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‘Long-term security risks’ from Huawei

The Chinese company Huawei has been strongly criticised in a report by the body overseeing the security of its products in UK telecoms.

The report, issued by the National Cyber Security Centre, which is part of GCHQ, says it can provide "only limited assurance that the long-term security risks can be managed in the Huawei equipment currently deployed in the UK".

The report reflects what are said to be deep frustrations at the failure of the company to address previously identified problems.

Huawei supplies telecoms for telecoms companies operating in the UK and this report comes ahead of a decision by the UK over whether to allow the company to build next generation 5G networks.

The US has been campaigning for it to be excluded on the basis the company poses a national security risk.

There is no allegation in the latest report that the company is deliberately introducing backdoors or working to carry out any kind of espionage on behalf of the Chinese state.

Rather, the accusation is that poor practices by the company create vulnerabilities that in turn pose security risks.

The report describes "significant technical issues in Huawei's engineering processes".

It also says Huawei's approach to software development brings "significantly increased risk to UK operators".

Officials say the rigorous system of oversight means those risks can be mitigated and managed.

But the report also warns that the current arrangement "can only provide limited assurance that all risks to UK national security from Huawei's involvement in the UK's critical networks can be sufficiently mitigated long-term".

Huawei's kit is often cheaper than that of rivals but with that come concerns that the business model driving its fast growth can lead to sloppiness in its work.

And because the company offers different products to different customers, it has been hard for security officials to be able to confirm that the equipment is all secured to the same standard.

Since 2010, after Huawei partnered first with BT and then other telecoms providers to supply equipment in the UK's telecoms infrastructure, the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre (HCSEC), known as "the cell", has been examining the hardware and software deployed.

In 2014, a board, chaired by National Cyber Security Centre head Ciaran Martin, was set up to oversee its work.

Other government representatives as well as individuals from Huawei and companies that use Huawei equipment also sit on the oversight board.

Concerns were raised in last year's annual report but this year its report is highly critical of the failure of the company to address these.

Huawei has said it will invest significant sums in dealing with the problems in the next three to five years but it is understood that so far officials have not seen what they consider to be a credible plan to do so.

"No material progress has been made by Huawei in the remediation of the issues reported last year," the report says.

This raises concerns for the future, according to the oversight board.

"It will be difficult to appropriately risk manage future products in the context of UK deployments, until Huawei's software engineering and cyber-security processes are remediated," it says.

"The oversight board currently had not seen anything to give it confidence in Huawei's ability to bring about change via its transformation programme."

The report stresses that the decision over Huawei's role in 5G will come after a wider review by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

But its warnings raise serious questions as to whether a company whose work on existing systems has proved so problematic should be allowed to play a major role in building the next generation of systems on which significant parts of our daily life will eventually depend.

In response, a Huawei representative said it understood the concerns over its software engineering capability and took them "very seriously".

They added:

  • the company's board had resolved to invest $2bn to improve its capabilities and a high level plan had been developed
  • Huawei would continue to work with UK operators and the National Cyber Security Centre to meet their requirements.

ruby Posted on March 29, 2019 12:41

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Tom Hiddleston: Why China loves the 'creepy' Centrum ad

Creepy, uncomfortable and downright weird are just some things an advertisement starring Tom Hiddleston has been called, but none of that will matter as it's found success with its intended audience - Chinese women, as the BBC's Yvette Tan explains.

Imagine waking up in the morning, walking down to your stylish kitchen and finding actor Tom Hiddleston making breakfast for you.

It's a fantasy vitamin company Centrum is cashing in on for its new Chinese advertisement.

It may have been widely mocked in the Western media, but the made-for-mobile ad has been remarkably well-received in China.

'I'm his wife'

The minute-long video filmed in vertical format was posted from Hiddleston's official Weibo account on Wednesday.

It's filmed from the perspective of Hiddleston's partner sitting at the table while he, decked in an apron, makes a healthy breakfast for her. He then says in Chinese ??????, which can be translated as "here's your Centrum", or "don't forget your Centrum".

The Avengers' star has more than 600,000 followers on the popular Chinese social media platform, which is not a huge amount given some Chinese stars have Weibo fan counts in the millions.

But the video went viral anyway and had been watched more than 2.5 million times by Friday.

The Chinese word for #Centrum soon began trending - with over 32 million users interacting with the hashtag.

Many expressed their glee at finding themselves the object of Hiddleston's affections, with one fan posting a quote which said: "I'm not his fan. I'm his wife."

"Look at the money I spent because of you, husband," another posted, alongside a receipt that showed she had spent 148 yuan (£16 ;$22) on Centrum.

Fantasy and reality

This was clearly an ad made for a very particular market, experts say. For many of his Chinese fans, waking up to a suited Hiddleston is a fantasy come to life, so the point-of-view format is a clever trick.

"Many female fans often consider their idol their imaginary boyfriend or husband," Professor Zhang Kuangjie of the Nanyang Technological University told the BBC.

"This ad appeals exactly to those fans' fantasies. The fact that he speaks very good Chinese [in the ad] further adds to [his] likeability."

Prof Zhang adds that the fact the video is vertical - a format made for mobile phone screens - could "make the fans feel like they are having a virtual chat with the celebrity", creating a more intimate experience.

There's also the novelty of being served breakfast by a Western man, says Tay Guan Hin, founder of ad agency the TGH Collective.

"For a Chinese woman to be served by a man is not common in Asia, let alone a Caucasian man, so that's something that adds to that [fantasy] element," he said.

A spokeswoman for Pfizer, which own Centrum, would not name the ad agency in China that made the film, but told the BBC it was made to "maximise Centrum's international appeal amongst the digital-savvy generation in China".

So there is a more practical reason for the vertical format than just intimacy.

"In a mobile-savvy country like China where there are close to 900 million mobile internet subscribers, having the ad executed in a mobile-first channel makes perfect sense," Rezwana Manjur, Editor of Marketing Magazine, told the BBC.

"The medium [sometimes takes] a back-seat or becomes an after-thought. Centrum in this aspect, puts the consumer's content consumption [habits] at the forefront."

And though some Western viewers have called Hiddleston a sell-out, Charlotte McEleny, Asia-Pacific publisher at marketing news platform The Drum, says using celebrities in adverts is "basically a necessity in China".

"Hiddleston has become a big name in China due to his Marvel association... he's a great choice," said Ms McEleny.

'A bit voyeuristic'

The ad has of course been spotted outside of China though, and ironically drew criticism for the exact same reasons it gained praise in its intended market.

"Because this vertical format forces you to be in the point of view of that woman, it feels a lot more intimate and immersive. So for some Western audiences, it might feel like it's a bit voyeuristic," said Mr Tay.

And for some people, it was a little too close for comfort.

"Forming a support group for the victims of Tom Hiddleston's Centrum commercial," said one user on Twitter.

"The ad is utterly terrifying. Watch it if only to feel like you've woken up in your own home invasion nightmare," said another.

But Charlotte McEleny from The Drum said the ad could teach brands a thing or two about China.

"Rather than calling this out for being weird or creepy, Western businesses should probably be taking notes on how to build stories into new formats."

ruby Posted on March 29, 2019 12:24

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Slovakia election: Liberal Caputova bucks Europe's populist trend

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing," read a recent post on Zuzana Caputova's Facebook page, as she appealed to Slovakia's 4.4 million registered voters to back her in this weekend's presidential race.

This political newcomer and front-runner has framed the contest as a battle between good and evil - and if she wins she will become the country's first female president.

That famous quote might sound overblown for a largely ceremonial position with almost no executive power.

But one year after the murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak, a killing that led to the fall of Slovakia's pugnacious Prime Minister Robert Fico, the election is being seen as a litmus test of how far Slovak society has changed.

"If Caputova wins on Saturday, which is very likely, it could start a far-reaching political and generational change in Slovak politics after the long rule of Fico's populist Smer party," said analyst Milan Nic, a senior fellow at the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) in Berlin.

"Victory for Caputova would present a different face of Central and Eastern Europe, showing there's an alternative to illiberal forces and centralised political control developed in Hungary and Poland.

"The Caputova scenario would also mean big encouragement for the opposition in Poland, which is trying to combine forces against the ruling Law and Justice party in the European parliament elections in May."

Zuzana Caputova might have two decades of experience as a lawyer and anti-corruption campaigner, but her experience of government or diplomacy is dwarfed by that of her challenger Maros Sefcovic.

Formerly head of Slovakia's mission to the European Union, he is now one of the six vice-presidents of the European Commission.

But his presidential bid has been hampered by his association with Robert Fico and the Smer party that nominated him (although he is not a party member).

Regularly at pains to distance himself from the former prime minister, Mr Sefcovic is still tarnished with the brush of a discredited political establishment.

The 52-year-old diplomat is a graduate of the elite Moscow State Institute of International Relations, and applied to join the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia in May 1989 - six months before the fall of the regime.

In terms of perceptions, he is truly the political "old" to Zuzana Caputova's "new".

"She is credible, independent from the establishment, and represents positive change. In a way she's shaping up to be the Slovak Macron," explained Milan Nic.

"Electing a divorced single mother and civic activist from outside the political establishment as head of state would be a huge turning point, not just for Slovakia, but for the broader region as well," he went on.

Certainly the 45-year-old divorced mother-of-two is seen as closer to "ordinary" voters than the men in suits who have dominated Slovak politics, even though her liberal views on such issues as LGBT rights are likely to alienate her from some voters in this conservative and largely Catholic country.

But perhaps the decisive factor in these elections will be the disgust and anger still felt at Kuciak's murder - an act that Zuzana Caputova says prompted her to enter politics.

There is even a connection with the man who Slovak prosecutors believe ordered the killing, Marian Kocner. During her 14-year legal battle over an illegal landfill site in her home town of Pezinok, she crossed swords with Mr Kocner, who was representing the firm trying to expand the site.

A wealthy businessman with connections to many Slovak politicians including Robert Fico, Mr Kocner is now in custody awaiting trial for murder.

"If she wins, it will be proof that the majority of people in Slovakia care about their country and are fed up with the corrupt and criminal system of Mr Fico," said Matus Kostolny, editor-in-chief of the liberal daily Dennik N.

"Ten years ago, a liberal woman [Prime Minister Iveta Radicova] was not able to persuade enough people of her policies. But Slovakia has changed."

ruby Posted on March 29, 2019 12:20

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Saravana Bhavan: India 'dosa king' life sentence upheld

The owner of Saravana Bhavan - a global Indian restaurant chain - has had a murder conviction against him upheld by the Supreme Court.

P Rajagopal, 71, was convicted for ordering the murder of one of his employees in order to marry his wife.

A local court sentenced Rajagopal and five others to life in prison in 2009. The Supreme Court was hearing an appeal against that verdict.

Saravana Bhavan has 80 outlets across the world and employs thousands.

A New York Times report from 2014 said Rajagopal was determined to marry the wife of an employee based on the advice of an astrologer.

In 2001, when her husband went missing, she filed a police complaint against Rajagopal. His body was found in a forest and police confirmed that he had been strangled to death.

The owner was once again embroiled in scandal in 2003 for attempting to bribe the woman and intimidating her family, which included assaulting her brother.

A local court first convicted Rajagopal in 2004 and sentenced him to 10 years in prison. This was increased to life in prison by the Madras high court in Chennai.

While hearing an appeal against the verdict in 2009, the Supreme Court granted bail to Rajagopal after his lawyer argued that he needed medical treatment. At that point, he had served only 11 months of his sentence.

The Supreme Court ruling on Friday means that he will be headed back to jail.

ruby Posted on March 29, 2019 12:10

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India's 'last electrified village' Leisang still fighting darkness

As India enters full election mode, political leaders are criss-crossing the length and breadth of the country, addressing rallies. The high-decibel campaigns have lots of sound and fury, but rarely address the issues that actually affect millions of people. The BBC's Geeta Pandey is travelling across India to report on some of them.

The tiny village of Leisang in the north-eastern state of Manipur made global news last year when it became the "last Indian village to be electrified".

For decades, political parties have been promising bijli (electricity) - along with sadak and pani (road and water) - in their election manifestos.

So in April 2018, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted saying "Leisang had been powered and empowered", it seemed that the government had addressed at least one of these three issues.

But when I visited there last week, I found the power supply erratic and the villagers neither "powered" nor "empowered".

Home to 13 families - or 70 members - of the Kuki hill tribe, Leisang is just over 80km (50 miles) from Imphal, the capital of Manipur.

There's no school or health facility in Leisang and though residents here have voter ID cards, they are too few to carry any political heft.

Village chief Tongsat Haokip says all the other villages in their neighbourhood got power in 2017, but when they enquired, they were told they were "not in the plan".

"But no-one ever gave us a reason, so we petitioned the top electricity official in Kangpokpi. He said, 'You're top of our list for next year.' He told us to be patient."

In early April last year, there was sudden activity in the village. First some officials came for an inspection and then over two weeks, poles, cables, wires, electrical accessories and a transformer were brought up. Finally, the villagers were told that they would be "connected to the grid" between 5-6pm on 27 April.

Lamneithan Lotjem was among "the 20-30 people", including women and children, who had gathered at the village chief's house for the event. Tea was prepared, the switch was flicked on, and all eyes were on the bulb hanging from the front porch.

Ms Lotjem was positioned right under the bulb when it suddenly came on.

"We all clapped, jumped up and down with joy. I was shouting, 'Light avatai, light ahungtai (Light is shining, light has come)'. Everyone was cheering. Some people were dancing," she says with an embarrassed laugh.

That night, no-one in the village slept. They all gathered in the only house with a TV set and watched through the night. The villagers were euphoric.

"It was almost like they were reborn," says Nehkam Doungul, Mr Haokip's uncle.

In the days that followed, many families bought TV sets and many women dreamed of buying washing machines and rice cookers.

But the euphoria was short-lived.

It's been a year since that day and the villagers tell me that on a good day, they get power for five to six hours. A fault, however small, takes a minimum of three days to attend to and last year, on one occasion, Leisang was plunged back into darkness for three whole months.

Senior power department official in Manipur H Shantikumar Singh admits that the village once lost power for three months because they could not get there to fix it. "It's remote and difficult to reach, especially if there are landslides on the way," he says. But he denies that the village receives only six hours of power and insists that there is enough power to supply everyone in the state.

Yet on the day I visit, there is no power in the village. It comes an hour later, but the supply is off again in 15 minutes.

Ms Lotjem, who works in the fields from 8am to 4pm on most days, says when there's power in the evening, she finishes off the housework and watches TV. "But it's impossible to plan because the supply is so erratic."

Mr Doungul says rain and high wind always result in power outages and the villagers now joke that "the light goes off even if a dog pees on the pole".

Power came to Leising as part of PM Modi's pledge in August 2015 to electrify every single village within 1,000 days.

In summer 2014 when Mr Modi came to power, 97.5% of India's nearly 600,000 villages were already electrified, says Abhishek Jain of the Delhi-based Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW).

A village is deemed electrified if 10% of its households, and shared facilities like the school, health centre and community hall, are connected to the grid, he says. By that definition, officials claim that India is fully electrified.

But, Mr Jain says, a connection does not mean an assured supply of electricity and that's where the major problem lies.

"The government is now promising 24x7 supply to every citizen by end of March, but that is a really distant dream," he says.

For instance, in India's most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, the rural population gets power for less than 12 hours a day even though some of the villages were connected to the grid more than two decades back. The situation in some southern states and the eastern states of West Bengal and Orissa is better, but the heart of India - Uttar Pradesh and Bihar - remains largely in darkness.

In July last year when Mr Modi interacted via a video link with people from villages that were electrified during his tenure in the past four years, Mr Doungal, who represented Leisang, told him that "we didn't even think in our dreams that we'd get power in our lifetime".

"The prime minister said if you face any problems, do let me know. But before I could share our problems with him, they cut us off and he moved on to speak to other people.

"If only we could tell him about our problems, I'm sure he would address them," he tells me, rather regretfully.

I ask him what he would have told the prime minister if he had a chance?

His list is long: "The nearest primary school is 1.5km away and as there's no transport, the children have to walk. There's no street light in the village. My nephew (the village chief)'s wife died in childbirth because she couldn't get to the hospital in time. When her labour pains started, four men took turns to carry her on their backs to the road so she could be taken to hospital. They lost so much precious time. If the road was good, she and her baby could have been saved," he says.

Adds village secretary Komlun Khongsai: "We are the forgotten people of India. Electricity is the first thing we got from the government."

After living in the dark for so long, the villagers had hoped that development would follow electricity to their village.

Mr Doungal says that since theirs is the last village to be electrified in India, "it means Leisang is special" and must be treated as such. He points to a nearby security force camp that has 24x7 power and asks, "Why can't we be connected to the same line?"

But Leisang's hope for round the clock electricity supply seems like a dream that's not within reach, at least in the short term.

Two days after my return from Manipur, as I sit down to write this piece at home in the capital Delhi, the power goes off. It's 11 am, and when I call the supplier BSES to check, I'm told the power outage is do some maintenance work and that the supply will be restored at 3pm. This is a four-hour unannounced outage. And let me tell you, it's not that uncommon.

ruby Posted on March 29, 2019 12:07

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World first as living HIV patient donates kidney in US

In a world first, US doctors have transplanted a kidney from one HIV-positive patient to another.

The operation took place at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland, with both patients said to be doing well.

"This is the first time someone living with HIV has been allowed to donate a kidney, ever, in the world," Dr Dorry Segev said in a release.

It was previously thought that HIV carried too great a risk factor for kidney disease in the donor.

But new types of anti-retroviral drugs used to treat the disease are seen as safe for the kidney.

Dr Christine Durand, associate professor of medicine and oncology at Johns Hopkins, said that the operation "challenges ... the public to see HIV differently", while also advancing medicine.

The patients were "incredibly grateful for this gift and now we just monitor for the long term outcomes," Dr Durand said.

The operation was performed on Monday. Donor Nina Martinez, 35, from Atlanta, told reporters she was "feeling good".

She was inspired to donate her kidney by an episode of "Grey's Anatomy," she said, adding that she was excited to be part of a medical first.

"I knew that I was the one that they had been waiting for," she said. "For anyone considering embarking on this journey, it's doable.

"I've just showed you how and I'm very excited to see who the first follow-on might be."

The recipient chose to remain anonymous but was doing "beautifully", Dr Durand said.

The breakthrough followed another significant development in HIV treatment. In only the second case of its kind, a UK patient's HIV became "undetectable" after a stem cell transplant earlier this month.

There were about 37 million people living with HIV/AIDS in 2017, and the World Health Organization still ranks HIV as "one of the world's most serious public health challenges".

ruby Posted on March 29, 2019 11:43

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Seven ways the world is not designed for women

When a last-minute spacesuit switch saw the cancellation of Nasa's all-female space walk, it sparked bigger conversations about how women navigate a world appeared to be designed for men.

Caroline Criado Perez, a journalist and the author of Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, told the BBC she was totally unsurprised by the spacesuit debacle.

"This is just what happens over and over when it comes to what we design," she says. "We are so used to thinking of men as the default and women as the sort of niche - a variety of man."

Ms Criado Perez began researching gender bias after discovering that medical data around heart attacks was based on male symptoms, causing clinicians to miss heart attack cases in women since those symptoms were considered atypical.

"It's the same thinking that leads Nasa to put two larges as the average, when it's the average for men, actually."

From police stab vests that don't account for breasts, to safety goggles too large for women's faces, to boots that don't fit women's feet, Ms Criado Perez says the list is endless.

"The average woman is an outlier."

Here is a look at seven of those ways the way the world is not designed for women.

1. Spacesuits

Nasa saw immediate outrage on Twitter when they announced the all-female spacewalk would be cancelled over a medium-sized spacesuit.

The agency clarified that astronaut Anne McClain had belatedly realised the medium size fit her better than the large she had been using, and so, for safety reasons, she was pulled from the walk.

There are two medium-sized suits on the International Space Station, but only one had been properly configured for a spacewalk, and getting the spare up to standard would have taken hours.

Ms Criado Perez says it's still telling that the sizes available were medium, large, and extra-large only.

Notably, Nasa had to nix their small sized suits in the 1990s due to budget cuts, NPR reported. That meant one-third of the women at the time were unable to fit into any spacesuits.

2. Military equipment

In 2016, the US military began to recruit women for combat roles in previously male-only units in the Army, Marine Corps and Navy SEALs - but much of the armour was still designed for men.

The Army added eight smaller sizes to accommodate women that year, but other gear like shoes and helmets were not fully addressed.

Democratic Congresswoman Niki Tsongas at the time called out the military's unresponsiveness to the needs of female service members, citing the "alarming" disadvantages for women, including being unable to properly fire a weapon, reported.

Several women told Buzzfeed News this year that during their service, they had been forced to adapt body armour to fit them, even if that meant removing protective side panels or putting pieces of foam under straps to reposition gear and ensure their organs were protected.

Last year, the Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen Joseph Dunford said they would work on speeding up the process of getting armour fitted for women, but the rollout of new gear remains incomplete.

"Women went through Iraq and Afghanistan - up to 2018 - in equipment designed for men," says Alex Elias, a scholar focusing on women in the military.

But even before these relatively new roles opened up, women in the military were forced to deal with dangerously improper attire. During World War Two, Ms Elias says, women were never expected to be in non-office roles, so the military failed to prepare uniforms for other jobs, like mechanics.

3. Car crash dummies

The US government did not adequately test the impact of a crash on a belt-restrained female dummy until 2012. Dummies for decades had been based on the average, 50th percentile male body.

According to a 2011 University of Virginia Center for Applied Biomechanics study, that meant female drivers involved in crashes had a 47% greater chance of serious injury than their male counterparts, and a 71% higher chance of a moderate injury.

Ms Criado Perez notes that even now, this female dummy is often just a scaled down version of a male dummy, which does not provide accurate information about how a crash impacts a woman.

It's a similar story in the European Union.

"In the EU, out of the five regulatory tests that there are, only one specifies that you must use that [female] dummy and it's only in the passenger seat."

She says it's clear the industry is aware they must address the issue of women - but "they haven't done it in any sensible way that accounts for the fact that women are 50% of the population".

4. Smartphones

From apps to the actual size, there are a number of design features that have made some women say smartphones have been designed with only men in mind.

Women's hands are, on average, around an inch smaller than men's - which can make the industry's ever-increasing screen sizes problematic to use.

Texting one-handed on a 4.7-inch (12cm) or bigger iPhone can be difficult to impossible for many women (and small-handed men).

Ms Criado Perez also pointed out that the health app and Siri were also unintentionally biased against women.

In 2016, Apple fixed a glitch that had Siri sending abortion seekers to adoption centres instead - five years after the issue was raised.

"The comprehensive health app on the iPhone that didn't have a period tracker; the way Siri could find a Viagra supplier but not an abortion provider - that's what happens when you don't include women in the decision making process," Ms Criado Perez says.

"It's not a conspiracy. I don't think for a moment the designers of Apple wanted to screw women over - I think they didn't know."

5. Sports attire

When US basketball superstar Stephen Curry designed a new line of shoes for kids last year, only boys sizes were offered.

A nine-year-old girl named Riley eventually wrote Mr Curry a letter asking why that was the case.

"I know you support girl athletes because you have two daughters," she added. "I hope you can work with Under Armor to change this because girls want to rock the Curry 5's too."

Mr Curry thanked her and explained that the smaller sizes had all been labelled as "boys" on the website.

As of March 2019, boys still have more apparel options in the Under Armor Curry line, but most of the shoes are available for both genders.

6. Science gear

Biologist Jessica Mounts, executive director of the Kansas Alliance for Wetlands and Streams, told the BBC's Chris Bell that most of the equipment she has used was designed for men.

"The problems caused aren't simply an annoyance - they all go back to personal safety," she says. "Clothing that is too loose gets caught in moving equipment. Boots that are too big mean tripping and falling."

"The alternatives that are 'designed for women' are frequently more expensive, have smaller pockets, are still ill-fitting."

7. Office space

These design flaws aren't just about something worn or handled - even environments can be biased towards men's preferences.

The formula for standard US office temperatures was developed in the 1960s, based on the metabolic rate of an average 40-year-old man weighing 154 pounds (70kg).

A 2015 study published in the journal Nature found that a female metabolic rate can be up to 35% lower than the male rate used in those calculations - which amounts to, on average, a five degree temperature preference difference.

Last year, Sex and the City actress Cynthia Nixon brought the issue to headlines ahead of a primary debate with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, when her team called his frigid temperature demands sexist.

Historian Shirley Wajda says: "For all the corporate talk about teamwork, it's hard to feel part of a team when you are placed in an inhospitable physical environment."

She added that popular mesh office chairs exacerbate chilly conditions, while other seating fads like barstool-height chairs can be difficult for women in dresses or skirts to sit in comfortably.

Ms Wajda says when it comes to "gender-biased design and equipment, historians haven't paid as much attention", and trends towards standardisation for efficiency's sake lead to "a 'one size fits all' sort of world".

For Ms Criado Perez, since publishing her book, it's been gratifying to see an increased awareness of these issues - and, she adds, even the initial backlash about the Nasa spacesuits would never have happened a decade ago.

"But it makes me so angry to think of all these women, living their lives, thinking there's something wrong with them - that they're too small or don't fit or whatever it is."

"It's just that we haven't built anything for women."

ruby Posted on March 29, 2019 11:23

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Mosul ferry sinking: Iraq orders arrest of ex-governor

An Iraqi court has issued a warrant for the arrest on corruption charges of the former governor of Nineveh province after a deadly ferry sinking in Mosul.

Parliament voted on Sunday to sack Nawfal al-Akoub as a consequence of last week's accident in the River Tigris that killed almost 100 people.

On Wednesday, Nineveh's investigations court said he and several other officials were suspected of misusing their powers and wasting public money.

Mr Akoub has so far not commented.

The ferry accident sparked protests by Mosul residents, who blamed negligence by the local authorities and demanded those responsible be held to account.

The ferry was transporting families to a tourist area on Umm Rabaen island in the Tigris on Thursday when it started to take on water and then overturned.

Those on board were thrown into the river, which was swollen by heavy rainfall, and then dragged swiftly downstream by the strong current.

The head of Mosul's Civil Defence Authority said the ferry was loaded to five times its capacity and most of the dead were women and children who could not swim.

Mr Akoub visited the scene of the tragedy on Friday to commiserate with the victims' relatives.

But when people gathered there saw his car, they shouted "thief, thief, thief", a video of the incident showed.

Mr Akoub gestured to his chauffeur to drive off, which prompted people to start throwing rocks at the car. The vehicle hit several people while attempting to leave, injuring at least one of the victims' relatives.

Two days later, the governor and his two deputies were sacked by parliament at the request of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi. In a letter to MPs, he accused Mr Akoub of negligence and dereliction of duty, and said there was evidence he was misusing funds and abusing his power.

At a weekly media briefing on Tuesday, Mr Abdul Mahdi blamed the ferry sinking on "greed and negligence" and said he would work to implement health and safety regulations, according to the Kurdish news agency Rudaw.

"What would it have cost the investors if he had given each individual on the ferry a lifejacket? We would have saved most of the victims," he was quoted as saying.

"We will strike powerfully with the fist of justice, and we won't allow for such things to be repeated," he added.

Mosul is slowly recovering from the war against the jihadist group, Islamic State, which seized the city in 2014 and was driven out three years later after a fierce battle that left large areas in ruins and killed thousands of civilians.

ruby Posted on March 28, 2019 18:04

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Saudi women's rights activists temporarily released

Saudi Arabia has temporarily released three female activists facing charges related to human rights work and contacting foreigners.

Two sources told Reuters that three women had been released, and more would be freed on Sunday.

Amnesty International and UK-based Saudi rights organisation, ALQST, named the women as Eman al-Nafjan, Aziza al-Yousef and Roqaya al-Mohareb.

Saudi state media said the releases were only provisional.

The three women are among 11 women on trial after being charged under the country's cyber-crimes law, which can carry a sentence of up to five years in jail.

Lynn Maalouf from Amnesty welcomed the releases but said it should not be on a temporary basis.

"They have been locked up, separated from their loved ones, subjected to torture and threats for simply peacefully calling for women's rights and expressing their views," she said.

"Amnesty International calls on the Saudi authorities to drop all the charges against them and the other women's human rights defenders, who all must be released immediately and unconditionally."

The detentions began last May, shortly before a ban on women driving was lifted.

At the time, the public prosecutor's office said they were suspected of harming national interests and "offering support to hostile elements abroad". Some of the activists were later released.

Four of the women have alleged they were tortured whilst in detention, while the brother of one jailed activist, Loujain al-Hathloul, recently told CNN his sister had described being regularly whipped, beaten, electrocuted and sexually abused in a basement she called the "palace of terror".

Ms al-Hathloul's admission that she once applied for a job at the UN is being used as part of the kingdom's case against her, CNN reported.

Also among the detained women is the Saudi-American human rights campaigner Samar Badawi, sister of jailed blogger Raif Badawi.

Ms Badawi, who was given the US International Women of Courage Award in 2012, is known for challenging Saudi Arabia's male guardianship system.

Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for "insulting Islam" online in 2014. His wife, Ensaf Haidar, lives in Canada and has become a Canadian citizen.

Scrutiny of human rights in Saudi Arabia has intensified since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October.

On Thursday the UN's special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions Agnes Callamard said that the kingdom's secretive hearings for 11 suspects accused in Mr Khashoggi's murder fell short of international standards, Reuters reported.

ruby Posted on March 28, 2019 17:57

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Can you stop your parents sharing photos of you online?

Love it or hate it, parents have made their way on to social media, and seem to be there to stay.

It's a great way of staying in touch - and it's always amusing watching your parents attempt to take selfies or use emojis.

But if they share photos of you online without your permission - and have no understanding of privacy settings - have they crossed the line?

And - if you want to - how do you convince them to take the photos down?

"Sharenting" - the act of parents sharing news and pictures of their kids online - is in the news after Gwyneth Paltrow posted a picture of her and her 14-year-old daughter Apple Martin skiing.

More than 150,000 people liked the picture, but Apple wasn't so impressed, writing (from her private Instagram account): "Mom we have discussed this. You may not post anything without my consent."

Paltrow replied: "You can't even see your face!"

Many of Paltrow's fans have argued that, as the mother, she had every right to share pictures of her daughter - but others say children deserve a right to privacy too.

Ironically, children aren't technically allowed to register with most social media services until they are 13 anyway - which means some rule-abiding teenagers get a shock when they finally get online.

Konrad Iturbe, a 19-year-old software developer in Spain, says he had a "big awakening" when he realised his parents had been posting photos of him online.

"My mother had Instagram before I even had a phone - so I wasn't aware that photos of me had been published," he told the BBC.

"I really don't like photos of me online anyway - I don't even post photos of myself on my Instagram account - so when I followed my mother and saw them on her profile, I told her to 'take this down, I've not given you permission'."

Konrad says his mother understood his concerns and acted quickly to deal with the issue - as he says all parents should.

He says discovering the pictures it felt like a "breach of privacy". It particularly bothered him because there were photos of him as a young child, and his mother's Instagram account was open to the public.

"I didn't want photos of my youth shared, it's a very intimate thing," he says, adding that he is also worried about "facial recognition algorithms" and people being able to "start tracing me when I'm older".

Sonia Bokhari, a 14-year-old in the US, had a similar experience when she first joined Twitter and Facebook.

Writing in Fast Company magazine, she says: "When I saw the pictures that she [her mother] had been posting on Facebook for years, I felt utterly embarrassed, and deeply betrayed.

"There, for anyone to see on her public Facebook account, were all of the embarrassing moments from my childhood: the letter I wrote to the tooth fairy when I was five years old, pictures of me crying when I was a toddler, and even vacation pictures of me when I was 12 and 13 that I had no knowledge of."

Not everyone minds "sharenting", however. Charlotte Christy, a 23-year-old studying in London, says she personally thinks it's "quite normal".

She was 13 when her mum started uploading photos of her on Facebook. "She would tag me and it would be on my news feed so everyone could see it. I thought it was embarrassing, but I wasn't upset to the point of asking her to remove it."

"I feel like we live in a society where everyone wants their photos to be really flattering - but if my mum posts an unflattering photo of me it doesn't really bother me."

"I think I share photos of my mum just as much as she shares photos of me - I think it's a natural thing to share and I don't see why she should ask for my permission - she's my mum."

For Sarah (not her real name), a 29-year-old health professional in Hong Kong, the most worrying thing was the privacy implications.

"When I was 21, my mum tagged

Andra Siibak, a professor in media studies at the University of Tartu in Estonia, has conducted several studies into "sharenting".

In one study involving Estonian children aged nine to 13, she found that children liked "parents sharing positive things about them", but that "there were big discrepancies between what children and parents considered to be nice photos".

"Children were not in favour of parents sharing unflattering visuals of them - for example, if their hair was messed up or they were wearing a dress they didn't actually like."

"In many contexts the parents would not consider those things to be a big problem, but for the pre-teens this could affect their self-image" or potentially lead to cyber-bullying.

Another potential risk from "sharenting" is "digital kidnapping", Prof Siibak says, where strangers take publicly available photos of children, and use them for fraudulent or sexual purposes.

me on Facebook, and I saw that she'd posted a bunch of photos of me - from when I was a baby to me in my 20s," she told the BBC.

"Her settings were public, so I just found it very unsafe. I didn't want my baby photos leaked to everyone, and I knew that with Google, you can search for someone's name using their photos. And by her contributing more photos of me online, technology companies have more data on how I look."

Prof Siibak says many parents feel that, as the adult, they are responsible for their child's wellbeing, and don't need their child's permission as long as they believe the photos are not doing any harm.

However, she argues that parents should "absolutely" take their children's privacy concerns more seriously.

"Just having a simple discussion that involves children on what kind of photos they like, and if it's ok to upload them, helps build a better parent-child relationship."

Parents often set strict internet usage rules for their children to protect their privacy, but the "rules only seem applicable to children, and not adults in the family".

Both Konrad and Sarah say their parents initially dismissed their concerns - partly due to a lack of understanding about internet privacy.

"At first my mum laughed and said, 'nobody's going to see it - it's just for friends', even though her Instagram profile was open to everyone," says Konrad. Eventually, after he explained his privacy concerns to her, she understood, and now asks his permission before posting.

Meanwhile, Sarah says when she told her mum to change her privacy settings, her mum was "quite offended at first".

"She said she was proud of me and wanted to share things about me online... when I tried to explain [my privacy concerns] she didn't understand and said 'everything is being monitored online anyway'."

"I don't think many parents understand cyber security quite as well as we would, because their generation was born without the internet."

Eventually, Sarah says her mother did agree to change her privacy settings to "friends only", although "she's got more than 1,000 Facebook friends and most of them she doesn't actually know - so in a way that's still quite public!"

"After she tagged me, I also started getting friend requests from her friends as well. I immediately declined."

"Thank God she doesn't know how to use Instagram yet."

It's complicated - especially as there's no way of physically or legally stopping them from posting. Often it comes down to persuasion - or compromise.

Konrad suggests appealing to their empathy in ways they can understand.

"I'd say - how would you feel if my grandparents posted pictures of you doing embarrassing things on the front of a newspaper? Back in the day, pictures disappeared, but now everything is online and it stays forever."

Meanwhile, Sarah says: "I found it better to stick to the facts and not get emotional about it.

"When I used emotions - telling my mum I looked horrible in the baby photos, or that I felt the photos were indecent because I wasn't fully clothed - she'd say, 'but people will just find it cute'.

"Whereas if I explained the facts about internet security, and how we didn't know what people would do with those photos, my mum agreed to be more careful."

Her mum still posts photos without her permission, but Sarah sees her mum's improved privacy settings as a reasonable compromise - and she's also found her own workaround.

"Basically, I've changed my own privacy settings so my friends can't see the photos my mum has tagged me in."

She also acknowledges that, for many parents, sharing photos of their children is a way of "expressing their love".

"It's a way for them to show how much they miss their kids [if they don't live together] - that's one of the main reasons why I decided not to completely stop her."


ruby Posted on March 28, 2019 17:53

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One small step for man, but women still have to leap

Nasa has cancelled plans for its first all-female spacewalk this Friday, citing a lack of available spacesuits in the right size.

There are not enough suits configured on the International Space Station for both Christina Koch and Anne McClain to go out at the same time, so male astronaut Nick Hague will replace Lt Col McClain.

Last week, Lt Col McClain went on a spacewalk with Col Hague and learned that a medium-sized spacesuit fitted her best.

However, Nasa said in a statement: "Because only one medium-size torso can be made ready by Friday 29 March, Koch will wear it."

For many women working in science, a choice between using equipment designed for men or missing out altogether is all too familiar.

Jessica Mounts is a biologist. For more than a decade she worked in freshwater fisheries science for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. She is now the executive director of the Kansas Alliance for Wetlands and Streams.

She noted Nasa's missed milestone with disappointment, but she was not necessarily surprised.

"Representation matters everywhere," she told the BBC.

"The first female spacewalk was both historically significant and inspiring to young girls, like my 10-year-old niece, who dreams of eventually going to space.

"If we can't provide women the equipment they need to do their jobs as astronauts, scientists or first responders, how can we expect to make progress towards equal representation?

"How can women represent a full range of career choices to the next generation of young girls, when we're held back by something as simple as equipment and clothing that fits?"

Jessica's work means she is frequently in rivers or lakes, in all weathers, to monitor and evaluate fish populations. She has often been, she says, "the only woman on the boat".

"Most of the equipment I've used has been designed for men. The problems caused aren't simply an annoyance - they all go back to personal safety.

"Clothing that is too loose gets caught in moving equipment. Boots that are too big mean tripping and falling.

"The alternatives that are 'designed for women' are frequently more expensive, have smaller pockets, are still ill-fitting and most likely have just been copies of the male version with a little pink added to the trim."

Jessica shared her frustrations on Twitter and she was far from alone in her experiences.

There was the biostatistician with a PhD in quantitative genetics, who could not find safety goggles that fit properly when working in the lab with chemicals.

Jessica was also tweeted by a biologist who could not get the steel toe-capped boots she needed for field work outside, and a neuroscientist who said she "passed out from overheating" because the only surgical gowns available for teaching were in "six-foot tall man" sizes and had to be wrapped around her three times.

And it is not only the scientific world where women must frequently make do. Caroline Criado Perez is a feminist, journalist and author of Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men.

"We don't collect data on women and therefore we don't design things for women," she told the BBC's Jeremy Vine show on Wednesday.

"We think of male bodies and typical male life patterns as the default for humans overall, and so women are disadvantaged as a result.

"Spacesuits are the tip of the iceberg. When you look at personal protective equipment - stab vests, safety goggles, safety boots, all those kinds of clothes and tools that people are supposed to use to protect themselves at work, a lot of the time they don't fit women."

Jessica says things are improving, but the pace of change is slow.

"As more women enter the field, things have improved marginally.

"Waders made in women's sizes are now available and there are some designs of personal flotation devices made to accommodate breasts. That said, we have a long way to go.

"Historically, science and similar fields have been dominated by men and the systemic culture of our society continues to support that narrative.

"When only men are allowed to work, the only equipment available is made for them. When women want to work, the equipment isn't there and is a tangible symbol of the greater issue of systemic sexism in a society designed, in general, by and for men."

ruby Posted on March 28, 2019 17:48

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'I had my misgivings about going abroad for surgery'

When Melissa Moore travelled from the US to Costa Rica for knee replacement surgery she decided to keep it a secret.

"I didn't tell my friends and family because I didn't want them to say 'are you crazy?'," says the 53-year-old.

"Of course I also had my own misgivings about travelling to Central America and having major surgery."

Melissa, from the town of Brandon in Mississippi, is one of a growing number of people around the world who are going abroad for cheaper or quicker medical treatment.

While many Americans do so because they don't have health insurance - official figures show that more than 28 million do not -

She says that her knee operation in Clinica Biblica, Costa Rica's largest private hospital, cost $12,200 (£9,200), compared with around $44,000 in the US.

Patients Beyond Borders, a publisher of guidebooks for "medical tourists" estimates that more than 20 million people will travel to another country for medical treatment this year, up 25% from 16 million last year.

Meanwhile, a 2016 report by payments giant Visa estimated that the medical tourism industry was worth $50bn a year, and continuing to grow.

Yet before people in the UK feel relieved about having the National Health Service, with its free at the point of delivery service, more and more Britons are also going abroad for treatment.

This is more often so they can avoid waiting lists, get cosmetic surgery that is not covered by the NHS, or for dental work due to a lack of NHS dentists.

Medigo, a German-based medical travel company says that queries from UK residents jumped 53% last year. Official figures from the UK's Office of National Statistics also show that a rising number of people are going abroad for treatment.

others like Melissa go overseas because their basic cover means that they have to pay a sizeable chunk of any treatment bill.

She says that her knee operation in Clinica Biblica, Costa Rica's largest private hospital, cost $12,200 (£9,200), compared with around $44,000 in the US.

Patients Beyond Borders, a publisher of guidebooks for "medical tourists" estimates that more than 20 million people will travel to another country for medical treatment this year, up 25% from 16 million last year.

Meanwhile, a 2016 report by payments giant Visa estimated that the medical tourism industry was worth $50bn a year, and continuing to grow.

Yet before people in the UK feel relieved about having the National Health Service, with its free at the point of delivery service, more and more Britons are also going abroad for treatment.

This is more often so they can avoid waiting lists, get cosmetic surgery that is not covered by the NHS, or for dental work due to a lack of NHS dentists.

Medigo, a German-based medical travel company says that queries from UK residents jumped 53% last year. Official figures from the UK's Office of National Statistics also show that a rising number of people are going abroad for treatment.

One British person who recently travelled abroad for surgery was Amanda Wells, from the Scottish town of Dalkeith, near Edinburgh.

The 46-year-old travelled to Poland last year - via Medigo - to have a painful bunion removed from her left foot, because she didn't want to wait the nine months that her GP estimated it would take her to get the operation on the NHS.

She says she was able to get the work done in Poland for £3,000, half the amount she was quoted by a private surgeon in the UK. Amanda Wells went to Poland for a foot operation

"I did my research regarding waiting times to meet with a [NHS] surgeon, and I discovered that my GP was being optimistic," she says.

"The facilities were excellent in Poland. The surgeon was fantastic and I saw him for three follow-ups before I went home."

Another Briton who went abroad for treatment last year was Lincoln Summers, of Woking, south west of London. He went to a dentist in Hungary.

"I looked like a mobster after one of my front teeth broke off," says the 54-year-old.

Lincoln says he got an implant fitted in Budapest for £800 compared with the £2,500 he was quoted by a private UK dentist.

"It was not what I expected at all [in Hungary], it was a state-of-the-art dentist," he adds.

While both Lincoln, Amanda - and Melissa in the US - say they were very happy with the medical care they received, some experts urge medical tourists to be cautious. Especially if people are travelling to the developing world.

"People go abroad thinking they are going to get affordable care... and they get back to the States and end up having massive medical bills because they require treatment of infections, and they require additional surgery," says Prof Leigh Turner, from the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota.

"If they have insurance, their insurance doesn't cover it. It ends being a costly experience."

Despite this risk, the number of Americans going abroad for medical treatment goes up every year. About 422,000 did so in 2017, according to the US National Travel and Tourism Office. That is up from 295,383 in 2000.

"The number of uninsured Americans began to climb again in 2017," says Prof Turner.

"And... it seems plausible that reductions in insurance coverage are pushing more Americans to search elsewhere for affordable medical care.

Josef Woodman, chief executive of Patients Without Borders, says that much of the growth in global health tourism is coming from people in the developing world.

"You have got literally hundreds of millions of people entering the middle class in China, in India, and in Indonesia," he says.

"The healthcare systems in these countries don't offer them what they need in terms of speciality, complex care."

Back in Mississippi, Melissa Moore is continuing to recover from her knee operation in Costa Rica earlier this year. She praises all the staff that treated her.

"I had a meltdown one day [at the hospital] because of the pain, and the feeling of helplessness," she says. "But the nurses and techs were so sweet and helped to calm me."

ruby Posted on March 28, 2019 17:40

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Why Erdogan's big Turkish ambitions could come tumbling down

The crater is the size of a football pitch, dug 50 metres (165ft) deep into the earth. Mounds of rock line the surface. The only life here is the seagulls drinking from pools of stagnant water.

It was supposed to be the site of Istanbul's gleaming new development: a grandiose mix of apartments, malls and spas in the district of Fikirtepe.

The promotional video from 2010 showed a symbol of Turkey's newfound wealth.

The houses of at least 15,000 people were demolished to make way for it. Many paid deposits to buy into the project.

But as financial problems hit, investors pulled out – and most of the planned buildings never materialised.

All that's left is a gaping hole of bankrupt companies and broken promises.

It is symptomatic of a wider economic slump that poses the gravest threat to Recep Tayyip Erdogan in his 16 years in power.

Polls before this weekend's local elections suggest his governing AK Party could lose control of the capital, Ankara – and perhaps even Istanbul.

Zeynep Duzgunoldu, aged 60, welled up with tears as she pointed to where her old home used to stand beside a fresh fig tree.

"People used to call it 'the house with the beautiful kitchen'", she said, her voice cracking. "Now my rucksack is my home. I'm ashamed to ask my children for money."

Firdevs Uluocak's house is on the edge of the failed construction site and was destabilised by the digging.

There's one target for her anger: Turkey's builder-in-chief, President Erdogan.

"I feel hatred towards him", she said. "I always voted for him - but he's ruined his people."

Over the past 16 years, Mr Erdogan has championed construction as the engine of Turkey's growth.

His so-called "mega projects" - from airports to bridges to tunnels - have transformed the country's infrastructure.

And high-rise housing developments have changed city skylines, often to the horror of architects.

Construction moguls close to the president have won state tenders through political support.

The industry is mired in claims of corruption and cronyism.

But with inflation now at 20% and the Turkish lira having plunged by around a third, the cost of importing raw materials and servicing foreign loans has soared - and construction companies are failing.

Pana Yapi, the conglomerate running the Fikirtepe project, told the BBC "the whole country is going through an economic crisis", arguing that it too is a victim.

Cranes suspended in mid-air and half-built skyscrapers that now dot Istanbul are a sign of that crisis.

Turkey entered recession last year, shrinking 3% in the final quarter. Many fear there is worse to come.

"Turkey is heavily dependent on foreign-denominated debt and when that's harder to service, that's when you see the problems we're in", said Can Selcuki, general manager at Istanbul Economics Research.

"We could be on the brink of a major crash. We need high sums of foreign cash", he said, "and the most likely address for that is the International Monetary Fund".

President Erdogan has argued vociferously against an IMF loan, which would come with stringent conditions.

"But the cost of not finding the capital," argued Mr Selcuki, "might be increased bankruptcies and a downward spiral."

The economic downturn has prompted the president to turn the argument towards other issues.

He has shown the video of the New Zealand mosque attack in rallies to galvanise his conservative, pious voters, whom he needs to turn out.

As a quick fix for the cost of food – which has soared by a third – the government has bought up vegetables from farmers. It sells them directly to consumers in public stalls, bypassing the middle-men who have inflated prices and whom the president labels "food terrorists".

At one of these stalls in the Istanbul district of Aksaray, lines were long as people waited to buy tomatoes, aubergines and spinach at half the price of supermarkets.

"The queues aren't a sign of poverty but of opportunity," said shopper Omer Cakirca, lauding the project. "Everywhere is like this. If there is something on sale, everyone will go there."

But Esref Korkmaz disagrees: "I bought cucumbers and tomatoes today - but this is just an investment for the elections," he said. "They won't remain after April. I voted for the AKP before but not again because the economic situation is bad. I'll hold my nose and back the opposition this time."

The economy propelled Recep Tayyip Erdogan to power.

It could now be his undoing.

ruby Posted on March 28, 2019 17:35

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Sackler billions targeted in New York fraud lawsuit

The wealthy Sackler family is facing new charges it fraudulently transferred money from Purdue Pharma, the firm it owns that makes opioid painkillers.

In a lawsuit, New York's Attorney General said she will recover "billions of dollars" that were "fraudulently conveyed" from the firm to the dynasty.

Purdue is facing thousands of lawsuits over how it marketed OxyContin, but only a handful have named the Sacklers

Purdue and the Sacklers vigorously deny the allegations, a spokesman said.

A spokesperson for the Sackler family said: "Expanding this baseless lawsuit to include former directors of Purdue Pharma is a misguided attempt to place blame where it does not belong for a complex public health crisis.

The family "strongly" denies the allegations and will "vigorously defend against them".

The lawsuit claims that money was transferred from Purdue Pharma to private or offshore accounts that are held by members of the Sacklers in order to protect the funds from litigation.

The Sackler family is worth $13bn according to Forbes magazine and have made millions of dollars worth of donations to the arts, education and science, mainly in the US and the UK.

Dame Theresa Sackler, who is named in the lawsuit, is a trustee of the V&A in London which has a courtyard named after the family.

However, the Sackler Trust has now suspended new charitable donations in the UK. It follows a decision by National Portrait Gallery to give up a grant from the Trust.

Other organisations have also shunned Sackler money, including the Tate.

The New York Attorney General Letitia James filed the lawsuit against Purdue Pharma last August, claiming that it oversold the benefits of OxyContin and failed to adequately address the potential risks of taking the drug, which include "serious abuse and death".

That lawsuit has now been amended to include the Sacklers, many of whom were directors of Purdue.

It has also been extended to trusts controlled by the Sackler family and other makers and distributors of opioid drugs.

These include Janssen Pharmaceuticals, which is owned by Johnson & Johnson and Teva Pharmaceuticals.

Ms James claims that Purdue, the Sacklers and the other companies named in the lawsuit "are largely responsible for "creating the opioid epidemic that has ravaged New York".

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently said that the US opioid epidemic is now entering its third phase.

The first was started with opioid painkillers, the second was heroin which people moved to when they were unable to get more prescription medicine and the third is Fentanyl, a powerful opioid that has now entered the illegal drugs market.

According to CDC, more than 70,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2017, 68% of which involved a prescription or illicit opioid.

Purdue says that OxyContin represents less than 2% of total opioid prescriptions.

Earlier this week, Purdue Pharma reached a settlement with Oklahoma for $270m after the state claimed it and other companies - Johnson & Johnson and Teva Pharmaceutical - had used deceptive practices to sell opioids.

The deal was announced the day after Purdue Pharma failed to delay a trial over the claims made by Oklahoma state.

Johnson & Johnson and Teva were not involved in the settlement.

New York's Attorney General lawsuit names eight Sackler family members, all of whom are linked to Mortimer and Raymond Sackler who set up Purdue in the 1950s with their older brother Arthur.

After Arthur Sackler died, Mortimer and Raymond bought out his stake in the firm.

ruby Posted on March 28, 2019 17:24

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Wow Air failure: 'They gave us pizza - then cancelled our flight'

Dubliner Barrai Omuireagain is one of an estimated 10,000 people stranded by Thursday's collapse of Iceland's Wow Air.

He was due to board his flight from Detroit to Dublin at 7pm local time last night.

"Then it was delayed, then it was delayed every hour, and finally at 11pm on Wednesday I asked what happens if the company goes bust?

"She said it wouldn't happen and gave us a pizza, saying we're expecting a flight plan in the next 15 minutes.

"Next thing the PA said the flight was cancelled."

The family eventually spent the night in a hotel, and woke to find the airline had indeed stopped flying.

Wow Air, which also operated flights from UK airports Gatwick, Stansted and Edinburgh, had been in talks this week with bondholders about raising new money.

The past six months have seen talks about a potential sale of the carrier, first to Icelandair, then to US-based private equity firm Indigo Partners - which has stakes in several other airlines including Hungary's Wizz Air.

But on Thursday Wow's website said it had ceased operations and cancelled all flights. It added that passengers needing to travel should book with other airlines.

With Wow not flying, passengers are scrambling to find alternatives.

The travel editor of the Independent, Simon Calder, said that in these situations other airlines do tend to step in as they would not seek to make money out of "a bad situation". He said passengers should not spend "a fortune on alternative flights unless you are in a real hurry".

Norwegian said that repatriation fares would be available at a 25% discount, subject to availability, as long as passengers could show a valid Wow Air booking. These would be available until 8 April.

Three other airlines are offering rescue fares for Wow passengers - Icelandair, EasyJet and Wizz Air. More information is available on the webpage of the Icelandic Transport Authority, along with further information on passenger rights.

The Icelandic authorities said they would continue to monitor the availability of rescue fares for Wow passengers scheduled to travel over the next few days.

These airlines are not ideal for Barrai Omuireagain, who needs to get to Dublin. He is hoping Aer Lingus will be able to help fly him to Dublin, but currently he says flights for himself and his wife Katie, and children Chase, 16 and Maeve, 6 would cost £5,000 - more than double the normal fare.

He is also less eligible for help as he currently lives in Indiana, and therefore is not stranded. His holiday would have started in Ireland.

Another affected passenger was Aoife O'Dwyer, who was due to go on honeymoon to Iceland on Saturday with her wife, Jen.

In a tweet she said she was "devastated" that her "dream honeymoon trip" was postponed.

Wow's website, and that of the UK's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), suggests a range of possible methods of redress.

It says passengers covered by various protected booking methods, including booking by credit card or through a European travel agent, should try to get their money back from them.

Otherwise it says they could be entitled to some compensation from Wow, "including in accordance with European regulation on Air Passenger Rights", or, in case of a bankruptcy, claims should be filed to the administrator or liquidator.

Wow was founded in 2011 by its chief executive, Skuli Mogensen. It started flights in 2012 and grew to employ 1,000 people, carrying 3.5 million passengers last year in its 11 aircraft.

It operated both short and long haul routes, flying to Copenhagen and Alicante in Europe and Washington and Boston in the US.

Aviation expert, Chris Tarry, from consultants Ctaira, said Wow was simply not able to make enough profit in a highly competitive market: "Wow faced stiff competition on the northern Europe to North America route, which is being served by rival low-cost operator, Norwegian. Wow offered low fares - but so did the rest of the pack. Even the traditional carriers were offering keen fares.

"Travelling with Wow also involved going via Iceland - attractive if you have the time and money to spare on that, but with others pricing fares keenly, something people were thinking wasn't worth their time."

The Associated Press reported that Mr Mogensen wrote a letter to employees on Thursday which said: "I will never forgive myself for not acting sooner.

"Wow was clearly an incredible airline and we were on the path to do amazing things again."

Rory Boland, the travel editor of Which?, said Wow had been selling flights right up until 07:00 on Thursday morning. "Passengers will quite rightly be appalled that Wow Air was still selling tickets right up to the moment it collapsed.

"You will need to check if you booked your flights as part of a package.

"If not, you may still be able to claim through your travel insurance or card issuer but it will depend on your circumstances."

The CAA said Wow air flights were unlikely to have been booked as part of a package.

Independent financial information business Defaqto warned that less than half (48%) of travel insurance policies offered cover for airline failure as standard, meaning that travellers could be left unprotected if the airline they have booked with gets into financial difficulty and they cannot travel.

A number of airlines have run into financial trouble recently, with factors such as higher fuel bills and excess capacity in the sector contributing to their problems.

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ruby Posted on March 28, 2019 17:13

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Cycling heaven: The African capital with 'no traffic'

Asmara only has about 500,000 inhabitants, which combined with low salaries, high import taxes and fuel shortages means the city has few vehicles. Those you do see often tend to be from a different age.

Roads are not only relatively empty of cars. Locals lament the departure of great numbers of young Eritreans who have left over the last 20 years because of hardships brought by regional conflicts and enforced national service under a government that brooks little dissent.

As a result of its circumstances, Asmara offers a very different landscape compared to many African cities congested with traffic. This, combined with the wonderful climate, makes it a dream for cyclists to get around. "Cycling is part of our culture," says a 25-year-old man.

Asmara's architecture is also admired and it was recently made a Unesco World Heritage Site for its striking art deco buildings, a legacy of the country's time as an Italian colony from 1897 until 1943.

Bike repair shops abound all over Asmara. Eritrea has a long history of self-reliance that began during its 30-year war for independence from Ethiopia, after which its international isolation has made importing bicycles and spare parts extremely expensive.

Eritreans ride bicycles of all kinds and colours: mountain-bikes, city bikes, racing bikes. Young and old, women and men, athletes and housewives - all seem to embrace the "bicicletta", the word for bicycle in the local language, Tigrinya, that is borrowed from Italian.

Those who rely on public transport have to endure long waits before jumping on an extremely crowded bus. "Buses are so old and so few," says Salam, a 30-year-old graduate. "Having a bicycle is life-saving here."

Environmental sustainability has long been promoted by the government. This has included limiting plastic production and usage, reforestation campaigns, safeguarding the country's green areas and distributing bikes imported from Dubai and China.

For many Eritreans money is tight, and even if vehicles are available, bicycles remain the most affordable mode of transport.

The recent peace deal with Ethiopia in July 2018 resulted in the border opening for the first time in 20 years. Now cheap Ethiopian merchandise is sold all over the country, lowering the cost of living.

A combination of conflict, diplomatic isolation and UN sanctions, lifted after nine years last November, means there are still shortages of many products. Lack of fuel has resulted in cars and buses often having to be parked up for a long time, leaving people few choices other than walking or pedalling to get around.

Cycling is the most popular sport among Eritreans. Introduced by the Italians, competitive cycling is a source of pride among the population. The Eritrean national team, which includes Mosana Debesay pictured below in Austria last September, is extremely successful in international races.

The recent rapprochement with Ethiopia has left many Eritreans hoping that the economy can develop faster, making everyday life in Asmara easier.

ruby Posted on March 27, 2019 15:48

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Jussie Smollett: Mayor says case makes Chicago look foolish

Chicago's mayor Rahm Emanuel says the sudden move to drop charges against actor Jussie Smollett over a hoax attack has made a fool of the city.

The state's attorney's office maintains Mr Smollett has not been exonerated, while Mr Smollett's lawyers say his record has been wiped clean.

"They better get their stories straight because this is actually making a fool of all of us," the mayor told ABC News.

Police maintain Mr Smollett staged a racist and homophobic attack.

Mr Smollett has insisted throughout that he is innocent of all these allegations.

Speaking on Good Morning America on Wednesday, Mr Emanuel pilloried the Empire actor, saying he "abused the city of Chicago".

"You have the state's attorney's office saying he's not exonerated, he actually did commit this hoax. He's saying he's innocent and his words aren't true."

Mr Emanuel says he wants the court records unsealed so that all the evidence gathered by Chicago Police could be seen.

He said he also wants prosecutors to explain why they made such a sudden reversal.

Illinois prosecutor Joe Magats made the decision to drop charges against the TV actor on Tuesday in a move that blindsided police - but he maintains that Mr Smollett is guilty.

"Our priority is violent crimes and the drivers of violence," Mr Magats told CBS News. "Jussie Smollett is neither one of those."

He added that community service and a fine is a common outcome for such a case. When asked if those penalties were sufficient for Mr Smollett, he said: "I feel that it is."

Tandra Simonton, a spokeswoman for the Cook County state's attorney, told NBC News that prosecutors "did not exonerate Mr Smollett", but offered an agreement available "to any defendant with similar circumstances".

"The charges were dropped in return for Mr Smollett's agreement to do community service and forfeit his $10,000 bond to the City of Chicago.

"Without the completion of these terms, the charges would not have been dropped."

Police, however, have disagreed, with Supt Eddie Johnson saying if Mr Smollett "wanted to clear his name, the way to do that was in a court of law so that everyone could see the evidence".

ruby Posted on March 27, 2019 15:29

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Entebbe pilot Michel Bacos who stayed with hostages dies

Michel Bacos, the Air France captain hailed as a hero for refusing to abandon his passengers when Palestinian and German hijackers seized the plane in 1976, has died in France aged 95.

The plane, carrying some 260 people from Tel Aviv to Paris, had stopped off in Athens, where the hijackers got on board and demanded it change course.

The hostage drama ended six days later at Entebbe airport in Uganda, when Israeli commandos stormed the terminal.

Bacos died in the French city of Nice.

Awarded France's highest civilian accolade, the Légion d'Honneur, he told the BBC in 2016 that as captain "it would be impossible for me to leave my passengers, unimaginable".

The youngest of the Entebbe survivors, Benny Davidson, said Bacos was a role model and had taken a leading position on behalf of all of the hostages.

Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi said: "Michel was a hero. By bravely refusing to give in to anti-Semitism and barbarity he brought honour to France."

After leaving Athens on 27 June 1976, the plane was seized by two Palestinians from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and two Germans from guerrilla group Revolutionary Cells. They forced Bacos and his crew to fly to Benghazi in Libya.

After refuelling it flew on to Entebbe where the hijackers were joined by at least three more Palestinian militants and Ugandan troops. Uganda's leader, Idi Amin, was on the tarmac to welcome the hijackers. The hijackers demanded the release of 54 militants and a $5m ransom.

The passengers were eventually split up. The non-Israelis were flown to Paris while the 94 Israeli passengers were held hostage.

Alongside the hostages were the Air France crew of 12.

"I told my crew that we must stay until the end, because that was our tradition, so we cannot accept being freed. All my crew agreed without exception," Bacos told the BBC.

Benny Davidson described that moment as "the ultimate decision". "It was very brave to stay with us and tell all his crew 'I made this decision on my behalf and you can choose whatever you want'. All of his crew stayed with him to the last minute," he told the BBC.

"Whenever someone needed something, he took a leading position on behalf of the hostages and spoke to the terrorists or the Ugandan authorities."

Israeli commandos eventually stormed the terminal on 3 July. Two hostages were killed during the rescue, and Michel Bacos revealed that the hostage-takers opened fire on the group killing a third as the Israeli operation unfolded.

"I thought France would try to save us. There were French forces stationed in Africa, closer than Israel, but either way I knew someone would come rescue us," he said in a separate interview with Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth.

Mr Davidson said the pilot's fearless attitude served as an inspiration to all the children caught up in the drama. "He set an example as a role model and how to behave even though all hell is breaking loose around you."

ruby Posted on March 27, 2019 13:36

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Ranking Roger: The Beat singer dies aged 56

Musicians have paid tribute to singer Roger Charlery, known as Ranking Roger, who has died at the age of 56.

The Birmingham-born star, best known as a vocalist with The Beat, died at home on Tuesday, surrounded by family, a statement on the band's website said.

Charlery had suffered a stroke last summer and was reported to have been diagnosed with two brain tumours and lung cancer in recent months.

Tweeting condolences, songwriter Billy Bragg wrote: "Rest easy, Rude Boy."

Singer Sting, who did many live performances and recordings with Charlery, posted a statement of tribute on Instagram.

End of Instagram post by theofficialsting

Charlery's manager Tarquin Gotch said: "We have lost a wonderfully talented artist and great friend.

"It has been an enormous honour and privilege for us all to have been a part of his life."

Neville Staple, formerly of The Specials and Fun Boy Three, sang with Charlery in the band Special Beat. He shared a tribute to his friend on Instagram.

Pauline Black, who fronted two-tone band The Selecter, posted a short excerpt from Hamlet, which read: "Goodnight sweet prince. And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."

Mike Mills, one of the founding members of REM, went on several tours with The Beat. He tweeted that Charlery had "brought a lot of joy into the world".

Meanwhile, Matt Hoy, a touring vocalist with UB40, wrote on Instagram: "Rest in Peace Ranking Roger, such sad news!! Lovely guy... Way [too] young!! Condolences to his family."

British reggae band The Skints posted a picture of vocalist Josh Waters Rudge with Charlery. They described him as "an original inspiration, a rebel to the very end and an absolute gentleman always".

As part of The Beat, Charlery spearheaded the two-tone movement with a distinctive vocal style influenced by the Jamaican rap technique of toasting.

The group enjoyed several top 10 hits, most famously Mirror in the Bathroom - the first digitally recorded single released in the UK.

Their 1980 cover of Andy Williams' Can't Get Used To Losing You was used as the main sample on Beyonce's 2016 hit Hold Up.

After the band broke up in 1983, Charlery went on to form supergroup General Public with members of Dexys Midnight Runners and The Specials.

The statement on The Beat's website said of the singer's ill-health: "He fought & fought & fought, Roger was a fighter."

It added: "Roger's family would like to thank everyone for their constant support during this tough time."

The website had recently announced that Charlery had completed his biography, which was expected to be published by early summer.

Charlery had released an album, Public Confidential, with the band as recently as January.

ruby Posted on March 27, 2019 11:42

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Cardi B explains why she 'drugged and robbed' men

Cardi B has defended herself after a video resurfaced of her saying she drugged and robbed men who wanted to have sex with her while she worked as a stripper before finding fame.

The rapper faced criticism after the three-year-old Instagram live video recirculated on social media.

"Whether or not they were poor choices at the time, I did what I had to do to survive," she wrote on Tuesday.

"I never claimed to be perfect or come from a perfect world."

The original video was made as her career was starting to take off and was her response to someone who said she didn't deserve success because she hadn't put in any work.

"Nothing was handed to me. Nothing," she said in the video, before going on to reveal that she would invite men to a hotel before drugging and robbing them.

In response to the furore, she wrote on Instagram that she had been talking "about things in my past right or wrong that I felt I needed to do to make a living".

She added: "I'm a part of a hip-hop culture where you can talk about where you come from, talk about the wrong things you had to do to get where you are."

The Grammy-winner also pointed out that there are rappers who "glorify murder, violence, drugs and robbing".

She wrote: "I never glorified the things I brought up in that live [video], I never even put those things in my music because I'm not proud of it and feel a responsibility not to glorify it.

"I made the choices that I did at the time because I had very limited options."

Cardi B ended the statement by explaining the men she referred to in the old video were men she dated or was involved with, and were "conscious, willing and aware".

Earlier in the week, the hashtag #SurvivingCardiB was trending - a reference to Surviving R Kelly, the documentary that highlighted the years of sexual allegations against the star.

Some users compared the rapper to disgraced comedian Bill Cosby, who was sentenced to jail in 2018 after being accused of drugging and assaulting women.Other users defended Cardi's transparency.

Earlier this year, the rapper made history when she became the first solo woman to win the Grammy Award for best rap album for her debut Invasion of Privacy.

ruby Posted on March 27, 2019 11:38

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New York county declares measles outbreak emergency

A county in New York state has declared a state of emergency following a severe outbreak of measles.

Rockland County, on the Hudson river north of New York City, has barred unvaccinated children from public spaces after 153 cases were confirmed.

Violating the order will be punishable by a fine of $500 (£378) and up to six months in prison.

The announcement follows other outbreaks of the disease in Washington, California, Texas and Illinois.

Vaccination rates have dropped steadily in the US with many parents objecting for philosophical or religious reasons, or because they believe misleading information that vaccines cause autism in children.

"We will not sit idly by while children in our community are at risk," Rockland County Executive Ed Day said.

"This is a public health crisis and it is time to sound the alarm."

The outbreak in Rockland County is largely concentrated in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, the New York Times reported. It is believed it could have spread from other predominantly ultra-Orthodox areas around New York which have already seen outbreaks of measles.

Mr Day said health inspectors had encountered "resistance" from some local residents, which he branded "unacceptable and irresponsible".

"They've been told 'We're not discussing this, do not come back' when visiting the homes of infected individuals as part of their investigations," he said.

Dylan Skriloff, the editor of local newspaper the Rockland County Times, told the BBC the number of measles cases in the county had been increasing steadily in recent weeks.

"The first reports came six months ago, and each week we've had a new report with increased numbers," he said.

"It's become clear that it's not abating, and the authorities... don't want to accept [this reality] as the new normal."

Skriloff said that the authorities had been making "steady progress" in encouraging religious communities to immunise children but communication had broken down in the last month.

"The rate of immunisation in the religious communities, for young people, it's about 50%-60%, which is not nearly enough."

Officials said the order, which bans anyone under the age of 18 who has not been vaccinated from places such as schools, shopping centres, restaurants and places of worship, would come into effect at midnight on Wednesday and last 30 days.

Rockland County has a population of more than 300,000.

Both Europe and the US are dealing with outbreaks of measles, but why now?

Nothing has changed about the virus; the answer instead lies in human behaviour.

Myths about the vaccine causing autism have been debunked but are still affecting the number of children being immunised. And complacency from a generation of parents unfamiliar with the dangers of measles has also had an effect.

So with every year that goes by, the total number of unvaccinated people grows, often in pockets in some communities. It is like an ever-growing tinderbox just waiting for a spark.

Measles still runs rampant in many parts of the world - it kills around 90,000 people a year. All it takes is a bit of travel for measles to reach those vulnerable pockets and spread like wildfire.

Measles is a highly infectious disease and can cause serious health complications, including damage to the lungs and brain.

But despite the dangers, vaccination rates are declining in many countries.There have also been outbreaks of measles in Europe

In the UK, the government is seeking new legislation to force social media companies to remove content promoting false information about vaccines.

There were more than 82,500 cases in Europe in 2018 - the highest number in a decade and three times the total reported in 2017.

The World Health Organization has declared the anti-vaccine movement to be one of the top global health threats for 2019.

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ruby Posted on March 27, 2019 11:35

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Jet Airways founder Naresh Goyal steps down amid crisis

The founder of cash-strapped Indian airline Jet Airways has stepped down as chairman of the company.

Naresh Goyal's resignation is likely to pave the way for potential investors to save India's oldest private carrier.

They were held back by Mr Goyal's reluctance to give up control of the company, reports say.

Jet's debt exceeds $1bn (£750m) and the airline has grounded some flights as it is struggling to pay employees, suppliers and leasing companies.

Within minutes of Monday's announcement, the company's stock jumped 12%.

In a stock market filing which also announced the resignation, the company said that banks would lend around $210m to keep it afloat until it starts to sell shares to new investors.

It also said that the banks would convert the debt they are owed to equity, reducing Mr Goyal's controlling stake in the company.

Mr Goyal and his family currently own 52% of the airline. It's unclear how much they will eventually retain but they will lose their majority stake to the banks.

In recent weeks, it had grounded more than two-thirds of the 119 aircraft in its fleet. Thousands of flights were cancelled, affecting passengers flying on both international and domestic routes.

A pilots' organisation had also warned that its members would stop flying for the carrier if their salaries were not paid by the end of March.


ruby Posted on March 27, 2019 11:28

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Nirav Modi: Billionaire's art auction raises $8m for tax collectors

An art collection owned by Indian billionaire and fraud suspect Nirav Modi has fetched $8m (£6m) at auction.

Punjab National Bank (PNB), India's second-largest state-run bank, says Mr Modi is one of the main suspects in a $2bn fraudulent scheme.

Since Mr Modi fled India in early 2018, authorities have seized assets, including lavish properties and some 170 pieces of art.

Mr Modi has denied wrongdoing. Police in London said he was arrested last Tuesday on the request of Indian authorities, who have asked for his extradition.

He has been remanded in custody until 29 March.

Mr Modi's case was thrust back into the limelight after The Telegraph newspaper found him living in a $10.5m London flat earlier this month.

Within days, officials confirmed that UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid had certified India's extradition request, initially made last August.

Who is Nirav Modi?

Mr Modi is one of India's richest men, worth an estimated $1.75bn, according to Forbes.

He was born into a diamond trading dynasty, but only launched his own eponymous brand back in 2010.

The brand grew quickly, and he soon had shops across India, as well as in New York, London and Hong Kong.

His diamond-encrusted designs were worn by stars including Kate Winslet, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Naomi Watts, while the Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra-Jonas appeared in advertisements for the brand.

The shops were raided and his assets frozen after the allegations emerged last year.

Fifty-five pieces of art were sold in Mumbai to raise money that Mr Modi, 48, allegedly owes Indian tax authorities.

The diamond trader is wanted for his alleged role in India's largest bank fraud, totalling some $2bn (£1.5bn).

Mr Modi, whose jewellery has been worn by celebrities such as of actress Priyanka Chopra-Jonas, was arrested in the UK last week.

He is being detained in the UK and could face extradition.

Indian authorities had hoped to recover $7.3m through the art sale but many of the pieces sold above their estimate.

Auctioneers said the sale was the first of its kind, as Indian tax authorities usually auction property, gold and luxury items rather than art.

An oil-canvas painting by Vasudeo S Gaitonde, one of India's most prominent abstract painters, sold for $3.7m.


ruby Posted on March 27, 2019 11:24

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UK man arrested fleeing Australia on jet ski, police say

A British man wanted on drugs charges has been arrested off a remote island in Australia while trying to flee the country on a jet ski, authorities say.

The 57-year-old was taken into custody on Saibai Island, just 4km (2.5 miles) south of Papua New Guinea, after travelling 150km from north Australia.

The man was found on mudflats and there were reports he had been carrying a crossbow and other supplies.

He is expected to be taken to Western Australia.

"This arrest sends a strong message to would-be fugitives - our reach across Australia is second to none," an Australian Federal Police spokesperson said.

Police said the man, who has not been officially named, had launched his jet ski on Monday from Punsand Bay in Queensland.

Mr O'Keeffe said the man was carrying a crossbow at the start of his long ocean journey, but said he did not have the weapon with him when he was arrested.

Torres Strait islanders reportedly helped police to track the man, calling in with updates as he passed or landed on their islands.

"It's a bit unusual to try and get from Pundsand Bay all the way to PNG. He stuck out like the proverbial," Mr O'Keeffe told the Guardian.

After his arrest, the man was transported by boat to Thursday Island.

He is expected to be extradited from Queensland to Western Australia.

Australian Border Force commander Jo Crooks said the saga should serve as a warning to anyone thinking they could flee from Australia through the Torres Strait.

"Anyone who thinks they can either enter or leave Australia through the region without detection should think again," she said.

An Australian Federal Police spokesperson said the arrest sent a strong message to would-be fugitives.

"Our reach across Australia is second to none and we will use all our contacts and relationships to find you and bring you before a court."

ruby Posted on March 27, 2019 09:19

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Pope's ring-kissing controversy not what it seems

How should you greet a pope? For centuries, it was Catholic tradition to kiss the papal foot. Nowadays, many faithful choose to bow and kiss the papal ring.

Conservative Catholics, who routinely accuse the current Pope of straying from church doctrine and tradition, now suspect that he has an end to ring-kissing in his sights.

They point to video taken on Monday in the Italian town of Loreto, which shows the Pope withdrawing his hand from Catholics trying to kiss his ring.

But the fuller picture is quite different.

The Pope's actions in the video are a short section of a much longer sequence.

Official Vatican TV footage shows that Francis stood in a receiving line for around 13 minutes and received (by my count) at least 113 monks, nuns, and parishioners - either individually or in pairs.

No one appeared to offer any instruction on how to greet him. During the first 10 minutes, 14 people shook Francis's hand without bowing down to kiss his ring.

In this time, 41 people bowed down towards Francis' hands, either making the symbolic gesture of kissing his ring, or actually kissing the ring itself.

The Pope did not protest.

Nine went even further. They bowed and kissed his ring, and then embraced him as well (one particularly devout monk outmatched everyone else by kissing both of the Pope's hands.)

After the first 10 minutes, the Pope's behaviour changed. The greeting line appeared to speed up.

During a 53-second period, Francis snapped his hand away from 19 people trying to bow and kiss his ring. One particularly unfortunate man ended up kissing his own hand after the pope suddenly withdrew from the greeting.

And this is the section which has been widely shared online.

It may be that the Pope was in a hurry to get to the end of the receiving line – and it's notable that, afterwards, he went onto spend more time greeting people, many in wheelchairs, at the front of the church.

Francis may not enjoy his ring being kissed, but it's inaccurate to say that he rejected all those that day who attempted the gesture.

The papal ring, worn on the third finger of the right hand, may be the most powerful symbol of a pontiff's authority.

As soon as a pope dies, the ring is immediately destroyed in order to indicate the end of his reign.

Kissing a papal ring is often freighted with centuries worth of political and religious significance.

ruby Posted on March 26, 2019 17:33

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Airbus secures multi-billion dollar jet order from China

Airbus has secured an order from China for 300 jets, in a deal estimated to be worth tens of billions of dollars.

An agreement to purchase A320 and A350 XWB aircraft was signed during a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Paris.

The order is part of a package of deals signed during Mr Xi's visit to Europe.

It comes as rival Boeing has grounded all of its 737 Max jets after two fatal crashes.

Airbus said in a statement it signed an agreement with China Aviation Supplies Holding Company covering the purchase by Chinese airlines of Airbus aircraft including 290 A320 planes, and ten A350 XWB jets.

The deal is worth an estimated 30bn euros ($34bn; £26bn), according to reports.

"We are honoured to support the growth of China's civil aviation with our leading aircraft families - single-aisle and wide-bodies," Airbus Commercial Aircraft President Guillaume Faury said in a statement.

Mr Faury is due to become Airbus's new chief executive in April.

"Our expanding footprint in China demonstrate our lasting confidence in the Chinese market and our long-term commitment to China and our partners."

The deal will likely be a blow for Boeing, under pressure after two fatal crashes involving its 737 Max 8 jets in five months.

Many countries banned the aircraft from their airspace after an Ethiopian Airlines crash earlier this month. Boeing later grounded its 737 Max fleet as investigations into the cause of the disaster continue.

Mr Xi kicked off his European tour last week in Italy, where it became the first developed economy to sign up to China's global Belt and Road Initiative.

ruby Posted on March 26, 2019 17:28

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Algeria army urges removal of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika

Algeria's army chief of staff has demanded President Abdelaziz Bouteflika be declared unfit to rule after weeks of protests against him.

Speaking on television, Lt Gen Ahmed Gaed Salah said: "We must find a way out of this crisis immediately, within the constitutional framework."

The president has already agreed not to stand for a fifth term in upcoming elections, which have been delayed.

Demonstrators accuse the 82-year-old of a ploy to prolong his 20-year rule.

Talks have been set up to oversee the country's political transition, draft a new constitution and set the date for elections. But they do not yet have a date to start.

Protests against Mr Bouteflika began last month after the president, who has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013, said he planned to stand for another term.

But people have continued to march even after he agreed not to stand, instead demanding immediate change.

Lt Gen Gaed Salah - who is also deputy defence minister and seen as loyal to Mr Bouteflika - has previously said the military and the people had a united vision of the future, hinting at the armed forces' support for the demonstrators.

Lt Gen Gaed Salah said the constitution was "the only guarantee to preserve a stable political situation", and called for the use of Article 102, which allows the Constitutional Council to declare the position of president vacant if the leader is unfit to rule.

"This solution achieves consensus and must be accepted by all," he said to the applause of officers watching the speech.

Under the constitution, the head of the Senate, Abdelkhader Bansallah, would become the acting head of state until an election could be held.

Reports suggest the Constitutional Council is now holding a special meeting after the speech.

The dramatic intervention by the armed forces chief of staff is the latest development after weeks of sustained protest in Algeria.

Earlier this month Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia announced his resignation and was replaced by Interior Minister Noureddine Bedoui.

The announcement by Algeria's army chief is symbolically significant. However, given the reality of President Bouteflika's health status, the constitutional impasse over an extension to his current mandate until elections are held, and the rallying calls by protestors who remain on Algeria's streets, the move is hardly unexpected.

Still, there will be questions over the army's chief's motivations. In recent years, it is the president's circle of political and army loyalists who appear to have spoken on his behalf as his absence peaked due to illness.

Lt Gen Ahmad Gaed Salah is viewed as fiercely loyal to Mr Bouteflika and a central "pillar" to the ruling powers of Algeria - so much so that on the weekend, a privately-owned local newspaper reported that he "must go" along with the president.

The country's Constitutional Council will need to back this latest call, and then ultimately it will be left to the parliament to officially decide the president's political fate.

A veteran of Algeria's war of independence, Mr Bouteflika's upper-class, Westernised style led him to be called "the dandy diplomat" in some quarters.

He came into office, backed by the army, after the 1990s civil war and was largely viewed as a unifier of the many factions underpinning Algerian politics.

Unlike some leaders in the region, his presidency survived the protests of the Arab Spring in 2011 - until now.

He does not travel around the country or abroad, except for medical treatment.

His aides represent him at events and read his messages to the public, and the announcement that he was not standing for a fifth presidential term was read on his behalf by a newsreader on national TV.

ruby Posted on March 26, 2019 17:22

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'My life savings have been wiped out'

"Basically it will mean that my son will not have money for his future".

The depressing reality for Amanda Cunningham, and thousands of others, is that a lifetime of savings have been mostly wiped out, almost overnight.

She is one of 11,605 people who invested a total of £236m with London Capital and Finance PLC (LCF).

It collapsed into administration in January following an investigation by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) into misleading advertising.

"He [her son] suffers with autism, I don't even know if he'll be able to hold down a job. That money was there to give him the life he should have," Amanda says.

"I can't afford to keep him forever and if anything happens to me that money was there for his future".

She had spent decades saving up thousands of pounds.

"That money to me is lost, I can never see me being able to save that amount of money in my lifetime again.

"I won't be able to afford the extra help for my son.

"If anything happens to me and he has to go into assisted living then there's no money for that now."

The FCA, the UK's financial regulator, first raised questions about LCF's advertising, much of it done online and via social media, in December 2018.

LCF was offering rates of around 8% on three year mini-bonds, which are high-risk investments.

But investors say they believed they were putting their money into safe, secure fixed-rate ISAs, so the FCA ordered LCF to withdraw its marketing.

Following further investigation the FCA then froze LCF's assets later that month, then in late January the company collapsed into administration.

Many people who put money in to LCF were first-time investors - inheritance recipients, small business owners or newly retired.

The company's administrators, Smith and Williamson, has now published its proposals about what it thinks is the best way for investors to get as much of their money back as possible.

Finbarr O'Connell, one of the administrators, told BBC Radio 4's Money Box that he hopes to recover about 20% of the £236m that people had invested with the firm. However, he added that it would probably take at least two years before people saw any of that money.

"They [investors] thought this was a safe option, they were comfortable their capital was safe and they thought they would get a good rate of interest so they're completely devastated," he says.

"We have some real, but complex assets, to realise. They could take up to two years to turn into cash.

"The plan is that we continue in hot pursuit of the money and of the assets."

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO), which is also investigating LCF, says it has arrested four people, who have all been released pending further investigation.

The names of the people arrested have not been confirmed yet, which is standard practice for the SFO.

Questions are being asked in Parliament too about what the FCA knew - and when - about possible misleading marketing.

Nicky Morgan MP, chair of Parliament's Treasury Committee, has written to the FCA's chief executive asking what it knew about possible concerns over LCF's advertising and, crucially, when.

Several independent financial advisers have said they warned the FCA, some as far back as 2015, about what they felt were "misleading, inaccurate and not clear" adverts, often promoted on social media.

For its part the FCA has released a statement saying its immediate priority is to "investigate and assist in the recovery of any assets. We will then be looking into this matter carefully and will consider what lessons can be learned".

Andy Thomson, the chief executive of LCF, has not responded to requests for comment.

ruby Posted on March 26, 2019 16:09

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US-Mexico border wall: Pentagon authorises $1bn transfer

The Pentagon has authorised the transfer of $1bn (£758m) to army engineers for new wall construction along the US-Mexico border.

The funds are the first under the national emergency declared by President Donald Trump to bypass Congress and build the barrier he pledged during his election campaign.

Democrats have protested against the move.

The funds will be used to build about 57 miles (91km) of fencing.

President Trump has called the situation at the southern border a "crisis" and insists a physical barrier is needed to stop criminals crossing into the US. His critics say he has manufactured the border emergency.

A Pentagon statement said acting US Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan had "authorised the commander of the US Army Corps of Engineers to begin planning and executing up to $1bn in support to the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Patrol".

The statement cited a federal law that "gives the Department of Defence the authority to construct roads and fences and to install lighting to block drug-smuggling corridors across international boundaries of the United States in support of counter-narcotic activities of federal law enforcement agencies".

As well the 18ft-high (5m) "pedestrian fencing", the funds will cover road improvements and new lights.

Democratic senators complained that the Pentagon had not sought permission from the appropriate committees before notifying Congress of the funds transfer.

ruby Posted on March 26, 2019 08:57

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Thailand election: Rival camps woo allies amid confusion over results

Two rival camps contesting Thailand's first election since the military coup in 2014 have both said they are trying to form a coalition government.

Early results give the pro-military Palang Pracha Rath Party (PPRP) a larger share of the popular vote.

At the same time, the main opposition Pheu Thai party currently has the biggest number of seats in parliament.

But there are growing complaints about irregularities during Sunday's poll and a vote count marred by confusion.

The Electoral Commission (EC) is also facing strong criticism for its decision to delay publishing the full results without providing any explanation.

Thailand's complicated electoral system allocates some parliamentary seats according to the number of votes received.

Critics say electoral law changes introduced by the military in 2017 are primarily designed to keep pro-military forces in power.

On Monday, the EC announced that Pheu Thai party, which is linked to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, had won 138 seats in the 500-strong lower chamber of parliament.

The PPRP, which supports Thailand's current leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha, was in the second place with 96 seats.

Several other parties were getting between 30 and 39 seats each.

But the winners of 150 seats were still unclear, the EC said.

At the same time, the commission earlier said that with more than 90% of ballots counted, the PPRP had gained 7.6m of the popular vote. That is half a million more than Pheu Thai.

Amid confusion over a vote count, the EC was expected to clarify the preliminary results at a news conference on Monday.

But the EC instead again delayed announcing the preliminary figures. It also said there would be no official results until 9 May.

ruby Posted on March 25, 2019 15:35

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British no more: Why some UK citizens face Brexit dilemma

The number of UK citizens acquiring the nationality of another EU country has shot up since the 2016 Brexit referendum.

For many Britons living in Germany, France or Italy, dual nationality solves questions about freedom of movement to work in the EU, pensions and healthcare.

But a handful of EU countries, including Austria, do not generally allow dual citizenship.

That makes things complicated for people like British opera singer Stephen Chaundy, who has lived in Vienna with his family for many years, but often works in theatres and opera houses in Germany.

"Freedom of movement matters to me," he says.

"I know from colleagues and friends how difficult third-country [non-EU] nationals can have it, in terms of complications of sorting out visas and work permits... and I have already had the situation where a theatre in one European country has said they're unwilling to hear me," he adds.

Because of this, Stephen may not be British much longer.

"Depending on what happens, I am seriously considering having to give up being British and asking to become Austrian," he says.

Britons who live and work in Austria will be able to continue to do so after Brexit. But there are no guarantees for people like Stephen who rely on freedom of movement.

Jan Hillerman, the secretary of support group UK Citizens in Austria, says feelings about giving up British nationality in order to obtain an Austrian passport are very mixed.

"Some people have done that. Other people are very hesitant," she says.

"Some people think that this might be an easy way out of the whole Brexit dilemma – but in fact it isn't: it'll be costly and take a lot of time."

Jan says there have been attempts to lobby the Austrian government on the issue of dual nationality for British people after Brexit.

"But I gather that that came to naught and the Austrians have made pretty clear that that's not on the table," she says.

Austria does allow dual citizenship in a few exceptional cases, such as those who survived the Holocaust.

In the event of a disorderly Brexit, the Austrian government has said it will allow dual citizenship for around 25,000 Austrians living in Britain – but not for the 11,000 Britons living in Austria.

In general, the idea of dual nationality is frowned upon here - not least because of tensions with the Turkish minority in Austria.

The far-right Freedom Party - now the junior partner in Austria's coalition government - has been behind an investigation into whether some Turks in Austria have illegally maintained both Turkish and Austrian nationalities.

Political analyst Thomas Hofer says this colours the whole issue of dual nationality.

"There was a heated debate... saying that there are a lot of Turkish people (who are) Austrian citizens living here and voting in Turkey, especially for President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan," he says.

Since then, dual citizenship has become "a touchy issue".

"The government in the last couple of weeks and months did everything to be very harsh and very strict... the government said that it wanted to avoid this kind of double citizenship."

A spokesman for the Austrian government, Peter Launsky, acknowledged that Austria had "a more restrictive approach to dual citizenship".

But he said British citizens were welcome in Austria.

"It is very important to keep stressing that Austria does and will continue to receive British citizens with open arms, irrespective of the outcome of the Brexit process," he said.

"Any of the British citizens in Austria are extremely well qualified and make a very active and positive contribution to the Austrian labour market.

"And we are very appreciative of that fact... everything will be done to ensure as much continuity as possible, irrespective of the question of citizenship."

On stage Stephen Chaundy moves smoothly back and forth between the Viennese and English-speaking repertoire.

His latest role was as a Habsburg aristocrat, Count Tassilo - the lead in the classic Viennese operetta Graefin Mariza, at the Theatre Magdeburg in Germany. He is about to go to the Cologne Opera to play Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady.

But in life it is not so simple.

"Although I've spent over a third of my life in Austria, I am a Londoner, an Englishman, a Brit – but I'm also European and a big, big part of me is, of course, deeply attached to Austria," he said.

"If Austria would permit dual nationality I would have taken it in a heartbeat. They are both parts of who I am. They're both parts of my adult life.

"They're both parts of my identity and it feels terribly unjust and unfair to have to be asked to choose."

ruby Posted on March 25, 2019 11:38

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'Muslims don't date, we marry'

The BBC's weekly The Boss series profiles different business leaders from around the world. This week we speak to Shahzad Younas, founder and chief executive of Muslim dating website and app Muzmatch.

When Shahzad Younas took to the stage he was very nervous.

It was two years ago, and the then 32-year-old British entrepreneur was in San Francisco pitching London-based Muzmatch to a group of high profile potential investors.

He opened his address to the room by saying: "Muslims don't date, we marry."

ruby Posted on March 25, 2019 09:35

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Fake pathologist for Germanwings air crash victims on trial

A man faces four years in a Dutch jail after admitting forging qualifications that allowed him to build a career as a forensic pathologist for years.

Peter B, as he has been identified, examined victims of major disasters like the 2015 Germanwings air crash, which killed all 150 people on board.

The 58-year-old, nicknamed Dr Bones, worked for a specialist firm, the Dutch police and public health bodies.

He was caught after he was unable to take someone's blood pressure in 2016.

Prosecutors described him as a fantasist and are seeking a four-year jail term, with six months suspended.

The man's lawyer said such a sentence was too high, as nobody was hurt by his fraudulent actions.

Dutch media have compared him to Frank Abagnale, a former conman whose story was fictionalised in the film Catch Me If You Can.

The man told the court in Utrecht he had forged his doctorate from the University of Amsterdam and other diplomas and did not know what had compelled him to commit fraud.

A man faces four years in a Dutch jail after admitting forging qualifications that allowed him to build a career as a forensic pathologist for years.

Peter B, as he has been identified, examined victims of major disasters like the 2015 Germanwings air crash, which killed all 150 people on board.

The 58-year-old, nicknamed Dr Bones, worked for a specialist firm, the Dutch police and public health bodies.

He was caught after he was unable to take someone's blood pressure in 2016.

Prosecutors described him as a fantasist and are seeking a four-year jail term, with six months suspended.

The man's lawyer said such a sentence was too high, as nobody was hurt by his fraudulent actions.

Dutch media have compared him to Frank Abagnale, a former conman whose story was fictionalised in the film Catch Me If You Can.

The man told the court in Utrecht he had forged his doctorate from the University of Amsterdam and other diplomas and did not know what had compelled him to commit fraud.

Media captionThe BBC reported on the 2015 Germanwings plane crash in the French Alps

He was hired as a forensic pathologist for Kenyon International Emergency Services, a firm specialising in the repatriation and identification of victims in major disasters, and worked as a guest lecturer for a police academy.

A Dutch woman told the court Peter B had given her a lock of hair from her daughter, who died in the 2015 Germanwings crash in the French Alps.

She cried as she said she now doubted anything she had been told about her 20-year-old daughter's death.

Kenyon International, which worked on that accident, said the fake pathologist had not been to the crash site or directly involved in identifying bodies, the Guardian reported.

The Dutch National Professional Association of Autopsy Assistants, where Peter B became the chair, admitted naivety in hindsight.

"The point is that he really had knowledge of medical matters, he could talk to us about complex illnesses without any problems," a spokesman told the Guardian. "But to be honest, we should have been sharper."

The 58-year-old was trained as an autopsy assistant, someone who assists a pathologist in determining the cause of death.

BBC reported on the 2015 Germanwings plane crash in the French Alps

He was hired as a forensic pathologist for Kenyon International Emergency Services, a firm specialising in the repatriation and identification of victims in major disasters, and worked as a guest lecturer for a police academy.

A Dutch woman told the court Peter B had given her a lock of hair from her daughter, who died in the 2015 Germanwings crash in the French Alps.

She cried as she said she now doubted anything she had been told about her 20-year-old daughter's death.

Kenyon International, which worked on that accident, said the fake pathologist had not been to the crash site or directly involved in identifying bodies, the Guardian reported.

The Dutch National Professional Association of Autopsy Assistants, where Peter B became the chair, admitted naivety in hindsight.

"The point is that he really had knowledge of medical matters, he could talk to us about complex illnesses without any problems," a spokesman told the Guardian. "But to be honest, we should have been sharper."

The 58-year-old was trained as an autopsy assistant, someone who assists a pathologist in determining the cause of death.

ruby Posted on March 21, 2019 15:44

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Dutch populist vote surge costs PM Rutte senate majority

The governing centre-right coalition in the Netherlands has lost its senate majority after a populist party surged in provincial elections.

The anti-immigration Forum for Democracy is set to win most votes and have as many seats in the upper house as Prime Minister Mark Rutte's party.

The election came two days after a suspected terror attack in Utrecht.

Addressing supporters, party leader Thierry Baudet bitterly criticised Mr Rutte's immigration policies.

"Successive Rutte governments have left our borders wide open, letting in hundreds of thousands of people with cultures completely different to ours," he told the cheering crowd.

Mr Baudet, who was criticised for continuing to campaign after Monday's shooting on a tram, said Dutch people were being "destroyed by the people who are supposed to be protecting us".

Analysts say he may team up with the anti-Islam Freedom Party, led by far-right politician Geert Wilders. Mr Wilders has seen his party's seats decline from nine to five.

With about 94% of the vote counted, Forum for Democracy is believed to have won the most votes. Forum for Democracy had no seats in the current 75-seat upper house. It is now set to have 12.

Mr Rutte will now need the support of other parties beyond his own coalition to pass legislation. The 38 seats previously held by his coalition will now fall to 31.

When I first met Thierry Baudet in 2014 he leapt into the passenger seat of my car and pontificated on the state of Dutch politics and why the Netherlands would be better off outside the EU.

Five years on, this self-proclaimed intellectual is considered one of the most influential politicians in the country.

ruby Posted on March 21, 2019 15:40

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Christchurch shootings: Why Turkey's Erdogan uses attack video


Then stills of the manifesto posted by the gunman in New Zealand before his terror attack, highlighting and translating the sections targeting Turkey.

The video streamed live by the attacker comes next, shooting his way into a Christchurch mosque, before blurred images with the sound of automatic gunfire.

And then a cut to Turkey's opposition leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, talking of "terrorism rooted in the Islamic world".

The crowd boos wildly, galvanised by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has now shown the footage during at least eight election rallies.

ruby Posted on March 21, 2019 15:10

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US mum 'abused kids who performed on family YouTube channel'

A US mother whose seven adopted children regularly performed as superheroes on her family's YouTube channel has been charged with child abuse.

Machelle Hackney, from Arizona, and her two adult sons were arrested on Friday by local police.

Ms Hackney has denied abusing her children.

The adoptees regularly appeared on the popular Fantastic Adventures channel, dressed up as superheroes.

The channel has more than 700,000 subscribers and, in total, a quarter of a billion views.

With new videos uploaded about once a week, the Fantastic Adventures featured the children in fantastical situations, with animated effects representing their various superpowers.

The children, aged about six to 15 according to The Washington Post, have now been removed from Ms Hackney's care.

Police accuse Ms Hackney of starving, pepper-spraying, beating and isolating the children.

Authorities also allege that they were forced to take ice baths and at least one of the boys experienced physical abuse to his genitals.

One child was allegedly found in a cupboard when police arrived.

"Officers came in contact with the six other children, who appeared to be malnourished, due to their pale complexion, dark rings under their eyes, underweight, and they stated they were thirsty and hungry," police documents said.

Ms Hackney has been charged with seven counts of child abuse, five of unlawful imprisonment and two of child molestation, which she denies.

ruby Posted on March 21, 2019 12:24

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Patrick Shanahan: Pentagon chief's ties to Boeing investigated

The Pentagon has launched an inquiry into acting US Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan for alleged favouritism to his ex-employer, Boeing.

The Defence Department's inspector general will look into the matter following a complaint from a watchdog group.

Mr Shanahan is accused of frequently praising Boeing in meetings about government contracts and acquisitions.

Mr Shanahan, who denies any wrongdoing, spent 30 years at Boeing.

He rose through the ranks to become a senior executive at the world's biggest planemaker.

Last week Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a complaint with the Pentagon inspector general about Mr Shanahan.

The complaint said he had appeared to violate ethical rules by "promoting Boeing in the scope of his official duties... and disparaging the company's competitors to his subordinates".

Dwrena Allen, a spokeswoman for the inspector general, said in a statement on Wednesday: "The Department of Defense Office of Inspector General has decided to investigate complaints we recently received that Acting Secretary Patrick Shanahan allegedly took actions to promote his former employer, Boeing, and disparage its competitors."

Mr Shanahan said last week during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that he would support an investigation by the inspector general.

Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, a member of the panel, said she had led calls for the inquiry.

She tweeted on Wednesday: "Government officials should work for the people - not big defence contractors."

The inquiry casts a shadow over Mr Shanahan as the White House considers whether to formally nominate him to fill the defence secretary post left vacant by Jim Mattis, who stepped down in December.

Boeing is already under pressure after the deadly crash of one of its 737 Max 8 passenger jets in Ethiopia last week.

The FBI is reported to be assisting the investigation into safety issues surrounding the Boeing airliner.

Another of the passenger planes crashed in Indonesia last October, also killing everyone on board.

According to the Seattle Times, the FBI is investigating the process that led to the aircraft getting its safety certification.

The US Department of Justice has refused to comment on claims that it has been looking at the Federal Aviation Administration's oversight of Boeing.


ruby Posted on March 21, 2019 12:02

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Trump: I didn't get a thank you for McCain funeral

US President Donald Trump has attacked the late Senator John McCain, complaining that he "didn't get a thank you" for his state funeral.

"We sent him on the way, but I wasn't a fan of John McCain," the president said during a visit to an Ohio tank factory.

Mr Trump has repeatedly assailed the late Arizona senator in recent days, reigniting a feud that dates back to before his presidency.

The Vietnam War veteran died of brain cancer last August at the age of 81.

During his visit on Wednesday to the tank factory in Lima, Ohio, the president renewed his assault on McCain.

ruby Posted on March 21, 2019 11:59

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Slower US growth means no rate rise for 2019, says Fed

The US Federal Reserve does not expect to raise interest rates for the rest of 2019 amid slower economic growth.

After a two-day meeting, monetary policymakers voted unanimously to keep the US interest rate range between 2.25%-2.5%.

Fed members changed their outlook for 2019 from the two increases predicted in December to no movement.

The central bank warned that "growth of economic activity has slowed from its solid rate in the fourth quarter".

It said: "Recent indicators point to slower growth of household spending and business fixed investment in the first quarter."

Joe Manimbo, senior market analyst at Western Union Business Solutions, said: "The Fed did a big about-face on policy.

"The fact that the Fed threw in the towel on a 2019 rate hike was particularly dovish."

Fed chairman Jerome Powell maintained his stance that the central bank would continue to be "patient", telling a press conference: "It may be some time before the outlook for jobs and inflation calls clearly for a change in policy."

ruby Posted on March 21, 2019 10:28

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Giant sunfish washes up on beach in South Australia

Pictures of a giant, odd-looking fish have gone viral after it washed up on a beach in South Australia.

Identified as an ocean sunfish by experts, the 1.8m (6ft)-long specimen was first spotted by a group of fishermen driving along the sand.

At first, they mistook it for a large piece of driftwood, said Linette Grzelak who posted pictures of her partner's find on Facebook.

"I didn't think it was real until I Googled sunfish," she told the BBC.

Her partner, Steven Jones has worked as a fisherman for years so "he knew what it was but had never seen one in real life", she said.

"Hence why they took the photos. He said it was extremely heavy and the skin was rough and leathery like a rhinoceros."

The fish was found at Coorong National Park, 80km (50 miles) south of the city of Adelaide. It's believed to have later washed back into the ocean, Ms Grzelak said.

Ocean sunfish, or Mola mola, are the world's heaviest bony fish species and can be found in temperate marine waters globally, according to the Fishes of Australia database.

Their features include a large, blunt head, a disproportionately small mouth, and long dorsal and anal fins.

One expert said the found fish appeared to be a smaller example of its species, which can grow over 4m (13ft) tall and weigh more than 2.5 tonnes (2,500kg).

"It's probably an average-sized one, they can get nearly twice as big as that," Ralph Foster from the South Australian Museum told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

The species are harmless to people, but are sometimes mistaken for sharks when they swim inshore, says the Australian Museum.

In Australia, they have been known to cause damage to boats due to their size.

Last year, a vessel in the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race had to retire from the race after hitting a sunfish and breaking its rudder.

Earlier this month, a rare hoodwinker sunfish washed up on a beach in California. It baffled scientists who questioned how the southern hemisphere species had travelled so far from its home waters.

ruby Posted on March 21, 2019 10:02

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David Malpass: Who is Trump's pick for World Bank president?

US President Donald Trump has nominated David Malpass as his pick for the next World Bank president.

So who is David Malpass, and what opinions does he hold?

Mr Malpass, a Trump loyalist, was a senior economic adviser to the US president during his 2016 election campaign.

The 62-year-old has criticised the World Bank in the past, along with other institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, for being "intrusive" and "entrenched".

After senior roles in the US Treasury during the Reagan and George HW Bush administrations, Mr Malpass became chief economist at Bear Stearns bank. He was there for 15 years before the bank's near collapse in the 2008 banking crisis.

Bear Stearns narrowly avoided insolvency in March of that year after hedge funds got spooked by the investment bank's exposure to subprime mortgages. It was bought by rival JP Morgan for a fraction of its former value, with the backing of the US Federal Reserve.

ruby Posted on March 21, 2019 09:10

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Mike Thalassitis death: Love Island stars to be offered therapy

Love Island stars will in future be offered therapy, social media training and financial advice, ITV has said after the death of an ex-contestant.

Mike Thalassitis, who was on the show in 2017, was found dead in a north London park on Saturday. Police are not treating the incident as suspicious.

His death sparked calls for better aftercare for people on reality shows.

In a letter to The Sun, ITV Studios said the show's medical support is being independently reviewed.

And rather than waiting for contestants to ask for help, Love Island will "proactively" check up on them after they have left the show.

Last year, another former contestant of Love Island, Sophie Gradon, died aged 32. An inquest into her death was recently postponed.

Meanwhile, a government minister has told the BBC that the public has "started to enjoy reality TV a bit too much" and needs to take a "step back".

The ITV letter - published in full in The Sun - was written by Richard Cowles, the creative director of ITV Studios, which makes Love Island.

He said: "When something so awful happens we naturally enter a period of soul-searching and ask whether anything could have been done to help avoid something so terrible happening."

Mr Cowles outlined the support currently on offer, which includes every contestant debriefing with a medical team - including a psychological consultant - after they leave the show.

He said that six months ago, the programme asked Dr Paul Litchfield - a wellbeing expert and former adviser to the government - to carry out a review into Love Island's medical processes.

"This review has led us to extend our support processes to offer therapy to all Islanders and not only those that reach out to us," said Mr Cowles.

"And we will be delivering bespoke training to all future Islanders to include social media and financial management.

"The key focus will be for us to no longer be reliant on the Islanders asking us for support but for us to proactively check in with them on a regular basis."

ruby Posted on March 20, 2019 09:39

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Brexit deadlock shows 'democracy all but dead' - Donald Trump Jr

The current deadlock over Brexit and possible delay to the UK's planned leaving date of 29 March suggests democracy in the UK is "all but dead", Donald Trump Jr has claimed.

Mr Trump Jr, who is the US president's son but holds no political position, wrote a column in the Daily Telegraph.

In it, he criticises PM Theresa May for having "ignored advice from my father".

Mr Trump Jr added that "the will of the people is likely to be ignored" because of "elite" politicians in Brussels.

The US businessman's intervention in UK politics comes with nine days to go until the UK's scheduled departure from the EU.

In an interview with Sky News, US National Security Adviser John Bolton said US President Donald Trump wanted a resolution that allowed the US and Britain "to come to trade deals again".

He added: "He sees huge opportunity if Britain's status can be resolved."

Ms May is writing to the EU to formally ask for Brexit to be postponed, and Downing Street has confirmed the prime minister will not be asking for a long delay.

Any delay will then have to be agreed by all 27 EU member states and Mrs May is heading to Brussels on Thursday to discuss the matter with fellow leaders.

However, 29 March remains the date the UK leaves the EU unless an extension is agreed before then.

In his editorial piece, Mr Trump Jr - who played a prominent role in his father's election campaign, said: "Mrs May ignored advice from my father, and ultimately, a process that should have taken only a few short months has become a years-long stalemate, leaving the British people in limbo."

In an interview in July last year, President Trump claimed that Mrs May had ignored his advice by opting for a softer Brexit strategy.

And again last week, President Trump - who is a supporter of Brexit - told reporters that he gave Mrs May "my ideas on how to negotiate it... and I think [it] would have been successful".

He added: "She didn't listen to that, and that's fine. I think it could have been negotiated in a different manner, frankly."

Trump: "I'm surprised at how badly Brexit negotiations have all gone"

Mr Trump Jr, who is executive vice-president of the Trump Organisation, added: "Now, the clock has virtually run out and almost all is lost - exactly as the European elites were hoping.

"Some pro-Brexit politicians even suggest that Mrs May is trying to sabotage Brexit, by insisting that Parliament agree to a deal that essentially keeps Britain bound to the EU indefinitely.

"With the deadline fast approaching, it appears that democracy in the UK is all but dead."

ruby Posted on March 20, 2019 09:35

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How prevalent is far-right extremism?

The shootings at two mosques in New Zealand, which left 50 people dead and dozens wounded, have led to renewed questions about the extent of far-right extremism.

The British security minister has said it is "perfectly possible" a far-right attack could happen in the UK and has raised concerns about the radicalisation of individuals online.

So, how widespread is this form of violent extremism?

Before the latest attack, both New Zealand and Australia said their main security risk was from Islamist terrorism.

And New Zealand's Security Intelligence Service's most recent annual report makes no reference to far-right extremism.

A report in 2017 by Australia's Security Intelligence Organisation says that although the country "experiences low levels of communal violence", one person was charged with far-right terrorism in 2016.

The report did not dismiss the possibility of attacks but stated that any attacks by far-right extremists would "probably target the Muslim or left-wing community, be low-capability, and be more likely to be perpetrated by a lone actor or small group on the periphery of organised groups".

Europol, the European Union's law enforcement agency, recorded five right-wing terror plots in 2017, all of which were in the UK.

This was out of a total of 205 potential or successful attacks recorded by European intelligence agencies, with 137 "separatist", 24 "left-wing" and 33 "jihadist" plots among them.

In 2017, a total of 1,219 terror suspects were arrested. Of these, 20 were classified as far-right extremists (705 were "jihadists").

The Global Terrorism Index, an annual report compiled from an open-source database at the University of Maryland, also monitors incidents relating to the far-right in Western Europe.

Its number of right-wing terror "incidents" is higher than the official figures from intelligence agencies, which it says is down to differing interpretations between countries as to what constitutes a terror incident.

Across Western Europe, the database shows 28 right-wing terror incidents in 2017 compared with just one in 2007.

Sara Khan, the UK's anti-terror commissioner, told the Observer that UK-based far-right activists were "organised, professional and actively attempting to recruit", although the numbers being monitored were not released.

The intelligence agencies have revealed, however, that of the 18 attacks foiled in the UK since March 2017, four came from the extreme right wing.

And referrals to the government's anti-extremism programme, Prevent, from this group have increased in recent years.

In 2017-18, there were 7,318 referrals across the country, 1,312 of which related to the extreme right.

The number actually going on to receive so-called "Channel" support has increased as well.

Since 2012-13, the number of extreme right wing individuals receiving support has almost tripled, while the number of Islamist extremists has increased by 80%.

In Germany, "politically motivated" crimes are recorded by the government

In 2017, 39,505 such offences were recorded, of which half were attributed to people with right-wing ideologies, including 1,130 acts of violence (although more acts of violence were attributed to the far left).

Right-wing individuals also committed 300 attacks on asylum centres in 2017, although this was a two-thirds decrease from the previous year.

In the Netherlands, the Ministry of the Interior

ruby Posted on March 20, 2019 08:58

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Boeing: US orders review of 737 Max licence to fly

The US government has ordered a review of the way Boeing's 737 Max aircraft got its licence to fly.

It comes after two crashes in five months, amid suggestions from experts that there were "clear similarities" between the disasters.

Transport secretary Elaine Chao has asked the US inspector general to audit the aircraft's certification process.

One focus of crash investigators has been the Max's anti-stall system, which Boeing says needs a software update.

In a memo to inspector general Calvin Scovel, Ms Chao said she wanted the review in order to "assist the Federal Aviation Administration [the regulator] in ensuring that its safety procedures are implemented effectively".

After the crash of the Ethiopian Airlines aircraft last week - which followed a Lion Air disaster in October - there were questions about why the FAA took so long to ground the 737 Max.

Reuters has reported that the US Justice Department has also begun preliminary inquiries into the FAA's oversight of the Boeing aircraft.

Meanwhile, Europe and Canada said they would seek their own assurances over the safety of the aircraft, a move likely to complicate plans to get the aircraft flying again across the world.

European and Canadian regulators have typically tended to follow the FAA's lead.

The European Union's aviation safety agency EASA promised its own deep look at any design improvements.

"We will not allow the aircraft to fly if we have not found acceptable answers to all our questions," EASA executive Patrick Ky told an EU parliament committee hearing.