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News

    Seven men accused of posing as a self-styled 'Sharia police' in Germany have gone on trial for the second time, on charges they violated rules on wearing uniforms. News agency dpa reported that none of the defendants, aged between 27 and 37, addressed the charges against them as their retrial in Wuppertal opened Monday. The group took to the streets of Wuppertal in 2014, dressed in orange vests bearing the words 'Sharia police' and handing out leaflets declaring the area a 'Sharia-controlled zone' where alcohol, music and pornography were banned. Five were allegedly part of the self-styled patrol and the other two accessories. They were acquitted in 2016 when judges found that the vests couldn't be classified as a uniform and weren't intimidating. A federal court ordered a retrial.
  • Authorities in Turkey have issued detention warrants for 249 people as part of an investigation into alleged cheating during exams to recruit staff to the country's foreign ministry between 2010 and 2013. The Ankara Chief Prosecutor's office says 91 of the suspects were detained on Monday. The suspects are believed to have links to the network led by U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is accused of orchestrating a failed coup attempt in 2016. Gulen denies the accusation. Authorities believe Gulen's network, which has been outlawed, has helped followers infiltrate key civil service jobs through cheating and other means. Some 77,000 people have been arrested for links to Gulen since the coup and around 130,000 others have been dismissed from state jobs.
  • The five separatist leaders on trial for Catalonia's 2017 secession attempt who were elected to the Spanish Parliament last month picked up their official credentials under police escort on Monday. The Supreme Court allowed the five to get their credentials and to also attend the opening session of the new Parliament on Tuesday. However, it did not permit them to participate in any meetings or speak to the press while at the Parliament in Madrid. Former Catalan regional vice president, Oriol Junqueras, and three other high-profile separatists won seats in the Lower Chamber, while Raül Romeva won a seat in the Senate. Police transported them from prison to the Parliament buildings. They all wore suits and spoke with fellow lawmakers without the visible presence of uniformed police escorts once inside, as seen in televised images. Despite the media ban, Junqueras posted a short video on Twitter in which he said 'we are well because we are with friends' and asked for support for his party in Sunday's European and municipal Spanish elections. Junqueras is running for a seat in the European Parliament. He has said he will renounce his seat in the Spanish Parliament if he wins one in Europe. The five, along with four other defendants, are being held in prison during the trial. They face several years in prison and being banned from holding public office if found guilty of rebellion or other crimes. Others, including ex-Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, fled Spain. The Catalan secession bid two years ago plunged Spain into its biggest political crisis in decades. The northeastern region's 7.5 million residents are roughly split down the middle over whether to secede from Spain, according to opinion polls.
  • Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris is unveiling a pay inequity proposal that aims to close the gender pay gap by holding corporations accountable when men are paid more than women. Harris' plan would require companies to disclose pay policies while applying for a mandatory 'Equal Pay Certification' from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Companies that fail to achieve certification would be fined 1% of their profits for every 1% wage gap they allow to persist for work of equal value. The U.S. senator from California says $180 billion would be generated over 10 years, with fines decreasing over time as companies strengthen their equal pay practices. 'Kamala Harris has a simple message for corporations: Pay women fairly or pay the price,' her campaign said in announcing the plan Monday, noting that the burden has been on workers to hold corporations accountable for pay discrimination. 'We've let corporations hide their wage gaps, but forced women to stand up in court just to get the pay they've earned. It's time to flip the script and finally hold corporations accountable for pay inequality in America,' the campaign said. The equal pay plan is the latest proposal from Harris, who has been seeking a break-out moment in a crowded field of Democrats seeking the party's nomination. Earlier, she outlined a plan that would raise pay for teachers nationwide, and she has also focused on housing affordability. However, she has lagged behind Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has been the policy pace-setter among the Democratic field. In Harris's equal-pay plan, the campaign says, companies would be prohibited from asking about prior salary history as part of their hiring process, banned from using forced arbitration agreements in employment contracts for pay discrimination matters, and would be required to allow employees to freely discuss their pay. They would also be required to report the share of women who are among the company's top earners, the total pay and total compensation gap that exists between men and women, regardless of job titles, experience and performance. All federal contractors will be required to achieve Equal Pay Certification within two years of Harris taking office, her campaign says. If they do not, they will be barred from competing for contracts valued at more than $500,000.
  • Budget airline Ryanair says its profit fell 29% last year and warns that the grounding of Boeing's 737 Max planes will limit its ability to cut costs. Europe's largest carrier by passengers said earnings for the year ending March 31 fell to 1.02 billion euros ($1.14 billion) from 1.45 billion euros the previous year. Strong 7% traffic growth was offset by a 6% decline in fares. Boeing grounded its 737 MAX planes after two crashes raised concerns about flight-control software. It said last week it has finished updating the software, though it remains unclear when the grounding will end. Ryanair had wanted to use the fuel-efficient planes to cut costs. But it delayed delivery of its first five Max planes until the winter so those savings won't happen until 2021.
  • A Saudi Arabian freighter allegedly carrying weapons that could be used in the war in Yemen has docked at the Italian port of Genoa, despite protests by harbor workers. The Saudi-flagged Bahri Yanbu is scheduled to load further cargo before departing for the Saudi port of Jeddah late Monday, according to the Italian news agency ANSA. Port workers protesting the alleged arms shipment unsuccessfully tried to prevent the ship's arrival, and hoisted a banner reading 'Stop the trafficking of arms, war to war.' ANSA says union and port officials were in talks on the cargo to be loaded. The 50,000-tonne ship has already called at several European ports, reportedly to pick up weaponry. French officials said a scheduled loading of arms at Le Havre was cancelled following protests by activists.
  • Google said Monday its basic services on Huawei smartphones still will function following U.S. sales curbs, but the Chinese tech giant faces the possible loss of other features and support. The announcement highlighted the growing damage to Huawei from Washington's order. The company has said until now U.S. accusations it is a security threat have had little impact on sales outside the United States. Huawei Technologies Ltd., which uses Google's Android operating system in its smartphones, said it would continue to provide security updates and service. It gave no indication which map, photo or other services they might lose. The Trump administration's order targets China's first global tech brand and ratchets up disputes with Beijing over technology, trade and cyber-security. Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc., said it is complying with and 'reviewing the implications' of the requirement for export licenses for technology sales to Huawei, which took effect Thursday. 'We assure you while we are complying with all US gov't requirements, services like Google Play & security from Google Play Protect will keep functioning on your existing Huawei device,' said Google on Twitter. Google allows smartphone manufacturers to use Android and its basic services for free. But transfer of hardware, software or services to Huawei or technical interaction would be restricted by the U.S. order. That would strip Huawei phones of Google maps and other services that require direct support. That might hurt Huawei where consumers can pick other brands that carry the full suite of Google features. The U.S. government says Chinese suppliers including Huawei and its smaller rival, ZTE Corp., pose an espionage threat because they are beholden to China's ruling Communist Party. But American officials have presented no evidence of any Huawei equipment serving as intentional conduits for espionage by Beijing. Huawei, headquartered in the southern city of Shenzhen near Hong Kong, reported earlier its global sales rose 19.5% last year over 2017 to 721.2 billion ($105.2 billion). Profit rose 25.1% to 59.3 billion yuan ($8.6 billion). Huawei smartphone shipments rose 50 percent over a year earlier in the first three months of 2019 to 59.1 million, while the global industry's total fell 6.6 percent, according to IDC. Shipments by industry leader Samsung and No. 3 Apple declined. Huawei defended itself Monday as 'one of Android's key global partners.' The company said it helped to develop a system that 'benefited both users and the industry.' 'We will continue to build a safe and sustainable software ecosystem, in order to provide the best experience for all users globally,' said a company statement. A foreign ministry spokesman said China will 'monitor the development of the situation' but gave no indication how Beijing might respond. The government said it would take steps to protect the rights of Chinese companies abroad following last week's announcement but has given no indication what it might do. 'China supports Chinese companies to take up legal weapons to defend their legitimate rights,' said the spokesman, Lu Kang. The U.S. order took effect Thursday and requires government approval for all purchases of American microchips, software and other components globally by Huawei and 68 affiliated businesses. Huawei says that amounted to $11 billion in goods last year.
  • Former South African president Jacob Zuma is in court facing charges of corruption, money laundering and racketeering. Zuma, 77, appeared at the High Court in Pietermaritzburg in eastern KwaZulu-Natal province Monday on charges of receiving bribes when the government purchased arms in 1999. Zuma was South Africa's president from 2009 until 2018, when he was forced to resign by his ruling African National Congress party amid persistent allegations of corruption. The criminal charges against Zuma were first raised more than 10 years ago but were withdrawn by the National Prosecution Authority in 2008. The charges were reinstated after a court ruled that there are sufficient grounds to bring him to trial. Zuma's former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, was in 2005 convicted of fraud and corruption.
  • The Latest on Ukrainian politics (all times local): 1.10 p.m. The Kremlin has voiced hope that the newly sworn Ukrainian president will help normalize ties with Russia. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russian President Vladimir Putin doesn't plan to send congratulations to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy following his official swearing-in earlier. Peskov said Putin would only congratulate Zelenskiy on the 'first successes' in settling the conflict in eastern Ukraine and normalizing relations with Russia. Relations between the two countries have been strained ever since Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea in 2014 and the subsequent separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine. Asked if Russia could meet Zelenskiy's demand to release Ukrainian prisoners, Peskov told reporters that Moscow is willing to continue talks on the issue. ___ 11 a.m. Ukrainian television star Volodymyr Zelenskiy has been sworn in as president and immediately disbanded the Ukrainian parliament. Disbanding the Supreme Rada was one of his campaign promises, for Zelenskiy had branded the body as a group of people only interested in self-enrichment. Before he made the announcement, Zelenskiy asked the parliament to adopt a bill against illegal enrichment and support his motion to fire the country's defense minister, the head of the Ukrainian Security Service and the Prosecutor General. All of them are allies of former President Petro Poroshenko, who lost the presidential election in a landslide to the comedian who had no previous political experience. In a feisty speech after his inauguration, Zelenskiy told the Rada that his main goal for the presidency is to bring peace to eastern Ukraine, where government troops have been fighting Russia-backed separatists for five years. ___ 10:30 a.m. Ukrainian television star Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Monday disbanded the parliament after he was sworn in as new president. Disbanding the Supreme Rada was one of the campaign promises of Zelenskiy who branded it as a group of people only interested in self-enrichment. Before he made the announcement, Zelenskiy asked the parliament to adopt a bill against illegal enrichment and support his motion to fire the country's defense minister, the head of the Ukrainian Security Service and the Prosecutor General. All of them are allies of Petro Poroshenko who lost the election to the comedian with no previous political experience. In a feisty speech after his inauguration, Zelenskiy told the Rada that his main goal for the presidency is to bring peace to eastern Ukraine where government troops have been fighting Russia-backed separatists for five years. 'I'm ready to do everything so that our heroes don't die there,' he said. 'I'm ready to lose my popularly and, if necessary, I'm ready to lose my post so that we have peace.' Zelenskiy ditched the idea of a traditional motorcade and walked to the parliament through a park packed with people. Flanked by four bodyguards, he was giving high-fives to some of the spectators and even stopped to take a selfie with one of them. 41-year-old Zelenskiy garnered 73 percent of the vote at the presidential election last month in a victory that reflected Ukrainians' exhaustion with politics-as-usual. Rumors about Zelenskiy's potential bid first surfaced when he played the Ukrainian president in a television show several years earlier. Zelenskiy wrapped up his speech at parliament by referring to his career as a comedian. 'Throughout all of my life I tried to do everything to make Ukrainians laugh,' he said with a smile. 'In the next five years I will do everything so that Ukrainians don't cry.' __ Vasilyeva reported from Moscow.
  • South Korea vowed Monday to move quickly on plans to provide $8 million worth of medical and nutritional aid for North Korean children through U.N. agencies while it also considers sending broader food aid to the country, which says it is suffering its worst drought in decades. Lee Sang-min, spokesman for Seoul's Unification Ministry, said the government will discuss its plans with the World Food Program and the United Nations Children's Fund, through which the aid would be provided, so it reaches North Korean children and pregnant women quickly. South Korea is also trying to build public and political support for providing wider food aid to North Korea, either directly or through the WFP. North Korea's state media said last week that the country was suffering its worst drought in more than a century amid reported food shortages. 'The government will first discuss with international organizations over the provision of aid and take measures so that the support arrives (in North Korea) quickly,' Lee said. 'On the matter of direct aid, we will consider the matter while sufficiently garnering the opinions of our citizens.' South Korean President Moon Jae-in has expressed hopes that aid will help revive diplomacy and engagement with North Korea, which tapered off after a nuclear summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump in February broke down because of differences over sanctions relief and disarmament steps. Kim has since declared that the Trump administration has until the end of the year to come up with mutually acceptable terms for a deal to salvage the negotiations. While the United States has urged allies to maintain economic pressure on North Korea until it takes material steps toward relinquishing its nuclear weapons, White House spokesman Sarah Sanders recently said Washington has no plan to 'intervene' if South Korea moves forward with food aid. But Moon's government has yet to decide on concrete plans amid growing public frustration over Kim's government, which recently resumed short-range missile tests that were apparently aimed at pressuring Washington and Seoul. It is also unclear whether any aid package from South Korea would influence the behavior of North Korea, which has been demanding much bigger concessions from the South, such as resuming inter-Korean economic projects currently held back by the U.S.-led sanctions against the North. A North Korean propaganda website last week described the South Korean proposals for humanitarian aid as disrespectful and said Seoul was trying to sidestep fundamental issues with 'hollow talk and boastful credit-taking.' North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency said last Wednesday that an average of 54.4 millimeters (2.1 inches) of rain fell in North Korea from January to early May, which it said was the lowest level since 1982. Two days later, the state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper said the average precipitation of 56.3 millimeters (2.2 inches) from January to May 15 was the country's lowest since 1917. U.N. food agencies said earlier this month that about 10 million people were facing 'severe food shortages' after one of North Korea's worst harvests in a decade. North Korean state media are urging farmers to do their best with what they have, to grow as much as possible this year. The Rodong Sinmun urged North Korean farmers on Saturday to meet state goals in food production in the face of 'hostile forces who don't want us to become prosperous and ... are seeking to make our people undergo shortage of food, bring to collapse their faith in socialism.' 'At our farm, we got an announcement about the dry weather conditions from our party and our state authorities, so we have taken advance measures to save water, like preparing the fields earlier than before, because we have to save water as much as we can,' said Kim Chang Jun, vice chairman of a cooperative farm in the village of Sambong, just outside the capital. The last time South Korea provided humanitarian aid to North Korea through an international agency was in 2015, when it gave $800,000 to a U.N. Population Fund project to evaluate North Korean public health conditions. South Korea has not provided direct food aid to North Korea since 2010. Moon's government first proposed providing $8 million to the WFP and UNICEF to help North Korean children and pregnant women in 2017, but the plans were halted amid a series of North Korean weapons tests that year. An abrupt turn toward diplomacy in 2018 saw Kim meet with Trump twice and three times with Moon.