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Former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed landed in Britain on Thursday, his aide told AFP, after the Indian Ocean islands' government granted him prison leave for urgent surgery.

 

"We have just landed," said Sabra Noordeen, who was travelling with Nasheed, whose conviction last March on terror-related charges has been widely criticised.

A smiling Nasheed, who wore a suit and tie, later walked into the terminal at Heathrow Airport and was met by his British lawyer Amal Clooney, wife of Hollywood star George Clooney, an AFP photographer saw.

He left the Maldives on Monday for Sri Lanka after resolving a last-minute legal dispute with the government over his 30-day release for the spinal cord surgery in the UK.

He then left for Britain on Thursday.

The Maldives government said Nasheed was travelling under what diplomatic sources described as a deal brokered by India, Sri Lanka and Britain.

But Nasheed refused a government request to leave a relative behind to act as a guarantor liable to prosecution if he failed to return to serve the rest of his sentence.

 

 

Spain's Princess Cristina, the sister of King Felipe VI, and her husband will go on trial Monday for corruption in a high stakes case likely to further damage the monarchy's image.

The highly anticipated trial of the royal couple and 16 other accused will run until June at a court in Palma, on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca, where the Spanish royal family has a seaside holiday home.

Cristina, 50, will be the first direct member of the royal family facing criminal charges since the monarchy was reinstated following the death of dictator General Francisco Franco in 1975.

The case is centred on the shady business deals of the Noos Institute, a charitable organisation based in Palma which her husband, former Olympic handball player Inaki Urdangarin, chaired from 2004 to 2006.

As a result of their indictment, last year, King Felipe VI, who took over from his father Juan Carlos in June 2014, stripped Cristina and her husband of their title as Duke and Duchess of Palma de Mallorca, in a bid to undo damage to the monarchy's image ahead of the trial.

 

Juan Carlos had given the couple the title when they married in 1997 in a lavish ceremony at the height of the popularity of the Spanish royals.

"Felipe VI cannot allow there to be the slightest doubt over the rigour of his sister's trial," historian Pilar Urbano, who has written extensively about the royal family, told AFP.

The trial must be "exemplary, the opposite would hurt him," she added.

 

 

 

Parisians bid goodbye to a year of unprecedented terror attacks when clocks chimed midnight Friday, as thousands of defiant revellers thronged the Champs-Elysees for New Year's Eve celebrations.

While the traditional fireworks display was cancelled this year over fears of a terrorist attack, crowds still filled the iconic boulevard lined with trees donning sparkling garlands to welcome 2016.

"It's New Year. We wanted to have fun as usual, in spite of everything, so we came on the Champs as this is the perfect place for it," said Joy along with her friend Rebecca, in their 20s, who came for the celebrations.

"I'm not particularly scared," said Joy. "An attack can happen anywhere at any time. But that can't stop us from living."

Behind her, Western tourists uncorked a bottle of wine while some Asian visitors took a photo and several older couples danced.

The festivities are the largest public gathering since jihadists killed 130 people in Paris in November in a wave of gun and suicide bombings claimed by the Islamic State group.

"After what our city has lived through, we have to send a signal to the world," said Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, promising a "sombre and dignified show".

In the Place de la Republique square in central Paris, visitors flocked to an open air shrine for the victims of the November 13 attacks.

Lila Rehane, a 49-year-old from the southern French city of Marseilles who came to pay homage at the site, said she wanted to see peace return in 2016 after a year of "anguish".

- 'Crappy year' -

 

 

At least 24 people were killed when a passenger bus plunged into a ravine after a head-on collision with a truck in northern Afghanistan, officials said Friday, in the latest deadly road accident.

Women and children were among those killed in the accident Thursday on a major highway in Samangan province.

"The crash happened when the bus carrying more than 50 passengers was travelling from Kabul to Mazar-i-Sharif," said Sarajuddin Fitrat, the governor of Hazrat Sultan district where the accident occurred.

"Twenty four people were killed and 17 others were injured."

The defence ministry in Kabul gave a much higher death toll of 43.

The injured were rushed to hospital while police and a rescue team retrieved the bodies.

 

 

 

New Yorkers doing some last-minute shopping on Christmas Eve left their winter coats at home Thursday as temperatures soared to record highs.

The mercury hit 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 Celsius) in the morning, prompting some people in the Big Apple to head out in T-shirts even though skies were overcast.

According to the National Weather Service, temperatures could soar to 74 degrees Fahrenheit in the city's iconic Central Park later in the day -- that would be a first for the date since weather record keeping began in 1871.

The previous record for December 24, 63 degrees, dates back to 1996.

 

JPMorgan Chase & Co has agreed to pay $150 million to resolve a securities fraud lawsuit by investors suing the bank over its "London Whale" trading scandal, which caused a $6.2 billion loss.

The settlement was disclosed in papers filed on Friday in federal court in Manhattan and would resolve a class action lawsuit filed in the wake of the scandal that emerged in 2012.

The lawsuit stemmed from oversight by JPMorgan's Chief Investment Office of a synthetic credit portfolio that caused the $6.2 billion loss and was linked to traders in the bank's London office including Bruno Iksil, the so-called London Whale.

Shareholders accused JPMorgan of knowingly hiding increased risks at the Chief Investment Office, including on an April 13, 2012, conference call when JPMorgan Chase & Co Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon called reports about the synthetic portfolio a "tempest in a teapot."

 

From London and Paris to New Delhi and Sao Paulo, traditional taxi drivers united worldwide against Uber in 2015, a year that saw riots, legal battles and even a kidnapping in protest against the startup.

 

Since first winning customers in San Francisco five years ago, Uber has enjoyed spectacular global growth by allowing customers to hail drivers using a smartphone app and bypass traditional taxi services.

But the company, now operating in 58 countries and valued at more than $50 billion, has suffered a bumpy ride on the road to success, infuriating conventional cab firms and battling regulators across numerous nations.

The firm's safety standards have also been called into question after Uber drivers were accused of abduction and sexual attacks of female passengers in India and the United States.

In New Delhi authorities attempted to ban the firm, after it was accused of failing to conduct adequate background checks on a driver who last month was jailed for life for the rape of female passenger in his car. But Uber has flouted the ban much to the outrage of traditional car services.

In many countries, cabbies say Uber represents unfair competition because its drivers are not subject to the often-strict rules and restrictions that govern conventional firms.

Their anger boiled over in 2015, notably in Paris where rioting by heavily unionised taxi drivers and the arrest of Uber executives in June led the startup to suspend its low-cost UberPOP service -- six months after it was banned.

 

Licensed cabbies, who in some countries must undergo hundreds of hours of training, accuse Uber of endangering their jobs by flooding the market with cheaper drivers who only need a GPS to get around.

- 'Pushed to the brink' -

"Taxi drivers, alright -- they've got big mouths -- but normally they're not aggressive," said Malia, who has driven a taxi in Paris for three years said of the riots in the city, which included torching of cars.

"But these guys have families to feed, debts. They've been pushed to the brink."

Uber does not employ drivers or own vehicles, but instead uses non-professionally licensed contractors with their own cars, allowing them to run their own businesses.

In London, 1,500 of the city's iconic black cabs blocked streets in September, while Mayor Boris Johnson raised drivers' ire after calling those opposed to new technology "Luddites".

 

Black cabbies spend three years studying for "The Knowledge", a gruelling test that requires them to memorise every street in London before gaining a licence, a tradition dating back to the 1800s.

They say they are being squeezed by the popular, cheaper Uber.

 

 

 

Anti-Christmas protesters calling themselves "Losers with Women" marched through Tokyo's streets Saturday, bashing the upcoming holiday as a capitalist ploy that also discriminates against singletons.

The group of about 20 -- part of the Communist-inspired group that routinely protests Western holidays -- marched under angry banners that read "Smash Christmas!" in Tokyo's Shibuya district, where couples and families strolled for holiday shopping.

The scrooges -- mostly single men -- said they were against capitalism and were opposed to the commercialisation of Christmas.

"In this world, money is extracted from people in love, and happy people support capitalism," said the head of the organisation, formally called Kakumeiteki Hi-mote Domei, or the Revolutionary Losers' League.

 

 

 

Japan's top court will rule this week on a pair of 19th century family laws that critics blast as sexist and out of touch.

The Supreme Court will weigh in on the legality of a six-month ban on women remarrying after divorce and another law that requires spouses to have the same surname, in a highly anticipated decision set for Wednesday.

The court will decide whether to uphold, amend or strike down the controversial legislation, which dates back to an era of starkly different social mores.

The half-year remarriage ban is linked to complex rules over the timing of a child's birth after divorce -- designed to determine whether a child belonged to the ex-husband or the new spouse's family in an era before DNA testing.

The surname rule is a throwback to Japan's feudal family system, in which all women and children came under the control of the head of household -- traditionally a man.

 

 

"Even if the feudal family system is long gone, many people still have the image of a woman marrying into the husband's household," said Waseda University law professor Masayuki Tanamura.

That system was abolished in 1948, part of broad reforms pushed by the post-World War II US occupation, but Japan's civil code maintained the two articles -- which will go before the court this week.

Activists say the laws are a continued reflection of the country's male-dominated society more than a century after they came into effect.

- Judicial tango -

Mother and activist Masae Ido knows firsthand the implications of the half-year ban on remarriage.

"These laws mean a woman remains under a man's sexual control even after divorce," Ido, 50, told AFP.

 

She vividly recalls her frustration after the birth of a child with her second husband.

A municipal official said her ex-husband must be registered as the father of her baby -- who, under the rules, was born too soon after they divorced -- even though he was not biologically related to the child.

 

 

 

 

That drone under the Christmas tree? If you are a US resident, you will need to register it by February 19 or face a possible fine.

Rules released Monday by the US Federal Aviation Administration require registration of small unmanned aircraft weighing more than 250 grams (0.55 pounds) and less than 25 kilograms (55 pounds) including payloads such as on-board cameras.

The registration fee is $5, but in an effort to encourage people to register quickly, the FAA will waive the fee through January 20.

"Make no mistake: unmanned aircraft enthusiast are aviators, and with that title comes a great deal of responsibility," said US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a statement.

"Registration gives us an opportunity to work with these users to operate their unmanned aircraft safely. I'm excited to welcome these new aviators into the culture of safety and responsibility that defines American innovation."