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the cost of bridge between two nations

Swedes call it Öresundsbron. Danes use the spelling Øresundsbroen. Around the world many know it simply as The Bridge, the name of the multi award-winning Nordic Noir drama screened in more than 100 countries that uses the connection as its brooding backdrop.

It is huge. With a mass of 82,000 tonnes, held up by two 204m-long metal pylons and stretching for 16km, including its underground tunnel section, it is one of the longest bridges in Europe. It connects Sweden’s third largest city, Malmö with Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen, scrapping the need to take a lengthy ferry or flight across the Oresund strait.

Pontus T. Pagler, a 31-year-old actor from a rural town north of Malmö who appeared in Season Four of The Bridge, recalls how tricky it was to make the journey before it was built. “We travelled to Malmö, but not to Denmark as you do was too far and too long of a ride,” he remembers.

As a teenager raised in the 1990s, he was aware that investment in infrastructure was more focused around the larger Swedish cities of Stockholm and Gothenburg. “Growing up, I think we felt neglected in a certain way. It’s just a feeling you had.”

But the opening of the Oresund bridge in 2000 represented a major economic shift, dramatically improving cross-border access and cutting journey times. Instead of queuing for weather-dependent ferries that took around an hour, passengers could drive over the bridge in just 10 minutes or travel between central Malmö and central Copenhagen in just 34 minutes by train. The landmark quickly became one of the best-known symbols of European cross-border collaboration.

“It’s really fast, and you can go there and back in the same day. That’s the biggest impact, I think. And if you want to stay there a weekend or something it’s very, very easy,” says Pagler.


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The body count

In 2017 a record average of 20,361 vehicles passed over the bridge each day and approximately 14,000 commuters took the train, despite temporary identity checks lengthening journey times during the first half of the year. Prior to the bridge opening, around 6,000 people a day commuted by ferry.

“I think my career would have been much slower if we didn’t have the bridge,” says 43-year-old Nichole Friberg, a managing director for an IT company who lives in Malmö but has been working in Copenhagen for 12 years.

“It’s more dynamic and all the companies I have joined have been quite international, and that is quite important to me since I am multicultural myself - half Peruvian, half Swedish,” she explains. “You have the opportunity to spend your day in a larger city that is a little bit more chaotic than Malmö. Then you get to come home to a little bit of peace and quiet.”

While the vast majority of commuters come from Sweden, the bridge also makes it easier for Danish residents to network with their Swedish counterparts.

In Malmö city centre, Neil Murray, 34, who lives in Copenhagen and invests in start-ups across the Nordics, is grabbing a latte in between meetings on both sides of the Oresund strait.

“I can’t really think of any other place in the world where two strong tech ecosystems exist within half an hour of each other, so for me I see it as a competitive advantage that I can see start-ups in two different countries, because of a bridge,” he says.


Keeping up with the pace

Nichole Friberg, a managing director for an IT company lives in Malmö but works in Copenhagen - she feels her "career would have been much slower" without the bridge.(Credit: Jan Søndergaard)

Worth the wait?

But while the bridge has clearly transformed transport in the area, the project was a long time coming and has faced numerous challenges.

Engineers had been putting forward proposals for a bridge or a tunnel to the Swedish and Danish governments since 1936. They finally signed an agreement to build a bridge between Malmö and Copenhagen in 1991. Sweden’s goal of boosting cooperation with the rest of Europe (it joined the European Union in 1995) was a key catalyst, alongside Denmark’s desire to increase air traffic from Copenhagen’s Kastrup airport.

Both nations supported a stronger regional identity for the Oresund area (home to more than 3.5 million people at that time) by encouraging closer ties between businesses and educational institutions. Locally, there was an urgent need for Malmö to evolve following the collapse of traditional industries such as textiles and shipbuilding.

“Malmö was regarded as a very dull and grey city and there were lots of pessimistic views among politicians, the business community and also among ordinary people,” remembers Christer Persson, who was director of strategic development in the city between 1989 and 2003 and is currently writing a book about the impact of the Oresund bridge.

“The government made an investigation and they came to the conclusion that ‘this is the time to build a bridge’, because that could make a change,” he explains from a student lounge at Malmö university, where he is a guest lecturer.

“They hoped to accelerate the transformation process of the city, from being a traditional old industrial town to a modern city with small and medium-sized companies in the new modern branches like IT, design, biotechnology for example.”

Two strong tech ecosystems within 30 minutes of each other

Neil Murray, lives in Copenhagen and invests in start-ups across the Nordics. He regularly travels to both sides of the Oresund strait and sees 'a competitive advantage' in accessing two zones for start-ups in two different countries. (Credit: Jan Søndergaard)


‘A fantastic adventure’

These were ambitious goals that came with a price tag. The cost of building the bridge and related essential infrastructure like roads and stations was 30bn Danish krone ($4.3bn; £3bn).

But both governments sought to secure public engagement by minimising the impact for taxpayers. The main bridge structure was paid for by loans shared between the Swedish and Danish states, to be paid back over 30 years using toll fees.

For Kim Smedegaard Andersson, a Danish engineer fresh out of university who was hired by an engineering firm working on the assignment, the excitement was palpable. “It was a fantastic adventure to go into a project like this,” he says.


People crossing the Oresund Fixed Link Bridge at the opening in 2000.

But he also remembers his whole team feeling the weight of responsibility. They had to overcome logistical issues like making sure the bridge wasn’t too high to pose a threat to landing planes or too low, which could have blocked shipping.

“No-one had constructed a project like this before, in such close proximity to an airport and a busy navigation channel, and in-between two Scandinavian countries.”

There were unexpected setbacks too, including the discovery of 16 unexploded World War Two bombs and two unusually icy winters which made it difficult to transport materials.

Sustainability was also controversial: green campaigners protested and Sweden’s Environment Minister Olof Johansson resigned because of his concerns.

“The whole ecobalance in the Baltics was debated,” remembers Smedegaard Andersson. “There were challenges to solve every day.”

Detailed efforts were made to satisfy critics, including a campaign to encourage travellers to use the train rather than their cars. Motorway lights were positioned to avoid disturbing eels and pylon lighting switched off in fog to limit bird collisions.

The construction ended up being completed with stereotypical Scandinavian efficiency in just five years, several months ahead of schedule.

There were celebratory activities such as special runs and cycle rides for members of the public and an inauguration ceremony attended by the Swedish and Danish royal families.

Smedegaard Andersson recalls being asked to provide commentary for Danish television network TV2. “I was speaking when the first cars and motorcyclists were using the link. That was an amazing experience,” he smiles.

No overnight success

To encourage more traffic the cost of a single car trip, originally priced at 255 Swedish kronor was temporarily cut by almost half to 140 kronor to encourage more people to try the journey. 

Not enough traffic

Early on, Christer Persson remembers, there were concerns that “there just wasn’t enough traffic” and that this could hamper debt repayment by the two governments.

During the autumn of 2000 there was a daily flow of between 7,000 and 10,000 vehicles compared to a peak of around 14,000 during the summer holiday season.

“Some of us said: ‘If you are investing in such a large project that is going to stand for like 100 years, do you really have to have a payback time of 30 years?’ Because if you choose to have a longer payback time, you can of course lower the prices,” he says.

The bridge has a mass of 82,000 tonnes, is held up by two 204m-long metal pylons and stretches for 19 miles, including its underground tunnel section .

Later that year the cost of a single car trip, then priced at 255 Swedish kronor (around £17 at the time) was temporarily cut by almost half to 140 kronor to encourage more people to try the journey.

Prices rose again as public interest increased. The current cost of a single trip is 515 kronor per car (£45.78; $56.88) although there are major discounts for frequent travellers and advance online purchase. Earlier this year Oresundsbro Konsortiet, the Danish-Swedish organisation that owns and runs the bridge, predicted that all debts would be to be repaid by 2033, four years ahead of earlier estimates. Train prices today start from 111 kronor (£9.60; $12.28).

Border scuffles

By far the biggest challenge since the bridge opened has been the Swedish government’s temporary reintroduction of photo identity checks for travellers between January 2016 and May 2017, as Sweden sought to limit the flow of asylum seekers. More than 163,000 asylum seekers arrived in Sweden in 2015, falling to 29,000 in 2016.

The additional controls increased journey times by around 30 minutes and led to service cuts. The number of rail passengers dropped by 13% in 2016, according to Danish train operating company DSB.

Sweden’s transport authority Länsstyrelsen released a survey suggesting two out of three Swedish commuters were experiencing higher levels of stress and had considered either changing jobs or moving to Denmark.

“It was impossible not knowing what time you were going to get to work or what time you were going to get back from work,” laments Nichole Friberg.

She initiated sharing a minibus with colleagues so they could drive to work in Copenhagen instead of going by train, a system which they still use despite the abolition of the ID checks in May 2017.

But the latest ticket sales statistics from Swedish regional rail company Skånetraffiken suggest that most passengers who sought alternative transport have now returned to the tracks. By October 2018, the number of rail commuters had rebounded to 2015 levels.

A transformational build

Kim Smedegaard Andersson was a Danish engineer fresh out of university when he was hired by an engineering firm to work on the bridge, he says there was a lot of excitment and a buzz around the project (Credit: Jan Søndergaard)


Swede success?

Economic geographer Magnus Andersson says the impressive commuting figures are largely a result of Swedes helping to “plug gaps in the Danish service sector” as well as professional roles in niche industries.

He says there are two other key indicators that highlight the huge economic impact of the bridge.

Firstly, more than 60 companies from a wide range of industries have moved their Nordic headquarters or specialist offices to Malmö since 2000, helping to fulfil the city transformationgoals that Swedish government set in the 1990s.

It was impossible not knowing what time you were going to get to work or what time you were going to get back from work - Friberg

Secondly, he says that the bridge has “improved individual livelihoods” by offering locals subtle changes. Danes can access more affordable housing in southern Sweden, cheaper shopping due to currency differences and can enjoy southern Sweden’s coastline and forests.

Swedes have the chance to experience the food and design industries that the Danish capital is globally famous for and make the most of Copenhagen’s large international airport, Kastrup.

“Malmö is not only linking up to Copenhagen, but it also links (Sweden) to a global network of cities. When I think about the future for Malmö, that link is of utmost importance,” Andersson says.

Tourism groups now use the slogan ‘one trip – two countries’ indicating The Bridge series has had an impact .

Nordic Noir tourism

From a global perspective, both the bridge and the airport have been instrumental in foreign visitors to the region too. In Copenhagen there were around 3.6m overnight stays from international visitors in 2000, the year the bridge was completed, rising to 7m 2017, according to figures shared by Oresundsinstitutet, a Danish-Swedish regional research hub. Malmö has also experienced a boost, especially in more recent years. There were 480,000 overnight visits from foreigners in 2008, increasing to 820,000 in 2017.

It’s weird when people exotify your own culture or your own environment - Pagler

Jonas Løvschall-Wedel, a spokesperson for the Danish capital’s official tourist board, Wonderful Copenhagen, says it is hard to quantify how much of this tourism is connected to the popularity of The Bridge television series. However the emergence of Nordic Noir day tours and the fact that Wonderful Copenhagen now uses the slogan ‘one trip – two countries’ in its branding are clear signs that it has had an impact.

“It’s weird when people exotify your own culture or your own environment,” laughs The Bridge actor Pontus T. Pagler, who says he was shocked to meet fans from as far away as Australia at the Scandinavian premiere of the fourth season.

“But I think it’s cool...The southern part of Sweden has gotten a boost now, which we haven’t had before.”

The Oresund bridge has also offered inspiration for similar engineering projects in South Korea and China as well as plans for the so-called Femern tunnel, designed to connect the Danish island of Lolland with the German island of Fehmarn by 2028, pending German approval.

Kim Smedegaard Andersson, no longer a fresh-faced engineer, is deputy technical director for the tunnel, and is one of several senior managers who previously worked on the Oresund link or the Great Belt Bridge that connects the Danish islands of Zealand and Funen.

“We know what it takes to get approval, because we have learnt the lessons from the Great Belt and the Oresund project,” he says. “We have a good understanding of what happens with the environment and we have utilised that in the development of our project.”

The Turning Torso tower is a 54-floor residential block that over looks the bridge it was built to symbolise Malmo's new thriving economy.

Identity crisis

But despite its inspirational economic success, many observers agree that the Oresund bridge has had a much more limited impact in terms of forging a new regional identity.

Christer Persson argues that it was a case of “too much, too soon” when it came to initiating cross-border projects between companies and institutions after the bridge opened, many of which “faded out” after a couple of years.

These included plans for closer links between Malmö and Copenhagen universities, allowing students to study on both sides of the strait.

“The expectations were very big, but it was difficult to fulfil them,” he says, citing differences between the education systems alongside the rapid pace of globalisation.

“It became less interesting for many to collaborate across the border instead of with actors in other parts of the world.”

More recent initiatives have involved controversial efforts to rebrand the whole Oresund region as Greater Copenhagen, which marketeers have argued is an easier identity for international visitors to grasp.

But Magnus Andersson says it’s been challenging to get residents to think beyond their existing labels.

“Copenhagen people are very proud of being Danish and living in a capital, and on the Swedish side people have quite a strong regional identity, so merging these two identities has not proven to be easy.”

That said, he believes you’d struggle to find anyone in the region who doesn’t feel closer to their Scandinavian neighbours than they did before the bridge was built.

“In senior high school some of my friends were actually demonstrating against the bridge and today we are making fun of them… We laugh because today we cannot imagine life without the bridge”.

ruby Posted on December 10, 2018 14:11

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ten films to watch in december

Oscars ahoy! Ben is Back was written and directed by Peter Hedges (Oscar-nominated for his About a Boy screenplay), and it co-stars his own son, Lucas Hedges (Oscar-nominated for his supporting role in Manchester by the Sea). But the person who’s most likely to win awards for this powerful indie drama is Julia Roberts: audiences at the Toronto Film Festival were applauding her intense performance well before the end credits rolled. Roberts plays a suburban mother of four whose 19-year-old son sneaks out of rehab and returns to the family home for Christmas. Not everyone is pleased to see him. His relatives doubt that he’ll stay clean while he’s in town, and the local drug dealers have scores to settle. According to Variety’s reviewer, “the entire film is that rarest of gifts for its cast, providing virtually every character with a chance to play not only the present moment, but the complicated history they’ve established with Ben in the past, as well as whatever chance they see in the troubled young man’s future”.

If your favourite bits of the Mission: Impossible films are when Tom Cruise is dangling one-handed from somewhere high, then don’t miss Free Solo, a nerve-racking documentary that follows Alex Honnold, a Californian rock climber, as he trains to be the first ever person to scale the El Capitan Wall in Yosemite – “3200 feet of sheer granite” – with no ropes or harnesses. The film won three prizes in the Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards, including one for its cinematography, and you can see why: Jimmy Chin, who co-directs with his wife E Chai Vasarhelyi, had to wield a camera while climbing El Capital himself – although he had the benefit of safety gear. Side note: as James Berardinelli notes in his review, Captain Kirk attempted the same insanely difficult feat in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. He failed.

Alfonso Cuarón, the virtuoso director of Children of Men and Gravity, gets back to his roots with Roma, a sensitive semi-autobiographical tribute to the maid who helped raise him. Set in Mexico City in the early 1970s, the drama is shot in lustrous black-and-white, using Cuarón’s signature long takes and recreating the period in loving detail. No wonder if it has received such sky-high acclaim at festivals. In her five-star review for BBC Culture, Caryn James called Roma “simply the most exquisite and artistic film of the year”. As for Cuarón, “he has taken his own memories, turned them into a dazzling fiction, and handed them to viewers like a gift”.

Adam McKay made his name as a director of knockabout comedies (Anchorman, Step Brothers), but he switched to political comedy docudramas for 2015’s The Big Short, and his new film is in the same postmodern, satirical vein. Vice is a biopic of Dick Cheney, the US Vice President who is believed to have done much of George W Bush’s work for him, and who spoke out in favour of waterboarding and other forms of “enhanced interrogation”. Christian Bale piled on more than three stone to play the lead role, and spent four hours in the make-up chair every morning, so don’t be surprised if his commitment earns him a fourth Oscar nomination. But in a stellar cast that includes Amy Adams as Lynne Cheney and Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld, it could well be Sam Rockwell’s mischievous impersonation of “Dubya” that steals the show.

Jean-Luc Godard directed three of BBC Culture’s 100 greatest foreign-language films. All three of them were released in the 1960s, but Godard, who turns 88 on 3 December, hasn’t been resting on his laurels since the glory days of the French New Wave. His challenging new film, The Image Book, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May, where it won the first ever ‘Special Palme d’Or’ – which is not to say that everyone knew what to make of it. A kaleidoscopic mash-up of clips from news reports and classic movies (including the director’s own), the film is a comment on cinema’s failure to process the horrors of the last century – maybe. Whatever it means, writes Bilge Ebiri in The Village Voice, “you can lose yourself in the dexterity and texture of Godard’s editing, in the way he matches compositions, gestures, subject matter”.

Over half a century after the release of Mary Poppins, PL Travers’ magical nanny is floating down to 17 Cherry Tree Lane once more. Julie Andrews has passed her carpetbag and parrot-headed umbrella to Emily Blunt, and Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer co-star as Michael and Jane, the grown-up versions of the children Mary looked after last time. Given that the original film was practically perfect in every way, its sequel’s director, Rob Marshall (Chicago), has a near-impossible task. But at least Dick Van Dyke – now 92 – makes an appearance. Will his cockney accent have improved? And will Andrews herself join him?

Which actor will be remembered as the 21st Century’s definitive Sherlock Holmes? Benedict Cumberbatch, Robert Downey Jr, Jonny Lee Miller or... errrr... Will Ferrell? Yes, Ferrell puts on a silly English accent for a spoof written and directed by Etan Cohen (definitely not to be confused with Ethan Coen), the maker of Get Hard. With just four days to foil a plot to murder Queen Victoria, the world’s greatest detective is aided by John C Reilly’s Dr Watson. If the trailer is anything to go by, the humour could be, well, elementary, but fans of Step Brothers and Talladega Nights will be pleased to see Ferrell and Reilly bumbling around together again. And the British supporting actors – Ralph Fiennes, Hugh Laurie, Rebecca Hall, Kelly Macdonald, Steve Coogan – deserve to be in a serious Holmes adaptation all of their own.

Released 21 December in the US, 26 December in the UK and Australia, 28 December in Bulgaria, Estonia and Lithuania

ruby Posted on December 10, 2018 14:00

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what is our science fiction says about us

The sun has cooled down and Earth has become uninhabitable. Only one solution remains for humanity: flee beyond the solar system. This is the premise for The Wandering Earth, and the movie could easily be a Hollywood blockbuster. The trailer even has Inception-esque foghorns. Yet this isn’t a US movie with an all-white cast, it’s the Chinese adaptation of a science fiction book of the same name by star writer Cixin Liu. It’s the Chinese who are saving humanity here, not the Americans.Well-known artistic depictions of the future have traditionally been regarded as the preserve of the West, and have shown a marked lack of diversity. Yet new regions and authors are depicting the future from their perspectives. Chinese science fiction has boomed in recent years, with stand-out books like Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem. And Afrofuturism is on the rise since the release of the blockbuster Black Panther. Around the world, science fiction is blossoming.

Black Panther was the first Marvel film with a predominantly black cast.

“Science fiction is now a global phenomenon,” says Mingwei Song, Associate Professor at Wellesley College, specialising in Chinese sci-fi and literature. “This has been one of the most remarkable developments of the genre because it transcends this Western and particularly Anglo-American domination of the genre.”

And the new movement is wide-ranging, including everything from Russian science fiction – with a history reaching back into the 19th Century – to Afrofuturism, a movement rooted in experiences of black oppression. It covers Chinese books dealing with revolutionary history and aliens, to futurist Mexican movies about migration and free trade.

“Right now the most interesting science fiction is produced in all sorts of non-traditional places,” says Anindita Banerjee, Associate Professor at Cornell University, whose research focuses on global sci-fi. “But this phenomenon, which is now making its voice heard from areas like China or Africa, also has a much longer history that precedes today’s boom.”

Subversive fiction

Currently, Chinese science fiction is becoming increasingly popular in the West, thanks to English translations of writers like Cixin Liu and Hao Jingfang. Nevertheless, there was a long history of sci-fi preceding them.


Cixin Liu became the first Asian writer to win the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2015, for his 2007 novel The Three-Body Problem (Credit: Alamy)


The genre went through three waves in the country: one after the fall of Imperial China in 1902; one after the Chinese revolution in 1949; and the current ‘new wave’ which started in the 1990s, when the country pushed forward in its rapid pattern of development. “In the 1990s a new generation of writers began to emerge, and among this generation, Liu Cixin is the most important author,” says Mingwei.

First released in 2006, Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem is credited with pushing Chinese science fiction into the mainstream. In 2014 it was translated into English and a year later it won a Hugo Award, the Oscars of science fiction. The story deals with an astrophysicist who gets involved with secret government research during the Cultural Revolution, inadvertently inviting aliens to earth.

Due to be released in February 2019, The Wandering Earth follows astronauts looking for a new planet for humans after scientists discover the sun is going to incinerate Earth.

Chinese science fiction is seen as a reflection on the narrative of a rising and rapidly modernising China, which is also becoming increasingly prevalent in the West. But the genre also deals with repression of free speech, often showing dark, unseen sides of reality. In the case of Cixin Liu, this often means parallel realities and challenging physics. But, in turn, the book Folding Beijing by Hao Jingfang shows a tightly hierarchical future Beijing in which the Earth spins around to give three social classes variable amounts of Sun.

“This new wave of science fiction has a dark and subversive side that speaks either to the invisible dimensions of reality, or simply the impossibility of representing a reality dictated by the discourse of a national dream,” says Mingwei.

The Three-Body Problem and Chinese science fiction in general often feature controversial subjects. The opening scene of The Three-Body Problem, for example, depicts the lead character’s father being lynched in a collective struggle session at the height of the Cultural Revolution.

“I’m always amazed by the continued prosperity of the genre,” says Mingwei. “Some of it is very subversive and provocative. But so far they haven’t been censored. My theory for why it continues to grow is that it isn’t protest literature. It’s a literary genre that uses the imagination to explore unseen realities. But it doesn’t directly challenge the Chinese government.” And these unseen realities are key. “Science fiction depicts the invisible part of Chinese reality that is hidden behind the glorious image of China on the rise,” he says.

Making the invisible visible

Another artform looking at unseen realities is Afrofuturism. “If you look at depictions of the future, from Blade Runner to The Jetsons, the future is often very white, and people of colour are often missing,” says Susana Morris, Associate Professor at Georgia Institute of Technology specialising in Afrofuturism. “Afrofuturism re-imagines what a futurist landscape would look like with blacks at the centre.”

W E B Du Bois was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) in 1909.

Afrofuturism reaches back to when W E B Du Bois wrote his 1920 short story The Comet, in which the entire human population is killed, except for a black man and a white woman. The best-known example of Afrofuturism is 2018 superhero movie Black Panther, depicting Wakanda, a non-colonised African country that has been able to develop on its own terms, and which owns the world’s most powerful resource: Vibranium. This background provides the canvas on which a futurist, black society is depicted in the movie and the accompanying comic books written by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Yet Afrofuturism reaches beyond superheroes. “People often think Afrofuturism is a genre, while really it’s a cultural movement. It isn’t just black science fiction. It’s a way for black folks across the diaspora to think about our past and future,” says Morris. As such, Afrofuturism includes substreams like fiction, movies, art and fashion – Morris notes how Beyoncé occasionally uses Afrofuturist imagery.

Nnedi Okorafor has written a Marvel story set in Lagos, and HBO is adapting her 2010 novel Who Fears Death with George R R Martin as executive producer.

In the realm of written fiction, the Nigerian-American writer Nnedi Okorafor's Binti stands out. The 2015 book depicts an African tribe modelled on the Namibian Himba people, 1,000 years into the future. They are an advanced yet isolated community, and in the book one of their experts in advanced mathematics gets sent to an interstellar university where the story unfolds. “It’s a great story that mixes tradition and innovation,” says Morris.

Afrofuturism is a genre that isn’t necessarily associated with one country or region, but is practised by black people from all across the world, a diaspora in Morris’s terms. For this diaspora, the interaction with tradition is key: Morris refers here to Sanfoka, a symbol from the Akan people in Ghana, generally stylised as a bird that looks backwards while moving forwards. “Afrofuturism reveals a dynamic relationship between innovation and tradition that is at the heart of the diaspora”, says Morris. “It looks back while moving forward.”

Bolsheviks in space

Russian and Eastern-European sci-fi has a long history stretching back to the 19th Century: it produced key writers in the canon like Russian writer Yevgeny Zamyatin, who wrote the 1924 novel We, and the Polish Stanislaw Lem, who was a key influence on US science-fiction. Even early Bolsheviks like Alexander Bogdanov wrote science-fiction (in his 1908 novel Red Star he notably depicted a Mars inhabited by socialists).

Alexander Bogdanov (pictured with Vladimir Lenin) wrote Red Star, about a Russian Bolshevik revolutionary who visits a communist society on Mars.

The experience of Sputnik was crucial. When, in 1957, the Soviets were the first to send a satellite around the Earth, it launched an explosion of science fiction and led to the re-discovery of older sci-fi works. Previously repressed by socialist realism, Soviet society was catapulted by the launch of Sputnik into a futurist perspective. Citing sci-fi expert Istvan Csicsery-Ronay from DePauw University, Banerjee claims this caused a “science-fictionality of daily life” in the country.

This even stretched into movies. The 1972 film Solaris by Andrei Tarkovsky was hailed as a counterpart to 2001: A Space Odyssey, while Stalker, another movie by Tarkovsky and an adaption of 1971 novel The Roadside Picnic, depicted the crossing of a mysterious nuclear wasteland. Interestingly, decades later it inspired the present-day Ukrainian videogame series S.T.A.L.K.E.R.


We is the grandfather of the satirical futuristic dystopian genre: George Orwell was reported as saying it was the model for his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.

The Russian experience, particularly under the Soviet Union, ties back into the current rise of non-Western science fiction. For Banerjee, this relates to her personal story. “I grew up in eastern India, in coal-mining country,” she says. “This place was not very culturally rich, but one set of books that were accessible and cheap were translated Russian books. And the Space Race saw a renaissance of science fiction writing in the Soviet Union, which, together with their classic science-fiction, was translated and disseminated into the Global South. Even into rural India.”

Russian sci-fi in this way served as an incubator for a new, global science fiction. “In the works of Cixin Liu, you can for example see references to Soviet science fiction,” says Banerjee.

From the West to the rest?

This rise of global science fiction questions how we think about the evolution of the genre. In the past, it was seen as spreading from Western centres to the rest of the world. “The traditional view of science fiction was that it expanded parallel to the spread of industrial capitalism around the globe,” says Banerjee. “So it supposedly went from the West to the rest, because that’s where industrial capitalism first took hold. Now this perspective is being challenged, and we are thinking about what happened outside the West.”

In Sleep Dealer, Mexican workers are plugged into a network, controlling robots doing unskilled labour in the US: once they are depleted, they are discarded.

Although not all non-Western science fiction is political, imagining alternative futures can serve as a tool for mobilisation and activism. “What we find in some science fiction from the global South is a recognition that a universalised, neoliberal model of society and culture are unsustainable,” says Banerjee. She refers for example to Sleep Dealer, a 2008 Mexican sci-fi movie that depicts a future where the US has closed its Mexican border, but in which Mexicans remotely control the robots that replaced their labour inside the US. The movie reflects on issues like free trade and migration in a futurist fashion.

But beyond a global reflection on resistance, non-Western science fiction also taps into a worldwide consciousness – helping it conquer audiences beyond their respective home markets. “Chinese science fiction doesn’t just appeal to Chinese people,” says Mingwei. “Because it touches upon questions that are shared by humanity, for example the survival of the human race and how to be a moral person in extreme circumstances. Which are fundamental questions every human needs to think about in our contemporary world.”

ruby Posted on December 10, 2018 12:47

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why some like it hot isthe greatest comedy ever made

In 1958, Tony Curtis was at a Hollywood party when Billy Wilder took him aside. Wilder was planning a film about two musicians who dress up as women to join an all-girl band, and he asked Curtis to play one of the musicians. Curtis was overjoyed, but he wasn’t sure why such an illustrious writer-director would want to use him. “You’re the handsomest kid in this town,” said Wilder. “Who else am I going to use?”

Faced with the question of why Some Like It Hot has topped BBC Culture’s poll of the best ever big-screen comedies, it’s tempting to say something similar. Wilder’s glittering masterpiece doesn’t just use the handsomest kid in town (and a terrific actor, to boot), but its most radiant sex symbol, Marilyn Monroe, and one of its most dexterous comedians, Jack Lemmon. It also has a bevy of bathing beauties, a crowd of sinister mafiosi, a glamorous seaside setting in the roaring ‘20s, and a sizzling selection of songs.It’s an anthem in praise of tolerance, acceptance, and the possibility of transformation. It’s an anthem that we need to hear now more than ever

It is structured so meticulously that it glides from moment to moment with the elegance of an Olympic figure skater, and the consummate screwball dialogue, by Wilder and IAL Diamond, is so polished that every line includes either a joke, a double meaning, or an allusion to a line elsewhere in the film. To quote one character, it’s a riot of “spills, thrills, laughs and games”. To quote another, it deserves to be “the biggest thing since the Graf Zeppelin”. So why was it chosen as the best comedy ever made? Simple. What else were we going to choose?

Desperate to elude Chicago’s most ruthless gangster, Joe (Curtis) and Jerry (Lemmon) disguise themselves as Josephine and Daphne .

There’s more to Some Like It Hot than its sparkling surface, though. As well as being a romantic comedy, a buddy movie, a crime caper, and a musical, the film is an anthem in praise of tolerance, acceptance, and the possibility of transformation. It’s an anthem that we need to hear now more than ever.

Wilder borrowed the basic set-up from a French farce, Fanfare d’amour (1935), and a remake, Fanfaren der Liebe (1951), which he dismissed as “a very low-budget, very third-class German picture”. Its heroes are Joe (Curtis) and Jerry (Lemmon), a saxophonist and a bassist who are scraping a living in freezing Chicago when they witness 1929’s St Valentine’s Day Massacre – or a version of that legendary event at least.

The pair join a female jazz orchestra, Sweet Sue’s Society Syncopators, in order to hide out in a Florida hotel for three weeks.

Desperate to elude the city’s most ruthless gangster, Spats Colombo (George Raft), they disguise themselves as Josephine and Daphne (“I’ve never liked the name Geraldine,” explains Jerry), so that they can hide in a Florida hotel for three weeks with a female jazz orchestra, Sweet Sue’s Society Syncopators. On the southbound sleeper train, they are both smitten by the band’s voluptuous ukulele player, Sugar Kane (Monroe). She tells Joe/Josephine that she is hoping to seduce a millionaire in Florida, so when the band arrives at the Seminole-Ritz Hotel (actually the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego), he switches to another disguise. Stealing some clothes from the band’s manager, and stealing his accent from Cary Grant, he styles himself as Junior, heir to the Shell Oil fortune.

One of the film’s many twists is that when Sugar meets Junior on the beach, he doesn’t throw himself at her. He plays hard to get. Sugar tells him that her band specialises in hot jazz, but he sniffs, “Well, I guess some like it hot. But personally, I prefer classical music.” Sugar doesn’t miss a beat. She claims to have “spent three years at the Sheboygan Conservatory of Music” - a claim she overheard Joe/Josephine making the previous night. “Good school,” murmurs Joe/Junior. Sugar, he realises, is just as adept at lying as he is.

Stealing his accent from Cary Grant, Joe styles himself as Junior, heir to the Shell Oil fortune, in order to woo Sugar (Monroe).

Meanwhile, Jerry/Daphne has been inveigled into going out with an elderly - and presumably short-sighted - tycoon, Osgood (Joe E Brown), and their enchanted evening ends with another twist: in the morning, an elated Jerry tells Joe that he and Osgood are engaged. Joe protests that there are “laws, conventions” that have to be observed. But when Jerry finally admits to his fiancé that he is a man, Osgood responds with the film’s exemplary last line, “Well, nobody’s perfect.”

‘Sweet’ or ‘hot’

In summary, Some Like It Hot is the story of people who lie and cheat in order to con other people into bed or out of their cash. Wilder has a reputation for dark, cynical films (see also Sunset Boulevard and Double Indemnity), and Some Like It Hot could be categorised as one of them. But it has so much warmth that it carries the viewer upwards like a hot-air balloon. Rather than condemning its unscrupulous anti-heroes, it respects them and sympathises with them in a way which must have seemed radical in 1959, and which seems more radical nearly six decades later.

After an enchanted evening, Daphne (Lemmon) becomes engaged to elderly tycoon Osgood (Joe E Brown).

The message is that there is nothing wrong with faking it until you make it. Experimenting with a new identity can help you become a better, happier person

Just imagine how the film’s scenario would be treated in a Hollywood comedy today. Joe and Jerry would be punished for their deceit. Sugar would have to catch Joe out, and he would have to apologise, and the viewer would have to sit through a montage of their shared misery before she forgave him. He and Jerry would then use their talent for duplicity to extract a confession from Spats Colombo. And, of course, Jerry and Osgood’s heterosexuality would be vigorously reaffirmed. Think of Judd Apatow’s comedies, for example. They all conclude that it’s amusing for “laws, conventions” to be flouted for a while, just as long as they’re put firmly back in place before the end credits roll.

Several of those involved in the film, such as Billy Wilder and Marilyn Monroe, had reinvented themselves, just as the characters do.

Some Like It Hot is too buoyant to be brought down to earth by such prissiness. When Sugar learns that Joe has been tricking her, she runs straight into his arms. When Osgood learns that Jerry has been tricking him, he doesn’t bat an eyelid. The message is that there is nothing wrong with faking it until you make it. Experimenting with a new identity can help you become a better, happier person. It can help you survive. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll find someone who accepts you for whomever you want to be - perfect or otherwise.

It’s a boldly inclusive message, but it’s one that must have been close to the film-makers’ hearts. After all, several of them had reinvented themselves, just as the characters do: emigrating from Germany (in Wilder’s case) and Romania (in Diamond’s), distancing themselves from their hardscrabble pasts in Californian foster homes (in Monroe’s case) and on the streets of the Bronx (in Curtis’s). For a frantic farce about two cross-dressers on the run from prohibition-era mobsters, Some Like It Hot is a strikingly personal, even semi-autobiographical film.

Its final line, “Well, nobody’s perfect”, highlights the film’s inclusive message.

Not even Twelfth Night or The Importance of Being Earnest had such elaborate fun with its characters’ identities

Look again at the beach scene with Joe and Sugar. It was written by two men who were once called Samuel Wilder and Itec Domnici, and acted by a man and a woman who were once called Bernie Schwartz and Norma Jeane Mortenson. Schwartz, who renamed himself Tony Curtis, is playing Joe, who is pretending to be Junior, using the mid-Atlantic vowels of Cary Grant, who was once called Archibald Leach. Mortenson, who renamed herself Marilyn Monroe, is playing Sugar Kowalczyk, who renamed herself Sugar Kane, and who is using lines which Joe used when he was pretending to be Josephine. Not even Twelfth Night or The Importance of Being Earnest had such elaborate fun with its characters’ identities. Names, genders, social standings ... they can all change in Some Like It Hot. It’s the American way.

In Curtis’s memoir about the making of the film, he confirms that Wilder and Diamond embedded this theme in its title. People, he argues, can be as fluid as the pop songs of the 1920s, which were performed in different styles - either “sweet” or “hot” - according to the audience’s preference. “The concept was important to our movie,” writes Curtis. “A person can be more than one thing, depending on the time, the place, whatever. Sweet or hot.”

ruby Posted on December 10, 2018 12:07

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MBS: My strange experience of teaching the Saudi crown prince

Saudi Arabia's controversial Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman was little known to the outside world before becoming its attention-grabbing de facto leader. Here, BBC Arabic's Rachid Sekkai, who taught Mohammed Bin Salman English as a child, gives a rare glimpse of life in the royal court.

I was teaching in the prestigious Al-Anjal school in Jeddah when I got the call in early 1996. The governor of Riyadh, Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, had temporarily moved with his family to the Red Sea port city, and needed an English teacher for his children.

The man who would later become king contacted the school and I was swiftly whisked off to the royal palace to become a private tutor to some of the children from his first marriage: Prince Turki, Prince Nayef, Prince Khalid, and of course, Prince Mohammed.

I lived in a flat in an up and coming area of the city. A chauffeur would pick me up at 07:00 to take me to Al-Anjal school and once lessons were over in the mid-afternoon, the driver would take me to the palace.

Once through the heavily guarded gates, the car would wind past a series of jaw-dropping villas with immaculate gardens maintained by workers in white uniforms. There was a car park filled with a fleet of exclusive luxury cars. It was the first time I saw what looked like a pink Cadillac.

On arrival at the royal fortress, I would be ushered in by the palace director, Mansoor El-Shahry - a middle-aged man whom the 11-year-old Prince Mohammed was close to and fond of.


Mohammed also seemed more interested in spending time with palace guards instead of following my lessons. As the oldest of his siblings, he seemed to be allowed to do as he pleased.

My ability to command the younger princes' attention would only last until Mohammed would turn up.

I still have a memory of him using a walkie-talkie in our classes, borrowed from one of the guards. He would use it to make cheeky remarks about me and crack jokes between his brothers and the guards on the other end.

Today, the 33-year-old prince is the minister of defence and heir to the Saudi throne.

Since becoming Saudi Arabia's de facto leader last year, MBS has tried to position himself as the kingdom's moderniser. In the face of opposition from conservative clerics, he spearheaded much-needed economic reforms and embarked on a programme of liberalisation in the staunchly conservative country.

Praised for some of his measures, he has also been criticised over Saudi Arabia's record on human rights, its seemingly endless war in Yemen and the recent murder of Saudi journalist and critic Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom's consulate in Turkey in October.

Saudi Arabia has charged 11 people with the murder and denies the crown prince had any involvement.On one occasion, I was taken aback when Mohammed told me that his mother, the princess, had said I seemed like "a true gentleman". I had no recollection of meeting her - Saudi women royalty don't appear in front of strangers - and the only female I came across was a nanny from the Philippines.

I was oblivious to the fact that I was being watched, until the future heir to the throne pointed to some CCTV cameras on the wall. From that point onwards I would always feel self-conscious in my lessons.

Within a short time, I become fond of Mohammed and his younger siblings. Though I was teaching princes in a world of privilege, my palace pupils were, very much like my school students, curious to learn but keen to play around.

Faux pas

One day, the palace director Mansoor El-Shahry asked me to meet the future king, who wanted to find out about his children's academic progress. I thought this might be a good opportunity to address Prince Mohammed's mischief.

I waited outside Prince Salman's office, next to the princes' other tutors who seemed familiar with royal court protocol.

When he appeared before us, the teachers instinctively rose up and I watched in awe as they approached the Riyadh governor one by one, bowed, kissed his hand, hastily conferred about the children and moved on.

When my turn came, I couldn't, for the life of me bend like they did. I had never done it before. And before I froze completely, I reached out to take the future king's hand and I shook it firmly.

I remember a faint grin of amazement on his face; however, he made no fuss about my faux pas.

I didn't mention what Prince Mohammed had been up to in my lessons because by then I had decided to give it all up and return to the UK.

Soon after, Mr El-Shahry gave me a scathing telling off for failing to follow royal etiquette.

Apart from Prince Khaled, who went on to become Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the US, the other royal siblings I taught have mainly chosen to stay away from the public eye.

Now I look back at my brief tenure as a remarkable episode in my life and watch my former young charge as he bestrides the world stage.

ruby Posted on December 10, 2018 11:32

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Ayodhya: Thousands rally in Delhi over disputed religious site

Tens of thousands of Hindus have marched in the Indian capital, Delhi, to call for a temple to be built on a hotly contested religious site.

Organisers say they will not relent until a grand temple is constructed in the northern city of Ayodhya.

The area has been a longstanding point of tension between Hindus and Muslims.

Hindus believe the religious site is the birthplace of their revered deity Lord Ram, but Muslims say they have worshipped there for generations.

It was home to a medieval mosque for more than 450 years until Hindu mobs tore it down in 1992, provoking widespread riots that left thousands dead.

More than 50,000 people filled a large parade ground on Sunday to watch speakers from a hardline Hindu nationalist organisation call for a temple to be built.

Thousands more demonstrators, some carrying banners and others dressed as Hindu gods, lined nearby streets amid tight security.

"The gathering here is telling you that Hindus won't sit back until the temple is built, and our wishes are respected," said Champat Rai, leader of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) group that organised the protest.

Other speakers called on the government to intervene in a lengthy court case and issue its own order on the site.

"The government and the Supreme Court must realise that it is a matter of religious sentiment for Hindus," one monk told the gathered crowd.

The Supreme Court is currently hearing a batch of pleas on the subject and has deferred its next hearing until January.

India's Muslim minority, which claims the right to worship at the site, say they offered prayers at the mosque until December 1949 when some Hindus placed idols of Ram inside and began to worship them.

Over the decades since, the two religious groups have gone to court many times over who should control the site.

The call for the construction of a Hindu temple there has grown particularly loud in the last few months and has mostly come from members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

It comes ahead of a general election which is due next May, and correspondents say the BJP appears to be attempting to galvanise Hindus ahead of this vote.

ruby Posted on December 10, 2018 11:27

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Formula 1: Seven key issues facing the sport's bosses for the 2019 season

Formula 1's bosses are heading into 2019 facing a critical period as they try to impose their vision on the sport.

Liberty Media's stewardship has produced mixed results since the US group took over in January 2017.

There is a more open atmosphere in F1, and a new race in Vietnam in 2020,but a number of historic events are under threat and teams' prize money has consistently dropped over the past 18 months.

Rule changes planned for 2021 have not yet been revealed, F1 has already lost one battle with the teams, and there is no agreement in other key areas.

And 2020, when all but one of the teams' contracts with F1 end, looms ever closer.

High-profile races under threat

Monza is one of the most well-attended races on the F1 calendar

Perhaps the biggest single issue facing F1 is the fact the contracts of five races expire next season.

Along with the British Grand Prix, which exercised a break clause in its contract after 2019, the races in Germany, Italy, Spain and Mexico are also heading into the last year of their contracts.

The concern for F1/Liberty is all will want to renew at a lower rate than they are paying. And insiders say the circuits are working together on the matter to strengthen their hands.

Silverstone said it ended its contract because it could not afford to carry on at the escalating rates stipulated in the agreement it made with former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone in 2009.

It wants to continue, but it and F1 are some way apart on their ideas of an acceptable fee.

Losing any of these races would be bad news - Liberty is trying to expand F1, not shrink it. The absence of Britain, Italy and/or Germany would be an especially awkward look when Liberty has said it values the classic European historic races and is determined to preserve them.

And, even if none of these events is among F1's biggest earners, any race that drops off the calendar means a significant loss of income - Silverstone is paying more than £18m next year; Italy €24m (£21.4m) and Mexico a reported $25m (£19.7m).

A defeat on engines; what of the other rules?

A side-by-side comparison of what changes to the cars fans can expect to see in the new season

Liberty took over F1 with plans to make it more competitive and increase its appeal to spectators, restructure prize money so it is distributed more equitably, and impose a budget cap.

It has already lost one battle - F1 has been forced to backtrack on plans to simplify the turbo hybrid engines from 2021 following opposition from the car manufacturers.

Against F1's original wishes, the heat-energy recovery unit at the heart of both the engines' remarkable efficiency and their complexity will stay. And it's quite possible plans to loosen fuel limits will also be dropped on the same basis - why incur the cost of changing the engines, the manufacturers say, when no-one else is interested in entering?

At least on engines people generally know where things are going. On other issues, the water is muddier.

There has been no sign of the new technical rules for 2021, with which F1 plans to change aerodynamics to make it easier for cars to follow each other closely, thereby improving the racing.

Technically, the rules are the responsibility of the FIA. But F1 has set up a significant department under sporting boss Ross Brawn to research the issue. The two are said to be working together.

Why the delay? F1 says it's deliberate - it doesn't want to give the teams too much notice, to try to prevent the better-resourced stealing a march.

But a truncated time period also favours the bigger teams - because they can put more people on it, and learn more at a faster rate.

What about money?

Ferrari received the largest share of F1's prize money despite finishing behind Mercedes in the drivers' and constructors' championships

Back in April, F1 presented the teams with a plan to change income distribution and introduce a budget cap from 2021.

F1 wants to reform a prize-money system which disproportionately rewards the top teams - the legacy of one of Ecclestone's myriad divide-and-conquer strategies back in 2011.

Money will still be distributed on a performance-related basis, but the disparity between first and last will be significantly reduced.

The exact prize-money structure has not been revealed. But sources say that, in essence, the teams have been offered a protected level of income - but little chance for it to go up significantly, even if F1's profits increase.

The bonuses that rewarded Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren, Williams and Mercedes will go. In their place, engine manufacturers will be given a $10m (£7.9m) bonus, and Ferrari an additional $40m (£31.5m) because of their status.

For many months, no further talks took place on this, and teams were beginning to get nervous and edgy. In late October, F1 boss Chase Carey moved to calm them by instigating a series of regular meetings, and discussions have started to inch forward.

Publicly, the teams say talks are going in the right direction. However, privately not all have the same position - and Mercedes and Ferrari, in particular, are said to be steadfast in their unwillingness to accept the proposal presented by F1 so far.

And the budget cap?

Williams deputy team boss Claire Williams has said the team "will close" if F1 doesn't introduce a budget cap

Liberty proposed a budget cap of $150m (£118m) in 2021, the idea being to reduce the performance gap between the top three teams - who are all spending close to double that amount - and the rest.

Now, it is proposed there is a glide path down to it, with the first year set at $200m (£157.3m), then $175m (£137.6), before settling on $150m (£118m). There is also talk of delaying the start of it until 2022 or even 2023.

The problem is, every year that goes by before the cap is introduced is more time for the big teams to invest in resources and equipment that will entrench their advantage for years to come.

There is also the issue of satellite teams. Some argue a budget cap will simply increase the likelihood of big teams 'buddying up' with smaller outfits to spread resources, increase economies of scale, and make it impossible for the authorities to work out who is doing what work for which team.

This presents an existential threat to teams such as Renault, McLaren and Williams, who are not involved and believe this runs counter to the fundamental tenets of F1. They have been told it will be stopped - but not how.

Broadcasting - especially in the UK

Channel 4's coverage of the British Grand Prix averaged 2.39 million viewers

For the first time since the mid-1970s, live broadcasting of F1 will be almost non-existent on free-to-air television in the UK next year.

lucrative new contract with Sky, signed by Ecclestone in 2016, kicks in. It dictates only the British Grand Prix must be live on free-to-air, along with highlights of all the other races. Channel 4 will broadcast this in 2019.

Sky paid handsomely to own the rights to show live F1 in the UK - the contract, until 2024, is said to be worth £1.2bn.

But what effect could it have on F1's public appeal? Will it prosper, as football has? Or suffer, in the manner of cricket? Many feel they already know the likely answer to that.

Beyond 2019, there is another question. The C4 deal is for only one year. Will Sky, which owns the rights, extend it, or switch free-to-air coverage to one of its own channels?

The latter would meet the requirements of the Sky contract that the free-to-air coverage must have "90% technical availability" to the public. But it would risk diminishing the audience even further.

Sources say Sky's plan as things stand is to promote its Pick channel through 2019 as a place people will be able to see F1, and then use it to meet its free-to-air obligations in 2020.

If so, how does that fit with F1's desire to grow the audience? And will the sport's bosses try to pressure Sky to think again?

Is F1 meeting its own targets?

Empty grandstands, particularly during practice sessions, have been a problem for F1 in recent years

Liberty bought F1 professing its plans to grow both its audience and its income.

On-track audiences are up, TV audiences have increased by about 3% from 2017 to 2018, and its social media following has ballooned.

But the teams' payments have decreased slowly but consistently for the past 18 months - largely because of greatly increased overheads at F1, which has new central London offices, and significantly more staff.

In terms of TV, it is hard to discern a clear strategy behind F1's oft-repeated mantra that it wants a split between free-to-air, pay and what is known as OTT, or selling direct to the audience.

In Europe, F1's main market, Liberty has negotiated two new deals since it took over. One, in Italy, saw it move predominantly to pay-per-view, in an effective mirror of the new UK deal. Another, in Germany, extended its relationship with free-to-air on RTL, with pay TV dropped.

So, of the sport's three biggest European markets, live coverage is now almost exclusively on pay TV in two, and free-to-air survives substantially in only one.

The thorny issue of tyres

Pirelli's new tyre supply contract comes amid pressure from drivers for less sensitive tyres that allow them to push harder in races

To improve the racing, Liberty says it is addressing aerodynamics, and its effect on the ability of a car to closely follow another, in the 2021 rules.

Yet the drivers have been saying for some years that one of the key problems preventing them racing harder and closer is the tyres.

The Pirelli tyres are prone to overheating, and this restricts how hard drivers can push in races. In effect, although the car could go faster, in a race stint there is a maximum optimum lap time before the tyres are pushed over the edge.

Drivers have to keep the tyre below its surface-temperature limit for the average of the lap or stint. Push harder, and the tyres overheat and lose performance.

This is why race lap times are so much further off qualifying pace than can be accounted for by fuel load or engine modes - by a number of seconds - and why drivers spend most races trying to make a one-stop strategy work.

Doing more pit stops is counter-productive - because the tyres won't let the driver push harder to make up the lost time, despite the car going much slower than it is capable of.

The result is "the races aren't fun," as Haas driver and Grand Prix Drivers' Association director Romain Grosjean puts it. Not only that, he says, but if drivers aren't on the limit, they aren't going to make a mistake - and errors liven up races.

Try to question Brawn on this, and he simply refuses to engage.

In recent weeks, the drivers have started a renewed push for what in unguarded moments they would call better tyres.

Not all racing tyres behave like this, and one possible way of enabling drivers to race harder - as Liberty says it wants them to - would have been to explore the idea of another supplier during the recent tyre tender period.

F1 dismissed Michelin, whose tyres are driven flat out by the leading cars in the World Endurance Championship, because it felt its philosophy did not fit.

Korea's Hankook, which supplies the DTM German touring car championship, was a rival for Pirelli but in the end the Italian company secured a new contract until 2023.

Did Liberty do this deal because it genuinely believed Pirelli could produce the tyres the drivers want, even though their characteristics have been fundamentally the same since its debut in 2011? Or because fiscal issues trumped sporting ones, and the lucrative Pirelli deal was needed at a time when finances are under pressure? Or both?

Some team bosses admit F1 needs to end the era of excessive tyre management. Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says it is "completely the wrong direction - we need robust tyres, that Pirelli is perfectly able to produce. They just need to be given the right objectives."

It's too late to change the tyres for 2019, but if Pirelli does not make significant changes for 2020, what then?

ruby Posted on December 10, 2018 10:34

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India's richest family caps year of big fat weddings

India is still recovering from two back-to-back celebrity weddings but it's already time for the next one. This time it's the children of two Indian billionaires, who are all set for what promises to be the next level of big fat Indian weddings.

Isha Ambani, the daughter of India's richest man, Mukesh Ambani, will marry Anand Piramal, the son of another billionaire industrialist on 12 December. Celebrations kick off this weekend in Udaipur, a royal city that is now a coveted wedding destination.

The last time a wedding of an Indian businessman's family got this much attention was in 2004.

Indian-born but London-based steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal hosted his daughter's wedding at France's historic Palace of Versailles and a grand chateau. The bill, which included gifts for family friends, ran up to $55m at the time.

The wedding ceremony of Ms Ambani and Mr Piramal is not quite on that scale, but "leaked" details are still greatly exciting Indians - and it caps a year of Instagram-fuelled celebrity wedding fever.

The platform's Indian universe is as driven by celebrities and influencers as anywhere else, but weddings provide it with its fashion oxygen.

Indian fashion - and increasingly photography - on the platform is dominated by brides, grooms and their parties.

And 2018, which has been a year quite unlike any other in terms of wedding bashes, will be capped off by the Ambani-Piramal wedding.

Celebrity bloggers, entertainment writers and lifestyle magazines have been scouring Instagram to keep up with the pre-wedding festivities, which will stretch over at least three days.

The wedding invites - sent in fancy mini-chests with gifts tucked inside - have their own share of Instagram videos.

The families have kept most details under wraps but rumours are rife.

India's biggest national newspaper has claimed that Beyoncé will perform at the sangeet, an evening of music and dance that typically precedes the wedding. The tradition originally involved friends and family putting on impromptu performances at intimate gatherings - but now it's far more common to see a few hours worth of choreographed dances as the latest Bollywood songs are belted out.

Several Bollywood stars themselves are expected to perform at Ms Ambani's sangeet, according to local media reports. Actors are sometimes hired to perform at sangeets or other private events by those who can afford it.

But many of Bollywood's biggest stars are personal friends of the Ambanis and are often seen attending parties hosted by the family.

The Ambanis themselves attended the recent wedding reception of Bollywood actors Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh; and Isha Ambani was a bridesmaid at the wedding of actress Priyanka Chopra, which took place in Jodhpur, also in Rajasthan state, last weekend.

And the couple's outfits were co-ordinated - if they didn't match colours, which they often did, they opted for starkly different ones.

Bollywood star Sonam Kapoor's wedding to businessman Anand Ahuja in May was also almost exclusively documented on Instagram. Sonam, who is considered a fashion icon, sometimes switched outfits multiple times in a single evening - and her sartorial sense became a popular topic.

Those who attended her star-studded reception also uploaded candid videos of actors and celebrities dancing with one another and singing (very badly), which quickly went viral.

Over the last year, Instagram has redefined the way Indians get information about celebrity weddings.

It's where photos are first released and where much of the media also gets news of what has occurred behind closed doors.

And on the celebrities' side, posting to Instagram is a carefully co-ordinated affair.

As Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas, Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh and even Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli and Bollywood star Anushka Sharma showed, the done thing is to upload the exact same, carefully filtered couple photograph onto each person's Instagram feed at the same time.

Padukone and Singh upped the ante a little by also only posting pictures of each other on their feeds.

And with the pressure on to post beautiful pictures, everyone seems willing to go that extra mile - with emphasis on extra.

"The biggest victim of the Instagram show-off is Bollywood," says Shefalee Vasudev, who edits digital magazine The Voice of Fashion. The social media curation exhibits the "latent competition to prove who is the most different," she says.

That may be so, but Indians are not exactly complaining.

ruby Posted on December 10, 2018 10:18

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Why women in South Korea are cutting 'the corset'

South Korean YouTube star Lina Bae expected some negative comments when she switched from posting make-up tutorials to stripping her face bare.

What she didn't expect were death threats.

The 21-year-old thought hard about her decision. She was worried that it would be duplicitous for someone who usually gives beauty tips to upload a video promoting the idea of going without it.

But her overwhelming thought was that it was time to take a stand.

"I think lot of Korean women are wearing an 'appearance-corset'," she told the BBC.

"They have this immense fear of the face they show to others. I heard that women feel especially shameful when they hear that they are ugly. I was like that as well."


Over five million people have viewed her video as she peels off her fake eyelashes and wipes away her cherry-red lipstick. Thousands offered their support. But others launched personal attacks.

"Certain people said stuff like, 'you're not even trying anyway' and 'a corset wouldn't even fit you'. There were even death threats saying that they will come find me and kill me," she said.

"For a while after I received that death threat, I was afraid of leaving the house."

'The best version of myself'

Bae is part of a growing movement of young women in South Korea who are challenging long-held beauty ideals. They call themselves the "escape the corset" movement.

Many shave off their long hair and go without make-up then post the results on social media.

These are acts of rebellion against the constraints they feel society has imposed upon them.

From a young age in South Korea, women are bombarded with adverts telling them they need to be thin with dewy pale skin, a flawless complexion and the perfect oval face.

The beauty industry is one of the world's largest and generates around $13bn (£10bn) a year in sales. South Korea also has the world's highest rate of cosmetic surgery per capita.

Success here can often be synonymous with looks. A survey last year found that 88% of job seekers thought looks mattered when it came to finding a job and half of those questioned said they would consider plastic surgery to gain employment.

I met 23-year-old Kim Chu-hui at a professional studio where she was getting her hair and make up done. Like thousands of other graduates she is paying for the perfect photo for her job applications.

"The people who hire me don't know who I am," she said. "They have to judge me based on how I look on the photo. So I wanted give them the best version of myself to make a good impression on them."The photographer helps her to get it right. "We can fix the shoulder symmetry later. But your facial expression is the most important," he advises.

These photos will go to boardrooms across Seoul which are still dominated by men who have the power to hire and fire.

Breaking free of beauty standards

Even the smallest change in appearance can prompt the loudest outcry.

South Korean news outlet MBC's presenter Hyun-ju Yim, has made what in South Korea is a bold decision. She became the first female news anchor to wear her glasses on air after years of struggling with contact lenses and false eyelashes.

She was worried that viewers would think she wasn't making an effort. Instead she received thousands of emails of support.

"I asked myself, is it really wrong to wear glasses? Surely if it's a lighting problem then male anchors shouldn't wear glasses as well. But they do it without thinking. So why haven't female anchors worn glasses?"

She found herself being more comfortable on air and with herself.

"I think these glasses brought a lot of change in me. I no longer wear uncomfortable clothes and I wear shirts and trousers that I like. I became more free. I think these glasses gave me wings called freedom."

That is why this "escape the corset" movement in South Korea is about more than going without make-up. It is about women in this deeply conservative country finding the freedom to express themselves.

It is rare to see and hear such voices in this once conformist society. However some believe the "escape the corset" women are going a little too far.

At a feminist book café in Seoul, we talked to several women in their twenties who felt they were being pressured to join in.

"Some are saying that "if you wear makeup, you are not a feminist. Even though you might like makeup, you might feel the need to conform," Chacha told the BBC. "In some cases it feels like the free corset movement is becoming the new corset."

Another woman, Ms Bang, added that she had agonised over calling herself a feminist because of the movement.

"I like long hair, I like putting up on makeup, I like tight dresses. Could I be a feminist? It is reassuring to hear from my friends that I am a feminist because of my interests in society, my eagerness to promote women's rights, and my belief in the equality of men and women."

The "escape the corset" movement has managed to grab headlines and focus attention on women in a patriarchal society who continue to face discrimination at home, in the workplace and on the streets. The gender pay gap remains the highest among OECD countries.

Those who are brave enough to make a stand by altering their appearance have even tougher challenges ahead if they are to make progress on these other gender equality issues across the country.

ruby Posted on December 10, 2018 10:10

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I'm A Celebrity: Harry Redknapp wins ITV series

Harry Redknapp has been crowned King of the Jungle in the final of ITV's I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!

The football manager beat fellow finalists Emily Atack, who came second, and John Barrowman to take the crown, saying it was "so surreal" to win.

Ten celebrities headed into the Australian jungle in November, where they were later joined by Noel Edmonds.

In the absence of his normal partner Ant McPartlin, Declan Donnelly hosted the show with Holly Willoughby.

'Unbelievable experience'

More than 11 million votes were cast in the final, Willoughby said.

Redknapp, who follows in the footsteps of previous winners such as Gino D'Acampo and Georgia Toffolo, said: "My grandkids will be jumping around the living room now. They'll be so excited."

He said he didn't think he would survive so long in the show, and praised his former camp mates for being "amazing" and pulling him through.

He said while he has a "very happy home life", football can be a "lonely business" and that the show had "taught me how to laugh again".

But he admitted he had struggled with the meagre rations - and unusual foods - and that he thought the contestants would get well-fed with a "nice bit of grub" every night.

"Harry was the favourite all the way though," TV critic Emma Bullimore told BBC Radio 5 Live. With all of his little idiosyncrasies and little catchphrases, he was absolutely brilliant entertainment value and a very worthy winner.

"There was no game plan, there was no pretence, he was just himself. He came across as such a genuinely nice man."

Atack said she was "honoured" to be in the final two with Redknapp.

She said she had met "so many amazing souls" on the show, and discovered a new-found love and respect for herself.

The Inbetweeners star said: "It's changed my life in so many ways. I came into this with a bit of a difficult start to the year.

"I didn't really know what I was doing and where I wanted to go and this place has just given me so me so much self-acceptance."

Willoughby made the actress promise to never cover up her freckles again, after Atack said: "This is my skin, this is my hair - this is what I look like."

Barrowman came in third place, and said I'm a Celebrity had been one of the best experiences of his life.

The actor and singer appeared emotional as he told Willoughby and Donnelly: "I can't tell you how happy I am."

This year's contestants have been put through a series of Bushtucker trials involving snakes, cockroaches and other creatures.

They've also had to negotiate assault courses blindfolded, bake cakes while plastered in treacle and climb through "sickening sewers" in order to win food and other necessities.

The trio had to each carry out a final trial in order to win treats for their last supper together, after 23 days in the jungle.

'Great show'

Barrowman had to eat a range of gruesome items like worms, a dead spider, goats' eyes and a bull's penis.

Atack had to wear a helmet filled with insects while Redknapp's trial saw him trapped in an underground chamber while rats and bugs ran over him in the pitch black.

The former football manager was the bookies' favourite to win this year's series, despite having never watched the show before.

After leaving the show and being shown his highlights, he said: "Great show, innit?"

Many viewers agreed. Lots thought it was one of the best series in the show's 16-year history, and Redknapp was one of the most popular winners.

ruby Posted on December 10, 2018 09:56

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Why women have less power than you think

The discovery that more men than women hold positions of power rarely comes as a surprise. What may be more unexpected is that things are not always as they seem when women appear to have equality.

Countries can sometimes stand out for their efforts at getting women into positions of power.

Take, for example, Rwanda's appointment of a cabinet in which half of the posts went to women. Its move came just days after a gender-balanced cabinet was named in Ethiopia.

Elsewhere in the world, there are many striking examples of women having equality with men, or even outperforming them, in other jobs that offer power and influence.

Walk into a courtroom in Slovenia and the judge is four times more likely to be a woman than a man. In journalism, Namibia stands out: half of its top newsroom posts are held by women.

It is not difficult to find other countries which buck the trend for a particular job. Half of IT professionals in Malaysia are female, along with six out of 10 medical researchers in New Zealand and five out of 10 engineers in Oman.

That women hold these posts, which are so often dominated by men, is to be welcomed. Yet while it may seem obvious that other countries could learn from these examples, it is often worth asking ourselves where influence really lies.

The power of judges

Fresh in many people's minds will be the controversy surrounding the confirmation of judge Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court, despite allegations of sexual assault - which he denied. The Supreme Court - in which three of the nine judges are women - is an example of a system in which top judges wield considerable power.

As in the UK, the legal system is based on common law. Judges are often appointed late on in their careers - sometimes through male-dominated networks - and the law is based on their decisions and precedent.

By contrast, in other countries such as France and Slovenia, judges' power is far more constrained. In these civil law systems - which are based on written rules - judges have less discretion to make their own interpretations.

And the way in is different too. Law graduates become judges by passing a competitive exam to enter training straight after graduating.

The fact that positions are allocated on academic merit rather than via a tap on the shoulder makes a big difference.More than six out of 10 judges in France are female, but the position comes with a loss of pay. Lawyers can often earn more working in private practice.

Some of the highest percentages of female judges are found in post-Soviet societies. Like Slovenia, seven out of 10 judges in Romania and Latvia are women.

Under communism the role of the judge was not only poorly paid but much constrained by ideological factors - the real power lay elsewhere. The judiciary in these countries still has a relatively low reputation and earning power.

After the upheaval

In other professions, it is often the case that women have gained power following a period of change, or upheaval.

For example, in communist-era Bulgaria, journalism was primarily a function of the state. But after 1989, press freedom grew and many well-educated and entrepreneurial women changed their career path and now have parity in top-level newsroom jobs.

In Rwanda, parliamentary gender quotas were introduced in 2003. The move came after the the destruction of government institutions during the genocide of 1994.

That six out of 10 parliamentarians is now female puts it ahead of every other country worldwide.

But here too there are questions over what real power looks like.

Rwanda's male leader, President Paul Kagame, has been accused of being authoritarian. Some have argued that having large numbers of female MPs offers little in the way of concrete power.

On the other hand, others have pointed to the wider social effects of women's presence in parliaments.

This may include increased respect for women from family and community members, and greater ability for women to influence decisions.

So what does all this tell us?

The relationship between women and power is complex and it's difficult to draw strong conclusions from looking at any one statistic - it's important to always look at the bigger picture.

While we may still have a long way to go, we know that having more women in top positions - even if they're not perfect - can be symbolically powerful, increasing people's acceptance of female leaders.

Nonetheless, one thing does seem clear: when things are done the way they've always been done, change happens very slowly - if at all.

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

Laura Jones is a research associate at the Global Institute for Women's Leadership, at King's College London.

The Global Institute for Women's Leadership carries out research to better understand and address the causes of women's underrepresentation in leadership positions.



ruby Posted on December 10, 2018 09:51

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Ambani-Piramal wedding: Beyoncé sings at A-list Indian event

US singer Beyoncé has performed as part of the lavish festivities at the latest extravagant Indian celebrity wedding.

Isha Ambani, the daughter of India's richest man, is tying the knot with Anand Piramal, son of another Indian billionaire, this week.

Beyoncé was one of many celebrities flown in, along with Bollywood stars and guests like Hillary Clinton.

It comes on the heels of several recent Indian weddings competing for glamour, excess and attention.

The Ambanis themselves recently attended the wedding reception of Bollywood actors Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh.

And last weekend, Isha Ambani was a bridesmaid at the wedding of actress Priyanka Chopra to US singer Nick Jonas.

The actual wedding of the daughter of business tycoon Mukesh Ambani is on Wednesday but the festivities leading up to it kicked off over the weekend.

It is likely to be one of India's richest and most glamorous weddings, and the many guests include former US First Lady and 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, media giant Arianna Huffington, cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal.

According to media reports, guests had been flown in on 100 chartered flights.

Celebrity bloggers, entertainment writers and lifestyle magazines have been scouring Instagram to keep up with festivities. Videos of Bollywood celebrities, including Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan, dancing along with the wedding party have already begun to make the rounds, and are going viral on social media.

Beyoncé took to the stage on Sunday night for the sangeet, an evening of music and dance that typically precedes the wedding.

She shared photos on her Instagram account of her jewel-studded outfit and elaborate gold jewellery.

Her fee hasn't been made public, but would likely not have been a problem for the Ambanis. Mukesh Ambani, managing director of Reliance Industries, has a personal fortune of around $47bn (£37bn)

  • Mukesh Ambani, the father of the bride, Isha, is Asia's richest man and also the 19th wealthiest person in the world, according to Forbes
  • Ajay Piramal, the father of the groom, Anand, is the head of the Piramal family, which is valued at $5.4bn
  • Mr Ambani is the chairman of Reliance Industries Limited, one of India's richest companies. It has a wide presence across many industries, including oil and gas, petrochemicals, telecom, retail and media
  • Mr Piramal has guided his family company into industries such as real estate, pharmaceuticals and packaging. It rose to prominence in the 1930s in the textile industry
  • In 2016, Mr Ambani formally launched his telecom network, Jio, which offers high speed data at very low costs. Within two years, it has become India's largest network and is widely credited with getting more Indians online in a very short period of time
  • Mr Piramal is a member of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Council for Trade and Industry and is widely considered to be one of India's most important business personalities
  • The Ambani family lives in a 27-storey home in Mumbai city named Antilia. It is the world's most expensive home, costing more than $1bn, boasting features such as multi-level gardens and three helipads.

ruby Posted on December 10, 2018 09:19

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National Best farmer awardee dies in Tamale

One of the awardees for this year's National Best Farmers Day from the Volta Region has died, whilst attending the awards ceremony in Tamale.

The deceased, Issah Nayawu, aged 46, was one of the award winners from the Volta Region who are to receive awards at the national event at the Aliu Mahama Sports Stadium in Tamale on Friday December 7, 2018

His sudden death occurred on Tuesday, December 4, 2018 in Tamale after a short illness.

He has since been buried in line with Islamic custom and tradition.

The deceased is from Jasikan in the Volta Region and died six days after arriving in Tamale for the awards ceremony.

For today's latest Ghana news, visit Graphic Online headlines page Ghana news headlines.

The Chairman of the National Farmers Awards Winners, Mr. Davies Narh Korboe confirmed the death to the media in Tamale on Thursday, December 6, 2018

He expressed his condolence to the bereaved family and added that Mr. Nayawu would be awarded posthumously.

sarah Posted on December 08, 2018 13:15

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South Africa mob kills suspected arsonist

A man suspected of starting a fire in South Africa's Alexandra township has been killed by a mob.

He died of his injuries after being taken to hospital following the blaze that broke out on Thursday afternoon.

The fire destroyed more than 500 shacks, leaving hundreds homeless. Police are yet to determine the cause.

The BBC's Pumza Fihlani says vigilante killings are common in poor areas where crime is often high and communities feel frustrated with the police.

The densely populated township of Alexandra is north of the city of Johannesburg

Although it right by the affluent Sandton neighbourhood, which is known as Africa's richest square mile, poverty and unemployment are high there, our reporter says.

One eyewitness, who posted a video of the inferno on social media, shared a theory that the fire had broken out because of a fight.

Many people were at work when the blaze started out on Thursday. No other deaths or injuries have been reported.

Fire fighters attended the scene but struggled to contain the blaze. Johannesburg Emergency Medical Services spokesperson Nana Radebe told eNCA TV channel, "We don't have hydrants in this area."

Water in fire engines only lasts four minutes, so access to water hydrants was essential, she said, adding that residents had built over those installed for factories that were once in the area.

The water pressure in one available hydrant was so low it could not be used and a water tanker had to be brought in, Ms Radebe said.

Image copyrightEYEWITNESS NEWS

An aid worker told South Africa's TimesLIVE that 690 shacks had been destroyed, affecting 2,000 people, including a woman who had given birth on Thursday.

"We found her sitting on the side of the road. She lost everything," Emily Thomas of Gift for Givers was quoted as saying.

Image copyrightEYEWITNESS NEWS

Many people slept outside on Thursday night. As the clean-up operation continues, police are investigating the cause of the fire.

Image copyrightEYEWITNESS NEWS

Alexandra has bricks and mortar houses, but many people live in shacks made of corrugated iron and wood. They are often insulated with cardboard and plastic bags, making them highly combustible.

Image copyrightEYEWITNESS NEWS

sarah Posted on December 08, 2018 11:07

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Danger that hides in make-up


They may be reluctant to leave home without it, but make-up is putting women at risk of deadly diseases, say experts.

According to a new book, cosmetics and beauty products often contain toxic ingredients that can cause cancer and other fatal illnesses

Loopholes in Government regulations are being exploited by manufacturers to allow banned chemicals into over-the-counter products, it claims.

Authors Kim Erickson and Samuel Epstein say many ingredients in make-up have been shown to cause cancer in animals and should never be used as part of a beauty routine.

Coal tar colours, phenylenediamine, benzene and even formaldehyde are some of the toxins commonly found in shampoos, skin creams and blushers, they say.

Hormone-disrupting chemicals, which could lower immunity to disease and cause neurological and reproductive damage, may also lurk in everyday cosmetics.

In their book, Drop Dead Gorgeous: Protecting Yourself from the Hidden Dangers of Cosmetics, to be published next month, they claim the adverse effects of cosmetics build up over years of use.

Miss Erickson said: 'Modern cosmetics contain a host of dubious ingredients which would be more at home in a test tube than on our faces.

'These synthetic ingredients are inexpensive, stable and have a long shelf-life. Manufacturers love them, but the results from long-term use could be deadly.'

She said the same poisons that pollute the environment, from dioxins to petrochemicals, can be found in the average bathroom cabinet.

'Many of the same ingredients have been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals,' she added.

      The UK cosmetics industry is worth £4.5billion a year and employs more than 20,000 people. It is controlled by the Department of Trade and Industry's 1996 Cosmetic Products (Safety) Regulations. The regulations approve about 3,000 ingredients for cosmetic use, but many more find their way into the finished products.One loophole in the regulations allows cosmetics to contain banned substances if they cannot 'reasonably' be removed.

The authors say chemicals get into the bloodstream in a number of ways. Hair sprays, perfumes and powders are inhaled; lipstick is swallowed; eye make-up absorbed by sensitive mucous membranes and others taken in through the skin.

Allergy specialist Dr Jean Munro, medical director of the Breakspear Hospital in Hertfordshire, supports the claims.

In the last 20 years she has treated 8,000 women, nearly all of whom were found to have a sensitivity to beauty products

Dr Munro said: 'There is no question that people are being damaged by their cosmetics.

'So many things are put into cosmetics now that are carcinogenic, and it is allowed because cosmetics are not considered to be as serious as drugs or food.

'One of the most extreme cases I have seen was a woman whose bone marrow was affected by chemicals used in hair dye.

sarah Posted on December 08, 2018 11:01

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Soft cornbread, as well as sweet cornbread, are my absolute favourites for the winter time. With fresh cottage cheese and eggs, this is a fancier version of a well-known quick bread, proja. These lovely muffins can be served instead of dinner rolls, breakfast rolls, and they can even be grilled and toasted. Although they could be slathered with soft butter, and some tangy jam for a fantastic snack, my favourite way to serve these is with sauerkraut and soured cream.

200 grams cottage cheese
2 eggs
200 grams finely ground cornmeal
100 grams soft bread flour
100 ml oil
300 ml sparkling mineral water (carbonated water)
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt


Sift together the cornmeal, bread flour, baking powder and baking soda, add salt and whisk well, then set it aside. Break up the cheese with a fork, add the eggs and cream the mixture using an electric mixture, until smooth; add the oil and blend it on low, until creamy. Add the flour mixture and half of the water and mix it in on low, then continue mixing while pouring the rest of the water in a thin stream. Finally, mix the batter on high for about a minute, to make it completely smooth and creamy. Line a 12-count standard size muffin pan with muffin liners, divide the batter evenly and bake immediately in a preheated oven, at 200?C (400?F), for 18-20 minutes. Serve warm


Since early age, we are taught to associate baking and pastry with feelings of comfort and cosiness. With the much colder weather approaching, what better way to keep the chill away, then with a batch of crispy, golden Mozzarella rolls.

They do not take a lot of time, and they are very easy to put together – start to finish they take about an hour of your time. If you are so inclined, feel free to lightly sprinkle them with minced pepperoncini right before rolling up the dough.


200 grams Feta cheese
200 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
300 grams Graham flour
½ teaspoon salt
250 grams Mozzarella cheese, grated


Place the softened butter into a large bowl, and use an electronic whisk on a medium setting to cream the butter until it becomes smooth and lighter in colour. Add in the Feta cheese, along with the salt, and blend on a lower setting until just combined. When blended, increase the speed and whisk until completely creamy. Start gradually adding in the sifted flour, blending with the whisk at first, then with a wooden spoon or a sturdy, reliable spatula, until you get a very soft and pliable dough. Place the dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, so the butter can firm up slightly, making the further rolling and slicing easier.

Lightly flour the work surface, either with Graham or plain flour, and quickly roll out the dough to about 5 millimetres thick, then lavishly cover the whole surface with freshly grated Mozzarella cheese, making sure you leave one end of the dough bare, so the dough rolls could be sealed properly. Brush a small amount of cold water on the bare edge of the dough, and starting from the opposite side, roll it into a tight log, just as you would a Swiss roll.

Using a very sharp knife, carefully divide the dough into 16 equal rolls, and arrange them on a large baking sheet lined with baking parchment, cut side down. Although these rolls have no leavening agent in them, do space them apart generously, as they will bake crispier on the edges that way. Bake them in a preheated oven, at 200°C (400°F), for about 20-25 minutes, or until golden and fragrant. Serve them immediately, either with tomato sauce or plain. Yields 16 rolls, 8 servings.

sarah Posted on December 08, 2018 10:52

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Cohen spoke with Russian to set up Trump-Putin meeting, Mueller reveals

Trump implicated in campaign finance law violations as prosecutors allege he directed lawyer to pay off two women

One of Donald Trump’s closest advisers spoke during the 2016 election campaign with a Russian offering help from Moscow and a meeting with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, the special counsel Robert Mueller revealed on Friday.

Federal prosecutors also alleged that Trump directed the adviser, Michael Cohen, to make illegal payoffs to two women who claimed to have had sexual relationships with Trump, implicating the president in the violation of campaign finance laws. They recommended that Cohen receive a prison sentence of about four years.

The disclosures heaped new pressure on Trump, whose presidency has come under siege from Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 US election and a spinoff inquiry into Cohen, his lawyer and legal fixer for more than a decade.

They were swiftly followed by new revelations in the criminal prosecution of Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. He was accused by Mueller of repeatedly lying about his relationship with an alleged former Russian intelligence operative and about his recent communications with Trump’s White House.

Following a week of increasingly frenzied attacks against Mueller, Trump falsely stated on Friday evening that the latest development “totally clears”him. In fact, investigations appeared to be edging ever closer to the door of the Oval Office.

Mueller said in a court filing that Cohen had provided him “useful information” on matters at the core of the Trump-Russia investigation. He also recounted details of communications with people “connected to the White House” this year and last, Mueller said, hinting Cohen may have implicated Trump and aides in additional wrongdoing.

The special counsel’s filing said Cohen’s November 2015 conversation with a Russian national was among other “contacts with Russian interests” he had while the Kremlin was interfering in the election to help Trump.

Cohen also told investigators he made efforts to contact the Russian government to propose a meeting between Trump and Putin in New York in September 2015, after discussing this with Trump.

In a separate filing, federal prosecutors in New York said Cohen “acted in coordination and at the direction of” Trump when setting up payments to buy the silence of Karen McDougal, a former model, and Stormy Daniels, a pornographic actor, who were considering making public their allegations of affairs with Trump.

Cohen and Trump paid the women to suppress their damaging stories and “to influence the 2016 presidential election”, the filing said.

The White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, told reporters the filings contained “nothing of value that wasn’t already known”, saying Cohen had “repeatedly lied” and was “no hero”.

Mueller separately alleged that Manafort falsely claimed he had had no contact with anyone in Trump’s administration since they entered office. In fact, Mueller said, he was in communication with a senior official until February this year, and asked an intermediary to talk to an official on his behalf as recently as late May.

The contacts will be of great interest to investigators. Whether Manafort’s ties to pro-Kremlin figures in eastern Europe are connected to Russia’s interference in the 2016 election remains the central unanswered question in the Trump-Russia inquiry.

While Mueller said Cohen provided significant help to his investigation, prosecutors said Cohen had overstated his overall cooperation with the government and had shown a “rose-colored view of the seriousness of the crimes”.

        Cohen was motivated by greed and “repeatedly used his power and influence for deceptive ends”, the prosecutors said in a court filing. “After cheating the [Internal Revenue Service] for years, lying to banks and to Congress, and seeking to criminally influence the presidential election, Cohen’s decision to plead guilty – rather than seek a pardon for his manifold crimes – does not make him a hero.”

           Despite his wrongdoing, Mueller said, Cohen disclosed “useful information concerning certain discrete Russia-related matters” at the core of his investigation. US intelligence agencies have concluded Russia’s interference was aimed at helping Trump and harming the campaign of Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent.

        Cohen previously pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about Trump’s plans to develop a building in Russia. He admitted the project continued well into Trump’s campaign for the presidency – contradicting Trump’s account – and that Cohen spoke with a Kremlin official about securing Russian government support.


On Friday, Mueller disclosed that in November 2015, Cohen separately spoke with a Russian “who claimed to be a ‘trusted person’ in the Russian Federation” and offered Trump’s campaign “political synergy” and “synergy on a government level”.

The Russian repeatedly proposed a meeting between Trump and Putin, according to Mueller, and told Cohen the meeting “could have a ‘phenomenal’ impact ‘not only in political but in a business dimension as well’”, because there was “no bigger warranty in any project than consent of Putin”.

Mueller said Cohen chose not to pursue the offer of assistance in part because he was working on the project with someone else he “understood to have his own connections to the Russian government”, a likely reference to Felix Sater, a developer who was working on the Trump Tower Moscow plans.

Cohen previously pleaded guilty in August to violating election campaign finance laws by arranging the payments to the two women. He also pleaded guilty to several financial crimes relating to his business and tax affairs.

Last week, Mueller tore up a plea deal with Manafort and told a judge he repeatedly lied to investigators even after agreeing to cooperate with the Trump-Russia investigation.



In his submission on Friday, Mueller said Manafort had continued lying about five areas of the inquiry, including his relationship with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian employee of Manafort’s political consulting firm. Kilimnik is alleged to have ties to Russian intelligence services, which he denies. Manafort and Kilimnik are accused of asking business associates early this year to lie about their past lobbying work.

Since you're here…

… we have a small favour to ask. Three years ago we set out to make The Guardian sustainable by deepening our relationship with our readers. The same technologies that connected us with a global audience had also shifted advertising revenues away from news publishers. We decided to seek an approach that would allow us to keep our journalism open and accessible to everyone, regardless of where they live or what they can afford.

More than one million readers have now supported our independent, investigative journalism through contributions, membership or subscriptions, which has played such an important part in helping The Guardian overcome a perilous financial situation globally. We want to thank you for all of your support. But we have to maintain and build on that support for every year to come.

Sustained support from our readers enables us to continue pursuing difficult stories in challenging times of political upheaval, when factual reporting has never been more critical. The Guardian is editorially independent – our journalism is free from commercial bias and not influenced by billionaire owners, politicians or shareholders. No one edits our editor. No one steers our opinion. This is important because it enables us to give a voice to those less heard, challenge the powerful and hold them to account. Readers’ support means we can continue bringing The Guardian’s independent journalism to the world.

If everyone who reads our reporting, who likes it, helps to support it, our future would be much more secure. For as little as $1, you can support the Guardian – and it only takes a minute. Thank you.

sarah Posted on December 08, 2018 10:47

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Trump wrongly claims Cohen memos 'clear the president' – as it happened

The week has come to a close with a number of major developments in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. We’re ending our live coverage for the day – thanks for following along. Here’s what you need to know about the day’s news:

  • Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer and legal fixer, spoke with a Russian offering help from Moscow during the 2016 campaign, according to Mueller.
  • Cohen told investigators he made efforts to contact the Russian government to propose a meeting between Trump and Putin in 2015, after discussing this with Trump.
  • Prosecutors recommended Cohen receive a prison sentence of about four years.
  • The government for the first time implicated the president in Cohen’s campaign finance violations, saying the attorney “acted in coordination with and at the direction” of Trump.
  • Paul Manafort lied to the FBI and to the special counsel’s office, according to a separate filing by Mueller on Friday.
  • The former campaign chairman tried to conceal his contact with an “administration official” inside the White House as late as May 2018, the filing said.
  • Mueller wrote: “Manafort told multiple discernible lies – these were not instances of mere memory lapses.”
  • James Comey, the former FBI director, testified before the House judiciary and oversight committees on Friday, and later criticized the process.
  • Trump tweeted attacks on Comey and also wrongly claimed the sentencing memo “clears the president”.
  • John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, has been interviewed by Mueller’s team and is expected to quit, CNN reported.
  • George Papadopoulos, former aide to Trump’s campaign, was released from prison on Friday after serving 12 days for lying to the federal government about his contacts with the Russians.
  • Trump nominated William Barr as the next attorney general, selecting a man who served in the role under George HW Bush.

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James Comey calls House hearing 'desperate'

James Comey, the former FBI director who was called to Capitol Hill today to privately testify before the House judiciary and oversight committees, has called his hearing a “desperate attempt to find anything that can be used to attack the institutions of justice investigating this president”:

Some Republicans have suggested that the former FBI chief should have been more cooperative in the private questioning. Democrats, however, have criticized the investigation. Via AP:

“He answered the questions he had to answer,” said Rep Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois. But he added that he was left with the impression that “we got nowhere today”.

Florida Rep Ted Deutsch said the Republican majority “wishes to only ask questions still about Hillary Clinton’s emails, all to distract from the big news today, which is what’s happening in court”.

Congressman Jerrold Nadler, the top Democrat on the judiciary panel, said he would end the investigation when Democrats take over in January.

White House: 'the media is trying to create a story'

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, has responded to the Friday night filings. On Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman accused of lying “in multiple ways and on multiple occasions”, Sanders sought to distance the claims from Trump:

The government’s filing in Mr Manafort’s case says absolutely nothing about the president. It says even less about collusion and is devoted almost entirely to lobbying-related issues. Once again the media is trying to create a story where there isn’t one.”

Sanders meanwhile attacked the credibility of Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney, who is potentially facing four years in prison:

The government’s filings in Mr Cohen’s case tell us nothing of value that wasn’t already known. Mr Cohen has repeatedly lied and as the prosecution has pointed out to the court, Mr Cohen is no hero.”

The Cohen filings directly implicate Trump. Cohen, who was Trump’s legal fixer, told investigators he made efforts to contact the Russian government to propose a meeting between Trump and Putin in New York in September 2015, after discussing this with Trump. More details here:

Here is some helpful analysis from the Washington Post about the implications of the special counsel’s claim that Michael Cohen’s campaign finance law violations were done “in coordination with and at the direction” of Trump:

This filing marks the first time that federal prosecutors have directly implicated Trump in the violations. That could mean serious consequences. Here’s how Lawrence Noble, the former general counsel for the Federal Election Commission, explained it to the Post:

Noble further said, “This is something that very clearly would have to be considered for criminal prosecution” of Trump – were he not president. The Post noted that DOJ guidelines suggest that a sitting president can’t be indicted. More from the anaylsis:

In order for Trump to be charged – if he weren’t president – it would need to be a ‘knowing and willful violation,’ Noble said. This doesn’t mean, though, that Trump would need to know the specific statutes that his actions were violating. It would be enough for Trump to know that campaign contributions needed to be reported and were subject to limits, which he clearly did, and that the payments were being made in order to influence the election.

Cohen sentencing memo: key quotes

Some key quotes from the Cohen sentencing memo, filed by federal prosecutors in New York:

  • “But the crimes committed by Cohen were more serious than his submission allows and were marked by a pattern of deception that permeated his professional life (and was evidently hidden from the friends and family members who wrote on his behalf).”
  • “He was motivated ... by personal greed, and repeatedly used his power and influence for deceptive ends. Now he seeks extraordinary leniency – a sentence of no jail time – based principally on his rose-colored view of the seriousness of the crimes; his claims to a sympathetic personal history; and his provision of certain information to law enforcement.”
  • “While Cohen – as his own submission makes clear – already enjoyed a privileged life, his desire for even greater wealth and influence precipitated an extensive course of criminal conduct.”
  • “While many Americans who desired a particular outcome to the election knocked on doors, toiled at phone banks, or found any number of other legal ways to make their voices heard, Cohen sought to influence the election from the shadows. He did so by orchestrating secret and illegal payments to silence two women who otherwise would have made public their alleged extramarital affairs with Individual-1 [Trump].”
  • “Cohen clouded a process that Congress has painstakingly sought to keep transparent. The sentence imposed should reflect the seriousness of Cohen’s brazen violations of the election laws and attempt to counter the public cynicism that may arise when individuals like Cohen act as if the political process belongs to the rich and powerful.”
  • “Cohen’s submission suggests that this was but a brief error in judgment. Not so. Cohen knew exactly where the line was, and he chose deliberately and repeatedly to cross it.”
  •  “After cheating the IRS for years, lying to banks and to Congress, and seeking to criminally influence the Presidential election, Cohen’s decision to plead guilty – rather than seek a pardon for his manifold crimes – does not make him a hero.”

One critical detail from the latest Mueller filing is the claim that in November 2015, Cohen spoke with a Russian national “who claimed to be a ‘trusted person’ in the Russian Federation” and offered the Trump campaign “political synergy” and “synergy on a government level”.

Trump is now tweeting about James Comey – and has not yet commented on the newly released sentencing memos about his former personal attorney. Comey was on Capitol Hill today to privately testify before the House judiciary and oversight committees.

sarah Posted on December 08, 2018 10:35

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I'm a Celebrity: Nick Knowles' kids love dad's budgie smugglers

Nick Knowles has, for many, been the unexpected star of this year's I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!

He's spent his time in the jungle walking round in a pair of rather revealing red pants, endlessly playing the guitar - and bizarrely claiming the moon landings were faked.

All things you might expect his kids to find pretty cringey - but sons TJ and Charles have told Newsbeat he's "doing them proud".

And, contrary to what you might expect - they especially love those now-infamous budgie smugglers.

"Who knows where he got them from, I think he picked them up on his way into the jungle," TJ laughs. "When he left he never had them!"

Charles is equally confused.

"We're loving the budgie smugglers - shout out to them. They're going through some serious stuff right now.

"We didn't see him packing them. But dad's just one of those people - he's proud about it, he loves it."

The DIY SOS host has also raised eyebrows by controversially claiming no human "has ever landed on the moon".

But his sons are behind him on that too - well, sort of.

"The moon thing was hilarious to me," Charles says, "me and dad both do this thing where we like throwing a bit of a curve ball out there.

"It's not that we actually believe it ourselves, but if you throw a controversial subject out and then just let anarchy take over it's actually hilarious to watch."

As well as being a TV presenter, Nick is also a musician and put out his debut album last year.

It's been a big talking point on the show - so much so that a campaign was launched to push his version of the song To Make You Feel My Love to the top of the iTunes chart.

And it worked.

"He's an unbelievable guitarist," Charles says. "We're all taken aback by it. It's a bit crazy.

"We're very shocked but we're feeling the love and so is dad right now - so shout out to anyone who did buy it."

But despite all the success, Charles admits he didn't actually want his dad to go on the show.

"Dad is a gentleman but when you put yourself on a platform that is viewed by so many, and you're just yourself, no matter how much of a gentleman you are you're always going to get negative feedback.

"As a family we're strong enough to deal with it, but it's never nice to see someone say something about your dad.

"I'm very close with dad and protective about him - but we're getting used to it and we're getting a lot of love."

ruby Posted on December 07, 2018 13:01

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France protests: Footage of students 'humiliated' by police

Footage of school students being forced to kneel with their hands behind their heads by French riot police has sparked outrage on social media.

The students were demonstrating outside a school in Mantes-la-Jolie, west of Paris, which ended in clashes with police and more than 140 arrests.

Students are angry at plans to reform the exam system, which they say will limit opportunity and breed inequality.

It comes at France prepares for further violence from "yellow vest" protesters.

Police said that those arrested at the Saint-Exupery school were suspected of taking part in an "armed gathering", adding that officers had wanted to break up a situation that was getting "out-of-control", Le Monde newspaper reported.

However, Paris Communist councillor Clémentine Autain said the images of students forced to kneel in dirt while facing brick walls were "frightening", "humiliating" and "unacceptable".

Frédérique Rolet, of France's education union the SNES-FSU, said she found the footage "unbearable", according to French radio station Europe 1.

The head of Oxfam France, Cécile Duflot, tweeted that she felt the scenes from the Mantes-la-Jolie school were "simply intolerable".

Ms Duflot also shared a report produced by former French high school students who participated in demonstrations dating back to the 1960s.

In it they state that the actions taken by authorities in response to the recent protests have been "disproportionate".

"We blocked our high schools, occupied the streets," the report reads, adding: "None of us have ever been taken into custody... we were not gassed at close range in front of our schools."Students across the country have been angered by President Emmanuel Macron's plans to change the end-of-school exam, which is known as the baccalaureate and is required for entrance to university, as well as the university admissions platform Parcoursup.

Student Louis Benzerrouk said on Thursday that he was demonstrating because young people "are not listened to".

"We are despised by [Macron and his government] ... we really have the impression that they are going in the opposite direction," he said.

Another student, Milena Arvois, said the planned reform will "kill the vocational schools", adding that she was also against an increase in fees for foreign students "because that will be a disaster".

Dozens of schools were blockaded in cities across France this week, including in Marseille, Nantes and Paris.

The "gilets jaunes" ("yellow vest") protesters, so-called because they take to the streets wearing the high-visibility yellow clothing required to be carried in every vehicle by French law, initially complained at a sharp increase in diesel taxes but the demonstrations have now widened to include other sources of discontent.

Mr Macron said his motivation for the increase was environmental, but protesters accused him of being out of touch.

The government later scrapped the plan but the yellow vest protesters have since issued more than 40 demands to government, including a minimum pension and widespread changes to the tax system.

ruby Posted on December 07, 2018 12:42

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Strictly Come Dancing: Is Ashley Roberts too good to be a contestant?

There are some things you can depend on happening every Christmas.

Mariah Carey on the radio. The Queen's speech on the TV. A chocolate orange in your stocking.

And, like clockwork, a Strictly contestant being accused of having too much dance experience.

But this year, the celebrity in the firing line arguably has a more notable dance background than any before her.

Singer Ashley Roberts is paired with Strictly pro Pasha Kovalev, but many viewers say she might as well be one of the show's professionals herself.

"There were a lot of raised eyebrows when Ashley was announced as part of this year's line-up," TV critic Emma Bullimore tells BBC News.

"Unlike previous contestants with dance experience, Ashley actually worked as a judge on another dance programme, and her role in the Pussycat Dolls was to dance more than it was to sing."

It's true that the 37-year-old has previously been a judge on ITV's Dancing On Ice.

It's true that The Pussycat Dolls were used to performing complex dance routines while Nicole Scherzinger took care of the lead vocals.

But, some have argued, it doesn't necessarily follow that she would have an advantage on Strictly.

"I'm sure Ashley's never done the Viennese waltz in her career with The Pussycat Dolls," said host Tess Daly last week, an argument anyone who's seen the video for Buttons could confirm.

"I think cut her a little slack... she hasn't necessarily danced in ballroom before."

Speaking to BBC News in September, Ashley herself argued Latin and ballroom was "just so foreign to what my body has done".

But, she acknowledged: "I do have rhythm so it might be a little bit easier for me to possibly pick up a step, but it is still a new skill that I don't know that I am going to have to learn."

Nonetheless, Ashley and Pasha's quickstep last weekend saw her end up in the bottom two (again) despite receiving high scores from the judges (again).

It was the second time in as many weeks the star had found herself in the dance-off.

Given the algorithm Strictly uses to calculate the bottom two, with judges' scores balanced against the public, it's fair to assume Ashley is receiving very few viewer votes indeed.

"It's perhaps a sign that the public feel that she may be too good and has slightly lost interest in her," suggested Ben Dowell in The Radio Times.

"It's important to have good dancers in the early stages of each series so there's something nice to watch while everyone's finding their dancing feet. But I would be quite pleased if she didn't win."

Viewers seem to agree. Throughout the series, complaints and jokes about Ashley's involvement have become commonplace on social media.

There's little doubt that, if Strictly was judged solely on dancing, Ashley would be very likely to win this year.

"She's one of the best dancers I think we've ever seen on the show," admitted judge Craig Revel Horwood last month, a point which could be made on either side of the argument.

Ashley was the first contestant to get a perfect score of 40, during the Blackpool special, with a jive that Bruno Tonioli said would go down in the show's history.

But Strictly has never really been about that.

Far more important is the "journey".

Take a look at some of the show's previous winners, like Ore Oduba, Joe McFadden, Abbey Clancey or Louis Smith.

They are celebrities from a wide range of backgrounds who had a much lower skill level on which to improve when their respective series started.

Viewers, therefore, felt they had grown with the contestants. Seen them work hard at a new discipline, and improve dramatically.

One contestant who has made it to the final five this year, Paralympian Lauren Steadman, is perhaps one of 2018's most improved celebrities.

"People want to see someone who's not brilliant to start with, and then has a bit of a breakthrough moment and gets better and better," says Bullimore.

"Lauren is inspiring a lot of people with disabilities, and without disabilities, and you forget AJ has had to adapt the choreography, because he's used to having someone with two arms.

"So it's pretty amazing to watch, and what they've achieved is incredible."

Ashley isn't the first contestant to find herself the subject of the "professional" criticism.

Denise Van Outen and Alexandra Burke have faced similar accusations in the past on account of their West End experience, while another of this year's contestants, Danny John Jules, has been dancing professionally since the 1990s.

"You'd be very, very hard pushed to find anybody who has no dance experience [to take part in Strictly]," pointed out Steps singer Claire Richards when she defended the casting of her bandmate Faye Tozer in this year's series.

Bullimore says she's "sympathetic" to viewers who object to Ashley's casting, but adds: "I don't get too het up about it because nobody with previous dance experience ever goes on to win.

"I don't think there are that many people who are furious that Ashley was booked for the show. But do I think there are a lot of people who don't want her to win? Yes."

Aside from dance experience, another reason Ashley would be unlikely to lift the glitterball trophy is that Strictly has never been won by a non-British contestant.

End of Youtube post by BBC Strictly Come Dancing

But, like Alexandra before her, she's made it this far thanks to the judges repeatedly saving her in the dance-off - as they are obliged to vote for the stronger dance on a technical level.

Whether Ashley makes it through this weekend or not, there's no doubt next week's final is going to be close.

As this year's series reaches its climax, there's only one thing we can be truly certain of - having this debate all over again about a different celebrity next year.

ruby Posted on December 07, 2018 10:33

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France protests: Tourist sites to close on Saturday amid Paris riot fears

Tourist sites in Paris are to close on Saturday amid fears of further street violence from "yellow vest" anti-government protests.

Across France, 89,000 police officers will be on duty and armoured vehicles will be deployed in the capital, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced.

Police have urged shops and restaurants on Paris's Champs-Elysees to shut and some museums will also be closed.

Paris endured some of the worst rioting in decades last Saturday.

The government has said it is scrapping unpopular fuel tax increases in its budget - the original trigger for the protests.

But broader discontent with the government has spread and protests have erupted over other issues.

What has the government said?

An official with the interior ministry told AFP news agency authorities were braced for "significant violence" on Saturday, with activists from both the far right and far left planning to converge on the capital.

In an interview with TV channel TF1, Mr Philippe said 8,000 police would be deployed in Paris as well as a dozen armoured vehicles.

He repeated an appeal for calm but added: "We are facing people who are not here to protest, but to smash and we want to have the means to not give them a free rein."

Earlier, Mr Philippe suggested further concessions to protesters, telling the Senate that the government was open to new measures to help the lowest-paid workers.

How will Paris be affected?

The operator of the Eiffel Tower said the threat of violent protests on Saturday made it impossible to ensure "adequate security conditions".

City authorities say they are stepping up protection for famous landmarks after the Arc de Triomphe was damaged last week.

Culture Minister Franck Riester said the Louvre and Orsay museums, opera houses and the Grand Palais complex were among sites that would be closed.

"We cannot take the risk when we know the threat," he told RTL radio.

Police have asked stores and restaurants along the Champs-Elysees and other major shopping streets to stay closed and to remove any outdoor items such as tables and chairs.

A series of football matches have also been postponed on Saturday. They include those between Paris and Montpellier, Monaco and Nice, Toulouse and Lyon, and Saint-Etienne and Marseille.

What other protests have there been?

On Thursday young people took to the streets, protesting over education reforms.

More than 140 people were arrested when a protest outside a school in Mantes-la-Jolie to the west of Paris ended in clashes with police. Pictures of the arrests, in which the students are made to kneel and put their hands behind their heads, sparked outrage on social media.

"Now there's a well-behaved class," a police office is heard saying.

The town's police chief told Le Monde newspaper that those arrested were suspected of taking part in an "armed gathering", adding that officers had wanted to break up a situation that was getting "out-of-control."

Dozens of other schools were blockaded in cities including Marseille, Nantes and Paris. Students have been angered by President Emmanuel Macron's plans to change the end-of-school exam, known as the baccalaureate, which is required for entrance to university.

Critics fear the reforms will limit opportunity and breed inequality.

Who are the protesters?

The "gilets jaunes" protesters, so-called because they have taken to the streets wearing the high-visibility yellow clothing that is required to be carried in every vehicle by French law, initially complained at a sharp increase in diesel taxes.

Mr Macron said his motivation for the increase was environmental, but protesters accused him of being out of touch.

The government later scrapped the plan but the yellow vest protesters were not placated. Last week, the movement - despite a lack of central leadership - issued more than 40 demands to government.

Among them were a minimum pension, widespread changes to the tax system, and a reduction in the retirement age.

The protest movement has gained momentum via social media, encompassing a whole range of participants from the anarchist far left to the nationalist far right, and moderates in between.

ruby Posted on December 07, 2018 10:03

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MSF ship Aquarius ends migrant rescues in Mediterranean

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) says it has been forced to end migrant rescue operations in the Mediterranean carried out by the vessel Aquarius.

The medical charity blamed "sustained attacks on search and rescue by European states".

Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini welcomed MSF's move. "Fewer sailings, fewer landings, fewer deaths. That's good," he tweeted.

Aquarius has been stuck in Marseille since its registration was revoked.

It has helped save migrants making the dangerous crossing to Europe from Libya and elsewhere, but has faced strong opposition, particularly from Italy.

Mr Salvini accused charities running rescue ships of collaborating with people-traffickers operating out of Libya to run a "taxi service" to Italian ports.

Italian policy is that migrants picked up at sea should be returned to Libya by that country's coastguard.

But charities and human rights groups say migrants face appalling conditions in Libya, where abuses at the hands of people-trafficking gangs are rife.

Aquarius had been the last charity rescue ship still operating.

Announcing the decision to end its operations, MSF said EU countries, spearheaded by Italy, had failed to provide enough dedicated rescue capacity of their own, then had actively sabotaged the efforts of others trying to save lives in the Mediterranean, the BBC's Europe correspondent, Damian Grammaticas reports.

In a tweet, MSF Sea said "sustained attacks" by European nations "will mean more deaths at sea, and more needless deaths that will go unwitnessed".

Aquarius has been laid up in Marseille for months, after Panama revoked its registration - citing intense political pressure from Italian authorities

A de-flagged vessel cannot legally set sail.

Italy has kept up the pressure. Last month, prosecutors called for the seizure of the Aquarius over the alleged dumping of potentially toxic waste in its ports. MSF called the move "unfounded and sinister".

Migrant numbers reaching Italy have fallen significantly this year amid moves to dismantle smuggling networks in Libya and increase coastguard patrols.

International Organization for Migration (IOM) data says more than 2,000 people have died or gone missing making crossings this year, compared to more than 3,000 last year.

The Aquarius began operations in 2015 and came to worldwide attention over the summer as Italy closed its ports to migrant rescue ships, leaving the ship stranded at sea with people rescued from the water.

Hundreds of migrants were eventually allowed to disembark in the Spanish port of Valencia in June, after being turned away by Italy and Malta.

ruby Posted on December 07, 2018 09:54

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Stair test may predict your risk of dying of heart disease, cancer, study finds

If you can do this simple test, it's a good sign of your exercise capacity. If not, you may need to exercise more.

For a glimpse into the state of your health and longevity, just head for some stairs.

How people perform on an exercise test that requires them to move very briskly can predict their risk of premature death from heart disease, cancer and other causes, a study presented Thursday at a meeting of the European Society of Cardiology found.

Those with good exercise capacity — capable of high levels of physical exertion, say, on a treadmill — had less chance of dying early of any cause.

The participants in the study underwent an exercise echocardiogram, but there’s a much easier method to check your exercise capacity in a similar way: See if you can climb four flights of stairs at a fast pace — in under a minute — without having to stop, said Dr. Jesús Peteiro, the study author and a cardiologist at University Hospital A Coruña in A Coruña, Spain.

If you can do it, you have good functional capacity. If not, it’s a sign you need more exercise, he noted. Peteiro wasn’t surprised by his study’s findings.

“Physical activity has positive effect on blood pressure and lipids, reduces inflammation and improves the body`s immune response to tumors,” Peteiro told TODAY.


For simple advice to improve your health and fitness, sign up for our One Small Thing newsletter

For the study, 12,615 participants with known or suspected coronary artery disease underwent treadmill exercise echocardiography — a medical test to see how well a person’s heart tolerates activity.


Their effort levels were measured in metabolic equivalents, or METs. One MET is equal to the energy it takes to sit quietly. Walking briskly requires about 3 METs, while jogging takes more than 6. This study defined good functional capacity as achieving a maximum workload of 10 METs.

Being able to climb four flights of stairs in about 45-55 seconds would be equivalent to 10 METs, Peteiro, estimated.

When the study participants were followed up over the next five years or so, each MET they achieved during the exercise test was associated with a 9 percent lower risk of cardiovascular death, a 9 percent lower risk of cancer death and 4 percent lower risk of other causes of death, the European Society of Cardiology noted.

In people with poor functional capacity, the death rate from heart disease was almost three times higher and cancer deaths were almost double compared to participants who had good exercise capacity.


Cardiologists already know a patient who has a significantly abnormal heart stress test, but shows very good exercise capacity, has a better prognosis, said Dr. Andrew Freeman, director of cardiovascular prevention and wellness at National Jewish Health in Denver, Colorado, and a member of the American College of Cardiology’s Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease Section Leadership Council.


The latest exercise guidelines for Americans say adults need at least 2 ½ hours to five hours a week of moderate intensity exercise; or 1 hour, 15 minutes to 2 ½ hours of intense activity every week.

As for stairs offering clues to a person’s heart health, doctors already ask patients whether they can go up a flight of stairs without symptoms before clearing them for major surgery, Freeman noted. Other tests found to predict longevity include being able to get back up without support after sitting on the floor.

Try walking, running, bicycling and swimming to boost your exercise capacity, Peteiro advised. Freeman just wanted people to pick an activity they enjoyed that would make them breathless.

“We know that in some ways exercise is a medicine and it has a dose response, where typically more exercise is better,” he said.

sarah Posted on December 07, 2018 09:37

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Infections and cancer: The link could be stronger than we think

Bacteria could have a bigger involvement in cancer than scientists may have realized, according to recent research.

A viral infection may be the cause of up to 20 percent of cancer cases.

A study from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore has uncovered a type of bacterial infection that can disrupt DNA repair in cells, which is a known cause of cancer.

The same type of infection could also weaken the effect of some anticancer drugs, says the PNAS report on the findings.

"Currently," comments senior study author Robert C. Gallo, who is a professor of medicine and director of the university's Institute of Human Virology, "approximately 20 percent of cancers are thought to be caused by infection, most are known to be due to viruses."

The team began by investigating infections by a family of tiny bacteria that go by the name of mycoplasmas.

These bacteria "are associated with cancers, especially in people with HIV," explains Prof. Gallo, who was one of the scientists who discovered that HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.

Mycoplasmas, DnaK, and cancer

Mycoplasmas are among the smallest "free-living microorganisms." They do not have a cell wall and, for a long time, scientists thought that they were viruses.

The tiny bacteria contain a protein called DnaK that the researchers decided to focus on "because of its ability to interact with proteins."

DnaK is a "chaperone protein" that protects other proteins from damage and ensures that they function properly by helping them to fold.

The team's efforts uncovered two main links between DnaK and cancer.

They revealed that DnaK from mycoplasmas "interacts with and reduces the activities of human proteins" that are important for DNA repair.

Also, it appears that DnaK weakens the effect of certain drugs that aim to boost the activity of the natural anticancer protein p53.

DnaK reduces p53 by binding to an enzyme called USP10 that helps to regulate p53.

Infected mice developed cancer more quickly

In their investigations, the researchers observed how quickly lymphoma developed in two groups of mice with compromised immune systems.

They infected one group of mice with a mycoplasma strain from a person with HIV.

The results showed that lymphoma developed more quickly in the mycoplasma-infected immune-compromised mice than their non-infected counterparts.

In addition, some of the cancer cells, but not all of them, contained DNA from the bacteria.

The researchers suggest that this means that the infection does not have to persist to be able to trigger cancer.

It seems that mycoplasma release DnaK and that this can enter uninfected cells that are nearby and trigger events that can lead to cancer in those cells.

Infection-cancer link may need a rethink

Finally, an analysis of amino acid composition revealed differences between DnaK proteins from cancer-associated bacteria and bacteria that researchers have not associated with cancer.

This could mean that there are other bacteria with a similar ability to promote cancer.

Prof. Gallo suggests that their research "changes how we need to think about infection and at least some cancers."

sarah Posted on December 07, 2018 09:27

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Consecrated virgins: 'I got married to Christ'

Jessica Hayes bought herself a wedding gown, a veil and a ring. But when she stood at the altar facing the bishop during a solemn religious ceremony, there was no groom by her side.

She was getting married to Jesus Christ.

Ms Hayes, 41, is a consecrated virgin - a vocation taken by women within the Catholic Church who wish to give themselves as brides to God.

Even within Catholicism, consecrated virgins are little-known - partly because the vocation was only publicly sanctioned by the Church less than 50 years ago.

During the consecration ceremony, the candidate - who wears a bride-like, white dress- makes life-long chastity vows and promises never to engage in sexual or romantic relationships.

The women also wear a wedding ring - a symbol of their betrothal to Christ.

"I often get asked: 'So, are you married?'" says Ms Hayes. "I usually just reply with a really brief explanation that I am similar to a religious sister, that there's a total commitment to Christ, but that I live out in the world."

She is one of 254 "brides of Christ" in the US, according to the United States Association of Consecrated Virgins (USACV) - whose day jobs range from nurses and psychologists to accountants, business women and fire fighters.

There are at least 4,000 consecrated virgins in the world, according to a 2015 survey, and the Vatican says there has been an upsurge of vocations "in very diverse geographic areas and cultural contexts".

Unlike nuns, consecrated virgins do not live in enclosed communities or wear special clothes; they lead a secular life, have jobs and support themselves.

There is no such male equivalent in the Catholic Church.


A little-known vocation in Catholicism


consecrated virgins in 78 countries, according to a 2015 survey

  • 1,220 of them live in France and Italy, the countries with the largest numbers of consecrated virgins

  • US, Mexico, Romania, Poland, Spain, Germany and Argentina also have high numbers

  • 5,000 is the number of consecrated virgins projected for 2020

Source: Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (CICLSAL) and USACV

"I have been a teacher for 18 years, I'm actually teaching at the same high school that I went to," says Ms Hayes, who lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana, US.

"[Before my consecration] I realised I didn't share a call to [the] community life nuns live, in a religious congregation or with a specific apostolate [a form of evangelistic activity or work] that each of these communities would have."

When she is not teaching, most of her time is devoted to private prayer and penance. She reports to a bishop and keeps regular meetings with her spiritual adviser.

"I live in a neighbourhood, I belong to the parish that's just two miles away from my home, I am available to help family and friends. And then I teach, so I am surrounded by people during the day, but still accommodate a special consecration to the Lord around that."

She has been in romantic relationships in the past but says they never made her feel complete.

"I thought I was called to married life, [which] is a very natural desire for the human person. So I did date… but never seriously."

Virgins have been part of the Church since early Christian times. In the first three centuries AD, many died as martyrs as a result.

Among them was Agnes of Rome, who was reportedly killed as a result of her devotion to religious chastity.

The practice then declined in medieval times as the popularity of monastic religious life grew, only to be revived by the 1971 Ordo consecrationis virginum, the document through which the Vatican recognised female perpetual virginity as a voluntary state of life within the Church.

Ms Hayes says she had not thought of becoming a consecrated virgin until she met a spiritual adviser who, she says, "started asking the right questions".

She made the decision in 2013, and her consecration took place two years later at the age of 36.

"Even though I have a lot of the same duties that I had before [the consecration], it's still different because to relate to the Lord as spouse is entirely different to relating to him as friend."

The choice of celibacy is a means of drawing even more closely to the following of the Lord. What I do is a gift of my body to Him"

Jessica Hayes, American consecrated virgin

Living in a society where sexuality is held in high regard can be challenging for virgins, who choose to eschew physical relationships forever.

"I think the hardest thing is being misunderstood, as our choice is seen as counter-cultural," says Ms Hayes.

"I get a lot of, 'Oh, so you're like a single person.' I have to explain that the Lord is my primary relationship, that what I do is a giving of my body to Him."

Physical virgins?

Last July, a new set of guidelines published by the Vatican caused a stir among consecrated virgins.

The issue at stake was whether women choosing this vocation needed to have remained a virgin up to the point of the ceremony.

Unlike nuns, who may take a vow of celibacy from the day they enter a religious order, these brides of Christ have been expected to be life-long virgins.

In the controversial section 88 of the document, the Vatican stated that "to have kept her body in perfect continence or to have practised the virtue of chastity in an exemplary way" is important, but not an "essential" prerequisite.

In other words, it may no longer be necessary to be a virgin.

The USACV, of which Ms Hayes is a member, found the guidelines "disappointing".

In a statement, the association said it was "shocking to hear from Mother Church that physical virginity may no longer be considered an essential prerequisite for consecration to a life of virginity."

Ms Hayes says she wishes there was "some more clarity" in the document, yet is happy that the head of the Catholic Church has focused attention on the virgins' vocation.

"And the document still says that [candidates] must not have been either married, or in public or flagrant violation of chastity," she says.

"Maybe there's one indiscriminate act in the past as a young person, or maybe a woman who was raped and so is not a virgin, but not out of choice."

Ultimately, she says, it is about encouraging this particular vocation among Catholic women.

"And maybe vocations are growing because there's a need for people living in such a radical commitment to God - that may be what the Church needs right now."

ruby Posted on December 07, 2018 09:17

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XFL, USFL, other pro football leagues that took on the NFL

Vince McMahon’s rebooted XFL is attempting to streamline the game of football ahead of its 2020 launch, marking the latest effort by an upstart league to shake the NFL’s monopoly on the sport.

XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck said the league is actively market testing potential rule changes to develop a faster, safer on-field product compared to the traditional football the NFL has played for decades. Games will use a shorter game clock than the NFL and conclude in under three hours, he added.

McMahon tried to challenge the NFL once before. The original XFL, which arose as a joint partnership between his WWE (then called WWF) and NBC, folded in 2001 after just one season. This time, XFL officials say there is a long-term financial commitment to the league.

The rebooted entity will kick off its debut season in Feb. 2020, one week after the NFL season ends, with eight teams. While Luck said the league will “complement,” not directly challenge, the NFL, the U.S. marketplace has struggled to sustain more than one major professional football league in the past.


Here’s a look at other upstart pro football leagues that have tried – and often failed – to reinvent the sport.

United States Football League (1983-1986)

Walt Michaels (L) shakes hands with New Jersey’s Generals’ owner Donald Trump at Giants Stadium 1220 after Trump named him as the USFL team’s coach. Michaels, who was turned loose by the New York Jets only two weeks after leading they to the brink of


Arguably the most successful challenge to the NFL, the USFL succeeded in luring several stars to its rosters, including future Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees Jim Kelly and Reggie White and Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker. President Trump was one of the league’s team owners, purchasing the short-lived New Jersey Generals.

The USFL famously filed an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL. A jury ruled that the NFL was in violation of some antitrust laws, but awarded a judgement of just $3 against the league. The USFL folded in 1986, shortly before it was set to play a fall season in direct competition with the NFL.

XFL (1999-2001)

Founded by WWE’s McMahon and NBC Sports, the original XFL sought to unseat the NFL by offering a rougher version of traditional football. Promoted as football with fewer rules and bigger hits, the league featured such gimmicks as scantily clad cheerleaders and nicknames on the back of player jerseys.

Initially drawing widespread publicity, the XFL’s ratings quickly plummeted and the league folded after just one season, having reportedly lost $70 million.

United Football League (2009-2012)

The UFL launched with just four teams comprised primarily of players and coaches who had spent time in the NFL. The league chose to play its schedule in the fall, competing directly with NFL and NCAA football broadcasts. The UFL’s backers reportedly hoped to capitalize on the possibility that NFL owners and players would fail to reach terms on a new labor agreement in 2011, potentially setting the upstart league up as the public’s only source of football.

Beset by financial issues almost from the start, the UFL collapsed after its 2012 seasons amid lawsuits from players and coaches who alleged they were owed back salary.

Arena Football League (1987-2008, 2010-)

Pregame celebrations during ArenaBowl XX at the Thomas

Played entirely indoors, the AFL uses a shorter field, narrower goalposts and other rule tweaks designed to create a high-scoring, fast style of play. The league enjoyed marginal success throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, securing media rights contracts and producing Kurt Warner, a quarterback who later won two Super Bowls with the St. Louis Rams.

The AFL began facing financial problems in the late 2000s, ultimately canceling its 2009 season and declaring bankruptcy. Featuring as many as 19 franchises at its peak, the league currently has four active teams.

Alliance of American Football (2019-)

The AAF is set to begin play in 2019, narrowly beating the XFL to market. The league’s season will begin in February, which would place it in direct competition with McMahon’s new venture.

Featuring eight teams, a 10-week regular season and a gambling partnership with MGM, the AAF counts tech entrepreneur Peter Thiel and the Chernin Group among its early investors. CBS has already secured television rights to the league.

XFL reboot (2020-)

The new XFL will feature eight teams in the following cities: New York, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Seattle, Tampa Bay and Washington, D.C. Executives say the league will focus on creating a fast-paced, family-friendly game with cheaper game tickets and fewer commercials.

Luke Posted on December 06, 2018 21:00

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House Democrats could revoke rule allowing lawmakers to have guns on Capitol grounds

Democrats could do away with a rule that allows lawmakers to bring firearms onto Capitol grounds – including in their offices – as they prepare to take control of the House next year.

Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., has long wanted the rule changed, but now he said he has the support of potential House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, he told The Washington Post.

“I don’t think we can just keep looking the other way or sweep this issue under the rug,” Huffman told the publication. “Our political climate is too volatile and there are too many warning signs that we need to address things like this.”

According to The Washington Post, it’s up to the Capitol Police Board to determine regulation surrounding firearms on Capitol grounds. It previously established “nothing . . . shall prohibit any Member of Congress from maintaining firearms within the confines of his office or any Member of Congress or any employee or agent of any Member of Congress from transporting within the Capitol Grounds firearms unloaded and securely wrapped.”

Rep. Jared Huffman said he's concerned about what would happen if someone nefarious got their hands on a gun that was legally in the U.S. Capitol. (Official photo)

Citing the politically-motivated 2017 shooting attack on Republican lawmakers and their staff – which left Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., seriously wounded – Huffman told the newspaper he has concerns someone would be able to gain access to a firearm legally kept in the Capitol and use it for a nefarious act.


“I hesitate to even put in print some of the scenarios that I worry the most about, because the truth is, the House chamber is a place where we occasionally have all of the most powerful government officials in the country gathered in one place,” he said.

Republican Rep. Thomas Massie, who chairs Second Amendment Caucus, chalked the proposed changes up to “theatrics.”

“It’s proposing to solve a problem that doesn’t exist,” he told The Washington Post. “[Pelosi’s] worried that members aren’t responsible enough to handle a firearm?”

In 2015, two Republican congressmen were criticized for posting a photo of the pair holding an AR-15 rifle while in the House.

Rep. Trey Gowdy said fellow Rep. Ken Buck had permission to have the “inoperable gun” in Buck’s office.

Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter: @K_Schallhorn.

Luke Posted on December 06, 2018 20:50

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Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou’s arrest may prompt China to retaliate, 'take hostages,' expert says

China could 'take hostages' and is almost certain to retaliate against the United States, experts say, after the stunning arrest of a top Chinese tech executive for allegedly trying to skirt sanctions on Iran.

Huawei Technologies' chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou was arrested Saturday in Canada and faces extradition to the U.S. Meng was taken into custody on behalf of the U.S. while she was transferring flights in Vancouver, the tech company said.


Chinese officials on Thursday blasted Meng's arrest — but experts warn more forceful actions, including the possibility of tit-for-tat detentions of high-profile citizens, could be coming.

James Lewis, the director of technology policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Axios the U.S. should be prepared for a backlash and warned American tech executives to steer clear of China for now.



"If I was an American tech executive, I wouldn't travel to China this week," warned Lewis, who labeled Huawei "one of the Chinese government's pet companies" and charged the communist country's leaders wouldn't be afraid to "take hostages."

China on Thursday demanded Canada release a Huawei Technologies executive who was arrested in a case that adds to technology tensions with Washington and threatens to complicate trade talks. (AP)

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang on Thursday called Meng’s arrest a violation of human rights and demanded the “immediate release” of the 46-year-old executive, who also goes by the name Sabrina.

“Detaining a person without providing an explanation has undoubtedly violated her human rights,” Geng said, adding the Chinese government “has made clear our solemn positions to the U.S. and Canada.”

Geng said the U.S. and Canada haven’t provided reasons for Meng's detention. But the Wall Street Journal reported in April that U.S. authorities were investigating whether Huawei violated sanctions on Iran, leading the Chinese government to appeal to Washington to avoid any steps that might have damaged business confidence.

Meng is the deputy chairman of the company’s board and the daughter of its founder, Ren Zhengfei, a former Chinese military engineer. Her stature in Chinese culture has been compared to American tech giants such as Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg.


An editorial in the pro-government Global Times accused the U.S. of “maliciously finding fault” with Huawei.

“Washington is attempting to damage Huawei's international reputation and taking aim at the tech giant's global market in the name of law,” the editorial stated. “The Chinese government should seriously mull over the U.S. tendency to abuse legal procedures to suppress China's high-tech enterprises. It should increase interaction with the U.S. and exert pressure when necessary. China has been exercising restraint, but the U.S. cannot act recklessly. U.S. President Donald Trump should rein in the hostile activities of some Americans who may imperil Sino-U.S. relations.”

Canadian authorities said Wednesday that they have arrested Meng for possible extradition to the United States. (AP)

Meng’s arrest and detention have only amplified the already-tense state of U.S.-China relations. Though Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced a temporary truce in a tariffs war -- with Trump agreeing to suspend U.S. tariff hikes for a period -- a more permanent resolution is nowhere in sight. Trump and Xi have dug in on their respective positions and have mostly been waiting for the other party to blink. Neither has.

Huawei Technologies Ltd., the biggest global supplier of network gear used by phone and Internet companies, has previously been the target of U.S. security concerns. Under Trump and his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, Washington has pressured European countries and other allies to limit their business with Huawei, alleging the company's technology aids China's spy operations.

Huawei said in a statement Wednesday it has not been provided many details about Meng's arrest.

"The company has been provided very little information regarding the charges and is not aware of any wrongdoing by Ms. Meng," the statement said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Katherine Lam is a breaking and trending news digital producer for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @bykatherinelam

Luke Posted on December 06, 2018 20:47

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How Do Antibiotics Work? Many more to learn about it...lets take a look

Antibiotics are medications used to fight infections caused by bacteria. They’re also called antibacterials. They treat infections by killing or decreasing the growth of bacteria.

The first modern-day antibiotic was used in 1936. Before antibiotics, 30 percent of all deaths were caused by bacterial infections. Thanks to antibiotics, previously fatal infections are curable.

Today, antibiotics are still powerful, life-saving medications for people with certain serious infections. They can also prevent less-serious infections from becoming serious.

There are many classes of antibiotics. Certain types of antibiotics work best for specific types of bacterial infections.

Antibiotics come in many forms, including:

  • tablets
  • capsules
  • liquids
  • creams
  • ointments

Most antibiotics are only available with a prescription from your doctor. Some antibiotic creams and ointments are available over the counter

Antibiotics fight bacterial infections either by killing bacteria or slowing and suspending its growth. They do this by:

  • attacking the wall or coating surrounding bacteria
  • interfering with bacteria reproduction
  • blocking protein production in bacteria

Antibiotics begin to work right after you start taking them. However, you might not feel better for two to three days.

How quickly you get better after antibiotic treatment varies. It also depends on the type of infection you’re treating.

Most antibiotics should be taken for 7 to 14 days. In some cases, shorter treatments work just as well. Your doctor will decide the best length of treatment and correct antibiotic type for you.

Even though you might feel better after a few days of treatment, it’s best to finish the entire antibiotic regimen in order to fully resolve your infection. This can also help prevent antibiotic resistance. Don’t stop your antibiotic early without first talking with your healthcare provider.

The first beta-lactam antibiotic, penicillin, was discovered by accident. It was growing from a blob of mold on a petri dish. Scientists found that a certain type of fungus naturally produced penicillin. Eventually, penicillin was produced in large quantities in a laboratory through fermentation using the fungus.

Some other early antibiotics were produced by bacteria found in ground soil.

Today, all antibiotic medications are produced in a lab. Some are made through a series of chemical reactions that produce the substance used in the medication.

Other antibiotics are at least partially made through a natural but controlled process. This process is often enhanced with certain chemical reactions that can alter the original substance to create a different medication.

Antibiotics are powerful medications that work very well for certain types of illnesses. However, some antibiotics are now less useful than they once were due to an increase in antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria can no longer be controlled or killed by certain antibiotics. In some cases, this can mean there are no effective treatments for certain conditions.

Each year, 2 million people are infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, resulting in at least 23,000 deaths.

When you take an antibiotic, the sensitive bacteria are eliminated. The bacteria that survive during antibiotic treatment are often resistant to that antibiotic. These bacteria often have unique characteristics that prevent antibiotics from working on them.

Some serious antibiotic-resistant infections include:

Clostridium difficile (C. diff)

The overgrowth of this type of bacteria causes infection in both your small and large intestines. This often occurs after someone’s treated with antibiotics for a different bacterial infection. C. diff is naturally resistant to many antibiotics.

Vancomycin-resistant enterococcus (VRE)

These bacteria often infect your bloodstream, urinary tract, or surgical wounds. This infection typically occurs in people who are hospitalized. Enterococci infections may be treated with the antibiotic vancomycin, but VRE is resistant to this treatment.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)

This type of infection is resistant to traditional staph infection antibiotics. MRSA infectionstypically occur on your skin. It’s most common in people in hospitals and those with weakened immune systems.

Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE)

This class of bacteria are resistant to a lot of other antibiotics. CRE infections typically occur in people in hospitals and who are on a mechanical ventilator or have indwelling catheters.

The most important cause of antibiotic resistance is inappropriate use or overuse of antibiotics. As much as 30 percent of antibiotic use is thought to be unnecessary. This is because antibiotics are often prescribed when they aren’t needed.

Several important steps can be taken to decrease inappropriate antibiotic use:

  • Take antibiotics only for bacterial infections. Don’t use antibiotics for conditions caused by viruses such as the common cold, flu, cough, or sore throat.
  • Take antibiotics as directed by your healthcare provider. Using the wrong dose, skipping doses, or taking it longer or shorter than directed might contribute to bacteria resistance. Even if you feel better after a few days, talk with your healthcare provider before discontinuing an antibiotic.
  • Take the right antibiotic. Using the wrong antibiotic for an infection might lead to resistance. Don’t take antibiotics prescribed for someone else. Also, don’t take antibiotics left over from a previous treatment. Your healthcare provider will be able to select the most appropriate antibiotic for your specific type of infection.

Antibiotics are used for treating infections caused by bacteria. Sometimes it’s difficult to determine if your infection is caused by bacteria or a virus because the symptoms are often very similar.

Your healthcare provider will evaluate your symptoms and conduct a physical exam to determine the cause of your infection. In some cases, they may request a blood or urine test to confirm the cause of infection.

Some common bacterial infections include:

Antibiotics aren’t effective against viruses, such as the common cold or flu. They also don’t work on infections caused by fungi, such as:

These are treated with a different group of medications called antifungals.

Most antibiotics have similar side effects. Perhaps the most common side effect is gastrointestinal (GI) upset, including:

  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • cramps

In some cases, these side effects can be reduced if you take the antibiotic with food. However, some antibiotics must be taken on an empty stomach. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about the best way to take your antibiotic.

GI upset usually goes away after you stop treatment. If it doesn’t, you should call your doctor. Also, call your doctor if you develop:

  • severe diarrhea
  • stomach pain and cramping
  • blood in your stool
  • fever

Antibiotics are most effective when used appropriately. This starts with ensuring that you really need the antibiotic. Only use antibiotics prescribed by your doctor for a bacterial infection.

Talk with your doctor or pharmacist about the best way to take your antibiotic. Some should be taken with food to reduce side effects but others need to be taken on an empty stomach.

Antibiotics should also be taken in the prescribed amount and for the directed length of treatment. You might feel better within a few days after starting the antibiotic but you should talk with your healthcare provider before stopping your treatment early.

sarah Posted on December 06, 2018 17:27

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Fortnite makers sued for 'stealing' Milly Rock dance move

A US rapper has taken legal action against the creators of popular video game Fortnite, claiming it uses a dance move he created without his permission.

Rapper 2 Milly - aka Terrence Ferguson - says the Milly Rock dance he created in 2011 is recreated in Fortnite as an "emote" called Swipe It.

"Emotes" are upgrades players can buy to personalise their online avatars.

In a lawsuit filed on Wednesday 2 Milly accuses Fortnite developer Epic Games of "unauthorised misappropriation".

He claims the company has "unfairly profited from exploiting [his] creative expression" and has "consistently sought to exploit African-American talent... by copying their dances and movements."

The suit follows numerous claims that Fortnite has replicated dance moves previously associated with stars like Snoop Dogg, Michael Jackson and others.Earlier this year, Chance the Rapper called on the makers of the game to recompense "black creatives" by using "the actual rap songs behind the dances".

Epic Games declined to comment on 2 Milly's legal action, which seeks unspecified damages and a restraining order.

US copyright law covers "choreographic works... fixed in some tangible medium of expression" but does not currently extend to individual dance steps.

"Individual movements or dance steps by themselves are not copyrightable... even if a routine is novel or distinctive," states the US Copyright Office in its official guidance material.

ruby Posted on December 06, 2018 14:31

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Lady Gaga up for best actress Golden Globe

Lady Gaga's performance in A Star is Born has landed her a best actress nomination at the Golden Globes.

Bradley Cooper is also nominated for his direction of and performance in the musical remake.

Olivia Colman is also up for a best actress award for The Favourite, for which Rachel Weisz is also recognised.

Rosamund Pike is nominated for best actress in a film drama, alongside Lady Gaga, for her role in the Marie Colvin biopic A Private War.

Colman, meanwhile, will compete for the best actress in a film musical or comedy award with Emily Blunt, shortlisted for playing the title role in Mary Poppins Returns.

Claire Foy is up for a supporting acting award for the film First Man, as is Richard E Grant for Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Other British talents in the running include Hugh Grant and Ben Whishaw, nominated for their roles in BBC political drama A Very English Scandal.

There are also TV nominations for Benedict Cumberbatch (for Patrick Melrose), Westworld's Thandie Newton and Sacha Baron Cohen, in contention for his satirical series Who is America?

Bodyguard star Richard Madden is up for best actor in a TV drama for his role in the BBC One thriller, which is up for best TV drama.

Vice, a film biopic of former US vice-president Dick Cheney, has the most nominations in all, with six citations including one for lead actor Christian Bale.

A Star is Born, The Favourite and Green Book have five nominations each, while Mary Poppins Returns and Spike Lee's Black Klansman have four apiece.

Comic book blockbuster Black Panther, Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody and If Beale Street Could Talk, the latest film from Moonlight director Barry Jenkins, will compete with A Star is Born and Black Klansman for the best film drama prize.

Vice, The Favourite and Mary Poppins Returns are joined in the best film musical or comedy category by Green Book and Crazy Rich Asians.

Rami Malek is nominated alongside Cooper for playing Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody.

The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story has the most TV nominations, getting four mentions in all.

Sandra Oh - nominated herself for Killing Eve - and Brooklyn Nine-Nine's Andy Samberg will co-host the 76th Golden Globe Awards, to be held in Los Angeles on 6 January.

This year's event saw Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri named best film drama and Lady Bird win the award for best film comedy or musical.

The Golden Globes will be the first main film and TV awards of 2019 and are considered a reliable indicator of which films and performances will go on to enjoy success at the Oscars.

Idris Elba's daughter Isan has been named 2019's Golden Globe ambassador by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), which organises the annual ceremony.

Lady Gaga - real name Stefani Germanotta - previously won a Golden Globe in 2016 for her role in TV's American Horror Story.

ruby Posted on December 06, 2018 14:28

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France protests: Government fears 'major violence' in coming days

The French government says it fears "major violence" in Paris on Saturday as the national "yellow vests" protest movement shows little sign of easing.

The government said it was scrapping fuel tax increases in the budget - the original spark for the protests.

But the movement has since grown into a wider expression of anger about rising living costs, and Saturday's planned rally looks set to go ahead.

Recent protests have turned violent, causing millions of euros in damage.

The government appealed for calm after making its political concessions - but on Thursday, protests continued in pockets around France as discontent spread beyond the core movement. What is the government worried about?

The protest on Saturday 1 December descended into the worst rioting seen in decades, with hundreds of injuries and arrests.

Many protesters are law-abiding French citizens, engaged in a street protest that has huge public support and is widely seen as a legitimate democratic action.

However, without any central structure or official leaders, extremists and "troublemakers" are suspected of joining the rallies and inciting violence, the interior minister said earlier this week.

Sources at the presidential palace expressed the government's concern about continued violence on Wednesday night.

French health minister Agnès Buzyn, speaking to RTL Radio on Thursday morning, said: "There is a concern about this violence, and some who do not want to find a solution."

The government is considering mobilising the military to protect important national monuments, French broadcaster BFMTV reported, after the world-famous Arc de Triomphe was damaged last week.

How are the protests spreading?

The yellow vests protests have moved beyond the initial anger about fuel taxes. Last week, the movement - despite a lack of central leadership - issued more than 40 demands to government.

Among them were a minimum pension, widespread changes to the tax system, and a reduction in the retirement age.

The government has already acknowledged some of the concerns, suggesting it may review the "wealth tax" it abolished after taking power.

An analysis of its original budget plans for 2018-2019 showed it benefited the very wealthy rather than the very poor.

Other groups, bolstered by the success of the national movement, have also begun separate actions.

Thursday saw young people take to the streets, protesting over educational reforms - including changes to exams.

In Nantes, young demonstrators overturned vehicles and bins, and set fires. On Wednesday, similar demonstrations in Bordeaux and Toulouse led to arrests.

But most of the protests have been peaceful.

Hundreds of schools were blockaded this week, but the young participants did not wear the distinctive yellow vests of the wider protest movement.

French daily Le Monde, however, drew a line between the two groups, suggesting that long-standing discontent over the proposed education reforms had been given a boost by the success of the "yellow vests".

The Union Nationale Lycéenne, representing secondary school students, has called for a "great mobilisation" of schools on Friday.

Two road transport unions, the CGT and FO, have called for a strike among its 700,000 members on Sunday, Le Monde reported, over the buying power of its members.

ruby Posted on December 06, 2018 12:06

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Spanish pigeon relocation: Cádiz to relocate 5,000 birds

Authorities in the Spanish city of Cádiz have come up with a plan for their booming pigeon population - relocating some 5,000 birds.

The city is plagued by thousands of the birds and their associated waste - but officials did not want to poison them.

Instead, the plan is to capture thousands of pigeons and relocate them hundreds of miles away in a different region - and hope they do not return.

Local officials said it was a "more respectful and sustainable" solution.

Speaking to local newspaper Diario de Cádiz, councillor Álvaro de la Fuente said "managing the population of existing pigeons does not imply the eradication of them within the urban area."

Instead, he said a "logical balance" between the birds, humans, and other city-dwelling species was the goal.

The common pigeon is known for its location awareness - the famous homing pigeon used to carry war-time messages is a variant of the species.

But unlike their trained counterparts, the wild birds are often happy to settle in one local area - and officials in Cádiz hope that will be the case when all 5,000 pigeons are placed in their new home.The thousands of birds to be relocated will be trapped, catalogued, and tested before being carried at least 170 miles (275km) away for release. Every bird will also get a health check along the way.

But pigeons breed quickly - so the city plans to print thousands of leaflets reminding the public not to overfeed the remaining flock, which helps to inflate the population.

In London's Trafalgar Square, where the tradition of deliberately feeding the birds was immortalised in Disney's Mary Poppins film, the birds flocked in great numbers until the early 2000s.

A combination of banning the feed sellers and a hefty fine on those who feed the flock anyway was part of the solution - while the introduction of hawks was another.

Today, a professional falconer accompanies a Harris hawk or peregrine falcon to Trafalgar Square several times a week - a natural predator which warns off the less welcome, smaller bird.

The same technique is used at a number of other London landmarks including BBC Broadcasting House and the Wimbledon tennis complex. It scares the birds away from one area and disperses them more widely - but does not affect the actual population much.

ruby Posted on December 06, 2018 12:02

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Port Vale v Stoke under-21s: Fans filmed smashing toilets

Police investigating "despicable disorder" at a football derby have released a video of suspects destroying a toilet block.

The footage shows men chanting, damaging sinks and smashing windows at the match between Port Vale and Stoke City Under-21s at Vale Park on Tuesday night.

More than 150 officers were deployed to the stadium and 11 people arrested.

Police said "a large section" of Stoke fans had been disruptive.

Port Vale won the Checkatrade Trophy match 4-0 and almost 4,000 Stoke fans were in a crowd of 7,940.

Staffordshire Police called the video "shocking" and appealed for information on the identity of the men.

Det Ch Insp Rob Taylor said: "We have a duty to the local community and the loyal supporters of both clubs to act swiftly.

"We will ensure that all opportunities will be taken to identify those suspected of being involved in this despicable disorder and bring them to justice."

Previously, Ch Supt Wayne Jones said his officers faced "shocking levels of hostility" on the night.

"The toilet block in the away stand was damaged badly," he said. "The cisterns and urinals were smashed off the wall, windows were damaged and there was an attempt to set fire to the toilet block."

It comes after two men were charged with using threatening or abusive language.

Six other men were released pending further inquiries.

ruby Posted on December 06, 2018 11:35

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Stonehenge site 'damaged' by engineers working on tunnel

Road workers have been accused of damaging a 6,000-year-old site near Stonehenge as part of preparations for a controversial tunnel.

Highways England engineers monitoring water levels dug the 3.5 metre deep bore hole through the prehistoric platform.

The Blick Mead site is about 1.5 miles (2.4km) from Stonehenge and believed to date from around 4,000 BC.

Lead archaeologist at the site David Jacques described it as "a travesty".

He said engineers did not consult him before carrying out the work.

But Highways England said no archaeological damage had been caused and its engineers "adhered to guidelines".

The proposed tunnel is part of a £1.6bn programme to upgrade the A303, which links the M3 from London to the M5 in the south west.

The government wants to build the 1.9-mile (3km) tunnel past Stonehenge to hide the busy A303, but campaigners claim it could destroy archaeological treasures.

Perfectly preserved hoof prints of wild cattle known as aurochs have recently been found at the Blick Mead encampment.

The prints found under the platform were preserved in what appears to be a ritualistic manner, Prof Jacques said.

Construction on the tunnel and linking flyover would lower the water table, drying out the peat and silt conditions which preserve archaeological remains, he added.

Prof Jacques, from the University of Buckingham, said: "This is a travesty. We took great care to excavate this platform and the auroch's hoofprints

"It the tunnel goes ahead the water table will drop and all the organic remains will be destroyed. If the remains aren't preserved we may never be able to understand why Stonehenge was built."A Highways England spokesman said its water table monitoring scheme "will have no significant effects on the Blick Mead area".

Inspectors are to meet Prof Jacques later to assess the work.

ruby Posted on December 06, 2018 11:22

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Grindr cheat pharmacist jailed for wife's murder

A pharmacist who murdered his wife with a Tesco carrier bag so he could start a new life with his boyfriend has been jailed for a minimum of 30 years.

Mitesh Patel, 37, strangled and suffocated Jessica, 34, and then staged a burglary at the couple's home in Middlesbrough on 14 May.

Jurors heard he had planned to claim a £2m life insurance payout and move to Australia with his lover Dr Amit Patel.

Patel was sentenced to life and told he would serve a minimum of 30 years.

Sentencing Patel, Mr Justice Goss told him: "You have no remorse for your actions. Any pity you have is for yourself."

He told the defendant that Mrs Patel "clearly loved you and was a dutiful wife" of nine years, adding: "She wanted nothing more than to have children and live a normal family life.

"The difficulty is that you had no sexual attraction to her; you were attracted to men."

He said Mrs Patel was to some extent aware of her husband's sexuality and was "lonely, often upset and controlled by you".

The judge said Patel's messages revealed him to be "needy and callous" and he used Mrs Patel "whilst indulging your own desires and whims".

Media captionGrindr cheat Mitesh Patel calls 999 after wife murder

The two-week trial at Teesside Crown Court heard Patel, who ran a pharmacy on Roman Road with his 34-year-old wife, had a series of affairs with men he met via the dating app Grindr.

Patel, who claimed his wife was his "best mate", injected her with insulin before strangling and suffocating her with the bag at their home on The Avenue.

'Rot in hell'

He then bound her with duct tape and ransacked the house in an attempt to blame burglars for her death.

Prosecutor Nicholas Campbell QC said: "The prosecution case was that a plastic shopping bag, ironically a Tesco Bag For Life, was used both as a ligature and to suffocate her."

Media captionMitesh Patel tried to hide this CCTV footage which showed him after he killed his wife

Reading a statement on behalf of Mrs Patel's sisters and cousins, her younger sister Divya told the court: "The one thing we hope and prayed for above anything else was that in her final moments she did not suffer.

"The cruel reality is that she did in fact suffer, she knew exactly who her killer was, and he mercilessly ignored her attempts to fight for her own life as he ended it.

"We can only imagine the fear and panic she must have felt knowing herself this was it. Thinking of that moment makes our hearts so heavy."Ms Patel also addressed her brother-in-law in the dock, saying: "We do not just pray, we know, she will be free from you for ever. As will she rest in heaven, you will rot in hell."

She added: "He could've divorced her, taken everything he wanted - he did not need to take her life, he had no right to take this evil, cruel and malicious step."

Patel told his boyfriend he married Mrs Patel because she was in love with him and would provide a cover for his true sexuality.

He wanted to move to Australia to be with Dr Patel and the pair had planned to raise a child conceived by Mrs Patel through IVF.

She had undergone three courses of IVF and the last cycle resulted in three embryos being created, but she was murdered before they could be implanted.

ruby Posted on December 06, 2018 11:19

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The Indian restaurants that serve only half a glass of water

While many parts of India are going through a sustained water crisis, the western city of Pune is trying to deal with the problem in a rather unusual way, writes the BBC's Geeta Pandey.

The dystopian future we worried about is already here.

Many restaurants in the city of Pune have begun serving only half glasses of water to guests.

At the pure vegetarian Kalinga restaurant, a couple have just been seated when a waiter approaches their table and asks if they want water.

"I said yes and he gave me half a glass of water," says Gauripuja Mangeshkar. "I was wondering if I was being singled out, but then I saw that he had only poured half a glass for my husband too."

For a moment, Ms Mangeshkar did wonder whether her glass was half full or half empty, but the reason why she was served less water was not really existential.

Nearly 400 restaurants in Pune have adopted this measure to reduce water use, ever since the civic authorities announced cuts in supply a month ago.

Pune Restaurant and Hoteliers' Association president Ganesh Shetty, who owns Kalinga, told the BBC that they have worked out an extensive plan to save water.

"We serve only half glasses of water and we don't refill unless asked, the leftover water is recycled and used for watering plants and cleaning the floor," Mr Shetty explained. "Many places have put in new toilets which use less water, we have put in water harvesting plants and the staff are briefed on minimising water use."

Kalinga gets about 800 customers a day and by serving only half glasses, he says the restaurant is able to save nearly 800 litres (1,691 pints) of water a day.

"Every drop is precious and we have to act now if we want to save the future."

Owner of 83-year-old Poona Guest House, Kishor Sarpotdar, shows the shorter steel tumblers he's bought to replace the earlier taller ones. His restaurant is not only serving half glasses of water, he says, they are serving them in smaller ones too.

Pune is next door to India's financial capital, Mumbai. An educational and cultural hub, it was famously described as the "Oxford and Cambridge of India" by India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

This city of four million people has been well served by the Khadakwasala dam built in 1878, and water shortages are new here.

Mr Shetty says the first major water crisis the city faced was two years ago.

"For two months in February and March, our water supply was reduced by half. We got water once in two days."

Strict guidelines were issued about what fresh water supplied by the civic authorities could - or couldn't - be used for. And people were encouraged to install bore wells to pump out ground water to meet additional requirements.

All construction in the city was stopped for two months, car garages were allowed to do only dry servicing, the city celebrated a dry Holi, clubs and water resorts were barred from holding popular rain dance events and swimming pools were ordered shut.

All misuse was checked and those who erred were made to pay hefty fines.

"It was very serious," says Col Shashikant Dalvi, Pune-based water conservation expert.

This year, he says, the situation is "worse". "Panic buttons have been pressed in October itself. How will we face the challenge in the summer months?" he asks.

According to a government report earlier this year, India is facing its worst-ever water crisis, with some 600 million people affected. The report said the crisis was "only going to get worse" in the coming years and warned that 21 cities were likely to run out of groundwater by 2020.

In May, the popular Indian tourist town of Shimla ran out of water, while last year it was reported that the city of Bangalore was drying up.

Large parts of the western state of Maharashtra, where Pune is located, are water deficient and every year, at the onset of the summer season, the state makes the news for "water wars" between districts - farmers, villagers, city residents, slum dwellers, the hospitality industry and businesses all clamouring for their share of water.

This year, that talk has already started. And it's just the beginning of winter. Many areas are already staring at drought and acute water distress.

And this time, Pune too is affected. In October, the Pune Municipal Corporation announced 10% cuts in supply for everyone.

"The crisis two years ago," he says, "was because of deficient rainfall. But this year, Pune had excessive rainfall until the end of July. The dams were full. So where has the water gone?"

The monsoon rains will not come before June and eight months can be a long time. "It'll be a nightmare for the city unless we get some rains in the winter," he says.

Experts blame climate change, deforestation and the rapidly growing city population as the main reasons for the water shortage. And the fact that the Khadakwasala dam reservoir has never been de-silted, which means its capacity to hold water is reducing daily.

Col Dalvi offers a prescription to deal with the water shortage in Pune and the rest of the country, because by "2025 India will be most populous country in the world".

"Leakages must be plugged, unsustainable over-extraction of ground water must stop, rooftop rain water harvesting and recycling of water must be made mandatory, otherwise shortages would get more critical," he says.

What about restaurants serving half glasses of water to patrons? Is it just a gimmick, I ask.

"Not at all," he says. "It's not a gimmick. It's an excellent idea. A drop saved is a drop gained."

ruby Posted on December 06, 2018 11:06

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Tennessee inmate chooses electric chair over lethal injection

An inmate in the US state of Tennessee is to be executed by electric chair after arguing that a lethal injection would involve suffering.

David Earl Miller, who has spent 36 years on death row, is among an increasing number of inmates attempting to avoid lethal injection following several botched executions.

Another Tennessee inmate, Edmund Zagorski, was electrocuted last month.

Lethal injection is the state's main method of execution.

However, inmates in the state whose crimes were committed before 1999 are allowed to choose electrocution instead.

In court, both Miller and Zagorski had cited the August execution of Billy Ray Irick, who turned purple and took 20 minutes to die, AP reported.

Zagorski's execution was the second time the state's electric chair had been used since 1960.

Miller, who is due to be executed on Thursday, was found guilty of killing a 23-year-old mentally ill woman in 1981.

Why is lethal injection controversial?

Miller, 61, and Zagorski, 63, argued that the midazolam-based lethal injection used by Tennessee would lead to a prolonged and painful death.

It follows a series of executions using a variety of drug combinations where prisoners have appeared to suffer. The US constitution bans cruel and unusual punishments.

In September a doctor told a court in Tennessee that Irick felt pain akin to torture during his execution, The Tennessean reported.

Dr David Lubarsky argued that the midazolam sedated Irick but did not prevent him from feeling the effects of the other two drugs injected as part of the execution.

Proponents of lethal injection argue that the process is painless.

Miller is also one of four death row inmates who have brought a federal caseasking Tennessee to use a firing squad instead of either lethal injection or electrocution, the Tennessean reported.

In neighbouring Alabama, more than 50 inmates have chosen to be killed in the nitrogen gas chamber rather than be given a lethal injection after being given the option earlier this year, Vox reported.

Which states use the electric chair?

Electrocution is no longer the main method of execution in any US state.

Courts in Georgia and Nebraska have said the electric chair is unconstitutional.

Media captionThe five ways the US executes - in 45 secs

However, Miller has been told he cannot argue that the electric chair is unconstitutional because he himself has chosen it, AP reported.

Hanging was the most common form of capital punishment in the US until the 1890s. Then, the electric chair became the most widespread method.

In 1982, the first execution by lethal injection was carried out by the state of Texas, after which it gradually replaced the electric chair across the nation.

More on the US death penalty

Media captionExecution of Clayton Lockett (pictured): Journalist and witness Courtney Francisco describes what she saw - some may find this audio distressing.


ruby Posted on December 06, 2018 10:55

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20 Things All Couples Should Do Before Getting Pregnant

Everything In This Slideshow

Have a parenting talk

Most of the experts and real moms we spoke with agreed that it's important to chat with your partner about some of the biggie parenting issues -- like how you'll share childcare, working vs. staying home, religious traditions -- before you start trying. "But before you start freaking out over differing opinions on circumcision, public vs. private schools, or other things that are way down the road, remember that you can and will change your mind about a lot of these issues as you go along," say Odes and Morris. "The important thing is for couples to start talking about their priorities, expectations, and fears throughout the entire process, especially before you get pregnant."

If you're thinking about getting pregnant, here are 8 things you can do now to start to prepare for pregnancy.


Go off the pill

Stop your birth control a couple of months before you plan to start trying, says Robert A. Greene, MD, co-author of Perfect Hormone Balance for Fertility. This gives you a bit of time to see what your natural menstrual cycle is like -- 27 days? 32? -- so you can figure out when you're ovulating, the time of the month when you're most fertile. If you've been taking the pill for a while, your cycle could be different from what it was before you started. It can take a while for hormone levels to get back on track after you ditch the pill, but if your period's still MIA after three months, you should see your doctor.

Cut back on partying

Drinking and smoking during pregnancy? We don't need to tell you they're major don'ts. If you indulge in either, start scaling back now, says Jennifer Wider, MD, author of The New Mom's Survival Guide and medical advisor to the Society for Women's Health Research. "If you're a moderate drinker -- you have a couple of drinks on a Thursday night or over the weekend, you probably don't need to change anything, as long as you're sure you're not pregnant yet," she says. "But drinking most nights of the week or downing five cocktails in a sitting can be more of a problem." That goes for your partner, too. Excess alcohol intake has been shown to interfere with your fertility and can also lower sperm count in men. Smoking cigarettes, even socially, can affect your egg quality and your hubby's sperm -- not to mention increase your risk of birth defects, miscarriage, preterm labor, and other conditions after you become pregnant. It's estimated that up to 13 percent of fertility problems may be caused by tobacco use, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine -- and no level of smoking or exposure to smoke is safe. In fact, research shows that even women exposed to secondhand smoke have more problems getting pregnant than those who aren't. Bottom line: There's never been a better time to kick butt, and insist your partner does too.

What's more, quitting smoking or drinking cold turkey after you do become pregnant can be a shock to your system, say Rebecca Odes and Ceridwen Morris, authors of From the Hips: A Comprehensive, Open-Minded, Uncensored, Totally Honest Guide to Pregnancy, Birth, and Becoming a Parent. "Psychologically speaking, if you feel that pregnancy made you 'give up' all these things you loved, you can pile on some resentment right out of the gate," they say. "Quitting smoking or your multiple margarita habit is a great achievement, so start now and let it be something you're proud of, rather than pushed into."

Limit caffeine

If the Starbucks barista knows your order as soon as you step up the counter or you can't get through the workday without four cups of French roast, "do yourself a favor and cut back your caffeine intake now," says Dr. Wider. "Not only because studies show that too much caffeine can trigger miscarriage, but because you want to avoid withdrawal after you're pregnant."

FYI: Doctors are mixed about how much caffeine is safe once you are expecting. Most condone the equivalent in a small cup of java a day -- about 100 milligrams -- though some may recommend forgoing it entirely, especially in the first trimester. And don't forget to tally other common sources of caffeine, like soda, tea, energy drinks, and even certain pain medications. A 12-ounce can of soda or 8-ounce cup of green or black tea can pack anywhere from 30 to 60 milligrams of caffeine; two tablets of extra-strength Excedrin have 130 milligrams. If you're worried, start reading labels to see how much caffeine is in your diet.

Something magical is about to happen! Watch as the ovulation process occurs, and then millions of sperm swim upstream on a quest to fertilize an egg.

How conception really happens

Something magical is about to happen! Watch as the ovulation process occurs, and then millions of sperm swim upstream on a quest to fertilize an egg.

Step on the scale

If you can stand to shed a few pounds, now is the time to go for it. "Not only can trimming 10 to 15 pounds from your frame make it easier for overweight women to get pregnant," says Dr. Greene, "but it will help you have a healthier pregnancy and delivery with fewer risks and complications." Working an exercise regimen into your routine now -- whether it's walking a few times a week or penciling in a Pilates class -- increases the likelihood you'll stick with it during and after pregnancy, making it easier to get your body back after baby arrives. And if you're on the skinny side, check with your doctor about whether you should bulk up a bit. Being too thin -- especially if it throws your periods out of whack -- is a known fertility meddler. The get-pregnant ideal is a body mass index (BMI) between 19 and 24.

Go to the movies

Catch as many flicks on the big screen as you can. Once you're pregnant, sitting still in the same position for a couple of hours -- combined with having to pee constantly -- can get uncomfortable. And if you tend to fall asleep at the movies, it'll be that much harder to stay awake once pregnancy exhaustion kicks in.

Set up a slush fund

You know you'll have to start socking money away for college, diapers, and all that baby stuff eventually, and once you're pregnant, you definitely should. "But even pregnancy itself can be more costly than you'd anticipate," says Katina Z. Jones, author of The Everything Get Ready for Baby Book, between all those doctor's co-pays, new maternity clothes, etc. "Even if you do a little at a time, just $20 a paycheck, you'll feel better knowing you have some type of nest egg set up before you begin trying to conceive. And if you have money left over you can always spend it on nursery furniture or other baby expenses."

Pop a prenatal supplement

"Any woman thinking about getting pregnant in the next three to six months should start taking a daily multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid," says Dr. Wider. According to the March of Dimes, getting enough of this B vitamin before and early on in pregnancy can reduce brain and spine birth defects by up to 70 percent. And the multivitamin itself is packed with other nutrients crucial for a healthy pregnancy, like iron to prevent anemia and calcium for strong teeth and bones. Pop the pill after you brush your teeth in the morning or stash a jar at work and set an e-mail reminder to take it when you first get in. If you hate swallowing pills, they come in chewable form too. Starting the habit now will make it easier to remember once you're expecting.

Stock up on sleep

Bank those zzz's now, recommends Jackie Rose, co-author of The Newly Non-Drinking Girl's Guide to Pregnancy. "Sleep in with your husband on the weekends, nap whenever you can," she says. Most of us anticipate sleepless nights once baby arrives, but many women don't realize that it can be tough to get a decent night's rest during pregnancy -- when things like heartburn, getting up to pee, and adjusting to side-snoozing can keep some expectant moms tossing and turning. It may even help you get pregnant faster -- women who get too little sleep tend to have more problems ovulating regularly than those who don't, studies show.

Feeling the tick of that notorious biological clock is enough to turn the most patient woman into Veruca Salt -- "But I want it now!" Fortunately, there are easy steps to speeding along conception, no matter how long you've been trying.

Get pregnant faster

Dr. Alexandra Sowa suggests 6 ways to boost fertility and get pregnant faster.

Find your surefire stress remedy

Some research shows that having crazy-high stress levels can delay your ability to get pregnant (by making ovulation wacky, or by interfering with an embryo's ability to implant in the uterus). If you're an uber-Type A personality to begin with, your stress may ramp up once you're pregnant and dealing with getting your home and life ready for baby. "Take an emotional gut-check now, make sure you feel calm and prepared for this next phase of your life, and figure out what helps you relax best," says Dr. Wider. "Maybe it's sipping tea and watching old episodes of Sex and the City, going out for a three-mile run, or just unloading on your best friend. Whatever it is, if it works for you now, it will help you when you're pregnant or a new mom." Don't have a go-to stress reliever? Dr. Greene recommends keeping a journal on top of your nightstand, and scribbling down 15 minutes' worth of thoughts before bed. Studies show that writing in a journal regularly can help you feel more optimistic and less worried.

Get snap-happy

If the last time you whipped out the camera was on the honeymoon, it's time to start taking more photos now -- not just of you and your hubs, but also of your house, the place you met, and anything else that reminds you of your pre-pregnancy, pre-baby existence. "This is such a magical time in your life, when you can really be all about the two of you with no one else to take care of, and one day you'll appreciate having documented it," says Jones. "Plus, your kids will love to see the photos down the road. They'll wonder 'What was life like before I was born?' and this gives you a way to show them."

Make a restaurant checklist

Chances are you and your partner have a few local eateries you've been dying to try, so start keeping a list of your favorites, and spend your Saturday nights crossing them off. Obviously you'll still be able to dine out when you're pregnant, but meals may be a little different. For one thing, dinners just don't feel as splurgy when you can't linger over a bottle of wine. You may find some of your menu favorites off-limits -- no Caesar salad (raw eggs); swordfish (too much mercury); or unpasteurized soft cheeses, to name a few. And pregnancy issues like morning sickness, heartburn, or even weird cravings or aversions can throw your palate off-kilter. Plan on at least a few decadent dinners on the town now -- and order whatever you want without thinking twice about it!

Deal with where you want to live

Do you need to move for more space, a better location, or any other reason? Our advice: Do it soon. Getting settled -- ideally, somewhere you want to be for at least a couple of years -- and feeling good about your home will help you feel more prepared for pregnancy. It's nice not to have to deal with moves, renovations, lawyers, and closings once you're pregnant (no one wants to be packing at 8 months along).

On the other hand, if you're happy where live, don't feel like you have to move now that you're family-planning either -- you don't need a huge, multi-bedroom house in suburbia to raise a baby. Remember that many infants sleep in a bassinet or co-sleeper in their parents' bedroom for the first few months, and a baby won't be any happier just because he has his own nursery and playroom. You'll have plenty of time to make the big move later if you're satisfied with apartment-dwelling now.

Deal with your job

Though there's no law that says you can't job-hunt while you're pregnant (and in fact, it's illegal not to hire someone based only on the fact that she's expecting), now's a better time to switch jobs if you're unhappy. For one thing, you need to have been working somewhere at least 12 months to qualify for FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act -- the federal law that stipulates companies of 50 or more employees must provide 12 weeks of unpaid maternity or paternity leave). But more than that, it's important to take a 10,000-foot look at your career, says Cathy Stahl, co-author of Twin Set, and ask yourself the following questions: Are your hours okay? Is there enough flexibility for childcare after baby arrives? Can you handle the commute? Do other new parents seem happy working at your company? If you find yourself answering no, you may want to look for a new gig or see if your boss is willing to work with you to tweak your job description. Perhaps you can take on smaller clients to cut back on your hours, say, or clock in from home a couple of days a week if you have a particularly hellish ride in.

Ask your mom about her pregnancy

And your sisters, aunts, and grandmas, if you can. Did it take them a long time to conceive? Were there any complications, like preterm labor or having a breech delivery? Certain health conditions tend to run in families, and it's a smart idea to brush up on your history and share any relevant information with your doctor. But don't worry too much. Just because it took your sister a year to get pregnant doesn't mean you'll necessarily have a hard time too. Many common fertility problems, like poor egg quality (due to age) or blocked or damaged fallopian tubes, are not hereditary, but some, like fibroids or ovarian cysts, can be. Your doctor can help you understand which, if any, family issues can affect your fertility or pregnancy so you'll be better prepared to deal with them later.

Pay your doc a visit

Many experts recommend booking a pre-pregnancy checkup at your ob-gyn at least three months before you plan to start trying, says Dr. Greene, especially if you don't see the doctor regularly. You'll want to make sure you're up-to-date on vaccinations, checked for STDs, tested for heart-health issues like high blood pressure and cholesterol, and make sure that any chronic conditions, such as diabetes, asthma, or thyroid problems, are in check. (It's a good idea to send your husband to visit an internist too -- most men see doctors far less regularly than women. A regular physical can help ensure he has no chronic conditions or is taking medications that may affect sperm count or cause other fertility problems.) Depending on your ethnic background, your doctor may also recommend genetic testing. This visit is a good opportunity to make sure any medications you take are safe to use while trying to conceive, and to ask your doctor anything on your mind about getting pregnant or pregnancy.
Finally, use this visit to assess your relationship with your doc and make sure he or she is someone you'll want to continue seeing once you're pregnant. Make sure your doctor takes pregnant patients. You may be surprised to learn that your gynecologist may not be an obstetrician. Does she take the time to address your questions fully and carefully, or do you get brushed off with eye-rolls or phrases like "You don't need to worry about that"? Remember, you'll be seeing a lot of this person once you're expecting, and you'll need to be able to trust her advice during one of the most important times of your life -- make sure it's someone you totally feel comfortable with.

Don't forget the dentist

It may seem totally unrelated to fertility, but getting your teeth and gums checked out before pregnancy is another wise move, says Dr. Greene. More and more research links oral health to a healthy pregnancy; women with unchecked gum disease are more prone to miscarriage, preterm birth, and preeclampsia. "In fact, brushing, flossing, and seeing the dentist regularly can cut your miscarriage risk by up to 70 percent," he says. Having your teeth examined now gives you time to get gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) under control and get x-rays (which should be avoided during pregnancy) if you need them. If your oral health is less than stellar, your dentist may recommend you come in for cleanings every few months.

Book a girlfriend getaway

Travel, travel, travel -- we heard this tip from virtually every expert and real mom we polled. And not just with your husband on your dream vacay (African safari, Amalfi Coast, Australia, whatever), but also with your girls -- especially ones you don't see very often or who couldn't be further from the marriage-pregnancy-baby thing. "Don't forget that you need your friends' support during pregnancy as much as your husband's," says Jones. "Having one totally carefree trip is a great way to celebrate those relationships and create memories you'll savor forever."



Go back to your roots

If you've been hiding your true hair color under those honey-blond (and totally high-maintenance) locks, now's the time to reconsider your hair hue. "You don't want to be getting touch-ups every few weeks while you're pregnant," says Dr. Wider. Though there's no conclusive research that proves hair coloring is unsafe during pregnancy, most experts recommend trying to minimize your exposure to the chemicals, especially in the first trimester when your baby's major organ growth takes place. If you're concerned, talk to your colorist about how to scale back -- perhaps you can phase into highlights, which are usually less upkeep and may be safer.

Stop buying clothes

You'll grow out of those fitted tops and skinny jeans within a couple of months of pregnancy, so anything you buy now you'll get to wear only for a few months before they get packed away until after baby comes. Plus, you'll want to start stocking up on maternity clothes by your second trimester. Instead, direct your urge to splurge now on classic things like bags, shoes, and other accessories that'll fit no matter your pregnancy or postpartum stage.

All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

sarah Posted on December 06, 2018 10:49

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Russia will build missiles if US leaves treaty, Putin warns

Russia will develop missiles banned under a Cold War agreement if the US exits the pact, President Vladimir Putin has warned.

His comments follow Nato's accusation on Tuesday that Russia has already broken the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

Signed in 1987 by the US and USSR, it banned both countries' use of all short and medium-range missiles.

But Mr Putin says the accusation is a pretext for the US to leave the pact.

In televised comments, the Russian leader said many other countries had developed weapons banned under the INF treaty.

"Now it seems our American partners believe that the situation has changed so much that [they] must also have such a weapon," he said.

"What's our response? It's simple - in that case we will also do this."US President Donald Trump has previously said the country would leave the treaty because of Russian actions.

Analysts say Russia sees the weapons as a cheaper alternative to conventional forces.

Arriving for talks with Nato foreign ministers, EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini urged the two countries to save the treaty, saying it had "guaranteed peace and security in European territory for 30 years now".

What has Nato said?

On Tuesday, the Western military alliance formally accused Russia of breaking the treaty.

"Allies have concluded that Russia has developed and fielded a missile system, the 9M729, which violates the INF Treaty and poses significant risks to Euro-Atlantic security," the Nato foreign ministers' statement read.

The statement said the member nations "strongly support" the US claim that Russia is in breach of the pact, and called on Moscow to "return urgently to full and verifiable compliance".

Speaking after the release of Nato's statement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Russia had 60 days to return to compliance with the treaty, after which time the US would suspend its own compliance.

"During this 60 days we will still not test or produce or deploy any systems, and we'll see what happens during this 60-day period," he said.

Russia has repeatedly denied breaking the Cold War treaty.

What is the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty?

  • Signed by the US and the USSR in 1987, the arms control deal banned all nuclear and non-nuclear missiles with short and medium ranges, except sea-launched weapons
  • The US had been concerned by the Soviet deployment of the SS-20 missile system and responded by placing Pershing and cruise missiles in Europe - sparking widespread protests
  • By 1991, nearly 2,700 missiles had been destroyed
  • Both countries were allowed to inspect the other's installations
  • In 2007, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared the treaty no longer served Russia's interests
  • The move came after the US withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002.

In 2014, then US President Barack Obama accused Russia of breaching the INF Treaty after it allegedly tested a ground-launched cruise missile.

He reportedly chose not to withdraw from the treaty under pressure from European leaders, who said such a move could restart an arms race.

The last time the US withdrew from a major arms treaty was in 2002, when President George W Bush pulled the US out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which banned weapons designed to counter ballistic nuclear missiles.

His administration's move to set up a missile shield in Europe alarmed the Kremlin, and was scrapped by the Obama administration in 2009. It was replaced by a modified defence system in 2016.

ruby Posted on December 06, 2018 10:49

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German CDU: End of era as race to succeed Merkel hits climax

There is an air of finality in Germany. A sense that, as the year begins to draw to its close, so too does the era of Angela Merkel.

She will step down on Friday as leader of her CDU party and has confirmed that she won't stand again as chancellor when her fourth term ends in 2021.

There's a famous German saying: "Everything has an end - only sausages have two." It comes to mind now, as the smell of frying meat drifts from Berlin's Christmas markets and mingles with the spicy aroma of mulled wine.

Wandering through one market, a couple of pensioners disagree about her legacy.

"I must say I'm sorry to see her leave," says Ingrid. "It was bad luck for her with the refugee policy, but for me she was the chancellor."

"She's been in the job too long," Heinz argues. It would be better to have a two-term limit like they do in the US."

Can Merkel complete her term?

The race to replace Mrs Merkel as CDU leader is particularly charged. The person who's chosen to lead the party could emerge as the next German chancellor.

"Unlike the UK, the party leader does not automatically become the prime minister candidate too, but traditionally it's always been good for a chancellor to be chairperson of his or her party," says Jan Techau of the German Marshall fund.

He says that Mrs Merkel's decision to step down as CDU leader but stay on as chancellor creates friction in the system.

"The moment you announce your resignation as party chairperson, everyone's waiting for the moment when you also resign as chancellor."And so, as Germans rush about preparing for Christmas, three candidates have feverishly toured the country, holding hustings for the party faithful.

It all comes to a head at the party conference on Friday, when just 1,001 delegates will have the chance to vote.

Who wants Merkel's job?

At a hustings in Berlin, the rank and file crowd in to meet and question the three people who, whilst relatively unknown outside Germany, have become household names here.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer - known as AKK - is the Merkel choice

The 56-year-old former prime minister of the state of Saarland was appointed general secretary of the CDU earlier this year and is the party favourite, polls suggest. Popular in Saarland and Berlin, she has an unpretentious style and a reputation for calm analysis as well as political acumen.

Her greatest strength is also her greatest weakness; she's a Merkel loyalist who's perceived as someone who will replicate much of the chancellor's style and policy.

Friedrich Merz - former top party figure, sidelined by Merkel

The millionaire businessman was a powerful player in the CDU in the early 2000s but left politics when he fell out with the chancellor.

Since then the 63-year-old lawyer - who has strong links to America - has built a career in the private sector and works for US company Blackrock. He appeals to the more conservative and business-minded wing of the party and has the official backing of ex-finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble.

Jens Spahn - young and energetic but unlikely to win

Mrs Merkel's health minister is ambitious and, aged 38, the youngest of the three candidates.

The former banker was once described by Mr Schäuble as "one of the great hopes for the future of our party".

But Mr Spahn has ruffled feathers in the party and in the cabinet. Sharply conservative, Catholic and gay, he is a divisive figure for many.

Why the candidates have one key challenge

After nearly 20 years as party leader, Mrs Merkel still commands extraordinary respect within the CDU. The candidates have to somehow embody change whilst also representing continuity.

Watching in the audience, CDU supporter Michael says he would like AKK to take over: "We are looking for someone who can keep the party together, who will encourage lively debate but who can also achieve results. And someone who will - in the medium term - be able to replace Mrs Merkel as chancellor."

Another supporter, Elke, worries that Angela Merkel is leaving a big gap. "We might need all three of them to fill that gap," she says.

Is this the beginning of the end?

What no-one is addressing openly here is the question which produces acres of speculative newspaper columns.

Those who would write Mrs Merkel's political obituary are often premature.

She says she intends to stay as chancellor and work alongside the new party chairperson until 2021.

Much depends on who that person is. But few now think that's likely - including Jan Techau.

"The moment the new chairperson is in the conservative party, her power base will erode even further, the authority will diminish and, depending on who it is, that person will seek the stand-off and will seek the decision rather sooner than later. So, sitting it out is unlikely."

In a country where leaderships last and change tends to be slow, the political season is beginning to turn.

ruby Posted on December 06, 2018 10:39

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What Are Hemorrhoids? Things to know about it

Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the lowest part of your rectum and anus. Sometimes the walls of these blood vessels stretch so thin that the veins bulge and get irritated, especially when you poop.

Swollen hemorrhoids are also called piles

Hemorrhoids are one of the most common causes of rectal bleeding. They're rarely dangerous and usually clear up in a couple of weeks. But you should see your doctor to make sure it's not a more serious condition. He can also remove hemorrhoids that won't go away or are very painful.

Internal and External Hemorrhoids

Internal hemorrhoids are far enough inside the rectum that you can't usually see or feel them. They don't generally hurt because you have few pain-sensing nerves there. Bleeding may be the only sign of them.

External hemorrhoids are under the skin around the anus, where there are many more pain-sensing nerves, so they tend to hurt as well as bleed.

Sometimes hemorrhoids prolapse, or get bigger and bulge outside the anal sphincter. Then you may be able to see them as moist bumps that are pinker than the surrounding area. And they're more likely to hurt, often when you poop.

Prolapsed hemorrhoids usually go back inside on their own. Even if they don't, they can often be gently pushed back into place.

blood clot can form in an external hemorrhoid, turning it purple or blue. This is called a thrombosis. It can hurt and itch a lot and could bleed. When the clot dissolves, you may still have a bit of skin left over, which could get irritated.

What Causes Them?

Some people may be more likely to get hemorrhoids if other family members, like their parents, had them.

A buildup of pressure in your lower rectum can affect blood flow and make the veins there swell. That may happen from extra weight, when you're obese or pregnant. Or it could come from:

  • Pushing during bowel movements
  • Straining when you do something that's physically hard, like lifting something heavy

People who stand or sit for long stretches of time are at greater risk, too.

You may get them when you have constipation or diarrhea that doesn't clear up. Coughing, sneezing, and vomiting could make them worse.

How to Prevent Them

Eat fiber. A good way to get it is from plant foods -- vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, and legumes.

Drink water. It will help you avoid hard stools and constipation, so you strain less during bowel movements. Fruits and vegetables, which have fiber, also have water in them.

Exercise. Physical activity, like walking a half-hour every day, is another way to keep your blood and your bowels moving.

Don't wait to go. Use the toilet as soon as you feel the urge.

sarah Posted on December 06, 2018 10:29

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Global alliance helping start-ups inject innovation into vaccine delivery

What do drones, smart fridges and wearable tech have in common? Apart from perhaps making your Christmas list this year, they are part of a global strategy to save millions of lives through immunisation. In Tanzania, tech start-up Nexleaf Analyticsworks with the government to combine the Internet of Things (IoT) and data analytics for the monitoring of thousands of connected fridges, ensuring vaccines are kept at an optimum temperature for viability.

Nexleaf is part of a cohort of healthcare-oriented tech start-ups that are incubated and accelerated within Infuse, an innovation hub created by global non-profit organisation Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, with the express purpose of improving vaccine delivery systems in developing countries.

Gavi, created in 2000, has helped developing countries to prevent more than 10 million potential deaths through its support for immunisation programmes and vaccination campaigns. Since 2017, 65 million children in more than 60 countries have been immunised with Gavi-supported vaccines. Part of the challenge, however, is in getting vaccines to the hardest-to-reach areas of developing countries, and ensuring that these vaccines survive extreme weather conditions.

New technologies such as drones or smart fridges can meet these challenges but they cannot be power-hungry, rely on expensive-to-replace parts, or require overly specialist technicians to regularly maintain them because – although they may be developed at cutting-edge start-ups – they must be robust enough to operate in low-income countries. Lives depend upon it.

This is why Gavi launched Infuse (Innovation for Uptake, Scale and Equity in Immunisation) at Davos in 2016: it is a beacon for tech start-ups looking to scale while helping the Vaccine Alliance tackle global health priorities. Moz Siddiqui, senior manager of strategic innovation and partnerships at Gavi, says that in conversations he has had with private investors, they say Infuse is a bit like a venture capitalist itself: “When we explain what we do they say: ‘So, you’re basically a VC for global health’, except we’re not taking equity from any of these companies; we’re providing them with mentoring, exposure and the right connections to certain organisations such as ministries of health and others that can help them navigate this space.”


Drone delivery

One of the first companies that Infuse worked with is Zipline, a drone delivery start-up. Zipline and Infuse partnered with UPS to ship blood and medication to inaccessible regions of Rwanda, where healthcare workers previously made the journey by bike, donkey or on foot in all kinds of extreme weather. Trips that had taken days and hours were cut down to hours and minutes and Zipline now delivers two-fifths of the country’s blood supply outside the capital.

“We’re paring start-ups with the private sector so there is a learning process from large corporate to start-up and, similarly, there is a value add for large corporates to be working with a start-up. We’re also looking at how to inject them with capital to get them to the point of being able to scale. So if you think about what venture capitalists do: while they take strategic bets we are making strategic decisions, already knowing what specific use cases we have in mind,” Siddiqui says.

Zipline is one of Infuse’s flagship start-ups or what is known, in Infuse vernacular, as a “pacesetter”: they create a path and set the pace for others to follow. The pacesetters set the tone and, in Nexleaf’s case, have stimulated an entire market.

“This ensures we are always getting the next iteration of that particular technology,” says Siddiqui. “We want to know if there are even more innovative sets of technologies out there because the end result is to provide countries with technology they can use to improve their own vaccine delivery systems.


“Stimulating an entire market helps reduce the time between supply and demand of vaccines. We know, given the scale, that we probably can’t find just one technology; we need to find a whole range of them. It defuses the risk but it also defuses a potential market monopoly that we might be inadvertently creating,” he explains.

Last year, Gavi took its fight for global immunisation directly to Silicon Valley. It convened a meeting in the valley with Y CombinatorSalesforce, and alongside the philanthropic community, venture funds and academia on how best to tap into the tech sector to improve vaccine delivery while benefitting the companies that come on board. is already part of this and has teamed up with Gavi and Nexleaf Analytics to help scale the start-up’s data-driven “cold chain” equipment; this is that system of thousands of connected smart fridges that ensure storage of safe and potent vaccines.

“The challenge that we face is that vaccines need to be kept between two to eight Celsius and the current method for doing that isn’t the most optimised. Nexleaf have created a sensor that allows it to get real-time data from fridges,” says Siddiqui.

“This is important because if you’re a country with around 1,000 fridges out there you want to know which of your fridges are working. When they’re not working you end up deploying your technicians, knowing that it’s quite costly, so you need to be more precise. In terms of IoT, organisations like understand how to use this data quite carefully and they are interested in asking: how do we build this out?”

Siddiqui says it is about limiting the rate of vaccine wastage to help governments save money and because the cold chain is critical, especially in hot countries, predictive data analytics, given enough sensor data, can start to make educated guesses about what fridges will fail, and when, and prevent this from happening.

Nexleaf’s ColdTrace sensor technology is attracting attention beyond Tanzania and proves that technological innovation doesn’t always have to begin in developed countries, as chief executive Keller Rinaudo has said, explaining that the combination of a readily available market and low regulatory compliance can get a product to market more quickly than in Europe or the United States.

Nevertheless, big US tech companies have left their mark: invested US$2 million in Nexleaf, as did the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has been a driving force throughout Gavi’s development. The foundation’s initial pledge of $750 million in 1999 provided the seed money to launch Gavi in the first place, with more than $1.5 billion in donor contributions and pledges to date.

Bill Gates has, in the past, said of Gavi’s importance: “One of the highest priorities of the Gates Foundation is to increase access to life-saving vaccines for children in the world’s poorest countries.”

Robust system

In terms of Gavi’s future goals, the aim is to immunise 300 million children by 2020 and, as Siddiqui says, “also leave behind a really robust system that countries can then own and operate. That is the driver of all of this innovation.”

In order to do this the Vaccine Alliance must push past global immunisation coverage, which they say has stalled at about 80 per cent for several years. Part of this problem lies in the “last mile”: lack of infrastructure or inaccessible, remote locations can stymie vaccine delivery and solving this is what led to high-tech solutions such as drones.

But drones alone don’t solve the problem. When the last mile involves ensuring vaccination is a core part of antenatal care, healthcare workers need a more human touch. Another Gavi pacesetter is Khushi Baby, an Indian company that made its debut on Kickstarter back in 2014 and has created an inexpensive digital necklace that allows the owner to wear their medical records.

When a nurse visits a rural village, equipped with an NFC-enabled mobile phone, they simply hold it close to the necklace to check if the infant’s vaccinations are up to date. The reason for designing this tech as a necklace is that Khushi Baby’s founders noticed many mothers placing amulets on a black thread around their child’s neck in order to ward off disease. Now, in conjunction with 80 healthcare workers, they have 12,000 mothers and infants in 375 villages in the Udaipur district of Rajasthan, India, wearing these devices.

“Our superpower within the vaccine ecosystem is scale. We now work across 68 countries and we purchase vaccines for 60 per cent of the world’s birth cohort,” says Siddiqui.

“We are always thinking about how to make sure we are finding some really interesting, applicable, potentially game-changing technologies that are not just disrupting industry for the better but which we can adapt to our context.”

sarah Posted on December 06, 2018 10:19

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How AI is improving the lives of children with challenges

AI is helping children with autism, deaf children and newborns suffering seizures

         For many people living with autism, social interactions can be like being in a country where you don’t speak the language. What neurotypical people take for granted – interpreting cues from body language, tones and facial expressions, establishing a rapport with eye contact – can be a challenge for people on the autism spectrum. It’s a varied thing, of course, but for those who do experience these challenges, it can be isolating.

Dr Ned Sahin may have a solution that could help with at least some of these issues, and artificial intelligence plays a large role.

“You might have a tremendous amount of power in your brain, but not be able to communicate with others. Imagine if you didn’t speak the language, everyone was yelling at you, facing backwards, you didn’t know who to listen to, and everything about you felt just a little bit off,” he said.

“Just imagine if I could give you an AI that would outsource or near source some of the complex challenges such as determining when someone is angry or bored, or help look towards someone, pay attention when they are speaking and get the right information.”

Clinical trials

It’s not a theoretical device; Dr Sahin has built one using Google Glass. The wearable device has been through clinical trials and is now on sale in schools. It uses facial detection and analysis to detect emotions and turns into a video game: the wearer gets points for making eye contact with a teacher, or for guessing correctly if someone is happy or angry.

“We’re using facial detection and analysis to decode facial emotions and turn that into a video game. We have about 10 different apps at different stages, commercialised and under development that are a wearable life coach on your shoulder, on your head, interposed between you and the rest of reality, but not blocking you from actually being part of reality,” he said.

“AI is doing the heavy lifting. When it feels like a video game, it taps into natural motivational structures that children have and teaches them the skills that will get them through the biggest two gateways in life, which is a romantic partnership and a job.”

      While Google provides the hardware, the computing behind the scenes comes through Amazon Web Services (AWS). The global giant has been doubling down on machine learning and artificial intelligence, opening up powerful tools to smaller companies and organisations at a more competitive cost than in the past. At its annual Re:Invent conference, the company announced everything from a custom designed chip to technology that can speed up the training of AI models. The end result? Amazon is hoping that it will democratise the technology, accelerating its rollout throughout every industry as it becomes easier and cheaper for companies and organisations to use the technology in their products.

       In the meantime, the movement for AI for good continues. Phone maker Huawei has also dipped its toe into the water with a new app that signs a select number of story books for deaf children, helping to teach them to read. Announced at the start of December, the app will translate a book into sign language through the the Mate 20 Pro’s camera, using an onscreen avatar to sign the story as the printed words are highlighted.

“We created StorySign to help make it possible for families with deaf children to enjoy an enriched story time,” said Andrew Garrihy, chief marketing officer, Huawei western Europe. “We hope that by raising awareness of deaf literacy issues, people will be encouraged to donate to or support one of the fantastic charity partners we are working with across Europe.”


      Closer to home, Cork’s INFANT Research Centre has been using AI to help improve outcomes for newborn babies. Researchers in the centre developed an algorithm that helps detect seizures in newborns, interpreting EEG readings at the same level as a human expert. The software can be integrated into existing bedside monitors, limiting the amount of equipment necessary around a child’s bedside and providing doctors with valuable clinical data. It has been a major win for the treatment of newborns, and looks set to be rolled out globally once the clinical trials have been published. The project won an AI award last month, one of several Irish activities in artificial intelligence that were honoured.

Careful consideration

       However, while AI has enormous potential for good, there are issues ahead and there needs to be some careful consideration about its impact.

Vasi Philomin, director of software engineering with AWS, said knowing the limitations of the services is important for effective use.

“You’ve got to understand what the capabilities of the service actually is and then try to use it appropriately in those cases,” he said.

In the case of AWS’s services that use facial recognition, for example, the results are given a confidence score that indicates the probability. The higher the score, the higher the probability.

        “In the real world when you see how these things are used,” he explained. “These services are used as sort of a filter to handle the massive amounts of data out there and narrow the field down for a human to take a look and make a decision in the end. We shouldn’t forget there’s a human in the loop, especially for things that are serious.”

AWS’s approach is to keep the models for AI and machine learning in the cloud, something Philomin said would improve them over time and perhaps even work out some of the biases that could creep in to data.


             “It’s important to have good-quality diverse data for training and that’s something we strive to do with our services,” he said. “We continuously improve the services, and customers who are using them see the improvements without having to do anything on their side.”

But requiring businesses and the tech industry to police their own actions may be a step too far in trust for some. The tech industry is littered with cases where the limitations of services were not taken into account, and there is the fear that society will bear the brunt of this.

          According to Microsoft Ireland managing director Cathriona Hallahan, AI can be a force for good – but governments need to take a hand in steering its course. “It should be a partnership between man and machine and not one or the other. Humans need to stay in control of who gets to define how that technology should be used,” she said. “It should be a coalition with industry, between public and private sectors and government to come together and say ‘how should we regulate this and who should have control?’ It shouldn’t be left in the hands of industry to do that alone.”

       Dr Sahin has a clear view of the impending impact of AI. “Every useful technology will be used for evil and for good. It’s desperately important for those of us who are doing good, unassailably, to push forward. That doesn’t mean ignore the concerns around ethics; it means take them as seriously as possible,” he said. “Consider it do good, and know what that means. If we worry about the sky falling in, about the data we give off now being used against us in the future, we won’t make progress forwards.”

sarah Posted on December 06, 2018 10:15

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Brian O’Driscoll opens up about use of legal painkillers when he was playing

The prescription painkillers Difene and co-codamol were regularly handed out  to Leinster and Ireland rugby players so they could ‘play their best game’, former Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll has revealed.

“I’d have been part of teams where the doctor would have walked down the bus on the way to games inquiring who wanted what in advance [of kick-off],” said O’Driscoll on Off The Ball. “For me, for the last couple of seasons, part of my match prep would have been a Difene and couple of co-codamol.”

O’Driscoll was speaking in the context of a International Rugby Players’ survey that revealed 45 per cent of players feel pressured by coaches and staff to play while injured.

He never felt such pressure.

“In the Leinster and Irish set-ups you could get your hands on difene. You got to fight your case a bit more now, and prove their necessity. Drug cabinets that might have been open once upon a time are very much shut and inaccessible.

“It used to be for sleepers as well. Diazepam [valium] to try and counteract what would happen with the caffeine [tablets] because they couldn’t sleep.

“I’m not saying it was the culture but it happened.”

Asked to explain the value of such drugs, by OTB presenter Joe Molloy, he replied, “Just a painkiller if I was carrying something. You know what? It almost became like habit, where it gave me a fighting chance if I wasn’t feeling 100 percent that it might have levelled it up.”

‘Perfectly legal’

“Which might have been most of the time?” asked Molloy.

“Which was probably a lot of the time. That is the reality of it. I wouldn’t have been the only one doing that. It was usually the older players, just to get you to balance the equilibrium, almost of feeling okay.


“I’m sure at times in my subconscious I would have taken it where maybe I could have done without it,” O’Driscoll continued. “If it is perfectly legal there is no need for TUEs [Therapeutic Use Exemptions] , give yourself a chance of playing your best game.

“I also had caffeine before games. I’d have three little tablets of caffeine, like chewing gum. You’d get into a routine where I knew exactly what I was doing, I had it down to the final seconds. As soon as I ran out on the pitch I’d bash it away and do my pre-warm up before we got together with the team.

“That was part and parcel of the last four or five years of my career.”

Difene, co-codamol and Diazepam all require prescriptions to purchase in a pharmacy.

On the related issue of player welfare, O’Driscoll added: “This definitely comes into the realms of player welfare where they won’t protect [players] from themselves, from taking these things.

“You play games, you make money, you’ve a better quality of life. It’s a simple pyramid; you’ve more chance of success the more you play.

No adverse effects

“I wouldn’t change a whole lot, now . . . I haven’t felt any adverse effects. Ask me at 75 and see what the state of my insides are like. I didn’t take so many Difene that I’m concerned but there would be players out there taking them every single day, that can’t be good for you. “

Also during the interview on Wednesday Night Rugby concerns were raised about the damage Difene does to a person’s insides.

“I’d never take Difene on an empty stomach. That would absolutely pull your stomach apart. I was always very conscious not to take it with orange juice or a cup of coffee. You’d need to eat and make sure you’ve a full stomach and I never had an issue.”

O’Driscoll, Ireland’s most capped player and record try scorer, retired from rugby in 2014.

“It’s always something that stayed with me,” said the 39 year old. “I’d have some Difene in my golf bag now. Might not take one before I tee off but stiffen up on the round I might take a Difene.”

sarah Posted on December 06, 2018 10:08

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Will Opec defy Trump's call for low oil prices?

Initially it is difficult see what President Donald Trump and Usman Ahsan, a taxi driver in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, have in common.

One is the leader of the US, with an estimated personal fortune of $3.1bn (£2.4bn), the other is struggling to support his wife and eight-month-old daughter.

Yet both are this week hoping that the Opec oil producers' cartel doesn't decide to cut production in an attempt to increase global crude prices.

Representatives of Opec's current 15 member states meet at its headquarters in Vienna, Austria on Thursday, 6 December, for their latest biannual meeting, where they will set production levels for the next six months.

The expectations are that at the urging of Opec's de facto leader, Saudi Arabia, output will indeed be cut to help boost prices, which fell to their lowest levels in more than a year at the end of November

Saudi Arabia argues that output needs to be trimmed because it fears that otherwise prices could fall further next year due to a predicted slowing in demand for oil.

Both Mr Ahsan and President Trump will not be happy if Opec - which accounts for more than a third of oil supplies - does indeed cut production.

"The price of petrol is already way too high," Mr Ahsan, 28, tells the BBC over the telephone. "I sometimes have to work 16 hours a day, for 30 days in a row, to provide for my family."

Meanwhile, President Trump tweeted last month: "Hopefully, Saudi Arabia and Opec will not be cutting oil production." In another tweet in November in response to falling oil prices he wrote: "Thank you to Saudi Arabia, but let's go lower!"

Like the rest of us Mr Ahsan doesn't have any clout with Opec, but President Trump certainly does. And he wants petrol prices to stay low to help US drivers and the country's economy.

So what exactly should we expect to be announced following the Opec meeting and why?

And what are the other issues that Saudi Arabia and Opec have to consider?

If we look at the current oil prices and how they compare with the past decade, they are undeniably low. Brent Crude, widely used as a benchmark for global oil prices, fell to $58.76 a barrel on 28 November, its lowest level since October 2017.

Even though the price has subsequently risen above $63, on growing agreement among analysts that Opec will announce some production cuts, this is still less than half the highs reached in March 2012 of more than $128. Prices soared then due to fears over supplies from Iraq because of continuing instability in the country.

Opec wants to cut production because it forecasts that the rate of growth in the worldwide demand for oil will slow in 2019 as the global economy cools slightly.

It said last month it now expects worldwide demand for crude will increase by an average 1.29 million barrels per day in 2019, compared with 2018, to a total of 100 million barrels a day. Earlier, in July it was predicting an increase of 1.45 million barrels a day.

Ann-Louise Hittle, vice president in charge of oil at research group Wood Mackenzie, agrees demand will cool next year. Like many she predicts that Opec will announce production cuts, but only modest ones due to pressure from President Trump.

"We expect a production restraint agreement to emerge from the meeting and have had this in our base case 2019 forecast. We have expected this for some months because without it, there will be a large scale oversupply."

But by how much is Opec likely to cut supplies? Ms Hittle suggests around 800,000 barrels a day, that would "stabilise prices and prevent further declines". She adds that a cut of one million barrels a day would mean price rises of "several dollars a barrel".

Fellow oil industry analyst Rachel Ziemba from the Center for a New American Security predicts a cut of "up to 500,000 barrels a day".

However, she cautions that "this meeting is still tricky to call". She says that as the US and China now appear to be trying to patch up their trade dispute, the global economy may actually be stronger than previously predicted next year.

Other commentators speculate that Saudi Arabia may be more willing than usual to pay heed to President Trump's call, after the reputational damage it suffered following the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the country's consulate in Istanbul.

Saudi Arabia has actually already increased its production slightly since the summer, in response to urging from Mr Trump.

This was to make up for a fall in global supply following the US reinstating sanctions on Iran, and led to the recent yearly lows.

Jim Krane, energy research fellow at Rice University's Baker Institute in Houston, says that an Opec production cut is "looking likely" despite the pressure from President Trump.

"A lot of producers need $60-80 [per barrel of] oil to balance their national budgets," he says. "When oil falls much below $60, they get nervous."

He adds that what has strengthened Opec's hand is the organisation's close ties with Russia, and that if Opec trims production, Russia will probably do the same.

What has brought Opec and Russia together in recent years has been their mutual concern at the vast group wth of the US shale oil industry. The resulting rise in its oil production means the US is now the world's largest oil producer, according to some estimates. This puts it ahead of Saudi Arabia and Russia in second and third place.

So despite President Trump's tweets, Opec is widely predicted to announce a production cut, if only a small one, to try to raise global oil prices.

For Mr Ahsan, in Islamabad, it won't be welcome news. "Life is tough, if I try to do normal hours of driving, like eight hours, I don't make a profit because of the cost of fuel," he says.

ruby Posted on December 06, 2018 10:07

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Believe in dreams: step inside Wonderland with Tiffany & Co. this Christmas

A gift from Tiffany & Co. is cherished at any time of year, but there is something particularly magical about receiving the Tiffany blue box at Christmas. Classic, elegant and truly special, a gift from Tiffany & Co. is one to fall in love with forever.

The New York jewellers, Tiffany & Co. - made famous by the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's, where Audrey Hepburn’s Holly Golightly gazes longingly inside the Fifth Avenue store - has an inspiring range of extraordinary gifts for your loved ones.

This festive season, to showcase the many treasures to be found at Tiffany & Co., the jewellers have launched a new chapter in their “Believe in Dreams” campaign, with a delightful film filled with magic, fashion icons and even a Mad Hatter style tea party.


Viewers go behind the scenes of a Tiffany workshop for a journey into dazzling, madcap adventures, a whimsical tea party and all with a star-studded cast. It begins at Tiffany & Co.’s Fifth Avenue flagship store, where musician, actress and style icon Zoë Kravitz plays a Tiffany sales person working late into the evening.

Kravitz drifts into a spectacular daydream and leaves reality for a Tiffany Blue dreamscape which is alive with bursts of neon colour. She enters a creative wonderland where she finds an underground holiday workshop with model Xiao Wen Ju as the quirky manager of the craftspeople. She sees the exquisite workmanship and artistry of Tiffany & Co. brought to life in a series of joyous, witty vignettes featuring cameos from models including Karen Elson (pictured below) and Maye Musk.

Kravitz’s journey culminates in a “madcap tea party” hosted by Naomi Campbell where guests dine on delicious pastries from The Blue Box Cafe and crockery and table settings from the Home & Accessories collection.

At the end of the film, Kravitz discovers the magic of Tiffany & Co. is where creativity and craftsmanship come together.

The “Believe in Dreams” campaign showcases both Tiffany & Co.’s classic and new collections, including Tiffany Paper Flowers and Tiffany T, as well as their classic diamonds and gems. There is magic and beauty in every single Tiffany piece and there is nothing quite like a Tiffany Blue Box under the tree, to make your beloved’s Christmas perfect this year.

Tiffany T

Tiffany T Square Bracelet in 18k gold, €6,050

The magic of the Tiffany T collection is in its unapologetic modern and bold look as well as its timeless sophistication. The Tiffany T jewellery is an arresting collection with graphic T shapes and is inspired by New York’s energy, architecture and endearing honesty. Its graphic angles and clean lines combine beautifully to makes confident, unique pieces of jewellery. This collection's bracelets, necklaces, rings and cuffs all have a distinctive minimalist look and come in rose, white and yellow gold and sterling silver. The pieces work beautifully on their own, or stacked together. You will find some pieces with a sprinkle of diamonds to represent the twinkle of lights in the city that never sleeps.

Tiffany Paper Flowers

Tiffany Paper Flowers Diamond and Tanzanite Open Cluster Necklace, €8,650

The Tiffany Paper Flowers collection is inspired by the iris flower and full of feminine, romantic, beautiful jewellery. Designed by chief artistic officer Reed Krakoff, it honours the extraordinary craftsmanship of Tiffany & Co. with a little playfulness in the design. Krakoff wanted these pieces to dismantle the rulebook that fine jewellery is only for special occasions and this collection can easily become part of what you wear everyday. Krakoff’s inspiration came from an 1881 watercolour of an iris which he found in the Tiffany & Co. archives. He wanted to capture the romance and poetry of flowers, and botanical motifs feature throughout this stunning collection. Mirror-polished platinum is set with exquisite diamonds and the collection features rings, bracelets, earrings, and necklaces that would be a joy to receive on Christmas morning.

Classic diamonds and gems

There is nothing quite like a Tiffany & Co. stone. As well as their classic diamond, they have a stone to suit every heart’s desire including everything from emerald to aquamarine, amethyst to yellow sapphire. To make it even more personal, Tiffany & Co. offers a personalisation and engraving service, too.

The inspiration for the Tiffany Victoria collection, which is distinguished by a flower made from four hand-cut diamond petals, was from the fire of the diamonds they source.

Tiffany Victoria Alternating Ring, €16,700

These romantic, feminine pieces are handcrafted with a delicate intricacy and a unique combination of cuts.

If you are seeking something sensual, feminine and utterly wearable, go for a piece from Elsa Peretti’s Diamonds by the Yard collection.

Tiffany Elsa Peretti Diamonds by the Yard earrings, €1,300

Florence-born Peretti is a jewellery designer, style icon and philanthropist as well as a former fashion model. Her understated approach to diamonds revolutionised the way gemstones are worn.

In the Tiffany Metro collection you will find a delicate but dazzling brilliance as its key feature is its extensive use of diamonds.

Tiffany Metro Five-row Hinged Bangle, €16,400

There is a unique shimmer to this sleek, modern collection as the diamonds seem to go on forever. Initially, this collection featured pavé diamonds set in a single row, but soon after it was expanded to include pieces with multiple rows of elegant, sparkling gems to give more options to customers.

The very essence of the Tiffany Soleste collection comes from its name taken from “sol,” the Spanish word for sun.

Tiffany Soleste Ring, €8,650

At the heart of each piece from this collection is a magnificent gemstone. You will find violet-hued tanzanites, stunning sapphires and coloured diamonds encricled by two bead-set halos of diamonds. Light is gathered and mirrored throughout the design, and it makes for a spectacular engagement ring. The collection features pendants, earrings and rings.

The Tiffany Blue Box

No gift would be complete without the signature Tiffany Blue Box that wraps each piece. It is as much a part of Tiffany’s legendary style as the jewels that come within it. Its characteristic blue hue is synonymous with luxury and is sure to be the perfect gift for anyone to find under the tree this Christmas.

sarah Posted on December 06, 2018 10:00

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Boy dies after allergic reaction to cheese ‘forced’ on him at school

A 13-year-old boy with a dairy allergy has died in London after suffering a severe reaction to a piece of cheese allegedly forced on him, prompting a murder investigation by the Metropolitan Police Service.

Karanbir Cheema was taken to hospital in a life-threatening condition on June 28th after becoming unwell during a school break. He died on Sunday after 10 days at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, devastating his family and school friends.

Officers from Ealing borough police, in the west of the British capital, were initially called to the school after it “became apparent that an incident had occurred which led to the boy coming into contact with the allergen”, the Met said in a statement.

Another 13-year-old boy was arrested and released on bail pending further inquiries, and the case has been passed to homicide officers.

Karanbir’s father, Amarjeet, told the London Evening Standard newspaper he was heartbroken. “We were in hospital. I had to watch him die. No parent should have to go through that. While he was in hospital we were fully concentrated on his condition. Now we want answers. How could this have happened?” he said.

“My son had allergies, but he was very careful. He had an allergy to dairy products but was good at avoiding them. I don’t see how a piece of cheese hitting him could have killed him. It doesn’t make any sense. We have been told very little.”

A postmortem has been scheduled for Wednesday to establish the cause of what the Met described as “an unexplained death”.

The head of William Perkin C of E High School, where Karanbir was a pupil, said he was treated immediately in the school before paramedics arrived. “He had a full care plan, and all the normal steps you would expect with a child with an allergy were in place. We provided these medications, and they were delivered,” Alice Hudson, executive head teacher, told the Evening Standard. “Everything that should have been done was done. Very, very tragically in this situation this was not effective.”


She told the Daily Mirror that Karanbir, known as Karan, had come to tell staff he was having a bad reaction. “He was able to come to the school office to indicate that he thought he was having an extreme reaction, and they were able to immediately administer the normal treatment, which was kept in the office for his care.”

Hudson added: “He had many friends, who are devastated at his death, as are the staff. He was a bright and keen student who excelled in maths. Our thoughts and prayers are with Karan’s family.”

sarah Posted on December 06, 2018 09:54

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