MILAN, April 30 -- Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has been taken to a Milan hospital with renal colic, a spokeswoman for his Forza Italia party says.
She said the 82-year-old media tycoon still planned to attend a political campaign event on Tuesday afternoon. "As soon as checks currently being carried out are over, he has promised to be present at the Forza Italia event scheduled for this afternoon with the European election candidates," the spokeswoman said in a Whatsapp message. Renal colic is pain often caused by kidney stones. The three-time premier has suffered heart problems in the past. He has said despite his age, he wants to run for the European Parliament elections to restore Europe to its values. His once-dominant Forza Italia party trails in the polls behind the right-wing League and populist 5-Star Movement.
TOKYO, April 30 -- Emperor Akihito declared his abdication at a farewell ceremony Tuesday, expressing his appreciation for the support of the Japanese people during the 30-year Heisei Era under his reign.
"I have performed my duties as the emperor with a deep sense of trust in and respect for the people, and I consider myself most fortunate to have been able to do so," said the 85-year-old emperor, who will become the first Japanese monarch to abdicate in 202 years, in his final speech at the Imperial Palace. The emperor, who will be succeeded by his elder son Crown Prince Naruhito, 59, on Wednesday, also expressed his gratitude to the people who accepted and supported him in his role as the "symbol of the state" as defined by the Constitution. "I sincerely wish, together with the empress, that the Reiwa Era, which begins tomorrow, will be a stable and fruitful one, and I pray, with all my heart, for peace and happiness for all the people in Japan and around the world," the emperor, wearing a morning suit, said in the nationally televised ceremony. Empress Michiko, 84, who wore a long white dress, stood beside the emperor during the 12-minute event, in which the emperor's aides carried two of the three imperial regalia -- the sacred sword and jewel -- which will be passed on to his successor Wednesday as proof of his ascension to the throne. The emperor made the remarks after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his appreciation to him for "always sharing joy and sorrow with the people" and said he gave them "courage and hope for tomorrow."
CARACAS, April 30 -- Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido has called for a military uprising, in a video shot at a Caracas air base showing him in front of a group of soldiers and accompanied by previously-detained activist Leopoldo Lopez.
In the three-minute video shot early Tuesday, Guaido said soldiers who took to the streets would be acting to protect Venezuela's constitution. He made the comments a day before a planned anti-government rally. "The moment is now," he said, as his political mentor Lopez and several heavily armed soldiers backed by a single armored vehicle looked on. Lopez has been under house arrest for leading an anti-government push in 2014. He said Tuesday that he had been freed by members of the military, and reiterated Guaido's call on all Venezuelans to peacefully take to the streets.
"Today, valiant soldiers, valiant patriots, valiant supporters of the constitution, have answered our call," declared Guaido in the video. He addressed the rest of Venezuela's security services, which have thus far remained loyal to President Nicolas Maduro: "I invite you to take to the streets." There appeared to be about two dozen troops behind Guaido in the video posted early Tuesday morning, with a couple of armored vehicles behind them. The Trump administration was one of the first major world powers to recognize Guadio as the legitimate leader of Venezuela, shunning Maduro after a 2018 election widely deemed flawed and undemocratic saw him win another term.
WASHINGTON, April 30 -- Erik Prince - the founder of the controversial private security firm Blackwater and a prominent supporter of US President Donald Trump - has been pushing a plan to deploy a private army to help topple Venezuela's socialist president, Nicholas Maduro.
Over the last several months, the sources said, Prince has sought investment and political support for such an operation from influential Trump supporters and wealthy Venezuelan exiles. In private meetings in the United States and Europe, Prince sketched out a plan to field up to 5,000 soldiers-for-hire on behalf of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, according to two sources with direct knowledge of Prince's pitch. One source said Prince has conducted meetings about the issue as recently as mid-April. White House National Security Council Spokesman Garrett Marquis declined to comment when asked whether Prince had proposed his plan to the government and whether it would be considered. A person familiar with the administration's thinking said the White House would not support such a plan.
Venezuela opposition officials have not discussed security operations with Prince, said Guaido spokesman Edward Rodriguez, who did not answer additional questions from Reuters. Politically far-fetched The Maduro government did not respond to a request for comment. Some US and Venezuelan security experts called it politically far-fetched and potentially dangerous because it could set off a civil war. A Venezuelan exile close to the opposition agreed but said private contractors might prove useful, in the event Maduro’s government collapses, by providing security for a new administration in the aftermath. A spokesman for Prince, Marc Cohen, said this month that Prince "has no plans to operate or implement an operation in Venezuela" and declined to answer further questions. Lital Leshem - the director of investor relations at Prince's private equity firm, Frontier Resource Group - earlier confirmed Prince’s interest in Venezuela security operations. "He does have a solution for Venezuela, just as he has a solution for many other places," she said, declining to elaborate on his proposal. The two sources with direct knowledge of Prince's pitch said it calls for starting with intelligence operations and later deploying 4,000 to 5,000 soldiers-for-hire from Colombia and other Latin American nations to conduct combat and stabilisation operations.
For Prince, the unlikely gambit represents the latest effort in a long campaign to privatise warfare. The wealthy son of an auto-parts tycoon has fielded private security contractors in conflict zones from Central Asia to Africa to the Middle East. One of Prince's key arguments, one source said, is that Venezuela needs what Prince calls a "dynamic event" to break the stalemate that has existed since January, when Guaido - the head of Venezuela's National Assembly - declared Maduro’s 2018 re-election illegitimate and invoked the constitution to assume the interim presidency. Maduro has denounced Guaido, who has been backed by most western nations, as a US puppet who is seeking to foment a coup.
COLOMBO, April 30 -- The first Sunday church services after a series of terror attacks will be held in Sri Lanka’s Catholic churches on May 5, Agence France-Presse (AFP) tweeted on Tuesday, citing a source.
The country’s authorities earlier recommended the island churches suspending religious services until security conditions are improved in the country. Last week the National Security Council cancelled lessons at Sri Lanka’s schools and universities until May 6. On April 21, the heaviest in the country’s history series of terror attacks occurred in Sri Lanka. Eight explosions shook the cities of Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa, in particular in Catholic churches during Easter services and in hotels. It was earlier reported that 359 people were killed in the attacks, but it later emerged that physicians set these figures too high by mistake. According to latest information, about 250 people were killed in the terror attacks.
TOKYO, April 30 -- Emperor Akihito will give a final farewell to the public later Tuesday in a ceremony to mark his abdication, the first by a Japanese monarch in 202 years.
The 85-year-old emperor will make a final speech to the public at the state room within the Imperial Palace in the rite starting at 5 p.m. after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, representing the general public, will offer words of gratitude. The emperor's elder son, Crown Prince Naruhito, 59, will accede to the throne on Wednesday. In the morning, the emperor performed his last rituals within the palace during his reign to ceremonially report his abdication to his ancestors. Clad in a dark orange traditional robe, the emperor paid a visit to sanctuaries within the palace precincts, including "Kashikodokoro," a shrine dedicated to the Shinto sun goddess Amaterasu, from whom the imperial family is said to be descended. He read out a statement to report to the ancestors that his abdication ceremony will be held later in the day.
When performing important rituals, a Japanese emperor dons a type of costume called "Korozen no goho" that dates back to the ninth century. Some members of the imperial family, including the crown prince and the emperor's younger son Prince Fumihito, 53, and his wife Princess Kiko, 52, also attended the rites that lasted for about an hour. But Empress Michiko, 84, who has pains in her neck and arms, and Crown Princess Masako, 55, who is suffering from stress-induced illness, did not join the rituals. Braving the rain, a number of well-wishers gathered in front of the palace to mark the last day of the 30-year Heisei Era under the current emperor, taking commemorative photos and looking for a glimpse of members of the imperial family entering the palace for the rituals. The emperor will formally step down at midnight Tuesday, bringing an end to the Heisei Era. After that, he will no longer engage in official duties. On Wednesday, the new emperor will inherit traditional regalia, called "Sanshu no Jingi," including the sacred sword and jewel, as proof of his ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne in the "Kenji to Shokei no gi" ceremony from 10:30 am. Later in the day, the new emperor will meet Abe and other representatives of the public for the first time since ascending the throne in the "Sokui go Choken no gi" rite beginning at 11:10 am. In 2016, Emperor Akihito indicated his desire to step down in a rare televised video message, citing concern he might not be able to fulfill official duties due to his advanced age. The following year, Japan's Diet enacted one-off legislation enabling him to do so.
APELDOORN, April 30 -- Ten years ago the royal family of the Netherlands escape an attack by car at the celebrations day, called Queensday.
Apeldoorn commemorates the attack on Queen's Day 2009 on Tuesday. Ten years ago, Karst Tates and his black Suzuki Swift drove straight through the audience, trying to ram the bus that had almost the entire royal family in it. His action killed seven people and injured dozens of others. Tates also died of his injuries. The royal family celebrated the hundredth birthday of Queen Juliana in Apeldoorn. A parade would be held at Paleis Het Loo. Just before the palace, near the De Naald monument, Tates tried to commit his assassination. Opposite of De Naald, since 2010, there is also a monument for the victims of the attack. Every year on April 30 people lay flowers there on their own initiative.
MADRID, April 29 -- The governing Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) has won the country's general election with 123 seats after 99.9 percent of the votes were counted.
PSOE's historical centre-right rival, the People's Party (PP), won 66 seats in Sunday's election in Spain. Speaking to supporters in Madrid, PSOE leader and Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said "the future has won" after his party won about 30 percent of the vote. Turnout was about 75 percent. Supporters chanted "With Rivera, no!" at the rally, referring to Albert Rivera, the leader of Citizens, a party that considers itself centrist but allied with PP and Vox, leading to further criticism that it is far right. PP won 66 seats, a decrease of 71 seats from the previous government. PP leader Pablo Casado told supporters on Sunday evening that the party will "continue to lead the opposition and the centre-right" of Spain. Citizens won 57 seats, a gain of 25, while Vox made historic gains with 24 seats representing the far right's return to Spanish national politics. Sanchez announced that he would soon open talks with other political parties to form a coalition.
In Catalonia, which has its own language, voters turned out beyond expectations. The Catalan Republican Left (ERC) - headed by Oriol Junqueras, who is facing trial on charges of sedition, rebellion and embezzlement of public funds over a 2017 referendum on Catalan independence - is projected to win 13 or 14 seats. That number is unprecedented for the Catalan nationalist party. If ERC agrees to a coalition with PSOE and UP, a government could likely be formed. However, PSOE leader Pedro Sanchez has taken a tough stance against Catalan independence, saying there would be "no referendum and no independence" during a rally in Barcelona on Friday. Gerardo Rodriguez, a 42-year-old having lunch in front of a church, said he voted PSOE in part to Sanchez's tough stance on Catalan independence. "Politically, I am in the centre. I have voted for both PP and PSOE in the past," Rodriguez said. "I didn't want to vote PP because of Vox, but I was concerned with Sanchez's stance towards Catalan independence," he continued. "When he said there would be no independence, I was convinced."
BANGKOK, April 29 -- A village in western Japan has taken five Thai college students under its wing, training them in wooden architecture as the Southeast Asian country hopes to put such structures back on the map.
Mitsue, a village located in Nara Prefecture, aims to revive its aging yet key forestry industry through a plan to export model homes using local timber to Thailand, where wooden architecture has become a dying industry. Forest occupies about 90 percent of the area but, due to a prolonged drop in the price of timber and depopulation, the village where the forestry industry once thrived began seeking alternatives to make use of its abundant natural resources, according to the crowdfunding website for the project. The idea was hatched when the village reached out to professor Shin Murakami of Sugiyama Jogakuen University in Aichi Prefecture, central Japan, on advice for a town renewal project. Murakami had been conducting joint research with Bangkok's Sripatum University on environmentally friendly wooden architecture.
Although timber has been a predominant building material in Thailand in years past, there has been a noted decline, mostly due to a lack of good quality teak wood and coarse timber, which is easily infested by termites brought on by the country's tropical climate. Most of the buildings in Thailand are now made of reinforced concrete, and the culture of wooden architecture has not been properly handed down through generations due to a lack of technology to support the industry, according to the project website. At Murakami's suggestion to export model homes using the local timber, the three parties signed an agreement to collaborate on the project focusing on popularizing wooden architecture in Thailand. The five Thai students, who study architecture at Sripatum University, later came to Japan. The students' three month training from March includes learning about the designs of stilted houses for Thailand, as well as gaining an understanding about construction processes through observation.
Oros Loasantisuk, 26, one of the five students in the program and an aspiring architect, touted the advantages of the village's hands-on practical approach. "The designs of wooden architecture may differ from country to country but wood is environmentally friendly," the student said.
"We hope they learn about the brilliance of wooden architecture, Japan's high technology, and the high quality of housing here," said Takefumi Nakako, who works in the department of community development for the village. "We'd be happy if (the experience) leads to the spread of wooden architecture in Thailand," he said.
JAKARTA, April 29 -- The Indonesian government decided Monday to relocate the nation's capital from Jakarta to somewhere outside the densely populated Java Island, a Cabinet minister said.
National Development Planning Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro said the capital will be moved somewhere in central Indonesia within five to 10 years but declined to reveal its location out of concern announcing it now would spark speculative land buying and a spike in land prices in the area.
The decision was made at a Cabinet meeting chaired by Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, Bambang said at a press conference. "This is an important decision...that will be followed by a series of Cabinet meetings" where more technical issues, such as the design of the city, will be discussed, he added.
While its location is being withheld, the new capital is believed to be built in an existing city that already has an airport, harbor and other pieces of infrastructure.