Skopje, Sep 13 (AP/UNB) — Western leaders have scheduled more visits to Macedonia ahead of an upcoming referendum that would change the country's name and get it fast-tracked for NATO membership.
European Union foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell plan to be there Thursday.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has a weekend stop planned. The referendum on changing the country's name to North Macedonia is scheduled for Sept. 30.
If voters back the new name, Greece has agreed to stop blocking Macedonia from joining NATO. The Macedonia name has been a source of tension between the neighboring nations for decades.
Greece has a region named Macedonia, and said the use of the same name by the small former Yugoslav republic to its north could imply a claim to the territory and ancient heritage of the Greek province.
The Macedonian government, led by center-left Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, launched its referendum campaign earlier this week, urging people to support the new name. Zaev negotiated the agreement with the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
Macedonia's conservative opposition vehemently opposes the agreement with Greece, saying it was a national humiliation.
The opposition leader, Hristijan Mickoski, reiterated those objections Wednesday but told supporters to vote "with their conscience."
Westerns governments have been vocal in their support of the deal. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were in Macedonia's capital, Skopje, last week to urge voters to support the name change.
At a Pentagon briefing Tuesday, Defense Secretary Mattis told reporters he was concerned about alleged acts of "mischief" by Russia to try to block Macedonia's path to NATO membership.
Russia denies claims of interference, but openly opposes NATO expansion eastward.
Kosovo's President Hashim Thaci endorsed the "yes" campaign at a meeting with Zaev, saying the referendum was "an historic moment that needs to be seized."
Bucharest, Sep 12(AP/UNB) — Romanian Senators approved a measure that could pave the way for the constitution to be changed to explicitly state that marriage is a union of a man and a woman.
Senators on Tuesday voted 107-13 with seven abstentions to allow a referendum that could change the constitution, which currently states that marriage is a union between "spouses." The vote comes after Parliament's Chamber of Deputies last year overwhelmingly approved the same measure.
The vote comes after 3 million Romanians signed a petition demanding that the constitution be changed to redefine marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
Social Democrat chairman Liviu Dragnea has indicated Romania will hold a referendum on the issue in October.
A senator for the ruling Social Democratic Party, Serban Nicolae, said the vote was on religious grounds: "we've been a Christian nation for 2,000 years."
Accept, a Romanian group that fights for equality for same-sex couples, condemned the vote, accusing the Senate of "raising homophobia to state value and sacrificing constitutional protection for many families."
While the ruling could limit the definition of marriage, it would not preclude a law that would recognize same-sex civil partnerships.
Romania, along with Poland, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Latvia, doesn't recognize same-sex marriage or offer legal protection to same-sex couples.
Dhaka, Sep 11 (Dhaka) - Russia has launched its biggest military exercise since the Cold War, involving about 300,000 service personnel, in eastern Siberia.
China is sending 3,200 troops to take part in "Vostok-2018", with many Chinese armoured vehicles and aircraft. Mongolia is also sending some units, reports BBC.
The last Russian exercise of similar scale was in 1981, during the Cold War, but Vostok-2018 involves more troops.
The week-long manoeuvres come at a time of heightened Nato-Russia tensions.
As the exercises began, Russian President Vladimir Putin met his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at a forum in the eastern city of Vladivostok and told him "we have a trusting relationship in the sphere of politics, security and defence".
Relations between Russia and Nato - a 29-member defence alliance dominated by the US - have worsened since Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the drills were justified given "aggressive and unfriendly" attitudes towards Russia.
Wellington, Sep 10 (AP/UNB) — A strong but deep earthquake has struck near New Zealand but didn't immediately cause damage or injuries and a tsunami wasn't expected.
The magnitude 6.9 quake struck Monday in the Kermadec Islands region about 775 kilometers (480 miles) northeast of Auckland, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Its depth was 111 kilometers (69 miles).
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said it didn't expect a Pacific-wide tsunami. New Zealand authorities said they didn't expect a tsunami to hit their country.
Another strong quake hit the South Pacific earlier Monday when a magnitude 6.5 quake struck near the Solomon Islands. There were no reports of damage or injuries.
New Zealand and the Solomon Islands sit on the "Ring of Fire," an arc of seismic faults around the Pacific where earthquakes are common.
New York, Sep 10 (AP/UNB) — CBS Chief Les Moonves resigned Sunday, just hours after six more women accused the veteran television executive of sexual misconduct.
The resignation is effective immediately, CBS said in a statement posted on its website Sunday night.
The New Yorker magazine reported the latest allegations included Moonves forcing women to perform oral sex and retaliating when advances were turned away. Moonves acknowledged relations with three of the women but said they were consensual, adding he had never used his position to hurt the careers of women.
The network didn't address the allegations directly, but said Moonves will donate $20 million to one or more organizations that support the #MeToo movement and equality for women in the workplace.
"The donation, which will be made immediately, has been deducted from any severance benefits that may be due Moonves," the statement said.
Moonves again denied the allegations in a statement issued late Sunday night.
"Untrue allegations from decades ago are now being made against me that are not consistent with who I am," he said.
"I am deeply saddened to be leaving the company," Moonves added, calling it "an incredible privilege" to have worked for CBS.
"The best part of this journey has been working alongside the dedicated and talented people in this company," he said.
CBS said the network's chief operating officer, Joseph Ianniello, will take over Moonves' duties as president and CEO until its board of directors can find a permanent replacement. For the time being Moonves' role as chairman will remain vacant.
Hours before his resignation the New Yorker magazine reported sexual misconduct allegations from six additional women against Moonves, who was already under investigation for similar allegations made by six others.
As that investigation progressed it was widely reported that Moonves would leave the network shortly and was negotiating a severance package. CBS indicated Sunday, however, that no severance agreement has been reached.
"Moonves will not receive any severance benefits at this time (other than certain fully accrued and vested compensation and benefits); any payments to be made in the future will depend upon the results of the independent investigation and subsequent board evaluation," the network's statement said.
Moonves joined CBS as head of entertainment in 1995, and has been CEO of CBS Corp. since 2006, leading the CBS network, Showtime and other entities. CBS has spent much of his tenure as the nation's most popular broadcast network, with hits such as "The Big Bang Theory" and "NCIS," and its success has made Moonves one of the highest-paid and most powerful executives in the business.
One of Moonves' accusers, Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb, also reported her accusations to Los Angeles police last year, but they weren't pursued because the statute of limitations had expired. She said Moonves, while an executive at the Lorimar production studio in the late 1980s, pushed her head into his lap and forced her to perform oral sex.
At another time, she said an angry Moonves pushed her hard against a wall. When she resisted later advances, she began to be frozen out at the company, she said.
"He absolutely ruined my career," she told the New Yorker.
Another woman, Jessica Pallingston, said Moonves forced her to perform oral sex on her first day working as his assistant at Warner Bros. productions. Other women told the magazine of unwanted touching or advances.
In a statement to the magazine, Moonves said the "appalling accusations" are untrue, but he acknowledged consensual relations with three of the women before he started working at CBS.
"I have never used my position to hinder the advancement or careers of women," he said. "In my 40 years of work, I have never before heard of such disturbing accusations. I can only surmise they are surfacing now for the first time, decades later, as part of a concerted effort by others to destroy my name, my reputation and my career. Anyone who knows me knows that the person described in this article is not me."
The organization Time's Up, which fights accusations of sexual misconduct, said the women had made "bone-chilling" accusations against Moonves. "We believe them," Times' Up said in a statement early Sunday. The group said the CBS board has a responsibility to rid the company of a toxic culture toward women.
"A $20 million donation is a first step in acknowledging that you have a problem," Time's Up said in a statement directed at CBS after Moonves' departure. "But it is far from a solution."
It urged the network to use all the money it had allocated for Moonves' severance to "instead help women."
"Cleansing the company of this toxic culture demands real systemic change," the group tweeted.
Ianniello, who will be replacing Moonves on at least an interim basis, joined CBS ins 2005 and has been COO since 2013. He has steered top projects such as the CBS All Access and Showtime streaming services.