A tiny Philippine volcano that draws many tourists because of its picturesque setting amid a lake belched steam, ash and small rocks Sunday, prompting residents to flee from nearby villages and authorities to raise the danger level.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said Taal Volcano in Batangas province south of Manila blasted steam and ash up to 1 kilometer (about half a mile) into the sky amid signs of its growing restiveness in recent months.
There were no immediate reports of injuries or tourists being stranded in affected villages frequented by foreign and local visitors. Heavy ashfall in outlying areas prompted authorities to advise residents to wear masks.
Authorities have also recorded a swarm of earthquakes, some of them felt with rumbling sounds, and a slight inflation of the volcano edifice, the institute said in a statement.
The institute raised the danger level around Taal two notches on Sunday to Level 3, indicating "magmatic intrusion that is likely driving the current activity." Level 5, the highest, indicates an ongoing eruption.
The institute warned the public to stay away from the small island in the middle of the lake where the volcano lies and asked nearby coastal communities "to take precautionary measures and be vigilant of possible lake water disturbances related to the ongoing unrest."
Taal, one of the world's smallest volcanoes, is among about two dozen active volcanoes in the Philippines, which lies on the so-called Pacific "Ring of Fire," a seismically active region that is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
World leaders traveled Sunday to Oman to meet the country's new sultan, named just a day earlier after the death of the nation's longtime ruler Sultan Qaboos bin Said.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Prince Charles were among those who arrived in Muscat to meet Oman's new ruler, Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al Said.
Other leaders included Kuwait's ruling emir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, as well as Qatar's ruling emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
Sultan Haitham was Oman's culture minister before being named as the successor to Sultan Qaboos, the Middle East's longest-ruling monarch whose death was announced Saturday. He died at the age of 79 after years of an undisclosed illness.
Sultan Haitham, 66, has pledged to follow Sultan Qaboos' example of promoting peace and dialogue in the Mideast. Oman has served as an interlocutor between Iran and the U.S., which are facing a level of unprecedented tensions. Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif traveled to Muscat on Sunday as well to meet Sultan Haitham.
Oman sits on the eastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula.
Libya's east-based forces have announced that they will abide by a ceasefire brokered by Russia and Turkey that is to start Sunday.
If it holds, the ceasefire would be the country's first break in fighting in months, and the first brokered by international players. It comes as Libya is on the brink of a major escalation, with foreign backers of the rival Libyan governments stepping up their involvement on the ground.
A spokesman for the self-styled Libyan Arab Armed Forces, which are led by ex-general Khalifa Hifter, said in a video statement that the ceasefire would take effect starting early Sunday. Spokesman Ahmed al-Mosmari said any violations of the ceasefire by their fighters would be dealt with "severely."
It was not immediately clear if Hifter would also agree to a withdrawal of forces from around the capital. His rival, Fayez Sarraj, who is prime minister of the U.N.-supported government in Tripoli, had demanded previously such a pull out as the truce's condition. Libya is governed by dueling authorities, one based in the east and one in Tripoli in the west, led by Sarraj. Each rely on different militias for support.
Hifter's eastern-based forces launched a fresh offensive to take the capital in April, sparking international efforts to try to contain the crisis in the North African nation.
Earlier this week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin released a joint statement after a meeting in Istanbul calling for a Jan. 12 truce. They did not specify what the conditions would be.
The calls for a ceasefire between the warring eastern and western Libyan forces came amid a flurry of diplomatic activity by European powers. The west-based government welcomed the calls for a stop to the fighting. A spokesman for Hifter's forces said initially that they would continue their push to take the seat of their rivals, Tripoli, from "terrorist groups."
A U.N. peacekeeping body has welcomed the development. The United Nations Support Mission in Libya said in a statement that it hopes all parties will demonstrate "complete adherence" to the agreement to stop the violence. The United Nations and European powers, along with Libya's allies in the region, have been calling for a peace summit to happen in Berlin early this year that would bring together the leaders of the rival governments.
The east-based government, backed by Hifter's forces, is supported by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, as well as France and Russia. The western, Tripoli-based government receives aid from Turkey, Qatar and Italy.
The fighting has threatened to plunge Libya into violent chaos rivaling the 2011 conflict that ousted and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
In the decade since the ouster and death of Gadhafi, the oil-rich nation has increasingly become a setting for proxy battles between regional players vying for influence in the Mediterranean region. Russia and Turkey, with their support of the eastern- and western-based Libyan governments, have become the latest additions.
Thousands of anti-government protesters took part in the "Run Against Dictatorship" in the Thai capital Sunday in the biggest political demonstration in years.
Organizers said more than 13,000 people turned up for the run at a park, demanding that Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha step down. Others cheered them on, giving a three-fingered salute that has been the pro-democracy movement's symbol of resistance.
T-shirts were emblazoned with caricatures of Prayuth, and placards on a stage carried tongue-in-cheek slogans, such as "Every drop of sweat is for the future of Thailand" and "Getting rid of Uncle is harder than getting rid of belly fat." Prayuth's nickname is 'Uncle Tu."
A smaller counter protest by government supporters was held at another city park more than 10 kilometers (6 miles) away, signaling rising political tensions.
Last year's general election was meant to restore full democracy, five years after the military under Prayuth staged a coup and took power. But the poll rules were widely seen as framed to favor the pro-military party. Critics say the election only established a veneer of democracy.
The government's sluggish economic performance has added to a growing sense of discontent.
One participant at the anti-government run, an office worker who gave his name only as Sakdinan, carried a plastic scythe to pose as the Grim Reaper, the symbol of death.
"Everything's worse," he said through a full face mask. "The economy is worse and people are facing difficulties including over freedom of expression."
The trigger for Sunday's rally were moves by courts to dissolve a popular, new progressive political party.
The Future Forward Party came from nowhere to become the third largest group in parliament with 80 seats. Their anti-military agenda made many younger Thais flock to their banner in a challenge to the deeply conservative ruling elite.
The party's rise in popularity has been met with legal cases, through the Election Commission and the Constitutional Court, for a number of alleged breaches of the law. Many now assume the party will be found guilty and dissolved, possibly even this month.
The party's charismatic leader, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, has become a galvanizing figure behind the growing protests.
"The people show great awareness of the political situation," the billionaire businessman-turned-politician said at the rally, in between posing for selfies with excited supporters.
"I believe that in order for Thailand to be able to be a democratic country again, the first step is that General Prayuth has to get out, and the people here today I think we share that feeling. This is the demonstration of the anger of the people," he said.
Similar runs were organized in other provinces Sunday, leaving many to wonder whether Thailand is heading for another prolonged bout of street politics. Rival camps have occupied parts of Bangkok, and sometimes fought running battles, several times over the last 14 years. The unrest has triggered two coups and led to more than a hundred deaths.
He was a middle-aged French author becoming known, even celebrated, for writing about sex with children. She was a fragile 14-year-old, too young to foresee the damage she says was done to her life by his predatory grip on her body and mind.
Now a grown woman, Vanessa Springora is causing a literary, legal and cultural storm in France with her explosive tell-all book that alleges, in cutting detail, an underage and destructive sexual relationship with French writer Gabriel Matzneff, now in his eighties.
The publication this month and quick commercial success of "Consent" is also being hailed by child-protection activists as a possible watershed moment for France. The book has ignited renewed debates about the country's permissive attitudes toward sex with minors and soul-searching about why Matzneff was long celebrated in Paris.
"This is a very important book. It's France's #MeToo moment," says Homayra Sellier, an advocate for child victims of sexual violence with the group Innocence in Danger.
Matzneff is rapidly becoming a pariah in the wake of the book's publication and is now the target of a new rape probe by Paris prosecutors. Yet for years, Matzneff was a frequent guest on French TV and radio. He was awarded a prestigious literary prize as recently as 2013 and honored by the French government with medals and an annual allowance.
But for the teenage Springora, Matzneff was the 50-year-old for whom she developed a schoolgirl crush after her mother, who worked in publishing, dragged her to a dinner party. There, she met and was bowled over by the writer who seemed to have eyes only for her. She alleges he then set about grooming her until he was habitually waiting at her school gates so he could take her away for sex in his flat or a hotel.
Matzneff has defended himself in an essay, which the L'Express magazine published in full. He wrote that he will not read Springora's book, describing it as "a dagger to the heart" that is "intended to harm me, to destroy me" and which "tries to make me out as a pervert, a manipulator, a predator, a bastard." He described his relationship with Springora when she was "my young lover" as one of the "passionate loves" of his life.
Springora says it was Matzneff's own writings that helped break his hold on her.
While he was away on a trip, she read his fetid descriptions of having sex with other children, works he had told her not to look at. They punctured her illusions that their relationship was a special romance.
"His books were populated by other 15-year-old Lolitas," Springora writes, recalling how the blinders fell from her eyes. "This man was no good. He was, in fact, what we are taught to fear from childhood: an ogre."
Many other prominent French figures — belatedly — now say likewise.
Jacques Toubon told the Quotidien talk show that he regrets his decision as culture minister in 1995 to decorate the writer with France's Arts and Letters medal. The current culture minister, Franck Riester, now says Matzneff should no longer receive the annual state allowance for which he is eligible as a renowned author, calling him "the eulogist of pedo-criminality."
While Springora's book is flying off the shelves, already in its seventh printing after a week on sale, publishers who for years backed Matzneff are running in the other direction. They are withdrawing his writings, including "The under 16s," a shock essay first published in 1974.
That essay came in the wake of France's intellectual ferment and social upheaval unleashed by May 1968 riots and strikes, when protesters sought to break free of the country's old political and social order and build anew, behind the slogan "it is forbidden to forbid."
For some, those changes included permissive attitudes to sex, even with minors.
France's trail-blazing 20th-century thinkers Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, future Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and dozens of others joined Matzneff in signing a 1977 petition, published in the Le Monde newspaper, that defended three men detained for three years ahead of their trial for sexual activity with minors.
"Three years of prison for caresses and kisses, that's enough," said the petition, which Matzneff later claimed he wrote.
Child-protection activists want to believe that the revulsion sparked by Springora's book shows that French attitudes are changing. They're also gratified by the refocused attention on Matzneff, a writer who had been allowed to slowly slide into relative obscurity, becoming unknown to many younger readers and seemingly freed of the risk of the legal and financial entanglements he now faces.
"It was very hard to watch him being praised to the skies by everyone," says Sellier, who wrote to then-President Francois Hollande in protest after Matzneff won the prestigious Renaudot literary prize, in its essay category, with few complaints in 2013. "It was shocking. It is shocking. Everyone looked the other way for 30-40 years."
Springora says that award was "unbearable" for her and was one of the triggers that prompted her to write about her experiences and the adults she blames for not protecting her as a vulnerable adolescent. They include her mother, who knew of the relationship, her absentee father, the French police, and others. Now working as a literary editor, the 47-year-old says she also struggles to understand why Matzneff's publishers marketed his most nauseating writings.
Child rights activists hope the outcry over her book could boost efforts to toughen child protections in France. They have been unsuccessful so far in getting a statutory rape law that would remove rapists' ability to argue that children consented to sex. Some French courts have refused to prosecute men for rape because authorities couldn't prove that children were coerced, cases that have exposed legal loopholes that are still open to abusers.
"May '68 shouldn't have been a license to rape children, and yet that is what it became," says Sellier. "This book helps us because it's the first time that a victim of Gabriel Matzneff is expressing themselves. The huge interest of this book is that it's pinpointing France's problem with consent."
For Springora, the book is her way of turning the tables and having the final word.
"What has changed today," she writes, "... is that after the liberation of moral standards, the words of victims are also liberating themselves."