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23 student in indian have killed themselves because of school exam result.

At least 23 teenagers in the southern Indian state of Telangana have killed themselves since their school-leaving exam results were announced in April. BBC Telugu's Deepthi Bathini explains why the results have become controversial.

Thota Vennela enjoyed cooking, watching comedy shows and eating street food.

Her older brother, Venkatesh, 19, had recently taught her to ride his motorbike. "I was so happy that she could ride it like a professional biker. But sometimes I would follow her without her knowing to make sure that she was safe," he says. The siblings fought over the bike and played pranks on each other, but they were close.

Venkatesh struggles to hold back tears as he pulls out his wallet to show his sister's photograph. On 18 April - the day she found out that she had failed her 12th class (school leaving) exams - Vennela consumed poison. She died hours later in a hospital.

"She kept repeating, how could I fail?" recalls her mother, Sunitha. "We consoled her and told her it was fine and she could apply for re-evaluation or take the exams again. But even at the hospital she kept saying, 'I should have passed'."

Vennela was one of more than 320,000 students in Telangana who failed their school-leaving exams. All of them were enrolled in schools that teach a syllabus set by the state education board. (Some Indian schools also teach syllabuses set by a national education board.)

Higher education in India is fiercely competitive. And school-leaving exams are crucial for securing a spot in good universities - they are seen as a ticket to a well-paying job and a bright future. Top universities also conduct independent admission tests, but students who perform well in those can still lose their seat if they fail their school-leaving exams.

In the days following the announcement of the exam results, shocked students and parents protested, alleging there had been errors in marking and demanded the exams be marked again.

"My son scored full marks in maths, physics and chemistry in his 11th class exams. But this year the results show that he scored one mark in maths and zero in physics. How is that possible?" says Venugopal Reddy.

"He had been studying for other competitive tests. But after the results, he is dejected. He has stopped studying and eating, and refuses to leave the house. I am worried about his mental health," he adds.

As protests intensified, suicides by students who had failed the exams were reported from across the state.

A child rights group petitioned the state high court, which ordered the board to re-mark the answers of all those who had failed. The new results were announced on 27 May - the scores of 1,137 of the students who had failed were revised, and they were declared successful in the exams. One student who had initially scored zero marks in a subject, ended up scoring 99 when her answers were re-marked.

At the heart of the controversy is a private software firm, Globarena Technology, which in 2017 won the government contract to conduct the exam across the state for more than 970,000 students. It is also responsible for processing the final scores to announce results.

The state education board, which outsourced the job to Globarena, has said the suicides were not "connected to mistakes due to technical and result processing errors".

Globarena conceded there had been errors.

"We follow the process prescribed by the board. The incidents that have happened are unfortunate. Initially there were technical errors. We have made the corrections," VSN Raju, the company's CEO, told the BBC in April.

The family of one of the students who killed herself - Anamika Yadav - has said it will file criminal charges against the education board and Globarena.

Her family told the BBC that the 16-year-old killed herself hours after finding out that she had failed the exams. On 27 May, the re-evaluation said she had passed the exams, but hours later the marks were again revised - she had failed again.

It seems there was a mistake in updating the scores. Board officials said Globarena was not involved in the re-evaluation process.

"This makes us suspicious," says Anamika's father, Atul Ganesh.

Vennela's father, Gopalakrishna, also says he wants to file charges. "I can't trust the board. How can my daughter, who was always a good student, fail? I need answers."

The re-evaluation did not include the marks of any of the 23 students who killed themselves. But their parents are not sure what to make of these results - they are shocked and heartbroken, but are also bewildered and suspicious.

Most of the parents spoke of their children's diligence and ambition.

Vodnali Shivani, 16, woke up at the crack of dawn every morning to study. She wanted to be an engineer and she would often say to her father: "Wait for five years and our lives will change."

Devasothu Neerja wanted to become a doctor, and she spent most nights studying. "She always passed all her exams. So we thought we must do whatever we can to help her," says her father, Rupal Singh.

Bhanu Kiran, 18, loved maths and wanted to become an ethical hacker so he spent a lot of his time watching YouTube tutorials about the subject.

But what underscores all of these memories is the immense pressure to succeed. Students in India - especially those who want to study engineering or medicine - take a series of highly competitive exams in quick succession.

And the race to secure a college place starts early - as early as two years before the school-leaving exams - allowing for a risky and prolonged mix of stress, expectations and dreams.

"The exam itself is surrounded by stress," says psychologist Vasupradha Kartic. "Students need to be counselled regularly."

She adds that students need to be able to see beyond the exams - that failing doesn't mean they have no options left for a career or a future.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-48050020

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Nurse becomes internNurse becomes internet sensation after singing to boy battling canceret sensation after singing to boy battling cancer

Beth Porch has been described as a "little bit of brightness" for playing a ukulele while singing a McFly song to Artie Vickerage

he three-year-old has been bedridden for the last seven weeks after being diagnosed with a rare type of cancer called Burkitts Lymphoma.

Footage of the touching moment was posted on Twitter by Artie's mother Gemma and retweeted more than 4,000 times, bringing it to the attention of McFly singer Tom Fletcher.

He tweeted: "Beth, you are an absolute hero with the voice of an angel. Gemma, I hope your little one is doing ok.

Artie, from Hockley in Southend-on-Sea, was taken to Great Ormond Street Hospital in London at the end of May after his mother discovered a large lump in his belly.

Gemma Vickerage told Sky News: "I immediately knew something was wrong.

"I took him to the hospital and we were referred to Great Ormond Street straight away, the next day they had started treatment.

"With this type of cancer the tumour can double in size within 24 hours. The one in his stomach was already sitting at 11.5cm. He also had fluid on his lungs and a lymph up near his heart.

"When you come in you get told that the treatment is intended to break them but it has to happen to make them better.

"I was not prepared at all for how bad it would be. It's heartbreaking, it has been the worst time of my life.

"You never imagine it would be you, you never think something like this would happen."

Throughout his intensive chemotherapy, Artie was cared for by Miss Porch.

Mrs Vickerage said: "He has just been so poorly and it can be hard to stay positive but Beth is just a little bit of brightness and she really makes a difference."

Miss Porch told Sky News that she has been overwhelmed by the reaction to the video of her singing.

The 24-year-old said: "The response to the video has been crazy. It doesn't feel real. I didn't expect to go viral.

"It's been strange to think that so many people have heard me sing, including big celebrities! Tom Fletcher is a musical hero of mine, so for him to say I have the voice of an angel has been very overwhelming."

She added: "I started bringing in my guitar for a boy who wanted to learn to play but the teacher couldn't see him regularly, so I would play with him every shift.

"Then all the other families would hear and soon I would just take my guitar from room to room.

"Unfortunately some patients are on our ward for end of life care, so I have been a part of some incredible moments with families, creating final memories with their children.

"It will only take me an hour or two to learn a patient's favourite song, and that's enough to distract them from their pain and bring them happiness in their final days with their family."

https://news.sky.com/story/nurse-becomes-internet-sensation-after-singing-to-boy-battling-cancer-11765566

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Uganda: Two-Time Rape Victim Infected With HIV, Forced to Marry Rapist

Jane Draru (not real names) seats on the verandah of her grass thatched house in Kopu village in Ayipe Sub County in Koboko District folding her hands on her chest. She celebrated her 18th birthday early this month. Draru, who seems lost in a state of despair was raped twice in a space of four years, impregnated and infected with HIV.

"I don't know what to tell you. I wait for a time when I will also die. After all, even my child has died," she narrates. Draru was first raped in March 2015 as she returned from Ayipe Trading Centre around 8pm.

She was confronted by a man whom she knew as a family friend. "He wrestled me down and then raped me. I reported to my parents but I was blamed for it. They said I had wanted to have sex with him," she says. Draru decided to keep quite because her family chose to blame her.

Six months later, Draru escorted her friend to a health facility. While there, a health worker discussed the advantages of knowing one's health status. She was hesitant to test because people had told her that the person who had raped her was already on HIV treatment.

She feared knowing her status but nevertheless, her friend encouraged her to test and the results confirmed her suspicion. Draru rushed home and shared the test results with her parents.

However, the suspect's family said they were not aware and there was no proof that their son had actually raped her. "I decided that I would look for this man and do something to him. But I was informed that he left this place and I have never seen him again," Draru said.

At the time of the first incident, Draru was a Primary Four pupil at Ayipe Primary School. She immediately stopped going to school thinking that she would die soon. Draru started operating a food joint to earn a living. She could wake up as early as 5am and return home past 9m.

However, bad luck struck again as she was raped for the second time in June 2018. The rapist waylaid her on her way home about 15 minutes to 10pm.

Unlike the previous time, she couldn't identify the rapist. She only managed to identify the rapist with the help of her neighbors after describing how he was dressed.

"I went to report to the Chairman. But the suspect fled before he could be arrested. I have never seen him since then," Draru said. According to Draru, she could have chopped the rapist into pieces had she got chance to pounce on him.

Forced marriage

Since her neighbors had identified the second rapist, her parents held a meeting with his family. The two families agreed to settle the matters amicably. A month later, Draru missed her periods. She tested for pregnancy and the results were positive.

The parents asked her whether the pregnancy was as a result of the second rape or it was someone else. "I told them I had not engaged in any sexual activity except when I was raped. They took me to the man [rapist]'s home and his parents accepted to take care of me. I started living with them until I gave birth," she said.

Her child was born weak. Draru didn't have money to take her baby to better health facilities. However, in both incidents she didn't report to police because she was never supported by her parents.

No justice

"I wish my rapist could be arrested and killed. I would be happy if they are arrested. They raped me and ran away. I am now suffering with HIV. They are enjoying life," Draru said.

Although she is she is already on HIV treatment, Draru says sometimes she gets angry and abandons the drugs. Draru says she sees no reason for taking drugs since she could die any time. She says her child could have survived to give her a reason for living.

Draru is part of the 47,746 girls defiled in the last three years, according to the Police Annual Crimes records of 2016, 2017 and 2018. This translates into 15,915 girls defiled every months and 43 on a daily basis.

Police statistics show 201 girls were defiled by people living with HIV in 2018, 115 were defiled by guardians, ninety-five pupils by their teachers, 90 secondary school students by teachers, 90 girls with disabilities were defiled and 84 girls by their biological parents.

Activists speak out

Child rights defenders such as Reach a Hand Uganda (RAHU), Centre for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) and Partner in Community Transformation (Picot) put the blame to lack of comprehensive police on Sexuality, Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) that would empower girls with appropriate information on how to deal with sexual advances.

Maureen Andinda, the RAHU's Strategy and Business Development Manager, reasons that absence of clear policies regarding the approach and response to young people's sexual reproductive health challenges creates an environment where inaccurate, mythical and downright wrong information sharing thrives.

Andinda says young people listen to wrong information and base on it to make their reproductive health choices without guidance therefore young people are not able to stand up for themselves against vices such as sexual harassment, abuse or peer influence.

"Inadequate response to these occurrences contribute to a lot of the reproductive health indicators that remain unacceptably high for example; the ever increasing cases of teenage pregnancy and HIV prevalence amongst young people," Andinda said.

Lydia Ceyo, the Picot's project manager cites West Nile region, says there is need for a detailed approach to address Sexuality, Reproductive Health Rights-SRHR in solving problems faced by girls such as Draru.

She believes if Draru had been empowered, she would have thought of post-exposure prophylaxis (Pep) soon after she had been raped and it could have probably prevented her from getting HIV.

"For instance, in this West Nile, many parents do not believe that a girl can be defiled or raped. This is why they often force victims to get married to their rapists. I have intervened in numerous cases where raped girls are being forced to get married to their rapist," Ceyo says.

Joy Asasira, CEHURD's research and documentation manager, says the problem lies in the response of different stakeholders that are tasked with ensuring that young people have access to information and services. Asasira insists that equipping children with SRHR information would be pivotal in making informed choices, especially as they relate to their sexuality.

"From the smallest unit to the larger institutions like schools and churches, young people are being encouraged to abstain, maintain moral turpitude, but that is not enough. Young people need more information about how to prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexual violence," Asasira explains.

Ismael Mulindwa, the Education Ministry's Policy Analyst, believes all child rights queries are answered by the National Sexuality Education Frame (NSEFW) launched by First Lady and Minister for Education, Janet Museveni. Mulindwa refers Andinda, Ceyo and Asasira to NSEFW's objectives that he says summarize issues of child marriages and teenage pregnancies.

Sheikh Juma Muhammad Chuchu, the Education Secretary Uganda Muslim Supreme Council (UMSC), says religious leaders are not against efforts by the Education ministry to address SRHR. Chuchu says as clerics they have issues on the content that that they intend to give the children given their age.

"We are saying that they should involve us from the start so that we can advise them on how to package information for children. You cannot teach relationships to children of three years and we just look on. We can't accept that," Chuchu said.

The Education ministry's list of activities to be done once implementation is enrolled out include teaching children of 3 to5 years old sexuality and human development, sexuality and relationships, sexuality and sexual behaviour, sexuality and sexual health.

Records from the Criminal Investigation Directorate show that more than 25000 cases have been dismissed by court for lack of substantive evidence in the last four years. Majority of the cases rotate around sexual offences.

"There are a number of factors for cases to be dismissed. Sometimes complainants lose interest in cases and this is very true in cases of sexual offenses. Victims fail to report to court because suspects compromise the and when you summon them to report to court, they don't turn up, later on the cases are dismissed," CID Director Grace

https://allafrica.com/stories/201907160089.html

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13 year old boy dead over a cell phone fight with parents.

MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa -

An Iowa 13-year-old who ran away from home last week after his parents took away his cellphone was found dead Sunday less than a mile and a half from his house.

The body of Corey Brown, of Marshalltown, was found around 11:45 a.m. Sunday in a secluded area of the city, which is located just over 50 miles northeast of Des Moines. Corey had been missing for more than four days. 

“At this time, there is no evidence or information that indicates criminal activity is connected to this missing person/death investigation,” . “However, this is still an active investigation and all possible scenarios will be thoroughly investigated.”

The chief previously told reporters at a news conference that Corey left home following an argument with his parents, during which they had taken his phone. security camera footage showed the boy leaving his home around 11 p.m. Jan. 22, while the city and surrounding area were under a winter weather advisory. 

His parents did not realize he was missing until the following morning, when they found his bedroom empty.

“Anyone with kids has had discussions with their children about household rules,”  “This was a typical parent-teenager interaction. No anger. Nothing extraordinary.

The Browns immediately reported their son missing,  More than a dozen law enforcement agencies from around Iowa joined Marshalltown first responders in search efforts coordinated out of a local Lutheran church, 

Hundreds of volunteers also began showing up at an area Catholic church to form search parties, but Tupper and his crews sent the volunteers home so they would not impede the search efforts,  

Efforts were already hampered by frigid temperatures and more than 6 inches of snow that fell the night Corey left his home and the following day. Temperatures topped out at 29 degrees while the boy was missing and the lowest temperature, recorded Friday morning, was -9 degrees, 

Corey’s family made an impassioned plea Thursday for the teen to come home. 

“Corey if you are out there please come home,” a tearful Michelle Brown said. “You know how much we love you and I’m not going to stop until we find you. If you are out there, come home. We love you more than you’ll ever know.”

It was unclear Monday how long the teen survived the weather, but an autopsy was planned to determine when and how he died. Tupper said Corey was found in the same clothing he was wearing when he vanished -- a red shirt, black pants, a black and lime green coat and a Seattle Seahawks stocking cap.

Corey’s fellow students at Miller Middle School spent part of the day Monday decorating his locker with notes of remembrance for the eighth-grader described as a bright, kind and friendly child. 

“Rest in peace. You were an awesome friend and a great person and I wish I just could have said bye,” one note read,  

“We will miss you so much,” another note read. 

Marshalltown Community School District officials  that additional counselors were and would remain at the middle school, as well as at the high school, for several days to help students, faculty and staff process their loss. 

Marshalltown Mayor Joel Greer offered his condolences on Facebook to the Brown family, who Tupper said requested privacy following the discovery of Corey’s body. 

Our hearts bleed for the Brown family,” Greer wrote,  “The whole city and all well-wishers will keep them in our thoughts and continue our prayers for them.”

In an opinion piece  Tupper expressed dismay with some of the national news coverage of Brown’s disappearance, accusing some media outlets of sensationalizing and inaccurately reporting details of the case “in an effort to hint someone must be to blame.” He also pointed at “keyboard warriors on social media” who speculated and theorized on what happened and who might be to blame. 

“I have held the hand of far too many parents as they mourn the loss of a child,” Tupper wrote. “Any senseless or unexpected loss of life is difficult to deal with but, when a child dies, it hurts in ways that for me are indescribable.”

The chief wrote that it is normal to seek answers and accountability when a tragedy takes place, but that sometimes, there is no explanation. 

“We convince ourselves we would have done something different to prevent tragedy had it been us in the shoes of those dealt the horrible blow,” Tupper wrote. “Maybe this is how we cope. Maybe this is how we try to convince ourselves such horrible things will never happen to us. We know better after all and someone must have done something wrong to cause this.”

That mindset is wrong, the chief wrote. 

“The Brown family deserves, and needs, our support, our love,” Tupper wrote. “They deserve compassion. There is nobody to blame here, folks.

“Corey Brown did nothing wrong. The Brown family did nothing wrong. They were the victims of unfortunate circumstances that could have just as easily visited our own families. Tragedy sometimes just happens. All you can do is support one another.”

https://www.boston25news.com/news/trending-now/iowa-13yearold-found-dead-after-running-away-over-cellphone-fight-with-parents/911662014

 

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Thieves attacked man outside red lobster

 Police say a group of thieves was so bold that they attacked a man outside a DeKalb County restaurant and then opened fire on an off-duty officer Monday night.

The officer shot two of the suspects, wounding one and killing another, according to police. Two other men got away, police said.

Channel 2's Tom Jones was in DeKalb County where a Clarkston police officer was working a part-time security detail Monday night at the Red Lobster on Candler Road.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said the officer saw a man in the parking lot who had been robbed. 

According to the GBI, the officer approached him to help, when four other men got into a car and started shooting at the officer and victim as they drove away.

The officer shot at the men in the car, hitting two of them, police said. The gunmen sped off but stopped at a Wendy's down the street where two of them took off running. Police are still searching for them. 

The two other men were taken to Grady Memorial Hospital, where police said one of them died.

That man’s family identified him as Darion Jones.

They told Channel 2’s Tom Jones he was not a robber and that they do not believe the officer’s version of what happened.

On Thursday, the GBI identified Jones as being 26 years old. They said the other person involved in the shooting is Qasim Abdullah, 20, who remains in the hospital.

Family members at the scene said they will not stop until they get to the bottom of what happened. 

Meanwhile, neighbors told Jones the area has gotten so violent, they are afraid to even walk down the street. 

DeKalb Police Officer Edgar Flores was murdered about a mile away on Candler Road less than a month ago. 

"We have people walking around here who are openly packing guns," one neighbor told Thomas. "It's gotten to the point where it's scary.'

https://www.wsbtv.com/news/local/dekalb-county/shootout-in-parking-lot-of-red-lobster-leaves-robbery-suspect-dead-police-say/900882651

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10 suspected dead in Japan in anime studio

KYOTO - A man started a fire at a Kyoto animation studio after spraying a liquid Thursday morning, leaving at least 10 dead and nearly 40 injured, several of them unconscious, local police and rescuers said.

Many bodies were found on the second floor of the three-story Kyoto Animation Co. studio after the fire started around 10:30 a.m. The police also found knives at the scene.

 

 

The company is known for producing popular TV animation series “K-On!”, “Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu” (“The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya”), “A Silent Voice,” “Clannad” and “Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon” (“Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid”).

The 41-year-old man who has said he started the fire was among the injured and has been taken to hospital, the police said.

People near the studio said they heard a series of explosions and saw black smoke billowing out of the building. People were later seen being carried out of the studio covered in blankets.

“A person with singed hair was lying down and there were bloody footprints,” said a 59-year-old woman who lives nearby.

“I heard a bang and the black smoke and the burning smell were awful,” said a hair salon manager in his 30s.

Kyoto Animation, known for short as “KyoAni” in Japan, has animation studios in Kyoto and nearby Uji, where it is headquartered. The studio in question is its first studio, according to the company.

The company, founded in 1981, has released a number of animations appealing to younger generations, particularly in the 2000s. Many fans have visited locations associated with the works.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/07/18/national/dozens-injured-fire-kyoto-anime-studio-man-questioned-police/#.XTAUn_lKjIU

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Canadian Girls’ kidnappers storm Kumasi

The eight suspects, who were recently nabbed in connection with the kidnapping of two Canadian ladies in Kumasi in the Ashanti Region, returned to the city where they were captured recently.

The suspected kidnappers, including Seidu Abubakari, aka Mba, believed to be a ring leader, were in the city in the company of heavily armed police investigators from Accra to ‘recreate’ the crime scene.

The other suspected kidnappers are Sampson Aghalor, Elvis Ojijorwe, Jeff Omarsar, Yussif Yakubu, Abdul Nasir, Safianu Abubakari and Abdul Rahman.


“They were in Kumasi for what we call in police as ‘Search Without Warrant’,” a source disclosed to DAILY GUIDE.

The source also disclosed that the suspects stayed in Kumasi for two days (Wednesday and Thursday) and as part of investigations into the kidnapping of the Canadians who have since flown back to their home country after their dramatic rescue.

Kidnapping Hideout

The eight kidnappers were reportedly marched to the uncompleted two-bed room house at Kenyasi Achiase, where they kept the victims for several days.

The top police investigators were said to have asked the eight suspects key questions, especially regarding how they brought the hapless ladies to the place.

The suspects, according to reports, were also asked about how they managed to force the girls into a waiting Uber car at Nhyiaeso and sped off to Kenyasi Achiase for hiding.

Rooms Searched

The investigators were also said to have visited the various homes of all the suspects, where they thoroughly searched their rooms for evidence.

The investigators visited places like Sawaba, Dichemso, Asokore Mampong and a hostel at Sawaba Junction where the suspects were residing.


Seidu Rents 5 Rooms

In the course of the search, it came to the attention of the investigators that Seidu Abubakari had rented five different rooms at different locations in Kumasi at the same time.

They then marched him to all the five rented rooms in the city and searched the places thoroughly without anybody knowing about it.

For security reasons, the source did not disclose as to whether the investigators managed to retrieve any offensive or illegal item during the ‘Search Without Warrant’ operation.

Kidnappers Back In Accra

The eight suspected kidnappers were taken back to Accra on Thursday evening to continue with investigations in the case which had gained worldwide attention.

Chilling News

It would be recalled that two Canadians, who were in Kumasi for humanitarian projects, were kidnapped by some unknown hoodlums at Denyame a few weeks ago.

There were three Canadian ladies in an Uber car from the Baba Yara Stadium area to their hostel at Denyame but unknown to them some miscreants trailed their car.

Two of the Canadian girls, who sat at the back of the Uber, were quickly bundled into a waiting Toyota Corolla car by the miscreant right in front of their hostel around 9pm.

Sensing danger, the Uber driver also drove from the crime scene with the third Canadian, who was in the front seat, to lodge a complaint with the police immediately.

Kidnappers Rescued

The kidnappers reportedly hid the two Canadian girls in a dilapidated building at Kenyasi Achiase with the hope of taking a ransom from their families back in Canada.

Reports indicated that the kidnappers briefly opened a Twitter account to communicate with the families of the victims but they shut the account down few minutes later.

Through painstaking investigations, a crack team from the National Security, BNI and the police managed to rescue the two girls at Kenyasi Achiase some weeks ago.

Unconfirmed reports indicated that the kidnappers were overpowered by the security forces after a gun battle, leading to the rescue of the Canadians.

All the eight suspects, including some Nigerians, are currently standing trial in court in Accra.
 

https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/New-twist-in-Canadian-girls-kidnap-763827

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A 17-Year-Old Girl Was Murdered. How Did Photos of Her Death Go Viral?

A 17-year-old Instagram celebrity was brutally murdered allegedly by an obsessed male friend who then posted images of the slaying on Instagram, gaming website Discord, and 4chan, prompting an outpouring of shock and horror on social media.

The victim, Bianca Devins, is a 17-year-old so-called “egirl” who lived in Utica, NY, and had a small following on Instagram under the name @escty. Devins also frequently posted on the discussion forum 4chan. Utica Police confirmed Devins’ death.

According to a statement sent to Rolling Stone from the Devins family, Bianca was “a talented artist, a loving sister, daughter, and cousin, and a wonderful young girl, taken from us all too soon.” The statement also notes that Devins had just graduated from high school and was looking forward to attending a local community college in the fall. “She is now looking down on us, as she joins her cat, Belle, in heaven,” the statement reads. “Bianca’s smile brightened our lives. She will always be remembered as our Princess.”

“She was a sweet person, very caring,” says a friend of Devins who identified herself as a 20-year-old named Chels, who met Devins on a Discord server three years ago. “She always tried to make people feel good, feel loved, helped them when they were down even if she was going through her own shit.”

The suspect is Brandon Andrew Clark, a resident of Bridgeport, NY, which is about an hour away from Utica. Clark allegedly posted photos of the murder on his Instagram story, including an extremely graphic and bloody image of the victim sitting in an SUV with her neck cut. He also allegedly posted a photo on a server on Discord, with the caption, “Sorry fuckers, you’re gonna have to find someone else to orbit.” (Orbiting is a term used to describe men who lurk on a woman’s social media accounts in the hopes of having sex with her.) Shortly after posting the images, Clark posted a number of other cryptic videos on the Instagram story for his account @yesjuliet, including him driving a car down a dark road with the caption: “Here comes hell. It’s redemption, right?” Clark also changed his Instagram bio to read  “10/06/1997 – 7/14/19.”

According to Chels, who was on the server, Devins and Clark attended a concert by Canadian musician Nicole Dollenganger the night before the murder. Clark was supposed to be Devins’ ride home. Chels said that Clark and Devins reportedly met up with another person, a male, at the concert. The three reportedly smoked weed in Clark’s car together before Clark and Devins drove back to Utica around 10:00 pm.

In DMs with another friend on the Discord server that were shared with Rolling Stone, Devins makes reference to Clark being “so mad” that she held hands with this person and kissed him at the show. The last message sent by Devins is timestamped 5:47 am, less than two hours before police arrived at the scene to discover her body.

The images were posted around 6:40 a.m. “I didn’t believe it [at first]. I thought it was fake or a lookalike,” she says. “Then I started comparing her distinct facial features … after I realized, ‘Holy shit, this might be her.'” Someone else on the server who followed Clark on Snapchat found his location on Snapmaps and called the police, who arrived at the scene shortly thereafter. When reached for comment regarding how the images ended up on the server, a spokesperson from Discord told Rolling Stone: “We are shocked and deeply saddened by this terrible situation. We are working closely with law enforcement to provide any assistance we can. In the meantime, our hearts go out to Bianca’s family and loved ones.”

In a phone interview with Rolling Stone, Lt. Brian Coromato of the Utica Police Department said Utica police received multiple calls at around 7:20 a.m. from concerned 4chan and Discord users who had seen Clark’s posts. Coromato also said they received a call from Clark himself, who “made incriminating statements with respect to the homicide” and “also was alluding the fact that he was going to harm himself,” according to a statement sent from the UPD. When an officer approached him, Clark began stabbing himself in the neck.

When police arrived at the scene, Devins was already deceased; though an autopsy has not yet been conducted to determine time and cause of death, Coromato says police believe it was a few hours before Clark called police, and “multiple sharp objects” were found at the scene, including a razor and a knife. Clark was alive, though severely injured from apparently self-inflicted wounds, and is in critical condition, Coromato says.

Coromato confirmed the authenticity of three images that circulated on Discord, 4chan, and Instagram following her death, though he says a video circulating purporting to be of her death is not authentic. Though he declined to confirm the identity of the victim or suspect, a heartbreaking Instagram post from Devins’ sister appeared to confirm Devins’ death, reading: “I hate knowing you’re not going to ever come back home. You were the best sister anyone could’ve ever asked for.” Another Instagram post from Clark’s brother also alluded to the crime, reading: “Shoutout to all the people who target someone’s family and blame them for a persons [sic] decisions. Nothing better than waking up at 4am to find out your brother killed someone and tried to kill himself.”

It’s unclear at this time what the precise nature of Clark and Devins’ relationship was. On social media, many painted Clark as a lonely, obsessed fan who had stalked Devins and tracked her down at a concert, then killed her after she sexually rejected him. This narrative prompted the hashtag #ripbianca, which went viral, with many claiming the tragedy was an all-too-familiar story for women, who are often terrified of rejecting men for fear of inciting their rage.

While Coromato declined to specify Clark’s potential motive, he said that police believed Clark and Devins “were boyfriend/girlfriend, whatever kids these days call it.” Chels, however, disputed this, saying that while the two were friends and knew each other well, their relationship was strictly platonic. She also said that on the night of Devins’ murder, Clark had agreed to drive her to and from a concert they were both attending in Utica. “They were on good terms,” she says.

tragedies like this are the exact reason why girls are afraid to reject guys, they fear his reaction. they fear losing their life due to a man’s inability to handle rejection, so he lashes out. stop fucking taking our lives bc we said no. we have EVERY RIGHT to say no. #ripbianca

— may ? (@yuppmayyy) July 15, 2019

https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-news/bianca-devins-murder-brandon-andrew-clark-858874/

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El Salvador: woman whose baby died in toilet birth back in court

A 21-year-old woman who gave birth to a baby in a toilet in El Salvador has returned to court for a second trial for murder in a case that has drawn international attention because of the country’s highly restrictive abortion laws.

Evelyn Beatriz Hernández, who says she was raped and had no idea she was pregnant, had already served 33 months of her 30-year sentence when the supreme court overturned the ruling against her in February and ordered a fresh trial with a new judge.

It is the first retrial of an abortion case in a country that aggressively pursues murder cases against women who have experienced miscarriages and obstetric emergencies.

Speaking as she entered the courthouse on Monday, Hernández said: “I want justice to be done. I know everything is going to be OK. My faith lies with God and my lawyers.” She added that she hoped for “good things, unlike what happened before, and I am innocent”. Hernández pleaded not guilty.

Women’s rights advocates hope the government of Nayib Bukele, who took office last month, will soften the country’s stance on reproductive rights. Dozens of women have been convicted of similar offences and jailed.

The woman’s lawyer, Elizabeth Deras, said: “What Evelyn is living is the nightmare of many women in El Salvador.”

Hernández has said she recalled making her way to an outhouse in a poor, rural community in April 2016 with strong abdominal pains. She squatted to defecate and the baby must have slid to the bottom of the septic tank, she says. Evelyn’s mother says she found her daughter passed out next to the makeshift toilet and hailed a pickup truck to transport her to a hospital 30 minutes away.

The foetus was 32 weeks old and forensic examiners were unable to determine at what point the death occurred. The cause remains unclear.

Both women insist they did not know there was a baby in the septic tank.

“I truly did not know I was pregnant,” Hernández said. “If I had known, I would have awaited it with pride and with joy.”

The supreme court has accepted the defence lawyers’ argument that no proof of Hernández having caused the baby’s death was presented.

The trial looks set to be the first test for reproductive rights under Bukele, who has said he believes abortion is only acceptable when the mother’s life is at risk, but added that he is “completely against” criminalising women who have miscarriages.

“If a poor woman has a miscarriage, she’s immediately suspected of having had an abortion,” he said last year. “We can’t assume guilt when what a woman needs is immediate assistance.”

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Earthquake hits Indonesia

Indonesia's Moluccas islands have been hit by a series of aftershocks after a magnitude 7.2 earthquake killed at least two people, prompting hundreds of people to flee their homes.

The United States Geological Survey said Sunday's quake was centred 166km southeast of Ternate, the capital of North Maluku province, at a depth of just 10km. Shallow tremors tend to cause more damage than deeper one.

Agus Wibowo, spokesman for Indonesia's national disaster agency, said on Monday two women were killed by collapsing houses and more than 2,000 people had relocated to temporary shelters. The earthquake was followed by at least 65 smaller aftershocks.

The hardest-hit areas, Sofifi and Labuha, can only be accessed by a 10-hour boat trip from Ternate or by small plane, Wibowo said.

"We don't wish for more victims, but we cannot rule out that possibility since access to the area is difficult and we cannot yet collect all the data regarding casualties," Wibobo told reporters in the capital, Jakarta.

Even though the authorities said there was no risk of a tsunami, many people ran to higher ground, and television footage showed panicked residents screaming while running out of a shopping centre in Ternate.

Ikhsan Subur, a local disaster agency official in Labuha, the town closest to the earthquake's epicentre, said several hundred people who were afraid of aftershocks took shelter in government offices and mosques.

He said a police dormitory and several houses of villagers in South Halmahera district were damaged.

With a population of around one million, North Maluku is one of the less populated areas in Indonesia, a country of more than 260 million people that is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions due to its location along the Pacific "Ring of Fire".

A powerful Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami in 2004 killed a total of 230,000 people in a dozen countries, most of them in Indonesia.

Last week, a magnitude 6.9 undersea earthquake caused panic in parts of eastern Indonesia and triggered a tsunami warning

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/07/powerful-earthquake-hits-parts-eastern-indonesia-190714154651065.html

 

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Are the rules which have stopped nuclear war broken

"We are moving in a minefield, and we don't know from where the explosion will come."

A warning from former Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov delivered at this week's influential Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference in Washington DC.

Former US senator and long-time arms control activist Sam Nunn echoed the sentiment. "If the US, Russia and China don't work together," he argued, "it is going to be a nightmare for our children and grandchildren."

He urged the present leaders to emulate the approach taken by Presidents Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev towards the end of the Cold War, and to rally around the premise that nuclear war cannot be won, and must therefore never be considered.

Mr Reagan dreamed of missile-proof ballistic missile defences, but also came close to negotiating a comprehensive nuclear disarmament deal with his Russian counterpart Mr Gorbachev

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  • NIGERIA PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION UPDATE 2019

     

    2015

     

    2019

    State

    Buhari          

    Jonathan         

    State

    Buhari            

    Atiku                  

    Abia

    13,394

    368,303

    Abia

    85,058

    219,698

    Adamawa

    374,701

    251,664

    Adamawa

    377,488

     412,266

    Akwa Ibom     

    58,411

    953,304

    Akwa Ibom

    175,429 395,832

    Anambra

    17,926

    660,762

    Anambra

    31,452 487,550

    Bauchi

    931,598

    86,085

    Bauchi

    798,428

    209,313

    Bayelsa

    5,194

    361,209

    Bayelsa

    118,821

    197,933

    Benue

    373,961

    303,737

    Benue

    347,668

    356,817

    Borno

    473,543

    25,640

    Borno

    836,496

    71,788

    C.River

    28,368

    414,863

    C.River

    117,302

    295,737

    Delta

    48,910

    1,211,405

    Delta

    221,292

    594,068

    Ebonyi

    19,518

    323,653

    Ebonyi

    90,726

    258,573

    Edo

    208,469

    286,869

    Edo

    267,842

    275,691

    Ekiti

    120,331

    176,466

    Ekiti

    219,231

    154.032

    Enugu

    14,157

    553,003

    Enugu

    54,423

    355,553

    Gombe

    361,245

    96,873

    Gombe

    402,961

    138,484

    Imo

    133,253

    559,185

    Imo

    140,463

    334,923

    Jigawa

    885,988

    142,904

    Jigawa

    794, 738

    289, 895

    Kaduna

    1,127,760

    484,085

    Kaduna

    993,482

    613,318

    Kano

    1,903,999

    215,779

    Kano

    1,464,768

    391,573

    Katsina

    1,345,441

    98,937

     

    Katsina

    1,232,133

    308,056

    Kebbi

    567,883

    100,972

     

    Kebbi

    581,552

    154,282

    Kogi

    264,851

    149,987

     

    Kogi

    285,894

    218,207

    Kwara

    302,146

    132,602

     

    Kwara

    308,984

    138,184

    Lagos

    792,460

    632,327

     

    Lagos

    580,814 

    448,016

    Nassarawa

    236,838

    273,460

     

    Nassarawa

    289,903

    283,847

    Niger

    657,678

    149,222

     

    Niger

    612,371

    218,052

    Ogun

    308,290

    207,950

     

    Ogun

    281,762

    194,655

    Ondo

    299,889

    251,368

     

    Ondo

    241,769

    275,901

    Osun

    383,603

    249,929

     

    Osun

    347,634

    337,377

    Oyo

    528,620

    303,376

     

    Oyo

    365, 229

    366, 592

    Plateau

    429,140

    549,615

     

    Plateau

    468,555

    548,665

    Rivers

    69,238

    1,487,075

     

    Rivers

    150,710

    473,971

    Sokoto

    671,926

    152,199

     

    Sokoto

    490,333

    361,604

    Taraba

    261,326

    310,800

     

    Taraba

    324,906

    374,743

    Yobe

    446,265

    25,526

     

    Yobe

    497,914

    50,763

    Zamfara

    612,202

    144,833

     

    Zamfara

    438,682

    125,423

    FCT

    146,399

    157,195

     

    FCT

    152,224

    259,997

    TOTAL

    15,424,921

    12,853,162

     

    TOTAL

    15,191,847 11,262,978


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    How many IS foreign fighters are left in Iraq and Syria?

    Tens of thousands of foreign nationals have travelled to Syria and neighbouring Iraq to fight for the Islamic State (IS) group.

    With the end of the IS territorial "caliphate" imminent, the US has led calls to repatriate the hundreds of men women and children who have been detained on the battlefield. However, many countries have so far been reluctant to do so.

    Jihadists began travelling to Iraq in 2003 when a US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein's regime triggered a Sunni insurgency. Hundreds are thought to have joined al-Qaeda in Iraq, a precursor to IS.

    IS militants hold up black jihadist banners in Raqqa on 30 June 2014

    The Islamic State group urged Muslims to migrate to their new "caliphate"

    Many more went to Syria after a civil war erupted there in 2011. Their presence complicated the conflict and helped make it overtly sectarian in nature, pitching the country's Sunni majority against President Bashar al-Assad's Shia Alawite sect.

    There was a huge surge in arrivals after IS seized control of swathes of Syria and Iraq in 2014 and urged Muslims to migrate to their new "caliphate".

    How many foreigners joined IS?

    The United Nations has said that more than 40,000 foreign fighters from 110 countries may have travelled to Syria and Iraq to join terrorist groups.

    A July 2018 study by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) at King's College London based on official, academic and other data concluded that 41,490 people - 32,809 men, 4,761 women, and 4,640 children - from 80 countries were affiliated with IS specifically.

    Bar chart showing how many men, women and children have joined IS group in Iraq and Syria

    Researchers found 18,852 came from the Middle East and North Africa, 7,252 from Eastern Europe, 5,965 from Central Asia, 5,904 from Western Europe, 1,010 from Eastern Asia, 1,063 from South-East Asia, 753 from the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, 447 from Southern Asia, and 244 from Sub-Saharan Africa.

    Approximately 850 people from the UK were among them, including 145 women and 50 children.

    Bat chart showing countries in Western Europe with the highest number of nationals joining IS in Iraq and Syria

    The US-led Global Coalition to Defeat IS, which has provided air support and military advisers to local forces in Iraq and Syria since 2014, has said it believes the vast majority of IS militants are dead or in custody. But it has declined to speculate on the number of foreign fighters who may have been killed.

    The head of MI5 said in October 2017 that more than 130 Britons who had travelled to Iraq and Syria to fight with IS had died.

    An official from a US-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), said on 18 February that it had about 800 foreign fighters from almost 50 countries in its prisons. At least 700 women and 1,500 children were being held at camps for displaced people, Abdul Karim Omar added.

    Few of the SDF's detainees have been identified. But El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey are among six from the UK to have been named. The pair are alleged to have been part of an IS execution cell dubbed "the Beatles" that beheaded at least 27 Western hostages.

    Interview with so-called 'IS Beatles' duo

    Mr Omar reiterated that the SDF wanted the foreign fighters to be repatriated. He warned that they were a "time bomb", saying an attack on northern Syria by Turkey - which has vowed to crush a Kurdish militia that dominates the SDF - could spark chaos and allow the jihadist to escape.

    However, their home countries have raised concerns about bringing hardened IS members back and the challenges of gathering evidence to support prosecutions.

    There are believed to be another 1,000 foreign fighters of various, sometimes undetermined, nationalities under arrest in Iraq, according to the UN.

    French jihadist Djamila Boutoutaou is tried at the central penal court in Baghdad on 17 April 2018

    Djamila Boutoutaou from France was sentenced to life in prison in Iraq for being an IS member

    It is not clear whether that figure includes women and children. But a group of more than 1,300 of them are known to have been detained near Tal Afar in 2017.

    Human Rights Watch said at least 72 of those women had been put on trial by June 2018, accused of illegal entry and being a member of, or assisting, IS. Most of them, it added, had been found guilty and sentenced to death or to life in prison. They were from a number of countries, including Turkey, Russia, France and Germany. Children aged nine and above have also been prosecuted.

    After five years of fierce and bloody battles, Syrian and Iraqi forces, backed by world powers, have driven IS out of almost all of the territory it once controlled.

    However, UN Secretary General António Guterres told the Security Council at the start of February 2018 that IS was reported to still control between 14,000 and 18,000 militants in Iraq and Syria, including up to 3,000 foreigners.

    Is this the end for Islamic State?

    Mr Guterres published his findings as the SDF launched an offensive to capture the last pocket of territory controlled by IS in Syria.

    Foreigners who have fled the fighting around the village of Baghuz and been detained by the SDF include the British teenager Shamima Begum, who was 15 when she ran away from her home to join IS.

    Map showing how the area under IS control has shrunk

    ICSR researchers found that at least 7,366 foreigners affiliated with IS had travelled back to their own countries, including 256 women and up to 1,180 children.

    By June 2018, 3,906 had returned to countries in the Middle East and North Africa, 1,765 to Western Europe, 784 to Eastern Europe, 338 to Central Asia, 308 to South-Eastern Asia, 156 to Southern Asia, 97 to the Americas, Australia and New Zealand, and 12 to Sub-Saharan Africa.

    Of the 425 who returned to the UK, only two women and four children were confirmed, according to the ICSR.

    The UN has expressed concern about returnees becoming active again on release from prison or for other reasons. It has also said radicalised women and traumatised minors may pose a threat.

    More than 2,000 children of foreign fighters are being detained at prisons in Iraq and at three SDF-run camps in Syria, often in poor conditions with a lack of access to education and basic services.

    Most of the children are being held with their mothers. Many of their fathers are detained elsewhere, missing or dead. Some of the children have meanwhile been orphaned.

    A detained female Islamic State member and her children at the al-Hol camp in north-eastern Syria (17 February 2019)

    The UN has called for all children under 18 to be repatriated immediately

    The majority of the children have not been charged with any crime, according to Human Rights Watch. But most of their home countries have resisted calls to repatriate them. Officials have said traumatised children may be security threats, or that it is difficult to verify their nationalities.

    The UN has warned that the children may be at risk of becoming stateless, despite having citizenship or a claim to citizenship of a country. It has called for all children under 18 to be repatriated immediately and for the development of specialised child-protection programmes to ensure their full reintegration into society in their home countries.

    In January, two Trinidadian boys taken to Syria by their father were released from an SDF camp and repatriated with the help of Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters.

    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-47286935

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    The Christmas present that could tear your family apart

    This Christmas it's likely that more people than ever before will spit into a tube, or swab some cheek cells and send the result off for DNA analysis. Millions in the US have already done it, and the craze is spreading. But what happens when you find out a lot more than you were expecting?

    Three years ago, Jenny decided to take a DNA test "just for fun". The youngest of five children, she had always been intrigued by stories about her ancestors. As a teenager she loved looking at old photographs with her grandfather and over the decades she had painstakingly pieced together her family tree.

    Once her children were grown and she had more time on her hands, Jenny, a freelance writer from Connecticut, began going to genealogical conferences and workshops to improve on her methodology. "Everyone was talking about doing these DNA tests but I wasn't keen - it all sounded very scientific and I have no head for that."

    Yet Jenny was curious to see what the test might reveal about her ethnic background, so she sent off for a kit and gave it a go.

    There were no surprises when the results revealed her heritage as largely British, including Scottish, with a smattering of genes from Scandinavia. "Nothing exotic," she laughs.

    Jenny

    But a year later she did a test with another genetic testing company and persuaded her brother to do one too. This time there was a surprise. The email with the results included a chart that she struggled to understand - but something written underneath immediately caught her eye: "Estimated relationship: half-sibling."

    Jenny assumed her brother had done something wrong when he took the test. She decided that he must have left the kit lying in the sun or forgotten that you are not supposed to eat or drink an hour before providing the saliva sample.

    "I was mad at him," says Jenny. "I thought - how typical! I asked him to do one little thing and he still couldn't get it right. I tried to rationalise it but at the same time there was this pit in my stomach."

    Quotebox: I just felt that everything I had known for 50 years wasn't true

    Jenny searched for answers online and learned about the centimorgan - a unit of genetic linkage. Siblings typically have 2,500 centimorgans or more in common but Jenny only shared 1,700 with her brother.

    Tormented by doubt, she asked her father's cousin, a woman in her 90s, to take the test too. "She had helped me a lot with genealogy, we had traded photographs and she was a very sweet person," says Jenny. "I feel terrible that I didn't tell her the real reason. I said it would be a fun thing to do and promised I'd send her the report."

    Six weeks later Jenny was sitting in bed with her iPad when the results popped into her inbox. Unlike her brother, she shared no DNA with her father's first cousin.

    "I could just feel my heart breaking," says Jenny, her eyes filling with tears. "I thought, 'Oh, my god it's true!' My poor husband sleeping next to me had no idea what was going on. I have never felt so alone."

    Graph showing the rapid rise of DNA testing

    • Family history has been described as the second biggest hobby in the US after gardening, and as the second biggest activity on the internet after pornography
    • The price of DNA testing kits has plummeted - in the US they're available for less than $100, while one UK high street chain sells them for £80

    Jenny told nobody about her findings for several months. Instead she sent DNA kits to her remaining brother and two sisters and coaxed them into giving saliva samples. She had always thought she looked different from them - less tall and less dark - and the results confirmed that she was the odd one out.

    Jenny also talked her 86-year-old mother into taking the test. "She was my mom of course, but I wanted irrefutable proof because finding out that the man who had raised me wasn't my dad shook me to my core," Jenny says. "I just felt like everything I'd known for 50 years wasn't true any more."

    A year later she summoned the courage to bring the subject up with her mother, who was frail and suffering from cancer. As they sat drinking tea, Jenny explained that the DNA test had thrown up some weird results.

    Quotebox: I couldn't let her die and not have some questions answered"My mom was holding a teacup, she had it up to her mouth and was about to drink but she just stopped and looked at me and her hands started to shake," recalls Jenny.

    "She was a Boston woman, a strong proud Yankee. I don't think I ever saw her cry - so to watch her shaking like that was so hard," adds Jenny. "I really agonised about asking her - I didn't want to upset her, but I also thought that I couldn't let her die and not have some questions answered because I knew I'd always regret it."

    There was a business owner who lived in the same town as Jenny's family and she remembers that he had always been very friendly with her mother. She asked if this man was her dad. "I said his name," says Jenny. "Her eyes got huge and she asked me how on Earth I'd worked that out."

    Jenny aged three

    Jenny's mother admitted she had hoped to take the secret with her to her grave. She had never told her husband about the affair, so the man who raised Jenny was unaware he was not her biological father - something which Jenny now finds "incredibly reassuring". She describes her father, an engineer who died nearly a decade ago, as "an introverted, innocent man" and she feels that he would have been devastated to learn the truth.

    "It was like a new bereavement. I went through all these stages of grief," she says. "It was something out of my control, there was no going back and no way to fix it."

    Jenny found some solace in a book, The Stranger in My Genes, written by Bill Griffeth, a financial journalist who had a similar experience.

    Listen to Lucy Ash's report, DNA, me and the family tree for Crossing Continents, on BBC Radio 4, at 11:00 on Thursday 20 December 2018.

    "He hates it when I say it, but he really saved me," Jenny says.

    "Without his book, I think I would have gone nuts or done something destructive in my life. I contacted him, and he encouraged me to write a diary about my feelings and he even read the stuff I sent him which was very kind."

    Bill, the co-anchor of CNBC's Nightly Business Report, says his life was turned upside in 2012 after a DNA test. He learned that his Y chromosome didn't match his own brother's and that his biological father had died 13 years earlier.

    "I never met my father," he tells me over lunch at his home in New Jersey. "I never shook his hand, never hugged him never heard the sound of his voice. Never saw him walk never heard him laugh."

    Bill Griffeth holding a picture of his biological father

    Like Jenny, Bill was fascinated by his family tree and had discovered that one of his ancestors was executed during the Salem witch trials of 1692. Researching his roots was "something of an obsession" and for years he had visited graveyards, cathedrals, libraries and courthouses all over the country to gather more information.

    When Bill learned that he was not related to the man he'd known as his father - that he was not in fact part of the Griffeth clan - he felt an overwhelming sense of loss.

    "It was all a big lie, and I was so angry. And I was so sad all at the same time," says Bill. "How ironic that I'm the unofficial historian of our family. I've spent years learning about all of these people. And it was taken away from me just like that."

    Like Jenny, Bill also faced the unenviable task of confronting an elderly mother about her infidelity decades earlier. "The last thing we would believe about my sainted mother was that she had strayed," he says. "She was a devout Christian. She was a teetotaller. She was the classic church lady."

    Bill's mother was 95 when they had this awkward conversation and she reluctantly admitted she "made a mistake" by having a brief fling with a former boss.

    "I didn't want this to define our relationship in her final years. Unfortunately, I think it did, though," he says. "There was sort of a coolness between us after that. I think she was mightily hoping that she could slip out the back door at the end of her life without this ever being exposed."

    Stories like Bill's and Jenny's are far from unique - across the country, do-it-yourself genetic testing kits are dragging skeletons out of the closet in their hundreds, if not thousands.

    Catherine St Clair, a county official from Conroe, Texas, was given a DNA test for her 55th birthday by her older siblings. She too found out her biological father was a man she had never met but - unlike Bill and Jenny - her mother was no longer alive, so there was no way of getting answers to her questions.

    She was distraught, and was struggling to accept the test results until she spoke to another woman in the same situation and decided to set up a self-help group. A year-and-a-half later Catherine's group has almost 4,100 members.

    Catherine St Clair

    It is called DNA NPE Friends - the last bit stands for Not Parent Expected. Some members were the product of secret affairs, in some cases their mothers were raped, others were never told that they had been adopted as babies or small children.

    I am invited to one of the group's meetings in a Mexican restaurant in Waco, Texas. A dozen people sit around a table at the back of the room eating tacos and having intense conversations. Most have driven hours to get here in pouring rain from all across the state. Catherine encourages the shyer members to speak, makes the odd joke, hands out tissues and tells tearful women not to think of themselves as anybody's "dirty little secret".

    I meet Betty Jo Minardi, an online sales director with long dark hair who is accompanied by her husband, Angelo. Two-and-a-half years ago she took a DNA test which showed that her brother was only a half-brother. Like Jenny, she then got her father's first cousin tested and found that she shared no DNA with him.

    Quotebox: It's sad, because my mom and I had a close relationship

    So she phoned her mother in Minnesota and gently told her the results. Betty Jo's mother immediately said the testing company, Family Tree DNA, must have made a mistake. The next time the subject was raised, her mother, flanked by Betty Jo's half brother and sister, angrily accused her of lying. Her half-brother said Betty Jo "needed to spend some time on a couch" because she was mentally unbalanced, while her sister wrote a Facebook post saying the DNA tests were untrustworthy and that only the FBI could provide accurate genetic data.

    Betty Jo wanted to be absolutely sure that her dad could not be the man who raised her, so she went one step further. Although he had died three years earlier, she had some of his hair and she sent it to a lab to do a paternity test. The analysis came back saying they shared 0% DNA.

    Betty Jo and her father

    At this point her half-sister said what she was doing was "evil" and in a family group text message Betty Jo was told, "You no longer exist to us." Since then Betty Jo has not spoken to her half siblings or her mother.

    "It's sad, because my mom and I had a close relationship when I was growing up," she says. "She used to call me every week and now - never. I cried every day for months, I was depressed, had a sort of breakdown. Christmas is an especially difficult time of year, but my kids and my husband have been really supportive and I'm much better now."

    Betty Jo believes her mother's pride, her Christian faith and the image of herself as "a perfect wife and mother" prevent her from admitting she had child out of wedlock. "I said if she didn't want to talk about it, she could give a statement to her attorney for me to read after her death," says Betty Jo. "But she didn't even bother to reply."

    Some of the DNA sites have linked Betty Jo to third and fourth cousins of Mexican descent. With her dark hair and eyes and olive skin, she believes that her biological father may well have come from south of the Texas border. Her mum and the father who raised her are of northern European descent.

    But Betty Jo is not motivated by curiosity alone. She says it would be helpful to know her ancestry for medical reasons. She says she suffers from a thyroid problem and that she and her daughter share another condition that doesn't exist on her mother's side of the family.

    People like Jenny, Bill, Catherine and Betty Jo - mostly in their late 40s or 50s - are all pretty much in the same boat. Their mothers got pregnant by someone who wasn't their husband - whether willingly or not. It's hard to come to terms with, but the practical consequences tend to be limited by the fact that most of the parties involved are either very elderly or dead. So what happens when a DNA kit reveals the secrets of those who are younger?

    Lawrence (not his real name) also contacted Catherine St Clair and she put him in a special category - not for children, like most of those in her Not Parent Expected group, but for fathers.

    His daughter, who had long been keen on family history, had been pleading with him to buy a DNA test and he had resisted, put off partly by the $99 price tag. Then one day he gave in.

    Man's mouth being swabbed

    When Lawrence's wife heard this she "looked like she'd got hit by a truck", Lawrence says.

    She turned pale, he remembers, and "had this horrible expression on her face, like when somebody is caught stealing something".

    That night she closed their bedroom door and confessed to a long affair with a man she had met at work. A paternity test, two months after their daughter was born, had confirmed her hunch - the little girl was not her husband's child. She had kept that secret for 15 years.

    Numb with shock, Lawrence phoned his mother and said he was going to walk out on both his wife and daughter. But his mother stopped him.

    "My mom said, 'Your daughter is innocent in this. She had nothing to do with it. You love her. And biology doesn't change that.' So luckily, she talked some sense into me," says Lawrence. He still left his wife, who he felt was unrepentant, but remained a father to his daughter.

    Lawrence says that for a long while he felt utterly alone, because men - in his experience - are reluctant to talk about marital problems. Just one friend admitted that his wife had had affairs, but a paternity test had revealed that he was the biological father of his children.

    Quotebox: I tell everyone - 'Be prepared, there could be skeletons in your closet'

    "Nobody could understand that actually finding out your daughter wasn't yours is worse than finding out your wife had an affair. A hundred times worse," he says. "I was on an infidelity support group on Facebook when one of the women in Catherine's group reached out to me to join this NPE group and they set up a father's section of it."

    Lawrence told his daughter he wouldn't prevent her from contacting her biological father - after all he knew the man's name, address and phone number. But to his relief, she wasn't interested - she refers to him as "the sperm donor".

    But Lawrence's son, the younger child who is biologically his, blamed his sister when their parents split up. Lawrence felt this was unfair and said so.

    "I told him it's your mother and what she did that caused the divorce not what your sister did by being born," he says.

    Despite what has happened, Lawrence says he is glad he took the test.

    "I don't have any regrets taking the DNA tests. I'm glad I found out the truth. But I tell everybody who wants to take the DNA test, 'Be prepared for unexpected results. There could be skeletons in your closet.'"

    Some, unlike Lawrence, wish the skeletons had been left undisturbed. One woman I met at the Not Parent Expected meet-up in Waco told me she would be happier if she could go back in time and un-know what she had discovered.

    Man looking at DNA testing kit deal online

    I asked her why, and there was a long pause.

    "It's OK," she said eventually. "I just didn't know I was going to cry today. I didn't plan on it. I just feel like I lost so much and I can't replace it with something good."

    But there can be positives to DNA tests, too.

    Bill Griffeth has visited his biological father's grave, found pictures of him, and has reached out to a niece who knew his father when she was a college student. She was happy to hear from Bill and is helping him to fill in some of the gaps in their family tree.

    In Texas, Catherine St Clair is also in touch with relatives she never knew she had. Last summer, she and her half-sisters, Rayetta and Mona, met in California for a long weekend and got on like a house on fire.

    Betty Jo will have her fingers crossed this Christmas when lots of people get testing kits as gifts. She hopes that a closer relative on her father's side will take a DNA test and that in time she will learn who her real father is.

    It took Jenny a long time to tell her husband and children about her DNA test. In the run up to Thanksgiving this year she informed all of her siblings and admits she was "scared silly" about it. They took the news better than she expected, although one sister is still "a bit in denial" and keeps questioning the results.

    Jenny and her father

    Jenny's daughter, Katie, who is in her mid 20s, understands her mother's grief. "I think I would call her a daddy's girl," she says. "I remember whenever it was my grandpa's birthday, she would change her profile picture on Facebook to one of her and him together."

    She adds: "Her dad is dead, the person she thought was her dad was dead. Her mom is dead - she died last Christmas - so now she's left to deal with this huge burden on her own."

    Jenny knows that she has bio-siblings. She has no plans to contact them at the moment but is aware that one day the phone may ring. "If they work it out, OK - we'll have to deal with it!"

    Media captionRobin's DNA surprise: 'I found out my parents were swingers'

    Discover more family secrets on the BBC show Cut Through The Noise on Facebook - watch at 22:00 GMT.

    Anthea Ring, inset Anthea as a baby

    In the summer of 1937 a nine-month-old girl was hidden, with her hands tied, in a blackberry bush in southern England. She was found by sheer chance by a family of holidaymakers. Now 80, Anthea Ring has spent most of her life looking for answers.

    https://www.bbc.com/news/stories-46600325

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    China's pre-Christmas church crackdown raises alarm

    A recent surge of police action against churches in China has raised concerns the government is getting even tougher on unsanctioned Christian activity.

    Among those arrested are a prominent pastor and his wife, of the Early Rain Covenant Church in Sichuan. Both have been charged with state subversion.

    And on Saturday morning, dozens of police raided a children's Bible class at Rongguili Church in Guangzhou.

    One Christian in Chengdu told the BBC: "I'm lucky they haven't found me yet."

    China is officially atheist, though says it allows religious freedom.

    But it has over the years repeatedly taken action against religious leaders it considers to be threatening to its authority or to the stability of the state, which, according to Human Rights Watch, "makes a mockery of the government's claim that it respects religious beliefs".

    The government pressures Christians to join one of the Three-Self Patriotic churches, state-sanctioned bodies which toe the Communist Party line and are led by approved priests.

    Silencing of a critic

    Despite this, the Christian population has grown steadily in recent years. There are now an estimated 100 million Christians in China, many of them worshipping in so-called underground churches.

    Wang Yi is the leader of one such church, the Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, the capital of south-western Sichuan province.

    Early Rain members praying in public

    The church is unusual in that it worships openly and regularly posts evangelical material online. The church says it has about 800 followers spread across the city. It also runs a small school.

    Pastor Wang is also known for being outspoken - he has been fiercely critical of the state's control of religion and had organised a widely shared petition against new legislation brought in this year which allowed for tighter surveillance of churches and tougher sanctions on those deemed to have crossed the line.

    On 9 December, police raided the church and arrested Pastor Wang and his wife Jiang Rong. Over the following two days, at least 100 church members, including Wang's assistant, were taken away.

    One member of the church, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals, told the BBC that the lock on the church school had been broken, churchgoers' homes had been ransacked and some were "under house arrest or are followed all the time".

    Facebook post showing alleged injuries to church members during detention

    She said police and other officials had been going to congregants' homes to pressure them to sign documents pledging to leave the church and to take their children out of its school.

    "On Sunday, some members tried to gather at other places for worship, but got taken away as well. The Church building has been manned with police and plain-clothes officers, not allowing anyone to enter to do worship service."

    The church alleges that some of those detained and then released were mistreated in custody.

    Forty-eight hours after he was arrested, Early Rain Covenant Church released a letter from Pastor Wang, which he had pre-written for release in case something like this ever happened to him.

    In it, he said he respected the Chinese authorities and was "not interested in changing any political or legal institutions in China".

    But he said he was "filled with anger and disgust at the persecution of the church by this Communist regime".

    "As a pastor of a Christian church, I must denounce this wickedness openly and severely. The calling that I have received requires me to use non-violent methods to disobey those human laws that disobey the Bible and God," he said.

    Pastor Wang and his wife - who have an 11-year-old son - have been charged with inciting subversion of state power, one of the most serious crimes against the state and a charge which is often used to silence dissidents. It carries a potential jail term of 15 years. Several senior members of the church face similar charges.

    Jin Mingri, head pastor of the Zion church

    Across the country in Guangzhou, the doors have also been sealed on the Rongguili Church, another un-sanctioned community.

    On Saturday, a children's Bible class was interrupted by the arrival of dozens of police officers.

    Witnesses said they declared the church an illegal gathering, confiscated Bibles and other materials and shut the doors.

    Officers took names and addresses and ordered everyone present to hand over their phones.

    In September, the Zion church, one of the largest unofficial churches in Beijing was abruptly shut down. It had recently refused a request from the government to install security cameras to monitor its activities.

    "I fear that there is no way for us to resolve this issue with the authorities," Pastor Jin Mingri told Reuters news agency at the time.

    There have also been a string of church demolitions, forced removal of crosses or other arrests over the year.

    Human Rights Watch said the raids at Early Rain and at Rongguili Church were a further sign that under President Xi Jinping, China is seeking to tighten control over all aspects of society.

    Women worship at a state-sanctioned Catholic church in Sichuan (file image)

    "As major holidays in many parts of the world - Christmas and New Year - are approaching, we call on the international community to continue to pay attention to the situation of China's independent churches and speak against the Chinese government's repression," said the group's Hong Kong-based researcher Yaqiu Wang.

    The Early Rain member who did not want to be identified said the idea of the Three-Self Patriotic churches was "hilarious", saying they "don't spread genuine gospel, but spread the thoughts of loving the Party, loving the country".

    Members of Early Rain Covenant Church worship outside on 16 December

    Another Christian in Chengdu told the BBC such churches were "against Jesus, against gospel".

    He described the scale of the operations against Early Rain as "unprecedented" but said more could be expected, adding: "I'm very lucky they haven't found me yet."

    The Early Rain community would survive, he said, but would now go further underground.

    "We will continue the gathering. The church is shut down so it's impossible to have a big gathering, but there will be small gatherings on Sunday and on Christmas Day."

    Ultimately, he said, repression might even increase the profile of the faith in China.

    "Without repression, people may doubt about our religion. But when repression occurs, pastors and members' reactions will make people who don't believe in Jesus realise the charm of Christianity."

    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-46588650

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    Melania Trump's White House Christmas decorations divide opinion

    Pictures of Melania Trump helping to decorate the White House for Christmas have divided opinion.

    The first lady posted a video and some photos of her in the president's main residence on Monday, saying the house was "sparkling".

    As first lady, one of Mrs Trump's jobs is to decorate the presidential homes for the holiday season, leading the annual team of White House staff and volunteers to prepare the "People's House" for Christmas.

    This year the theme is America's Treasures, with red, white and blue evident throughout the White House, which will host more than 30,000 visitors as part of 100 open house public tours.

    Mrs Trump led a team of volunteers and staff to decorate the White House. Pic: Melania Trump/Twitter

    Image:Mrs Trump led a team of volunteers and staff to decorate the White House. Pic: Melania Trump/Twitter

    There are plenty of trees in the White House this Christmas. Pic: Melania Trump/Twitter

    However, many have questioned why Mrs Trump is wearing leather gloves and a coat inside as one of the pictures shows her placing an ornament on a tree wearing red gloves.

    One Twitter user said: "Is there a reason why she is wearing a coat and gloves in the house?? Can't afford the heat?"

    Mrs Trump is pictured in the same clothes - including gloves - she was wearing on arrival from Mar-a-Lago, Florida, where the family spent Thanksgiving, so the pictures may be of her seeing the decorations for the first time on Sunday.

    Embedded video

    A corridor, the east colonnade, has been lined with more than 40 red Christmas trees - leaving some to accuse the first lady of having no taste, while others said it is the classiest White House Christmas they have seen.

    Some said it represented Donald Trump's alleged collusion with former communist state Russia.

    One artist said the trees look like a "car wash", while author Molly Jong-Fast asked: "How do wealthy people have such bad taste?"

    A corridor lined with red trees divided opinion. Pic: Melania Trump/Twitter

    Melania Trump's gloves were questioned. Pic: Melania Trump/Twitter

    But Julie M Diener said: "Thank you, First Lady for making the White House so beautiful."

    Brian Lockwood added: "Great job, First Lady. Top notch!!!"

    https://news.sky.com/story/melania-trumps-white-house-christmas-decorations-divide-opinion-11564395.

     
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    'Macron must resign': Furious protests at rising fuel prices across France

    Police in Paris have used tear gas and water cannon to disperse protesters who are furious over rising fuel costs.

    Demonstrations and road blockades have been planned nationwide as the "yellow vest" protests enter a second weekend. They have been named after the fluorescent jackets worn by protesters, which motorists must keep in their cars by law.

    Two people have been killed in the protests so far

    In the capital, hundreds descended on the Champs Elysee, where officers stopped them from advancing to the presidential palace nearby.

    Some of the protesters were singing the national anthem, while others brandished placards demanding the resignation of French President Emmanuel Macron and calling him a "thief".

    The majority of French people support the protests, according to a poll

    They are opposed to the taxes that Mr Macron introduced last year on diesel and petrol, which are designed to encourage people to use more environmentally friendly forms of transport.

    The price of diesel has risen 23% in the past 12 months, while Mr Macron's approval rating has sunk as slow as 21% in recent opinion polls.

    There were tense scenes in Paris as protesters tried to reach the Elysees Palace

    Away from the capital, highways have been blocked - with burning barricades and convoys of slow-moving trucks obstructing access to fuel depots, shopping centres and factories.

    Two people have been killed in the protests so far, including a 62-year-old woman who was run over by a motorist who panicked after her car was surrounded by demonstrators.

    Protesters are furious at the rising price of diesel - with some calling Emmanuel Macron a 'thief'

    A poll this week indicated that 73% of people in France have expressed support for the protests, which have been characterised as a grassroots movement lacking in clear leadership.

    Last weekend's demonstrations attracted an estimated 250,000 people.

    Last weekend's demonstrations attracted an estimated 250,000 people

    Mr Macron has admitted that he has "not succeeded in reconciling the French with their leaders" and had "not given them enough consideration", but is standing firm and refusing to rescind the fuel taxes.

     

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    School 'bans' everything to do with Christmas because it has become 'too commercial'

    A school in North Yorkshire has taken the dramatic and perhaps controversial step of banning Christmas on the basis that it has become 'too commercial'.

    The exchanging of presents, cards and any form of Christmas fun is now banned until the pupils at Lady Lumley's School in Pickering can convince their teachers to bring back the festivities.

    Now, this isn't a school doing their best Ebenezer Scrooge impression and sapping the joy out the season, but it is an attempt to highlight the true meaning of Christmas.

    To really emphasise the point, Father Christmas made an appearance at an assembly held at the school earlier this week to tell the pupils to consider what they felt Christmas was really about, amid it being 'lost and buried under an avalanche of commercialisation'.

    For the meantime, the kids will have to put aside dreams of opening an N64 or Tamagotchi on Christmas morning (that's what kids still want, right?) and contemplate a convincing argument for Christmas, which they can email to their RE teacher.

    They have been informed to send their arguments by 30 November, with headteacher Richard Bramley adding that while Christmas is fun for some, it can be a time of worry and stress for others. In a blog post on the school's website he wrote: 

    the muppet christmas carol GIF

    Christmas is a day celebrating the birth of Jesus and should be a time of good will to all, yet it can be a very stressful, expensive, argumentative and lonely time.?

    In her message to students in the assemblies [RE teacher] Mrs Paul asked them to consider the true meaning of Christmas and to write to her by November 30 at scrooge@ladylumleys.net with their reasons why we should still celebrate this time of year and try to persuade her to change her mind.

    With practising-Christian numbers declining and the world becoming a more multi-faith based society, Christmas has arguably been hijacked by consumerism and brands eager to sell more products, so this move from the school would appear to be a thoughtful, if not unconventional, approach to Christmas in 2018.

    On paper, this would seem like a logical approach to a modern-day Christmas and teaching kids about the dangers of consumerism, but some feel the move to completely eradicate Christmas from children's school lives all together is a step too far.

    Others thought it was a great idea and a fresh approach to educating youngsters about awareness at this time of year.
    bill murray christmas decorations GIF
    https://www.indy100.com/article/christmas-ban-commercial-lady-lumleys-school-pickering-north-yorkshire-8649701
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    Orpington depot fire: Seven buses destroyed

    Seven buses have been destroyed and four others badly damaged in a huge blaze at a depot in south-east London.

    About 60 firefighters were called to the site in Farnborough Hill, Orpington, at about 03:30 GMT.

    People living nearby said they were woken by "explosions". No-one was injured in the fire.

    London Fire Brigade (LFB) received about 40 calls and described the blaze as "very visible". It took nearly three hours to get it under control.

    Bus depot fire

    About 30 other vehicles stored at the garage were moved to prevent the flames spreading further.

    A local resident, who asked not to be named, told the BBC it had started as "a little fire" but had "ignited within five minutes and buses were exploding".

    "I've never seen anything like it," he said.

    Twitter post by @Pridley1974Paul: Avoid Green St Green due to fire at Bus depot!  #orpington #bromley

    Fire crews will remain in the area "for some time damping down the affected vehicles", LFB said.

    It has warned people to avoid the area due to the number of fire engines in attendance.

    There was a limited bus service running in Orpington until about 10:45 because of the blaze, according to Transport for London.

    Bus depot fire

    Bus depot fire

    Bus depot fire

    https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-london-46300289

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    Getty Images DISCOVER HISTORY UNDERGROUND IN ARRAS

    The French city of Arras unexpectedly delivers the perfect weekend getaway for culture seekers. Blending French and Flemish design it's just over an hour's drive from Calais. Its subterranean attractions make it something of an alternative to visiting Edinburgh, and it includes a visit to the Louvre — but without setting foot in Paris.

    A Flemish touch in France

    Part of the Spanish Netherlands between the 16th and 18th centuries, Arras’s history radiates through its squares and restaurants. Buildings and arcades around the city’s two Baroque squares make no qualms about the region’s Flemish roots.

    The smaller square, Place des Héros, boasts a belfry with Unesco World Heritage status. This gothic clock tower offers sweeping views of the city.

    Local restaurants serve up moules frites paired with hearty Belgian-style beer. In the Place des Héros each August, the cobbled arena hosts an annual celebration of the city’s most famous product - a pork sausage called andouillette, also available year-round.

    The city’s 17th-century Citadelle, a fortification casually nicknamed “the useless beauty”, never played a role in a battle. Still, its architecture earned Unesco status, along with others around France designed by famed engineer Vauban.

    The cathedral was rebuilt in the 19th century, replacing a mesmerising gothic structure destroyed during the French Revolution. Most of the city was damaged during the First World War, but restoration projects reconstructed much of its medieval heritage.

    Underground explorations

    It’s below the ground where Arras really shines.

    Explore the town's underground tunnels known as the Boves (Alamy)

    The Carrière Wellington, opened in 2008, is a museum dedicated to Arras’ complex underworld. In these underground tunnels, Allied troops organised efforts against enemies in the First World War during the Battle of Arras. The tunnels could house more than 20,000 troops and today a museum allows visitors to explore this little-known history. 

    They are part of a larger set of underground limestone quarries and tunnels known as the Boves, which were designed starting in the 10th century to connect the city.

    The Louvre without the crowds

    Beyond the city limits, the Louvre awaits — but don’t expect the Mona Lisa. A 30-minute drive from Arras leads to the Louvre-Lens, opened in 2012 on a former mining facility. Its mission is to spread the culture that is concentrated in Paris.

    The Louvre-Lens includes artefacts on loan from it's Parisian big sister (Alamy)

    Visitors can browse highlights on loan from its big sister in the capital. The gallery includes everything from Egyptian artefacts to Italian Renaissance paintings, all accessible without the crowds normally found in Paris. 

    From here it’s around an hour back to Calais to wrap up a culture-filled weekend in France.

    https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/discover-history-underground-in-arras-a8610136.html?mvt=i&mvn=49be2a6dcfef4414a40180ba6d2bf510&mvp=NA-EVENSTANSPONFEAT-11239234&mvl=Independent+-+Article+-+Sponsored+Features

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