Trump to meet Putin at G20 summit

US President Donald Trump will hold a high stakes meeting with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin when he attends the G20 summit in Germany next week.

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National security adviser HR McMaster confirmed on Thursday that the meeting is one of several Trump has scheduled when he is in Hamburg next week.

McMaster and economic adviser Gary Cohn would not say whether the president intends to address accusations that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, saying that the agenda is “not finalised” for this or any other meeting.

All 17 US intelligence agencies have agreed Russia was behind last year’s hack of Democratic email systems and tried to influence the 2016 election to benefit Trump. Members of his campaign are also under investigation for possible collusion with Russia in the lead-up to the election. Trump has staunchly denied that he had any contacts with Russia during his White House bid.

“Our relationship with Russia is not different from that with any other country in terms of us communicating to them really what our concerns are, where we see problems with the relationship but also opportunities,” McMaster said.

He added that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is taking the lead on the discussions and “has been engaged in a broad, wide-range discussion about irritants, problems in the relationship but also to explore opportunities, where we can work together, areas of common interest. So it won’t be different from our discussions with any other country.”

McMaster added that Trump also plans to meet with the leaders of several other countries – among them, the United Kingdom, Germany, China and South Korea.

New app helps Rio locals avoid shootouts

Every day, Rio de Janeiro witnesses an average of 15 gun battles dramatic enough for any Hollywood action film and a small group of volunteers has developed an app to enable residents to avoid the crossfire.

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Onde tem tiroteio (Where There’s a Shootout), known as OTT, offers nearly instantaneous notification of armed robberies and gunfights throughout the city.

“The idea emerged in December 2015,” project creator Benito Quintanilha said. “I saw a news report about someone hit by a stray bullet in a Rio neighbourhood and I thought ‘why not create a (web) page, a means to alert the Rio population about where there are shootouts.'”

After launching the effort via Facebook, the 41-year-old oil worker found himself overwhelmed by the task and sought help from two friends, physicist Marcos Vinicius, and programmer Denis Colli.

Henrique Coelho Caamano joined the team later.

“We got together and created a template, we have a form,” Quintanilha said. “Each one of us has a task. Enrique and I are in charge of operations, we receive the messages. Marcos Vinicius is in charge of administration, and Denis is our IT expert, he provides support if there’s any trouble with the apps.”

The alerts, which now circulate on Twitter, Instagram, and Telegram as well as Facebook, reach nearly 3 million people, almost half the population of Rio de Janeiro.

To prevent false alarms, the group maintains strict operational standards and relies on a network of trusted informants across the city.

Marcos Vinicius recalls proudly a message the team received by grateful parents who called them “guardian angels” after an OTT alert allowed one of their children to avoid getting caught in the middle of a shootout.

Iraq sees end to ‘caliphate’ as destroyed Mosul mosque recaptured

Iraq declared the Islamic State group’s “caliphate” was coming to an end after it recaptured Mosul’s iconic Nuri mosque Thursday, three years to the day after it was proclaimed by the jihadists.

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The jihadist group announced its self-styled “caliphate” on June 29, 2014, encompassing swathes of territory its fighters overran in Iraq and neighbouring Syria.

Its rule since then has been marked by repeated atrocities including mass beheadings and other executions documented in photos and videos that its supporters share online.

“Counter-Terrorism Service forces control the Nuri mosque and Al-Hadba (minaret),” said Iraq’s Joint Operations Command.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi hailed the recapture of the mosque as a sign of IS’s impending defeat.

We are seeing the end of the fake Daesh state, the liberation of Mosul proves that. We will not relent, our brave forces will bring victory

— Haider Al-Abadi (@HaiderAlAbadi) June 29, 2017

 

The US-led anti-IS coalition also said the end was near.

“I can’t put a timeline on that for them, but I see it closer to days than a week or weeks,” coalition spokesman Colonel Ryan Dillon said, referring to an announcement of Mosul’s recapture.

IS’s “so-called caliphate is crumbling… from the outside and from within,” Dillon tweeted.

The Great Mosque of Al-Nuri and its famed Al-Hadba (hunchback) leaning minaret were Mosul landmarks and also held major significance in the history of IS rule in Iraq.

IS declared its “caliphate” in an audio recording three years ago.

A video released a few days later showed IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi speaking at Friday prayers at the Nuri mosque and calling on Muslims to obey him, his only known public appearance as “caliph”. 

0:00 IS destroyed iconic Mosul mosque Share IS destroyed iconic Mosul mosque

Baghdadi fate unknown

Baghdadi’s fate and whereabouts remain unknown, and IS has lost much of the territory it overran in 2014.

The jihadists blew up the mosque and minaret on June 21 as they put up increasingly desperate resistance to the advance of Iraqi forces.

Only the base of the minaret remains, and while the mosque’s dome is still standing, much of the rest of it has been destroyed. 

The loss of the iconic 12th century minaret — one of the country’s most recognisable monuments sometimes referred to as Iraq’s Tower of Pisa — left the country in shock.

But the destruction had been widely anticipated, with commanders saying IS would not have allowed Iraqi forces to score a hugely symbolic victory by recapturing the site.

IS claimed on its Amaq propaganda agency that the site was hit in a US air strike, but the US-led coalition said it was the jihadists who had “destroyed one of Mosul and Iraq’s great treasures”.

Russia has said it is seeking to verify whether the IS leader, whose whereabouts have been unknown for months, was killed when its warplanes hit the group’s leaders in a night air raid in Syria last month.

Related readingHeritage destroyed

The mosque in Mosul’s Old City was the latest in a long list of priceless heritage and historical monuments destroyed by IS during its three-year rule over swathes of Iraq and Syria.

The jihadists cast the destruction of such sites as a religious duty to wipe out idol-worship, but they have shown no qualms about trading in smaller pieces to fund their rule.

The minaret, which was completed in 1172 and had been listing for centuries, is featured on Iraq’s 10,000-dinar banknote and was the main symbol of Iraq’s second city — giving its name to countless restaurants, companies and even sports clubs in Mosul.

After seizing Iraq’s Sunni Arab heartland in June 2014, IS reportedly rigged Al-Hadba with explosives but was prevented from blowing it up by the local population. The jihadists consider the reverence of objects, including of such sites, as heresy.

The mosque’s destruction came three days after government forces launched an assault on the Old City, the last district of Mosul still under IS control.

The part of Mosul still held by the jihadists is small, but its narrow streets and the presence of a large number of civilians has made the operation perilous.

While Iraqi forces are moving closer to victory in Mosul, the city’s recapture would not mark the end of the war against IS, which still holds significant territory elsewhere in Iraq and Syria.

Some parts of Iraq could see an increase in violence as the jihadists lose more ground, as they will likely increasingly turn to carrying out bombings and other attacks in government-held areas.

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Cardinal Pell vows to fight sex charges

Cardinal George Pell says being charged over historical sexual assault allegations has only strengthened his resolve to prove his innocence.

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Pope Francis has granted Cardinal Pell, who as Vatican treasurer is considered the third most powerful person in the Catholic Church, a leave of absence to return to Australia to defend himself.

Australia’s most senior Catholic says he is looking forward to finally having his day in court, after a two-year investigation, leaks to the media and “relentless character assassination”.

“All along, I have been completely consistent and clear in my total rejection of these allegations,” he said in Rome.

“News of these charges strengthens my resolve and court proceedings now offer me an opportunity to clear my name and then return to my work in Rome.”

The former Melbourne and Sydney archbishop and Ballarat priest says he will return to Australia to clear his name after being charged on summons with offences involving multiple complainants.

Cardinal Pell said he had spoken to his lawyers about when he needed to return and to his doctors about how best to do so.

He remained in Rome for his third appearance before the child abuse royal commission in February last year after medical advice he should not take a long-haul flight due to a worsened heart condition.

Abuse survivor Philip Nagle hopes the cardinal receives medical clearance to travel.

“The time has come. George needs to come home and face the music just like anyone else has to,” Mr Nagle said.

Abuse survivor Peter Blenkiron said it is important everyone gets their day in court, whether it is the alleged perpetrator or the alleged victims.

Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher said he was shocked Cardinal Pell had been charged and no one should be prejudged because of their high profile, religious convictions or positions on social issues.

“The justice and compassion we all seek for victims of abuse includes getting to the truth of such allegations,” he said.

A statement from the Holy See said it learned of the charges “with regret”.

“Cardinal Pell, acting in full respect of civil laws, has decided to return to his country to face the charges against him, recognising the importance of his participation to ensure that the process is carried out fairly and to foster the search for truth.”

The Holy See said it respects the Australian justice system.

“At the same time, it is important to recall that Cardinal Pell has openly and repeatedly condemned as immoral and intolerable the acts of abuse committed against minors.”

The Holy See said during Cardinal Pell’s absence as prefect, the Secretariat for the Economy will continue to carry out its institutional tasks.

“The Holy Father, who has appreciated Cardinal Pell’s honesty during his three years of work in the Roman Curia, is grateful for his collaboration and, in particular, for his energetic dedication to the reforms in the economic and administrative sector, as well as his active participation in the Council of Cardinals.”

Goretka double helps Germany reach Confederations Cup final

Mexico had more chances and more possession but their defence left wide open spaces which were ruthlessly exploited by Germany’s young, experimental team.

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Goretzka struck twice in the first eight minutes before Timo Werner and Amin Younis added two more in the second half, though Marcio Fabian’s 89th minute goal for Mexico was the most spectacular — a viciously swerving drive from 35 metres.

Germany, whose starting team had an average age of just under 24, will meet Chile in Sunday’s final in St Petersburg, having progressed despite resting players such as keeper Manuel Neuer, Mats Hummels, Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller and Toni Kroos.

Mexico’s elimination will leave the fans wondering about their chances at next year’s World Cup if, as expected, they qualify, and of ending a run of six successive last 16 exits.

There was controversy after the break when Werner appeared to be pushed in the back as he broke into the penalty area but the referee waved play on without asking for a video replay.

Germany went ahead after six minutes when Benjamin Henrichs burst down the right and Goretzka swept his low pass into the net from the edge of the penalty area

It took one minute 49 seconds for Germany to double their lead as Werner slipped the ball through an open Mexico defence to Goretzka who clipped it over keeper Guillermo Ochoa.

Mexico looked to be on course for a repeat of their 7-0 loss to Chile at last year’s Copa Centenario and could have gone three behind when Werner broke clear but Ochoa blocked his shot.

Mexico had 58 percent of possession and 25 goal attempts to Germany’s 12 but wasted their openings.

By contrast, Germany were clinical and struck again when their 23-year-old captain Julian Draxler, their most experienced player with 34 caps, slipped the ball to Jonas Hector whose pass into the area was turned in by Werner in the 59th minute

Mexico bravely continued to push forward and Raul Jimenez headed against the bar. Fabian’s goal gave them brief hope of a comeback, which was soon ended by Younis with Germany’s fourth.

(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Ken Ferris)