By Aubrey Belford BANGKOK (Reuters) - Just minutes after being locked up for 30 years for insulting Thailand’s monarchy, Pongsak Sriboonpeng described what he thought was the cause of his capture: a poorly chosen Facebook friend. For at least a year, the self-described "red shirt" supporter of exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra had posted angry commentary on the social networking site, including six postings that were later deemed to have defamed the royal family. As the bus idled at a station in the northern province of Phitsunalok on December 30, soldiers and police swarmed the vehicle and took him to a Bangkok army base.
The piece of wing found on the shore of Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean has been formally identified as part of the wreckage of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, the Paris prosecutor said on Thursday. The part, known as a flaperon, was found on the shore of the French-governed island on July 29 and Malaysian authorities have said paint color and maintenance-record matches proved it came from the missing Boeing 777 aircraft. The French prosecutor, who had until Thursday's statement been more cautious on its provenance, said a technician from Airbus Defense and Space (ADS-SAU) in Spain, which had made the part for Boeing, had formally identified one of three numbers found on the flaperon as being the serial number of the MH370 Boeing 777.
Abdullah Kurdi collapsed in tears after emerging from a morgue in the city of Mugla near Bodrum in Turkey, where the body of his 3-year-old son, Aylan, washed up on Wednesday. Aylan's 5-year-old brother, Galip, and mother, Rehan, 35, were among 12 people, including other children, who died after two boats capsized while trying to reach the Greek island of Kos. "I just want to sit next to the grave of my children and my wife and rest," Abdullah told reporters, as his family's coffins were loaded into a hearse.
By Parisa Hafezi ANKARA (Reuters) - Iran's Supreme Leader said on Thursday he favored a parliamentary vote on its nuclear deal reached with world powers and called for sanctions against Tehran to be lifted completely rather than suspended, state television reported. President Hassan Rouhani, a pragmatist whose 2013 election paved the way to a diplomatic thaw with the West, and his allies have opposed such a parliamentary vote, arguing this would create legal obligations complicating the deal's implementation. "Parliament should not be sidelined on the nuclear deal issue ... I am not saying lawmakers should ratify or reject the deal.
By Angeliki Koutantou and George Georgiopoulos ATHENS (Reuters) - Former Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras's leftist Syriza party said on Thursday it remained confident of winning an outright victory in a Sept. 20 election despite an opinion poll that showed its main conservative rival edging ahead. A senior Syriza official played down New Democracy's sudden spurt of momentum, reiterating his party's ambition to win an absolute majority in parliament which was the hope that propelled Tsipras to call the snap vote after clinching a bailout deal with the country's creditors. "Our objective continues to be an outright majority in parliament and in this case we would want to team up with the Independent Greeks," Panos Skourletis, a former energy minister and close aide to Tsipras, told Mega TV, referring to Syriza's former right-wing coalition ally.
Five Chinese Navy ships sighted in the Bering Sea off Alaska during a visit to the region by U.S. President Barack Obama have begun their "return transit," the U.S. Navy's top uniformed officer told Reuters on Thursday. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert said he did not view the incident, an apparent first for China's military, as unexpected or alarming. Greenert said the ships had been seen in the Bering Sea, close to some Alaskan atolls, on Wednesday, but gave no further details.
Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to draw up a plan Friday to help more Syrian refugees amid growing pressure at home and abroad to address the crisis. Cameron said he had been "deeply moved" by images of three-year-old Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi, who was found dead on a Turkish beach and said Britain would meet its "moral responsibilities". The Times and the Telegraph reported that a plan was being drawn up to accept "thousands" of refugees, with the option of directly accepting refugees from UN camps on the Syrian border under consideration.
Sam Warburton will heave a sigh of relief when he returns to captain Wales in their final World Cup warm-up game against Italy in Cardiff on Saturday. Warburton missed both games against Ireland last month following a shoulder injury that threatened to rule him out of the tournament. The British and Irish Lions skipper damaged nerves in his shoulder in a challenge from team-mate Jake Ball during a full-contact training session in North Wales and for two days feared the blow would sideline him from the World Cup.
British Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to draw up a plan Friday to help more Syrian refugees amid growing pressure at home and abroad to address the crisis. Cameron said he had been "deeply moved" by images of three-year-old Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi, who was found dead on a Turkish beach and said Britain would meet its "moral responsibilities". The Times and the Telegraph reported that a plan was being drawn up to accept "thousands" of refugees, with the option of directly accepting refugees from UN camps on the Syrian border under consideration.
BEIJING (AP) — With fighter jets roaring overhead, China's leader presided Thursday over a massive parade of tanks, missiles and troops that displayed growing military might, but also pledged to reduce the army by 300,000 troops in a bid to show that his country poses no expansionist threat. The spectacle through the heart of Beijing commemorated Japan's World War II defeat seven decades ago, with helicopters zooming across the sky in an array forming the number 70, but the event also underlined President Xi Jinping's determination to make China the pre-eminent Asian power.
Guatemala's Congress swore in a new president as disgraced former leader Otto Perez was ordered detained to prevent him becoming a fugitive from justice in the Central American nation's long-running corruption saga. Perez spent much of a tumultuous day at proceedings held at Guatemala's Supreme Court, answering a raft of corruption allegations, just hours after handing in his resignation. "The Guatemalan people have been at the center of great moments of change and upheaval in our institutions, mobilized by their disgust with broken systems," said Maldonado, a lawyer and former judge on the Constitutional Court, after taking the oath of office and assuming the blue and white presidential sash.
PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (AP) — The U.S. Navy on Thursday installed a new commander to lead its submarine force in the Pacific at a time when growing Chinese operations in places like the South China Sea are boosting U.S. demand for the eavesdropping capabilities of the underwater vessels.
By Ahmed Elumami TRIPOLI (Reuters) - A rival government controlling western Libya has asked Arab and European countries to hold a regional conference this month to help the North African country stem a flow of migrants, a minister said on Thursday. Libya has turned into a major transit route for migrants fleeing war and poverty. As two governments fight each other, smugglers exploit a security vacuum to bring Syrians into Libya via Egypt or nationals of sub-Saharan countries via Niger, Sudan and Chad and ship them by boat to Italy.
The family of two Syrian toddlers who drowned as they tried to reach Greece had not yet applied to enter Canada, the extended family said on Thursday, despite earlier reports that their refugee application had been rejected. A photograph of Aylan Kurdi's tiny body in a bright red T-shirt and dark shorts, face-down in the surf, appeared in newspapers around the world, prompting sympathy and outrage at the perceived inaction of developed nations in helping refugees. It shouldn't have happened to them," the aunt of the drowned toddlers, Tima Kurdi, told reporters in Vancouver, breaking down in tears.
The heartbreaking images of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi lying dead in the surf after the boat taking his family to Greece sank brought home the horror of the refugee crisis -- the worst of its kind since World War II. With tensions growing in Europe over how to handle the situation, France and Germany said they had agreed that the EU should now impose binding quotas on the numbers that member states should take in, having failed to reach such a deal in June. "We agree that... we need binding quotas within the European Union to share the burden.
The Iran nuclear deal will usher in a new era in science by lifting sanctions and encouraging research in the Islamic republic, the US journal Science said Thursday. Sanctions aimed at preventing Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon in recent years have also banned scientists from importing fossils, downloading software, subscribing to international science journals and buying much-needed equipment from abroad, the magazine reported in a special issue on the topic. "We got a pretty consistent message that their science is alive and well," Goodman, who traveled to Iran earlier this year with a group of US university officials looking for ways to collaborate with Iranian scientists, was quoted as saying.
By refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Kim Davis -- taken into federal custody Thursday -- has gone from being a public servant to a heroine for millions of Americans opposed to the new law of the land. Republican presidential hopefuls immediately jumped on the bandwagon, capitalizing on the image of an outspoken Christian woman heading to jail as evidence for their narratives of religious persecution. Until recently, few outside Kentucky's rural Rowan County had heard of Davis.
UN member-states are pushing to have more of a say in choosing the successor to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who steps down at the end of next year. A draft resolution is due to be put to a vote at the UN General Assembly next week that would for the first time allow the 193-nation to see the resumes of potential candidates and hear their views. For decades, the choice of the UN chief has been the purview of the five permanent Security Council members, in a selection process kept mostly behind closed doors.
GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — Guatemala's new president had only just occupied the vice president's chair when he was promoted to the country's top spot following the resignation of outgoing President Otto Perez Molina amid a corruption scandal.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Transgender people can be especially vulnerable to harassment and attacks and shouldn't be equated with gays and lesbians by U.S. immigration officials determining whether to grant asylum, a federal appeals court said Thursday.
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. Army Secretary John McHugh has suspended operations at four Defense Department laboratories that handle biological toxins, as the military scrambles to explain and correct problems that led to the accidental shipment of live anthrax to dozens of other labs around the country and the world.
The sensation of drowning, short-term memory loss, insomnia and suicidal tendencies: they may have made it safely to Italy, but many asylum seekers are plagued by symptoms of trauma and the psychological help they need is in short supply. Between 10 percent and 30 percent of asylum seekers reaching Europe are estimated to have been tortured in their home countries. Italy's Doctors for Human Rights association (Medu) noted in a recent report that over half of some 100 asylum seekers interviewed in Sicily had seen a travelling companion or close relative die during the Mediterranean crossing.
Turkey's parliament on Thursday voted to extend for another year a mandate that allows the military to combat Islamist jihadists and Kurdish militants in neighbouring Syria and Iraq, as the country battles its biggest ever security crisis. The parliament convened for an extraordinary session, during which the new members of the power-sharing government also took their oaths, to discuss the current mandate which expires on October 2. The mandate allows the use of the armed forces in neighbouring Syria and Iraq as well as for foreign forces to transit Turkish territory in operations against Islamic State (IS) jihadists.
Like millions of others, Yaman was riveted by the image of the toddler, who drowned along with his mother and brother when their boat capsized on a short run from Turkey to the Greek island of Kos and hopes of a new life in Europe. Umm Hussein, a 40-something mother who fled Syria's war in the central city of Homs to a poor neighbourhood of the Jordanian capital, said the photo was too much for her. "We witnessed the bombing, the destruction... but I couldn't cope with the picture of that innocent child, whose only fault was to have been born in Syria," she said, tears welling up in her eyes.
Third seed and 2012 champion Andy Murray came back from two sets down to defeat tiring Frenchman Adrian Mannarino and make the US Open third round on Thursday. Murray triumphed 5-7, 4-6, 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 after his world number 35 opponent had threatened to condemn him to his earliest loss in New York since also making the second round on debut in 2005. Murray goes on to face Brazilian 30th seed Thomaz Bellucci for a place in the last 16.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said Thursday that he will meet his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro over the border crisis between the South American countries -- but only with certain conditions. The row flared on August 19 when Maduro closed the border with Colombia after blaming Colombia-based right-wing paramilitaries for the wounding of three Venezuelan anti-smuggling patrolmen. Maduro has also blamed smuggling by Colombians living in Venezuela for shortages of basic goods in his country.
By Mark Lamport-Stokes LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - For the non-golfer, the image is an unsettling one -- lush golf courses sprawling across the desert areas around Palm Springs in arid California while the state is suffering a drought for a fourth consecutive year. Similar scenes can be found in states such as Nevada, Texas and Arizona where golf courses appear to be getting more than their fair share of water in an era of climate change when usage is increasingly restricted in the private and public sectors. For the United States Golf Association (USGA), however, a much bigger picture must be viewed when it comes to assessing the management of resources on golf courses, which can play a significant environmental role in urban areas.
NEW YORK (AP) — Pope Francis will offer a special blessing to a group of immigrants and refugees in New York, including those who are undocumented, highlighting two contentious issues in American politics.
Guatemala's Congress swore in former judge Alejandro Maldonado as president Thursday as his disgraced predecessor appeared in court over corruption allegations hours after resigning in the face of unprecedented protests. Maldonado, a 79-year-old conservative who only became vice president in May, will serve out the rest of his former boss Otto Perez's term, handing over on January 14. The country will hold elections Sunday to choose his successor, in a climate of widespread outrage over the corruption scandal engulfing Perez and broad rejection of the traditional political elite.