South Koreans among seven missing in Himalayan avalanche

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AFP) — An avalanche in Nepal’s Annapurna region has left at least seven people missing, including four South Koreans and three Nepalis, officials said Saturday. The incident occurred at an altitude of around 3,230 meters (10,597 feet) close to the base camp for Annapurna, one of the highest peaks in the Himalayas, following heavy snowfall on Friday. “We are getting reports that four South Koreans and three Nepalis are out of contact after […]

Ken Starr, celebrity lawyer Dershowitz join Trump defense team

by Sebastian Smith ¬†Agence France-Presse WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) — Ken Starr, who was at the center of Bill Clinton’s impeachment in the 1990s, and America’s biggest celebrity lawyer Alan Dershowitz were announced Friday to be joining President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment defense. The administration has yet to unveil the full team but confirmed that White House counsel Pat Cipollone will be lead lawyer, backed by Trump’s personal attorney Jay Sekulow. “President Trump has done […]

US girds for cyber threats from Iran as military clash fears ebb

by Rob Lever Agence France Presse Iran is widely expected to ramp up cyberattacks against the United States in response to the US killing of a top Iranian leader this month even as fears have receded about a military confrontation between the two countries. The simmering tensions since the US drone attack that killed Qasem Soleimani, who was by some measures the second most influential person in Iran, make it likely that Iran will seek […]

Rain brings joy for Australian firefighters, farmers

    by Karl MALAKUNAS Agence France-Presse SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — Drought-breaking storms dumped desperately needed rain on some bushfire-ravaged parts of eastern Australia on Friday, while giving joy to many farmers who have faced losing precious livestock and crops. The rains gave exhausted firefighters a boost in battling some of the blazes, with more relief expected over the weekend as the wet weather is forecast to hit other hotspots. The unprecedented fires, fueled by […]

US warship sails through Taiwan Strait

  TAIPEI, Taiwan (AFP) — A United States warship has sailed through the Taiwan Strait, Taipei’s defence ministry said Friday, the first such passage since the island resoundingly re-elected its independence-leaning president. The warship was on a “routine mission”, the ministry said, as it traversed the stretch of water that divides the self-ruling island from the authoritarian Chinese mainland. The waterway bristles with hardware on both sides and China views any sail-by as a breach […]

Global decision-makers gather in Davos

PARIS, France (AFP) – Stuart WILLIAMS Global decision-makers gather in Davos starting Tuesday for their annual meeting, with challenges facing the planet — from climate change to conflict in the Middle East — as imposing as the Alps that surround the Swiss resort. Observers fear the annual World Economic Forum will serve only to again expose the differences between East and West, the US and the EU, and business and activists in combating the most […]

Heating woes fuel Balkan smog crisis

SARAJEVO, BOSNIA AND HERZGOVINA (AFP) – Rusmir SMAJILHODZIC and Emmy VARLEY in Belgrade As winter grips the Balkans, the poor are caught in a cruel bind, being forced to light fires at home for heating while fuelling a pollution crisis smothering the region.   In recent weeks, Balkan capitals from Belgrade Sarajevo to Skopje and Pristina have been ranked among the world’s top 10 most polluted major cities, according to the monitoring application AirVisual. While […]

5.3 magnitude earthquake hits southern Mexico

MEXICO CITY, Mexico (AFP) — A 5.3 magnitude earthquake shook the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca on Thursday, causing some damage, according to local authorities. The quake struck south of Ciudad Ixtepec, according to the National Seismological Service. “There is damage in the area near the isthmus due to tonight’s earthquake. We are monitoring the area,” state Civil Protection authorities said on Twitter. The local Civil Protection coordinator, Heliodoro Diaz, separately said that two houses […]

Rain hits Australian fires, but blazes still rage

SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — Heavy rain fell on bushfires in eastern Australia Friday for a second straight day, offering further relief from a months-long crisis, but dozens of blazes remained out of control. This week’s wet weather has given exhausted firefighters a major boost in battling unprecedented blazes that have been fuelled by climate change and drought. The fires have claimed 28 lives, scorched massive tracts of pristine forests and destroyed thousands of homes. Following […]

Fiji opens evacuation centres as Cyclone Tino hits

SUVA, Fiji (AFP) — Fiji opened evacuation centers and warned of “destructive force winds” as Tropical Cyclone Tino took aim at the Pacific island nation on Friday. The Fiji Meteorological Service said the cyclone was approaching from the north and strengthening as it headed for Fiji’s second-largest island, Vanua Levu. “We have told them to be prepared, the Ministry of Education has shut down all schools, the evacuation centers are open as well. So, everyone, […]

Second person dies from mystery virus in China: official

BEIJING, China (AFP) — A second person has died in China from a mystery virus that has stricken dozens and appeared in two other Asian countries, officials said. Local authorities said a 69-year-old man died on Wednesday in Wuhan, the central Chinese city believed to be the epicenter of an outbreak of a coronavirus from the same family as the deadly SARS pathogen. The outbreak has caused alarm because of the link with SARS (Severe […]

Qatar scraps unpopular exit permits for domestic workers

DOHA, Qatar (AFP) — Qatar scrapped mandatory exit permits for migrant domestic staff and other groups on Thursday, as part of efforts to boost rights for guest workers amid scrutiny of its record. Previously all foreigners working permanently in the gas-rich country required authorization from bosses to leave, but now only military personnel will routinely require such a dispensation. Qatar has made a series of reforms to its employment regulations since being selected to host […]