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'My sleepless nights over Sandra Bullock's blindfold'

Oscar-winning director Susanne Bier suffered "sleepless nights" after Sandra Bullock refused to cut holes in the blindfold she wore for their horror thriller film, Bird Box.

Bullock plays a lone mother with two young children, battling an unseen force which compels you to kill yourself if you see it.

Hence the need to constantly wear a blindfold.

The post-apocalyptic film sees Bullock, who plays Malorie, guiding the children down a treacherous river and through a dense forest, all without being able to see a thing. All of this can be seen in the film's trailer, so don't worry, there aren't any spoilers to follow.

But the chances of Bullock disappearing over the side of a boat or into a boggy ditch were definitely higher than Bier would have liked.

She says: "I had a completely dedicated, crazily diligent actor - I said 'can we just make holes in the blindfold?' and she said 'no way, no way'.

"I kept hoping she wouldn't bump into the camera."

Bullock was assisted by an expert who "helps blind people navigate spaces", leaving Bier relieved that the actress "acquired quite sophisticated techniques" for moving around.

Not surprisingly, the Oscar-winning star did still "fall over a number of times", and Bier smiles: "I'm relieved she's still looking good."

Bullock joked as she told Deadline: "It made her very happy when I was blindfolded running into the camera."

But the actress said the blindfold didn't just make moving around difficult.

"What's the easiest way as an actor to show how you're feeling on camera? It's your eyes. And you realise when that's taken away you don't know how to act."

Speaking to Reuters, she added: "But I think in the end... it helped give a really jagged feeling to those scenes rather than if I had holes cut in my blindfold and I could see and I was pretending to stumble and be blind."

This film, which depicts Malorie's transformation from reluctant parent into a machete-wielding mother bear, is an unusual take on motherhood.

"It's a portrayal of a very contemporary female heroine," says Bier, who also directed BBC One's hugely successful drama The Night Manager.

"It's a female narrative - defined by women and not men - and is very unconventional in a thrilling, scary movie.

"It's a depiction of motherhood which doesn't fall into the conventions and cliches we've seen in hundreds of films."

Bier relished "describing motherhood within the context of something mainstream".

Sarah Connor from the Terminator films is another action-packed mainstream maternal film heroine, who's often described as going from "timid" to a "hardened warrior".

But the majority of action heroines are childless, or if they do have children you don't see very much of them. This film focuses on Malorie's journey through motherhood, with the children sharing centre stage.

Having been reluctantly pregnant at the start of the film, the story is as much about her transformation as a parent as it is about the external terror she's battling.

She has to frighten the children by shouting "if you look, you will die" at them, in order to keep them safe.

Bier says it was "hard on Sandra being harsh to them".

'Psychological horror'

"All her character wanted to do was have those kids survive. And she does that by whatever means possible, and because of that you accept her harshness.

"Never at any point do you not understand her or dislike her - I'm hoping it's fascinating to watch."

Bird Box is based on Josh Malerman's best-selling novel of the same name, which is billed as a "Hitchcockesque psychological horror".

Given you don't actually see the monster ravaging the planet's population, much of the tension comes from people's gruesome response when they encounter it.

But it seems that some critics love to see a monster in the flesh, with one saying they felt short-changed on thrills.

Variety wrote: "In the endless debate of how much creature to feature in a horror movie, Susanne Bier's supernatural thriller unwisely withholds the monster altogether."

Bier, who won an Oscar for 2010 thriller In A Better World and an Emmy for The Night Manager, responds robustly to this, saying "for me it's a huge strength" not to see the monster.

"I find it more scary before the monster appears, there aren't any films where I didn't get slightly disappointed once I'd seen it," she adds.

"I wanted to make a movie which had that tension the entire time. I think whatever those beings are, they tap into your mind and it messes with it never to see them."

Bier wants to 'engage emotionally'

The Guardian said "the what, why and how of the crisis never gets answered"but IndieWire described the film as "so intense you'll want to cover your eyes"and Entertainment Weekly said Bier "keeps the mood taut and defiantly in the moment".

Bier's main aim with a film is to "engage emotionally", and she says while she often takes on board reviewers' comments, she's fairly detached if she really doesn't agree with a particular reviewer.

"Sometimes I read reviews and I go, 'I have nothing in common with this person'," she says.

She was able to attract a stellar cast of survivors alongside Bullock, including John Malkovich, Sarah Paulson, Tom Hollander, Trevante Rhodes and Parminder Nagra.

Some of them play the people trapped with Bullock and Moonlight star Rhodes, in a house owned by Malkovich.

It becomes a battle of wills as they work out how to eat and travel to safety.

Bier said she had to juggle a lot of big personalities.

"It was insanely vital to a point where, as a director, you are going 'okay, let's just get some order into this wonderful chaos'. You had to kind of steer it."

Beyond Bird Box, she will be directing HBO series The Undoing, starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant and written by Big Little Lies' David Kelly.

And as the winner of an Oscar, Golden Globe and Emmy, work opportunities should be pretty fast-flowing for Bier.

"I can certainly choose more than I could some years ago," she says.

'Still a men's club'

But she adds: "I've never been a careerist - I will choose something intriguing - it might be successful or not successful but that's how I work."

She thinks there are now "more opportunities" for women behind the camera, but that things are still biased towards men.

"I still feel it is very much the men's club because whoever assigns projects are mainly men," she says.

"There is a language and a way of talking - I feel that young women are, at times, passed over for projects because they don't necessarily have the same vocabulary, the same way of talking, which doesn't mean they aren't equally qualified.

"I've never been pro-quotas for women, but I think they may be necessary for a time period. It's hard to change it fast enough without making a formalised radical decision."

Bird Box is released in select cinemas from 13 December and on Netflix on 21 December.

ruby Posted on December 17, 2018 15:06

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1MDB: Malaysia charges Goldman Sachs and two bankers

Malaysia has filed criminal charges against Goldman Sachs and two former employees in connection with a corruption and money laundering probe at the country's investment fund, 1MDB.

The US bank has been under scrutiny for its role in helping to raise funds for the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

It is being investigated in at least six countries.

Goldman Sachs called the charges "misdirected" and said it would "vigorously defend them".

"The firm continues to co-operate with all authorities investigating these matters," the bank added.

Malaysia filed the charges against Goldman Sachs and its former bankers Tim Leissner and Roger Ng.

Mr Leissner served as Goldman's South East Asia chairman, and left the bank in 2016. Mr Ng was a managing director at Goldman until his departure in May 2014.

Last month, Mr Leissner, Mr Ng and Mr Low were served with criminal charges in the US in relation to 1MDB.

Mr Leissner pleaded guilty in the US to conspiring to launder money and violating anti-bribery laws.

In that case, prosecutors said former Goldman bankers Tim Leissner and Roger Ng worked with Mr Low to bribe government officials to win 1MDB business for Goldman Sachs.

Authorities in the US said billions of dollars were embezzled from the state fund - which was set up by the Prime Minister Najib Razak in 2009 - and were used to buy a list of expensive properties, and even finance the Wolf of Wall Street movie.

They allege that among the things bought by the money were:

L'Ermitage hotel property and business

Park Lane Hotel assets in New York

Four California properties

Four New York properties

One London property

A private jet

EMI assets, including royalties

Van Gogh painting

Two Monet paintings

This latest development sees Malaysia also bring charges against former 1MDB employee Jasmine Loo and financier Jho Low.

Malaysia's attorney general Tommy Thomas said in a statement: "The charges arise from from the proceeds of three bonds issued by the subsidiaries of 1MDB, which were arranged and underwritten by Goldman Sachs."

The scandal has prompted investigations around the world and played a role in the election defeat earlier this year of Malaysia's former prime minister, Najib Razak, who is accused of pocketing $700m (£517m) from the fund he set up.

ruby Posted on December 17, 2018 14:38

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What would the suffrage campaigners make of the world today?

Helen Pankhurst, the great granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst, stands next to a statue of Emmeline in Manchester. Credit: PA

As a statue marking the legacy of suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst is unveiled in Manchester, her great-granddaughter Helen Pankhurst writes for ITV News on the new issues that women face - a century after they were granted the right to vote.

On the 14th December one hundred years ago, millions of women went out to vote for the first time.

Also for the first time, they could vote for women.

On this centenary, we celebrate and we give thanks to those who fought for our rights to be citizens, to be representatives, to be counted and to count. This moment falls at the end of a year of legal firsts; the Act signed on 6th February, 1918 that enfranchised some women - those over 30, with a university education or a property qualification - and then the Act of 21st November, 1918 that allowed women to stand for Parliament

Emmeline Pankhurst was famed for her work as a suffragette. Credit: AP

As we celebrate and give thanks, there is one question amongst many that I am often asked, namely what would the leaders of the suffragette campaign - Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters, including my grandmother Sylvia - think of the progress we’ve made since then?

With this question in mind, I have listened, researched and recently published a book which looks at progress in terms of five different areas: politics, economics, identity, violence and culture.

Assessing the components of progress in this way is revealing.

  • How far have we got in politics?


Labour MPs gathered to celebrate 100 years of women suffrage earlier this year. Credit: PA

Clearly there has been progress. However, only 32% of MPs are women and they only make up 26% of Peers in the Lords.

Female politicians comment that political culture and policies are still for the most part ‘man-made’.

Although we have women at the very top, the structures of political power haven’t yet been transformed – nor do we have sufficient diversity of women representing differences of class, ethnicity, sexuality and so on.

  • How far have we got in the economic sphere?
  • A similar statue of Emmeline Pankhurst stands near to the Palace of Westminster in London. Credit: PA

    The median hourly pay for all employees is estimated to be 18% less for women than for men.

    We undervalue employment that is traditionally seen as ‘women’s work’.

    At the same time, parenting and caring is not equally shared, which affects attitudes of employers at work.

    Maternity-related discrimination is rife.

    The precariousness of work among the very poorest in society is disproportionately experienced by women while glass ceilings diminish women’s career progression.

    All of these factors, as well as traditions around inheritance, means that there continues to be a massive gender wealth gap.

    In economic terms, we are clearly not there yet.

  • What about women’s sense of self?
  • Thousands turned British cities into rivers of green, white and violet in June to mark 100 years since women won the right to vote. Credit: AP

    No doubt they have far more voice and agency - far more control over their own lives and their sexual and reproductive rights than the women of 1918.

    However, two aspects are still particularly worrying.

    First, women, at their core, are seen and often see themselves as relational, whereas men are generally seen and see themselves as autonomous.

    An elderly couple without children told me that the woman is always quizzed, the man never asked to explain why they are childless – the world relates to their status differently.

    More generally, women are expected to put their family first, men their work first – binary expectations that damage us all.

    Second, men are judged on their actions and statements; women are judged on their looks.

    We, as individuals, perpetuate this distinction, as do the products we buy; the films, music, plays and adverts we listen to and watch; the books and magazines we read.

    This results in a very narrow, idealised version of what women should aspire to look like.

    From speaking in schools I’ve come to realise that even very young girls now internalise this message, and social media magnifies the problem.

  • What about violence?
  • Demonstrators protested at the opening night of the film Suffragette in 2015 to draw attention to cuts to domestic abuse services. Credit: PA

    Do fewer women experience gender based violence these days? Do fewer women fear it?

    Again, we see progress in some areas, particularly around legislation and to some extent the availability of services, though austerity measures have undermined these.

    Domestic violence, though less normalised, is still a very real threat and abuse has morphed, re-emerging in the world of social media, where it is directed disproportionately at women – particularly women outside the dominant norm who dare to have a public voice.

    The MeToo campaign cast the spotlight on the universality of work place violence and sexual abuse - but also marked the turning of a tide, encouraging women to speak out and demand change.

    In the area of culture, the progress is much clearer.

    There are few public spaces that women can no longer enter and be involved in – including pubs and clubs and sports grounds, the traditional male bastions away from home.

    Women can be found directing films, plays, events.

    They are gaining influence in cultural institutions, in arts centres and in museums.


    Leading suffragettes in the dock at Bow Street court Credit: PA

    Almost across the board, cultural establishments have been resistant to change since 1918, yet in all spaces there have also been those with vision.

    For example, Lewes Football Club is the only football club in the world to pay its male and female players the same salary and allow them to use the same pitch.

    In the visual arts, this centenary year has also seen an attempt to counter the dominance of white men, including through the installation of statues of the suffrage campaigners.

The maquette sculpted by Hazel Reeves. Credit: Sue Anders Photography

Which brings me back to this date, the 14th December, 2018, when a statue of Emmeline Pankhurst sculpted by Hazel Reeves - and with credit to councillor Andrew Simcock who has driven the whole Our Emmeline initiative - has been unveiled in Manchester, her birthplace and the birthplace of the suffragette movement.

Thousands of people marched to St Peter’s Square for the unveiling; marching as did the suffragettes of old.

One hundred years ago, some women got the vote, but they had to wait another ten years for equal franchise. Since then, although the individual arc of women lives varies tremendously, it is clear that we are not there yet.

Armed with the lessons of history, and the commitment of the present, maybe, just maybe,we can radically improve the score across the board by 2028.

Here’s hoping and, together, working to that end.

Helen Pankhurst, right, accompanied by her daughter Laura, left, participating in a women's rights protest. Credit: AP

Helen Pankhurst is the author of Deeds Not Words, the Story of Women’s Rights,Then and Now. She is a women's rights activist and senior advisor to CARE International, and convenor of the Centenary Action GroupHer views do not necessarily reflect those of ITV News.

sarah Posted on December 15, 2018 11:02

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Unseen photos provide a sensitive look at America's early 'working girls'

Published 29th November 2018

Credit: Courtesy Serge Sorokko Gallery/Glitterati Editions

Unseen photos provide a sensitive look at America's early 'working girls'


Written byDita Von Teese

Dita Von Teese is a burlesque performer, model and author. This is an edited extract from her foreword to "Working Girls: An American Brothel, Circa 1892" by Robert Flynn Johnson. An accompanying exhibition is on at Serge Sorokko Gallery in San Francisco until Dec. 9, 2018.

Women in sexual professions have always distinguished themselves from other women, from the mores of the time, by pushing the boundaries of style. The most celebrated concubines and courtesans in history set the trends in their respective courts. The great dames of burlesque -- Sally Rand, Gypsy Rose Lee -- boasted a signature style on- and offstage, reflecting broader-than-life personalities.

Dita von Teese on the eternal allure of a well-dressed gentleman

Given that photography was still an emerging technology, an emerging creative medium, when these "working girls" posed for William Goldman in the 1890s at a Reading, Pennsylvania brothel, the entire exercise transcends their initial business liaison. The instantaneous concept of click-and-shoot was still decades away. To be photographed required sitting very still. The women featured in Goldman's collection obviously caught his eye. Not just anyone is asked to be the subject of artistic documentation.

Courtesy Serge Sorokko Gallery/Glitterati Editions

The local photographer and his anonymous muses appear to straddle an artful titillation, at times striving toward Degas nudes and at another, more in the spirit of a strip and tease. There is a beauty in even the most mundane moments.

Among Goldman's models, my own gaze zeroed in on the striped stockings and darker shades of their risqué brassieres. These ladies of Reading, Pennsylvania, might not have had the wealth of Madame du Barry, celebrated mistress of Louis XV of France, or the fame and freedom of a silver-screen sex goddess such as Mae West. But they sought to elevate their circumstances, to feel lovelier and more fashionable, with a daring pair of knickers.

Courtesy Serge Sorokko Gallery/Glitterati Editions

To feel special is fundamental to the human condition. Few opportunities outshine a sense of specialness than when an artist asks to record your looks, your beauty. Under the right circumstances, to be the object of admiration -- of desire -- to be what is essentially objectified is not only flattering. It can also provide a shot of confidence and a sense of strength and power and even liberation, however lasting or fleeting.

Courtesy Serge Sorokko Gallery/Glitterati Editions

For these working girls who were already going against the drudgery of toiling in a factory or as a domestic, who were surviving in a patriarchal world by their wits and sexuality, the opportunity to sit for Goldman was very likely not only thrilling. It was also empowering.

One can only imagine the mutual giddiness prevailing among them all, too, at the possible outcome from all these lost afternoon shoots. In a singular image from this collection appears Goldman striking a pose as proud as a peacock. It's one of stock masculinity in the canons of classic portraiture (though usually in military uniform), and like his muses, presented in all his naked glory. By sharing in the objectivity of the process, Goldman basks in the specialness his models must have felt. By stepping around the lens, he becomes a true confidante.

Courtesy Serge Sorokko Gallery/Glitterati Editions

It suggests a balance of power between artist and muse, man and woman -- at least behind closed doors. Their collective decision to strip and strut for the camera reveals a shared lack of shame for the body beautiful and, in that, a shared, albeit secret, defiance of cultural mores.

Courtesy Serge Sorokko Gallery/Glitterati Editions

By all accounts from curator Robert Flynn Johnson's devoted research on this once-lost collection, Goldman seems to have kept his treasured collection as a personal trove. As a successful photographer of weddings and social events, it was most certainly not in his interest for the public to know about his private creative pursuits.

Courtesy Serge Sorokko Gallery/Glitterati Editions

The brothel was a necessary evil in town, where men with certain desires visited women who would oblige. In this case, it was the desire of a man to capture the beauty and sensuality of the women he befriended. There is much to learn and (most of all!) take pleasure in with this discovery.

As these lost photographs illustrate more than a century later, one period's "social problem" is another's cultural revelation.

"Working Girls: An American Brothel, Circa 1892" by Robert Flynn Johnson, with a foreword by Dita Von Teese, is out now.

Luke Posted on December 15, 2018 01:26

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British Museum to return Benin bronzes to Nigeria

By Kieron Monks, CNN


Updated 1527 GMT (2327 HKT) December 14, 2018


LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 22: Plaques that form part of the Benin Bronzes are displayed at The British Museum on November 22, 2018 in London, England. The British Museum has agreed to loan the plaques back to a new museum in Benin City in Nigeria.

London (CNN)More than a century after British soldiers looted a collection of priceless artifacts from the Kingdom of Benin, some of the Benin bronzes are heading back to Nigeria - with strings attached.

A deal was struck last month by the Benin Dialogue Group (BDG) that would see "some of the most iconic pieces" in the historic collection returned on a temporary basis to form an exhibition at the new Benin Royal Museum in Edo State within three years.

More than 1,000 of the bronzes are held at museums across Europe, with the most valuable collection at the British Museum in London.


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Nigerian governments have sought their return since the country gained independence in 1960.

Temporary solution

The agreement represents a breakthrough for the BDG, which was formed in 2007 to address restitution claims.

The group comprises of representatives of several European museums, the Royal Court of Benin, Edo State Government, and Nigeria's National Commission for Museums and Monuments.

Benin bronzes: Will Britain return Nigeria's stolen treasures?

The returns are contingent on the timely completion of a new Royal Museum, adjacent to the Royal Palace that once housed many of the bronzes. Nigerian officials presented plans for the Museum at a BDG meeting in October. A spokesman for the Governor of Edo said that designs are being finalized in collaboration with the Royal Court of Benin.

A spokesman for the British Museum said European museums would play an active role in developing an elite institution suitable for housing exhibits that are considered to be among the greatest ever African artworks.

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"The key agenda item (at the October meeting) was how partners can work together to establish a museum in Benin City with a rotation of Benin works of art from a consortium of European museums," the spokesman said.

"The museums in attendance have all agreed to lend artifacts to the Benin Royal Museum on a rotating basis, to provide advice as requested on building and exhibition design, and to cooperate with the Nigerian partners in developing training, funding, and a legal framework for the display in a new planned museum."

Benin bronzes on display at the British Museum in London. The museum holds one of the world's largest collection of bronzes with around 700 pieces

Details about which pieces will be returned and how many are yet to be established. Dialogue is ongoing between the parties of the BDG, and the group is scheduled to meet again in Benin City next year. The present agreement notes that Nigerian partners have not ceded claims for permanent restitution, and officials remain determined to secure the bronzes on a permanent basis.

"We are grateful these steps are being taken but we hope they are only the first steps," Crusoe Osagie, spokesman for the Governor of Edo, told CNN. "If you have stolen property, you have to give it back."

Osagie called for greater pressure on European governments to return the bronzes.

Breaking the deadlock

Nigerian claims received a boost with the release of a new report commissioned by the French government that calls for wholesale restitution of artifacts seized during the colonial era.

The report from academics Felwine Sarr and Benedicte Savoy, prompted by President Emmanuel Macron's 2017 commitment to return African heritage, recommended that items taken without consent should be liable to restitution claims.

Many of the estimated 90,000 artifacts of sub-Saharan African origin held at French institutions could be contested under the report's criteria.

France urged to return looted art and amend heritage laws

Sarr and Savoy further recommended that key, symbolic pieces long sought by claimant nations should be immediately returned - including several French-held Benin bronzes.

The report also proposed a series of bilateral agreements between the French government and African states to bypass French laws barring museums from releasing their collections, which have proved a longstanding barrier to restitution. Such agreements would allow for permanent restitution rather than loans.

The French government has responded to the report by announcing an initial 26 artworks will be returned to the state of Benin, with further restitution to follow.

Pressure building

France's example will increase the pressure on museums across Europe, which has been building on several fronts.

Grassroots campaign groups within European countries are demanding restitution, such as in Germany, where 40 organizations recently signed an open

letter calling for the return of historical artifacts.

The letter prompted German institutions to conduct inventories of their collections to determine which items were acquired illicitly.

There is also growing recognition of the validity of restitution claims from a new generation of political leaders. Leader of the UK Labour party Jeremy Corbyn has said that if elected, his government would be willing to discuss the return of "anything stolen or taken from occupied or colonial possession."

Inside Ghana's Elmina Castle is a haunting reminder of its grim past

Several influential private collectors have also taken the side of African claimants, such as British citizen Mark Walker, who voluntarily returned a set of Benin bronzes captured by his grandfather.

Museums are also facing a raft of increasingly determined claims from the governments of dispossessed nations across the world, from sub-Saharan Africa to Greece's claims for the Elgin Marbles, to Chile's appeal for Easter Island statues.

Few longstanding observers of a saga that has been taking place since the end of the colonial era expect these matters to be resolved quickly. President Macron's initial commitment to return just 26 pieces suggests a long term process.

Museums and national governments are likely to resist wholesale restitution, and national laws preventing museums from disbursing their collections will continue to present a formidable barrier.

But if the wheels are turning slowly, they do at least appear to be shifting.

Luke Posted on December 15, 2018 01:11

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Israeli forces use live fire on Palestinian protesters as manhunt continues for gunman who killed 2 Israeli soldiers

Now PlayingSeven wounded in West...


Seven wounded in West Bank shooting 00:22

Jerusalem (CNN)Israeli troops used live fire to disperse protesters in the West Bank on Friday amid rising tensions following a spate of Palestinian attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians in recent days.

An 18-year-old Palestinian named Mahmoud Rabah Nakhleh died after he was shot in the abdomen during clashes north of Ramallah, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

A 13-year-old Palestinian was shot in the lower leg while using a slingshot in a stand-off with Israeli settlers near the Beit El settlement outside Ramallah, CNN eyewitnesses reported.

The Israeli army confirmed to CNN that it had used what it called riot dispersal means at the site, which included live fire.

A protester jumps over smoke from burning tires during clashes with Israeli soldiers near the Hawara checkpoint, south of Nablus, on Friday.

Earlier, less than a kilometer away, an Israeli soldier was injured after he was struck by a rock and stabbed, the Israeli army said. His condition was described as moderately to severely wounded. The assailant was also injured in the ensuing struggle.

Officials had been braced for widespread protests after Israel's army carried out raids overnight Friday in Ramallah. But overall levels of violence remained relatively low, and calls by Palestinian political factions to escalate confrontations with Israeli forces appear to have gone unheeded.

Forty people were arrested overnight in Ramallah on suspicion of "involvement in terror activities, popular terror and violent riots targeting civilians and security forces," Israel's army said. The army added that 37 of the detainees belonged to the Hamas militant group, which has threatened further attacks on Israeli soldiers.

Two Israeli soldiers were shot dead Thursday at a bus stop on a main road in the Israeli-controlled part of the West Bank, the Israeli military said. A third soldier and a fourth person were wounded in the incident.

Thursday's shooting took place less than two kilometers away from the site of an attack in Ofra settlement on Sunday which wounded seven, including a pregnant woman whose baby was delivered prematurely but died three days later.

Hamas had praised Thursday's fatal attack on Israeli soldiers and claimed responsibility for Sunday's Ofra settlement shooting.

Israeli soldiers stand at the scene of an attack near the settlement of Givat Assaf in the West Bank on Thursday.

Scattered clashes on Friday

At one checkpoint east of Ramallah, the site of serious clashes in recent days, a CNN team saw around two dozen Palestinian protesters throwing rocks and setting tires alight on Friday, and Israeli soldiers firing tear gas canisters.

Elsewhere CNN saw evidence of an increased Israeli military presence in the West Bank, with more checkpoints in operation and road closures. CNN also saw an increased security presence at bus stops, which have been the site of two shooting attacks in recent months.

Palestinian security forces clash with Hamas supporters in Hebron on Friday.

A video being widely shared by Palestinians on social media appears to show Hamas supporters, many of them women, being violently confronted by Palestinian Authority security officers during a Friday demonstration in the West Bank city of Hebron. In the West Bank, Hamas's influence is checked by the Palestinian Authority, as well as Israeli forces.

The video shows at least one man being dragged from a car and beaten by PA security officers in riot gear. It's unclear what led to the incident. The Palestinian Authority has not responded to CNN's calls for comment.

Netanyahu retaliates by legalizing settlements

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the deaths of the Israeli soldiers Thursday by announcing plans to legalize thousands of homes built illegally by settlers in the West Bank, in an attempt to placate right-wing groups angered by the attacks.

He said the West Bank homes had been "built in good faith," and that legalization would enable "thousands of residents to have public, educational and religious structures, the construction of which has not been possible for decades."

Israelis protest outside Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem on Thursday.

Around 1,000 Israelis joined a protest outside Netanyahu's residence on Thursday, according to Israeli media, hours after the shooting of the Israeli soldiers. Demonstrators called on the Prime Minister to resign for failing to clamp down on the violence. Some held placards showing the face of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the crosshairs of a gun.

Netanyahu is also advancing the construction of two new industrial zones in the West Bank, and has asked the attorney general to make legal arrangements for the building of 80 new residential units in Ofra settlement.

All Israeli settlements in the West Bank are considered illegal under international law, which classifies the area as occupied territory. Israel disputes the assessment, arguing that the status of the territories is more ambiguous than international law allows. Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan during the Six-Day War in 1967.

CNN's Andrew Carey reported from Jerusalem. Abeer Salman reported from Ramallah.


Luke Posted on December 15, 2018 01:08

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Most Nazis escaped justice. Now Germany is racing to convict those who got away

By Atika Shubert and Nadine Schmidt, CNN

Updated 0016 GMT (0816 HKT) December 15, 2018


Berlin, Germany (CNN)Johann Rehbogen still remembers the lentil stew he ate with other military recruits as they traveled crammed into cattle cars to join the German Wehrmacht in 1942. He recalls the movie screened at the SS training camp: "Quax the Crash Pilot," a comedy. He also remembers seeing prisoners for the first time.

"They had on prison uniforms and they looked truly miserable. This was a big shock for me," recalled the 94-year-old, who is currently on trial for his role as an SS guard at the Stutthof concentration camp in what was then German-occupied Poland.

"The Wehrmacht officers were eloquent," said Rehbogen in a rare testimony read out in court by his lawyer last month. "They seemed downright heroic to us. But when I saw the prisoners, it was clear that this picture the Wehrmacht was trying to convey, was wrong."

Former SS guard Johann Rehbogen, pictured in 1945 when he was a prisoner of war in the US.

Rehbogen is accused of being an accessory to the murder of hundreds, and is one of five defendants now in court, with another 20 still under investigation, according to Germany's Federal Authority for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes. He is being tried as a juvenile because he was under 21 at the time of the alleged crimes.

Rehbogen has denied knowledge of a deliberate killing campaign.

The country is now racing against time to bring the last surviving perpetrators of Nazi war crimes -- now well into old age -- to justice.


But for many survivors it is too little, too late.

'Tiny percentage' of Nazis brought to justice

The number of suspects that have been brought to trial is a tiny percentage of the more than 200,000 perpetrators of Nazi-era crimes, said Mary Fulbrook, a professor of Germany History at University College London.

"It's way too late," she told CNN of the latest trials. "The vast majority of perpetrators got away with it."

In her new book, "Reckonings: Legacies of Nazi Persecution and the Quest for Justice," Fulbrook says that of the 140,000 individuals brought to court between 1946 and 2005, only 6,656 ended in convictions.

"Immediately after the war, there were the Nuremberg trials. But these Allied trials were seen as victor's justice. This was, in a way, vilified and not taken seriously," she explained. "The first five to 10 years after the war, there were a lot of trials. Then they dwindled down massively," said Fulbrook.

"Then, in the interest of the Cold War and fighting communism, there was a move to rehabilitate former Nazis and a general climate of amnesty. Some perpetrators who were given severe sentences in the 1940s were released with much lighter sentences in the 1950s," Fullbrook said.

'It's easy to say you could have done things differently'

In the 1960s and 1970s a new generation of Germans pressed their parents and grandparents to answer: What did you do in the war?

But it was not until the trial of SS guard John Demjanjuk, that prosecutors were able to convict Nazi suspects who may have not been directly responsible for specific killings.


In 2011, Demjanjuk was found guilty by a Munich court of being an accessory to the murder of more than 28,000 people based on evidence that he had served as an SS guard at the Sobibor Nazi death camp, a landmark decision that allowed prosecutors to go after lower-ranking suspected Nazi war criminals.

"From today's perspective, it's easy to say you could have done things differently in the 1950s," said Jens Rommel, lead prosecutor at Germany's Federal Authority for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes. "It may not have been possible to carry out the prosecution of tens of thousands of suspects as accessories to war crimes."

"There are also other reasons," said Rommel. "Many of the obvious leaders did not survive the war -- or died before they could be prosecuted. Some escaped prosecution by emigrating."

Why World War I is Germany's forgotten conflict

He added that "because of the combination of police officers, prosecutors and judges in Germany's post-war society -- people who may have had roles in the Third Reich -- the will to persecute was weakened."

Instead, Germany developed a "Culture of Remembrance" to address its wartime history. Memorials abound across the country and school children routinely visit memorial sites like Auschwitz to ensure the horrors of the Holocaust are never repeated.

"Germany is one of the most moral countries in addressing its history," said Fulbrook. "To some extent, it is an outpouring, an inherited sense of shame, but without being able to rectify that failure of bringing the guilty to justice."

"It's just an awful shame that while former Nazis were still in a position of influence, Germany didn't have the political will to bring Nazis to trial when they could have," she said.

The 'Bookkeeper of Auschwitz'

The recent trials have, however, facilitated a kind of belated dialogue between perpetrators and Holocaust survivors.


Oskar Groening, known as the "The Bookkeeper of Auschwitz" for his role as an SS accountant at the Nazi death camp, was tried and convicted in the northern German city of Lueneburg in 2015 as an accessory to the murder of 300,000 people.

He made several statements in court, at times harrowing in their vivid detail but also repellent in his candid recollection of Nazi ideology.

Oskar Groening, 96, in court in 2015.

On his first day in court, the 96-year-old recounted how he witnessed the murder of a small child. "A Jewish mother had hidden her little girl in a small suitcase on arrival. She was found out in the sorting. An SS commander took the baby and smashed the baby against the truck until her screaming stopped. My heart stopped," said Groening.

"I went to the man and said, 'You cannot do this.' But I was not allowed to question this. The next morning, I requested a transfer," he added.

Groening's testimony also showed that, at the time, he had been a fully indoctrinated member of the Nazi SS and though he had objected to the method of the killing, he had not opposed the murder itself.

"The baby broke the world for me. The horror of this action broke me," he said, adding, "It would have been different had he simply taken the gun and shot the baby dead."

Ironically, Groening's Nazi past was only discovered when he began speaking out against Holocaust deniers, by recounting his personal experiences in Auschwitz. Groening maintained that although he was never directly responsible for the killings he acknowledged his "moral complicity."

The court sentenced Groening to four years in prison. One of the Holocaust survivors who testified against him, Eva Kor, made a public statement forgiving Groening and demanding that his prison sentence be changed to community service.

Far right: Eva Kor in 2015 points at an image of herself as a child taken during the liberation of Auschwitz, along with other survivors.

"Groening said in his statement that he was wrong, it never should have happened, and it should never happen again. That is exactly what I want him to tell the young people in Germany who want to bring back a Nazi regime," Kor's statement said. "I told Oskar Groening that I have forgiven him, but that does not absolve or condone what he has done."

Groening died in the midst of appealing his sentence, but Fulbrook said his case highlighted the importance of recording the testimonies of alleged perpetrators.

"You certainly don't want to taint the memory of victims with their tormentors," she said. "But you do need more education about the Nazi system, what made it possible. Not just the nasty SS thugs but the wider group that made it possible."

A glimpse into the mindset of a SS soldier

Like Groening's testimony, Rehbogen's personal statement is rare. It reads like a diary, a glimpse into the mindset of an SS soldier.

His defense hinges on two claims -- that as an ethnic-German living in Hungary he was involuntarily drafted into the SS, and that he had no knowledge of the camp's systematic killings.

Rehbogen claims he was unaware of the existence of a gas chamber, though he remembered the stench that came from the crematorium. "Nothing could disguise that," his statement read.

Stutthof concentration camp, pictured in 2016.

"Even if it sounds like a flimsy justification, I did not perceive Stutthof as a camp designed to kill prisoners," he added. "I was aware that the conditions were terrible and that many died of disease and hunger. But that it was a systemic killing only dawned on me much later."

In court, a historian testifying as an expert witness disputed both of Rehbogan's claims, pointing out that more than 10,000 people were killed in Stutthof, despite the camp's small size.

Johannes Tuchel, the director of the German Resistance Memorial Center, backed up the historian's testimony.

"The Waffen SS did not have the ability to conscript people," Tuchel told CNN. "Germany and Hungary had a military alliance and Germany did not have the power to conscript in Hungary at the time. All ethnic Germans in Hungary in 1942 came voluntarily to the Waffen SS. I have not seen any documents that would prove otherwise."

Too little, too late for victims

One Holocaust survivor who remembers Rehbogan from Stutthof is Judy Meisel, who was 14 when she was ordered to line up naked outside the camp's gas chamber with her mother. The teenager survived after a guard suddenly pulled her out of the line.

"She was essentially ripped from her mother's arms at the steps of the gas chamber," Meisel's grandson, 34-year-old Benjamin Cohen, told CNN.

"Her mother told her, 'Run, Judy, run!' And she did. She ran all the way back and found her sister in the barracks and the two remained together and survived," Cohen said.

Holocaust survivor Judy Meisel pictured just after the war and recently.

When German investigators contacted Judy Meisel, now 89, she immediately recognized Rehbogen as one of the guards -- though not the one that pulled her out that day.

"He must face responsibility for what he did when he was in Stutthof," Meisel wrote in a statement to the court. "Responsibility that he helped with the unimaginable crimes against humanity -- that he helped murder my beloved mother whom I have missed all my life."

Cohen told CNN that if the trial had happened 10 years earlier, Meisel would have been able to attend herself. Instead, because of her frail health, he sat in her place, watching as Rehbogen was brought to court in a wheelchair.




A Holocaust survivor bears witness at trials in Germany 03:33

"It's never easy to see an old man wheeled into a courtroom, but I mostly thought about how disappointing it is that these trials have taken so long to happen," Cohen told CNN.

"My hope is that he would at least tell us what happened, even if he refuses to admit to anything he did. Instead, he wants us to believe he could stand guard in the camp for two years and not know anything."

In court, Rehbogen concluded his statement by saying, "I would like to say once again that I am not a Nazi. I never was one. And in the little time I have left, I will never be one."

Now, he waits for Germany's courts to decide.

Luke Posted on December 15, 2018 01:05

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Reindeer in Sweden usually migrate in November. But there's still no snow.

“I can't ask my father what to do now because he hasn’t seen this; it hasn’t happened during his lifetime.”

Reindeer are gathered in a corral near the village of Dikanaess, Sweden, in 2016.Jonathan Nackstrand / AFP/Getty Images file

Dec. 5, 2018 / 10:46 AM GMT / Updated Dec. 5, 2018 / 11:07 AM GMT

By Linda Givetash

It may be December but almost 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle there’s still not enough snow for reindeer to begin their annual migration.

Sweden’s indigenous Sami people have herded the animals for generations, with the corral usually happening over a two-week period in November.

But this year the tradition has been postponed because temperatures keep fluctuating above and below the freezing mark.

“Something is really wrong with nature,” said Niila Inga, 37, who lives in Sweden’s northernmost town of Kiruna. “I can't ask my father what to do now because he hasn’t seen this; it hasn’t happened during his lifetime.”


The past four years have been the warmest on record globally, according to the World Meteorological Organisation.

Reindeer husbandry is carried out in countries throughout the Arctic including Norway, Russia and China. A 2009 report on the future of the practice says that there are 3,000 reindeer herders in Sweden alone, and a total of nearly 100,000 globally.

It's a family business. Inga said he took the lead from his father when he turned 18 and works alongside 17 other full-time herders in the community that includes his cousins and nephew.

Every September, reindeer are gathered and killed for meat. It’s the main source of income for the herders.

A Sami man labels a reindeer calf near the village of Dikanaess, Sweden, in 2016.Jonathan Nackstrand / AFP/Getty Images file

After the slaughter, the remaining reindeer are left to graze in the wild until it’s time for the winter migration eastward to better grazing territory. For Inga, that's a trek of more than 62 miles.

Herders follow the animals on snowmobile, spending nights in cabins along the route. Children get the time off school to take part in the process.

“Everything is connected to the reindeer and the reindeer herding,” Inga said. “It’s something you’re born and raised in.”

But Inga, who is also the chairman of the Swedish Sami Association, believes "something is shifting."


The snow is vital to every aspect of reindeer husbandry so this winter's erratic freeze-thaw cycle is a problem.

Research suggests the effects of global warming are amplified at the poles, with average air temperatures rising faster than elsewhere on the planet. This results in the rapid loss of ice, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado. This year's winter freeze is being forecast to come late for the Scandanavian region and ice formation will be below-average.

The herders need the snow for their own travels through the wild terrain. Snow also makes it easier for the Sami to track reindeer and predators.

Most importantly, the snow impacts vegetation. A delayed winter could be viewed as a good thing, allowing the reindeer more time to graze by the mountains, Inga said. But it could also lead to the reindeer trampling the plants and prompt overgrazing.

Research is backing up the changes the Sami are witnessing. Gunhild Rosqvist, a geography professor at Stockholm University, is part of a team studying the changing Arctic landscape, including the accelerating loss of glacier ice in the Scandinavian mountains.


Rosqvist is currently working with the herders to study how weather variability is impacting the animals.

It's becoming clear the animals are migrating into new areas — despite roads and other development blocking their path — which in turn is forcing herders to change their practices, she said.

The expansion of mining, wind-energy farms and tourism across northern Sweden is cutting back on the available land.

The entire town of Kiruna is being forced to move because of the neighboring iron ore mine.

“The combined pressure of all this and climate change is really pushing some of these communities over the tipping point,” Rosqvist said.

A Sami man catches a reindeer near the village of Dikanaess, Sweden.Jonathan Nackstrand / AFP/Getty Images file

Reindeer migration is just one of the many symptoms of the warming climate.

This summer saw Sweden’s highest peak lose that status due to glacial melt while wildfires spanned an unprecedented 61,775 acres across the country amid record hot and dry conditions.

A huge section of a glacier near Rosqvist's northern research station unexpectedly broke loose in an ice avalanche, she said, shocking scientists.

“It’s an emergency,” Rosqvist added. “The whole ecosystem is so delicate.”

Despite the rapid changes to the landscape, the Sami are trying to adapt. Inga said herders are discussing what to do if the land fails to provide enough food for the reindeer.

“We don’t want to feed them because it isn’t natural and it’s part of our culture,” Inga said. The reindeer are semi-domesticated and bringing in food could change their behavior dramatically, he said. It could also affect the quality of the meat.




Six ways climate change is hitting the U.S.

Sanna Vannar, president of the Sami youth association Sáminuorra, said members hope that they’ll be able to continue the traditions of their forefathers.

The association joined 10 families across Europe and Africa to lodge a lawsuit against the European Union in May for failing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change.

The lawsuit specifically cites the challenges reindeer are having in finding food due to the warming climate and the repercussions it, in turn, has on Sami culture and livelihoods.

"It's really bad for young reindeer herders because they every day have to think about the weather," Vannar said. "I can't see my life without reindeer."

Linda Givetash

Linda Givetash is a reporter based in London. She previously worked for The Canadian Press in Vancouver and Nation Media in Uganda. 


Luke Posted on December 15, 2018 00:48

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Ukraine's martial law brings unease after Russian attack

Russian ships last month rammed, opened fire on and then seized three Ukrainian naval vessels in the Black Sea, triggering fears of an potential invasion.

Zaporizhzhia's main street after martial law was introduced.Renee Hickman / for NBC News

Dec. 7, 2018 / 9:20 AM GMT / Updated Dec. 7, 2018 / 9:45 AM GMT

By Renee Hickman

ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine — Larysa Spitsyna was shocked and confused when she learned her city would be placed under martial law.

"As a psychologist, I know that the main thing that is disturbing to us is uncertainty," said Spitsyna, 54, who teaches at a local university.

It was precisely such a feeling that swept thorough Zaporizhzhia last week.

The city is in one of the regions where martial law was imposed by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko — a response to Russian ships ramming, shooting and then seizing three naval vessels in the Black Sea.

Ukrainian President: 'Russia will pay a huge price if they attack us'

NOV. 27, 201801:16

In Ukraine, that allows the military to requisition private property, mobilize civilians, ban mass gatherings and stop the sale of alcohol. Poroshenko said it was necessary in response to "an act of aggression" and claimed Russia was amassing tanks at his border. Days after the sea clash, Moscow also announced it was deploying an additional S-400 surface-to-air missile system to Crimea, the peninsula it annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

But a week later, there have been few signs of anything unusual in Zaporizhzhia, an industrial city in the country's southeast known for its steel production.

While initially concerned, Spitsyna said she was reassured when university officials said operations would continue as normal. She voted for Poroshenko during the last election in 2014 and backs the president's decision now.

Larysa Spitsyna.Renee Hickman / for NBC News

"I think this measure is a way we can gain more safety at the moment," she said. "I think it will improve Poroshenko's ratings."

Not everyone here agrees with the move — or feels so reassured.

In 2014, Russian-backed separatists began fighting Ukrainian government troops in a conflict that has rumbled on for more than four years and claimed more than 10,000 lives. The rebel-controlled area is just 100 miles from Zaporizhzhia.


The same year, some 120 miles to the south of the city, Russian forces annexed Crimea, a move deemed illegal by the United States and most other Western countries.

Back then, in the height of Ukraine's crisis, the newly elected Poroshenko did not declare martial law. So why do it now, asks Evgenia Ivanova?

"Every day we had the fear that [Russian tanks] can move to Zaporizhzhia and drive on our main avenue," said Ivanova, who works at a travel agency. "Why was martial law not imposed in those times?"

Some critics have made the same point, alleging that Poroshenko did not impose martial law in 2014 because it did not suit him politically. Last week, he initially announced the move would be deployed country-wide for 60 days.


Seemingly fearing a power-grab, Ukraine's Parliament limited it to 30 days and only in the regions bordering Russia or Trans-Dniester, a Moldovan breakaway republic where Russian forces are based.

Now that it's here, martial law is affecting Ivanova's business. Customers are calling to ask if their flights out of the country could be canceled. But many other people here are unfazed, desensitized by years living so close to the conflict, according to Ivanova.

"It isn't so scary for us now," she said. "A lot of people believed there would be some escalation in the situation with Russia, but we just didn’t know what form it would take."

Evgenia Ivanova.Renee Hickman / for NBC News

When Bogdan Kalugin, 19, first heard about martial law from his brother, he says he immediately started scouring social media.

"I saw that there would be house-to-house searches and the military can come to your apartment and confiscate your property," he said.

Kalugin says he hasn't heard any reports of property being seized, or in fact any changes on the ground at all. But with elections nearing, he says he is still concerned about the parts of the law that could limit political rallies and mass gatherings.

"I think the situation happened and now Poroshenko is trying to get as much benefit from it as possible," he said. "It seems to me that escalation of the conflict isn't advantageous for either side. It’s more beneficial for [Russia and Ukraine] to keep it frozen."

Families enjoy a snowy day near the Dnieper River in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. A statue of Lenin once looked out over the river and hydroelectric plant, but it has since been replaced by a representation of a Cossack, which many Ukrainians see as a patriotic symbol.Renee Hickman / for NBC News

Another resident of the city, Evgeniy Dzyga, is also thinking about his future.

Dzyga, 45, an actor at the city's theater prepping for a role as Santa Claus in a Christmas-themed show for children. He is also an army reservist and veteran of the war in eastern Ukraine.

He says he has been preparing to be called for active duty. "I have my go-bag ready," he said.

Dzyga is supportive of both martial law and of Poroshenko, says that if anything martial law should have been imposed sooner.

"I think that there won’t be a bigger invasion," he said, "because martial law was introduced to let our enemies know that we are ready."

Renee Hickman

Luke Posted on December 15, 2018 00:45

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Aquarius migrant rescue ship stops Mediterranean Sea patrols

"The end of Aquarius means more deaths at sea, and more needless deaths that will go unwitnessed."

For the past two months, the Aquarius has remained at port in Marseille, France.Boris Horvat / AFP - Getty Images file

Dec. 7, 2018 / 3:51 PM GMT / Updated Dec. 7, 2018 / 4:24 PM GMT

By Alexander Smith

LONDON — The Aquarius was the last search-and-rescue ship operating in the world's most deadly migration route, saving almost 30,000 people from the Mediterranean Sea since 2016.

On Friday, the charity that runs the vessel said it was being forced to end its work, blaming "smear campaigns and maneuvers to undermine international law" by governments in Europe.

"This is a dark day," Nelke Manders, said general director of Médecins Sans Frontiers, which is also known as Doctors Without Borders. "The end of Aquarius means more deaths at sea, and more needless deaths that will go unwitnessed."

As migration levels soar around the globe, nowhere has been more dangerous than the Mediterranean for those fleeing conflict in the Middle East and Africa or seeking better lives in Europe.

More than 2,100 people have died this year alone, the overwhelming majority leaving from Libya.


The Aquarius, which was jointly operated by MSF and SOS Méditerranée, was the last humanitarian vessel attempting to rescue people making the journey.

Other ships have been detained by Italian and Maltese authorities on charges ranging from illegally aiding migrants to not being properly registered.

A lone holdout, the Aquarius was recently accused of illegally dumping potentially dangerous medical waste and was twice stripped of its registration, which MSF likened to "tactics used in some of the world's most repressive states."

Migrants await rescue in a rubber dinghy during a rescue involving the Aquarius off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa in 2016.SOS Mediterranee / Reuters file

The group said several governments were to blame, but singled out Italy, whose hard-line nationalist interior minister, Matteo Salvini, says other countries should accept a greater share of migrants.

Salvini alleges rescue ships like the Aquarius encourage more migrants to take to the sea. He has repeatedly closed Italian ports to the Aquarius, forcing it to sail for days while carrying migrants to find ports in other countries.

In addition, the European Union has increased cooperation with the Libyan coast guard to intercept people attempting to leave, a policy criticized by the United Nations as "inhuman." Returning them to Libya, MSF said, exposes people to "arbitrary detention, violence, and unsafe conditions."

Italy's ISPI think tank warned in October that closing ports had actually increased the number of deaths at sea. For the past two months, the Aquarius has remained at port in Marseille.


"This is the result of a sustained campaign, spearheaded by the Italian government and backed by other European states, to delegitimize, slander, and obstruct aid organizations providing assistance to vulnerable people," MSF said.

Maders added: "Not only has Europe failed to provide search and rescue capacity, it has also actively sabotaged others' attempts to save lives."

Alexander Smith

Alexander Smith is a London-based senior reporter for NBC News.

Reuters contributed.


Luke Posted on December 15, 2018 00:41

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In Chile, this man has an epic train set in his backyard. They're real trains.

“In my childhood, the trains were still running in Chile," says José Zagal. “I’ve tried to save as many as I can and put them in my garden.”

Train collector Jose Zagal in his garden in Santiago, Chile.Richard Ulloa /

Dec. 9, 2018 / 3:40 PM GMT

By Liam Miller

SANTIAGO, Chile — Railway fanatic José Zagal never quite shook his fascination for trains as a child, so he started building a train set right in his own back garden.

These are real trains.

The Chilean’s gigantic haul includes two locomotives and 12 passenger carriages, cabooses, and even freight cars.

Lovingly restoring the trains he has "saved," his private fleet is now worth an estimated at $1 million U.S. dollars, even though Zagal paid scrap metal prices due to the derailment of Chile’s train network.

The 68-year-old scientist even has 300 meters of railroad in his garden, along with rail signals and a working railroad switch — to change the tracks.

A train inside the garden of train collector Jose Zagal in Santiago, Chile.Richard Ulloa /


Chile’s railroad network was broken up in the 1980s by former military dictator Augusto Pinochet. Only a few lines still operate.

During his 17 years in power, thousands of his political opponents and civilians — now know as ‘The Disappeared’ — vanished without any record. Tens of thousands more people, fearing the same, fled the country in exile.

The Chilean general was eventually arrested in London in 1998 in connection with human rights violations, before dying in 2006. But during his rule, Pinochet favored roads as the country’s primary option for land travel and transport.

The trains and the rail network that once ran across the entire country disappeared too.

“I love everything to do with trains, the sounds, the machinery, the smell," Zagal says. “In my childhood, the trains were still running in Chile and I was always fascinated, watching them on holiday at the beach and places like that.”

Most Chileans today travel long distance on buses, with first-class options that include fully-reclining chairs, table-service and broadband internet.

“It’s not the same,” says Zagal. “On a train you have lots of space and you can walk around, or have a proper dinner served to you in a luxury dining car illuminated with dim lights, all with that special a-chuck-a-chuck sound like you are in an old movie. It’s a different world.”

Following the derailment of the trains, the former engines and carriages lay rotting around the country, or were destroyed.

“A lot of people just broke them up for the metal, or for firewood,” says Zagal. “Some piece of Chilean history is gone forever.

“I’ve tried to save as many as I can," he says, "and put them in my garden.”

A portrait of Jose Zagal driving his mining locomotive in his garden. Santiago, chile.Richard Ulloa /


It all makes for the perfect illusion of a real railway station when he plays train driver, shuttling his carriages around at the helm of his electric mining locomotive. And when he does, he likes to conduct himself properly by dressing up as a Victorian-era controller.

Zagal's private railway mirage is made more convincing by his house and other buildings he erected in his garden. He converted the back of his home into a replica of a station, complete with a large clock. And he added railroad style buildings around his home to perfect the look while simultaneously protecting his collection from the hard Chilean winter.

He even ponders on being buried in a train-style coffin. “I’ve been playing with trains all my life. When I got bored of models, I started buying real ones."

Jose Zagal's collection includes 100s of miniature and model trains on Santiago, Chile on Oct. 10, 2018.Richard Ulloa /

Zagal's home in Santiago, Chile, is full of hundreds of miniature model trains and other rail paraphernalia like lanterns, signs, clocks and clothing.


But his real passion is writ large by the full-sized trains in the garden, which include a steam locomotive and the smaller mining engine, which he bought for its power.

“I bought the electric locomotive from a Chinese company online, so I could move the others around,” he says. “It can shift a lot of weight.

“The people at the company I bought it from couldn’t understand it was just for my garden, for fun. They thought I was going to mine something and kept asking the weight of the minerals I needed to move.”

His favorite item in the entire collection is a caboose, with its accommodation quarters for the crew. Made in New York in 1895 by Pullman, it has a fully functioning kitchen, toilets and bedrooms.

A working kitchen inside one of train collector Jose Zagal's passenger cars.Richard Ulloa /

“I love to sleep in there, but my partner Erika only lets me do so when she’s out of town. She finds them a bit spooky," he says. "I filled it with other things I like to collect, like mannequins in old war uniforms."

Guests sometimes like to sleep in the trains too, so he fixed up the plumbing and facilities to make them livable.

The obsession, which started when Zagal was a small boy, seemed to grow as he did, like the size of the collectibles.

After he got bored of his model train set — at age 35 — the fanatic started buying up actual trains and now proudly has his full-size fleet at home.

And while his first love is trains, Zagal is also a distinguished professor of chemistry. He says his background in science has helped him install the collection.

As a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry in the United Kingdom and Emeritus Member of the Electrochemical Society of the United States, he used a scientific approach to the complicated delivery of the huge machines to his home.

“I didn’t want to have trains sinking into my lawn,” he says. “And I wanted to be able to move them around and drive them. So I planned the track and the sleepers first, laying them out ahead of the first delivery."

He had to model the angles of his garden and driveway to ensure he could get the Pullman in.

“The delivery prices are sometimes higher than the trains themselves. But fortunately Chile, as a mining country, has lots of options for the delivery of large machines.”

Do the neighbors mind when a train is delivered to their street?

“Not at all,” says Paulina Duclos, who lives directly across the road, flanked by towering canyon walls. “José is a special person and we know he’s a little eccentric. He brings something different to our neighborhood.”

Jose has designed the rear of his house to look like a train station.Richard Ulloa /


Following their delivery, the trains need maintenance. Only Zagal's loving attention has brought them back from their formerly vandalized states.

His partner Erika, 60, says: “If I can’t find José, I know he’s in his shed fixing a part for the trains.”

All the hours of planning, maintaining and polishing — along with all the money he spent on them — might not have been a total labor of love.

“Based on my research and the current prices of what people are paying for restored trains, it’s worth close to $1m U.S. I’m not going to sell them but maybe my children will after I’m gone. They’re not crazy about trains, like me."

Zagal says he's spent "some money" on making his collection, but only what he could afford.

"I think hobbies are important, so why not? We are prisoners of money in a way, so I have no issues spending on my trains, which bring me so much joy."

“My main issue is space," he adds. "I’m running out of garden.”


Liam Miller

Liam Miller is a freelance journalist based in Chile.

Luke Posted on December 15, 2018 00:38

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150 years of seeing red: The traffic light marks a milestone

With more than 1,000 people dying each year on London's horse-and-buggy-clogged roads, city leaders knew they had to do something to control traffic.

A traffic light next to the Houses of Parliament in London.Yui Mok / PA Wire/AP file

Dec. 10, 2018 / 7:45 AM GMT

By Rachel Elbaum

LONDON — Traffic lights are such a ubiquitous feature of the modern city that no one thinks much about them until you're stuck in a line of cars, impatiently waiting for the light to turn green.

But there was a time when cities were signal-free and traffic was directed by police officers — or not at all. That changed 150 years ago on Monday when the world’s first traffic light was installed in London. Towering 20 feet above the street, the gas-powered signal was placed at the busy intersection outside the Houses of Parliament.

The world's first traffic light was put up on Dec. 10, 1868.The British Newspaper Archive

With more than 1,000 people dying each year on London's horse-and-buggy-clogged roads at the time, city leaders knew they had to do something, according to the Transport for London transit authority. Invented by railway engineer J.P. Knight, the traffic light did just that.

Given its inventor's occupation, it's not surprising that it resembled a railway signal and was equipped with both waving arms and gas-powered green and red lights for use at night. A police officer changed the lights manually, using switches.

Despite the British capital's attempt to improve safety, the introduction of this new technology wasn’t without controversy.

“The direct control of our movement — stop now, go now — sat uneasily in Victorian liberal society,” said David Rooney, a researcher at Royal Holloway, University of London, and the author of a book on this history of traffic congestion.

At the time, London arguably needed more traffic control than ever. Its population had exploded from around 3 million in 1861 to around 7 million by 1910.

However, the reign of the world’s first traffic light was extraordinarily short-lived. A gas leak caused a series of explosions, seriously injuring a policeman, after just a month in action.

The city had to wait nearly six decades for traffic lights to really take off in 1925, when signals with electric lights came to London from the U.S.

Today, there are nearly 9 million people living in the greater London area. It’s the world’s seventh most congested city, behind Los Angeles at No. 1 and New York at 3, according to transport analytics company Inrix’s global traffic scorecard.

Buses pass through traffic lights near the Houses of Parliament in London.Birute / Getty Images file

Parliament Square is now one of the capital’s busiest areas. Tourists, civil servants and politicians cram the sidewalks, while cars and trucks stream over the bridge to South London.

At the intersection where the first traffic light stood, there are now 24 individual lights directing cars and pedestrians, overlooked by a statue of Winston Churchill.

They are among the more than 6,000 lights that control traffic in London, and while they control traffic, they've done little to stem its flow.

“Driving around here is murder," Clive Pearce, a black-cab driver, said as he dropped off passengers outside Westminster Abbey. "I started driving 42 years ago and traffic is now the worst I’ve seen. A journey that used to take me 20 minutes from west to east now takes an hour.”

Although the technology behind the lights has changed over the years — from gas to today’s LED lights — the way we control traffic has altered little since Queen Victoria sat on the throne.

“With such a complex and expensive infrastructure buried under our feet, it seems as if traffic lights are here to stay," Rooney said. "Because despite all efforts to solve the traffic problem, our cities will always be congested."

Rachel Elbaum

Rachel Elbaum is a London-based editor, producer and writer. 


Luke Posted on December 15, 2018 00:35

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Strasbourg Christmas market reopens after attack

The Christmas market in the French city of Strasbourg has reopened, two days after the attack carried out by a gunman on Tuesday evening.

Cherif Chekatt was killed on Thursday by police on a city street after he opened fire on officers.

Three people died following the shooting at the market and several more are seriously injured.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner is visiting the market as it reopens, talking to stallholders.

Strasbourg's mayor Roland Ries said security would be tight: "We have restricted the number of entrances with checkpoints, body searches and bag searches. We have reduced [the number of entry points] for greater control, with a better distribution of police forces," he told French radio.

The city had been in lockdown after the attack while more than 700 police and soldiers hunted down the suspected gunman.

Chekatt, 29, had a string of criminal convictions in France and Germany and had become a radical Islamist in jail.

Will Strasbourg's festive crowds come back?

By Gavin Lee, BBC News, Strasbourg

Signs of normal life are returning to the centre of Strasbourg, now the manhunt is over.

As security officials allowed the Christmas Markets to reopen, small groups filtered in.

But the city that promotes itself as the capital of Christmas doesn't feel like that just yet, as the big festive crowds that Strasbourg is famous for have not yet returned.

Traders say the fear factor appears to have put off many tourists, but they're relieved that they are back in business and that the city has moved on quickly.

The #Strasbourg Christmas markets have just reopened again 2 days after the shooting attack, and the morning after police killed the gunman. Market traders say it’s very quiet, compared to the thousands usually here,packing the streets, but they’re glad to doing business again

In place Kléber, where the gun attack unfolded, people have brought flowers and candles to place underneath the Christmas tree at the market entrance. Armed military police patrol in groups of four.

Three kilometres (two miles) south of here in Neudorf, investigators are attempting to retrace the steps that Cherif Chekatt may have taken as he hid for 48 hours.

The investigation will also look at what mistakeser we made in police surveillance methods after the suspect was released from prison and added to a security watch list of those monitored for extremist behaviour.

How was Chekatt found?

After an appeal for witnesses, the security forces received 800 calls from the public and quickly focused their search on the Neudorf area, where Chekatt was last seen after the attack, France's anti-terror prosecutor, Rémy Heitz, said on Friday.

As a result of two significant reports, an extensive police operation involving a helicopter was launched on Thursday evening at 19:30 local time (18:30 GMT).

At 21:00, officers in a police car noticed a man, whose description matched that of the suspect, walking down rue du Lazaret, Mr Heitz said.

The man noticed the police car and tried to enter a building at number 74, but could not get in. The officers identified themselves, and the man turned around, pointing a gun - similar to the one used in Tuesday's attack - and fired in their direction, hitting their car, he said.

Two of the three officers fired back several times and killed the suspect. He was identified through his fingerprints and declared dead at 21:05.

The officers found an old gun, still loaded, some ammunition and a knife on his body.

Image copyrightPOLICE NATIONALE 

French President Emmanuel Macron earlier thanked security forces in a tweet, vowing that the country's commitment against terrorism is "total."

Hundreds of French police and security forces had been searching for Chekatt.

A large police operation had taken place in Neudorf earlier on Thursday afternoon, but ended without results.

Seven people have been arrested in connection with the attack: Cherif Chekatt's parents and two of his brothers, as well as three other people close to him, Mr Heitz said.

Mr Ries said that finding Chekatt meant the worried people of his city would now be able to return to a normal life.

Mr Castaner thanked security forces in a tweet:

How did Tuesday's attack unfold?

At about 20:00 local time (19:00 GMT), a man opened fire close to the famed Christmas market near place Kléber.

Mr Heitz said the man had shouted "Allahu Akbar" ("God is greatest") as he opened fire.

The suspect was armed with a gun and a knife and escaped the area after jumping into a taxi, Mr Heitz said.

As he fled he came into contact with four soldiers, Mr Heitz said, and began firing at them. The soldiers fired back, apparently hitting him in the arm.

The attacker told the taxi driver he had killed 10 people, and also said he had been injured during a firefight with soldiers.

He ordered the taxi driver to drop him near the police station in Neudorf. When he got out of the vehicle, he fired at police officers before escaping.

What do we know about the suspect?

Chekatt was born in Strasbourg and was already known to the security services.

He was on the "fiche S" watchlist of people who represent a potential threat to national security.

He had 27 convictions for crimes including robbery spanning France, Germany and Switzerland, and had spent considerable time in prison as a result.

Police were seeking him on Tuesday morning in connection with another case, but did not find him at home.

A search of his apartment in Neudorf revealed a grenade, a rifle, four knives - two of which were hunting knives - and ammunition.

The Islamic State group's self-styled news agency, Amaq, on Thursday said that Chekatt was "an Islamic State soldier" who had "carried out the operation in response to calls for targeting citizens of coalition countries" fighting its militants in Syria and Iraq.

Who were the victims of the attack?

Three people died in Tuesday's attack, and one has been declared brain-dead, Mr Heitz said on Friday.

The death of Kamal Naghchband, a garage mechanic originally from Afghanistan, was announced on Thursday. The father of three died in hospital. His mosque announced his funeral would take place after Friday prayers. He had been visiting the market with his family and was shot in the head, his cousin told the AFP news agency.

A retired bank worker aged 61, from Strasbourg, was also killed in the attack, according to media reports.

The third victim was a Thai tourist who was on holiday with his wife.

Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha sent a letter of condolence to his French counterpart on Thursday that confirmed the man was among the dead, AFP reports.

Anupong Suebsamarn, 45, has been named by Thai media as the victim.

ruby Posted on December 14, 2018 15:11

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The fight over the Indian baby born in a bank queue

He arrived in the world with a bang. His birth in a bank queue made global news. But two-year-old Khazanchi Nath is now at the centre of a bitter fight between the two sides of his family and two villages because of his celebrity status. The BBC's Geeta Pandey travels to rural Kanpur in northern India to piece together the toddler's story.

Khazanchi, which means "treasurer", was born in the state of Uttar Pradesh on 2 December 2016, less than a month after the Indian government banned 1,000 and 500 rupee notes overnight.

The decision by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, locally called demonetisation, led to a major cash crunch and for weeks millions of Indians were seen queuing outside banks to withdraw new currency notes.

A very heavily pregnant Sarvesha Devi had walked from her home in Sardar Pur village to the bank in Jhinjhak town and taken her place in the line - along with her mother-in-law Sashi Devi, her eldest child, 10-year-old daughter Priti, and hundreds of others - when she went into labour.

Her story made headlines and tiny Khazanchi became the poster boy in the state election campaign against India's ruling BJP. When he was just over two months old, I travelled to their dusty village to see him.

Four months before his birth, his father had died from tuberculosis. Describing the trauma of giving birth in the bank, his mother told me she too would have died if it wasn't for her mother-in-law.

But last week, when I wanted to see Khazanchi again, I had to visit another dusty village - Anantpur Dhaukal, where his mother moved last year after a bitter row with her in-laws. It's where Sarvesha Devi's parental home is, where her mother and three brothers live with their families.

Khazanchi is curious about me - he fixes his kohl-lined eyes on me and, at his mother's prompting, shakes my hand. I ask him who painted his nails deep pink. He smiles and points at Priti, his sister.

Unaware of the bitter battle being fought over him, he seems more interested in my glasses and tries to snatch away my phone when I get close to him to take a photo.

Sarvesha Devi borrows two wobbly plastic chairs from a neighbour's house and we sit facing each other to chat. Within minutes, Khazanchi begins to get cranky. "He's hungry," she says and starts breastfeeding him. By now, word has spread about my visit and we are soon joined by her mother, her brothers and a few neighbours.

Once Khazanchi has quietened down, I ask Sarvesha Devi about her relationship with her mother-in-law. This time, she has nothing complimentary to say about Sashi Devi. In fact, the relationship has soured so much that she talks about threats to life - her own and Khazanchi's.

After her baby was born, Sarvesha Devi was awarded 200,000 rupees ($2,990; £2,395) as compensation from the government for having to give birth in a bank queue.

The previously life-saving, loving mother-in-law is now described as the dreaded monster-in-law whom she accuses of hitting her regularly and demanding half the compensation money.

It's a significant amount of money for a family steeped in poverty with no fixed sources of income. And it was then that the family relations began unravelling.

So what happened that tore the family apart like this? That's the question I posed to Sarvesha Devi - and to her mother-in-law when I visited her later in Sardar Pur. And their family members and villagers.

In the claims and counterclaims, sometimes it's difficult to sift the truth from falsehood, to understand who's being honest and who's just exaggerating.

Khazanchi's family belongs to the Baiga tribe, which is among India's poorest and most deprived communities. They have little education, own no land and most make a living through begging.

Traditionally though, the Baigas were snake-charmers, and even though catching snakes was outlawed a long time ago, every time I've visited them, they've proudly shown off reptiles.

This time too, one villager asks me if I want to see the latest catch and even before I can respond, an angry baby cobra is brought out of a basket. He prods and pokes the reptile which begins to crawl on the ground, less than a metre from me. It's defanged, he assures me.

It'll grow up to three times its current size, he explains before packing it back in the basket. I keep a wary eye on it as we resume talking.

Uttar Pradesh, where Sardar Pur and Anantpur Dhaukal villages are located, is India's most populous state. It's home to more than 200 million people and more than 15,000 babies are born here daily, so it's difficult to imagine that the birth of one child could generate much excitement.

But Khazanchi was catapulted to stardom because of the circumstances of his birth, and that it came at a time when the state was getting ready to hold key regional elections. The then chief minister Akhilesh Yadav used the "birth in the bank queue" to point out what a misadventure demonetisation had been.

He invoked the infant at every political rally, insisting that PM Modi's currency ban had hurt the poor most, the sort of family that is Khazanchi's.

A few months after his birth, Mr Yadav presented his mother with the compensation money.

Sarvesha Devi says she spent a part of it clearing debts her husband had left and on the treatment of her eldest son, who also suffers from tuberculosis. The remainder has been secured in a bank deposit.

But then, she says, her mother-in-law demanded half the reward money and when she refused, "the family threw me on the ground and beat me up". And that's when she decided to leave.

The 37-year-old mother-of-five, who walks with a very pronounced limp, says she refused to part with the money because "I'm disabled and with my husband gone, there's no-one to look after my children and I have to secure our future".

Relations further deteriorated after she moved. Malkhan Nath, her eldest brother, says he's come under pressure from the community to send her back.

"We keep telling her that's your family, your home, please go back, but she refuses because she says they beat her and treat her badly. We don't know what to do. She's my sister: how can I tell her to go if she doesn't want to?"

The family dispute is now in the community court that Malkhan Nath calls their "high court". It comprises prominent community elders who adjudicate in matters involving Baigas. Their rulings are not legally binding, but they're rarely ignored because the defiant can face a social boycott and have to pay monetary fines.

Malkhan Nath says that in the past year he's had to appear before the "court" three times, and that once he had to pay 650 rupees as a fine because his sister defied the order to appear along with Khazanchi.

Matters came to a head earlier this month. On 1 December, a day before Khazanchi's birthday, Sarvesha Devi says two car-loads of officials turned up late at night at her home.

"I was just sitting down for dinner and Khazanchi was asleep. They insisted that we go with them to Sardar Pur for his birthday celebrations the next day. I refused, so they picked him up and took him to the car. He woke up and started crying. We raised an alarm and chased them. All our neighbours came over and helped us rescue him. They were trying to kidnap him," she insists.

Though Mr Yadav didn't win last year's regional election, he has maintained contact with Khazanchi. Local journalists say he had planned to use the toddler as his mascot for the general elections due in the summer and had announced that he would be gifting him two homes on his birthday - one each in Sardar Pur and Anantpur Dhaukal.

The plan was for the former chief minister to visit Sardar Pur on his birthday and hand over the keys to Khazanchi. With local journalists invited to cover the celebrations, it was meant to be a perfect photo-op.

But when Mr Yadav arrived at Sardar Pur, Khazanchi wasn't there so the keys were handed over to Sashi Devi.

Clearly disappointed at the toddler's absence, Mr Yadav said he didn't know about the "battle between his maternal and paternal grandmothers" and sacked two senior party colleagues for "embarrassing" him.

A few days later when I visited Sardar Pur, I found the spanking new house right by the roadside. Sashi Devi had gone to the market, so I chatted with her relatives and neighbours as I waited for her return. The marigold flowers used to decorate the house had nearly wilted, and the mood was downbeat too.

"A lot of people had gathered to see Khazanchi, but his mother chose to stay away," says his great-uncle Asharfi Nath. "Mr Yadav had come laden with presents, but he took it back. Sarvesha Devi could have come for an hour. By refusing to attend the celebrations, she humiliated Mr Yadav."

The villagers say all was well until Khazanchi's birth and they blame "the greed and jealousy of his mother's family and her village" for ruining things. They allege that her family wants her money and her village believes that if the boy stays there, they will see development.

The villagers also darkly hint at a wider political conspiracy - Sardar Pur supports Mr Yadav's Samajwadi Party while Anantpur Dhaukal is dominated by upper-caste Thakurs who support Mr Modi's BJP.

Mulayam Nath, a villager, says if Sarvesha Devi doesn't want to return, she can stay on in her parental village but "she must send Khazanchi back because he is our baby, he belongs to our village. The progress and the benefits the authorities have promised must come to us".

By the time Sashi Devi returns, it's beginning to get dark. She squats on the ground outside the newly constructed house as I ask her to respond to the allegations against her.

"It's all lies," she says. "I never asked my daughter-in-law for any money. She's been coached to say what she's saying."

Sashi Devi talks about how Sarvesha Devi and her five children were fed and clothed by the family when her son was too sick to work. And in the months after his death, how the little money her husband and other sons brought home was shared with her even though no-one was obliged to do so.

She rejects allegations that they ever hit Sarvesha Devi. "I have four more daughters-in-law and 16 grandchildren. How come no-one else gets hit?" she asks.

She has her own stories of assault and abuse: "I went to her village twice to bring her and the children back. Each time, they hid Khazanchi, and the women there assaulted me."

Sashi Devi also rubbishes the charge that she or any of her family members could hurt Sarvesha Devi or Khazanchi. "How can we kill our own daughter-in-law and grandchild?"

As I prepare to leave, I ask her if there's any chance of a reconciliation, but she's not very hopeful.

"I've met her thrice recently and asked her to come back and live in her new house, but she has refused," she says, wiping a tear with the corner of her sari. "Earlier, I lost my son. Now I've lost my grandchildren too."

ruby Posted on December 14, 2018 15:02

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Branson's Virgin Galactic reaches edge of space

The latest test flight by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic successfully rocketed to the edge of space and back.

The firm's SpaceShipTwo passenger rocket ship reached a height of 82.7km, beyond the altitude at which US agencies have awarded astronaut wings.

It marked the plane's fourth test flight and followed earlier setbacks in the firm's space programme.

Sir Richard is in a race with Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos to send the first fee-paying passengers into space.

He founded the commercial spaceflight company in 2004, shortly after Mr Musk started SpaceX and Jeff Bezos established Blue Origin.

In 2008, Virgin Galactic first promised sub-orbital spaceflight trips for tourists would be taking place "within 18 months". It has since regularly made similar promises to have space flights airborne in the near future.

But delays and a fatal crash in 2014 prevented Sir Richard's original ambitions.

On Thursday, the SpaceShipTwo passenger rocket ship took off from the Mojave Desert in California.

The company said the space ship's motor burned for 60 seconds, travelling at 2.9 times the speed of sound as it gained height.

The rocket carried two pilots and a mannequin named Annie as a stand-in passenger, as well as four research experiments for NASA.

"Today we have shown Virgin Galactic can open space to the world," Sir Richard said.

The US government has awarded astronaut wings to pilots who ventured farther than roughly 80km beyond earth's surface.

But Thursday's flight did not breach the 100km Karman Line, which many organisations use to resolve debates about where space begins.

While the trip marked a milestone for Virgin Galactic, the firm's rivals have already ventured farther - albeit without humans on board.

SpaceX, in partnership with NASA, is planning crewed missions for early next year. Mr Bezos has also said Blue Origin plans to send its first crew to space in 2019.

Virgin Galactic, which is charging $250,000 for a 90-minute flight, has said more than 600 people have bought tickets or put down deposits for an eventual voyage.

ruby Posted on December 14, 2018 14:48

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China buys US soybeans for first time since trade war

China has bought US soybeans for the first time since the trade war between the two countries started in July - a move hailed as a "great step" by US officials.

One of the biggest casualties of the US-China trade war has been the US soybean sector.

China is by far the world's biggest importer of soybeans.

And Beijing's high tariffs placed on US soybeans this year has been severely hurting US farmers.

A trade truce between China and the US was reached earlier this month however, and there had been much anticipation that China would soon return to the US soybean market.

But while China's purchase of 1.13 million tonnes of US soybeans on Thursday was met with much applause from some, others said the purchase was too small, and not a sign that the trade war was cooling.

  • "Having a million, million-and-a-half tonnes is great, it's wonderful, it's a great step," said Steve Censky deputy secretary of the US Department of Agriculture.

"But there needs to be a lot more as well, especially if you consider it in a normal, typical year, we'll be selling 30 to 35 million metric tonnes to China."

The sale also failed to excite traders, who said the numbers fell short of estimates, which saw a sell-off in soybean futures.

"It's a start, but it's not nearly enough to fix our problems in regards to soybeans and a soybean oversupply in this country," said Joe Vaclavik, president of Standard Grain, a Tennessee-based brokerage.

Why do soybeans matter?

In 2017, soybeans were the single biggest US agricultural export to China, which accounts for some 60% of the global trade in the commodity.

And soybeans are vitally important to China because they use the product to feed livestock.

The key supplier globally is Brazil, but China has also relied heavily on the US for soybeans supplies - in part due to seasonality.

Chief economist Robert Carnell from ING Bank told the BBC that China's purchase on Thursday was more about convenience than anything else.

"The simple fact is China needs a lot of soybeans and it's been buying them from Brazil, not the US," he said.

"But Brazil could never supply all the soybeans China needed, so ultimately [China has] been driven back to US soybeans. And I think it's just convenient for them to do that right now."

Mr Carnell said that the recent arrest of Meng Wanzhou, Huawei's chief financial officer and deputy chair, was far more indicative of where the trade war between the US and China was really up to.

"[It's] a battle for technology, a battle for 5G," he said. "In particular, Huawei has become one of the world's biggest suppliers of telecoms technology - and the US doesn't really like that.

"[So that arrest] is giving you a much better, a much clearer message on where the trade war lines in the sand are really being drawn."

ruby Posted on December 14, 2018 14:46

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Why your pizza may never be delivered by drone

For years tech companies such as Amazon, Alphabet and Uber have promised us delivery drones bringing goods to our doorsteps in a matter of minutes. So why are they taking so long to arrive?

One word: regulation.

If our skies are to become as crowded as our streets, airspace rules need updating to prevent accidents, terrorist attacks, and related problems, such as noise pollution.

But that's easier said than done. Here's a rundown of the main issues.

Noisy nuisances?

According to a recent study by Nasa, the noise made by road traffic was "systematically judged to be less annoying" than the high-pitched buzzing made by drones.

The locals in the Australian suburb of Bonython, Canberra thought much the same thing when Wing, Google owner Alphabet's delivery drone service, began fast-food delivery trials there.

"With the windows closed, even with double glazing, you can hear the drones," one local resident told ABC News.

Consequently, limiting noise pollution is an important consideration for regulators, many of whom have forbidden drone deliveries after dark - precisely the time many hungry householders would like that takeaway meal delivered.

"Noise pollution has been an area of debate during the drafting of the new European rules," says Yves Morier of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

Rogue drones

Even with relatively few drones in the skies, the number of potentially dangerous incidents is worryingly high.

Just last month, a "rogue" drone closed Wellington Airport in New Zealand, while a UK drone user was charged with endangering lives by flying too close to a police helicopter.

And Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro says he was recently the target of a drone "attack".

Regulators are trying to take back control by implementing registration schemes.

Media captionDrone endangered police helicopter in Cambridgeshire

"The vision is unified traffic management, digitalised, on all levels, from local to national and international," Benoît Curdy, secretary general of the Global Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic Management Association (GUTMA), said in September.

"Registration is the first step, as it enables the authorities to know who is flying."

European regulators are equally concerned.

"Rogue drone use is a major concern for us," says the EASA's Mr Morier.

"We cannot reduce the risk to zero, but we can take steps to limit it. These include making registration obligatory for drones weighing more than 250g."

Are they safe?

Delivery drones will fall rapidly out of favour it they fall rapidly from the sky after running out of juice or crashing.In October, West Midlands Police reported a defect in its DJI Matrice 200 surveillance drone to the UK's Civil Aviation Authority. The drone experienced a sudden loss of power even when it had battery charge remaining.

"The biggest challenge is to reduce the risk of collisions between drones and other aircraft," says Mr Morier.

Wing says it has performed "tens of thousands of test flights" in the US and Australia, and is heading to Finland next year.

Its drones use "redundant motors, batteries and navigation systems with intelligent controls, so back-up systems can help keep aircraft safely in flight", the company says.

But Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) flights - where drones travel autonomously or are controlled by pilots remotely - are only likely to become viable once "detect and avoid" technology has been approved by regulators.

"Nasa has successfully built and flown a system this year," the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says. "But no 'detect and avoid' systems have received approval as yet."

It's a point reiterated by European regulators.

"There is no 'detect and avoid' technology capable of ensuring [that drones don't collide with other aircraft] at the moment," says Mr Morier.

For this reason it has stipulated that non-commercial drones cannot fly above 120m (394ft), although who polices this is another issue.

Lack of standards

Most countries now have - or will soon have - rules in place for small drones capable of carrying out surveillance or making deliveries. And bigger sky taxis are also in development.

"Some companies are already testing full-scale prototype pilotless air-vehicles," says the FAA. "The fast pace of change is fundamentally changing the role of the regulator."

But the rules on how and where you can fly drones differ widely from country to country.

In the US, the FAA rules state that delivery-style drones must weigh less than 55lbs (25kg) in total and fly up to only 400ft (123m).

In Saudi Arabia, all drones are banned.

While more than 50 countries belong to Joint Authorities for Rulemaking of Unmanned Systems (JARUS), a final set of standards has yet to be agreed.

Susanne Schödel, secretary general of FAI, the World Air Sports Federation, says: "Authorities are working on this on a global scale, but integrating drones into the airspace is a very complex undertaking."

One widely accepted standard is that drones will, initially at least, operate only in lower airspace, leaving the higher airspace free for commercial aircraft.

Where are we now?

First developed for military use during World War One, drones are now a global industry that investment bank Goldman Sachs expects to be worth $100bn (£79bn) by 2020.

Their commercial potential is already being exploited in many parts of the world, albeit on a trial basis.

In Switzerland, the national postal service Swiss Post has started using drones to ferry laboratory samples between hospitals in Lugano and Bern.

In China, e-commerce giant has been sending packages by drone in certain rural areas since last year.

And residents of a remote First Nation island in northern Ontario, Canada, will begin receiving goods by drone in 2019.

Other concerns

Video-equipped drones also pose a threat to privacy and threaten birds and other lower airspace users, critics say.

"We fear recreational airspace users such as paragliding pilots and hot air balloonists will have less freedom," says Ms Schödel.

So if you're expecting a drone to deliver your pizza any time soon, you're likely to go hungry.

ruby Posted on December 14, 2018 14:43

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Did my children die because I married my cousin?

Ruba and Saqib both carry a gene for an incurable condition, which means their children have a one-in-four chance of dying in early childhood. They've already lost three. Ruba now wants IVF, to select a healthy embryo. Saqib is putting his trust in Allah. And some relatives want them to separate and remarry.

Ruba Bibi had not wanted to marry so young. She had planned to do A-levels and go to university, but before she had finished her GCSEs her parents arranged for her to marry Saqib Mehmood, her cousin, in Pakistan.

Born and brought up in Bradford, Ruba had visited Pakistan twice before the wedding - once when she was four and once when she was 12. She couldn't really remember the man she was now engaged to and had never spent time alone with him. He was 27 and worked as a driver. She was 17.

"I was really nervous because I didn't really know him," she remembers.

"I was really shy, I couldn't talk much and I hadn't ever had any interest in boys or anything like that. I was scared and begged my parents to delay things to let me finish school, but they couldn't."

After three months in Pakistan she was pregnant. She returned to Bradford two months later, shocked to be having a baby so soon. But also happy.

When their son, Hassan, was born in 2007 she excitedly called Saqib to tell him that all was well, although the baby seemed to sleep a lot and had trouble feeding.

"I just thought it was normal," Ruba says.

A few weeks later she went for a check-up, and as the GP watched Hassan moving she noted that his hip seemed stiff.

"She said she was going to refer him, but I thought it was something minor. They did some tests and then I got a call saying I had to come to the children's ward for his results," Ruba says.

"When I went in, the doctor told me it was very bad news. She gave me a leaflet and said he has this condition and it's very rare. It was too much for me to take in and I was just crying. I came home and rang my husband in Pakistan, who tried to calm me down. He told me that everyone goes through problems and that we would get through this together."

Ruba had no idea that both she and her cousin carried the recessive gene for I-cell, a rare inherited condition that prevents a child growing and developing properly.

Seven months later Saqib received a visa to live in the UK, and was able to hold his son for the first time.

"He said he looked like normal baby. He wasn't sitting or crawling, but my husband said some children were just slow," Ruba says.

She, however, could see a big difference between her son and other babies the same age. Hassan was growing slowly, and was in and out of hospital with chest infections. And as he got older his head increased in size.

When their next child, Alishbah, was born in 2010 tests confirmed immediately that she, too, had I-cell disease. She died at the age of three, towards the end of 2013 - just over a year after her elder brother.

Before getting pregnant a third time, Ruba consulted Mufti Zubair Butt, the Muslim chaplain at Leeds Teaching Hospital, to ask what her religion would make of screening during pregnancy - and termination if I-cell was confirmed.

He told her that it would be an acceptable course of action, but advised her to think very carefully.

"If you have this condition where the child is going to die in any case, or even if it doesn't die soon, it will have debilitating illness, that's sufficient reason to terminate before the soul enters the body, based on the sayings of the prophet," he said.

But he also said that she shouldn't do this just because she had a green light to do so, as it was something she would have to live with for the rest of her life.

And he advised her to consider the views of those in her community, many of whom were likely to oppose termination. "To overcome that, on a personal level, that's a great challenge as well," he said.

Born in Bradford

  • Ruba and her first child, Hassan, were among the first to be included in Born in Bradford, a long-term study involving 14,000 families in the city, 46% of them of Pakistani heritage
  • The city's infant mortality rate - double the national average - provided the impetus for the study
  • Doctors have identified more than 200 rare conditions and are working on better screening and counselling for couples

Ruba decided she would not want to terminate a pregnancy.

So when she got pregnant with her third child, Inara, in 2015, she refused the medical scans she was offered and turned down repeated requests from doctors to be screened.

"I wanted them to treat it like a normal pregnancy. I didn't want them to put the doubt in my head. I wasn't going to have an abortion, so I wanted to enjoy the pregnancy," she says.

"I used to say my husband there could be a chance this baby is ill as well, but he said, 'It's fine.' I think I had a lot of doubt - I knew the odds were the same as for the other two."

But Inara too was born with I-cell disorder.

"I was really happy that I had a baby, but when we saw her we kind of knew," says Ruba. "I was sad and upset that we went through all the pregnancy and we really wanted a healthy baby. I didn't know how much pain she would go through - but my husband was happy. He said, 'Just be grateful.'"

Inara died almost exactly a year ago, at the age of two. She fell ill with a chest infection last December and her condition deteriorated quickly. She was taken from the Bradford Royal Infirmary to York.

My husband says: 'If God is going to give me kids, then he can give me them from you... I'm not going to get married again'

"The doctors in York were trying to do 100% to keep her alive, I did have that hope but I could see she was in pain. She was sedated until she passed away. I had her in my arms for most of the time, then I lay down beside her. My husband realised she was taking her last breaths."

Ruba says she has no idea how they have all endured the pain of losing three children and of suffering six miscarriages, the last just weeks after Inara's death. "I didn't even know I was pregnant at that time and I miscarried after the funeral," she says.

She says it was Inara's death that made her accept a link between her children's misfortunes and cousin marriage.

For a long time she just did not believe it, in part because she saw other ill and disabled children at the hospice and it was clear that not all of them were conceived by married cousins. Some were from the white community.

"My husband still doesn't believe it," she says. "I believe it now because it's happened three times, so there must be something in what they're saying. It must be true."

Cousin marriage

  • In 2013 researchers published findings on cousin marriage in the Lancet: 63% of Pakistani mothers in Born in Bradford were found to be married to cousins and experienced a doubling of the risk of a baby being born with a congenital anomaly
  • The risk of having a baby with birth defects, usually heart or nervous system problems, is still small but rises from 3% in the general Pakistani population to 6% among those married to blood relative
  • Families in Bradford are still arranging marriages and choosing brides and grooms among their extended family back home - one in four children in the study had a parent brought over for marriage

After Inara's death, some of Ruba and Saqib's relatives, both in the UK and in Pakistan, came to the conclusion that they were unlikely to have a healthy child - and argued that the marriage should therefore end in a "happy separation". This would allow both partners to remarry and have healthy children with someone else.

"We both said no," Ruba says.

"My husband says: 'If God is going to give me kids, then he can give me them from you. He's given me kids from you and he can give me healthy kids from you. If it's written, it's written for you. I'm not going to get married again and neither can you get married again, we are both going to try together.'"

And although Ruba was reluctant to marry in 2007, after 10 years of married life she doesn't want to part.

"Relatives wanted us to be happily separated for the kids, so that I can have healthy kids with someone else and so could he. But what if I do have healthy kids with someone, they might not make me feel like he makes me feel? I might have kids but not a happy marriage. It might not be successful marriage, and I don't want to bring kids up as a single parent. I have heard about people doing this but it's not for us."

But what options does this leave them?

One possibility is to have IVF. This would enable doctors to screen embryos, rejecting those with I-cell disease, and selecting a healthy embryo to implant in Ruba's womb.

Saqib is not enthusiastic about this, Ruba says.

I thought the first time, when Hassan was diagnosed, that I couldn't do this - but I've done it three times

"He just says that whatever Allah is going to give us is meant to be - if we're destined to have a child like this then we can have it in any circumstances," she says.

For her part, Ruba would like to try IVF - but the length of the waiting list is a drawback.

"I want it to happen quickly. If you wait for something for a long time then it's more tempting to try naturally," she says.

Her husband has been to appointments with her but it's hard for him to take time off from the bakery where he works and he doesn't speak much English.

"He sits there not knowing what they're saying," she says. "He isn't keen, but says it's up to me."

Ruba says she cannot predict what will happen, but is concerned about what any naturally conceived child may have to endure.

"I thought the first time, when Hassan was diagnosed, that I couldn't do this, but I've done it three times so I'm not sure," she says. "But it isn't fair for the child to go through so much pain."

The couple's experiences have led others in the family, including Ruba's brother, to reject cousin marriage.

"We never use to think about the risks - up to my children we've never thought it was wrong to marry in the family, but because I've been through it my other relatives do think twice about going in the family," Ruba says.

"Ten years ago I just accepted what my parents said, but now our cousins have been given a choice and they're saying no to that. Our younger generation have been given a choice and if they don't like it they can speak up about it."

As well as losing three children, Ruba has also suffered six miscarriages, the last just weeks after Inara's death. She hadn't realised she was pregnant at the time, but miscarried after the funeral, when Inara was buried alongside her brother and sister.

She is sustained by her religion.

"God only burdens a person with how much they can take. Sometimes I think people are so lucky, they don't have to try hard and they get a healthy child, but sometimes those children bring trouble when grow up and so those tests placed on them are different," Ruba says.

"In this life I'm the unluckiest person, but in the next life I will be the luckiest because they were innocent children. And those children help you in the next life, because you will be with them."

You may also be interested in:

Elle Wright lost her son Teddy soon after he was born and wants to challenge the idea that a person can only be considered a parent if they have a living child.

ruby Posted on December 14, 2018 14:00

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Guatemala girl, 7, dies in US custody 'of dehydration, shock'

Washington Post reports the child died of dehydration and shock after being arrested by Border Patrol agents.

A seven-year-old girl has died after being taken into custody by the US Border Patrol, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) confirmed on Thursday. 

The girl, from Guatemala, died of dehydration and shock eight hours after she was taken into custody, the Washington Post reported.

On December 6, the child and her father had been held by immigration authorities in the US state of New Mexico as part of a group of 163 people who approached US agents to turn themselves in, the newspaper reported.

Early on December 7, the girl was found to have a 41-degree-Celsius fever and was taken by helicopter to El Paso hospital in Texas where she died, according to the report.

A statement by a DHS spokesperson said: "an accompanied female juvenile detainee began having seizures."

The names of the girl and her father were not released. The agency, which typically provides food and water to migrants in its custody, is investigating the incident to ensure whether appropriate policies were followed, the Post said.

The death of the child is expected to intensify scrutiny over the conditions endured by those held at Border Patrol stations and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities under the administration of Donald Trump, who has made toughening immigration policies a central tenet of his presidency and has pledged to build a wall along the southern border with Mexico.

"This tragedy represents the worst possible outcome when people, including children, are held in inhumane conditions," Cynthia Pompa, advocacy manager for the ACLU Border Rights Center, said in a statement.

"Lack of accountability and a culture of cruelty within CBP have exacerbated policies that lead to migrant deaths," she added. "In 2016, migrant deaths increased even as the number of border crossings dramatically decreased."

Jerry Nadler, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, wrote on Twitter that the head of the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees Customs and Border Protection, will appear in front of the panel next week.

"We will be demanding immediate answers to this tragedy," Nadler said.

Trump has sought to sow fear over thousands of migrants and refugees who have recently arrived at the border as part of an exodus, initially dubbed the Central American caravan. More than 6,000 people are currently waiting in Tijuana, northwestern Mexico, to file for asylum in the US.

Rights groups estimate many will have to wait up to two months before being allowed in the United States to submit their claims.

Many of the refugees and migrants have told Al Jazeera they are fleeing violence, poverty and political persecution.

Trump has sent more than 5,000 troops to the border to offer logistic support to border patrol agents. The Department of Defence approved a plan to extend the deployment of about 4,000 active-duty troops through January.

"When the Trump administration pushed for the militarisation of the border, including more border wall construction, they are driving people fleeing violence into the deadliest desert regions," said ACLU's Pompa, calling for a "rigorous investigation" into the girl's death and "serious reforms to prevent future deaths".

"The fact that it took a week for this to come to light shows the need for transparency for CBP."

This summer, the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy, which resulted in separating children arriving at the border with their parents, caused a national outcry. The policy was mostly reversed.

sarah Posted on December 14, 2018 13:10

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How to spot and treat a heart attack

A heart attack is the death of a segment of heart muscle caused by a loss of blood supply. The blood is usually cut off when an artery supplying the heart muscle is blocked by a blood clot.

If some of the heart muscle dies, a person experiences chest pain and electrical instability of the heart muscle tissue.

This MNT Knowledge Center will cover information about how and why heart attacks occur, how they are treated, and how to prevent them.

Fast facts on heart attacks:

  • During a heart attack, the heart muscle loses blood supply and is damaged.
  • Chest discomfort and pain are common symptoms.
  • The risk of a heart attack increases when a man is over 45 and a woman is over 55.
  • Smoking and obesity are big factors, particularly in the at-risk age range.


Heart attacks are a serious form of heart disease, with many different causes.

There are clear symptoms of a heart attack that require immediate medical attention.

A feeling of pressure, tightness, pain, squeezing, or aching in the chest or arms that spreads to the neck, jaw, or back can be a sign that a person is having a heart attack.

The following are other possible signs and symptoms of a heart attack occurring:

  • coughing
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • crushing chest pain
  • dizziness
  • shortness of breath called dyspnea
  • face seeming gray in color
  • a feeling of terror that life is ending
  • feeling awful, generally
  • restlessness
  • feeling clammy and sweaty
  • shortness of breath

Changing position does not alleviate the pain of a heart attack. The pain a person feels is normally constant, although it may sometimes come and go.

Warning signs

As heart attacks can be fatal, it is vital to recognize the warning signs that an attack is occurring.

While the symptoms listed above are all linked to heart attacks, there are four warning signs listed by the American Heart Association (AHA) as being crucial signs of an attack. These include:

  • discomfort, pressure, squeezing, or fullness in the chest that lasts several minutes or resolves then returns
  • pain or discomfort in the arms, neck, back, stomach, or jaw
  • sudden shortness of breath

Other signs can include a cold sweat, a sick or nauseous feeling, or being lightheaded.

When a person has these symptoms, the emergency services should be called immediately.


There are two types of complications that can happen following heart attack. The first occurs pretty much straightaway and the second happens later on.

Immediate complications

  • Arrhythmias: the heart beats irregularly, either too fast or too slowly.
  • Cardiogenic shock: a person's blood pressure drops suddenly and the heart cannot supply enough blood for the body to work adequately.
  • Hypoxemia: levels of oxygen in the blood become too low.
  • Pulmonary edema: fluid accumulates in and around the lungs.
  • DVT or deep vein thrombosis: the deep veins of the legs and pelvis develop blood clots that either block or interrupt the flow of blood in the vein.
  • Myocardial rupture: the heart attack damages the wall of the heart, meaning an increased risk of a heart wall rupture.
  • Ventricular aneurysm: a heart chamber, known as a ventricle, forms a bulge.

Complications that can occur later

  • Aneurysm: scar tissue builds up on the damaged heart wall, leading to blood clots, low blood pressure, and abnormal heart rhythms.
  • Angina: not enough oxygen reaches the heart, causing chest pain.
  • Congestive heart failure: the heart can only beat very weakly, leaving a person feeling exhausted and breathless.
  • Edema: fluid accumulates in the ankles and legs, causing them to swell.
  • Loss of erectile function: erectile dysfunction is generally caused by a vascular problem. However, it can also be the result of depression.
  • Loss of libido: a loss of sexual drive can happen, especially in the case of men.
  • Pericarditis: the lining of the heart becomes inflamed, causing serious chest pain.

It is important that a doctor monitors a person for several months after they have had a heart attack to check for any of these complications that may occur.



The quicker someone is treated when having a heart attack, the greater the chances of success. These days, most heart attacks can be dealt with effectively.

However, it is crucial to remember that a person's survival depends largely on how quickly they reach the hospital.

Treatments during a heart attack

Sometimes, a person who is having a heart attack will stop breathing. In this case, cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, should be started immediately. This process involves:

  • manual chest compressions
  • a defibrillator

Treatments following a heart attack

Defibrillator panels can be effective during a heart attack.

Most people will need several kinds of medications or treatments after a heart attack. The aim of these measures is to prevent future heart attacks occurring. They may include:

  • aspirin and other antiplatelets
  • beta blockers
  • ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme) inhibitors
  • statins
  • angioplasty
  • CABG or coronary artery bypass graft


A heart attack is a medical emergency in which the supply of blood to the heart becomes blocked, often as the result of a blood clot.

Other terms used for a heart attack include myocardial infarction, cardiac infarction, and coronary thrombosis. An infarction is when the blood supply to an area is cut off, and the tissue in that area dies.

A heart attack is often confused for a cardiac arrest. While they are both medical emergencies, a heart attack is the blockage of an artery leading to the heart, and a cardiac arrest involves the heart stopping the pumping of blood around the body. A heart attack can lead to cardiac arrest.


The best way of preventing a heart attack is to have a healthy lifestyle. Measures for healthy living include the following:

  • not smoking
  • eating a balanced, healthful diet
  • getting plenty of exercise
  • getting plenty of good quality sleep
  • keeping diabetes under control
  • keeping alcohol intake down
  • maintaining blood cholesterol at optimum levels
  • keeping blood pressure at a safe level
  • maintaining a healthy body weight
  • avoiding stress where possible
  • learning how to manage stress

It may be helpful for people to learn more about the warning signs of a heart attack, as well.



Any doctor, nurse, or healthcare professional will send someone straight to hospital if they suspect they may be having a heart attack. Once there, several tests may be done, including:

  • ECG or electrocardiograph
  • cardiac enzyme tests
  • chest X-ray


Recovering from a heart attack can be a gradual process. It depends on the severity of the heart attack and other factors, such as a person's age.

A person's recovery may involve:

  • Resuming physical activity: it is vital that a recovering heart attack patient stays active. However, a specialist should design any exercise program for them.
  • Returning to work: the appropriate time for someone to go back to work depends on various factors, including the severity of the heart attack and the type of job they do. It is vital not to rush back to work.
  • A period of depression: many people who have had a heart attack experience depression not long afterward. Those who feel depressed or anxious should tell their doctors.
  • Driving again: experts advise that a person refrains from driving for at least 4 weeks after a heart attack.
  • Erectile dysfunction: approximately one-third of men have problems getting or sustaining an erection after a heart attack.

It is important that men with erectile dysfunction talk to their doctors, as medication can restore function in most cases.

Experts say that sexual activity does not raise a person's risk of having another heart attack.


The following factors are associated with increased risk of a heart attack:

  • Age: Heart attacks are more likely when a man is over 45, and when a woman is over 55.
  • Angina: This causes chest pain due to lack of oxygen or blood supply to the heart.
  • High cholesterol levels: These can increase the chance of blood clots in the arteries.
  • Diabetes: This can increase heart attack risk.
  • Diet: For example, consuming large quantities of saturated fats can increase the likelihood of a heart attack.
  • Genetics: A person can inherit a higher risk of heart attack.
  • Heart surgery: This can lead to a heart attack later on.
  • Hypertension: High blood pressure can put unnecessary strain on the heart.
  • Obesity: Being significantly overweight can put pressure on the heart.
  • Previous heart attack.
  • Smoking: Smokers are at much higher risk than non-smokers.
  • HIV: People who are HIV-positive have a 50 percent higher risk.
  • Work stress: Those who are shift workers or have stressful jobs can face a higher heart attack risk.

Physical inactivity is a factor in heart attack risk, and the more active people are, the lower their risk of having a heart attack.

sarah Posted on December 14, 2018 09:30

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Red meat raises heart disease risk through gut bacteria

Scientists have uncovered further evidence of how a diet rich in red meat interacts with gut bacteria to raise the risk of heart disease.

A diet rich in red meat may affect heart disease risk by triggering the production of certain metabolites in the gut.

They found that people who ate red meat as their main source of protein for 1 month had levels of trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) that were two to three times higher than those in people who got their protein primarily from white meat or non-meat sources.

Gut bacteria produce TMAO as a byproduct when they feed on certain nutrients during digestion.

Previous studies have implicated high circulating levels of TMAO in the development of artery-blocking plaques and raised risk of heart-related conditions.

In the recent research, scientists at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio uncovered two mechanisms through which a diet rich in red meat raises TMAO levels.

It appears that not only does frequent consumption of red meat enhance gut bacteria production of TMAO, but it also reduces elimination of the compound through the kidneys.

The European Heart Journal has published a report on the study and its findings.

"This is the first study of our knowledge," says senior study author Dr. Stanley L. Hazen, who chairs the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine in the Cleveland Clinic's Lerner Research Institute, "to show that the kidneys can change how effectively they expel different compounds depending on the diet that one eats — other than salts and water."

TMAO as a predictor of heart disease risk

In previous work, Dr. Hazen and his team had found that TMAO alters blood platelets to raise the risk of thrombosis, or blood clots.

Their work revealed that TMAO modifies calcium signaling in blood platelets. In addition, it showed that platelets respond differently to blood-clotting triggers when blood levels of TMAO are high.

The team proposed that the compound could be a powerful predictor of the risk of heart attack, stroke, and death — even when cholesterol and blood pressure levels are healthy.

Others have since replicated the findings and, like Dr. Hazen and his team, have continued to investigate TMAO and its impact on health.

Research from the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom, for example, demonstrated that people with acute heart failure fared worse if they had higher circulating levels of TMAO.

Clinical trials are also underway to test TMAO as a predictive marker of heart disease risk.

Red meat diet compared with other diets

The recent study assigned 113 individuals to follow three tightly controlled diets in a random order for 4 weeks each with a "washout diet" preceding the changeover.

The diets differed according to their main source of protein. In the red meat diet, 12 percent of the daily calories came from lean red meat in the form of pork or beef, while in the white meat diet, these calories came from lean white poultry meat.

Red meat diet compared with other diets

The recent study assigned 113 individuals to follow three tightly controlled diets in a random order for 4 weeks each with a "washout diet" preceding the changeover.

The diets differed according to their main source of protein. In the red meat diet, 12 percent of the daily calories came from lean red meat in the form of pork or beef, while in the white meat diet, these calories came from lean white poultry meat.

In the non-meat diet, 12 percent of the daily calorie intake came from "legumes, nuts, grains, [and] isoflavone-free soy products."

In all three diets, protein accounted for 25 percent of the daily calories, and the remaining 13 percent of this protein came from "eggs, dairy, and vegetable sources."

After 4 weeks on the red meat diet, "the majority of" the individuals had raised levels of TMAO in their blood and urine.

On average, compared with levels during the white meat and non-meat diets, blood levels of TMAO during the red meat diet were up to three times higher. For some individuals, the levels were 10 times higher. Urine samples revealed a similar pattern.

Reduced kidney efficiency

The study also yielded an unexpected result. While on the red meat diet, the study participants' kidneys were less efficient at expelling TMAO.

However, in the 4 weeks after ceasing the red meat diet, their blood and urine levels of TMAO fell.

Dr. Hazen says that the findings show that people can reduce their risk of heart-related problems by changing what they eat.

Gut production of TMAO was lower and kidney elimination was higher when the individuals followed the white meat or non-meat protein diet.

This suggests, says Dr. Hazen, that these types of diet are more healthful for the heart and body.

"We know lifestyle factors are critical for cardiovascular health, and these findings build upon our previous research on TMAO's link with heart disease."

sarah Posted on December 14, 2018 09:25

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Panic attack and panic disorder: What you need to know

A panic attack happens because of heightened anxiety. Anyone can have a panic attack, but it is also a hallmark symptom of panic disorder. It can lead to a rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing, sweating, shaking, and other symptoms.

In people who do not have an anxiety disorder, a panic attack can happen if an event triggers anxiety.

A panic attack and panic disorder can affect anyone of any ethnic background, but it is more common among women than men.


Panic can lead to lightheadedness.

A panic attack often stems from a direct trigger or incident, but they can also begin suddenly and randomly with no obvious cause. They are believed to come from an evolutionary response to danger.

Having a panic attack is said to be one of the most intensely frightening, upsetting and uncomfortable experiences in a person's life.

The American Psychological Association (APA), notes that an attack may only last for 15 seconds, but symptoms can to continue for about 30 minutes or longer, and sometimes for hours.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, a panic attack involves at least four of the following symptoms:

  • Chest pain and discomfort
  • Chills or feeling unusually hot
  • Derealization, or feeling detached
  • Dizziness and feeling lightheaded
  • Experiencing a strong, sudden fear of dying
  • Fear of losing control or feeling as if a person is "going crazy"
  • Feelings of choking
  • Heart palpitations, irregular heartbeat, or rapid heart rate
  • Nausea and stomach upset
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Sweating
  • Trouble breathing, feeling as if a person is smothering

Panic attacks can also be associated with agoraphobia, a fear of places from which the individual considers to be dangerous, or difficult to escape from. People who have experienced a panic attack often say after that they felt trapped.

Sometimes the symptoms associated with a panic attack can mirror other medical conditions. Examples of these include lung disorders, heart conditions, or thyroid problems.

Sometimes a person may seek emergency medical attention for a heart attack, yet anxiety is the true cause. Panic attacks are highly treatable and don't mean that a person is a hypochondriac or mentally ill.

What is panic disorder?

Panic disorder is an underlying medical condition, and panic attacks are a symptoms. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, an estimated 6 million Americans have a panic disorder.

Women are most likely to experience the condition and it most commonly occurs when a person in early adulthood, from ages 18 to 25 years.

The condition occurs when a person has experienced multiple panic attacks and also lives in fear of having another panic attack. While everyone can experience a panic attack in their lifetime, those with a panic disorder experience recurrent attacks.

The fear they may experience another attack can cause them to withdraw from friends and family. They may fear going outside or in public places. A panic disorder can severely affect a person's quality of life and should be treated.


Experts say that anxiety and panic, to a certain extent, are a necessary part of our survival. However, when levels become so high that they undermine regular thought processes, a person naturally becomes afraid.

When the brain receives a surge of nervous signals designed to warn of imminent danger, the amygdala, a part of the brain, is activated. The amygdala controls a person's anxious response.

Some people's amygdala reacts with anxiety when there is no imminent danger, making it much more likely that they will experience high anxiety and panic attacks.

When a person is given the signal to react with anxiety, they produce adrenaline, also known as epinephrine.

Adrenaline is released by the adrenal glands. Some people call adrenaline the "fright or flight" hormone. A release of adrenaline into the system can raise the heartbeat, cause sweating, churn the stomach, and provoke irregular breathing. These are all characteristics of a panic attack.

If there is no imminent danger and the system is loaded with adrenaline, that hormone will not be used up for running away. The buildup can cause a panic attack.

A number of risk factors can increase the likelihood a person will have panic attacks and panic disorder.

Genetics may play a role. If a person has a close family member, such as a parent or sibling, with panic disorder, they may be more likely to have a panic attack.

In addition to family history, experiencing major stress or life change can trigger increased anxiety and panic attacks.

Examples include a recent loss of a loved one or separation of marriage. Having a history of physical or sexual abuse may also increase a person's likelihood of having a panic disorder.

Habits such as smoking or drinking excessive amounts of caffeine are also risk factors associated with panic disorder. Use of drugs?

Panic attacks can also occur alongside conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Sometimes, however, there appears to be no particular incident or family history to trigger an attack. They can occur without warning.



The APA publishes the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The manual lists criteria to help a doctor diagnose mental health disorders, such as depression or panic disorder, and it aims to provide a standard for diagnosis across the country.

Frequent and sudden panic can be a sign of a panic attack.

The criteria for diagnosing a panic disorder include:

  • Experiencing frequent and unexpected panic attacks
  • Having at least one month of ongoing fear of having a panic attack and its accompanying symptoms, such as losing control. A person may significantly change his or her behavior for fear of having a panic attack in public
  • Having panic attacks that are not attributable to taking certain medicines or having another mental health disorder, such as social phobia

A person who has these symptoms is likely to have a panic disorder.


The most common treatments for panic disorder are medications and psychotherapy sessions.

Known as "talk therapy," psychotherapy involves talking with a licensed mental health professional to identify potential triggers of a panic attack in with the aim of overcoming fears.

Medications may also help to correct imbalances in neurotransmitters in the brain that can lead to severe anxiety.

Examples include:

  • Benzodiazepines, such as alprazolam (Xanax) or clonazepam (Klonopin)
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), or sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), such as hydrochloride (Effexor XR)

Sometimes one medication will work for one person with anxiety disorder, but not another. A person should always discuss potential benefits and side effects.

A doctor may also prescribe medicines known as beta blockers, which keep a person's heart rate from becoming too rapid and contributing to further anxiety, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).


In addition to these medical treatments for panic disorder, some lifestyle changes can help a person make to reduce the incidence of panic attacks and panic disorder.

Examples include:

  • Avoiding substances known to contribute to panic disorders, including caffeine, smoking, or using recreational drugs
  • Getting enough sleep every night
  • Joining a support group for those who experience regular panic attacks
  • Taking steps to reduce stress in one's life, such as practicing yoga, engaging in deep breathing, or engaging in regular physical activity


If left untreated, a panic disorder can begin to impact many aspects of a person's life.

Complications can include:

  • Abusing alcohol or other substances as a way to "escape" the concerns of daily life
  • Developing phobias, such as agoraphobia
  • Experiencing financial problems
  • Increased risk of suicidal thoughts
  • Refraining from social situations
  • Requiring frequent medical care due to health concerns

Seeking medical treatment for panic disorder can help to prevent these complications.

Written by Rachel Nall RN, BSN, CCRN

sarah Posted on December 14, 2018 09:16

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New brain circuit that controls anxiety found

A previously unknown brain mechanism that regulates anxiety has come to light. It allows a gene-altering protein to enter the nucleus of brain cells.

New research uncovers a brain mechanism that controls anxiety.

The protein goes by the name of methyl-CpG binding protein 2 (MeCP2), and scientists have linked it to anxiety behaviors.

The recent research could lead to new treatments for anxiety disorders that have fewer side effects, according to the team that carried it out at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.

A paper on the study features in the journal Cell Reports.

"Current drugs for anxiety," says senior study author Mike Fainzilber, who is a professor in the biomolecular sciences department at the Weizmann Institute, "are limited in their efficacy or have undesirable side effects, which also limit their usefulness."

He suggests that the findings could help to overcome these drawbacks.

Anxiety and MeCP2

Most people experience anxiety now and again as part of everyday life. Anxiety disorders, however, are conditions in which the feelings of fear and uncertainty become overwhelming and do not go away. They typically last for 6 months or more.

The National Institutes of Health estimate that anxiety disorders affect around 1 in 5 people in the United States each year.

Having an anxiety disorder can also raise the risk of other illnesses such as heart diseasediabetes, and depression.

The study authors note that the gene MECP2 "is known to affect anxiety behaviors."

Scientists have linked changes to MECP2 to a number of conditions. These include Rett syndrome and MeCP2 duplication syndrome, both of which feature anxiety among their symptoms.

All cells contain MeCP2, but the protein is "particularly abundant in brain cells."

The protein regulates many genes that "play a role in normal brain function," and particularly those that help to maintain synapses, or the connections between brain cells.

Transport into the cell nucleus

The researchers became particularly interested in how MeCP2 enters the nerve cell nucleus, which contains the cell's genes.

They turned their attention to a family of transporter proteins called importins, which Prof. Fainzilber's laboratory has been investigating for more than 20 years.

For most of that time, he and his team have focused on the role of importins in nerve cells of the peripheral nervous system.

However, after first study author Dr. Nicolas Panayotis joined the group in 2012, they shifted their attention to cells of the central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord.

Using genetically engineered mice, they identified importin alpha-5 as the transporter protein that helps MeCP2 to enter the brain cell nucleus.

In a series of behavioral experiments, they then saw that mice lacking importin alpha-5 did not display anxiety under stress compared to normal littermates or those lacking other importins.

Drugs to target the mechanism already exist

Further investigation revealed that without importin alpha-5, MeCP2 could not enter the nucleus of brain cells that control anxiety.

This had a knock-on effect on an enzyme that produces the signaling molecule S1P. It was the reduction in S1P signaling that brought down the anxiety.

In the final part of the study, the team searched for molecules that might target the mechanism.

They found that there are already some drugs in use that alter S1P signaling. One of these is fingolimod, which doctors prescribe for the treatment of multiple sclerosis.

When the researchers treated unmodified mice with fingolimod, the animals displayed fewer anxiety behaviors, at a level similar to that of the modified mice that lacked importin alpha-5.

The finding could explain why a clinical trial of fingolimod for the treatment of multiple sclerosis reported that the drug appeared to have a "calming effect on patients."

Prof. Fainzilber says that they have now identified a number of candidate drugs that target the mechanism that they identified.

"Our findings have opened up a new direction for research into the mechanisms of anxiety."

sarah Posted on December 14, 2018 09:11

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How our body clocks can make or break our health

As our lifestyles become increasingly demanding, we build our lives around artificially divided days and nights that accommodate the need to work night shifts, stay up all night, or travel between continents. But this impacts our natural body clocks, with unwanted consequences.

New research homes in on how disruptions to our circadian rhythm make us vulnerable to disease.

If we tamper with our circadian rhythms — set by the body clocks that regulate all the automated processes that take place inside the body — we tamper with our health.

Our body clocks control metabolism, contributing to the proper functioning of every organ in our bodies.

However, if we regularly bypass our natural day to night cycles — by working through the night, traveling long-distance, or spending too much time looking at bright screens in the dark — our body clocks become disoriented and stop functioning correctly.

New research from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA, and Nagoya University in Japan identifies a key mechanism that links the dysregulation of circadian rhythms with a greater exposure to chronic diseases.

"Epidemiological studies are consistently revealing more and more connections between modern lifestyles and our internal biological clock, and when those two clash, it can lead to development of diseases such as obesity and breast cancer," notes study author Steve Kay, Provost Professor of Neurology, Biomedical Engineering and Biological Sciences at the University of Southern California.

However, he adds, "This study goes beyond the epidemiology to explore the mechanisms of circadian disruption as a risk factor for certain diseases."

The new study, which appears in PNAS, has identified a protein that plays a dual role in the context of the circadian rhythm, and which explains how disrupted body clocks can lead to disease.

Disrupting a delicate balance

Kay and colleagues focused on HNF4A, a protein found in cell nuclei, which previous research suggested is involved in the early development of the liver, kidney, and large intestine.

When the researchers analyzed liver and colon cells taken from mouse and human tissue, they found that HNF4A interacts with the circadian clocks of these cells in complex ways. More specifically, HNF4A can block two other proteins — CLOCK and BMAL1 — that help regulate circadian rhythms in mammals.

"Inside the cell, the cogs of the clock are universal, but the hands of the clock are specific to each organ, so how the clock does its work in each cell is different," explains Kay.

"So, in the liver, we looked at tissue-specific proteins and found that HNF4A is tied to the circadian clock, is regulated by the clock and cycles with the clock and, in turn, regulates the clock. That's the new finding here, and it's a big jump forward."

Steve Kay

As the study's first author, Meng Qu, also explains, "Mutations in [the] HNF4A gene are known to contribute to a rare hereditary form of diabetes called MODY1, and its expression dysregulation has been closely linked to liver cancer, both with mechanisms we don't fully understand."

"Our discovery suggests the clock disruption could be a potential mechanism and provides a bridge between circadian regulation and development of disease," she adds.

Modern lifestyles often demand that we live by irregular rhythms, and the researchers warn that this can contribute to the disruption of sensitive mechanisms, including the ones in which proteins, such as HNF4A are involved.

"Humans are not evolved for night shifts, nighttime lights, and intercontinental travel. Modern-life challenges to our circadian system present a long-term threat to our health," says Kay.

Discoveries such as the one highlighted in the current study can offer us a more detailed picture of how disrupted body clocks can affect health outcomes.

"Now we can see how HNF4A is a new chapter in a book that was mostly blank pages, so there's a story beginning there as we fill in a huge blank spot," Kay encourages.


sarah Posted on December 14, 2018 09:06

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EU gives doner kebabs a health grilling

Another week, another EU food scare. Is the future of the humble and hugely popular doner kebab now in question?

Recent headlines are not comforting for fans of the spicy, grilled Turkish meat.

"Is the doner a goner?" and "For pitta's sake" helped fuel an anxious debate, while Germany's Bild daily screamed "It could be the end of the doner!"

It's all because of a vote in the European Parliament next week. MEPs will debate whether to tighten controls over phosphate additives widely used in the meat following health warnings.

But it's not all bad news for this fast food favourite.

What's all the fuss about in the EU?

Technically phosphate additives are already banned from doner kebabs, but they are commonly used in the frozen meat and the EU rule isn't enforced.

The EU Commission wants to allow use of the additives and to regulate them - as happens already with some other processed meats, such as speciality sausages.

But a resolution put forward by the Socialist and Green groups threatens to block that move.

If it is successful, doner kebabs are likely to face tighter scrutiny.

What is the concern about phosphate additives?

There have been health warnings about a high intake of phosphate additives posing a possible risk, especially to people with cardiovascular problems and chronic kidney disease. The additives, identified by various E numbers on packaging labels, are also common in sausages and some other processed meats.

Christel Schaldemose, a Danish Socialist MEP, co-authored the resolution to block the Commission's plans. She told the BBC that "we fear the health effects" and "we don't have enough market surveillance" to control the use of phosphates.

The EU's European Food Safety Authority (Efsa) is now studying phosphate additives as a priority and plans to issue a scientific opinion on the risks before the end of next year.

"We're not saying we would ban doner meat forever, but let's wait until the Efsa review," Ms Schaldemose said.

Efsa says there is a need to establish whether the health risk comes mainly from phosphate additives or from a general accumulation of phosphates in the diet.

A scientific paper published by a German medical website, Deutsches Aerzteblatt, says naturally occurring phosphates in food - in meat, potatoes and bread, for example - "cannot be restricted without incurring the risk of lowering protein intake".

Only 40-60% of natural phosphates are absorbed by the body, but the absorption rate for phosphate additives is much higher, the study says.

"Phosphate additives in food are a matter of concern, and their potential impact on health may well have been underappreciated," it warns.

Processed meat can contain nearly 70% more phosphate than fresh meat.

Why use the additives?

Phosphate additives help to bind the meat, acting as a sort of glue. So when it's on a spit it doesn't fall apart.

That means the meat - usually lamb - should also cook through more evenly.

Phosphates can also act as acidic preservatives for meat, fish, cheese and soft drinks.

It is widely believed that they also help water retention in meat, keeping it juicy.

But Halil Ahmet, a director at Veli's Kebabs in Burton-on-Trent, said water retention was actually a bad idea.

"More water turns the meat into rubber, and the more phosphates you put in the more rubbery it gets," he told the BBC.

"We use a tiny level of phosphate - one gram per ten kilograms."

What does this all mean for kebab shops?

Nobody is threatening to ban doner kebabs, but the way the meat is produced may have to change.

Germany produces about 80% of doner meat consumed in the EU and about 110,000 German jobs depend on it.

Renate Sommer, a German MEP in Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrat (CDU) party, attacked the parliament resolution as "ridiculous" on Facebook (in German).

According to her, a typical EU citizen consumes as much phosphate from doner kebabs in one year as from drinking 1.5 litres (2.6 pints) of Coca-Cola.

She says kebab sellers have no alternative to phosphates for binding doner meat effectively.

But Mr Ahmet said he would like to see better checks by national food inspectors to make sure all kebab meat was up to standard.

"The checks are not adequate at all - we've complained to trading standards about other producers not conforming.

"They say 'we'll look into it', but they don't have enough inspectors."

sarah Posted on December 13, 2018 17:55

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High-speed train crashes in Turkey, killing 9 By Isil Sariyuce and Ben Westcott, CNN Updated 1350 GMT (2150 HKT) December 13, 2018 Multiple dead in Turkish high-speed train crash

(CNN)A high-speed train crashed Thursday in the Turkish capital of Ankara, killing at least nine people and injuring dozens more, according to the city's governor.

At a press conference at the site of the crash, the governor, Vasip Sahin, said 46 people had been hurt in the crash, which took place at around 6.30 a.m. local time.


Marsandiz Station


"Our hope is the number of dead does not increase, but our units are working," Sahin said. "Once their work is complete, we will be able to share more information."

The train collided head-on with a maintenance vehicle in Ankara's Marsandiz station, causing part of a bridge to collapse onto two carriages, state news agency Anadolu said.

Rescue workers search through wreckage after a high-speed train crash Thursday in Ankara, Turkey.

Two of those injured were in a critical condition, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca told the agency, adding no more wounded were at the crash site as of Thursday afternoon.

Video from the scene earlier Thursday showed rescuers combing through piles of warped metal while injured people were evacuated from the wreckage.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said three people had been detained in connection with the crash, and a criminal investigation launched.

"Those who are responsible will be brought forward," Erdogan said, "and whatever is necessary will be done."

Rescuers evacuate injured passengers after the high-speed train crash Thursday.

According to Anadolu, 206 passengers were on the train at the time of the crash. Three of the dead were train conductors, while the other six were passengers.

CNN Turk said the crash took place four minutes after the train left the station.

One witness told CNN he was on his way home from work when he saw the crash. "There were many injured people waiting to be rescued," Yasin Duvar said, adding he had helped a number of victims escape from the mangled train.

Members of rescue services work at the crash scene Thursday in Ankara.

The train was en route between Ankara and Konya when it crashed, Anadolu said.

The US Embassy in Ankara expressed its "deepest condolences" to the victims of the crash.

"We share the great sorrow and wish quick recovery to the many injured," the embassy's official Twitter account said.

Luke Posted on December 13, 2018 15:40

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Everything you need to know about pineapple

Pineapple is a tropical fruit available in any grocery store and a staple in many homes around the world.Christopher Columbus brought pineapples back to Europe after an expedition to South America. Pineapples became known as an extravagant and exotic fruit, served only at the most lavish of banquets.

However, pineapples are now common, and people are able to enjoy them in solid, dried, and juice forms.

In Central and South America, pineapple is not only valued for its sweet taste, it has been used for centuries to treat digestion problems and inflammation.

This article explores the health benefits and nutrition of pineapple, as well as providing ways to include it in the diet.


One cup of fresh pineapple chunks contains approximately:

  • 82 calories
  • 0.2 grams (g) of fat
  • 0 g of cholesterol
  • 2 milligrams (mg) of sodium
  • 21.65 g of total carbohydrate (including 16 grams of sugar and 2.3 grams of fiber)
  • 0.89 g of protein

As a percentage of your daily requirements, the same amount of fresh pineapple chunks provides:

  • 131 percent of vitamin C
  • 2 percent of vitamin A
  • 2 percent of calcium
  • 3 percent of iron

Pineapple is also a source of important vitamins and minerals, including:

Fresh pineapple is the only known source of an enzyme called bromelain, which might play a role in a range of different health benefits.


Eating fruits and vegetables of all types has long been associated with a reduced risk of many lifestyle-related health conditions.

Many studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant foods like pineapples decreases the risk of obesity, overall mortality, diabetes, and heart disease.

It also promotes a healthy complexion and hair, increased energy, and an overall lower weight.

The following are possible benefits of eating pineapple.

Age-related macular degeneration

In one prospective study from 2004, people who ate 3 or more servings per day of all fruits demonstrated a decreased risk and slowed progression of age-related macular degeneration.

Asthma prevention

The risks of developing asthma are lower in people who consume a high amount of certain nutrients.

One of these nutrients is beta-carotene. It is found in orange, yellow and dark green plant foods, such as pineapple, mangoespapaya, apricots, broccoli, cantaloupe, pumpkin, and carrots.

Some smaller studies have suggested bromelain can also contribute to reducing asthma symptoms.

Blood pressure

Increasing potassium intake by consuming high potassium fruits and vegetables can help with lowering blood pressure. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), fewer than 2 percent of U.S. adults meet the daily 4,700-mg recommendation.

A high potassium intake is associated with a 20 percent decreased risk of dying from all causes.


As an excellent source of vitamin C, a strong antioxidant, pineapples can help combat the formation of free radicals. These are linked to the development of cancer.

Older studies have shown beta-carotene to have an inverse association with the development of colon cancer in a Japanese population.

A 2004 case-control study linked beta-carotene to a protective effect on prostate cancer.

However, more recent studies have demonstrated that this may not be the case.

High fiber intake from all fruits and vegetables is associated with a lowered risk of colorectal cancer.


Individuals with type 1 diabetes who consume high-fiber diets tend to have lower blood glucose levels, and individuals with type 2 diabetes may have improved blood sugar, lipids, and insulinlevels.

One medium pineapple provides about 13 g of fiber.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 21 to 25 g per day for women and between 30 and 38 g per day for men.


Pineapples, because of their fiber and water content, help to prevent constipation and promote regularity and a healthy digestive tract.

Pineapples are also rich in bromelain, an enzyme that helps the body digest proteins. Bromelain also reduces inflammatory immune cells, called cytokines, that damage the digestive tract lining.

The inedible stems are the most concentrated source of bromelain, which can be extracted and is readily available in supplement form.


Antioxidant-rich diets have been shown to improve fertility. Because free radicals can damage the reproductive system, foods with high antioxidant activity like pineapples are recommended for those trying to conceive.

The antioxidants in pineapple, such as vitamin C and beta-carotene, and the vitamins and minerals copper, zinc, and folate have properties that affect both male and female fertility.

Healing and Inflammation

Some studies have shown that bromelain, primarily in the stem, can reduce swelling, bruising, healing time, and pain associated with injury and surgical intervention.

Heart health

The fiber, potassium, and vitamin C content in pineapple all promote heart health.

In one study, people who consumed 4,069 mg of potassium per day reduced the risk of death from ischemic heart disease 49 percent when compared with those who consumed less potassium.

Researchers link high potassium intakes to a reduced risk of stroke, protection against loss of muscle mass, preservation of bone mineral density, and reduction in the formation of kidney stones.


The antioxidant vitamin C, when eaten in its natural form or applied topically, can help to fight skin damage caused by the sun and pollution, reduce wrinkles, and improve overall skin texture.

Vitamin C also plays a vital role in the formation of collagen, the support system of the skin.


Select a pineapple with a firm, plump body, without bruising, or soft spots and with green leaves at the crown.

A green outer shell does not mean the pineapple is not ripe and, contrary to popular belief, neither does the ease in which the leaves pull from the crown.

Pick pineapples at their peak ripeness. Unlike other fruits, they will not continue to ripen once picked.

Whole pineapples should be stored at room temperature, while cut pineapples should be stored in the refrigerator.

When eating canned or packaged pineapple, make sure to pick up the varieties canned in pineapple juice, not heavy syrup.

Here are a few preparation tips for including more pineapple in the diet:

  • Add pineapple to your favorite kebabs. Try shrimp, chicken, or steak kebabs with red onions, pineapple, and cherry tomatoes.
  • Make a fruit salad with strawberries, pineapple, mandarin oranges, and grapes. Top with unsweetened shredded coconut for a fresh twist.
  • Add some pineapple slices to your salad at lunch or dinner. Compliment the pineapple with walnuts or pecans, a crumbled cheese, and light balsamic or citrus vinaigrette dressing.
  • Make your own juice. Nothing tastes better than fresh fruit juice in the morning. When you make your own, you can be sure there are no added preservatives or sweeteners.
  • Make a fresh salsa with pineapple, mango, jalapeño, red peppers, and chipotle pepper and use as a topper for your favorite fish tacos.

There is an excellent selection of pineapple products available for purchase online, with thousands of customer reviews.

sarah Posted on December 13, 2018 15:14

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Ian Naude: Cheshire PC jailed for raping 13-year-old girl

A police officer who only joined the force "to gain the keys to a sweetshop" has been jailed for raping a girl.

Cheshire Constabulary PC Ian Naude, 30, met the 13-year-old after being called to her house over a domestic incident.

He contacted her over social media and eventually raped her in his car, while filming it on his mobile phone.

The "committed paedophile" was found guilty at Liverpool Crown Court of raping the teenager and jailed for 25 years.

Naude, of Market Drayton in Shropshire, was also convicted of four charges of attempting to arrange the commission of a child sex offence and one charge of arranging a child sex offence, relating to five complainants aged between 12 and 15.

The father-of-one, originally from South Africa, previously admitted 31 offences including charges related to grooming underage girls via a fake Facebook and Snapchat profile.

Sentencing him, Judge Clement Goldstone QC said his rape victim had been just three weeks past her 13th birthday.

"In order to impose your will on a young girl and to commit offences of rape and sexual assault against her, you used and abused your position as a Cheshire Police officer, thereby enabling you to satisfy your lust and perversion," he added.

He said Naude was "out of control" with an "insatiable appetite" for young girls and described a selfie he took after raping his victim as showing his "smug self satisfaction and total lack of shame".

During his two-week trial, Naude denied rape and sexual assault as he claimed the sex with the girl was consensual and that she "seemed to be enjoying it".

Prosecutor Owen Edwards described Naude as a "committed paedophile" and said he joined the police "with the intention of exploiting the access he would gain to vulnerable young girls".

"In essence, he was hoping to gain the keys to a sweet shop," he added.

Naude met the girl after he was called to her house over an incident in October last year, the court heard.

After looking her up on Facebook and exchanging sexual messages and photos, he returned to her home three days later to pick her up while her mother was out.

He then drove her to a country lane where he attacked her.

In a statement read in court, the girl's mother said the victim would no longer leave the house without close family and friends and that she will no longer walk past the local police station and hides when a police car goes past.

Other parents said their daughters had gone on to self-harm after being groomed online by Naude, who would blackmail and threaten his victims, persuade them to send pictures of themselves undressed, tell them to call him "daddy" and send them videos of himself masturbating.

Naude also pleaded guilty to 31 other offences, including inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, misconduct in a public office and possessing 1,443 indecent images of children, including pictures of girls aged as young as 18 months.

The court heard he would gain the trust of the young girls by posing on social media as a 15-year-old boy called Jake Green.

It has since emerged that Naude, who previously served in Afghanistan as a machine gunner with the Royal Irish Regiment, was already being investigated for sex offences when he became a student officer in April last year.

Cheshire Constabulary said his appointment was delayed from January 2017 to April that year because he was alleged to have raped a woman in Staffordshire.

No further action was taken in the case and Naude was allowed to join - but reports of child grooming in Staffordshire and West Mercia which named him as a suspect in January and February 2017 were not picked up by Cheshire Police until after his arrest in November that year.

ruby Posted on December 13, 2018 15:02

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How to Recover From Pain After Delivery

While we congratulate you on new motherhood, we understand that giving birth is not an easy feat, whether done naturally or via caesarean. Recovering from pregnancy pain can take days, and in some cases, months. The contractions women notice after delivery take at least 2-3 days to subside. This is more pronounced in the case of women who already have experienced a pregnancy. Your hormones will also be fluctuating, making it more difficult to think clearly. Take your new routine slowly, and get someone to help you with your laundry or prepare meals for your family while you attend to your newest family member. Avoid using stairs and doing strenuous activities for some time. It is advisable to give your body some much-needed rest to recover from delivery.

Why Does Your Body Pain After Delivery?

Being a new mother has its challenges. Every day is filled with stress, new experiences, and lots of worrying. Body aches are very common after delivery. Though they make your daily tasks stressful with the baby, body aches are not serious concerns that need a medical intervention immediately. Here are some of the reasons why the body aches after delivery:

1. Hormonal Changes

After delivery, the muscles and ligaments which had gotten relaxed will start to get back into their position. This causes a lot of body pain and aches.

2. Weight Gain

You tend to gain weight along with the growing weight of your child during pregnancy. This causes joint pain, especially in the knees.

3. Arthritis

Certain pregnant women can suddenly experience pain in their joints due to arthritis post delivery.

4. Pain in the Tailbone

If you had some injury to the joints or any pain in the tailbone, you are likely to develop more aches in the joints and tailbone post your delivery.

5. Lack of exercise

If you do not exercise during pregnancy, or you are not in a position to exercise due to any previous history of injuries, you are likely to develop pains in the joints after your delivery.

6. New Routine

Frequent feeding sessions interfere with your sleeping patterns and are a major reason for feeling fatigue. This results in body pain after pregnancy.

Post Pregnancy Aches and Their Solutions

It can be very frustrating to know that all the headaches, body stiffness and aches that you had felt during your pregnancy are not going to go any time soon. It will still be a while before you feel connected with yourself. Let us look at some of these aches and suggest a solution to help you in your journey post-delivery:

1. Joint Pain after Delivery

The weight that you gained while carrying your baby causes joint pains. During pregnancy, the muscles and ligaments get relaxed to accommodate the increasing weight of the baby. After delivery, all these ligaments and muscles take some time to get back in their original position, and that results in aches.


You can undertake light exercises to keep your muscles relaxed. A hot water compress or an ice pack application can alleviate joint pain to some extent.

2. Body Pain

With the change in routine to accommodate your infant’s feeding needs, you are bound to get sleepless nights which can make you feel very tired.


A hot water bath works wonders on a tired body. Gift yourself a nice body massage to help you deal with body pain.

3. Backache

The most common ache post pregnancy is a backache. The weight that you carried during pregnancy has its effects on your back.


Massage your back with a relaxing oil and apply a hot compress or try to relax in a hot water bath for a few minutes daily.

4. Cramping of the Uterus

After your delivery, the uterus starts contracting which causes discomfort. This is a natural phenomenon since the uterus goes back to its original position.


A hot compress helps in giving temporary relief to the pain in the uterus. This is safe, and you can use it frequently.

5. Pain in the Tailbone

Your spine has to accommodate a lot of weight during pregnancy. This takes a heavy toll on the tailbone, and it becomes sore after delivery.


Try using a soft pillow or cushion when you are sitting. Avoid sitting on a hard surface. You can also try a sitz-bath. This is a process in which both your buttocks and hips are completely immersed in the water. They are known to alleviate pain due to haemorrhoids.

6. Persistent Headaches

The headaches that you experienced during your pregnancy are going to stay for some time. They are caused by changes in your hormonal levels, sleeping patterns and overall anxiety.


Try applying some pain relief balms to soothe yourself. Lavender oil is excellent for relaxing your body.

7. Arthritis

Some women with no prior history of arthritis can develop this pain post delivery.


You can try applying a hot compress or ice pack to the affected joints. If you experience severe pain, see your doctor and seek further treatment.

8. Haemorrhoids

These are caused due to the straining your muscles while pushing for your delivery. They cause discomfort while passing bowel and can cause both bleeding and pain.


Witch hazel is known to help get some relief from your haemorrhoids. It helps in controlling the itchiness that these haemorrhoids cause to your body and shrinks them down.

Tips to Manage Pain After Delivery

It must be really challenging for you now, with so many changes happening to your body and your routine. Although it is going to take you a while to recover from the pain after pregnancy, the tips we offer will make your new journey into motherhood less painful and more enjoyable:

1. Eating Healthy

A healthy diet plays a significant role in helping you recover from the pains and aches after delivery. Eat nutritious food and frequent, light meals. Dehydration is also known to cause a headache. Drink plenty of water, especially since you will be breastfeeding your baby.

2. Avoid Constipation by Eating Fibre

Haemorrhoids are very painful, and constipation increases the pain during bowel movement. Include plenty of fibre in your diet and drink lots of water. You can also use a stool softener.

3. Hot Bags or Ice Bags Application

Most of the time, pain in the body or the joints gets relieved with the application of hot bags or ice packs. Keep them handy and apply whenever you have time. They work amazingly well to relieve the built up stress in your muscles.

4. Relaxing Massage

Treat yourself to a relaxing massage every day. This helps in reducing your stress levels, and also provides the much-needed relaxation to your sore body.

Pains and body aches are natural after delivery. It will be a while before you feel like yourself again. It takes almost two-thirds of a year to deliver a baby – give your body time to recover from the delivery process. Resting is the key to faster postpartum recovery. A healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle go a long way in establishing a better recovery routine for yourself. Though the aches and pains are natural postpartum effects, it is wise to pay attention and listen to your body’s needs after delivery. If you notice any changes to your body like swelling or redness or a fever, seek help from your doctor immediately. Most of these pains and aches go away in a few weeks, but some may need further treatment from your practitioner. Enjoy motherhood, and take good care of yourself as well.

sarah Posted on December 13, 2018 15:00

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Who was the 'Thai bride' dumped in the hills?

Moments after Richard Hill posed for this picture, he and his friends discovered a corpse lying in the mountain stream. More than 14 years later, police remain baffled as to the identity of the woman dumped in the Yorkshire Dales. But forensic advances have at last offered a clue, giving weight to a new theory about the final years of her life.

Stormy weather battered the five walkers as they set off from the quaint village of Horton in Ribblesdale for Yorkshire's famous Three Peaks.

After reaching the summit of the smallest, Pen-y-ghent, they were forced back to flat land by the wind and rain and took a detour along the Pennine Way.

The group decided to stop near a network of caves known as Sell Gill Holes - it was a natural break point and a chance to grab a bite and take a few pictures.

Minutes after they were taken, walker Peter Goodhew spotted the body of a half-naked woman in the stream, curled around the jagged grey rocks.

"We were having a look around, peering down the cave, and then I glanced to my left and at first I thought it was a mannequin.

"But as I got up closer it was the missing fingernails that struck me. I realised then it was a corpse."

"He shouted that there was a dead body," said his friend Mr Hill.

"It was so surreal. It really shook me to the core and once it had all sunk in, what had happened, the next day I cried."

Despite extensive inquiries, North Yorkshire Police has so far failed to answer the two most important questions: who is this woman and how did she die?

Examination of her body put her height at 4ft 11ins (149 cm) and her weight at about 10 stone (63kg).

She was believed to be aged somewhere between 25 and 35; her hair was shoulder length, and dark brown.

Pertinently, she was believed to be of south-east Asian origin. But this could only be narrowed down so far - she could have been from Thailand, the Philippines, Laos, Vietnam or Indonesia.

But no-one ever came forward to identify the woman, who those in Horton in Ribblesdale would come to call the Lady of the Hills.

Saddened by the lack of interest in her, the parish council organised her funeral, which more than 40 people attended.

She is buried in a plot in the village graveyard.

"It's an incredibly sad story. Everyone in the village was so upset at the thought of this young lady just being left all by herself," said Sheila Millman, who was council chairman at the time.

"We felt a responsibility for her, like she belonged to us and we wanted to make sure she had a final resting place should her family ever get traced."

Inquiries by police were met with repeated dead ends.

Pathologists concluded she had been dead for between one and three weeks but there were no obvious signs of major trauma, such as being shot or bludgeoned, and they could not determine how she had died.

Decomposition of her organs meant doctors could also not say she died of a natural cause, such as by heart attack or stroke, but the lack of insect infestation suggested she had not been outside for long - perhaps only a few days.

Crucially, detectives favoured an explanation for her death that ruled out anything suspicious.

The fact she was found wearing only socks, a pair of green Marks & Spencer jeans, and a bra with broken hooks hanging off her left arm, suggested she might have become lost and died of hypothermia - the lack of clothes explained by a case of paradoxical undressing, where someone freezing to death might strip off under the illusion they are burning up.

A trawl of missing person databases, inquiries with foreign embassies, and anthropology and orthodontic tests failed to come up with any leads about her identity.

The case was eventually passed to the cold case team, which took a fresh look in 2016 - and came up with rather different conclusions from the original investigating team.

It began to consider the line of inquiry that the woman may have been a "Thai bride-type", according to lead investigator, retired Det Ch Insp Adam Harland.

"The term Thai bride does not necessarily mean the woman comes from Thailand but that she is a lady who has taken up a relationship with a white gentleman and has come back to live in the UK in the late 1990s or early 2000s," he explained.

"The fact that no-one has reported her missing suggests the relationship has broken down and her disappearance was because she's 'gone back home'.

"In this case, her partner had a natural excuse to explain her absence and for that reason I think, for now, he's got away with it."

Mr Harland and his team believe the woman had been living in a rural community in north Lancashire or south Cumbria and was murdered by her partner, then dumped outdoors. The stream where she was found is a mile from the main road and several from the nearest town of Settle.

Tellingly, she wore a band on her wedding ring finger which, because of its high percentage of gold, was traced to Bangkok.

According to the Office of National Statistics, in 2004 there were 3,000 people in Cumbria and Lancashire who were born in a south-east Asian country.

Investigators made use of a unique database that produces profiles of killers based on previous murder cases.

It shows that most bodies are carried no more than 50m (164ft) from a vehicle and that most drivers dumping a corpse travel no further than between 50 and 80 miles (80 to 130km).

The location of her body was off a rocky track only accessible by a 4x4, suggesting the killer may have lived in a rural location.

However, she was probably dumped in a more secluded spot and only became visible due to the heavy rain.

"That part of the Yorkshire Dales has its own microclimate," said fellow investigator and former detective, Max Jowett.

"We managed to track down a fell runner, who every morning would take a reading of the water level.

"When he gave us the charts it showed that there had been a massive spike in rainfall the 24 hours before she was found - enough to move a body."

Mr Harland maintains the killer was familiar with the area.

"If you came across this location by chance you'd maybe think about disposing the body in the cave," he said.

"But someone who knows this place would know that there's a metal grille at the bottom of the cave and that it's regularly visited by walkers.

"The likelihood is that she's been dead at home, they've needed to get rid of her quickly and they've brought her up here, over the hump and put her out of sight."

The newest and most compelling evidence has come from advances in forensic science.

Stable isotope analysis was not available to the original inquiry team, but has determined where the woman spent the last two years of her life.

It involves examining the levels of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen - found in soils or drinking water - in samples of the hair, teeth or bones, which can provide information about where a person lived.

The tests on the woman's bones and teeth confirmed she grew up in south-east Asia, but a cutting of her hair showed isotopes found in only a few places in Britain - including in south Cumbria and the northern tip of Lancashire.

"We do not find the needle in the haystack but we reduce the haystack to a manageable size," said Prof Wolfram Meier-Augenstein, who carried out the tests.

"We provide investigators with information to enable them to focus their efforts on a few select regions, thus increasing the chances of getting a match on, for example dental records, or next-of-kin DNA."

Cases such as these are not so much about solving the crime by "that lightning bolt moment" but by building a theory based on the most likely explanation and probabilities, said Mr Harland.

"Often you're peering down the telescope the wrong way and wondering why everything looks so small," he added.

"Once we find out who this lady is and the last person associated with her, I imagine they'll have a fair bit of explaining to do.

"We don't have many unsolved cases. This is not an easy one to solve, but it is solvable."

ruby Posted on December 13, 2018 14:30

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'If the factory closes what could I afford to eat?'

Sao Run is worried that if the clothing factory where she works closes down she won't be able to feed herself and her son.

A 34-year-old widow, she has spent almost 13 years making coats and jackets at a facility on the outskirts of Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh.

With overtime she can earn up to $250 (£200) a month, but the future of the workshop and others like it in the country is now uncertain due to a continuing political dispute between the European Union (EU) and Cambodia.

Cambodia's garments manufacturing sector has boomed in recent years, in no small part due to the EU granting the country's exports tariff-free access to Europe, starting back in 2012.

This has led to around 200 international fashion brands now using more than 600 factories in the country, lured by both the country's low wages, and the fact they don't have to pay any duties when exporting the EU.

However, back at at the start of October the EU warned that Cambodia's tariff-free access to the European single market could come to an end if the government did not improve political freedom and human rights in the country.

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said that the EU was launching a six-month review of the situation in Cambodia, and that unless Phnom Penh showed "clear and demonstrable improvements, this would lead to suspension of trade preferences" within 12 months.

Her comments were a response to what both the EU and US see as increasingly autocratic behaviour by the Cambodian government of Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has been in power since 1985.

Back in July his Cambodian People's Party won all 125 seats in parliament,helped by the fact that the main opposition party - the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) - was officially shut down by the country's Supreme Court back in November 2017.

The court ruling was based on a complaint by Hun Sen's government that the CNRP was conspiring with the US to overthrow it, something it denied.

Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, says that the EU's threat has "heightened concerns" that international fashion firms could take their manufacturing business to other countries.

This would be a major concern for Cambodia when you consider the numbers involved. Mr Loo says that the industry employs more than 700,000 people, 85% of whom are women.

Meanwhile, official EU figures show that Cambodian clothing exports to Europe reached €3.8bn ($4.3bn; £3.4bn) in 2017. That is 44% of all Cambodia's $9.6bn exports last year.

No wonder then that there are fears over the possibility of significant factory closures and job losses, not only if the EU does end Cambodia's tariff-free status, but simply as a result of the threat.

George McLeod, an economic and political risk analyst based in Bangkok, says that Western clothing firms could easily switch production to Bangladesh, Vietnam or Indonesia.

For Sao Run, who has a three-year-old son to support, this is now a real concern. "The local union in our factory told us that the factory could close if the [EU] taxes are high," she says.

"For me, if the factory closes, what could I afford to eat?"

Global Trade

Another clothing industry factory work, Yon Chansy, 24, says that she found out about the EU's threat via Facebook, and that she is also now worried she may lose her job.

"I could consider migrating to Thailand if the situation in our country is very bad," she says.

For its part, the Cambodian government may now be prepared to compromise, but whether it does enough remains to be seen.

Last week the country's parliament (in which the government holds all the seats) said it would review a ban on more than 100 members of the opposition CNRP, but no timetable was given. Nor was there any indication of whether fresh elections would be held, or if the leader of the CNRP would be released from house arrest.

Meanwhile the government has been downplaying the importance of the EU market. Ministry of Industry and Handicraft spokesperson Oum Sotha told the BBC that "the market of Cambodia does not solely depend on Europe, we have a lot of markets."

Sebastian Strangio, journalist and author of a book called "Hun Sen's Cambodia", says the Cambodian government faces a real dilemma over the EU issue.

"The problem is that the 'clear and demonstrable improvements' the EU is demanding would, almost by definition, weaken Hun Sen's hold on power," he says.

"This he will never accept. It is therefore hard to see how the two sides will find common ground. Any concessions the Cambodian government makes will fall short of meaningful democratic reforms.

"Whether or not the EU will accept something cosmetic remains to be seen."

A source at the European Commission says the announcement that the ban on the Cambodian opposition might be lifted was "a first positive step".

"However, this needs to produce concrete and substantial results to alleviate the EU serious concerns... the implementation of this announcement and concrete changes on the ground would be among deciding factors," she added.

Tieng Ratana, a mother-of-three who works at a clothing factory to the west of Phnom Penh, says she hopes that the Cambodian government will think of people like her.

"We work very hard, so I really want our leaders to think about the workers first," she says.

ruby Posted on December 13, 2018 13:43

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Leopard kills Indian Buddhist monk meditating in forest

A monk meditating in a forest in the Indian state of Maharashtra has died in a leopard attack, officials say.

Rahul Walke had been "meditating under a tree" in the Tadoba forest, which is a protected tiger reserve, officials told PTI news agency.

Walke had been attached to a Buddhist temple which is inside the forest, but he had walked to a spot quite far away from it to meditate.

Forest officials said they had warned the monks against going too far inside.

"I would like to tell everyone not to go inside the forest," GP Narawane, a forest official, told BBC Marathi.

However, there are now plans to capture the leopard. "We have set up two cages and a camera trap, and we will try to tranquilise the animal," Mr Narawane said.

State government officials have said they will give Mr Walke's family 1.2m rupees ($16,762; £13,280).

A monk belonging to the same temple told BBC Marathi that he had seen the animal attacking Mr Walke when he visited his meditation spot to give him food on Wednesday morning.

He said he went away to seek help but by the time he returned with others, Mr Walke was dead.

The Tadoba reserve is home to an estimated 88 tigers. It is also home to a large variety of other animals, including leopards, sloth bears, hyenas and honey badgers.

ruby Posted on December 13, 2018 13:32

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'Death sentence': butterfly sanctuary to be bulldozed for Trump's border wall

More than 200 species make their homes at America’s most diverse sanctuary, but construction through the reserve could begin in February

On any given day at the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas, visitors can to see more than 60 varieties of butterflies. In the spring and fall, monarchs and other species can blanket the center’s 100 acres of subtropical bushlands that extend from the visitor center to to the banks of the Rio Grande river, where their property, and US sovereignty, end.

“It’s like something from Fantasia,” said the center’s director, Marianna Wright. “When you walk you have to cover your mouth so you don’t suck in a butterfly.”

Today the most diverse butterfly sanctuary in the country, and other protected areas in the lower Rio Grande Valley along the US-Mexico border, are under threat. Last week, the US supreme court issued a ruling allowing the Trump administration to waive 28 federal laws, including the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Air Act, and begin construction on 33 new miles of border wall in the heart of the valley – and right through the butterfly center.

“Environmental tourism contributes more than $450m to Hidalgo and Starr counties,” said Wright, referring to the adjacent counties in the valley. “Many of the properties people choose to visit to see birds, butterflies and threatened and endangered species are all going to be behind the border wall. For us, the economic impact is potentially catastrophic.”

“Walls have fragmented our habitat,” said Scott Nicol, co-chair of the Sierra Club Borderland team. The various patches of land that provide refuge for these animals will become “less viable, with less and less places for them to go”.

A July letter sent from US Customs and Border Protection to a not-for-profit environmental group and seen by the Guardian describes the route and possible components of the project as including a 30ft-tall concrete and steel wall, roads, and a 150ft “enforcement zone” where all vegetation will be cleared.

With construction of the wall due to begin in February, people like Nicol fear that the barrier will not only destroy habitat and undermine ecotourism but also lead to an increasingly deadly border as undocumented immigrants are pushed further and further into marginal and dangerous areas.

“This is not just they will drive ocelots to extinction,” said Nicol, referring to the critically endangered wild cat found in the Rio Grande Valley. “Families trying to come into this country will be pushed into the desert to die.”

“Border walls are death sentences for wildlife and humans alike,” said Amanda Munro of the Southwest Environmental Center, an organization that works to restore and protect native wildlife and habitats. “They block wild animals from accessing the food, water, and mates they need to survive. They weaken genetic diversity, fragment habitat, and trap animals in deadly floods. At the same time, they drive desperate asylum-seekers to risk their lives in the unforgiving desert.”

For Donald Trump, the new section of the barrier is making good on a campaign promise to build a “big beautiful wall”. A barrier that will add to the nearly 700 miles of walls and fences that already exist on or near the border.

More than 200 species of resident or migrating butterflies make homes at the butterfly center over the course of the year, including the vibrant Mexican bluewing, the tiny vicroy’s ministreak and the black swallowtail, all three of which carpet the wild dill at the property with their eggs each spring. The center opened in 2003 and is the flagship project of the North American Butterfly Association.

“It’s going to cut right through here,” said Wright, showing where the wall will split the center’s property 1.2 miles from the border and cut off access to nearly 70% of its land.

Trump has expansive federal powers to construct the border wall on both private and public land. Since 2005, the Department of Homeland Security has had the power to waive numerous environmental laws in the name of national security.

And the federal government can, and has, used eminent domain law to acquire privately owned land for public use.

“We fully anticipate that they will seize the land by quick take,” said Wright, referring to a Depression-era provision of the eminent domain law that gives federal agencies the right to take property without compensation or adjudication. “Legal claims are not addressed or settled. You don’t get your day in court. You don’t get to negotiate appraisals or offers. Nothing,” said Wright.

On Tuesday, the president threatened to use defense spending if his plans to build the wall were challenged. “If the Democrats do not give us the votes to secure our Country, the Military will build the remaining sections of the Wall,” Trump said in a tweet.

For Wright, this threat could mean the end of the butterfly center and enormous harm to its dozens of butterfly species and the threatened Texas tortoise, Texas indigo snake, and Texas horned lizard that are also found there.

“It is truly a sight to behold,” said Wright, looking out from the bank of the Rio Grande river.

“They are violating our constitutionally protected rights, and that should terrify everyone,” she said. “Even if you don’t care about butterflies, you should care about this.”

sarah Posted on December 13, 2018 13:29

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The India girl who took her dad to the police over a toilet

A seven-year-old Indian girl went to the police after her father broke his promise to build her a toilet.

Hanifa Zaara told the police in a letter that her father had "cheated" her and should therefore be arrested. She said that she was "ashamed" to defecate outside.

Many Indians do not have access to toilets and nearly 500 million defecate in the open, according to Unicef.

Even where toilets have been built, many do not use them.

Hanifa who lives with her parents in Ambur, a town in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, has never had a toilet in her house.

She told BBC Tamil's Krithiika Kannan that a few people in her neighbourhood did have the facility. So she asked her father to build a toilet in their house too. She was in nursery at the time.

"I was ashamed to go outside and I felt bad when people looked at me," Hanifa said. And she was especially motivated after learning in school about the health problems caused by open defecation.

In her letter to the police, she wrote that her father told her he would build the toilet if she topped her class.

"I have been topping my class since nursery," she wrote. "I am in the second grade now. And he is still only saying he will do it. This is a form of cheating, so please arrest him." If not arrest, she added, she wanted the police to at least force him to provide her with a signed letter saying by when he would get her the toilet.

Her father, Ehsanullah, told BBC Tamil he had actually begun building the toilet, but did not have enough money to complete it. He is currently unemployed.

"I asked Hanifa to give me more time but she stopped talking to me because I couldn't keep my promise," he added.

But Hanifa is not sympathetic. "How long can I keep asking him for the same thing? He kept giving me the same excuse about not having enough money. So I went to the police."

On Monday, she went to the police station closest to her school, along with her mother, Mehareen.

"She came with a bag filled with trophies and merit certificates and she arranged them on my desk," police officer A Valarmathi told BBC Tamil. "And then she said, can you give me a toilet?"

Ms Valamarthi says she called Mr Ehsanullah, who rushed to the police station, worried that his wife and daughter were in danger. He says he was shocked to find out the reason he had been summoned.

After reading the detailed letter Hanifa had written, he said she seemed to have learned how to write official letters by watching him.

Mr Ehsanullah often helps villagers fill out paperwork and write letters to local officials and lawmakers.

"I never thought this would backfire against me!" he said.

Hanifa's efforts have won the sympathy and support of the police.

"Her complaint was very honest, so we tried to resolve the issue," officer Valamarthi said.

She alerted district officials who now plan to raise money to build more than 500 toilets in Hanifa's neighbourhood.

"We were very happy to see her complaint. We organise classes in schools to encourage children to ask their parents for toilets at home," city commissioner S Parthasarathy told BBC Tamil.

He said they also want to make her the local face of the national Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Campaign).

The government has set a goal to provide every household with a toilet by 2019, but the work has faced some resistance.

A recent study found that 89% of rural Indians defecate in the open because they do not want to clean toilets or live close to one - an attitude which, researchers say, is "rooted in the social forces of caste and untouchability".

For centuries, the practice of cleaning human waste was a task performed by those from low-caste communities.

Hanifa said she was "very happy" with the result of her letter.

She hadn't been speaking to her father for the last 10 days but the police brokered peace between them: Hanifa and her father finally shook hands.

ruby Posted on December 13, 2018 13:20

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Feature: Death for sale, horrible conditions in slaughter facilities

Thick, dark and dense smoke from burning lorry tyres made its way into the atmosphere. My eyes became teary from the smoke-inundated environment while my nose ran and I coughed intermittently.

Thick, dark and dense smoke from burning lorry tyres made its way into the atmosphere. My eyes became teary from the smoke-inundated environment while my nose ran and I coughed intermittently.

An offensive odour emanated from pools of blood of slaughtered animals that had been left unattended to, leaving the facility with unbearable stench. Businesses of flies were virtually having a field day as they gloated on the meat and blood clots in the facility.

A number of bare-chested young men dragged slaughtered animals and meat from one point to the other, on the bare floor that had been contaminated with blood clots and other pollutants. I watched on as meat was thrown into the blazing fire prepared with lorry tyres.

This was the ugly sight that greeted me when I visited the slaughter slab at Turaku, a suburb of Ashaiman in the Greater Accra Region, on November 17, this year.

Located about three kilometres from Ashaiman, Turaku is one of the largest homes to hundreds of thousands of livestock that are transported from many parts of the country and neighbouring countries such as Mali and Burkina Faso for sale.

The slaughter facility in the area serves as a major source of meat supply to consumers in the Greater Accra Region and other parts of the country.

It was the seventh of slaughter facilities that I had visited on my mission to shed the light on the conditions under which animals are slaughtered and the meat prepared for consumption.

This is how the beef, chevon and mutton that many savour as a delicacy is treated at most slaughter facilities

I had earlier visited slaughter facilities located in some parts of Accra, such as London Market at Jamestown, Kaneshie, the Kwame Nkrumah Circle, Accra Central, Mallam Atta and Avenor.

My visit to Turaku and the other slaughter facilities showed that the chain of activities that go on from the point of slaughtering the animals, to transportation, to retail outlets for the consuming public pose serious health risk to patrons.

For instance, after four successive visits to the London Market slaughter facility, it was observed that the butchers had very little regard to meat safety as they left it uncovered, allowing flies to gloat on.

The facility had been engulfed with filth as piles of solid and liquid waste had inundated it, while poor drainage systems also created more mess.

The insanitary and unhygienic conditions in the slaughter facilities that I visited in Accra only paint a bad picture about how widespread meat safety issues are across the country.

The personal hygiene of the young men who handled the meat in these facilities was a major concern. Even more, they had not been taken through any certification process to enable them to ply that trade.

Public Health Act

The condition under which meat is processed for consumption is in sharp contrast with the requirements of the Public Health Act, 2012 (Act 851).

Per the act, a slaughterhouse shall have facilities such as a decent killing floor, a refrigerated storage room with a separate hanging room, and proper and adequate appliances for killing animals, cleaning and hanging of their carcasses.

Additionally, the act requires that adequate facilities are provided for heating water for removal of blood and offal, and for receiving the organs and fat, as well as adequate supply of pure water for flushing and general cleansing purposes.

Among other things, the act further demands that an approved sewage disposal system and method of waste disposal should be adopted to prevent a health hazard from arising.

It further mandates the Veterinary Services Department (VSD), the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) and the local assemblies to have oversight responsibility over the safety and health of animals, safety of meat and personal hygiene and environmental safety respectively.

The VSD has the mandate under Act 851 to inspect animals to ensure that they do not have zoonotic diseases that could affect human populations.

The FDA, among other roles, is to ensure that there is proper sanitation in the meat chain, including the proper cold storage regimes for meat and medical certificates to handlers of the meat. 


Health experts say that apart from death from food poisoning that could result from the consumption of unwholesome meat, consumers of such meat were also exposed to heart complications, harmful cholesterol, acnes and erectile dysfunction.

According to the Head of Public Health and Food Safety at the VSD, Dr Bashiru Boi Kikimoto, the practice of using lorry tyres to prepare meat in some slaughter facilities did not only pollute the environment because of the emission of toxic gases into the atmosphere, but also had dire health consequences for consumers of unwholesome meat.

He disclosed that out of the 4,198 diseases that affected human populations, 3,558 of them were zoonotic, including those that result from the eating of unwholesome meat from slaughter facilities.

“The fact is that we could order the closure of some of these facilities; but if we do so they will slaughter illegally somewhere and cause more trouble.

We are trying to send more of our men to the grounds to do inspection, but the challenge here is that we are handicapped in terms of personnel,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Head of Agro products and bio-safety at the FDA, Mr Roderick Dadey-Adjei, said the manner in which meat was transported from slaughter facilities to the market for sale posed serious health risk to the public.

“The Public Health Act requires that the meat should be transported in a chilled storage facility but most of the time, it is left bare for flies to hover over it and make it unwholesome.

“We still have slaughter facilities where lorry tyres are used for meat preparation instead of gas; but this practice is detrimental to health because of the toxic chemicals and other pollutants. In the name of food safety, it is important for conscious efforts to be made to improve these facilities,” he said.

Way forward

The Public Health Act puts the mandate on local assemblies to establish good slaughter facilities that have proper source of potable water, lighting system, sanitation infrastructure and good floors for slaughtering animals.

It is important for metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs) to collaborate with the private sector to put up and operate slaughter houses that will meet acceptable standards.

For instance, blood from animals can be processed into animal feed when there is properpublic private partnership (PPP), especially in the wake of the government’s industrialisation agenda.

The FDA, VSD and other regulatory bodies must collaborate to enforce standards at the facilities and also crack the whip on recalcitrant meat handlers whose activities make meat unwholesome.

Source: Timothy Ngnenbe

sarah Posted on December 13, 2018 12:31

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Brazil shooting: Campinas cathedral gunman 'mentally ill'

Police investigating a deadly shooting in a cathedral in the Brazilian city of Campinas have identified the gunman.

Euler Fernando Grandolpho opened fire in the Metropolitan Cathedral after midday Mass on Tuesday.

Four people were killed and four more injured before the 49-year-old turned the gun on himself after being shot by police.

Officers said the systems analyst had no criminal record and "no motive except for his own madness".

While gun crime is common in Brazil, shootings of this nature and especially in a place of worship are not.

President-elect Jair Bolsonaro described the shooting as "a barbaric crime" on Twitter and the mayor of Campinas has declared three days of official mourning.

Police said the tragedy could have been much worse if more people had been inside the cathedral at the time.

Midday Mass was under way when the man, who was later found to be armed with two weapons, walked in and sat down in a pew.

Eyewitnesses said that after the Mass finished, he turned around and shot the worshippers who had sat down behind him, one of whom died.

Pedro Rodrigues was inside the cathedral when it happened: "I saw a man get up and position himself in front of a couple and he fired at point blank range at that couple. Then, my reaction was to run out and various other people left running with me. The man continued shooting, there were a lot of shots."

Police rushed in from the square outside but the gunman managed to fire about 20 shots before he was himself hit by a bullet in the side. He then shot himself in the head in front of the altar.

The Campinas police chief said they had found no links between the gunman and his victims.

Military police had at first said that five people had been killed but later corrected the figure to four.

They were named as 39-year-old Sidnei Vitor Monteiro, 68-year-old José Eudes Gonzaga Ferreira, Cristofer Gonçalves dos Santos, 38, and Elpídio Alves Coutinho, 67.

ruby Posted on December 13, 2018 12:30

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Koranteng writes: How Isaac Dogboe paid the price for lack of focus

Boxing has over the years shown that it is no respecter of persons, and a lack of preparation will surely come back to haunt you.

Boxing has over the years shown that it is no respecter of persons, and a lack of preparation will surely come back to haunt you.

The most notable lesson of them all was when Buster Douglas shocked the world by knocking out Mike Tyson in a fight where the world was patiently awaiting the former’s knockout defeat. The image of Tyson sprawling on the canvas, completely dazed and unaware of his surroundings is still a big reminder that even the great can fall if they get too comfortable.

What should’ve been a happy ending to a glorious year – which saw Isaac Dogboe announce himself to the world by capturing the world title and retaining it in style at the first ask – turned into a sucker punch for the British-based boxer. The 25-year-old lost his WBO Super Bantamweight title to little known Mexican Emmanuel Navarette at the Maddison Square Garden. Dogboe was largely expected to dominate his Mexican opponent who was relatively new to the world stage, but the Ghanaian ended up being taught a boxing lesson, eventually losing by a unanimous decision, and ending his eight-month reign as world champion. 300w" sizes="(max-width: 640px) 100vw, 640px" style="box-sizing: border-box; border: 0px; vertical-align: middle; max-width: 100%; height: auto; display: block; clear: both; margin: auto auto 15px; float: none; opacity: 1; transition: all 0.4s ease-in-out 0s;">

Underestimating your opponent is disrespectful

First rule of boxing is never to underestimate your opponent.

We underrated him, I did not have the best of training camps ahead of the fight,” Dogboe said after the fight.

A shocking revelation by the young champion, considering the magnitude of the fight. A world title fight is a world title fight regardless of the opposition. Dogboe, in the weeks leading to the bout, was often seen paying more attention to calling out more established champions in the super bantamweight division in Danny Roman and Rey Vargas, so much so that if one wasn’t an ardent follower of boxing one would have had no idea he had a title defense to deal with.

Interviews leading up to the fight with Navarette were dominated by verbal jabs to Roman and Vargas, paying very little attention to Navarette. The sudden attention from the media especially the British media, who immediately embraced him as one of their own after his first title defense against Japan’s Hidenori Otake seemed to have fed his ego. It is the job of the press to hype and project possible mouthwatering bouts, but the sole duty of the boxer is to focus and prepare for what is in front of him. Don’t get it twisted, trash talking in boxing is very necessary. It has a way of unsettling your opponent’s psyche and puts you in an advantageous position. But one has to fulfill their end of the bargain by being prepared.

Dogboe was simply outboxed and outclassed by the Navarette. The Ghanaian didn’t have a sniff of his opponent throughout the fight. Dogboe, who usually looked very much in control of all his bouts, looked clueless and stunned by the level of knowledge his opponent had about him. He had never been outthought and outsmarted in this manner and his corner had no antidote to Navarette’s strategy.

Dogboe’s loss is painful and gut-wrenching, especially for Ghanaians who had waited eight years just to boast of a world champion, only to see the right taken away after just eight months. However no one should doubt Dogboe’s resolve to recapture the world title crown. If anyone has showcased and exhibited fight and grit throughout their career, it is him. The only problem now is how soon will he get another shot to make amends for his basic mistake.

By: Daniel Koranteng

sarah Posted on December 13, 2018 12:27

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Lake Titicaca: Underwater museum brings hope to shores

Ever since Reddy Guaygua was a boy, he dreamt of discovering hidden ruins.

Born in Mapiri, 130km (80 miles) north of La Paz in Bolivia, he was the only person from his small town to study archaeology. "My goal was to work in the villages, visit their archaeological sites and work in them," he says.

Now, years later, his dream has become reality. Mr Guaygua is in charge of tourism and culture in the town of Tiquina.

Tiquina lies on the shore of Lake Titicaca, which covers more than 8,500 sq km (3,300 sq miles) and creates a natural border between Peru and Bolivia. It was just five minutes from here that the submerged remains of an ancient civilisation was found 10 years ago.

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Following information provided by local people, archaeologist Christophe Delaere of the Free University of Belgium located 24 submerged archaeological sites in the lake's waters.

The most important site is in Santiago de Ojjelaya, and it is here that the Bolivian government is planning to build an underwater museum to preserve both the submerged archaeological structures and those on the shore.

The project, estimated to cost $10m (£7.8m) by the time it is completed in 2020, is being financed by the Bolivian government with help from Unesco, and has the backing of the Belgian development co-operation agency.

The 9,360-sq-m building will have two parts, one located on the shore where pieces salvaged from the lake will be exhibited and another semi-submerged part which will allow visitors to see some of the underwater structures, dubbed "hidden city", through glass walls.

José Luis Paz, director of heritage at Bolivia's ministry of culture, says that visitors will be able to see two types of underwater ruins: "ones which correspond to human settlements, sites that are hugging the lake's shoreline, and others [which were] the sites of spiritual offerings".

Mr Paz says the human settlements were probably flooded years before the spiritual sites, which were located in strategic places inside the lake.

A team of Belgian and Bolivian experts and specialised archaeological divers has managed to locate thousands of items.

"We found more than 10,000 pieces like vessels, gold pieces, ceramic, and thanks to the investigations it was possible to determinate that they belong to Tiwanaku culture and pre-Inca civilisations," Bolivia's Culture and Tourism Minister Wilma Alanoca says.

As they are well preserved, the plan is to only raise a few and leave most of them underwater.

Tiwanaku culture:

  • Pre-Hispanic empire that dominated a large area of the southern Andes and beyond
  • Reached its greatest power between 500AD and 900AD
  • Built exceptional ceremonial and public architecture from stone

Some of the pieces are estimated to be 2,000 years old and others date back to a time when the Tiwanaku empire was one of the most important Andean civilisations.

For Mr Guaygua and the people living in the 13 municipalities on the shores of the lake, the project to build the underwater museum offers the potential for increased tourism and thereby more work.

Currently most locals make a living from fishing or agriculture, and Minister Alanoca thinks that the museum could be key in stopping people from leaving their communities to go and work in the cities.

Unesco experts estimate that the ruins found so far only represent a tiny part of the Tiwanaku empire.

Mr Guaygua and fellow residents hope the treasure in the lake - and the sites they still hope to discover - may translate into more riches on the shore.

ruby Posted on December 13, 2018 12:19

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In pictures: Ethiopians drum for unity

Drummers came out in force in Ethiopia to celebrate the diversity of the country's more than 100 million people.

The celebration, officially called the Nations and Nationalities Day, is supposed to highlight Ethiopia's more than 80 nationalities and ethnic groups.

Troupes from across the country came to the main stadium in the capital, Addis Ababa, in traditional dress playing their cultural instruments.

This man was part of a group from Tigray in the north, who came to the festivities with a traditional flute and horn, or "shambeko" and "trumba" as they are known in the Tigrinya language.

These women, wearing clothes known as "tilfi" in Trigrinya, were clapping and dancing to the rhythm.

The men from Afar came with their swords, known as "dile" in the Afarinya language, strapped to their waists and carrying sticks, or "gebahada".

Afar is a sparsely populated area in the north-east of the country.

This young man, also from Afar, shows off a hairstyle which is popular in the region.

Tensions between different ethnic or national groups have been on the rise in recent months, causing deaths and mass displacement.

But tensions were not visible during the parade. In fact, at different times the troupes adopted dance styles from other parts of the country.

Oromos make up Ethiopia's largest ethnic group. These women came from Arsi in Oromia, which is a large swathe of territory in the west and south of the country.

What they are wearing symbolises women's power, including the stick, or "siinque" in the Afaan Oromo language.

It is used is to call the community to offer protection, if women are being threatened.

These men came from central Oromia, the area that surrounds the capital, with their shields and spears.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who is from Oromia, has tried to emphasise the unity of Ethiopia since coming to power in April.

There is an ongoing debate in the country about how to balance the importance of ethnicity while identifying as an Ethiopian.

Healing ethnic divisions is one of Mr Abiy's biggest challenges in the run up to elections in 2020.

People also came from Gambella in the west of the country, which borders South Sudan, and this young woman is from the Nuer ethnic group.

Ethiopia's Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples' Region (SNNPR) is, as the name suggests, made up of many different groups, including the Kambata, represented by these drumming women.

These women came from the Somali region. The beads around their necks and waist help keep their traditional clothes, in green or orange, in place.

While the women sang the men from the Somali region, which is in the south-east, danced.

These women, from the Agew ethnic group, are from the Amhara region in the north-west of the country.

There are many other ethnic groups in the region, but collectively the Amharas are the second largest grouping in the country.

ruby Posted on December 13, 2018 11:26

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Tyneside council worker 'saves Christmas' for children

Council staff have come to the aid of a children's nursery that accidentally threw away all its nativity costumes.

Tynemouth Nursery only realised the outfits had been put out with the rubbish after the bins were emptied.

North Tyneside Council offered to search the tip but was defeated by "thousands of black bags", and staff offered to make new costumes instead.

Nursery manager Melanie Robertson said the authority "actually saved our Christmas".

"We thought they would just say to us 'that's tough, sorry', but they didn't," she said.

The 38 three and four-year-olds at the nursery in North Shields had spent months practising songs and carols, ready to perform them for a 100-strong audience of proud parents and grandparents.

Staff had washed and ironed their costumes before packing them in black bin bags.

When they realised what had happened they "were absolutely devastated", Ms Robertson said.

Alerted to the clothing crisis, council staff offered to search the tip.

But, unable to find the right bags among "many thousands", they called back to offer to make new costumes instead.

Liz Devlin, who works in the authority's contact centre, arrived with "a car full of material", Ms Robertson said.

"She spent a whole weekend making a Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the kings, the angel," she said.

"I was just so emotional I couldn't stop crying."

Without the costumes "it wouldn't have been the same at all", Ms Robertson said.

ruby Posted on December 13, 2018 11:04

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6 Gross Things That Happen If You Don't Wash Your Bra Often Enough

We all have our own weird routines that allow us to go as long as possible without doing laundry. There's only so far we can take it, though, before our clothes start to turn on us and demand to be cleaned. And that includes the undergarments we wear on a regular basis, which are more sensitive than we give them credit for. Yes, I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but our bras need to be washed more often than you might think.


Even though our bras might get washed less frequently than our shirts, the truth is that the closer something is to your body, the more frequently you should be cleaning it. This basic instruction comes from a professional, Mary Begovic Johnson, senior scientific communications manager of Procter & Gamble, who told Buzzfeed that you really shouldn't be wearing the same bra more than three to five times in a row. Another way to put it is that you should aim to toss your bras in the washer at least once a week.

This isn't one of those mom-like suggestions you toss aside because, well, she's a little paranoid and nobody has ever died from eating standing up. No; there are some actual, real-life consequences that come from failing to wash your bra. Whether it's acne or disagreeable scents, you don't want to wait around to witness what a dirty brassiere has to offer.

Here are six gross things that can happen if you don't wash your bra often enough.

1. Nasty Things Will Accumulate On Your Bra

Bacteria, oil, dirt, lotion, microorganisms, yeast, fungi — these merely make up the tip of the iceberg (or nipple, as it were). The longer you refrain from washing your bra, the more these nasties assemble without your permission. New York dermatologist Joshua Zeichner says these things generally aren't dangerous when they come into contact with your skin, but put them all together in one place, unsupervised and left to their own devices, where they'll transform into something ominous, as we'll see below.

2. Your Bra Will Start To Smell — And That Smell Might Rub Off On Your Other Clothes

I'm sure you've learned by now, being an adult and all, that things stink if they don't get washed often enough. Your bra is not exempt from this. It doesn't matter how many times you spritz a little perfume on it as you get dressed in the morning; there will come a time when it's so dirty that it smells like a gym locker room you've become immune to. And that faint smell could potentially rub off on your other clothes, meaning you could be walking around with a generally unpleasant scent. Your friends and coworkers deserve better. Toss that bra in the washing machine.

3. Your Bra Might Become Stained

Deodorant is your best friend — until it sits on your undergarment for several days in a row and leaves a yellowish-beige stain on your lacy bra, that is. Dirt and oil like to gather together too, resulting in sweat discolorations that will be tough to get out (I hear baking soda as a prewash treatment works wonders).

4. You Could Get An Acne Breakout

This is especially likely to happen if you're exercising in sports bras a lot. Sweaty undergarments are one of the most common causes of body acne, and if you've never had it, don't bring it upon yourself. Because bras are so tight and close to the skin, all the grimey bacteria that has built up over time can easily cause friction. Acne happens anywhere that sees a lot of rubbing and excess heat, so if you don't wash your bra enough, you may be hit with some bacne, as well as pimples along your rib cage and underboob area.


While you have a little more wiggle room with your everyday t-shirt bras, you can't really afford to slack off on washing your sports bras. Those sweaty numbers need to be properly cleaned every two or three uses, at least. That should reduce the likelihood of any red bumps rudely showing up without an invite.

5. You Might Get A Rash Or An Infection

WebMD names clothing as one of the top things in our lives that cause serious skin irritation. Sometimes it's because the garments don't fit properly, and sometimes it's because they're not washed often enough. Dr. Zeichner told Buzzfeed Life that it's very easy for bacteria and yeast to gather underneath your breasts, which is an area they find to be moist and cozy.

That yeast and bacteria might result in a pink patch where the skin becomes raw, leading to redness and irritation (which can be cured in a day or two), a rash, or an infection. An infection would probably send you to a doctor, where you may have to get prescription meds to zap the problem.

6. Your Nipples Might Begin To Chafe

I wouldn't wish chafed nipples on my worst enemies. It's an incredibly uncomfortable thing to endure, and one of the causes? You guessed it: unwashed bras. Boston-based dermatologist Robin Travers, M.D., told Fitness Magazine that the recipe for chafing disaster is a sweaty undergarment and dry skin. Even the smallest amount of moisture that gets trapped between dirty fabrics and delicate skin can turn your nipple area into a danger zone.

Your nipples definitely don't have the time or energy to deal with that nonsense. To keep your boobs happy — and your sanity intact — set an alarm on your phone to remind yourself to cart your bras to a washing machine at least once a week. If you're in a pinch, hand wash them and leave them out to dry overnight. Because nothing gross ever came out of a clean brassiere. (Well, OK, maybe that one hookup you had with a clean bra on was pretty gross, but you know what I mean.)

Want more women's health coverage? Check out Bustle's new podcast, Honestly Though, which tackles all the questions you're afraid to ask.

sarah Posted on December 13, 2018 11:02

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Maria Butina: Russian gun activist held in US conspiracy case

Maria Butina loves guns, has ties to a top Russian banker and has been held in an American jail since July on suspicion of conspiring against the US government, at a time when relations with Moscow went into freefall.

She is expected to plead guilty on Thursday under a plea deal agreed with federal prosecutors.

When she was arrested in July, Ms Butina, 30, denied conspiring to act on the orders of a Russian official to build relations with two Americans and try to infiltrate US political groups including a "gun rights" organisation, assumed to be the National Rifle Association.

She was not accused of being a spy, nor was she accused of an earlier salacious allegation that she had offered sex in return for a job.

Her case has no connection with the Mueller inquiry into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 Trump election victory.

But Russia has smelled a rat.

Her arrest was revealed within hours of President Donald Trump's heavily criticised Helsinki summit with President Vladimir Putin. And Russia detected a political motive aimed at undermining the meeting.

President Putin spoke out this week, complaining that "our Butina" was facing jail and had nothing to hide.

"I asked all the heads of our secret services what was happening. No-one knows anything about her," he said.

Who is Maria Butina?

Born in the southern Siberian city of Barnaul in 1988, according to her Facebook page, she has enjoyed using weapons ever since she was a child, picking up a gun for the first time at the age of 10.

She went to the local Altai state university to study political and educational science, according to her Facebook page. She appears to have been politically engaged and active in the university debating society.

Ms Butina then set up a private furniture company, travelling widely abroad and remaining politically active with the youth wing of Vladimir Putin's United Russia party. And yet she attracted praise from opposition leader Alexei Navalny who spoke of her as a "decent person".

Promoting gun rights was clearly a deep passion, as she founded a group called the Right to Bear Arms and called for the sale of short-barrelled firearms to civilians to be made legal.

This, she argued, was "one of the last wishes of Mikhail Kalashnikov", the inventor of the AK-47, and her movement attracted support nationwide. The Russian edition of GQ magazine wrote an admiring profile, complete with photos of her in high heels and Versace, with revolvers in her hands.

Her self-defence drive fell flat because of government opposition.

But her movement continued to grow and one of its members was Alexander Torshin, a member of the Russian senate and deputy chairman of the Russian Central Bank.

In 2012 he became a life member of the National Rifle Association in the US. His ties with the NRA endured and Maria Butina became his "unpaid special assistant".

Mr Torshin was placed under US Treasury sanctions in April, and is being investigated by the FBI over allegations of funnelling money to the NRA to aid the Trump campaign.

Moving from Russia to US

Maria Butina began travelling to the US for NRA conventions, and in 2015 she attended a Trump campaign event in Las Vegas, asking the presidential candidate about his views on US sanctions in Russia.

By 2016 she had a student visa for a Master's at American University in Washington DC.

Her LinkedIn profile said she was focusing on "cyber policy, the Internet of Things, cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology".

According to US court filings, she was living with a 56-year-old American. He has been identified as Paul Erickson, a South Dakota-based conservative political activist, whose role is expected to be part of Ms Butina's plea deal.

She attended a National Prayer Breakfast in 2017 in the US when President Trump gave a speech. "It is important to support Trump morally," she was quoted as saying in the Russian press.

Political expert Andrei Kolyadin used her as an interpreter at the event and told Interfax news agency she had been considering what she should do after graduation in May.

Whatever her plans, gun rights remained close to her heart and she kept several active social media accounts as well as a blog.

She never shied away from a public profile. In one piece on the Russian Snob website she said her dream was "to live in a prosperous, highly-developed country, leading in the world, and without migration".

In another interview in 2016 with the Russian-based Guns website, she said she hoped that the Russian government would allow her organisation "to work with young children in schools" - like the NRA in the US.

'No spy qualities'

Alexander Torshin made no comment on her arrest.

However, the FBI alleged he was her main point of contact in Russia and that the two shared a string of messages. Prosecutors argued her aim was to carry out a "covert influence" campaign for the Russian government.

Since her arrest she has been held at an adult detention centre in Alexandria, Virginia, and sometimes in solitary confinement, say her lawyers.

Under her plea deal, Maria Butina is expected to admit to one charge of conspiracy, and could escape further custody because of time served.

Her lawyer, Robert Driscoll, said in July she was an "ambitious young woman" and not an agent of the Russian Federation. At the time he was adamant there was no evidence against her.

Her father Valery has called the charges against her "psychopathy and a witch-hunt".

ruby Posted on December 13, 2018 10:43

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Strasbourg shooting: Face to face with gunman

"He came out from the porch of a building armed with a pistol in his hand, his arm outstretched."

One eyewitness to the shooting in Strasbourg told French media she stumbled into the path of the gunman - and was lucky to survive.

Audrey was one of many people taking in the Christmas markets with some friends when the first shots rang out.

"He headed towards a gentleman walking in front of me and immediately fired a bullet at his head," she told Radio Monte Carlo (RMC).

"The man collapsed, and the guy opened fire again at someone else who fell to the ground too," she added.

Her two friends ran, screaming. Audrey was left standing face-to-face with the shooter, paralysed with fear.

"He turned around, I was facing him," she told the radio station. "He ran off and went under another porch."

"Why didn't he shoot at me? I don't know. I think I was extremely lucky. As everyone was screaming, he fled."

Another witness named Jonathan was working as a waiter when he heard the gunfire.

'We had to tell her that her husband had been shot'

"I thought it was our slate that had just fallen outside," he told Dernières Nouvelles D'Alsace. But then he discovered a man lying on the ground, bleeding.

He quickly retreated inside and barricaded the restaurant, telling all his customers to get down.

But then he discovered the injured man had not been alone - and had been waiting outside for his family.

"The wife, who was with her son in the restaurant, was in the bathroom - and when she came out, we had to tell her that her husband was shot," he told RMC.

"He was losing a lot of blood"

The 34-year-old resident had been walking nearby when the attack happened, and found a man in his 50s lying wounded on the ground outside an ice cream parlour.

He phoned his brother, a doctor, to ask how he could help.

Media captionPater Fritz describes hearing gunshots and attending to a victim of the Strasbourg shooting

"He explained to me that I had to compress the wound, but I could not find the bullet entry wound," said François. "He was losing a lot of blood."

A passing cyclist then stopped and told him she was a doctor and gave the man heart massage. He never saw the gunman, and the fate of the wounded man is not yet known.

He ran off past a local cinema, where people were "walking quietly down the street, who had not heard". He warned whoever he could.

Eyewitness Pater Fritz told the BBC about a similar experience.

He heard gunfire and found a person who had been shot, lying on a bridge. He said he tried to resuscitate him - but the man died.

"There are no ambulance services able to enter the area, apparently," he said, adding: "After 45 minutes we stopped the resuscitation [attempt], because a doctor told us on the phone that it was pointless."

In the nearby basketball stadium, sheltering residents broke into a rousing chorus of the national anthem in solidarity with the victims - something which was widely played on French television.

But one of the people there, Benedict, told RMC: "I was not able to sleep, I was too shocked, I had too many emotions," and the he went for a late-night walk later instead.

"Two snipers stood in my window"

Another Strasbourg resident was caught up in the drama when two police snipers took over her living room.

according to Dernières Nouvelles D'Alsace.

They told her "there was an exchange of fire with the shooter, and that he had taken refuge at number 5 rue d'Epinal, directly opposite my home".

"They set up in the living room and moved my couch. A crack marksman stood at the wide-open window, his foot planted on a chair," she said. A second sniper joined the first a little and for a brief moment the shutters opened on the opposite window, but quickly closed.

"They shouted out 'it's useless trying to hide'."

Police then bashed down the door at number 5 and checked the neighbouring buildings - but the suspect had slipped away.

ruby Posted on December 13, 2018 10:03

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Movies Starring Women Earn More Than Male-Led Films, Study Finds



“Trolls.” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” “Moana.” “Inside Out.” “Wonder Woman.” All were global box-office hits that had women in leading roles.

They were also part of a broader trend. According to findings from the Creative Artists Agency and shift7, a company started by the former United States chief technology officer Megan Smith, the top movies from 2014 to 2017 starring women earned more than male-led films, whether they were made for less than $10 million or for $100 million or more.

The research also found that films that passed the Bechdel test — which measures whether two female characters have a conversation about something other than a man — outperformed those that flunked it.

“The perception that it’s not good business to have female leads is not true,” said Christy Haubegger, a C.A.A. agent who was part of the research team. “They’re a marketing asset.”

Casting women in leading roles is still more the exception than the rule in Hollywood. Women accounted for about a quarter of sole protagonists in the top films of 2017, and they played roughly a third of major characters, according to research from San Diego State University.

The new report from C.A.A., a leading talent agency, is part of an effort to pressure Hollywood into putting more women and people of color onscreen and behind the scenes, with proponents arguing that greater diversity improves the bottom line. In 2017, the agency released a report indicating that movies with multiethnic casts performed better on opening weekends than those with more homogeneous casts. The new study was created in conjunction with a working group from Time’s Up, an organization fighting workplace sexual harassment; the working group aims to improve the portrayal of women onscreen.

The question now is whether the industry will take heed. The San Diego State University study also found that the number of female protagonists with speaking roles in top films dropped in 2017 from the previous year. The new statistics from C.A.A. suggests that the makers of those films might be hurting their earnings.

“A lot of times in our business there is a lot of bias disguising itself as knowledge,” Haubegger said.

The C.A.A. and shift7 report looked at the top films at the global box office each year from 2014 through 2017, using information from Gracenote, a data and technology provider owned by Nielsen. (The time frame was based on a database C.A.A. created for its diversity study.) “Lead actor” was determined by the performer listed first on Gracenote. This meant that both “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” were designated male-led films: Gracenote listed Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill as the leads for each, rather than Daisy Ridley. “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” was led by Megan Fox and “Trolls” by Anna Kendrick.

The analysis was based on 350 films with budgets listed on Gracenote. Of those, 105 were led by women and 245 by men. The data was further broken down by budget size, partly because the tentpole films made for more than $100 million are a key part of studio business and the study’s authors decided that they needed to be considered on their own. (In that category, there were 75 male-led films and 19 films starring women.) The other categories were films made for less than $10 million, $10 million to $30 million, $30 million to $50 million and $50 million to $100 million.

In each bracket, the average earnings for female-led films surpassed those of their male-led counterparts. The median value, or numerical middle, which is often considered more statistically significant because it reduces the impact of outliers, yielded the same results, with one exception: In the $30 million to $50 million category, the median take for male-led films was $104 million, and for women it was $102 million.

The study also drew information from, which had applied the test to 319 of the films analyzed in the C.A.A. report. Of those, 60 percent passed. The researchers found that no film between 2014 and 2017 earned $1 billion without passing the Bechdel test and that no film has made $1 billion without passing the test since 2012.

While women account for about half of movie tickets sold, Haubegger said she believed the greater success of films starring women and people of color can be attributed to a thirst for fresh storylines. “You’ve got superhero fans that haven’t seen innovation in superhero movies in 36 years,” she said.

Haubegger also said the perception that such films are risky means they face more studio scrutiny from the outset. “I think they’re less likely to take a bet on a turkey,” she said, “And the movie ends up punching at or above its weight class.”

sarah Posted on December 12, 2018 17:41

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A Film’s Horrors Evoke a Dark Era in Chile’s Past

A still image from “La Casa Lobo” (The Wolf House), a stop-motion animated film by the Chilean artists Cristóbal León and Joaquín Cociña. Twelve shots were needed for each second of footage in the 73-minute film.CreditCreditUpstream Gallery, Amsterdam


In the stop-motion animated film “La Casa Lobo” (The Wolf House), a young woman emerges from the walls and melts into the floor, paintings cry, a tree grows in a living room and pigs transform into children.

The Chilean artists Cristóbal León and Joaquín Cociña created each image of their visually stunning and horrifying film using life-size models and sets that are in a constant state of evolution. To do so, they set up temporary studios within art gallery spaces and museums from Chile to Amsterdam, creating the film with art aficionados as their witnesses.

Now the finished work will receive another art-world screening at Art Basel Miami Beach, as Upstream Gallery from Amsterdam presents the work in the “Positions” section, with an exhibition entirely devoted to this single work by Mr. León and Mr. Cociña. A limited edition of six copies of the film are on offer, priced at 30,000 euros (about $34,000) each.

Mr. León and Mr. Cociña spent five years creating the 73-minute film, in art institutions such as Casa Maauad in Mexico City, the Buenos Aires Museum of Modern Art, the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo in Santiago and the Media Arts Biennial of Chile in Santiago de Chile, among other locations. They did this in part because they knew the filmmaking process would be lengthy — they needed 12 shots for each second of footage — so they didn’t want to create it all in solitude.

“The process of the filmmaking had a sculptural quality and a material quality, and we wanted to be able to show that to the public as well,” Mr. León said during a video interview with the two artists from their homes in Chile. Mr. León will be at Art Basel for the opening.

“We decided we shouldn’t make an illustration but make the real thing in the art space,” he continued. “Our studio is really organic, really changing every day, really dirty and sometimes ugly and sometimes beautiful, and we like that. We would like our films to be like that, and our exhibitions.”

It is their first feature-length movie, although the duo have made many short animated films that explore similar visual and thematic territory, such as “Los Andes” and “Lucía,” since they began working together in 2007.

“La Casa Lobo” tells the story of Maria, a young woman who lives in a German colony in Chile, who has been threatened with 100 days of solitary confinement for not taking proper care of pigs on the farm. She runs off into the woods, where she is chased by a wolf, but finds a small, abandoned, dilapidated cottage. Inside, there are two pigs, whom she promises not to eat but to protect from the wolf.

Alone in the cottage, Maria begins to imagine things — to hallucinate or to dream — and the pigs transform into a boy and a girl, her children, whom she tries to raise with a sense of security despite the constant threat of the wolf outside the door. But the dream continues to evolve and shift into nightmarish territory, as their food runs out and the wolf draws nearer. The film has many fairy-tale elements, drawing especially on the Three Little Pigs and Hansel and Gretel, and is both surrealistic and Dada-esque.

“La Casa Lobo” had its premiere at the 2018 Berlin International Film Festival, the Berlinale, where it won a prize, and has since traveled to film festivals around the world, winning best animated feature film at the Monterrey festival in Mexico, best Latin American film at the Quito Latin American Film Festival in Ecuador and the public prize and best cinematography at the international film festival in Valdivia, Chile.

“The film is rolling out now in the film world, and we felt it needed a great platform to introduce it to the art world for the first time,” said Nieck de Bruijn, one of the two owners of Upstream. “We felt Art Basel Miami Beach was the best place for its art world premiere, because it’s the top event in the art world, but it’s also a fair that is very connected to the Latin American world.”

The narrative was inspired in part, the artists said, by a true story that is probably better known in South America than in the United States. It begins in a German colony reminiscent of a traditional Bavarian settlement known as Colonia Dignidad, or Dignity Colony, which a group of German émigrés set up in southern Chile after World War II. In 1961, a former Nazi corporal, Paul Schäfer, who had been charged with sexually abusing boys at a German orphanage, became the colony’s leader.

During his nearly 40-year rule, he turned it into a horror camp, where children were separated from their parents and sexually abused, and adults were drugged and made to work in slavelike conditions, under constant surveillance. The Chilean military dictator, Gen. Augusto Pinochet, was not only aware of the colony and its leader, but also used it as torture camp for dissidents and political detainees from 1973 onward, according to the National Commission for Truth and Reconciliation report, an investigation of human rights abuses under the Pinochet government.

The story of the Dignity Colony was explored in the 2015 film “The Colony,” directed by the Academy Award-winning filmmaker Florian Gallenberger and starring Emma Watson. The story, Mr. Cociña said, was already very familiar to Chileans, so the references in his film will be accessible without too much explanation.

“Basically the love for German culture is mixed with fascism and mixed with the history of colonization,” he said. The film explores, in a visceral way, how one thing can morph into another in very fluid process, turning a dark corner at any moment.

“The film is really inspired by some cases of people trying to escape the colony, who were arrested by police and brought back,” Mr. León said. “This very eccentric cult or religious sect became very powerful in Pinochet’s time. The reason why they became so successful is still sort of a mystery. It’s a national trauma that we need to talk about, and it’s still very current because we have a right-wing government in Chile today.”

sarah Posted on December 12, 2018 17:34

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Nikki Haley says she leveraged Trump's outbursts to get things done at the U.N.

Nikki Haley, who is leaving as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations at the end of the year, told NBC's "Today" that she got things done by using President Donald Trump's "unpredictable" nature to her advantage.

"He would ratchet up the rhetoric, and then I'd go back to the ambassadors and say: 'You know, he's pretty upset. I can't promise you what he's going to do or not, but I can tell you if we do these sanctions, it will keep him from going too far,'" Haley said in an exclusive interview which aired Wednesday morning.

"I know all of it," she said in response to a question about the president's bombastic, sometimes false statements in public and on Twitter. "But I'm disciplined enough to know not to get into the drama."


At the United Nations, "I was trying to get the job done," she said. "And I got the job done by being truthful, but also by letting him be unpredictable and not showing our cards."

On one of the more delicate diplomatic issues on her watch, Haley said the United States must be careful in confronting Saudi Arabia over the brutal killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Haley made it clear that she blamed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the Saudi government for Khashoggi's death, even as the president has said repeatedly that the United States has reached no final conclusion about the prince's involvement.

"It was the Saudi government, and MBS is the head of the Saudi government," Haley said Tuesday, referring to the prince by his initials. "So they are all responsible, and they don't get a pass, not an individual, not the government — they don't get a pass."

At the same time, Haley stopped short of recommending giving Saudi Arabia anything more than stern talking-to, saying the Saudis were helping the United States defeat Houthi insurgents in Yemen, Hezbollah militants in Lebanon and "Iranian proxies" around the world.

"We do have to work with them in that case," she said of the Saudis, adding: "I think we need to have a serious hard talk with the Saudis to let them know we won't condone this. We won't give you a pass. And don't do this again.

"And then I think that the administrations have to talk about where we go from here. What I can tell you that's so important is that the Saudis have been our partner in defeating and dealing with Iran. And that has been hugely important."

Haley said that, in general, she was aware that some people believe that she and Trump aren't always on the same page, but she said that's only because "our styles are very different."

"And, you know, I've always found that funny," she said. "But the truth at the end of the day is I may be harder on some things or I may be tougher in some ways, but I've never strayed from where the president was or never strayed from where his policy wants to go."

As for Heather Nauert, the State Department spokeswoman whom Trump has said he will nominate to succeed Haley at the United Nations, Haley said that while "I want her to be successful," only time will tell whether her appointment was a good one.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a member of the Foreign Relations Committee whom Haley endorsed for president in 2016, has questioned Nauert's qualifications for the sensitive post, asking whether she "has the detailed knowledge of foreign policy to be successful at the United Nations."

But Haley noted, "a lot of people said that about me."

"I think that we should give her the opportunity to prove to the American public what she can do," she said. "I think that she has been working at the State Department on multiple issues for a long time.

"You know, time will tell how this works out, but I can tell you I'm going to support and help in her transition and her ability to move forward and be successful," Haley said.

sarah Posted on December 12, 2018 17:24

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Climate change: Arctic reindeer numbers crash by half

The population of wild reindeer, or caribou, in the Arctic has crashed by more than half in the last two decades.

A new report on the impact of climate change in the Arctic revealed that numbers fell from almost 5 million to around 2.1 million animals.

The report was released at the American Geophysical Research Union meeting.

It revealed how weather patterns and vegetation changes are making the Arctic tundra a much less hospitable place for reindeer.

Reindeer and caribou are the same species, but the vast, wild herds in northern Canada and Alaska are referred to as caribou.

It is these herds that are faring the worst, according to scientists monitoring their numbers. Some herds have shrunk by more than 90% - "such drastic declines that recovery isn't in sight", this Arctic Report Card stated.

Why is a warmer Arctic worse for reindeer?

There are multiple reasons.

Prof Howard Epstein, an environmental scientist from the University of Virginia, who was one of the many scientists involved in the research behind the Arctic Report Card, told BBC News that warming in the region showed no signs of abating.

"We see increased drought in some areas due to climate warming, and the warming itself leads to a change of vegetation."

The lichen that the caribou like to eat grows at the ground level. "Warming means other, taller vegetation is growing and the lichen are being out-competed," he told BBC News.

Another very big issue is the number of insects. "Warmer climates just mean more bugs in the Arctic," said Prof Epstein. "It's said that a nice day for people is a lousy day for caribou.

"If it's warm and not very windy, the insects are oppressive and these animals spend so much energy either getting the insects off of them or finding places where they can hide from insects."

Rain is a major problem, too. Increased rainfall in the Arctic, often falling on snowy ground, leads to hard, frozen icy layers covering the grazing tundra - a layer the animals simply cannot push their noses through in order to reach their food.

Can anything be done?

At the global scale, this comes down to reducing carbon emissions and limiting temperature increase.

But scientists say we have opened the door on the "world's freezer" and the growing pile of evidence suggests warming in the Arctic will continue. The aim of this and other research in the region is to understand its impacts and learn how to adapt to a changing climate.

The report, complied by the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa), is now in its 13th year and the administration's Arctic research programme manager, Emily Osborne, said the region was now in "uncharted territory".

"In all the years of publishing the report card, we see the persistence of the warming continuing to mount," she said. "And this is contributing to extreme weather events elsewhere in the world."

Some other key points from the report included:

  • Plastic pollution: tiny microplastic contamination is on the rise in the Arctic, posing a threat to seabirds and marine life that can ingest debris.
  • Air temperature: For the past five years (2014-18) temperatures have exceeded all previous records since 1900.
  • Sea ice thinning: In 2018 Arctic sea ice remained younger, thinner, and covered less area than in the past.
  • Toxic blooms: Warming Arctic Ocean conditions are coinciding with an expansion of harmful algal blooms in the ocean, which threaten food sources.

Also here at AGU, scientists have revealed that East Antarctica's glaciers have begun to "wake up" and show a response to warming. This is evidence of unprecedented climate-driven change at the top and bottom of the planet.

ruby Posted on December 12, 2018 13:39

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Grace Millane: Backpacker's body returned to family

The body of British backpacker Grace Millane has been formally identified and returned to her family.

The 22-year-old from Essex disappeared in Auckland on 1 December. Police ended their search on Sunday after finding a body on the outskirts of the city.

Det Insp Scott Beard said the family was in "the process of organising to take her home in the next few days."

A 26-year-old man has appeared in court in New Zealand charged with Miss Millane's murder.

Miss Millane's family said she "went off to travel the world in mid-October and arrived in New Zealand on 20 November".

'Forever a Kiwi'

"By the amount of pictures and messages we received, she clearly loved this country, its people and the lifestyle," they said.

"We all hope that what has happened to Grace will not deter even one person from venturing out into the world and discovering their own overseas experience."

They called her death "heinous" but thanked police for completing a "concise, stringent and thorough investigation".

Miss Millane's father David has flown to New Zealand and visited the place where her body was found.

He took part in a traditional Maori blessing ceremony alongside Grace's uncle and members of the New Zealand police force.

They added: "We would like to thank the people of New Zealand for their outpouring of love, numerous messages, tributes and compassion.

"Grace was not born here and only managed to stay a few weeks, but you have taken her to your hearts and in some small way she will forever be a Kiwi."

Miss Millane had been travelling alone in New Zealand for two weeks, following a six-week group trip through South America.

Police believe she was killed between 1 December and 2 December.

Det Insp Bird said his team was building "a timeline of the circumstances".

"Work continues to piece together exactly what happened to Grace," he added.

Officers are looking for a shovel believed to be connected to the inquiry.

ruby Posted on December 12, 2018 13:05

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Dartmouth Fatstock: Sexism row over men-only awards dinner

Women in farming have called on a men-only awards dinner "to get with the times" and allow them to attend.

The Dartmouth Fatstock Show in Devon, which sees farmers compete for the best cattle, sheep and poultry, has run for more than 100 years.

Show chairman, Phil Bond, said the men-only evening dinner was "a tradition and how it has always been done".

Farmer Chloe Quantick said: "They need to stop being a bit sexist and let us in there."

The current system sees prizes distributed to men and women at an afternoon ceremony, before the men's awards are presented for a second time at a hotel dinner.

This year's event took place on Tuesday.

The show committee recently held a vote and decided to maintain the exclusion of women - one farmer resigned in protest and said his pleas for change were "shouted down".

Mr Bond said: "That's the tradition, that's the way it always has been done. I've got the support and the backing from the committee to carry on.

"If in the future that changes as a democracy or as a vote within the committee that will carry on."

He said he believed "ladies are really not bothered" and he would rather keep out of the "petty argument of it all".

The Dartmouth Young Farmers Association currently has more female than male members, and there are four women on the show committee of 17.

Jessica Perry, a committee member, said the female ban was "very outdated now".

"It would be nice if we could move with the 21st Century," she said. "But that's something that as a group and as a committee the Fatstock show will have to discuss and hopefully move with the times."

Media captionFatstock show chairman Phil Bond says women are 'not bothered' about a men-only dinner

Ms Quantick, who won two championships at this year's show, said: "I think they should get with modern times and let the women come.

"They need to stop being a bit sexist and let us in there, because we can have a good laugh just as much as men can, so in my opinion we should be allowed to go."

Debbie Morris said there was no exception to the rule even when she was mayor of Dartmouth, when she was told a male representative would have to attend in her place.

She described it as an "old tradition" and said: "They like to have a raucous evening. Perhaps they feel the ladies wouldn't approve."

ruby Posted on December 12, 2018 13:02

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Bloxwich Christmas decorations woman stuck in ceiling

A woman was left feeling a bit Claus-trophobic when she fell through the ceiling while getting her Christmas decorations from the loft.

Stacielea Doran hopped into the loft at home in Bloxwich, but the ceiling gave way and trapped her mid-fall.

She was left between floors with just the legs of her Beauty and the Beast onesie dangling into the room below.

The 30-year-old said after freeing her the kindly firefighters even helped lift down the tree.

Partner 'just laughed'

Ms Doran said she and her partner had just returned from getting some winter sun in Benidorm on Wednesday and decided to get into the festive spirit by putting up the decorations.

After falling, she said she was stuck for 15 minutes while she tried to get the attention of partner Nicki Ball, 34, who was in a nearby bedroom trying to book tickets to see singer Jess Glynne.

"When she came out and saw me she just laughed," Ms Doran said.

"Rather than helping me she took pictures."

She said it was an episode she was unlikely to Fir-get, adding: "I can laugh about it now, if I don't laugh I'll cry."

Crew Commander Adam Lovatt, from Bloxwich Fire Station said, when they received the print out for the call at 10:30 GMT on Friday, all it said was a woman had fallen through the ceiling.

He said: "On the way we were obviously thinking it could be quite a serious incident and there might be someone quite badly injured.

"Fortunately, I think it was embarrassment more than injury.

"I don't think any of us have ever been called out to something like that before."

ruby Posted on December 12, 2018 12:59

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