UK News

Culture

 

British Queen celebrates

World News

 

 

Dutch food and cosmetics giant Unilever said on Sunday it has bought a majority stake in Chinese water purification company Qinyuan in its biggest investment in the country in a decade.

"We are delighted to be making this strategic investment –- a majority stake in Qinyuan -– our biggest acquisition in China for more than 10 years," Unilever chief executive Paul Polman said in a statement.

Rotterdam-based Unilever, which last year clocked up a net profit of 4.84 billion euros ($6.56 billion), declined to put an amount on the deal or disclose the size of its stake.

Qinyuan last year made almost 140 million euros in sales in China's rapidly-expanding water purification market, which has grown more than 20 percent a year over the last three years, Unilever said.

 

 

 

 

The world's oldest known Holocaust survivor, the subject of an Oscar-nominated documentary, has died in London aged 110, her family announced.

Alice Herz-Sommer, originally from Prague, spent two years of World War II in Czechoslovakia's Terezin concentration camp, where she entertained inmates by playing the piano.

Her grandson, Ariel Sommer, explained: "Alice Sommer passed away peacefully this morning with her family by her bedside. Much has been written about her, but to those of us who knew her best, she was our dear 'Gigi'.

"She loved us, laughed with us, and cherished music with us. She was an inspiration and our world will be significantly poorer without her by our side. We mourn her loss and ask for privacy in this very difficult moment."

 

 

 

 

Eight college students were killed and dozens more feared trapped after an auditorium collapsed under heavy snow Monday at a resort in the southern South Korean city of Gyeongju, rescue workers said.

As many as 450 students were believed to have been attending a concert in the building when the roof caved in around 9:15 pm (1215 GMT).

Police officials quoted by the Yonhap news agency said eight people had been confirmed killed in the collapse and around 50 more were thought to still be trapped inside the building.

A spokesman for the local fire service had earlier told AFP by telephone that 73 people were injured, 15 of them seriously.

Rescue workers were continuing to search for the dozens more students who were feared trapped inside the collapsed structure, he said.

Yonhap reported that police feared the toll could rise throughout the night, with around 300 rescuers on the scene.

The collapse appeared to have been caused by heavy snow which had piled up on the roof of the auditorium.

"The ceiling came crashing down at the front near the stage," one student told the YTN news channel.

"Then pandemonium broke out and everyone started rushing towards the exits, shouting and screaming," he added.

 

 

 

 

Swiss voters have narrowly backed curbs on immigration from the European Union, with 50.4 percent in favour in a referendum on Sunday, a polling agency said.

 

 

US Attorney General Eric Holder will expand government recognition of same-sex marriages in all federal courtrooms and prisons Monday, and ensure they receive the same benefits as heterosexual ones.

The move, which Holder announced Saturday at a gay rights dinner gala in New York, marks a major gain for advocates of same-sex couples after the Supreme Court issued two rulings expanding gay marriage rights last year.

Under the new policy, same-sex couples will enjoy the privileges even in states that do not recognize their marriages, so long as they legally wed in another state.

Among the key benefits the Justice Department will now ensure are extended to same-sex couples are the compensation fund for the September 11, 2001 attacks, as well as death and educational benefits for the surviving spouses of police officers and firefighters injured or killed in the line of duty.

 

 

 

 

Afghanistan's presidential candidates held major rallies in Kabul on Sunday marking the start of an election campaign to appoint Hamid Karzai's successor, as the killing of a frontrunner's aides highlighted the security threat surrounding the poll.

Gunmen shot dead two aides of Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister, in the western city of Herat on Saturday, officials said.

The attack comes as the country prepares for its first democratic transfer of power, with the April 5 election viewed as a key test of the effectiveness of the 350,000-strong Afghan security force as foreign troops prepare to exit the country.

A dispute between Kabul and Washington over whether a small force of US soldiers stays behind beyond 2014 is likely to dominate the campaign.

In the capital on Sunday, thousands of people, mostly men, gathered in giant wedding halls where candidates delivered speeches and called on war-weary Afghans to vote for them.

 

Ashraf Ghani, a 64-year-old academic and internationally known intellectual, told one packed hall: "Reforms will begin with us: myself, Mr Dostum and Mr Danish."

 

He was referring to his running mates, the former Uzbek warlord General Abdul Rashid Dostum and ethnic Hazara tribal chieftain Sarwar Danish.

Security was tight at the rallies, which were guarded by the Afghan national army.

But despite the army's presence, the killing of Abdullah's aides weighed heavily on some people's minds.

Voters 'concerned'

Arefa Alizada, an 18-year-old Abdullah supporter who attended one of the rallies, said: "I am concerned about security of the election, especially after I heard that two campaigners were killed yesterday. If it worsens, me and many other people won't be able to vote."

 

 

 

Afghanistan has been gripped by a deadly insurgency for the past 12 years. Most US and NATO troops are set to leave at the end of this year, leaving Afghans in charge of their own security.

A dispute between Kabul and Washington over whether a small force of US soldiers stays behind beyond 2014 is likely to dominate the campaign.

Karzai was expected to sign a bilateral security agreement (BSA) late last year, which would allow about 10,000 US troops to be deployed in the country after NATO withdraws by December.

But he has stalled and said his successor might now complete negotiations -- plunging relations with the US, Afghanistan's key donor, to a fresh low.

Karzai has ruled the country since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, surviving assassination attempts and the treacherous currents of Afghan political life as billions of dollars of military and development aid poured into the country.

He is barred from seeking a third term, leaving an open field to compete in the April 5 vote, which is likely to trigger a second-round run-off in late May between the two strongest candidates.

 

 

 

 

An emotional Dennis Rodman appeared to break down Monday as he apologised on his return from a controversial trip to North Korea, where he sang "Happy Birthday" to regime leader Kim Jong-Un.

The former NBA star was widely criticised for refusing to bring up human rights abuses or the plight of a US missionary detained in North Korea during his week-long visit.

The former Chicago Bulls player was also accused of pandering to North Korean authorities during the trip, which featured an exhibition basketball match involving other NBA stars to mark Kim's birthday.

"I love my country, America, I love it and I will never trade it for nothing in the world," the pierced and heavily tattooed Rodman told reporters at Beijing airport.

 

Former world heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson has described Rodman's actions as "treason".

Rodman said he wanted to "show people that no matter what is going on in the world, for one day... not politics, not all this stuff..." before launching into an apology.

"I am sorry. I am not the president. I am not an ambassador. I am Dennis Rodman. Just an individual, just showing the world the fact that we can actually get along and be happy for one day," Rodman said, before his voice broke and he put his hands to his face.

He was ushered through a heavy media presence by security and his entourage, which includes Joseph Terwilliger, a bearded tuba-playing neuroscience professor from Columbia University in New York.

Rodman has developed an unlikely relationship with the young North Korean leader since making his first trip there in February, when he declared Kim a "friend for life".

The former power forward, who was wearing dark glasses, a blue tracksuit top and orange scarf, was asked whether he raised the issue of Kenneth Bae, who was detained by North Korean authorities.

 

 

 

 

 

Volkswagen plans to fill a big hole in its US portfolio by launching a midsized sport utility vehicle in 2016 and will expand its manufacturing presence in the region, the German automaker said.

The new seven-seater is part of a $7 billion investment in North American operations over the next five years, VW chief Martin Winterkorn said at a reception held on the eve of the Detroit auto show.

"The US is a cornerstone of our 2018 strategy," Winterkorn told reporters Sunday.

"We have set our goal: Volkswagen group of America aims to sell one million Volkswagen and Audi cars per year in the US by 2018," he added. "We are taking up the challenge with confidence, total commitment and the necessary staying power."

The largest European automaker had previously announced plans to invest $5 billion by 2015. Winterkorn did not specify how the additional funds will be spent.

The VW group -- which also includes the Audi, Porsche, Bentley, Bugatti and Lamborghini brands -- has managed to nearly double its US sales since 2008, setting a new record of 611,700 delivers in 2013.

 

Pope Francis said Sunday he will make his first trip to the Holy Land, visiting Amman, Bethlehem and Jerusalem from May 24 to 26.

"In the climate of joy typical of this Christmas period, I would like to announce that from May 24 to 26, God willing, I will carry out a pilgrimage to the Holy Land," Francis told crowds gathered in St Peter's Square for the traditional Angelus prayer.

Francis said the date of the announcement -- January 5 -- was significant because it "commemorates the historic meeting between pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I of Constantinople", 50 years ago.

Their meeting in 1964 in Jerusalem led to the rescinding of the excommunications of 1054 that caused the Great Schism between the churches of the East and West.

During the visit, the pontiff said he would hold an "ecumenical meeting with all the representatives of the Christian Churches in Jerusalem" at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, venerated as the place where Jesus was buried.

 

 

Angela Merkel is due to be sworn in on Tuesday for a rare third term as German chancellor, capping months of political uncertainty as she bartered with her rivals to help govern Europe's top economy.

Eighty-six days after Merkel, 59, swept to victory in elections but failed to grab an outright majority, the Bundestag lower house of parliament will vote on handing her another four-year term.

The ballot is secret but the outcome likely holds little surprise.

With a whopping 504 of the 631 seats, Merkel's conservatives and their new centre-left partners, the Social Democrats (SPD), hold a comfortable majority under their hard-fought 'grand coalition' deal.

Afterwards she must be confirmed by President Joachim Gauck at the presidential palace before returning to the Bundestag to be sworn in as Germany's only third post-war chancellor to win a third mandate.

The ceremony and later swearing-in of ministers followed by the first cabinet meeting will enable Merkel to finally get back down to business in earnest after the longest government-building period since World War II.

 

Merkel is then due to address parliament Wednesday and travel to Paris for talks with President Francois Hollande the same day, ahead of an EU summit at the end of the week.

A parliament debate after Wednesday's address will be the first opportunity for a face-off across the floor since the SPD moved off the opposition benches.

Merkel has defended the time spent haggling over policy and posts with an initially reluctant SPD as time well spent, voicing appreciation on signing the coalition pact Monday "that we listened to each other".