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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

World News, World News Updates, World News Headlines, Latest World News, Current Affairs

World News, World News Updates, World News Headlines, Latest World News, Current Affairs


British Couple Stranded in Singapore With $180,000 Hospital Bill After Baby Was Born Early

Posted: 13 Mar 2019 01:42 AM PDT

A British couple is stuck in Singapore with hefty medical bills after their son was born prematurely, BBC reports.

Chloe Wilkinson, 30, and her partner, Patraic Walsh-Kavanagh, 27, need about $183,000 to bring baby Lorcan home.

The pair were on a stopover when Wilkinson, 24-weeks pregnant, went into labor. On Feb 26, she delivered a son, who weighed just 1.9lbs.

The couple say their travel insurance does not cover pregnancy, and Singaporean laws prevent them from working to pay off the bills. While Lorcan remains in the hospital’s intensive care unit, the new parents have turned to crowdfunding.

“We are on our own, a 14-hour flight away from our family and friends, and it has been a very difficult start to parenthood whilst Lorcan remains in hospital,” Wilkinson said.

The couple were working in Australia when Wilkinson became pregnant. En route home to share the news, Wilkinson had to be rushed to the hospital.

Walsh-Kavanagh told BBC that doctors found an infection and told Wilkinson once she began dilating that it was no longer possible to make a connecting flight.

“Flying commercially has been deemed too dangerous,” the GoFundMe, created by Walsh-Kavanagh’s sister, Aoife-Lourdes Valentino, reads.

The couple are staying in a shared flat close to the hospital where their son is being cared for.

“We’re so thankful of everything so far, especially being so far from home,” Walsh-Kavanagh said in a Facebook post.

Venezuela Blames U.S. for Record Blackout and Orders American Diplomats to Leave

Posted: 13 Mar 2019 12:57 AM PDT

With resentment percolating over a record-setting blackout, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro lashed out at the U.S., blaming the U.S. for the country-wide outages and ejecting American diplomats from the country on Tuesday, Reuters reports.

Maduro claims that U.S.-backed cyber “sabotage” prompted the six-day power cuts in his crisis-wracked country.

“Donald Trump is most responsible for the cyber attack on the Venezuelan electricity system,” Maduro said in a broadcast. But experts said the powercut was more likely caused by technical problems in the link between the country’s hydropower plants and the power grid.

Maduro gave U.S. diplomats 72 hours to leave, though the State Department already announced Monday that all remaining U.S. Embassy staff in Caracas would be withdrawn because of the “deteriorating situation.”

Much of the country has been without power since last Thursday. Amid the prolonged darkness, hospitals have struggled to continue operations, food has rotted and exports from the petrostate’s main oil terminal ceased, Reuters reports.

While power sporadically returned to some, but not all areas Tuesday, anger has continued skyrocketing. Thousands of Venezuelans protested on the streets of Caracas in support of opposition leader Juan Guaido last week.

The outage is the latest blow in a nation paralyzed by dueling leadership claims by Maduro and Guaido. Maduro has repeatedly accused Washington of attempting to overthrow him and using Guaido as a puppet.

The U.S. and several other countries have recognized Guaido as the interim president, but Maduro refuses to step down and retains control of the country’s military. The U.S. has implemented sanctions to pressure Maduro from power.

Elliott Abrams, the U.S. special envoy to Venezuela, said Tuesday that “very significant,” addition sanctions could be imposed in the coming days to increase leverage against Maduro’s government.

Israeli Bank Agrees to Pay $195 Million Over U.S. Tax-Avoidance Scheme

Posted: 12 Mar 2019 09:39 PM PDT

(LOS ANGELES) — One of Israel’s largest banks has agreed to pay $195 million for helping U.S. citizens avoid paying taxes by stashing their assets in offshore accounts.

The U.S. attorney’s office says Mizrahi-Tefahot Bank Ltd. and two subsidiaries acknowledged guilt Tuesday in a deferred prosecution agreement with the Department of Justice filed in a California court.

The bank has more than 4,000 employees and a Los Angeles branch.

In court documents, Mizrahi-Tefahot acknowledged that from 2002 until 2012 it conspired with U.S. clients to avoid taxes on assets and securities by opening and maintaining offshore accounts under false or code names or through foreign entities.

The bank agreed to pay the government $53 million in restitution, plus the $24 million in fees it earned from the transactions and a $118 million fine.

Two Former Police Officers Have Been Arrested for Brazilian Activist Marielle Franco’s Murder

Posted: 12 Mar 2019 09:19 PM PDT

Two former police officers were arrested Tuesday in connection with the murder of Rio de Janeiro councilwoman Marielle Franco, almost a year after her death.

Franco, an outspoken advocate for the rights of women, favela residents and the LGBT community, was killed in a drive-by shooting along with her driver, Anderson Pedro Gomes, in March 2018. Many believe her death was a targeted assassination due to her political activism.

Ronnie Lessa, a retired military police officer, and Élcio Vieira Queiroz, a former police officer, have been arrested, the Guardian reports.

“It is incontestable that Marielle Franco was summarily executed for her political activity in the defence of the causes she defended,” prosecutors said in a statement cited by the Guardian. The statement also said her killing had been planned three months in advance.

Investigators did not confirm who ordered the killing or their motivations.

The 38-year-old rising political star was born in a favela and served as the only black woman on Rio’s city council. She had protested against police brutality in favelas, and was involved in a 2008 state legislature inquiry into paramilitary gang activity, according to the Guardian.

Thousands of Brazilians took to the streets to protest her death, and supporters have called for authorities to find those responsible for her killings.

Amnesty International, which called the arrests “the first sign of progress” in the case in a statement on their website, urged authorities to “ensure that investigations are independent and impartial and to bring all those responsible, including those who ordered the crime, to justice in fair trials.”

‘It Is Brutal.’ U.N. Says Violence and Verbal Abuse Are Keeping Women Out of Politics

Posted: 12 Mar 2019 07:03 PM PDT

(UNITED NATIONS) — When it comes to political power, women are totally outnumbered by men, accounting for less than 7% of the world’s leaders and only 24% of lawmakers, according to the latest statistics.

U.N. General Assembly President María Fernanda Espinosa told delegates to the Commission on the Status of Women on Tuesday that there has been a “serious regression” in the political power of women across the world in recent years.

According to statistics from the Inter-Parliamentary Union released last week, the percentage of female elected heads of state dropped from 7.2% to 6.6% — 10 out of 153 — from 2017 to 2018. The percentage of female heads of government dropped from 5.7% to 5.2% — 10 out of 193 — in the same period.

“Despite some positive movement, the overwhelming majority of government leaders remain male,” said Gabriela Cuevas Barron, head of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

In parliaments, the global share of women increased by nearly one percentage point from 2017 to 2018, to 24.3%. But Cuevas said at a news conference that it took 25 year to get to that figure, from 11% in 1995.

“That’s why we believe we need to encourage parliaments to have affirmative action,” she said.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the executive director of U.N. Women, called the current environment “not the most enabling for women to rise.”

“We also have pushback right now, which contributes to the slowing down of women wanting to contest for office, because it is brutal,” she said, citing political violence, verbal abuse, and abuse on social media that female candidates and politicians face in many countries.

Mlambo-Ngcuka said U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “called on us to push back against the pushback — so we just have to be stronger in pushing back against the pushback ourselves.”

Women must be “change-makers,” she said, because national and global institutions were “made for men and by men.”

Australian Cardinal George Pell Sentenced to 6 Years in Prison for Child Sex Abuse

Posted: 12 Mar 2019 05:54 PM PDT

MELBOURNE, Australia — The most senior Catholic to be convicted of child sex abuse was sentenced in an Australian court on Wednesday to 6 years in prison for molesting two choirboys in a Melbourne cathedral more than 20 years ago.

Victoria state County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd on Wednesday ordered Cardinal George Pell to serve a minimum of 3 years and 8 months before he is eligible for parole. Each of the five convictions against Pell carried a maximum possible sentence of 10 years each.

“In my view, your conduct was permeated by staggering arrogance,” Kidd said in handing down the sentence.

Pope Francis’ former finance minister had been convicted by a unanimous jury verdict in December of orally raping a 13-year-old choirboy and indecently dealing with the boy and the boy’s 13-year-old friend in the late 1990s, months after Pell became archbishop of Melbourne. A court order had suppressed media reporting the news until last month.

The 77-year-old denies the allegations and will appeal his convictions in the Victoria Court of Appeal on June 5.

In explaining his sentencing decision, the judge said Pell had led an “otherwise blameless life.” Kidd said he believed given Pell’s age and lack of any other criminal record, the cardinal posed no risk of re-offending.

The judge also took pains to note that he was sentencing Pell for the offenses on which the cardinal had been convicted — and not for the sins of the Catholic Church.

“As I directed the jury who convicted you in this trail, you are not to be made a scapegoat for any failings or perceived failings of the Catholic Church,” Kidd said.

But the judge also noted that Pell had abused his position of power and had shown no remorse for his crimes. Kidd described the assaults as egregious, degrading and humiliating to the victims.

After centuries of impunity, cardinals from Australia to Chile and points in between are facing justice in both the Vatican and government courts for their own sexual misdeeds or for having shielded abusers under their watch.

Last week, France’s senior Catholic cleric, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, was convicted of failing to report a known pedophile priest to police. Barbarin was given a six-month suspended sentence.

Pope Francis last month defrocked the onetime leader of the American church after an internal investigation determined Cardinal Theodore McCarrick sexually molested children and adult men. It was the first time a cardinal had been defrocked over the child abuse scandal.

One of Pell’s victims died of a heroin overdose in 2014 at the age of 31 without ever reporting the abuse.

The survivor made a statement against Pell the following year to a police task force set up to investigate allegations that arose from a state parliamentary inquiry into handling of child abuse by religious and other nongovernment organizations. The task force also investigates allegations made to a similar national inquiry, called the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Australian law prohibits the publication of sex crime victims’ identities.

Pell gave evidence by video link from Rome to the royal commission, the nations’ highest level of inquiry, in 2016 about his time as a church leader in Melbourne and in his hometown of Ballarat.

The four-year royal commission found in its 2017 report that the Melbourne Archdiocese had ignored or covered up allegations of child abuse by seven priests in a bid to protect the church’s reputation and avoid scandal.

The royal commission was critical of Pell’s predecessor in Melbourne, Archbishop Frank Little, who died in 2008. It made no findings against Pell, saying in a redacted report that it would not publish information that could “prejudice current or future criminal or civil proceedings.”

Australian police interviewed Pell about the survivor’s allegations in a Rome hotel in 2016. Pell described the allegations at the time as “vile and disgusting conduct” that went against everything he believed in.

Pell voluntarily returned to Australia in 2017 to face an array of child abuse charges, most of which have since been dropped. The full details of those allegations were suppressed by court orders.

Pell was once the highest-ranking Catholic in Australia’s second-largest city, where he is now a prisoner held in protective security. Pedophiles such as Pell are typically separated from the main prison populations in Australia.

Pell was 55 years old and had recently established a compensation plan for Melbourne’s victims of clergy abuse when he abused the two boys at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1996. The survivor testified that Pell had walked in on the boys swigging altar wine in a back room after a Sunday Mass.

More than a month later, Pell abused the survivor again, squeezing the boy’s genitals as they passed in a cathedral corridor after a Mass.

U.K. Parliament Just Turned Down Another Brexit Deal 17 Days From the Deadline

Posted: 12 Mar 2019 12:41 PM PDT

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s 11th-hour attempt to salvage her government’s Brexit deal was thrown into disarray on Tuesday evening, as lawmakers voted down her agreement with the European Union for a second time in two months, with just 17 days to go before Britain is scheduled to leave the E.U.

The vote, by a margin of 391 votes to 242, is another blow to May, who rules with a wafer-thin working majority and has lost the support of most of her cabinet according to some reports.

May’s defeat means the U.K. is on track to leave the bloc without an agreement that would have stopped raised tariffs on trade and uncertainty about citizens’ rights.

But lawmakers will finally be given the chance to vote on Wednesday night to avert such a “no deal” Brexit, and likely delay Britain’s exit date, too, in what could be yet another blow to May’s government.

Lawmakers forced the government to allow that vote, and most analysts now believe lawmakers will vote overwhelmingly to do so. That would trigger yet another vote on Thursday on whether to ask the E.U. to delay the date of Britain’s exit, from March 29 to some time further in the future.

May had hoped that the looming March 29 Brexit deadline, and warnings of chaos from the Bank of England in the event of a “no deal” Brexit, would pressure lawmakers who voted against her deal in January to change their minds. And although her defeat was by a smaller margin than the record-breaking one she had suffered that month, (by 432 votes to 202,) it was not enough.

“This was a bad deal in January when it was rejected by the largest margin in parliamentary history,” said Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition Labour Party. “And it is a bad deal now.”

As May defended her deal with a hoarse voice at the Parliamentary dispatch box before the vote, she was heckled from the benches by calls of “nothing has changed” – a reference to a comment she herself had made after the disastrous 2017 election, which she had called intending to increase her authority going into Brexit negotiations, but in which her party instead lost its majority.

Tuesday’s drama topped off a hectic 24 hours in British politics. On Monday night, May had held a late-night press conference with the European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, where she triumphantly said the E.U. had agreed to a legally binding change on the “backstop,” a key sticking point of the plan among critical lawmakers.

A legal instrument that would keep the border open between Northern Ireland, (a part of the U.K.), and the Republic of Ireland, (a member state of the E.U.), by applying certain E.U. laws to Northern Ireland, the “backstop” proved unacceptable to many lawmakers because it would violate the sovereignty of the U.K. government.

May’s claim to have settled those fears was shattered by Tuesday morning, when the U.K.’s attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, gave legal advice to lawmakers saying that “the legal risk … remains unchanged” of Northern Ireland being trapped in that “backstop” arrangement with the European Union.

To many lawmakers who had voted down May’s deal for the first time in January because of concerns over the “backstop,” Cox’s advice provided evidence that their concerns had not been sufficiently met.

After losing her voice, May lost her vote. Now, if the Westminster bubble can agree on one thing, it’s that what happens next is totally unpredictable.

Historic Undersea Exploration Broadcast Conducted from the Indian Ocean

Posted: 12 Mar 2019 12:39 PM PDT

(ALPHONSE ISLAND, Seychelles) — A British-led scientific mission to document changes taking place beneath the Indian Ocean has broadcast its first live, television-quality video transmission from a two-person submersible.

Monsoon storms and fierce underwater currents continued to present a challenge at greater depths as scientific work began in earnest on Tuesday off the Seychelles.

The Associated Press has successfully broadcast the first multi-camera live signal in full broadcast quality from manned submersibles using optical video transmission techniques, in which the pictures transmit through the waves using the blue region of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Previous real-time video transmissions from the world’s deep oceans were livestreams sent from remotely operated unmanned subsea vehicles, with the video moving via fixed fiber optic cable.

The first transmission came from 60 meters (200 feet) down. Previous deep-sea livestreams cataloguing the world’s oceans have been via fiber-optic cable. The new broadcast uses cutting-edge wireless technology, sending video optically through the waves.

The Associated Press is the only news agency working with British scientists from the Nekton research team on its deep-sea mission that aims to unlock the secrets of the Indian Ocean, one of the world’s least explored areas.

The multi-national team of scientists is gathering data to help policy-makers frame protection and conservation measures.

Nekton Mission director Oliver Steeds said the experience battling the waves underlines the need to expand scientific knowledge of the waters off the island nation, which the team is there to do.

“The problem is, when it comes to this place, when it came to the currents, the last current data that was gathered before we came here was in 1882,” he said. “It’s part of the challenge. This is exploration.”

The day of celebration was cut short when an accident severed the cable of a key piece of equipment, leaving it on the sea bed off the tiny island of Alphonse.

It wasn’t known what cut the cable of the Remotely Operated Vehicle, or ROV, though it may have been the ship’s propeller. The camera-carrying ROV is a vital image-gathering tool that can go deeper than the submersibles.

It wasn’t clear what impact the accident will have on the team’s work. The two submersibles will mount a retrieval operation on Wednesday.

AP video coverage will include exploring the depths of up to 300 meters off the Seychelles in two-person submarines, the search for submerged mountain ranges and previously undiscovered marine life, a behind-the-scenes look at life on board, interviews with researchers and aerial footage of the mission. The seven-week expedition is expected to run until April 19.

Will Boeing 737 Max 8 Groundings Cause Flight Cancellations or Delays? Here’s What You Should Know

Posted: 12 Mar 2019 12:14 PM PDT

As the number of countries grounding the Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes grows following the deadly Ethiopian Airlines crash, some flights that have a connection to the aircraft have been cancelled or delayed — and the list of impacted flights could grow.

China, Indonesia, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Australia, Argentina, the European Union and others have all grounded the planes after an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 crashed on Sunday, killing all 157 people aboard. The crash marks the 737 MAX 8’s second deadly incident in less than five months — in October, a Lion Air jet crashed in Indonesia soon after taking off, killing all 189 people onboard.

In the U.S., the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Monday that it had confidence in the 737 MAX 8 aircrafts, and said the MAX 8 was still “airworthy.” Boeing said in its own statement that “safety is a core value for everyone at Boeing and the safety of our airplanes, our customers’ passengers and their crews is always our top priority.”

While Southwest Airlines and American Airlines — two U.S.-based carriers that operate MAX 8 planes — have said they will continue to fly the aircrafts, flights across the world have been grounded from at least 27 airlines. Carriers like China Southern Airlines and Norwegian Air took their MAX 8 flights out of service as of Tuesday. Because the U.S.-based carriers are not changing their policies, many passengers booked to fly on Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircrafts are unlikely to be able to cancel or rebook their flights without paying a penalty fee. Southwest does not charge a change fee for rebooked flights, though customers are required to pay the cost in fare difference if they schedule a new itinerary.

How the global efforts to ground the MAX 8 aircrafts will affect passengers whose flights are cancelled and delayed will depend on the number of these jetliners each airline has in its fleet, according to Ahmed Abdelghany, a professor of operations management at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Airlines that primarily depend on MAX 8 planes to transport passengers will be more affected than ones that only operate a small number of the aircrafts.

“Some airlines will get a big hit,” he says. “Some will not.”

A shortage in aircraft capacity is likely, according to Abdelghany. It’s also unclear how long certain airlines can afford to keep MAX 8 aircrafts grounded.

“For every 50, 60 aircrafts, you might have one that’s coming out of maintenance,” he says. “Most airlines don’t have spare aircrafts.”

Abdelghany says he expects that most passengers scheduled to fly on a MAX 8 plane that might be cancelled will be kept up to date on their airlines’ plans in advance — which should help to quell crowding in airports. What will happen next is largely up to the airline in question. Some may be able to accommodate passengers on a later flight or different aircraft, while others can work with other airlines or airports to find new itineraries for passengers.

China, the world’s biggest market for the aircraft, has grounded 97 jets so far, according to industry publication Flightglobal. China Southern Airlines, which operates at least 22 737 MAX 8 aircrafts, has grounded all flights with these planes. FlightAware, which tracks flight cancellations and delays, finds that 30 China Southern Airlines flights have been cancelled as of Tuesday. Most of the cancelled flights are Boeing 737-800 or Boeing 737-700 jets, according to FlightAware.

Norwegian, which has 18 MAX 8s in its fleet, said it would stop flying the aircrafts until further notice in a statement. The airline acknowledged that its customers will face cancellations and delays due to grounding the MAX 8 flights. The airline also operates more than 110 Boeing 737-800 aircrafts, which were not affected by the temporary grounding.

“We would like to apologize to customers who will be affected by temporary cancellations and delays, but the safety and security of our customers and colleagues will never be compromised, and once authorities advise to cease operations we will of course comply,” read a statement from Norwegian.

Silk Air, which operates out of Singapore, announced that it was withdrawing its fleet of six MAX 8s until further notice. The grounding led to the cancellation of six flights between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, according to the airline.

The U.K.’s decision to ground MAX 8s also impacted the TUI Group, a holiday airline that flies to different destinations in Europe from Britain. TUI decided to ground all of its Boeing 737 MAX 8 flights across all airlines used by the group.

“TUI will inform customers booked from tomorrow on respective flights about alternative transportation,” the group said in a statement.

Passengers unsure about their aircraft type or flight status should check in with their airlines to see if there are any changes in their itineraries, Abdelghany advises.

Meet the Man Who Popularized the Viral #Trashtag Challenge Getting People Around the World Cleaning Up

Posted: 12 Mar 2019 10:44 AM PDT

When Byron Román encouraged “bored teens” on social media last week to pick up litter, he didn’t anticipate his post would make a difference. But seven days and hundreds of thousands of shares on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Reddit later, the world is looking a little bit cleaner.

“Take a photo of an area that needs some cleaning or maintenance, then take a photo after you have done something about it, and post it,” Román wrote on March 5, sharing a before and after photo of a messy area being cleaned up by one young man.

Román tells TIME that a friend of his in Guatemala had posted the image along with a similar message in Spanish, so he translated the text to English and added the now widely circulated message: “Here is a new #challenge for all you bored teens.”

He tagged the post #BasuraChallenge and #Trashtag — basura means trash in Spanish. Soon after, thousands of people posted photos and videos to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Reddit, showing themselves cleaning up beaches, parks, schools, streets and more, all around the world.

Beyond trying to help the environment, of course, Román says that he really did want to help teenagers make a difference on the internet. “When teens get bored, that’s like the worst thing you can ever have — actually, any person being bored,” he tells TIME. “So, I thought, maybe someone will pick up the challenge and do something positive about it.”

The positivity has certainly spread far and wide — Román’s original post has garnered 323,000 shares on Facebook alone as of Tuesday afternoon, and the hashtag on Instagram has more than 25,000 posts. People picking up litter everywhere from Vietnam to the Philippines have sent messages thanking Román for starting the trend, he says.

Román says he hoped that a challenge of this nature would help people from different ages bond. “We’re all in this together,” he says.

Though Román only helped the trend become more popular, he wasn’t the first to inspire a clean-up movement. Afroz Shah, a lawyer who lives in Mumbai, India, began cleaning up his city’s popular and infamously dirty Versova Beach in October of 2015. Shah’s work did not go unnoticed: He won the United Nations’ top environmental honor, as a Champion of the Earth, in 2016. Shah did not immediately respond to TIME’s request for comment.

The impact #Trashtag could make is yet to be seen — but Román thinks the first step to helping the environment is to stop creating litter and garbage altogether. “I think that would be a better approach to it,” he says.