Featured Threads

Lilly Singh: Why the YouTuber coming out as bisexual is 'worth celebrating'

She tweeted: "Female, coloured, bisexual" to her 5.74 million Twitter followers and received a huge outpouring of support from fans.

"Throughout my life these have proven to be obstacles from time to time. But now I'm fully embracing them as my superpowers," she wrote.

"No matter how many 'boxes' you check, I encourage you to do the same."

Lilly has a huge following online, with almost 15 million subscribers to her YouTube channel - which she describes as "comedy, inspiration, good vibes".

And fans like Afshan D'souza-Lodhi, who's South Asian and bisexual - like Lilly, are celebrating the YouTuber's announcement.

Afshan believes Lilly coming out will help others to have conversations about sexuality with their families

"In the South Asian community there's a hesitancy for women to take ownership of their sexuality in the way Lilly has done," the 26-year-old writer and performer tells Newsbeat.

"She's hit a level of success and it's amazing news to have her come out like that."

Afshan says there is a lack of LGBT role models in South Asian culture, which is why so many people have welcomed Lilly's announcement.

But as well as celebrities, she'd like to see "more and more stories of regular, everyday people coming out and saying: 'I'm on the LGBT people spectrum as well'".

Lilly has been outspoken on gender and sexuality issues for many years

She also hopes Lilly's announcement will help young South Asian LGBT people begin to have more open conversations with family members - who may also be fans of the YouTuber.

"My parents have seen Superwoman videos. I've made them sit and watch them," says Afshan.

"They've laughed and found it really funny. The videos get shared on Facebook so they have access to that, so for her to come out and to normalise bisexuality in the way she has, allows our parents to have that discussion."

Shiva Raichandani has been following Lilly since she uploaded her first ever video to YouTube.

He says he's a fan because of the positivity and energy she brings to her videos and live shows.

The non-binary artist and performer says he hopes Lilly's coming out results in more "acceptance" for bisexual people of South Asian descent.

"To have someone in her position impart knowledge around bisexuality, that's beautiful," says Shiva

"Any recognition we can get for bisexual folk in the community is 100% appreciated," he tells Newsbeat.

"This is a bisexual woman with millions of fans worldwide, many of whom are bisexual Indian women themselves.

"A bisexual Indian woman to publicly own her sexuality on a massive platform is worth celebrating. Now, she gives that platform to younger generations to feel comfortable in their own sexuality and their own skin."

He says that as an influencer, Lilly has been shaping "attitudes and opinions" throughout her career, and will now hopefully do that for a better understanding of LGBT issues in South Asian culture.Lilly has been tweeting about her support for the LGBT community for many years (along with creating YouTube videos on LGBT issues), sharing her support for gay pride events and gay marriage long before she came out.

In 2016 she even said that she hoped one day she'd come out as bi. Three years later, she's done just that.

ruby Posted on March 04, 2019 10:07

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 222
  • 0

Dorji Dema: A female archer taking aim at sexism

Traditional Bhutanese archery is for men only - even though the country's women archers have had great success in the modern sport. As Michelle Jana Chan reports, Olympic archer Dorji Dema is assembling a team of women to put this right.

I hope I've got the right house… I walk past a potato patch to the front door. There's no knocker, so I call out. Dorji Dema appears at the doorway, a visibly toned and youthful 35-year-old in a tight orange T-shirt. She's an archer, and archery is Bhutan's national sport.

Long associated with victories over invading forces, archery has been practised for centuries here. Most villages have at least one range and contests are integral to the numerous religious festivals.

As I travelled across Bhutan, inside its monasteries and temples I'd seen statues and paintings of figures holding bamboo bows, often pulled back taut, aimed at their enemies. Some were male, others fantastical creatures; none looked anything like the woman in front of me.

Dorji smiles shyly and apologises for her English. Shorter than me, with a friendly smile and her hair tied back with a ribbon, she doesn't fill me with fear, but Bhutanese men quake when she lifts her weapon.

Fresco of the God Pehor Gelpo, in Gangtey

I remove my shoes and enter her home. A wall is covered with certificates, medals and security passes from international archery competitions - in venues from Thailand to Sri Lanka - and there are polished trophies on a shelf.

"It's not the winning, of course," Dorji says. "It's the participating."

"Surely not," I reply sceptically. "You must have wanted to win."

She shakes her head. That's very Bhutanese. Not a lack of ambition or passion, but congeniality, the sense of the collaborative.

Tournaments in Bhutan are often as much about fun as the frenzy of competing. They are accompanied by raucous singing, boo-ing, cheering, dancing and sometimes even heavy drinking by contestants. Archery is much more than just a sport.

"Will you teach me?" I ask Dorji. We'd planned a lesson.

Dorji Dema had morning sickness at the Beijing Olympics

She bounces off to get an advanced bow, not unlike the Recurve used by competitors at the Olympics, but with a trigger to release the arrow. She grabs a sheaf of arrows, and we head out to the garden. I hadn't noticed the strip of land, flanked by a muddy bank, which serves as her practice ground. She usually shoots from 50m, but we move much closer to the target for my sake.

She talks me through the action. Lift the bow. Pull your arm back completely. Keep the bowstring close to your cheek.

I've always thought of myself as pretty strong, and I'm eager to try. But my left arm soon starts to shake with the strain. We giggle. I struggle to pull back the string. In a last-ditch effort I roar as I might at the gym, trying to lift one last weight. The arrow flies towards the target.

"Six points," Dorji says, beaming.

It was a fluke. I get steadily worse with each try until I can barely lift the bow, let alone take aim.

Dorji shoots 20 arrows, one after another. They cluster around the bulls eye so tightly they look like one entity.

As the light fades, we head inside. We're cooking dinner together and I'm spending the night - Dorji now runs a homestay.

Sitting cross-legged on the wooden floor, we chop radishes and spring onions. One of her three children runs past, calling out a cheerful hello. I notice the girl's age and glance up at the dates on the certificates on the wall.

Dorji nods knowingly, and explains that it wasn't easy. In 2005, she was seven months pregnant when she competed in South Korea. Every time she took aim, the baby moved. She laughs.

At the Beijing Olympics in 2008 she was three months pregnant and admits it was dreadful.

"I couldn't eat anything. I was throwing up all the time," she says.

"But although the baby makes you physically weaker, your mind is stronger. And the stronger your mind is, the less you shake."

Traditional archery remains a pursuit for Bhutanese men

I turn to Dorji's mother, who's been watching television in a corner.

"You must be proud of your daughter?"

"I'm proud of her because she's made lots of money," she guffaws. "She was the one who fixed the roof of this old house, not my son-in-law."

Everyone laughs - Dorji's husband, too. He's obviously used to her tongue.

Women are mostly seen on the sidelines, as cheerleaders

I ask Dorji if she'll try for another Olympics?

"I'd love to," she says. "I watch all the competitions on YouTube."

Her more immediate goal, though, is to put together an all-female team for a tournament in Bhutan next year. Dorji says women are excluded from the traditional discipline, where the distance to the target is 145m. Instead they're mostly seen on the sidelines - as cheerleaders, and the ones who bring food to competitors and taunt the opposition.

Dorji wants to change that.

"In the past, women weren't even allowed to touch a bow. It was considered bad luck," she says. "But now we should be equal."

ruby Posted on March 04, 2019 10:01

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 217
  • 0

Trevor Noah sorry for India-Pakistan comments

Comedian Trevor Noah has said he is sorry for making jokes about the sharp rise in tensions between India and Pakistan over disputed Kashmir.

He said a war between the two would be "the most entertaining", adding "it would also be the longest war of all time - another dance number!"

The gag, in an episode of The Daily Show, caused most anger in India where thousands poured fury onto Twitter.

India and Pakistan have fought two wars and a limited conflict over Kashmir.

Both countries claim all of Kashmir, but each controls only part of it. The events of the past two weeks has seen an almost unprecedented escalation, which culminated in Pakistan shooting down an Indian fighter jet and capturing an Indian pilot - they later released him.

Shelling over the de facto border dividing Kashmir continued over the weekend, resulting in civilian casualties on both sides.

After Noah's Daily Show appearance last week, criticism built up online which saw the South African comedian condemned as "racist" and "insensitive".

When one Twitter user accused him of mocking "war through a Bollywood stereotype", Noah responded with an explanation of his comedy process - but also said "I am sorry that this hurt you and others, that's not what I was trying to do".

He said that he used comedy to "process pain and discomfort", pointing out that he had even made jokes about his mother being shot in the head.

He followed up by saying that he was amazed that his joke over the conflict "trended more than the actual conflict itself".

That sentiment also clearly struck a chord. Some users said the outrage that trended over his jokes was "unnecessary", and just another example of the social media echo chamber that amplifies all offence.

On The Daily Show's own YouTube page, some expressed dismay but many chimed in to say they found the segment funny.

Twitter is the social media platform where political controversy in India tends to play out - and so this is where offence escalated most. In addition, there isn't a well established tradition of political satire in India, so Noah's comedy was bound to have its detractors.

A Facebook page called Humans of Hindutva became notorious in India for poking fun at political leaders and parties. It amassed a large following quickly - but was also seen as very controversial in India and felt compelled to pause its satire.

Indian celebrities have also been castigated for taking a political stand - and sometimes, for not taking one.

Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra's recent tweet in support of the Indian air force has now spurred a petition in Pakistan against her, calling on Unicef to strip her of her Goodwill Ambassador title.

On 26 February, India carried out air strikes on what it said was a militant camp in Pakistan in retaliation for a suicide bombing that killed at least 40 Indian troops in Indian-administered Kashmir on 14 February.

A Pakistan-based group said it carried out the attack - the deadliest to take place during a three-decade insurgency against Indian rule in Kashmir.

Pakistan - which denies any involvement in the 14 February attack - said it had no choice but to retaliate with air strikes last week.

That led to a dogfight and an Indian fighter jet being shot down in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. The fighter pilot, who was captured by Pakistan, was released on 1 March and arrived in India, where he has been hailed as a hero.

ruby Posted on March 04, 2019 09:50

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 209
  • 0

Duga radar: Enormous abandoned antenna hidden in forests near Chernobyl

(CNN) — The peaceful untouched forest north of Ukraine's capital, Kiev, is a perfect spot to enjoy the outdoors -- save for one fact.

It contains the radiation-contaminated Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, established in 1986 after the world's worst nuclear disaster sent a wave of radiation fallout across Europe.

Since 2011 it's been a major draw for adventurous tourists, but the forests here conceal another legacy of the Cold War, with a far more sinister and mysterious reputation.

The Duga radar.

Though once a closely guarded secret, this immense structure can be seen for miles around, rearing up through the mist over the horizon -- a surreal sight.

From a distance, it appears to be a gigantic wall. On close inspection, it's an enormous, dilapidated structure made up of hundreds of huge antennas and turbines.

The Duga radar (which translates as "The Arc") was once one of the most powerful military facilities in the Soviet Union's communist empire.

It still stands a towering 150 meters (492 feet) high and stretches almost 700 meters in length. But, left to rot in the radioactive winds of Chernobyl, it's now in a sad state of industrial decay.

Anyone exploring the undergrowth at its feet will stumble upon neglected vehicles, steel barrels, broken electronic devices and metallic rubbish, the remainders of the hasty evacuation shortly after the nuclear disaster.

For decades, the Duga has stood in the middle of nowhere with no one to witness its slow demise. Since 2013, visitors exploring the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone have been permitted access to the radar installation as part of a guided group.

Even those aware of its presence are still struck by the sheer scale of it, says Yaroslav Yemelianenko, director of Chernobyl Tour, which conducts trips to the Duga.

"Tourists are overwhelmed by the enormous size of the installation and its aesthetic high-tech beauty," he tells CNN Travel. "No one expects that it is that big.

"They feel very sorry that it's semi-ruined and is under threat of total destruction," he adds.

Even decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the story behind the Duga still poses more questions than answers, its true purpose not fully understood.

Doomed to failure

The antenna was used to bounce signals off the Earth's ionosphere.


Construction of the Duga began in 1972 when Soviet scientists looking for ways to mitigate long-range missile threats came up with the idea of building a huge over-the-horizon-radar, that would bounce signals off the ionosphere to peer over the Earth's curvature.

Despite the gigantic scale of the project, it transpired the scientists lacked full understanding of how the ionosphere works -- unwittingly dooming it to failure before it was even built.

Related content

Ukraine: 11 best places to visit

Some of what we know today about the Duga -- also known as Chernobyl-2 -- comes from Volodymyr Musiyets, a former commander of the radar complex.

"The Chernobyl-2 object, as a part of the anti-missile and anti-space defense of the Soviet military, was created with a sole purpose," he told the Ukrainian newspaper Fakty, "to detect the nuclear attack on the USSR in the first two-three minutes after the launch of the ballistic missiles."

The Duga radar was only a signal receiver, the transmitting center was built some 60 kilometers away in a town called Lubech-1, now also abandoned.

These top-secret facilities were protected with extensive security measures.

Wild speculations

The radar was buried deep in a forest, with fake signs disguising its presence.

Clay Gilliland/Flickr

To confuse their "enemies," Soviet command often designated such installations with numbers or fake identities.

On Soviet maps, the Duga radar was marked as a children's camp (there's even a bizarre bus stop on the road to one facility decorated with a bear mascot from the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.

Related content

The extraordinary world of Soviet bus shelters

Legend has it that Phil Donahue, one of the first US journalists to be granted access to Chernobyl after the disaster, asked his official guide about the surreal sight of the Duga on the horizon and was told it was an unfinished hotel.

When it was in operation, according to Musiyets, the Duga supposedly used short radio waves capable of traveling thousands of kilometers using a technique called "over-the-horizon" radiolocation to detect the exhaust flames of launching missiles.

In 1976 the world heard for the first time the eerie woodpecker-like repetitive pulse coming from the transmitters.

Conspiracy theories followed instantly, generating Western media headlines about mind and weather control.

'Russian woodpecker'

The radar, like the nearby Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, are now tourist attractions.

Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images

Amid growing fears of nuclear war some claimed that the low-frequency "Russian signal" could change human behavior and destroy brain cells.

Such wild speculations were further fueled by the Soviet Union's denial of the very existence of the radar -- it was a children's camp after all.

While it's highly unlikely that Duga was used as a mind control weapon directed at Americans, its true purpose and the important details of its functioning are covered in mystery.

Related content

Bulgaria's communist UFO: The abandoned Buzludzha Monument

Was there a connection to the nearby Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant? It's speculated that the doomed facility was built in the particular area in order to provide the enormous radar with energy.

Supporters of this idea point out that the Duga radar cost the Soviet Union twice as much as the power plant, despite its questionable military capabilities.

A Sundance-awarded 2015 documentary "Russian Woodpecker" goes deep into this theory following Ukrainian artist Fedor Alexandrovich's investigation into the causes of the Chernobyl tragedy, with the Duga radar playing a role at the core of the conspiracy.

Soviet ghosts


The explosion at Chernobyl on April 26, 1986 was the beginning of the end for the Duga array. The complex was closed due to the radiation contamination and its workers evacuated -- the silence only broken by the sound of crackling geiger counters tracking radiation.

Due to the Duga's top-secret status, all the documents about its operation were either destroyed or archived in Moscow, a state of things that continues to the present day. The antenna's vital components transported to Moscow or spirited away by looters.

In the chaos that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, the radar's fate was entrenched by its location in the middle of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, sealed off from the public for more than two decades.

The Chernobyl catastrophe impacted the lives of thousands of innocent people, covered the whole continent in radiation and led to death and decay.

Much of the Duga's technology has been ransacked or taken back to Russia.

Jorge Franganillo/Wikicommons

Enduring fascination for the incident and the Cold War, perhaps some of it inspired by recent diplomatic strains between East and West, have meant no shortage of people wanting to explore such forsaken relics.

"Many people have heard about it," says Yemelianenko. "Mostly they like [the radar] because their personal life story is in some ways connected with the history of the Cold War.

Related content

10 best hidden Cold War sites in former West Germany

"Some people were engaged in these events ... They would like to witness [Duga] with their own eyes," he says, adding that most of visitors are from the United States, aged from 30 to 60.

Yemelianenko, among a group of Ukrainian tourism professionals working to get the Exclusion Zone inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage list, adds that many visitors to the Exclusion Zone claim that seeing the Duga is the highlight of their trip.

So, while the sinister woodpecker sound may have departed the radio waves, the Duga continues to transmit its eerie presence across the abandoned landscape.

The Soviet Union may have gone forever but its ghosts still haunt Ukraine.

sarah Posted on March 04, 2019 09:49

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 273
  • 0

Climate change: Angela Merkel welcomes school strikes

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she supports school students' protests about climate change.

It appears to contradict some education officials, who have criticised participants for skipping school and threatened them with exclusion.

Mrs Merkel said students might be frustrated at the time taken to move away from coal-based energy but asked them to understand it was a challenge.

Across the world, some students have been leaving school to demand action.

On Friday thousands of high school students in the city of Hamburg marched against climate change, with Swedish activist Greta Thunberg - who started the series of school strikes - present.

But the city's education official, Ties Rabe, wrote on Twitter: "No-one makes the world better by skipping school."Meanwhile the education minister in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia has told schools that students face disciplinary action up to and including expulsion if they do not comply with their legal duty to go to school.

Asked about the Friday school strikes, which in Germany have been dubbed "Fridays for Future", Ms Merkel said the country's climate goals could only be reached with the support of wider society.

"So I very much welcome that young people, school students, demonstrate and tell us to do something fast about climate change," she said.

"I think it is a very good initiative," she added, without making reference to the fact that they were protesting during school hours.

Greta Thunberg, 15, told the BBC in September about her climate strike outside the Swedish parliament

But, she said, in her role she had to let them know that there were many steps to take before the full switch-off of coal, planned for Germany by 2038.

"From the students' point of view," Ms Merkel continued, "that may seem like a very long way away, but it will challenge us very much so I ask them to understand that too."

Two years ago a small survey suggested that Germans worried more about climate change than they did about terrorism.

Demanding action: UK students miss school to protest climate change

ruby Posted on March 04, 2019 08:58

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 203
  • 0

Huawei's Meng Wanzhou sues Canada authorities over arrest

The chief financial officer of China's tech giant Huawei is suing Canada over her arrest at the request of the US.

Meng Wanzhou was held in December at Vancouver airport on suspicion of fraud and breaching US sanctions on Iran.

On Friday Ms Meng filed a civil claim against Canada's government, border agency and police for "serious breaches" of her civil rights.

It came on the same day that Canada officially launched Meng Wanzhou's extradition process to the US.

She will next appear in court on 6 March, when it will be confirmed that Canada has issued a legal writ over her extradition to the US and the date for an extradition hearing will be set.

China has attacked Ms Meng's arrest and the extradition process as a "political incident". She denies all the charges against her.

The claim - filed in British Columbia's Supreme Court on Friday - seeks damages against the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the federal government for allegedly breaching her civil rights.

Ms Meng says CBSA officers held, searched and questioned her at the airport under false pretences before she was arrested by the RCMP.

Ms Meng has a property in Vancouver and is currently out on bail

Officers held her to get information they "did not believe would be obtained if the Plaintiff was immediately arrested", breaking her rights under Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Her detention was "unlawful" and "arbitrary", the suit says, and officers "intentionally failed to advise her of the true reasons for her detention, her right to counsel, and her right to silence".

Ms Meng is the daughter of Huawei's founder, and her arrest has strained relations between China, and the US and Canada.

US authorities filed almost two dozen charges against Huawei - the world's second largest smartphone maker - and Ms Meng in January, along with a formal request for her extradition.

China has slammed the move as an "abuse of the bilateral extradition treaty" between Canada and the US, and has expressed its "resolute opposition" and "strong dissatisfaction" with the proceedings.

But Canada says it is following the rule of law. Two of its citizens in China are thought to have been detained in retaliation for her arrest.

ruby Posted on March 04, 2019 08:55

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 200
  • 0

Tornadoes kill at least 23 in Lee County, Alabama

At least 23 people have been killed as tornadoes struck Lee County in eastern Alabama, authorities say.

County Sheriff Jay Jones said there had been "catastrophic" damage and there were fears more bodies would be found. The number of injured is not yet known.

Rescue efforts have been halted until dawn due to the danger of searching in the dark.

The most devastating tornado struck the area around Beauregard, carving a path at least half a mile (0.8km) wide.

The National Weather Service (NWS) classified it as at least an EF-3 - meaning winds of up to 165mph (266km/h).

It warned people to "stay out of damaged areas so first responders could do their job".

The area around Beauregard, about 60 miles (95km) east of Alabama's state capital, Montgomery, appears to have borne the brunt. The tornado there struck at about 14:00 (20:00 GMT) on Sunday.

Footage showed snapped poles, roads littered with debris and houses without roofs.

Sheriff Jones said some homes had been reduced to slabs.

Authorities fear the death toll could rise.

Residents of Smiths Station told local TV they had seen businesses destroyed there. A large bar called the Buck Wild Saloon had had its roof torn off.

Sheriff Jones said: "The challenge is the sheer volume of the debris where all the homes were located. It's the most I've seen that I can recall."

Tornado warnings were also issued for Georgia, Florida and South Carolina. Footage showed smashed buildings and snapped trees in Talbotton, about 80 miles south of Atlanta.

Tornadoes were also reported in Walton County and Cairo in northern Florida.

All of the deaths so far have been in Lee County. Authorities say they are still working to identify the victims and the injured.

One of the dead in Beauregard was an eight year old, family members said.

"We've never had a mass fatality situation, that I can remember, like this in my lifetime," Lee County coroner Bill Harris said.

He said on Sunday evening: "We've still got people being pulled out of rubble. We're going to be here all night."

Alabama meteorologist Eric Snitil tweeted that there were more deaths in Lee County in one day due to a tornado than in the entirety of the US in 2018.

East Alabama Medical Centre said it was treating more than 40 people injured by the extreme weather, and was expecting more.

Several tornadoes hit the region on Sunday including Georgia, seen here at Warner Robins

Several people were reported hurt in Talbotton in Georgia, though not seriously.

PowerOutage.US says there are about 3,000 customers without power across Alabama, most of them in Lee County.

Cold weather is forecast for the region after the tornadoes, with temperatures predicted to drop to near freezing.

The National Weather Service said it would send three survey teams to assess the damage caused by tornadoes across Alabama on Monday.

The extreme weather initially cut off electricity for 21,000 Georgia Power customers, according to a company spokeswoman, and tore down trees and destroyed homes.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey posted on Twitter to warn residents there could be more extreme weather to come.

"Our hearts go out to those who lost their lives in the storms that hit Lee County today," she wrote.

President Donald Trump also tweeted, asking people to "Please be careful and safe".

And Apple CEO Tim Cook, who was born in Mobile in the southwest of the state, said he was "devastated" by the news, saying Lee County was "a place close to my heart".

This series has occurred earlier than the traditional peak season for tornadoes, which runs from April to June, when more than half of the year's tornadoes generally strike.

Weather systems are more conducive in these months. Warm air flows north from the Gulf of Mexico at the same time as storm systems are propelled into the south and mid-west by a southward dip in the jet stream.

These latest tornadoes appear to have carried the deadliest toll since 35 people were killed in Arkansas and Mississippi in April 2014.

A "super outbreak" of tornadoes across a swathe of the US in April 2011 killed more than 300 people.

ruby Posted on March 04, 2019 08:52

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 261
  • 0

Jonathan-Ismael Diaby: Does ice hockey have a racism problem?

A racist incident at a Quebec hockey arena has reopened old wounds about what some former players are calling the dark side of Canada's national pastime.

Jonathan-Ismael Diaby is not used to quitting.

At 24, the defenceman has been playing semi-pro hockey hockey for almost a decade. On the ice, he is focused, methodical and surprisingly agile for his 6'5" frame. He also happens to be black.

But after fans hurled racial insults at him and harassed his family, he decided to walk out mid-game.

"I was conflicted... I just wanted to fling my stick in the guy's face," he told the BBC after the incident.

"But then I was thinking of doing what I did, which was to leave the game peacefully and make a change after."

Trying to raise awareness for the racism that visible minority athletes face is what he is doing now.

Video of the incident and Diaby's subsequent openness about the experience have caused a stir in Canada, where hockey is more than just a sport: it is an intrinsic part of national identity.

The video shows a fan of the opposing team confronting Diaby in the penalty box. The man can be seen making a racist gesture, and showing Diaby a picture on his mobile phone of a baboon.

Soon, several fans began to harass Diaby's family and his girlfriend, touching their hair and telling his father (a former pro-footballer in the Ivory Coast) to "go back home".

That's when Diaby decided enough was enough - so he went to the locker room to change and then left with his family.

"Being a visible minority, we deal with it every day," he says. "But that was the first time I saw a big group of people pushing towards negativity like that."

League commissioner Jean-François Laplante has apologised to Diaby and his family.

"Racist, sexist, homophobic comments are completely unacceptable and cannot be tolerated, whether it's in everyday life or in our arenas," he said.

But it is not the first time a hockey player has been harassed for his race.

Nashville Predators' PK Subban is one of the most recognisable faces in hockey today

In April, Detroit Red Wings prospect Givani Smith had to have police escort him to junior league play-off games after receiving numerous racially motivated hate messages and death threats on social media.

Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds has had bananas thrown at him on the ice.

In 2014, Bruins fans hurled racial epithets at PK Subban online when the star hockey player scored a game-winning goal for the Montreal Canadiens.

These incidents are familiar to Peter Worrell, a retired pro-hockey player who played in the National Hockey League for seven years in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

"It's the same crap that people do all the time," he told the BBC. "It always goes back to the monkey, it always goes back to the bananas, it always goes back to 'go back to Africa'".

He says racist taunts were a common occurrence in junior league arenas. His most vivid memory was from a game played at the Marcel-Bédard Arena in Beauport, Quebec, when he was just 17.

An aggressive fan of the home team was at it again with the same old racist insults. But this time, his tormentor was joined by several others, cheering him and egging him on.Meanwhile, Worrell sat on the bench, trying his best to tune them out.

"The biggest thing I remember is a sense of helplessness," Worrell says.

Worrell thanks his coaches and his teammates for sticking by him that day, and letting him know that what was done to him was done to everyone.

But he still wonders why more wasn't done to remove the disruptive fans.

Diaby wonders too. Security officials did little to intervene when his family was being harassed, even going so far as to suggest his parents move seats to defuse the situation.

Since the incident received widespread coverage, the North American Hockey League, the semi-pro league Diaby plays in, said it would increase arena security and implement new measures to try to eliminate discriminatory behaviour.

Stories like Diaby's and Worrell's challenge two of Canada's most cherished institutions - hockey and multiculturalism. Canadians like to believe they are, indeed have a worldwide reputation for being, polite and egalitarian.

The fact that this sort of hate is happening in small-town hockey rinks is difficult to fathom for many.

Willie O'Ree, the first black player in the NHL, was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018

"Is it hockey that has the race problem or is it society that has the race problem?" asks David Singh, a sports journalist for SportsNet.

"The simplest answer is that hockey has predominantly been a white sport and it's been viewed as a white sport since forever."

Willie O'Ree became the first black player in the NHL in 1958, more than a decade after Jackie Robinson took the baseball field for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Today, about 7% of NHL hockey players identify as non-white. Compare that to two-thirds of NFL football players, three-quarters of NBA basketball players, or about 60% of MLB baseball players.

These statistics can lead some to question why black athletes would play hockey.

"Basketball isn't made for black people. Hockey isn't made for whites," Worrell says.

"It's not just white people who have that thought process. Quite frankly there's a lot of people in the African-American community who feel the same way, which has always mind-boggled me, as to why you would limit your possibilities."

Part of the reason for the slow diversification in hockey, Singh believes, is because of the young age that pro-hockey players are minted.

Peter Worrell, pictured here playing for the Colorado Avalanche in 2003, says he experienced racism as a young hockey player

In Canada, parents will often put their sons on skates before they can fully walk, and children who show promise on the ice are selected for elite training camps when they are still in elementary school.

This means it may take another generation for hockey's demographics to catch up, Singh says.

There are signs of change. In 2018, the NHL launched a campaign called "hockey is for everyone" aimed at promoting its commitment to diversity. The league also appointed a new vice-president, Kim Davies, in charge of social equity.

Worrell says despite the disappointment he felt when he heard Diaby's story, he does think things have gotten better. He pointed to the recent trade of Wayne Simmonds from the Flyers, which generated lots of press.

"Twenty years ago, the fact that he was a black player would have been prominent in every story… it's not even in the paragraph anymore."

ruby Posted on March 02, 2019 12:59

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 224
  • 0

Wigan murder inquiry after baby girl dies

A one-year-old girl has died from head injuries, prompting a murder investigation.

She was taken to hospital on Thursday after Greater Manchester Police (GMP) were called by medical staff, and she died on Friday.

A 32-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murder and is being questioned in custody.

Police said forensic teams were searching a property in Fleming Court, Shevington, Wigan.

Det Ch Insp Jamie Daniels, of GMP, said: "All murder investigations are understandably upsetting but, when it involves a child as young as this, it's particularly distressing for everyone involved."

He appealed for information, adding: "We are currently trying to build a picture of what has happened in the lead-up to this little girl's death and how she has come to sustain her injuries.

"Specially-trained officers continue to offer their support to loved ones at this terrible time."

ruby Posted on March 02, 2019 12:34

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 212
  • 0

Tom Ballard: More delays in search for missing climber

The search for a British climber who went missing on a peak in Pakistan has suffered another setback due to bad weather.

Tom Ballard and Italian climber Daniele Nardi last made contact on Sunday from an altitude of about 20,500ft (6,250m) on Nanga Parbat.

Snow, cloud and poor visibility has meant a helicopter team and high altitude drones cannot fly as planned.

Rescue attempts started late due to tensions between Pakistan and India.

Mr Ballard, originally from Derbyshire, is the son of Alison Hargreaves, who died descending from the summit of K2 in 1995 - the same year she became the first woman to conquer Everest unaided.

On Friday, three drones were due to be flown by Spanish mountaineer Alex Txikon, in an area known as the Mummery Spur, named after Albert Mummery, who died on the mountain in 1895.

The search was postponed until Saturday with Stefano Pontecorvo, the Italian ambassador in Pakistan, saying he hoped for a "miracle" to find "tough guys" Mr Ballard and Mr Nardi.

Pilots had been on standby since 05:30 local time, according to Mr Nardi's Facebook page, but rescuers have been left frustrated.

Mr Pontecorvo tweeted that "weather conditions today [Saturday] do not allow the planned search and rescue op".

He added that conditions on Sunday "should be better".

The 30-year-old climber moved to Scotland in 1995 with his sister Kate and grew up in Fort William in Lochaber.

The search only began on Thursday due to airspace restrictions following the tensions between Pakistan and India.

A three-person tent "invaded by snow" and "traces of an avalanche" were spotted by mountaineer Ali Sadpara, on board a Pakistani army helicopter, on the same day.

However, it is not known if the tent belonged to the missing climbers.

Nanga Parbat is the world's ninth highest mountain and a number of deaths have earned it the nickname of "killer mountain".

A Foreign Office spokesman said it was in contact with Pakistani authorities regarding Mr Ballard's disappearance.

ruby Posted on March 02, 2019 12:31

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 232
  • 0

Harold Hill stabbing: Girl, 17, dies in park attack

A 17-year-old girl has been stabbed to death at a park in east London.

Police were called to St Neots Road in Harold Hill, Romford, at about 21:30 GMT on Friday.

The girl was pronounced dead at the scene.

The Metropolitan Police has begun a murder investigation, although no arrests have been made. The girl's next-of-kin have been informed, and a post-mortem examination is due to be held.

She is the first teenage girl to die in a homicide in the capital this year.

She became the 18th person to be killed in London this year, and the fifth teenager to die.

MP for Hornchurch and Upminster in Havering Julia Lopez described the attack as "utterly senseless".

London mayor Sadiq Khan also took to Twitter to say he was "devastated" by the stabbing.

ruby Posted on March 02, 2019 12:23

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 230
  • 0

'Why I recreate famous movie scenes online'

As he pauses and looks to sea, a photo is retrieved from somewhere about his person. He holds it up to the horizon. This is the place.

For a few days, almost a decade ago, the beach was a hive of activity - home to a film crew and a newly-constructed cottage as the penultimate instalment of the Harry Potter series was filmed.

The cottage and the film crew are long gone but Thomas, a 20-year-old film student, is paying homage to the scene by pinpointing the spot where it was filmed and recreating it photographically.

In the last 18 months, Thomas estimates he's visited 150 film locations. He posts the results to Instagram, where he's built an audience of nearly 15,000 followers.

"The idea's always been in my head," he explained to the BBC. "I just love exploring places and linking that with my passion for film. It was my first time in Wales. I'd heard it was beautiful and it really was. I took the coastal bus.

"I always want to visit the scenes that mean the most to me. I can visit the places that I've only seen on screen."

"This was a really long day. I got up at 4am and went down to Heathrow to try and find the right terminal for a different Love Actually scene.

"From there I went back into central London to do the rest of the scenes. The film is so influential and memorable. Plus it was nearly Christmas, so I really wanted to do it."

"I really wanted to capture a scene from Les Miserables. This scene is so powerful with the iconic song. It builds and builds... until the cast slowly trickle out the words 'Do you hear the people sing?'

"The naval college is really prolific in film location and it was a really nice place to shoot."

"I try to give a meaning to each post I do and each film I visit. I took this on the weekend of Armistice Day 2018.

"Dunkirk is a beautiful film. So I thought, why not go to Dunkirk?"

"This was my childhood really. When I was younger I'd wake up every morning at 5am and watch Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

"I was going through looking at all the different doors and windows and they all looked the same.

"It was lovely."


ruby Posted on March 02, 2019 10:39

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 204
  • 0

Hoodwinker sunfish: Rare fish washes up on California beach

A rare fish thought to live in the southern hemisphere has washed up in Santa Barbara, California.

The appearance of the seven-foot (2.1m) hoodwinker sunfish has baffled scientists, who question how the fish made it so far from its home waters.

An intern at the University of California spotted the animal at the Coal Oil Point Natural Reserve.

It took researchers several days to properly identify the creature, which was only discovered in 2014.

Photos of the giant fish first appeared on the Coal Oil Point Facebook page, and experts from around the world weighed in to help identify the creature.

The animal was named "hoodwinker" after its discovery after eluding researchers for so many years.

Marianne Nyegaard, a marine scientist who found and named the fish, told CNN she "nearly fell out of my chair" when she saw the pictures of the beached traveller.

"When the clear pictures came through, I thought there was no doubt," she said. "It's intriguing what made this fish cross the equator."

The hoodwinker is larger and sleeker than other species of sunfish, weighing up to two tonnes (2,000kg).

They reportedly favour more temperate waters, such as off the coast of Chile or New Zealand.

ruby Posted on March 02, 2019 10:25

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 284
  • 0

Liberia's 'missing millions': Charles Sirleaf arrested

Charles Sirleaf, the son of Liberia's former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has been arrested in relation to the illegal printing of more than $104m (£78m) worth of local banknotes.

He was a deputy governor of the Central Bank at the time of the incident in March last year. Mr Sirleaf's former boss - ex-Central Bank head Milton Weeks - has also been detained.

Their lawyers are yet to comment.

The arrests come after a report into the missing millions was released.

The much-anticipated report, carried out by investigative auditing firm Kroll associates, was released by the US embassy on Thursday.

It was looking into the alleged disappearance of more than $100m (£75m) worth of newly printed Liberian banknotes last year.

It had been widely reported that shipping containers full of banknotes had vanished from Monrovia's port and airport. However the report did not find any proof that this happened.

Instead, it found that Liberia's Central Bank had acted unilaterally and unlawfully by printing and importing into the country three times the amount of banknotes it had been authorised to do.

The country's Central Bank, which had received new banknotes in a total of 20 shipments, was not able to properly account for the money.

The bank was also unable to explain and present proper documentation on how the money was infused into the Liberian economy, the report found.

The scandal began before President Weah was elected but has cast a shadow over his first year in office

The banknotes were ordered before President George Weah came to power in 2018, but critics say his had a hand in the poor handling of the consignment of banknotes - an allegation the administration has denied.

The report points to widespread inconsistencies, lack of proper documentations and explanation and "gross disrespect for money-ordering policy".

According to Kroll, the House of Representatives passed a resolution for the order of 5bn Liberian dollars to remove and replace old banknotes on the market.

The Central Bank requested additional 10bn Liberian dollars but the request was denied by the Senate. The bank went ahead anyway and engaged a company to print the additional banknotes.

"CBL (Central Bank of Liberia) management subsequently explained to Kroll that due to the urgency for new banknotes, the CBL did not follow its own internal tendering policies for the procurement of Crane AB," the report says.

Kroll explains in the 67-page report that, despite repeated requests, the bank did not provide any explanation as to who had approved the injection of new banknotes into the Liberian economy without first removing the equivalent quantity from circulation.

The US embassy says the report identifies "systemic and procedural weakness" at the Central Bank and suspects shortcomings in the country's fiscal and monetary management processes continue to this day.

The Liberian government also released its own report on Thursday, which similarly said that it had found no evidence of the existence of containers full of banknotes.

It said that an investigation needs to be carried out into a separate $25m that was withdrawn from Liberia's Federal Reserve account in New York in July last year by Mr Weah's economic management team.

In addition to the arrest of Charles Sirleaf and Milton Weeks, another man, an official at the Central Bank, Dorbor Hagba, has also been arrested.

They are yet to be formally charged.

ruby Posted on March 01, 2019 15:44

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 236
  • 0

Somali militants holed up as battle rages in Mogadishu

Somalia's security forces are battling gunmen in a building in Mogadishu, hours after a suicide car bomb attack on a busy street left at least 20 people dead, security sources say.

The attack was launched late on Thursday by suspected al-Shabab militants in an area lined with hotels, shops and restaurants.

The gunmen then seized a nearby building and were surrounded.

Exchanges of gunfire continued throughout the night in the capital.

The attack happened in an area lined with hotels and restaurants

Some 60 people have been injured and seven have died in the attacks on Maka al-Mukarama road, a spokesman for the Aamin Ambulance service told the BBC.

A number of civilians have been rescued from the building, reports say.

There are fears that the death toll will rise further.

"There are still some armed men inside a building," police officer Ibrahim Mohamed was quoted as saying on Friday morning by the AFP news agency.

The secretary-general of the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) Mohamed Moalimuu was inside the Maka al-Mukarama hotel with a colleague when they heard gunshots followed by a blast:

The Maka al-Mukarama road is the busiest road in Mogadishu. It has been repeatedly targeted by al-Shabab militants despite being one of the most heavily guarded roads in the country.

Hassan Haile, a prominent UK-based Somali political analyst, told the BBC that the Islamist militant group were especially drawn to the road.

?Burundian African Union forces pulled out of Mogadishu on Wednesday.

"Al-Shabab like attacking Maka al-Mukarama because it is in the heart of Somalia," he said.

He told the BBC the Islamist militant group use bribes and threats to carry out their attacks:

"They either bribe with money or make it very clear that they know where the soldiers live and who their families are, to reach where they want to reach," Mr Haile said.

"There is negligence from the government, the soldiers have no money and they don't get encouragement which makes these kinds of attacks possible."

The Islamist group al-Shabab, which is linked to al-Qaeda, was forced out of Mogadishu in 2011 but continues to mount regular attacks in the city.

The former deputy director of Somalia's National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) says that al-Shabab has increased its attacks in Mogadishu as retaliation for the airstrikes.

Abdisalam Guled was also concerned that this week's withdrawal of Burundian troops from the African Union force in the city could further jeopardise security.

He also believes that bad management is partly to blame.

"The army and police are overworked and underpaid," he said.

The US State Department says al-Shabab retains control over large parts of the country and has the ability to carry out high-profile attacks using suicide bombers, explosive devices, mortars and small arms.

ruby Posted on March 01, 2019 15:35

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 207
  • 0

Dog owners urged to control pets after native animals killed

Conservation organisations say many dog owners are still not getting the message - to keep their pets under control - after dozens of native animals were injured and killed this spring and summer.

Photo: Supplied / Keri Molloy

Between September 2018 and January 2019, 34 reports of dog attacks and wildlife harassment were made - some of which involved multiple animals being injured or killed.

Six kiwis, two little blue penguins, a seal pup and 23 weka were among the casualties.

Department of Conservation national operations director Hilary Aikin said DOC has been trying to educate dog owners, but for many, the message wasn't coming through.

"It's really disappointing for staff when they've worked really hard to protect these species and it's often just carelessness on the part of dog owners to not be containing their dogs and keeping them under control," she said.

Ms Aikin says the 34 dog attacks are only the cases the department knows about.

"There is certainly likely to be quite a number that we are not able to trace or learn about, so we just need to really urge both owners to keep their dogs under control, but also the general public to be our eyes and ears," she said.

Five out of the six kiwi killings were in the Northland region which is unsurprising to Forest and Bird's Kevin Hackwell.

"Research has shown the brown kiwi populations in Northland, their lifespan is only 13 to 14 years, rather than 30 to 40 years that brown kiwi in the rest of the North Island have and that is down to very high incidents of dog attacks," he said.

Kevin Hackwell Photo: NZ Forest and Bird

Mr Hackwell said kiwis don't have a breast bone like other birds, making them especially vulnerable to dog attacks.

In the Coromandel, there were also 10 reports of dogs roaming around dotterel areas during breeding season, and in the Waikato, a dog had eaten the eggs from a variable oystercatcher nest.

Mr Hackwell said he had come across owners who let their dogs chase shorebirds, thinking it harmless.

"What it's doing is it's stressing those animals enormously and it's actually stopping them from feeding and it may be those birds the dogs are getting to fly, are not spending time feeding and taking that food back to their nests to feed their chicks.

"People think the dog is having fun, without thinking through any of the consequences," he said.

He believed dog owners often didn't know better, rather than behaving maliciously.

But Dogs New Zealand's director Steve Thompson said there were plenty of classes available around the country to teach owners and their dogs how to behave.

"We offer an eight-week dog training course via our dog obedience clubs, but we also offer a canine good citizen course, which is all about creating well-mannered dogs and responsible owners," he said.

Mr Thompson said there were also other organisations holding classes, so there's plenty to chose from.

But he added it came down to common sense.

"If you have the potential to come into native wildlife especially ground-foraging birds, you should always keep your dog on a leash and close by you," he said.

sarah Posted on March 01, 2019 14:28

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 226
  • 0

sarah Posted on March 01, 2019 13:41

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 216
  • 0

Rebecca Henderson: Rucksack heart woman dies after transplant

'I carry my heart in a rucksack'

A woman who carried an artificial heart in a rucksack after her own was removed has died from transplant complications.

Rebecca Henderson, 24, from Bicester, was given the green light to receive a donor organ after scans showed she had been free of cancer for a year.

But her relatives said she died on Wednesday in Harefield Hospital "surrounded by family and friends".

She was one of only two people in the UK with an artificial heart.

Her family said: "Becca was a beautiful, brilliant shining light in our lives.

"It was a privilege to have her as a daughter and a friend. Heaven has gained the brightest new star. We will love her forever."

Rebecca Henderson relied on this artificial heart to pump blood around her body.

The Oxford University post-graduate student had her heart removed due to cancer in 2017.

Surgeon Stephen Westaby said "minuscule numbers of people" ever had cancer in the heart and Ms Henderson was "the most courageous young woman".

In October, she returned to study at Oxford and brought the 7kg artificial heart with her.

"At no point did it ever occur to me to give up," she told the BBC at the time.

"No matter how hard it is for me, even if it is hard for me, it will then be easier for the next person.

"I had my sister's wedding and I had to get to that, I have other friends' weddings, I've got my mum [and] my dad."

St Anne's College, where she was studying, paid tribute to Ms Henderson's "unwavering determination" and "contagious enthusiasm for college life".

"She had so many hopes and plans for the future and it is hard for us to realise that she will not have the chance to fulfil them," it said in a statement.

"We will always be proud that Becca, as an undergraduate and graduate student, was someone who was part of and loved St Anne's."

Her tutors added: "Becca was a person of extraordinary courage, humour and intellectual achievement as well as potential.

"She had the admiration and affection of all who taught her and learned with her, students and tutors alike."

Dr Janina Ramerez, an Oxford academic who was friends with Ms Henderson, said on Instagram she was "the strongest, bravest person I've ever met".

ruby Posted on March 01, 2019 13:11

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 222
  • 0

Bestival death: Ceon Broughton jailed for manslaughter

A man who gave his girlfriend drugs at a festival and filmed her as she died has been jailed for her manslaughter.

Louella Fletcher-Michie, the daughter of Holby City actor John Michie, was found dead in woodland near the Bestival site in Dorset after taking the drug 2CP.

Ceon Broughton was found guilty of manslaughter and supplying the Class A drug by unanimous verdict on Thursday.

He has been sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in prison.

Ms Fletcher Michie's mother, Carol, said losing Louella was "like losing a limb"

Mr Michie said in a victim impact statement: "I wake up every morning to face life starting again without Louella, our daughter, our sister, our friend, our family now broken.

"And for what? It makes no sense - our beautiful Louella should still be with us on any measure of humanity.

"No more yoga with my daughter, no more running around the outside of the Arsenal stadium with my daughter.

"Her life cruelly cut short. Our lives forever diminished. She was wise beyond her years and trusting, too trusting it seems."

In footage shown to jurors by the defence, Louella Fletcher-Michie was filmed playing with fairy lights in a tent at the festival

Mother Carol Fletcher said: "On the outside we all look much the same as we did before, but inside our hearts and souls have been ripped out, trampled on and stuffed back in.

"Like losing a limb, waking up every day to face this new reality, having to learn to live with this for the rest of our lives.

"There are no winners. We don't think Ceon is evil. He was stupid, massively selfish and he lied. My hope is that he has learned that truth is all we have ever really got."

Mr Michie shouted "evil, evil" and "not even sorry" at Broughton during an angry exchange at court during the trial

Sister Daisy Fletch-Michie said: "Every single day I try to understand why Ceon didn't help Louella, the hours that passed with her getting progressively worse, even having spoken to him on the phone myself, and begging him to get her to a medical tent. Why didn't he?"

In sentencing Broughton, Judge Justice Goose said: "I have come to the clear conclusion you were only concerned for yourself.

"You had created an obviously dangerous situation, you were not concerned until it was too late.

"Whilst you were doing little to help Louella you were sending messages to a friend asking him to say that Louella had obtained the drugs from an unknown person. You were more concerned to create defence."

Ceon Broughton could be seen laughing and smiling during a 50-minute video previously shown to the jury

Broughton, 30, of Island Centre Way, Enfield, London, did little to help his yoga teacher girlfriend for six hours as he feared breaching a suspended jail term, his trial at Winchester Crown Court heard.

The jury was told the couple liked to film each other when they were taking drugs.

Broughton - a rapper known as CeonRPG who has worked with artists including Skepta - filmed Ms Fletcher-Michie, 24, as she became "disturbed, agitated, and then seriously ill".

He also branded her a "drama queen" as she lay dying on 11 September 2017.

Jurors heard Broughton failed to act because he had been handed a 24-week prison sentence, suspended for one year, a month before.

He had already pleaded guilty to supplying 2CP to Ms Fletcher-Michie and her friend at Glastonbury Festival in 2017.

The trial heard the pair had gone into woodland to take drugs on the eve of Ms Fletcher-Michie's 25th birthday but Broughton had "bumped up" his girlfriend's dose.

She was found dead by a security steward 400m from the festival's hospital tent.

The jury was told he had contacted friends and Ms Fletcher-Michie's family, sending them maps showing his location.

Ms Fletcher-Michie was found dead by a security steward 400m from the festival's hospital tent

At court on 21 February, Broughton broke a table and damaged a water cooler during an angry exchange with Ms Fletcher-Michie's father.

Mr Michie had shouted "evil, evil" and "not even sorry" as his family walked towards an exit.

Stephen Kamlish QC read a statement to the court from his client, Broughton, saying: "Sorry I didn't do more to save Louella, sorry for the suffering I caused to everyone who loved Louella, I want to make things right."

Following Broughton's conviction, John Michie said: "Ceon's life sentence is knowing that he didn't help Louella to live"

Senior investigating officer Neil Devoto, of Dorset Police, described Ms Fletcher-Michie's death as "tragic and needless".

Of Broughton's actions on the night she died, he said: "All he needed to do was walk a few hundred metres to the on-site hospital and medical staff, and call for emergency help or dial 999 on his mobile.

"He supplied Louella with the drug and had a duty of care. His actions were selfish and shameful."

ruby Posted on March 01, 2019 13:07

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 238
  • 0

Trump Kim summit: Kim's hiding sister and other unreal moments

Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un went for dinner together and then spent a day in talks, but were ultimately unable to reach an agreement.

The summit was punctuated with photo opportunities displaying the camaraderie between the leaders, and they took every opportunity to flatter each other with looks and words.

It was also notable for having significantly more time in the glare of the camera which recorded all - scripted and unscripted. Here are the most extraordinary moments.

You might think answering questions from an international journalist is hardly noteworthy, but with North Korea things are always different.

Asked by a reporter if he was confident about a deal, Mr Kim said through an interpreter: "It's too early to tell, but I wouldn't say I'm pessimistic. For what I feel right now, I do have a feeling that good results will come out."All smiles and happy to answer questions

That was likely the very first time Kim Jong-un responded to the question from international media and the question came from David Nakamura of the Washington Post.

Later he seemed to get quite used to the questions, as reporters shouted out off-the-cuff questions as they were briefly allowed to address the room where bilateral talks were taking place.

Asked whether he was "willing to denuclearise," he replied "If I'm not willing to do that, I won't be here right now."

It's what he said in Singapore too, but it pleased Mr Trump who chimed in: "That might be the best answer you've ever heard".

The quickfire exchange between Mr Kim, Mr Trump and reporters, yielded more noteworthy moments. At one point it was as if media questions to Mr Kim made Mr Trump more nervous than the North Korean leader himself.

The US president sharply reprimanded a reporter telling them they can't talk to the North Korean leader, as they would to him - a strange moment where he seemed to unconsciously acknowledge and almost pay heed to the North Korean leader's more controlling relationship with his press.

"Don't raise your voice please, this isn't like dealing with Trump," he said to reporters.

Kim Jong-un's response? Not fussed at all. "They all seem to be anxious."

Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korea's leader, is widely acknowledged as an influential force in the North Korean hierarchy, a close confidante of her brother.

She was North Korea's big name representative as it made its first foray into global view at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea last year, and has accompanied Kim on many of his most meaningful journeys.

She remains a powerful figure with an important role in North Korea's impregnable and sometimes ruthless political hierarchy.

And yet she somehow feels compelled to avoid the limelight, ducking and diving behind trees and other useful props.

A few of her finer moments of concealment amused analyst Ankit Panda:

At a characteristically frank and wide-ranging press conference, Mr Trump took a question about Otto Warmbier, the American student who was detained in North Korea over a prank and who died days after he was returned to the US in July 2017.

His case was a cause for the Trump administration at a time when it was exchanging vitriol with North Korea. He told reporters he brought the case up with Mr Kim and Mr Kim said he was not aware of it at the time, and was regretful.

Mr Trump said that he took Mr Kim at his word on this - stunning many observers.

"I did speak about it, and I don't believe that he would have allowed that to happen. It just wasn't to his advantage to allow that to happen. Prisons are rough, they're rough places, and bad things happened."

He says Mr Kim "felt very badly about it", adding: "He knew the case very well, but he knew it later. [...] In those prisons, those camps, you have a lot of people.

"He tells me he didn't know about it, and I will take him at his word."

It is a moment that is likely to prove divisive. Mr Warmbier's parents were guests of honour at President Trump's State of the Union address in 2018.

There has since been huge peak in interest in Otto Warmbier after his sad case was brought up at the press conference with Mr Trump, with Google searches for his name spiking significantly.

They're back. Last year during the South Korea and Singapore summits, the North Korean team stunned global audiences with the cohort of identikit black-suited bodyguards jogging along Mr Kim's limousine.

This year it was the same spectacle all over again. First in the border town of Dong Dang on the way to Hanoi:

And then they were spotted again in Hanoi during the summit itself.

ruby Posted on March 01, 2019 12:55

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 240
  • 0

Rohingya crisis: Bangladesh will no longer take in Myanmar refugees

Bangladesh has told the UN Security Council it will stop accepting any more Rohingya Muslims who flee from Myanmar.

Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque accused Myanmar of "hollow promises" during negotiations over returns.

More than 740,000 Rohingya are in camps in Bangladesh after they were driven out of Myanmar's Rakhine state during military crackdowns in 2016 and 2017.

The UN describes the crisis as ethnic cleansing. Myanmar denies persecuting the Rohingya, a stateless minority.

The latest row comes despite a deal between Bangladesh and Myanmar in January 2018 to repatriate Rohingya refugees.

Myanmar had agreed to accept 1,500 Rohingya each week, Bangladesh said at the time, adding that it aimed to return all of them to Myanmar within two years.

Speaking at Thursday's meeting of the UN Security Council, Mr Haque said his country could not accept more refugees.

"Not a single Rohingya has volunteered to return to Rakhine due to the absence of conducive environment there," he said.

"Is Bangladesh paying the price for being responsive and responsible in showing empathy to a persecuted minority population of a neighbouring country?"

Myanmar's ambassador to the UN, Hau Do Suan, appealed for patience, speaking of "huge physical as well as psychological barriers" in repatriating Rohingya.

Rohingya Muslims displaced from Tula Toli village in Rakhine State gave disturbing accounts to BBC Newsnight

"It takes time and patience as well as courage to build trust and confidence among different communities in Rakhine," the diplomat added.

Meanwhile, the UN envoy to Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener said progress in returning Rohyngya to Myanmar was "slow".

She also said that Myanmar authorities had given UN agencies "insufficient" access to help repatriate Rohingya.

ruby Posted on March 01, 2019 12:44

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 215
  • 0

Today in Pictures, Mar 1, 2019

Round one of HSBC golf tournament in Singapore, floods in California, U.S., and other pictures from around the world in Today in Pictures.

Tour rookie He Muni getting into the swing of things on the 12th hole during the first round of the HSBC Women’s World Championship in Singapore on February 28, 2019. PHOTO: THE STRAITS TIMES/KEVIN LIM

A resident and his dog navigate through a flooded neighborhood on February 28, 2019 in Guerneville, California. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES/AFP

South Koreans wearing traditional costumes hold up lit torches with the national flag to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the March First Independence Movement against Japanese colonial rule, in Cheonan on February 28, 2019. PHOTO: YONHAP VIA AFP

Members of the opening committee line up during the opening ceremony of the traditional Opera Ball in Vienna, Austria, February 28, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

"Chomper," a semi-autonomous, GPS-guided snow blower designed and built by MIT research engineer Dane Kouttron, clears snow following an overnight storm in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S., February 28, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

Venezuelan man Eli Silvio, 22, looks for recyclables at a garbage deposit in Pacaraima, Brazil February 28, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

A painting, believed to be the second version of "Judith Beheading Holofernes" by Italian artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, is picutred during a photocall in London on February 28, 2019, following its restoration. PHOTO: AFP

One of the 19 nominees for Queen of the Carnival of Santa Cruz shows off her outfit on the main stage during carnival celebrations in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, on the Spanish Canary island of Tenerife, on February 27, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

The polar bear cub in the Copenhagen Zoo comes outside for the first time on February 28, 2019. PHOTO: RITZAU SCANPIX VIA AFP

Tottenham Hotspur's Colombian defender Davinson Sanchez (C) dives as he vies with Chelsea's English midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek (centre L) and Chelsea's Brazilian midfielder Willian (R) during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge in London on February 27, 2019.

sarah Posted on March 01, 2019 12:21

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 284
  • 0

Life inside the chaos left by the Islamic State group's fall

US President Donald Trump says "100%" of the Islamic State group's territory has now been taken over, even though local commanders with the US allies, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), maintain total victory will be declared within a week.

Hamza Jasim al-Ali's world is small and terrible. He hasn't moved far in life, living always along the same 40km (25 mile) stretch on the banks of the Euphrates.

His journey, still without end, took him from al-Qaim in Iraq, across the border to Syria and into the dark centre of what was the Islamic State group's nightmare caliphate. He has seen more of life and death than any child of 12 should.

Now he is far from his river, sitting on the desert floor in a wind-whipped tent, alone - apart from an elderly woman who barely knows him. His leg is broken, but healing, and he smiles as I ask him questions.I asked him what life was like inside.

"It was good," he says, smiling again. "Less food and water and a lot of fighting. It was heavy fighting."

Does he still like IS? "No. Why would I like them after all they have done?" he answers.

Hamza is an IS orphan. His father joined the group and took the whole family with him. He died five months ago, along with Hamza's mother and brothers and sisters in an air strike that was part of the battle to drive the group from its last toehold of territory in Syria.

IS's victims number millions - they displaced and terrorised people across Iraq, Syria and Libya. Their treatment of the Yazidis was genocidal, according to the United Nations. But they also brutalised and corrupted not just their enemies, but their own children, too.

Women and children are sent to displacement camps

As part of a ceasefire deal, more than 6,000 women and children have left IS territory, along with injured male fighters. The Islamic State group's dreams of a sprawling caliphate have been reduced to a pathetic encampment around the village of Baghouz. Their first stop when they get out is the desert, where thousands are processed in the open. The air is acrid and filthy; many of them are sick. They defecate out in the open.

Most are then moved on to an overwhelmed internment camp near the city of Hassaka, in the village of al-Hawl. As Hamza and I speak, there's a lull outside - the day's IS refugees have yet to arrive, and last night's have already been put on to cattle trucks for the long journey across desert roads to al-Hawl.

Some have fled with suitcases containing the last of their belongings

Monitors say thousands have been evacuated out in recent weeks

They are searched individually, by Kurdish women fighters, but it is not known if they are finger-printed or photographed. The injured men's pictures and other biometric data are taken before they are sent to detention. But there are limits to the investigations that can be carried out into the crimes of which they are suspected. It is not clear how long the Kurdish authorities can hold them. Some of the men said they expected to be freed in a few months' time.

One man, who said he was from Aleppo, claimed he was a caretaker. At the edge of the processing area, he told me: "I'll do the supposed detention time and then go live with my parents and leave everything behind me. I'll go live with my mum. That'll be best.''

Another, Abu Bakr al-Ansari, showed little regret. "All Muslims will be sad it's gone because they wanted their own state," he says. "They won't live free to practise their religion in other Muslim countries."

Both were then taken away to Kurdish detention.

Across the desert plain, I find discarded belongings: mobile phones that have been smashed or burned in camp fires, USB drives snapped in two.

There are photographs in the dirt, too - one of four young girl scouts, another of a girl wearing a headscarf. Was one of them now on her way to al-Hawl camp?

Personal belongings could be seen among scattered debris

Amid the soiled nappies and empty tinned cans of food, a family ration card. It belongs to a Kosovan family. The father had a senior position within IS. But that's another story.

In this mess of abandonment, there is purpose and care. A computer hard drive has been stamped on and covered in human excrement.

Many of the women left IS not because they wanted to, but because they were ordered to. Plenty still carried their husbands' worn military backpacks.

It appears that they want their enemies - the Kurds and the Western coalition - to have little clue to who they are. I met women from Turkey, Iraq, Chechnya, Russia and Dagestan. Some expected to be reunited with their husbands who are still inside Baghouz, waiting for the final battle. Many are still fanatics.

What to do with foreign fighters and their children has sparked fierce debate

Many of the women's husbands remained inside the Baghouz hideout

A Tunisian-Canadian woman, her niqab streaked with stains under purple-framed glasses, gave her name as Umm Yousef. Her husband, a Moroccan, had been killed, but she may have married another who was still inside. She said she had no regrets and had learned much from IS.

"So Allah, he made this to test us," she told me. "Without food, without money and without houses, but now I'm happy, because maybe some time, in two hours' I will see that I have water to drink."

Britain and other coalition countries are maintaining pressure on the Kurds to keep the dispossessed of IS locked up. But after the misery the extremists brought here, the Kurds want them gone.

At night more women arrived. Some of their children cried, but others stood silent and still, numb to everything around them. When they were asked a question, in the glare of television camera lights, they turned their dust-covered faces down to the ground and said nothing.

A group that showed almost no mercy, now pleads for it.

Exclusive pictures of final Islamic State group bastion

An Iraqi woman, standing in the dark, with around 200 other women and children, said to me: "Do you not see the children here before you? Can you not feel their pain? The pain of old men and the women who got shredded by the bombs? The children who died in air strikes? You're human. We're human as well. Do you not feel my pain, brother?"

At the edge of the throng, there is a medical station, run by a charity, the Free Burma Rangers. Paul Brady, a Californian, is one of their medics. He says the injuries have changed as more people have arrived from IS.

"About 10 days ago we saw quite a few with what looked like bullet wounds," he told me.

"They said they were shot because they were escaping. But now we haven't been seeing as many of those. It feels like most of these injuries are a little older, mostly from air strikes and mortars.

"You walk around this triage spot and it smells really bad because these wounds have been festering for a long time," he said.

The flow of people will eventually dry up, and then the final battle for Baghouz is expected. Those we spoke to in the desert said there were still thousands of fighters still inside.

One injured fighter told us he got out because "there's no Islamic State left"

Hamza was injured five weeks ago when he stepped on a landmine, but he says his broken leg is much better now. As I'm about to leave, he looks up at me, his smile finally disappearing from his face and he asks, "What will happen to me?"

There's no clear answer. And I couldn't tell him that Iraq may not take him back. He would probably be taken to al-Hawl camp like everyone else.

I left him something to drink, some chocolate and bananas, in the care of the medics and the Kurdish forces.

When I returned to the desert the next day, he was gone, his place on the floor taken by more sick and injured from the last of the so-called caliphate.

ruby Posted on March 01, 2019 09:36

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 292
  • 0

Ad giant WPP sees profits sink amid restructuring costs

Ad giant WPP has seen profits drop sharply as it continues to restructure the business following former boss Sir Martin Sorrell's abrupt exit last year.

Sir Martin quit after allegations of personal misconduct, which he denied.

Pre-tax profits at the firm fell almost a third last year to £1.46bn, a drop it blamed largely on restructuring costs.

WPP also reiterated 2019 would be "challenging, particularly in the first half" as client losses from last year continues to weigh on the business.

Despite the profit fall, the firm's performance was at the upper end of the guidance it provided last year, helping to boost its shares 9% in early trading.

Liberum analyst Ian Whittaker said last year's results were "slightly better than expected", but said the firm's commentary on 2019 was also more positive than expected.

New boss Mark Read said the firm was at the start of a "three-year turnaround plan".

"It's early days in what we need to do but I would say the initial signs are promising," he told Reuters.

Mr Read picked its controversial Gillette ad campaign as one of the firm's highlights for last year.

The ad, called Believe, played on the razor firm's famous slogan "The best a man can get", replacing it with "The best men can be".

While some praised the message of the advert, it also came in for criticism, with some customers threatening to boycott the brand.

Mr Read said the ad demonstrated "the global impact of what we do".

WPP - which owns major agencies such as Ogilvy and JWT - has been selling off assets to raise money. It said it had sold 36 divisions since last April, helping to strengthen its balance sheet.

Founded as a holding company in 1986, WPP's operations today span creative agencies, public relations, consultancy and data analytics.

However, it has been struggling over the past few years amid mounting competition from tech platforms Facebook and Google as more advertising moves online.

Traditional consultancies such as Deloitte are also entering the market while major clients such as Unilever are spending less on advertising.

Sir Martin built WPP from a small engineering company to create the world's biggest ad agency.

He has since formed rival venture S4 Capital and in July outbid his former company to buy the Dutch digital production company MediaMonks.

ruby Posted on March 01, 2019 09:32

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 225
  • 0

Huawei's full-page WSJ advert: 'Don't believe everything you hear'

Huawei has sought to repair its image in the US through a full-page advert in the Wall Street Journal, which says: "Don't believe everything you hear."

In an open letter, executive Catherine Chen invited US media to visit the firm to clear up "misunderstandings" created by the US government.

The US has been pressuring its allies to shun Huawei equipment on the grounds of national security.

Some governments have done just that, putting the firm on the defensive.

"I am writing to you in the hopes that we can come to understand each other better. In recent years, the US government has developed some misunderstandings about us," Ms Chen, director of the board at Huawei, said in the letter.

The advert, posted on Twitter by a Wall Street Journal reporter who covers cyber security, invited members of the US media to "visit our campuses and meet our employees".

"Don't believe everything you hear. Come and see us. We look forward to meeting you," it said.

This is not the first time Huawei has tried to change its image in the West. It recently sought to appeal to New Zealand's love for sport by placing advertisements in two major newspapers and on billboards.

"5G without Huawei is like rugby without New Zealand," the ad read.

Chinese telecoms giant Huawei has been the focus of intense international scrutiny lately, with several countries raising security concerns about its products.

Australia, New Zealand, and the US have already banned or blocked Huawei from supplying equipment for their future 5G mobile broadband networks.

The US is also pursuing criminal charges against Huawei and its chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, including money laundering, bank fraud and stealing trade secrets.

Huawei denies any wrongdoing and its founder Ren Zhengfei recently told the BBC that his daughter's arrest was politically-motivated.

Canada has until the end of Friday to decide whether to authorise the start of a formal extradition hearing against Ms Wanzhou.

Not all countries are succumbing to the pressure, however. UK cyber-security chiefs recently determined that any risk posed by involving Huawei in UK telecoms projects could be managed.

Recent comments by Mr Trump were also interpreted as him taking a softer stance on the firm. He said he wants the US to become a technology leader through competition rather than by blocking others, without specifically mentioning Huawei.

ruby Posted on March 01, 2019 09:28

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 298
  • 0

Bin Laden: US offers reward for Osama's son Hamza

The United States is offering a reward of up to $1m (£750,000) for information about one of the sons of the late al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.

Hamza Bin Laden is emerging as a leader of the Islamist militant group, officials say.

He is thought to be based near the Afghan-Pakistani border.

In recent years, he has released audio and video messages calling on followers to attack the US and its Western allies in revenge for his father's killing.

In 2011, US special forces killed Osama Bin Laden in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. He approved the attacks on the US on 11 September 2001, in which nearly 3,000 people were killed.

Hamza Bin Laden, who is believed to be about 30 years old, was officially designated by the US as a global terrorist two years ago.

The US state department says he married the daughter of Mohammed Atta, who hijacked one of the four commercial aircraft used in the 2001 attacks, and crashed it into one of the World Trade Center towers in New York.

Letters from Osama Bin Laden seized from his compound indicated that he had been grooming Hamza, thought to be his favourite son, to replace him as leader of al-Qaeda.

Hamza Bin Laden is believed to have spent years with his mother in Iran, where it is thought his wedding took place, while other reports suggest he may have lived in Pakistan, Afghanistan or Syria.

Footage showing Hamza's wedding was made public by the CIA in 2017

"We do believe he's probably in the Afghan-Pakistan border [sic] and... he'll cross into Iran. But he could be anywhere though in... south central Asia," said Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security Michael Evanoff.Osama Bin Laden near Kabul in 2001

Emerged in Afghanistan in the late 1980s, as Arab volunteers joined US-backed Afghan mujahideen fighting to expel the occupying Soviet forces

Osama Bin Laden set up an organisation to help the volunteers, which became known as al-Qaeda, or "the base"

He left Afghanistan in 1989, returning in 1996 to run military training camps for thousands of foreign Muslims

Al-Qaeda declared "holy war" on Americans, Jews and their allies

The US-led war in Afghanistan following the 2001 attacks toppled the Taliban regime which had given Osama Bin Laden and his group sanctuary.

In recent years, al-Qaeda was eclipsed by the Islamic State (IS) group which attracted global attention, fighters and funds, and carried out a number of attacks on Western targets and allies.

"Al-Qaeda during this period has been relatively quiet, but that is a strategic pause, not a surrender," said US Co-ordinator for Counter-terrorism Nathan Sales.

"Today's al-Qaeda is not stagnant. It's rebuilding and it continues to threaten the United States and its allies.... Make no mistake, al-Qaeda retains both the capability and the intent to hit us."


ruby Posted on March 01, 2019 09:23

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 215
  • 0

Steve Irwin: How should the Crocodile Hunter be remembered?

Animal rights organisation Peta has caused a row by claiming Steve Irwin was killed while "harassing" a stingray.

Wild animals should be "left alone in their natural habitats", the group wrote in response to a doodle by Google celebrating the TV conservationist's life.

The Australian wildlife advocate was killed by a stingray in 2006.

There's a wildlife reserve in his name in Queensland.

Steve Irwin, who would have turned 57 on Friday, was probably best-known for his Crocodile Hunter series.

He described his "mission" on earth as being to "save wildlife".

But Peta angered his many fans by describing his method of conservation as "harassment".

In his shows, Steve Irwin would approach animals in the wild - often grappling with crocodiles or holding snakes up in front of the camera.

He believed that teaching people about wildlife was the way to save the creatures, and that the passion he showed on screen helped "push an educational message".

And while Peta accuses Steve Irwin's shows of trying to excite audiences "at the expense of animals", wildlife conservationist Anneka Svenska says that what he did "has inspired the next generation of conservationists".

"Probably now it wouldn't be looked at as so good to touch the animals like he used to," she tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

"But at the time he was doing it, it inspired loads and loads of children to go on and work with animals."

People reading Peta's criticism online felt similarly to Anneka.

At the time of his death, the Guardian published an opinion piece by author Germaine Greer claiming the animal's had "got their revenge".

"What Irwin never seemed to understand was that animals need space," she wrote.

"There was no habitat, no matter how fragile or finely balanced, that Irwin hesitated to barge into.

"There was not an animal he was not prepared to manhandle. Every creature he brandished at the camera was in distress."

Lots of the animals Steve Irwin was filmed with lived in Australia Zoo, which his family still owns today.

Steve Irwin took live animals like this alligator on prime time TV shows

Anneka, who's a wildlife TV presenter, disagrees with keeping animals in captivity, but says what Steve Irwin did has to be put "into balance".

Anneka says that she wouldn't choose to touch wild animals because "they need to be left to be as they are".

She's recorded programmes with lots of rescued wolves, but says approaching them in the wild would put them in danger.

"If I was to go out into the wild and start feeding or interacting with wolves then you end up with a lot of dead animals because they become too tame," she says.

"Touching animals in parks that are used to being touched" is fine, Anneka says. "I think the criticism comes when he's in the wild and chasing down animals in the wild."

Steve Irwin was accused of breaking wildlife laws while filming in the Antarctic in 2004.

Promotional material for his documentary Ice Breaker claimed he "slides down hillsides with penguins, almost rubs noses with the notoriously dangerous leopard seals and spends the most inspiring time with two friendly humpback whales".

He was cleared of breaching the rules after an investigation.

But his biggest controversy came when he walked into a crocodile enclosure with a dead chicken in one hand, and his one-month-old son in the other.

Headlines following the incident branded him as reckless and irresponsible, and led to an investigation about whether he'd breached workplace regulations.

But Anneka says she's a big fan of Steve Irwin, like seemingly most people on the internet.

He's remembered fondly as someone who helped teach people about animals that might otherwise have been seen as scary.

"I still really like Steve Irwin, I was a fan of him, I think he did a lot of good," she says.

"The powerful influence he's had on children and how they love animals and how they engage with animals has been extremely valuable.

"I think if you have to weigh up the good and the bad, he did more good than bad."

ruby Posted on February 28, 2019 16:28

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 339
  • 0

Jody Wilson-Raybould: Ex-minister increases pressure on Trudeau

A former Canadian justice minister says she faced attempts at interference and "veiled threats" from top government officials seeking a legal favour for a firm facing a corruption trial.

Jody Wilson-Raybould said she was pressed repeatedly to "find a solution" for engineering giant SNC-Lavalin.

PM Justin Trudeau said he disagreed with the minister's testimony and he and his staff acted appropriately.

Opposition leader Andrew Scheer has called on him to resign.

"He can no longer, with a clear conscience, continue to lead this nation," the Conservative leader told reporters, adding that he was calling for a full police investigation.

Speaking to the House of Commons justice committee, the former justice minister and attorney general said she and her staff faced four months of a "sustained" and "inappropriate effort" to push for a possible deferred prosecution agreement for the Quebec-based engineering and construction company.

That agreement would have allowed the firm to avoid a criminal trial and instead agree to alternative terms or conditions, like penalties or enhanced compliance measures.

It was an option rejected in September by the Public Prosecution Service of Canada - an independent authority whose main objective is to prosecute federal offences - and one she supported.

Ms Wilson-Raybould said she and her aides were pulled into multiple conversations and meetings - "a barrage of people hounding me and my staff" - with Mr Trudeau, senior aides from his office and the finance department, and a top bureaucrat.

Wilson-Raybould says she felt political pressure and "veiled threats" from government officials

In those various meetings, they repeatedly raised concerns about the possibility of job losses and potential political ramifications of a trial long after that decision had been made.

"Within these conversations, there were expressed statements regarding the necessity of interference in the SNC-Lavalin matter, the potential of consequences and veiled threats if a deferred prosecution agreement was not made available to SNC," she said.

Mr Trudeau's Liberals have struggled to contain the controversy over the past three weeks.

Though she has been a key figure at the centre of the affair, Ms Wilson-Raybould had not yet not spoken publicly, citing solicitor-client privilege.

That privilege was waived by the government on Monday, paving the way for her appearance before the committee on Wednesday.

This began in early February, when the Globe and Mail newspaper reported on allegations of political interference in the case against SNC-Lavalin.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has faced repeated questions about the matter from opposition parties

The newspaper reported, citing unnamed sources, that Mr Trudeau's office pressured Ms Wilson-Raybould to push the public prosecution service to consider a deferred prosecution agreement.

Ms Wilson-Raybould was attorney general and justice minister until January, when she was shuffled into the veterans affairs portfolio, a move widely seen as a demotion.

An attorney general is supposed to act independently with respect of his or her prosecutorial function.

On 12 February, Ms Wilson-Raybould resigned suddenly from Cabinet, though she remains a Liberal member of Parliament.

Finally on 18 February, Mr Trudeau's top aide Gerald Butts announced he was resigning, denying in a statement that he or anyone on his staff did anything wrong but saying he had to leave so as not to be a distraction from the "vital work" being done by the team.

Mr Trudeau and his officials have denied anything improper took place but have struggled to contain the crisis.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday evening, he said he was worried about jobs at SNC Lavalin and how pensioners would be affected.

Opinion polls indicate the matter is beginning to hurt the Liberals with months to go until the coming general election.

The Quebec-based firm is one of the world's largest engineering and construction companies.

The company and two of its subsidiaries face fraud and corruption charges in relation to approximately C$48m ($36m; £28m) in bribes it is alleged to have offered to Libyan officials between 2001 and 2011.

The firm has openly lobbied to be allowed to enter into a remediation agreement instead of going to trial, saying it has cleaned house and changed its ways.

The agreement - similar to regimes in the US and the UK - essentially suspends prosecution while allowing a firm to agree instead to alternative terms or conditions.

SNC-Lavalin and its supporters say it would be unfair to penalise the company as a whole and its thousands of employees for the wrongdoings of former executives.

Preliminary hearings for the charges are currently before the courts. The company says it will "vigorously defend itself" against the allegations.

A conviction could result in a decade-long ban on bidding on Canadian federal contracts, which would be a major financial hit for the firm.

ruby Posted on February 28, 2019 16:20

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 205
  • 0

'Thousands of US child migrants sexually abused'

The US health department has received more than 4,500 complaints of sexual abuse against detained migrant children from 2014-2018, documents show.

The Department of Justice reportedly received an additional 1,303 sex abuse complaints against unaccompanied minors during the same period.

Congressman Ted Deutch, who released the figures, said at least 154 claims are against facility staff members.

A spokesman for the health department said it takes the claims seriously.

"These documents demonstrate over the past three years there have been 154 staff-on-unaccompanied-minor - let me repeat that, staff-on-unaccompanied-minor - allegations of sexual assault," Congressman Deutch said during a House Judiciary Committee hearing.

The hearing, which focused on the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy that led to thousands of immigrant children being separated from their families, featured testimony from Jonathan White, the deputy director for children's program's at Health and Human Services' (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).

"This works out, on average, to one sexual assault by HHS staff on an unaccompanied minor, per week," Mr Deutch continued.

Mr White clarified that those allegations are not against HHS staff, but rather against the contractors who are paid by HHS to run the underage migrant detention facilities.

"I will make that clarification. It doesn't make what happened any less horrific," Mr Deutch responded.

Caitlin Oakley, a spokeswoman for HHS, said the shelters are run by childcare service centres that are licensed by state officials.

"These are vulnerable children in difficult circumstances," she said in a statement to Axios, which first reported the documents.

"When any allegations of abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect are made, they are taken seriously and ORR acts swiftly to investigate and respond."

The allegations include sexual relationships, showing pornographic videos to children and forcible touching, according to Axios.

The figures were revealed as Democrats on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform voted to issue subpoenas to Trump administration officials involved in the now-suspended policy of separating parents from their children after they illegally cross the US-Mexico border.

The moment a migrant mother is reunited with her son

ruby Posted on February 28, 2019 16:16

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 207
  • 0

Argentine 11-year-old's C-section sparks abortion debate

News that doctors performed a caesarean section on an 11-year-old rape victim has reignited a debate on Argentina's abortion rules.

The girl became pregnant after being raped by her grandmother's 65-year-old partner and had requested an abortion.

However, her request was delayed by almost five weeks, and some doctors refused to carry out the procedure.

Eventually doctors carried out a C-section instead, arguing it would have been too risky to perform the abortion.

The baby is alive but doctors say it has little chance of surviving.

The girl was 23 weeks pregnant when - after several delays - she was to have the abortion.

The debate on whether to relax Argentina's abortion laws continues to rage

Local media report that the girl had been clear from the beginning that she wanted to terminate her pregnancy, telling officials: "I want this thing the old man put inside me taken out."

Abortion is legal in Argentina in cases of rape or if the mother's health is in danger, but in the case of the 11-year-old girl uncertainty about who her legal guardian was caused delays.

The girl's mother agreed with her daughter's wishes but because the girl had been placed in the grandmother's care some time earlier, the mother's consent was at first deemed not enough.

However, because the grandmother had been stripped of her guardianship for co-habiting with the rapist, she could not provide the necessary consent either.

By the time the issue had been settled, the girl was in the 23rd week of her pregnancy.

Further problems surfaced when a number of doctors at the local hospital refused to carry out the procedure, citing their personal beliefs.

On Tuesday, the health authorities in the northern state of Tucuman instructed the hospital director to follow a family judge's decision and to carry out the "necessary procedures to attempt to save both lives".

The family court which the statement quoted has since come forward to say it had made no mention of saving two lives.

The doctors who performed the C-section said they did so not because of the instruction to "save both lives" but because the abortion would have been too risky.

But human rights groups Andhes puts the blame on the Tucuman state health authorities, and pro-choice groups have said that what happened to the girl amounted to "torture".

Abortion is a contentious issue in Argentina and this latest incident comes six months after a divisive debate about whether abortions should be legalised in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.

A bill to that effect was defeated in the senate, much to the dismay of pro-choice groups which had been campaigning for a loosening of the laws for years.

ruby Posted on February 28, 2019 16:13

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 243
  • 0

The murderer who's opening a youth centre

Stephen Mellor was jailed for the murder of a rival drug dealer in February 1997. Now out of prison, he wants to set up a youth centre and prevent other children repeating his mistakes. Here he describes the childhood in Preston that led to him becoming a convicted killer.

I was born in Preston, grew up in Preston, five minutes from the city centre. I had five older brothers, five older sisters, all in a three-bedroom house. From a young age I wanted to be a fireman. Unfortunately, the path I took led me far, far away from that.

Mum and dad worked hard but couldn't provide everything because there were so many of us. I wore my older brothers' shoes and clothes, so there were a few issues growing up with people bullying at school. They'd call you a tramp, but I never fought back.

Then one day, I was only 13 and this lad in the year above was giving me grief. I snapped, gave him two punches and he was out cold. That was me expelled from school at 13 years old.

But I had learnt I could fight. People started giving me respect. So, I was fighting more.

No-one ever knocked on the door and said "he needs to go back to school". So, every day, I'd get up, have something to eat, walk into town.

The next day was the same. From age 13 to 17 I used to hang around the St George's shopping centre. Meet other kids. See what we could do to make money.

There was no path, no direction. It were just that circle, day after day. How can I explain it? It's like a noose.

People called us Townies. If other gangs came into town, we'd end up fighting. You'd go down alleys and have scraps, or you'd rob them in the street.

I was known for my fighting. I got done for biting people's noses off, people's ears off. Twice, I got sent to prison. One was a section 18, which is wounding with intent, and the other one was a section 20, which is malicious wounding.

Outside the house, situated above the shops, where Stephen Mellor grew up

I used to fight a lot of men when I was younger. People got to hear your name and wanted to test it.

We started drug dealing. We just needed to make money and obviously we weren't employed. So we started selling ecstasy tablets and then I got approached by a friend of a friend, asking if I wanted to sell heroin.

He supplied us heroin at a cheap rate, so we were charging half as much as other dealers and still making good money.

I was 17, dealing all over Preston. We had a mobile and we'd write down our number, pass it out and that was it. Every heroin addict in Preston wanted to come to me because they got double. We'd have three, four hundred pounds a week each, cash.

Only, it led to the murder.

John Dookie was also dealing heroin with his mates, but we were undercutting them. They got hold of our phone number from a heroin user, asked to meet us and told us to stop dealing, which we never did. Then it escalated.

One night in February 1997, I was watching a Mike Tyson fight and walked home through their area. I got into a fight with them. That night we went back to their house, climbed over the wall and attacked them. I had a hammer, my mate Tony Kirk had a knife, he stabbed John in the leg. A few days later, John was in a car that tried to run Tony down.

On 14 February, John turned up on my doorstep and said he wanted to speak to Tony. We arranged to meet, but when Tony came round he asked me: "Where's the knife?"

I knew he was capable of using it, but I handed it over.

We met John and we all got into a fight in St Peter's Street in Preston. John staggered off, I went after him and sat him down. He said 'I've been stabbed'. I waved a police car down and said he needed help, then left.

Stephen Mellor, left, at the time of his arrest in 1997 and John Dookie, who was murdered

It wasn't me that physically stabbed John, but I got done for murder under joint enterprise. At that time, I was 18 years old and didn't understand the half of it. Most of what they said in court I didn't follow. Now I know joint enterprise means if you go out with someone to commit a crime, then you can all get held responsible for what happens.

So we all got done. I'll never fight it, though, because I'm guilty.

Not a day goes by where I don't regret what happened. I know John's brother Rob Dookie said he can't forgive us for the murder. I know he says we've never said sorry to his family for what happened.

I would have loved to apologise so many times but I'm not allowed contact with John's family. I can't imagine what they feel or think of me and I can't blame them, to be honest. But I'm not going to forget what happened.

St Peter's Street in Preston, where John Dookie was murdered

It's the smell that hits you first in prison. You've got three or five hundred lads together. All the testosterone and sweat. Then the prison officers want the landings clean, so you get all the chemical smells as well.

Prison's not easy. I got arrested in '97, I lost my brother in March '98 - he drowned in the Navy. My best friend killed himself while I was in prison. My nan also died as well.

There's funny stuff you miss. You'll have flashbacks to the taste of McDonalds. Going into a newsagents in the morning. Stepping in dog poo - you never see dog poo in prison.

I remember my mum saying to me in court: "If you want to see your dad alive outside of prison you need to start sorting your head out". My dad's my best mate but he was knocking on a bit.

My first son was also born just before I was sentenced. I thought I might not get to spend time with both of them outside again, so I needed to turn my life around.

I couldn't read or write when I went into prison but you get a good set of teachers in there and if you show them that you want to sort things out, they'll help you. Every night, I'd go back to my cell and practise my handwriting.

My girlfriend at the time would bring my son to visit me and he used to say things like: "When can dad come home?" That keeps you on the straight and narrow.

I did diplomas in personal training and sports psychology while I was in prison. I got a level 3 qualification in engineering, English and maths, which is like an A-level. I also spent a lot of time with the psychologists. They make you go back to your offence and tell them what you were thinking and feeling at the time. It breaks you down. It strips you right down to your heart.

Stephen Mellor in Preston, where he was born, committed a murder and now hopes to open a youth centre

There's two ways to go in prison, the right way and the wrong way. Put your head down, do your books and your sentence will pass. The other way is getting angry, doing drugs. I'd still be in there if I'd done that.

I got parole after 14-and-a-half years, which was the minimum the judge recommended, so I got out of prison in 2011. Tony's out as well now.

It's an amazing feeling, the day you step out of prison. You're flying. You can't wait to get home. You can have a mobile phone and sleep in your own bed. Eat what you want. You can step in dog poo again.

After being released, I was giving a talk at some conference organised by Timpson, the cobblers, who do a lot of work with ex-cons. Some guy approached me and said 'Would you come and give a talk to some kids?' I said 'Of course'.

Afterwards, they asked me to come work with them, so I got my CRB check and I went to work as a support tutor in Preston.

I was working with a lot of the worst kids in Preston. They're beautiful kids and no-one sees it, all they see is the cheek and the bravado. They live on these estates where there's nowhere for them to go, no activities for them to do, it's just a dead end for them.

Some of them, I know I've turned their lives around.

There's one lad that the police could not control, he'd been done for carrying knives and had no qualms about using one. I took him boxing and he absolutely loved it. Then he came to me one day and opened up. He said: "We're going for a gang fight tonight."

I told him to look at my past. "I've wasted my life but you've got a chance," I told him. "Don't be sitting in a cell when your mates are going to Ibiza. Don't be sitting in a cell when your mates are going to big football games. Don't be sitting in a cell when your mates are going out and meeting girls."

I told him to come with me that night and do some boxing. He didn't go to the gang fight. He's now in full-time work.

Stephen Mellor and some of the young people with whom he has worked since his release from prison

I want to open a youth centre in Preston. We're going to offer a safe place and people who listen.

My business partner's Barry Hastewell. Growing up, me and him were both lads around town, we both had reputations. He did four years for conspiracy to supply cocaine, so between us we've served almost 20 years in prison. But we're both different now. He runs a skip business and he's got a coffee shop, a bar and a lap dancing club in town.

We've got a building. We're about to pick up the keys. Barry's invested some money and we've applied for grants. To start with, it will be me and Barry and my wife Sammy working there. She's put up with me for seven years so she knows how to deal with people who've been through hardship.

Stephen Mellor on the day of his wedding to Sammy

In Preston, the reaction to us opening a youth centre has been about 98% very supportive. I've had a few negative comments. I've had people say: "I wouldn't let my child go there with a murderer." I just say my past is my past, I'll never forgive myself and I just hope their children don't end up needing our help.

Kids are being let down at the moment. You can't go to a university and learn how to speak to these kids. They can't tell the teacher at school because the teachers haven't walked that path.

They can't tell the police. They can't tell people in authority. There's always a trust issue. But we can relate to what these kids are going through. I want them to know that I've been in their shoes. I can help them because I understand.

Stephen Mellor outside the property in Preston where he plans to set up a youth centre

It's not just Preston though. There's so many troubled kids out there, all over the country. It's generation after generation. Living in certain estates, falling in with gangs.

They feel there's no way out, but I want to show them that there is if they want it. I threw my life away for stupidity, I see that every morning. But if I let that negativity drag me down it would be for nothing. It's about turning that negative into a positive.

I feel like I lost my path for a little while, but I am at peace with myself now. I've got a family that support me, I've got a good relationship with my eldest son, who was born while I was in prison. I've got a target that I'm working towards.

I'll never ask for forgiveness. All I'm asking for is the chance to make people's lives better. That's all I'm asking for.

ruby Posted on February 28, 2019 16:05

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 213
  • 0

Sean Cox: Man admits Liverpool fan assault

A man has admitted assaulting a Liverpool fan outside the club's Anfield stadium ahead of a Champions League semi-final.

Simone Mastrelli pleaded guilty to attacking Sean Cox, 53, who was left with severe brain injuries before Liverpool played Roma last April.

At Preston Crown Court, Mastrelli, 30 and from Rome, admitted the attack but denied violent disorder.

Mr Cox, from Dunboyne, County Meath, was left in a coma after the attack.

Mastrelli, who was extradited last month after being arrested on a European Arrest Warrant in Italy, is due to be sentenced later.

Mr Cox, a father-of-three, suffered serious catastrophic head injuries in the attack and has been recovering at the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoghaire.

He spent four-and-a-half weeks at the Walton Centre in Liverpool, a specialist neurological unit for brain injuries, following the attack on 24 April, before being airlifted to another specialist unit at Dublin's Beaumont Hospital.

Mastrelli entered a guilty plea to unlawfully and maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm on Mr Cox.

He pleaded not guilty to a separate count of violent disorder, which he was told will lie on file after the Crown accepted his plea.

Another Roma fan, Filippo Lombardi, 21, was cleared in October of inflicting grievous bodily harm on Mr Cox, though he was jailed for three years for violent disorder.

A third man, Daniele Sciusco, 29, from Rome, admitted violent disorder ahead of the match and was jailed for two-and-a-half years, last August.

ruby Posted on February 28, 2019 13:15

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 218
  • 0

Bradford grooming: Nine jailed for abusing girls

Nine men who raped and abused two teenage girls who were living in a children's home have been jailed.

The girls were aged 14 when the men first began to use drink, drugs and violence to groom and sexually exploit them.

Bradford Crown Court heard the abuse started after the girls moved into the home in 2008.

The nine were convicted of 22 offences including rape and inciting child prostitution.

A tenth defendant was cleared of rape.

One of the women, Fiona Goddard, decided to waive her legal right to life-long anonymity to show other victims of abuse "there is nothing to be ashamed of".

Fiona Goddard, 25, waived her legal right to life-long anonymity to discuss her experiences

Sentencing the men to jail terms ranging from 20 years to 18 months, Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC said: "You appear not to have shown any respect for the minimum standards of decent behaviour."

During the trial, which lasted more than six weeks, prosecutor Karma Melly QC said the gang had taken advantage of the girls' age and situation.

She said: "Some of the defendants were actually forceful, threatening and violent, others used alcohol and drugs, others created a manipulated relationship in order to facilitate their sexual exploitation."

Reading from an impact statement, Ms Goddard, 25, told the court: "I can't change what's happened, but I can rebuild my life."

The jury heard it was Basharat Khaliq who first met the girls in 2008, when he was 27 and they were both 14, before taking them to a petrol station and buying them a bottle of vodka.

Over the following years he groomed and repeatedly raped one of the girls and on one occasion abused Ms Goddard.

The abuse began while the two victims were living in a children's home in Bradford

At about the same time the girls also separately met brothers Saeed and Naveed Akthar, with much of the abuse taking place at Saeed's former address on Saffron Drive.

Ms Melly said: "Fiona was used for sex by the men that came to the property.

"She was used by Saeed to get drugs and bring them back, she was told to go and meet dealers and to ensure she came back with drugs though she was given no money for them.

"She was in effect used as a prostitute on his instruction."

The allegations came to light in 2014 when Ms Goddard saw a report on the grooming and sexual abuse of hundreds of young girls in Rotherham on BBC Look North.

She asked her then partner to contact the BBC to say that similar abuse was happening elsewhere and the BBC "quite properly" notified police.

I would like to take this opportunity to explain why I decided to waive my anonymity.

It's because I wanted to show anyone who has gone through, or is going through, anything similar that there is nothing to be ashamed of.

Crimes like these haven't always been dealt with appropriately in the past, but I am proud to say that the police and other services are working really hard to change this and the stigma surrounding it.

I would like to assure people that if they did come forward, they would be believed and supported.

Speaking outside court, Fiona Goddard told the BBC: "These men have influenced every aspect of my life, for as long as I can remember.

"Today, I got to stand in front of them and take that control back and know that they are never going to impact my life again."

Judge Hall told the courtroom: "Your primary victim sits in court and that lady has shown the utmost courage.

"No doubt for years she felt she had no voice and that she was powerless - well she's got a voice now."

He added: "No major city in England and Wales seems to have been spared this problem of grooming by older men acting together or alone."

Nazir Afzal, former Chief Crown Prosecutor in north-west England, said: "Everybody responsible for the safeguarding of these young girls and every other victim has failed them.

"The police don't have the resources, the prosecutors don't have the resources and most importantly the community groups don't have the resources and I think we will be in this position and I will be having this conversation for years to come."

A statement from Bradford Council said: "The Safeguarding Board will look closely at this case to see if there are any lessons we can learn that could help us keep young people safer."

ruby Posted on February 28, 2019 12:09

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 277
  • 0

Manchester Pride: Ariana Grande responds to backlash

Ariana Grande has responded to a backlash over her headlining Manchester Pride.

The US singer is to perform at the event, two years after 22 people died in a suicide attack after her show at the city's arena.

Grande said she "wanted to chime in" after some expressed concerns about a straight artist topping the LGBT event.

She also responded to complaints about ticket price increases, saying they were "out of her control".

In a Twitter response to a user who suggested the LGBT community was being exploited, Grande said she wanted to comment after seeing "many people" discussing the issue.

The 25-year-old said she wanted to "celebrate" a community that had been "so special to me and supportive throughout my entire career...regardless of my identity or how people label me".

"And also I wanna visit a city that means so much to me," she added.

Grande said that Pride events have been headlined by artists "of all sexual orientations and genders, including straight allies like Cher and Kylie Minogue".

"If you truly feel like I didn't deserve to be offered this spot, I respect that. but I did accept it excitedly and gratefully," she said.

The singer added that she was not claiming to be "the hero of the community or the face of the LGBTQ rights movement".

"I just wanna put on a show that makes my LGBTQ fans feel special and celebrated and supported. That's all I wanna do," she added.

There were complaints among some Pride fans when ticket prices were raised to £71 for a weekend pass - up from £30 last year.

Others expressed concerns that Grande's appearance would attract people who did not support the LGBT movement

While others leapt to the star's defence and said there was no need for her to respond to critics.

One fan said the price hike was due to a larger venue being used this year.

The Pride gig at Mayfield Depot is likely to be an emotional return to the city, two years after the Manchester Arena attack.

Less than two weeks after the bombing, she staged the star-studded One Love benefit concert at Old Trafford cricket stadium.

Grande said Manchester "means so much" to her

The singer is currently at both number one and two in the UK singles chart and also has the number one album.

Manchester Pride Live takes place on the weekend of 24 to 26 August.

ruby Posted on February 28, 2019 12:05

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 222
  • 0

Alejandro G Inarritu: Revenant director to chair Cannes Film Festival jury


Oscar-winning director Alejandro G Inarritu has been named this year's Cannes Film Festival jury president.

The Mexican film-maker, who won back-to-back best director Oscars in 2014 and 2015 for Birdman and The Revenant, said he was "humbled" to be asked.

Inarritu follows on from actress Cate Blanchett, who oversaw the jury at last year's event in the south of France.

The jury chooses the winners of awards including the Palme d'Or. The 2019 festival will run from 14 to 25 May.

Cate Blanchett (second right) chaired the Cannes jury in 2018

Inarritu said: "Cannes is a festival that has been important to me since the beginning of my career.

"I am humbled and thrilled to return this year with the immense honour of presiding over the jury.

"Cinema runs through the veins of the planet, and this festival has been its heart."

Festival president Pierre Lescure and artistic director Thierry Fremau praised Inarritu as "not only a daring film-maker and a director who is full of surprises" but also "a man of conviction, an artist of his time".

ruby Posted on February 28, 2019 11:55

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 199
  • 0

Nicaragua releases dozens of prisoners ahead of talks

Dozens of Nicaraguans who were jailed for taking part in anti-government protests have been released, a human rights organisation says.

The number of those released is not yet clear but witnesses said minibuses with inmates had left a number of jails.

The move comes just hours before talks between the government and an umbrella opposition group are due to resume.

The talks had stalled in June amid a crackdown on anti-government protests during which more than 300 people died.

The protests started in April and lasted for months before fizzling out after more than 700 people were arrested. Human rights group say more than 600 of those remain locked up.

The release began in the early hours of the morning with some of the prisoners singing the national anthem when they were told they would be allowed to go home.

A judicial source told local media that between 100 and 150 would be moved from jails into house arrest.

Minibuses carrying inmates left several jails in the early hours of Wendesday

Meanwhile, members of the opposition umbrella group Civic Alliance have arrived for talks on how to put an end to the political crisis.

Ahead of the meeting, they said that their key demand was for all of those arrested for protesting to be released.

Valeska Valle, a member of a student group and one of those representing the opposition at the talks, said that while they welcomed today's move as a positive sign but that it did not go far enough.

"They've been placed under house arrest, we want to insist on their freedom," she said.

The crisis first started in April when demonstrations against changes to the country's social security system widened into calls for the resignation of President Ortega, who has been in power for the past 12 years.

Talks to find a solution to the crisis broke down seven months ago after President Daniel Ortega ruled out calling early elections, which had been the opposition's chief demand.

Since then, hundreds of people have been jailed and opposition activists speak of "persecution" and "the most severe crisis in generations" for human rights.


ruby Posted on February 28, 2019 11:53

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 201
  • 0

Venezuela crisis: How much aid is getting in?

The Venezuelan government has denied entry at its borders to hundreds of tonnes of humanitarian aid.

Lorries containing supplies from the United States, Brazil and Colombia were turned away.

The US, which supports the Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó, says it's offering to provide $20m (£15m) of humanitarian supplies.

But despite the recent stand-off, not all international assistance has been rejected.

The Venezuelan government has praised Russia, an ally of president Nicolás Maduro, for sending aid and said 300 tonnes of it had been transported to Venezuela.

There are also a number of international humanitarian organisations working inside the country.

BBC Reality Check looks at what aid is getting in and how it's used.

President Maduro denies there's a humanitarian crisis and says the US-led relief effort is part of a plan to remove his government.

The aid, including food, hygiene and medical kits, was requested by Mr Guaidó, who declared himself interim president last month.

Aid shipments on the Colombian border have so far been blocked by Venezuela

Last week, Mr Maduro announced that Russia was sending 300 tonnes of food and medical supplies to Venezuela, which would arrive on 20 February.

But in response to questions from BBC News, the Venezuelan government provided no further details about the contents of the aid shipment and said there were currently no opportunities to film it.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was asked about the shipment in a daily press call on 21 February and replied that he didn't have any information but would make inquiries.

BBC News also asked the Russian government for information about the status of this aid package but received no reply.

However, the Pan-American Health Organisation, which works with the World Health Organization (WHO) did release information about medical supplies sent by Russia. A shipment of 7.5 tonnes arrived on 21 February.

A similar delivery was made in April 2018.

The WHO oversaw the delivery of a total of 50 tonnes of medicines and supplies last year from foreign countries'

The EU's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini has called for a peaceful and political solution to the crisis in Venezuela

Groups working inside Venezuela say the country is facing chronic healthcare shortages.

The country lacks 85% of medicines it needs, according to the Pharmaceutical Federation of Venezuela.

The UN's Financial Tracking Service (FTS), which collates global data on humanitarian funding, recorded $24m (£18m) for Venezuela in 2018.

The agencies to have received the most money earmarked for Venezuela include the WHO, the United Nations Children's Fund and the Norwegian Refugee Council.

And this includes about $9m (£6.8m) raised through the UN's central emergency response fund for projects to improve nutrition, overseen by international agencies including UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, and the WHO.

So far this year, another $15m has been donated, according to the UN database.

Since November, UN agencies had been scaling up existing activities to meet "urgent health, nutrition and protection needs", a representative of the UN's Office for the Co-ordination for Humanitarian Assistance (UNOCHA) said. And about the half the money needed to fund this had been raised so far.

The European Commission (EC) was the largest donor to organisations working inside Venezuela in 2018, according to the database.

It has been sending humanitarian aid to Venezuela since 2016.

The EC focuses on projects to improve access to food and nutrition, water, hygiene and sanitation for people in Venezuela.

Last June, it announced a €35m (£30m) package that included emergency humanitarian relief for people inside the country, measures to protect people displaced in neighbouring countries and development assistance.

That was followed in December by a €20m emergency relief package and an additional €5m plan was announced this year.

ruby Posted on February 28, 2019 11:51

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 221
  • 0

'Fairytale ending' for fat cat Mitzi returned four times

A plump pussycat who was returned to an animal shelter four times has finally found a home.

Mitzi weighed almost 7.7kg (17lb) when she first arrived at Woodside Sanctuary in Plymouth, Devon, as a stray.

The tubby tabby, dubbed "Britain's fattest cat", has since slimmed to 5.3kg (11lbs) and has been rehomed by the family of one of her old owners.

"She's such a sweet cat," shelter manager Helen Lecointe said. "We really hope she's found her fairytale ending."

Unlucky moggy Mitzi has been returned to the shelter in Plymouth four times

Mitzi was rescued by Woodside Sanctuary in 2017 and staff said she had been "extremely unlucky" in her hunt for a forever home.

"It's been ever so sad for Mitzi," Ms Lecointe said. "There was an owner death, a change of circumstance and one owner became very ill."

Mitzi's new owners had wanted to adopt her when their family member died but were unable to look after her in rented accommodation.

The shelter said staff would be looking after Mitzi until April, when her owners were due to move into a new home.

Helen Lecointe said the shelter had offers from all over the world after Mitzi's story went viral

"We had offers from the US, Sweden and the Middle East, but we're so pleased that we've found an owner who already knows her and loves her," Ms Lecointe said.

"It's very unusual for a cat to be returned this many times but sadly she's just been so unlucky."

Nobody knows for sure how the nine-year-old cat became so big but shelter staff thought she might have been fed by people in several houses.

"Like all cats it seems she was very successful at adopting people," Ms Lecointe said. "No-one owned her but everyone was feeding her."

ruby Posted on February 28, 2019 11:41

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 270
  • 0

Abuse survivor to lead Leeds and Ipswich on to pitch

A Leeds United fan who shared his story of domestic abuse in a BBC documentary has been invited by Ipswich Town to lead both teams out on to the pitch.

Alex Skeel, 23, from Bedford, Bedfordshire, was said to be 10 days away from death after being abused by former girlfriend Jordan Worth.

Worth admitted grievous bodily harm and coercive controlling behaviour and was jailed for seven-and-a-half years.

Mr Skeel will lead the teams out when they meet at Portman Road on 5 May.

Ipswich Town said in a Tweet that it admired his "courage" in raising awareness of male domestic abuse, and invited him to lead the teams as a "Community Champion".

Jordan Worth (left) was jailed for seven-and-a-half years for coercive control and violence against her former boyfriend Alex Skeel

Mr Skeel told his story in the programme "Abused By My Girlfriend" which aired in February and is available on BBC iPlayer.

Worth, 22, became the first woman to be convicted in the UK of coercive controlling behaviour in April last year.

During her trial the court heard she would tell him what he should wear and attacked him physically.

Worth subjected her partner to multiple physical injuries, often requiring hospital treatment. She also denied him food and isolated him from his family.

It came to a head when she threw boiling water over him, leaving him with second and third-degree burns.

Leeds United are currently third in the Championship and are chasing promotion to the Premier League.

Mr Skeel said it was an "amazing feeling" to have been asked to lead out the teams.

"Unexpected, but the best feeling in the world," he said.

"Hopefully I will be walking the champions out. Honestly, I'm just lost for words. Both Ipswich and especially the Leeds fans have been amazing. They've made me love my club even more."

An Ipswich Town spokesman said: "Alex's story has touched a lot of people and with Leeds here at the end of the season, it seemed the perfect opportunity for Ipswich Town to show our support for him by offering him the chance to be our Community Champion for the day and lead both teams out."

BBC Radio Leeds' Adam Pope said that he could be walking the teams out ahead of a "thrilling encounter".

"If Ipswich Town manage to take their battle against relegation to the final day then it could be against a Leeds United side looking to clinch promotion to the Premier League," he said.

"It may be that there is nothing riding on the game itself, but for Alex to lead out his beloved side and to be recognised for his efforts to raise awareness of a cause he believes in, will be memorable whatever the significance of the game itself."

A Leeds United spokesperson said: 'We are thrilled that Ipswich Town have reached out to Alex and given him this wonderful opportunity.

"The reaction to Alex's story has been superb and we look forward to him joining us at Elland Road as soon as possible.

ruby Posted on February 28, 2019 11:39

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 196
  • 0

Sir Tom Hunter: Politicians 'have let us down' on Brexit

Sir Tom Hunter: "Is there any politician who can hold their head up through this [Brexit] process? You have let us all down."

One of Scotland's richest men has accused politicians of letting down the country as he called for another referendum to be held on Brexit.

Sir Tom Hunter said voters had been lied to by the Leave campaign during the EU referendum in 2016.

They had therefore made their decision without knowing the facts about what Brexit would mean, he added.

The entrepreneur also said he believed there should be another referendum on independence - but "not now".

Sir Tom was speaking on the first episode of BBC Scotland's Debate Night programme, which also featured Deputy First Minister John Swinney, Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser, Labour MSP Monica Lennon and poet and author Jenny Lindsay.

The programme was being recorded as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn confirmed his party would join the SNP and Liberal Democrats at Westminster in backing calls for another EU referendum - a so-called People's Vote - after his alternative Brexit plan was again defeated in the Commons.Prime Minister Theresa May has said holding another vote on Brexit would be a betrayal of the democratic decision made by the public in 2015.

MPs voted to endorse Mrs May's Brexit strategy on Wednesday evening - but only after she made a series of concessions.

Responding to a question from the audience about whether the UK would ever actually leave the EU, Sir Tom said he did not know - but that he did know the rest of the world is "laughing at us" as "this is no way to run a country".

He said: "What I would like to see is a People's Vote. I don't think it's the perfect answer, but there are no perfect answers here.

"I know the arguments against it and I respect those arguments, but I make decisions based on some facts and we had very few facts (ahead of the referendum) and the facts that did come we were lied to."

Sir Tom said the other 27 EU countries had "stuck together and slapped us about" while the Conservatives were "ripping each other's throats" and some Labour MPs were quitting the party to join the new Independent Group in the Commons.

He added: "Is there any politician who can hold their head up through this process? You have let us all down, and we are going to have to pay."

Sir Tom went on to contrast the Brexit debate with the "grown up debate in Scotland" ahead of the independence referendum in 2014.

He said: "I think there should be another independence referendum in Scotland, just not now.

"Just look at the chaos we are in just now and I don't think even John (Swinney) would want to pile more chaos on top of that. We need to see what happens here and then have a debate."

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said in January she would set out her plans for a second independence referendum "in the coming weeks" even if the UK's departure from the EU is delayed beyond 29 March.

Her deputy, Mr Swinney, told the audience: "We have said that we would wait until there was clarity on Brexit. I don't think anybody could say we have got clarity on Brexit."

Like Sir Tom, Mr Swinney said he now did not know if the UK was ever going to leave the EU - which "makes me feel more optimistic about this process than I have felt for a long time".

He added: "If I had been on this programme maybe a couple of weeks ago, I would have said yes, inevitably we are going to leave and we are going to leave in a hard no-deal Brexit and that would be a calamity.

"I hope in the period that now unfolds we have the opportunity to establish a different route through this.

"Inevitably, by necessity, we have to revoke Article 50 to give us time to establish what is the best way to proceed.

"I happen to favour a People's Vote, which enables the public to decide upon these particular issues."

Labour MSP Monica Lennon said it was not looking possible for a Brexit deal to be agreed before 29 March, and that an extension now seemed inevitable - with Labour backing another referendum in order to avoid leaving without a deal.

But Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser warned that the country's political institutions were increasingly distrusted by people, and it would therefore be "fundamentally dangerous" for politicians to in effect tell voters they had made the wrong decision in 2015.

And he said he remained confident that the country would leave the EU "because that is what the people of the United Kingdom voted for".

ruby Posted on February 28, 2019 11:36

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 179
  • 0

The phone-makers bringing buttons back

The Pro1 has a keyboard hidden inside

An Android phone that slides open to reveal a physical qwerty keyboard inside has launched at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

The F(x)tec Pro1 phone also has a bespoke shutter button on the side to click when taking photos.

The London start-up behind it said it wanted to "return the keyboard" to consumers.

Other handsets with keyboards built in, from brands such as BlackBerry Mobile and Swiss firm Punkt, were also on show.

"A lot of consumer tech still has buttons even though the tech is there to get rid of them," said Adrian Li Mow Ching, founder of F(x)tec.

"Haptic feedback never gives the same satisfaction as pressing a physical button.”

He said that the folding handsets unveiled by phone giants Huawei and Samsung demonstrated that "people want more than the single slab".

Zoe Kleinman with the Pro1

The handset I tried was a prototype, but it ran pretty smoothly. It was chunkier than a standard smartphone and a little heavier.

While I cannot deny that the sliding keyboard was fun to open, I did fear for the hinge and the plastic stand on which the screen sits at an angle.

The keys did take a little getting used to if you are more familiar with a touchscreen pad, but I found I made fewer typos when writing.

The Pro1 will go on sale in July for £649, or $649 in the United States.

F(x)tec says its apps have been optimised for landscape use

The Nokia 950 prototype inspired the Pro1

Lianchen Chen, who designed the device, describes himself as a BlackBerry fan. However, his device was inspired by a prototype from Nokia he was given in 2010, which was never released to the public.

The Nokia 950 had a slide-out keyboard hidden beneath the screen but was only ever given to app developers. Mr Chen said he used it until 2015.

The Pro1 features a full touchscreen in addition to its physical keyboard, an approach shared by BlackBerry Mobile's Key2.

Punkt’s MP02 phone is also covered in buttons, but it has limited functionality compared to modern smartphones. It is designed to be a so-called companion phone rather than a primary device.

Punkt's phone is a "companion" device

Punkt chief executive Petter Neby said the device would have been 75% cheaper to manufacture if it had just a touchscreen rather than physical keys. But he said physical keys gave people a more "optimal" experience.

“We press keys and buttons all the time and expect something to happen,” he told the BBC.

“The touchscreen is a convenience, it’s not optimal for a call to action.”

Both F(x)tec and Punkt deny that the hardware required for a physical keyboard limits the life of their devices.

Mr Neby says he still uses a 10-year-old BlackBerry with physical keys as his primary phone and has experienced no issues with it.

The BlackBerry Key2 sports a touchscreen and a keyboard

UK start-up Planet Computers is another company producing Android phones with physical keyboards. In 2018, it successfully crowd-funded a modernised "digital assistant" device, and is now working on a follow-up phone.

However, there is no indication that the broader mobile phone industry is planning a physical keyboard comeback.

“I am not sure if this is nostalgia or trying to find a way in the market serving those groups that the big guns have no interest in serving,” said analyst Carolina Milanesi from the consultancy Creative Strategies.

“I think this is really more what we see in a market where competing with the top players requires not just different hardware but a different approach to the market.”

ruby Posted on February 28, 2019 11:25

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 230
  • 0

TikTok: Record fine for video sharing app over children's data


The company has agreed to pay $5.7m (£4.3m) and implement new measures to handle users who say they are under 13.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said the app, which was later acquired and incorporated into TikTok, knowingly hosted content published by underage users.

It has ordered TikTok to delete the data.

Additionally, as of Wednesday, TikTok users in the US will be required to verify their age when they open the app.

However, like many social networks, age verification is implemented on a trust basis - a person signing up simply has to lie about their date of birth in order to get around the check.

"We care deeply about the safety and privacy of our users," the firm said. "This is an ongoing commitment, and we are continuing to expand and evolve our protective measures in support of this."Despite this, TikTok said it would not be asking existing users in other countries, including the UK, to verify their age as the settlement only applied to the US.

After being one of the most downloaded apps of 2018, TikTok has an estimated base of 1 billion users worldwide.

But the FTC was concerned about how old some of those users were. Its report said the app had 65 million users in the US, a "large percentage" of which were underage.

TikTok's parent company, China-based ByteDance, acquired in 2017, and incorporated it into TikTok, discontinuing the original app. The apps allowed members to create short videos, set to music, to share with other users.

"For the first three years [of its existence], didn't ask for the user's age," the FTC's statement read.

"Since July 2017, the company has asked about age and prevents people who say they're under 13 from creating accounts. But didn't go back and request age information for people who already had accounts."

The FTC noted media reports suggesting adults on had contacted children who were obviously under 13 because "a look at users' profiles reveals that many of them gave their date of birth or grade in school".

TikTok users in the US will be required to verify their age when they open the app

According to the regulators complaint, was contacted by more than 300 concerned parents in just a two-week period in September 2016. While the profiles of the children involved were subsequently deactivated, the content the child had posted was not deleted.

The FTC said TikTok would be fined because of what it saw a's failure to adhere to the basic principles of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, known as Coppa.

Obligations include being upfront in how children's data is collected and used, as well as a mechanism by which to inform parents their child is using the service, and obtain their consent.

The company was also said to have not responded adequately to parents' requests to delete data, and subsequently held onto that data for longer than was reasonable.

TikTok would not share estimates on how many underage users had been, or still were, on the platform.

TikTok's settlement does not constitute an admission of guilt, but the BBC understands the firm does not plan to contest any of the FTC's allegations. The process of deleting the data in question has begun, but the firm could not give an estimate of how long it would take.

To comply with regulations in future, TikTok said it was launching an "experience" for under-13 users that would strip out much of the functionality of the main app.

"While we've always seen TikTok as a place for everyone, we understand the concerns that arise around younger users," the company said.

"In working with the FTC and in conjunction with today’s agreement, we’ve now implemented changes to accommodate younger US users in a limited, separate app experience that introduces additional safety and privacy protections designed specifically for this audience."

That app experience will disable the ability for users to just about everything TikTok offers, such as "share their videos on TikTok, comment on others' videos, message with users, or maintain a profile or followers".

TikTok told the BBC it did not plan to provide the under-13 experience to users outside of the US, and instead would continue to limit use to those 13 and above.

Users responded by saying the process did not work properly, or that they did not have the required verification.

"I'm sorry but this is ridiculous, I don't have a government ID and I'm 14,” wrote one user on Twitter.

The firm admitted it was "a bit complicated".

ruby Posted on February 28, 2019 11:22

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 218
  • 0

Estonians rescue wild wolf from ice thinking it was a dog

Kind-hearted Estonian workers rushed to rescue a dog in distress from a freezing river on Wednesday - unaware of the fact they were actually about to bundle a wild wolf into their car.

The men were working on the Sindi dam on the Parnu river when they spotted the animal trapped in the icy water.

After clearing a path through the ice, they took the frozen canine to a clinic for medical care.

Only then was it revealed they had been carrying a wolf.

The wolf was covered in ice when pulled from the near-frozen water

The Estonian Union for the Protection of Animals (EUPA) said the wolf had low blood pressure when it arrived at the veterinarian's office, which may have explained its docile nature after the men carried it to their car to warm it up.

Speaking to the Estonian newspaper Postimees, one of the men, Rando Kartsepp, said: "We had to carry him over the slope. He weighed a fair bit."

"He was calm, slept on my legs. When I wanted to stretch them, he raised his head for a moment," he added.

Veterinarians had some suspicions over the large dog's true nature, but it was a local hunter, familiar with the region's wolves, who finally confirmed it for what it was: a young male wolf, about a year old.

"He was calm, slept on my legs," Mr Kartsepp said of the journey to the vet's office

Armed with this new information, clinic staff decided to put the wolf in a cage after treatment - in case it became less docile once it recovered.

The EUPA said it paid for the animal's treatment, and that "luckily, everything turned out well".

The wolf recovered from its brush with death within the day and, after being fitted with a GPS collar by researchers from the national environmental agency, was released back into the wild.

"We are so happy for the outcome of the story, and wish to thank all the participants – especially these men who rescued the wolf and the doctors of the clinic who were not afraid to treat and nurture the wild animal," EUPA said.

Estonia is home to hundreds of wolves, only a handful of which have been collared in recent years. As a species, they usually avoid humans.

It was picked as Estonia's national animal last year by a group of nature organisations.

ruby Posted on February 28, 2019 11:18

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 201
  • 0

‘Britain’s loneliest dog’ Hector finally finds home

A lurcher dubbed "Britain's loneliest dog" has finally found a "forever" home.

Two-year-old Hector had been in a shelter since he was rescued by the RSPCA over welfare concerns in 2017.

Hundreds of people from all over the world offered to re-home him after a campaign by Little Valley Animal Shelter in Exeter, Devon, went viral.

The lonely lurcher, who spent more than 500 days at the shelter, had been its longest-staying resident.

"We couldn't be happier for him," the shelter said. "We can't stop smiling."

Hector captured hearts all over the world after his campaign to find a home went viral

Staff at Little Valley said they were overjoyed their "longest-staying resident had finally found his forever family".

The centre was "inundated" with messages from would-be owners worldwide after its campaign to re-home Hector went viral at the start of February.

The shelter thanked its "amazing supporters" for helping Hector find his "happy ever after".

ruby Posted on February 28, 2019 11:14

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 192
  • 0

Tom Ballard: 'Killer mountain' search for British climber

A helicopter search team has set off to find a British climber who was reported missing on a peak in Pakistan.

Tom Ballard and Italian climber Daniele Nardi last made contact on Sunday, from an altitude of about 20,669ft (6,300m) on Nanga Parbat.

Bad weather and mounting tensions between Pakistan and India had delayed attempts to reach the site.

Ali Sadpara, who has previously scaled the mountain, is understood to be on board the Pakistani army helicopter.

Mr Ballard, from Derbyshire, is the son of Alison Hargreaves, who died descending from the summit of K2, the same year she became the first woman to conquer Everest unaided in 1995.

Nanga Parbat is the world's ninth highest mountain and notoriously difficult to climb.

Stefano Pontecorvo, the Italian ambassador in Pakistan, tweeted on Thursday morning: "Rescue helicopter to search for Daniele Nardi and Tom Ballard is flying and approaching area of Nanga Parbat where they could be."

It has been reported that weather was poor in the area at the time the pair last made contact.

A number of deaths have earned it the nickname of "Killer Mountain".

Mr Ballard, 30, had been living in Italy's Dolomites mountain range with his father for the last few years and is "regarded extremely highly in the climbing world", according to online magazine Planet Mountain.

Alison Hargreaves died while descending from the summit of K2 in 1995

Nanga Parbat has only been climbed in winter once before by experienced Pakistani mountaineer Ali Sadpara.

He is flying to Nanga Parbat to scour the mountain with the Pakistan Army.

A Foreign Office spokesman said they were in contact with Pakistani authorities regarding Mr Ballard's disappearance.


ruby Posted on February 28, 2019 11:13

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 222
  • 0

Walsall siblings' stomachs removed over cancer risk

Three siblings have had their stomachs removed after testing positive for a cancer gene following the deaths of their mother and sister from stomach cancer.

Tahir Khan, 44, Sophia Ahmed, 39, and Omar Khan, 27, from Walsall, underwent the surgery after a series of tests at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge.

They said the operation had saved their lives and "eliminated" the risk.

However, Tahir's daughter has now been found to have the same gene.

The siblings' mother, Pearl Khan, was 49 when she died 16 years ago, six months after she was diagnosed.

Their 32-year-old sister Yasmin Khan died about six years ago.

Tahir said: "We didn't even think about genetic testing at that time but Sophia was very tenacious and worked with Cancer Research UK to get us all tested."

The screening and tests for all four of the remaining siblings, including their other sister Tracy Ismail, 49, took from about 12 months to three years.

They identified three of them were carriers and each decided to undergo the operation as a preventative measure. Sophia had the operation first, followed by Tahir and Omar.

Tracy, who was the only sibling to find out she did not have the gene, said: "They told me my results first, so I just thought we would all be the same.

"It was very bittersweet. I was totally devastated.

"At one point we were told that if we hadn't had the testing done, I'd be the only sibling left.

"Knowing what my mom and sister had gone through and so quickly, I encouraged them to have the procedure done, and they're all still here."

The siblings' mum Pearl Khan and sister Yasmin Khan both died from cancer

Sophia said: "I read in my sister Yasmin's notes in hospital that they thought it may be genetic so I did some research and found out the hospital in Cambridge was doing a study with Cancer Research so I contacted them and went from there.

"Everyone thought I was mad until we had the results come back and when we saw it was three of us out of the four, I knew it was worth it."

Sophia said she can "still eat and do everything" and added: "The only issue is maintaining my weight and my vitamin deficiencies but in comparison to having stomach cancer and a few years to live, I can't complain.

"I even had a baby after the operation, they thought I might be malnourished or the baby would be tiny, but everything was absolutely fine."

Cancer Research UK said some tests are available for an inherited faulty gene that can increase the risk of developing certain types of cancer.

Tests for gastric cancer can include a blood test and chest X-ray, faecal sample testing, an endoscopy, ultrasound scan and laparoscopy.

gastrectomy is the name of the procedure of removing part or all of the stomach.

During the procedure, the top of the stomach is connected to the gullet, the bottom of the stomach to the first part of the small intestine, and the gullet to either the small intestine or the remaining section of stomach.

This means that the patient will still have a working digestive system, although it will not function as well as it did before.

For about two weeks after the operation, patients are fed through a tube into the vein, but eventually will be able to eat most foods and liquids.

However, people who have had the procedure will need to eat more frequently and smaller portions, rather than three large meals a day, and take vitamin supplements to get the right amount of nutrition.

Now, the food the siblings eat goes into a "small pouch" that was made by connecting the oesophagus to the intestine.

"I used to be 15st but now I'm only just over 10," Tahir said.

"I have to graze constantly because my body just can't get the nutrients it needs otherwise.

"My brother, on the other hand, he still eats like a horse."

Omar has a different view of the procedure.

He said: "At first after everything with my mom and sister I didn't want anything to do with hospitals or doctors or anything like that.

"But seeing my Sophia go through the procedure and have a baby afterwards, I thought 'I've got no excuse'.

"It was a really hard decision for me but it was the best one I've ever made.

"I still can eat whatever I like - burgers, steaks - the only thing I get is exhaustion and cold sweats but I'm still breathing and I'm so thankful for that."

The screening and tests for all of the siblings took from about 12 months to three years

However, Tahir's daughter, Farah, who is 21, has since tested positive for the gene too.

He said: "I am worried about my daughter's future, but I say to her we have all gone through it and are fine now, so whatever happens she'll be OK."

Tahir underwent his surgery five and a half years ago after his test found he had clusters of cancerous cells in his stomach lining.

"They said I effectively had cancer but because it was contained in my stomach lining and I had all that removed, it eliminated it. I could have had only days, weeks, maybe a year maximum left before I would have been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

"There's no doubt in my mind that having the tests and the procedure done saved my life."

Dr Marc Tischkowitz, consultant physician in medical genetics at the University of Cambridge, said: "This is a very rare, specific type of stomach cancer.

"It's a gene that carriers can have for their lifetime and means that they are at risk of developing cancer any time."

He said the stomach removal was "a dramatic life-changing procedure" and said there was "no way of knowing in all cases that the person who carries the gene will 100% have developed cancer in their lifetime".

Georgina Hill, from Cancer Research UK, said: "It's estimated only 3-10% of cancer cases are linked to an inherited faulty gene.

"Anyone worried about their genetic cancer risk should talk to their doctor, who can refer those with a strong family history of certain cancers to a genetic counselling clinic if appropriate."

ruby Posted on February 28, 2019 11:10

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 286
  • 0

Tump Kim talks: What to make of the Hanoi summit collapse?

The second summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has ended without any deal or agreement.

Washington insists though that dialogue with Pyongyang will continue and the collapse of the Hanoi summit is not a major disappointment.

Here's a roundup of North Korea experts looking at the summit and what to make of its sudden end.

The "no deal" outcome could have been seen coming a mile away. Indeed, a serious reading of public North Korean statements since last year's Singapore summit would have revealed the core issue that resulted in a lack of agreement.

The day after the Singapore summit, North Korean state media paraphrased Kim Jong-un as noting Pyongyang would take "additional good-will measures" if the US took "genuine measures." By that date, North Korea had dismantled its nuclear testing site at Punggye-ri and announced a moratorium on nuclear tests and intercontinental-range ballistic missile tests.

Weeks later, North Korea would also partially and reversibly dismantle a missile-engine test stand.

When Mr Kim met South Korean President Moon Jae-in for a third summit in Pyongyang last September, they referenced North Korea's nuclear facilities at Yongbyon as an example of something the North would put on the table in exchange for "corresponding measures" from the US.

Finally, on 1 January this year, Kim Jong-un made the same point in his New Year's address: corresponding measures would lead to progress in the US-North Korea diplomatic relationship. This phrase was misinterpreted to mean any range of US concessions, including a possibly a declaration to end the Korean War, when it really meant sanctions relief.

All smiles and yet no final deal

Critically, the sequence matters to North Korea: the US would have to agree for sanctions relief up front for any further concessions on denuclearization to flow. In effect, Yongbyon will remain off the table until the US provides sanctions relief.

Donald Trump confirmed this is precisely what caused the breakdown of talks at his press conference on the second day of the Hanoi summit.

As long as Washington remains unwilling to take the first step on sanctions relief, this process will likely remain stuck. The longer it remains stuck, the more likely it is to collapse.

It is surprising that they didn't come away with a preliminary deal, as they clearly had the outline for one going into the final round of pre-summit negotiations.

The tone of the press conference was relatively positive, indicating that the administration still sees a way forward and intends to continue negotiations.

That's encouraging for now, while also offering some relief to those who thought the US would accept a "bad deal".

However, in the meantime, no concrete obligations have been placed on either side and I would suspect that offers of confidence building measures that we've seen coming from North Korea in the past - such as dismantling of the nuclear test site - are unlikely to continue.

Of all the stakeholders in this process, the lack of movement on the US-North Korea agenda puts South Korea in a very awkward position, unable to secure the sanctions exemptions they were hoping for as part of this deal, which would facilitate the resumption of inter-Korean economic cooperation.

Moreover, despite the president's stated will to continue negotiating with North Korea, in the current domestic political environment, there is a real risk of the momentum for this issue waning amidst a sea of competing interests.

Fundamentally, this summit was supposed to kick off a process through which the two countries were going to try to move to a more win-win relationship, rather than the zero-sum "I win, you lose" frame that has dominated US-North Korea relations since, well, forever.

As such, you have to say that everybody lost.

From Mr Trump's perspective it will be a loss he can weather, however. A "bad deal" in which he gave away a lot would inspire years of debate and pushback from US foreign-policy elites. With this, he's spun it as save-able through working-level talks and will head home and the news cycle will move on.

This is the risk for North Korea.

Momentum is hard to build between these two countries and there is every chance now that Donald Trump becomes distracted by politics in the US and this window of opportunity closes.

Who knows who the next president will be and what he or she aspires to with North Korea?

That the North Koreans went into this agreement demanding "all sanctions" be lifted, as Trump said, suggests there is an increasing desperation on the part of Pyongyang for relief, and that they see any other kind of deal as essentially pointless - we'll have to see their response in the coming day.

North Korea's economy is suffering severely from the sanctions

It is also a major embarrassment for the South Korean government, which had planned a major announcement on the "Future of Korean peace and prosperity" tomorrow and had hopes for a major expansion of cooperation with the North in the wake of this summit.

China and Russia, too, will be very frustrated with this outcome.

The mood in Pyongyang may be tempered, however, by Mr Trump's comments that he will not increase sanctions against the country, and that he would "love" to see them lifted in the near future.

The message is that while no formal relief is going to happen anytime soon, the days of "maximum pressure" are long gone.

President Trump made the right decision to walk away from a deal.

North Korea's ask to remove all sanctions was untenable and also illegal. According to US and UN sanctions, sanctions cannot be removed until complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear program takes place and the regime makes human rights improvements.

The 80,000 to 120,000 North Korean people inside those prisons camps are being exploited by Kim Jong-un as free labour to fund and architect his nuclear and missile weapons program.

Reports indicate that some may even have chemical and biological weapons tested on them.

Authorities brutally crack down on any dissent

Failure to reach a deal in Hanoi demonstrates the need to craft a more comprehensive policy toward North Korea one that see human rights and denuclearization as interconnected.

Future diplomacy, if it's even possible, should reflect the multifaceted nature of current US law.

ruby Posted on February 28, 2019 11:05

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 216
  • 0

Michael Cohen: Takeaways from testimony of Trump's ex-lawyer

Michael Cohen is unleashing a series of explosive accusations directed towards Donald Trump touching on multiple controversies that have bedevilled the president during his time in office. Here are five takeaways from his dramatic testimony to Congress.

Mr Cohen suggests the president had advance knowledge of his son's June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians and that WikiLeaks was poised to release damaging information about Democrats.

He says the president personally signed cheques reimbursing him for a hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels. He alleges that the president was fully aware of ongoing negotiations for a Trump Tower in Moscow well into the 2016 presidential campaign.

Many of these assertions rely almost exclusively on Cohen's word - the word of a man who has already admitted to lying to Congress and to the federal government on his taxes. What's more, while his allegations are certainly politically damaging, they aren't incontrovertible evidence of legal misconduct by the president.

Michael Cohen: Trump told me 'Don Jr had worst judgement in world'

If there is a case to be made against Mr Trump, it will have to rely on more than the word of his former lawyer and fixer.

That's not to undersell the blockbuster nature of the day's proceedings, however. The public now has a chance to determine, under the glare of the spotlight, whether Cohen lied in the past to protect the president or is lying now to protect himself.

Or, perhaps, a bit of both.

Most of the early attention paid to Michael Cohen's testimony involved his connections to the assortment of controversies that have swirled around Mr Trump since he became president.

It's one thing to read the advance text of a committee statement, however, and it's another to see it in the flesh. If there were any doubts about how effective Cohen would be as a witness, he quickly put them to rest.

Cohen - in a dark suit, with his voice occasionally wavering - testified about what it was like to work with Mr Trump for more than a decade. What he learned, he said, made him ashamed.

He called his former boss a racist, a cheat and a conman. He says he had both good and bad attributes, but that bad outweighed the good.

"Since taking office," Cohen said, "he has become the worst version of himself."

Republicans were quick to pounce. Mark Meadows asked why, if Cohen was so ashamed, he stuck with Mr Trump for 10 full years. Wasn't it a possibility, he suggested, that Cohen was bitter that he didn't get a White House job and was taking it out on his former boss?

"I got exactly what I wanted," Cohen replied, noting that he preferred to spend his time in New York, with his teenage children.

That may have been the case two years ago, but there's little chance Cohen wanted - or imagined - the situation he finds himself in now.

Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Committee have repeatedly hit on what could be the most legally damaging part of Cohen's testimony on Wednesday.

Mr Trump's former lawyer has presented new, documentary evidence of payments made to him by Mr Trump - including a cheque with the president's signature. He says this money was a reimbursement for his 2016 election eve hush-money payment to Stormy Daniels. The adult film star was poised to claim that she and Mr Trump had sexual relations in the 2006.

US government prosecutors in New York have said that Mr Cohen's payment to Daniels constituted an undisclosed campaign contribution in violation of federal election law - a charge to which Cohen has pleaded guilty.

If Cohen can help draw a connection between the Daniels payment and the president himself, it could implicate Mr Trump in a crime.

The president's legal team has responded to similar allegations in the past by arguing that the payments to Cohen were part of a retainer fee and that Mr Trump had no knowledge of Cohen's illegal activities and was relying on his lawyer to know and abide by campaign finance law.

The more evidence Cohen presents to back up his claim that Mr Trump was fully aware of the hush-money payments, the more difficult it becomes for him to maintain this position.

The Republican strategy for responding to Cohen's testimony has been clear from the beginning. They want to paint the former lawyer as a convicted liar who can't be trusted on any count.

They're less concerned about rebutting the individual allegations - about Trump Tower, Russia business dealings, hush-money payments or WikiLeaks revelations - than they are in dismissing Cohen's testimony as the work of an untruthful man being put forward by enemies of the president for political purposes.

Congressman Paul Gosar went so far as to hold up a large sign with "Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire!!" emblazoned over a picture of the witness.

Cohen has tried to parry these charges multiple ways. One is to claim that he has come to the realisation, after Mr Trump's performance as president, of how damaging his support of his former boss has been.

He cited the Charlottesville violence, the Helsinki summit with Vladimir Putin and the president's coarseness on Twitter as prime examples. That could be a tough sell, however, given the litany of allegations Cohen has levelled against Mr Trump that predate his time as president.

A more effective counter has been when Cohen has tried to hold himself up as a cautionary tale - that he is making amends because his life has come crashing down and not the other way around.

"I protected Trump for 10 years," he told the committee. "The more people that follow Mr Trump as I did blindly are going to suffer the same consequences that I'm suffering."

He called himself the "picture perfect example of what not to do".

Cohen isn't going to convince many that he's a saint or a sympathetic figure. When he's been his most effective on Wednesday is when he hasn't tried to.

Donald Trump wrapped up his day in Vietnam around the time Cohen began his congressional committee testimony. After a lavish dinner of chilled shrimp, grilled steaks and "chocolate lava cake" with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, he returned to his hotel room, where if past history is any guide, he probably reviewed the day's news coverage.

What he saw couldn't have made him happy. US media - including his favourite, Fox News - are giving the Cohen hearings wall-to-wall coverage. The president's second summit with Mr Kim, being billed as "historic" by the White House, has been relegated to a secondary story.

That might change on Thursday, when the two leaders hold a joint press event where they could announce the results of their negotiations. But for one day at least his former lawyer - who he once said was a "fine man with a wonderful family" and later called a "rat" - held the national stage.

Cohen has given Democrats on the Oversight and Reform Committee a number of threads to pursue in further hearings and investigations. It isn't a stretch to imagine that portions of his testimony could someday be cited by Democrats as evidence for impeachment hearings.

In addition Cohen hinted at other potential presidential wrongdoing and illegalities - including a conversation with the president in June 2018 - that he couldn't discuss because they are currently being investigated by US attorneys in New York.

The president is half a world away, but the fallout from Cohen's day on Capitol Hill - a day when Cohen called the president a racist, a conman and a cheat, and Republicans called Cohen a liar - will be waiting for him when he gets home.

ruby Posted on February 28, 2019 11:02

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 202
  • 0

India and Pakistan in 'uncharted waters'

"We are in uncharted waters," says Husain Haqqani, alluding to the latest round of heightened hostilities between India and Pakistan.

The former Pakistani ambassador to the US served as an adviser to three Pakistani prime ministers. He is the author, most recently, of Reimagining Pakistan: Transforming a Dysfunctional Nuclear State.

After Tuesday's air strikes by India targeting militants in Pakistani territory, Pakistan promised to respond "at the time and place of its choosing".

Less than 24 hours later, Pakistan said it had launched air strikes across the Line of Control (LoC) dividing Pakistan and Indian-controlled Kashmir. It also claimed to have shot down two Indian Air Force jets in its airspace in Kashmir and arrested two pilots on the ground. India has shut down parts of its airspace in the north of the country.

Many believe that the Pakistani strike could be seen as a tit-for-tat - it, like India, feels the need to placate its domestic constituency. But the challenge now is to contain the escalation of hostilities before things get completely out of control.

For one, Tuesday's air strikes by India were completely unexpected. They are the first launched across the LoC - the de facto border that divides Kashmir - since a war between the two countries in 1971.

"Pakistani military establishment had banked on India's reluctance to escalate in using asymmetrical warfare (terrorism) under the nuclear umbrella," Professor Haqqani told me.

Indian warplanes crossed the Line of Control and struck targets in Pakistan on Tuesday

"India feels it has found a soft spot where it can strike - whether on ground using special forces as in 2016 or using air strikes as they have done now - without crossing that threshold."

Professor Haqqani says Pakistan "does not want war with India but its military faces a credibility challenge".

"It does not want to shut all jihadi groups. But the jihadis' presence is a constant source of problems. In 2011 the Americans entered Pakistani air space to get Osama Bin Laden. Now the Indians entered Pakistani air space, dropped bombs and returned home without resistance.

"How will the Pakistani military explain itself to a public that accepts a huge military budget on the grounds of its military's ability to defend Pakistani sovereignty?"

Daniel Markey, a senior professor at Johns Hopkins University in the US, says the problem is that "most military solutions to the Pakistan problem at India's disposal are far, far more costly to India than they are likely to bring about the desired end state".

"Everyone in Delhi knows this. The goal now is to introduce a higher level of punishment for each instance of Pakistani aggression. It's not a bad strategy, as long as each move is calculated carefully and there aren't too many mistakes.

"For instance, in this episode, some reports suggest that Indian aircraft had intended to fire from the Indian side of the LoC, but wind forced them into Pakistani territory. If true, that's the sort of unintended element of escalation that introduces new risk at each step."

Daniel Markey believes the escalation is more serious than one anticipated - "moving the conflict into Pakistan 'proper' was intended to be a muscular and different move, one that most recent Indian prime ministers would have been reluctant to take".

So is there a real threat of a nuclear conflict?

"Sadly, there is always a real threat of nuclear escalation between India and Pakistan, but we are several steps from that at this moment. Aside from accidental or unauthorised use (both unlikely), we would need to see a significant conventional escalation in this conflict before nuclear use looks likely," says Dr Markey.

"But these escalations are possible, especially if Pakistan's next step were to raise the stakes by hitting Indian civilian targets."

That is highly unlikely - but the question for the countries now is can they find a way of stepping back from their most dangerous flashpoint in decades?

ruby Posted on February 28, 2019 10:52

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 221
  • 0

Ethiopia PM Abiy Ahmed to host a fundraising dinner

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed will be hosting a fundraising dinner to help secure $1bn (£750m) for infrastructure projects in the capital.

Officials said tickets will be charged at more than $175,000 per person, but further details are unclear.

The dinner hopes to boost foreign investment into one of Africa's fastest growing economies.

Since coming to power last year, Mr Abiy has pushed for wide-scale economic reform in Ethiopia.

A video released by the prime minister's has set out plans for the redevelopment of Addis Ababa, including an expansion of green spaces and retail areas.Correspondents say Ethiopia likes to raise funds itself rather than rely heavily on foreign donors. Similar events have been arranged for economic investment and humanitarian relief.

Prime Minister Abiy sold his watch for $175,000 during a recent event for infrastructure development in Ambo, 100km (60 miles) west of Addis Ababa. About $14m was raised in total.

Mr Abiy came to power after three years of protest led by ethnic Oromos, who were demanding an end to what they considered their political and economic marginalisation.

The prime minister, who is Oromo himself, has pushed through a series of significant reforms, making peace with neighbouring Eritrea and releasing the state's tight grip on parts of the economy.

His economic ambitions including a multibillion-dollar privatisation of Ethiopia's telecoms, energy, shipping and sugar industries. A domestic stock exchange is set to launch in 2020.

The reforms have attracted millions of dollars in foreign investment, especially from the Middle East.

But Mr Abiy's crackdown on corruption has drawn criticism from members of the country's previous regime.

In June 2018, he was targeted in bomb attack which killed two people at a rally in support of his government.

ruby Posted on February 28, 2019 10:47

  • 0 Paxex
  • 0
  • 229
  • 0