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The plight of japan's morden hermits

In today’s connected world it can feel difficult to disengage. An endless stream of emails, posts, tweets, likes, comments and pictures keeps us constantly plugged into modern life.

But in Japan half a million people live as modern-day hermits. They are known as hikikomori – recluses who withdraw from all social contact and often don’t leave their houses for years at a time. A government survey found roughly 541,000 (1.57% of the population) but many experts believe the total is much higher as it can take years before they seek help.

The condition was initially thought to be unique to Japan, but in recent years cases have appeared across the world. In neighbouring South Korea, a 2005 analysis estimated there were 33,000 socially withdrawn adolescents (0.3% of the population) and in Hong Kong a 2014 survey pegged the figure at 1.9%. It’s not just in Asia, cases are appearing in the US, Spain, Italy, France and elsewhere.

Whether due to increased awareness or a growing problem remains unclear, but concern around social isolation is on the rise globally. Last January the UK appointed its first minister for loneliness and recent Office of National Statistics data found nearly 10% of 16 to 24-year-olds reported feeling "always or often" lonely.

A controversial but common theme in hikikomori research is the isolating influence of modern technology. Any potential links are far from settled, but there’s concern Japan’s lost generation could be a canary in the coal mine for our increasingly disconnected societies. At the same time there’s hope technology could help bring people back from the brink.

Hikikomori often feel isolated due to the great expectations placed on them in education and the workplace.

 The term hikikomori, often used interchangeably for the condition and its sufferers, was coined by Japanese psychologist Tamaki Sait? in his 1998 book Social Withdrawal – Adolescence Without End. Today the most common criteria is a combination of physical isolation, social avoidance and psychological distress that lasts six months or longer.

The condition was originally considered “culture-bound” and there are reasons to think Japanese society is particularly vulnerable, says Takahiro Kato, an associate professor of psychiatry at Kyushu University in Fukuoka, who both studies and treats hikikomori.

“In Japanese there’s a very famous saying, ‘A protruding nail will be hammered down’,” says Kato. Only half-jokingly, the 6ft 2in doctor adds that’s why he walks around with a slight hunch so he’s not seen as arrogant. Rigid social norms, high expectations from parents and a culture of shame make Japanese society a fertile breeding ground for feelings of inadequacy and a desire to keep one’s head below the parapet, Kato says.

After quitting his job in 2015, Tomoki, 29, tells me he was determined to get back into work and regularly visited the job centre. He also attended a religious group almost daily, but the group’s leader started publicly criticising his attitude and inability to get back into workWhen he stopped attending the leader called him several times a week and the pressure, combined with that from his family, eventually caused him to withdraw completely. (The names of all hikikomori have been changed to protect their identity.)

“I blamed myself,” he said. “I didn't want to see anyone, I didn't want to go outside.”

School is a monoculture, everyone has to have the same opinion. If someone says something they're out of the group - Ichika

At Fukuoka city’s hikikomori support centre the Yokayoka Room – “take it easy” room in the local dialect – one by one the group describes the pressure they felt to conform. “School is a monoculture, everyone has to have the same opinion,” says one of the visitors, Haru, 34. “If someone says something they're out of the group.”

Living up to the expectations of Japanese society has also got harder. Economic stagnation and globalisation is bringing Japan’s collectivist and hierarchical traditions into conflict with a more individualistic and competitive Western worldview, says Kato. And while British parents might give short shrift to a child refusing to leave their room, Japanese parents feel a strong obligation to support children no matter what and shame often prevents them from seeking help, says Kato.

But the increasing number of cases outside Japan is leading people to question the culture-bound nature of the condition. In a 2015 study, Kato and collaborators in the US, South Korea and India found cases matching the clinical criteria in all four countries.

In this portrait by Maika Elan, we see Ikuo Nakamura, 34, a hikikomori who had locked himself in his room for seven years .

 Lead author Alan Teo, an associate professor of psychiatry at Oregon Health and Science University in the US, says he is regularly contacted by Americans self-identifying with the condition.

“People have this underlying assumption it must be most common in Japan,” he says. “If you formally measured how common it is we might come up with some surprising information.”

Spanish psychiatrist Angeles Malagon-Amor stumbled across the problem during a home treatment program in Barcelona. Malagon-Amor and colleagues frequently found patients with extended periods of social withdrawal, which led her to the literature on Japan’s hikikomori. Between 2008 and 2014 they came across 190 cases – the most recent data they hold – but that was before the program was expanded and she’s sure it’s the tip of the iceberg.

“At the time, we were two psychiatrists and two nurses for a population of more than one million,” she says. “I think there must be a lot more cases.”

Establishing a broader explanation is fraught with difficulties though. Multiple studies have found that hikikomori typically have co-occurring psychiatric or developmental disorders, which can vary in type and severity.  Triggers can also be diverse from work stress to dysfunctional family dynamics.

“One of the reasons hikikomori is fascinating is that there's not one explanation,” says Teo. “It's a lot of factors coming together.”

One factor regularly discussed is the role of technology like the Internet, social media and videogames – already the source of contentious debate in mental health research. Many hikikomoriI spoke to were prolific internet and videogame users and multiple studies have noted high levels of technology use, but it’s far from universal and the nature of the relationship is still unclear.

In South Korea, anyone who remains isolated for at least three months is termed “oiettolie”, the link is more established. A 2013 study of 43 oiettolie found that nearly one in ten were already considered to be addicted to the internet, and more than 50% were thought to be at high-risk of internet addiction.

TaeYoung Choi, a psychiatrist and researcher at the Catholic University of Daegu who worked on the study, doesn’t think technology necessarily causes withdrawal, but he thinks it can support and deepen it. “Some people can get more isolated by using technology, which makes that isolation more rigid and more severe,” he says.

Internet addiction is sometimes blamed for the hikikomori's isolation, but some experts hope that it could help their rehabilitation too.

In a 2018 study of hikikomori cases In Barcelona, Malagon-Amor said they found only 30% exhibited internet addiction. But they found that group tended to be younger – the average age across all 190 cases was 39 but it was just 24 for those addicted to the internet.

“For what we've seen now, it’s not that big an issue,” she says. “But I think this is going to be much bigger in the next few years in those cases of social isolation in young people with Internet addiction.”

The effect of technology could also be more subtle, says Kato. Computer games have rewritten the nature of play, he says, with children spending ever more time in controlled virtual environments rather than the unpredictable real world. At the same time the internet, smartphones and social media have made indirect rather than face-to-face contact much more common.

Japan: Untold Stories

Welcome to BBC Future Now's Japan season, in which we explore the country's most exciting medical, technological, environmental and social trends.

“Now society has no risk, no direct communication,” says Kato. “It’s easy to hit the reset button and reverse and there's low experience of failure.” He thinks that’s detrimental to children’s development, making them less resilient and less adept at interpersonal relationships. Just like you need to be exposed to dirt to develop immunity to diseases you need to be exposed to risk and failure to develop resilience and independence, he adds.

At the Yokayoka Room patients said they say they feel more able to speak freely on the Internet. When I ask why they say it’s the anonymity it provides. Ichika, 27, adds that he likes the ability to always interact on his own terms.

There is some recognition of the limitations of this kind of communication. Hinata, 32, worries about the superficial nature of online dialogue and the ease with which you can avoid conflict. “We always try to make friends with the people who have the same opinion where we can feel more comfortable to comment,” he says.

 “Technology itself can’t be 100% behind the aggravation of hikikomori as a world phenomenon,” says Choi. But he thinks our increasing ability to shop, play and socialise without real-world interactions could be exacerbating social isolation.

Face-to-face contact, either in person or on video-chat, corresponds to lower risk of depression, compared with contact by phone, email and social media

There’s simply not enough research to draw any conclusive links yet, says Teo. But he says it does chime with his gut feeling, which is based partly on research outside the hikikomori field. In multiple studies his lab has found face-to-face contact either in person or on video-chat corresponds to lower risk of depression, compared with contact by phone, email and social media.

“If interactions online become a substitute for face-to-face interactions, I think the research that I've done and other folks have done indicate that that's problematic,” he says.

Lines of communication

It’s important not to demonise technology though, says Teo. Social media or email are not the underlying causes of mental health problems, they are vehicles for communication that can be used both positively and negatively.

In particular, the internet provides a window into the isolated lives of hikikomori. Last year Teo and researchers in China used social media apps like WeChat and Weibo to survey socially withdrawn teenagers. It cost just $7.27 (£5.53) per participant to reach 137 people, one-fifth of whom were experiencing some level of social withdrawal, suggesting it could be a cost-effective method for reaching hidden cases.

The growing interconnectedness of online and offline worlds could also offer ways to ease hikikomori back into everyday life. In 2016 Kato published a case report on a patient who suddenly started going out daily after downloading Nintendo’s hit smartphone game Pokemon Go.

The game uses augmented reality to overlay digital creatures onto the real-world that players have to roam about collecting. Kato thinks this kind of bridge between real and virtual worlds could help encourage hikikomori out of their homes and even make it easier for health workers to make first contact, particularly if it can be tailored to their needs. For example, says Kato, this kind of game could be tweaked so valuable items appear at hikikomori support centres.

He’s also started working with a Japanese company to create a robot that could reintroduce hikikomori to social contact in a controllable way. Researchers in Hong Kong have successfully used dogs for a similar purpose, which he thinks could serve as a template. "But Japanese like robots!" he adds.

In this portrait we see Riki Cook, who is American-Japanese and lives alone in Chiba, Japan.

There may also be less hi-tech ways to exploit hikikomori’s relationship with technology. Shinichiro Matsuguma, a PhD student at Keio University School of Medicine in Tokyo who specializes in positive psychology, has set up a non-profit to rehabilitate hikikomori called the Strength Association. He’s provided coaching to 32 patients using principles from positive psychology, which focuses on strengths rather than flaws. The majority of his clients play videogames so this typically involves discussing playing styles and motivations to identify strengths like teamwork, strategy or leadership.

"Many people, even their parents, see hikikomori as not doing anything,” he says. "But from my perspective, they're developing their strengths through the video games. And I always tell them while you're playing video games you are developing strengths that can be applicable to different life domains."

Establishing these strengths improves self-esteem, he says, but can also guide patients on the best path to re-entering society. The approach has yet to be scientifically evaluated, but he says almost 80% have taken a first step towards reintegration like going back to school, university or vocational training.

Remote counselling

Experts agree though that there's no substitute for direct social contact and intensive therapy. Yoko Honda, a clinical psychiatrist who manages the Fukuoka City Mental Health and Welfare Centre, says the national government has been pushing them to use social media to provide remote counselling to hikikomori, but they’ve resisted.

“Just one tweet is not enough for expressing our anxiety or emotions,” she says, though she agrees it might be useful for reaching new patients.

Asides from psychotherapy and medication to treat any underlying psychiatric disorders, a central plank of their strategy is family training to fix dysfunctional home environments. The Yokayoka Room also provides a safe haven for those on the path to recovery to meet others like them and relearn atrophied social skills. But she says the varied nature of cases makes treating them tough.

“We hope to give tailormade support to all these hikikomori,” she says.  “But we always need a lot of labour, a lot of time.”

That’s something Malagon-Amor found in her 12-month study of Barcelona’s hikikomori. Those who received more intensive therapy either at home or in hospital reacted best. Less intensive outpatient services were linked to higher abandonment of treatment and often worsening isolation. “They're very fragile patients,” she says.

Whether or not the West should be gearing up for a tsunami of such patients is still unclear. But social isolation can be a feature of other conditions, from depression to PTSD, so Malagon-Amor thinks the West can learn a lot from the Japanese experience.

And regardless of the scale of the phenomenon, Teo hopes hikikomori research will broaden our understanding of the importance of social connections to our mental and physical health.

“When I talk to parents of someone with hikikomori it's very clear to me that the social isolation is causing huge negative impacts – it ripples through the individual, to their family, to others,” he says.

“So that social impairment, problems with social connections, we haven't paid enough attention to that in medicine. And I think now with hikikomori, with more attention to loneliness we are finally starting to look at these issues as health issues. And that's good.”

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20190129-the-plight-of-japans-modern-hermits

ruby Posted on February 04, 2019 14:46

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Which countries eat the most meat?

You may have heard an increasing number of people vow to reduce their meat eating lately - or cut it out altogether.

This often forms part of a bid to become healthier, reduce their environmental impact, or consider animal welfare.

third of Britons claim to have either stopped eating meat or reduced it, while two thirds of those in the US say they are eating less of at least one meat.

This trend is partly thanks to initiatives such as Meat-free Mondays and Veganuary. At the same time, a number of documentaries and high-profile advocates of veganism have highlighted the potential benefits of eating less meat.

But have these sentiments had any effect on the ground?

Rising incomes

What we do know is that global meat consumption has increased rapidly over the past 50 years.

Meat production today is nearly five times higher than in the early 1960s - from 70 million tonnes to more than 330 million tonnes in 2017.

A big reason for this is that there are many more people to feed.

Over that period the world population more than doubled. In the early 1960s there were around three billion of us, and today there are more than 7.6 billion.

While population is part of the story, it doesn't entirely account for why meat production increased five-fold.

Another key factor is rising incomes.

Around the world, people have become richer, with the global average income more than tripling in half a century.

When we compare consumption across different countries we see that, typically, the richer we are the more meat we eat.

There are not just more people in the world - there are more people who can afford to eat meat.

Who eats the most meat?

We see a clear link with wealth when looking at patterns of meat consumption across the world.

In 2013, the most recent year available, the US and Australia topped the tables for annual meat consumption. Alongside New Zealand and Argentina, both countries topped more than 100kg per person, the equivalent to about 50 chickens or half a cow each.

In fact, high levels of meat consumption can be seen across the West, with most countries in Western Europe consuming between 80 and 90 kilograms of meat per person.

At the other end of the spectrum, many of the world's poorest countries eat very little meat.

The average Ethiopian consumes just 7kg, Rwandans 8kg and Nigerians 9kg. This is 10 times less than the average European.

For those in low-income countries, meat is still very much a luxury.

These figures represent the amount of meat per head available for consumption, but do not account for any food wasted at home or on the shop floor. In reality, people eat slightly less meat than this, but it's still a close estimate.

Middle-income countries driving the demand for meat

It is clear that the richest countries eat a lot of meat, and those on low incomes eat little.

This has been the case for 50 years or more. So why are we collectively eating so much more meat?

This trend has been largely driven from a growing band of middle-income countries.

Rapidly growing nations like China and Brazil have seen significant economic growth in recent decades, and a large rise in meat consumption.

In Kenya, meat consumption has changed little since 1960.

By contrast, the average person in 1960s China consumed less than 5kg a year. By the late 1980s this had risen to 20kg, and in the last few decades this has more than tripled to over 60kg.

The same thing happened in Brazil, where meat consumption has almost doubled since 1990 - overtaking almost all Western countries in the process.

India is one notable exception.

While average incomes have tripled since 1990, meat consumption hasn't followed suit.

It is a misconception that the majority of India is vegetarian - two thirds of Indians do eat at least some meat, according to a nationwide survey.

Nonetheless, the amount of meat consumed in India has remained small. At less than 4kg per person, it is the lowest in the world. This is likely to be partly down to cultural factors for some in India, including not eating certain types of meat for religious reasons.

Is meat consumption falling in the West?

Many in Europe and North America say they are trying to cut down on meat, but is it working?

Not really, according to statistics.

Recent data from the United States Department for Agriculture (USDA) suggests meat consumption per head has actually increased over the last few years.

While we may think that meat is becoming less popular, US consumption in 2018 was close to its highest in decades.

It's a similar picture with meat consumption in the EU.

While Western consumption of meat is steady, or slightly increasing, the types of meat eaten are changing.

This means less red meat - beef and pork - and more poultry.

In the US, poultry now accounts for half of meat consumption, up from a quarter in the 1970s.

These types of substitution could be good news for health and the environment.

The impact of meat

In some circumstances, eating meat can be beneficial.

Moderate quantities of meat and dairy can improve people's health, particularly in lower-income countries where diets may lack variety.

But in many countries, meat consumption goes far beyond basic nutritional benefits.

In fact, it could be a health risk. Studies have linked excess red and processed meat consumption with increased risk of heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancer.

Substituting chicken for beef or bacon could be a positive step.

This swap is also better for the environment as cows, in particular, are inefficient converters of feed to meat.

Compared to chicken, beef has anywhere in the range of three to 10 times as much impact on land use, water and greenhouse gas emissions. Pork is somewhere in between the two.

A future where meat consumption is sustainable and balanced across countries would require major changes.

This would mean not only a shift in the types of meat we eat, but also how much.

Essentially, meat would have to become more of a luxury again.

This analysis piece was commissioned by the BBC from an expert working for an outside organisation.

Hannah Ritchie is an Oxford Martin fellow, and is currently working as a researcher at OurWorldinData.org. This is a joint project between Oxford Martin and non-profit organisation Global Change Data Lab, which aims to present research on how the world is changing through interactive visualisations. You can follow her on Twitter here.

https://www.bbc.com/news/health-47057341

ruby Posted on February 04, 2019 14:23

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Kumbh Mela: Millions of Indians bathe on most auspicious day

The main day of bathing has been held at India's Kumbh Mela, with tens of millions of pilgrims taking a dip at the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers.

This is the most auspicious of six bathing days at the event, billed as the world's biggest human gathering.

Hindus believe bathing at the rivers will cleanse them of their sins and help them attain "moksha", setting them free from the cycle of birth and death.

The mela (meaning "fair" in Hindi) has been held in Allahabad city (recently renamed Prayagraj) in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh for centuries now. But it has grown into a mega event in the past two decades.

The BBC's Vikas Pandey, who is at the festival, said people had arrived from all parts of the country and had walked miles to take a dip. "Every street in the city leading to the mela grounds is flooded with people," he said.

The bathing began at midnight with people chanting "hail mother Ganges".

At dawn, visitors jostled to get a glimpse of the Akharas - different congregations of Hindu saints - who had started their procession.

These processions are highly coveted as people line up to see holy men and women perched on top of heavily decorated floats.

"It is so crowded but everyone seemed excited, despite having walked long distances in the cold," our reporter said.

Officials say more than 10 million people have already taken a dip and the number is likely to rise during the day.

Avnish Tripathi, who had arrived from Madhya Pradesh state, walked for five hours from the outskirts of Allahabad city to reach the festival. "Once I got there, I had to wait for two hours to take a dip because of the crowds. But it was a magical experience and I didn't feel tired at all," he told the BBC.

Many other devoted pilgrims had walked more than 50km (31 miles) in the hope of taking a dip.

"It has been nearly 12 hours since bathing began but the crowds haven't thinned," our reporter added.

The Naga sadhus are the biggest draw of the festival. Thousands of the Sadhus, naked and wearing garlands around their necks, charged into the river with swords and tridents in their hands.

They were escorted by the police as people watched from behind barricades.

This year's festival is an "ardh Kumbh" - a "half-size" version that falls mid-way between two Kumbhs - but there's nothing diminutive about it. In fact, it's much bigger than the last full Kumbh held in 2013.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-47113379

ruby Posted on February 04, 2019 14:17

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Why 'India's FBI' agents are clashing with police

Imagine state policemen in the US detaining FBI agents investigating a case on state territory.

Then imagine the governor of the state starting a public protest against the FBI and the president for carrying out what she calls an act of vendetta against her government.

Now imagine federal forces being deployed to protect their offices in the state, fearing attacks by supporters of the governor.

This possibly sounds like a plot from a dystopian political novel. But it is what is happening in India.

A group of detectives belonging to India's federal investigation agency, the CBI, arrived at the well-secured home of the commissioner of police of Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta) in West Bengal state on Sunday evening. They said they wanted to question Rajeev Kumar in connection with a ponzi scandal. (The multi-million dollar scam, involving businessmen, politicians, journalists and film producers, defrauded a large number of small investors.)

But Mr Kumar refused to meet the detectives. Instead his forces detained the agents - who are recruited from the police forces themselves - and took them away to a police station. They were freed after a few hours, and returned without being able to question Mr Kumar.

Mr Kumar had led the early local investigation into the scandal, before the case was taken over by the CBI under the supervision of the Supreme Court. The federal agency, say reports, unsuccessfully tried to question Mr Kumar half-a-dozen times in the past in connection with some evidence he had purportedly collected in the case. The agency believes that he is "hiding" something.

The ponzi scandal, involving at least two small investment companies, came to light in 2013 under the watch of the leader of West Bengal state. In India's male-dominated politics, Mamata Banerjee is a rare firebrand woman leader who commands mass support. She took power in 2011, ending 34 years of communist rule in the state. (The following year, she was named one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people in the world.) The feisty Ms Banerjee has ruled West Bengal ever since.

Image captionThe Central Bureau of Investigation is India's top investigation agency

Ms Banerjee has a testy relationship with the federal government, run by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). This is, in part, because Mr Modi's party is trying to make inroads into Bengal, using its usual mix of development promises and sectarian rhetoric.

After a series of setbacks in state polls Mr Modi no longer looks invincible in general elections due this summer. And Ms Banerjee, an astute rival, is trying to position herself as a prime ministerial contender, in the event of an opposition win. Recently, she organised a well-attended meeting of 23 opposition parties who vowed to defeat Mr Modi.

Ms Banerjee, who is now holding an "indefinite" public protest in Kolkata, accuses Mr Modi's party of targeting her government.

The highest levels of the BJP leadership are doing the worst kind of political vendetta. Not only are political parties their targets, they are misusing power
to take control of the police and destroy all institutions. We condemn this 1/2

The BJP picked up 17% of vote share - but just two seats - in Bengal in the 2014 general elections. The party is desperately hoping for an improved performance this summer. It accuses Ms Banerjee of triggering a "constitutional crisis" by setting her police on federal agents. Historian Ramachandra Guha says the latest battle is a "war between two ruthless and amoral politicians with absolute and equal disregard for institutional propriety".

In the end, this unprecedented - and ugly - incident is actually symptomatic of a worrying erosion of India's institutions and the regrettable breakdown of political bipartisanship.

The CBI, which reports to the ruling federal government, was once described as a "caged parrot" and has been used by successive governments to hobble political opponents. It has, many believe, lost credibility. In October, the government had to remove the two men at the top of the agency after each accused the other of corruption.

The standoff is the latest manifestation of a crisis that has often bedevilled the Indian state: the inability of an extremely powerful federal government - Mr Modi rules with an outright majority - to handle equally powerful and assertive regional leaders. It is a crisis which is at the heart of India's federalism.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-47114104

ruby Posted on February 04, 2019 14:12

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Punjab's drug menace: 'I wanted my son to die'

The northern Indian state of Punjab has witnessed a sharp increase in the number of drug-related deaths this year. BBC Punjabi's Arvind Chhabra investigates why the drug menace has become worse in the state.

"He was my only son, but I had started wishing that he would die… And now, I cry the whole night with his photograph in my hand," says 55-year-old Lakshmi Devi.

Her son, Ricky Lahoria, recently died of a drug overdose. He was 25.

His was one of 60 deaths linked to drug abuse in Punjab between January and June 2018, according to official estimates. In comparison, 30 people died in drug-related incidents in all of 2017.

Police officials say that the number is likely to increase when they release data for the second half of 2018.

Drugs have been a scourge in Punjab for years now - once a transit point on the drug route, the state has now become a major consumer base.

Punjab's health minister Brahm Mohindra told the BBC his government had reduced the inflow of drugs into the state. But he could not explain why drugs had claimed more lives in 2018 than in previous years.

"It's not clear what concoction is causing [the] deaths. But so many deaths have happened. It is a serious and unfortunate thing," he said.

The All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi conducted the first comprehensive study in 2015 to estimate the magnitude of drug addiction in Punjab - and the report concluded that there were more than 200,000 addicts in the state.

Image captionDrug deaths in Punjab have soared in 2018

Ms Devi says Ricky started using drugs when he was still in school and, eventually, he dropped out.

In the early days, he was addicted to cough syrups and injections but he gradually turned to heroin, locally known as chitta.

At one point, his mother recalls, Ricky wanted to quit and even asked her for help. But she did not know that a rehab centre was an option.

"I just took him to a regular hospital, where he died after three days," she says.

'Champagne of intoxicants'

Data from various government departments shows that the problem seems to have got worse in recent years.

According to police records, 303kg of heroin was seized from the beginning of 2018 until 15 October. Only 191kg of heroin was seized from January to December 2017.

The BBC spoke to police officers, border security forces and intelligence officials to understand how drugs are distributed and consumed in the state.

Media captionThe cost of Punjab's heroin epidemic

They say the most commonly abused drugs in Punjab are the three opium derivatives - raw opium, poppy husk and heroin - followed by medications sold over the counter.

But addicts often see heroin as the "champagne of intoxicants". Like champagne, heroin is costly. One gram costs between 4000 ($56; £43) to 6000 rupees - an addict usually consumes half a gram to two grams in a single day.

While "misuse of pharmaceuticals" is more common in cities, heroin is "more prevalent in rural areas", says Sukhchain Singh, the police commissioner of Ludhiana city.

Despite its hefty price tag, heroin remains popular among addicts regardless of social class and income. Police told the BBC that this was because many of them also turned to peddling as a source of income.

Others simply steal to support their habit.

"Our jewellery and household goods started vanishing as he would take away and sell whatever items he could lay his hands on," one woman, whose son died due to addiction, told the BBC.

The porous border

The border fence that separates India and Pakistan is clearly visible from the rooftops of houses in Dhanoa Kalan village. Border security forces and police officers can be seen patrolling the streets and some of them are dressed as civilians.

Image captionSukhdev Singh says famers often find white packets containing drugs in their fields

The village is home to about 1,400 adults and about 150 of them cultivate farm land beyond the border fence, which puts their fields in no man's land.

So these farmers cross the border almost every day and they are searched by the security forces when they return. Sometimes, they find packets of drugs in their fields.

"Last year, a farmer spotted some packets containing a white powder and he informed border security officers," says Sukhdev Singh, a former village chief.

Mr Singh says this has happened a few times. "We don't know who does it and how," he adds.

Security officers say smugglers often hurl packets of drugs across the border - and some farmers help them. Farmers also make cavities in their tools to hide the drugs, making it hard to detect them.

"All that the farmers have to do is carry these packets to their homes. Once it's inside Indian territory, couriers pick up these packets from the farmers," says an Indian intelligence officer, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Image captionSecurity forces routinely seize drugs at the India-Pakistan border

The couriers, he adds, then transport the packets to distributors in different cities. Police say they have discovered tunnels along the border that are used by smugglers.

The entire process relies on secrecy - most of those who are involved don't know who the kingpin is or even the names of couriers or distributors. All of this makes it hard to trace the smugglers who are running the operation, say security officials.

International network

About 20 battalions of India's Border Security Force (BSF) guard the border. But officers say smugglers sneak in through gaps in the fence or during dense fog in the winter.

In May 2017, police in Ludhiana city revealed that some farmers had Sim cards from Pakistan so that they could talk to smugglers across the border.

In July the following year, customs officers in Amritsar city seized packets of heroin concealed in the empty wagons attached to a goods train that had arrived from Pakistan.

Image captionGangs often place pipes along the border fence to smuggle drugs

"Most of the heroin comes from Afghanistan to India via Pakistan," says Rajesh Kumar Jaiswal, inspector general of the Punjab police force that investigates drug smuggling.

Punjab has become a major part of the so-called opium drug route that is now used for transporting heroin as well. Officials say smugglers use different routes to enter India, choosing between Punjab, Rajasthan or Indian-administered Kashmir.

"If there's pressure on the Punjab border then they shift to Rajasthan and if there's pressure there, they move elsewhere," Mr Jaiswal adds. "While [the] India-Pakistan border has been the usual route, we have seized narcotic consignments even from Delhi. And they could be arriving in Delhi from any border."

Nexus with security forces

The local police and security agencies have also been accused of helping smugglers.

In June 2016, the federal government's junior home minister, Kiren Rijiju, said in parliament that 68 employees of the Punjab police and other security forces were arrested due to their involvement in the drug trade.

Image captionMiddlemen are also frequently arrested in different cities of Punjab

Two deputy superintendents of police have also been arrested in recent months on similar charges.

Senior officers acknowledge the problem, adding that they are taking strict action against such officers.

So, what is the solution?

Health officials say the state needs to open more rehab centres for addicts as there are too few existing ones. While there are 90 private rehab centres, there are only 50 that are run by the government.

The government has been running awareness campaigns in schools and colleges. But most families in rural areas do not know about rehab centres or how they can turn lives around. And the stigma associated with drugs often stops people from seeking help.

There are also attempts to understand what drives the youth of Punjab to drugs.

One survey of drug addiction, conducted by the Society for Promotion of youth and masses in the state said the biggest reason for people to start trying drugs was "fun", followed by "peer pressure". A second study, conducted by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences also pointed to peer pressure."Punjab needs a three-pronged strategy to reduce supply, demand and consumption," says Dr D Basu, a psychiatrist who has studied drug addiction in the state.

Until then, he adds, stories like Ms Devi's will remain all too familiar.

"[Ricky] would sell whatever he could lay his hands on to buy drugs," Ms Devi says. "I wanted him to lead a normal life, have a family and earn enough for them. I felt so helpless, so broken whenever he became unconscious after taking drugs. He would forget where he was and what he was doing.

"In those moments, I would just wish and pray that he would die. But now I regret my words."

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-46218646

ruby Posted on February 04, 2019 14:06

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No traffic in Addis Ababa as Ethiopia marks Car Free Day

With none of the usual traffic clogging the capital, Sunday football devotees took to the streets.

The monthly event is designed to promote a healthy lifestyle and fight air pollution.

The measure was implemented by the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who was came to office last April after his predecessor resigned.

The event also allowed skateboarders to show off their skills.

Image copyrightAFP

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-47107327

ruby Posted on February 04, 2019 13:57

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Maltese port manager shot dead in Somalia

A Maltese port manager has been shot dead in Somalia's northern semi-autonomous Puntland state, officials say.

Paul Anthony Formosa, who was the construction project manager for DP World, was killed inside Bossasso port.

Islamist militant group al-Shabab has said it carried out the attack.

Puntland, an arid region of north-east Somalia, declared itself an autonomous state in 1998, in part to avoid the clan warfare in southern Somalia.

The state is a destination for many Somalis displaced by violence in the south.

Pastor's supporters turn up at his fraud court appearance

Followers of controversial Malawian self-styled prophet Shepherd Bushiri turned up outside court in South Africa's capital, Pretoria, to show their support for him, after he was arrested on Friday for alleged fraud.

A journalist with the local Times Live news site has tweeted a video of the supporters banging drums and cheering outside the court.

Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary were arrested following an investigation which began in 2015.

In court on Monday they were formally charged with fraud and money laundering but were not asked to plead.

Police say the couple's luxury cars, houses and private jet could also be seized pending the finalisation of the criminal case against them.

They have not commented on the allegations.

They've been remanded in custody and are expected to apply for bail on Wednesday.

The church leader is known as much for his lavish lifestyle as for his successful ministry, which stretches across Africa.

He claims to have cured people of HIV, appeared to walk on water on social media and owns four private jets.

https://www.bbc.com/news/live/world-africa-47114979

ruby Posted on February 04, 2019 11:57

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A prison where the inmates have to go and find jobs

At Sanganer prison, in the Indian city of Jaipur, inmates get a roof over their head, but no money and no food. This means they must go to work and earn their living beyond the prison gates, writes Masuma Ahuja - as labourers, factory workers, drivers, even yoga teachers.

Ramchand drives a school bus. His wife, Sugna, works at a garment factory. On a recent hot afternoon, I drink a cup of tea with them in their one-room house, which has yellow walls and a corrugated metal roof, a fridge and a TV, a lunchbox hanging in the corner next to photos of gods and a stack of newspapers. From their door, you can see cars zooming by on a nearby highway and beyond that, a skyline of modern high-rises.

This is how they tell their story: he was lonely, her family had left her. Their neighbours wanted to set them up and arrange their marriage, so she wouldn't be a woman living alone, so he would have someone to take care of him, cook for him and make him rotis. "I can make my own rotis," he says. He married her because he fell for her.

There's seemingly little out of the ordinary about their house, or their story. Except that Ramchand and Sugna are both convicted murderers and they live in prison.

Their house is in Sanganer Open Prison, in Jaipur, the capital city of India's western state of Rajasthan. This prison has no bars or walls, no security guards at the gate, and prisoners are allowed - even encouraged - to go out into the city and work every day. This prison, which has been open since the 1950s, is home to 450 prisoners and is one of about 30 such institutions in the state of Rajasthan.

SI go to Sanganer with Smita Chakraburtty, the woman behind a campaign to make open prisons the norm across India. She has made the case to India's Supreme Court, which in turn has asked states to look into setting up more places like this. She now serves as an honorary commissioner of prisons in Rajasthan, and recently won the country's Agami Prize for her work on the penal system.

Image captionSmita Chakraburtty with Sugna (right) and another prisoner.

"The criminal justice system addresses an incident… and doesn't know what to do with an individual," Chakraburtty argues. Her cause is gaining momentum: four other states in India established new open prisons last year. When I visit Sanganer with Smita, she gives prisoners the latest updates on her work, and then they swarm to me, eager to chat. While there are no guards and anyone can enter the prison, visitors like me are rare.

I sit on the floor in a children's nursery at the front of the prison grounds and talk with a group of men and women who are inmates. When I ask them why they're in prison, many simply say, "302," referring to Section 302 in India's Penal Code which dictates the punishment for murder. They call the open prison "the farm," and gush about how easy it is to live here, how happy they are.

Image captionPrison dwellings, and beyond them a residential area

To get to Sanganer, they all have to have served at least two-thirds of their sentences in closed prisons, and they say that compared to those places, this is freedom. In fact, the government in Rajasthan has had to evict prisoners who didn't want to leave. They had set up lives - stable jobs, schools for their children - in this neighbourhood, that they didn't want to give up at the end of their sentences.

Still, many prisoners tell me they struggle with outsiders' perception of prison. Some women inmates say it's easier to marry a man on the inside, because men outside prison don't understand their experiences. Even getting a job can be hard for some inmates, they say people are hesitant to hire them once they present their prison IDs.

  • At the end of 2015, out of a total of 419,623 prisoners in India, 3,789 (0.9%) were held in open prisons
  • Two states, Rajasthan and Maharashtra had 42 open prisons - more than half of the total
  • Twenty-one open prisons were distributed among 15 other states

But they still live a version of a normal life here: they buy motorcycles, smartphones, and televisions; they wear no prison uniform and live in small numbered houses. Each prisoner is allotted a government-provided house along one of Sanganer's narrow lanes. The rest is up to them. The prison doesn't provide them with any food, water or income.

Image captionAll prisoners must attend an evening roll call

So every day, most of them leave the prison grounds to earn a living: men convicted of murder work as security guards, factory workers and daily labourers. I even meet one inmate who's a yoga instructor and another who's a supervisor in a nearby school.

The only real rule, I'm told, is that prisoners must make roll call every evening. Sanganer hardly seems like a prison, except at this moment. At sundown, representatives of the prison's elected governing body stand at the prison entrance. An inmate with a microphone begins taking attendance, calling out numbers from 1 to 450. Sometimes, he stops at a number and scolds a prisoner for leaving rubbish outside his or her house.

Everyone must be accounted for… or risk return to a closed prison.

Japan is in the grip of an elderly crime wave - the proportion of crimes committed by people over the age of 65 has been steadily increasing for 20 years. The BBC's Ed Butler asks why.

https://www.bbc.com/news/stories-47093046

ruby Posted on February 04, 2019 11:48

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Maroon 5's Super Bowl show fails to catch fire

Comets, drones, marching bands and Spongebob Squarepants: Maroon 5's Super Bowl half-time show had everything... except an emotional connection.

The LA band delivered an enthusiastic, breathless history of their biggest hits - from This Love to Girls Like You - but unlike the copious pyrotechnics, their set failed to catch fire.

They came closest with a low-key rendition of the ballad She Will Be Loved, performed in the middle of the crowd, as Chinese lanterns rose into the Atlanta skyline.

As the song reached its climax, the lanterns revealed themselves to be drones - flying in formation to spell out the phrase "one love".

Behind singer Adam Levine, one couple wrapped their arms around each other and swayed, apparently oblivious to the fact they were being watched by millions.

Levine threw himself into the show, dropping to his knees, bashing out guitar solos and running up and down the M-shaped stage - but the band tried to cram in too much material (nine songs in 13 minutes) to create a coherent, enjoyable show.

Media captionSuper Bowl 53: Spongebob Squarepants steals Maroon 5's half-time show spotlight

It didn't help that they had to make room for rapper Travis Scott, who arrived on stage by "crash-landing" in a comet, and local star Big Boi, formerly of Outkast, who drove on to the field to perform Kryptonite and I Like The Way You Move.

The guests helped propel the show - Scott, in particular, doubled the energy on stage - but it's notable that the most successful Super Bowl performers of the last decade, Lady Gaga and Prince, both rejected collaborators.

Maroon 5 closed their set with their biggest hit, Moves Like Jagger, as Levine stripped off his vest top and fireworks shot from the roof of Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz stadium.

They didn't leave the stage defeated - casual fans will have been reminded why they're still around and producing hits after 17 years - but neither will the show be talked about as an all-time classic.

Image captionTravis Scott performed his shape-shifting rap hit Sicko Mode

Image captionA gospel choir helped out on Girls Like You - but guest rapper Cardi B declined to join the show.

Why was Spongebob Squarepants there?

During the show, a short clip of cult cartoon character Spongebob Squarepants was beamed across the stadium's video screens - after fans pleaded for the character's song Sweet Victory to feature at this year's half-time show.

For those who don't know, Sweet Victory is a hair rock anthem that SpongeBob and the Bikini Bottom Super Band played for a stunned sports audience in the classic episode Band Geeks.

petition asking Maroon 5 to play it was launched after Spongebob's creator Stephen Hillenburg died of ALS - also known as motor neurone disease - last November.

However the 1.2 million signatories were left disappointed, as the cartoon introduction simply cut to Travis Scott's performance.

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Why was the show controversial?

Like most previous performers, Maroon 5 kept their set upbeat and free from politics.

The group, which has built a career on inoffensive pop songs and an uncanny ability to adopt new musical trends, was never going to ruffle any feathers - but they arrived at the Super Bowl in a year when the conversation around the half-time show had become particularly heated.

There were rumours that some artists - including Rihanna - had refused to perform for the NFL, which has been criticised for its botched handling of player protests and the alleged blacklisting of Colin Kaepernick, who began the practice of kneeling during the US national anthem to raise awareness of racial inequality and police brutality.

It meant Maroon 5 had to play the Cardi B duet Girls Like You without their star collaborator, after she declined to appear, citing solidarity with Kaepernick.

"There's a man who sacrificed his job for us, so we got to stand behind him," she explained earlier this week.

Wary of a backlash, Maroon 5 cancelled the traditional pre-game press conference in order to "let their show do the talking".

On Thursday night, however, Levine gave a pre-taped interview to Entertainment Tonight, in which he addressed the situation.

Image captionLevine said he wanted the music to do the talking

"I'm not in the right profession if I can't handle a little bit of controversy," he said. "It is what it is. We expected it. We'd like to move on from it and speak through the music."

To counter criticism, the band teamed up with the NFL and their record label Interscope to donate $500,000 (£382,000) to educational charity Big Brother Big Sister.

Their gesture echoed that of Travis Scott, who only agreed to perform on the condition that the NFL agreed to join him in a joint donation of $500,000 to the social justice organisation Dream Corps.

None of the performers were paid for playing the Super Bowl; but they receive one of the largest TV audiences on US television.

Last year, Justin Timberlake's mid-game performance was watched by 106.6 million people in the US.

The most-watched Super Bowl show of all time was Katy Perry's shark-infested spectacular in 2015, which drew 120.7 million viewers.

Image captionGladys Knight sang the national anthem at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta

Before the clash between The New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams began, Gladys Knight gave a powerful and soulful rendition of the National Anthem, flanked by a military band and accompanied by artist and deaf activist Aarron Loggins, who signed the anthem.

Knight had earlier issued a defiant statement explaining her decision to appear.

"I understand that Mr Kaepernick is protesting two things, and they are police violence and injustice," Knight told Variety magazine.

"It is unfortunate that our National Anthem has been dragged into this debate when the distinctive senses of the National Anthem and fighting for justice should each stand alone."

"I am here today... to give the anthem back its voice, to stand for that historic choice of words, the way it unites us when we hear it and to free it from the same prejudices and struggles I have fought long and hard for all my life," she added.

"From walking back hallways, from marching with our social leaders, from using my voice for good - I have been in the forefront of this battle longer than most of those voicing their opinions to win the right to sing our country's anthem on a stage as large as the Super Bowl LIII."

https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-47112127

ruby Posted on February 04, 2019 11:38

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Parents DNA-tested in ‘Thai bride’ cold case

DNA samples have been taken from a Thai couple who believe their daughter may be the woman whose body was found on a hillside in England 14 years ago.

The body was discovered in a stream near Pen-y-ghent, in the Yorkshire Dales, in 2004.

Police said she may have been a "Thai bride". On Thursday a Thai couple came forward to say they believed she may be their daughter, Lamduan Seekanya.

Analysis of the samples taken by Thai officials is due to take several days.

The results of the tests will then be sent to the UK for comparison, said Setthinaree Veness, the president of the Thai Women Network in the UK, who is working with the family.

The couple, Joomsri Seekanya, 72, and her husband Buasa, told a news conference last week their daughter married a British man in 1991 and moved to north-west England shortly after.

Image captionDNA samples were taken from husband and wife Buasa and Joomsri Seekanya (centre)

Image captionBuasa (left) and Joomsri Seekanya have not heard from their daughter since 2004

The family, from Udon Thani, in north-east Thailand, said they had not heard from her since 2004.

Mrs Seekanya said: "A part of me hopes that it's not my daughter - I want her to come back alive. But if it's really her, I can finally sleep at night."

Image captionA police artist created an impression of how the woman may have looked

Cold-case investigators say they believe the woman found in the UK was murdered and dumped on the hillside.

Forensic tests suggest she was aged between 25 and 35, originally from south-east Asia and may have lived in north Lancashire or south Cumbria.

She was found more than a mile (2km) from the nearest road and was wearing only green jeans, socks and a gold wedding band.

Image captionThe woman's body was discovered by walkers when they stopped to take photos by a hillside stream

Speaking in October, Adam Harland, manager of the North Yorkshire and Cleveland Police cold case review team, said they believed the woman may have been a "Thai bride".

He said: "[It is possible] she is a lady who has taken up a relationship with a white gentleman, and come back to the UK."

On Friday, North Yorkshire Police confirmed it had received a possible name for the unknown woman and said inquiries were ongoing.

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-york-north-yorkshire-47019961

ruby Posted on February 01, 2019 17:34

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Bristol Airport: Flights cancelled after snow shuts airfield

Thousands of passengers were left "frustrated" and "disappointed" after heavy snow caused Bristol Airport to shut.

Disruption continued into the afternoon as teams worked to clear the airfield. The runway reopened at 16:30 GMT.

Almost all of Friday's 130 flights to and from Bristol have been cancelled.

A spokesman thanked passengers for their patience and advised they should check flight information with their tour operators.

Wales rugby fans heading to Paris for Friday's Six Nations fixture were among those caught up in the disruption.

A BBC reporter at the airport said dozens of people were waiting for information in the departure lounge.

Media captionThe airport has cancelled flights in order to clear snow from the runway

An airport spokesman said: "We anticipate operating as normal on Saturday but please contact your airline for updates on the status of your flight."

Louise Weston, from Westbury-on-Trym, was forced to cancel her holiday to Barcelona due to the disruption.

She described it as "incredibly frustrating", adding: "It's something we'd been looking forward to but you can't control the weather and I wouldn't want to be on a flight that wasn't safe.

"We are lucky that we'd booked a package so we'll get a refund at least and can make other plans."

Disruption to flights is expected to continue into the afternoon as a result of ongoing snow fall at Bristol Airport. Our teams continue to work hard to clear snow from the airfield. Please refer to your airlines' app/website for specific flight info. Thank you for your patience.

Sarah Trevelyan, 43, from Henleaze said she was "very disappointed" to have to abandon her "much-anticipated holiday".

Jenni Need, from Bristol, and her husband were stranded in Venice, where they had spent their honeymoon.

They were due to fly home on Thursday night but their EasyJet flight was cancelled as was their rescheduled flight this morning.

"My partner got on the phone to EasyJet because we were adamant we weren't going and queuing in the airport again," she said.

"He managed to reschedule it a second time until hopefully Sunday.

"We're stuck here in a hotel room, no euros now we've spent all our money, twiddling our thumbs waiting for Sunday. We're trying to make the best of a really bad situation."

Information about the cancelled flights can be found on the airport's website.

British Airways also cancelled dozens of flights from Heathrow Airport on Friday morning due to the weather conditions.

Image captionAbout 106 flights scheduled to take off or land at Bristol Airport have been cancelled

The Met Office said 14cm of snow fell in Dunkeswell, Devon, while 3 to 5cm fell across Somerset.

Hundreds of schools across the west country were also closed due to the snow.

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-bristol-47086714

ruby Posted on February 01, 2019 17:30

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Amber Peat: Girl, 13, 'found hanged after chores row'

A 13-year-old girl was found hanged after she went missing from home following an argument about chores, an inquest has heard.

Amber Peat's body was found in bushes three days after she walked out of her home in Mansfield on 30 May 2015.

She left at about 17:10 GMT and was reported missing almost eight hours later, at 00:56 on 31 May.

Amber "always had a sad face" and "felt very put upon" at home, her former teacher told the inquest.

Joanne Holt told Nottinghamshire Coroner's Court: "She had lots of jobs to do that her siblings perhaps weren't expected to do in the same way.

"She didn't feel she was treated fairly in comparison to her siblings.

"She felt her siblings perhaps got away with things that she perhaps didn't get away with."

Image captionAmber's body was found in Westfield Lane, about a mile from her home in Bosworth Street

Amber lived with her mother Kelly Peat and stepfather Daniel Peat, while her biological father Adrian Cook lived in Scotland.

Mrs Holt was Amber's class teacher at John Davies Primary in Huthwaite for just over a term, from January 2013 onwards, until the teenager moved schools during the summer term.

The inquest heard how Amber went to many different schools as she had moved house "no less than 11 times", according to assistant coroner Laurinda Bower.

The coroner asked Mrs Holt to tell her what she remembered about Amber.

Image captionAmber's mother and stepfather appealed for information when she went missing

Mrs Holt said: "I remember she was quite an unhappy child. That's what stands out mostly in my head.

"She never really seemed happy. She was usually alone. She always had a sad face."

Mrs Holt said she had tried to talk to Amber's mother about her problems "on a number of occasions" after school.

"I think on two occasions we had a meeting with mum but couldn't get much response from her," she said.

"I didn't feel that anything was acted upon or really acknowledged that there was a problem."

Image captionFloral tributes and messages to Amber Peat were left near where her body was found

Det Con Tina Gilfoyle, who investigated Amber's death for Nottinghamshire Police, said she had been "troubled quite a lot" while on a family holiday to Cornwall in the week before her death.

Family members told police "there had been arguments" and Amber "had been prevented from going to the beach," the detective said.

While there, Amber and her cousin wrote a "Run Away List" containing items such as a torch and a wig, but her cousin apparently thought it was a joke.

Amber's stepfather allegedly threatened to hit her if she continued scowling at him while on the drive home from holiday, the court heard.

That is what one of Amber's siblings told police, but Mr Peat has not yet given his evidence and has not been questioned about the allegation.

Image captionVolunteers from the community helped police search for Amber

Image captionPosters were put in the windows of shops and houses as the public joined the search for Amber

Amber was apparently made to clear the car out when they arrived home from holiday, and on the day she died she had been asked to clean a cool box.

"She wasn't happy about it," Det Con Gilfoyle said.

"She is reported as complaining and trying to get mum's attention, and so mum shuts the door leaving Amber alone in the hallway. A short while later the door slams and Amber is gone."

The officer said Amber's family went to look for her, but also went to Tesco and did some shopping before finally reporting her missing.

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-nottinghamshire-47032653

ruby Posted on February 01, 2019 17:18

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How bodies on a chip can transform animal welfare

When Ken-Ichiro Kamei, a microengineer at Kyoto University, goes out drinking with his friends, he usually brings along one of his “bodies on a chip.” When the topic of work inevitably comes up, he’ll whip out the chip – which looks like a lab slide, but with an added crystal-clear silicone rubber layer containing faintly visible troughs and channels – and declare, “I’m making these devices to recreate humans and animals.”

Wows inevitably ensue. “It’s like I’m a magician and my friends have asked me to do some tricks,” Kamei chuckles.

Kamei is at the forefront of a new field of biotechnology that seeks to replicate organs, systems and entire bodies on chips such as the one he likes to show off. While traditional biochemical experiments carried out on lab plates are static and isolated, the chips Kamei uses contain an interconnected system of channels, valves and pumps that allow for more complex interactions – to the point that they can mimic a living system. Recognizing the potential such chips have for revolutionizing medical research, in 2016 the World Economic Forum named “organs-on-chips” in their top 10 emerging technologies of the year. But while those specialised chips mimic particular tissues or organs, Kamei and his colleagues aim to eventually mimic whole animals. “It’s quite ambitious,” he says.

Ken-Ichiro Kamei holding one of his "bodies on a chip".

Kamei builds his own microfluidic chips in his lab, primarily using a laser cutter and a 3D printer. To operate the chips, he adds various types of cell tissue into six chambers connected to microchannels and then hooks the chip’s pneumatic micropumps up to a controller to create circulation. This gives him and others the ability to test the efficacy and side effects of new drugs, to design personalised medicine for individuals based on their cell cultures and to better understand the underpinnings of disease. In one experiment, for example, Kamei and his colleagues loaded a chip with healthy heart cells and cancerous liver cells. They then added doxorubicin, an anti-cancer drug known to cause toxic side effects on the heart but whose specific mechanism to toxicity was unknown. The researchers discovered that the drug did not directly cause the heart damage; instead, the metabolised by-product produced by the liver did.

Such experiments require an ample supply of diverse cells, and would not have been possible were it not for the work of Shinya Yamanaka, a stem cell researcher at Kyoto University who won the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his pioneering creation of induced-pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. “iPS cells can proliferate many, many times outside of the body, whereas other types of stem cells cannot,” Kamei says. “Previously-used cell lines also came from just one person, which wasn’t useful for studying genomic diseases or a specific individual.”

As their name implies, undifferentiated iPS cells can be induced from virtually any other type of cells in the body. The cells are transformed using “Yamanaka factors,” or protein-coding genes that reprogram cells into an embryonic state. The blank canvas cells can then be coaxed into becoming any other type of cells, including sperm cells and eggs for fertility treatments, or any others in the body for pharmaceutical trials. 

The "bodies on a chip" not only have the potential to improve human medicine; they may also be essential tools for animal conservation.

Stem cells could be used to create endangered species products that satisfy market demand without killing wildlife

Like most biomedical technologies, iPS cells and chips such as the one Kamei uses were created with humans in mind, not animals. But both technologies have great potential for aiding in species conservation as well as animal welfare. iPS cells could be used to synthesise lab-grown meat, for example, alleviating inhumane treatment of livestock and environmentally harmful side effects from farming, or to create endangered species products that satisfy market demand without killing wildlife. As in humans, chips also open up a vehicle for studying and better understanding wildlife – and therefore better protecting it.

“Many scientists are excited about the possibilities for these kinds of technologies to benefit a broader context than human medical applications,” says Oliver Ryder, director of conservation genetics at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research and a partner on Kamei’s “body on a chip” project. “It’s very fortunate that, within the context of shared interests, this research program could play an important role in animal conservation.” 

Lab-grown meat could one day fill our burger buns .It was animal welfare, not conservation, that originally prompted Kamei to look beyond the confines of human medicine. While studying laboratory mice at the University of California, Los Angeles, he found himself sympathizing with his four-legged subjects. “I was like, why do I need to use a mouse to study humans?” he recalls. “I was curious about how I could help such animals.”

He’s not alone in asking that question. Animal testing is going out of vogue in industries and universities around the world. In 2009 the EU banned the practice in its cosmetics industry, and in 2013 lawmakers bumped up protections to include all cosmetics sold throughout the EU, regardless of where they were made. Chips loaded with human tissues can help alleviate the need for animal testing – a double plus since mice, rats, rabbits and monkeys do not always react to a drug or product in the same way people do. Because of this, the human body-mimicking chips, Kamei says, are “considered a main contender for alternatives to animal tests.”

Humans, of course, aren’t the only species that suffer from disease, and iPS cells and chip technologies might accelerate the development of new medical treatments for animals too. Significantly fewer people study animal diseases compared to human ones, and fewer resources are available to support those studies. The versatility of wildlife makes it even more difficult to devise species-specific cures for diseases, and on top of that, endangered species tend to be scarce and laws often prohibit capturing them, even if it would help scientists to understand their health and illnesses.

The "bodies on a chip", which mimic human physiology, can test the effects of new drugs, replacing laboratory animals .“If we can create organs of endangered animals, we can understand how those organs work and how to protect them from infection,” says Miho Murayama, director of the Wildlife Research Center at Kyoto University. “That would be very useful, because we can’t experiment on them like we do mice.”

Scientists working in Kazakhstan are still struggling to understand why 200,000 saiga antelopes – 60% of the global population – suddenly dropped dead from a bacterial infection in 2015, while researchers in Tasmania have been working for years to devise life-saving treatments for a gruesome, contagious face cancer that is threatening the survival of Tasmanian devils. Gorillas are another prime example: they are notoriously prone to heart attacks – but no one knows why, and no one has been able to provide a fix. “If we can mimic gorilla heart attacks inside the body on a chip system, we can identify what kinds of drug and treatments will help them,” Kamei says. “This kind of testing would be beneficial not only for endangered animals, but also for pets and livestock.”

Ryder adds that beyond chips, iPS cells open up a seemingly endless array of possibilities for species conservation. “If genetic diversity can be banked and restored by turning cells into animals or by using cellularly-based technologies to restore genetic variation, then there’s less risk of extinction,” he says. “It’s amazing to be at a place where we can investigate the possibilities of this kind of technology.”

Ryder is one of the leads on the most well-known of such projects: an international effort to save the northern white rhino – a subspecies of white rhino that is now reduced to just two living individuals – by using frozen tissue samples of former individuals to create iPS cells. The iPS cells would, in turn, be made into egg and sperm cells to create viable, genetically diverse embryos to be implanted in surrogate southern white rhino mothers. While an ambitious start, Ryder points out that this is now the only hope for saving the subspecies from extinction. And regardless of the project’s success, it will likely pave the way for similar species-saving efforts in the future.

Tasmanian devils face a mysterious form of face cancer that could threaten their survival.

Technology, Murayama adds, can also accelerate our understanding of fundamental biology and evolution. She and her colleagues are interested, for example, in how hormones and neurotransmitters like serotonin affect animal behaviour and how gene function underlies those behaviours. To do this, she often relies on genome analysis of individual animals, but to understand real-time function and physiology, nothing beats side-by-side comparisons of living cells. Chips and iPS cells made from some of the 600 species whose genetic information she has collected over the years will better allow her to compare the underpinning of behaviour across species.

“We still don’t have basic information about many wild animals,” Murayama says. “Our goal is to connect field data and lab data, to better understand species.”

Challenges for realizing such goals abound, however. For one, the formula for creating iPS cells differs from species to species. What works for a rhino will not necessarily work for a chimpanzee or an eagle. After iPS cells are made, the differentiation process to grow various cell types can also vary by species, as can the culture conditions necessary for the cells to proliferate and thrive.

Hitomi Tabata and Tomoka Hirayama, students at Hiroo Gakuen High School in Tokyo, recently discovered this first-hand when they tried to create iPS cells from elephants. Like naked mole rats, elephants are exceptional in that they hardly ever get cancer. Tabata and Hirayama – both of whom plan to become doctors with an emphasis on research – chose to study elephants because of the medical potential of their anti-cancer abilities. But in the course of their research they learned about the poaching crisis in Africa, which has cost the lives of tens of thousands of elephants across the continent over the past decade. The students realised that their health-focused project could also yield a conservation solution: lab-grown ivory made from elephant iPS cells.

“We were thinking, if differentiation into ivory is successful, it could help to increase elephant populations,” Tabata says. “We could grow ivory in blocks that would be easy to manufacture into hankos” – the name seals that account for 80% of ivory use in Japan.

Scientists hope to be able to produce lab-grown ivory, presenting an alternative legal source of the goods.

Tabata and Hirayama were able to create pluripotent stem cells from mice, but when it came time to do so with elephants, they ran into a problem. Elephants’ many copies of p53, the gene responsible for the species’ resistance to cancer for the role it plays in resisting the cellular cycle, also made elephants’ cells resistant to reprogramming. “This gene works to resist or reduce the cellular cycle, which means it’s more difficult to create iPS cells,” Hirayama says. Still, she and Tabata plan to keep trying by attempting to knockdown p53 and by changing how they introduce the Yamanaka factor – at least until their graduation in March, after which they hope junior students will take up the project.

Kamei agrees that p53 is a major stumbling block – but one that, like all challenges in science, is worth trying to overcome. “I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it’s almost impossible to reprogram elephant cells because of p53,” he says. “If it is possible, though, I want to do it.” The project does, at least, show how the "bodies on a chip" can provide a useful tool to introduce young scientists to genetics research.

For now, Kamei has created a “body on a chip” mouse model, and he is nearing completion of another for Grevy’s zebras, whose cells arrived at his lab courtesy Murayama’s connections at the Kyoto City Zoo. Dolphins and horses are next on the list. “Each species has hurdles, but they also all present interesting topics to study,” he says. “If my research can be helpful for people working in zoos or with animals, then that’s great.”

He adds, though, that his goals extend even higher – literally beyond the bounds of earthly problems, all the way into space. In the US, the National Center for Advancing Translational Science and the International Space Station US National Laboratory already created a “Tissue Chips in Space” project to test the effects of space on human cells and organs, and Kamei believes they could be of equal value in ensuring animals can make a smooth transition to a post-Earth future. “Humans won’t be the only ones going into space – pets and livestock will, too,” Kamei says. “While I won’t be going to Mars, it’s my dream to help those who do.”  

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20190122-how-bodies-on-a-chip-can-transform-animal-welfare

ruby Posted on February 01, 2019 17:14

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US economy adds 304,000 jobs in January

The US economy added a stronger-than-expected 304,000 jobs in January, official figures have shown.

The figure was far in excess of economists' forecasts of 165,000.

However, December's jobs growth figure was revised to 222,000, down from an initial estimate of 312,000.

Last month saw jobs being added in leisure and hospitality, construction, health care, transportation and warehousing, according to the US Department of Labor.

The widespread gains marked the 100th month in a row of hiring.

They were a reminder of the economy's continued strength, despite rising concerns about factors such as slowing global growth, trade tensions, and recent dips in consumer confidence.

"This is a solid report, particularly given how worried people were," said Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Bank.

Hiring demand

The unemployment rate in January ticked up from 3.9% to 4% - a gain the Labor Department said was due to the partial shutdown of the federal government.

The shutdown was also likely to have contributed to a surge in part-time workers last month, the Labor Department said.

Overall, however, job creation in the US remains healthy - and well above the roughly 100,000 additions per month need to keep pace with growth in the working-age population.

US employers added an average of 223,000 jobs per month in 2018.

Separate surveys have also found more job openings than unemployed.

Image captionDemand for workers remains strong

"A lot of businesses feel like they do need to find workers and they have felt that way for months," Mr Faucher said.

"We have consumers spending, we have businesses investing, so the demand is there."

Wage pressure

The Federal Reserve this week pledged to be "patient" about further rate rises, noting that inflation pressures remain muted.

But the tight labour market has started to translate into higher wages.

The average hourly pay for private sector workers was $27.56 last month, up 3.2% year-on-year.

That was slightly slower than December's 3.3% rise. But it still marked one of the strongest year-on-year increases for any month since the financial crisis.

Analysts said January's gains do not put immediate pressure on the bank to raise rates.

But several economists said the bank is likely to increase rates later in 2019, if trends continue.

"This is a strong report, showing that labour demand continues to rise rapidly, and that wage gains continue to grind higher," said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist of Pantheon Macroeconomics.

"If wage gains rise over the next year as much they have over the past year ... the idea that the Fed won't hike further will turn to dust."

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-47092341

ruby Posted on February 01, 2019 17:07

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Tracking sanctions-busting ships on the high seas

For a long time, being out at sea meant being out of sight and out of reach.

And all kinds of shenanigans went on as a result - countries secretly selling oil and other goods to countries they're not supposed to under international sanctions rules, for example, not to mention piracy and kidnapping.

The problem is that captains can easily switch off the current way of tracking ships, called the Automatic Identification System (AIS), hiding their location.

But now thousands of surveillance satellites have been launched into space, and artificial intelligence (AI) is being applied to the images they take.

There's no longer anywhere for such ships to hide.

Samir Madani, co-founder of TankerTrackers.com, says his firm's satellite imagery analysis has identified Iranian tankers moving in and out of port, despite US sanctions restricting much of the country's oil exports.

He's watched North Korea - which is limited by international rules to 500,000 barrels of refined oil every year - taking delivery of fuel via ship-to-ship transfers on the open ocean.

Media captionNorth Korea has been called out for evading UN sanctions

Turning off the AIS transponders that broadcast a ship's position, course and speed, is no longer a guarantee of anonymity.

His firm can even ascertain what cargo a ship is carrying - and how much - just by looking at its shadow on the water, says Mr Madani.

The fuller the vessel is, the lower it sits in the water, and this affects the size of the shadow depending on the sun's position at the time.

"There are some other indicators we don't want to mention - we have our own methods," he adds mysteriously.

Planet Labs - a private space firm that just launched 300 satellites into orbit, the largest such fleet ever deployed commercially - offers ship tracking as a service to clients such as TankerTrackers.

As well as spotting nefarious maritime activities, these spies in the sky can give us a snapshot of the global economy.

Image captionSatellites can spot tankers undergoing - sometimes illegal - ship-to-ship fuel transfers

For example, Mr Madani has witnessed huge numbers of tankers sailing from the US to China suddenly stop mid-ocean, as trade tensions between the two countries peaked.

And now that Saudi Arabia, along with its Opec allies, has agreed to cut oil production in a bid to boost prices - much to President Trump's annoyance - traders can see if it is keeping its promise simply by monitoring the number of tankers leaving its ports.

In a bygone era, traders would have to have waited weeks to confirm that deliveries were falling.

Satellite tracking is giving traders near real-time data on where oil supplies are located, how much there is, and how long it will take to arrive. This means they can respond much more quickly to sudden shifts in price and demand.

Image captionA satellite snaps a tanker that has turned off its AIS tracking system off the coast of Egypt

Say a big winter storm hits the US east coast and the price of oil spikes as a result. Fuel tankers already en route to Europe, say, will sometimes "reverse course and head back across the Atlantic on the basis of the price", explains Michelle Wiese Bockmann, an independent shipping analyst.

Their cargoes will have been re-sold while in transit.

"When I first started tracking ships five years ago, it was by no means as evolved as it is now," says Ms Bockmann.

Vortexa is one of a new breed of companies applying AI to all this satellite and market data to monitor global energy markets.

Fabio Kuhn, co-founder and chief executive, shows me a live map plotting the location of thousands of tanker ships across the globe.

Image captionThere can be more than 5,000 tankers plying the world's oceans at any one time

Click on one and you see details of what it's carrying and where it's headed. There are also separate screens showing, for instance, all of the known diesel shipments heading towards the UK right now - useful to know if you expect cold weather to hit in the coming weeks.

"A company like ours could not have existed before 2015," he tells me. "There was not enough data for us to understand what is inside the tankers."

  • Even though Vortexa can't be certain of the cargo in every case, having so much data on ships and port activity means it can make automated guesses.

"It feels as if vessel-tracking has become a much more prominent element of the global commodity market," says Matthew Smith at ship-tracking firm ClipperData, "simply because it's giving greater transparency into what's happening."

His firm has mapped "every single dock in every single port" worldwide, and has logged every publicly available record of what cargoes have been loaded there. This means that if a ship with unknown cargo uses one of these docks, his team can make a good guess as to what it's carrying.

And as the ebb and flow of commodities trading affects the wider global economy, financial traders at big banks and hedge funds also want to keep an eye on shipping activity, says Mr Smith.

As ever, knowledge is power, and increasingly sophisticated satellites and data analysis are helping to deliver both.

For a long time, being out at sea meant being out of sight and out of reach.

And all kinds of shenanigans went on as a result - countries secretly selling oil and other goods to countries they're not supposed to under international sanctions rules, for example, not to mention piracy and kidnapping.

The problem is that captains can easily switch off the current way of tracking ships, called the Automatic Identification System (AIS), hiding their location.

But now thousands of surveillance satellites have been launched into space, and artificial intelligence (AI) is being applied to the images they take.

There's no longer anywhere for such ships to hide.

Samir Madani, co-founder of TankerTrackers.com, says his firm's satellite imagery analysis has identified Iranian tankers moving in and out of port, despite US sanctions restricting much of the country's oil exports.

He's watched North Korea - which is limited by international rules to 500,000 barrels of refined oil every year - taking delivery of fuel via ship-to-ship transfers on the open ocean.
Media captionNorth Korea has been called out for evading UN sanctions
Turning off the AIS transponders that broadcast a ship's position, course and speed, is no longer a guarantee of anonymity.

His firm can even ascertain what cargo a ship is carrying - and how much - just by looking at its shadow on the water, says Mr Madani.

The fuller the vessel is, the lower it sits in the water, and this affects the size of the shadow depending on the sun's position at the time.

"There are some other indicators we don't want to mention - we have our own methods," he adds mysteriously.

Planet Labs - a private space firm that just launched 300 satellites into orbit, the largest such fleet ever deployed commercially - offers ship tracking as a service to clients such as TankerTrackers.

As well as spotting nefarious maritime activities, these spies in the sky can give us a snapshot of the global economy.
Satellites can spot tankers undergoing - sometimes illegal - ship-to-ship fuel transfers
For example, Mr Madani has witnessed huge numbers of tankers sailing from the US to China suddenly stop mid-ocean, as trade tensions between the two countries peaked.

And now that Saudi Arabia, along with its Opec allies, has agreed to cut oil production in a bid to boost prices - much to President Trump's annoyance - traders can see if it is keeping its promise simply by monitoring the number of tankers leaving its ports.

In a bygone era, traders would have to have waited weeks to confirm that deliveries were falling.

Satellite tracking is giving traders near real-time data on where oil supplies are located, how much there is, and how long it will take to arrive. This means they can respond much more quickly to sudden shifts in price and demand.
A satellite snaps a tanker that has turned off its AIS tracking system off the coast of Egypt
Say a big winter storm hits the US east coast and the price of oil spikes as a result. Fuel tankers already en route to Europe, say, will sometimes "reverse course and head back across the Atlantic on the basis of the price", explains Michelle Wiese Bockmann, an independent shipping analyst.

Their cargoes will have been re-sold while in transit.

"When I first started tracking ships five years ago, it was by no means as evolved as it is now," says Ms Bockmann.

Vortexa is one of a new breed of companies applying AI to all this satellite and market data to monitor global energy markets.

Fabio Kuhn, co-founder and chief executive, shows me a live map plotting the location of thousands of tanker ships across the globe.
There can be more than 5,000 tankers plying the world's oceans at any one time
Click on one and you see details of what it's carrying and where it's headed. There are also separate screens showing, for instance, all of the known diesel shipments heading towards the UK right now - useful to know if you expect cold weather to hit in the coming weeks.

"A company like ours could not have existed before 2015," he tells me. "There was not enough data for us to understand what is inside the tankers."

More Technology of Business

Meet the data guardians taking on the tech giants
Could dancing pandas persuade you to buy new sports shoes?
Why your new heart could be made in space one day
Designing the cities of the future
The once homeless man bringing web access to the Bronx
Even though Vortexa can't be certain of the cargo in every case, having so much data on ships and port activity means it can make automated guesses.

"It feels as if vessel-tracking has become a much more prominent element of the global commodity market," says Matthew Smith at ship-tracking firm ClipperData, "simply because it's giving greater transparency into what's happening."

His firm has mapped "every single dock in every single port" worldwide, and has logged every publicly available record of what cargoes have been loaded there. This means that if a ship with unknown cargo uses one of these docks, his team can make a good guess as to what it's carrying.

And as the ebb and flow of commodities trading affects the wider global economy, financial traders at big banks and hedge funds also wan

For a long time, being out at sea meant being out of sight and out of reach.

And all kinds of shenanigans went on as a result - countries secretly selling oil and other goods to countries they're not supposed to under international sanctions rules, for example, not to mention piracy and kidnapping.

The problem is that captains can easily switch off the current way of tracking ships, called the Automatic Identification System (AIS), hiding their location.

But now thousands of surveillance satellites have been launched into space, and artificial intelligence (AI) is being applied to the images they take.

There's no longer anywhere for such ships to hide.

Samir Madani, co-founder of TankerTrackers.com, says his firm's satellite imagery analysis has identified Iranian tankers moving in and out of port, despite US sanctions restricting much of the country's oil exports.

He's watched North Korea - which is limited by international rules to 500,000 barrels of refined oil every year - taking delivery of fuel via ship-to-ship transfers on the open ocean.


Media captionNorth Korea has been called out for evading UN sanctions
Turning off the AIS transponders that broadcast a ship's position, course and speed, is no longer a guarantee of anonymity.

His firm can even ascertain what cargo a ship is carrying - and how much - just by looking at its shadow on the water, says Mr Madani.

The fuller the vessel is, the lower it sits in the water, and this affects the size of the shadow depending on the sun's position at the time.

"There are some other indicators we don't want to mention - we have our own methods," he adds mysteriously.

Planet Labs - a private space firm that just launched 300 satellites into orbit, the largest such fleet ever deployed commercially - offers ship tracking as a service to clients such as TankerTrackers.

As well as spotting nefarious maritime activities, these spies in the sky can give us a snapshot of the global economy.
Satellites can spot tankers undergoing - sometimes illegal - ship-to-ship fuel transfers
For example, Mr Madani has witnessed huge numbers of tankers sailing from the US to China suddenly stop mid-ocean, as trade tensions between the two countries peaked.

And now that Saudi Arabia, along with its Opec allies, has agreed to cut oil production in a bid to boost prices - much to President Trump's annoyance - traders can see if it is keeping its promise simply by monitoring the number of tankers leaving its ports.

In a bygone era, traders would have to have waited weeks to confirm that deliveries were falling.

Satellite tracking is giving traders near real-time data on where oil supplies are located, how much there is, and how long it will take to arrive. This means they can respond much more quickly to sudden shifts in price and demand.
A satellite snaps a tanker that has turned off its AIS tracking system off the coast of Egypt
Say a big winter storm hits the US east coast and the price of oil spikes as a result. Fuel tankers already en route to Europe, say, will sometimes "reverse course and head back across the Atlantic on the basis of the price", explains Michelle Wiese Bockmann, an independent shipping analyst.

Their cargoes will have been re-sold while in transit.

"When I first started tracking ships five years ago, it was by no means as evolved as it is now," says Ms Bockmann.

Vortexa is one of a new breed of companies applying AI to all this satellite and market data to monitor global energy markets.

Fabio Kuhn, co-founder and chief executive, shows me a live map plotting the location of thousands of tanker ships across the globe.
There can be more than 5,000 tankers plying the world's oceans at any one time
Click on one and you see details of what it's carrying and where it's headed. There are also separate screens showing, for instance, all of the known diesel shipments heading towards the UK right now - useful to know if you expect cold weather to hit in the coming weeks.

"A company like ours could not have existed before 2015," he tells me. "There was not enough data for us to understand what is inside the tankers."

More Technology of Business

Meet the data guardians taking on the tech giants
Could dancing pandas persuade you to buy new sports shoes?
Why your new heart could be made in space one day
Designing the cities of the future
The once homeless man bringing web access to the Bronx
Even though Vortexa can't be certain of the cargo in every case, having so much data on ships and port activity means it can make automated guesses.

"It feels as if vessel-tracking has become a much more prominent element of the global commodity market," says Matthew Smith at ship-tracking firm ClipperData, "simply because it's giving greater transparency into what's happening."

His firm has mapped "every single dock in every single port" worldwide, and has logged every publicly available record of what cargoes have been loaded there. This means that if a ship with unknown cargo uses one of these docks, his team can make a good guess as to what it's carrying.

And as the ebb and flow of commodities trading affects the wider global economy, financial traders at big banks and hedge funds also want to keep an eye on shipping activity, says Mr Smith.

As ever, knowledge is power, and increasingly sophisticated satellites and data analysis are helping to deliver both.

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-47046979

t to keep an eye on shipping activity, says Mr Smith.

As ever, knowledge is power, and increasingly sophisticated satellites and data analysis are helping to deliver both.

ruby Posted on February 01, 2019 17:04

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Did wine cause a full-sacle revolution in armenia

Born late-December 2012, In Vino was the first specialist wine bar and shop to open in Armenia’s capital, Yerevan. The cosy interior brims with hand-picked bottles; pungent cured meats and cheeses fill the deli counter; and passionate staff deliver a wealth of knowledge with every glass.(Credit: age fotostock/Alamy)

This scene would be familiar to most oenophiles, and is repeated in cities across the globe. So to understand the significance of this particular bar, some wider context about this corner of the Caucasus is needed.

In Vino was the first specialist wine bar and shop to open in Armenia’s capital, Yerevan.

Armenia claims an enviable history. What are believed to be the oldest known traces of winemaking in the world have been found in the country’s south, at the 6,100-year-old Areni-1 archaeological site. Christianity first blossomed here. Literary, artistic, culinary and musical traditions pre-date many ancient civilisations. But modern times have been defined by struggle.

Ottoman occupation in the early-20th Century turned from oppression to mass killings, decimating the population and significantly shrinking borders in the process. Soviet rule, beginning in 1922, restricted opportunities and options – and independence in 1991 resulted in kleptocratic decisions where industrial assets were stripped with little investment to plug the gaps.

Additionally, territorial disputes became numerous. Borders with neighbouring Turkey and Azerbaijan remain closed, and swathes of land have been annexed. Successive autocratic regimes over the last three decades had given rise to endemic corruption, stunting the economy and limiting social mobility. An enormous diaspora now remains overseas, and on home turf, one third of the population is currently impoverished with 16% unemployed. Those with a job earn an average of £270 per month.

What are believed to be the world's oldest known traces of winemaking have been found at Armenia’s 6,100-year-old Areni-1 archaeological site.

All of which makes Armenia an unlikely candidate for The Economist magazine’s 2018 Country of the Year. That is until you look at the events of spring 2018, when the Velvet Revolution swept through towns and cities after former president Serzh Sargsyan tried to extend his decade in power.

The public, weary after years of administrative criminality, had finally had enough. Young activists mobilised, using social media to organise large-scale protests, bringing major roads and public realms to a standstill. Within weeks, the ruling Republican Party stepped down. Not a single shot was fired.

Elections in December 2018 then saw reformist acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who was a key figure in the revolution, claim 70.4% of the vote. Many now believe major improvements are possible after seeing barriers between political class and population removed. As a symbolic gesture, the gates to the National Assembly and the prime minister and president’s offices were opened to the public in October to convey new governmental transparency.

In spring 2018, young activists organised wide-scale protests across Armenia against political corruption.

However, some Yerevan locals believe the seeds of change were inadvertently sowed in the intimate interiors that define many of Armenia’s new specialist drinking dens that stand on Saryan Street, now dubbed ‘Wine Street’ thanks to the sheer number of establishments that have opened since In Vino arrived. A huge financial risk at that time – with some doubting such a small bar could turn a profit – six years on, In Vino is a firm fixture in the capital's nightlife scene.

The area caters to a new generation of drinkers, who prefer quality wines (domestic and imported), craft beers and spirits with traceable origins over the mass-produced vodka popularised during Soviet times – and a staple of more traditional haunts popular with the now-deposed political class. With the old regime disinterested, establishments such as In Vino became breeding grounds for progressive ideas. Frustrations, resentments and hopes were shared across tables, eventually boiling over into direct action.

“Wine created places where people would come and share ideas without feeling encroached by the presence of the ruling class,” said Vahe Baloulian, one of In Vino’s owners. “[In Vino] became one of those places where similar types of people would gather and exchange ideas. It didn’t happen because they started drinking wine, but wine usually attracts people who are better educated, more forward-looking.”

Some Yerevan locals believe the seeds of change were sowed in the wine bars along Saryan Street, now dubbed ‘Wine Street’.

Wine Street's dominant demographic – largely young, educated and employed but tired of the corruption in parliament – would not only support the revolution, but go on to produce the government of today.

“Right now, a lot of the people who are involved in the parliament are just like us, people who used to come to our wine bar regularly,” said Mariam Saghatelyan, one of Baloulian’s partners at In Vino. “They might not be very experienced in the field, they might not know that much about politics, but at least they have the same interests as me, and if I am against something they want to change, I can voice my opinion. I’m not afraid of them anymore.”

Wine created places where people would come and share ideas without feeling encroached by the presence of the ruling class

While these new wine bars and ideas might be progressive in today’s Armenia, gathering and exchanging thoughts over wine is firmly rooted in the country’s cultural heritage.

“Even if you read stories or historical points about our ancestors – my grandfather, their grandfathers – how they would resolve different issues was always around a table with an alcoholic beverage,” Saghatelyan said.

Just as wine has been brought back to the fore by Armenians keen to see one of the country's oldest traditions thrive, the slow, relaxed atmosphere we associate with drinking reds, whites and roses has restored that tradition of addressing the day’s issues over a fine vintage.

“The whole wine itself is a story – the winemaker, where it was made, the history of the winery. People started to discuss things around the wine, then the next day you could see them coming together as a group,” Saghatelyan said. “A lot of problems were discussed, because wine makes conversations flow.”

Mariam Saghatelyan: “How [our ancestors] would resolve different issues was always around a table with an alcoholic beverage”.

Domestic wine production has re-emerged in tandem with these new perspectives. Under the Soviet Union, Armenia was instructed to focus on brandies. Many of the red grape vines used to produce wines were removed to increase capacity for the white varieties brandy requires. Other red vineyards simply fell into disrepair as demand declined.

In the years after Soviet authority ended, however, a thirst to resurrect the lost wine industry grew alongside newfound freedoms promoting the recognition and celebration of Armenia's traditions that had been suppressed under communism. Output of Armenian wine has since exploded, as In Vino’s success demonstrates. When it opened, there were just 10 native varieties on sale; that number now stands at 85, with reds such as Areni and Kakhet and Voskehat whites particularly popular in the shop.

“Armenian winemakers of the recent generations showed that it’s possible to make good wine in Armenia. Because before that people were going for sweet wines which was all sugar and juice or foreign wines,” Baloulian explained. “So a lot of things like this made people believe what they were told was impossible was possible.”

After Soviet authority ended in Armenia, a thirst to resurrect the country’s lost wine industry grew.

It may sound tenuous to suggest a link between that newfound belief in quality winemaking and the realisation that other forms of positive change could also happen. But there are parallels. Armenia’s new producers approach winemaking with hopes of competing globally. Meanwhile, the revolution began with demands for better prospects from a population tired of an economy that could not function properly on the international stage.

“Winemaking is not a new thing here, but the approach and the philosophy is,” explained Varuzhan Mouradian, who heads up the Van Ardi winery, one of Armenia’s growing number of award-winning, modern vineyards. “I think the consumer should follow and trace the wine back to starting from that bud break. She or he needs to feel that sun, and see how deep the roots went, how they were fighting the stones to collect different minerals.”

“The contrast compared to 15 years ago, or during Soviet times, was that wine was just considered an alcoholic beverage and produced as such,” said his daughter, Ani Mouradian, who explained how the last six years have been crucial to cementing the reputation of Armenian wine on the world circuit as producers started appearing at foreign trade shows. And confidence in the wine industry is growing.

There’s hope that Armenia could become the next emergent wine destination.

The Van Ardi winery is building accommodation overlooking the vines, scheduled for completion in 2020. Elsewhere, in the most prominent wine region of Vayots Dzor, the country’s first wine route has been established. There’s hope that Armenia could become the next emergent wine destination, like neighbouring Georgia, bolstering a small but economically significant tourism economy in the coming years.

Whether Armenian wine really started the revolution is a matter of opinion, but its impact on a country in the throes of being reborn seems undeniable.

Born late-December 2012, In Vino was the first specialist wine bar and shop to open in Armenia’s capital, Yerevan. The cosy interior brims with hand-picked bottles; pungent cured meats and cheeses fill the deli counter; and passionate staff deliver a wealth of knowledge with every glass.

This scene would be familiar to most oenophiles, and is repeated in cities across the globe. So to understand the significance of this particular bar, some wider context about this corner of the Caucasus is needed.

In Vino was the first specialist wine bar and shop to open in Armenia’s capital, Yerevan (Credit: Credit: age fotostock/Alamy)
In Vino was the first specialist wine bar and shop to open in A

Born late-December 2012, In Vino was the first specialist wine bar and shop to open in Armenia’s capital, Yerevan. The cosy interior brims with hand-picked bottles; pungent cured meats and cheeses fill the deli counter; and passionate staff deliver a wealth of knowledge with every glass.

This scene would be familiar to most oenophiles, and is repeated in cities across the globe. So to understand the significance of this particular bar, some wider context about this corner of the Caucasus is needed.

In Vino was the first specialist wine bar and shop to open in Armenia’s capital, Yerevan (Credit: Credit: age fotostock/Alamy)
In Vino was the first specialist wine bar and shop to open in Armenia’s capital, Yerevan (Credit: age fotostock/Alamy)
You may also be interested in:
• Armenia’s ancient city on the brink of change
• Machiavelli’s secret tunnel to fame
• The Balkan spirit having a revolution

Armenia claims an enviable history. What are believed to be the oldest known traces of winemaking in the world have been found in the country’s south, at the 6,100-year-old Areni-1 archaeological site. Christianity first blossomed here. Literary, artistic, culinary and musical traditions pre-date many ancient civilisations. But modern times have been defined by struggle.

Ottoman occupation in the early-20th Century turned from oppression to mass killings, decimating the population and significantly shrinking borders in the process. Soviet rule, beginning in 1922, restricted opportunities and options – and independence in 1991 resulted in kleptocratic decisions where industrial assets were stripped with little investment to plug the gaps.

Additionally, territorial disputes became numerous. Borders with neighbouring Turkey and Azerbaijan remain closed, and swathes of land have been annexed. Successive autocratic regimes over the last three decades had given rise to endemic corruption, stunting the economy and limiting social mobility. An enormous diaspora now remains overseas, and on home turf, one third of the population is currently impoverished with 16% unemployed. Those with a job earn an average of £270 per month.

What are believed to be the world's oldest known traces of winemaking have been found in Armenia (Credit: Credit: Martin Guttridge-Hewitt)
What are believed to be the world's oldest known traces of winemaking have been found at Armenia’s 6,100-year-old Areni-1 archaeological site (Credit: Martin Guttridge-Hewitt)
All of which makes Armenia an unlikely candidate for The Economist magazine’s 2018 Country of the Year. That is until you look at the events of spring 2018, when the Velvet Revolution swept through towns and cities after former president Serzh Sargsyan tried to extend his decade in power.

The public, weary after years of administrative criminality, had finally had enough. Young activists mobilised, using social media to organise large-scale protests, bringing major roads and public realms to a standstill. Within weeks, the ruling Republican Party stepped down. Not a single shot was fired.

Elections in December 2018 then saw reformist acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who was a key figure in the revolution, claim 70.4% of the vote. Many now believe major improvements are possible after seeing barriers between political class and population removed. As a symbolic gesture, the gates to the National Assembly and the prime minister and president’s offices were opened to the public in October to convey new governmental transparency.

In spring 2018, young activists organised wide-scale protests across Armenia against political corruption (Credit: Credit: Artyom Geodakyan/Getty Images)
In spring 2018, young activists organised wide-scale protests across Armenia against political corruption (Credit: Artyom Geodakyan/Getty Images)
However, some Yerevan locals believe the seeds of change were inadvertently sowed in the intimate interiors that define many of Armenia’s new specialist drinking dens that stand on Saryan Street, now dubbed ‘Wine Street’ thanks to the sheer number of establishments that have opened since In Vino arrived. A huge financial risk at that time – with some doubting such a small bar could turn a profit – six years on, In Vino is a firm fixture in the capital's nightlife scene.

The area caters to a new generation of drinkers, who prefer quality wines (domestic and imported), craft beers and spirits with traceable origins over the mass-produced vodka popularised during Soviet times – and a staple of more traditional haunts popular with the now-deposed political class. With the old regime disinterested, establishments such as In Vino became breeding grounds for progressive ideas. Frustrations, resentments and hopes were shared across tables, eventually boiling over into direct action.

“Wine created places where people would come and share ideas without feeling encroached by the presence of the ruling class,” said Vahe Baloulian, one of In Vino’s owners. “[In Vino] became one of those places where similar types of people would gather and exchange ideas. It didn’t happen because they started drinking wine, but wine usually attracts people who are better educated, more forward-looking.”

Some Yerevan locals believe the seeds of change were sowed in the wine bars along Saryan Street, now dubbed ‘Wine Street’ (Credit: Credit: Martin Guttridge-Hewitt)
Some Yerevan locals believe the seeds of change were sowed in the wine bars along Saryan Street, now dubbed ‘Wine Street’ (Credit: Martin Guttridge-Hewitt)
Wine Street's dominant demographic – largely young, educated and employed but tired of the corruption in parliament – would not only support the revolution, but go on to produce the government of today.

“Right now, a lot of the people who are involved in the parliament are just like us, people who used to come to our wine bar regularly,” said Mariam Saghatelyan, one of Baloulian’s partners at In Vino. “They might not be very experienced in the field, they might not know that much about politics, but at least they have the same interests as me, and if I am against something they want to change, I can voice my opinion. I’m not afraid of them anymore.”

Wine created places where people would come and share ideas without feeling encroached by the presence of the ruling class

While these new wine bars and ideas might be progressive in today’s Armenia, gathering and exchanging thoughts over wine is firmly rooted in the country’s cultural heritage.

“Even if you read stories or historical points about our ancestors – my grandfather, their grandfathers – how they would resolve different issues was always around a table with an alcoholic beverage,” Saghatelyan said.

Just as wine has been brought back to the fore by Armenians keen to see one of the country's oldest traditions thrive, the slow, relaxed atmosphere we associate with drinking reds, whites and roses has restored that tradition of addressing the day’s issues over a fine vintage.

“The whole wine itself is a story – the winemaker, where it was made, the history of the winery. People started to discuss things around the wine, then the next day you could see them coming together as a group,” Saghatelyan said. “A lot of problems were discussed, because wine makes conversations flow.”

Mariam Saghatelyan: “How [our ancestors] would resolve different issues was always around a table with an alcoholic beverage” (Credit: Credit: In Vino)
Mariam Saghatelyan: “How [our ancestors] would resolve different issues was always around a table with an alcoholic beverage” (Credit: In Vino)
Domestic wine production has re-emerged in tandem with these new perspectives. Under the Soviet Union, Armenia was instructed to focus on brandies. Many of the red grape vines used to produce wines were removed to increase capacity for the white varieties brandy requires. Other red vineyards simply fell into disrepair as demand declined.

In the years after Soviet authority ended, however, a thirst to resurrect the lost wine industry grew alongside newfound freedoms promoting the recognition and celebration of Armenia's traditions that had been suppressed under communism. Output of Armenian wine has since exploded, as In Vino’s success demonstrates. When it opened, there were just 10 native varieties on sale; that number now stands at 85, with reds such as Areni and Kakhet and Voskehat whites particularly popular in the shop.

“Armenian winemakers of the recent generations showed that it’s possible to make good wine in Armenia. Because before that people were going for sweet wines which was all sugar and juice or foreign wines,” Baloulian explained. “So a lot of things like this made people believe what they were told was impossible was possible.”

After Soviet authority ended in Armenia, a thirst to resurrect the country’s lost wine industry grew (Credit: Credit: Martin Guttridge-Hewitt)
After Soviet authority ended in Armenia, a thirst to resurrect the country’s lost wine industry grew (Credit: Martin Guttridge-Hewitt)
It may sound tenuous to suggest a link between that newfound belief in quality winemaking and the realisation that other forms of positive change could also happen. But there are parallels. Armenia’s new producers approach winemaking with hopes of competing globally. Meanwhile, the revolution began with demands for better prospects from a population tired of an economy that could not function properly on the international stage.

“Winemaking is not a new thing here, but the approach and the philosophy is,” explained Varuzhan Mouradian, who heads up the Van Ardi winery, one of Armenia’s growing number of award-winning, modern vineyards. “I think the consumer should follow and trace the wine back to starting from that bud break. She or he needs to feel that sun, and see how deep the roots went, how they were fighting the stones to collect different minerals.”

“The contrast compared to 15 years ago, or during Soviet times, was that wine was just considered an alcoholic beverage and produced as such,” said his daughter, Ani Mouradian, who explained how the last six years have been crucial to cementing the reputation of Armenian wine on the world circuit as producers started appearing at foreign trade shows. And confidence in the wine industry is growing.

There’s hope that Armenia could become the next emergent wine destination (Credit: Credit: Paul Carstairs/Alamy)
There’s hope that Armenia could become the next emergent wine destination (Credit: Paul Carstairs/Alamy)
The Van Ardi winery is building accommodation overlooking the vines, scheduled for completion in 2020. Elsewhere, in the most prominent wine region of Vayots Dzor, the country’s first wine route has been established. There’s hope that Armenia could become the next emergent wine destination, like neighbouring Georgia, bolstering a small but economically significant tourism economy in the coming years.

Whether Armenian wine really started the revolution is a matter of opinion, but its impact on a country in the throes of being reborn seems undeniable.

rmenia’s capital, Yerevan (Credit: age fotostock/Alamy)
You may also be interested in:
• Armenia’s ancient city on the brink of change
• Machiavelli’s secret tunnel to fame
• The Balkan spirit having a revolution

Armenia claims an enviable history. What are believed to be the oldest known traces of winemaking in the world have been found in the country’s south, at the 6,100-year-old Areni-1 archaeological site. Christianity first blossomed here. Literary, artistic, culinary and musical traditions pre-date many ancient civilisations. But modern times have been defined by struggle.

Ottoman occupation in the early-20th Century turned from oppression to mass killings, decimating the population and significantly shrinking borders in the process. Soviet rule, beginning in 1922, restricted opportunities and options – and independence in 1991 resulted in kleptocratic decisions where industrial assets were stripped with little investment to plug the gaps.

Additionally, territorial disputes became numerous. Borders with neighbouring Turkey and Azerbaijan remain closed, and swathes of land have been annexed. Successive autocratic regimes over the last three decades had given rise to endemic corruption, stunting the economy and limiting social mobility. An enormous diaspora now remains overseas, and on home turf, one third of the population is currently impoverished with 16% unemployed. Those with a job earn an average of £270 per month.

What are believed to be the world's oldest known traces of winemaking have been found in Armenia (Credit: Credit: Martin Guttridge-Hewitt)
What are believed to be the world's oldest known traces of winemaking have been found at Armenia’s 6,100-year-old Areni-1 archaeological site (Credit: Martin Guttridge-Hewitt)
All of which makes Armenia an unlikely candidate for The Economist magazine’s 2018 Country of the Year. That is until you look at the events of spring 2018, when the Velvet Revolution swept through towns and cities after former president Serzh Sargsyan tried to extend his decade in power.

The public, weary after years of administrative criminality, had finally had enough. Young activists mobilised, using social media to organise large-scale protests, bringing major roads and public realms to a standstill. Within weeks, the ruling Republican Party stepped down. Not a single shot was fired.

Elections in December 2018 then saw reformist acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who was a key figure in the revolution, claim 70.4% of the vote. Many now believe major improvements are possible after seeing barriers between political class and population removed. As a symbolic gesture, the gates to the National Assembly and the prime minister and president’s offices were opened to the public in October to convey new governmental transparency.

In spring 2018, young activists organised wide-scale protests across Armenia against political corruption (Credit: Credit: Artyom Geodakyan/Getty Images)
In spring 2018, young activists organised wide-scale protests across Armenia against political corruption (Credit: Artyom Geodakyan/Getty Images)
However, some Yerevan locals believe the seeds of change were inadvertently sowed in the intimate interiors that define many of Armenia’s new specialist drinking dens that stand on Saryan Street, now dubbed ‘Wine Street’ thanks to the sheer number of establishments that have opened since In Vino arrived. A huge financial risk at that time – with some doubting such a small bar could turn a profit – six years on, In Vino is a firm fixture in the capital's nightlife scene.

The area caters to a new generation of drinkers, who prefer quality wines (domestic and imported), craft beers and spirits with traceable origins over the mass-produced vodka popularised during Soviet times – and a staple of more traditional haunts popular with the now-deposed political class. With the old regime disinterested, establishments such as In Vino became breeding grounds for progressive ideas. Frustrations, resentments and hopes were shared across tables, eventually boiling over into direct action.

“Wine created places where people would come and share ideas without feeling encroached by the presence of the ruling class,” said Vahe Baloulian, one of In Vino’s owners. “[In Vino] became one of those places where similar types of people would gather and exchange ideas. It didn’t happen because they started drinking wine, but wine usually attracts people who are better educated, more forward-looking.”

Some Yerevan locals believe the seeds of change were sowed in the wine bars along Saryan Street, now dubbed ‘Wine Street’ (Credit: Credit: Martin Guttridge-Hewitt)
Some Yerevan locals believe the seeds of change were sowed in the wine bars along Saryan Street, now dubbed ‘Wine Street’ (Credit: Martin Guttridge-Hewitt)
Wine Street's dominant demographic – largely young, educated and employed but tired of the corruption in parliament – would not only support the revolution, but go on to produce the government of today.

“Right now, a lot of the people who are involved in the parliament are just like us, people who used to come to our wine bar regularly,” said Mariam Saghatelyan, one of Baloulian’s partners at In Vino. “They might not be very experienced in the field, they might not know that much about politics, but at least they have the same interests as me, and if I am against something they want to change, I can voice my opinion. I’m not afraid of them anymore.”

Wine created places where people would come and share ideas without feeling encroached by the presence of the ruling class

While these new wine bars and ideas might be progressive in today’s Armenia, gathering and exchanging thoughts over wine is firmly rooted in the country’s cultural heritage.

“Even if you read stories or historical points about our ancestors – my grandfather, their grandfathers – how they would resolve different issues was always around a table with an alcoholic beverage,” Saghatelyan said.

Just as wine has been brought back to the fore by Armenians keen to see one of the country's oldest traditions thrive, the slow, relaxed atmosphere we associate with drinking reds, whites and roses has restored that tradition of addressing the day’s issues over a fine vintage.

“The whole wine itself is a story – the winemaker, where it was made, the history of the winery. People started to discuss things around the wine, then the next day you could see them coming together as a group,” Saghatelyan said. “A lot of problems were discussed, because wine makes conversations flow.”

Mariam Saghatelyan: “How [our ancestors] would resolve different issues was always around a table with an alcoholic beverage” (Credit: Credit: In Vino)
Mariam Saghatelyan: “How [our ancestors] would resolve different issues was always around a table with an alcoholic beverage” (Credit: In Vino)
Domestic wine production has re-emerged in tandem with these new perspectives. Under the Soviet Union, Armenia was instructed to focus on brandies. Many of the red grape vines used to produce wines were removed to increase capacity for the white varieties brandy requires. Other red vineyards simply fell into disrepair as demand declined.

In the years after Soviet authority ended, however, a thirst to resurrect the lost wine industry grew alongside newfound freedoms promoting the recognition and celebration of Armenia's traditions that had been suppressed under communism. Output of Armenian wine has since exploded, as In Vino’s success demonstrates. When it opened, there were just 10 native varieties on sale; that number now stands at 85, with reds such as Areni and Kakhet and Voskehat whites particularly popular in the shop.

“Armenian winemakers of the recent generations showed that it’s possible to make good wine in Armenia. Because before that people were going for sweet wines which was all sugar and juice or foreign wines,” Baloulian explained. “So a lot of things like this made people believe what they were told was impossible was possible.”

After Soviet authority ended in Armenia, a thirst to resurrect the country’s lost wine industry grew (Credit: Credit: Martin Guttridge-Hewitt)
After Soviet authority ended in Armenia, a thirst to resurrect the country’s lost wine industry grew (Credit: Martin Guttridge-Hewitt)
It may sound tenuous to suggest a link between that newfound belief in quality winemaking and the realisation that other forms of positive change could also happen. But there are parallels. Armenia’s new producers approach winemaking with hopes of competing globally. Meanwhile, the revolution began with demands for better prospects from a population tired of an economy that could not function properly on the international stage.

“Winemaking is not a new thing here, but the approach and the philosophy is,” explained Varuzhan Mouradian, who heads up the Van Ardi winery, one of Armenia’s growing number of award-winning, modern vineyards. “I think the consumer should follow and trace the wine back to starting from that bud break. She or he needs to feel that sun, and see how deep the roots went, how they were fighting the stones to collect different minerals.”

“The contrast compared to 15 years ago, or during Soviet times, was that wine was just considered an alcoholic beverage and produced as such,” said his daughter, Ani Mouradian, who explained how the last six years have been crucial to cementing the reputation of Armenian wine on the world circuit as producers started appearing at foreign trade shows. And confidence in the wine industry is growing.

There’s hope that Armenia could become the next emergent wine destination (Credit: Credit: Paul Carstairs/Alamy)
There’s hope that Armenia could become the next emergent wine destination (Credit: Paul Carstairs/Alamy)
The Van Ardi winery is building accommodation overlooking the vines, scheduled for completion in 2020. Elsewhere, in the most prominent wine region of Vayots Dzor, the country’s first wine route has been established. There’s hope that Armenia could become the next emergent wine destination, like neighbouring Georgia, bolstering a small but economically significant tourism economy in the coming years.

Whether Armenian wine really started the revolution is a matter of opinion, but its impact on a country in the throes of being reborn seems undeniable.

http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20190129-did-wine-cause-a-full-scale-revolution-in-armenia

ruby Posted on February 01, 2019 16:54

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A141 March car crash leaves two cars in flames

Two motorists were seriously injured when their cars crashed and burst into flames.

The head-on collision happened on the A141 near March, in Cambridgeshire, at about 06:00 GMT.

Police arrested one of the drivers on suspicion of driving while under the influence of drugs.

Both cars were destroyed in the fire and the road was closed for more than two hours, but has since reopened.

?

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-47087924

 

 

ruby Posted on February 01, 2019 10:26

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Januhairy: What I learned when I stopped shaving

Women all over the world put down their razors and wax strips to grow out their bod?y hair for Januhairy. While some were praised for helping to promote body confidence, others were branded disgusting. This is what four participants took from the experience.

'Telling people seemed intimidating'

Image captionSonia Thakurdesai feels more comfortable in her own skin after taking part

Sonia Thakurdesai was "quite hesitant" about announcing her decision to grow her body hair.

"I remember seeing a lot of tweets around the time Januhairy was getting popular, from both men and women, bashing it [and] saying it's disgusting.

"Despite being happy to take part, the task of posting on social media and telling people seemed intimidating.

"Body hair has always been something I have felt self-conscious about. I always felt people would see me as dirty or gross if I did open up about it."

The 19-year-old, from Heckmondwike in West Yorkshire, said despite the negativity and initial fears, the campaign has improved her confidence.

"It has opened up the topic for discussion - women across the world are sharing their experiences and it is challenging those who feel they have to remove their body hair to think why that is.

"It has made me feel more comfortable in my own skin and accept my body in its natural fuzzy form."

'I'm not doing it for approval'

Image captionSabine Fisher said that her body hair is beautiful

Sabine Fisher was shocked when those close to her expressed disgust at her participation in Januhairy.

"I have had a couple of people tell me its 'disgusting' and 'unnatural', which made me feel hurt and confused as they were close friends, but now I'm OK with people not liking it.

"I'm not doing it for them or their approval - I'm doing it for me."

The 18-year-old from Rotorua in New Zealand said some cultures had been "brainwashed" into thinking body hair is "wrong and weird".

"I think body hair is so beautiful, but when people see my armpit hair they won't make eye contact with me, or they stare at it.

"I don't know if it will be a thing I continue to do forever, but for now it feels good and right.

"My beauty and self worth have nothing to do my body hair - or what other people think about it."

You might also be interested in

'I felt feminine'

Image captionCrystal Marchand, 32, said one interaction caused her to shave off her hair

Crystal Marchand is transgender and decided to grow out her body hair for the first time since her transition last year.

"I was called horrible names. I was cursed at in public. Some stared, others wouldn't look at me."

One abusive interaction, halfway through the month, caused her to shave off her facial hair.

But in spite of the negative reaction, the 32-year-old from Montreal in Canada said she learned more about herself through the process.

"There is some danger in pushing the boundaries and that risk worried some of my loved ones.

"But I discovered I could feel feminine despite all my body hair, which has troubled me since its arrival.

"Other people's perceptions of my gender are not as important to me as my own self-awareness, self-acceptance, and my ability to love and express myself freely."

'Less of a monster'

Image captionLaura Jackson has received many messages of support

Laura Jackson never expected Januhairy to blow up like it did. The 21-year-old campaign founder had one simple aim - to encourage women to embrace their body hair while raising money for charity.

She said one woman, who has a beard caused by polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), thanked her for making her feel like "less of a monster".

"I couldn't believe someone could say that about themselves," the Exeter University student said. "It made me tear up a little."

Laura also described how a 13-year-old with excess body hair on her arms and legs contacted her to say the campaign had made cry and helped her realise she is "not alone".

"It gives me a lot more con?https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-devon-47001598Image copyrightLAURA JACKSONfidence in humanity and the changes this generation can bring to the world.

"But it's not just about me. Women have been inspiring other women with their stories.

"This needed to happen, and I'm just grateful to be a part of it."

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-devon-47001598

ruby Posted on February 01, 2019 10:22

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Marie Colvin: Syrian government found liable for US reporter's death

A US court has found Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government liable for the death of American war correspondent Marie Colvin in February 2012.

Colvin, 56, died in the besieged city of Homs, Syria, alongside French photographer Remi Ochlik, 28, when the building they were in was shelled.

US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said it was an "extrajudicial killing".

She also ordered Damascus to pay $302.5m (£231m) in damages for an "unconscionable crime".

It is the first time Mr Assad's government is held to account for a war crime and sets a legal precedent, the BBC's Barbara Plett Usher in Washington reports.

The civil lawsuit was filed by Colvin's family in 2016. The Syrian government was not involved in defending the case.

Colvin worked for the Sunday Times, covering the Syrian civil war that began in 2011.

What did the court rule?

The US District Court for the District of Columbia found that the Syrian military and intelligence tracked the broadcasts of the journalists covering the siege of Homs, and then targeted the media centre in a barrage of artillery fire.

Judge Jackson said this was part of the regime's long standing policy of violence against the media.

Image captionFrench photographer Remi Ochlik also died in the shelling

Colvin "was specifically targeted because of her profession, for the purpose of silencing those reporting on the growing opposition movement in the country," the judge ruled.

"[The] murder of journalists acting in their professional capacity could have a chilling effect on reporting such events worldwide."

In addition, the Syrian government was ordered to pay $2.5m in compensation to Colvin's sister, Cathleen, and $11,836 in funeral expenses.

What about the Syrian government's response?

Damascus is yet to publicly comment on the ruling.

In a 2016 interview with NBC News, President Assad said: "It's a war and she [Colvin] came illegally to Syria.

"She worked with the terrorists, and because she came illegally, she's been responsible of everything that befall on her."

Experts predict that Colvin's family is likely to face a lengthy battle to recover any of the damages awarded.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-47082088

ruby Posted on February 01, 2019 09:57

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The plane journey that set Iran's revolution in motion

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini sat in the first-class compartment of the chartered Boeing 747, looking out through the window at the country he had had to leave 15 years before.

I stood over him, with my cameraman beside me, and asked how he felt now that his exile was over. No answer.

An American correspondent repeated the question. "Hichi," replied Khomeini. "Nothing".

The supporters of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who had been forced into exile a few days earlier, were scandalised by this lack of feeling.

But what he meant was that his return was not a matter for human emotions; the will of God was all that counted.

When I interviewed him the previous month at his place of exile outside Paris, Neauphle-le-Château, Khomeini had shown implacable determination.

"The monarchy will be eradicated," he assured me. "There are aspects of life under the present corrupt form of government in Iran which will have to be changed... Drugs such as alcoholic beverages will be prohibited."

"We are hostile to foreign governments which have forced the shah on Iran."

It is still like that, even today.

Image captionJohn Simpson was on board the plane that transported Khomeini from Paris to Tehran

At first, it had seemed impossible that the Islamic Republic could endure, but now it has lasted 40 years.

At election after election Iranians turn out in their millions to vote for candidates who, though they have been carefully selected, represent the liberal and conservative tendencies in politics; and the liberal candidates usually get a majority.

But once they are in power they find they cannot change anything.

Under Iran's constitution, the conservative forces - the clergy, the Revolutionary Guards, and so on - have a controlling interest, whoever wins the popular vote.

Image captionKhomeini was welcomed by a crowd of supporters at Tehran's airport

The supreme leader ranks above the elected president, and the conservatives are prepared to fight to keep their power.

Immediately after the 2009 presidential vote, the conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the winner even though the liberal candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, had probably got a majority.

There were angry demonstrations for days on end, and it looked briefly as though a new revolution might be starting. But the conservatives hunted the demonstrators off the streets with great brutality.

The Islamic Revolution was back in power.

Image captionThe disputed presidential election in 2009 triggered the biggest protests since the revolution

More than 90% of Iran's Muslims are Shia, and back in 1979 the ousting of the shah by Shia Islamist revolutionaries shocked and electrified the Islamic world.

Shia in countries like Lebanon and parts of the Gulf stopped accepting that they were at the bottom of the social and political pile, and demanded more say.

Sunnis in the region were deeply worried, yet they too were fascinated by the overthrow of a leader backed by the West.

The Americans were humiliated, and no-one in the Middle East would forget it.

Between 1980 and 1988 Iran was caught up in a savage war against Iraq, and it was obsessed with the need to survive.

But after 2003, when the US invaded Iraq and destroyed the power of the minority Sunnis there, Iraq's Shia majority began to dominate the country with the strong support of Iran.

Iran became a regional superpower - courtesy of President George W Bush. The irony could scarcely have been greater.

Nowadays, Israel and US President Donald Trump's administration see Iran as a major threat.

The UK and the European Union see things differently.

They accept that Iran is difficult and confrontational, but they think it is still willing to follow the lines of the agreement which former US President Barack Obama, with strong European support, reached with Iran over its nuclear ambitions.

Today, Iran is a lot more easy-going than most outsiders imagine.

The rules about women's dress are sometimes enforced harshly, but the Islamic Republic has never clamped down on women's rights in the way you see routinely in Saudi Arabia.

Iranian women run businesses, own property, drive cars and play an important part in politics.

Image captionIran has imposed a compulsory dress code on women since the revolution

The present government is probably more liberal than any other since the revolution.

Ayatollah Khomeini probably would not have approved, but this approach has helped to protect the Islamic Republic over the years.

As far back as 1986, when I was first allowed back after the revolution, I worked out a formula to express what I felt about the new Iran: it was stable, but not permanent.

That still seems to be the case.

There is a lot of anger about corruption, but not as much as there was under the shah.

Iran seems mostly relaxed, because there is no serious threat to the system. But it is hard to think that the strange balancing act between a weak liberal government, elected with mass support, and a tough and determined conservative core, can carry on forever.

Image captionPresident Hassan Rouhani stressed his allegiance to Khomeini's ideals during a recent visit to his mausoleum

The ferocity which Khomeini, vengeful and unsentimental, brought back from exile with him on his Boeing 747, has eased a lot. But it is still there.

And until there is some basic compromise between liberals and conservatives about the way the country should be run, Khomeini's revolution will always feel unfinished.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-47043561

ruby Posted on February 01, 2019 09:53

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Polar vortex claims eight lives as US cold snap continues

Media captionChicago is using fire to melt snow on the railway and keep the trains running

At least eight people have died in one of the worst cold snaps to hit the US Midwest in decades.

An Iowa student found dead outside a college building is among the victims.

Hospitals have been treating patients reporting frostbite as life across a swathe of the country grinds to a halt.

Ninety million people - a third of the US - have seen temperatures of -17C (0F) or below. Some 250 million Americans overall have experienced the "polar vortex" conditions.

However southern states such as Florida have escaped the brutal chill.

How did the fatalities occur?

  • University of Iowa student Gerald Belz, 18, was found unresponsive behind a campus building before dawn on Wednesday and later died in hospital. Officials said weather was a factor. His father told local news channel KCRG that Gerald was a "mama's boy with a tough exterior".
  • A 70-year-old man in Detroit, Michigan, was found dead in front of a neighbour's home on Wednesday
  • Another Michigan man in his 70s was found frozen to death in his neighbourhood. Officials said he was "inadequately dressed for the weather" and was probably disoriented
  • On Tuesday, 55-year-old Charley Lampley froze to death in a garage in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, having "apparently collapsed after shovelling snow", according to a medical examiner
  • An 82-year-old man in Pekin, Illinois, died from hypothermia after apparently falling outside his home on Tuesday
  • A 75-year-old man was fatally struck by a snow plough near Chicago on Monday. The driver has since been placed on paid leave pending an investigation, according to WGN9 News
  • In northern Indiana, a young couple died after a collision on icy roads

What's the forecast?

Thursday could see America's third largest city of Chicago breaking its 1985 record low of -32C (-25F), according to meteorologists. The city has already passed the record low for 31 January.

The National Weather Service (NWS) announced Rockford, Illinois, west of Chicago, broke its all-time low record of -32C (-27F) when temperatures dipped to -34C (-30F) on Thursday morning.

Cities across Iowa have also broken temperature records.

Cotton, Minnesota, was the coldest place in the US on Thursday, however, with a low of -48C (-56F) based on preliminary data.

The chill is drifting eastward on Thursday, bringing sub-zero temperatures to north-eastern cities such as Boston.Areas downwind of the Great Lakes are expected to be buried by intense "snow lakes" into Thursday night.

The region near Buffalo, New York, should see the heaviest snowfall. Snow could fall at rates of 3in-5in (7cm-12cm) per hour.

The icy cold is expected to loosen its grip on Friday.

Media captionSo what actually is a polar vortex...?

With wind chill factored in, the Midwest and Great Lakes have felt temperatures closer to -40C (-40F) and -53C (-63F), which is enough to cause frostbite in under five minutes.

But by the end of the weekend, Chicago could see temperatures as high as 10C (50F).

"It's going to be at least a 60-degree swing for Chicago," David Hamrick, a National Weather Service forecaster, told Reuters news agency.

The Wind Chill City

Analysis by Chris Buckler, BBC News, Chicago

On the icy streets of Chicago they are used to bitter winters but this was too cold even for some people who live here.

Rush hour hasn't existed in this normally bustling city for the last couple of days as many have chosen to stay at home rather than brave such extreme elements.

Those who did go to work arrived bundled up in layer after layer of clothing. Anything exposed - like eyebrows and lashes - were covered in frost.

"They've frozen shut a couple of times", one man told me about his watering eyes.

 

The Windy City could be renamed the Wind Chill City given the number of warnings there have been this week.

Below several skyscrapers there are still signs pointing out the dangers of falling ice.

You could argue that a slight thaw has begun given that cracks have started to appear on what was a solid sheet of ice covering the Chicago river.

But temperatures are expected to remain below freezing until Saturday at the earliest.

Media captionMuch of Chicago River has frozen over

How is the cold snap affecting daily life?

The Arctic weather could cost the US billions of dollars. In 2014, a similar polar freeze cost the country an estimated $5bn (£3.8bn), CBS News reported.

In Minnesota, residents have been asked by natural gas company Xcel Energy to reduce their home thermostats to 17C (63F) in order to help the company handle heating demands.

Michigan residents have had similar requests from their utility companies as providers struggle to keep the states warm.

Native American tribes in the northern Midwest states have been helping their members obtain heating supplies during the chill as many live in poor-quality housing, the Associated Press reported.

Detroit has had more than two dozen water mains freeze over this week. A city spokesman told the Associated Press the pipes were installed up to 1.8m below the frost line, but with such drastically low temperatures, the ground has still frozen through.

Media captionHow to keep warm? Tips from cold countries

The US Postal Service has suspended all mail deliveries for the second day to parts of six states.

More than 2,300 flights have been cancelled and another 3,500 delayed due to the polar vortex.

As ice and snow continue to build up, roads have become increasingly dangerous across the northern US. In Illinois, police said they had assisted more than 1,300 motorists and received 460 calls in eight hours - 10 times the norm.

One woman in the state was caught speeding at 115mph (185km/h) on a snowy road with a 35mph (56km/h) speed limit.

At least two people were critically injured in a 27-car pile-up on icy roads in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania.

Twenty-one vehicles, including a lorry, were involved in a pile-up in Buffalo, New York, during a snowstorm on Wednesday. Officials have not released details on any injuries, WKBW News reported.

It is reported that the lorry should not have been on the road at the time, due to a weather-related ban.

Image captionA sole individual walks down State Street in Madison, Wisconsin

In Minnesota, prison visits were cancelled over the cold, according to the New York Times.

How cold is Chicago?

The Illinois city became a frozen ghost town after temperatures fell to -30C (-22F), colder than parts of Antarctica.

A Good Samaritan paid for 70 homeless Chicagoans to stay in a hotel as temperatures dropped.

Salvation Army spokeswoman Jacqueline Rachev told the Washington Post: "It's a deadly situation for anyone. We're thrilled that someone was in a position to be able to do this."

Most of the thousands of cancelled flights this week were coming out of Chicago's airports - O'Hare International is ranked as one of the top 10 busiest airports in the world.

Amtrak also cancelled all trains into Chicago on Wednesday, affecting 55 trains, and said most would be cancelled on Thursday as well.

As the Midwestern city is one of the company's hubs, train services nationwide could be impacted.

The chill was even too much for Chicago's Disney on Ice show, which cancelled its Wednesday performance.

More than 600 local schools have shut, keeping 360,000 students at home.

What about Canada?

Most of Canada was under some sort of weather warning - from extreme cold in the Prairies, Quebec and Ontario to heavy snows in Alberta and Nova Scotia.

Most of the thousands of cancelled flights this week were coming out of Chicago's airports - O'Hare International is ranked as one of the top 10 busiest airports in the world.

Amtrak also cancelled all trains into Chicago on Wednesday, affecting 55 trains, and said most would be cancelled on Thursday as well.

As the Midwestern city is one of the company's hubs, train services nationwide could be impacted.

The chill was even too much for Chicago's Disney on Ice show, which cancelled its Wednesday performance.

More than 600 local schools have shut, keeping 360,000 students at home.

What about Canada?
Most of Canada was under some sort of weather warning - from extreme cold in the Prairies, Quebec and Ontario to heavy snows in Alberta and Nova Scotia.

In Toronto, where winters tend to be milder compared to cities such as Montreal and Ottawa, temperatures had plummeted to -18C (0F). Icy roads and several transit delays made for a hellish commute for the city's residents.

Environment Canada issued extreme cold warnings for most parts of Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba, urging residents to limit their exposure to cold and keep pets indoors.

Advocates expressed concern for homeless people living in cities hit by the extreme temperatures.

In Winnipeg, the capital of Manitoba, temperatures were -40C (-40F), with wind chill factors making it feel like -50C (-58F).

"If you don't get it in December, you will get it in January or February or March. What do you expect? It's 'Winterpeg'," Caroline Rodriguez told CBC.

In Calgary, Alberta, temperatures were a relatively balmy -3C (27F), but were expected to plummet overnight and through the weekend.

In parts of rural northern Alberta, 15in of snow were expected to fall.

In Toronto, where winters tend to be milder compared to cities such as Montreal and Ottawa, temperatures had plummeted to -18C (0F). Icy roads and several transit delays made for a hellish commute for the city's residents.

Environment Canada issued extreme cold warnings for most parts of Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba, urging residents to limit their exposure to cold and keep pets indoors.

Advocates expressed concern for homeless people living in cities hit by the extreme temperatures.

In Winnipeg, the capital of Manitoba, temperatures were -40C (-40F), with wind chill factors making it feel like -50C (-58F).

"If you don't get it in December, you will get it in January or February or March. What do you expect? It's 'Winterpeg'," Caroline Rodriguez told CBC.

In Calgary, Alberta, temperatures were a relatively balmy -3C (27F), but were expected to plummet overnight and through the weekend.

In parts of rural northern Alberta, 15in of snow were expected to fall.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-47075143

 

ruby Posted on February 01, 2019 09:40

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Trump to NYT: Wall talks a 'waste of time'

US President Donald Trump has dismissed the federal investigation into alleged Russian collusion in the 2016 election and talks about a proposed border wall.

His lawyers had been reassured he was not a target in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, he said.

Talks in Congress about wall funding - the issue behind the recent government shutdown - were a "waste of time".

Mr Trump was interviewed by the New York Times, a paper he repeatedly described as "failing" in the past.

The paper's interview with Mr Trump came after he contacted its publisher, AG Sulzberger.

Mr Sulzberger asked the president to stop his attacks on the media last year, saying they could "lead to violence" against journalists.

The interview with Mr Trump covered a wide range of topics:

1) The border wall

"I'll continue to build the wall, and we'll get the wall finished," the president said, dismissing the talks between congressional Republicans and Democrats over the impasse and implying he could declare a national emergency to ensure the barrier is built.

Tapping into emergency presidential powers could enable Mr Trump to bypass Congress and access the money and resources needed to complete the project.

Critics have said the situation at the border does not constitute a true emergency and invoking one would be an abuse of power.

Mr Trump has sought $5.7 billion (£4.4bn) for a wall on the southern border. The Democrats refuse to provide it, arguing it is immoral and ineffective.

The divide led to the longest government shutdown in US history, which will resume on 15 February if no budget can be agreed.?

Mr Trump slammed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the interview over the border wall.

"I've actually always gotten along with her, but now I don't think I will any more," he said. "I think she's doing a tremendous disservice to the country."

Ms Pelosi told reporters on Thursday there would be no money for a wall in planned border security legislation.

2) The Russia inquiry

Speaking to two New York Times reporters in the Oval Office, the president said he had received assurances from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

"Rod told me I'm not a target of the investigation," Mr Trump said. He then suggested that he may not have spoken to him in person, adding: "The lawyers ask him. They say: 'He's not a target of the investigation'."?

It is not clear when Mr Rosenstein made the comments attributed to him by Mr Trump. Mr Rosenstein oversaw Mr Mueller's investigation until last November, when the president transferred control to acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker.

Mr Rosenstein and Mr Mueller have not said whether Mr Trump is a target in the investigation.

Some reports have suggested that the term "target" would not be used for Mr Trump because sitting presidents are immune from prosecution.

Mr Mueller's investigation is still ongoing and it is unclear when he will submit his findings to the attorney general.

The president also insisted he "never did" speak to his long-time associate Roger Stone about stolen Democratic emails published by Wikileaks in 2016.

Mr Stone has been charged with seven counts in the Mueller inquiry related to the emails - charges he denies.

President Trump did however attack the FBI raid on Mr Stone's home, calling it "a very sad thing for this country".

"I like Roger, he's a character," Mr Trump said.

3) Trump's Moscow project

The president said his lawyer Rudy Giuliani had been "wrong" to say that talks over a project to construct a Trump building in Moscow had continued up to the 2016 US election.

Mr Giuliani had already rowed back on the comments, saying that he had been mistaken.

Mr Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress at least three times about the project - including telling Congress that the project was dissolved in January 2016.

In fact, negotiations continued through June 2016, when Mr Trump was already the Republican presidential nominee.

?Last month Mr Mueller's office disputed a claim in a Buzzfeed report that said Mr Trump had told Cohen to lie to Congress about when the Moscow project had ended.

The Buzzfeed report also said Mr Trump had allegedly encouraged Cohen to plan a trip to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin during the election campaign.

Mr Trump told the New York Times his last conversation about the project had been in "early to middle" 2016. He said Cohen might have been involved with the project "a little bit longer than that".

"I was running for president; I was doing really well. The last thing I cared about was building a building," he added.

4) His political future

"I love this job," Mr Trump insisted, dismissing talk he might not run for re-election in 2020.

He did however tell the paper he had lost "massive amounts of money" working as president.

He also spoke of Democratic candidates in next year's vote.

California Senator Kamala Harris has had "the best opening so far", he said. She announced her plan to run for president last month.

But another possible candidate, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, had been "hurt badly" by Mr Trump's mockery of her claims to Native American heritage, he said.

Last year Mr Trump described her as a "fake Pocahontas" and challenged her to take a DNA test.

Mr Sulzberger asked the president to stop his attacks on the media last year, saying they could "lead to violence" against journalists.

The interview with Mr Trump covered a wide range of topics:

1) The border wall
"I'll continue to build the wall, and we'll get the wall finished," the president said, dismissing the talks between congressional Republicans and Democrats over the impasse and implying he could declare a national emergency to ensure the barrier is built.

Tapping into emergency presidential powers could enable Mr Trump to bypass Congress and access the money and resources needed to complete the? project.

Critics have said the situation at the border does not constitute a true emergency and invoking one would be an abuse of power.

Mr Trump has sought $5.7 billion (£4.4bn) for a wall on the southern border. The Democrats refuse to provide it, arguing it is immoral and ineffective.

The divide led to the longest government shutdown in US history, which will resume on 15 February if no budget can be agreed.
Media captionFive questions about Trump's border wall
Mr Trump slammed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the interview over the border wall.

"I've actually always gotten along with her, but now I don't think I will any more," he said. "I think she's doing a tremendous disservice to the country."

Ms Pelosi told reporters on Thursday there would be no money for a wall in planned border security legislation.

2) The Russia inquiry
Speaking to two New York Times?? reporters in the Oval Office, the president said he had received assurances from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

"Rod told me I'm not a target of the investigation," Mr Trump said. He then suggested that he may not have spoken to him in person, adding: "The lawyers ask him. They say: 'He's not a target of the investigation'."

It is not clear when Mr Rosenstein made the comments attributed to him by Mr Trump. Mr Rosenstein oversaw Mr Mueller's investigation until last N?ovember, when the president transferred control to acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker.

Mr Rosenstein and Mr Mueller have not said whether Mr Trump is a target in the investigation.

Some reports have suggested that the term "target" would not be used for Mr Trump because sitting presidents are immune from prosecution.

Mr Mueller's investigation is still ongoing and it is unclear when he will submit his findings to the attorney general.
Rod Rosenstein previously oversaw Robert Mueller's investigation
The president also insisted he "never did" speak to his long-time associate Roger Stone about stolen Democratic emails published by Wikileaks in 2016.

Mr Stone has been charged with seven counts in the Mueller inquiry related to the emails - charges he denies.

Defiant Trump ally rejects Russia charges
Stone - a political agitator and Nixon fan
President Trump did however attack the FBI raid on Mr Stone's home, calling it "a very sad thing for this country".

?"I like Roger, he's a character," Mr Trump said.

3) Trump's Moscow project
The president said his lawyer Rudy Giuliani had been "wrong" to say that talks over a project to construct a Trump building in Moscow had continued up to the 2016 US election.

Mr Giuliani had already rowed back on the comments, saying that he had been mistaken.

Mr Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress at least three times about the project - including telling Congress that the project was dissolved in January 2016.

In fact, negotiations continued through June 2016, when Mr Trump was already the Republican presidential nominee.

Last month Mr Mueller's office disputed a claim in a Buzzfeed report that said Mr Trump had told Cohen to lie to Congress about when the Moscow project had ended.

The Buzzfeed report also said Mr Trump had allegedly encouraged Cohen to plan a trip to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin during the election campaign.

Trump's tower in Moscow that never was
Mr Trump told the New York Times h?is last conversation about the project had been in "early to middle" 2016. He said Cohen might have been involved with the project "a little bit longer than that".

"I was running for president; I was doing really well. The last thing I cared about was building a building," he added.

4) His political future
"I love this job," Mr Trump insisted, dismissing talk he might not run for re-election in 2020.

He did however tell the paper he had lost "massive amounts of money" working as president.

He also spoke of Democratic candidates in next year's vote.

Which Democrats are running in 2020?
The US state looking to take down Trump
California Senator Kamala Harris has had "the best opening so far", he said. She announced her plan to run for president last month.

But another possible candidate, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, had been "hurt badly" by Mr Trump's mockery of her claims to Native American heritage, he said.

Last year Mr Trump described her as a "fake Pocahontas" and challenged her to take a DNA test.

She did and the subsequent DNA report concluded that "the vast majority" of Ms Warren's ancestry was European, but "the results strongly" supported a Native American ancestor.

"I may be wrong, but I think that was a big part of her credibility and now all of a sudden it's gone," Mr Trump told the New York Times.

She did and the subsequent DNA report concluded that "the vast majority" of Ms Warren's ancestry was European, but "the results strongly" supported a Native American ancestor.

"I may be wrong, but I think that was a big part of her credibility and now all of a sudden it's gone," Mr Trump told the New York Times.

?https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-47082865

ruby Posted on February 01, 2019 09:26

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Hakeem Al-Araibi: Bahraini footballer's wife pleads for his release

Imagine if going to school meant swimming and wading through water and mangroves, your school books tied up in a plastic bag over your head.

All the while, you're struggling to keep your face above water and fighting against the current.

For some children in the Philippines, this is a daily routine - but a charity is trying to make it easier for them to get their education by providing communities with boats.

The Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation started out as a small idea on social media yet over the years has become a countrywide charity helping school children in need.

The first community where the charity got involved was one of fishermen and seaweed farmers living in stilted houses in the sea off the coast of Zamboanga City, a poor region of Mindanao in the south.

Image captionMany communities don't have spare boats for the children

The children had to wade as far as one kilometre through water just to get to school. If the tide was high, the wading became swimming.

"That's dangerous and unsafe even if they are good swimmers," says the charity's founder Jay Jaboneta. And many of the children are not.

Yet with all the community's boats used for fishing, there's often been no other choice.

The children had to bundle their books and uniforms in plastic bags to keep them dry as they make their long and arduous way to school.

"I didn't know about this situation - when I found out I was shocked and posted about it on Facebook," said Mr Jaboneta, who grew up nearby.

Things then started snowballing when many of his friends responded - and some began pledging money to help the situation.

Image captionA few hundred dollars are often enough to help

Today, the foundation is active all across the Philippines, primarily funding school boats - all painted in bright yellow corresponding to the colour of the country's school buses.

A small boat costs about $200 (£150) and will fit around six to eight children, who will have to row it themselves.

The bigger boats, some of which even have an engine, are steered by an older student, parent or teacher.

Boats, dormitories, a mobile classroom

As the charity has grown over the years, they have also taken on some other projects to help poor or remote communities accessing education.

"The problems that such communities face are very different from case to case," explains Mr Jaboneta.

In some projects they've built dormitories for children who otherwise would have to walk for hours to get to school.

One of the latest projects is a large boat equipped with education material so that it can be taken to remote communities by a teacher and serve as a mobile classroom.

Image captionThe boats are yellow to correspond to the country's school buses

Overall, the charity has worked with almost 200 communities since 2010, the founder explains.

"Usually we work with the community leaders or the local schools," says Mr Jaboneta.

"Once we have funded a boat they can then take over the project and operate things themselves."

Donations for the work come mostly from the Philippines, he explains. An exception was 2013, after the country had been battered by deadly typhoon Haiyan - in the wake of this and the global headlines that came with it, there were also some donations from abroad.

But usually, the money comes from locals who want to help making a difference.

 Image captionMost of the small boats have to be rowed by the pupils themselves

Given the project was kick-started on Facebook, it's often praised as an example of what an impact social media can have in stories like this.

And while Mr Jaboneta agrees that his posts at the very beginning were crucial to getting things going, he cautions that there remains a huge offline element to it.

He and co-founder Anton Lim have to call donors, sit down with them, go out and co-ordinate things with the local community leaders - it remains a lot of work, which is still entirely done by volunteers.

"I never imagined that a boat could be something so important, that it could make such a difference," Mr Jaboneta saying, summing up his experience of the past years.

"The Philippines is an archipelago of around 7,000 islands so there are boats everywhere - some estimates say it's about a million across the country. And so you can easily make the mistake of taking them for granted."

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-47024828

ruby Posted on January 30, 2019 13:17

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Call for action on Glasgow Airport transport links

Glasgow Airport bosses have called for urgent action to improve transport links with the city centre.

Managing director Mark Johnston said the airport was the only one of its size in Europe reliant on road access amid worsening congestion on the M8.

He is due to meet Scotland's transport secretary this week to press for progress on the issue.

It comes as a new report said the airport contributed £1.44bn to the economy and supported 30,000 jobs.

The airport consultancy firm York Aviation also said the airport handled £3.5bn in global imports and exports in 2017 and that passenger numbers were projected to almost double from 9.7 million to 17 million a year.

'Something needs to happen'

However, bosses warned that improved transport links were crucial to its future success.

The most recent plans to connect Glasgow Airport to the rail network faltered in 2017 amid concern about their economic impact to existing infrastructure.

But Mr Johnston told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme: "We're the only airport in Europe that has road as its only means of access.

"The recent studies have shown that the congestion is only increasing on the M8. We have the funding available through the City Deal, so I think there's a genuine acceptance that something needs to happen."

Mr Johnston said he was due to attend a meeting later this week with Transport Secretary Michael Matheson and local council leaders.

He added: "There's an acceptance now that something needs to happen. As I say, we're the only airport now without some kind of connectivity like that. We want to grow, we have plans for growth, the M8 is becoming more congested so we need action."

Image captionEmirates will begin operating its A380 service from April

The report said Glasgow Airport's contribution to the economy could rise to £2.57bn by 2040 and that it had the potential to support 43,000 jobs by 2040.

'Knock-on effect'

As part of the investment into facilities, £8m is currently being invested to upgrade the airport ahead of Emirates operating a Dubai service - on the world's largest commercial aircraft, the A380 - from April.

A new advanced manufacturing innovation district by the airport is also estimated to create up to 10,000 additional jobs.

Two tenants have already been confirmed in the £56m medical manufacturing innovation centre and the £65m national manufacturing institute for Scotland.

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay, also MSP for Renfrewshire North and West where the airport is based, said: "Renfrewshire benefits hugely from having Glasgow Airport on our doorstep, forming a vital part of our local community.

"The economic growth and jobs the airport brings to the local area, and to the wider west of Scotland region, is massive and has had a huge positive knock-on effect throughout Renfrewshire and the surrounding areas."

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-47054170

ruby Posted on January 30, 2019 11:46

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Week ahead at Holyrood: Will the budget pass?

A key moment of the parliamentary year comes around again this week - but will the budget pass?

MSPs will debate the Budget Bill on Thursday afternoon.

But as things stand, it seems unlikely the Scottish government will garner enough backing to see it go through.

The Scottish Greens - thought to be the most likely partners - have said they will not support the government unless changes to local government taxes are made.

Of course this leaves three other parties it could strike a deal with.

But the Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems seem unlikely partners this year (though it is worth noting that all three having backed SNP budgets in the past).

There is the possibility of abstentions, which could mean the Budget Bill passes at this stage to allow talks to continue.

All this means that we are in for a fairly unusual week.

So what about the rest of this week?

Tuesday - St John's children's ward

Image captionThe children's ward at St John's stopped taking new in-patients at night in 2017

MSPs will be updated on the situation at St John's Hospital's children's ward on Tuesday afternoon.

Paediatric services at the West Lothian hospital have not been running 24 hours since June 2017 due to staff shortages.

In a statement in September, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said the ward would not fully re-open until there were safe levels of staffing, but she insisted there had been "encouraging progress".

After that, MSPs are to debate the Scottish government's draft social isolation and loneliness strategy, published in December.

The two-year strategy, backed by £1m, is to ensure the problem is treated as a public health issue.

That evening's member's debate will be led by Tory MSP Graham Simpson, who will call for progress in ensuring housing meets the needs of older people so they can remain at home for longer.

In the morning, the health committee will begin stage two consideration of the Health and Care (Staffing) (Scotland) Bill.

The proposed legislation seeks to place an existing workforce planning tool onto a statutory footing.

Concerns were expressed throughout the stage one debate about safe staffing levels, ensuring the right balance of skills and how it will impact the care sector.

Wednesday - Education focus

The afternoon offering at Holyrood will focus on two debates led by the Scottish Conservatives: the first will be on education and the second on crime.

Then SNP MSP Gail Ross will celebrate the Equally Safe at Work pilot, a new scheme designed to tackle sexual harassment in the workplace.

The education committee continues its inquiry into the Scottish national standardised assessments in the morning, this time hearing from Upstart Scotland - the organisation behind the campaign to end P1 tests.

Education Secretary John Swinney announced an independent review into the assessments in October following concerns they were not in line with play-based learning.

Mr Swinney has suggested the assessments should be "reformed not abolished", but he also accepted the review "might" recommend that they be scrapped altogether.

Standardised assessments were introduced in 2017 in a bid to gather more data about the stages children have reached in their learning, with literacy and numeracy tests carried out at P1, P4, P7 and S3 level.

Thursday - Women in STEM

Following FMQs at noon, Labour MSP Iain Gray will urge the Scottish government to reflect on the numbers of women studying STEM subjects.

It follows a report which said the proportion for female STEM students had seen "at best, incremental improvement, and, at worst, further decline".

Then onto the Budget Bill debate after lunch.

While full committee listings are yet to be published, one of interest is the Social Security Committee as it discusses the draft social security charter with cabinet secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville.

The charter forms a central tenet of the Social Security (Scotland) Act and seeks to set out the core principles of Scotland's new social security system.

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-47028458

ruby Posted on January 30, 2019 11:27

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Empire's Jussie Smollett: Stars show support after attack

Hollywood stars are showing their support for Jussie Smollett after he was attacked.

Police in the US say they're investigating it as a suspected homophobic and racist attack after "two unknown offenders approached him and gained his attention by yelling out racial and homophobic slurs".

The Empire actor needed hospital treatment after the men punched him in the face, poured a chemical substance on him and tied a rope around his neck.

Oscar winner Viola Davis and supermodel Naomi Campbell are among those sharing their support.

Naomi Campbell, who starred in the first two seasons of the musical show about a hip-hop mogul whose sons and ex-wife fight over his business, said that one of the most beautiful things to happen to her when working on Empire was meeting Jussie Smollett.

Alongside a picture of the two of them, she called on the Mayor of Chicago to catch the "despicable people" who have committed this "act of hate".

Oscar winner Viola Davis shared a photo of Jussie on her Instagram page.

Jussie, who plays Jamal Lyon, in Empire, came out on US TV show Ellen in 2015.

It's after he faced scrutiny in his personal life when his character on the show came out as being gay.

At the time he told Ellen "there is, without a doubt, no closet that I've ever been in and I just wanted to make that clear".

The TV host tweeted her support for him and his family.

Jussie's co-star, Grace Byers, is among those expressing their horror at the attack.

"This despicable act only shamefully reveals how deeply the diseases of hatred, inequality, racism and discrimination continue to course through our country's veins," she said.

Singer and actress Janelle Monae also shared a photo of herself with Jussie.

"It is still a risk daily to be a BLACK, OUT and PROUD human being," she wrote.

Jada Pinkett Smith also posted a news report about the attack.

End of Instagram post by jadapinkettsmith

Some media reports say that the actor had bleach poured on him but that's not been confirmed yet.

According to the American website TMZ, Jussie has now been discharged from hospital

https://www.bbc.com/news/newsbeat-47053406

ruby Posted on January 30, 2019 09:53

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North Korea nuclear: US intelligence report says regime to keep weapons

North Korea is unlikely to fully give up its nuclear weapons, a US intelligence report says, despite the hopes of the Trump administration.

The Worldwide Threat Assessment report also says Iran is not making nuclear weapons, but that cyber threats from China and Russia are a growing concern.

Both countries may be seeking to influence the 2020 election, it says.

National intelligence director Dan Coats and other intelligence chiefs presented it the Senate on Tuesday.

North Korea remains "unlikely to give up" its weapon stockpiles and production abilities while it tries to negotiate "partial denuclearization steps to obtain key US and international concessions", the report says.

Having nuclear weapons is seen as "critical to regime survival", it reads.President Donald Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong-un met in Singapore last June to discuss denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

They signed an agreement pledging to "work toward complete denuclearisation" but there was no agreed pathway and little progress has been made since then on the issue.North Korea has always insisted it will not unilaterally give up its nuclear arsenal unless the US removes its own nuclear threat.

The White House has said they will meet for a second time in February, but no date or location has yet been confirmed.

Image captionNotrh Korea's Kim Yong-chol (left) travelled to the US for talks in December

The new US report highlights a growing threat from China and Russia, which are "more aligned than at any point since the mid-1950s".

Both countries have sophisticated "cyber espionage" capabilities, which they may try to use to influence the 2020 US presidential election.

The report also says Iran is not currently making nuclear weapons, although it says the country's "regional ambitions and improved military capabilities" will probably threaten US interests in the future.

President Trump withdrew the US in 2018 from a landmark deal on curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions, and has imposed stricter sanctions to try to thwart its actions.

At the Senate hearing CIA director Gina Haspel said Iran was "technically... in compliance" with the 2015 nuclear deal, despite the US withdrawal.

Image captionPresident Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018

Elsewhere in the Middle East, the report stresses that the so-called Islamic State group (IS) is not yet defeated, despite the Trump administration's claims to the contrary.

While the group will probably not aim to take new territory, the report assesses IS will try to "exploit Sunni grievances, societal instability, and stretched security forces to regain territory in Iraq and Syria in the long term".

President Trump's decision to withdraw US troops from Syria shocked allies at home and abroad. Mr Trump said the group had been defeated.

The administration has since agreed to slow down the withdrawal.

Acting US Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan however told reporters on Tuesday that IS is close to losing its remaining territory in Syria.

"I'd say 99.5% plus of the IS-controlled territory has been returned to the Syrians. Within a couple of weeks, it'll be 100%," he is quoted as saying.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-47051606

ruby Posted on January 30, 2019 09:43

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8 questions to ask before having sex with him

To avoid sleeping with a total jerk (or a great guy before you're ready), file these questions to ask a guy before having sex in your "to-do-before-bed" checklist

Despite what movies tell us, there's no hard and fast rule about when you should have sex with your new guy for the first time. Maybe it's five minutes after you meet him, or maybe it's after marriage—no judgment!

But no matter how long you wait, there are some questions you need to ask both your partner and yourself before you get in bed. Some are obvious—almost everybody knows to ask about STIs and birth control, and it makes sense to have a conversation about where the relationship is going. But other questions aren't as straightforward. For example, how do you ask a guy you've just met whether he's an arrogant jerk who's selfish in bed? Easy: You don't. But that doesn't mean you can't figure it out with a few less direct questions. We talked to the experts, including a former CIA officer, to figure out what answers you need before you get intimate with him—and what the right questions are to see the red flags.

HAVE YOU BEEN TESTED?

 

 

STIs are serious business, and that means that you can't gloss over the topic just because it doesn't match the mood, says human sexuality researcher Nicole Prause, Ph.D. "Data shows that when people say 'I'm clean,' what they really mean is that they haven't seen any active growths," Prause says. "And when they say they've 'tested clean,' they're usually only talking about HIV. So the sex questions need to get pretty explicit!" The easiest way to make this conversation less awkward is to get tested yourself. "The most common reason people don't bring up STIs with a potential partner is because they haven't been tested," says Debby Herbenick, Ph.D., associate professor at Indiana University and author of the newly released book The Coregasm Workout. "They know the question is going to get turned back on them. Get tested yourself, and the conversation will be much easier." (Asking about test history is one of the 7 Conversations You Must Have for a Healthy Sex Life.)

 

ARE YOU MARRIED?

 

 

Even if this is just a casual relationship, you want to know if he's seeing other women. And you should, says Herbenick, because—jealousy aside—it's important to know what kind of situation you might be getting yourself into. Most of us assume if a guy is dating he isn't betrothed, but, well, we've all heard the stories. Sure, a married guy probably isn't going to come right out and admit it, but by asking him directly, you'll put him on the spot enough that he won't be able to lie smoothly, either. Ask this question in a joking manner, and then you can use it as a stepping stone to say, "No, but seriously, are you seeing other women?" (Not convinced? According to this Infidelity Survey, cheating is way more common among married couples than you might think.)

DO YOU LIKE YOUR JOB?

 

 

What do you do? Do you enjoy it? What's a typical workday like? Do you like your coworkers?

Don't ask him these questions all at once—you're not interrogating him, after all. But asking four or five specific questions about one topic is an easy way to spot a liar, according to retired CIA covert operations officer B.D. Foley, author of CIA Street Smarts for Women. "In the CIA, we try to have a cover story that will survive three questions," Foley explains. "After three questions, it becomes difficult to maintain the cover, so we then try to redirect the conversation. This is what a liar will probably do." You don't need to catch him in a fabrication to figure out if he's a liar, just pay attention to whether he starts being evasive when the line of questioning goes too deep. And remember: If he's lying about something as trivial as his job (even if it's just to impress you), he's probably lying about other things too.

NICE CAR! IS THAT WHAT YOU USE TO PICK UP CHICKS?

 

Flattery is everything—when you're trying to out arrogance, Foley says. Figure out if he has an ego by, ironically, stroking it. "This is called a 'flattery ploy,'" Foley says. "A normal, humble guy will take compliments graciously, or even be embarrassed. But someone who is arrogant will use your words as a jumping off point to brag about themselves or their exploits." If he takes every compliment you give him and follows it with a 10-minute speech about how amazing he is, he's probably not the kind of guy you want to sleep with (read: selfish, and potentially selfish in bed).

ARE YOU FRIENDS WITH YOUR EX?

 

The way he talks about past relationships can be revealing, says New York-based psychologist Ben Michaelis, Ph.D., author of Your Next Big Thing: Ten Small Steps to Get Moving and Get Happy. "If he's respectful when talking about an ex-lover, that's a good sign that he'll be respectful of you," he explains. It can be a little awkward to bluntly ask a guy to reveal his relationship history, so lead in to the question with some (inoffensive) info about your past relationships. "At the CIA, we call this 'give to get,'" Foley says. "When you give some information about yourself, the other person will feel compelled to respond in kind." (Then again, Here's Why You Shouldn't Be Friends with Your Ex.)

 

BAD HAIR DAY, HUH?

 

Safety is important, especially when you're getting intimate with a new partner. But if you've just met him, you probably haven't had the chance to see his true colors. The most important to suss out is any anger or control issues, both of which can be problematic even if you never plan on seeing him again. To determine whether he's a regular guy or a possible serial killer, Foley suggests using a "mild provocation" ploy. Here's how it works: Provoke him by gently teasing him about something he's clearly proud of, like his new car or his nicely-groomed beard. "People with violent tendencies are often unable to resist a poke like this," Foley says. "They'll become irritated or even angry. It's better to see this behavior come out in a bar, when you're surrounded by people, than in the bedroom." Just remember to keep it light. You're not actually trying to offend him (and some guys are really sensitive about their hair!).

WHAT ARE MY EXPECTATIONS?

 

Before you sleep with him, it's important to ask yourself what you want in both the sexual encounter and the relationship. Strong emotions often come when your expectations are violated, like when you unexpectedly win an award and are ecstatic, or dramatically saddened by an abrupt death, says Prause. Because you tend to romanticize sex before it happens, your expectations are high. That can be problematic if you're not prepared to deal with the fallout. It doesn't matter if you're looking for a one-night stand or a long-term relationship (or something in between), just be honest and realistic about what you expect to happen the morning after (and what scenario you're okay with), she says.

AM I OKAY NEVER SEEING HIM AGAIN?

Sometimes it's difficult to be honest with yourself about whether you can handle a casual relationship, so Herbenick suggests considering the worst-case scenario. "If your answer is yes, then go for it," Herbenick says. "But if it's no, you may want to wait until it is yes, or until you're both ready for a more serious relationship." (In the meantime, he's not the only one with some sex ed homework! Brush up on the 

https://www.theindependentghana.com/en/lifestyle/29373-8-questions-to-ask-before-having-sex-with-him.html

sarah Posted on January 30, 2019 09:40

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Chocolate is better than cough syrup for curing your cough, doctor reveals

When we have a hacking cough, lots of us will reach for the cough syrup to soothe symptoms.

But it turns out you might be better of indulging in a bar of Dairy Milk, as a doctor has said chocolate is better for cough and respiratory problems than standard medicine.

 

According to Professor Alyn Morice, head of cardiovascular and respiratory studies at the University of Hull and founding member of the International Society for the Study of Cough says, "chocolate can calm coughs".

Read: How to cut back on drinking alcohol

The doctor even added that the supporting evidence is "actually as solid as a bar of Fruit and Nut". It's the perfect excuse.

 

Writing for MailOnline, Alyn, who has spent years researching the cough, said researchers have just seen the results of a recent study of over-the-counter medicine.

 

"This proves that a new medicine which contains cocoa is better than a standard linctus."


Medicine containing chocolate could be the answer, according to Prof Alyn Morice

The study of 163 people revealed that the patients taking chocolate-based medicine saw significant improvements in two days.

 So it's not quite as good as simply munching on some Maltesers and feeling better, unfortunatley.

Nevertheless, this isn't the first study that suggests chocolate can calm coughs.

Researchers at Imperial College in London found that theobromine, an alkaloid in cocoa, is better at suppressing the urge to cough than codeine - and ingredient often used in cough medicines.

 Read: Did you know VAGINA can be steamed? Watch it all here

So how can chocolate actually help with a cough?

Well according to Professor Alyn Morice, it's down to chocolate's "demulcent properties" - in other words, it's sticky which means it forms a coating on the throat's nerve endings, suppressing the urge to cough.

"This demulcent effect explains why honey and lemon and other sugary syrups can help, but I think there is something more going on with chocolate," Alyn added.

The cough expert reckons sucking on a piece of chocolate could provide some relief, but it's best when working with other ingredients in the medicine.

It's definitely worth a try though...

https://www.theindependentghana.com/en/lifestyle/29286-chocolate-is-better-than-cough-syrup-for-curing-your-cough-doctor-reveals.html

sarah Posted on January 30, 2019 09:35

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These 5 stress-relieving strategies work for even the busiest entrepreneurs

For entrepreneurs, stress is a double-edged sword. On one hand, a moderate amount of stress can boost productivity, creativity and performance. Research shows that a moderate deadline, as opposed to one that’s extremely tight, can boost creativity.

On the other hand, many entrepreneurs are facing an overwhelming amount of stress, which can hinder performance. Entrepreneurs, compared to the typical population, have higher rates of stress, worry, depression and addiction. With stress, like exercise, the key is to maintain just enough to stimulate the system, without overloading oneself or doing damage.

    Unfortunately, some entrepreneurs think relieving stress means giving up meaningful work or engaging in time-consuming stress management techniques. Fortunately, there are a few evidence-based methods that can rapidly reduce stress and increase resilience in just minutes a day. By incorporating these practices into your daily life, you’ll watch stress levels plummet and your performance soar.

Strategy 1: Box breathing.

It’s hard to imagine more stressful work than being a Navy SEAL. To equip SEAL trainees with a way of quickly entering into a calm, energized and focused state, former Navy SEAL Mark Divine of SEALFIT teaches the box breathing method.

Research supports that slow, diaphragmatic breathing reduces the stress hormone cortisol, while also improving attention.

Here are the steps for box breathing:

  1. Inhale for four seconds
  2. Hold your breath for 4 seconds (without clamping your mouth or nose shut)
  3. Exhale for four seconds
  4. Hold for four seconds without air in the lungs
  5. Repeat steps 1-4

This activity can be done for as little as 5 minutes to enter into a calm and focused state.

Strategy 2: Yawning.

According to neuroscience researcher and author Mark Waldman, repeatedly yawning for one minute is one of the fastest ways to reduce neurological stress and anxiety. Yawning can also enhance alertness.

While it may seem unusual, a quick test will prove how quickly your mind can calm after engaging in conscious yawning. To do this, simply force yourself to yawn several times. You may notice that you begin to stimulate a real yawn. Repeat this for up to 60 seconds and note the relaxed and alert state your mind enters. This can be done any time during the day to quickly calm your mind.

Strategy 3: 5-minute walks.

Exercise has long been a powerful stress buster. But fitting exercise into a busy day can be challenging for some entrepreneurs. Research in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity has shown that taking a 5-minute walk every hour can be just as beneficial as a 30-minute walk at the start of the day. In fact, the frequent walking group showed an improved mood, whereas the 30-minute walking group didn’t.

Entrepreneurs can incorporate frequent walks by:

  • Walking during phone calls
  • Holding walking meetings
  • Using treadmill desks
  • Walking outside for a break
  • Using smartphone dictation or recording software to walk and speak notes

Strategy 4: Gratitude.

Positive psychology research shows that gratitude has numerous benefits for improving mood, relieving depression, boosting the immune system and lowering blood pressure. While there are a few instances where gratitude hasn’t been shown to make a positive difference, for many entrepreneurs, gratitude can be an easy and time-efficient way to fight off stress and improve their mood.

A simple gratitude practice can include taking several minutes to write down reflections in a gratitude journal as well as conveying gratitude to those at work. As a bonus, taking the time to express gratitude to those in your network (e.g., writing thank you cards) can be an excellent way of sparking conversations that could lead to business growth.

Strategy 5: Saying no.

Entrepreneurs are often willing to take on challenges and risks that others won’t. While this personality trait can help blaze new trails, it can also potentially lead to burnout.

Whether it’s website design work or doing the laundry, many entrepreneurs are taught the benefit of outsourcing tasks that are outside their wheelhouse. What can be more challenging, however, is saying “no” to potential opportunities because of the stress they might add. This could also mean saying “no” to a client who requests too much.

 

The key here is a mindset shift. If you resent taking on work and it stresses you out, it could not only negatively affect you, but could also negatively affect those working with you -- including your clients. Sometimes the best thing you can do for others is to let them work with someone who has the mental and physical capacity to better serve them.

Putting it all together.

Each of these strategies only takes a few minutes to implement, making them almost effortless. The key is remembering to do them. It’s recommended to first start with one or two of these strategies and create an “If-When-Then” plan.

For instance, “When it’s the top of the hour, then I will yawn for 60 seconds.” “If someone calls me, then I will get up and walk while taking the phone call.” “When I pack up my belongings at the end of the day, then I will recite to myself three things I’m grateful for.”

Write down your plan and read it at the start of each day until it becomes a habit. Apply any one of these simple strategies today to enjoy a renewed sense of well-being and newfound peace of mind. 

https://www.theindependentghana.com/en/lifestyle/28759-these-5-stress-relieving-strategies-work-for-even-the-busiest-entrepreneurs.html

sarah Posted on January 30, 2019 09:31

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7 things that might happen if you stop wearing makeup

You Might Be Insecure (At First)

We know what you might be thinking: Will you look tired? Or less attractive? Will your coworkers and friends mumble on the side? Chances are no—no one will notice. And though you might feel a little self-conscious initially, those fears will be eased when you realize you suddenly have an extra half hour to spare in the mornings.

You Might Become Less Stressed

Let's be real: Maintaining a beauty routine can be a hassle. Is your foundation even? Are your lashes clumpy? Has your liner smudged? Not wearing makeup will alleviate you from these little anxieties and free up more of your mind for important tasks, like taking the time to stretch and meditate—or, ya know, searching for the best doughnuts in every single state.

Your Skin Might Clear Up

Between the foundation and concealer and blush and contouring, there are so many layers of product on your face. And if we're being really honest with ourselves, we're probably not removing it all correctly at the end of the day—which means it's left in our pores. Give your skin a break from it all and you might find yourself with clearer skin in a couple days.

You Might Look Younger

Especially if you tend to be heavy handed with your makeup normally. That smattering of freckles across your nose and the rosiness in your cheeks that you're always trying to tone down—those traits actually make you look more naturally youthful.

You Might Get More Invested In Your Skincare

Hey, if you're going to go barefaced, you want your skin to look as good as possible (not broken out and blotchy). So slap on the serums and masks and the all-important SPF and your skin will thank you now...and later.

And You Might Appreciate Your Hair More

6 OF 7

ALL PHOTOS

Just because you're forgoing makeup doesn't mean that you're giving up on your appearance entirely. Use a few of those newly reclaimed minutes to smooth down any frizz—or finally try out that pretty braid you never had time for before.

PHOTO: MANE ADDICTS

You Might Realize That You Don't Need Makeup (Or That You Just Need Less)

 

Once you go without makeup for a while, putting it back on can feel foreign. And heavy. Instead of covering your entire face in foundation, you might find yourself just dabbing on a little concealer. Or perhaps instead of doing a full-on smoky eye, you'll go for a light coat of mascara instead. No matter what, you'll have gained a fresh perspective.

https://www.theindependentghana.com/en/lifestyle/29390-7-things-that-might-happen-if-you-stop-wearing-makeup.html

sarah Posted on January 30, 2019 09:24

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Kevin and Julia Garratt on their experience as detainees in China

Canadian couple Kevin and Julia Garratt were detained in China in 2014 and accused of spying. Amid an escalating feud between Canada and China and allegations of retaliatory detentions, the pair tells the BBC about what it was like - and how they ever made it home.

Kevin Garratt remembers well the night he and Julia were arrested in north-eastern China.

He recalls being pulled away from his wife as they walked through a restaurant's downstairs lobby, and pushed into the back of a black sedan filled with burly officers.

He thought the whole thing was some terrible mistake.

Julia, forced into a separate sedan, found herself shaking in fear and shock at the sudden turn of events, and the drive in the darkness.

She thought: "This is going to be my last night.

"I don't think I've ever felt that level of fear and panic before. And also just sad for my family and my children, because there was no warning, there would be no chance to say goodbye."

The Garratts had lived in China since 1984, and from 2008 operated a coffee house popular with Western expats and tourists in Dandong, a city on the North Korean border, while continuing to carry out Christian aid wo

Image captionThe couple lived in Dandong, at the main China-North Korea border

But unbeknownst to either of them, early in 2014 and thousands of miles away, American authorities were launching a crackdown on Chinese cyber-espionage. One of the men in their sights was Su Bin, a Chinese resident working in Canada.

That June, Canadian authorities picked up Su, accused of stealing data about military projects and selling it to China, for extradition to the US.

While China has denied it, Canadian officials and observers believed the Garratts' arrest was a tit-for-tat detention and an attempt to pressure Canada for Su's release.

Canada's ambassador in Beijing at the time, Guy Saint-Jacques, describes them as "a couple of Canadian missionaries who had been in China 30 years doing good work".

He tells the BBC their arrest "was the first case where we saw a clear retaliation for something that had happened in Canada".

When he met counterparts at the foreign ministry about the case, Saint-Jacques recalls: "They never said directly 'let's do a swap.' But it was very clear what they wanted."

On the night of the Garratts' arrest - the beginning of months of detention for the pair - they had been invited for dinner by a friend of a friend, who told the couple they wanted to talk about their daughter going to study in Canada.

But something about the dinner felt strange.

"It didn't seem genuine, and the daughter never came," Kevin says.

Julia says it was only later they realised the whole evening had been a set-up for their arrest.

"It was very carefully thought through and planned in advance. We had no idea," she says.

Parts of the couple's story could be pulled directly from today's headlines.

Image captionMeng Wanzhou was arrested in Vancouver last December

In December, Chinese telecoms executive Meng Wanzhou, 46, was detained in Vancouver for allegedly breaking US sanctions against Iran.

This week, the US filed charges against Huawei and Meng, and the US is seeking her extradition. Both Huawei and Meng have rejected the allegations.

Following Meng's arrest came threats of "grave consequences" from China if the tech heiress and chief finance officer at Huawei, China's largest private company, was not released.

In mid-December, two Canadian men - former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor - were held in China on accusations of harming national security.

Like in the Garratts' case, their detention is seen by many China analysts as a reprisal.

Image captionMichael Spavor (L) and Michael Kovrig have been put under "compulsory measures"

The Garratts' experience in detention parallels what Canadian officials and others have suggested that Kovrig and Spavor are living through - daily interrogations, being kept in a room with lights on day and night.

"I don't know what they did or didn't do, but I know what they're going through right now," says Julia.

The Garratts say they were never physically harmed but were watched by guards around the clock, and had to request the most basic necessities when they needed them.

"You want a drink of water, they have to go get it for it. Brush your teeth, they get it for you. It's really meant to frighten and control you," says Kevin.Julia says the first few nights, she put a blanket over her eyes to block the light, but the guard pulled it down.

"I thought: 'That's a rule, I can't cover my face to sleep in the dark, they need the lights shining in my face.' They had very strict protocol."

They also experienced daily interrogations for up to six hours.

Tit for tat arrests

  • About 200 Canadians held in China
  • The cases of Michael Spavor, Michael Kovrig and Robert Lloyd Schellenberg could be linked to China's displeasure at arrest of Meng Wanzhou
  • Kovrig, a diplomat on leave, and Spavor, a businessman with close ties to North Korea, are accused of engaging in activities that harm China's national security
  • Schellenberg was convicted last year on drug smuggling charges and given a death sentence in January
  • Canada has accused China of "acting arbitrarily" in his sentencing
  • The country updated its travel advisory to China following Schellenberg sentencing, urging caution due to risk of "arbitrary enforcement of local law"

Their interrogators had a decade of details about their time in China and their travels, and asked over and over about the minutia of their activities - the why, the when, and the where. Whom they met.

"They would ask the same questions two month later and compare the answers," says Julia. "It's very, very gruelling."

Image captionKevin Garratt is reunited with his wife Julia in Vancouver

Some four years later, they have documented their experience in a book, Two Tears on the Window, published in November.

Devout Christians, they say prayer and the support of both their close family and the wider church community helped them through their time in detention.

"I had the sense that my peace cannot be stolen from me, my true freedom cannot be stolen from me. And I think there was great comfort in that," says Julia.

She was released on bail in February 2015, pending trial. In January 2016, still in detention, Kevin was charged with stealing state secrets.

A month later, Su waived extradition and headed to the US, where in March he pleaded guilty to hacking into major US defence contractors, stealing sensitive military data and sending it to China.

Saint-Jacques says that Chinese officials seemed taken by surprise by Su's decision to cut a deal with American officials.

Image captionJustin Trudeau raised the Garratt case with Chinese officials in August 2016

He believes that turn of events, combined with a visit to China by Justin Trudeau, during which the newly elected PM raised Kevin's case, were instrumental in securing Kevin's release.

He was deported to Canada in September 2016 after 775 days in detention, and reunited with Julia, who had left the country earlier that year.

Meanwhile, Meng's case continues to strain China's ties with Canada and the US.

Chinese officials have called her arrest a "serious mistake", accusing Canada of double standards and "Western egotism and white supremacy".

She is out on bail and under house arrest in Vancouver, where she owns property. She is next due in court on 6 March, but the case could possibly drag on for years.

It also comes amid growing scrutiny in Western countries over Huawei, which is a world leader in telecoms infrastructure, in particular the next generation of mobile phone networks, known as 5G.

Concern about the security of the company's technology has been growing, particularly in the US, UK, Canada, Australia and Germany, which fear its products could be used for spying, an allegation which Huawei denies.

Amid the diplomatic dispute, Canada has worked to rally international allies to its corner.

Earlier this month, over 140 diplomats - including Saint-Jacques - and academics signed an open letter to President Xi Jinping calling for the release of Kovrig and Spavor.

Canada also fired ambassador John McCallum on Sunday following controversial comments he made about Meng's extradition case.

For the Garratts, despite the international significance of cases such as theirs, it's important to remember that individuals and their families have got caught up in the dispute.

"The human cost is huge. That's the largest cost that's paid by the individuals that are directly implicated, unjustly implicated by these big things," she says.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-46981048

ruby Posted on January 30, 2019 09:12

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US firms seek changes to UK standards on beef and drugs

US lobby groups for agriculture and pharmaceutical firms want UK standards to be changed to match those of the US in post-Brexit trade deals.

They want the sale of growth hormone-fed beef, currently banned in the UK and EU, to be allowed in the UK.

The groups are also seeking changes to the NHS drugs approval process to allow it to buy a wider range of US drugs.

They are also asking US officials - who will hold a hearing later - to seek lower tariffs on agricultural goods.

The lobby groups say any deal should move away from EU standards, including rules governing genetically modified crops, antibiotics in meats, and pesticides, such as glyphosate.

If this does not happen, they say they will not back a US-UK trade deal.

Technology groups are also setting out their wishlists for any pact. Companies in this sector are against the UK's proposed digital tax.

The UK government has promised to look at ways of taxing US technology giants, such as Amazon and Google, who critics say do not pay their fair share of tax in the UK and therefore operate at an unfair advantage to physical companies.

'Once-in-a-lifetime' opportunity

The lobby groups' priorities were outlined in more than 130 comments submitted to the office of the US Trade Representative.

The office solicited the feedback to help develop US goals as it prepares to start trade talks with the UK after Brexit.

US companies - especially in the agricultural sector - said they hoped the UK would prove more flexible than the EU.

UK negotiations could represent "a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity", the National Grain and Feed Association and North American Export Grain Association wrote.

The groups said a new deal could create a trans-Atlantic market "that can act as a bastion against the EU's precautionary advances and its ongoing aggressive attempts to spread its influence around the globe".

Image captionUS agricultural groups have long complained about EU rules

Here is a summary of goals for key sectors:

Agriculture

US business groups from the agricultural sector have been among the most vocal, amounting to nearly a third of all comments.

The groups, which as well as meat, drug and technology firms include producers of olive oil, wine, nuts, fruit, and dairy products, say they want to see the UK reduce tariffs on food products., They also want to limit geographic labelling rules, such as those that bar US companies from using terms such as Prosecco.

The Animal Health Institute, which produces animal antibiotics, was among the groups that said it would not support any deal that did not address demands by the US agricultural sector.

"We have noted with concern statements by certain UK officials indicating a desire to exclude the agricultural sector from the negotiation and an intention of maintaining regulatory harmonization with the European Union," it said.

"Should the UK adopt such policies, we see little basis for the negotiation of a bilateral trade agreement."

Health

The pharmaceutical industry is also gearing up for negotiations to start.

PhRMA, which represents drug makers in the US such as AbbVie Merck and Novartis, said it wanted a deal to address the barriers to access it currently faces in the UK, pointing to items such as government price controls.

It heavily criticised the current NHS drug approval system, pointing to the cap on the price of drugs as too restrictive, and highlighting insufficient healthcare budgets and "rigid" national processes.

The organisation, as well as some other groups, are also hoping to secure patent protections for certain types of drugs for at least 12 years, among other demands.

Technology

There is also widespread support to push the UK raise the amount that triggers customs duties from £135 closer to the US level of $800 - more than £600.

Such a move would make it easier for small businesses to export to the UK, companies - including the e-commerce site Etsy - said.

Many of the demands in the tech sector also surfaced during negotiations of the trade agreement between the US, Mexico and Canada.

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-47036119

ruby Posted on January 29, 2019 12:08

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Norwegian Air seeks cash injection

Norwegian Air wants to raise 3bn Norwegian kroner (£268m) through a rights issue to improve its finances.

The news comes as the company announced that its preliminary earnings for 2018 showed an operating loss of roughly 3.8bn kroner.

The budget carrier said it was not in talks with any potential buyers after British Airways owner IAG abandoned its plans to buy it last week.

In early trading on Tuesday, the company's shares plunged by 16%.

Billionaire John Fredriksen and the airline's chief executive Bjorn Kjos and chairman Bjorn Kise have all agreed to underwrite the issue.

Mr Kjos explained that the airline was going to change its strategic focus from growth to making cost savings.

"We will now get in place a strengthened balance sheet that supports the further development of the company," he said.

In a statement, the airline added that this would "increase its competitiveness and stand-alone financial strength".

The carrier confirmed that flights were unaffected by the news.

A rights issue happens when existing shareholders of a company are offered the chance to buy new shares at a special price.

Analysis

by business correspondent Theo Leggett

Norwegian is in a race against time. The company is nothing if not ambitious - and it has certainly made an impact in Europe's cut-throat aviation market. But it needs to become consistently profitable, before the money runs out.

Norwegian's chief executive, Bjorn Kjos, has overseen a major expansion of the airline over the past five years, doubling the size of its fleet and expanding its route network dramatically. But his biggest gambit has been a major play into the low-cost long-haul market.

Cheap transatlantic travel is not a new idea: Freddie Laker tried it in the 1970s. But it was only with the development of highly fuel-efficient aircraft like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner - which Norwegian is using - and the Airbus A350 that the idea really took off. Now others are following Norwegian's example.

But all of this has come at a price. Norwegian has debts of $3.5bn and expects to rack up a sizeable loss for 2018. Problems with engines on its shiny new Dreamliners clearly haven't helped either.

Small wonder Mr Kjos now says the carrier will focus on cost-cutting and profitability, rather than growth. His airline has shaken up the market - now it needs to show it can consistently make money from it as well.

Last year, Norwegian Air launched the first-ever budget flight from London to South America

Fares on the 14-hour trip to Buenos Aires started from £259 one-way.

The company started as a small regional airline flying between Bergen and Trondheim in 1993.

Image captionBjorn Kjos is a former paratrooper and pilot

Mr Kjos turned it into Scandinavia's largest airline and the third-biggest budget carrier in Europe.

Norwegian's price strategy has been based on flying a young fleet of aircraft such as Boeing's 787 Dreamliner, which burn less fuel per passenger compared with other long-haul aircraft.

These offer passengers a more upmarket experience than they may have come to expect from a budget airline, with modern interiors and the benefit of free wi-fi on all routes in the future.

It flies from Gatwick, Manchester and Edinburgh airports to more than 150 destinations across Europe and worldwide including Boston, Dubai and San Francisco.

But in the second quarter of last year, the Civil Aviation Authority's most recent data, Norwegian was the airline with the most complaints from UK passengers, of those still in business.

It received 526 complaints per million travellers carried in that three-month period to June 2018, ahead of TAP Portugal, with 430, and Ryanair, with 319.

Small Planet Airlines, which had its licence suspended by the CAA in November after filing for insolvency the previous month, had received 27,998 complaints per million customers in the same period.

Budget airlines have had differing fortunes in recent months.

In November, EasyJet announced a 41% rise in pre-tax profits to £578m for the year to 30 September.

And earlier this month, it said that it expected its full-year profits to meet City forecasts.

However, Ryanair cut its profit forecast, blaming lower-than-expected air fares.

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-47039303

ruby Posted on January 29, 2019 12:04

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Luke Jobson: Five arrested on suspicion of manslaughter

Five people have been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter after a man seen being chased was found dead in a river.

Luke Jobson, 22, went missing after his family said he was "chased by five lads" outside a pub in Yarm in Teesside early on Sunday.

Police said the group came forward following appeals for information after he disappeared on a night out.

Officers confirmed a body recovered in a river on Monday was Mr Jobson's.

A Cleveland Police statement added: "Our thoughts are with Luke's family and friends at this very difficult time and specially trained officers will continue to support them."

On Monday, the force said it was believed Mr Jobson had been involved in an altercation outside The Keys pub.

Image captionMany people gathered in an effort to help the search for Mr Jobson

It has appealed for anyone with dashcam footage to contact them.

He was last seen near Yarm School at about 02:15 GMT.

Mr Jobson's family had appealed for help tracing him and a Facebook post was shared more than 60,000 times.

About 100 people turned out to aid the search but were warned by police to stay away from the area around the school in order to allow specially-trained officers to do their work.

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-tees-47041232

ruby Posted on January 29, 2019 11:59

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Jack Shepherd: Speedboat death 'not a crime' in Georgia

Speedboat killer Jack Shepherd's lawyer in Georgia says she will fight attempts to extradite him back to the UK.

In July, Shepherd, 31, was found guilty of the manslaughter by gross negligence of Charlotte Brown, but failed to attend his trial.

Shepherd surrendered himself to police in Tbilisi last week after spending ten months on the run.

Mariam Kublashvili says the charge he was convicted of does not apply under Georgian law.

She added that Shepherd "preferred" to serve his sentence in Georgia.

He was convicted in his absence at the Old Bailey and sentenced to six years after Ms Brown died when the pair were thrown overboard in December 2015.

Image captionThe speedboat which crashed on the Thames was shown to jurors at the Old Bailey during Jack Shepherd's trial

In an interview with the BBC, Mrs Kublashvili said: "What happened, in the river of Thames, is not a crime by Georgian law.

"If their behaviour which the person made or did not make, is not in Georgian law a crime, the person must be not extradited.

"He prefers to serve his sentence in Georgia. For him it is better to stay here if it is possible."

Media captionCharlotte Brown’s father Graham told BBC Radio 5 Live he felt an “overwhelming sense of emotion” following the arrest

On Monday, Shepherd's British lawyer, Rich Egan, received a Nazi death threat amidst torrents of abuse.

Ms Brown, 24, had been on a date with Shepherd on the River Thames when the crash happened.They were thrown from the boat when it hit branches in the water near Wandsworth Bridge at about midnight.

Shepherd was found clinging to the hull and Ms Brown, from Clacton in Essex, was pulled from the water unconscious and unresponsive.

After handing himself into police, Shepherd appeared in court in Tbilisi and was jailed for three months while UK authorities begin the extradition process.

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-london-47039077

ruby Posted on January 29, 2019 11:57

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A photographer's Trans-Siberian World Cup journey

Disgraced publicist Max Clifford had complained about unheated prison cells and cold showers "every day" before his death, an inquest has heard.

Clifford, 74, was serving eight years for sex offences when he collapsed at HMP Littlehey in Cambridgeshire.

The PR guru's daughter Louise told a hearing conditions at the prison "had an influence on his deterioration".

Cambridgeshire assistant coroner Simon Milburn said a cardiologist would be asked to consider if this was the case.

'Fading fast'

Clifford died of congestive heart failure on 10 December 2017, two days after his collapse, the hearing at Huntingdon Law Courts was told.

Letters to the prison governor from her father's doctor and barrister received "no response" while her father "was fading fast", Ms Clifford said.

The pre-inquest review hearing was told consultant cardiologist Prof Jon Townend had provided an expert review of Clifford's heart failure.

This confirmed he had cardiac AL amyloidosis, a "rare", serious condition caused by a build-up of abnormal proteins in organs and tissues.

A date for the full inquest has yet to be set.

Image captionClifford's daughter Louise had supported her father through his trial

During his 50-year career as a publicist, Clifford looked after press and publicity for a mix of clients including Marlon Brando, Marvin Gaye, Muhammad Ali and Jade Goody.

In 2014, he was investigated as part of Operation Yewtree, and eventually jailed after being convicted of eight indecent assaults on women and young girls.

Clifford continued to protest his innocence, and an appeal against his sentence was due in 2018.

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-46989850

ruby Posted on January 29, 2019 11:54

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Michael Jackson doc Leaving Neverland is 'disturbing and devastating'

Michael Jackson gave a young boy jewellery in exchange for sexual acts, according to new documentary Leaving Neverland.

The "devasting and disturbing" film has been shown at The Sundance Film festival in Utah, America.

It focuses on two men who claim Michael Jackson had abused them as children.

His estate deny the claims saying it's "an outrageous and pathetic attempt to exploit and cash in" on the singer, who died in 2009.

USA Today reporter Patrick Ryan was at the world premiere on Friday.

Wade Robson and James Safechuck say they were aged seven and 10 when the singer befriended them and their families.

Now in their 30s, they claim they were sexually abused by Michael Jackson.

He always denied the allegations when he was alive.

Police raided his Neverland Ranch in California in 2003 while investigating claims he had molested a 13-year-old boy.

The case went to trial and Wade Robson was a main witness for him. He said under oath that the singer never abused him and Michael Jackson was acquitted of all charges in 2005.

Image captionWade Robson used to perform alongside Michael Jackson when he was a child

Since then Wade Robson has become a father and in an interview he said after two nervous breakdowns he finally revealed to his therapist the dark secret he'd been hiding.

"It was just pain and disgust and anger, the idea something like that could happen to my son."

In 2013 he filed a lawsuit against Michael Jackson's estate claiming he had been sexually abused by the singer, but a judge ruled he'd waited too long to seek legal action.

'Credible filmmaking'

The two-part film is directed by Dan Reed and the synopsis reads: "Through gut-wrenching interviews with the now-adult men and their families, Leaving Neverland crafts a portrait of sustained exploitation and deception."

Image captionBritish filmmaker Dan Reed also made Terror in Mumbai and The Paedophile Hunter

Reporter Adam B Vary watched it and posted afterwards: "A deeply emotional Wade Robson and James Safechuck receive a standing ovation after the screening of Leaving Neverland. There will be a lot to say later, but I can say this: This is a thorough, devastating, deeply credible piece of filmmaking."

Kenneth Turan, the LA Times film critic posted: "A #sundancefilmfestival first: introducing the screening of the disturbing "Leaving Neverland" Michael Jackson documentary, fest topper John Cooper announced "there will be health care professionals" in the Egyptian Theater lobby if needed. This is one intense film."

And film critic for US Weekly Mara Reinstein put: "Shaking. Wow. We were all wrong when we cheered for Michael Jackson."

Image captionFans turned the entrance to Neverland into a shrine after the singer died

Because of Wade Robson and James Safechuck's previous support of Michael Jackson and claims that he never molested them, his fans have asked the festival to pull it, while his own estate has hit back at the project in a statement: "The film takes uncorroborated allegations that supposedly happened 20 years ago and treats them as fact.

"The two accusers testified under oath that these events never occurred. They have provided no independent evidence and absolutely no proof in support of their accusations, which means the entire film hinges solely on the word of two perjurers."

They go on to say that because the filmmaker purposefully decided not to interview anyone else other than the two men and their families he "neglected fact checking so he could craft a narrative so blatantly one-sided that viewers never get anything close to a balanced portrait."

The documentary will be shown on Channel 4 in Spring 2019.

Michael Jackson always denied any abuse allegations while he was alive.

He died on 25 June 2009 aged 50 after receiving a lethal dose of the anaesthetic propofol.

https://www.bbc.com/news/newsbeat-47013732

ruby Posted on January 29, 2019 11:51

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‘Welcome to my high-fashion, trash shopping mall’

Anna Bergstrom had a dilemma. She loved the glitzy world of high fashion, but had also come to feel that it was unsustainable and bad for the planet. She's now found peace of mind by running a stylish shopping mall in Sweden, where everything is second-hand.

"Do you notice the smell?" Anna Bergstrom says, as she surveys her mall from the mezzanine level. "It smells nice here, doesn't it?"

It's very important to Anna that this place is enticing, because she feels it is making a statement. Everything for sale here, in 14 specialist shops covering everything from clothes to DIY tools, is recycled.

She is usually turned off by the smell of second-hand stores, she explains, even though she adores vintage fashion.

For most people flea-markets and charity shops carry a stigma, she thinks - a mark left by countless bad experiences. Too often they are worthy but depressing, Anna says. Her mission is to bring second-hand shopping into the mainstream.

The mall itself is spacious and appealing, almost Ikea-like. An art installation - a tree and circular bench all fashioned from recycled materials - greets customers at the entrance.

There is even a coffee shop and gift-wrapping service.

The mall is called ReTuna. "Tuna" because that's the nickname for the city where it is based - Eskilstuna, an hour's train journey west of Stockholm - and "Re" because the goods on sale have been recycled or repurposed.

It was set up by Eskilstuna's local government in 2015, in a warehouse which used to house trucks for a logistics company.

The shops inside it are run as businesses rather than charities, and each pays a combined charge of rent and business rates.

Anna Bergstrom's business mantra which she repeats to each shopkeeper is, "Do it like Hugo Boss." She wants the mall to stand toe-to-toe with a regular, commercial, glitzy mall.

There is a sports shop stuffed with skis and (slightly scuffed) sledges, a kids' shop bursting with toys (a little faded), a bookshop, a DIY store, a homeware specialist, even a pet accessory shop.

As well as "pre-loved" items for sale, there are also many that have been upcycled. These are unwanted items that have been taken apart and turned into new objects.

In a store that specialises in handmade household ornaments, Bergstrom is keen to show off a nice example of this, from one of her star tenants.

Shopkeeper Maria Larsson proudly shows off her best-selling product - a container that resembles the body of a pine cone. Each segment of its skin has been cut from leather jackets - upcycling in action.

However, Maria confesses to being a little worried. She is struggling to keep up with customer demand for this design because she can't get enough jackets.

This makes more sense once you understand ReTuna's location.

It's right next to Eskilstuna's recycling centre, which is also run by the municipality.

A steady stream of cars passes through it, bringing cardboard, mattresses and other typical unwanted household items.

But many of these cars go past the metal skips and then head down a ramp to a road that runs right next to the mall.

Here locals drop off their unwanted household things if there is a possibility they can be resold or upcycled.

In a vast area beneath the mall, a small army of workers in fluorescent jackets sifts through the donations, carrying them to designated zones.

Every day the shopkeepers can come down and inspect what has arrived: kids' toys, household appliances, gardening equipment… perhaps even a leather jacket. This is what they call their "treasure", says Anna. Their business rent gives them privileged access to it.

Shopkeepers sometimes hang around the basement to look at what is coming in to their zones. Anna calls these people "peekers" and gives them a telling-off, because they are meant to wait for set times to inspect their assigned stock.

Many of the shopkeepers will come to informal arrangements with one another. So if the clothes shop knows that Larsson wants leather jackets for upcycling, they will pass on any that are too damaged to be re-sold.

Any items that are unwanted by all the shopkeepers go to the recycling centre next door.

"You see," says Anna, "this is why I sometimes joke that this is the 'high fashion trash shopping mall'."

She thinks her passion for ethical, sustainable shopping goes back to her upbringing with her hippie parents.

She was born in a commune, though her family moved out to the countryside to pursue a simple life when she was three years old.

Her parents rejected consumerism in all its forms and tried to protect her from it.

She wasn't allowed Barbie dolls or any toys at all at Christmas, she recalls.

But as she grew up she reacted against this.

"Everyone has to be their own punk revolution," she says cryptically.

In fact she ended up forging a career in the temples of modern consumerism: shopping centres. She began by setting up retail shops, then ran two commercial malls in the Stockholm area.

It was only when she had children - four daughters - that she began to have doubts. She took about a year's maternity leave for each child, which gave her time to reflect. Perhaps maternal instinct revived in her some of the values instilled by her parents, she thinks.

As her daughters grew, so too did her doubts about the world she'd brought them into, and its throwaway culture.

She watched them become seduced, as teenagers, by a modern kind of consumerism - their lives became shaped by big brands, promoted by influencers on social media, says Anna. They became governed by whatever the Kardashians were doing on reality TV or Instagram, she says in a tone of dismay - before breaking into a smile.

In desperation she tried cutting her daughters' pocket money so they couldn't buy the latest clothes, but offered to pay for second-hand ones instead - with limited success.

She realised she had to do something more, so the opportunity for a job at the ReTuna mall three years ago, as its first manager, came at the perfect time for her.

Find out more

"I realised that I needed to become a role model for my children, doing something good for the planet," says Anna.

She calls the mall "my baby", and wants it to be a place her teenage children are proud to visit.

And they do visit. Though she hasn't persuaded them to tag it as a location on an Instagram post yet - she's working on that.

Anna's bigger hope is that what works for her family can work for Swedish society as a whole.

Swedes love the concept of living sustainably and doing things for the planet, but there is a "gap" when it comes to action, she says.

Anna thinks her mall can bridge this gap.

And there is evidence this may be happening. Sales are slowly rising year-on-year. Since opening, the mall has sold £2.8m worth of products and last year it attracted 700 visitors per day.

"If you can have a trendy, fashionable way to do sustainable living," says Anna, "I think mainstream customers can follow that - in high heels."

You may also be interested in:

Steven Mulgrove peers across the street into the window of Poundworld. "Store closing", the posters read, "Save up to 50%." Mulgrove, 24, used to work inside, at the beleaguered chain's branch in Blyth, Northumberland. He spent 10 months unloading delivery trucks, stacking shelves and - his least favourite duty - scanning customers' £1 dog treats and multi-packs of Heinz spaghetti hoops.

https://www.bbc.com/news/stories-47001188

ruby Posted on January 29, 2019 11:19

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Venezuela crisis: Why the military is backing Maduro

With Venezuela in economic and political crisis, more than 20 countries have recognised opposition leader Juan Guaidó as interim president, including the US.

To add to President Nicolás Maduro's woes, a top military representative to the US,Col José Luis Silva, defected on Sunday and called on other officers to do the same.

But if Mr Maduro's hold on power is slipping, why has Venezuela's powerful military not stepped in to give him the final push? The BBC looks at some of the reasons.

Picked for the job

When Mr Maduro's predecessor, Hugo Chávez, came to power he purged the military to ensure its senior figures were aligned with his left-wing ideals, analysts say.

The former paratrooper cut a military figure and commanded loyalty. In return he rewarded officers with positions of power.

Image captionHugo Chávez was often pictured in the red beret of his parachute regiment

"Previously the military had been more or less confined to barracks, but Chávez let them out and gave them access to cabinet posts, to control of banks and other financial services," Phil Gunson, senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think tank, told the BBC.

Mr Maduro, a former bus driver with no previous military links, has continued the trend. The armed forces have played a key role in supporting his government, with many officers holding posts as ministers or other influential positions.

Key sectors now in the hands of senior officers include the crucial food distribution services, run by Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino, and the state-owned oil and gas company PDVSA, which has Maj Gen Manuel Quevedo, head of the national guard, as its president.

Over the years the military has been allowed to become corrupt, Mr Gunson says.

Human right violations

If holding lucrative positions is one incentive for members of the armed forces to keep Mr Maduro in power, the fear of being held to account could be another.

"Parts of the military, particularly the senior officers, would like this to continue because they are making money out of it but also because they are so compromised," said Mr Gunson.

"If your officer corps is corrupt and your intelligence people are keeping abreast of who is stealing what then you build up big files on each individual which makes it very difficult for them to change sides."

The UN has accused Venezuelan security forces of carrying out hundreds of arbitrary killings under the guise of fighting crime and some officers are accused of serious humans rights violations.

"They are fearful that if the government fell they could spend the rest of their lives in jail," said Mr Gunson.

Brian Fonseca, a defence and security expert at Florida International University, says President Maduro has effectively tied the survival of his government to the military leadership by allowing them to participate in corruption.

"What is emerging now is Maduro is attempting to demonstrate some degree of strength and control in order to reinforce, within the military, that he is in a stable position. Whether that is true or not, we don't know," he told the BBC.

In late January, opposition groups arrived at military barracks to hand troops leaflets promising them amnesty if they backed Juan Guaidó.

Image copyrightEPA

Image captionOpposition supporters arrived at military sites to try to persuade soldiers to support Juan Guaidó

Image captionNational Guard officers made a show of burning the amnesty offer

"It was an opposition-led grassroots campaign to try to appeal to mid-level and junior military service members," Mr Fonseca said.

"The military in turn were burning the pamphlets that they were being given. It was being blasted all over social media as a means of trying to reinforce that the military is cohesive and aligned behind Maduro."

Soon after, US National Security Adviser John Bolton told reporters in Washington that rank and file members of Venezuela's armed forces were "looking for ways" to support Mr Guaidó, the elected leader of the opposition-held National Assembly.

He said the US was "aware of significant contacts" between military officers and supporters of the assembly.

The offer of amnesty may entice some among the armed forces to switch sides, but others may not be persuaded, Mr Fonseca added.

"The military leadership has a lot to lose. Even with provision of amnesty, that doesn't necessarily guarantee amnesty. There have been cases in the past when amnesty was overturned a generation or two later," he said.

"There is no guarantee that those who have committed repression, corruption or drug trafficking would be off the hook if the opposition comes to power."

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-47036129

ruby Posted on January 29, 2019 11:12

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Cancer cliches to avoid: I'm not 'brave'

Fighter, warrior, hero - some of the terms you might see used to describe people with cancer.

But according to a new survey, for some with the illness the words are seen as inappropriate rather than uplifting.

The UK poll by Macmillan Cancer Support of 2,000 people who have or had cancer found "cancer-stricken" and "victim" were also among the least-liked terms.

The charity said it showed how "divisive" simple descriptions of cancer can be.

Calling a person's cancer diagnosis a "war" or a "battle" and saying they had "lost their battle" or "lost their fight" when they died, were other unpopular descriptions, according to the poll carried out by YouGov.

Articles in the media and posts on social networks were found to be the worst offenders for using such language.

The survey found a preference for factual words to describe people with cancer, their diagnosis, and when someone with the illness dies.

'I'm not inspirational'

Mandy Mahoney, 47, has incurable metastatic breast cancer.

The outreach support worker, from London, was initially diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 and it has since returned five times.

She said: "I think cancer-speak can be quite negatively loaded - the brave, fighter, warrior and survivor standard descriptors put an awful lot of pressure on the newly diagnosed."

Mandy said she also objected to describing people as "losing their battle" with cancer.

"That confers that you didn't fight or gave up," she said.

Instead, she prefers "clear, factual language" and describes herself simply as "living with incurable cancer".

"I'm not brave or inspirational, I'm just trying to live the life I have left well," she added.

However, Craig Toley, who was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2016 and is now in remission, said he thought some of the more positive terms could be empowering.

The 31-year-old, who is a powerlifter in his spare time, says: "Language like 'fight', 'struggle', 'warrior' and 'battle' will be interpreted differently by different people.

"Personally, I found those words helped empower me a lot and made me think of my cancer as a challenge I needed to fight."Everyone likes the story of a fighter."

'Divisive words'

Karen Roberts, chief nursing officer at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: "These results show just how divisive and 'Marmite' simple words and descriptions can be.

"Cancer throws all kinds of things your way, and struggling to find the words, and the emotional turmoil caused when our friends and family don't get it 'right' only makes lives feel even more upended.

"By drawing attention to this we want to encourage more people to talk about the words they prefer to hear, and stop the damage that can be caused to people's wellbeing and relationships."

Mandy said it was not necessary for people to "swallow a textbook and come up with all of the key phrases" to talk to someone with cancer, and it is fine to not always know what to say.

"If you tell me it's awkward and you don't know what to say I will find a way to make that right for you, and actually on some occasions I might say 'we don't have to talk about it'.

"But just be real."

Macmillan Cancer Support has launched a campaign to highlight the challenges posed by a cancer diagnosis and the support available.

https://www.bbc.com/news/health-47002578

ruby Posted on January 29, 2019 11:08

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New York abortion law: Why are so many people talking about it?

On the 46th anniversary of the landmark US ruling that made abortion legal, New York state signed into law a new abortion rights bill. Why is it so controversial?

The Reproductive Health Act (RHA) has been seen by some as a necessary move to safeguard abortion rights should the Supreme Court overturn the ruling, known as Roe v Wade.

And it comes at a time when states such as Mississippi, Iowa and Ohio are rolling back abortion provisions.

While others see it as an "extreme" and "inhumane" expansion of abortion access.

The act removes the need for a doctor to perform some abortions and takes abortion out of the criminal code, making it a public health issue.

However, the most controversial aspect of the RHA is the provision allowing abortions after 24 weeks in cases where there is an "absence of foetal viability, or the abortion is necessary to protect the patient's life or health".

The RHA has caused an intense and heated debate about how abortion is regulated in New York, with impassioned arguments made on each side.

We heard some of those views.

'Devastating'

In 2016, Erika Christensen was pregnant and living in New York with her husband. The couple were thrilled.

However, at 31 weeks, she found out that her pregnancy was "nonviable", meaning that the baby would not survive outside the womb.

Ms Christensen told the BBC that she "didn't know about the law" banning abortion in New York beyond 24 weeks.

"We wanted to end the suffering of this child. It was a simple choice."

After doing some research she realised she would have to leave the state to terminate her pregnancy.

She borrowed $10,000 (£7,600) from her mum, and flew halfway across the country to have an abortion in Colorado.

"I know I am lucky. I am middle-class and have access to those kinds of resources. But it was still really devastating.

"The laws of New York made the grieving process so much harder," Ms Christensen said. "There is an inherent shame in having to leave your state to do this. It made a bad situation so much worse."

Since then, she has campaigned for New York to change its laws on abortion.

She hopes that the RHA will help women in a similar situation to her "work through their grief without having to fight the system".

"These women should be able to focus on healing."

'Time to double down'

Christina Fadden, chair of the pro-life organisation New York State Right to Life, told the BBC she was "extremely saddened" by the RHA being signed into law.

Ms Fadden said it was "horrific" that "there is now no protection for unborn children in the state of New York".

She disputes the assertion that the RHA is a necessary update the the state's law, and suggests that allowing abortions beyond 24 weeks is "inhumane".

'A non-factor to the law'

While much of the discussion surrounding the RHA focuses on the 24-week provision, the removal of abortion from the criminal code is also controversial.

Pro-choice campaigners maintain that abortion is a healthcare issue, while opponents to the RHA say that it removes protection for pregnant victims of domestic abuse.

Livia Abreu was violently attacked by her boyfriend when she was 26 weeks pregnant. She was stabbed multiple times and lost her unborn baby.

Ms Abreu released a statement saying the RHA would decriminalise "abortion as a product of an assault on a pregnant female".

Her former partner is facing charges of abortion in the first and second degree, as well as attempted murder and assault.

"The passing of RHA will likely exonerate him from those charges," she wrote. "Which will in turn lessen his sentence now that a judge has decided the case is going to trial and the new law will take effect prior to that date.

"Let that sink in. He will likely be convicted of the crimes he committed against me, but the loss of my daughter will be a non-factor to the law because she wasn't 'born and alive'.

"To clarify, I am neither pro-choice nor pro-life, I am very much neutral, because most things are never simply black or white."

Supporters of the RHA suggest that there are existing laws to punish domestic abuse, and the issue should be separated from abortion.

'Groundhog day'

Merle Hoffman, who founded the Choices Women's Medical Centre in New York in 1970, welcomes the change in the law, but feels it is "overdue".

"I have been working in this field for 48 years. It feels like I've been living in Groundhog day."

She told the BBC that her clinic has been unable to help women in "sad and difficult situations" because they were more than 24 weeks pregnant.

Ms Hoffman notes that many of the women who seek late-term abortions either didn't know they were pregnant for a long time, or experience complications in an originally wanted pregnancy.

"We have to get funding from various sources - often personally contributing money - to help these women access abortions services out of state."

Ms Hoffman describes New York in the early 1970s as an "oasis" for women seeking abortions before Roe v Wade, and sees a parallel with the state's decision to implement the RHA.

"I can see there being a sort of 'underground railroad' of women who will come to New York now. It is another access point on the east coast."

Ms Hoffman, is also keen to point out that only around 1% abortions in the US happen after 21 weeks.

'Options not restrictions'

Kaitlyn Marchesano, often answers the phone to women seeking financial help to terminate a pregnancy.

She works for the New York Abortion Access Funds, which supports women who are unable to pay for an abortion.

"Hearing a voice on the other end of the line going through this awful experience is challenging," reflects Ms Marchesano. "The difficulty they face is heart-breaking."

Ms Marchesano says she finds it "incredibly frustrating" that it is so difficult for women to access abortion later in their pregnancy.

While abortion is covered by the Medicaid health programme in New York, she says women "hit a funding wall" beyond 24 weeks.

"Women take on a considerable financial burden when they have to travel out of state. The cost of travel, child care, lost wages, accommodation add up on top of the cost of the procedure."

"The human body doesn't follow a legal timeline. People need options not restrictions."

'Grizzly and gruesome'

Cardinal Timothy Dolan leads the archdioceses of New York and has been a vocal opponent to the RHA.

Speaking to Fox News, Cardinal Dolan said the new law was "ghoulish, grizzly and gruesome", and "not good for our country".

New York governor Andrew Cuomo, who is a Catholic, has come under fire after signing the law, and some have called for him to be excommunicated..

Image captionCardinal Timothy Dolan speaking in New York in 2018

Cardinal Dolan said he gets "wheelbarrows full of letters every day" asking him to take firm action against the governor, but he said it "would be counterproductive".

"It would give ammo to our enemies who would say this is an internal Catholic disciplinary matter."

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-46994583

ruby Posted on January 29, 2019 11:03

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Woman without womb allegedly gives birth to healthy quadruplets

God’s way is different from that of human beings or how else will one describe the alleged birth of these quadruplets? As reported by a Facebook page Zambian Accurate Information, a woman who had been termed barren for 14 years allegedly gave birth to four healthy babies at once. To make matter worse for the woman, she had her uterus removed eight years ago after she was reportedly diagnosed with multiple fibroid. As it is common in a typical African marriage without a child, the woman was said to have become object of mockery of the people for her barrenness and also said to be hated by her husband’s relatives. And when it was time for God to prove himself, she was said to have been delivered of two sons and two daughters all at once with the four babies said to be in good health without surgery. 

https://yen.com.gh/121620-woman-womb-allegedly-birth-healthy-quadruplets.html#121620

 

sarah Posted on January 28, 2019 15:55

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Basketball: Coach Neo Beng Siang's pep talk works wonders as Slingers douse Saigon Heat to end losing run

SINGAPORE - Within the first eight minutes of their Asean Basketball League (ABL) game against Saigon Heat on Sunday (Jan 27), the Singapore Slingers had built up a 25-2 lead at the OCBC Arena, and they possibly thought they already had the win in the bag.

At half-time, there was still no indication of a slip-up as they maintained the wide gap at 51-29 with stifling defence and clinical finishing - centre John Fields led the way with seven of his eight field-goal attempts in the first two periods.

Then, almost inexplicably, as Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang put it, an "unacceptable disaster" struck in the next quarter as previously telepathic teammates turned into stunned strangers.

Passes went astray, screens were not set up, and they even managed to get into each other's way while running into positions as the Heat went on a 33-10 run to take a 62-61 lead.

The Heat's imports Trevon Hughes, Murphy Burnatowski and Kyle Barone contributed 26 points in that run.

But, unlike previous late collapses, at least there were 10 more minutes for Neo to rally his troops.

And the Slingers arose from their slumber to win 87-80 to improve their win-loss record to 8-6 and climb to fourth in the 10-team ABL, behind Alab Pilipinas (10-2), Heat and Formosa Dreamers (both 10-5).

Neo said: "Instead of pushing the ball up the court quickly, we were walking. So we didn't get what we wanted in offence, and then everyone stopped playing defence.

"I told them we needed to increase our tempo, win it for the fans and stop our run of two defeats (against Mono Vampire and CLS Knights Indonesia)."

Xavier Alexander (25 points) continued his tantalising duel with Heat guard Hughes (24 points) - both were called for a technical foul at half-time for a scuffle - in the final quarter, but it was the Slingers swingman who was better supported by teammates at the end.

Fellow Americans Fields (20 points and 21 rebounds) and Jerran Young (21 points) recorded big numbers, but the likes of veteran guard Desmond Oh (10 points) and power forward Delvin Goh (11 points and 10 rebounds) also stepped up.

Young said: "Adversity is part of basketball. We can't get too big on our ups and too low with our downs.

"We continued to communicate, kept our poise, played good defence and tried to execute our plays. Eventually, the game went our way because we stayed aggressive."

The Slingers will take on the Knights on Sunday (Feb 3) at the OCBC Arena.

They will again face their former player Wong Wei Long, who scored 18 points, including three treys that gave him the all-time ABL record of 215 three-pointers in the Indonesian side's 89-74 win on Jan 20.

https://www.straitstimes.com/sport/basketball/basketball-coach-neo-beng-siangs-pep-talk-works-wonders-as-slingers-douse-saigon

sarah Posted on January 28, 2019 12:30

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Golf: Justin Rose wins at Torrey Pines, just weeks after switching clubmaker

SDAN DIEGO (REUTERS) - World No. 1 Justin Rose described his victory as a "win-and-a-half" after carding a three-under 69 to beat Adam Scott by two shots at the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego on Sunday (Jan 27).

The Englishman's latest victory was his 10th on the United States PGA Tour, matching the tally of Spaniard Sergio Garcia and giving him one more than Nick Faldo and Seve Ballesteros.

Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy (14) is the only European player with more wins on the Tour since 1945.

"Double digits sounds really cool. Winning is never easy," Rose told Golf Channel. "When you've beat a class field on a great venue, that satisfies you as a player. It's a win-and-a-half mentally."

He teed off with a three-shot lead but found himself just one clear after three early bogeys.

"The first six holes anything that could go wrong did go wrong," he said.

"In the past, I might have got a little rattled, a little shaken by that start but I didn't today.

"Had a bit of a gut-check time on the seventh hole but I'd been playing so well all week. Went about my business and it really started to turn around."

He re-established a buffer with three birdies in four holes, and held off a late rally by Australian Scott, who finished with four straight birdies for a 68.

It could have been a special back nine for Scott, who failed to convert great birdie chances on the 11th, 12th and 13th.

"I might have been able to make it interesting at the end," said Scott, who also missed a tiny putt from inside two feet at the fifth.

Japan's Hideki Matsuyama (67) and American Talor Gooch (68) tied for third, five strokes behind Rose.

Tiger Woods (67) tied for 20th at 10-under in his first start of the year.

"I wasn't as sharp as I wanted to be (at start of the week) but each and every day I got a little better. Figured a few things out with the driver which was great," he said.

Rose's win came in his second tournament with new clubs after he switched equipment companies to join Japanese clubmaker Honma at the beginning of the year.

Changing can be a risky move for top players, but Rose, who had been with TaylorMade since he turned pro in 1999, seems to have adapted quickly.

"I'm really happy I challenged the status quo and changed everything up in the search trying to get better," he said.

"I can't believe how well I've driven the ball this week on a tough test. The off-season was short and sharp and I didn't quite know exactly how I was going to come out.

"It's awesome to play this well this week."

https://www.straitstimes.com/sport/golf/golf-justin-rose-wins-at-torrey-pines-just-weeks-after-switching-clubmaker

sarah Posted on January 28, 2019 09:06

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Tennis: New world No. 1 Osaka eyes winning Wimbledon and French Open to complete 'Naomi Slam'

Naomi Osaka speaking to the media while holding the championship trophy at Brighton Beach in Melbourne on Jan 27, 2019, a day after she won the Australian Open.PHOTO: AFP

PUBLISHED

JAN 27, 2019, 7:08 PM SGT

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MELBOURNE - Naomi Osaka cringed when asked in an interview on Australian television if she was ready to become the face of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

"Yikes," the newly-minted Australian Open women's champion said, wincing. "Hopefully, for their sake, they don't do that."

The 21-year-old Japanese is shy and reserved but certainly not short on confidence.

 

When the new world rankings come out today, the reigning US Open champion will become the first Asian singles player, male or female, to reach No. 1.

On Sunday (Jan 27), she laughed off suggestions that her meteoric rise had put her under pressure, saying that she was not satisfied with back-to-back majors and hoped to complete a "Naomi Slam" after her success at Melbourne Park.

"The way the tennis world is, there's always the next tournament, the next Slam, and we all just want to keep training hard and winning more," Osaka told reporters as she posed with the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup at the Brighton Beach in Melbourne. "So I'm not really sure if I'm satisfied."

Osaka became the first woman to win successive majors since Serena Williams in 2015 and the youngest since Martina Hingis in 1998.

Williams went on to complete her second "Serena Slam" - holding all four majors in the same 12 month period - and Osaka was excited about the prospect of claiming the French Open and Wimbledon to emulate her idol's feat.

"I'm not going to lie and say that thought hasn't crossed my mind," Osaka said. "For me, I just have to take it one tournament at a time, especially Indian Wells is coming up and I won that tournament last year. I feel like I have to think about that."

While her maiden Grand Slam was marred by losing finalist Williams' tirade at the umpire and boos from the Flushing Meadows crowd, Osaka was allowing her follow-up success in Melbourne to soak in.

"It means a lot. I think moments like this are what you train for as a little kid to play the Grand Slams," she said. "To win another one is definitely a dream come true."

Osaka was unfazed by the attention she was receiving, saying she was in the spotlight even when her ranking was languishing in the 70s. She said it was misleading to view her rise as an overnight success.

"I guess looking from the outside, from you guys' view, it does," Osaka said. "For me, every practice and every match that I've played, it feels like the year is short and long at the same time.

"I'm aware of all the work that I put in. I know all the sacrifices that every player does to stay at this level. In my opinion, it didn't feel fast. It felt kind of long."

Osaka added that she had learnt about resilience at the Australian Open after completing three three-set matches on her way to the title, likening herself to "a robot" in the final set against Petra Kvitova.

Quizzed about off-court pressure that accompany life as a tennis superstar, Osaka said she preferred to concentrate on her game.

"I feel like I'm going with the flow. That's sort of been my motto my whole life," she said.

https://www.straitstimes.com/sport/tennis/tennis-new-world-no-1-osaka-eyes-winning-wimbledon-and-french-open-to-complete-naomi

sarah Posted on January 28, 2019 09:03

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Malaysia stripped of right to host world para swimming championships after Israeli ban

LONDON/KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS, THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, AFP) - The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) on Sunday (Jan 27) stripped Malaysia of the right to host the 2019 world para swimming championships after the country banned Israeli athletes from participating.

The championships, a qualifier for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, had been scheduled for Kuching between July 29 and Aug 4.

The IPC said a new venue would be sought for the same dates, although there might have to be some flexibility in the light of the circumstances.

"All World Championships must be open to all eligible athletes and nations to compete safely and free from discrimination," said IPC president Andrew Parsons in a statement after a meeting of the IPC governing board in London.

"When a host country excludes athletes from a particular nation, for political reasons, then we have absolutely no alternative but to look for a new Championships host."

Malaysia is one of several Muslim states that have no formal diplomatic ties with Israel. It is forbidden to enter the country on an Israeli passport.

The country announced this month that it would bar Israelis from any event held in the South-east Asia nation to stand in solidarity with Palestine.

Israel had condemned the ban as 'shameful' and said the decision was inspired by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's "rabid anti-Semitism".

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"This is a victory of values over hatred and bigotry, a strong statement in favour of freedom and equality. Thank you @Paralympics for your brave decision," said Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon on Twitter.

Malaysia said in response to the IPC's decision that it "prioritises human rights".

Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman said if hosting an international sporting event is more important than standing up for Palestinians, that means Malaysia has truly lost its moral compass.

"We would like to kindly remind the IPC that even Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have reported that the (Israeli prime minister Benjamin) Netanyahu government is an active perpetrator of war crimes," Syed Saddiq said in a press statement.

"As the leader of Israel, he represents the collective will of the Israeli government. The Israeli state is the locus of their collective moral actions.

"Malaysia stands firmly with our decision on the ground of humanity and compassion for the Palestinian plight. We will not compromise."

Mahathir, 93, has for decades been accused of anti-Semitism for his attacks against Jews. In a BBC interview last October, he described Jews as "hook-nosed" and blamed them for the troubles in the Middle East.

The Palestinian cause has widespread support in Malaysia and thousands took to the streets in protest when US President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017. 

Malaysia has prevented Israeli athletes from competing in a sports event before. Two Israeli windsurfers had to pull out of a competition on the island of Langkawi after they were refused visas in 2015. 

Kuala Lumpur also refused to host a conference for world football’s governing body FIFA in 2017 as an Israeli delegation was due to attend. 

Some 600 swimmers from 60 countries had been expected to compete in the para championships in the eastern state of Sarawak, with more than 160 titles to be won.

The IPC said all potential replacement hosts were asked to express an interest by Feb 11.

"The Paralympic Movement has, and always will be, motivated by a desire to drive inclusion, not exclusion," said Parsons in the statement.

"Regardless of the countries involved in this matter, the IPC would take the same decision again if it was to face a similar situation involving different countries."

He said that when Malaysia was awarded the championships in 2017, the IPC had been given assurances that all eligible athletes and countries would be allowed to participate with their safety assured.

"Since then, there has been a change of political leadership and the new Malaysian government has different ideas," said Parsons.

"Politics and sport are never a good mix and we are disappointed that Israeli athletes would not have been allowed to compete in Malaysia."

https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/malaysia-stripped-of-right-to-host-world-para-swimming-championships-after-israeli-ban

sarah Posted on January 28, 2019 09:00

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Football: Spurs stunned by Palace as FA Cup holders Chelsea ease past Wednesday

Tottenham Hotspur's Colombian defender Davinson Sanchez (third from left) and Crystal Palace's Zaire-born Belgian striker Christian Benteke (third from right) jump to head the ball during the English FA Cup fourth round football match at Selhurst Park in south London on Jan 27, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

PUBLISHED

JAN 28, 2019, 3:35 AM SGT

UPDATED

10 HOURS AGO

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LONDON (AFP) – Tottenham Hotspur suffered their second defeat in English knockout football in a matter of days as they lost 2-0 to Crystal Palace in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Sunday (Jan 27). 

Connor Wickham gave the unfancied Eagles, 29 points adrift of Spurs in the Premier League, a ninth-minute lead before a penalty by former Tottenham winger Andros Townsend made it 2-0. 

Spurs’ Kieran Trippier missed with a penalty before half-time as Tottenham suffered more spot-kick woe following Thursday’s shoot-out defeat by Chelsea, another of their London rivals, in a League Cup semi-final. 

FA Cup-holders Chelsea had no such problems later on Sunday as they marked Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain’s club debut with a 3-0 win at home to Championship side Sheffield Wednesday.  Willian scored twice either side of a goal from highly-rated English teenager Callum Hudson-Odoi, linked with a transfer window move to German giants Bayern Munich. 

There was no goal for Higuain, signed on loan until the end of the season from Juventus on Wednesday.  But Gianfranco Zola, Chelsea’s assistant manager and himself a former Blues striker, told the BBC: “We are pleased with Gonzalo Higuain’s performance, he was trying to find the space and get on the ball. 

“It wasn’t easy as they had a lot of players round him.”

Earlier, Tottenham’s reverse left Mauricio Pochettino still searching for his first trophy as their manager since the Argentinian joined from Southampton in 2014, with Spurs’ last piece of silverware the 2008 League Cup. 

Spurs were without injured England stars Harry Kane and Dele Alli, while the in-form Son Heung-Min had still to return from international duty with South Korea at the Asia Cup. 

Pochettino, however, decided to omit Christian Eriksen, with the influential playmaker not even among Spurs’ substitutes at Selhurst Park.  For all they are third in the Premier League, Spurs are nine points adrift of leaders Liverpool. 

‘SO PAINFUL’

The Champions League is now Tottenham’s only realistic hope of a trophy this season, with Pochettino’s men playing Borussia Dortmund in the last 16.  “It was so painful to lose the game like this,” Pochettino told BT Sport. 

“We have to look forward to the Premier League and Champions League. We cannot complain and just try in the two competitions to give our best.”

It took Palace a mere nine minutes to open the scoring, Wickham following up after a Jeff Schlupp shot was blocked by Spurs goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga.  Palace doubled their lead when Townsend slammed a home a penalty after Spurs’ Kyle Walker-Peters handled a cross into the box. 

But at the other end, after Patrick van Aanholt brought down Juan Foyth, Trippier blasted a penalty well wide of the post.  

Chelsea did not have things all their own way against second-tier Wednesday, who thought they had been awarded a penalty in the 22nd minute.  Joey Pelupessy tried to meet Steven Fletcher’s pass, with Ethan Ampadu sliding in to win the ball before being kicked by the Wednesday midfielder. 

Referee Andre Marriner awarded a penalty but this was overturned by VAR, being trialled in some English cup fixtures this season. 

“It’s crazy,” said Owls’ caretaker boss Steve Agnew, holding the fort ahead of Steve Bruce’s imminent arrival.  “Obviously the VAR decisions are correct but what baffled me was surely it’s a corner if it came off their player. The referee gave a drop ball. And a minute later they have a penalty.”

Wednesday’s woe was compounded soon afterwards when Willian scored from the spot after Sam Hutchinson trod on Cesar Azpilicueta inside the box.  VAR was called into action again but this time Marriner’s decision was upheld and Willian, after appearing to offer the spot-kick to Higuain, made no mistake.  

Chelsea had to wait until midway through the second half for Hudson-Odoi to make it 2-0 before Willian, playing a neat one-two with Olivier Giroud, completed the scoring seven minutes from time.

http://www.straitstimes.com/sport/football/football-stumbling-spurs-knocked-out-of-fa-cup-by-palace

sarah Posted on January 28, 2019 08:57

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Today in Pictures, Jan 17, 2019

A veterinarian examines a Sumatran Orangutan rescued in South Aceh, Indonesia, a Sehuencas water frog rediscovered in the wild in Bolivia, and other pictures from around the world in Today in Pictures.

A veterinarian examines a Sumatran Orangutan rescued from a plantation in South Aceh, Indonesia, Jan 14, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS

A horseman jumps over a bonfire in the village of San Bartolome de Pinares in the province of Avila in central Spain, during the opening of the traditional religious festival "Luminarias" in honour of San Antonio Abad (Saint Anthony), patron saint of animals, on Jan 16, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

Handout picture released by the Global Wildlife Conservation taken on Dec 13, 2018 showing Julliet, a Sehuencas water frog rediscovered in the wild in Bolivia, seen here during her quarantine as she acclimates to her new environment at the Museo de Historia Natural Alcide d’Orbigny in Cochabamba, Bolivia. On a recent expedition to a Bolivian cloud forest, Global Wildlife Conservation and the Museo de Historia Natural Alcide d’Orbigny rediscovered the Sehuencas water frog in the wild, including Juliet, who will play a critical role in saving her species from extinction. Juliet will be introduced to Romeo, previously the last-known Sehuencas Water Frog, who has lived at the museum for the last 10 years. No frogs of this species have been seen in the wild during that time, until now. PHOTO: AFP

A model presents a creation by designer Walter Van Beirendonck as part of his Fall/Winter 2019-2020 collection show during Men's Fashion Week in Paris, France, Jan 16, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS

Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki against Sweden's Johanna Larsson during the second round of tennis at the Australian Open in Melbourne, Australia on Jan 16, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS

Indian participants try to control a bull at the annual bull taming event 'Jallikattu' in Palamedu village on the outskirts of Madurai in the southern state of Tamil Nadu on Jan 16, 2019. Dozens of young men were injured on the first day of a traditional bull-wrestling festival in southern India that has attracted the ire of animal activists, officials said.PHOTO: AFP

An onlooker watches a large, circular ice floe in the Presumpscot River in Westbrook, Maine, U.S., Jan 16, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

Anti-government protesters hold up their phones and candles and hold a banner in Cyrillic writing that reads 'Still there is more of us' as they arrive at the end of their silent march in memory of Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic in Belgrade on Jan 16, 2019. A year after Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic was slain in a drive-by shooting in Kosovo, his unsolved murder continues to haunt this tense and crime-ridden corner of Europe, where the main suspect is still on the run. The 64-year-old was struck down by six bullets in January 2018 outside his party headquarters in the Kosovo city of Mitrovica.

http://www.straitstimes.com/multimedia/photos/today-in-pictures-jan-17-2018-0

sarah Posted on January 28, 2019 08:51

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Today in Pictures, Jan 16, 2018

Women are evacuated from an upscale hotel and office complex in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, Naga Sadhus or Hindu holy men taking a dip in India, and other pictures from around the world in Today in Pictures.

Women are evacuated out of the scene as security officers search for attackers during an ongoing gunfire and explosions in Nairobi, Kenya, on Jan 15, 2019. According to reports, a large explosion and sustained gunfire sent workers fleeing for their lives at an upscale hotel and office complex in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

A worker applies a patina on "The Actor" statuette during a media event on the production of the statuettes for the 25th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at American Fine Arts Foundry in Burbank, California, US, Jan 15, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

Naga Sadhus or Hindu holy men leave after taking a dip during the first "Shahi Snan" (grand bath) during "Kumbh Mela" or the Pitcher Festival, in Prayagraj, India, Jan 15, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

Honda's Chilean biker Jose Ignacio Florimo Cornejo competes during the Stage 8 of the Dakar 2019 between San Juan de Marcona and Pisco, Peru, on Jan 15, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

A view shows the settlements of Larung Gar Buddhist Academy in Sertar County of Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan, China, on Jan 15, 2019.PHOTO: DPA

A man poses for photographs as a view of Seoul shrouded by heavy smog is seen in the background in Seoul, South Korea, Jan 15, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

A veterinarian checks an African lion cub at the University in Wroclaw, Poland, Jan 15, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

A reveler jumps over an open fire during the traditional mask burning on the second day of a carnival procession through the village of Vevcani, on Jan 14, 2019. The Vevcani Carnival is said to be 1.400 years old and is held every year on the eve of the feast of Saint Basil, which also marks the beginning of the New Year according to the Julian calendar, observed by the Macedonian Orthodox Church. PHOTO: AFP

https://www.straitstimes.com/multimedia/photos/today-in-pictures-jan-16-2018-0

sarah Posted on January 28, 2019 08:49

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