2019 Australia election: Morrison’s coalition seeking shock majority


Media captionScott Morrison: “I said I was going to burn for you, and I am”

Final results are being counted in Australia where Prime Minister Scott Morrison hopes his victory in Saturday’s election will give him a majority government.

His conservative coalition has defied the polls and now needs to win three more seats to seal a shock majority.

“I have always believed in miracles,” Mr Morrison told supporters in his victory speech on Saturday night.

Exit polls had predicted a Labor Party win for the first time in six years.

But Labor leader Bill Shorten resigned in the wake of his party’s surprise defeat. “It is obvious that Labor will not be able to form the next government,” he told party members.

He will not seek re-election as his party’s leader.

The final result may not be known for some hours, but with more than 75% of votes counted the Liberal-National Coalition has won, or is ahead in, 73 seats in its quest for a 76-seat majority, with Labor trailing on 65 seats.

If the Coalition fails to win an outright majority it will need the help of independent MPs to govern.

Australia has mandatory voting and a record 16.4 million voters enrolled for the election, which returns a new House of Representatives and just over half of the seats in the Senate.

Media captionWhy Australia has had so many prime ministers

In his victory speech, Mr Morrison paid tribute to “the quiet Australians” who voted for the Coalition.

“It has been those Australians who have worked hard every day, they have their dreams, they have their aspirations, to get a job, to get an apprenticeship, to start a business, to meet someone amazing,” he said.

“To start a family, to buy a home, to work hard and provide the best you can for your kids. To save for your retirement. These are the quiet Australians who have won a great victory tonight!”

Australia election results

Seats declared so far. 76 needed to win

With 75.6% counted

Source: ABC News
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Why was the election important?

Australia holds elections every three years but, with infighting rife, no prime minister has succeeded in serving a full term since 2007.

Mr Morrison said he had united his government – a coalition between his Liberal Party and its traditional ally the National Party – in the nine months since he replaced Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister.

Media captionWhy Australians get fined if they don’t turn up to vote

Surveys showed that the economy, cost of living, environment and health were central concerns for voters, while younger people in particular voiced frustration about climate change and a lack of affordable housing.

Mr Morrison campaigned primarily on economic issues, often doing so alone while painting the election as a choice between himself and Mr Shorten.

Mr Shorten promised to cut tax breaks for the wealthy and to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

There were fierce debates about the rolling leadership turmoil, formal recognition of indigenous Australians, and the treatment of female MPs in parliament.

“I think people have become afraid after a very negative campaign,” Labor supporter Julie Nelson told Reuters at the party’s Melbourne election night function. “They [the Liberals] managed to convince people they should be afraid of change.”

Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-48324896

Trump says US is ‘where we want to be’ on China trade talks


US President Donald Trump speaks during a "Make America Great Again" rally at Aaron Bessant Amphitheater in Panama City Beach, Florida on May 8, 2019.Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES

US President Donald Trump says the US is “right where we want to be with China” as both sides remain locked in a bruising trade battle.

The US more than doubled tariffs on $200bn (£153.7bn) of Chinese goods on Friday, in a sharp escalation of their trade war.

Earlier, Mr Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said “both sides will suffer” from the trade dispute.

But Mr Trump later downplayed the impact of the tariff hike on the US.

“We are right where we want to be with China. Remember, they broke the deal with us & tried to renegotiate,” Mr Trump wrote in a post on Twitter.

“We will be taking in tens of billions of dollars in tariffs from China. Buyers of product can make it themselves in the USA (ideal), or buy it from non-tariffed countries.”

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On Friday, the US increased a 10% tariff on $200bn worth of Chinese goods – including fish, handbags, clothing and footwear – to 25%.

The Office of the United States Trade Representative has also said it has been ordered to “begin the process of raising tariffs on essentially all remaining imports from China, which are valued at approximately $300 billion”.

China has said it will retaliate but has not announced any details including when it would take action.

The higher tariffs will be paid by American companies importing goods from China.

Economists have said a 25% tariff will be much harder for businesses to absorb than 10%, which means they are more likely to pass on some of the cost to consumers.

Asked in an interview with Fox News Sunday whether it was correct to say that it was US businesses and US consumers who pay for the tariff, Mr Kudlow said: “Yes, to some extent. I don’t disagree with that.”

“Both sides will suffer on this.”

Mr Kudlow also said there was a “strong possibility” that Mr Trump would meet with China’s President Xi Jinping at a G20 summit in Japan in late June.

Chinese retaliation

China said on Friday it “deeply regrets” the US decision to hike tariffs and that it will have to retaliate with the “necessary countermeasures.”

In the past, the Chinese have introduced retaliatory tariffs almost immediately after US tariffs have gone into force.

China has responded saying it will not swallow any “bitter fruit”. The commentary is due for publication on Monday in the ruling Communist Party’s People’s Daily.

The US argues that China’s trade surplus with the US is the result of unfair practices, including state support for domestic companies. It also accuses China of stealing intellectual property from US firms.

The latest tariff increase marks a sharp escalation of the US-China trade war which has already been weighing on the global economy.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said the escalation of US-China trade tension was one factor to have contributed to a “significantly weakened global expansion” late last year as it cut its 2019 global growth forecast.

Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/business-48246821

Colorado shooting: Teenager killed in high school attack


Colorado school shootingImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionBoth suspects are now in custody

A teenager has been killed and seven others injured after two pupils allegedly opened fire in a US school.

The attack at the STEM School Highlands Ranch, near Denver, Colorado, took place on Tuesday, police said. Both attackers have now been arrested.

Highlands Ranch is just 8km (5 miles) from Columbine High School – the site of one of the US’s worst school shootings 20 years ago.

This is believed to be the 115th mass shooting in the US in 2019.

What happened?

Just before 14:00 local time (20:00 GMT) the attackers “walked into the STEM school, got deep inside the school and engaged students in two separate locations”, Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock said.

One suspect was a male youth, while the other was an adult man. Both were pupils at the school.

Police at the sceneImage copyrightAFP
Image captionOfficers were on the scene about two minutes after receiving the call, the sheriff’s office said

Mr Spurlock said the school contacted the emergency services “almost immediately”, and that officers arrived at the scene about two minutes later.

The school was closed and placed on lockdown as police attended the scene. It was eventually lifted an hour later, at about 15:00 local time (21:00 GMT).

One 18-year-old male pupil was fatally shot. A handgun was later recovered at the scene.

“We have no information about anyone being targeted,” Mr Spurlock said, adding that it was too early to come to any conclusions.

One parent, named in local media as Fernando Montoya, said his 17-year-old son was shot three times and wounded.

“He said a guy pulled a pistol out of a guitar case and started to shoot,” Mr Montoya told ABC affiliate Denver 7.

What has the reaction been?

Colorado Governor Jared Polis tweeted he would send extra police officers to the scene.

The White House also tweeted its condolences to the victims, while spokesman Judd Deere said President Donald Trump “has been briefed and continues to monitor the ongoing situation”.

And another parent Steve Holley tweeted that he had been here before.

“This is the third time I’ve had to pick up my boys from school due to a lockdown,” he wrote.

Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-48196487

Australia PM Scott Morrison egged on campaign trail


Scott MorrisonImage copyrightEPA
Image captionScott Morrison has been campaigning ahead of Australia’s election

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been egged by a protester while campaigning ahead of the nation’s general election.

The egg grazed Mr Morrison’s head but did not break, local media said. The incident also knocked an elderly woman to the ground.

Footage showed a 25-year-old woman being restrained at the scene. Police later said she had been arrested.

Mr Morrison described the egg thrower as “cowardly”.

The incident happened at a Country Women’s Association event in Albury, about 330km (200 miles) south-east of Canberra. No-one was injured.

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Mr Morrison later praised his security staff for intervening quickly and expressed concern for the elderly woman, identified in media reports as Margaret Baxter.

Farmers in Australia have faced protests by vegan activists in recent times. Police did not immediately speculate on a motive for Tuesday’s incident, nor whether it was suspected of being linked to other protests.

Ms Baxter told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that she had recently had stomach surgery, but did not feel pain after the fall.

“My main concern was holding my stomach to make sure it didn’t get hit,” she said.

Mr Morrison is not the first Australian politician to be targeted by an egg-wielding protester this year.

In March, far-right Senator Fraser Anning was egged after making heavily criticised comments about the mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand.

A 17-year-old boy was later cautioned by police over Mr Anning’s egging.

Australians are due to vote in a general election on 18 May.

Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-48182184

Moscow plane fire: 41 killed on Aeroflot jet


Forty-one people were killed after a Russian plane made an emergency landing and burst into flames at Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow.

Videos on social media show passengers using emergency exit slides to escape the burning Aeroflot aircraft.

Two children and a flight attendant were among the dead, Russian media reports.

One witness said it was a “miracle” anyone escaped the jet, which was carrying 73 passengers and five crew.

“There are 37 survivors – 33 passengers and four members of the crew,” said an investigative committee official, Yelena Markovskaya.

Five people are in hospital.

Aeroflot, Russia’s national carrier, said the plane was forced to return to the airport “for technical reasons”, but did not elaborate.

Some flights have been diverted to other airports.

Russian plane catches fire in MoscowImage copyrightAFP
Image captionBlack smoke billows from the burning plane on the tarmac at Sheremetyevo airport
Russian plane catches fire in MoscowImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionThe plane had just taken off from Sheremetyevo airport when it caught fire

What happened to the plane?

The aircraft, a Sukhoi Superjet-100, departed Sheremetyevo airport at 18:02 local time (15:02 GMT) for the city of Murmansk.

The crew issued a distress signal when “malfunctions” occurred shortly after departure.

After making an emergency landing at the airport, the plane’s engines caught fire on the runway, Aeroflot said in a statement.

The crew “did everything to save the passengers,” who were evacuated in 55 seconds, the airline said.

Russian plane flight map
Image captionThe jet returned to the airport within 30 minutes of departing

Aeroflot published a list of survivors (in Russian) who have been identified so far, adding that it will continue to be updated as new information comes to light.

Interfax quotes a source as saying the plane’s engines caught fire on the runway after a hard landing, not in mid-air as initially reported.

Reports also suggest it did not succeed in its first emergency landing attempt.

Murmansk’s Acting Governor Andrey Chibis has reportedly said that the families of those killed in the fire will each receive one million rubles ($15,300; £11,630), while the victims being treated in hospital will be given 500,000 rubles ($7,650; £5,815).

Sheremetyevo airportImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionAmbulances wait in front of the terminal building at Sheremetyevo airport

How did the survivors escape?

Mikhail Savchenko claims he was on the plane when it exploded into a fireball on the tarmac but “managed to jump out”.

He shared a video of passengers running away from the burning plane, posting: “‘Guys I am all right, I am alive and in one piece.”

One of the surviving passengers, Dmitry Khlebushkin, says that he is very grateful to the flight attendants.

“Only thanks to the flight attendants, I survived,” he told reporters.

Kristian Kostov, a former Bulgarian Eurovision contestant, has posted on social media about witnessing the incident.

He said people at the airport were left “shaking” after seeing the aircraft engulfed by fire and said other flights are now unable to take-off.

Another eyewitness, Patrick Horlacher, told the BBC it was “shocking to see” the plane being ravaged by flames just minutes before he was due to board another flight.

An investigation has been opened into the incident, reports say.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has reportedly been briefed and expressed condolences to the families of victims.

The region of Murmansk has announced a three-day mourning period.

Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-48171392

 

North Korea: Kim Jong-un oversees ‘strike drill’ missile component test


Rocket launchers firing in North Korea, 4 May 2019Image copyrightAFP/KCNA VIA KNS
Image captionThe “strike drill” tested multiple rocket launchers, North Korea said

North Korea has confirmed via state media that leader Kim Jong-un has overseen a “strike drill” testing various missile components.

“A number of short-range projectiles” were also fired from the Hodo peninsula into the Sea of Japan on Saturday.

North Korea’s leader gave the order of firing to “increase the combat ability” of the country, the announcement said.

US President Donald Trump tweeted he believed Mr Kim would not jeopardise the path towards better relations.

He added that the North Korean leader “knows that I am with him & does not want to break his promise to me. Deal will happen!

“I believe that Kim Jong-Un fully realises the great economic potential of North Korea and will do nothing to interfere or end it,” Mr Trump posted on social media on Saturday.

President Trump walked away from what he described as a bad deal offered by Kim Jong-un at a summit meeting in Hanoi in February.

In its report on Sunday, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Mr Kim had stressed the need to “defend the political sovereignty and economic self-sustenance” of the country in the face of threat and invasion.

The aim of the drill, which was testing “large-calibre long-range multiple rocket launchers”, was to “inspect the operating ability and the accuracy of striking duty performance,” the report said.

The North Korean president told troops to bear in mind “the iron truth that genuine peace and security are ensured and guaranteed only by powerful strength”.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un observing missile tests, 4 May 2019Image copyrightAFP/KCNA VIA KNS
Image captionKim Jong-un oversaw the test launches on Saturday

What’s the background?

It is believed that Saturday’s test is intended to increase pressure on Washington to move nuclear talks forward.

Last month, North Korea said it had tested what it described as a new “tactical guided weapon”.

That was the first test since the Hanoi summit.

US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meet during the second US-North Korea summit at the Metropole Hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam February 27, 2019Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionThe second summit between President Trump and Mr Kim in Hanoi, Vietnam

Analysts say a short-range solid fuel ballistic missile was fired on Saturday, making this the most serious test since North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile in November 2017.

However, it does not violate North Korea’s promise not to test long-range or nuclear missiles.

But Pyongyang appears to be growing impatient with Washington’s insistence that full economic sanctions remain until Mr Kim takes serious steps to dismantle his nuclear weapons programme, says the BBC’s Laura Bicker.

What’s the reaction been?

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that North Korea “fired a number of short-range missiles from its Hodo peninsula near the east coast town of Wonsan to the north-eastern direction from 09:06 (00:06 GMT) to 09:27” on Saturday.

The missiles flew for between 70km and 200km (45-125 miles) before landing in the Sea of Japan, they added.

Seoul has previously called on Pyongyang to “stop acts that escalate military tension on the Korean peninsula”.

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“North Korea’s recent missile launches are a provocation at a time when the international community is awaiting concrete steps from North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons and missile programme,” the German Foreign Ministry said, according to AFP.

“We welcome President Trump’s declaration that he is ready to continue to support the negotiations process despite this provocation,” the statement said.

Weapon testing in North Korea

Hodo has been used in the past for launching cruise missiles and long-range artillery testing.

According to KCNA, April’s test of a new “tactical guided weapon” was also overseen by Mr Kim himself. It was “conducted in various modes of firing at different targets”, which analysts believe means the weapon could be launched from land, sea or air.

It is unclear if that weapon was a missile, but most observers agree that it was probably a short-range weapon.

Rocket being fired in North Korea, 4 May 2019Image copyrightAFP/KCNA VIA KNS
Image captionSaturday’s launches did not violate North Korea’s pledge not to test long-range missiles

Last year, Mr Kim said he would stop nuclear testing and would no longer launch intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Nuclear activity appears to be continuing, however, and satellite images of North Korea’s main nuclear site last month showed movement, suggesting the country could be reprocessing radioactive material into bomb fuel.

The country claims it has developed a nuclear bomb small enough to fit on a long-range missile, as well as ballistic missiles that could potentially reach the mainland.

Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-48165793

Cyclone Fani begins landfall in eastern India


People evacuated for safety rest in a temporary cyclone relief shelter in Puri in the eastern Indian state of OdishaImage copyrightAFP
Image captionThousands have already sought shelter in relief centres

Cyclone Fani is making landfall along India’s eastern coastline, according to the country’s Meteorological Department.

It is expected to reach wind speeds of 195 km/h (121 mph) when it strikes the coastline at full force in a few hours.

More than a million people have been evacuated from the eastern state of Orissa, also called Odisha, where the storm is expected to hit hardest.

Several neighbouring states have also been put on high alert.

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The cyclone is expected to hit 15 districts in Orissa, including the tourist town of Puri, which is home to the 858-year-old Jagannath temple.

Numerous flights and train services in and out of the state have been cancelled, while schools and government offices are shut. Operations at three ports on India’s eastern coast have been shut down.

The state and federal governments have swung into action – naval warships and helicopters have been moved to the state and are on standby with medical teams and relief material. The country’s National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has also sent several teams there.

Tourists at a temple, Jagannath Temple, Puri, Orissa, IndiaImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionThe historic Jagannath temple is in the cyclone’s path

Cyclone Fani will be the fourth storm to hit India’s east coast in the last three decades.

In 2017, Cyclone Ockhi killed more than 200 people and displaced hundreds. In October last year, officials in Orissa evacuated hundreds of thousands of people when another cyclone struck.

The state’s most deadly cyclone on record took place in 1999, killing almost 10,000 people.

Which areas will be affected?

Clouds loom ahead of cyclone Fani in Visakhapatnam, India, May 1, 2019Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionStorm clouds gather over the Indian city of Visakhapatnam

India’s National Disaster Management Authority has warned people along the east coast, especially fishermen, not to go out to sea because the conditions are “phenomenal”.

Fishermen return from the Bay of Bengal's eastern coast beach at Konark after Cyclone Fani alertImage copyrightEPA
Image captionFishermen have been warned not to go out to sea

The agency said the “total destruction of thatched houses” was possible, as well as “extensive damage” to other structures.

The cyclone is expected to move towards Chittagong in Bangladesh in a weaker form on Saturday.

Media captionBBC Weather’s Sarah Keith-Lucas has the latest update on extremely severe cyclonic storm Fani.

The cyclone coincides with high tides in Bangladesh which may exacerbate potential flooding issues there.

The port city of Cox’s Bazar, where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees live in camps with minimal shelter, is also on alert. But the cyclone is currently not expected to hit the camps unless it changes path, which is not thought likely.

In February the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) began distributing tarpaulins ahead of the region’s “cyclone season” – but warned that if a deadly storm rolls in, shelters made of battered bamboo and shredded plastic would offer little protection.

How has India prepared?

The navy, the coast guard and the National Disaster Response Force have all been prepared for deployment. It has also stationed two ships with divers and doctors at the southern port cities of Vishakapatnam and Chennai (formerly Madras), an official told local media.

Fishermen return to shore in KonarkImage copyrightEPA
Image captionFishermen returning to shore in Konark after a yellow warning was issued for Orissa
Local media report that about 81 trains travelling to and from coastal cities have been cancelled.

India’s electoral commission has relaxed its rules about what the government can do during election periods so that the authorities can carry out relief work.

The country is in the middle of a multi-phased election which started last month.

Under normal circumstances the incumbent government has certain powers suspended, so that it can’t announce new schemes or take new decisions during the voting period.

Although the election will continue until the end of May, Orissa has already voted.

Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-48121606

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