Colleville-sur-Mer (France) (AFP) - President Barack Obama Friday paid poetic tribute to the men who breached "Hitler's Wall" and stormed ashore to liberate Europe on D-Day 70 years ago, saying their sacrifice secured a still-evolving age of democracy and freedom. Obama, speaking as a commander-in-chief who wound down the Iraq war and will end US combat in Afghanistan this year, movingly told the dwindling numbers of living D-Day survivors at the Omaha Beach American cemetery in Normandy, that their legacy was safe with a fresh generation of veterans. The president conjured up the moments of carnage and courage when allied forces left an armada of boats early on June 6, 1944 in the English Channel and walked into a torrent of Nazi fire to liberate Europe. "By the end of that longest day, this beach had been fought, lost, refought and won –- a piece of Europe once again liberated and free.
A Chinese-Australian artist detained after making an artwork about the Tiananmen crackdown ahead of its 25th anniversary is to be deported, Canberra said Friday. Guo Jian, a former Tiananmen Square protester, was taken away on Sunday night from his home in Songzhuang, an art colony on the eastern fringe of Beijing, according to two of his acquaintances. Consular officials had visited Guo on Thursday as they "sought an explanation for his detention" from authorities, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in a statement emailed to AFP Friday. Guo's detention came just days before the 25th anniversary of the June 4 military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square, during which hundreds of people were killed -- by some estimates, more than 1,000.
Four Nigerian newspapers said soldiers stopped and seized copies of its editions on Friday over security concerns, with one likening the raids to censorship during the country's military rule. The military confirmed the searches, but officers denied that the moves were designed to muzzle critics, even though at least two of the newspapers had published damning articles about the army in recent days. Four dailies -- The Nation, the Daily Trust, the Leadership and Punch -- all said they were affected, while The Nation said soldiers stormed one of its circulation offices. Defence spokesman Chris Olukolade said the search "followed intelligence report(s) indicating movement of materials with grave security implications across the country using the channel of newsprint-related consignments".
Standard and Poor's held its debt rating for the United States unchanged at AA+ on Friday, nearly three years after dealing Washington a historic cut to its top-flight grade. S&P said the country's "polarized policymaking environment and high general government debt and budget deficits" prevent a return to AAA status. It also pointed to the doubling of government debt since 2007, and its expectations that while US borrowing have slowed significantly with an improved budget picture, debt growth is likely to pick up again at the end of this decade. At the same time, S&P said the current ranking holds up given the resilience of the US economy, policy flexibility, and the unique status of the US dollar as the world's leading reserve currency.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's re-election this week proves that any solution to the country's conflict "begins and ends" with the embattled leader, Lebanon's Hezbollah chief said on Friday. "The elections proved that a political solution in Syria begins and ends with President Bashar al-Assad," Hassan Nasrallah, a key ally of Assad's regime, said in a televised address. Assad won a new seven-year term in the country's first multi-candidate presidential vote on June 3, taking nearly 90 percent in an election dismissed by the opposition and its international backers as a "farce." The opposition says Assad's departure from office is a condition for any peace agreement, but Nasrallah dismissed that as a possibility.
Edward Snowden does not appear to have taken as much as originally thought from NSA files, The Washington Post reported late Thursday. The damage is still "profound" from the former NSA contractor who blew the cover on vast US surveillance programs of everything from everyday people's phone calls to intrusions into high-tech companies' servers, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said, according to the Post. Still, "it doesn’t look like he took as much" as first thought, Clapper was quoted as saying in what the Post called a rare interview Tuesday.
Guided more by what they can hear than see, Syrian troops and rebels are battling in the bowels of Damascus, digging tunnels in a campaign to control the eastern entrance to the capital. This is the suburb of Jobar, next to Abassid Square, a stronghold of President Bashar al-Assad's regime. Inside an empty building, a hole in the floor leads to an observation room seven metres (23 feet) down, where army computers are linked to cameras rigged up inside a network of army tunnels.
Mosul (Iraq) (AFP) - Twin suicide bombings targeting Iraq's Shabak minority and fighting between security forces and militants killed 36 people in the northern province of Nineveh on Friday, officials said. The violence in Nineveh, one of the most dangerous areas of Iraq, came as the United Nations said it believes close to 480,000 people have been displaced during a crisis in Anbar province, where anti-government fighters have held all of one city and parts of another for months.
Canada added 26,000 mostly part-time jobs in May, but the unemployment rate still edged up to 7 percent as more people entered the labor force, the government said Friday. Employment gains have been "subdued" since mid-2013, Statistics Canada said. Oil-rich Alberta province saw an increase in employment last month while the island province of Newfoundland experienced job losses. There were more people working in educational services, accommodation and food services, as well as in agriculture in May.
Ouistreham (France) (AFP) - President Barack Obama personally told Vladimir Putin Friday he must de-escalate tensions in Ukraine or face deeper international isolation, a US official said. The warning came as the Russian and US presidents had a 15-minute informal encounter at a lunch for leaders attending D-Day 70th anniversary commemorations in Normandy, France. "President Obama underscored that the successful Ukrainian election provides an opportunity that should be taken," said Ben Rhodes, a deputy US national security advisor. "President Obama made clear that de-escalation depends upon Russia recognising President-elect Poroshenko as the legitimate leader of Ukraine, ceasing support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, and stopping the provision of arms and materiel across the border."
U.S. President Barack Obama urged Russia's Vladimir Putin during a brief informal meeting in France on Friday to seize the opportunity to ease tensions in Ukraine after the election of Petro Poroshenko as president, a White House official said. "President Obama made clear that de-escalation depends upon Russia recognizing President-elect Poroshenko as the legitimate leader of Ukraine, ceasing support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, and stopping the provision of arms and material across the border," deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters with Obama for D-Day commemorations in France.
Newark-on-Trent (United Kingdom) (AFP) - British Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives claimed their by-election win on Friday was an endorsement of their deficit-cutting economic plan, after they fended off a stiff challenge from the anti-EU party UKIP. The Conservatives retained the seat of Newark, a mid-sized town in central England, though their majority was slashed from 16,152 to 7,403 by Nigel Farage's UK Independence Party. Cameron's centre-right party mobilised extensive resources in their bid to hold on to the seat, after the anti-European Union, anti-mass immigration UKIP topped the polls at last month's European Parliament elections, rattling the main three parties. The Conservatives bombarded constituents in the rural Nottinghamshire seat with mailshots, phone calls and visits by heavyweight government ministers.
A young Belgian man badly hurt in an attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels died of his injuries on Friday, the public prosecutor's office said. The attack is suspected to be the work of a 29-year-old Frenchman, Mehdi Nemmouche, who has spent more than a year fighting with radical jihadists in Syria and who was detained days after the shooting. It was the first such attack in Brussels in three decades, raising fears across Europe of a resurgence of anti-Semitic violence and of terror attacks from foreign fighters returning from Syria.
Nigeria's military on Friday said they had begun searching vehicles carrying newspapers and newsprint because of security concerns, denying the move was an effort to muzzle media critics. Defence spokesman Chris Olukolade said the search "followed intelligence report(s) indicating movement of materials with grave security implications across the country using the channel of newsprint-related consignments". The country's military has been under sustained pressure -- including increasing media criticism -- over its response to the Boko Haram insurgency in the country's northeast, which has claimed thousands of lives since it began five years ago.
Colleville-sur-Mer (France) (AFP) - President Barack Obama's top foreign policy advisor Susan Rice on Friday said Washington was providing "lethal and non-lethal" support to select members of the Syrian opposition, offering more detail than usual on US assistance. Top Obama administration officials typically decline to say exactly what equipment, arms or ammunition the United States is providing to moderate Syrian opposition forces. But President Barack Obama said in a major foreign policy speech last week that the United States would "ramp up" support for rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad.
Israel's premier and president congratulated Egyptian president-elect Abdel Fattah al-Sisi Friday, stressing their committment to the peace accord between the neighbouring states. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with Sisi and "congratulated him on his victory in the election," the premier's office said. Shimon Peres's office said the Israeli president told Sisi: "Israel is committed to maintain the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt and to strengthening the cooperation between our nations." Peres too wished the Egyptian people "prosperity and success" and said he hoped Sisi would lead Egypt to "great achievements".
Bayeux (France) (AFP) - "It's wonderful as an old man of 91 - it's like coming home." As he was pushed in his wheelchair past the white gravestones of the Commonwealth war cemetery in Bayeux, Australian Bob Cowper was transported seven decades back in time. Returning to Normandy for the first time since taking part in the D-Day invasion, the former night fighter pilot found his mind flooding with bittersweet memories of flying over the landing beaches on June 6, 1944. At the end of a day when, in Barack Obama's words, "blood soaked the water and bombs broke the sky," Cowper and a Royal Australian Air Force comrade climbed into their Mosquito fighter plane and headed for northern France.