London court rules WikiLeaks founder Assange can appeal US extradition order 

London — A British court has ruled that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can appeal against an order that he be extradited to the U.S. on espionage charges. Two High Court judges on Monday said Assange has grounds to challenge the U.K. government’s extradition order. The ruling sets the stage for an appeal process likely to further drag out a years-long legal saga. Assange faces 17 espionage charges and one charge of computer misuse over his website’s publication of a trove of classified U.S. documents almost 15 years ago. The Australian computer expert has spent the last five years in a British high-security prison after taking refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for seven years. Assange’s lawyers have argued he was a journalist who exposed U.S. military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sending him to the U.S., they said, would expose him to a politically motivated prosecution and risk a “flagrant denial of justice.” The U.S. government says Assange’s actions went way beyond those of a journalist gathering information, amounting to an attempt to solicit, steal and indiscriminately publish classified government documents. In March, two judges rejected the bulk of Assange’s arguments but said he could take his case to the Court of Appeal unless the U.S. guaranteed he would not face the death penalty if extradited and would have the same free speech protections as a U.S. citizen. The court said that if Assange couldn’t rely on the First Amendment then it was arguable his extradition would be incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, which also provides free speech and media protections. The U.S. provided those reassurances, but Assange’s legal team and supporters argue they are not good enough to rely on to send him to the U.S. federal court system because the First Amendment promises fall short. The U.S. said Assange could seek to rely on the amendment but it would be up to a judge to decide whether he could. Attorney James Lewis, representing the U.S., said Assange’s conduct was “simply unprotected” by the First Amendment. “No one, neither U.S. citizens nor foreign citizens, are entitled to rely on the First Amendment in relation to publication of illegally obtained national defense information giving the names of innocent sources, to their grave and imminent risk of harm,” Lewis said. The WikiLeaks founder, who has spent the past five years in a British prison, was not in court … “London court rules WikiLeaks founder Assange can appeal US extradition order “

UN watchdog urges ‘vigilance’ against nuclear material theft

Vienna — The UN nuclear watchdog on Monday called for “vigilance” against trafficking of nuclear and other radioactive material, saying it has recorded more than 4,200 thefts or other incidents over the past 30 years. Last year, 31 countries reported 168 incidents “in line with historical averages,” the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said. Six of those were “likely related to trafficking or malicious use,” it added. Since 1993, the IAEA has recorded 4,243 incidents, with 350 of them connected or likely to be connected to trafficking or malicious use. “The reoccurrence of incidents confirms the need for vigilance and continuous improvement of the regulatory oversight to control, secure and properly dispose radioactive material,” said Elena Buglova, director of the IAEA’s nuclear security division. Most incidents are not connected to trafficking or malicious use, involving for example scrap metal found to be contaminated. The IAEA noted a decline in incidents involving nuclear material, such as uranium, plutonium and thorium. But Buglova warned dangerous materials remain vulnerable, especially during transport, stressing the “importance of strengthening transport security measures.” The Vienna-based IAEA released the data as it opens its fourth international conference on nuclear security, which runs until Friday in the Austrian capital. The previous one was also held in Vienna in 2020. A total of 145 states currently report to the IAEA about incidents that involve nuclear or other radioactive material lost, stolen, improperly disposed of or otherwise neglected. Many radioactive substances are used in hospitals, universities and industry worldwide. The big worry is that extremists could get hold of the materials and use them in a “dirty bomb” — a device whereby conventional explosives disperse radioactive materials. Although the damage and loss of life caused by such a “dirty bomb” would be a fraction of that unleashed by a fission or fusion atom bomb, it could still cause mass panic in an urban area. …

UK and Finland to deepen ties in face of ‘Russian aggression’

LONDON — Britain and Finland will sign a new strategic partnership on Monday to strengthen ties and counter the “threat of Russian aggression,” the U.K. foreign minister said. The two countries will declare Russia as “the most significant and direct threat to European peace and stability,” according to a Foreign Office press release. The agreement will be endorsed by U.K. foreign minister David Cameron and his Finnish counterpart Elina Valtonen in London. “As we stand together to support Ukraine, including through providing military aid and training, we are clear that the threat of Russian aggression, following the war it started, will not be tolerated,” said Cameron. “This strategic partnership, built on our shared values, will see the UK and Finland step up cooperation to bolster European security as well as seize new opportunities, from science and technology to closer energy ties,” he added. The countries will work together to counter Russian disinformation, malicious cyber activities and support Ukraine’s recovery, reconstruction, and modernization, according to the Foreign Office. Since Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Finland has joined the NATO military alliance and shut off much of its border with Russia. Britain is a major military supporter of Ukraine. …

Cannes film follows Egypt feminists on brink of adulthood

Cannes, France — Filmmakers Nada Riyadh and Ayman El Amir spent so much time following an all-girl theatre troupe in a remote Egyptian village that at one point someone tried to sell them a house. “He thought we were always there so we might as well live there,” Riyadh told AFP after the premiere of their documentary at the Cannes Film Festival. “The Brink of Dreams” follows a group of teenage girls in rural southern Egypt over four years, between rehearsals, as they navigate the tough decisions that will determine their adulthood. Majda dreams of studying theatre in Cairo, Monika wants to become a famous singer and Haidi is being pursued by the hottest guy in the village. In their feminist street performances, they boldly rail against the patriarchy, challenging members of the crowd on issues such as self-fulfillment and early marriage. But soon life takes over and the teenagers from Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority find themselves confronted with these concepts for real. The camera discreetly captures conversations in the family shop, between a father and daughter, or two lovers, as neighbors and animals go about their daily lives. “In the beginning there was a lot of people always looking at the camera. Everybody was self-conscious,” said Riyadh. But “once the trust had been built between them and us, we had that chance to blend in.” Riyadh said the documentary, which is screening in a sidebar section of the festival, was driven by her and co-director Amin discovering the troupe in 2017. The film “is intentionally feminist in every way but I think it was also dictated by what this inspiring group of women was already doing,” she said. It’s “mind-blowing because they’re demanding answers about very important things and opening a dialogue with everybody in their community.” Co-director Amin said the main challenge was editing down 100 hours of footage to tell this coming-of-age tale and convey a seldom seen side of Egypt. “Most mainstream films in Egypt tell stories about living in gated compounds and shopping in malls,” Amin said. “It’s very rare to see stories that take place in the south outside of Cairo or Alexandria and see girls like those girls on screen.” The documentary has a French distributor, but the filmmakers also hope to show the film widely in Egypt, including in the rural south. Until then, six of the actors in the film got to … “Cannes film follows Egypt feminists on brink of adulthood”

Islamic State claims attack in Afghanistan that killed 3 Spaniards

Cairo — Islamic State on Sunday claimed responsibility for an attack by gunmen on tourists in Afghanistan’s central Bamiyan province, the group said on its Telegram channel. Three Spanish tourists were killed and at least one Spaniard was injured in the attack, Spain’s foreign ministry said on Friday. Taliban interior ministry spokesman Abdul Mateen Qaniee four people had been arrested over the attack in which gunmen opened fire. In addition to the three foreign tourists, one Afghan citizen had been killed in the attack. Four foreigners and three Afghans were also injured, he added. Mountainous Bamiyan is home to a UNESCO world heritage site and the remains of two giant Buddha statues that were blown up by the Taliban during their previous rule in 2001. Since taking over Afghanistan in 2021, the Taliban have pledged to restore security and encourage a small but growing number of tourists trickling back into the country. They have sold tickets to see the site of the destroyed Buddha statues. Friday’s attack was among the most serious targeting foreign citizens since foreign forces left and the Taliban took over in 2021. The Islamic State claimed an attack that injured Chinese citizens at a hotel popular with Chinese businessmen in Kabul in 2022. …

Colorado clinic provides Ukrainian refugees with care in own language

Almost half a million Ukrainian immigrants have moved to the U.S. since the start of Russia’s invasion, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Two of the biggest challenges they face are finding health care and a job. In one small Colorado city, a local clinic owner, herself a Ukrainian immigrant, is helping out as much as she can. Svitlana Prystinska has the story, narrated by Anna Rice. …

PM shooting hits ‘hostile’ Slovak media hard

Bratislava, Slovakia — When four bullets fired by a lone gunman hit Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, Matus Kostolny’s life as a journalist quickly went from hard to harder. The 49-year-old editor-in-chief of the independent Dennik N daily, branded “hostile” by the government, immediately started getting threats from readers and accusations from Fico’s political allies. “Ten minutes after we ran the story about the prime minister being shot, I started receiving messages that I am to blame, that I have blood on my hands and will pay for it,” Kostolny told AFP. “From day one some politicians from the governing coalition have been saying that… it is certain media including Dennik N that bear responsibility for the attack,” he said in an interview. Domestic media had in 2018 unveiled links between the Italian mafia and Fico’s government, sparking protests that led to his resignation. Fico is in intensive care following two long operations, but his life is no longer in danger. He is serving his fourth term as prime minister of the EU and NATO member of 5.4 million people, leading a coalition of two centrist parties and a smaller nationalist one. He secured this term when his centrist Smer party won a general election in September, calling for a truce over Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine. Shortly after, Fico banned four Slovak media — Dennik N, Aktuality, Denník SME and TV Markiza — from entering the government building, labeling them as “hostile media” and “unwelcome guests.” “We have earned the label of a hostile outlet by existing and doing the kind of journalism we are doing, asking without flattering and publishing critical texts,” said Kostolny. “Politicians don’t like this, not only Robert Fico… who actually assaulted us from the day we were established.” Fico’s government is also pushing a controversial bill giving it control over the RTVS public television and radio broadcaster. A breaking point As an independent daily, Dennik N gets most of its income from readers, Kostolny said. It was founded by a group of journalists in 2014. Four years later, Slovakia was shaken by the murder of Aktuality journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée. An article by Kuciak, published posthumously, reported on government links with the mafia and open war followed between the prime minister and the media. “Jan Kuciak’s murder was a breaking point. At that time, the society split into us and them,” said Kostolny. He … “PM shooting hits ‘hostile’ Slovak media hard”

What happened in the UK’s infected blood scandal? Inquiry report due Monday

London — The final report of the U.K.’s infected blood inquiry will be published Monday, nearly six years after it began looking into how tens of thousands of people contracted HIV or hepatitis from transfusions of tainted blood and blood products in the 1970s and 1980s. The scandal is widely seen as the deadliest to afflict Britain’s state-run National Health Service since its inception in 1948, with around 3,000 people believed to have died as a result of being infected with HIV and hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver. The report is expected to criticize pharmaceutical firms and medical practitioners, civil servants and politicians, although many have already died given the passage of time. It’s also set to pave the way to a huge compensation bill that the British government will be under pressure to rapidly pay out. Had it not been for the tireless campaigners, many of whom saw loved ones die decades too soon, the scale of the scandal may have remained hidden forever. “This whole scandal has blanketed my entire life,” said Jason Evans, who was four when his father died at the age of 31 in 1993 after contracting HIV and hepatitis from an infected blood plasma product. “My dad knew he was dying and he took many home videos, which I’ve got and replayed over and over again growing up because that’s really all I had,” he added. Evans was instrumental in the decision by then-Prime Minister Theresa May to establish the inquiry in 2017. He said he just “couldn’t let it go.” His hope is that on Monday, he and countless others, can. Here is a look at what the scandal was about and what the report’s impact may be. What is the infected blood scandal? In the 1970s and 1980s, thousands of people who needed blood transfusions, for example after childbirth or surgery, became exposed to blood tainted with hepatitis, including an as yet unknown kind that was later termed Hepatitis C, and HIV. Those with haemophilia, a condition affecting the blood’s ability to clot, became exposed to what was sold as a revolutionary new treatment derived from blood plasma. In the U.K., the NHS, which treats the majority of people, started using the new treatment in the early 1970s. It was called Factor VIII. It was more convenient when compared with an alternative treatment and was dubbed a wonder drug. Demand soon outstripped … “What happened in the UK’s infected blood scandal? Inquiry report due Monday”

2 dead, 5 missing after Danube River boat collision in Hungary

Budapest, Hungary — Police say two people have died and five are missing following a boat collision on the Danube River in Hungary. Hungarian police received a report late Saturday night that a man had been found with a head injury on the shore of the Danube near the town of Veroce, around 50 kilometers north of the capital, Budapest. The bodies of a man and a woman were later discovered nearby. Hours after the police began their search, they discovered a damaged boat in the water, which they towed to shore. They are still searching for five adults — three men and two women — who they believe were on the boat. Police said they determined that a river cruise boat had been in the area at the time of the accident. They stopped a cruise boat with a damaged hull near the town of Komarom, more than 80 kilometers farther upriver. Hungarian public television station M1 reported that the cruise boat, Heidelberg, is a 357-foot Swiss craft that can accommodate 110 people. No passengers on that boat sustained any injuries, M1 said. The Danube at Veroce is roughly 460 meters wide and is in the center of an area called the Danube Bend where the river makes a sweeping, nearly 90-degree turn to the south. The area is a popular recreational and boating destination and is on a route often used by cruise boats between Budapest and the Austrian capital, Vienna, some 230 kilometers upriver. The deadly accident comes five years after at least 27 people were killed in Budapest when a river cruise boat collided with a smaller tourist vessel, sinking it in seconds. The tourist boat Hableany, carrying 35 people who were mostly South Korean tourists, was overtaken from behind by the much larger cruise boat, Viking Sigyn, beneath Budapest’s Margit Bridge, in May 2019.   The Ukrainian captain of the Viking Sigyn was last year found guilty of negligence leading to a fatal mass catastrophe and sentenced to five years and six months in prison. He has appealed the decision. Police said Sunday they have initiated criminal proceedings against an unknown perpetrator on suspicion of endangering water transport and causing the deaths of several people. A spokesperson for the Directorate General for Disaster Management told Hungarian news agency MTI that a group of nearly 90 people from several regional disaster management agencies were conducting the search … “2 dead, 5 missing after Danube River boat collision in Hungary”

China launches anti-dumping probe into EU, US, Japan, Taiwan plastics

Beijing — China’s commerce ministry on Sunday launched an anti-dumping probe into POM copolymers, a type of engineering plastic, imported from the European Union, United States, Japan and Taiwan. The plastics can partially replace metals such as copper and zinc and have various applications including in auto parts, electronics, and medical equipment, the ministry said in a statement. The investigation should be completed in a year but could be extended for six months, it said. The European Commission, which oversees EU trade policy, said it would carefully study the contents of the investigation before deciding on any next steps. “We expect China to ensure that this investigation is fully in line with all relevant WTO (World Trade Organization) rules and obligations,” a spokesperson said. China’s plastics probe comes amid a broader trade row with the United States and Europe. The United States on Tuesday unveiled steep tariff increases on Chinese electric vehicles, or EVs, computer chips, medical products and other imports. On Friday, the European Union launched a trade investigation into Chinese tinplate steel, the latest in a string of EU trade and subsidy probes into Chinese exports. Most notably, the European Commission launched a probe last September to decide whether to impose punitive tariffs on cheaper Chinese EVs that it suspects of benefiting from state subsidies. Beijing argues the recent focus by the United States and Europe on the risks to other economies from China’s excess capacity is misguided. Chinese officials say the criticism understates innovation by Chinese companies in key industries and overstates the importance of state support in driving their growth. …

Armed robbers take ‘several million dollars’ of Harry Winston jewels in Paris  

Paris — Armed robbers who used a motorbike as a battering ram made off with “several million euros’” [dollars’] worth of valuables in a heist of the luxury Paris boutique of self-declared “Jeweler to the Stars” Harry Winston, the French prosecutor’s office overseeing the police probe said.  Having refused Saturday to confirm that Harry Winston was the target, the Paris prosecutor’s office did so Sunday, saying the dazzling, by-appointment store on the tony Avenue Montaigne was robbed by a gang of at least three people.  They “forced entry to the jewelry store using a two-wheeler. They stole jewelry from several windows, while one of them kept watch,” carrying a long-barreled firearm, the prosecutor’s office said.  As they sped away, they pointed the firearm “in the direction of police officers, who had to put an end to their pursuit,” it said.  “The damage, currently being assessed, is several million euros,” it said.  Harry Winston didn’t reply to emailed questions from The Associated Press. This is not the first time the luxury store has been robbed. Eight people were convicted in 2015 in connection with a spectacular 2008 holdup in which three cross-dressing gunmen stole about $92 million in loot.  …

Russian court freezes assets of two German banks in gas project dispute 

VIENNA — A court in the Russian city of St. Petersburg has ordered the seizing of assets of Germany’s Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank in the country, the Russia state news agency Tass says. The order is in response to a lawsuit over the planned construction of a liquefied natural gas terminal in the Baltic Sea. The banks were among the guarantors in the contract for building a gas processing plant by a multinational construction firm, Renaissance Heavy Industries, and German company Linde. But the project was cancelled after Western sanctions, with the banks withdrawing their guarantees. The cancellation came at the request of RusChemAlliance, a subsidiary of Russian gas giant Gazprom and the operator of the project, German news agency dpa reported. RusChemAlliance paid advances to Linde for the building of the plant. The company is claiming about 238.61 million euros ($260 million) against Deutsche Bank and 94.92 million euros ($103 million) against Commerzbank, according to dpa. In a statement, Deutsche Bank said that it has made a provision for approximately 260 million euros ($283 million) under an indemnification agreement. It also said that it would need to assess the immediate operational impact in Russia and see how the claim will be viewed by the Russian courts. Western nations have imposed a wide range of sanctions against Russia over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine two years ago. …

Slovak PM’s life no longer in danger after shooting 

Bratislava — Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico’s life is no longer in danger following an assassination attempt, Deputy Prime Minister Robert Kalinak said on Sunday. A lone gunman, who appeared in court Saturday, shot Fico four times and he was at one stage said to be fighting for his life. “He has emerged from the immediate threat to his life, but his condition remains serious and he requires intensive care,” Kalinak, Fico’s closest political ally, told reporters. The Slovak premier was shot as he was greeting supporters after a government meeting in the central town of Handlova. He underwent a five-hour operation on Wednesday and another on Friday at a hospital in the central city of Banska Bystrica. “We can consider his condition stable with a positive prognosis,” Kalinak said outside the hospital, adding, “We all feel a bit more relaxed now.” Kalinak added that Fico would stay at Banska Bystrica for the moment. The suspected gunman, identified by Slovak media as 71-year-old poet Juraj Cintula, has been charged with premeditated attempted murder and was ordered held in custody at a hearing on Saturday. Interior Minister Matus Sutaj Estok said that if one of the shots “went just a few centimeters higher, it would have hit the prime minister’s liver”. The attempted assassination has highlighted acute political divisions in the country where 59-year-old Fico took office in October after his centrist populist Smer party won a general election. He is serving his fourth term as prime minister after campaigning on proposals for peace between Russia and Slovakia’s neighbor Ukraine, and to halt military aid to Kyiv, which his government has done. Fico leads a coalition comprising his Smer party, the centrist HLAS and the small nationalist SNS party. Kalinak said the government would carry on without Fico “according to the program he has outlined”. Slovakia was already sharply divided over politics since the 2018 murder of journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee. Kuciak pointed at links between Italian mafia and Fico’s then government, and his murder sparked nationwide protests that resulted in Fico’s resignation in 2018. The divisions deepened further with the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. Following the attack on Fico, outgoing President Zuzana Caputova and her successor Peter Pellegrini, a Fico ally who takes over in June, tried to quell the tensions. Following a proposal by Caputova and Pellegrini, several parties have suspended campaigning for European Parliament elections … “Slovak PM’s life no longer in danger after shooting “

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange facing pivotal moment in long fight to stay out of US court 

London — The host of a news conference about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s extradition fight wryly welcomed journalists last week to the “millionth” press briefing on his court case. Deborah Bonetti, director of the Foreign Press Association, was only half joking. Assange’s legal saga has dragged on for well over a decade but it could come to an end in the U.K. as soon as Monday.  Assange faces a hearing in London’s High Court that could end with him being sent to the U.S. to face espionage charges, or provide him another chance to appeal his extradition. The outcome will depend on how much weight judges give to reassurances U.S. officials have provided that Assange’s rights won’t be trampled if he goes on trial. Here’s a look at the case: What Assange is charged with Assange, 52, an Australian computer expert, has been indicted in the U.S. on 18 charges over Wikileaks’ publication of hundreds of thousands of classified documents in 2010. Prosecutors say he conspired with U.S. army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to hack into a Pentagon computer and release secret diplomatic cables and military files on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He faces 17 counts of espionage and one charge of computer misuse. If convicted, his lawyers say he could receive a prison term of up to 175 years, though American authorities have said any sentence is likely to be much lower. Assange and his supporters argue he acted as a journalist to expose U.S. military wrongdoing and is protected under press freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Among the files published by WikiLeaks was video of a 2007 Apache helicopter attack by American forces in Baghdad that killed 11 people, including two Reuters journalists. “Julian has been indicted for receiving, possessing and communicating information to the public of evidence of war crimes committed by the U.S. government,” his wife, Stella Assange, said. “Reporting a crime is never a crime.” U.S. lawyers say Assange is guilty of trying to hack the Pentagon computer and that WikiLeaks’ publications created a “grave and imminent risk” to U.S. intelligence sources in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Why the case has dragged on so long While the U.S. criminal case against Assange was only unsealed in 2019, his freedom has been restricted for a dozen years. Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2012 and was granted … “WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange facing pivotal moment in long fight to stay out of US court “

Russia says it shot down 60 Ukrainian drones

MOSCOW — Russian officials said on Sunday that Ukraine fired nine U.S. ATACMS at Crimea and attacked Russian regions with at least 60 drones in a major attack which forced one oil refinery in southern Russia to halt operations. Russian air defenses shot down nine U.S. ATACMS missiles over Crimea along with 57 drones over Russia’s Krasnodar region and three drones over Belgorod region, the Russian defense ministry said. Local officials said six drones crashed onto the territory of an oil refinery in Slavyansk in Russia’s southern Krasnodar region. Interfax news agency said the refinery halted work after the attack. Slavyansk refinery is a private plant with a capacity of 4 million metric tons of oil per year, about 1 million bpd. There was no immediate comment from Kyiv. Russia has reported an uptick in Ukrainian attacks on its territory since opening a new front in the Kharkiv region of northeastern Ukraine earlier this month. President Vladimir Putin says Russia is carving out a buffer zone there to protect Russia from such attacks, which Russia says risk triggering a broader war between Russia and the West if Ukraine uses Western weapons. Russia said on Saturday Russian forces captured the village of Starytsia in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region and that Russian forces had defeated Ukrainian units along the front, including in the Sumy region. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s forces have destroyed all of 37 attack drones launched by Russia overnight, Ukraine’s air force chief said Sunday. “As a result of the anti-aircraft battle, all 37 ‘Shaheds’ were shot down in Kyiv, Odesa, Mykolaiv, Sumy, Vinnytsia, Zhytomyr, Cherkasy and Kherson regions,” the commander said. Odesa governor Oleh Kiper said on the telegram messaging app that 20 drones were destroyed in the Odesa region. “An administrative building in Odesa district was damaged by falling debris. In Odesa, the debris fell into the yard of a residential area. Fortunately, there were no injuries,” Kiper said. No destruction or casualties were reported by military and civilian authorities in other regions. Reuters could not independently verify the reports.  …

As countries tighten anti-gay laws, more LGBTQ+ seek safety and asylum in Europe

RIETI, Italy — Ella Anthony knew it was time to leave her native Nigeria when she escaped an abusive, forced marriage only to face angry relatives who threatened to turn her in to police because she was gay.   Since Nigeria criminalizes same-sex relationships, Anthony fled a possible prison term and headed with her partner to Libya in 2014 and then Italy, where they both won asylum. Their claim? That they had a well-founded fear of anti-LGBTQ+ persecution back home. While many of the hundreds of thousands of migrants who arrive in Italy from Africa and the Mideast are escaping war, conflict and poverty, an increasing number are fleeing possible prison terms and death sentences in their home countries because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, advocates say. And despite huge obstacles to win asylum on LGBTQ+ grounds, Anthony and her partner, Doris Ezuruike Chinonso are proof that it can be done, even if the challenges remain significant for so-called “rainbow refugees” like them. “Certainly life here in Italy isn’t 100% what we want. But let’s say it’s 80% better than in my country,” Chinonso, 34, said with Anthony by her side at their home in Rieti, north of Rome. In Nigeria, “if you’re lucky you end up prison. If you’re not lucky, they kill you,” she said.  “Here you can live as you like,” she said. Most European countries don’t keep statistics on the number of migrants who claim anti-LGBTQ+ persecution as a reason for seeking refugee protection under international law. But non-governmental organizations that track the phenomenon say the numbers are rising as countries pass or toughen anti-homosexuality laws — a trend being highlighted on Friday’s observance of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. To date, more than 60 countries have anti-LGBTQ+ laws on the books, most of them in Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia. “The ultimate result is people trying to flee these countries to find safe haven elsewhere,” said Kimahli Powell, chief executive of Rainbow Railroad, which provides financial, legal and logistical support to LGBTQ+ people needing asylum assistance. In an interview, Powell said his organization had received about 15,000 requests for assistance last year, up from some 9,500 the year before. One-tenth of those 2023 requests, or about 1,500, came from Uganda, which passed an anti-homosexuality law that year that allows the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” and up to … “As countries tighten anti-gay laws, more LGBTQ+ seek safety and asylum in Europe”

In Spain, Argentine president snubs officials, courts far-right

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Even before kicking off a three-day visit to Madrid on Friday, Argentina’s libertarian President Javier Milei stirred controversy, accusing the socialist government of bringing “poverty and death” to Spain and weighing in on corruption allegations against the prime minister’s wife. In such circumstances, a typical visiting head of state may strive to mend fences with diplomacy. Not Milei. The brash economist has no plans to meet Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez during his three days in the Spanish capital — nor the Spanish king, nor any other government official. Instead, he’ll attend a far-right summit Sunday hosted by Sánchez’s fiercest political opponent, the Vox party. The unorthodox visit was business as usual for Milei, a darling of the global far right who has bonded with tech billionaire Elon Musk and praised former U.S. President Donald Trump. Earlier this year on a trip to the United States, Milei steered clear of the White House and took the stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, where he railed against abortion and socialism and shared a bear hug with Trump. Milei presented his 2022 book, The Way of the Libertarian, in Madrid on Friday at a literary event organized by La Razón, a conservative Spanish newspaper. The book — withdrawn from circulation in Spain earlier this month because the back-flap biography erroneously said Milei had earned a doctorate — traces his meteoric rise in politics from eccentric TV personality to national lawmaker and outlines his radical free-market economic ideas. To thunderous applause, Milei condemned socialism as “an intellectual fraud and a horror in human terms.” “The good thing is that the spotlight is shining on us everywhere and we are making the reds (leftists) uncomfortable all over the world,” Milei said. He took the opportunity to promote the results of his harsh austerity campaign in Argentina, celebrating a decline in monthly inflation in April though making no mention of the Buenos Aires subway fares that more than tripled overnight. Repeating a campaign pledge to eliminate Argentina’s central bank — without giving further details — Milei promised to make Argentina “the country with the most economic freedom in the world.” At the event Milei gave a huge hug to his ideological ally Santiago Abascal, the leader of the hard-right Vox party and the only politician with whom Milei has actual plans to meet in Madrid. The Vox summit Sunday … “In Spain, Argentine president snubs officials, courts far-right”

Climate activists glue themselves at Munich airport

BERLIN — Six climate activists broke through a security fence at the Munich airport Saturday and glued themselves to access routes leading to runways, temporarily halting flights.  The activists from the group Last Generation were protesting flying as the most polluting form of transportation, said the German news agency dpa. Police detained the six.  Some 60 flights were canceled during the disruption that lasted a couple of hours, and passengers were rebooked on alternative flights, airport spokesperson Robert Wilhelm told dpa. Fourteen flights that were due to land in Munich were diverted to other airports, according to police.  Last Generation accused the German government of downplaying the negative effects of flying on the environment instead of “finally acting sincerely,” in a post on the social media platform X.  German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser called for an end to such protests. “Such criminal actions threaten air traffic and harm climate protection because they only cause lack of understanding and anger,” she wrote on X.  Fraser also applauded police efforts to bring order back to the airport and called for airport safety measures to be checked.  Minister for Transport Volker Wissing said that his ministry was already working on further tightening existing laws.  The general manager of the German Airports Association, Ralph Beisel, also criticized the activists’ actions. “Trespassing the aviation security area is no trivial offense. Over hundreds of thousands of passengers were prevented from a relaxed and punctual start to their Pentecost holiday,” he told dpa.  Beisel also called for harsher penalties for activists who break into airports.  Climate activities blocked flights at Hamburg and Duesseldorf airports for several hours in July.  In January, Last Generation — known for its members gluing themselves to streets to block traffic, which has infuriated many Germans — said it would abandon the tactic and move on to holding what it calls “disobedient assemblies.” Their actions have been widely criticized, and Chancellor Olaf Scholz described them as “completely nutty.”  …

Taliban raise death toll to 6 in gun attack on Western tourists

ISLAMABAD — The Taliban government said Saturday that the death toll from an overnight gun attack on Western tourists in central Afghanistan had risen to at least six, including three Spaniards. Interior Ministry spokesperson Abdul Mateen Qani said in a video statement that the Friday evening shooting in Bamiyan city by unknown assailants left three Afghans dead. He said that four foreigners and three Afghans were among those wounded. Qani said that Taliban security forces had apprehended seven suspects in connection with the attack, reiterating his government’s resolve to bring the perpetrators to justice. Spain’s government confirmed the fatalities of its three nationals, saying another was among the injured tourists. The Spanish foreign ministry said Saturday a group of its diplomats was traveling to the Afghan capital, Kabul, to assist Spaniards affected by the attack. On Friday, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez posted on X that he was “shocked by the news of the murder of Spanish tourists in Afghanistan.” Nationals from Norway, Australia and Lithuania were also among the group of foreigners that were targeted by gunmen. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the deadly shooting. A spokesperson for foreign affairs and security policy at the European Union condemned the armed attack against the tourists visiting Bamiyan. “Our thoughts are with the families and loved ones of the victims who lost their lives and those injured in the attack,” Nabila Massrali said in a statement Friday. The United States said it was “deeply saddened to hear about the shooting attack” in Bamiyan. “Our thoughts are with those who lost their loved ones. Violence is not the answer,” Thomas West, the U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan, said on X. Friday’s attack on foreign tourists was the first of its kind since the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan in August 2021. According to the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Bamiyan, one of the poorest regions in impoverished Afghanistan, is a popular destination for foreign tourists because it contains Buddhist monastic ensembles and sanctuaries. The scenic city was also the spot where the Taliban destroyed two large Buddha statues in March 2001 during their previous rule in Afghanistan. The group said the statues were blasphemous under Islam. …

Suspect in Slovak PM shooting makes first court appearance

PEZINOK, Slovakia — Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico’s condition was stable but serious Saturday as the man accused of trying to assassinate him faced his first court appearance. Two hours of surgery Friday to remove dead tissue from Fico’s multiple gunshot wounds “contributed to a positive prognosis,” Health Minister Zuzana Dolinkova said outside F. D. Roosevelt University Hospital in Banska Bystrica, where Fico was taken by helicopter after the shooting. Fico, 59, was attacked as he greeted supporters following a government meeting Wednesday in the former coal mining town of Handlova. The suspect was tackled to the ground and arrested. Fico’s condition is still too grave to transport him to the capital, Bratislava, Defense Minister Robert Kalinak said. The update on Fico’s health was issued as the man accused of attempting to assassinate him made his first court appearance, according to Slovak state media. Prosecutors were seeking an order from Slovakia’s Specialized Criminal Court to detain the suspect. Prosecutors told police not to publicly identify the man or release other details about the case, but unconfirmed media reports said he was a 71-year-old retiree known as an amateur poet who may have once worked as a mall security guard in the country’s southwest. Government authorities gave details that matched that description. They said the suspect didn’t belong to any political groups, although the attack itself was politically motivated. The courthouse in Pezinok, a small town outside Bratislava, was guarded by officers wearing balaclavas and carrying rifles. News media were not allowed in, and reporters were kept behind a gate outside. Police on Friday had taken the suspect to his home in the town of Levice and seized a computer and some documents, Markiza, a Slovak television station, reported. Police didn’t comment. World leaders have condemned the attack and offered support for Fico and Slovakia. Fico has long been a divisive figure in Slovakia and beyond. His return to power last year on a pro-Russia, anti-American platform led to worries among fellow European Union and NATO members that he would abandon his country’s pro-Western course, particularly on Ukraine. …

Vatican moves to adapt to hoaxes, Internet

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican on Friday overhauled its process for evaluating alleged visions of the Virgin Mary, weeping statues and other seemingly supernatural phenomena that have marked church history, putting the brakes on making definitive declarations unless the event is obviously fabricated. The Vatican’s doctrine office revised norms first issued in 1978, arguing that they were no longer useful or viable in the internet age. Nowadays, word about apparitions or weeping Madonnas travels quickly and can harm the faithful if hoaxers are trying to make money off people’s beliefs or manipulate them, the Vatican said. The new norms make clear that such an abuse of people’s faith can be punishable canonically, saying, “The use of purported supernatural experiences or recognized mystical elements as a means of or a pretext for exerting control over people or carrying out abuses is to be considered of particular moral gravity.” The Catholic Church has had a long and controversial history of the faithful claiming to have had visions of the Virgin Mary, of statues purportedly weeping tears of blood and stigmata erupting on hands and feet evoking the wounds of Christ. When confirmed as authentic by church authorities, these otherwise inexplicable signs have led to a flourishing of the faith, with new religious vocations and conversions. That has been the case for the purported apparitions of Mary that turned Fatima, Portugal, and Lourdes, France, into enormously popular pilgrimage destinations. Church figures who claimed to have experienced the stigmata wounds, including Padre Pio and Pope Francis’ namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, have inspired millions of Catholics even if decisions about their authenticity have been elusive. Francis himself has weighed in on the phenomenon, making clear that he is devoted to the main church-approved Marian apparitions, such as Our Lady of Guadalupe, who believers say appeared to an Indigenous man in Mexico in 1531. But Francis has expressed skepticism about more recent events, including claims of repeated messages from Mary to “seers” at the shrine of Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina, even while allowing pilgrimages to take place there. “I prefer the Madonna as mother, our mother, and not a woman who’s the head of a telegraphic office, who sends a message every day at a certain time,” Francis told reporters in 2017. The new norms reframe the Catholic Church’s evaluation process by essentially taking off the table whether church authorities will declare a particular vision, stigmata or … “Vatican moves to adapt to hoaxes, Internet”

Zelenskyy warns Russia could step up offensive: AFP interview

Kyiv, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in an interview with AFP on Friday warned Russia could intensify its offensive and said Kyiv would only accept a “fair peace” despite the West’s calls for a quick solution. Zelenskyy also repeated pleas for allies to send more air defense and fighter jets and said the “biggest advantage” for Russia was a ban on Ukraine using Western-donated weapons to strike Russian territory. With a mobilization law coming into force Saturday, he admitted issues with staffing and “morale” in Ukrainian ranks, which have been often outgunned and outmanned as the third year of the war grinds on. While Russian troops have made gradual advances in recent months, it has seen larger gains along the northeastern border in an offensive that began on May 10 in Kharkiv region. But Zelenskyy said on Friday that Ukraine would hold its defensive lines and stop any major Russian breakthrough. “No one is going to give up,” said Zelenskyy, who has been the face of Ukraine’s resistance against Russia since the invasion began in February 2022. ‘Nonsense situation’ Zelenskyy also rejected French President Emmanuel Macron’s call for an Olympic truce during the Paris Games, saying it would hand an “advantage” to Moscow by giving it time to move around troops and artillery. He said Ukraine and its Western allies had the “same values” but often “different views,” particularly on what the end of the conflict might look like. “We are in a nonsense situation where the West is afraid that Russia will lose the war. And it does not want Ukraine to lose it,” Zelenskyy said. “Everyone wants to find some model for the war to end faster,” he said, when asked about the possibility of a scenario for ending hostilities like the one that established a dividing line on the Korean peninsula. The president urged China and countries from the developing world to attend a peace summit with dozens of leaders being hosted by neutral Switzerland next month to which Russia has not been invited. He said global players like China “have influence on Russia. And the more such countries we have on our side, on the side of the end of the war, I would say, the more Russia will have to move and reckon with.” The 46-year-old former comedian wore one of his trademark khaki outfits for the interview in Kyiv — his first with foreign … “Zelenskyy warns Russia could step up offensive: AFP interview”

English fishing village told to boil water after a parasite outbreak

LONDON — A scenic fishing village in southwestern England was under instructions to boil its tap water for a third day on Friday after a parasite sickened more than 45 people in the latest example of Britain’s troubled water system. Around 16,000 homes and businesses in the Brixham area of Devon were told to boil water after cryptosporidium, a microscopic parasite that causes diarrhea, was found in the water. At least 46 cases of cryptosporidiosis have been confirmed and more than 100 other people have reported similar symptoms, the U.K. Health Security Agency said. Symptoms can last more than two weeks. Sally Dart, who runs a housewares shop near Brixham Harbor, said people in town first began feeling ill two weeks ago during a pirate festival. “No one was checking the quality of the water, and we’ve all got sick and it’s stupid,” she said.  South West Water’s Chief Executive Susan Davy apologized for the outbreak and said technicians were working around the clock to identify and fix the problem that may have come from a pipe in a cattle pasture. “I am truly sorry for the disruption and wider anxiety this has caused,” Davy said. “I know on this occasion we have fallen significantly short of what you expect of us.” The crisis is unrelated to Britain’s larger ongoing water woes but emblematic of an aging system in distress. Water companies have been under fire for more than a year to stop frequent sewage overflows into rivers and oceans that have literally caused a stink, sickened swimmers, polluted fishing streams and led to an outcry from the public to clean up their act. An environmental group this week reported that 70,000 sewage releases spilled for a total of 400,000 hours along England’s coast last year. More than a quarter were within 3.2 kilometers of a swimming spot, Friends of the Earth said in its analysis of government data. Clean water advocates have blamed the problems on Britain’s privatization of the water system in 1989. They say that companies have put shareholders ahead of customers and not spent enough to update outdated plumbing systems. Thames Water, the largest of the companies, is on the brink of insolvency and its leaders have said it faces the risk of being nationalized after shareholders refused to inject more cash. Earlier this week, in another sign of problems, millions of gallons of raw sewage were … “English fishing village told to boil water after a parasite outbreak”