World News World News en Sri Lanka probes 'longest saree' wedding for using kids
About 250 students of a state-owned school carried the train of the 3.2km long saree worn by the bride as she and the groom walked down a main road in the central district of Kandy Thursday, local media reported. Another 100 students served as flower girls at the wedding.

The students were from a school named after Central Province Chief Minister Sarath Ekanayaka who was a special guest at the wedding, according to media reports, which said the saree was the longest ever worn by a bride in Sri Lanka.

The National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) said it was probing the incident.

"We have started an investigation," NCPA Chairman Marini de Livera told AFP. "We are going all out because we don't want this to become a trend."

De Livera said deploying students for such ceremonies during school hours was against the law, with violators facing up to 10 years in prison.

"What they (the wedding party) did is a violation of child rights," de Livera said. "Depriving children of education, risking their security and harming their dignity are criminal offences." — AFP]]>
World Fri, 22 Sep 2017 13:14:23 +0000 theSundaily 485539 at
London transport authority won't renew Uber's license
TfL has concluded Uber was not fit and proper to hold a private hire operator licence after the expiry of its current licence on Sept 30.

TfL considers that Uber's approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility in relation to a number of issues which have potential public safety and security implications.

Uber has 21 days to appeal, during which it can continue to operate. — Bernama]]>
World Fri, 22 Sep 2017 11:21:10 +0000 theSundaily 485503 at
Social media 'hate speech' aggravating Rohingya crisis
Western Rakhine, for years a hotbed of tension between Myanmar's Rohingya minority and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists, has been seized by crisis since the army launched a crackdown on Rohingya militants in late August.

The operation has been so sweeping and brutal that the UN says it likely amounts to "ethnic cleansing" of the Rohingya, nearly 430,000 of whom have fled to Bangladesh in under one month.

The once 1.1-million strong group are denied citizenship in mainly Buddhist Myanmar and widely viewed as foreign invaders from Bangladesh, a narrative pushed by army chief Min Aung Hlaing in regular Facebook posts.

After a three-day visit to Myanmar, including a stop in Rakhine's state capital Sittwe, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Patrick Murphy called on community leaders to condemn hate speech cascading across the web in the former junta-run nation.

"One of the newer factors adding to the complexities (in Rakhine) is the platform that social media now offers. There is a lot of hate speech, there is a lot of misinformation," Murphy told media in a telephone briefing.

He urged the "better angels" of the Myanmar people to find empathy for the Rohingya.

"What we are doing is appealing to the many, many populations in Burma... to remember their own experience and show some compassion regardless of the political complexities for the Rohingya people," Murphy said.

The lines of frail and traumatised Rohingya streaming into Bangladesh have overwhelmed aid agencies and triggered alarm from world leaders, with ramshackle camps along the border swelling into one of the largest refugee settlements in the world.

But there have been few expressions of sympathy for the Rohingya inside Myanmar, despite a shared history of abuse under the former military dictatorship.

Many in the Buddhist majority blame Rohingya militants for triggering the unrest in Rakhine and accuse foreign media and NGOs of a pro-Rohingya bias.

The latest violence – and outpouring of global condemnation – has seen a remarkable shift in domestic political alliances, with nationalist fervour driving those who once reviled the military to come to its defence over the Rakhine campaign. — AFP]]>
World Fri, 22 Sep 2017 12:49:38 +0000 theSundaily 485535 at
France's Macron enacts his contested labour reforms
The reform ushers in an "unprecedented transformation of our social and economic model," the 39-year-old Macron said, adding that it had been "carried out in record time".

The measures are designed to give employers more flexibility to negotiate pay and conditions with their workers while making it easier and less costly to shed staff.

Macron signed the reform, contained in five executive orders, before television cameras in a US-inspired novelty for a French president.

The overhaul, eagerly awaited by the business community and France's EU partners, was fast-tracked via executive orders as a way of avoiding a prolonged battle in the streets.

Three months of negotiations with union leaders produced a split between those willing to compromise – the CFDT and FO – and those determined to fight the reforms, led by the largest and most militant union, the CGT.

But the resistance has been far weaker than that faced by Macron's Socialist predecessor Francois Hollande over his changes to the labour code, which sparked a wave of sometimes violent protests last year.

On Thursday, some 132,000 people demonstrated across France, just over half the numbers who took part last week in the first major street protests organised by trade unions since the centrist Macron was elected in May.

Nevertheless, the hardline CGT union has vowed to continue to combat his reforms, while radical left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon wants to get tens of thousands into the streets on Saturday.

Melenchon, the head of the France Unbowed party, has emerged as the main opposition leader after Macron's centrist movement sidelined the traditional left and right parties that have long alternated power in France.

But the reform comes as the former investment banker's approval ratings have plunged, with recent polls showing that only around 40 percent of French voters are satisfied with his performance.

Protesters have seized upon Macron's recent criticism of opponents to the labour market changes as "slackers", with slogans such as "Watch out, Macron, the slackers are in the street".

'Humility' lacking

The head of the CGT union that has led this month's protests, Philippe Martinez, warned Macron: "When you are president, you should show humility rather than strutting about."

Philippe Braud, professor emeritus at Paris's Sciences Po university, said he thinks popularity is not a concern for Macron.

"He knows he won't be defeated in the street," Braud told AFP.

The Macron team insists that the reforms will encourage hiring and will offer the best cure to France's stubbornly high unemployment rate, which stands at 9.6 percent, roughly twice the levels in Britain or Germany.

Public opinion is divided, according to a recent BVA poll, with most respondents saying they think the reforms will boost France's competitiveness but fail to improve employees' working conditions.

Critics see the use of executive orders – which meant there was a very limited parliamentary debate about the contents of the law – as reinforcing perceptions of Macron as a monarchical or even "pharaonic" leader.

But Macron insists he has a mandate for change after sweeping the board in presidential and parliamentary elections in May and June.

"Democracy does not happen in the street," Macron said in New York on Wednesday in another broadside at the protesters.

The reform will enter the statute books on Monday, though a few changes, including a measure to streamline workers' committees will not take effect until the end of the year. — AFP]]>
World Fri, 22 Sep 2017 12:45:51 +0000 theSundaily 485533 at
UN needs $200 million for 'catastrophic' Rohingya influx
The Rohingya Muslims, escaping ethnic unrest in Myanmar, have overwhelmed Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar in under a month.

The UN made an emergency appeal for US$78 million on Sept 9, but UN resident coordinator in Bangladesh, Robert Watkins, said much more would be needed as the exodus grows.

"Our best estimate at this point is US$200 million. We are putting together a plan right now that will be ready in about four or five days," Watkins told AFP.

He said aid workers were already struggling to get food, medicine and drinking water to the refugees, many of whom were limited to one meal a day.

The Doctors Without Borders (MSF) group has warned that refugee camps are on the brink of a "public health disaster", saying filthy water and faeces flow through shanties now bursting with Rohingya.

"The fact that there are 430,000 refugees here is in fact a catastrophic event. There is no question about that. We are coping the best we can," Watkins said.

"We are working very hard with the government to get out assistance to all the people, to make sure that everyone is covered with shelter, getting food and getting access to healthcare and pure water and sanitation. This is our priority right now."

He described the government allocation of new land for a massive new refugee camp as a "big breakthrough".

The 2,000 acres of land between two existing camps is already being developed.

"People have been supplied with building materials so they can build their own shelters in the short term. In the medium term they can build something more resilient.

He also offered UN help in government attempts to register refugees.

"The government has started doing that. We have been offering the government to assist with our biometric registration technology and staff and that is still being negotiated with the government."

The registration could play an important role in any future accord to send Rohingya back to Myanmar, where the Buddhist-dominated army has been accused of killing Rohingya and burning their villages.

A huge relief operation has started with truck convoys carrying aid to some of the remotest border areas.

Some 100 tonnes of food, tents, sleeping mats and blankets sent by Saudi Arabia have started arriving in Cox's Bazar. The United States has also pledged US$32 million to help Bangladesh cope with the influx.

The International Organisation for Migration said the Saudi aid would be distributed "to some of the thousands of people who have arrived from Myanmar with nothing and are now camped out and living rough on the side of the road or in muddy fields".

"We urgently need more supplies like food, water, medicine and shelter. We can and we must do more," Save the Children International chief executive Helle Thorning-Schmidt said at the United Nations in New York. — AFP]]>
World Fri, 22 Sep 2017 11:38:27 +0000 theSundaily 485511 at
Nigeria, Turkey to meet over illegal arms shipments
It was the fourth time this year Nigerian customs officers had intercepted illegal arms shipments from Turkey at the nation's ports, a customs official said.

According to the Nigeria Customs Service, a total of 2,671 action pump rifles allegedly imported from Turkey have been seized in Lagos since January.

"The government is worried about the incessant importation of arms from Turkey. This year alone, four shipments have come from that country," customs spokesman Joseph Attah told AFP.

"Colonel Hameed Ali, the comptroller-general, will be meeting with the Turkish Ambassador in Abuja today (Friday) to address the issue."

Attah said 470 rifles, which had been falsely declared as elbow joints for plumbing, were intercepted at the port on Tuesday.

That shipment was uncovered barely a week after a 20-foot container-load of 1,100 pump-action rifles was impounded at the same port.

"We have found out that the people bringing in these weapons are Nigerians. They have syndicates in Turkey who are manifesting these weapons," Attah said.

A local oil firm involved in the shipments is under investigation.

"We are yet to get to the bottom of the whole issue. We will investigate to know if these weapons are meant for commercial purposes or group of insurgents or agitators," said Attah.

The Turkish embassy was not immediately available for comments.

Nigeria is facing a string of security challenges, from Boko Haram's Islamist insurgency in the northeast to militants targeting oil and gas facilities in the south.

In between, there is growing conflict between largely nomadic herders and farmers. There has also been unrest linked to separatist sentiment in the southeast. — AFP]]>
World Fri, 22 Sep 2017 11:41:18 +0000 theSundaily 485513 at
Kremlin says not involved in Russia-linked Facebook ads
"We don't know who places ads on Facebook and how," President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

"We have never done it and the Russian side has never had anything to do with it."

Facebook's chief executive Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday said the company would pass on to Congress details about Russia-linked ads that inflamed tensions around last year's presidential election.

Earlier this month, Facebook said some 470 Russia-linked fake accounts spent a total of about US$100,000, (RM419,800) between June 2015 and May 2017 on ads that touted fake or misleading views and played on divisive social and political themes like race, gay rights, and immigration.

The ads were linked to a Russian entity known as the Internet Research Agency, a secretive outlet in Saint-Petersburg which has been christened the "troll farm" by Russian media because its employees blogged and left comments under fake online identities.

A congressional investigation will focus on how the messages in the ads were manipulated by Russian interests.

The investigation is the latest development in a string of probes into possible Russian meddling in the election and whether it could have swung the vote in US President Donald Trump's favour.

US intelligence agencies say Putin himself directed the intervention and Senate and Justice Department investigators have been chasing links between the Trump campaign and Moscow for evidence of collusion.

Moscow has denied all allegations of meddling in the vote. — AFP]]>
World Fri, 22 Sep 2017 10:44:45 +0000 theSundaily 485489 at
'Mentally deranged US dotard' and other North Korean insults
Kim Jong-Un's rhetorical flourish might seem like an outlandish tongue-lashing of the US leader, but it is rather tame compared to the florid language normally deployed by Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency, which is peppered with flamboyant, imaginative and often antiquated language.

Taking aim at perceived adversaries, KCNA has labelled former US President George W. Bush a "half-baked man", ex-South Korean leader Park Geun-Hye a "crafty prostitute", and called previous US leader Barack Obama her "pimp".

Trump has traded tough rhetoric with Pyongyang as it pushed an increasingly brazen weapons programme in recent months, with missile launches and its sixth and largest nuclear test.

Calling Kim a "madman" and "Rocket Man", he first threatened Pyongyang with "fire and fury", but this week scaled up, saying Washington would "totally destroy" the North if it threatened the US or its allies.

Kim's retort published on Friday was unusual for its outraged personal tone but it contained many of the familiar KCNA tropes, calling Trump "a rogue and a gangster".

But it was the "dotard" reference that had people reaching for their reference books, according to online dictionary Merriam Webster, which tweeted: "Kim Jong Un calls Trump a mentally deranged U.S. dotard. Searches for 'dotard' are high as a kite".

In the original Korean version, which is often far stronger than the official KCNA English declarations, the "dotard" quote can be more directly translated as calling Trump an "old lunatic".

Observers joke that much of KCNA's English seems to have been sourced with the help of an ancient dictionary.

Some of its pronouncements verge on the Shakespearean.

In 2013, about two years after the young North Korean leader took power, Kim had his influential uncle and mentor, Jang Song-Thaek, executed for treason.

The official KCNA report of the execution called Jang "despicable human scum ... who was worse than a dog" and said he "perpetrated thrice-cursed acts of treachery in betrayal" against Kim and the ruling party.

KCNA devoted particular venom to the South's former leader Park, often focused on her gender.

In 2014, while accusing her of being a "whore" for Obama, it blasted her criticism of its weapons programme as "froth(ing) at the mouth".

Pyongyang had earlier likened her to a "peasant woman babbling to herself in the corner of her room".

So well established is the state media's reputation for bilious invective, one website has compiled a back catalogue of some its most exquisite exhortations and hosts a satirical random insult generator.

But the lurid prose of the North's media sometimes tiptoes towards poetry.

This week, the Minju Joson state newspaper railed against tough new penalties imposed on the country for its weapons programme.

"The U.S. sanctions on the DPRK will prove futile and it will be just like sweeping the sea with (a) broom," it said. — AFP]]>
World Fri, 22 Sep 2017 10:48:41 +0000 theSundaily 485491 at
Kim's words find rapt audience in Pyongyang
Workers, students in grey uniforms, travelling families surrounded by piles of bags, women shielding themselves from the late summer sun with frilly parasols, for several minutes they all gazed at the rectangle with anticipation.

White text appeared on a red background: "The faith of the revolutionary is unchangeable even in death."

Korean Central Television's main bulletin, which airs soon after 3pm (0630 GMT), can be relied on to focus on the doings of the Supreme Leader, as Kim Jong-Un is known in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name.

But after Kim's stingingly personal denunciation of US President Donald Trump was carried in the Friday edition of the Rodong Sinmun newspaper, the mouthpiece of the ruling Workers' Party, and the official Korean Central News Agency, expectations for the broadcast were high.

Then veteran newsreader Ri Chun-Hee appeared, who in her time has announced nuclear tests, rocket launches and leaders' deaths.

She read out Kim's statement over a picture of him sitting at his desk in his office at the Central Committee of the Workers' Party.

"A frightened dog barks louder," the statement declared, as scores of citizens streamed towards the screen, bringing the crowd to hundreds of people.

They watched with grim expressions of resolve as Kim threatened to make Trump "pay dearly" for his threat at the United Nations to "totally destroy" North Korea.

'Crazy dog'

In the still image on screen, Kim looked straight into the camera, a microphone before him, the bookshelves behind him packed with green volumes - possibly the works of his father and grandfather Kim Jong-Il and Kim Il-Sung, his dynastic predecessors.

"He is framing the speech very much as the leader of his country," John Delury of Yonsei University in Seoul told AFP.

Unlike most North Korean pronouncements, which tend to focus on governments rather than individuals, it was an unusually direct condemnation of the US president, calling him "mentally deranged" and a "dotard".

Kim said the property mogul and reality television star turned politician had been criticised on the US campaign trail as a "political layman".

"Trump has rendered the world restless through threats and blackmail against all countries in the world," the statement said. "He is unfit to hold the prerogative of supreme command of a country, and he is surely a rogue and a gangster fond of playing with fire, rather than a politician".

Despite being one of the world's youngest heads of state and less than half Trump's age, with six years in office Kim has significantly longer experience in politics.

The North Korean leader was "almost talking down to him and saying you are not supposed to speak that way at the UN", said Delury.

To the audience in Pyongyang, it was inspirational.

North Korea imposes strict bans on foreign publications and news, aiming to ensure that its citizens only see and read the comprehensively controlled domestic media, which constantly reinforce the official stance that the country is at risk of invasion by the United States and needs nuclear weapons to protect itself.

"We no longer need any words," said construction worker Kim Kwang-Hyok after watching the bulletin, clenching his fist. "I think that a crazy dog should be dealt with using a club and fire".

Ordinary North Korean citizens normally only ever express sentiments in line with the authorities when speaking to foreign media.

Ryu Ri Hwa, 74, said she had been through the Korean War and was feeling "indescribable anger".

"Now we have nuclear weapons so I am feeling very confident. We can win the war a hundred, a thousand times as long as we have our leader!" she cried, as onlookers applauded.

"Trump is a lunatic, lunatic! A lunatic who knows nothing!" — AFP]]>
World Fri, 22 Sep 2017 10:41:34 +0000 theSundaily 485487 at
Tiny Dominica calls for help after Hurricane Maria
The island largely lost communications with the outside world after Maria plowed into it on Monday as a maximum-strength Category Five hurricane packing winds of 257kph.

At least 15 people were killed on the island, with six deaths elsewhere in the Caribbean as the storm continued its destructive path north on Friday.

"For now our urgent, urgent matter is to get supplies to the affected people. We're going to need all of the helicopter help we can get, because we need to ferry the supplies to people," Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said Thursday.

AFP aerial footage showed debris from damaged buildings scattered across the island of 72,000 people and many structures with their roofs ripped off. Trees were snapped in half or ripped out of the ground.

Some streets were so filled with debris – including splintered tree branches and sheets of corrugated metal – that they were impassable.

Residents were busy shoveling mud out of their homes and businesses, while laundry was hung out to dry on the frames of half-destroyed homes and along downed utility cables.

In a neighborhood of candy-colored houses, families were cooking on makeshift stoves fashioned out of cinder blocks and rocks, fueled by wood scraps.

The neighboring French island of Martinique and the South American country of Guyana have dispatched a team of 68 firefighters to Dominica, said Patrick Amoussou-Adeble, secretary-general of Martinique.

"We have carried out a survey by helicopter to assess the situation. We have a naval ship that will supply 40 tons of water to the victims," he said.

Skerrit said that with hurricanes becoming ever stronger, "we really need, all of us, to understand that these issues are of greater concern to small islands like ours".

"We are very very vulnerable," he said. — AFP]]>
World Fri, 22 Sep 2017 10:29:48 +0000 theSundaily 485481 at