Jul 19

Spokesman says Pakistan's ex-PM jail conditions deplorable

A spokesman for the political party of Pakistan’s jailed ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif says the former leader is being held in deplorable conditions as he awaits the outcome of his appeal over a 10-year sentence on corruption charges.

Pervaiz Rashid, of the Pakistan Muslim League, says he visited Sharif in jail on Thursday.

His statement comes amid increasing political tensions ahead of Pakistan’s parliamentary elections next week.

Analysts say cricket star and opposition candidate Imran Khan enjoys the backing of military, which has ruled Pakistan directly and indirectly for most of its 71-year history.

Rashid says the Pakistan Muslim League party will win the vote if the elections are not rigged.

Sharif, who was ousted from office by the country’s Supreme Court last July, faces several trials on corruption charges.

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Jul 19

WATCH: Russian agent offered sex for access, court filings allege

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Jul 19

WATCH: 11-year-old Thai soccer player held onto coach's back during rescue

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Jul 19

The Latest: EU refers Hungarian asylum policies to court

The Latest on the flow of migrants into Europe (all times local):

1:20 p.m.

The European Union’s executive body says it is referring Hungary to the Court of Justice of the EU because of its failure to comply with EU asylum rules.

The European Commission said Thursday that it is also opening up a new infringement procedure against Hungary because of recently approved legislation criminalizing the support of asylum-seekers by civic groups.

In the first case, which has been ongoing since December 2015, the Commission said it was turning to the courts, the last stage of the procedure, because it considered that “the majority of the concerns raised have still not been addressed.” Among other points, the EU considers Hungary’s asylum procedures too restrictive, with reception conditions for asylum-seekers also seen breaching EU rules.

Under Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Hungary has introduced very strict anti-migration and anti-refugee laws.

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12:55 p.m.

Turkey’s state-run news agency says authorities are questioning dozens of survivors as part of an investigation into the sinking of a migrant boat off the northern coast of Cyprus that left 19 confirmed dead and an estimated 25 other passengers missing.

The boat, loaded with as many as 150 people, capsized around 16 miles (26 kilometers) north of Cyprus’ Karpas Peninsula on Wednesday. The Turkish coast guard rescued 103 people and took them to Turkey where they were given temporary shelter at a school dormitory in the coastal province of Mersin.

As the search for the missing continued, 53 of the migrants — an Iraqi and 52 Syrians — were being questioned on Thursday as part of a probe launched by a regional prosecutor, Anadolu Agency reported.

Ten of the survivors, including a child, remain hospitalized, the agency reported.

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11:35 a.m.

The Red Cross is warning about reports of violence by border guards in Croatia against migrants attempting to enter from neighboring Bosnia.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says dozens of people who tried to cross the border are being treated daily for injuries.

IFRC regional director for Europe Simon Missiri said governments must ensure “dignity and respect” for all people: “A desire to control one’s border does not justify violence.”

IFRC says more than 8,000 people have entered Bosnia this year, an eightfold increase from 2017, including some 3,000 in the past four weeks. Many are from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran or Syria.

Spokeswoman Nicole Robicheau said Thursday that some recounted being “beaten at the hands of the Croatian border guards,” but IFRC couldn’t verify the accounts.

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Jul 19

The Latest: Putin says US-Russia summit was successful

The Latest on Russian reaction to U.S. President Donald Trump (all times local):

2:15 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says his first summit with U.S. President Donald Trump was “successful” and is accusing Trump’s opponents in the U.S. of hampering any progress on the issues they discussed.

Putin told Russian diplomats Thursday that U.S.-Russian relations are “in some ways worse than during the Cold War” but that his meeting with Trump on Monday allowed them to start on “the path to positive change.”

He added, “We will see how things develop further,” expressing concern about unnamed “forces” in the U.S. trying to prevent any improvement in relations, notably cooperation in the Syria war or arms control.

In his first comments about the summit, Putin insisted that Russia remains “open to contacts with the U.S.”

Trump has come under widespread domestic criticism about the meeting.

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12:50 p.m.

Russian politicians are rallying behind Vladimir Putin and denouncing American suggestions that the translator at his meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump be interrogated about what they discussed privately.

Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov, expressed hope Thursday that “the verbal agreements between Putin and Trump will be fulfilled.” Russian officials worry that domestic turmoil in the U.S. will hamper potential future cooperation on Syria or arms control discussed at the summit.

Russian officials have shrugged off Trump’s wildly contradictory accounts of what he said to Putin at Monday’s summit.

They are angry however at proposals by U.S. lawmakers to question Trump’s translator. Konstantin Kosachev, head of the upper house of parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said Thursday the idea sets a dangerous precedent that threats the “the whole idea of diplomacy,” according to Russian news agencies.

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Jul 19

WATCH: Danica Patrick soars as 1st female ESPYs host

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Jul 19

Investor frenzy in S. Korea over Russia treasure ship rumors

A South Korean company’s claim to have found a sunken Russian warship has triggered investor frenzy amid speculation the ship was carrying an enormous amount of gold when it sank 113 years ago. South Korea’s financial regulator subsequently issued a warning against possible investment losses.

The Seoul-based Shinil Group said Tuesday its divers discovered what a wreck it identified as the 6,200-ton Dmitrii Donskoi, which went down during the 1904-1905 Russo-Japanese war off an eastern Korean island. The company speculated about 200 tons of gold bars and coins that are worth 150 trillion won ($132 billion) would still likely be aboard the ship.

Shinil released photos and videos taken by search submarines, which showed markings on the stern the company said was the ship’s name in Russian. It said it hoped to hoist the ship from its depth of more than 400 meters (0.25 miles) within months.

Other companies have made similar claims, but none has taken actual steps toward raising the wreck. One of them, Dong-Ah Construction, was accused of spreading false rumors to bump up its stock prices and later went bankrupt.

Shinil was founded on June 1 reportedly with about 100 million won ($87,800). The company is unlisted but its president recently agreed to acquire shares in a local company, Jeil Steel.

After Shinil’s announcement on the Russian ship, Jeil’s stock prices rose by 30 percent on South Korea’s KOSDAQ market on Tuesday. They continued their steep rise on Wednesday morning before Jeil in a regulatory filing clarified that Shinil’s president would be its second-largest shareholder, not the largest, if the deal goes through. Jeil also said it has “no relation to the treasure ship business.” Jeil’s stock prices dropped more than 20 percent after Thursday’s trading.

South Korea’s Financial Supervisory Service said Thursday that it’s closely monitoring trade activity involving the shares of Jeil Steel. An agency official said that the regulator was watching out for possible deceptive practices involving the trade of Jeil shares, including inducing investors through false information.

“Investors should beware because it’s uncertain whether the ship is salvageable and whether Shinil would be able to gain ownership of the assets even if it gets permission to raise it,” said the official, who didn’t want to be identified citing office rules. “Dong-Ah Construction made similar claims over the same ship but failed to deliver on its promises and went bankrupt, causing huge losses for investors.”

Russian scholars have said in the past that Russia was unlikely to put so much gold on a single ship and that it must have been much safer to move it by train. They also have said some gold coins could have been aboard the ship to pay the salaries of Russian navy officers.

It’s unclear whether Shinil would receive South Korean government approval of its salvage plans.

Local laws aimed at preserving national territory and property require the company to deposit 10 percent of the estimated value of the shipwreck before starting its salvage works.

An official at the Pohang Regional Office of Oceans and Fisheries, which has authority on Shinil’s case, said it hasn’t formally discussed the company’s claim because Shinil has yet to submit a request to seek a salvage right. The official, who spoke anonymously because he wasn’t authorized to speak media on the issue, said Shinil must deposit 15 trillion won ($13.2 billion), based on the company officials speculation how much gold is likely aboard the ship.

Shinil disagreed on the amount of its possible deposit, saying what it has officially located was the shipwreck, not treasures on it. It estimated the shipwreck’s value at 1.2 billion won ($1 million) and planned to put down 120 million won ($105,540) as a deposit. Company spokesman Park Seong-jin said his company will file a request for the ship’s salvage right later this week.

Some experts also said it’s unlikely that the Donskoi, a thickly armored warship with more than 12 artillery pieces, 500 sailors and presumably 1,600 tons of coal, would have had room for 200 tons of gold, which would be double the current gold reserves at South Korea’s central bank. And there’s questions about the gold’s worth being estimated at $132 billion — the Bank of Korea’s 104 tons of gold reserves are valued at around $4.8 billion.

Even if the ship is hoisted and treasures are found, their ownership could be disputed.

A South Korean Financial Ministry official responsible for the issue said that Russia may be able to claim ownership. Park disputed that, saying 80 percent of the potential treasures would belong to the company while the rest would go to a South Korean government coffer. He cited related South Korean law and an international court ruling on a similar case.

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Jul 19

Radio Free Europe to resume broadcasts in Romania, Bulgaria

Radio Free Europe said Thursday that it will resume news services in Romania and Bulgaria in a bid to debunk fake news and combat poor-quality journalism.

The U.S. Congress-funded station will return to the two southeastern European countries, both European Union and NATO members, starting in December.

Radio Free Europe president Thomas Kent said in a statement that he hoped the move would “help the growth of a free press, promote democratic values and institutions, and inform discussion in both countries of their place in NATO, the EU and other Western organizations.”

The statement also said that “government officials, civil society representatives and journalists… have expressed concern that disinformation, corruption, and social division are undermining their political systems.”

RFE’s Bulgarian service ended in 2004 while the service to Romania stopped in 2008. The statement noted that the media situation had deteriorated since the two countries joined the EU in 2007.

RFE, which is editorially independent, has bureaus in Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia, and a Romanian-language service in the former Soviet republic of Moldova.

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Jul 19

Russia slams proposal to question Trump summit translator

Russian politicians are rallying behind Vladimir Putin and denouncing American suggestions that the translator at his meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump be interrogated about what they discussed privately.

Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov, expressed hope Thursday that “the verbal agreements between Putin and Trump will be fulfilled.” Russian officials worry that domestic turmoil in the U.S. will hamper potential future cooperation on Syria or arms control discussed at the summit.

Russian officials have shrugged off Trump’s wildly contradictory accounts of what he said to Putin at Monday’s summit.

They are angry however at proposals by U.S. lawmakers to question Trump’s translator. Konstantin Kosachev, head of the upper house of parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said Thursday the idea sets a dangerous precedent that threats the “the whole idea of diplomacy,” according to Russian news agencies.

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Jul 19

Giant statue of bare-chested Jeff Goldblum pops up in London

Londoners and tourists alike have been bemused to find a giant statue of a bare-chested Jeff Goldblum next to the city’s iconic Tower Bridge.

The 25-foot (7.6-meter) statue, depicting the actor in the reclining pose he made famous in “Jurassic Park,” is meant to mark that film’s 25th anniversary.

Sky’s subscription service Now TV installed the temporary “Jurassic Jeff” statue on the south bank of the Thames Wednesday. The outlandish stunt prompted many selfies and social media posts — though some Twitter users called it “far-fetched,” pointing out that the movie wasn’t filmed in London and nor is Goldblum a London native.

Goldblum played the scientist Ian Malcolm in Steven Spielberg’s dinosaur thriller, and returned to the role this year for “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.”

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