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Trump v Macron: French president appears to win latest handshake battle

 

US president grips and grimaces as he meets new French leader for first time in Brussels – then barges aside the prime minister of Montenegro

It’s a question that bears repeating: what is it with Trump and handshakes?

 

Link: Macron and Trump’s two tense handshake battles

 

In the first of many strange Trump moments on Thursday, his first meeting with the French president, Emmanuel Macron, on Thursday led to an awkward handshake that lasted just a little too long. Pictures and video show the two world leaders, who met in Brussels before the Nato summit, gripping each other’s hands while grimacing slightly.

A delightful report from the White House pool reporter Philip Rucker described a handshake “with considerable intensity, their knuckles turning white and their jaws clenching and faces tightening”.

For a brief moment it seemed neither man wanted to give up, which would have made everything even more awkward, but in the end Trump relented and loosened his fingers.

The awkwardness may stem from Trump’s tacit support of Macron’s rival Marine Le Pen during the French election. In April, while he claimed he wasn’t “explicitly endorsing” Le Pen, he told the Associated Press she was the “strongest on borders, and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France”.

Between the infamy of Trump’s strange handshake and Macron’s apparent look of satisfaction, there was a lot for people to make fun of:

Later in the day, there was a rematch between the two foes:

In this video, Trump appears to be trying to shake Macron’s arm off after the French president bypassed him to say hello to Germany’s Angela Merkel first.

The US President didn’t stop there. In another widely circulated video, he appeared to push aside Dusko Markovic, the prime minister of Montenegro.

Video link: Trump appears to push aside Montenegro PM at Nato photocall

Trump appears to push aside Montenegro PM at Nato photocallTrump’s distinctive handshake has been the source of much mirth on the internet as he meets world leaders in the first year of his presidency. This isn’t even the first instance this week. The president of Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmon, was well-prepared for a handshake battle when he met Trump on Tuesday:

There are so many Trump handshake stories by now, it’s hard to know where to begin. There was the bizarre 19-second handshake with a visibly bewildered Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, and the time the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, seemed to beat his strange handshake style. 

It wasn’t a handshake that went viral when Trump met the British prime minister, Theresa May – everyone now remembers the infamous hand-holding picture. And when he met the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, he failed to shake her hand during a photo op.


Hunt for Manchester Bombing Accomplices Extends to Libya

MANCHESTER, England — The police accelerated their hunt Wednesday for co-plotters of the Manchester concert bombing, making at least a half-dozen arrests in Britain, searching for a possible clandestine bomb factory and extending the investigation to Libya, where two of the bomber’s relatives were detained.

The developments indicated that the bomber, Salman Abedi, 22, was part of a wider and more sophisticated plot than was initially thought and that finding the bomb’s origins had now become a priority in a country still reeling from the terrorist attack, the worst in Britain in more than a decade.

New details about the bomb, based on forensic photographs from the blast site, showed it may have been hidden in a blue backpack, had been made with cunning care to inflict horrific shrapnel damage, and had even been equipped with a backup detonation system.

A portrait of Mr. Abedi also came into focus, showing him to be a Manchester United fan, a college dropout and an occasional marijuana smoker who had visited his family in Libya last month, returned to Manchester as recently as last week, and may have been radicalized two years ago. 

These details of his life emerged as the police sought what they called his “network” — the first official confirmation that investigators believed Mr. Abedi had help.

Continue reading the main story
 

“It seems likely — possible — that he wasn’t doing this on his own,” said Britain’s home secretary, Amber Rudd. Speaking to the BBC, she also said the bomb “was more sophisticated than some of the attacks we’ve seen before.”

Chief Constable Ian Hopkins of the Greater Manchester Police said, “There’s an extensive investigation going on, and activity taking place across Greater Manchester.”

Mr. Abedi detonated the bomb Monday night as fans were leaving a pop concert by the American singer Ariana Grande at Manchester Arena. The explosion killed 22 people, including a police officer and an 8-year-old girl. The bomber’s remains were found at the scene, and the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. 

At least 64 people were wounded, a third of them critically. Many victims were teenagers and young girls, with parents in tow, who idolized Ms. Grande.

She officially canceled all concerts on her “Dangerous Woman” European tour through June 5 and asked fans to support “all those families affected by this cowardice and senseless act of violence.”

The race to find co-conspirators and the place where the bomb had been made appeared to be the main reasons behind the British government’s decision on Tuesday to raise the terrorist threat warning to critical, its highest level since 2007, over fears that more bombs could be detonated in crowded places.

The police arrested five men and one woman in the Manchester area — bringing the total number of people in British custody to seven, including Mr. Abedi’s older brother. 

In Libya, Mr. Abedi’s father was arrested by a militia, the Special Deterrence Forces, which said it also had detained Mr. Abedi’s younger brother, Hashem Abedi, 20.

In a Facebook post, the militia said that Hashem Abedi had been a member of the Islamic State, was tied to the Manchester plot and was en route to withdrawing 4,500 Libyan dinars (about $560 on the black market) sent by the bomber when he was arrested on Tuesday night by the militia.

The militia said that Hashem Abedi had traveled from Britain to Libya on April 16, that he had been planning an attack in Tripoli and that he had been in daily contact by phone with his older brother.

The militia’s claims about the younger brother could not be immediately verified. The militia is affiliated with the United Nations-backed Government of National Accord, one of three administrations vying for control of Libya, but it has been accused by human rights groups of abusing prisoners. 

Besides the younger brother, the authorities were pursuing many leads. The BBC reported that officials believed Salman Abedi may have been a “mule,” carrying a bomb made by someone else. The officials also said they were looking into Mr. Abedi’s relationship with Raphael Hostey, a British recruiter for the Islamic State believed to have been killed in a drone strike in Syria last year.

In Washington, a senior American official said Mr. Abedi had links to a radical preacher in Libya identified as Abdul Ghwela, whose son had joined the Islamic State in Libya and had died fighting in Benghazi. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose intelligence information, said Mr. Abedi had not left Libya until May 17.

In addition, officials were looking into reports that people who knew Mr. Abedi — including an imam at his mosque — had contacted the authorities as early as 2015 with concerns that he may have been recruited by extremists.

The heightened warning of additional, possibly imminent attacks was visible nationwide. The government suspended public tours of Parliament and canceled the guard-changing ceremony at Buckingham Palace, a tourist favorite. Soldiers patrolled locations including Downing Street, where the home and office of the prime minister are, and foreign embassies. 

Manchester, a city of half a million and the hub of Britain’s second-largest metropolitan region, is home to a sizable community of people of Libyan descent. Many fled the regime of the longtime dictator Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in the 1980s. The violent overthrow of Colonel Qaddafi in 2011 during the tumult of the Arab Spring created a power vacuum, and the Islamic State and other extremist groups have since gained support.

Many Libyan expatriates are clustered in Manchester, creating one of the largest Libyan communities outside Libya, according to Nazir Afzal, who until 2015 was the chief prosecutor for northwest England, based in the city.

Among them was the Abedi family, which moved to Britain in 1993. Salman Abedi was born there a year later.

Reached by phone in Libya on Wednesday, Ramadan Abedi, his father, expressed shock and denied that his son was the bomber. 

“I don’t believe that it was him,” he said. “His ideas and his ideology were not like that.”

Mr. Abedi confirmed that his son had been distressed by the murder of a friend, Abdul Wahab Hafidah, in May 2016 at the hands of suspected gang members. But he said it did not drive him toward radicalism.

The father’s account was contradicted by several people who knew the family, including one quoted by the BBC who said Salman Abedi had expressed approval of suicide bombers a few years ago, leading neighbors to call an antiterrorism hotline.

The French interior minister, Gérard Collomb, said on Wednesday that Mr. Abedi had “most likely” gone to Syria and that he had “proven” links to the Islamic State. 

Mr. Abedi’s parents, who moved back to Libya after Colonel Qaddafi’s downfall, had become worried about their son’s radicalization, and they had even seized his British passport, according to a friend in Manchester who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he feared for his safety.

Mr. Abedi had told his parents that he wanted to visit the holy city of Mecca, so they returned his passport. But instead he returned home, the friend said.

The father denied that account. “He was a man and I trust the man that he was,” he said. A short while later, the father was arrested in Tripoli, according to the same Islamist militia that announced the younger brother’s arrest.

A number of Libyans from Manchester have waged jihad abroad, according to Raffaello Pantucci, a terrorism expert at the Royal United Services Institute in London. The Qaeda-linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group had a contingent in Manchester, Mr. Pantucci said. And in 2010 and 2011, as the anti-Qaddafi uprising in Libya intensified, a number of Libyan-Britons left Manchester for Libya as foreign fighters, he said. More recently, he said, a cluster left for Syria.

In Fallowfield, a neighborhood south of the Manchester city center, residents recalled Mr. Abedi as quiet, respectful and passionate about soccer, often wearing a T-shirt with a Manchester United emblem.

Officials at the Manchester Islamic Center, also known as Didsbury Mosque, where the Abedi family worshiped, have condemned the attack, but declined to talk about the family. 

“The horrific atrocity that occurred in Manchester on Monday night has shocked us all,” a mosque trustee, Fawzi Haffar, told reporters. 

In 2015, according to a neighbor who spoke on the condition of anonymity over concerns about safety, an imam at the mosque, Mohammed Saeed, delivered a sermon condemning terrorism for political causes. The sermon prompted a heated discussion among congregants and some, including Mr. Abedi, objected to it.

“He was angry,” the neighbor said. “He scared some people.”

 

 

 

At least 5 dead, 10 wounded in Jakarta bus terminal bombing

JAKARTA, Indonesia (3rd update) — Indonesian National Police spokesperson Setyo Wasisto has said that 2 people were killed and 9 wounded in an explosion that occurred near a bus terminal in the Kampung Melayu neighborhood of East Jakarta on Wednesday, May 24, around 9:00 PM local time.  

One of the casualties was a police officer while the other is suspected to be the  bomber. Of the nine wounded, four are police officers while the other five are civilians. 

"As you know, this is a global occurence," Wasisto said to media gathered near the terminal on Wednesday night. "In Manchester, at the Ariana Grande concert there was a bombing. And in the Philippines, ISIS has attacked the city of Marawi."

"In my opinion this is a global attack," Wasisto concluded.

Deputy National Police Chief Syafruddin had previously confirmed that a bomb was the source of an explosion.

"Currently, we suspect that it was a suicide bomber," he said to media near the scene of the explosion on Wednesday night. "But that is only for now."

He also said that two people had died in the explosion, one police officer and one unidentified man that police suspect is the bomber. Five others are wounded and currently being treated at a nearby hospital.

He also did not confirm where exactly the explosion originated from, but there are reports that it occured in the terminal's restroom.

The explosion was strong enough to break the bus terminal's windows, as seen in the following tweet from a police Twitter account:

An eyewitness, Sultan Muhammad Firdaus, told TV station Kompas TV he heard two explosions about 10 minutes apart.

"The explosions were quite loud, I could hear them clearly," he said. He added he thought two police officers were injured in the blast. 

Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim-majority country, has long struggled with Islamic militancy and hundreds of radicals from the Southeast Asian state have flocked to fight with IS, sparking fears that weakened extremist outfits could get a new lease of life.

A gun and suicide attack in Jakarta left four attackers and four civilians dead in January last year, and was the first assault claimed by the Islamic State group in Southeast Asia.

Indonesia has suffered a series of Islamic militant attacks in the past 15 years, including the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists.

A sustained crackdown weakened the most dangerous networks but the emergence of IS has proved a potent new rallying cry for radicals.

Bookmark this page for further updates. —Rappler.com

Australian Politician Calls For Immediate Suspension Of Foreign Aid To Indonesia Over Gay Lashings

 

"Suspend aid and the policy might just change."

Justice Party senator Derryn Hinch has called on the Australian government to suspend its aid program to Indonesia, after two Indonesian men were publicly caned in Aceh.

The men, aged 20 and 23, were allegedly having sex in a house in Aceh on March 28 when a group of vigilante enforcers entered the dwelling and filmed them.

The men were sentenced to 85 lashes each, and the sentence was carried out in front of a crowd of hundreds of people in Banda Aceh on Tuesday.

According to Human Rights Watch, they each received 83 lashes, with two subtracted for the two months they had spent in detention.

Australia and Indonesia have a crucial bilateral relationship, with significant cooperation on a number of economic and political fronts, notably trade and tourism.

Australia budgeted $365.7 million in foreign aid to Indonesian in the 2016-17 financial year, and has budgeted $356.9 million in 2017-18.

Hinch said in a statement the government should suspend all foreign aid to show Australia's "disapproval and disgust".

“Coupled with the jailing of Jakarta's Christian governor, known as Ahok, for blasphemy earlier this month, the use of this medieval form of punishment indicates that Indonesia’s values far from align with our own," he said.

The Victorian senator said he was "disappointed" by the Australian government's silence about the canings, which he described as "barbaric".

 
MICK TSIKAS / AAP

Foreign minister Julie Bishop's office said Bishop had raised Australia's "serious concerns" with the Indonesian government about the canings.

"Earlier this month, the Australian government recommended that Indonesia reject discrimination on any grounds, including sexual orientation and gender identity, during Indonesia’s UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review," Bishop's office told BuzzFeed News.

That's not good enough for Hinch.

“Foreign minister Julie Bishop has reportedly raised concerns with the Indonesian government about these canings," he said. "Well, let’s hit them where it hurts. Suspend aid and the policy might just change."

 

Shadow foreign minister Penny Wong told BuzzFeed News the caning was "deeply disturbing news".

"Labor is fundamentally opposed to the oppression of anyone on the grounds of their gender, sexual orientation or their religious beliefs," she said.

"We would support a clear and unambiguous statement by the government expressing Australia’s firm position on these matters."

Alice Workman is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Canberra.

Contact Alice Workman at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

Millennials’ spending habits the same as baby boomers: NAB Consumer Survey

As the financial battle lines between millennials and baby boomers continue to be drawn over brunch, a national survey has shown that when it comes to discretionary spending, the two generations have more in common than they might think. 

Young people and middle aged consumers share very similar attitudes about lifestyle spending, the NAB quarterly consumer behaviour survey released on Wednesday found.

Young people are no more willing to cut back lifestyle spending than middle-aged consumers and their spending behaviours typically mirrored those of middle-aged consumers.

Millennials and boomers alike have similar attitudes towards "lifestyle" spending like brunch.Millennials and boomers alike have similar attitudes towards “lifestyle” spending like brunch. Photo: Wayne Taylor

“We were not expecting that result,” NAB chief economist Alan Oster said. “Normally in economics, in your 20s and 30s you’re saving up for deposit and as you get older, you change your spending spending patterns. But that doesn’t seem to be happening at present.

“Maybe they’ve given up, but we don’t know that,” he said.

The median house price in Sydney has increased to a record $1,151,565, according to Domain Group data, while Melbourne house prices are sitting at a record $843,674

Most people would cut down on using Uber to try to save money.Most people would cut down on using Uber to try to save money. Photo: FDC

Australians consumers were asked to rate the extent to which they would cut back lifestyle spending to have more money for savings, housing and retirement. Interestingly, the survey showed millennials and baby boomers mirrored each others’ habits.

 

When asked whether what they were prepared to spend much less on, most Australians were likely to cut back on taxis and Uber (47 per cent), takeaway food (42 per cent), fitness (41 per cent) and alcohol (41 per cent). They were least inclined to cut back on the internet (14 per cent) and mobile phones (19 per cent). 

But about four in 10 Australians also said they did not want to cut lifestyle spending because “life was too short” (14 per cent) or they “couldn’t see the point as they’d never be able to afford a home” (5 per cent).  

“It was very interesting that these attitudes were quite consistent across all age groups – and that young people in particular shared very similar attitudes to lifestyle spending to middle aged consumers,” the survey said.

It comes after a national obsession about the corelation between house prices and young people’s spending habits, including comments made by BRW Rich List-er Tim Gurner about cutting back on smashed avocado and coffee. Interestingly, nearly a third (32 per cent) of all respondents said they would make no change to their spending habits on coffee.

 

Overall, Australian consumers are the least stressed they ever have been, with NAB’s Consumer Anxiety Index falling to a survey low of 55.9 points in the first quarter of the year, compared with 58.7 in the final quarter of 2016. This was led by fewer concerns over job security, retirement and health. In terms of sentiment by group, young women aged 18 to 29 were the most anxious consumers, led by very high levels of anxiety over their cost of living.

“To me what the survey is showing is that people are less stressed, which surprised me a little bit,” Mr Oster said. “But at the same time, they’re not spending a lot – that’s the disconnect.”

There was traditionally a very strong relationship between consumer spending and house prices, he said. 

“When house prices go up, people feel wealthy and they spend more and there’s an element of that present in Sydney and Melbourne at present, but the relationship is weaker than it normally has been and no one is really sure why.

“The guess is, and it’s a guess at this stage, is that people are saying, ‘I can’t just spend because I have more money in terms of my equity, because it might not end up so good in the medium term’.”

 

Taiwan top court rules in favor of gay marriage

TAIPEI, Taiwan – A top Taiwan court ruled in favour of gay marriage on Wednesday, May 24, a landmark decision that paves the way for the island to become the first place in Asia to legalize same sex unions.

 

The constitutional court said Taiwan's current Civil Code, which stipulates an agreement to marry can only be made between a man and a woman, "violated" the constitution's guarantees of freedom of marriage and people's equality.

It gave Taiwan's government two years to implement the ruling.

If parliament does not make the change within two years, the court said same-sex couples could register to marry regardless, based on its interpretation.  

"The current provisions of the marriage chapter do not allow two persons of the same sex to create a permanent union of an intimate and exclusive nature for the committed purpose of managing a life together. This is obviously a gross legislative flaw," a statement from the court said. 

The push for equal marriage rights has gathered momentum on the island with hundreds of thousands rallying in support.

But there has also been anger among conservative groups, who have staged mass protests against any change in the law.

The court ruled that the decision to allow gay marriage would contribute to social stability and protect "human dignity."

Supporters from both camps had gathered in central Taipei to await the decision, with hundreds of pro-gay marriage campaigners flying rainbow flags outside parliament.

A panel of 14 grand justices made the ruling – a majority of 10 was needed. Only two judges dissented.  – Rappler.com

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