Friday, May 06th

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North Korea sentences American to 15 years' hard labour

N Koria sentences American to fifteen years North Korea's highest court has sentenced an American tourist who allegedly attempted to steal a propaganda banner from a restricted area of his hotel to 15 years of hard labour in prison.

Otto Warmbier, a 21-year-old University of Virginia undergraduate, was convicted and sentenced in a one-hour trial on Wednesday morning at the North's Supreme Court. He was charged with subversion.

No further details were immediately available.


Syrian Kurds 'preparing to declare self-administration'

Syrian KurdsKurdish-controlled areas of northern Syria are expected to declare a federal system imminently, a Kurdish official says, as peace negotiations continue to be held in Geneva about how to end the country's five-year war.

The step, which would combine three Kurdish-led autonomous areas of northern Syria into a federal system, is sure to alarm neighbouring Turkey, which fears growing Kurdish power in Syria is fuelling separatism among its own Kurdish minority.


UN chief asks Israel to reverse West Bank land seizure

Ban Ki-MoonUN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urges Israel to reverse its confiscation of land in the West Bank, describing the decision as “an impediment to the two-state solution” in the Middle East.

The appeal comes after Israel declared 234 hectares of West Bank territory to be state land, fueling concerns of a new spike in tensions with the Palestinians.


Damning report reveals Church of England's failure to act on abuse

Church of England covered up abuseThe Church of England is to make far-reaching changes to the way it deals with cases of sex abuse following a damning independent report that details how senior church figures failed to act upon repeated disclosures of a sadistic assault.

The first independent review commissioned by the church into its handling of a sex abuse case highlights the “deeply disturbing” failure of those in senior positions to record or take action on the survivor’s disclosures over a period of almost four decades. The church acknowledged the report was “embarrassing and uncomfortable”.


Obama administration loosens rules on Cuba travel, dollar

Obama loosens travel rules to CubaThe U.S. is loosening rules on travel to Cuba and the Cuban government's use of the dollar, removing obstacles to closer ties between the two countries five days before President Barack Obama makes a historic trip to Havana.

The Obama administration announced Tuesday that Americans can now take "people-to-people" trips to Cuba on their own instead of on expensive group tours.


Suu Kyi loyalist and friend elected Myanmar's president

Aung San Suu KyiMyanmar's parliament elected Htin Kyaw as the country's new president Tuesday in a watershed moment that ushers the longtime opposition party of Aung San Suu Kyi into government after 54 years of direct or indirect military rule.

The joint session of the two houses of parliament broke into thundering applause as the speaker Mann Win Khaing Than announced the result: "I hereby announce the president of Myanmar is Htin Kyaw, as he won the majority of votes." Immediately, the state-run Myanmar TV's camera zoomed in from above on a beaming Suu Kyi, sitting in the front row, clapping excitedly, for a live nationwide audience.


Russia to begin withdrawing troops from Syria

Russia to pull troops from Syria Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered his defence minister to begin pulling out "the main part" of Russian troops in Syria.

The announcement came just hours after peace talks between the Syrian government and the opposition got under way in the Swiss city of Geneva on Monday.

"The task presented to the defence ministry and the armed forces has been completely fulfilled," Putin told Sergei Shoigu, according to the state news agency TASS.  "Thus, I order the defence minister to begin withdrawing the main part of our troops from the Syrian Arab Republic."


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