Romania’s interior minister Carmen Dan said. — AFP

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Canada, China, EU and partners push forward on Paris climate accord

MONTREAL  Some 30 environment ministers will push forward on the Paris climate accord at a meeting on Saturday requested by Canada, China and the European Union.

With more than half of G20 members attending -- representing most of the world’s largest economies -- "this first gathering of its kind aims to further galvanise global momentum for the implementation of the Paris Agreement," the European Commission said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, who will make a brief appearance at the Montreal talks, will again stand apart from US President Donald Trump on this issue and resolutely commit Canada to reduce its carbon footprint, Canadian officials have said.

When Trump chose to withdraw the United States from the Paris accord, Canada, China and the European Union immediately reaffirmed their respective commitments to the climate pact, and in July the G20 called the accord "irreversible."

Nearly 200 countries agreed in Paris at the end of 2015 to limit or reduce carbon dioxide emissions with the aim of keeping the rise in average global temperatures to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050, compared to preindustrial levels.

On the eve of the Montreal conference, Europe’s top climate official Miguel Arias Canete said the EU continues to press for "full and swift implementation" of the accord, noting that progress has been made toward finalising details of its plan to reduce European emissions by 40 percent by 2030.

Despite being the world’s sixth-largest oil producer, Canada is "committed to its international climate obligations," said the environment ministry.

It hopes to reach its climate goal by massively investing in "clean energy" technologies, a spokeswoman added.

US stance a setback 

Key player China and its special representative Xie Zhenhua will bring to the table a potentially major advancement in transportation. China, along with Britain and France, has announced its intentions to ban petrol and diesel cars starting in 2040. This would bring a huge drop in air pollution in the world’s largest car market.

And in a speech in Strasbourg on Thursday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker reaffirmed the EU’s aim of being "at the forefront of the fight against climate change."

The US dealt that fight a major setback when Trump pulled the world’s biggest economy out of the Paris accord in June.

To bolster the EU position, Juncker promised to soon put forth a proposal to reduce carbon emissions in the transportation sector.

Catherine McKenna, Canada’s environment minister, will meantime press her counterparts and multinationals chief executives to develop solutions for "a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy."

Holding the meeting in Montreal is not coincidence. It is here that negotiations led to the first international agreement on the environment 30 years ago, with a ban on ozone-depleting gases.

In addition to Canada, the EU countries and China, nations including Russia, India, Mexico, Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa, South Korea and Turkey will be represented by senior ministers.

With only 50 days before the next United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP23), some of the low-lying nations hardest hit by the effects of climate change (the Marshall Islands, Fiji, Maldives) and some of the poorest (Mali and Ethiopia) will also be present. — AFP

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Astronomers bid farewell to $3.9 billion Saturn spacecraft

Viet Nam News. TAMPA - Global astronomers bid farewell on Friday to NASA’s famed Cassini spacecraft, which launched 20 years ago to circle Saturn and transformed the way we think about life elsewhere in the solar system. Cassini, an international project that cost US$3.9 billion and included scientists from 27 nations, has run out of rocket fuel as expected after a journey of some 7.9 billion kilometres. Its death plunge into the ringed gas giant -- the furthest planet visible from Earth with the naked eye -- is scheduled for shortly after the spacecraft’s final contact with Earth at 7:55 am (1155 GMT).

Astronomers bid farewell to $3.9 billion Saturn spacecraft

North Korea fires missile over Japan

Viet Nam News

SEOUL  North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan and into the Pacific on Friday, responding to new UN sanctions with what appeared to be its furthest-ever missile flight amid high tensions over its nuclear programmes.

The launch, from near Pyongyang, came after the United Nations Security Council imposed an eighth set of measures on the isolated country over its ballistic missile and atomic weapons programmes.

That followed its sixth nuclear test - by far its largest yet - earlier this month, which Pyongyang said was a hydrogen bomb small enough to fit onto a missile.

In New York, the Security Council called an emergency meeting for later on Friday.

The US Pacific Command confirmed Friday’s rocket was an intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM) and said it did not pose a threat to North  America, or to the US Pacific territory of Guam, which Pyongyang has threatened to bracket with "enveloping fire".

Seoul’s defence ministry said it probably travelled around 3,700 kilometres and reached a maximum altitude of 770 kilometres.

It was "the furthest overground any of their ballistic missiles has ever travelled", Joseph Dempsey of the International Institute for Strategic Studies said on Twitter.

It was a "clear indication North Korea has range - not necessarily accuracy - to follow through (the) Guam plan", he added.

The North has raised global tensions with its rapid progress in weapons technology.

The North’s last missile launch, a Hwasong-12 IRBM just over two weeks ago, also overflew Japan’s main islands and was the first to do so for years.

But when Pyongyang tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles in July that appeared to bring much of the US mainland into range, it fired them on lofted trajectories that avoided passing over the archipelago nation.

"The North is sending a message which is, ’we are not cowering before any sanctions and our warnings are not empty threats’," Yang Moo-Jin of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul said.

 Millions of Japanese were jolted awake by blaring sirens and emergency text message alerts after the missile was fired.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tokyo could "never tolerate" what he called a "dangerous provocative action that threatens world peace".

Tokyo had protested to Pyongyang in the "strongest words possible", chief government spokesman Yoshihide Suga added.

The missile overflew Japan for around two minutes, reports said, but there were no immediate indications of objects falling onto Japanese territory.

Oil shipments 

South Korea’s military immediately carried out a ballistic missile drill of its own on Friday in the East Sea, Korea’s name for the Sea of Japan, the defence ministry said.

The Hyunmu missile travelled 250 kilometres -- a trajectory intentionally chosen to represent the distance to the launch site at Sunan, near Pyongyang’s airport, it added.

President Moon Jae-In called an emergency meeting of Seoul’s national security council, a standard procedure after the North fires a missile or tests a nuclear device.

The United Nations Security Council sanctions imposed on Monday are the strongest so far, banning the North’s textile trade and imposing restrictions on shipments of oil products, among a series of other measures.

But analysts expect them to do little to dissuade Pyongyang, which says it needs nuclear weapons to defend itself against the threat of invasion by the US.

Earlier this year US President Donald Trump threatened it with "fire and fury", heightening fears of conflict.  AFP

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Thousands evacuated after bomb threats in Moscow

Visitors wait by security personnel in front of the entrance of the GUM department store near Red Square in Moscow on Wednesday. More than 15,000 people were evacuated Wednesday from several shopping centres, universities and train stations in Moscow after a series of bomb threats, Russian media reported. AFP/VNA Photo
Viet Nam News

MOSCOW — More than 15,000 people were evacuated on Wednesday from several shopping centres, universities and train stations in Moscow after a series of bomb threats, Russian media reported. 

A source in the emergency services told state-run TASS news agency that over 30 prominent locations including the famed GUM shopping centre on Red

Square were temporarily emptied after anonymous telephone threats.

Interfax news agency cited a source as saying that over 15,000 people around the sprawling city were evacuated.

Neither the emergency services in Moscow nor the police could immediately confirm the incidents to AFP.

A representative for GUM said that employees had been allowed back inside the building.

The spate of threats came after two days of similar calls caused disruptions in cities across Russia, with the state-run RIA Novosti news service reporting some 45,000 people were evacuated nationwide.

No bombs were found at any of the locations.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Wednesday said the country’s intelligence services were investigating the threats. — AFP

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British PM to make Brexit speech in Italy next week: spokesman

LONDON — British Prime Minister Theresa May will travel to Italy next week to make a major speech on Brexit, Downing Street said on Wednesday.

"On Friday, September 22, the prime minister will give a speech in Florence to update on Brexit negotiations so far," her spokesman said.

"She will underline the government’s wish for a deep and special partnership with the European Union once the UK leaves the EU."

Asked about the choice of venue, he said: "The prime minister wanted to give a speech on the UK’s future relationship with Europe in its historical heart.

"The UK has had deep cultural and economic ties spanning centuries with Florence, a city known for its historical trading power.

"As the UK leaves the EU, we will retain those close ties. As the prime minister has said many times, we are leaving the EU not Europe."

May gave formal notification to Brussels of Britain’s intention to leave the 28-nation bloc in March, starting the two-year countdown to Brexit.

But negotiations with the EU are proceeding slowly, as both sides grapple over the extent of Britain’s financial obligations, the rights of European citizens and the issue of the Irish border.

The British government announced on Tuesday that the fourth round of talks, which were due to start next week, had been postponed until September 25.

The decision was taken by "both sides" to allow more time for consultation, with the aim of giving negotiations "the flexibility to make progress", a spokesman said.

European Parliament Brexit chief Guy Verhofstadt said last week that the talks could be delayed because of an "important intervention" from May.

Her spokesman said: "The prime minister has said that she would provide updates on how the negotiations were going and be engaged in an ongoing conversation with Europe, and that’s what she’s doing." — AFP

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S. Korea mulling $8m in aid to North via UN agencies

SEOUL — South Korea is mulling providing US$8 million in aid to North Korea via two UN agencies, a Unification Ministry official said on Thursday.

A meeting among related government officials will be held next Thursday to decide on whether to offer the humanitarian assistance to those in need in North Korea, such as infants and pregnant women, the official said.

Under the envisioned plan, South Korea will provide $4.5 million for a World Food Programme project and $3.5 million for the UN International Children’s Fund.

If decided, it will be the government’s first provision of aid to North Korea since President Moon Jae-in took office in May.

The announcement, however, came just days after the 15-member UN Security Council unanimously adopted on Monday a resolution toughening sanctions against Pyongyang following its sixth nuclear test earlier this month.

The South Korean government has maintained the position that it would continue to offer humanitarian assistance to North Korea without tying it to the political situation.

On the heels of a series of ballistic missile launches by Pyongyang recently, tensions have escalated on the Korean Peninsula after North Korea announced on September 3 it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb that can be mounted on an intercontinental ballistic missile. — KYODO

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EU parliament opposes bid to reduce testing of Fukushima food imports

STRASBOURG — The European Parliament has warned against easing health controls imposed on food products imported from the Fukushima region in Japan in the wake of the nuclear disaster of 2011.

The checks were imposed on food from the area around the Fukushima nuclear plant in northeast Japan, which went into meltdown after being hit by a massive tsunami, spewing radiation over a wide area in the world’s most serious nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, wants to reduce the list of foods subject to radiation tests before they can be imported into the bloc, which currently includes rice, mushrooms, fish and other seafood.

A resolution passed by a large majority of MEPs called on the commission to withdraw its proposal, saying it was "very difficult to verify whether the measures proposed are sufficient" to protect European consumers and there was reason to think it "could lead to an increase in exposure to radioactive contaminated food".

French Green MEP Michele Rivasi said on Wednesday extra vigilance was needed as the EU negotiates a trade deal with Japan.

MEPs criticised the Commission for not providing them with the data used to decide it was acceptable to relax the restrictions.

The matter will be reviewed in the coming weeks by experts appointed by EU member states, ahead of a vote expected in October, a parliament spokesman said. — AFP

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Air Berlin scraps more flights as pilots call in sick

Viet Nam News

FRANKFURT AM MAIN — Insolvent Air Berlin has cancelled dozens more flights as pilots again called in sick, despite warnings from the airline that the wildcat action could jeopardise rescue talks.

The mass "sick-out" comes ahead of a Friday deadline for potential investors to submit bids for Air Berlin assets.

"More than 30 flights" had to be scrapped early on Wednesday as some 150 pilots handed in sick notices for a second day, an Air Berlin spokeswoman said.

Duesseldorf and Berlin-Tegel airports were worst hit by the cancellations, she said, advising affected passengers "not to come to the airport".

Thousands of travellers were already left stranded on Tuesday when some 200 of Air Berlin’s 1,500 pilots suddenly called in sick, forcing the cancellation of around 100 flights.

Air Berlin has accused the absent pilots of "threatening the existence" of the airline, warning that the turmoil could scare off investors.

Lufthansa’s low-cost subsidiary Eurowings, which leases Air Berlin aircraft and crew, was also affected for a second day.

Air Berlin filed for insolvency in mid-August, after its main shareholder, Gulf carrier Etihad Airways, unexpectedly pulled the plug on its cash lifeline.

The airline has long struggled for survival, and booked losses amounting to 1.2 billion euros (US$1.4 billion) over the past two years.

Germany’s giant services sector union Verdi on Tuesday expressed solidarity with the absent pilots.

"All the conversations surrounding insolvent Air Berlin are always about its economic interests, never about the jobs of its more than 8,000 employees," said Verdi board member Christine Behle.

Meanwhile, German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt urged the pilots to end their "risky manoeuvre" and return to work for the sake of Air Berlin’s roughly 8,000 employees.

"I can only appeal to everyone to come to their senses and let the flights take place. This is necessary to make a transition to new owners possible," he said at a press conference.

German flagship carrier Lufthansa -- which already leases 38 of Air Berlin’s 140 planes -- is seen as the favourite to take over the bulk of the stricken carrier’s assets.

Other interested suitors cited in media reports include package holiday firm TUI, British low-cost carrier EasyJet and Thomas Cook subsidiary Condor, as well as Bavarian entrepreneur Hans Rudolf Woehrl.

China’s LinkGlobal, which operates Parchim airport in northern Germany, also plans to join the scramble for Air Berlin assets, Bild reported on Wednesday.

Late Wednesday, Austrian former Formula One champion Niki Lauda was quoted as saying that he too would bid for parts of Air Berlin as well as its Austrian subsidiary Niki, which he founded.

"I am going to make a bid together with Thomas Cook and Condor," Lauda, 68, told the Austrian daily Kurier in an article to be published on Thursday. He will own 51 per cent in the consortium, he said. — AFP

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UN chief hopes for ’constructive’ message from Trump to world leaders

Viet Nam News

UNITED NATIONS — UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday he is hoping for a constructive message from US President Donald Trump when he makes his first address to world leaders at the United Nations next week.

Trump will speak at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, taking to the podium of the global institution that he once disparaged as a "club" for "people to have a good time."

Guterres told a news conference ahead of the annual UN gathering that he had spared no effort to develop strong ties with the new US administration over the past eight months.

"All the efforts I have been making until now are in the direction of trying to create conditions for the relationship between the United States and the United Nations to be a constructive relationship," Guterres said.

"I hope that will also be the message of President Trump and I hope that if that is the message that will be conveyed, that that message will be well received."

Some 130 world leaders are attending this year’s gathering, but the spotlight will be firmly on Trump.

The United States is the UN’s number one financial contributor, paying 28.5 per cent of the $7.3 billion peacekeeping budget and 22 per cent of the core budget of $5.4 billion.

The Trump administration has threatened deep cuts to US funding to the world body, while US Ambassador Nikki Haley was a driving force behind a $600 million cut to the UN peacekeeping budget this year.

Trump pushes UN reform

Trump on Monday will host a meeting of world leaders on reforming the United Nations and to support Guterres’ plan for a more effective UN response to global crises.

The US president has described the United Nations as an "underperformer" but stressed that it has "huge potential" to address the long list of world crises that will be at the centre of this year’s UN debate.

Guterres is due to meet Trump on the sidelines of the General Assembly debate for talks expected to focus on the North Korea crisis, the violence in Iran and climate change.

Asked about his message on the Iran nuclear deal that Trump has threatened to scrap, Guterres said it was a "very important" agreement and that "all parties should do everything possible for this agreement to be preserved."

Referring to "recent events" like Hurricane Irma that has battered parts of the United States, the UN chief said the Paris climate agreement should be implemented and that the new green economy could rescue the planet.

Trump announced in June that the United States was withdrawing from the agreement on curbing greenhouse gas emissions, but diplomats are hoping for signs of a shift when he addresses the assembly on Tuesday.

Guterres said that Trump’s America-First policy was not in contradiction with a strong leadership role for the United States at the United Nations and in the world.

"It’s my deep belief that the best way to preserve the American interests is to engage positively in global affairs and to engage positively in support of multilateral organisations like the UN," he said. — AFP

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Residents return to storm-ravaged Florida Keys

ISLAMORADA, United States — Residents of the Florida Keys ravaged by Hurricane Irma, which has left at least 12 dead statewide, discovered scenes of desolation as they returned home on Tuesday amid a massive operation to restore electricity to millions of people still without power in three southern US states.

As emergency workers picked through the rubble, Irma’s death toll in Florida rose from an earlier figure of two. The storm has now killed at least 50 people across the Caribbean and the United States.

Shattered mobile homes, grounded sailboats and jumbled mounds of debris greeted Keys residents as police began lifting roadblocks to the islands following the passage of Hurricane Irma.

"We don’t have much left," Patty Purdo, a 55-year-old waitress, said as she surveyed her home in the wreckage of the Seabreeze trailer park on the island of Islamorada.

European leaders visited the storm-ravaged Caribbean meanwhile amid criticism over relief efforts and the White House announced that President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, would visit Florida on Thursday.

Brock Long, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), said Irma caused major damage in the Keys, a195-kilometre string of islands off Florida’s southern coast known for boating, scuba diving and fishing.

Ninety per cent of the archipelago’s homes have been destroyed or significantly damaged he said.

The islands had been all but cut off since the storm struck early Sunday as a Category Four hurricane, and bore the brunt of Irma’s damage while the rest of the Sunshine State fared relatively better.

"Most areas are still without power and water. Cell service is spotty. And most gas stations are still closed," authorities in Monroe County, which includes the Keys, said in a Facebook post.

No power, no water

With over 15 million people without electricity in Florida, one million in neighbouring Georgia and 20,000 in South Carolina, authorities launched a massive effort to restore power.

"We’re having over 30,000 individuals from out of state helping us get our power back on," Governor Scott told reporters while touring flood damage in the northeast city of Jacksonville.

Scott said the authorities had rescued more than 300 people in Jacksonville, a city of 880,000 hit by flooding on Monday.

As much of the state struggled with power outages and gas shortages, Walt Disney World in Orlando reopened after closing for the hurricane, as did Disney’s other theme parks – Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios.

Katherine Tenea, who traveled to Disney World from Tampa, Florida, with a friend said she had been "cooped up in the house for three days" and looked forward to being able to "stretch out and hang out." Before reaching the United States, Irma tore through a string of Caribbean islands, going from tiny Barbuda on Wednesday to the tropical paradises of Saint Barthelemy and Saint Martin, the US and British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Amid frenzied relief efforts, a nun’s habit stood out amid a sea of uniformed first responders.

"There was a need and I did what I could to help out," Sister Margaret Ann told CNN after she took a chainsaw to cut through a downed tree that blocked a road in the Miami suburb of West Kendall.

"I’ve been in education over 30 years and I teach my students do what you can to help other people don’t think of yourselves and that’s what I wanted to do." An incredulous off-duty police officer shared video footage of the nun in action which went viral on Twitter.

Macron, Johnson visit Caribbean 

French President Macron and Britain’s Foreign Secretary Johnson meanwhile visited their nations’ hurricane-hit Caribbean territories.

The region was the worst-hit of one of the most powerful storms on record as residents and holidaymakers became increasingly desperate.

"Even from the plane I saw something I have never seen before," Dutch King Willem-Alexander told public newscaster NOS. "I have seen proper war as well as natural disasters before, but I’ve never seen anything like this." Macron’s plane touched down in Saint Martin as anger grew over looting and lawlessness in the French-Dutch territory.

"He needs to come to look around, so that he realizes the horror here," local resident Peggy Brun said.

The French, British and Dutch governments have faced criticism for failing to mobilise resources for the storm which was forecast days in advance.

Speaking in Guadeloupe, Macron insisted French authorities were as well prepared as they could have been.

"Now is not the time for controversy," he said. "Returning life to normal is the absolute priority." While touring Saint Martin, Macron was at times jeered by people waiting for aid supplies or hoping to catch flights for France in order to escape the devastation across the island.

Johnson was visiting the British Virgin Islands and Anguilla, where Britain has sent nearly 1,000 military personnel to help both with security, and what he described as an "unprecedented" relief effort.

British junior foreign minister Alan Duncan told parliament that 100 high-risk prisoners escaped in the territory during Hurricane Irma, which threatened a "complete breakdown of law and order." He did not disclose how many were still at large. — AFP

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