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The East Asia Pacific region is ageing at a faster rate than any other place in history, the World Bank warned Wednesday, a demographic shift likely to cramp public services and economic growth.

The region, which spans from Myanmar and China's western borders as far east as Japan, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific islands, is now home to a third of the world's over 65s -- some 211 million people.

That lurch towards older populations will have a significant impact on economic growth in a area of the globe that has been financially booming for much of the last two decades, according to the study.

The report is titled "Live Long and Prosper: Aging in East Asia and Pacific" -- a reference to the so-called Vulcan salute from the Star Trek sci-fi series.

Sharp falls in birthrates and a rise in life expectancy will likely heap pressure on public services while economies will struggle to fill the shortfall of working-age employees.


The region "has undergone the most dramatic demographic transition we have ever seen", said Axel van Trotsenburg, regional vice president of the World Bank's East Asia and Pacific Region.



The head of Croatia's leading rights group was left red-faced on Tuesday after his trousers fell down during a photoshoot with President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic.

Ivan Zvonimir Cicak, who heads the Croatian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, was proudly posing in the front row for a photo with the president when his trousers suddenly dropped to his ankles.




There will be plenty of prayers in the wake of the latest mass shooting in the United States, but little concrete action on gun control is expected from lawmakers, despite pressure from Americans weary of the violence.

Fourteen people were killed and 21 others injured in Wednesday's shooting rampage at a social services center in San Bernardino, California that ended with the two suspects, a married couple, dead in a wild firefight with police.

It was the deadliest mass shooting since the 2012 massacre at a school in Newtown, Connecticut that left 26 people dead, including 20 small children.

"God isn't fixing this," the New York Daily News blared on its front page in a dig at lawmakers -- and presidential candidates -- who offer their "thoughts and prayers" to victims and their families but balk at strengthening gun controls.


"As latest batch of innocent Americans are left lying in pools of blood, cowards who could truly end gun scourge continue to hide behind meaningless platitudes."

To hammer home its point, the newspaper included tweets from several Republican presidential hopefuls -- Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Lindsey Graham -- offering prayers for the victims and their families.

President Barack Obama -- who has been visibly angry after recent mass shootings -- has called his inability to enact "common sense" gun controls in the wake of the Newtown shooting the biggest disappointment of his time in office.

While support for stricter gun control is on the rise -- up to 55 percent of Americans in a recent Gallup poll from 47 percent in 2014 -- Obama's rival Republicans, who control both houses of Congress, have blocked all attempts at reform.

- 'No easy answers' -



Mark Zuckerberg has grown from a Harvard dropout who changed what it means to be social into a billionaire philanthropist bent on shaping a better world for his daughter.

Zuckerberg and his doctor wife, Priscilla Chan, set the Internet abuzz this week with news of the birth of their first child, a girl named Maxima.

Zuckerberg and Chan also pledged to give away their Facebook fortune to make the world a "better place" for baby daughter Maxima and others.

In a letter to Maxima posted on his Facebook page, the couple said they were going to give away 99 percent of their company shares -- estimated value $45 billion -- during their lives in an effort to make a happy and healthy world.


Zuckerberg cemented his fortune, and a place in Silicon Valley history, by leading Facebook to a historic Wall Street debut in 2012. Facebook shares on Wednesday were trading at nearly triple the initial public offering price of $38.

The $16 billion IPO was structured to keep control of Facebook in the hands of Zuckerberg, who has been Time's "Person of the Year" and cracked the Forbes list of 20 richest people in the world.

The hoodie-wearing 31-year-old, depicted in the Hollywood drama "The Social Network" as a socially challenged computer geek, has evolved into a confident chief executive presiding over an online community boasting more than 1.5 billion users monthly as of September.

Despite his massive wealth, Zuckerberg still favors t-shirts, jeans and sneakers, topped off by his trademark hooded sweatshirt and a mop of brown, curly hair.




He has donned suits, though, while meeting with high-profile figures such as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama.

Zuckerberg is known for setting annual goals, which have included wearing ties every day; only eating meat of animals he kills himself; and learning to speak Chinese to be able to chat with members of his wife's family who speak that language.

He has grown more outspoken socially and politically. Zuckerberg has marched with hundreds of Facebook employees in San Francisco's grand Gay Pride Parade and publicly backed US immigration reform.

Quotes credited to Zuckerberg included "What would you do if you weren't afraid" and "Move fast and break things."

Zuckerberg is known for advocating a "hacker way" of boldly twisting software or systems in promising directions.




France pulled out its culinary big guns Monday for one of the greatest kitchen challenges ever: cooking lunch for the largest one-day gathering of world leaders in history.

Five chefs, each awarded stars by the demanding judges of the Michelin food guide, joined forces for a gastronomic tour de force to defend France's culinary reputation at a climate summit in Paris.

Undaunted by the challenge of catering to banquets with their familiar perils of rubber chicken and agonisingly long waits, the quintet sought to tempt the palates of 150 leaders, from US President Barack Obama to China's President Xi Jinping or Russia's Vladimir Putin.

"It was a very good lunch, a surprising lunch, very friendly and relaxed," Albanian President Bujar Nishani told AFP after leaving his table.

Judging his meal "very tasty and delicious", Nishani said his lunch was prepared with organic foods, "which go very well with this climate summit".

Albania's leader said he washed lunch down with a glass of champagne to celebrate "cooperation and friendship".

He was among the 170 guests, including the leaders, to be wined and dined at the heavily-guarded Le Bourget conference centre on the northern outskirts of Paris.

Diners sat at 20 tables, the Elysee presidential palace said.

President Francois Hollande hosted the likes of Obama, Putin, Xi, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the table of honour.





New York is reassuring tourists that America's biggest city is safe as it prepares to welcome more than five million visitors for the busy holiday season after the Paris attacks.

The winter tourism season officially kicked off with Thursday's Thanksgiving Parade, where hundreds of thousands of people lined the streets to watch the three-hour event amid tight security.

After the Paris attacks on November 13, an Islamic State group propaganda video broadcast images of New York from Times Square. US authorities hit back that there was no credible threat against the city or anywhere else in the United States.

"We had some hotel cancellations from small groups," said Chris Heywood, senior vice president of global communications at NYC and Company -- the city's official marketing and tourism organization.

Despite what he calls a "sprinkling of a few cancellations," he is still encouraging people to visit the metropolis for the "magical holiday season" that lasts through December until New Year.



"The city is open," he told AFP. "It is business as usual."

Eighty-nine people were killed at the Bataclan concert hall in the Paris attacks, but the Broadway League says there has been no drop in attendance since the carnage in France.

The US State Department has issued a worldwide travel alert, warning Americans of a heightened terrorist threat in "multiple regions," which has added to the worry among tourist industry professionals.





US President Barack Obama Thursday delivered a Thanksgiving message in which he compared modern refugees to the pilgrims whom the holiday celebrates, urging Americans to open their arms to the potential immigrants.

"Nearly four centuries after the Mayflower set sail, the world is still full of pilgrims -- men and women who want nothing more than the chance for a safer, better future for themselves and their families," Obama said in his weekly address, referring to the boat on which the pilgrims arrived in the New World.

Thanksgiving was first celebrated by the group after fleeing religious persecution in England. For many Americans, it has become a family-oriented day marked with an enormous meal of roast turkey, an assortment of side dishes and a slice or two of pie.

"I've been touched by the generosity of the Americans who've written me letters and emails in recent weeks, offering to open their homes to refugees fleeing the brutality of ISIL," Obama said, referring to the Islamic State group.




The Dutch ambassador to Sudan swam across the Nile in Khartoum on Saturday in a stunt that began as a bet to win more "likes" for her embassy's Facebook page.

Clad in an bright orange swimsuit bearing the embassy logo, Ambassador Susan Blankhart swam several hundred metres (yards) across the Blue Nile with six other Dutch women and seven Sudanese women, cheered on by dozens of supporters on the riverbank.

"It was lovely, it was beautiful. I would recommend that everyone swims across the Nile," Blankhart said laughing, back on dry land after the crossing.

She had originally said that she would swim across the river if her embassy's Facebook page received more than 10,000 likes.




US literary great Ernest Hemingway's tender and joyful memoir of 1920s Paris, "A Moveable Feast", has enjoyed a surge in sales since last week's terror attacks in the French capital.

The author of such acclaimed novels as "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and "The Old Man and the Sea" spent time in Paris as a young man honing his writing skills and chronicling the exuberant mood of Paris after World War I.

Copies of "A Moveable Feast" have been flying off bookshop shelves, say sales monitors.

Paperback versions are being deposited, along with flowers and candles, in front of bullet-ridden windows at one of the Paris bars targeted by the jihadist gunmen.

The book can also be found in front of the Bataclan concert hall, the epicentre of last Friday's slaughter which left 129 people dead and more than 350 injured.

During a minute of silence observed for the victims on Monday, many people could be seen head bowed with "A Moveable Feast" tucked under their arms.

The French version "Paris est une fête" -- which literally means "Paris is a Party" - was on Thursday right at the top of Amazon France's list of biographies in terms of sales, and second on the overall literature best-sellers list.

Normally bookshops will sell 10 copies of the Hemingway book per week, "now it's 500," a spokesman for the Folio publishers said.

An extra 15,000-copy print run of the book, which was published posthumously in 1964, is planned.





Troubled South Korean retail giant Lotte, already struggling with a prolonged founder-family feud, has seen its business woes deepen with the loss of the state licence for one of its biggest duty-free shops ahead of a key IPO.

The country's fifth-largest business group suffered its latest body-blow at the weekend when South Korea's customs agency awarded its concession to a rival bidder -- the heavy industries giant Doosan Co.

The licence covered a 10,990-square-metre (118,300 square foot) store in South Korea's tallest skyscraper -- the Lotte World Tower and Mall complex in downtown Seoul.

Lotte, which had held the licence for five years, had already invested 300 billion won ($255 million) in the store and the customs agency decision shattered its ambitions to grow it into the world's largest duty-free outlet over the next decade.

The setback was particularly badly timed given the preparations for an initial public offering of shares in Lotte's hotel unit, which runs the group's duty-free business.

The duty-free chain is the largest franchise of its kind in South Korea and the third-largest in the world, racking up sales of 4.2 trillion won last year.



Hotel Lotte vowed Saturday to push ahead with the listing, but analysts said the loss of the licence for the Lotte World store would be felt.

"Investors are concerned it will hurt Hotel Lotte's overall profits," said Park Jong-Dae, analyst at Hana Financial Securities.

"As a result, the company's valuation may fall when it goes public," he said, noting that duty-free shops accounted for more than 80 percent of Hotel Lotte's overall sales.

Founded in Tokyo in 1948 by Shin Kyuk-Ho, Lotte has a vast network of businesses including department stores, hotels and amusement parks in South Korea and Japan, with combined assets valued at more than $90 billion.

- A very public feud -

Many of South Korea's family-run conglomerates, or "chaebol", are known for their byzantine structure of shareholdings, but Lotte Group's cross-holdings dwarf the others in their number and complexity.

The confusion surrounding who controls what, and how, has become the backdrop to a monumental family feud pitting Shin and his first son Shin Dong-Joo in one corner against his second son -- the current group chairman Shin Dong-Bin -- in the other.