UK News

Culture

 

British Queen celebrates

World News

 

As the conflict between Ukraine and Russia escalates to a "military stage" after Moscow's move to claim the Black Sea region of Crimea, hundreds of Ukrainians have mobilised to fight the battle on another front -- the media.

Journalists, advertising executives and students have signed up as volunteers to join a propaganda war against Russia, which they accuse of deliberately misleading the public using wide-reaching state-controlled news agencies, television channels and newspapers.

"Ukraine has been losing the war that's being waged in the media. Russians have been very consciously, deliberately pursuing the strategy of misinforming the worldwide community," Yaryna Klyuchkovska, one of the coordinators of the recently established Ukraine Crisis Media Centre, told AFP.

"Our weapon is information... We need to mobilise to provide a counterweight," added her colleague Oxana Melnychuk.

The centre set up by PR and advertising executives holds daily news conferences with ministers and activists, and publishes analyses that counter the Russian point of view.

Another group of mostly journalists and students have meanwhile created a fact-checking website called StopFake.org that examines official statements and news reports, and if necessary, sets the record straight.

Both information resources quickly gained a wide following in the social media sphere, acquiring a reputation like that of EuromaidanPR -- the official voice of the protests that broke out in Kiev in November and led to the ouster of pro-Kremlin president Viktor Yanukovych.

Russian troops subseqently took control of Crimea, and on Tuesday Putin signed a treaty absorbing the flashpoint peninsula, while Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk warned that "the conflict is shifting from a political to a military stage".

Yevhen Fedchenko, who is director of Kiev's Mohyla School of Journalism and one of the coordinators of StopFake.org, said the aim of the website is to fill the "total vacuum of information" from the new Ukrainian authorities.

 

 

 

The 65th edition of the Netherlands' massive flower show at Keukenhof, the world's largest bulb garden with over seven million flowers, opened to the public on Thursday.

"The park is now open for two months and we received our first coachload of visitors this morning, from Singapore," Keukenhof spokeswoman Annemarie Gerards-Adriaansens told AFP.

Each year the park has a different theme, usually based on a country, and this year's theme is simply the Netherlands.

 

 

 

 

 

US Navy Seals have boarded and taken control of a North Korea-flagged tanker that had loaded crude oil at a port held by rebels in eastern Libya, the Pentagon said Monday.

 

 

 

 

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.