Saturday, 28 May 2016

Lufthansa to suspend flights to Venezuela


Lufthansa aircraft. File photoImage copyrightAFP
Image captionLufthansa says the demand for international flights to Venezuela has dropped
The German airline, Lufthansa, has announced that it will suspend flights to Venezuela from 18 June due to economic difficulties in the country.
The company also said currency controls in Venezuela made it impossible for airlines to convert their earnings into dollars and send the money abroad.
Venezuela's economy has been hit hard by a sharp drop in the price of oil - the country's main source of income.
Venezuela has high inflation and severe shortages of basic goods.
In a statement, Lufthansa said that it "will be forced to suspend our service between Caracas and Frankfurt as of 18 June".
It noted that the demand for international flights to Venezuela had dropped in 2015 and in the first quarter of the current year.
However, it said it hoped to restore services in the near future.
A woman waits at a bakery displaying a sign reading Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionA sign in a Caracas bakery informs customers that there is no bread (February 2016)
Strict currency controls were first imposed in Venezuela in 2003 by late President Hugo Chavez.
The restrictions were further tightened two years ago, forcing several airlines to reduce their operations in the country as they struggled to repatriate billions of dollars in revenue held in the local currency - the bolivar.
Some airlines are now requiring passengers to pay their fares in dollars.
Venezuela's government has defended its policies, saying it must prioritise.
Caracas says it is using its foreign reserves - which are now scarce - to pay for essential items such as medicines and industrial machinery.

Islamic State: Iraqi army makes gains in Falluja offensive


Media captionReged Ahmad reports: "It is understood the tunnels were dug out by Islamic State"
Iraqi government forces have made gains in their offensive to drive Islamic State militants from Falluja - one the country's two major cities in IS hands.
The nearby town of Karma, the first line of IS defence, is now in the army's hands, a BBC correspondent says.
Large numbers of elite combat troops have also been deployed near Falluja, about 45km (28 miles) west of Baghdad.
But IS hit back north of Falluja, killing and injuring some Iraqi forces in a suicide car bomb attack.
A counter-attack south of the city was repelled with the help of helicopter gunships, the BBC's Jim Muir in Karma reports.
This comes just days after the IS commander in Falluja, Maher al-Bilawi, was killed along with dozens militants in US-led coalition air strikes, according to Washington.
A member from the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Force gestures as his units advance towards Falluja, Iraq. Photo: 28 May 2016Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionLarge numbers of Iraq's elite combat troops have been deployed near Falluja

Ghost town

Karma is now firmly under control of government forces, including rapid reaction troops and federal police, our correspondent says.
Iran-backed Shia militias, which also took part in the fighting, have left graffiti on the walls of buildings in the town, including one saying: "Thank you, Iran."
But Karma is now a ghost town, with not a single civilian to be seen and with rows of shops battered and burnt out and some bigger buildings badly damaged, our correspondent adds.
Large number of the elite Counter-Terrorism Force have been brought up in preparation for an assault on the city itself.
However, it is not clear when the attack will begin.
Grey line
Falluja. Photo: August 2010Image copyrightREUTERS

Falluja - key facts:

  • had population of more than 300,000 before it was seized by first al-Qaeda and then by IS in 2014
  • has always been a hotbed of Sunni defiance, becoming a symbol of resistance to US forces in violent battles in 2004
  • controls main highway from Baghdad to both Jordan and Syria
  • is known as the "city of mosques" - more than 200 mosques in city and surrounding area
Grey line
Some 50,000 civilians remain trapped in the city and have been told via leaflet drops to avoid IS areas and put white sheets on their roofs, the US military says.
The UN says it has reports of people dying of starvation and being killed for refusing to fight for IS.
Falluja fell to IS in 2014, a key moment in its rise that saw it declare a caliphate across swathes of Iraq and Syria.
The other major Iraqi city still controlled by IS is Mosul.
Map showing movement of Iraqi forces towards Falluja (24 May 2016)

China Wanda City theme park opens in a battle with Disney


  • 5 hours ago
  •  
  • From the sectionChina
Visitors take photos beside a dragon fountain at an outdoor theme park of the newly-opened Wanda Cultural Tourism City or "Wanda City" in the eastern city of Nanchang in Jiangxi Province, China, 28 May 2016Image copyrightEPA
Image captionThe new theme park promotes Chinese culture in its attractions
China's richest man has opened a massive entertainment complex to compete with US giant Disney.
"Wanda City", in south-eastern city Nanchang, features rides, shopping centres and an aquarium, and cost more than $3bn (just over £2bn).
Its owner, Wang Jianlin, said he wanted to move away from western imports and to establish a global brand based on Chinese culture.
Disney is planning to open its own theme park in Shanghai next month.
The new entertainment complex includes an $800m China-themed park filled with twirling "porcelain teacup rides" and bamboo forests, as well as a huge indoor shopping mall, and what is claimed to be the world's largest ocean park.
A general view of the outdoor theme park of the newly-opened Wanda Cultural Tourism City or Image copyrightEPA
Image captionThe new park boasts "the highest and longest roller coaster" in China
Mr Wang's Wanda property group has also invested heavily in the film and cinema business.
It has indicated it wants to fend off Disney in the Chinese market and become a global entertainment brand.

'Craze for Mickey Mouse over'

In remarks at Saturday's opening ceremony, Mr Wang did not mention Disney by name, but said that after millennia of Chinese cultural domination, the country was lacking confidence in its own culture.
"We want to be a model for Chinese private enterprise, and we want to establish a global brand for Chinese firms," he said.
Only a week ago he told China Central Television (CCTV) that "this craze for Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck is over, the period when we would blindly follow where Disney led has been gone for years."
A Chinese woman poses for a smartphone photo with a worker dressed in a storm trooper costume at the Wanda Mall at the Wanda Cultural Tourism City in Nanchang in southeastern ChinaImage copyrightAP
Image captionBut there is no getting away from Western merchandise in the shopping malls, where Star Wars Stormtroopers are out to get customers
After the site in Nanchang, Wanda plans to open around 15 in the country by 2020.
Meanwhile Disney's theme park in Shanghai, costing $5.5bn, will be its sixth theme park and its fourth outside the United States after Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong.

Pakistan bans TV contraceptive adverts


  • 2 hours ago
  •  
  • From the sectionAsia
Condoms are shown to a group of women during a safe sex education class in Sawabi in the conservative Muslim Pashtun belt of western Pakistan (file photo)Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionPakistan now has a population of more than 200m
Pakistani authorities have banned all broadcast advertisements for contraceptives.
The regulator, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra), said there had been public complaints that they prompted curiosity in "innocent children".
Pakistan is a socially conservative country and such commercials were already rare.
Pakistan, the world's sixth most populous nation, has a lower rate of access to birth control than the average for the region, according to the World Health Organization.

The 2nd of the 10 Most Horrific Methods Of Execution Throughout History

By  on February 21, 2016

Worst Execution Methods: Flaying

Flaying Alive
Flaying — better known as “skinning alive” — has a long and grotesque history. Records of the practice exist as far back as the Neo-Assyrian Empire (beginning in 911 B.C.), but it has cropped up in most civilizations at one time or another, including Medieval Europe (where it tended to be used as a punishment for traitors) and in the ritual human sacrifices made by the Aztecs in Mexico (the Aztecs, at least, are believed to have skinned the body after the sacrifice had been made).
Various techniques have been utilized in the many different cultures in which flaying has been employed, but the basis remains the same: Slowly, excruciatingly slicing the skin from the body while keeping the victim alive for as long as possible (and when feasible, removing the skin intact).
Carvings from the Assyrian period show the process beginning with incisions to the thighs or buttocks, while the European method — pictured above — shows it starting with the skin being torn from the feet and lower legs. Chinese Emperors Sun Hao, Fu Sheng, and Gao Heng ordered the skin to be peeled from their victims’ faces.
Death would normally come as a result of massive blood loss and shock, but in the unfortunate cases where expert flayers were used, the victim could be kept alive in a state of perpetual agony for several days before finally succumbing to their hopelessly infected wounds.

Johnny Depp's wife Amber Heard accuses him of assault


Amber Heard, shown in a photo with a bruised faceImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionMs Heard included photos of her bruised face in the court filing
A US judge has ordered actor Johnny Depp to stay away from his estranged wife, actress Amber Heard, after she alleged he assaulted her.
Ms Heard said in court on Friday that Mr Depp threw her mobile phone at her during a fight on Saturday.
The judge also said Mr Depp should not try to contact Ms Heard.
On Monday, she filed for divorce from the Pirates of the Caribbean actor after 15 months of marriage, citing irreconcilable differences.
Ms Heard brought a photograph of herself with a bruised cheek and eye to the Los Angeles Superior Court.
"I live in fear that Johnny will return to (our house) unannounced to terrorise me, physically and emotionally,'' Ms Heard wrote in a sworn declaration.
She said the actor was high on drugs and drunk when the incident occurred, and that he had pulled her hair, screamed at her, grabbed her face and hit her.
Her filing alleged a history of abuse throughout the relationship.
Media captionHer face still showed injuries when she appeared in court
Amber Heard and Johnny DeppImage copyrightAP
Image captionThe pair have been married for 15 months
"The judge has reviewed the evidence that we presented," Ms Heard's lawyer Joseph Koenig told reporters outside court.
"He issued a restraining order based on the evidence that he received and there will be a further hearing."
Mr Depp's lawyer wrote in a court filing that the actor would agree to a mutual-stay order. He is currently in Portugal with his band Hollywood Vampires.
Mr Depp, 52, and Ms Heard, 30, met while co-starring in the 2011 film The Rum Diary. They have no children.