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Norway: Alleged mosque gunman suspect in stepsister’s death
Sun, August 11, 2019 03:41 EDT
MOSCOW (AP) — A shooting at a mosque in Norway is being investigated as an attempted terrorist attack and the alleged gunman also is a suspect in his younger stepsister’s slaying, police in the Norwegian capital said Sunday.
A man in his 20s was taken into custody after the shooting inside the Al-Noor Islamic Center that wounded one person, Oslo police said. Investigators so far think no one else was involved in Saturday’s violence at the mosque, located in the Oslo suburb of Baerum.
When officers went to the shooting suspect’s residence, they found the body of his 17-year-old stepsister, police said Sunday evening. The alleged mosque gunman was being investigated in her death, police said.
The Oslo Police department said forensic work at the mosque “confirms that several shots were fired, but the number of shots and the type of weapons are not yet established.”
The department said it was working with the Norwegian Police Security Service, Norway’s national domestic security agency, since the “investigation has given us a better overall understanding of the attack” at the mosque.
“The fact that the aggressor entered a mosque armed and from the investigation so far has been found to have expressed hostile attitudes against immigrants has led the police to investigate this attack as an attempted act of terrorism,” the police department said in a statement.
Oslo Deputy Police Inspector Rune Skjold said during a news conference Sunday that mosque shooting was being treated as an attempted terror attack in part because the investigation uncovered evidence of the man’s “right-wing extremist views” and alleged animosity toward immigrants.
“Because of that, in relation to what he’s done, it’s clear that what he did has caused fear among the public, Skjold said. “And based on the views he’s expressed online, it means we can safely say we are investigating an attempted act of terrorism.”
Police said the suspect refused to answer questions and investigators plan to interview neighbors for information about his stepsister and her death.
Skjold said the alleged gunman was prepared to cause deaths and more injuries at the Al-Noor Islamic Center and didn’t succeed because of the “great courage” of people inside the mosque.
“There is no doubt that the swift and firm response from the persons inside the mosque stopped the aggressor and prevented further consequences,” Skjold said. “Trying to neutralize an armed person is always dangerous.”
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US-China trade war leaves Europe as collateral damage
By DAVID McHUGH | Mon, August 12, 2019 01:34 EDT
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Like a sleek Mercedes crunched between two freight trucks, Europe’s economy is being knocked off course by the conflict between the U.S. and China over trade.
The bill for damages from the U.S-China collision could be painfully high, starting this week if new growth figures on Wednesday show that Europe’s economic motor, Germany, is stalled or shrinking. Beyond that, economists say there are signs that years of jobs growth since the depths of the Great Recession and the eurozone debt crisis may be ending.
And if the trade wars escalate to include higher U.S. tariffs on cars made in Europe, the picture could look even worse.
The heart of the matter is Germany, Europe’s largest economy and a key trade partner of both the U.S. and China.
Almost half the German economy – 47%, according to World Bank estimates – comes from trade as its companies play a dominant role in global markets for luxury autos and complex industrial machinery. Supply chains from Germany extend into neighboring countries as well, while German profits are often invested in factories in places like Slovakia, Hungary and Poland. Great for Germany and Europe when trade is booming — but it means Germany remains more vulnerable than less open economies such as Portugal or France to a slowdown in global trade in goods and services.
And that is what’s happening.
German has spewed wretched economic data for weeks: an 8% annual fall in exports in June, a 1.5% drop in industrial production in June from the month before, three times bigger than expected. Surveys of company executives suggest the industrial sector is in recession, with consumer demand and services propping up the economy.
But the damage from trade may be spreading to consumers and companies that do business only at home. While unemployment remains low at 3.1%, job gains have stalled recently.
Ironically, trade between Germany and the U.S. and between Germany and China is holding up pretty well. It’s mainly the uncertainty about the outcome of the clash between U.S. President Donald Trump and the Chinese Communist leadership that has been weighing on business confidence and deterring decisions to invest and buy across global markets. Last week, Trump imposed a 10% tariff on an additional $300 billion in Chinese goods effective Sept. 1.
As a result, research firm Oxford Economics forecasts world trade growth of just 1.2% this year, far below last year’s 4.9% rise.
There are a few small benefits for Europe. While the U.S. and China ramped up barriers against each other, the U.S. has largely kept tariffs on European products the same, except for introducing charges on steel and aluminum imports. China has actually lowered charges on exports from the 19 European countries that use the euro.
“That mildly positive effect for the eurozone has been, however, more than offset by the hit to business sentiment and demand,” says economist Florian Hense at Berenberg bank. “As uncertainty about the future trading regime is pervasive, businesses have cut their outlook and their investment plans. The slowdown in Chinese actual and potential growth, which the trade tensions have exacerbated, also weighs on demand for eurozone exports.”
Trump has recently repeated threats to increase tariffs on autos if he does not get a satisfactory new trade deal with the EU.
Germany’s top companies issued cautious outlooks along with their earnings for the most recent quarter, even those that are doing relatively well. Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess warned that “growing protectionism also poses major challenges for the globally integrated auto industry.” Siemens AG CEO Joe Kaeser said that “geopolitics and geo-economics are harming an otherwise positive investment sentiment.”
The auto industry in particular, with its dependence on demand from operations in China, looks less healthy. Daimler, maker of Mercedes-Benz luxury cars, has issued four profit warnings over 18 months and saw its first quarterly loss since 2009. BMW lost money on its autos business in the first quarter for the first time in a decade.
Some of Europe’s troubles can’t be blamed on the trade dispute. The auto industry is under pressure to meet lower greenhouse gas emissions limits imposed by the European Union. Automakers had expected to rely on more fuel-efficient diesels to help meet the requirements, but saw diesel sales plunge after Volkswagen was caught in 2015 cheating on diesel emissions tests.
Another source of uncertainty is Britain’s impending departure from the EU, currently set for Oct. 31. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he wants to leave without an extension even if that means no divorce deal to smooth trade.
In an effort to ward off a steeper slowdown or possible recession, the European Central Bank has signaled it could provide more monetary stimulus at its Sept. 12 meeting, including new purchases of bonds, which pump newly created money into the economy. It’s a measure of Europe’s reversal of fortune that a four-year, 2.6 trillion-euro ($2.9 trillion) bond purchase program was halted only in December.
“What is hurting German exports currently is the uncertainty which has spread across the globe and has also paralyzed many European economies,” said Carsten Brzeski, chief economist for Germany at ING. “Looking ahead, the outlook for German exporters is clearly in the hands of the U.S. and China.”
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Conservative Giammattei wins Guatemala elections
By SONIA PÉREZ D. | Mon, August 12, 2019 01:02 EDT
GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — Conservative Alejandro Giammattei has blazed a long, strange path to Guatemala’s presidency, which he won on his fourth try.
The 63-year-old spent several months in prison in 2008, when he was director of the country’s prison system, after some prisoners were killed in a raid on his watch. He was eventually acquitted of wrongdoing.
Until courts prevented some of the more popular candidates from running in this year’s race, he also appeared to be a long-shot candidate in a tumultuous campaign season.
But on Sunday, his get-tough approach to crime and his socially conservative values, including his strident opposition to gay marriage and abortion, finally parlayed favor with Guatemalan voters in a presidential runoff.
Leaning on the crutches he uses because of his multiple sclerosis, Giammattei acknowledged in his emotional victory speech that it had been a long road.
“We won. We are very excited, it is logical, it has been 12 years of struggle,” Giammatttei said. “Twelve years waiting to serve my country.”
With about 98% of polling places reporting, the country’s Supreme Electoral Council said that Giammattei had about 58% of votes, compared to about 42% for former first lady Sandra Torres.
About 8 million Guatemalans are registered to vote in the Central American country. In a nation beset by poverty, unemployment and migration issues, however, turnout as low as 45% appeared to suggest widespread disillusionment with the political status quo in general.
“I just hope Giammattei keeps his promises, and really fights corruption,” said Guatemala City resident Leonel Regalado. “We hope he won’t steal, because that would be too much for him to steal as brazenly as (outgoing President) Jimmy Morales has.”
The presidential campaign was marked by a chaotic succession of judicial decisions, intrigues, illegal party changes and accusations of bad practices that truncated the candidacies of two of the three presidential favorites.
Giammattei’s key rival Torres, who had been married and divorced to former President Álvaro Colom (2008-2012), focused on improving education, health care and the economy during the campaign. She also proposed an anti-corruption program, but her Unity for Hope party came under fire because some of its mayoral candidates were accused of receiving contributions from drug traffickers for their campaigns.
She became a key contender after Chief Prosecutor Thelma Aldana was barred from the race on the grounds that she lacked a document certifying that she didn’t have any outstanding accounts from her time overseeing a public budget as prosecutor.
Oscar Argueta, secretary-general of the Unity for Hope party, conceded defeat on Sunday.
The new president takes office Jan. 14 and will most immediately face the task of attempting to stem the large flow of migrants headed toward the United States. At least 1% of Guatemala’s population of some 16 million has left the country this year.
On July 6, Morales’ administration signed an agreement with the United States that would require Salvadorans and Hondurans to request asylum in Guatemala if they cross through the country to reach the U.S. The new president will have to decide whether to nullify or honor the agreement, which could potentially ease the crush of migrants arriving at the U.S. border.
In addition to migration, Guatemalans say they are most concerned about entrenched corruption. Three of the last four elected presidents have been arrested after leaving office on charges of graft, and Morales himself decided to disband and bar a U.N.-supported anti-corruption commission after he became a target for alleged campaign finance violations.
“The person who wins will have to lead a country that is viewed as a nation losing ground in the battle against corruption, because the mandate of the anti-corruption commission wasn’t renewed,” said Ricardo Barreno, a political science professor at the Central American Institute of Political Studies.
Rogelio Estrada, a father of two who was one of the first people to vote at a polling station in Guatemala City, had other concerns, too.
He hoped the election winner would focus on combatting crime and unemployment “to keep more Guatemalans from going to the United States.”
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UAE-backed separatists pull back after seizing Yemen’s Aden
By AHMED AL-HAJ and SAMY MAGDY | Sun, August 11, 2019 03:45 EDT
SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemeni separatists backed by the United Arab Emirates began withdrawing Sunday from positions they seized from the internationally-recognized government in the southern port city of Aden.
Both the southern separatists and the government forces are ostensibly allies in the Saudi-led military coalition that’s been battling the Houthi rebels in northern Yemen since 2015.
But a major rift in the coalition was exposed during the four days of fighting for control of Aden, as the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council wrested the city from government forces. More than 70 people were killed in the clashes.
The UAE is the dominant force in Yemen’s south, where it has an estimated 90,000 allied militiamen and has long been at odds with the government, which is largely based in Saudi Arabia.
The two U.S.-allied Gulf monarchies appear to have diverging interests in Yemen, where the stalemated war has spawned the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and drawn mounting criticism in Washington.
Saudi Arabia views the Houthi rebels in Yemen’s north as a major national security threat, in part because the Houthis have launched numerous cross-border missile attacks targeting the Saudi capital and other cities. The UAE, which recently began withdrawing troops from Yemen, appears more interested in securing its interests in the south — which lies along major trading routes linking Africa to Asia — than waging a war that appears increasingly unwinnable.
Saudi Arabia had responded angrily to the takeover in Aden, calling for an immediate cease-fire and ordering the separatists to pull back as Saudi troops moved to secure government buildings. On Sunday, Saudi state TV reported that the separatists had begun withdrawing.
The coalition said Sunday it struck a target that posed a “direct threat” to the government, without elaborating, and warned of further military action if the separatists did not pull back.
Yemeni officials said the UAE-backed fighters had withdrawn from the streets but still held military positions seized in recent days, and were still stationed outside the presidential palace. Other officials at Aden’s airport said flights had resumed after being halted since Thursday because of the clashes. All of them spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief media.
The government forces that were expelled from Aden are led by President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who has been based Saudi Arabia for five years. Officials within his government have said Hadi wants to return to Aden, but his Saudi hosts would prefer he remain close at hand in their capital, Riyadh.
Hadi’s interior minister, Ahmed al-Maisar, sharply criticized Saudi Arabia for remaining silent during the past four days while fighting raged in Aden. He spoke in a video released Sunday that was recorded while he said he was awaiting evacuation from Aden to Saudi Arabia a day earlier.
The current crisis began last week following the funeral of a separatist leader killed in a Houthi rocket attack. After his funeral in Aden, southern separatists attacked the nearby presidential palace. At the time, Hani Bin Braik, a separatist leader and former Cabinet minister, called for the overthrow of the government.
Bin Braik tweeted Sunday that the southern separatists accept Hadi as president and are committed to the coalition, but want his Cabinet replaced. The government has said it will not negotiate with the separatists until they hand over all the military positions they seized.
Peter Salisbury, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group, a non-profit research institute, said the separatists “withdrawing from installations won’t make a huge difference right now, as the Hadi government forces have largely dispersed.” He told The Associated Press that Saudi Arabia was likely trying to “save face and work out if there is a deal to be done” between the government and the UAE-backed separatists, whose goal was to “lay the groundwork for the formations of a separate southern state.”
Yemen was split into two countries, in the north and south, during much of the Cold War before unifying in 1994.
The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a statement Sunday that preliminary reports indicate as many as 40 people have been killed and 260 wounded in Aden since Aug. 8.
Elsewhere in Yemen, the Houthi-run health ministry claimed an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition killed at least 11 people, including four children and three women, and wounded at least 18 people in the northern Hajjah province.
A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition could not immediately be reached for comment.
Magdy reported from Cairo.
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UK govt boosts prisons, police powers in crime clampdown
Sun, August 11, 2019 05:35 EDT
LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is promising more prisons and stronger police powers in an effort to fight violent crime.
The government announced plans Sunday to create 10,000 more prison places to ease overcrowding and said it would allow police to stop and search people without reasonable suspicion “if serious violence is anticipated.”
Such powers are contentious because young ethnic-minority men are disproportionately likely to be stopped and searched.
Opposition Labour Party law-and-order spokeswoman Diane Abbott said it was “a tried-and-tested recipe for unrest, not violence reduction.”
Official statistics show that violent crime has begun to rise after declining for two decades.
The crime clampdown is the latest in a series of policy promises that Johnson, a Conservative, has made since taking office last month, sparking speculation that an early election is looming.