Sri Lanka's new president sworn in
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka -- Veteran politician Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in as Sri Lanka's new president Thursday to take charge of a nation bitterly angry he will remain in power amid an unprecedented economic crisis.
Sri Lankans have taken to the streets for months to demand their top leaders step down to take responsibility for economic chaos that has left the nation's 22 million people struggling with shortages of essentials, including medicine, fuel and food. While the protesters have focused on the Rajapaksa political dynasty, Wickremesinghe has also drawn their ire as a perceived Rajapaksa surrogate.
The six-time prime minister had never held the top job. But he easily won the secret ballot of lawmakers Wednesday to finish the term of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who fled the country and resigned after protesters stormed his residence last week.
His appointment received mixed reactions, with some supporters lighting firecrackers while protesters continued to demand that he resign.
Wickremesinghe, 73, has wide experience in diplomatic and international affairs and has been overseeing bailout talks with the International Monetary Fund. He won the support of 134 members in the 225-member Parliament.
Lawmakers apparently considered him the safer hands to lead the nation through the crisis, despite public anger at Wickremesinghe as an example of the nation's problematic political establishment. During demonstrations last week, crowds set his personal residence on fire and occupied his office.
After Wednesday's vote, Wickremesinghe called for politicians to work together and pleaded for the country to move on. But protesters flocked to the presidential office instead, chanting, "Ranil, go home!"
U.K. sets Scot-independence hearings
LONDON -- The U.K. Supreme Court said Thursday it will hold hearings in October on whether Scotland can call an independence referendum without the consent of the British government.
Pro-independence Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she intends to hold a plebiscite on secession on Oct. 19, 2023. Prime Minister Boris Johnson's U.K. government says it won't allow it because Scots rejected independence in a 2014 referendum that was billed as a once-in-a-generation vote. A vote held without the approval of the London government would not be legally binding.
Sturgeon's Scottish government has asked the Supreme Court to rule on whether it can legislate to hold the vote if the U.K. government does not give the go-ahead.
The court said Thursday it will hear the arguments from both sides on Oct. 11 and 12.
Sturgeon and her Scottish National Party argue that Britain's departure from the European Union and the coronavirus pandemic have upended politics and the economy and that it's time to revisit the case for independence. British voters narrowly approved Brexit in a 2016 referendum, but those in Scotland voted strongly to stay in the EU.
Like Wales and Northern Ireland, Scotland has its own parliament and government and makes its own policies on public health, education and other matters. But the U.K.-wide government in London controls matters such as defense and fiscal policy.
Memorial trees hewed near Nazi camp
BERLIN -- The Buchenwald concentration camp memorial says that seven trees dedicated to the memory of victims of the Nazi camp in eastern Germany have been chopped down.
The foundation that runs the memorial tweeted on Wednesday that the trees near the site apparently were attacked the previous day. It posted pictures showing the trees severed about halfway up the trunk, and said it was "appalled at the deliberate attack on remembrance."
The foundation said that it had filed a complaint to police.
One of the trees was dedicated to children killed at Buchenwald and the others to six prisoners at the camp. The trees were part of a project called "1,000 beeches" and were planted on a route outside the actual camp along which prisoners were taken.
The Buchenwald concentration camp was established in 1937. More than 56,000 of the 280,000 inmates held at Buchenwald and its satellite camps were killed by the Nazis or died as a result of hunger, illness or medical experiments before the camp's liberation on April 11, 1945.
U.S. men bitten by crocodile in Mexico
MEXICO CITY -- Two U.S. tourists were injured by a crocodile at Mexico's Puerto Vallarta resort when one went swimming in the ocean at night and the other went in the water to help him.
The civil defense office in the western state of Jalisco said Wednesday the first American suffered bites to his legs, arm, abdomen and chest. The second, who went in the water to help, suffered a wound to his hand.
The office said both men were given first aid at the scene. It said both men were from Colorado, but did not specify a hometown for either.
Crocodiles are a not infrequent sights in the coastal wetlands and shores of the Pacific coast resort of Puerto Vallarta.