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TUESDAY 23 MAY 2017,




France far-right leader Le Pen

abandons ‘Frexit’, franc pitch


France’s National Front leader Marine

Le Pen will abandon her pitch to leave the European

Union and restore the French franc, the party’s chief

economic strategist was quoted as saying by Britain’s

Telegraph newspaper. Le Pen said on Friday that

the far-right party would start debating its trademark

anti-euro stance after next month’s parliamentary

elections. “There will be no Frexit. We have taken

note of what the French people told us,” Bernard

Monot, the party’s chief economic strategist, told

The Telegraph. “I continue to think that the euro is

not technically viable but it makes no sense for us

to keep insisting stubbornly. From now on our policy

will be to renegotiate the EU treaties to give us more

control over our budget and banking regulations,”

he was quoted as saying. Leaving the euro and the

European Union were key pledges of Le Pen’s failed

presidential bids this year and in 2012.

Bus plunges 90 meters off

Mexican roadside, killing 17


At least 17 people were killed and

31 were injured when a bus plunged some 90 meters

off a roadside in a mountainous region of southern

Mexico near the Guatemalan border, authorities said

on Sunday. The accident occurred near the town

of Motozintla when the bus ferrying people home

from a spiritual retreat on the Pacific coast came off

the road and fell down a steep slope, emergency

services in the state of Chiapas said in a statement.

The passengers came from the nearby municipality

of La Trinitaria and at least 17 died and another

31 were injured, said a spokesman for emergency

services, Daniel Cuate. It was not immediately clear

what caused the accident. President Enrique Pena

Nieto expressed his condolences to the families of

the bereaved on Twitter. Photographs from the scene

showed the bus had been reduced to a mangled

wreck in a wooded gully.

Former Jakarta governor Ahok

appeals blasphemy conviction


Jakarta’s jailed Christian governor on

Monday appealed his conviction for blasphemy, his

legal team said, as the United Nations stepped up

pressure on Indonesia to overturn the controversial

sentence. Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known by his

nickname Ahok, was jailed for two years earlier this

month for blasphemy, a shock decision that has

undermined a reputation for religious tolerance in

the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country.

Lawyers for Purnama, who is currently in detention,

filed the appeal to the High Court in Jakarta. They

believe the judges’ decision did not properly take into

account testimony from defense witnesses, lawyer

Ronny Talapessy said. “The verdict not only stunned

us and the prosecutors, the whole world was left in

disbelief,” Talapessy said. The lawyers also urged the

court to release Purnama on bail while his appeal is


China confirms detention of 6

Japanese amid report of spying


China has confirmed that it is

investigating six Japanese citizens, following a

Japanese news report that Chinese authorities

had detained six men, possibly for spying. Foreign

ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on

Monday that six Japanese nationals are suspected of

engaging in “illegal activities,” but did not give details.

Kyodo News reported earlier that three Japanese

were detained in Shandong province and three in

Hainan province — two regions with major Chinese

naval facilities — in March. It cited an unidentified

Japanese government source as saying China

informed Japan about their detentions that month.

China has periodically detained Japanese citizens

on suspicion of spying, including four in 2015. The

government and state media have repeatedly warned

of the country’s vulnerability to foreign spies and held

public education campaigns about counterespionage.

Bomb explosion wounds 20

at Bangkok military hospital


A small bomb struck a Bangkok

military hospital on Monday wounding more than

20 people, police said, three years to the day since

the army seized power of the politically unstable

kingdom. Thailand remains starkly divided since the

May 22, 2014 coup, but dissent has broadly been

silenced by a military with sweeping security powers.

It was not immediately clear who was behind the

blast but the country has a long history of small

bombs being used by various political and militant

groups, especially during significant anniversaries.

Monday’s blast struck a pharmacy inside a military

hospital in Bangkok, stirring panic among patients

and sending smoke into the corridors but causing

only minor injuries. “From the initial report it was

a bomb... there are more than 20 people injured,”

Deputy National Police Chief General Srivara

Rangsibrahmanakul said.

Roadside bomb kills 5

in northwest Pakistan

PESHAWAR, Pakistan —

A Pakistani government

official says a roadside bomb has killed at least five

people and wounded several others in a northwest

tribal region close to the Afghan border.

Mohammad Iqbal Khan says the remote controlled

bomb was detonated Monday in Tirah valley in

the Khyber tribal region as volunteers from a

government-backed militia were moving into the area.

Khan said the attack took place in a remote area of

the valley and the wounded were being transported

to a hospital in the region. No group has immediately

claimed responsibility but Daesh (the so-called IS)

militants have been responsible for previous similar

attacks. Pakistan’s army is battling militants in tribal

regions bordering Afghanistan.

— Agencies

Medium-range missile capable of

deployment, claims North Korea


North Korea on Monday

declared its medium-range Pukguk-

song-2 missile ready for deployment

after a weekend test, the latest step

in its quest to defy UN sanctions and

develop a weapon capable of striking

US targets.

The state-run Korean Central

News Agency said the North’s lead-

er Kim Jong-Un oversaw Sunday’s

launch, which sparked a fresh chorus

of international condemnation and

threats of tougher sanctions.

It was the latest in a series of

launches this year, as Pyongyang steps

up its efforts to develop an intercon-

tinental ballistic missile (ICBM) ca-

pable of delivering a nuclear warhead

to the continental United States —

something President Donald Trump

has vowed “won’t happen.”

The launches, and a threatened

sixth nuclear test, have fueled tension

with the Trump administration, which

has warned that military intervention

was an option under consideration,

sending fears of conflict spiraling.

The latest missile tested was

the Pukguksong-2, which uses solid

fuel that allows for immediate firing,

KCNA said.

So far almost all the North’s mis-

siles have been liquid-fueled, which

have to be time-consumingly filled

with propellant before launch.

Solid fuel missiles can be fired far

more rapidly, dramatically shortening

the time available for any attempt to

intervene and prevent a launch.

Kim said “with pride” that the

Pukguksong-2 was a “very accurate”

missile and a “successful strategic

weapon,” KCNA said, adding he “ap-

proved the deployment of this weap-

on system for action.”

The launch “completely verified”

the reliability and accuracy of the de-

vice, and its late-stage warhead guid-

ance system, KCNA said, adding the

test results were “perfect.”

Images carried by the Rodong

Sinmun — the official mouthpiece of

the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea —

showed a smiling Kim clapping sur-

rounded by his aides in an outdoor

observation post as the missile shot

up into the air.

It also had several pictures of the

Earth said to have been taken from

the rocket from space — the first such

pictures released by the North.

Kim “said he was very happy to

see pictures of the Earth taken by our

rocket and that the world looks beau-

In this undated photo distributed by the North Korean government on Monday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watches the

test launch of a solid-fuel Pukguksong-2 at an undisclosed location in North Korea.

— AP

China calls for dialogue to ease tensions


China called on Mon-

day for dialogue to ease tensions on

the Korean peninsula after North

Korea carried out a newmissile test.

“The (UN) Security Council has

clear stipulations prohibiting DPRK

against using ballistic missiles and

China opposes this as well,” foreign

ministry spokeswoman Hua Chu-

nying told a regular press briefing,

using the initials of North Korea’s

official name.

“The situation on the Korean

peninsula is complex and sensitive.

We urge all sides to avoid provok-

ing each other and continue on the

right track of dialogue and consul-

tation,” she said.

China, Pyongyang’s main diplo-

matic and economic ally, has come

under pressure to use its influence

to compel North Korea to rein in its

missile and nuclear programs.

The UN Security Council will

hold an emergency meeting on

Tuesday in response to the latest

ballistic missile test.

The US ambassador to the UN,

Nikki Haley, said last week the Unit-

ed States was working with China

on a new sanctions resolution.

Meanwhile, North Korean state

airline Air Koryo has abruptly halt-

ed its new route between Pyong-

yang and the Chinese border city of

Dandong, local airport and ticket-

ing officials said.

It was not clear when the sus-

pension started or the reason for

the decision.

North Korea’s state news agen-

cy had announced the new service

on March 28.

A woman at a local air ticketing

company confirmed the suspen-

sion, saying that they “informed

us to stop selling tickets about one

month ago. They didn’t tell us why.”

Air Koryo flights on older

routes, between Pyongyang and

the Chinese cities of Beijing and

Shenyang, were still available on-

line. No one answered the phone at

the airline’s Beijing office.


tiful,” KCNA said, adding that he or-

dered the missile to be “rapidly mass-


Seoul military officials have pre-

viously said the Pukguksong-2 — a

land-based version of Pyongyang’s

submarine-launched weapon — uses

solid fuel.

The missile, which was described

by Washington as medium-range, was

fired from Pukchang in South Phyon-

gan province and traveled about 500

km before landing in the Sea of Japan,

according to the South’s armed forces.

The rocket used a cold-launch

system, KCNA said.

The technology uses compressed

gas to propel a missile upwards before

its engine ignites in mid-air. It is con-

sidered safer and also makes it easier

to hide the launch location.


China backs security services after NYT’s spy deaths report


China on Monday defend-

ed its right to investigate actions threat-

ening national security but declined to

comment on a report that authorities

killed or jailed up to 20 CIA sources.

The New York Times (NYT) re-

ported on Sunday that Beijing had

systematically dismantled CIA spying

operations in China beginning in late

2010, in one of the worst US intelligence

breaches in decades.

At least a dozen Central Intelli-

gence Agency sources were killed be-

tween late 2010 and the end of 2012,

including one who was shot in front of

colleagues in a clear warning to anyone

else who might be spying, the Times

reported, citing 10 current and former

US officials.

In all, 18 to 20 CIA sources in China

were either killed or imprisoned, ac-

cording to two former senior American

officials quoted.

The paper called it a grave setback

to a network that, up to then, had been

working at its highest level for years.

“As for as the situation mentioned

in the New York Times report, I’m not

aware of that but I can tell you that Chi-

nese security authorities are following

their legal mandate to carry out investi-

gations about organizations, personnel

and actions that harm Chinese national

security and interests,” foreign minis-

try spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a

regular news briefing.

“For these normal discharges of

official duties by Chinese security or-

ganizations we have no comment on

that,” she said.

The Global Times, a state-run

newspaper, said the authenticity of the

Times report “remains unknown.”

But it added, “if this article is tell-

ing the truth, we would like to applaud

China’s anti-espionage activities.”

“Not only was the CIA’s spy net-

work dismantled, but Washington had

no idea what happened and which part

of the spy network had gone wrong. It

can be taken as a sweeping victory,” the

nationalist daily said.


Dozens of

US students

walk out of

Pence speech


Dozens of stu-

dents at Indiana’s Notre Dame Univer-

sity protested White House policies

on Sunday by walking out of a com-

mencement speech by Vice President

Mike Pence, who criticized political

correctness at American colleges.

The members of the graduating

class — dressed in cap and gowns to-

gether with some two thousand class-

mates — stood up and quietly left the

school’s football stadium when Pence

began delivering his speech, videos

posted online showed. Others cheered

and some booed.

Notre Dame, in the city of South

Bend, is one of the country’s most

prominent Catholic universities.

Pence, who received an honor-

ary degree from the university, said

that “far too many campuses across

America have become characterized

by speech codes, safe zones, tone

policing, administration-sanctioned

political correctness — all of which

amounts to nothing less than suppres-

sion of the freedom of speech.”

“These all-too-common practices

are destructive of learning and the

pursuit of knowledge, and they are

wholly outside the America tradition,”

he added.

A religious social conservative,

Pence is a former Indiana governor

who was born in the state and also

served as one of its representatives in

Congress for 12 years.


Aussie billionaire gives away

massive chunk of his fortune

CANBERRA, Australia —


ore mining magnate Andrew Forrest

said on Monday he was donating 400

million Australian dollars ($300 mil-

lion) to charities in what has been de-

scribed as a new record in Australian


Forrest, the 55-year-old chairman

of Fortescue Metal Group, and his

wife, Nicola, announced the money

will be spent on cancer research,

Australian university research, sup-

porting disadvantaged people includ-

ing Aborigines, and fighting slavery

around the world.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

described the donations as “the big-

gest single philanthropic gift in our

history and the largest donation by

living Australians.”

“It is a game-changer in the Aus-

tralian philanthropic community and

it will change the lives of thousands of

people here in Australia and around

the world,” Turnbull told a ceremony

at Parliament House.

Forrest, whose fortune was esti-

mated by Forbes magazine this year

at $4.3 billion, said the cash donations

would be made “both immediately

and over the next several months.”

“I’ve been very fortunate with my

wife Nicola to be able to accumulate

capital and then as soon as we could

commence giving it away,” Forrest


“We had a slightly unsustainable

business model previously where

we’d actually borrowed money to give

it away and fortunately we don’t have

to do that now thanks to the strength

Iron ore mining magnate Andrew Forrest, left, gives a speech at Australia›s Par-

liament House in Canberra, Australia, on Monday, May 22, 2017, as actor Russell

Crowe looks on.

— AP

of the iron ore sector,” he said.

“I just simply say to all Austra-

lians, give what you can and if it isn’t

money, time is just as valuable,” he


Sarah Davies, chief executive of

Philanthropy Australia, the country’s

peak body for philanthropy, said Aus-

tralia did not have the United States’

tradition of philanthropy which she

described as the “gold standard.” But

the culture of giving in Australia was

changing for the better, she said.

“Why this announcement mat-

ters in Australia is that it’s the single

largest philanthropic commitment in

Australia from living donors, and it’s

part of the trend of more and bigger

donations that we’ve seen in recent

years,” Davies said in a statement.

“But it’s not just about the size

of donations, this commitment also

shows how philanthropy is becoming

more strategic about achieving posi-

tive social change, which is all part of

how the philanthropic sector in Aus-

tralia is coming of age,” she added.