Social media and newspaper reports say Myanmar’s deputy U.N. ambassador has resigned, a day after U.N. officials received a letter from the nation's military assigning him to replace the ambassador who has strongly opposed their recent coup. A Burmese language newspaper and social media accounts say deputy Ambassador Tin Maung Naing also posted his own resignation. Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun maintains he remains ambassador representing the democratically elected government. The U.N. said Wednesday it sent rival letters from the ministry and ambassador to the General Assembly Credentials Committee.
Israeli authorities said that a Libyan-owned tanker believed to be smuggling oil from Iran to Syria was responsible for spilling tons of crude into the eastern Mediterranean last month, causing one of Israel’s worst environmental disasters. Environmental Protection Ministry officials said the “Emerald” sailed from the Persian Gulf to off the coast of Syria. Ministry officials said it is believed to have dumped its oil in the eastern Mediterranean, around 70 kilometers (40 miles) off the coast of Israel on Feb. 1 or 2. The ecological disaster, one of the worst in the country’s history, has caused extensive damage and forced the closure of beaches and a ban on the sale of seafood from the Mediterranean.
Germany’s financial market supervisor has ordered the closure of Greensill Bank AG for business with customers. It cited an “imminent risk” that the subsidiary of an Australian company will become over-indebted. Supervisor BaFin said that the Bremen-based bank had some 4.5 billion euros ($5.4 billion) in total assets at the end of last year and is not considered systemically important. It said that “the institution’s distress poses no threat to financial stability.” BaFin said it banned disposals and payments. The regulator said the measures are “not yet final.” The bank is owned by Australia’s Greensill Capital Pty Ltd., and is part of a group that provides short-term supply chain financing for industrial companies.
A lawyer for a senior executive for Chinese communications giant Huawei Technologies says comments by former U.S. President Donald Trump turned her into a “bargaining chip” and “co-opted the extradition process." Canada arrested the daughter of Huawei’s founder and the company’s chief financial officer, at Vancouver’s airport in late 2018. The U.S. wants Meng Wanzhou extradited to face fraud charges. Her lawyer pointed to a 2018 interview when Trump was asked if he would be willing to intervene in Meng’s case if it would help secure a trade deal with China or aid U.S. security interests.
The European Union's special envoy has told Serbia and Kosovo that they must resume talks on normalizing relations if they want to advance toward membership in the bloc. Miroslav Lajcak on Wednesday arrived in Belgrade after previously visiting Pristina at the start of his tour in the region. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 but Belgrade does not accept this. The EU has brokered negotiations to hammer out an agreement on future ties which have stalled for the past several months partly because of the new coronavirus pandemic. Lajcak says a “status quo” is unattainable.
A Sudanese official says tribal clashes in the western region of Darfur killed at least 10 people and wounded 32 others. He says Wednesday the violence in Saraf Omra in North Darfur province has pitted the Arabized Fur tribe against the Tama tribe over a piece of land. Authorities imposed a curfew in the town. The tribal violence in Darfur and other areas in Sudan is a major challenge to the transitional government that has ruled the country since a popular uprising led the military to overthrow longtime autocratic President Omar al-Bashir in April 2019.
Germany security officials are proposing that Internet companies should link a user’s real-world identity to all of their instant messages, emails and other online communication, prompting criticism from digital rights activists. Like in many other countries, mobile phone firms in Germany are required to verify a customer’s identity before selling them a SIM card. According to a proposal leaked late Tuesday, Germany’s Interior Ministry wants the same rule to apply to “number independent” telecommunications services such as WhatsApp, Signal or Facebook messenger. A ministry spokesman declined to explicitly confirm the veracity of the proposal.
Swedish police say a man has assaulted at least eight people in a southern Sweden town, and that the case was being investigated as ”a suspected terrorist crime.” Police said a man in his 20s attacked people in the small town of Vetlanda, about 190 kilometers (118 miles) southeast of Goteborg, Sweden’s second largest city. The man was shot by police, who said that the condition of those attacked and the perpetrator was not immediately known. The events took place in downtown Vetlanda. Swedish media reported that the assaulter used an axe. A police spokeswoman told a local newspaper some of victims were seriously injured but no one has died.
Environmental groups and indigenous activists from the Amazon region have filed a lawsuit alleging that a France-based supermarket chain is violating human rights and the environment by selling beef linked to deforestation and land grabs. The company, Groupe Casino, says it fights actively against deforestation and rigorously controls the origin of its beef. The activist groups are seeking compensation for damage to indigenous lands and livelihoods in Brazil and Colombia attributed to Amazon deforestation for cattle raising. They filed the lawsuit in France using a 2017 French law requiring large companies to prevent any serious human rights and environmental violations in their businesses and supply chains.
Authorities in Greece says police will target people making false exercise claims to bypass stay-at-home orders as part of tougher new restrictions. COVID-19 infections remain on the rise in Greece, despite four months of lockdown measures. Civil Protection chief Nikos Hardalias said permission to visit banks and supermarkets would only be permitted for a 2-kilometer radius of each person’s home. Those wishing to exercise cannot use their vehicles or take public transport for that outing. Greece reported 2,702 confirmed new infections Wednesday, the highest daily total so far this year.
Ethiopia says it is investigating “credible allegations of atrocities and human rights abuses” in its embattled Tigray region, including in the city of Axum, where The Associated Press and Amnesty International have separately documented a massacre of several hundred people. The statement by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office comes days after Ethiopia referred to the killings in Axum as an “alleged incident,” and the country’s ambassador to Belgium told a webinar that “we suspect it’s a very, very crazy idea.” But a growing number of media reports are documenting massacres in other Tigray communities. And international pressure is growing to allow independent investigations.
Senegal’s main opposition leader Ousmane Sonko has been arrested on charges of disturbing the public order after hundreds of his supporters clashed with police while he was heading to the court to face rape accusations brought against him. Sonko’s lawyer said he was also arrested for participating in unauthorized demonstrations. Sonko, who placed third in the 2019 elections, was accused of rape last month by an employee at a beauty salon. He was summoned by a judge to appear in court for questioning after his parliamentary immunity was lifted last week. Protesters gathered near Sonko’s home and followed his convoy toward the tribunal but they were blocked by the gendarmerie.
Lebanon’s president has ordered the central bank governor to open an investigation into currency speculation, after the Lebanese pound plunged to record lows on the black market this week, leading to protests. The Wednesday request by President Michel Aoun came after the country’s banks were required to raise their capital holdings by Feb. 28, and local media reported that some had to scramble to get hard currency from the black market, sending demand for it — and its prices — surging. While officialy, the U.S. dollar costs only 1,520 Lebanese pounds, the black market price was around 9,900 pounds on Wednesday — a day after briefly hitting a record high of 10,000. Just a few months earlier dollars could be bought at around 7,000 pounds.
Brazil has dodged the most dire economic forecastsfor 2020, but new government figures show the COVID-19 pandemic battered the nation and clouds the outlook for recovery. Brazil’s official statistics institute said Wednesday the economy contracted 4.1% in 2020. That's the biggest annual recession since the series began in 1996. But the result is better than International Monetary Fund forecast last year of a 5.3% plunge. Federal resistance to lockdown measures and a government welfare program helped stave off an even deeper recession.
Hard-hit Czech Republic has turned to Germany and other European countries with a request to help treat its coronavirus patients. The country's Interior Minister says neighboring Germany has offered dozens of beds in its hospitals to treat Czech COVID-19 patients. He says 19 of them are immediately ready. He says Switzerland is another country ready to help with 20 beds in its hospitals while offering to take care of the transport of the patients. Talks have been also underway with Poland that could provide around 200 beds. Some hospitals in western Czech Republic near the German border and other parts of the country can't take anymore patients.
Food delivery workers have staged protests across Spain, urging the government to approve a promised law granting them the right to choose between being company staff or self-employed. Media reports said more than 2,000 delivery riders gathered to protest in at least 10 Spanish cities on Wednesday. The proposed legal changes are the latest to affect companies and workers in the gig economy. Last month, Britain’s top court ruled that Uber drivers should be classed as “workers” and not self-employed. Digital platforms offering food deliveries, such as Deliveroo, Uber and Glovo, have boomed in Europe during the COVID-19 pandemic as people spend more time staying at home.
YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Reports from Myanmar say 33 protesters killed Wednesday by security forces, highest number since Feb. 1 coup.
South Korea’s first known transgender soldier, who protested the military’s decision last year to discharge her for undergoing gender reassignment surgery, has been found dead at her home. A fire department official said rescue workers found the body of Byun Hui-su. Byun, who had been a staff sergeant and tank driver, pleaded to be allowed to continue serving as a female soldier after the army discharged her in January 2020, triggering criticism by human rights advocates who saw the decision as discriminatory. South Korea prohibits transgender people from joining the military and the army rejected Byun’s petition for reinstatement in July last year.
A Canadian judge has found guilty a man who admitted using a van to kill 10 pedestrians in Toronto. Alek Minassian faced 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder. The April 23, 2018, attack drew attention to an online world of sexual loneliness, rage and misogyny. His lawyer argued he didn’t know what he was doing was wrong because he has autism spectrum disorder, a stance that angled autism rights advocates. Justice Anne Molloy said Wednesday the man's lawyers failed toprove he was not criminally responsible.
TORONTO (AP) — A Canadian judge has found a man who admitted using a van to kill 10 pedestrians in Toronto guilty.
Germany’s Cabinet has approved legislation that seeks to make big companies ensure environmental rules and human rights are respected throughout their delivery chains. The plan approved Wednesday is the result of prolonged haggling in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s governing coalition of center-right and center-left parties. It is set to take effect from 2023. It would apply initially to companies with 3,000 or more employees, and from 2024 to companies with 1,000 employees. The intention is to evaluate it after that to see whether more firms should be included. The plan needs parliamentary approval.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is urging police to track down people who encourage children to participate in unsanctioned demonstrations. His move follows a wave of protests against the jailing of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Speaking Wednesday to a gathering of top officials of the Interior Ministry that oversees the nation’s police force, Putin said they should more actively monitor social platforms and track down those who “draw the underaged into unlawful actions.” Last month, Russian authorities have charged Leonid Volkov, a chief strategist for Navalny, with encouraging minors to take part in unauthorized rallies, which could land him in jail for up to three years.
The political crisis in Slovakia has deepened after a member of the ruling coalition demanded a reconstruction of the Cabinet. The crisis was triggered by a secret deal to acquire Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine orchestrated by the country’s prime minister despite disagreement among his coalition partners. Prime Minister Igor Matovic has often clashed with his coalition over how to tackle the pandemic but the current crisis is the most serious problem it has faced. Matovic has defended the deal to acquire 2 million Sputnik V vaccines, saying it will speed up the vaccination program. But it was condemned by Foreign Minister Ivan Korcok, said the purchase cast doubts on his country’s clear pro-Western orientation.
The Kremlin has shrugged off new Western sanctions over the poisoning and arrest of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny as unfounded and pointless but warned that Moscow will retaliate. U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration sanctioned seven Russian officials on Tuesday, along with more than a dozen government entities, over a nerve-agent attack on Navalny and his subsequent jailing. It coordinated the move with the European Union, which added to its own sanctions Tuesday. Commenting Wednesday on the U.S. and the EU decisions, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the sanctions against top Russian officials that include a freeze on their bank accounts duplicate Russia’s own law that bans them from having financial and other assets abroad.
Austrian officials say they plan to offer vaccinations to most residents in a district that has seen significant numbers of infections with the South African coronavirus variant. Tyrol province’s Schwaz district, east of the provincial capital of Innsbruck and home to about 84,000 people, has been a source of concern for weeks. Schwaz accounts for 66 of 88 currently active confirmed cases of the more transmissible variant in the province. The plan announced Wednesday calls for a vaccination drive starting next week. Health Minister Rudolf Anschober said the rollout will see vaccinations offered to all aged 16 and over.
A video of the arrest of Associated Press journalist Thein Zaw as he was photographing Myanmar security forces charging at anti-coup protesters shows him being held in a chokehold as handcuffs are placed on him. Authorities have charged Thein Zaw and five other members of the media with violating a public order law that could see them imprisoned for up to three years. In the video, police run at Thein Zaw and at least seven surround him as he is placed in a chokehold. He is quickly handcuffed and a policeman with a bullhorn then uses the handcuffs to pull him away.
Google says it won’t develop new ways to follow individual users across the internet after it phases out existing ad tracking technology from Chrome browsers in an upcoming overhaul aimed at tightening up privacy. The digital giant has been working on proposals to remove so-called third party cookies from Chrome. These are snippets of code that record browsing history in order to show users personalized ads. Third-party cookies have been a longstanding source of privacy concerns, so Google proposes instead grouping together web users with similar interests. In a blog post, Google said it won't build alternate identifiers to track individuals as they browse the web.
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, says her hospitalized father-in-law Prince Philip is “slightly improving,” and the family is keeping its fingers crossed for his recovery. Philip, who is 99, has been hospitalized since being admitted Feb. 16 to King Edward VII’s Hospital in London, where he was treated for an infection. On Monday he was transferred to a specialized cardiac care hospital, St. Bartholomew’s, to undergo further treatment alongside testing and observation for a pre-existing heart condition. Camilla said during a visit to a coronavirus vaccination center on Wednesday that Philip is “slightly improving” but he “hurts at moments.” She added: “We keep our fingers crossed."
The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court says she has launched an investigation into alleged crimes in the Palestinian territories. Fatou Bensouda, said in a statement Wednesday the probe will be conducted “independently, impartially and objectively, without fear or favor.” Bensouda said in 2019 that there was a “reasonable basis” to open a war crimes probe into Israeli military actions in the Gaza Strip as well as Israeli settlement activity in the occupied West Bank. Following that assessment, she asked judges to rule on the extent of the court’s jurisdiction in the troubled region. They did that last month, saying that the court’s jurisdiction extends to territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — International Criminal Court prosecutor launches investigation into alleged crimes in the Palestinian territories.
President Emmanuel Macron has met with four grandchildren of an Algerian independence fighter to tell them that Ali Boumendjel had been tortured and killed by French soldiers in 1957. It was a further step in Macron’s efforts to reconcile France with its colonial past while offering an outstretched hand to Algeria, which France occupied for 132 years. In a statement late Tuesday, the presidential office said Macron wants to give families of the disappeared “the means to learn the truth.” Macron, the first French president born after the seven-year war between France and Algeria in 1962, has promised to reckon with France’s colonial-era wrongs.
A judge in Spain has denied bail to eight people following their arrest for violent clashes with police during protests against the imprisonment of a rap artist. The suspects — five Italian men, one Italian woman, one French woman and one Spanish woman — were allegedly part of a group that set fire to a police van in Barcelona on Saturday. They face potential charges that include attempted homicide, assaulting law enforcement officers, and forming part of a criminal group. The group allegedly used an inflammable liquid to set fire to a police van while an officer was inside the vehicle. The officer escaped through the passenger side door. Police say they belong to an international anarchist movement.
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has announced the dissolution of the anti-migrant group Generation Identity during a Cabinet meeting, saying the group was inciting violence and discrimination in the country. Darmanin published on Twitter a government decree pronouncing the association illegal. It said the group's publications and its leaders’ actions and comments were spreading “an ideology inciting hatred, violence and discrimination of individuals based on their origin, their race or their religion.” Generation Identity has influence throughout France and beyond. It contends its members are whistle-blowers on a mission to preserve French and European civilization, seen as undermined by newcomers, notably Muslims. Critics contend it is a militia espousing a racist cause.
Jerzy Limon, a Polish academic who was honored by Queen Elizabeth II for creating and directing a Shakespeare theater and festival in Poland, has died of COVID-19. He was 70. A spokeswoman for the Gdansk Shakespeare Theater said Limon died at a hospital in Gdansk in northern Poland. Limon was a professor, a translator and writer specializing in Shakespeare and Elizabethan theater. He was the creator of the Gdansk Shakespeare Theater, a replica of an Elizabethan-era theater which opened in 2014. Britain’s Prince Charles and Poland’s Oscar-winning movie director Andrzej Wajda were patrons of the project. Prince William and his wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, took a tour of the theater with Limon in 2017.
The Syrian pound has hit a record low just days before the Arab country marks the 10th anniversary of a conflict that has left hundreds of thousands dead and large swaths destroyed. On Wednesday morning, the U.S. dollar was trading on the black market at 4,000 pounds. The drop has increased the misery of many Syrians who have been struggling to make ends meet with a sharp increase in commodity prices. The official price remains 1,256 Syrian pounds to the dollar. Syria’s local currency has been hit hard by the war, corruption, Western sanctions and more recently a financial and economic collapse in neighboring Lebanon.
Egypt's state-run news agency says Arab foreign ministers have reappointed veteran Egyptian diplomat Ahmed Aboul Gheit as the secretary general of the Cairo-based Arab League. In January, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi announced that Cairo would nominate Aboul Gheit for a second, five-year term as the chief of the 22-member bloc. He was first appointed in 2016 as the secretary general of the Arab League. He was the only nominee for the post, as it's a long-held protocol that Egypt, as host of the Arab League, traditionally nominates the league chief.
German leaders are looking for ways to ease the country out of a long-running lockdown. They are expected to extend it on Wednesday while also opening the door to relaxing some restrictions. Chancellor Angela Merkel and the country’s 16 state governors, who in Germany have the power to impose and lift restrictions, are expected to extend the shutdown in principle by three weeks until March 28. But they are looking for ways to balance concern over the impact of more contagious coronavirus variants with a growing clamor for a return to a more normal life. The first measures already have been taken: many elementary students returned to school a week ago. On Monday, hairdressers opened after 2 1/2 months.
The Palestinian Authority’s decision to divert some of its tiny stockpile of coronavirus vaccines to senior officials, soccer players and others has sparked controversy. The PA repeatedly said that its first vaccines would go to medical workers and elderly patients. It said on Tuesday that more than 90% of its vaccines have gone to health workers, with small amounts given to senior officials, players on the national soccer team and students who need them to travel abroad. Israel has given the PA 2,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine. The PA acquired another 10,000 doses of a Russian-made vaccine. That's enough to inoculate 6,000 people in the nearly 5 million-strong population.
Bangladesh’s High Court has granted bail to a cartoonist who has been held for 10 months of pre-trial detention under a controversial digital security law that critics say stifles freedom of expression. Ahmed Kabir Kishore faces charges of creating confusion over the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and contributing to the deterioration of law and order in the country, but rights groups say the use of the Digital Security Act against him is a repressive measure. Kishore is now in prison outside the capital, Dhaka, and his lawyer said he has been tortured in custody.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has strongly denied being part of a plot against her predecessor. She was testifying under oath Wednesday in a political saga that is tearing apart her party and imperiling her position as Scotland’s leader. Sturgeon defended the way her government handled sexual assault claims against former First Minister Alex Salmond, saying allegations against powerful people must not be “ignored or swept under the carpet.” Salmond was tried and acquitted last year on sexual assault charges. He claims the allegations by nine women were part of a conspiracy to wreck his political career. He accuses Sturgeon of lying about when she learned of the allegations and of breaching conduct rules for ministers — claims she denies.
Yemen’s rebels say the U.S. sanctions on two of their military leaders would prolong the conflict in the improvised Arab country. The U.S. has slapped sanctions on two Houthi leaders allegedly for their roles in cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia, battling Iran-backed rebels, and shipping vessels in the Red Sea. A Houthi spokesman says the sanctions have showed that the U.S. “does not attempt to stop the aggression and lift the siege on Yemen.” Yemen’s war started in 2014 when the Houthis seized the capital, Sanaa, and much of the country’s north. The Saudi-led coalition intervened months later to dislodge the rebels and restore the internationally recognized government.
About 300 refugees from a Christian minority community from Myanmar have held a demonstration in India’s capital against last month’s military takeover in their country and demanded the immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other Myanmar leaders. They chanted “Restore democracy in Burma” and “Shame on you dictator” and carried placards as they burned a coffin with photographs of Myanmar’s coup leaders and Chinese President Xi Jinping, accusing him of supporting the military rulers. They also stomped their feet on the Chinese national flag. The protesters called on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to put pressure on Myanmar’s military rulers to restore democracy.
The European Union is set to extend for around two more years the safety net it put in place to help Europe's economies survive the impact of restrictions aimed at halting the spread of the coronavirus. The EU's executive Commission said Wednesday that the “general escape clause” should remain in place next year, and be lifted some time in 2023. In a sign of just how precarious things are, Commission Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis says “our clear message is that fiscal support should continue as long as needed.” The Commission estimates that fiscal support worth around 8% of GDP was provided in 2020 after countries began locking down in panic.
Kuwait’s new Cabinet has been sworn in. This comes weeks after the government quit amid a deepening deadlock with parliament that has blocked badly needed reforms in the oil-rich Gulf state. The prime minister swapped out four ministers whose selections had angered various lawmakers for less contentious, veteran politicians, an apparent gesture to appease parliament. The worsening rift between Kuwait’s emir-appointed government and elected parliament presents the first significant challenge to the new emir. The infighting has diminished public confidence, caused instability and hastened the country’s worst economic crisis in decades.
Pakistani lawmakers are choosing new members of the country’s Senate, or upper house of parliament. The vote is seen as a test for Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government and ruling party, which is seeking to improve its standing in the 104-member chamber where it lacks majority. Votes for the Senate are cast by members of the National Assembly, or the lower house of parliament, and four provincial assemblies. With half the senators due to retire after three years, elections are required to replace 52 Senators who had completed their terms. However, Wednesday's voting was being held only for 37 seats as other candidates had ran unopposed.
German media outlets are reporting the country's domestic intelligence agency has put the opposition Alternative for Germany party under observation under suspicion of extreme right sympathies. The move by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, known by the initials BfV, comes more than two years after it announced it was examining public comments by party members and links to extremist groups more closely. The Interior Ministry, which oversees the agency, said it could neither confirm nor deny them but was preparing a statement for later in the day. AfD co-chairman Tino Chrupalla accused the BfV of leaking the information to the media in an attempt to influence opinion about the party.
YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Local reports say Myanmar security forces have killed at least 6 anti-coup protesters as authorities escalate crackdown.
An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.2 has struck central Greece. There were no immediate reports of injuries. The earthquake Wednesday had an epicenter 22 kilometers west northwest of the town of Larissa and struck just after 12:15 local time, according to the European-Mediterranean Seismological Center. The quake was felt as far away as in the capitals of neighboring North Macedonia, Kosovo and Montenegro.
More African countries are receiving the long-awaited first deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines. Kenya and Rwanda are benefiting from the global COVAX initiative that aims to ensure doses for the world’s low-and middle-income nations. African and other health officials have been frustrated with the sight of a handful of rich countries rolling out vaccines after snapping up large amounts for themselves. The director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned that “we will be known as the continent of COVID” if Africa doesn’t quickly reach its target of vaccinating 60% of its population of 1.3 billion people.
The postponed Tokyo Olympics look like they will take place without any fans from abroad. The Japanese newspaper Mainichi reports that the decision has been made to exclude foreign fans. It cites only unnamed sources “involved in the discussions.” The report came just a hour before Tokyo organizers held "five-party” talks with the International Olympic Committee, the International Paralympic Committee, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the central government of Japan. Fans was a top item on the agenda. The Olympics are to open on July 23. The exclusion of foreign fans has been almost a foregone conclusion with the games being held during a pandemic.
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