Wednesday, October 24 2018

Khashoggi’s alleged killers meet his family

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met the family of Jamal Khashoggi in Riyadh on Tuesday, state media reported. The Saudi rulers reportedly met Khashoggi’s son Salah and brother Sahel at the royal palace. The report said King Salman and Prince Mohammed offered their condolences to the family of the Saudi journalist. Khashoggi was killed after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2. After more than two weeks of vehemently denying Khashoggi was dead, the Saudi government on Saturday said he was killed in a fight inside the consulate and said the murder was not state-sanctioned. Khashoggi was a US resident and had lived in self-imposed exile in Virginia since 2017, shortly after the powerful Prince Mohammed was appointed heir to the throne. – AFP

Slovak president ‘shocked’ by mafia in his backyard

Slovakia president Andrej Kiska has called the reach of the Italian mafia into his country ‘shocking’ after a report by security services he ordered in the wake of the killing of an investigative journalist. Kiska’s comments appeared to be contradicted on Tuesday by Slovakia’s PM, who said the president had ‘misinterpreted’ the report by the state intelligence service SIS. In a commentary piece, Kiska said he had ordered the report on the activities of the mafia in the wake of the death of Jan Kuciak. The reporter was shot along with his fiancée at home in February in what prosecutors say was a contract killing. He had been investigating allegations that Italian businessmen in eastern Slovakia had fraudulently taken advantage of European Union agricultural subsidies. His death prompted the biggest protests in Slovakia’s post-communist history, leading to a government shakeup that saw long-serving PM Robert Fico resign in March. ‘What I got on my table literally shocked me,’ Kiska wrote in his newspaper article on the SIS report. He said it showed names of people and firms involved in subsidy fraud and land deals over the previous 10 years. ‘And the result? Nothing. Silence,’ he wrote. ‘No arrests, no massive police action.’ – Reuters

Antique and intact: ‘oldest’ shipwreck found

An ancient Greek trading ship dating back more than 2,400 years has been found virtually intact at the bottom of the Black Sea, the world’s oldest known shipwreck, researchers said on Tuesday. The vessel is one of more than 60 shipwrecks identified by the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project, including Roman ships and a 17th-century Cossack raiding fleet. Researchers used specialist remote deep-water camera systems previously used in offshore oil and gas exploration to map the sea floor. ‘A small piece of the vessel has been carbon dated and it is confirmed as the oldest intact shipwreck known to mankind,’ the project said. The ship was dated back to 400 BC, a time when the Black Sea was a trading hub filled with Greek colonies. The team said the vessel, previously only seen in an intact state on the side of ancient Greek pottery, was found at a depth of more than 2,000m. The water at that depth is oxygen-free, meaning organic material can be preserved for thousands of years. ‘A ship, surviving intact, from the Classical world, lying in over 2km of water, is something I would never have believed possible’ said Prof Jon Adams from the University of Southampton, the project’s main investigator. – AFP

‘Gay tsunami’ rattles Malaysian politician

Malaysia’s opposition leader said the quake-tsunami that killed thousands in neighbouring Indonesia was ‘punishment from Allah’ for the activities of gay people, sparking a storm of criticism. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who heads a party that lost power in Muslim-majority Malaysia at historic elections in May, made the remarks in parliament as he warned about the growing influence of the country’s gay community. It was the latest sign of a backlash against homosexuals in Malaysia. In recent months officials – including the PM – have spoken out against gay rights, and two lesbians were caned for breaking Islamic laws that forbid same-sex relations. Ahmad Zahid, a former deputy former premier who is now facing jail after being arrested for corruption, said that ‘in Palu, where there was recently an earthquake and tsunami, it was said that there were more than 1,000 (people) involved in such (LGBT) activities. As a result, the whole area was crushed. This is punishment from Allah’. – AFP

Korea wants to own the Seouls of pot smokers

South Korea has warned its citizens against smoking cannabis in Canada, telling them that even though the country legalised weed last week, using it there was still an offence under Seoul’s own laws. Consumption, possession or sale of illegal substances are criminal offences under South Korea’s tough drugs legislation. Canada last week fully legalised cannabis, including for recreational use. But South Korea’s criminal laws apply both territorially and personally, officials said, meaning that its citizens would still face punishment for smoking weed even if they did so in Canada. ‘South Korean individuals who use marijuana (including purchase, possession and transport) – even in regions where such acts are legal – are violating the law and will be punished accordingly,’ the South Korean embassy in Canada tweeted last week. – AFP

China’s ‘white elephant’ sea bridge makes a splash

The world’s longest sea bridge was officially inaugurated on Tuesday by China President Xi Jinping, with supporters hailing it as an engineering triumph and detractors calling it a controversial white elephant. Here are some facts about the remarkable new multibillion-dollar structure that connects the two semiautonomous cities of Hong Kong and Macau to the sprawling Pearl River delta economic zone via the Chinese mainland city of Zhuhai. In terms of sheer size, it is a record breaker – the longest ocean bridge and tunnel system in the world. The total length runs a whopping 55km, far farther than any other rival bridge and tunnel combination. Chinese state media said 420,000 tons of steel was used in its construction – enough for 60 Eiffel Towers – alongside 1.08 million cubic metres of concrete. It is built to last at least 120 years and can withstand typhoon winds of up to 340km/h. Engineers say the structure will significantly cut down travel time, from four hours between Hong Kong and Zhuhai to just 45 minutes. Only the wealthy or politically connected will be able to take their private cars across. For Hong Kong-mainland dual-plate private cars 10,000 licences will be granted, while the quota for Macau is much lower at just 300.

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