Monthly Archives: October 2016

World piracy plummets to 20-year low: Maritime watchdog

KUALA LUMPUR: Pirate attacks worldwide fell to a 20-year low in the third quarter, the International Maritime Bureau said Monday, as it credited anti-piracy efforts by authorities and the shipping industry.

The IMB said in its latest quarterly report that 42 instances of piracy on the high seas were recorded in July-September.

“With just 42 attacks worldwide this quarter, maritime piracy is at its lowest since 1996,” it said.

The bureau’s Kuala Lumpur-based Piracy Reporting Centre recorded 141 incidents from January to September, a 25 per cent drop from the same period in 2015.

“The IMB is encouraged by the efforts of national and international authorities and the shipping industry to keep piracy down,” it said.

But it cautioned that pirate attacks involving hostage-taking, particularly near Nigeria, remained a problem and advised shipmasters and response agencies to stay vigilant.

World piracy has been on the decline since 2012 after international naval patrols were launched off East Africa in response to a spate of violent assaults by mostly Somali-based pirates.

There have been no attacks off Somalia so far this year, according to the IMB.

As the Somali hotspot went cold, the IMB’s attention shifted to Indonesia, which saw piracy rise sharply in 2015, typically involving low-level strikes on vessels transporting fuel.

But the IMB report said attacks in Indonesian waters had “plummeted” to 33 in the first nine months of this year from 86 in the same period in 2015.

“Patrols by the Indonesian Marine Police appear to be working,” the report said.

The 33 Indonesia attacks in January-September remained the highest number in the world, followed by 31 off Nigeria.

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Too early to speak about Premier League title – Conte

REUTERS: Chelsea need to improve a lot before they could be considered Premier League title contenders, manager Antonio Conte has said after his resurgent side beat Southampton 2-0 on Sunday.

Chelsea have won four successive league games after their 3-0 loss to Arsenal last month and have climbed to fourth in the table after 10 games, a point behind leaders Manchester City.

“It’s early for us to speak about title contenders. We can improve a lot. We must improve,” Conte told British media.

“After the first part of the season – during January – I can tell more about this run.

“We know that the road is long but the confidence is increasing… It’s not important for us to look at the table now. If you ask me a prediction or an expectation of our championship, it’s very difficult to talk about this.”

Chelsea will hope to extend their winning run in the league when they host sixth-placed Everton at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

(Reporting by Shravanth Vijayakumar in Bengaluru; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

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Protests erupt in Morocco after fishmonger crushed to death

RABAT: Thousands of outraged Moroccans held protests in several cities on Sunday after a fishmonger in the northern town of Al-Hoceima was crushed to death inside a garbage truck as he tried to retrieve fish confiscated by police.

The death on Friday prompted a frenzy of angry postings on social media against “Hogra”, a Maghreb term referring to official abuse and injustice. Sunday’s rallies were called by activists from the February 20 movement, which organised demonstrations during the Arab unrest of 2011.

In an effort to calm tensions, King Mohamed, currently on a tour of Africa, ordered the interior minister to visit the victim’s family and present royal condolences.

The interior and justice ministries also promised an investigation.

Such large-scale protests are rare in Morocco, where the king still holds ultimate sway. Morocco calmed Arab Spring-style protests in 2011 with reforms, spending and tougher security while leaders in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya were swept from power.

“I have never seen such a crowd in the last few years, since 2011 at least,” said Houssin Lmrabet, an activist from the town of Imzouren where thousands took part in the funeral of the victim and protests that followed. “Everyone feels crushed by that garbage truck here.”

Mouhcine Fikri had fish confiscated by police on Friday after he bought it at the port. Local authorities have banned swordfish sales in this season.

According to local media and authorities, Fikri jumped inside the trash truck that police used to destroy the confiscated fish in a desperate attempt to recover it when he was caught inside the crusher.

Protests were held in Al-Hoceima and other towns in Rif region, long seen as a hotbed of dissent, and also in Casablanca and the capital Rabat, where hundreds gathered chanting “Mohcine was murdered, Makhzen is to blame” in a reference to the royal establishment and its allies.

Fikri’s death has echoes of how Tunisia’s uprising began in 2011, triggering similar revolts across the region after a young man set himself on fire in desperation because police confiscated fruit and vegetables he was selling.

Activists accused police officers of ordering garbage men to crush Fikri, but the Moroccan police (DGSN) denied those accusations in a statement on Sunday.

Moroccan authorities heavily police protests, nervous over popular unrest since the 2011 protests. During those protests the king devolved some of his authority to an elected government in a constitutional reform.

Governments in North Africa are wary of protests tapping into pent up frustrations among unemployed youth. Tunisia has seen rioting twice this year in its south over jobs and unions are warning over the government’s new austerity plans.

(Editing by Patrick Markey and Raissa Kasolowsky)

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Bale extends Real Madrid contract to 2022

REUTERS: Wales international Gareth Bale has extended his Real Madrid contract until 2022, the Spanish club said on Sunday.

Bale joined Real for a then world-record fee of 100 million euros (US$ 110 million) in 2013 and has won two Champions Leagues and a King’s Cup in three seasons with the La Liga club.

The 27-year-old winger, whose previous contract ran until 2019, has made 135 appearances in all competitions since he joined the club, scoring 62 goals.

“Real Madrid C. F. and Gareth Bale have agreed to the extension of the player’s contract until June 30, 2022,” the club said on its website. (www.realmadrid.com)

(US$ 1 = 0.9107 euros)

(Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru, editing by Nick Mulvenney)

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What would 100 days of a Clinton White House look like?

WASHINGTON, DC: On January 20, 2017, Barack Obama’s successor will take the oath of office on the Capitol steps in Washington for a four-year term. As always, the first 100 days for any American president are paramount.

Democrat Hillary Clinton has released a detailed policy platform, but a successful start for an eventual Clinton administration depends on a number of variables — notably who is in control of Congress.

“We’ll begin to get to work right away and reach out to everybody that we can possibly touch to start talking about what we can do together,” Clinton said on October 22, recalling her efforts to work with Republicans as a first lady and senator.

“And I think there’s a big agenda where we can find common ground.”

ECONOMY AND IMMIGRATION

Clinton has pledged to put forth two bills in her first 100 days in office: one on immigration reform and the other a major infrastructure investment plan.

These two major legislative initiatives should dominate the start of the 69-year-old’s mandate. In the past, they have been issues that have earned bipartisan support.

“A potential Clinton administration will see immigration as a very, very high priority in 2017,” Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, told AFP.

To fulfill her campaign pledge to offer a pathway to “full and equal citizenship” to millions of immigrants without legal residency, Clinton will need to make compromises with Congress — and thus with Republicans.

Republicans are likely to maintain control of at least the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate as well.

The Senate adopted immigration reform legislation in 2013, but it died in the House, due to pressure from the Republican Party’s ultra-conservative wing.

Current House Speaker Paul Ryan is open to some kind of immigration reform, but one that unfolds in stages: first, a toughening of border controls, followed by an overhaul of the legal immigration system and, eventually, some form of a way forward for undocumented migrants.

“It’s going to be difficult for Republicans to do nothing and continue to be obstructionist,” said Carmel Martin, executive vice president for policy at the Center for American Progress, a think tank that is close to Clinton.

Martin says Democrats hope a Trump loss on November 8 could strengthen the Republican Party’s more moderate faction.

According to Doris Meissner, an expert at the Migration Policy Institute, “it does come down to what the struggle within the Republican Party will be, on how they interpret the election result if they in fact lose the presidency.”

Another major decision awaits the next president: the eventual nomination of a Supreme Court justice to replace the late Antonin Scalia, a stalwart conservative.

Obama nominated Merrick Garland, but his candidacy has stalled in the Senate amid partisan stonewalling. If the Democrats win a majority in the chamber, that could change quickly.

WHAT TO DO ABOUT SYRIA AND PUTIN

Foreign policy headaches will pile up on the desk of Obama’s successor, but none are as big as the crisis in war-wracked Syria.

Clinton should quickly set up her national security team, and is likely to pull at least some of her picks from the ranks of Team Obama.

Some posts, like secretary of state and Pentagon chief, require Senate approval.

A review of American policy in Syria is “inevitable,” according to Jeffrey Rathke, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Rathke, an expert on Europe, also said it would be “necessary” to review US policy towards the Old Continent, and towards Russia, in order to reinforce US ties with both the European Union and NATO.

“It’s important for the new administration to take a leadership role in ensuring that not only do we support a country that’s under pressure from Russia, but to be sure that we are prepared to react if there are further attempts by Russia to intimidate or coerce European countries,” Rathke told AFP.

A European ambassador in Washington said it would be vital for the next president to organize a US-EU summit as quickly as possible.

A NATO summit is set to take place in Brussels next year, but a specific date is not set.

A Group of Seven summit is on the cards for May 2017 in Italy, as well as a G20 summit in July in Germany.

The next US leader also may want to consider attending the annual Munich Security Conference in February, less than a month after taking office.

As for a first presidential trip abroad, Clinton’s entourage declined comment to AFP as to whether she would respect the tradition followed by the last five presidents, who headed first to either Canada or Mexico, America’s neighbors.

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Guardiola's City and Arsenal hit four but no joy for Mourinho

LONDON: Manchester City won 4-0 at West Bromwich Albion to end Pep Guardiola’s worst run as a manager but Jose Mourinho’s woes continued as Manchester United’s manager was sent to the stands and Ander Herrera sent off in a goalless draw with Burnley at Old Trafford on Saturday.

United, with one goal in four games and a solitary win in seven, must now watch those with Premier League title aspirations pull away.

There were doubles all round at the top as Sergi Aguero and Iikay Gundogan scored twice for City while Alexis Sanchez and Olivier Giroud also struck braces for Arsenal, 4-1 winners at Sunderland. The Gunners have 23 points like league leaders City but are one place behind on goal difference.

Tottenham Hotspur, who play Arsenal next weekend, lost ground after their 1-1 draw with Leicester City while Liverpool were playing in Saturday’s late game.

If Guardiola was all smiles after his first win in seven games, there was more frustration for Mourinho who began the start of the second half behind the dug-out before being moved to the directors’ box.

The Portuguese had been incensed by the failure of referee Mark Clattenburg to punish Jon Flanagan for a foul on Matteo Darmian but will be equally unhappy with his team who failed to score in 37 attempts, 11 of which were saved by Tom Heaton.

Burnley’s keeper produced another excellent performance with a series of outstanding saves, notably from Jesse Lingard and Zoran Ibrahimovic.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was delighted with his team’s victory at winless Sunderland, who are experiencing the worst start in Premier League history after 10 games.

The match turned on the introduction of Giroud, who scored with his first two touches as Arsenal netted three times in seven second-half minutes.

Asked whether he deserved credit for the decision to bring on the Frenchman, Wenger said: “The manager gets easy credit when he has quality players on the bench. You do not need to be a special manager to make that decision.”

A superb solo goal from Gaston Ramirez helped Middlesbrough to get their first home league win, 2-0 over Bournemouth.

Picking up the ball inside his own half, the Uruguayan forced his way into the Bournemouth area before cutting back inside a defender and scoring.

Hull City remain in the relegation zone after Michael Dawson conceded a late own goal to see the visitors lose 1-0 at Watford.

(Reporting by Neil Robinson; Editing by Clare Fallon)

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Bomb-laden car explodes near central bank in Yemen's Aden – sources

ADEN: A car laden with explosives blew up near the headquarters of Yemen’s central bank in the southern city of Aden on Saturday and five people were injured, local security sources said.

Security guards fired at the car as it moved at high speed towards the bank’s building and it then blew up, they said.

The blast caused minor damage to the building in a central district of Aden known as Crater and two cars nearby, one belonging to security guards and the other to a private citizen, caught fire and burned.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

It was believed to be the first attempt to target the central bank since President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s decision in September to appoint a new governor and move its headquarters from the capital Sanaa, controlled by Houthi rebels, to the southern port city of Aden, where his government is based.

Hadi is backed by a Saudi-led Arab coalition that has been trying to roll back gains made by the Iran-aligned Houthis since 2014 and restore the president to power.

(Reporting by Mohammed Mukhashaf; writing by Maha El Dahan; editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Tennis: Murray breezes past Isner for seventh time

VIENNA: Andy Murray defeated injured John Isner for the seventh time in seven meetings on Friday (Oct 28) to reach the Vienna semi-finals and take another step closer to deposing Novak Djokovic as world number one.

Murray, the 2014 champion in the Austrian capital, cruised to a 6-1, 6-3 win over the big American who required treatment on his blistered right hand early in the second set.

World number two Murray, who now has 68 wins in 2016 and is on a 14-match win streak, broke serve three times in a dominant opening set, committing just one unforced error to Isner’s 20.

By the end of the one-sided affair, Murray’s error count was just 10 to 35 to the outclassed American.

Murray needs to win the Vienna title on Sunday, as well as next week’s Paris Masters, to have a chance to knock Djokovic off the world top spot.

On Saturday, the 29-year-old faces defending champion and fifth seed David Ferrer who saved a match point and recovered from a break down to beat Serbia’s Viktor Troicki 6-3, 3-6, 7-5.

Ferrer, who is attempting to extend a streak which has seen him reach at least one final in each of the past 11 years, will be up against it facing Murray – he trails 6-14 with the Scot winning the last seven.

Big-serving Ivo Karlovic saved a match point and fired 29 aces to defeat Russia’s Karen Khachanov 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 to reach the semi-finals.

Karlovic, 17 years older than his 20-year-old opponent, saved the match point in the 12th game of the second set.

The Croatian veteran will next face sixth seed and 2011 champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France who defeated Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-2, 7-6 (7/5).

Karlovic now has a season-leading 1,081 aces.

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Whaling watchdog concludes discordant meeting

PORTOROZ, Slovenia: The world’s whaling watchdog concluded a typically discordant meeting on Friday (Oct 28) with defeats for both the pro- and anti-whaling camps, and the organisation’s very purpose called into question.

After a week marked by a classic standoff between whaling nations Japan, Norway and Iceland on the one hand and mainly Western and South American countries on the other, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) agreed on the need for introspection.

The commission, which turns 70 this year, “has been in a stalemate due to the fundamentally conflicting views on whales and whaling,” reads a Japanese request for a working group to find ways of addressing the body’s “dysfunction.”

Just one example of the sometimes paralysing deadlock was a proposal by whale-watching nations to create a South Atlantic sanctuary, which was voted down on Tuesday by the pro-whaling bloc, as it has been every other time since it was first brought to the commission in 2001.

To pass, the resolution needed a 75 per cent majority of member votes at the IWC’s 66th meeting in the Adriatic resort town of Portoroz.

Anti-whaling nations, in turn, voted for the creation of a body to better scrutinise Japan’s annual hunt, conducted under scientific licence but blasted by critics as a commercial meat haul.

They also defeated Tokyo’s umpteenth bid to be allowed small hunts by coastal communities it claims are unjustly barred from a traditional source of food under a 30-year-old commercial whaling moratorium.

‘EXTREME POLARISATION’

“Because of this stalemate, we just will not change our position… whatever the proposal is. The other side is the same, irrespective of the content or science or law: if that includes some whaling they will just oppose,” Japan’s IWC commissioner Joji Morishita said.

“Unless … we address this issue in some manner, we will just be repeating the same thing meeting after meeting,” he said, wondering if it was worth having such a body if it was unable to tackle “differences in opinion”.

Japan’s backers included Iceland, which said the process was being “held hostage” by “extreme polarisation.”

Although commission members did not accept Japan’s request for a working group, they did agree to a discussion between now and the next meeting in Brazil in 2018, which Morishita will chair.

Outgoing commission chairman Bruno Mainini of Switzerland agreed that solutions to the most divisive issues “probably can’t be found through voting”.

“I think the goal of all conventions, all organisations should be to accommodate the interests of all,” he told AFP.

“Right now it seems to be impossible to accommodate because … (of) the moratorium” thwarting the desire of some IWC members to conduct whaling.

“Sooner or later, all the interested parties may have to move and tackle these issues,” Mainini said.

He highlighted the commission’s successes, including many countries giving up commercial whaling and the recovery of many stocks hunted to near-extinction in the 20th century, such as the humpback whale.

In comparison to the “one or two thousand” whales landed by IWC members per year, some 300,000 cetaceans, the family of whales, dolphins and porpoises, are killed through other human activities, mainly as fishing bycatch, he added.

Also, “there are countries (which) are not members of the IWC and they are more or less free to do what they want,” he said.

INSTITUTIONAL DIVISIONS

But Washington’s IWC commissioner, Russell Smith, does not believe the commission is dysfunctional.

“Everybody agrees that the conservation of whales is very important, everybody agrees that aboriginal subsistence whaling is important and that the management of that is the responsibility of the commission,” he told AFP.

“Those are two of the major things that the commission continues to do and can continue to do even if we don’t agree on… the issue of commercial whaling.”

The moratorium excludes aboriginal subsistence whaling, for which the IWC issues catch limits, and killing whales for scientific research.

Norway and Iceland have lodged formal objections to the moratorium, and continue commercial hunts.

Conservation group Greenpeace also lamented “institutional divisions” at the IWC.

The proposal for an Atlantic sanctuary “fell along dividing lines all too familiar to long-term IWC members,” it said.

“Clashes throughout the week between whaling nations and their supporters and other members demonstrated how difficult it is for the body to reach consensus.”

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Trump running mate's plane skids off NY runway

NEW YORK: Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence’s campaign plane slid off a runway after landing at New York’s LaGuardia Airport on Thursday (Oct 27), the campaign said.

No injuries were reported.

“We could feel the plane sliding off the runway and then (it) came to a very sharp halt” after landing, CNN producer Elizabeth Landers, who was on the plane, told the channel.

“The governor and everyone on board is okay,” she said of Donald Trump’s running mate.

The Boeing 737 slid completely off the runway onto grass next to the tarmac, she added, saying there was mud and grass on the plane’s body and “gashes” on the runway.

The democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tweeted about the incident.  

Video footage broadcast from the runway soon after the incident showed steady rain falling. Pence could be seen shaking hands and posing for photos with first responders.

Trump, who was campaigning in Ohio, called Pence after the accident, spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said.

“He reached out to Governor Pence and he is very glad everyone aboard is safe,” she said.

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