At least 22 killed in Italy head-on train collision

BARI — At least 22 people were killed on Tuesday and dozens injured in a head-on collision between two passenger trains in the southern Italian region of Puglia, in one of the country’s worst rail accidents in recent years. Emergency services raced to extract people from the wreckage of smashed carriages thrown across a single track into olive groves near the town of Andria, in what one witness described as an “apocalyptic scene”. Coffins were taken to the site near the city of Bari to carry away the first of the dead as 200 rescue workers sifted through the wreckage in temperatures reaching 40 degrees Celsius. “I saw dead people, others who were begging for help, people crying. The worst scene of my life,” one policeman told journalists. Giancarlo Conticchio, head of the railway police for the region, said 22 people had died, and 43 were injured, four of them critically. — AFP

Aleppo rebels brace for long govt siege

BEIRUT — Rebel areas of Aleppo have stockpiled enough basic supplies to survive months of siege by Syrian pro-government forces that cut off their half of the city last week, even though some goods are running out, an opposition official said. Government forces backed by allies including Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Russian air force advanced last week to within a few hundred metres of the only road into the rebel-held part of Aleppo, making it impassable for the several hundred thousand people living there. The advance has brought Damascus closer to achieving its long-held aim of encircling rebel districts of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and a potent symbol of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad now in its sixth year.
— Reuters

Six rescue operations save 1,000 migrants

ROME — Nearly 1,000 migrants were saved in six separate rescue operations in the Mediterranean on Tuesday, while four were found dead below the deck of their boat, Italy’s coast guard said. The four dead had suffocated, according to the Malta-based humanitarian group Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), whose Topaz Responder rescue ship recovered the bodies and 400 survivors from the same boat. Italy has long been on the front line of seaborne migration from Africa to Europe, and is now the main point of entry after the European Union struck a deal with Turkey to stem flows to Greece amid Europe’s worst migration crisis since World War II. Slightly fewer migrants arrived on Italian shores in the first six months of 2016 compared with the same period last year, but the number of deaths on the route have risen. — Reuters

Solar plane lands in Egypt for second last stop

CAIRO — The Solar Impulse 2 landed in Cairo yesterday for its penultimate stop as the solar-powered plane nears the end of its marathon tour around the world. After the two-day flight from Spain, just one final leg lies between it and its final destination, Abu Dhabi, where it started its odyssey in March last year. The aircraft landed in Spain last month, after completing the first solo transatlantic flight powered only by sunlight. After setting off from Seville on Monday morning, the plane passed through Algerian, Tunisian, Italian and Greek airspace, and flew over the Giza Pyramids before touching down at Cairo airport at about 7.10am. Its support crew cheered as the plane, no heavier than a car but with the wingspan of a Boeing 747, landed, and trailed after it on bicycles. — AFP

Obama calls for unity at Dallas memorial

DALLAS — President Barack Obama implored Americans of all races to show more unity and understanding as he addressed an emotional memorial for five slain policemen in Dallas.

The president, accompanied by First Lady Michelle Obama, leaned heavily on scripture as he ministered to a country stunned by gun violence and torn asunder by race and politics.

“I know that Americans are struggling right now with what we’ve witnessed over the past week,” he said.

A succession of shootings, each racially charged, has led to a sense that “the deepest fault lines of our democracy have suddenly been exposed, perhaps even widened,” Obama said on Tuesday.

“I’m here to say we must reject such despair. I’m here to insist we are not as divided as we seem.”

From Charleston to Orlando to last week’s ambush in Dallas, by a black gunman out to kill whites in retribution for police violence, the past year has seen a torrent of slaughter motivated by hate.

Each week seemingly brings new shaky footage of a police officer shooting dead a black American — images that quickly went viral and revive tough questions about race and policing.

Obama’s speech included a frank admission that his own efforts to tackle violence, guns and racism had come up short.

“I have spoken at too many memorials during the course of this presidency,” he said with uncommon candor. “I’ve seen how a spirit of unity born of tragedy can gradually dissipate.”

“I’ve seen how inadequate words can be in bringing about lasting change. I’ve seen how inadequate my own words have been.”

Eight years ago, Obama’s rhetorical prowess made him America’s first black president and raised hopes that the country could overcome deeply entrenched societal divides.

Tuesday’s memorial service showed a weary president whose hopes for change had been thwarted.

The way out, Obama said — suggesting work that will continue beyond his presidency — was for Americans to open their hearts to each other.

Black Americans protesting police racism, he said, must understand how hard the police’s job can be.

“You know how dangerous some of the communities where these police officers serve are. And you pretend as if there’s no context?”

But Obama also challenged a mostly-white police force and white Americans at large to admit that while the edifice of legalised racism had gone, prejudice remained.

“We have all seen this bigotry in our own lives at some point,” he said.

“We’ve heard it at times in our own homes. If we’re honest, perhaps we’ve heard prejudice in our own heads and felt it in our own hearts.”

That call for unity was echoed by former president George W. Bush,
Obama’s predecessor.

“Too often we judge other groups by their worst examples, while judging ourselves by our best intentions,” said the Dallas resident.

But Obama, a Democrat, also made a call for Bush’s fellow Republicans to realise the cost of their opposition to gun control and spending on mental health and drug treatment.

“We allow poverty to fester so that entire neighborhoods offer no prospect for gainful employment,” Obama said, pointing to a string of causes for violence.

“We refuse to fund drug treatment and mental health programs. We flood communities with so many guns that it is easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than get his hands on a computer or even a book.”

Following the service, Obama met for more than an hour with families of the officers killed and wounded, along with Bush and Vice-President Joe Biden, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. The three men were accompanied by their wives.

Last week, the fatal police shootings of two black men, Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota, prompted nationwide anger, with thousands of protesters taking to the streets from coast to coast.

They also seemingly motivated black Afghanistan war veteran Micah Johnson to carry out his deadly rampage in Dallas just as a protest against police brutality was wrapping up.

Johnson, 25, used a high-powered rifle for the killings, also wounding nine other police officers and two civilians in Thursday’s sniper attack.

Before he was killed by a police robot, Johnson told negotiators he wanted to murder white cops in revenge for the black deaths.

The memorial paid a poignant tribute to the fallen “peacemakers in blue” — Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Lorne Ahrens and Michael Smith.

Each officer was represented by an empty chair in the auditorium, adorned with a folded US flag and officer’s cap. — AFP

Sanders endorses Clinton as Trump floats VP picks

PORTSMOUTH (United States) — After months of bitter campaigning, Bernie Sanders finally endorsed presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, pledging to work tirelessly to help his former rival defeat Donald Trump and win the White House.

The joint appearance in Portsmouth, New Hampshire — their first — was the culmination of weeks of talks between the two campaigns aimed at unifying the party to most effectively take on Republican opponent Trump in November.

“Secretary Clinton has won the Democratic nominating process, and I congratulate her for that,” Sanders, 74, told a cheering crowd, with Clinton by his side.

“She will be the Democratic nominee for president and I intend to do everything I can to make certain she will be the next president of the United States.”

The US senator from Vermont offered voters a litany of reasons why the 68-year-old former secretary of state is a better choice than the 70-year-old Manhattan real estate mogul.

Putting aside the acrimony, Clinton thanked Sanders for his endorsement — even if their body language did not exude warmth and was downright awkward at times.

“I am proud to be fighting alongside you,” she said. “We are stronger together.”

Sanders waged a tougher-than-expected, yearlong battle against Clinton, but early last month she clinched enough delegates to secure the nomination.

Trump, who has proclaimed himself “the law and order candidate” amid rising gun violence, unleashed a barrage of criticism, saying Sanders “abandoned” his grassroots supporters by joining forces with Clinton.

“I want to tell you, a lot of Bernie Sanders people are so upset about it, they are going to be voting for Trump,” he said in Westfield, Indiana.

The Republican billionaire campaigned there with Governor Mike Pence, raising speculation that he could pick Indiana’s chief executive as runningmate.

Trump told The New York Times he expected to make an announcement by tomorrow, three days before the Republican convention in Cleveland, where he will officially become the nominee.

He called Pence a “good man” during his unscripted remarks, but also teased the crowd.

“I don’t know whether he’s going to be your governor or your vice-president. Who the hell knows?” Trump said to raucous cheers.

Trump hit the campaign trail on Monday in Virginia Beach with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie — one of those on the vice presidential shortlist.

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who ran for president in 2012, is also in the runningmate mix. — AFP

Thailand: Suspected S’pore bank robber to be sent ‘abroad’

BANGKOK — A Canadian suspected of robbing a Singapore bank of S$30,000 (RM88,545) will be sent abroad, Thailand’s police chief said yesterday, but he did not say whether he would be sent to Singapore or Canada.

The rare bank robbery in Singapore sparked a flurry of debate about whether the country has grown too complacent about security, with crime rates among the lowest in the world.

Thai Police Commissioner General Jakthip Chaijinda told reporters in Bangkok that Singapore had asked for the suspect to be extradited to Singapore.

“Singapore is in the middle of asking for this suspect back but the decision rests with the courts,” said Jakthip. “We are waiting to send him abroad.”

Thai immigration chief Police Lieutenant General Nattorn Prohsunthorn named the suspect on Tuesday as 27-year-old Canadian David James Roach.

Thai police had earlier said Roach was 26.

“We tried to interrogate David but he would not speak to us and asked to speak to his embassy,” said Nattorn.

“Yesterday the Canadian embassy came to see him. We think the Canadians would like to send him back to Canada but first we need to follow Thai legal procedure.”

Thailand has an extradition treaty with Canada.

Reuters was unable to immediately reach the Canadian embassy in Bangkok for comment.

Roach arrived in Bangkok on Thursday, hours after the Standard Chartered Bank in Singapore’s Holland Village was robbed.

He was arrested at a hostel in Bangkok’s Pratunam shopping district.

A man slipped the Singapore bank teller a note saying he was armed, a source with knowledge of the matter said.

The teller pressed a silent alarm button and police arrived within minutes, but it was too late, said the source, who declined to be identified as he was not authorised to speak to the media.

Standard Chartered said the bank had taken “immediate action to further enhance” security. It declined to comment on the details of the robbery. — Reuters

Search for boatman

A Singapore civil defence team diver searches for a missing tourist boat operator, as the charred wreckage of the vessel is seen at Marina Bay in the Singapore River yesterday. The boatman was last seen on Tuesday diving out of his burning boat. — Picture by AFP

IN BRIEF

Myanmar’s top monks

say not linked to group

YANGON — The body representing Myanmar’s top monks has distanced itself from a vocal Buddhist nationalist group, in an unprecedented blow to the anti-Muslim network blamed for a surge in sectarian violence across the country. The Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee, which represents the upper echelons of the clergy in the overwhelmingly Buddhist country, issued a statement late on Tuesday saying it has never endorsed the ultra-nationalist “Ma Ba Tha”. The Ma Ba Tha is a noisy monk-led group that has been at the forefront of anti-Muslim protests in Myanmar in the three years since it was founded. It recently said it was established under Sangha rules, a claim refuted by the country’s top monks, putting clear water between the mainstream Buddhist clergy and the hardline group for the first time. — AFP

Pokemon Go fans told

not to play in museum

WASHINGTON — The US Holocaust Memorial Museum has told Pokemon Go fans not to play the popular new mobile game in its premises, describing it as “extremely inappropriate” in a memorial dedicated to the victims of Nazism. The game involves using a mobile device to find and capture virtual Pokemon characters at real life locations, including apparently inside the Washington-based museum. The idea of players roaming its halls, eyes glued to phones in search of the computerised figures, shocked many after an image was posted online showing one of the characters located outside the doors to the museum’s Helena Rubinstein Auditorium. “We are attempting to have the museum removed from the game,” the museum’s communications director, Andy Hollinger, said in a statement.
— Reuters

Aussie expat fired for

anti-Singapore rant

SINGAPORE — An Australian expat has been sacked for insulting Singaporeans in a rant triggered by the unavailability of the smartphone game Pokemon Go in the city-state. Sonny Truyen, who had been working for just a week as a search-engine consultant with property listings site 99.co, had complained on Facebook about Singapore not being one of the launch markets for the Nintendo game, which has become hugely popular worldwide. “You cant f****** catch pokemon in this piece of f****** s*** country,” Truyen posted in a thread at the weekend. The comment triggered a backlash in Singapore, where a number of foreigners have lost their jobs over social media posts seen as offensive to locals. The company’s chief executive, Darius Cheung, fired Truyen and apologised for the Australian’s behaviour. — AFP

Goodbye Cameron, hello May

LONDON — Theresa May prepared to become Britain’s second ever female prime minister yesterday after David Cameron stepped down following a seismic referendum to leave the European Union that sent shockwaves round the world and wrecked his career.

Cameron was to hold his final weekly question-and-answer session in parliament before tendering his resignation to Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.

The monarch would then call on May, previously the interior minister, to form a government, and the newly-anointed prime minister would make a statement outside her new Downing Street residence.

European leaders have asked the government to move quickly to formalise its divorce from the EU but May has indicated she will not be rushed into triggering the formal procedure for Brexit.

The 59-year-old vicar’s daughter, who will be Britain’s second female premier after the steely Margaret Thatcher with whom she is often compared, must also attempt to bridge Conservative Party divisions and deal with a potential economic downturn.

Her other daunting challenges include keeping pro-EU Scotland from bidding for independence in order to stay in the 28-nation bloc, and weaving new global trade and diplomatic alliances to prepare for a post-Brexit future.

For The Guardian daily, “she comes to office at a time that would have challenged a Churchill”.

May campaigned, albeit quietly, with Cameron for Britain to stay in the EU and she will have to convince eurosceptics within her party and the country at large that she has no intention of ducking out of implementing the June 23 vote to quit the bloc.

“Brexit means Brexit — and we’re going to make a success of it,” the politician, who is reputed for being a tough negotiator, has said.

After six years in office, Cameron announced he would resign the day after the vote. He will chiefly be remembered for organising a referendum aimed at stopping his party “banging on about Europe” and then spectacularly failing to clinch it.

He sought to deflect that criticism in an interview with the Daily Telegraph yesterday, saying: “As I leave, I hope people will see a stronger country, a thriving economy and more chances to get on in life.

“It has been a privilege to serve the country I love.”

May’s bid for his job accelerated as key proponents of Britain’s EU withdrawal, including charismatic former mayor of London Boris Johnson, stepped back in a head-spinning round of political bloodletting.

The vote exposed deep inequalities in British society, which May has promised to address, and upended the political scene, tipping her Conservatives and the main opposition Labour Party into turmoil.

May was expected to begin announcing her cabinet picks later yesterday, including a Brexit minister in charge of leading negotiations with the EU.

Women were expected to scoop several top jobs. Among those tipped for senior roles were energy minister Amber Rudd, foreign minister Philip Hammond, Brexit campaigner Chris Grayling, who is the Conservatives’ House of Commons leader, and Justine Greening, international development secretary.

May has been a tough-talking interior minister for the past six years and is something of an unknown quantity internationally, although she has received ringing endorsements from party colleagues and a normally sceptical British tabloid press.

She is also liked in and around Maidenhead, the well-to-do commuter town west of London that she has represented in parliament since 1997.

“She will get this country back on its feet,” said 69-year-old Jim Charlesworth, a neighbour of May and her banker husband Philip. — AFP

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