BELGRADE, Serbia – A Serb official has branded Montenegro a “criminal” state and threatened a “fierce” response over the neighboring country’s plans to introduce a church law.
The draft law calls for all religious communities in Montenegro to provide proof that they owned their property before 1918 when the small Adriatic state lost its independence and became part of the Serb-dominated Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. If they don’t, the property becomes state owned.
The Serbian Orthodox Church and Serbian officials reacted with fury, saying Montenegro wants to “steal” hundreds of Serb churches and monasteries. Montenegro, which split from Serbia in 2006, denies the claims.
Serbian government minister Nenad Popovic said Wednesday the draft law is a “hostile act” against Serbia.
Two melons were sold at an auction in the northern Japanese city of Yubari last month for a record-breaking $45,600 to a first-time bidder, according to reports.
The public auction, which took place at a wholesale market between May 25 and 29, was the first for the country’s agricultural season. The bidder was an employee from a Japanese beverage company which sells a Yubari melon-flavored soda, according to the Japanese Times.
Two melons fetched for $46,500 at a public auction in the Japanese city of Yubari last month. (sbs.com.au)
The highly-prized cantaloupes were among 1,000 pieces of Yubari-brand melons, the Asahi Shimbun reported. The melons, characterized by a sweet orange pulp, are sought after because of their lengthy ripening period, according to the report.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Air New Zealand Chief Executive Christopher Luxon says he is resigning after seven years in the top job at the national carrier.
Many have speculated that Luxon has political ambitions. In a statement Wednesday, Luxon says he will take some time to reflect on what he will do next, and that his future work options include corporate life, nonprofits and politics.
He steps down as CEO in September but will keep an advisory role.
Air New Zealand is 52 percent owned by the New Zealand government. The airline serves about 17 million passengers each year with a fleet of 115 planes.
In its most recent annual results, the company reported a before-tax profit of 540 million New Zealand dollars ($353 million), it’s second-highest profit ever. As a result, it awarded 8,500 staff bonuses of up to NZ$1,800 each.
PARIS – Many World Cup teammates have special bonds. The tie that binds U.S. defender Ali Krieger and American goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris is among the strongest at the tournament.
They got engaged last year and are planning a December wedding.
“A lot of our teammates with their partners and spouses, they don’t get to be here day in and day out,” Krieger said. “It’s really nice to be able to share this moment with her and to make these memories with her.”
They announced their engagement in People magazine in March, revealing Harris proposed on the beach in Clearwater, Florida, during a picnic last Sept. 15 and surprised Krieger with a ring.
“She is what makes me. She is my life. She is the person I am spending the rest of my life with,” Harris said.
They first met in 2010, a time both were training with the national team. They were teammates with the Washington Spirit of the National Women’s Soccer League for much of 2013-15. Harris was left unprotected in an expansion draft and was taken by the Orlando Pride, and Krieger joined her when she was traded to the Pride after the 2016 season.
While their lives are joined, they are not roommates when national team players double up on the road.
“I think what has made us so successful in the work space together for so long is our boundaries,” Harris said. “When we’re at work, we’re there to work. I’m her teammate, so if she wants to come to me for something, I’m going to give her the real answer, the accountability answer. And then when we’re at home, that’s our time to be at home, and then soccer doesn’t walk through the front door.”
When they head out for the 20-minute trip to training in Florida, their personal lives stay home.
“Sometimes we drive separate,” Krieger said. “I like to have my space sometimes and so does she.”
Krieger grew up in Virginia and played at Penn State before turning pro, and she made her national team debut in 2008. Now 34, Krieger started all seven matches as the U.S. won the 2015 World Cup but she was dropped from the national team in 2017 while Harris continued to get called to camp. Harris provided mental support.
“When she was in town we would get up together 8 a.m., go do workouts, and she really pushed me to get back and I really am grateful and will always be for her support,” Krieger said. “Sometimes I’d feel bad because I would be so emotional and so, maybe tough at times to be around, because I was so angry at times and just really going through it and struggling. So I think with her support, she really helped get me out of that hole and blossom into the woman I am now here.”
Krieger received a text from U.S. coach Jill Ellis on March 19 asking her to give her a call. With decisions on a World Cup roster looming, Ellis told Krieger that night she was wanted back.
She returned for an exhibition against Belgium on April 7 after an absence of two years and a day, then was together with Harris on May 2 when Ellis revealed she was going to the World Cup . Krieger made her 100th international appearance versus New Zealand on May 16, remained on the bench as Kelley O’Hara played right back for last week’s opening 13-0 rout of Thailand, then took over for Sunday’s 3-0 victory over Chile.
Harris, 33, grew up in Florida, was a three-time NCAA champion at North Carolina and turned pro in 2010. While Harris first trained with the national team in 2009, she didn’t make her debut until 2013 and has just 21 total appearances, backing up Hope Solo at first and now Alyssa Naeher.
Their relationship does not appear to be an issue within the national team.
“Everyone’s personal lives is their personal lives, and we respect however they want to show it,” defender Becky Sauerbrunn said.
In an era when more athletes who are gay are comfortable publicly discussing their relationships, Australia captain Sam Kerr revealed in a Nike mini-documentary this year her partner is American midfielder Nikki Stanton , a teammate on the Perth Glory from 2015-17 and since 2018 on the NWSL’s Chicago Red Stars.
Krieger and Harris, though, are together not just on a club but on their sport’s biggest stage during the one month every four years when intense focus is on women’s soccer.
And coming up soon is a wedding they put off until after club seasons end.
“The celebration will be in December,” Harris said, “so there’ll be a lot of teammates there, that’s for sure.”
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THE HAGUE, Netherlands – An international team of investigators building a criminal case against those responsible in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is set to announce progress in the probe, nearly five years after the plane was blown out of the sky above conflict-torn eastern Ukraine.
All 298 passengers and crew on board the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur were killed on July 17, 2014, when a missile shattered the Boeing 777 in midair sending debris and bodies raining down onto farms and fields of sunflowers.
Ukraine’s deputy minister for foreign affairs, Olena Zerkal, told Interfax-Ukraine news agency Tuesday that the investigators will name four suspects. Prosecutors declined to comment on her statements.
The families of those killed will be informed of developments Wednesday ahead of a news conference by investigators.
FILE – In this Aug. 31, 2018 file photo, Venezuelan migrants line up for free bread and coffee, donated by a Colombian family from their car, at a gas station in Pamplona, Colombia. A record 71 million people have been displaced worldwide from war, persecution and other violence, the U.N. refugee agency said Wednesday, June 18, 2019, an increase of more than 2 million from last year and an overall total that would amount to the world’s 20th most populous country. Amid runaway inflation and political turmoil at home, Venezuelans for the first time accounted for the largest number of new asylum-seekers in 2018, with more than 340,000, or more than one in five worldwide last year. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
GENEVA – A record 71 million people have been displaced worldwide from war, persecution and other violence, the U.N. refugee agency said Wednesday, an increase of more than 2 million from last year and an overall total that would amount to the world’s 20th most populous country.
The annual “Global Trends” report released by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees counts the number of the world’s refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people at the end of 2018, in some cases following decades of living away from home.
The figures, coming on the eve of World Refugee Day on Thursday, are bound to add fuel to a debate at the intersection of international law, human rights and domestic politics, especially the movement in some countries, including the U.S., against immigrants and refugees.
Launching the report, the high commissioner, Filippo Grandi, had a message for U.S. President Donald Trump and other world leaders, calling it “damaging” to depict migrants and refugees as threats to jobs and security in host countries. Often, they are fleeing insecurity and danger themselves, he said.
The report also puts a statistical skeleton onto often-poignant individual stories of people struggling to survive by crossing rivers, deserts, seas, fences and other barriers, natural and man-made, to escape government oppression, gang killings, sexual abuse, militia murders and other such violence at home.
UNHCR said 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of last year, up from about 68.5 million in 2017 — and nearly a 65% increase from a decade ago. Among them, nearly three in five people — or more than 41 million people — have been displaced within their home countries.
“The global trends, once again unfortunately, go in what I would say is the wrong direction,” Grandi told reporters in Geneva. “There are new conflicts, new situations, producing refugees, adding themselves to the old ones. The old ones never get resolved.”
The phenomenon is both growing in size and duration. Some four-fifths of the “displacement situations” have lasted more than five years. After eight years of war in Syria, for instance, its people continue to make up the largest population of forcibly displaced people, at some 13 million.
Amid runaway inflation and political turmoil at home, Venezuelans for the first time accounted for the largest number of new asylum-seekers in 2018, with more than 340,000 — or more than one in five worldwide last year. Asylum-seekers receive international protection as they await acceptance or rejection of their requests for refugee status.
UNHCR said that its figures are “conservative” and that Venezuela masks a potentially longer-term trend.
Some 4 million people are known to have left the South American country in recent years. Many of those have traveled freely to Peru, Colombia and Brazil, but only about one-eighth have sought formal international protection, and the outflow continues, suggesting the strains on the welcoming countries could worsen.
Grandi predicted a continued “exodus” from Venezuela and appealed for donors to provide more development assistance to the region.
“Otherwise these countries will not bear the pressure anymore and then they have to resort to measures that will damage refugees,” he said. “We are in a very dangerous situation.”
The United States, meanwhile, remains the “largest supporter of refugees” in the world, Grandi said in an interview. The U.S. is the biggest single donor to UNHCR. He also credited local communities and advocacy groups in the United States for helping refugees and asylum-seekers in the country.
But the refugee agency chief noted long-term administrative shortcomings that have given the United States the world’s biggest backlog of asylum claims, at nearly 719,000. More than a quarter-million claims were added last year.
He also decried recent rhetoric that has been hostile to migrants and refugees.
“In America, just like in Europe actually and in other parts of the world, what we are witnessing is an identification of refugees — but not just refugees, migrants as well — with people that come take away jobs that threaten our security, our values,” Grandi said. “And I want to say to the U.S. administration — to the president — but also to the leaders around the world: This is damaging.”
He said many people leaving Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador through Mexico have faced violence by gangs and suffered from “the inability of these governments to protect their own citizens.”
The UNHCR report noted that by far, the most refugees are taken in in the developing world, not wealthy countries.
The figures marked the seventh consecutive year in which the numbers of forcibly displaced rose.
“Yet another year, another dreadful record has been beaten,” said Jon Cerezo of British charity Oxfam. “Behind these figures, people like you and me are making dangerous trips that they never wanted to make, because of threats to their safety and most basic rights.”
HONG KONG – Hong Kong lawmakers are meeting for the first time in a week, after massive protests over an extradition bill that eventually was suspended.
The agenda for Wednesday’s meeting showed that pro-democracy members were planning to file a motion of no-confidence. They also were questioning security officials about complaints of violent tactics by police during the protests.
The opposition lawmakers were wearing black with white ribbons pinned to their lapels. They put white chrysanthemums, another symbol of mourning, on their desks.
The motion of no-confidence against Chief Executive Carrie Lam was bound to be voted down by the majority pro-government legislators.
SEOUL, South Korea – Chinese President Xi Jinping says North Korea is taking the “right direction” by politically resolving issues on the Korean Peninsula in a rare op-ed published by a North Korean state newspaper a day ahead of Xi’s visit to Pyongyang to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Xi didn’t mention stalled nuclear weapons talks between Washington and Pyongyang in the Rodong Sinmun article Wednesday. He said that his visit would “strengthen strategic communication and exchange” between the traditional allies.
Xi will visit North Korea on Thursday and Friday. Kim met Xi four times in China last year during a diplomatic outreach that also involved meetings with the leaders of the United States and South Korea.
BERLIN – Britain and Italy are making a joint bid to host the U.N.’s global climate summit next year.
The two countries said Tuesday they’re proposing that Britain host the annual U.N. talks in late 2020 and for Italy to stage a preparatory meeting.
They said their partnership would send “a strong signal of determined and informed cooperation on climate change.”
Turkey is also in the running to host the 26th Conference of the Parties, or COP26. Countries are expected to make a decision on the venue during technical talks taking place in Bonn, Germany, until June 27.
Chile is hosting this year’s U.N. summit after Brazil dropped out.
British Prime Minister Theresa May announced plans last week to eliminate the country’s net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
“We are saddened by her death, but at the same time we are honored to have had her as a fellow citizen,” Alfonso D’Aloisio, the town’s mayor, told ANSA.
This photo taken in March shows Giuseppina Robucci from Poggio Imperiale, near Foggia, Southern Italy.
Known locally as Nonna Peppa, Robucci had five children, nine grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren. ANSA said she ran a coffee bar with her husband for years, and had been named “honorary mayor” in 2012.
Robert Young of the U.S.-based Gerontology Research Group told the Associated Press that Robucci was the last European born in 1903 and was just two months younger than the current oldest living person, Kane Tanaka of Japan, who was born on Jan. 2, 1903.
Italy previously claimed the world’s oldest woman. Emma Moran, the last living person verified to have been born in the 1800s, died on April 15, 2017, at the age of 117 years and 137 days.
Fox News’ Francesca Walton and the Associated Press contributed to this report.