english news

Trump chief of staff calls meeting to insist no one is about to be fired


Donald Trump’s chief of staff called a sudden meeting on Friday to assure colleagues that their jobs were safe amid reports of upheaval, plummeting morale and more imminent departures from White House.

John Kelly’s unusual intervention came at the end of a week that saw the abrupt firing of Rex Tilllerson and widespread speculation that national security adviser HR McMaster could be next. “The chief of staff actually spoke to a number of staff this morning, reassuring them that there were personnel changes – no immediate personnel changes at this time – and that people shouldn’t be concerned,” press secretary Sarah Sanders said. “We should do exactly what we do every day and that’s come to work and do the very best job that we can. And that’s exactly what we’re doing.” She added: “That’s exactly what we’re focused on, and many of us have relayed that to other staffers that weren’t part of that meeting. And we’re going to continue to focus on having record success in this second year as we had in our first year. We fully expect to do that and we expect to do that as a staff and as a team.”(theguardian)…[+]

Mass protests as PM’s resignation fails to quell Slovakia unrest


Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets across Slovakia on Friday to call for snap elections, saying the premier’s resignation was not enough to address what they see as a corrupt government. The local Dennik N newspaper said about 50,000 people turned out in the capital Bratislava alone, where protesters carried signs bearing slogans such as “Slovakia is going the wrong way” and “We want elections”.

Organisers of the “For a decent Slovakia” protest had announced there would be rallies in 34 cities at home and 25 cities abroad. The EU member has been in political crisis since last month’s killing of an investigative journalist who had been probing alleged ties between top politicians and Italian mafia.(theguardian)…[+]

Police launch murder inquiry over death of Nikolai Glushkov


Police have launched a murder investigation into the death of the Russian businessman Nikolai Glushkov after a pathologist concluded he died from compression to the neck, suggesting he may have been strangled by hand or ligature.

The Metropolitan police’s counter-terrorism command is retaining its lead role in the investigation “because of the associations Mr Glushkov is believed to have had” but has cautioned that there was no suggestion of a link with the attempted murders of the Russian former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury almost two weeks ago. At the time of his death, Glushkov was about to defend a claim against him by the Russian airline Aeroflot at the commercial court in London, where he was accused of fraud. In 2017, during a trial in absentia in Russia, he was sentenced to eight years in prison for stealing $123m from the airline, which then pursued the case in London. Glushkov failed to show up at court in central London on Monday and his body was discovered in south-west London that evening.(theguardian)…[+]

Myanmar willing to take back fewer than 400 Rohingya refugees


Myanmar has said it is willing to take back fewer than 400 Rohingya refugees of the 8,000 who have said they would voluntarily return from Bangladesh. U Myint Thu, Myanmar’s permanent secretary for foreign affairs, said that of the list of thousands of returnees submitted by the Bangladesh government, they had deemed only 374 eligible for repatriation.

Myanmar blamed Bangladesh for the slow process, accusing its neighbour of submitting missing or “incomplete” information for the majority of the refugees, and accused three on the list of being terrorists. “These 374 will be the first batch of the repatriation,” said Myint Thu at a press conference in the capital Naypidaw. He did not give a timeline for the return, but simply said: “They can come back when it’s convenient for them.”

This move towards repatriation will barely make a dent in the 700,000 Muslim Rohingya refugees currently living in camps in Bangladesh after fleeing a violent and targeted campaign by the Burmese military in Rakhine state which began in August 2017 and destroyed their homes and left thousands dead. Even if Myanmar finally allows a process of repatriation to begin, after two stalled efforts in December and January, there are still concerns for the safety of the Rohingya and the conditions they will be returned to. Satellite imagery in a report by Amnesty International on Monday showed how most Rohinga villages have been bulldozed, with large concrete structures and military bases being built in their place.(theguardian)...[+]

Woman jailed for killing boyfriend in YouTube stunt that went wrong


A Minnesota woman has been sentenced to six months in prison for shooting dead her boyfriend in a YouTube stunt that went wrong. Monalisa Perez, now 20, pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter in the death of Pedro Ruiz, 22, who she had been dating for five years.

On Wednesday, Minnesota judge Jeffrey Remick set out the terms agreed under plea bargaining. He said Perez would serve a 180-day jail term, alternating between 10 days in jail and 10 days out for the first six months, amounting to 90 days behind bars. The judge said the remaining 90 days could be served in home confinement. Perez was asked by Ruiz, 22, to fire a gun from a 30cm away, as he held a hardback encyclopaedia to protect himself from the bullet, in June last year. Perez had previously experimented and thought that the thick book would protect him. The clip was filmed by two cameras and the couple’s three-year-old daughter witnessed the shooting.(theguardian)…[+]

WHO launches health review after microplastics found in 90% of bottled water


The World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced a review into the potential risks of plastic in drinking water after a new analysis of some of the world’s most popular bottled water brands found that more than 90% contained tiny pieces of plastic. A previous study also found high levels of microplastics in tap water. In the new study, analysis of 259 bottles from 19 locations in nine countries across 11 different brands found an average of 325 plastic particles for every litre of water being sold.

Concentrations were as high as 10,000 plastic pieces for every litre of water. Of the 259 bottles tested, only 17 were free of plastics, according to the study. Scientists based at the State University of New York in Fredonia were commissioned by journalism project Orb Media to analyse the bottled water. The scientists wrote they had “found roughly twice as many plastic particles within bottled water” compared with their previous study of tap water, reported by the Guardian.According to the new study, the most common type of plastic fragment found was polypropylene – the same type of plastic used to make bottle caps. The bottles analysed were bought in the US, China, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Lebanon, Kenya and Thailand.(theguardian)…[+]

Rodrigo Duterte to pull Philippines out of international criminal court


Rodrigo Duterte is to withdraw the Philippines from the international criminal court after it opened a crimes against humanity investigation into his brutal war on drugs. In a lengthy statement, the Philippines president accused the ICC and the UN of a crusade against him, denouncing what he described as “baseless, unprecedented and outrageous attacks on my person”. “I therefore declare and forthwith give notice, as president of the republic of the Philippines, that the Philippines is withdrawing its ratification of the Rome statute [the treaty that established the ICC] effective immediately,” said Duterte. The ICC announced last month it was investigating allegations that Duterte had committed crimes against humanity in his war on drugs, which has killed an estimated 8,000 people since he took office in May 2016.(theguardian)…[+]

May expels 23 Russian diplomats in response to spy poisoning


The UK is to expel 23 Russian diplomats, consider new laws to combat spying and look at sanctions as part of a sweeping response to the nerve agent attack in Salisbury, Theresa May has told parliament. In a statement to MPs after the expiry of a midnight deadline to Russia to explain how one of its nerve agents was used in the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, the prime minister told parliament the expulsions were the biggest such move for 30 years. The UK would also cut off all top-level ties with Russia, including revoking an invitation to the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, to visit the UK, and would not send ministers or royals to the football World Cup this summer, May said.

The statement followed an announcement by the Foreign Office that the UK had called for an urgent meeting of the UN security council to update council members on the investigation. EU leaders will also discuss the incident at a summit next week, said the European council president, Donald Tusk. May said Russia had treated a UK request to explain how the military-grade nerve agent novichok was used in the attack with “sarcasm, contempt and defiance”, and had offered no credible explanation for it.(theguardian)…[+]

Sri Lanka accuses Facebook over hate speech after deadly riots

sri lanka

The Sri Lankan government has accused Facebook of failing to control rampant hate speech that it says contributed to anti-Muslim riots last week that left three people dead and the country under a state of emergency. As mobs of hardline Buddhists rioted and lit fires in towns in the central district of Kandy, Facebook, WhatsApp and several other platforms were blocked across the country.

Harin Fernando, the telecommunications minister, said the government had taken the unprecedented step in response to fears that widely circulated videos claiming to show mosques and Buddhist temples being torched would ignite further violence. “This whole country could have been burning in hours,” Fernando told the Guardian. “Hate speech is not being controlled by these organisations and it has become a critical issue globally.” On Thursday Fernando, along with the Sri Lankan prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, and communications officials, will meet a Facebook team that has flown to Colombo. The Sri Lankans will demand a new, faster system for taking down posts flagged as a national security risk by agencies in the country.(theguardian)…[+]

Belgian monks round on supermarket for selling their brew at £9 a bottle


Even at £9 a bottle, beer from Saint Sixtus abbey was flying off the supermarket shelves. Until the monks found out. Angry Trappists from the 19th-century Cistercian monastery in Westvleteren, west Flanders, have accused the Dutch supermarket brand Jan Linders of a breach of their “ethical values” for selling the brew. Under the abbey’s rules, the beer, produced on-site by 20 monks, is only available by the glass at a “meeting centre” or by the crate under strict conditions. Indeed, according to the Saint Sixtus abbey’s website, those seeking to buy bottles of Westvleteren in bulk must have “a lot of patience and luck”.(theguardian)…[+]