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Uighur crackdown: 'I spent seven days of hell in Chinese camps'

The Chinese government calls them free "vocational training centres"; Aibota Serik, a Chinese Kazakh whose father was sent to one, calls them prisons.

Her father Kudaybergen Serik was a local imam in Tarbagatay (Tacheng) prefecture of China's western Xinjiang region. In February 2018 the police detained him and Aibota hasn't heard from her father since then.

"I don't know why my father was imprisoned. He didn't violate any laws of China, he was not tried in a court," she says, clutching a small photo of him, before breaking down in tears.

I met Aibota together with a group of other Chinese Kazakhs in Almaty, Kazakhstan's largest city. They gathered in a small office to petition the Kazakh government to help secure the release of their relatives who had disappeared in "political re-education camps".

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has heard there are credible reports that around one million people have been detained in internment camps in Xinjiang. Almost all of them are from Muslim minorities such as the Uighurs, Kazakhs and others.

There are more than a million Kazakhs living in China. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, thousands moved to oil-rich Kazakhstan, encouraged by its policy to attract ethnic Kazakhs. Today, these people feel cut off from their relatives who stayed in China.

Nurbulat Tursunjan says the Chinese authorities have confiscated his parents' passports

Nurbulat Tursunjan uulu, who moved to the Almaty region in 2016, says his elderly parents are unable to leave China and come to Kazakhstan because the authorities took away their passports.

Another petitioner, Bekmurat Nusupkan uulu, says that relatives in China are afraid to talk on the phone or on the popular Chinese messaging app WeChat. And they are right to be afraid, he says.

"My father-in-law visited me in February 2018. From my place, he called his son in China, he asked how he was and so on. Shortly after that his son Baurzhan was detained. He was told that he had received phone calls from Kazakhstan two or three times and was sent to a political camp."

Human Rights Watch says detainees are held "without any due process rights - neither charged nor put on trial - and have no access to lawyers and family".

China insists its detention centres, such as this one in the city of Kashgar, are for "vocational training"

Orynbek Koksybek is an ethnic Kazakh who spent several months in camps.

"I spent seven days of hell there," he says. "My hands were handcuffed, my legs were tied. They threw me in a pit. I raised both my hands and looked above. At that moment, they poured water. I screamed.

"I don't remember what happened next. I don't know how long I was in the pit but it was winter and very cold. They said I was a traitor, that I had dual citizenship, that I had a debt and owned land."

  • None of that was true, he says.

A week later Mr Koksybek was taken to a different place where he learnt Chinese songs and language. He was told he would leave if he learnt 3,000 words.

Orynbek Koksybek says he was thrown into a pit

"In Chinese they call it re-education camps to teach people but if they wanted to educate, why do they handcuff people?

"They detain Kazakhs because they're Muslims. Why imprison them? China's aim is to turn Kazakhs into Chinese. They want to erase the whole ethnicity," he says.

It is not possible to independently verify Orynbek Koksybek's story, but his account is similar to many documented by Human Rights Watch and other activists.

The Chinese embassy in Kazakhstan has not replied to the BBC's request for comment, but the Chinese authorities have been quoted in state media as saying the camps are "vocational training centres", which aim to "get rid of an environment that breeds terrorism and religious extremism".

The Kazakh government says that any restrictions on Chinese citizens in China are their internal matter, and it does not interfere. However, Kazakhstan says it will try to assist any Kazakh citizens who are detained in China.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-47157111

ruby Posted on February 12, 2019 09:34

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Catalan 'rebellion' trial puts Spain's courts to the test

Writing from his prison cell, the former vice-president of Catalonia knows he is facing a potential 25 years in prison for rebellion.

Oriol Junqueras is one of a dozen former political leaders facing trial over his region's independence bid in October 2017. Some stand accused of a violent uprising – one they say never happened.

There are no apologies – Mr Junqueras insists on his innocence, telling the BBC that the "trial is an action against an ideology and against political dissent".

"It's a judgement on democracy," he said, and one "which creates a dangerous precedent for all of Europe".

Another defendant fears they will face a court stacked against them, with a "pre-determined outcome".

But the Spanish government has defended the process, insisting the accused will get a fair trial - while the rest of the world watches.

Controversy in Catalonia

The 12 accused face charges including rebellion, sedition and the misuse of public funds for their part in the 2017 push for independence from Spain.

A disputed referendum - in which a majority of those who took part backed independence - was held in the territory on 1 October 2017.

A little more than three weeks later, the parliament in Barcelona voted to declare Catalonia an independent republic.

Yet the referendum saw a low turnout, and had been declared illegal by Spain's Constitutional Court. Madrid stepped in to impose its rule on the region, and several Catalan leaders fled or were arrested.

A year and a half later, the vote is still controversial.

What happened to Catalonia? One year on

On Sunday, thousands took to the streets of Madrid to demonstrate their support for a united country ahead of the trial.

And Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has come under pressure for his attempts at dialogue with the leadership in Catalonia.

Prosecutors allege the accused - who include ex-ministers, the former speaker of the regional parliament and the leaders of pro-independence organisations - acted against Spain's constitution, which guarantees "the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation".

All deny the charges against them.

Mr Junqueras - the most senior member of the then Catalan government not to flee the country - said the trial was politically motivated.

The former vice-president refutes the charge of rebellion, which Spanish law defines as a "violent, public uprising" to achieve goals such as "the independence of a part of the national territory".

Police clash with voters at polling stations in October 2017

"Ours has been an extremely peaceful process and so these crimes are totally non-existent in our case. The only violence has been that applied by the National Police and Civil Guard on 1 October against voters who were trying to put a paper in a ballot box," he said.

The Catalan government said more than 900 people were injured as police tried to seize ballot boxes and close polling stations.

'A pre-determined outcome'

In November, more than 100 legal experts from across Spain signed an open letter (in Spanish) condemning the use of the charge of rebellion in the Catalan case.

In an exclusive interview, Mr Sánchez, the former president of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), said: "Even those who accuse us of rebellion don't believe it. Where was the uprising? It's a total farce."

Mr Sánchez also accuses politicians in Madrid of trying to influence the trial.

The vote led to brief celebrations - but an independent Catalonia has yet to emerge

"The judges were chosen by the political parties to control it and impose a pre-determined outcome," he said. "Despite everything, they haven't accepted our objections. There is nothing more to say. It will be a trial with political objectives."

The prime minister disagrees. Speaking on a visit to Strasbourg ahead of the start of the trial, he said that in Spain "individual rights, public freedoms and the rights of minorities are guaranteed and protected".

The trial is expected to last around three months.

A long witness list includes the Spanish prime minister at the time of the referendum, Mariano Rajoy.

Who are the imprisoned independence leaders?

Those awaiting trial in Lledoners jail include (L-R) Jordi Sánchez, Oriol Junqueras, Jordi Turull, Joaquim Forn, Jordi Cuixart, Josep Rull and Raul Romeva. All maintain their innocence

There are 12 defendants, nine of whom have already spent more than 10 months in prison awaiting the start of the trial.

Oriol Junqueras, the former vice-president and the highest-ranking pro-independence leader after his superior, Carles Puigdemont, fled the country

  • Carme Forcadell was the speaker of Catalan Parliament when it voted to declare a republic, reading out the decision - she remained free until March last year
  • Jordi Sánchez, the former president of the Catalan National Assembly, was nominated to succeed Mr Puigdemont, but abandoned the idea when he was not allowed to leave prison for the vote
  • Jordi Cuixart, president of Omnium Cultural - a Catalan language and culture organisation - and a grassroots independence activist

In December, Ms Forcadell appealed against her imprisonment to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg.

Amnesty International has called for the release of Jordi Sánchez and Jordi Cuixart, who have been in jail since 16 October 2017.

Also facing trial are Joaquim Forn, former interior minister; Jordi Turull, former Catalan government spokesman; Raül Romeva, former external relations minister; Dolors Bassa, former labour minister; Josep Rull, former territorial minister; Carles Mundó, former justice minister; Meritxell Borràs, former governance minister; and Santi Vila, former business minister.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-47199288

ruby Posted on February 12, 2019 09:26

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Blackface governor Ralph Northam calls slaves 'indentured servants'

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam calls slaves "indentured servants"

Virginia Democratic Governor Ralph Northam has defended calling slaves "indentured servants" in his first TV interview since a racism scandal broke.

Mr Northam, who has admitted to wearing blackface, told CBS a historian told him "indentured" was a more accurate term for America's first slaves.

Plans have meanwhile stalled to impeach Virginia's Lt Gov Justin Fairfax, who is accused of sexual assault.

The state capitol has been plunged into turmoil by the twin scandals.

During the CBS interview aired in full on Monday, Mr Northam was grilled over his college yearbook photo, which shows two people - one wearing blackface makeup and the other in Ku Klux Klan robes.

Mr Northam was asked why he initially apologised for the photo before backtracking and denying he was either in the picture.

"When you're in a state of shock like I was, we don't always think as clearly as we should," Mr Northam said, adding that he had "overreacted" by issuing an immediate apology.

"I will tell you that later that night I had a chance to step back, take a deep breath, look at the picture and said, 'This is not me in the picture'," he said.

Mr Northam has already admitted that he once "darkened his face as part of a Michael Jackson costume" on a separate occasion in 1984.

Asked whether he would resign, Mr Northam said: "I'm not going anywhere."

'Indentured servants from Africa'

The governor's damage-limitation efforts risked making matters worse when he told the interviewer that 400 years has passed since the "first indentured servants from Africa landed on our shores".

CBS presenter Gayle King, who is African American, said: "Also known as slavery."

According to Encyclopedia Virginia, which is produced in partnership with the Library of Virginia, the first Africans to arrive in Virginia were sold in exchange for food in August 1619 from the English ship White Lion.

Unlike indentured servants, who were typically released after paying off the debt of their voyage to America, black slaves were rarely freed.

After the interview aired on Monday, Mr Northam released a statement defending his word choice.

He said that during a recent speech he "referred to them in my remarks as enslaved".

"A historian advised me that the use of indentured was more historically accurate. The fact is, I'm still learning and committed to getting it right."

Uncomfortable history

The scandals have rocked the state's capitol, Richmond, which was also the capitol of the pro-slavery Confederacy during the US Civil War.

Mr Northam's deputy, Lt Governor Justin Fairfax, has been accused of sexual assault by two separate women.

On Monday a Democratic-led impeachment effort against Mr Fairfax, who is black, appeared to stall after lawmakers announced that they would hold off for until further consultations are completed.

Virginia Delegate Patrick Hope, who wrote draft impeachment articles, said on Monday that he had spoken to his colleagues who helped him determine that "additional conversations need to take place before anything is filed".

Democratic Delegate Marcus Simon, who has called on Mr Fairfax to resign, told the Wall Street Journal that he believes there is no precedent in Virginia history to impeach a governor, and that more research must be done on the legal process.

"Frankly, a lot of us feel sort of helpless to do anything about the chaos around here. I just don't know this is the right thing to be doing," Mr Simon said.

Over the weekend Mr Fairfax, who denies the allegations, called for an FBI investigation into the accusations.

The number three in Virginia's government, Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring, is also in hot water after admitting to wearing blackface to a university party in 1980.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-47203529

 

 

ruby Posted on February 12, 2019 09:14

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Teen kickboxer Scott Marsden's death 'tragic fluke'

A 14-year-old kickboxer died when a blow to his chest caused cardiac arrest in a rare medical "fluke", an inquest has heard.

Scott Marsden, from Sheffield, collapsed during a kickboxing bout in Leeds in March 2017.

Wakefield Coroner's Court heard he died from a rare disruption of the heart's rhythm caused by a direct blow at a specific moment in the heart cycle.

The pathologist said Scott had no pre-existing heart defects.

Dr Kerry Turner, consultant paediatric pathologist, told the coroner the condition that killed Scott was "commotio cordis" and it was "very rare" that three elements - the blow's impact, its location over the heart, and the timing in the cycle - all aligned.

Dr Turner said: "It is a tragic fluke that all three things line up in the correct way.

"For all these things to line up in the right way is very rare."

Scott's mother told the inquest her son had a "heart of gold" and would do "anything for anyone"

Scott started kickboxing aged four or five, and competed from eight.

He trained at Marsden's All Styles Kickboxing club in Hillsborough, run by his family.

The event was the fourth at Leeds Martial Arts College, organised by Paul Lynch under World Kickboxing Association (WKA) rules.

Scott's opponent was of similar size and age.

The event was the fourth at Leeds Martial Arts College

The inquest heard Mr Lynch, MC-ing the event, hired a private medical team. A doctor he used for pre-fight checks at previous events was also there, although only in a social capacity as she was heavily pregnant.

Mr Lynch said Scott slumped on to the ropes and was caught by the referee following a spinning kick by his opponent.

The medics on-site gave him emergency treatment and paramedics were called, but Scott died the next day at Leeds General Infirmary.

Jon Green, UK president of WKA and judging on the night, questioned official ambulance service figures that a crew arrived in 21 minutes.

He told the inquest the crew seemed "in no rush whatsoever".

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-south-yorkshire-47202415

ruby Posted on February 11, 2019 17:35

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'Trans row' student banned from free speech debate

A student, whose tweet that "women don't have penises" led to a transphobic row, has been banned from taking part in a debate about free speech at the University of Bristol.

Angelos Sofocleous, a Durham University student, cannot take part in the Free Speech Society event due to "security concerns".

The society said the student union had banned him from the panel discussion.

The union said it was "committed" to free speech but security was needed.

Mr Sofocleous was sacked from his post as assistant editor at Durham University's philosophy society's journal last August after he tweeted comments deemed by some people to be transphobic.

He wrote: "RT [retweet] if women don't have penises", linked to an article in The Spectator on the same subject, and later defended his views.

A discussion panel asking "is there a problem with free speech on campus?" is due to take place at the university on Wednesday.

Mr Sofocleous tweeted he had been "de-platformed" from the debate due to concerns "my presence might spark protests which might lead to physical violence".

He wrote "nothing could provide a more ironic indication of the current status of social justice orthodoxy in academia than banning a speaker from an event titled 'free speech on campus'."

The university's free speech society said it had been told by the student union "in order to hold the event as scheduled we must disinvite him as a panellist" due to his presence on campus being a "high risk".

The society said: "The university security services informed us that they were not at all consulted by the students union on the matter."

The Student Union said it was "committed" to free speech

A spokesman said the society was "severely disappointed" by the "last-minute decision", and felt "let down by the unnecessary bureaucracy of the student union and its disregard for free speech".

The student union said it had "not refused Angelos Sofocleous as a speaker" and was "committed to freedom of speech and the rights of all our students to discuss difficult and sensitive topics"

A spokesperson added: "Bristol SU and the University of Bristol have a joint external speakers procedure, which applies to all bookings and events.

"Bristol SU made an initial assessment of the speaker and recommended that security would be needed to ensure this event could run safely and smoothly.

"The Freedom of Speech Society was informed of this one week prior to the event with the recommendation that the event is rearranged in order to allow security measures to be put in place and the event to go ahead."

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-bristol-47199156

ruby Posted on February 11, 2019 17:31

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Long Stratton driver has 'ingenious' idea to protect car

A woman said she "fell about laughing" when she saw a car with pool noodles attached to prevent dents.

The BMW was spotted in a car park in Long Stratton, Norfolk, by Tina Land who described it as an "ingenious" method to protect the car from bumps.

The red foam barrier was connected by karabiners and clips, as reported by the EDP.

Ms Land said she thought the driver was hoping to avoid other doors hitting it while parked.

The car was spotted in a car park in Long Stratton in Norfolk

She said: "When we saw it we instantly fell about laughing.

"I am not sure if it is actually to prevent doors from denting the car, I didn't test it, or if the driver is just a bit of a joker. It's quite an ingenious idea."

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-norfolk-47121586

ruby Posted on February 11, 2019 17:22

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Fighting slows 'final push' against IS in eastern Syria

US-backed fighters in Syria say they are meeting fierce resistance in the last enclave held by Islamic State (IS) militants near the Iraqi border.

A battle has been going on for hours, with US-led coalition air strikes and artillery fire pounding IS positions.

Up to 600 jihadists are thought to be defending their last stronghold, a small pocket in Syria's eastern province of Deir al-Zour.

Two years ago IS controlled large areas of Syria and Iraq.

On Saturday, after a pause of more than a week to allow some 20,000 civilians to leave the area, SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali said the group was launching the "final battle to crush IS". Some civilians are believed to be still in the area.

An SDF field commander told AFP news agency on Sunday morning: "There are heavy clashes at the moment. We have launched an assault and the fighters are advancing."

Monitors the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the SDF were advancing across farmland, and there were heavy clashes and landmines going off.

Backed by air strikes, the SDF have driven out IS from towns and villages in north-eastern Syria in recent months.

'My son was an IS fighter, now I'm trying to save his children'

At its peak in 2014, IS established a "caliphate" stretching across Syria and Iraq that was similar in size to the UK and ruled over more than 7.7 million people.

In December, US President Donald Trump said IS militants were "mostly gone" and announced the US would withdraw all of its 2,000 troops from Syria.

On Wednesday he said: "It should be announced, probably some time next week, that we will have 100% of the caliphate."

The battle for the tiny sliver of land still held by IS next to the Iraqi border has been raging for many hours.

Air strikes and artillery fire have pummelled the IS position, which measures only about a mile across. The SDF believes it will shortly achieve a decisive victory.

IS does still hold another scrap of territory in Syria - and it continues to carry out dozens of attacks - many targeting the SDF.

Even as it seems likely to lose every last fragment of its once-vaunted and self-declared caliphate, IS can continue to operate and pose a potent threat in both Syria and Iraq from remote areas where its fighters find refuge, as well as through militants gone to ground in towns and cities.

How many militants are left?

IS has suffered substantial losses, but the UN says it still reportedly controls between 14,000 and 18,000 militants in Iraq and Syria, including up to 3,000 foreigners.

Meanwhile, there are significant numbers of IS-affiliated militants in Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya, South-East Asia and West Africa, and to a lesser extent in Somalia, Yemen, Sinai and the Sahel.

Individuals inspired by the group's ideology also continue to carry out attacks elsewhere.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-47188355

ruby Posted on February 11, 2019 17:18

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Yemen war: Grain stores in Hudaydah 'at risk of rotting'

The UN is urging the warring parties in Yemen to give it access to a vast store of grain that is desperately needed in a country on the brink of famine.

Aid workers have not been able to reach the Red Sea Mills, on the frontlines in the port of Hudaydah, for five months.

It holds enough grain to feed 3.7 million people for a month, but the UN says it is now "at risk of rotting".

The Yemeni government and the rebel Houthi movement agreed a ceasefire around Hudaydah in December.

But they have yet to implement a UN-brokered plan under which opposing fighters should be redeployed to locations outside the area.

Hudaydah, which has been controlled by the Houthis since 2014, is the principal lifeline for two-thirds of Yemen's population. Up to 80% of the humanitarian aid, fuel and commercial goods on which they depend are delivered through the port.

Where the fighting in Yemen has stopped... but not the suffering

On Monday, the UN's special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, and Emergency Relief Co-ordinator, Mark Lowcock, warned that the urgency of getting access to the Red Sea Mills facility south of the port was "growing by the day".

"The World Food Programme (WFP) grain stored in the mills - enough to feed 3.7 million people for a month - has been inaccessible for over five months and is at risk of rotting," they said in a joint statement.

"At the same time, the United Nations is in the process of scaling up to provide food assistance to nearly 12 million people across Yemen who struggle to meet their daily food needs. Our main concern is for their survival and well-being."

The UN officials emphasised that ensuring access to the mills was a "shared responsibility among the parties to the conflict in Yemen".

Last week, the UN said Yemeni government and Houthi representatives had agreed a preliminary compromise that would allow them to proceed with the redeployment of forces from Hudaydah and the opening of humanitarian corridors.

A granary at Red Sea Mills was damaged last month by what the government said was rebel mortar fire

The agreement came after talks on board a UN vessel in Hudaydah's inner harbour attended by the new head of the UN's monitoring mission, Gen Michael Anker Lollesgaard of Denmark.

Yemen has been devastated by a conflict that escalated in early 2015, when the Houthis forced President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi to flee abroad.

Alarmed by the rise of a group they saw as an Iranian proxy, Saudi Arabia and eight other Arab states intervened in an attempt to restore the government.

At least 6,800 civilians have been killed and 10,700 injured in the fighting, according to the UN. Thousands more civilians have died from preventable causes, including malnutrition, disease and poor health.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-47196179

ruby Posted on February 11, 2019 17:13

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Bafta win for vegan farmer who gave away herd

A film about a vegan farmer who gave his cows to an animal sanctuary to save them from the slaughterhouse has won a Bafta.

Jay Wilde, from Ashbourne, Derbyshire, hit the headlines after handing his beef herd to a Norfolk rescue centre.

Filmmaker Alex Lockwood's documentary, 73 Cows, won best short film at Sunday's Bafta awards.

Mr Wilde said Mr Lockwood, from Stourbridge in the West Midlands, had done a "wonderful job" on the film.

Jay Wilde gave his herd to a sanctuary to spare them "a terrifying death" at the slaughterhouse

The 15-minute film, which won the grand prize at the 2018 Ottawa International Vegan Film Festival, covers Mr Wilde's struggles with his conscience and the beef farming industry.

He grew up herding cows and took over the family farm when his father died. He was already a vegetarian, and has recently become a vegan.

He said he had always wanted to give up animal production because he "couldn't believe it was right to eat them".

Mr Wilde, who was not at the ceremony, found out about the win just before the broadcast on BBC One, on Sunday evening.

The farmer, who had joked he did not feel "like Bafta material", said it felt unreal, but he had been "fairly confident" the film would be victorious despite the other entries being "so good".

"It's very surreal because I've led an isolated life on this farm," he said.

"Alex [Lockwood] filmed this isolation and the desperation I was feeling and to some extent still do. It's true to life, unfortunately.

"I almost forgot it was me [on the screen] because Alex told the story so well. It's a brilliant piece of work. He reflected reality."

The cows are now being cared for by Hillside Animal Sanctuary in Norfolk

Mr Wilde, who is looking after 17 remaining cows at his farm, was approached by Mr Lockwood, last year, about making the film, but expected it to be another routine interview.

However, after he saw it at the Raindance festival last year for the first time, he realised the director had done a "wonderful job".

The rescued cows have been enjoying their new lives at Hillside Animal Sanctuary near Frettenham, Mr Wilde added.

He is trying to get planning permission to build polytunnels on his land to grow organic produce and hopes the farm can become a "vegan destination" with a bed and breakfast facility, in the near future.

Jay Wilde said Alex Lockwood's film "got the most emotional response" when the films were shown at a Bafta screening

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-derbyshire-47195537

ruby Posted on February 11, 2019 12:17

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A40 crash in London leaves two dead after police chase

Two people were killed in a car that drove down the wrong side of the road and hit a coach following a lengthy police pursuit in west London.

The man and woman died on the A40 in Acton, at about 21:00 GMT on Sunday.

A second man was hurt in the crash, which took place after the pursuit began seven miles away in Harrow after reports of an aggravated burglary.

The Met Police said its officers did not follow when the car went down the wrong side of the A40.

Fire and ambulance crews, along with the police helicopter, were called in and roads in the area - near the A40's junction with Kingsdown Avenue - were closed.

Transport for London said the roads reopened in both directions at 07:45.

The crash happened about 20 minutes after the police pursuit began in Harrow

A police helicopter was called in to help with the pursuit

"It wasn't like a normal car accident," eyewitness Antoine Eid, 47, said, adding that there was "no chance" of the coach slowing down before the crash.

"I've never seen something like that."

The second man was later taken to hospital for treatment, although the extent of his injuries have not been confirmed.

There were no reports of any other serious injuries, the Met said.

The Directorate of Professional Standards and the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) have been informed.

IOPC regional director Jonathan Green said: "My thoughts are with the families and friends of the two people who have died, those injured and all those affected by this incident.

"It is important that we now establish all of the circumstances surrounding this collision.

"We have therefore launched an independent investigation into the events leading to the collision and have immediately deployed our investigators to attend the scene and the post incident procedure where further information will be gathered."

Residents described hearing the aftermath of the crash which left two people dead

The coach was being hoisted up onto a tow truck at about 06:15 to be taken away from the crash scene.

Highways workers could be seen clearing the road of the glass and debris which had come from the collision.

Residents who live just off the A40 told me about hearing the crash, the aftermath and a helicopter hovering above.

One person said the car had hit the railings and then went into the coach after driving on the wrong side of the road.

The IOPC is investigating four deaths in separate incidents involving police vehicles, within four days of each other, in January.

There were 29 police-related fatalities on the roads in 2017-18, of which 17 were "pursuit-related", according to the IOPC.

Eight involved police vehicles responding to emergency calls.

Five deaths involved police vehicles hitting pedestrians while responding to an emergency call and one pedestrian death related to a pursuit.

In the previous year, 2016-17, there were 32 fatalities on the roads involving the police. Of those, 28 related to pursuits and none involved police responding to emergency calls.

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-london-47194056

ruby Posted on February 11, 2019 12:01

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The Albanian bunkers built in the midst of the Cold War

During the uncertain years of the Cold War, when nations prepared for the prospect of a devastating nuclear war, Albania's dictator Enver Hoxha convinced the country that the outside world wished to overthrow their communist state.

Rather than produce technological deterrents, bunkers were mass produced. Hackman's book, called Metamorphosis, shows the bunkers as they appear today.

Hackman says: "Concrete fabrication factories in every municipality began constructing bunkers 24 hours a day, every day of the year from 1976 until 1989.

"One labourer that I interviewed told me that the factory he worked in rotated in three shifts of eight hours each. Each shift made different parts so that no one person knew the exact constructional details of the bunkers they were building.

"Another, a field engineer responsible for erecting the bunkers, informed me that he worked 10 hours a day, every day for eight years.

"When asked if he ever questioned the perceived threat and the need for the bunkers, he replied that they were regularly given false air raid alarms to condition their thoughts."

"The majority of the Albanians view the bunkers as a hindrance and an obstacle, but rarely ever an eyesore.

"There are just so many that they have become accustomed to their presence, much the same as a Londoner with red telephone boxes or New Yorkers with yellow cabs.

"They have become a part of their lives woven into the fabric of their environment."

"A farmer showed me an infantry bunker with a small section of its side removed to make way for a path.

"What looked like a small amount of labour, had actually taken him and his brother three days to remove with a jackhammer.

"Higher up the hill was another bunker holding his TV antenna and housing his pigs."

Metamorphosis by Robert Hackman is published by Dewi Lewis.

https://www.bbc.com/news/in-pictures-47157127

ruby Posted on February 11, 2019 11:26

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When parents sue their children for support

Abu Taher says his son was always a "good kid".

For years, Mr Taher ran a small clothing shop in Chittagong, Bangladesh. He retired with little money and became reliant on his son and daughter for financial support.

"My wife and I had to go through a lot of hardship to raise our son," Mr Taher says. "But after he got married, he changed and stopped caring about his parents."

Despite help from his daughter, Mr Taher struggled. The 75-year-old says he had no choice but to pursue legal action against his son, Mohammad Shahjahan, for maintenance.

"It was a hard decision for me. Everybody was telling me to file a case for a long time, but I did not want to. I filed the case when there was no other way."

His son rejects the allegations. The pair have been estranged for decades but Mr Shahjahan, who works as a banker, says he did support his parents. He says his father brought the case "to disgrace him".

Parent v child

It's the kind of family breakdown that could happen anywhere but the remedy Mr Taher sought isn't universal.

He filed a case under Bangladesh's Parents Maintenance Act, a statute that provides recourse for parents against their children who fail to support them.

Many US states and parts of Europe also have so-called filial support laws on the books but they're rarely enforced.

But in Asia they are sometimes used.

Emory University health services researcher Dr Ray Serrano has analysed the various laws in Asia, which are rooted in the concept of filial piety, or respect for one's elderly relatives.

He describes the laws as an "extension of alimony or child support" in societies that prize family and communal values.

Duty to support

Elderly parents who can't support themselves can seek financial aid from their children under the country's Maintenance of Parents Act.

They can file claims in cases where children are capable of supporting them, but fail to do so.

A tribunal may award a monthly allowance or lump sum. Maintenance awards can also be granted through conciliation.

Few cases make it to the tribunal as many are resolved through conciliation. In 2017, only 20 cases at the Tribunal for Maintenance (TMP) resulted in a maintenance award.

China, India and Bangladesh have similar systems, which have developed over recent years in part to meet the demands of ageing populations. Dr Serrano says it's the idea of "reciprocity".

"If you are a (grown-up) child and not living with your parents you should at least provide for them."

Children face fines and even imprisonment in some circumstances.

Take a recent case from China's Sichuan province. Five adults were reportedly sentenced to up to two years in jail for abandoning their elderly father, after a court found they hadn't fulfilled their filial duties.

The role of the state

The laws typically focus on elderly poverty and not longer-term care.

But as societies grow older, they could offer a tool to take pressure off the state.

The World Health Organization says by 2020, the number of people aged 60 years and older will outnumber children aged under five.

And in 2050, about 80% of older people will be living in low and middle-income countries.

Dr Serrano says systems like that in Singapore may act as a "stick that nudges people" to take care of ageing parents.

Still, it's a policy shift that would be met with resistance in countries like the US and the UK. Harvard academic James Sabin says it's unlikely laws like these would ever gain traction in the US.

The professor leads the department of population medicine and psychiatry, and says the US is at the "other extreme" to a more community-minded nation like Singapore.

"We're as a society relatively unlikely to trample on the rights of individuals," he says.

He also points to potential dangers in cases where a child argues a parent isn't deserving of care.

"Some people will say, 'my parents neglected me, my parents abused me'… the opposite of a Confucian reverence for the older generation," Prof Sabin says.

"I don't think we want to be depending on the court for these social-psychological judgements."

But for Mr Taher, the system in Bangladesh offered welcome help.

He struck a deal with his son out of court. Mr Shahjahan has agreed to pay 10,000 taka ($119; £92) to his father each month.

So far he has honoured the deal and Mr Taher says if his son keeps paying, he will withdraw the case from the local court in Chittagong.

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-45636236

ruby Posted on February 11, 2019 10:41

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Hungary tries for baby boom with tax breaks and loan forgiveness

Hungarian women with four children or more will be exempted for life from paying income tax, the prime minister has said, unveiling plans designed to boost the number of babies being born.

It was a way of defending Hungary's future without depending on immigration, Viktor Orban said.

The right-wing nationalist particularly opposes immigration by Muslims.

Hungary's population is falling by 32,000 a year, and women there have fewer children than the EU average.

As part of the measures, young couples will be offered interest-free loans of 10 million forint ($36,000), to be cancelled once they have three children.

Mr Orban said that "for the West", the answer to falling birth rates in Europe was immigration: "For every missing child there should be one coming in and then the numbers will be fine.

"Hungarian people think differently," he said. "We do not need numbers. We need Hungarian children."

?

Orban has taken a hard line on immigration, often clashing with his European counterparts

While Mr Orban was delivering his state of the nation address, the latest demonstrations were being held in Budapest against his government's policies.

About 2,000 people gathered in front of his office and others blocked one of the main bridges across the Danube river.Correspondents say the biggest applause during his speech was for his announcement of a seven-point plan to increase the fertility rate.

  • Mr Orban finished his speech with: "Long live Hungary and long live the Hungarians!"

The average number of children a Hungarian woman will have in her lifetime (fertility rate) is 1.45. This puts the country below the EU average of 1.58.

France has the highest fertility rate in the EU - 1.96 - and Spain the lowest at 1.33.

Niger in West Africa has the highest fertility rate in the world, with 7.24 children per woman.

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https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-47192612

ruby Posted on February 11, 2019 10:36

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A toxic crisis in America’s coal country

In the shadow of some of America's most controversial coal mines, where companies use huge amounts of explosives to blow the tops off mountains, isolated communities say their water has been poisoned.

Now, they must decide if they will fight back against an industry they have relied upon for generations.

Casey (not her real name) wears a one-dollar wedding ring now. She bought the blue plastic band after her original ring was ruined by the toxic water that has been pumping into her home for more than a decade.

"I just needed something there," she says, as she holds the replacement ring up to the light. "I felt empty without it." She places her original wedding band, now discoloured and corroded, in her palm. Her skin, especially on her hands, has become coarse and sore.

The taps in her house have been worn down, her washing machine frequently stops working, and her bathroom and kitchen have been stained a deep, bloody orange by the pollutants - iron, sulphur, even arsenic - that have seeped into her home's water supply.

This is Appalachia - the heart of America's coal country. It is home to some of the poorest and most isolated communities in the US and the legacy of mining, be it the abandoned processing plants or the scarred landscape, can be seen dotted alongside its vast highways.

Casey's home is a small, double-berth structure with a wooden porch in southern West Virginia, in a place with very patchy mobile phone reception.

She pours a glass of water from her kitchen tap and lets it rest on a table. It has a strange smell and a sticky texture and within minutes begins to turn dark orange. A layer of black sediment soon sinks to the bottom of the glass.

"This is what we have to live with," Casey says. "We don't bathe in the water and we don't cook with it. It stains our fingernails, our knuckles, and our clothes. It's really, really difficult living like this."

Casey and her husband Jack (not his real name), have two young children and drive for more than an hour to stock up on bottled water to drink and cook with. So who do they hold responsible?

"I've been here all my life, but when the surface [coal] mine came in that's when the water started changing," says Jack, who, despite being a miner himself, believes the industry is accountable for his family's water problems.

"I think if they've done wrong they should have to fix it."

A sample of water taken from Casey's home

At the sprawling mine in the neighbouring valley, millions of pounds of explosives are being detonated on the mountaintops so that coal, buried deep below the surface, can be excavated.

This process is a type of surface mining known as mountaintop removal, and has drawn the ire not only of nearby residents but environmental groups who say it devastates the landscape and pollutes the waterways.

One study estimates that an area the size of the state of Delaware has been flattened by this type of coal mining, which was first practiced in the 1970s.

Another report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that more than 2,000 miles of streams - a distance longer than the Mississippi river - have been buried by the excess rock and soil (known as overburden) that is dumped after the explosions.

Explosives are detonated at a surface mining operation in the Appalachian Mountains

And in a part of the world where many people rely on their own wells to get water, rather than a conventional pipeline, any pollution from mining waste can have devastating consequences.

These private wells are essentially unregulated, so it is up to people like Casey and Jack to determine whether their water has been contaminated. But the complex nature of water pollution means many people are completely unaware of what's coming out of their taps.

"When you dump a lot of overburden into the valley, and start covering up streams, you have water sources that end up travelling through the [waste] material,' says Professor Michael McCawley, an environmental engineer who has spent time researching the health impacts of mountaintop removal.

"It's kind of like dumping geological trash," he explains. "It ends up increasing the concentration of acidic irons and metals [in the water], things like arsenic and nickel."

This pollution, according to his research, has taken a major toll on the health of those whose water supply lies in its path.

"This population is under assault from both water and air," Professor McCawley says. "What we're finding in the water is likely to cause inflammation in the body, which can set off a lot of other chronic diseases.

"The big [problems] we have found are certainly cancers. Name a cancer and they're seeing it here."

When asked about cancer rates, Casey reels off a list of people living nearby who have been recently diagnosed. "Oh Lord everybody has been getting it," she says. "It's scary."

Waste rock from a mountaintop removal mine seen dumped in Wyoming County

Dr Wesley Lafferty, who is based in nearby Boone County, believes a number of health problems are being exacerbated by mining waste.

"We get all kinds of symptoms," he told Human Rights Watch last year. "Rashes, restrictive airway disease, dermatitis, generic skin disease.

"I definitely feel there is an environmental component to that."

In a valley not far from the home of Casey and Jack, and sitting within earshot of the same mine they say has caused their water contamination, Jason Walker is describing many of the same problems.

"My water was drinkable and clear before the mountaintop removal started," he says. "But then it got worse. It smelt like rotten eggs and the colour of my sinks, faucets [taps], all my laundry, turned orange."

He then had his water tested and was warned that it was so toxic that, if he washed his clothes in it, there was a risk that direct sunlight could actually set them on fire.

Jason Walker next to the stream near his home in West Virginia

Jason now cooks with bottled water, but he has been collecting water from a nearby stream and treating it with swimming pool chemicals to supply his house.

Last winter, after a spell of severe cold weather, he used an axe to cut through more than five inches (12.7cm) of ice to access the stream water. But when the pipes he was using to collect it froze over he had to go without.

"I'm getting a new well drilled for $4,000 [£3,088] to keep myself from doing that again, even though I don't know how good the water will be," he says. "I took a loan out against our property to pay for it. It's a huge gamble.

"My grandfather was a coal miner, my dad was a coal miner, but if the mines tear something up I think they should replace it.

"I want more regulations that actually help the little person and not the big person."

Jason shows the iron waste that has accumulated around his water filtration system

In a telephone interview with the BBC, a spokesman for the company that owns the surface mine in Wyoming County said that it operated under state regulations and with a valid permit.

"We view ourselves as pretty good neighbours and if somebody has an issue then we would address it," said the spokesman for CM Energy, which took over the mine in 2017.

When presented with the complaints of nearby residents, the spokesman declined to take responsibility and said the water contamination could have been caused by a number of different issues.

"If we thought we were responsible then we would step up and try and do something about it," the spokesman said. "If there's something that our company can do to facilitate working with politicians and the local community then we would participate."

Coal miners are a powerful player during elections in West Virginia

The mine's previous owner, Dynamic Energy, did not respond to a request for comment.

That company is facing a lawsuit from a number of residents - including Casey and Jack - who are seeking compensation for the costs of dealing with their water issues.

It won a similar lawsuit a few years ago, and Jason, who was part of that legal battle, said it left the entire community divided between those who supported the coal industry and those who wanted to fight back.

"There's a lady down the street here who wouldn't join the lawsuit," he says. "She hasn't spoken to me in almost two years because of it. They were scared it would mean losing jobs."

Casey understands their concerns. "It's how people make their living and support their families," she says. "If you don't work in the coal mines you either flip burgers or you have to move out of state and do something else."

But her husband Jack says it wasn't a difficult decision to join the latest legal action - even if he is a coal miner.

"The only thing I really care about is getting fresh water the way it was when I was growing up around here," he says. "I ain't worried about the money. I just want clean water."

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-47165522

ruby Posted on February 11, 2019 10:28

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'We seized our island back from the navy'

Last year, a flotilla of 40 fishing boats set sail from northern Sri Lanka with a mission to seize back their island from navy occupation. The BBC's Ayeshea Perera reports the extraordinary story of how they did this without any bloodshed.

On 23 April, a peculiar sight would have greeted a casual observer standing on the coast of northern Sri Lanka's mainland, near the village of Iranamata Nagar. They would have seen Catholic priests, women, fishermen, local journalists and civil rights activists crowding onto dozens of tiny motorboats bedecked with white flags and setting determined sail for the island of Iranaitivu.

Their mission: to reclaim the island, their home for many generations and occupied by the Sri Lankan navy for 25 years.

Iranaitivu is really made up of two linked islands - Periyathivu and Sinnathivu. It lies in the Gulf of Mannar, between the southernmost tip of India and the north of Sri Lanka.

It is very much an idyllic paradise.

Aquamarine waters so clear that the fish swimming in it are visible to the naked eye, starfish on unspoiled golden beaches lined with swaying coconut palm fronds, waters so shallow and calm that you can walk about half a kilometre in without it ever reaching your knees… the beauty is almost unreal.

The islanders were displaced more than 25 years ago

Iranaitivu's people say they were displaced in 1992 by the navy, who built a base there during the height of the civil war between government forces and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). They are not alone - thousands of families in Northern Sri Lanka accuse the military of having occupied their lands during the war.

The villagers, who are Tamil, say they were forcibly settled on the mainland in Iranamata Nagar, between the cities of Jaffna and Mannar. They say they have not been allowed to return to the island since. The navy denies this.

Many of those on the boats were women. They told the BBC that they had been "scared" at the thought of potentially confronting armed naval officers, but were determined to do so in any case.

"At the most we expected that we would get some striking footage of a face-off between the naval vessels and our fleet of tiny boats which would help us generate more awareness for the community's struggle," said Fr Jeyabalan, one of the priests present on the day.

But to their surprise, there was no stand-off.

A patrol vessel usually docked at the island had been moved to deeper waters, and no other naval ship was visible. The villagers were able to land their boats on the island and walk ashore.

"We were crying, we kissed the beaches. We were home once more and we were never going to leave," said local community leader Shamin Bonivas.

The group walked over to the dilapidated remains of the island's church to offer prayer.

It was only then, they say, that some of the naval officers stationed on the island approached. The people informed the officers that they had returned, and were there to stay. The local school teacher produced a file where he had meticulously stored all their land deeds.

Fr Jeyabalan says that after some discussion the navy agreed to let those with the deeds stay on the island for the night, while the others left in the evening. The group spent the day meandering on the beaches, visiting the compounds where their houses once stood and picking coconuts and other fruit from the trees.

A few even ventured into the shallow waters around the island where they were able to easily find fish and prized sea cucumber, which are in high demand in China and elsewhere.

Some villagers set off to recapture some of the cattle they had been forced to abandon, but soon came running back. The cattle were now wild and would not tolerate their former owners' clumsy attempts to reclaim them.

The island's waters are home to plenty of marine life

A month later, government officials who visited Iranaitivu decided to allow the entire village of some 400 families - even those without land titles - to stay. It was an unexpected and heartening victory, but one that went largely unmarked apart from a few articles in the local media.

Everyone in the community can barely believe they have their land back and still cannot explain why the navy let them first land, and then stay on.

The Sri Lankan navy insists that it had never objected to the people of Iranaitivu living on the island after the navy base was built.

The people themselves made the decision to leave "because of troubles with the LTTE and poor habitable conditions", spokesman Lieutenant Commander Isuru Suriyabandara told the BBC.

But community leaders say that is untrue.

They say that they were not allowed to live on their island despite numerous appeals to various government officials, petitions, and even a peaceful protest on the beach lasting nearly a year.

Documents seen by the BBC also show that various officials, including former chief minister of the Northern Province C Wigneswaran, and the chargé d'affaires of the EU delegation to Sri Lanka, Paul Godfrey, had written to the central government, calling the people of Iranaitivu "displaced" and asking that they be allowed to return to the island.

The villagers could not believe that their daring return led to successful resettlement

It has been 10 months since the people of Iranaitivu returned, and the struggle of how they are trying to put their lives back together is clearly visible.

Thatched temporary huts stand next to the remains of hollowed out concrete shells that were once homes. Crude fishing nets are hung out to dry, and people cook on open wood fires with basic implements.

The only signs of modernity are mobile phones, which are charged with tiny solar-powered batteries donated by a well-wisher.

But the signs of development are also there. A few of the old wells have been cleaned up, tiny paths have been cut through the heavy, overgrown brush, and people have begun growing vegetables to supplement their income from fishing. When the BBC visited, the men were busy repairing the church on the smaller island of Sinnativu.

Many of the villagers travel back and forth between the island and their homes in the village of Iranamata Nagar, staying on the mainland for a few days at a time before returning. The island's school remains in a state of disrepair and so children can't go to school there.

Since coming back the villagers say that, despite the hardships, their lives are better.

The navy built this jetty for the community

Doras Pradeepan, who is a leader of the community's fishing cooperative, says that there is much better fishing closer to the island. Now that they can dock their boats there, they spend much less on fuel.

Another woman, Pakiam Kaannikkai, said that after returning to Iranaitivu she was able to earn 70,000 rupees ($380 ;£300) in just two months thanks to the abundance of fish, crab and sea cucumber around the island.

Villagers live alongside the navy, which says it is in "the national interest" to keep the base there. Iranaitivu, the spokesman said, is an important strategic location to target smugglers and Indian fishermen who illegally cross into Sri Lankan waters.

But the two sides are co-existing peacefully for now, with the navy actively helping people resettle on the island.

The navy has reconstructed the church on the larger island of Periyathivu, provided fresh water supplies to villagers and is building new infrastructure, including pathways.

Locals told the BBC that navy personnel also provide them with machinery and spare parts.

But while the people of Iranaitivu have been able to craft themselves a happy ending of sorts, their struggle to get their land back is depressingly familiar.

Life on the island is a struggle, but people say they are happier

It has been almost 10 years since the war ended with the defeat of the Tamil Tigers in May 2009. But the military still occupies 4,241 acres of private land in former conflict areas, according to Sri Lanka's Secretariat for Coordinating Reconciliation Mechanisms (SCRM).

The military cites both security concerns and strategic importance as reasons for their reluctance to move out.

Several other civilian agitations, including a 700-day protest in front of an army camp in the northern district of Mullaitivu, are still underway.

So will the success of the Iranaitivu villagers' bold action provide a template for other communities who have been displaced due to military occupation?

Human rights activist Ruki Fernando says it will, though he cautioned that the type of action would depend on the context and the type of community involved.

"If politicians, officials and other institutions don't deliver justice, and especially if there is no response to complaints, appeals, negotiations or protests, communities have the right to consider non-violent direct action to claim what's rightfully theirs, as the Iranaitivu community did," he said.

On the island, the real work is just beginning. Locals say they need significant government help to help them develop the island further. A ferry between Iranamata Nagar and the island has been promised, but they still need to renovate their homes, the local school and the roads around the island. The youth of the island also dream of living there one day.

"Yes we will all return there. This is the home of our ancestors. It is the dream of every single one of us to be buried there," Mr Bonivas said.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-46957015

ruby Posted on February 11, 2019 10:24

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BTS: K-pop idols make first historic Grammy appearance

BTS has made history by becoming the first K-pop group to present at the Grammy Awards.

The group, which was also nominated for an award, presented the Best R&B album to new Grammy winner H.E.R.

The seven band members said that they had always dreamed about "being on the Grammy stage" adding that they would "be back".

They also paid homage to their country, wearing tuxedos designed by South Korean designers.

According to Vogue, JayBaek Couture designed custom suits for Jungkook, Jin, Jimin, Suga, V and RM, while J-Hope's suit was designed by Kim Seo Ryong - something that did not go unnoticed.

The boys also rolled up to the event in a Hyundai - a South Korean car manufacturer.

The hashtag #TearItUpBTS also began trending when the boy band arrived at the awards show.

They also started trending in South Korea and were one of the top 20 searches on Naver, one of South Korea's largest search engines.

BTS has managed to conquer the US

Their fellow celebrities at the Grammys also gave them a shout out.

Anna Kendrick, who was sat next to the band, jokingly said that she would provide them with "a snack or whatever".

BTS' 2018 album "Love Yourself: Tear" was nominated in the category of best recording package but did not win.

The hugely popular K-pop group - one of few that have managed to break into the West- are considered one of the most successful acts of the South Korean music industry.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-47194222

ruby Posted on February 11, 2019 10:22

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Hakeem al-Araibi: Thailand frees refugee footballer

A football player and refugee whose detention in Thailand sparked an outcry has been freed from jail after Bahrain withdrew its extradition request.

Hakeem Al-Araibi, who is a Bahraini citizen, fled to Australia in 2014 and was granted political asylum.

He was detained in Bangkok in November on an Interpol notice requested by Bahrain. He had travelled to the Thai capital on honeymoon.

He was sentenced in absentia to 10 years for vandalising a police station.

Al-Araibi, 25, denies the charges and human rights activists say he could face torture if sent back to Bahrain. He has been a vocal critic of Bahraini authorities.

His case has been taken up by high-profile footballers, with stars including Didier Drogba and Jamie Vardy calling for his release. The Australian government, Fifa and the International Olympic Committee all lobbied Thailand

Thailand's Office of the Attorney General (OAG) asked the court to end proceedings against Al-Araibi because Bahrain had said it no longer wanted him, officials told BBC Thai on Monday.

"This morning the Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed us that Bahrain was no longer interested in this request," OAG foreign office chief Chatchom Akapin said.

Al-Araibi is expected to leave Thailand on Monday evening for Australia.

Thailand's foreign minister was in Bahrain over the weekend for an official visit and met with senior leaders.

Craig Foster, a former Australian national football captain and TV host who spearheaded the campaign to free Hakeem, said there were "tears" in his household "right now".

Al-Araibi plays for Pascoe Vale FC in Melbourne.

Last month, his wife told the BBC that extradition would put him in danger.

"I'm calling on every country to help Hakeem because I know if he gets taken back he will be tortured, and he will be killed," she said.

But Bahrain said al-Araibi had been sentenced by an independent judiciary "on charges involving serious violence and criminality, unrelated to any possible freedom of opinion/expression issues".

It said his safety would be "guaranteed" if he returned to Bahrain to appeal against the sentence.

Hakeem's arrest caused an outcry in Australia

Human rights activists in Bahrain lauded Monday's news.

"This is a huge victory for the human rights movement in Bahrain, Thailand and Australia, and even the whole world," said Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei of the London-based campaign group the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy.

"Hakeem's ordeal ended after 70 days when there was a clear public stance and solidarity movement. The football community, the human rights movement and all of those who dedicated their time and efforts to end this injustice were rewarded."

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-47196696

ruby Posted on February 11, 2019 10:16

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Iran revolution: 'I wore a hijab and head-banged to Nirvana'

On my first day of school in Iran we walked down a poorly-lit corridor. I was holding my mother's hand and crying. She was crying too. On my head I had a black hood, known as a maghnaeh, covering my hair. I was six years old and terrified. This was nothing like my kindergarten in Los Angeles.

I was born in the summer of 1979 in California, a few months after Iran's Islamic Revolution; my mother was in her early 20s and my grandmother was 50.

Millions of Iranian women took part in the revolution, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the men, but soon afterwards the tide turned against them. Some of the basic rights women had won during the regime of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi were revoked immediately.

The Family Protection Act, which had given women the right to divorce, was nullified and a mandatory dress code requiring all women to wear the hijab was introduced.

The uprising against the shah and the revolution had scattered our family across the world.

I moved back to Iran with my parents in 1984, right in the middle of the eight-year war with neighbouring Iraq and one of the most ideologically rigid periods in the country's recent history.

Iranian Revolution: Why what happened in Iran 40 years ago matters

The dress code for women was strict; bright colours, lipstick, nail varnish or showing a strand of hair could get you arrested.

"I think the hardest thing for me was the hijab. I could never accept it," my mother says. "I never followed the strict dress code dictated by the state. I tried hard to have my own style."

My grandmother also struggled with the changes when she returned to Iran from the UK a few years after the revolution.

"I felt like I had moved to a completely different country, it was nothing like before," she recalls.

'Nothing like my school days'

Every morning before class we lined up in the schoolyard, raised our tiny fists in the air and repeated the words of our headmistress, who shouted into a megaphone: "Death to America! Death to Iraq and Saddam Hussein! Death to England!"

"The first day I took you to school I was shocked and disappointed," my mother says.

Feranak, aged 6, wearing a hijab in her ID card photo

It was quite different from her own time as a young girl in Iran. My mother attended a school founded by French Christian missionaries, where the girls wore cute uniforms, played sports and music, sang and danced.

"The environment of your school was depressing and sad," she says. "It was nothing like the playful environment I remembered from my school days."

My grandmother was part of the first generation of girls who attended public schools in Iran in the 1930s. Until then most attempts to open up girls schools had failed due to fierce opposition by the clergy, who believed they would become dens of indecency.

"I was fond of school. It was fun and I can't remember anything unpleasant about it," my grandmother says.

Under the shah religion was a private matter. After the revolution, religion became part of the public sphere.

You were encouraged to show your devotion to Islam as a sign of allegiance to the regime. Women had to dress more modestly, men grew beards and people prayed in work places out of fear of being branded anti-revolutionary. The state controlled the most private aspects of our lives.

Living a double life

At schools, teachers were told to quiz students about their private lives.

We were asked whether our parents drank alcohol, listened to music, owned a video player, played cards, danced or took off their hijabs at mixed-gender family parties; all acts prohibited by law.

As a teenager, Feranak listened to Western rock music despite it being banned in Iran

Most of our parents encouraged us to lie and I started to learn how to live a double life.

I wore the hijab to class and head-banged to Nirvana in my bedroom at home. I shouted "Death to America!" at school and bought Guns N' Roses cassettes from underground music dealers.

Growing up under the shah my mother had more social freedom.

"I could choose what I wanted to wear, the music I wanted to listen to and so forth, but there were still many limitations for women," she recalls.

Forty years ago, Iranian TV's woman newscaster was not required to cover her hair

My mother married when she was 17, which was not uncommon even under the shah. Women were still expected to conform to rigid social norms and the gender gap in the workforce was wide. Yet the winds of change were blowing.

"The shah was trying to change things and make society more modern," says my mother.

My grandmother grew up in an affluent family and was exposed to Western culture, but she was still very much bound to tradition.

She was married off after school and went on to have six children. She also didn't have many choices in her life. Marriage and motherhood were just about all a woman could do.Feranak says her life has been quite different from that experienced by most Iranian women

Compared to my mother and grandmother I have had more choices in life; I got a university degree, emigrated alone when I was 30, lived with my partner for four years, and got married at 35. But this is not the life experience of an average Iranian woman.

Officials say more than 50% of university students are women and that they are postponing marriage until their late 20s. But women make up only 19% of the workforce. Most women still have little choice but to get married and become housewives.

Female representation in parliament is only 6% and women have next to no rights in marriage. Strict gender roles are propagated by state-run media and women are told that their place is at home with their children.

Four decades after the revolution, it is hard to say whether Iranian women have made any real progress. One thing is clear: for every step forward there have been a few steps back, but the setbacks have never discouraged women to push ahead.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-47087076

ruby Posted on February 11, 2019 10:13

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Signs of alcohol withdrawal syndrome

Alcohol withdrawal syndrome is the group of symptoms that can develop when someone with alcohol use disorder suddenly stops drinking.

Alcohol use disorder was formerly known as alcohol addiction or alcoholism. If a person regularly drinks too much alcohol, their body may become dependent on the substance.

Alcohol is a depressant. Alcohol use disorder or drinking heavily over an extended period can change a person's brain chemistry due to the continued exposure to the chemicals in alcohol.

Chronic alcohol use can cause complex changes in their brain, including to the neurotransmitters dopamine and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which affect excitement and a person's sense of reward.

The production of these neurotransmitters is affected when a person stops or significantly reduces alcohol intake. The brain has to readjust, which leads to withdrawal symptoms.

Symptoms

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include nausea, anxiety, and a fast heart rate.

People with alcohol withdrawal syndrome can have a wide variety of symptoms, depending on how much alcohol they drank, their body type, sex, age, and any underlying medical conditions.

Common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome include:

Less frequently, people can develop severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Severe symptoms are called delirium tremens or DTs.

Symptoms of DTs include:

  • severe tremors
  • elevated blood pressure
  • hallucinations, usually visual
  • extreme disorientation
  • seizures
  • raised body temperature

The DTs can be life-threatening. In extreme cases, the brain can have problems regulating breathing and circulation.

Drastic changes in blood pressure and heart rate can also develop, which may lead to a stroke or heart attack.

Alcohol withdrawal syndrome vs. a hangover

While some of the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome are similar to a hangover, they are not the same condition. Alcohol withdrawal syndrome and a hangover have different causes.

A hangover occurs when a person drinks too much alcohol at one time. Alcohol withdrawal syndrome occurs when a person with alcohol use disorder stops or suddenly decreases their alcohol intake.

Too much alcohol can irritate the stomach lining, cause dehydration, and lead to an inflammatory response in the body. As the alcohol wears off, these effects lead to common hangover symptoms, such as headache, nausea, and fatigue.

Alcohol withdrawal syndrome is different. If a person has alcohol use disorder, their body gets used to a certain amount of alcohol in their system.

The continued use of alcohol causes changes in the central nervous system and neurotransmitter production in the brain. When the supply of alcohol is suddenly stopped or decreased, withdrawal symptoms can develop.

When to see a doctor

It is important to detox from alcohol under the supervision of a doctor.

Anyone that thinks they are dependent on alcohol should consider speaking to a doctor.

Alcohol use disorder can lead to various physical and mental health conditions. However, treatment is available and can be highly effective.

For those trying to detox from alcohol, it is vital to do so under the supervision of a doctor, as the withdrawal symptoms may be severe.

Diagnosis

A doctor can often diagnose alcohol withdrawal syndrome by taking a person's medical history and doing a physical exam.

The doctor may ask for evidence that there has been a decrease in alcohol use after regular heavy use.

They may also do a blood test called a toxicology screen to measure the amount of alcohol in a person's system. Blood tests and imaging tests can show if organs, such as the liver, have been affected by a person's intake of alcohol.

Treatment

Treatment options for alcohol withdrawal syndrome typically involve supportive care to ease the effect of the symptoms.

Doctors usually use a type of drug called benzodiazepines to reduce alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Heavy alcohol use also depletes the body of vital electrolytes and vitamins, such as folatemagnesium, and thiamine. So, treatment may also include electrolyte corrections and multivitamin fluids.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine has goals for detoxification from alcohol or drugs. The purpose of treating alcohol use disorder is to:

  • Make the withdrawal process safe for the person and help them live alcohol-free.
  • Protect a person's dignity during the withdrawal process and treat them humanely.
  • Prepare a person for ongoing treatment for alcohol dependence.

Detox process

Drinking in moderation is the best way to prevent alcohol withdrawal syndrome.

When a person is detoxing from alcohol, the symptoms may begin anywhere from 6 hours to a few days after their last drink.

Symptoms may gradually worsen over the course of 2 or 3 days.

Most symptoms reduce after about 5 days. In some cases, mild symptoms can continue for several weeks. Although some people choose to detox at home, it is safer to seek help when detoxing.

Symptoms can become severe, and it can be difficult to predict which people will develop life-threatening symptoms.

Anyone who is having severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome, such as seizures, hallucinations, or prolonged vomiting needs immediate medical treatment.

People with severe symptoms remain in the hospital for part or all of the detox process so a doctor can closely monitor their blood pressure, breathing, and heart rate and provide medications to ease the process.

Prevention

The most effective way to prevent alcohol withdrawal syndrome is to avoid drinking or drinking only in moderation.

Moderate drinking is officially defined as 1 drink or less per day for women and 2 drinks or less per day for men. However, if a person already has alcohol use disorder, they can help prevent some of the withdrawal symptoms by speaking to a doctor about safe withdrawal.

Risk factors for alcohol use disorder include a family history of problems with alcohol, depressionand other mental health conditions, and genetic factors.

For those who think they may have alcohol use disorder or may be dependent on alcohol, seeking help is essential.

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322373.php?sr

sarah Posted on February 11, 2019 10:07

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What is a Gleason score?

Most people who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer will want to know their outlook and treatment plan quickly. The Gleason score plays a major role in deciding both these things.

When a doctor diagnoses prostate cancer, a biopsy of the cancer cells in the prostate will be done. Afterward, the Gleason score will be used to help explain the results.

The Gleason score is also used to determine how aggressive the cancer is and what the best course of treatment will be.

What is it?

The Gleason score measures the progress of a cancer cell from normal to tumorous.

The Gleason score is a grading system devised in the 1960s by a pathologist called Donald Gleason.

Gleason worked out that cancerous cells fall into five differentt patterns, as they change from normal cells to tumorous cells. As a result, he determined they could be scored on a scale of 1 to 5.

The cells that score a 1 or 2 are considered to be low-grade tumor cells. These tend to look similar to normal cells.

Cells closest to 5 are considered high-grade. In comparison to the lower grade cells, they have mutated so much that they no longer look like normal cells.

How is the Gleason score worked out?

The Gleason score is determined by the results of the biopsy.

During a biopsy, the doctor takes tissue samples from different areas of the prostate. Several samples are taken, as cancer is not always present in all parts of the prostate.

After examining the samples under a microscope, the doctor finds the two areas that have the most cancer cells. The Gleason score is assigned to each of these areas, separately. Each is given a score of between 1 and 5. These are then added together to give a combined score, often referred to as the Gleason sum.

In most cases, the Gleason score is based on the two areas described above that make up most of the cancerous tissue.

However, there are some exceptions to the way scores are worked out.

When a biopsy sample has either a lot of high-grade cancer cells or shows three different types of grades, the Gleason score is modified to reflect how aggressive the cancer is deemed to be.

Results: What do they mean?

When a doctor tells a person what their Gleason score is, it will be between 2 and 10. Although it is not always the case, the higher the score, the more aggressive the cancer tends to be. Typically, lower scores indicate less aggressive cancers.

In most cases, scores range between 6 and 10. Biopsy samples that score 1 or 2 are not used very often because they are not usually the predominant areas of cancer.

A Gleason score of 6 is usually the lowest score possible. Prostate cancer with a score of 6 is described as well-differentiated or low-grade. This means the cancer is more likely to grow and spread slowly.

Scores between 8 and 10 are referred to as poorly differentiated or high-grade. In these cases, the cancer is likely to spread and grow quickly. Scores of 9 and 10 are twice as likely to grow and spread quickly as a score of 8.

In the case of a score of 7, the results could be one of two ways:

  • 3 + 4 = 7
  • 4 + 3 = 7

This distinction indicates how aggressive the tumor is. Scores of 3 + 4 typically have a good outlook. A score of 4 + 3 is more likely to grow and spread compared to the 3 + 4 score, but it is less likely to grow and spread than a score of 8.

In some cases, a person may receive multiple Gleason scores. This is because the grade may vary between samples within the same tumor or between two or more tumors. In these cases, the doctor is likely to use the highest score as the guide for treatment.

Other ways to measure prostate cancer

The Gleason scale is very important for doctors when they decide the best treatment options. However, there are some additional factors and groupings to assist them.

Some additional considerations include:

There are other factors which help determine the treatment plan for prostate cancer, including blood PSA levels and biopsy results.

  • results of a rectal exam
  • the blood PSA level of the individual
  • the results of imaging tests
  • the number of biopsy samples that contain cancer
  • whether the cancer has spread beyond the prostate
  • how much of each tissue sample is made up of cancer
  • whether cancer is found on both sides of the prostate

More recently, researchers have determined additional groupings, called grade groups. These grade groups help address some of the problems with the Gleason system.

Currently, the lowest Gleason score that is given is a 6. In theory, however, the Gleason grades range from 2 to 10.

The lowest reported score of a 6 leads some people to think their cancer is in the middle of the grade scale. As a result, they are more likely to worry and to want treatment right away.

As described above, the Gleason scores are most often divided into only three groups: 6, 7, and 8-10.

These groupings are not entirely accurate since the Gleason score of 7 is made up of two grades, 3+4 and 4+3. Within this group, a 4+3 is a worse outlook than a 3+4.

Similarly, Gleason scores of 9 or 10 have a worse outlook than a Gleason score of 8, despite being in the same group.

The newer groupings are more understandable for the individual being treated and more accurate in terms of outlook and treatment.

The following is a breakdown of the new groups. A score of 1 is considered best and a score of 5 is considered worst.

  • grade group 1 = Gleason 6 (or less)
  • grade group 2 = Gleason 3+4=7
  • grade group 3 = Gleason 4+3=7
  • grade group 4 = Gleason 8
  • grade group 5 = Gleason 9-10

Effect on treatment

The Gleason score and similar groupings help a doctor give an outlook and treatment plan to an individual. This information and other factors are then used together to guide the treatment decisions.

For lower Gleason scores, treatment is likely to consist of:

  • active surveillance, where someone's age and overall health help determine when their cancer is treated
  • radical prostatectomy surgery to remove the prostate
  • radiation therapy

For higher Gleason scores and more advanced stages of cancer, treatment may consist of a combination of the following:

More advanced cancers may be treated with surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy.

  • radical prostatectomy
  • brachytherapy only
  • external beam radiation only
  • brachytherapy and external beam radiation
  • involvement in a clinical trial of newer treatments
  • active surveillance
  • chemotherapy
  • hormone therapy
  • surgery to treat symptoms of the cancer

Brachytherapy is a form of radiation therapy, where radiation is administered to the prostate by placing small radioactive seeds directly into the prostate. It is also referred to as internal radiation therapy.

External beam radiation involves the use of a machine that focuses beams of radiation onto the prostate from outside of the body.

People with prostate cancer will be able to discuss their treatment options with their doctor to decide the best ones for them.

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/317608.php?sr

sarah Posted on February 11, 2019 10:03

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Goldman Sachs' role in the 1MDB scandal - in 300 words

The 1MDB corruption scandal has cast a shadow over Goldman Sachs, raising questions about how much the US investment bank knew about the misconduct.

What is Goldman accused of?

The firm helped raise $6.5bn (£5bn) for the Malaysian development fund, advising on three bond offerings in 2012 and 2013.

Prosecutors allege more than $2.7bn was later embezzled, used to bribe government officials and buy luxury items.

In November, Goldman's lead banker on the deals, Tim Leissner, pleaded guilty in US court to participating in the bribery and money laundering schemes.

Malaysia's attorney general then charged Goldman with helping to "dishonestly misappropriate" money from the fund.

He noted that the $600m Goldman earned for its work was "several times higher" than industry norms.

The firm remains under investigation in the other countries, including the US, and is also facing lawsuits from investors.

What does Goldman say?

Goldman says the Malaysia charges are "misdirected".

It says the firm's compliance officers were deceived about aspects of the deal, including the role of Malaysian financier Jho Low, whom the bank had previously rejected as a client.

Tim Leissner, the former chairman of Goldman Sachs' South East Asia operation, is married to model and fashion designer Kimora Lee Simmons

But news reports have described the firm's former chief executive, Lloyd Blankfein, meeting Mr Low and former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Mr Leissner, Goldman's South East Asia chairman until he left the firm in 2016, has said the decision to hide information from Goldman's compliance officers was "very much in line" with company culture.

What penalties could Goldman face?

Malaysian authorities are seeking fines of more than $3bn.

Goldman has warned investors of the risk of "significant" penalties and increased the money set aside for legal liabilities to $1.8bn.

As its legal costs surge, it has also said it will withhold millions due to some of its top executives, including Mr Blankfein, pending the outcome of the probes.

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-47148641

ruby Posted on February 11, 2019 09:59

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Can drinking alcohol lead to prostate cancer?

Some scientists have identified possible links between alcohol intake and the risk of prostate cancer. However, more research is necessary to determine how drinking alcohol and prostate cancer might correlate.

The prostate is part of the male reproductive system, and it sits just below the bladder. It surrounds the urethra, which is a tube that carries urine out of the body, and helps make semen.

Other than skin cancerprostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the United States.

In this article, we cover the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of prostate cancer and consider its possible links with alcohol consumption.

Can alcohol cause prostate cancer?

There is no known link between alcohol and prostate cancer.

According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, there is no direct link between drinking alcohol and an increased risk of prostate cancer.

Similarly, the American Cancer Society do not list alcohol as one of the known risk factors for prostate cancer.

2016 review concluded that men who consume alcohol might have a higher risk of developing the disease than those who abstain, with the risk increasing in line with alcohol intake. However, the review included data from men reporting on their own consumption, which may not be reliable.

The results of a 2018 study indicate that there is a link between a person's alcohol consumption earlier in life and their risk of developing prostate cancer at a later date. However, this study, which recruited men requiring a prostate biopsy, found no link between current alcohol consumption and prostate cancer risk.

In both of these studies, the researchers highlighted the need for further investigation into the effect of alcohol on prostate cancer risk.

Can alcohol affect the symptoms of prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is unlikely to cause symptoms until a later stage. Screening is a valuable tool that doctors can use to spot the initial signs of disease in people with risk factors.

Occasionally, a person will experience symptoms, which may include:

  • needing to urinate more often than usual, especially at night
  • difficulty urinating
  • pain or a burning feeling when passing urine
  • blood in the urine or semen
  • difficulty achieving an erection
  • pain when ejaculating
  • pain or stiffness in the rectum, lower back, hips, or pelvis

Drinking a lot of alcohol can make a person urinate more than usual and have difficulty achieving an erection. It is possible that people might mistake both of these symptoms for early symptoms of prostate cancer.

Should you drink if you have prostate cancer?

Maintaining a healthful lifestyle can help aid successful treatment.

Staying healthy helps with any cancertreatment. Eating a healthful diet, doing regular exercise, and taking time to relax and unwind is essential. Being healthy includes drinking in moderation.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020 define drinking in moderation as up to one drink per day for women and two per day for men.

Alcohol can sometimes interact with medication and stop it from working or cause side effects. People who are taking medication as part of their treatment for prostate cancer may wish to seek advice on whether it is safe for them to drink alcohol.

It is usually safe for people having treatment with radiation therapy to drink a small amount of alcohol. However, radiation therapy often causes tiredness, and alcohol can also make a person feel weary. Radiation therapy can cause a sensitive stomach too, and alcohol or spicy foods may worsen this symptom.

Causes of prostate cancer and risk factors

Research has linked several risk factors to prostate cancer. Some of these tie in with a person's environment while others relate to their genetics or individual characteristics. Risk factors may include:

  • age, with a significant increase in risk after 50 years of age
  • race, as African-Americans and Caribbean males of African ancestry are most at risk
  • a family history of prostate cancer
  • being overweight or obese

It is not clear what causes prostate cancer, and researchers are particularly unsure why some racial groups are more at risk than others.

Changes, or mutations, in the DNA in prostate gland cells can cause them to become cancerous. Mutations can pass from a parent to their child, or they can occur during a person's lifetime.

Diagnosis

Men who are 55 years of age or older may wish to consider having a screening test for prostate cancer.

Screening is when a person undergoes a test for cancer before any symptoms occur, and healthcare professionals usually offer it to people who have a higher risk of the disease.

The screening test for prostate cancer is known as a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test.

The test measures the amount of PSA in the blood. PSA is a protein that the prostate makes, and higher levels can suggest a problem with prostate health that may require further tests.

Tests that doctors use to diagnose prostate cancer after a PSA test can include a biopsy with a Gleason score.

A biopsy involves removing a small piece of tissue from the prostate gland and examining it under a microscope to look for cancer cells. A doctor may use ultrasound or imaging to locate the part of the tissue that they want to remove.

If the biopsy reveals cancer, a Gleason score gives doctors an idea of how likely it is to spread. The score is a number between two and 10. A lower score indicates that cancer is less likely to spread from the prostate.

Doctors may also check for signs of cancer inside the body using ultrasound. They may ask the individual questions about their family medical history and any symptoms to diagnose prostate cancer.

Treatment

Healthcare providers may recommend surgery to treat prostate cancer.

The treatment for prostate cancer will depend on the individual and the extent of disease progression.

Prostate cancer that has not spread beyond the prostate gland may not need treatment.

If doctors find cancer early, it is often very treatable. However, a person will need regular tests so doctors can check that cancer has not spread.

Doctors refer to this close monitoring as active surveillance, and the tests usually include PSA tests, biopsies, and physical examinations.

If cancer cells have spread beyond the prostate gland, a person is likely to need treatment.

A common treatment for prostate cancer is radiation therapy, in which specialists direct beams of intense energy similar to X-rays at cancer cells. This energy kills the cells or slows down their growth.

A surgical procedure called prostatectomy is a further treatment option when the removal of the prostate gland is necessary. Radical prostatectomy removes both the prostate and the surrounding tissue.

Staging and survival rates

If doctors can catch prostate cancer early, it usually responds well to treatment.

Staging is a system that helps doctors determine how far cancer has spread in the body. There are three tiers of staging for prostate cancer:

  • local, when cancer cells are only present in the prostate
  • regional, meaning that cancer cells have spread to nearby areas of the body
  • distant, in cases where cancer cells have spread throughout the body

Survival rates are an approximate measure that can give a person some information about how likely their treatment is to be successful.

A 5-year relative survival rate denotes the percentage of people who live for at least 5 years after diagnosis compared with people who do not have this condition. Although information collection on survival rates takes place at the 5-year mark, it is possible that many people will live for much longer than this.

The 5-year relative survival rate for prostate cancer at the local and regional stage is nearly 100 percent, while it is around 29 percent at the distant stage. However, it is vital to remember that survival rates are an estimate and that everyone is different.

Takeaway

Scientists still need to carry out more research on the potential links between alcohol consumption and prostate cancer risk. However, it is possible that heavy drinking increases a person's risk of developing the disease.

For people with prostate cancer, drinking in moderation is generally safe. However, alcohol may interact with medication or other treatments, so people should seek medical advice to check that drinking alcohol will not be harmful to them.

Making some lifestyle changes can help a person live well while having treatment for prostate cancer. These changes may include reducing alcohol intake, doing more exercise, and eating a healthful diet.

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323894.php?sr

sarah Posted on February 11, 2019 09:59

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'I stole £30,000 from my mum to make millions'

The BBC's weekly The Boss series profiles different business leaders from around the world. This week we speak to serial technology entrepreneur Andrew Michael.

When Andrew Michael was 17 he gambled on changing his life by spending £30,000 on his mother's credit card without her knowledge.

In 1997 he was living at home with his mum in Cheltenham, in the west of England, when he spotted a business opportunity.

Wanting to set up his own website with a school friend, the self-confessed "computer boffin" realised that very few of the existing web-hosting companies were aimed at small businesses or members of the public.

"All of the web-hosting companies in the UK at the time were pitched at much bigger companies," says Andrew, now 39. "But we saw that small businesses and individuals wanted something self-service and easy to use."

Image 

The success of Andrew's first business made him very rich

So he and his friend decided to fill the gap in the market, and set up their own web-hosting company called Fasthosts.

"We had the computers we needed in my bedroom at Mum's house, and we had created the software ourselves," says Andrew.

"But what we really needed was a high-speed internet connection, which in those days involved digging up the road. It cost about 30 grand, but we had no money."

Thinking he had no other option, Andrew swiped his mother's credit card and ordered the internet upgrade. "We kind of blagged it over the phone," he says.

Also booking some magazine adverts - and explaining away the big new computer modem - the gamble was that the business would earn enough in its first month to pay off the credit card bill when it arrived.

Amazingly it worked. "By the end of the month we had enough clients and money to pay for the internet line and the advertising," says Andrew.

And just as importantly, his mother forgave him for the subterfuge.

Andrew runs his latest business, Bark, with co-founder Kai Feller

While his friend went off to university, Andrew cancelled his own plans for higher education to focus full-time on growing Fasthosts instead.

He ended up selling it nine years later for £61.5m. Aged only 26 at the time, his 75% share of the business meant that he pocketed £46m.

Two years later Andrew set up a cloud storage firm called Livedrive, which he subsequently sold for an undisclosed sum also believed to be tens of millions.

While both businesses proved successful, Andrew also made newspaper headlines for throwing lavish, no-expense spared parties.

His work Christmas parties at Fasthosts were reported to have included performances by the likes of girlbands Girls Aloud and Sugababes, plus rockers The Darkness, and chat show host Jonathan Ross as the compère.

And he admits that he once paid for US R&B singer Usher to perform at a girlfriend's birthday party.

"I love a party, I love entertaining people," he says. "And I don't do things by halves."

Andrew spent a fortune flying US singer Usher to the UK to perform at a girlfriend's party.

Born in Cyprus but raised in Cheltenham, Andrew thinks he inherited his business drive and focus from his father.

"My father came over from Cyprus, and was very much a small business man," he says.

"Like many Cypriots, he opened up fish and chip shops and cafés, and so some of my childhood was spent driving around those sites, collecting takings, and discussing business ideas.

"From a very young age I had a trading, money-making, get-up-and-go mentality."

Looking back on how he expanded Fasthosts, he says that he was "laser focused", and that "nothing else mattered".

While the sale of the business in 2006 made him very rich, he says it also left him feeling unfulfilled.

"I remember being in the office when the money came into my bank account, and I thought it would make me really happy," he says.mage captiolying US singer Usher to the UK to perform at a girlfriend's party

"But I actually had a sinking feeling, as I walked through the office and realised I'd sold it all, that it all came down to a number on a spreadsheet."

Andrew met many stars and idols in his 20s, including Sir Richard Branson

As a result, Andrew admits he "got bored and probably drank and ate too much" for a while. Keen to get back into business he launched Livedrive two years later.

Unfortunately the company initially struggled in a crowded marketplace.

"We found that lots of other people had had the same idea at the same time, so just advertising wasn't working," he says. "It was my first experience of potential failure, and I was worried I was going to be a one-hit wonder."

And so it might have turned out, if it wasn't for a night in the pub.

"I ended up becoming quite friendly with someone from [electronics retailer] Dixons, who I met on a night out with a mutual friend," says Andrew. "We then started working with them."

Dixons decided to help Livedrive to develop its product, and then to bundle it with laptops and tablets that it sold.

"It was a smash hit," says Andrew. "And we went on to replicate the model with other retailers. Eventually the business became bigger than Fasthosts."

Following the sale of Livedrive in 2014, Andrew's latest business is Bark, a website that allows people to book local service professionals, everything from a plumber to a guitar teacher, dog walker or personal trainer.

Bark allows people to hire everything from plumbers to guitar teachers

Independent technology analyst Chris Green says: "Fasthosts was a classic example of the bedroom computer innovation that the UK was so good at in the 80s and 90s.

"Not only was it an instant success for a 17-year-old Andrew Michael, but it also simplified the process of registering domain names and accessing web hosting for many.

"Meanwhile, Livedrive was unquestionably a pioneer in the personal and small business cloud storage and backup market."

Looking ahead, Andrew says he still has plenty of ambition.

"I'm the sort of person that the more I have, the more I want. And even though my first two businesses did well, I don't class myself as wildly successful."

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-47156317

ruby Posted on February 11, 2019 09:55

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Colorectal cancer: Scientists halt growth with cannabinoid compounds

Scientists have identified several cannabinoid compounds that could potentially treat colorectal cancer.

Cannabis compounds may help in the fight against colorectal cancer.

A team at Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine in Hershey tested hundreds of cannabinoids on various types of human colorectal cancer cells in the laboratory.

Of these, 10 synthetic cannabinoids showed the ability to stop cancer cell growth. The well-known cannabis compounds tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) showed negligible ability to do the same.

The researchers see their findings as a starting point for further studies to better understand the anticancer effects that they observed, and to evaluate the compounds' potential for drug development.

They report their results in a paper that features in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.

"Now that we've identified the compounds that we think have this activity," says senior study author Prof. Kent E. Vrana, who is chair of the Department of Pharmacology, "we can take these compounds and start trying to alter them to make them more potent against cancer cells."

"And then, eventually, we can explore the potential for using these compounds to develop drugs for treating cancer," he adds.

Colorectal cancer and cannabinoids

According to the World Cancer Research Fund, colorectal cancer is the "third most common cancer worldwide."

This is also the case in the United States, where a national surveillance program has estimated that colorectal cancer accounted for 8.1 percent of all new cancer incidences in 2018.

For several decades, overall rates of colorectal cancer diagnoses and deaths have been falling steadily in the U.S. Experts attribute this largely to changes in risk factors, more widespread screening, and better treatments.

However, this overall decline masks an opposite trend in that rates and deaths to colorectal cancer are rising among those of 50 years of age and under. The reasons for this remain unclear, although some suggest that obesity, changes in diet, and an increase in sedentary lifestyles may be involved.

Cannabinoids is a term that scientists use to refer to a large group of compounds that mostly exert their effect through cannabinoid receptors.

There are three main categories of cannabinoids. Phytocannabinoids are those that occur naturally in the cannabis, or marijuana, plant; endocannabinoids are those that arise within the body; while synthetic cannabinoids are those that scientists create in the laboratory.

Research on the medical uses of cannabinoids has tended to focus on the treatment of pain and conditions such as anxiety and depression.

However, more recently, scientists have shown growing interest in the potential anticancer effects of cannabinoids.

Study focused on synthetic cannabinoids

For the recent study, the researchers chose to investigate synthetic cannabinoids. From a "library of 370 molecules," they identified 10 synthetic cannabinoids that "inhibited cell viability" in seven types of colorectal cancer cells that came from human tumors.

Prof. Vrana explains that cancer can arise in cells in several different ways. "Each of the seven cells we tested," he says, "had a different cause or mutation that led to the cancer, even though they were all colon cells."

To screen the library of candidates, he and his team first cultured the cancer cells for 8 hours and then treated them with one of the compounds for another 48 hours.

If a compound showed signs of being able to reduce viability in one type of colorectal cancer cell, the researchers then tested it on the six other types.

After further tests and analyses, they whittled the number down to 10 compounds.

"Here, we demonstrated that 10 synthetic compounds are highly efficacious and moderately potent for reducing the viability of seven [colorectal cancer] cell lines," note the authors.

For the sake of comparison, they also ran tests on the two well-known phytocannabinoids THC and CBD. However, these showed a negligible ability to limit colorectal cancer cell viability.

The 10 compounds belong to three different classes of synthetic cannabinoid. The classes have many similarities, but they also have some small differences.

Prof. Vrana says there is a need for further research to understand better how the compounds work, and how to make them more potent and effective against colorectal cancer.

"We know how one of them works," Prof. Vrana notes," "which is by inhibiting the division of cells in general."

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324399.php

sarah Posted on February 11, 2019 09:51

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Seattle struggles with unusually heavy snow

Parts of the US Pacific Northwest are being covered with unusually high levels of snow.

The region, more used to rain than icy conditions, has been hit by a series of wintry storm systems.

The National Weather Service says parts of Seattle have received more than 10.6in (27cm) of snow so far this February - the highest amount in 70 years.

Forecasters have warned of more to come on Sunday and Monday.

In the city's Gas Works Park, it was not just sledges being ridden.

A giant inflatable unicorn pool floor carried several people down the steep hill

Hundreds of flights have been cancelled at Washington's Seattle-Tacoma and Portland International airports in recent days.

A boy is photographed sledding in the city's Phinney Ridge neighbourhood

The neighbourhood's snow-covered roads were transformed by some residents into a wintry playground

Washington's Governor, Jay Inslee, declared an emergency across the state on Friday.

He has encouraged residents to stay off the roads. Seattle police have been trying to house the city's homeless in shelters.

Despite conditions, notoriously resilient US postal service workers remained out in Seattle on Friday

About 50,000 residents are said to have lost power across the state, US media report.

More central areas of Washington state have been inundated with snow drifts of up to 3-4ft (1m-1.2m) in places, the Associated Press reports.

More used to rain, residents have been scrambling for winter materials

Seattle's grocery stores have been photographed scarce in essentials

Recent cold weather and snow has been affecting other states too.

More than 120 people were rescued on Thursday from a Sierra Nevada, California, resort after being trapped by snow for five days. Sprinklings of snowfall have even been reported in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Because of how unprepared Seattle was for recent weather, some have jokingly labelled the recent storms as Seattle's "Snowpocalypse" or "Snowmageddon" on social media.

Residents from elsewhere in the state, and further afield in the US, have been mocking them for not being able to cope with conditions.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-47189161

ruby Posted on February 11, 2019 09:44

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Democrat Amy Klobuchar announces presidential bid

Snow was falling when US senator Amy Klobuchar announced her candidacy

Minnesota Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar has announced she is running for president in the 2020 election.

Ms Klobuchar, a former prosecutor, said she was running for "everyone who wanted their work recognised".

She won praise for grilling Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and attorney general nominee William Barr during recent confirmation hearings.

The 58-year-old enters an increasingly crowded field of Democrats competing to challenge President Donald Trump.

Ms Klobuchar called on people to join her "home-grown" campaign, saying, "I don't have a political machine. I don't come from money. But what I do have is this: I have grit.

A record total of five women have so far entered the race for the presidency - these also include Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Tulsi Gabbard, and Kirsten Gillibrand.

On her first full day of presidential campaigning, Ms Warren - a senator from Massachusetts - told supporters: "By the time we get to 2020, Donald Trump may not even be president. In fact, he may not even be a free person."

Who is Amy Klobuchar?

After working as a lawyer in a private firm, she became chief prosecutor for Hennepin, Minnesota's most populous county, in 1998.

Eight years later, she was elected to the Senate to represent Minnesota.

Ms Klobuchar has long prided herself in her bipartisanship; on being able to, as she wrote in her 2015 memoir, "disagree without being disagreeable".

"Courage is about whether or not you're willing to stand next to someone you don't always agree with for the betterment of this country," she wrote.

It is this approach that has given her a reputation for being "Minnesota nice" - but it also, in her early years, reportedly earned her the unflattering nickname "Cotton Candy Amy" in some circles.

The dark horse candidate

Her kick-off rally looked like a scene out of the Disney film Frozen, with a snow-covered crowd gathered near the banks of an icy river. Amy Klobuchar's newly announced presidential campaign, however, could generate some heat in 2020.

She may not have the same level of name recognition as recent and future entrants into the race, but the three-term Minnesota senator has shown the ability to win votes in the kind of Midwestern battleground state that Donald Trump appealed to in 2016.

She offers a steady, sensible political outlook that could attract the majority of Democratic voters who are more interested in electability than ideological purity.

Her buzz has been dampened a bit by recent allegations that she has been abusive toward her staff, but she may try to turn the criticism into a strength.

"I have high expectations for the people that work for me," she told NBC News after her speech, "but I have high expectations for this country."

Ms Klobuchar has become a fashionable pick as a "dark horse" candidate. It wouldn't be a shock if she has a good showing in the neighbouring-state Iowa caucuses and rides that momentum deep into the primary season.

After years under the radar, the former prosecutor went viral last September for her tense exchange with Justice Brett Kavanaugh over his history of drinking.

In January this year, she proved that this frank interrogation style was not a one-off when she grilled President Trump's attorney general nominee Mr Barr about obstruction of justice allegations.

Meanwhile, former employees of Ms Klobuchar have disputed her "Minnesota nice" image too, telling the Huffington Post that at least three potential campaign managers have withdrawn over her treatment of staff.

Klobuchar asks Barr about obstruction

What are her views?

In an age when political views are condensed into 280 characters and measured in retweets, Ms Klobuchar's reputation for working away in the background could help her stand out.

She was able to turn 43 Trump-voting Minnesota counties over to her side in last year's mid-term elections.

But her bipartisan approach may not stand her in such good stead in a party now dominated by the progressive left.

For example, while she has publicly spoken out against President Trump's immigration and border policies, she has not voiced her support for the movement to abolish US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Two of her opponents, Kirsten Gillibrand and Ms Warren, have openly called for the agency to be dismantled, while Ms Harris has said it needs to be "critically re-examined".

She has also avoided supporting Bernie Sanders' single-payer healthcare bill, known commonly as Medicare for All, preferring to back a "sensible transition" instead.

Many on the left also feel that her education reforms, which push for universities in the US to be more affordable, do not go far enough.

Ms Harris, and likely opponent Mr Sanders, both support making college tuition almost entirely free.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-46976304#

ruby Posted on February 11, 2019 09:36

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Iranian women - before and after the Islamic Revolution

Studying at Tehran University in 1977: While many women were already in higher education at the time of the revolution, the subsequent years saw a marked increase in the number attending university. This was in part because the authorities managed to convince conservative families living in rural areas to allow their daughters to study away from home.

"They tried to stop women from attending university, but there was such a backlash they had to allow them to return," says Baroness Haleh Afshar, a professor of women's studies at the University of York who grew up in Iran in the 1960s.

"Some educated people left Iran, and the authorities realised in order to run the country they needed to educate both men and women."

Window shopping in Tehran in 1976: Before the revolution, many women wore Western-style clothes, including tight-fitting jeans, miniskirts and short-sleeved tops. "The shoes haven't changed - and the passion for shoes is in all of us! Women in Iran are no different from women the world over, and going shopping is just a means for women to get away from every day stress," says Prof Afshar.

Friday picnic in Tehran in 1976: Families and friends tend to get together on Fridays, which are weekend days in Iran. "Picnics are an important part of Iranian culture and are very popular amongst the middle classes. This has not changed since the revolution. The difference is, nowadays, men and women sitting together are much more self-aware and show more restraint in their interactions," says Prof Afshar.

Hair salon in Tehran in 1977: "This is a scene you would no longer expect to see in Iran - but even after the Islamic Revolution, hairdressers continued to exist," says Prof Afshar. "Nowadays you wouldn't see a man inside the hairdressers - and women would know to cover up their hair as soon as they walked out the door. Some people may also operate secret salons in their own homes where men and women can mix."

Bodyguards surround the shah in 1971: A young woman approaches Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (far right) at a huge party marking the 2,500th anniversary of the Persian monarchy - the extravagance of the event was widely condemned by his left-wing and clerical opponents. "By this time, the shah was already very much disliked and some believe this image of excess and indulgence may have contributed to events leading up to the revolution eight years later," Prof Afshar explains.

Walking down a snowy street in Tehran in 1976: "You cannot stop women walking in the streets of Iran, but you wouldn't see this today - her earrings and make up so clearly on show," Prof Afshar says. "There is this concept of 'decency' in Iran - so nowadays women walking in the streets are likely to wear a coat down to her knees and a scarf."

Women rally against the hijab in 1979: Soon after taking power, Iran's new Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini decreed that all women had to wear the veil - regardless of religion or nationality. On 8 March - International Women's Day - thousands of women from all walks of life turned out to protest against the law.

Protest outside the US embassy in Tehran in 1979: Revolutionary students took dozens of US embassy staff hostage while thousands of anti-US demonstrators surrounded the compound.

"At this time it was normal to see different types of people allied in their absolute hatred of America in Iran," says Prof Afshar. "The Americans and the British have a long history in Iran of attempting to both influence and take over oil in Iran, so this deep-rooted mistrust of the US and UK goes back a long way."

Family heads to Friday prayers in 1980: "Friday prayers are a time for people who are believers or supporters of the Islamic authorities who don't want to be labelled as dissidents to go out and get together - it's a moment of solidarity," says Prof Afshar. "But they are still very much within the male domain. The woman would not be allowed into the same room as the men - they would sit in a separate area for prayer, away from the men."

Wedding dress shopping in Tehran in 1986: "The wedding dresses on display are all western - Iranian women will essentially wear what they want as long as it's behind closed doors," Prof Afshar explains. "Weddings and parties are supposed to be segregated, so it doesn't matter what you wear if there are only female guests present. But there are mixed-sex parties that do still go on - some people hire bouncers to watch the door, others pay the local police to turn a blind eye."

Walking in Tehran in 2005: Not all women in Iran opt to wear the black chador, a cloak that covers the body from head to toe and only leaves the face exposed. Some prefer to wear loosely fitted headscarves and coats. "The real question is how far back do you push your scarf? Women have their own small acts of resistance and often try as far as possible to push their scarves back," says Prof Afshar.

Caspian Sea beach in 2005: Iranian women are forbidden from bathing in public wearing swimsuits. "Men and women aren't supposed to swim together - but they find ways around this by renting boats to take them far out into the sea, where they can swim side-by-side," says Prof Afshar.

Pro-hijab rally in Tehran in 2006: More than 25 years after the revolution, women backing the hardliners in the establishment staged their own rallies to protest against what they saw as the authorities' failure to enforce the compulsory hijab law. Here, the women are all dressed in black chadors with the exception of a little girl.

Watching football from a Tehran shopping centre in 2008: Though women were never officially banned from watching men's football matches in Iran, they are often refused entry to stadiums and some of those who have tried have been detained. Before the revolution, women were allowed to attend sporting events.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-47032829

ruby Posted on February 08, 2019 17:31

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Tasman Glacier: Huge ice chunks break off New Zealand glacier

Huge chunks of ice have broken off the Tasman Glacier, New Zealand's largest.

They have filled up at least a quarter of the meltwater lake at the foot of the glacier in the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, reports say.

The lake started to form in the 1970s as the glacier rapidly retreated - a phenomenon thought to have been largely caused by global warming.

One guide says the chunks resemble huge skyscrapers lying on their side in the water.

"We've got skyscraper-size icebergs floating around on the lake," Glacier Kayaking owner Charlie Hobbs told Radio New Zealand.

Content is not available

The chunks filled about a quarter of the glacier's meltwater lake

Another two local guides were alerted to the event early on Wednesday morning.

The falling ice chunks led to some "chaos" on the water, Anthony Harris, a guide at Southern Alps Guiding, told the stuff New Zealand website.

A tidal surge up to two metres (6.5ft) high damaged a lake jetty and lifted a boat trailer upside down onto another trailer, Mr Harris said.

"All in all, this is the most significant event I've seen in the last five years on the Tasman."

Large calving events - when ice chunks break off from the edge of the glacier - are said to happen about once every two years

New Zealand glaciologist Heather Purdie says large calving events - when ice chunks break off from the edge of the glacier - happen about once every two years on the glacier, and is not necessarily the result of global warming.

But the fact the glacier, located on New Zealand's South Island, has been retreating and becoming smaller over the last few years is attributable to warming, she told the stuff website.

The ice chunks breaking off are caused by glacial ice above the water melting, putting pressure on the ice underneath the water.

"The water gets in underneath the ice and sort of jacks it up, and it snaps off.

"Large calving events are less frequent, but the icebergs that come up are really big."

 

 

ruby Posted on February 08, 2019 17:05

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Thailand's king condemns bid by sister to become PM

Thailand's King Vajiralongkorn has denounced as "inappropriate" his sister's unprecedented bid to run for prime minister.

In a palace statement, he said such an act would "defy the nation's culture".

Princess Ubolratana Mahidol, 67, has been nominated as a candidate for a party allied to divisive former PM Thaksin Shinawatra.

Such a move would break with the tradition of the Thai royal family publicly staying out of politics.

Thailand's election is due to take place on 24 March.

It is being closely watched as the first chance for Thailand to return to democracy after five years under military rule.

In a palace statement read out on all Thai TV networks, the king said: "Even though she has relinquished her royal titles in writing, she maintained her status and carried herself as a member of the Chakri dynasty.

"Involvement of a high-ranking member of the royal family in politics, in whatever way, is considered an act that defies the nation's traditions, customs, and culture, and therefore is considered extremely inappropriate."

He cited a passage of the constitution that says the monarchy should maintain political neutrality.

King Vajiralongkorn says the princess retains her status as a member of the royal family

Hours earlier, Princess Ubolratana defended her decision to run for office.

In an Instagram post, she reiterated that she had relinquished all her royal titles and now lived as a commoner.

She said she wanted to exercise her rights as an ordinary citizen by offering her candidacy for prime minister. She said she would work with all sincerity and determination for the prosperity of all Thais.

Who is Princess Ubolratana Mahidol?

Born in 1951, Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi is the oldest child of Thailand's beloved late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. He died in 2016.

She attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and after marrying an American in 1972 she gave up her royal title. After her divorce she returned to Thailand in 2001 and once again started participating in royal life.

The princess engages actively in social media and has also starred in several Thai movies.

She has three children, one of whom died in the 2004 tsunami. The other two now also live in Thailand.

The princess has registered for the Thai Raksa Chart party, which is closely linked to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-47175604

ruby Posted on February 08, 2019 17:01

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The weapons making nuclear war more likely

The threat of nuclear war fills people with fear. Yet the increasingly blurred line between nuclear and conventional weapons is heightening the danger.

Nuclear and non-nuclear weapons have never been entirely separate from each other.

The B-29 bomber, for example, was designed and built to deliver conventional bombs. But on 6 August 1945 one of these aircraft, Enola Gay, dropped a nuclear weapon on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.

Seventy-four years later, nine countries now possess thousands of nuclear weapons, which are becoming increasingly entangled with non-nuclear weapons.

The global stockpile of nuclear weapons is down from an all-time high of about 64,000 in 1986 - but some contemporary weapons are about 300 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

Apart from the UK, all nuclear-armed states possess dual-use weapons that can be used to deliver nuclear or conventional warheads.

These include missiles of ever-longer ranges.

Russia, for example, has recently deployed a new ground-launched cruise missile, the 9M729.

The US believes this missile is dual-use and has been tested to distances "well over" 500km (310 miles).

The missile is at the heart of US claims Russia breached the terms of a treaty banning the use of medium- and intermediate-range missiles.

The US has announced its withdrawal from the pact, raising concerns about a new arms race.

China, meanwhile, has recently been showing off its newest missile, the DF-26.

Capable of travelling more than 2,500km (1,553 miles), it appears to be the world's longest range dual-use missile capable of a precision strike.

Military vehicles carry DF-26 missiles during a parade in Beijing

There are a number of scenarios in which such missiles could inadvertently increase the chance of a nuclear war.

The most obvious is that in a conflict, they might be launched with conventional warheads but mistaken for nuclear weapons.

This ambiguity could prompt the adversary to launch an immediate nuclear response.

It is difficult to know whether it would choose this course of action - or wait until the weapons had detonated and it became clear how they were armed.

In practice, the greatest danger with dual-use missiles may lie elsewhere: misidentification before they have even been launched.

Imagine that China dispersed lorry-mounted DF-26 missiles loaded with nuclear warheads around its territory.

The US, wrongly believing them to be conventionally armed, might decide to try to destroy them.

By attacking them, it could inadvertently provoke China into launching those nuclear weapons it still had before they could be destroyed.

Satellite systems

Dual-use missiles are not the only way in which nuclear and non-nuclear weapons are increasingly entangled.

For example, all nuclear forces need a communication system - which could include satellites.

But, increasingly, these nuclear command-and-control systems are also being used to support non-nuclear operations.

The US, for example, operates satellites to provide warning of attacks with nuclear-armed or conventionally armed ballistic missiles.

Russia demonstrates its 9M729 missile

In a conflict between Nato and Russia, these could be used to detect short-range conventional ballistic missiles launched by Russia - as the first step towards shooting them down.

If this strategy was successful, Russia could decide to attack the US early-warning satellites in response.

In fact, the US intelligence community has warned that Russia is developing ground-based laser weapons for that exact purpose.

But blinding US early-warning satellites would not simply undermine its ability to spot conventionally armed missiles.

It would also compromise the ability of the US to detect nuclear-armed ballistic missiles and could raise fears that Russia was planning a nuclear attack on the US.

Indeed, the latest US Nuclear Posture Review - the key official statement of US nuclear policy - explicitly threatens to consider the use of nuclear weapons against any state that attacks its nuclear command-and-control systems.

This threat applies whether or not that state has used nuclear weapons first.

Weapons ban

The governments of nuclear-armed states are presumably aware of the growing entanglement between nuclear and non-nuclear weapons.

They are also aware of at least some of the associated dangers.

However, working to reduce these risks does not seem to be a priority.

The focus remains on enhancing their military capabilities, to deter one another.

One option could be for countries to try to agree a ban on weapons that could threaten nuclear command-and-control satellites.

But for the moment, governments of nuclear-armed states are reluctant to sit around the same table.

As a result, the prospects of such cooperation appear to be bleak.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-47117349

ruby Posted on February 08, 2019 16:56

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'Oldest known elephant in captivity' dies at 88 in India

Dakshayani, thought to be the world's oldest elephant in captivity, has died at the age of 88 in India.

Given the title Gaja Muthassi or elephant granny, Dakshayani took part in temple rituals and processions at the Chengalloor Mahadeva Temple in the southern state of Kerala.

But her vet said the elephant stopped taking food and died on Tuesday.

Keepers started feeding her pineapples and carrots in recent years after she began to have trouble moving around.

She had not taken part in any public event for several years.

The Travancore Devaswom Board, which runs the temple where she lived, says she was the oldest elephant in captivity and estimated her age at 88.

However, the current Guinness World Record holder for oldest elephant in captivity is Lin Wang.

The Asian elephant died at a zoo in Taiwan in 2003 aged 86, and served with the British Army in World War Two.

Another elephant, Indira, died in India's Karnataka state in 2017 and was reportedly aged "between 85 and 90".

The elephant took part in temple rituals and processions

India has more than 2,400 elephants in captivity.

The former Travancore Devaswom Board president told AFP news agency that Dakshayani was well-treated.

"Due to various practical constraints, we could not let her loose, but instead ensured that she had more than enough space to move around," he said.

However conservationists say many elephants suffer in poor conditions.

UK-based group Action for Elephants says around 800 elephants are held in Indian temples, particularly in Kerala state, and live in "generally abysmal living conditions".

 captionIndia's first elephant hospital is run by the charity Wildlife SOS

 

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-47161030

 

 

 

ruby Posted on February 08, 2019 15:18

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Hampi: Four arrested for vandalising India monument

Four men have been arrested for vandalising a Unesco World Heritage site in the southern Indian town of Hampi after a video emerged recently.

In the clip, three of them are seen shoving a pillar, which then toppled and broke apart.

The video went viral earlier in the week and prompted widespread outrage on social media.

Hampi, famous for its 16th century ruins and temples, is a popular tourist spot in India.

In addition to the three men who pushed the pillar, which was located outside a temple, a fourth person who was filming the incident has also been arrested.

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which looks after heritage sites in the country, registered a police complaint on 6 February, a few days after the video surfaced.

However, police are not sure when the incident took place.

"We are investigating this - it could have even occurred a year or two ago," an officer told BBC Hindi's Imran Qureshi.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-47168159

 

ruby Posted on February 08, 2019 15:15

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US-India Farmington university row: 'I fled after fake college raid'

The arrest of 129 Indian students in the US for enrolling in a fake university has sparked questions about how they ended up risking their future to study at a little-known institution. BBC Telugu's Deepthi Bathini reports.

Veeresh (name changed at his request) was at home in California on 30 January when he heard the news - 130 students (the group included one Chinese national) enrolled at the University of Farmington had been arrested. The university had turned out to be a sham run by undercover agents investigating immigration fraud.

He panicked, he says, because he was one of the 600 students who had enrolled at the Michigan-based university.

"I did not know what to believe. I thought it was a rumour but the whole story was out the next day."

He left as soon as he could. He returned to India on 4 February.

Apart from the students, eight alleged recruiters, all Indian citizens, were charged with "conspiracy to commit visa fraud and harbouring aliens for profit," according to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE).

The university's website used stock images of students working

The 'visa mills'

The University of Farmington was set up in 2015 to catch foreign nationals who had travelled to the US on student visas but stayed on by transferring to fake universities and then obtaining work permits through them.

The practice is common enough that US officials refer to such colleges as "visa mills" and the scam as a "pay-to-stay" scheme.

In 2016, immigration agents set up the fake University of Northern New Jersey and arrested 21 people, mostly from China and India.

This time, the sting operation has sparked a minor diplomatic row - with Indian officials saying the students may have been duped. But the US government denies this, saying students knowingly enrolled in a fake institution for the visa benefits.

The US has long been a favoured destination for Indian students - nearly half of those holding two types of student visas in 2017-18 were either from China (377,070) or India (211,703), according to the US government. While increased regulation has made it harder for students to stay on and work, an array of visas still offer opportunities.

But the choice and the paperwork can be bewildering, say consultants, which makes students more vulnerable to fake colleges and recruiters.

The US government has now shut down the university site

'I had no other option'

Veeresh moved to the US in 2014 for a master's degree at the Northwestern Polytechnic University (NPU) in California.He graduated in 2016 but NPU lost its Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) accreditation.

This accreditation makes students eligible for an extended work permit. Without it, Veeresh could have only worked in the US for one year. So he decided to enrol at another university.

He says a friend told him about the University of Farmington and put him in touch with a recruiter, who was among those arrested.

Farmington offered online courses and what is called curricular practical training (CPT). This is an option that allows student visa holders in the US to work full-time while they study. Although several colleges offer this option, it can also be misused by students who wish to work rather than study in the US.

Veeresh enrolled in October 2017 and he received his CPT the following day.

He says he did what he could to verify the college's credentials. He visited the website, which showed pictures of students in classes, libraries or elsewhere on campus; he compared the documents he was given to those belonging to his friends from other colleges.

In 2011, students in Hyderabad protested after California's Tri-Valley University was shut down

"I called the phone numbers on the website to ask about classes. I was told they would let us know when they schedule them," he said. "After six months, I asked a friend to contact the recruiter, who connected us with someone who again told us they would let us know."

He claims not to have suspected anything and so paid the tuition and waited for more than a year for classes to begin.

"I did not have any other option," he says.

Meanwhile, he continued working and applied for a H1B visa, a non-immigrant visa that allows companies in the US to employ skilled foreigners - mostly technology workers - for up to six years. It's allocated by a lottery system and those who hold the visa can apply for permanent residency and buy property in the country.

'I am wearing an ankle monitor'

Twenty-five-year-old Sravanti (name changed on her request), graduated from NPU at the end of 2016. Like Veeresh, she only had a one-year work permit. So she also enrolled in Farmington and got a CPT that enabled her to work in the US.

But unlike Veeresh, she could not leave the US in time. On 30 January, she says, officials from the Department of Homeland Security came to her house n California to question her.

"I am wearing an ankle monitor and I have been advised not to leave the country without informing them," she told the BBC over the phone.

She says she found out about Farmington from a friend who had already enrolled there. But she says that although she paid the tuition, she did not visit the college website or verify any of the information she was given. She was unable to answer why she did not suspect something was amiss when the online courses didn't start.

Sravanti says she has been told she can opt for "voluntary deportation" but that would include a 10-year ban from entering the US. The other option is to wait for the court hearing in March - and hope that a lenient judge could reduce the length of the ban.

"I am very confused. I want to come back to India but my future looks uncertain," she says. "I am at home through the day. I have nothing else to do. And I am running out of money."

She says her parents know the truth and have been very supportive.

The US state department has denied India's claim that students like Veeresh and Sravanti may have been duped.

"All participants in this scheme knew that the University of Farmington had no instructors or classes (neither online nor in-person) and were aware they were committing a crime in an attempt to fraudulently remain in the United States," a spokesperson told the Hindustan Times.

The American dream

Veeresh had taken a loan of 1.5m rupees (£16,300; $21,000) to help pay for his education. The first university cost him $30,000 and Farmington cost him an additional $20,000. He had to borrow money from his friend to buy a ticket to come back home.

He still hasn't told his parents why he returned.

"They think I am on vacation. But the truth is that I have no job and a college loan to pay off. My parents would be devastated if they knew the truth."

His parents are farmers and Veeresh had hoped to help them out by earning an income in dollars, some of which he could send home.

"I am the only son. I wanted to take care of my parents. We do not own land or a house. I wanted to go to America to earn better so that I can buy a house for my family in India."

This dream - of an American job that pays in dollars - is what motivates most students, says Bhaskar Pulinati, founder of Groovy Overseas Education Consultants.

"More than 90% of the students are looking for a path to permanent residency. Very few of them are concerned about the reputation of the university," he adds.

He says that is why many students prefer Canada and Australia, which offer an easier path to becoming a resident. But the US remains a top choice.

The Chilkur temple in Hyderabad is famous for students praying for visas

"For a student, the priority is to go to the US," says Sirisha Singavaram, a consultant based in the southern city of Hyderabad, where the US consulate issues more student visas than anywhere else in India.

"We do get requests from students who desperately want to go and ask if their documents can be 'edited' so they can enrol in a US college but we deny such requests."

She adds that the problem is most students do not understand the application or visa process and end up relying too much on brokers and consultants.

Veeresh, meanwhile, is looking for a job in Hyderabad. But he is still hopeful of returning to the US.

"To achieve my dream of having my own house and to be able to take care of my parents, I want to go back to the US for a few years."

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-47154187

ruby Posted on February 08, 2019 15:11

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Huawei: Tackling security concerns may take five years

It will take three to five years for Huawei to address security issues raised by the UK government, the company has said.

The Chinese firm, which has earmarked $2bn (£1.5bn) for the process, outlined the timetable in a letter to MPs.

Huawei, the world's biggest producer of telecoms equipment, faces allegations that its equipment could pose a security risk, which it denies.

Last year a UK government report highlighted some areas of concern.

WATCH: Huawei: We would close down rather than spy

The letter was sent last week to MPs on the Commons Science and Technology Committee, but made public on Wednesday. In it, Ryan Ding, president of Huawei's carrier business group said the process of adapting its software and engineering processes to meet the UK's requirements was "like replacing components on a high-speed train in motion".

Several governments, including those of France and Germany, are also considering whether to allow the use of Huawei equipment in sensitive infrastructure. Australia and New Zealand have joined the US in banning the use of Huawei products in their 5G mobile networks.

Western countries' fears around Huawei stem partly from China's 2017 National Intelligence Law. It states that Chinese organisations are obliged to "support, cooperate with, and collaborate in, national intelligence work". This has raised fears that Chinese-made equipment could present a security risk particularly if used in the construction of new 5G networks.

Mr Ding said in his letter last week that the company "has never and will never" use its equipment to assist espionage activities.

"Huawei is a closely watched company," he said. "Were Huawei ever to engage in malicious behaviour, it would not go unnoticed - and it would certainly destroy our business."

British authorities have not found any evidence of spying using Huawei equipment.

'Lack of progress'

The US Justice Department has charged Huawei with conspiring to violate US sanctions on Iran and with stealing robotic technology from T-Mobile.

In December, Huawei's chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada at the request of the US.

Last year's UK government report was written by the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre (HCSEC), which was set up in 2010 in response to concerns that BT and others' use of the firm's equipment could pose a threat.

The body is overseen by UK security officials, including ones from spy agency GCHQ.

It said that it was disappointed that there had been a "lack of progress" in tackling previously identified shortcomings.

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-47145685

ruby Posted on February 08, 2019 13:35

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Yanxi Palace: Why China turned against its most popular show

It was one of China's most popular shows of 2018 - but it's now being pulled from TV screens across the country.

The story of Yanxi Palace, a drama about life in imperial China, broke records when it was released last year.

It was streamed more than 15 billion times on China Netflix-like iQiyi and became the most watched online drama in China for 39 consecutive days.

All that changed in late January when a state media article criticised the "negative impact" of imperial dramas, and it wasn't long before Yanxi Palace was taken off air.

So why has this blockbuster show fallen from grace?

'Bad for Chinese society'

It all started when Theory Weekly - a title linked to state newspaper the Beijing Daily - posted an article criticising period dramas and singling out Yanxi Palace in particular.

It listed several "negative impacts" these shows had on Chinese society, like propagating a luxurious and hedonistic lifestyle, encouraging admiration for imperial life and a glorification of emperors overshadowing the heroes of today.

The magazine named several other popular imperial period dramas, like Ruyi's Royal Love in the Palace, Scarlet Heart and The Legend of Mi Yue.

China wants entertainment to always also promote socialist values

Shortly after the piece was published, Yanxi Palace and Ruyi's Royal Love in the Palace were pulled from state-run TV channels.

The shows are, however, still available on iQiyi, the place that Yanxi Palace was initially produced for and was first shown.

Rival versions of history

"It's not the first time something like this has happened," Prof Stanley Rosen, a China specialist at the University of Southern California, told the BBC.

"But I would say the censorship is certainly getting worse.

"Yanxi Palace was seen as promoting incorrect values, commercialism and consumerism; not the socialist core values that Beijing wants to see promoted."

"For those who are overseeing those productions there should always some educational value or some promotion of Chinese cultural values or some sort of historical narrative that matter," explains Manya Koetse, editor-in-chief of What's on Weibo, a website tracking Chinese social media.

Prof Zhu Ying of the Film Academy at Hong Kong's Baptist University told the BBC. "Censors tend to turn a blind eye to entertainment programs of frivolous nature.

"But that's only until they become too popular and threaten social norms, morally and ideologically. Yanxi is a perfect example of such a show."

Given the popularity of Yanxi Palace, the Theory Weekly article unsurprisingly became a widely debated topic on the internet - and with most comments condemning the critique, authorities were as little pleased with the online debate as with the series itself.

One post, by online news website Phoenix, was shared more than 10,000 times and had more than 32,000 comments, Ms Koetse explains. All of those comments have since been blocked and the entire comment section is turned off.

"The fact that most comment sections have been locked/shut down for now is quite telling," she says.

Too successful abroad?

Another problem might have been the attention Yanxi Palace received from international audiences.

"It could be that the show became too popular outside China," says Mr Rosen. "It's a contradiction of wanting to succeed overseas but also wanting to control the message."

Beijing wants Chinese culture to be promoted outside of China but showing the values that the authorities want to see portrayed.

Beijing hopes to control the narrative of how China used to be

So if a show is popular outside China but carries the wrong values, authorities might think it's better to not have it at all.

Beijing is keen to control the narrative of China's past and president.

President Xi Jinping is promoting the idea of the rise of China as peaceful, and that China believes in harmony.

Yanxi Palace, though, paints an image of a China of intrigue and backstabbing.

"It flies in the face of the message that China wants to send about its peaceful rise," Mr Rosen says.

Eager self-censorship

With Yanxi Palace still available online, it's unlikely Beijing will be able to undo whatever perceived damage the series might have done.

But the very public criticism sends a signal to future programmes.

Often, it only takes one person from the political leadership to see the show, dislike it and contact the propaganda department to arrange for a critical article to be written.

Once published, everybody knows the criticism has high level backing; then TV channels will very quickly self-censor and drop whatever show has fallen from grace.

"Historical dramas have been popular in China since the 1990s," says Ms Koetse. "And one of the reasons why is that official censors used to have somewhat different standards for them than for the more contemporary dramas."

"But if the focus of one of those programmes is too much on conspiracy, power struggles and conflict, then I can imagine that this is not the message about Chinese history they want to see."

President Xi Jinping wants the rise of China seen as peaceful

For future projects this means that producers will likely be more careful.

Already, anything done for TV or streaming has to be vetted and approved. And producers will be less likely to plan an elaborate historical drama if there's a chance it will get shot down by the censors.

"And censorship is getting tighter, I would say," Mr Rosen says. "It's not just series or movies, it's also targeting music like rap for instance."

Struggling for soft power

China often stands in its own way when it comes to building up its soft power.

A point in case are the movies it enters into the Oscars foreign movie category.

There've been plenty of strong candidates in recent years but those didn't get picked, says Mr Rosen, likely because they tell a story that Beijing thinks reflects negatively on China.

The 2017 movie Angels Wear White dealt with child molestation while 2018's Dying to Survive told the story of a cancer patient illegally importing medicine from India.

Both movies were successful in China and have received international praise - but they don't depict the version of China that Beijing wants to world to hear.

"If they tolerated a little bit more criticism, they could be much more successful when it comes to soft power," Mr Rosen sums up.

"But they worry that once they open the floodgates, they won't be able to retain their control anymore."

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-47084374

ruby Posted on February 08, 2019 13:19

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Australia and US make record crystal meth bust

Australian police have arrested six people in Victoria and New South Wales after the biggest seizure of crystal methamphetamine in US history.

Authorities say the 1,728kg (3,800lb) stash - the largest ever intercepted drug shipment to Australia - was found in January at a port in California.

The haul is said to be equivalent to 17 million doses and worth an estimated A$1.29bn ($910m; £705m).

Three of those arrested appeared at Melbourne Magistrates Court on Friday.

Among the suspects are two Americans: a 52-year-old man and a 46-year-old woman. Australian Federal Police (AFP) say they were found with "hundreds of thousands of dollars of proceeds of crime" during a raid in Melbourne.

They are believed to be involved with a US-based crime syndicate that tried to smuggle the drugs in containers marked as carrying audio equipment.

"By stopping this, we have ensured criminals will not profit from the immense pain these drugs would have caused our community," AFP Assistant Commissioner Bruce Hill told reporters.

The crystal meth had been hidden in boxes marked as audio equipment

The arrests are part of an ongoing joint investigation by local and national agencies in the US and Australia.

In 2015, Australia's government established a national taskforce to tackle the growing use of crystal methamphetamine (dubbed "ice"), which has become the most common illicit drug in the country.

The move followed a report by the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) that found crystal meth posed the highest risk to communities of any illegal substance.

Crystal meth is a powerful form of amphetamine and can be smoked, snorted or injected by users.

Victoria state - Australia's second-most populous - consumes more than two tonnes of crystal meth every year, according to government figures.

The ACC says the price of crystal meth in Australia is among the highest in the world, driving the country's organised crime gangs to trade increasingly in the drug.

Commissioner Hill said police believe Mexican cartels are targeting the country, but the identities of the cartels have not been disclosed.

The previous record for an Australia-bound crystal meth seizure was 1,300 kg in 2017.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-47168597

ruby Posted on February 08, 2019 13:07

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Longest-serving US congressman John Dingell dies aged 92

John Dingell, the longest serving congressman in US history, has died aged 92.

"He was a lion of the United States Congress and a loving son, father, husband, grandfather, and friend," the office of his wife Debbie Dingell said.

The Michigan Democrat was a driving force behind many key liberal laws, notably health programmes.

He was first elected in 1955, serving in the House of Representatives for the next 59 years. He retired in 2015.

After leaving Congress, he closely followed all the twists and turns of US politics, often deploying Twitter to express his position on major issues.

His last post was the day before his death, in which he wrote: "You're not done with me just yet."

Mr Dingell died peacefully on Thursday in his home in Dearborn, Michigan.

"It is with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of John David Dingell, Jr., former Michigan Congressman and longest-serving member of the United States Congress," Debbie Dingell's office said in a statement.

It said that Mr Dingell's wife, who was elected to the House in 2015 to succeed him, was at his side.

"He will be remembered for his decades of public service to the people of Southeast Michigan, his razor sharp wit, and a lifetime of dedication to improving the lives of all who walk this earth," the statement added.

Mrs Dingell did not attend President Donald Trump's State of the Union address on Tuesday, deciding to stay with her husband as his health deteriorated.

'I don't want people to be sorry for me'

Mr Dingell was 29 when he won a special election for his father's seat after the latter's sudden death in 1955.

Former President Barack Obama has described him as one of the most influential legislators of all time.

Mr Dingell served through the terms of 11 US presidents.

Explaining his decision to retire in 2015, he said back then: "I don't want people to be sorry for me. I don't want to be going out feet-first and I don't want to do less than an adequate job."

In 2014, John Dingell was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama

He had said his single most important vote in Congress was for the sweeping 1964 Civil Rights Act, which among other provisions forbade discrimination in employment based on race and sex. The vote almost cost him the next election.

He also played a key role in the creation of Medicare, the government-sponsored health programme for the elderly and disabled and was an early supporter of universal healthcare legislation, including President Obama's 2010 healthcare law.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-47167558

ruby Posted on February 08, 2019 12:59

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Alabama inmate executed after Supreme Court denies him imam's presence

The US state of Alabama has executed a Muslim inmate after the Supreme Court dismissed his appeal for an imam to be present with him at death.

Convicted murderer Dominique Ray was killed by lethal injection on Thursday as scheduled.

Ray's lawyers had argued that the state favoured Christians because a chaplain was allowed to be in the room with inmates.

Imam Yusef Maisonet instead watched from an adjacent room, reports said.

On Wednesday a federal appeals court agreed to a temporary delay to the execution, saying in its judgement that Ray had a "powerful" claim against the state because it refused to "provide the same benefit to a devout Muslim and all other non-Christians".

However Alabama quickly appealed to the Supreme Court, which ruled five to four in its favour.

The Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) employs a Christian chaplain who has been in the execution room for nearly every execution since 1997 - but ADOC refused to allow a non-employee to be in the execution chamber instead of the chaplain.

Ray had been an inmate for close to 20 years, the New York Times reported, and converted to Islam while in prison.

He was sentenced to death in 1999 for raping and murdering a 15-year-old girl in 1995.

The state said Ray's imam could be in the witness room but would not be allowed inside the execution chamber

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-47168590

ruby Posted on February 08, 2019 12:54

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Jeff Bezos: Amazon boss accuses National Enquirer of blackmail

The world's richest man, Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, has accused the owner of a US gossip magazine of trying to blackmail him over lewd pictures.

He said the National Enquirer's parent company, American Media Inc (AMI), wanted him to stop investigating how they had obtained his private messages.

Mr Bezos and his wife Mackenzie said they were divorcing last month.

Hours later the magazine published details, including private messages, of an extramarital affair.

AMI has not yet responded to the BBC's request for comment.

Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie Bezos announced their separation last month

What does Bezos say?

In a stunning blog post on Thursday, Mr Bezos posted an email he said had been sent to his intermediaries by AMI's representatives threatening to publish "intimate photos" of him and his lover, former TV host Lauren Sanchez.

The billionaire, who also owns the Washington Post newspaper, said AMI had wanted him to make a "false public statement" that the National Enquirer's coverage of him and his mistress was not politically motivated.

According to emails included by Mr Bezos in his blog, an AMI lawyer proposed on Wednesday that the photos would not be published in return for a public statement "affirming that [Bezos and his team] have no knowledge or basis" to suspect such a motive.

Former TV host Lauren Sanchez is reported to be in a relationship with Mr Bezos

"Rather than capitulate to extortion and blackmail," wrote Mr Bezos, "I've decided to publish exactly what they sent me, despite the personal cost and embarrassment they threaten."

Early in the blog post, Mr Bezos mentions AMI's links to President Donald Trump.

Why does he mention Trump?

Mr Bezos said his ownership of the Washington Post was a "complexifier" for him because he had made enemies of "certain powerful people", including President Trump, who is a friend of AMI's boss, David Pecker.

AMI recently admitted it had co-ordinated with the Trump presidential campaign to pay a Playboy model $150,000 (£115,000) in hush money to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Mr Trump.

Mr Bezos notes in his blog post how the publisher had confessed to the so-called "catch and kill" deal to bury Karen McDougal's politically embarrassing story.

AMI's agreement to co-operate with federal authorities means it will not face criminal charges over the payments, Manhattan prosecutors announced in December.

Mr Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen - who facilitated the hush money at the direction, he says, of Mr Trump - has already admitted violating campaign finance laws.

What about Bezos' reputation?

The Amazon boss did not try to hide the potential for embarrassment, writing "of course I don't want personal photos published" and noting what he called "AMI's long-earned reputation for weaponising journalistic privileges".

"But," he continued, "I also won't participate in their well-known practice of blackmail, political favours, political attacks, and corruption. I prefer to stand up, roll this log over, and see what crawls out."

His blog contained itemised details of 10 pictures in an email from the magazine's editor, Dylan Howard, who said they had been "obtained during our newsgathering".

New Yorker writer Ronan Farrow alleged that he "and at least one other prominent journalist" had been subject to similar threats from AMI.

Mr Bezos said "AMI's claim of newsworthiness is that the photos are necessary to show Amazon shareholders that my business judgment is terrible".

But the Amazon boss countered that the firm's results "speak for themselves".

Dylan Howard's name, along with those of two National Enquirer reporters, appeared on a story the magazine published on 9 January containing alleged details of Mr Bezos' affair with Ms Sanchez.

 

ruby Posted on February 08, 2019 11:29

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'How a smartphone saved my mother's life'

As the smartphone falls in price while its capabilities improve, it is becoming a valuable tool in the diagnosis of a growing number of diseases and ailments around the world.

When Yonatan Adiri's mother fell down a bank and briefly lost consciousness when travelling in China, an initial diagnosis suggested she had a few broken ribs, but nothing more serious. Doctors were keen to fly her to Hong Kong for treatment.

But Yonatan's father was worried and took photos of the CT [computerised tomography] scans of the injuries, emailing them to his son. Yonatan showed the images to a trauma doctor, who instantly diagnosed a punctured lung. The flight to Hong Kong might have killed her.

"Who knows what would've happened if he hadn't taken photos?" Yonatan wonders.

The experience inspired the Israeli entrepreneur - formerly Israel's chief technology officer under the late President Shimon Peres - to explore how the smartphone could be developed into a medical grade diagnostic tool.

Healthy.io's urine test kit and app has been given regulatory approval

The result was Healthy.io, a start-up pioneering "medical selfies", as he calls them. The first product is a urine test kit that screens for signs of urinary tract infection, diabetes, and kidney disease.

The standard urine test involves a special dipstick featuring 10 tiny pads that change colour if they detect various substances, such as blood, sugars or proteins, in the urine sample. Normally a trained clinician analyses the colour changes by eye, but Healthy.io's smartphone app can do it equally well using its computer vision algorithm.

A smartphone chatbot called Emily takes people through the process step-by-step using voice, text and video.

The patient slots the dipstick into a colour-coded cardboard frame then scans the whole thing with the phone. The image is sent to the cloud for analysis and the results go to the patient's doctor.

"It's not a wellness device, it's a medical device," says Mr Adiri, emphasising that the product has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and by European Union regulators.

The urine test app scans the dipstick and analyses the colour changes against a chart

As the test can be done very easily at home, he believes it has the potential to save health systems "hundreds of millions of pounds" in clinician time and earlier diagnosis of diseases that would be far more expensive to treat later on.

The app and kit, which costs £9.99, has been used more than 100,000 times around the world, the company says. Pharmacy chain Boots is currently trialling the service in the UK, and the National Health Service is using it to monitor kidney transplant and diabetes patients.

The main advantage of a smartphone is that it has "huge computational power, a high-resolution screen, excellent cameras and is, importantly, connected and available worldwide," says Dr Andrew Bastawrous, co-founder and chief executive of Peek Vision, a tech company pioneering simple eye tests for developing countries.

About 36 million people in the world are blind, many from easily treatable diseases, he says. Earlier diagnosis could save the sight of the majority of these people.

Dr Andrew Bastawrous demonstrates the Peek Acuity app to his project team in Kenya

But in remote, poorer areas of the world, bulky and expensive medical equipment is hard to come by.

Peek Vision's eye test app, Peek Acuity, displays the letter E on the phone screen and this changes in size and orientation during the test.

The patient points in the direction he or she thinks the letter is pointing and the tester swipes the screen in that same direction. The app works out if the answer was right or wrong. The test results are stored in the cloud and sent to the nearest trained clinician.

"Our app is designed so that almost anybody can use it," says Dr Bastawrous, an academic and eye surgeon who works at the International Centre for Eye Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

"Training takes just a few minutes, so it can be used by non-specialists, including teachers, community leaders and general health workers."

The app can simulate what the world looks like to someone with bad eyesight

The phone's camera can also simulate what the world looks like to the person tested, helping parents clearly understand why their child might need treatment, he says.

So far, more than 250,000 people have been screened in Kenya, Botswana and India, with the costs being picked up by partner charities and governments. The app has won clinical approval in Europe, and Dr Bastawrous says it is "at least as accurate as a conventional eye test".

"The ability to record data at the point of care, take images that could be analysed using artificial intelligence or by experts who cannot be everywhere at once, increases the possibility of universal healthcare being realised across the spectrum of healthcare specialities," he concludes.

There are plenty of other companies and researchers exploring the potential of the smartphone as a medical diagnostic tool, often in conjunction with add-on pieces of kit.

Accenture's Niamh McKenna says smartphone diagnosis has "great potential"

Cellscope, for example, has developed an attachment for the smartphone camera that enables parents to probe a child's ear and take a video of the inside, which is then viewed by a doctor remotely.

The idea is that parents can rule out false alarms and save on wasted trips to the doctor.

Meanwhile, research teams are developing plug-in sensors that can detect a range of diseases, from HIV to Ebola, from a small sample of blood. And attachments can turn the phone's camera into a microscope capable of examining red blood cells for signs of malaria.

"There have been some exciting developments in the evolution of the smartphone as a diagnostic tool," says Niamh McKenna, health lead at consultancy Accenture. "Clinical diagnosis on the move has great potential for application in remote areas.

"However, we need to remind ourselves that ultimately smartphones are being developed as consumer technology and not as medical devices," she adds.

"Trying to repurpose them in this way can lead to confusing consumer propositions and potentially come up against regulatory issues - like data protection."

But if cheap, portable and accurate diagnosis of treatable conditions saves lives as promised, the smartphone could become the most important invention of the last 20 years.

  • https://www.bbc.com/news/business-47156077

ruby Posted on February 08, 2019 11:21

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Ford Bridgend: New Ineos 4x4 contract 'won't secure jobs'

Winning a contract to build a new 4x4 would not secure all the jobs at risk at Ford Bridgend, according to one of the UK's leading car industry experts.

A decision is imminent on whether Ineos Automotive will build its new off-road vehicle in Portugal or Bridgend - where 1,000 jobs are under threat.

But Aston University's Prof David Bailey said the contract would create no more than a few hundred jobs.

Ford has been asked for a statement.

Prof Bailey, who has written extensively on car industry policy and strategy and has acted as a special advisor to a cross-party group of MPs, said Ineos's plan was seen by some as a "vanity project".

He said it was unclear how many cars would be produced under the potential deal or how profitable the model would be.

Electric future

Jaguar Land Rover, which previously manufactured the Defender model Ineos Automotive hopes to replace, never made much money from it.Prof Bailey said the production of electric motors was much more important to securing Ford Bridgend's future.

In his view this would require the UK remaining in a customs union with the EU, and agreeing a trading relationship that is as close as possible to the single market.

It would also require much more government support for the adoption of electric cars, he said, adding the current situation looked "very worrying" for the engine plant in Bridgend.

Prof Bailey has acted as a special advisor to a cross-party group of MPs

Prof Bailey described a no-deal Brexit as a "catastrophe" for the car industry, which he predicted would mean plant closures.

He believes Ford in Bridgend, Vauxhall in Ellesmere Port - where many Welsh workers are employed - and Jaguar Land Rover in Castle Bromwich in the Midlands are the three sites which are most vulnerable in the event of no-deal.

Bridgend MP Madeleine Moon agreed that a "hard Brexit or any Brexit that does not keep the UK in the customs union will be devastating for the automotive industry, which is based on just on time processes".

She also called for the UK to remain "ideally in the single market to maximise any future sales and development".

'Focused on a deal'

Unite Wales said it had consistently argued against a no-deal Brexit and it was currently working with Ford and the Welsh Government to try and find alternative investment for Bridgend and maximise employment at the plant.

A UK government spokeswoman said it continued to engage with Ford on their European-wide restructuring plans and was working with industry to put the UK "at the forefront of the next generation of new automotive vehicles and technologies".

She added that the best way to avoid a no-deal scenario was for Parliament to agree a deal and "that is what we're focused on".

The Welsh Government economy secretary Ken Skates said: "Whilst there are no immediate implications for the Bridgend Engine Plant, the Welsh Government will continue to work closely with Ford to protect the hundreds of highly skilled jobs at Bridgend and in its supply chain, as well as look for other high-technology opportunities for the site."

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-47162321

ruby Posted on February 08, 2019 11:14

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Women cold water swimming in Gower to help menopause

One of the swimmers said it "releases an inner child"

A group of cold water swimmers have said that plunging into sea temperatures as cold as 6C is helping with the effects of the menopause.

Some also reported improvements in their mental health.

"I didn't realise I was starting to go through the menopause when it happened a few years ago," said Alison Owen, 49.

"I'd read several stories about women who were hitting the menopause and had become anxious or were diagnosed with depression.

"I didn't want anything like that, and I thought I've got to do something to keep myself active and get out there."

Alison left her teaching job last summer to care full time for her daughter who has cerebral palsy, but says that soon afterwards she started to get involved in cold water swimming.

After initially trying sea swimming out for herself around the Gower Peninsula in Swansea, Alison was contacted by other women who were also keen to join in.

"The start of it is just a thrill and excitement. It releases an inner child I suppose, it reminds you what you used to be like before you had kids, before you had a job, before you had a mortgage," she said.

She added that it takes "around 91 seconds of absolute grit" to stay in the water, before the body begins to adjust.

Alison said that the response from women taking part in the swims has been so positive that they formed an impromptu group, The Gower Bluetits, an offshoot of a similar swimming club in Pembrokeshire.

The result is that up to 20 women can be seen charging down the beach screaming before crashing into the sea.

What is the menopause?

The menopause happens when a woman's period stops, and she becomes unable to conceive a child naturally, according to the NHS.

Symptoms can include night sweats, hot flushes, low mood or anxiety and memory problems.

A woman's sex life may also be affected, with decreased sex drive, vaginal dryness and discomfort during sex.

Menopause usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age, when a woman's oestrogen levels lower.

"I'm going through the menopause," said swimmer Patricia Woodhouse, 53.

"I feel that it's been easier since starting this. The sweats and the night sweats haven't been so bad. I also suffer with anxiety and I've found my anxiety levels don't feel as bad either.

"I still get anxious but it's nothing like it was before."

Patricia puts some of the positive effects she feels down to the triggering of the body's fight or flight mechanism.

"I think it just allows you to let go for 10 minutes, to think about nothing else," she said.

Why does the cold water seem to help?

According to Prof Mike Tipton, an expert in cold water swimming at the University of Portsmouth, the effects the group are reporting are not unusual in the cold water swimming community.

"There is a significant amount of anecdotal evidence that suggests that it works for some things, but we don't know how," he said.

"There are plenty of theories surrounding the effects of cold water swimming but no definitive studies.

Patricia Woodhouse has said the swimming helps with her anxiety

"One of the main issues is that it can be very difficult to isolate the different factors involved. Most cold water swimming involves exercise and socialising - two things we know can have a positive impact on mental health."

Because of that, Prof Tipton said it can be extremely difficult to analyse what role, if any, the water's temperature can have.

"Everybody knows that when you go into a cold shower you get a gasping 'cold shock' response," he added.

"This releases the body's stress hormones, the fight or flight response - as a result people talk about feeling euphoric or high.

"But people need to remember they are engaging in a potentially dangerous activity, that same response can stop you being able to hold your breath in water."

Some members said part of the healing effects they feel are down to their voluntary vulnerability.

"It is a freedom," said Patricia.

"It's the same freedom that children have, they've got no inhibitions, nobody cares what they look like when they're that young, they just get in there.

"That's what we do too, we don't care what we look like, there's no competition, it's just about having fun."

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-47159652

ruby Posted on February 08, 2019 11:08

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Emiliano Sala: Body identified as Cardiff City footballer

The body recovered from the wreckage of a crashed plane is that of Cardiff City player Emiliano Sala, Dorset Police have said.

Sala, 28, was travelling to Cardiff in a plane piloted by David Ibbotson, which went missing over the English Channel on 21 January.

The Argentine's body was recovered late on Wednesday after the wreckage was found on Sunday morning.

Dorset Police confirmed the identification on Thursday night.

In a statement, the force said: "The body brought to Portland Port today, Thursday 7 February 2019, has been formally identified by HM Coroner for Dorset as that of professional footballer Emiliano Sala.

"The families of Mr Sala and the pilot David Ibbotson have been updated with this news and will continue to be supported by specially-trained family liaison officers."

The body was spotted in the wreckage of the plane on Monday and the authorities were able to recover it two days later, despite "challenging conditions".

The Air Accidents Investigations Branch (AAIB) said the operation had been carried out in "as dignified a way as possible" and the men's families were kept updated throughout.

Emiliano Sala (left) was on board a plane being flown by pilot David Ibbotson

The Geo Ocean III, which was involved in finding the wreckage, took the body back to the nearest port of Portland in Dorset, where the body was formally identified.

The Piper Malibu N264DB was en route from France to Cardiff, after the Argentine striker made a quick trip back to his former club Nantes two days after his £15m transfer to Cardiff was announced.

Cardiff City issued a statement shortly after identification was confirmed saying: "We offer our most heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the family of Emiliano. He and David will forever remain in our thoughts."

Some of the club's players reacted via Twitter. Full back Joe Bennett wrote "RIP Emiliano", while centre-half Sol Bamba posted a black-and-white image of the team-mate he never got to play alongside.

Stars from the wider footballing world also paid tribute.

Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger wrote: "Heartbreaking to hear the news about Emiliano Sala. Rest in peace! Thoughts go out to the family and friends of Emiliano and the pilot."

And Arsenal's Mesut Ozil tweeted: "No words to describe how sad this is. Thoughts and prayers go out to his family and also to the family of the pilot."

Mr Ibbotson, 59, from Crowle, North Lincolnshire, was at the controls when the flight lost contact with air traffic controllers on 21 January.

He is yet to be found.

An official search was called off on 24 January after Guernsey's harbour master said the chances of survival were "extremely remote".

But an online appeal started by Sala's agent raised £324,000 (371,000 euros) for a private search led by marine scientist and oceanographer David Mearns.

Working jointly with the AAIB, his ship and the Geo Ocean III, began combing a four square mile area of the English Channel, 24 nautical miles north of Guernsey, to make best use of the available sensors.Mr Mearns said the plane was identified by sonar, 67m (220ft) below the surface, before a submersible with cameras was sent underwater to confirm this.

"I was glad to provide some small comfort to Romina, Mercedes and the whole Sala family during the past two weeks but my heart goes out to the family and friends of David Ibbotson whose loss is the same," Mr Mearns said.

Cardiff fans left a sea of flowers outside the Cardiff City Stadium in tribute to Emiliano Sala

During the recovery operation, the AAIB used a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) to aid the search, with no divers involved.

The body was moved first, and separately from the wreckage, to maximise the chances of it being successfully brought to the surface.

It said efforts to recover the crashed plane as a whole proved unsuccessful, before being abandoned due to poor weather.

"The weather forecast is poor for the foreseeable future and so the difficult decision was taken to bring the overall operation to a close," the AAIB said in a statement.

The AAIB released this photograph of the wreckage of the Piper Malibu

However, the AAIB said video footage captured by the ROV would provide "valuable evidence" for its safety investigation.

Mr Mearns told BBC Radio Wales the AAIB could not have continued searching in the current conditions and admitted finding Mr Ibbotson's would be difficult.

He added: "I've been involved in operations when people were lost and the bodies were found days and weeks after, not far from where they were lost.

"But this is a pretty dynamic place. It's got fairly strong currents, it's not that deep water, you've got a lot of fishing activity, a lot of scallop dredgers moving in and out of the location.

"You cannot expect that the body is going to be in that location for an extended period of time."

Meanwhile, it has emerged that Sala's former club, French Ligue 1 side Nantes, has demanded Cardiff City pay his £15m transfer fee.

Sala was Cardiff's record signing but never played for the club.

The fee was due to be paid over three years but Cardiff have withheld the first scheduled payment until they are satisfied with the documentation.

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-47166633

ruby Posted on February 08, 2019 10:52

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Paris fatal fire suspect recently released from psychiatric care

 

The fire was brought under control in the early hours of Tuesday morning

The main suspect in the Paris fire which killed 1

  • The fire was brought under control in the early hours of Tuesday morning

The main suspect in the Paris fire which killed 10 people was released from psychiatric care just a week before, officials have revealed.

The eight-storey building was set ablaze - apparently deliberately - in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

The suspect had been placed in psychiatric care 13 times in the past decade, according to prosecutors.

Prosecutor Rémy Heitz told journalists she had been released on 30 January after assessment by a doctor.

The woman, who was in her 40s, lived in the building and was arrested outside, allegedly drunk and trying to set fire to a car.

She was briefly questioned before being sent to a police psychiatric facility. But on Thursday afternoon, officials said she had been returned to police custody following a psychiatric evaluation.

Police called minutes earlier

The arrested woman, named only as Essia B, was "confused", prosecutors said, but denied setting fire to the building.

She has no previous criminal convictions, though has been investigated for at least three offences - one of which involved allegedly setting fire to clothing in a store.

At a news conference, Mr Heitz also revealed that police had been called to the building not long before the outbreak of the fire.

Shortly after midnight local time, one of the building's other residents – who happens to be a firefighter – called police over a residential dispute with his neighbour. He had complained about noise, resulting in an argument.

Police left the scene at around 00:30, officials said.

The first call to firefighters came minutes later.

Rescue teams saved dozens of residents from the inner courtyard location under difficult conditions as the fire spread throughout the eight-storey building.

A survivor describes how she 'jumped across balconies' to escape from the flames

Firefighters with heavy breathing equipment scaled ladders on the exterior to rescue people from windows and balconies. Several firefighters were among the 96 injured.

The blaze was brought under control after five hours.

Days-long wait for relatives

Of the 10 dead, six have been officially identified, Mr Heitz said. One survivor remains in critical condition.

The relatives of two victims have identified them to French media.

Jonathan Jouclas, aged 26, lived on the seventh floor of the building and was found dead, his father Patrick announced on Facebook.

Patrick Jouclas had earlier appealed for help in finding news about his son, spending two days without hearing anything. Late on Wednesday evening, he confirmed that Jonathan had been found in his room.

He was certain that "his habit of playing online with a headset over his ears prevented him from hearing the alarms in time", he said.

Friends of 39-year-old Radia Benaziez told Le Parisien newspaper that she had died in the blaze, describing the architect as an "exceptional woman".

Ms Benaziez worked from her home in the building, the newspaper said.

"She was adorable. Her kindness was matched only by her beauty," one of her former co-workers said.

A baby is also known to be among the victims.

Relatives of some other residents have told French media that some people are missing while they wait for news from authorities.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-47156467

ruby Posted on February 07, 2019 18:25

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Russia's 'Dubak' challenge creates icy works of art

Temperatures of -40C (-40F) and -50C (-58F) in parts of eastern Russia haven't stopped people getting out and having some fun in the snow and ice.

According to the state news agency TASS, current temperatures in Russia are much colder than average for the time of year.

Unsurprisingly, the trick of throwing boiling water in the air and watching it turn into ice - which was popular in North America during the polar vortex - has become a trend. People across the country have been taking part in the "Dubak" challenge, which is Russian slang for bitingly cold weather.

 Yekaterinburg, east of the Ural Mountains, Olga Shklyarova took this image of a round cloud of ice

Jumping for joy or to keep warm in the wintry weather in Chelyabinsk a city close to the Ural Mountains?

Rinat Minkov's wheel of ice water

Alexander Borozdin from Nizhnevartovsk added a touch of colour and used two vessels of water to create this angel-like effect

 

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-47158018

ruby Posted on February 07, 2019 18:16

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A protest Pakistan wants to hide from the world

Why do some protests get reported in Pakistan and others not? M Ilyas Khan examines a story of human rights abuses the media is reluctant to cover and the authorities do not want to be told.

Pakistan's vibrant, at times almost cacophonic media, is struggling to report a fundamental contradiction in state policy.

This was at its most visible this week outside Islamabad's National Press Club.

An open ground outside the club premises - which some call Pakistan's Hyde Park because it is used for gatherings and protests - was occupied by a few hundred students from religious seminaries linked to a banned militant group.

They were holding an event to mark Kashmir Day, an official holiday in Pakistan which is observed to highlight human rights violations by Indian security forces in Indian-administered Kashmir.

tThe Kashmir rally was given lots of prominence and went ahead

But on the periphery of the Kashmir rally, police were busy spotting and arresting young men they suspected had come to attend another rally due to be held at the same venue.

Far from being militants, they were members or supporters of a rights movement that has been highlighting abuses by Pakistan's own military, in the ethnic Pashtun regions along the border with Afghanistan.

By the end of Tuesday, more than 30 activists of the Pashtun Tahaffuz (Protection) Movement, or PTM, had been rounded up, thrown in a police truck and taken to a police station.

The drama unfolded against the backdrop of speeches from the Kashmir rally in which speakers listed rights violations in Kashmir by the Indian army, and right in front of the eyes of the waiting media.

Dozens of television and newspaper photographers raced from one end to another trying to capture each arrest on camera.

But it was just their journalistic instincts kicking in - not a race to be first to actually cover the drama.

Because, while their TV channels thoroughly covered Kashmir Day events all over the country, including Islamabad, none of the videos of the arrests of the activists made it to the TV screens. Nor did they make headlines in the morning newspapers.

The six tribal districts of Pakistan - collectively called the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), and turned into a vast sanctuary for Taliban fighters fleeing the US invasion of Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks - have been likened to an information black hole.

Many say the Talibanisation of these districts was allowed by the Pakistani establishment under a policy which sought to control Afghanistan with a view to prevent it from emerging as a strong regional ally of India, Pakistan's arch-rival.

Subsequent factionalisation of the Taliban drew the Pakistani military into tribal rivalries, triggering large-scale rights violations both by the military and the Taliban.

Manzoor Pashteen has accused the military of covering up years of rights abuses

The number of civilians killed in the conflict runs into thousands, and about three million people have been displaced, many of them many times.

For years, the local population caught in the conflict were too afraid to speak about transgressions, until the PTM burst onto the scene last February and started to circulate well-documented cases of abuses by the military and the Taliban, as well as the nature of the relationship between the two.

The material, the PTM's peaceful tactics and its insistence that the authorities treat people in the tribal areas in accordance with the law, as elsewhere in the country, caught the imagination of the media, and progressive elements across all ethnic groups hailed it as a good omen for the country's quest for democracy.

But then in the second half of 2018 the media came under increasing pressure, reportedly from the military, to stop covering the PTM. One by one, columnists offering analysis of the movement's message and its activities were dropped - not only by the marginal press but some of the most respected newspapers of the country.

PTM supporters have been demonstrating but the story is not making headlines

And any mention of the PTM completely vanished from the television screens.

More recently, the authorities have gone a step further and have begun breaking up PTM gatherings, confident in their knowledge that it is not going to get play in the media.

Over the weekend, police in Balochistan province cracked down on one such PTM gathering in which a prominent activist, Ibrahim Arman Luni, was killed.

Tuesday's gatherings were called by PTM chief Manzoor Pashteen in protest at Mr Luni's killing.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-47147409

ruby Posted on February 07, 2019 17:56

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In pictures: Sony World Photography Awards shortlist

The shortlist for the Open and Youth competitions in this year's Sony World Photography Awards has been announced. The competition received 326,000 entries from 195 countries.

The awards' overall winners will be announced at a ceremony in London on 17 April.

Rebecca McClelland, who chairs the Open and Youth jury, said: "I was astonished with the diversity of work that was entered into the Open and Youth competitions.

"The award represents a very democratic appreciation of photography, from tradition to emergent trends across all genres from nature to fashion."

https://www.bbc.com/news/in-pictures-47130038

ruby Posted on February 07, 2019 12:45

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Trump sees total rout of Islamic State group as imminent

US President Donald Trump has said territory held by the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq could be "100%" liberated as early as next week.

"It should be announced, probably some time next week, that we will have 100% of the caliphate," he told a gathering of coalition partners.

However, he also cautioned that he wanted to "wait for the official word".

US military and intelligence officials say IS could stage a comeback without sustained counter-terrorism pressure.

Mr Trump shocked coalition allies in December when he declared that the group had been defeated, amid reports he wanted to pull out US soldiers within 30 days.

But he later slowed the withdrawal after several resignations from key defence officials and strong criticism from Republicans and allies abroad.

The global coalition against IS, now numbering nearly 80 nations, was formed in 2014 after the group overran swathes of territory and went on to launch terror attacks outside the region.

How does Trump view the battle against IS now?

"Their land is gone," he told Wednesday's conference in Washington. "The Isis [IS] caliphate has been decimated."

But the group still had "tiny sections that can be so dangerous", he said, and "foreign fighters must not gain access" to the US.

Image copyrightAFP

Image captionUS ground troops first became involved in Syria in 2015

He also referred to the IS propaganda machine, which recruited fighters from Europe and other regions.

"For a period of time they used the internet better than we did," he said. "They used the internet brilliantly but now it's not so brilliant."

The US leader thanked coalition partners, saying, "We will be working together for many years to come."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pledged the US would continue to fight IS, despite withdrawing troops from Syria.

He called the troop pullout a "tactical change... not a change in the mission", and said the world was entering an "era of decentralised jihad".

Has IS really been defeated?

It has certainly lost control of most of the territory it overran, including its strongholds of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria.

However, fighting continues in north-eastern Syria, where the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) say they captured dozens of foreign fighters in recent weeks.

A suspected IS member captured by US-backed forces near the Syrian border with Iraq last week

On Tuesday the head of the US military's Central Command, Gen Joseph Votel, told a Senate committee up to 1,500 IS militants remained in a 20 sq mile (52 sq km) pocket on Syria's border with Iraq.

The group, he said, still had "leaders, fighters, facilitators, resources and the profane ideology that fuels their efforts".

Meanwhile, a report by a US defence department watchdog cited Central Command as saying that without sustained pressure IS "could likely resurge in Syria within six to 12 months".

Another challenge is what to do with the hundreds of foreign fighters captured by the SDF, as well as their families.

Governments in their home countries are reluctant to take back radicalised militants who swore allegiance to Islamic State.

How will an IS comeback be stopped?

President Trump's comments were more than a month late, as he did not consult his allies about his decision in December to withdraw US troops from Syria. The shock from the surprise announcement has settled, but coalition members want to know how this is going to play out. It's not clear that the administration has sorted that out.

Both Mr Trump and Mike Pompeo called on other nations to take on more commitments for the continued campaign against the IS group, but said they were still in the fight - America would continue to lead it, Mr Pompeo said.

Mr Trump had previously suggested that some of the troops in Syria could be moved to American bases in neighbouring Iraq, from where they could launch commando operations across the border as necessary.

But there are still no official details about how the US will continue the counter-terrorism pressure Mr Trump's generals and intelligence officials have said is necessary to stop IS militants from staging a comeback.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-47149088

ruby Posted on February 07, 2019 12:37

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Brussels Nemmouche trial: Suspect 'was my jailer and torturer'

Two French journalists who were held by Islamic State militants in Syria have given evidence against a man accused of murdering four people at the Brussels Jewish Museum in May 2014.

"I've absolutely no doubt that Mehdi Nemmouche, who is here now, was my jailer and torturer in Syria. I knew him as Abou Omar," said Nicolas Hénin.

Ex-captive Didier François agreed.

The defendant, 33, denies murdering an Israeli couple, a local worker and a French volunteer at the museum.

He travelled to Syria in January 2013 and faces a separate trial in France for his alleged role as an Islamic State jailer.

What the witnesses said

The trial began last month, but it heard for the first time on Thursday from Nicolas Hénin and Didier François, who were held by IS militants in a hospital in Aleppo in June 2013 and freed in April 2014, a month before the Jewish Museum attack.

Of the 23 foreign hostages held by IS, eight were in Aleppo, and Mr François told the court that their captors were all part of a structure, and were involved in organising the Paris and Brussels bombings in November 2015 and March 2016.

He said Paris bomb-maker and Brussels airport suicide bomber Najim Laachraoui was one of the guards.

Nemmouche refused to tell prosecutors if he had ever met the two journalists (file sketch)

Mr Hénin recalled that Mehdi Nemmouche was sadistic because he was full of hatred - "an anti-Semitic hatred". He said Nemmouche admired the Toulouse jihadist killer Mohamed Merah and loathed Shia Muslims.

"We were taken out of our cell for interrogation then put back in a cell next door to the torture room. He was wearing combat dress and we came up against him on several occasions," he said.

Mr François said he had no doubt that Mehdi Nemmouche had tortured Syrian prisoners. "We heard his voice, we recognised his voice," he said.

His fellow ex-captive described how the suspect would hit them during their blindfolded visits to the toilets.

Asked by the federal prosecutor if he had ever met the two journalists, the defendant refused to answer. However, he smiled during some of the accounts given by the two former captives, reporters in court said.

What happened in Brussels in May 2014?

On 24 May 2014, a lone gunman entered the lobby of the Jewish Museum in Brussels. He opened fire on those inside and fled within a couple of minutes. Four people died in the attack in the Sablon area of the city:

French-born jihadist Medhi Nemmouche was arrested carrying two guns six days later in Marseille in southern France.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-47156247

ruby Posted on February 07, 2019 12:26

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Yellow-vest protests: France warns Italy Deputy PM Di Maio

France has warned Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio not to interfere in the country's politics, after he met French "yellow-vest" protesters.

"This new provocation is unacceptable between neighbouring countries and partners at the heart of the EU," the French foreign ministry said.

Mr Di Maio, leader of the populist Five Star Movement, met two leaders of the anti-government protests on Tuesday.

"The wind of change has crossed the Alps," Mr Di Maio tweeted (in Italian).

He also posted a picture of himself with "yellow-vest" leader Christophe Chalençon and Ingrid Levavasseur, who is heading a "yellow-vest" (gilets jaunes) list for elections to the European Parliament in May.

The meeting took place near Paris.

Relations between France and Italy have been tense since the Five Star Movement (M5S) and right-wing League parties came to power in Italy in June 2018.

In January, France summoned Italy's ambassador after Mr Di Maio said Paris had "never stopped colonising tens of African states".

Italy's populist leadership has also recently clashed with France on issues such as migration protests and culture.

Who are the 'gilets jaunes'?

The "gilets jaunes" protests against fuel tax hikes began last November, saying the measure hurt those who live in remote areas of France and depend on cars.

France fuel protests: Who are the people in the yellow vests?

The "gilets jaunes" derive their name from the high-visibility vests they wear - and which French motorists are required by law to carry in their vehicles.

But since their first marches - and the government's subsequent U-turn on fuel taxes - their demands have expanded to boosting people's purchasing power and allowing popular referendums.

In December, French President Emmanuel Macron said he was "partly responsible" for the "insufficient response" to the protests that have rocked the country.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-47152638

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ruby Posted on February 07, 2019 12:23

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