UK explorer Benedict Allen set to fly home

Posted by Warren Fyfe on November 17, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site

British explorer Benedict Allen is expected to be flown out of the jungle in Papua New Guinea on Friday, the UK High Commissioner has said.

Mr Allen had been looked after by Christian missionaries after trekking large distances and missing his flight home, the BBC’s Frank Gardner said.

The 57-year-old had taken no means of communication with him, prompting his family to mount a search on Monday.

He was spotted alive and well on Thursday near a remote airstrip.

The airstrip, 20 miles north-west of Porgera, Enga Province, is said to be inaccessible by road.

Mr Allen was expected to be flown from the area by helicopter on Friday morning, local time, and to be put on a plane home on Saturday.

Local time is 10 hours ahead of GMT, but it has not yet been confirmed whether the explorer has actually left the jungle.

Reclusive tribe

Steven Ballantyne, an expedition leader and friend of Mr Allen, told the BBC on Thursday: “What we think is that he travelled much further than he anticipated, that he was going through much tougher terrain than he anticipated.”

He had been travelling on his own to try to find the reclusive Yaifo tribe, whom he first met 30 years ago.

Before setting off, Mr Allen told the BBC he was hoping to make contact with the tribe, who were high up in a cloud forest.

He said he was unsure how they would receive him this time. His last text message read: “What could possibly go wrong?”.

The explorer, from London, has previously crossed the Amazon Basin on foot and in a dug-out canoe, and participated in a six-week male initiation ceremony in which crocodile marks were carved onto his body.

He has filmed a number of his adventures for BBC documentaries and written books on exploration.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-42022776

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Senators: Kushner ‘withheld WikiLeaks and Russia emails’

Posted by Warren Fyfe on November 17, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site

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White House senior aide Jared Kushner failed to disclose emails he received about WikiLeaks and “a Russian backdoor overture” in 2016, senators have said.

Two senators sent Mr Kushner a letter demanding additional documents as part of an ongoing investigation into Russia’s alleged election meddling.

The lawmakers said they became aware of the documents through other witnesses.

A lawyer for Mr Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law, said he was “open to responding to any additional requests”.

Senate Judiciary committee chairman Senator Charles Grassley, a Republican, and Senator Diane Feinstein, top Democrat on the panel, wrote that the emails were omitted from documents Mr Kushner was asked to turn over last month.

“We appreciate your voluntary cooperation with the Committee’s investigation, but the production appears to have been incomplete,” they wrote in a letter on Thursday to his attorney, Abbe Lowell.

Mr Lowell said in a statement his client provided “all relevant documents that had to do with Mr Kushner’s calls, contacts or meetings with Russians during the campaign and transition, which was the request”.

The pair claim Mr Kushner, who is married to President Trump’s daughter Ivanka, received emails concerning WikiLeaks as well as “documents concerning a ‘Russia back door overture and dinner invite’”, which he forwarded to other campaign officials.

The Senate panel said there are “several documents that are known to exist” because other witnesses provided documents which Mr Kushner was copied on, but did not disclose.

They claim Mr Kushner omitted some documents that mentioned individuals who were connected to the Russia inquiry. The senators are also are seeking his phone records.

“If, as you suggest, Mr Kushner was unaware of, for example, any attempts at Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, then presumably there would be few communications concerning many of the persons identified,” the senators wrote.

The letter also asked for any communications between Mr Kushner and ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was forced to resign in February after he admitted to lying to Vice-President Mike Pence about a meeting with a Russian envoy.

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The two leaders discussed the Russian interference allegations at an Asia-Pacific summit in Vietnam

Mr Kushner’s lawyer has until 27 November to fulfil their request.

The two senators said Mr Kushner has yet to hand over promised transcripts from his interviews with both the Senate and House intelligence committees, which are also investigating Russia’s role in last year’s election and allegations of collusion involving Mr Trump’s campaign.

  • 18 revelations from Wikileaks emails
  • Russia’s ‘cyber war’ against the West

US intelligence agencies believe Russia tried to help Mr Trump win the presidency by hacking and releasing emails damaging to his opponent, Hillary Clinton. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied the charges.

But the letter comes after Donald Trump Jr revealed that he had direct communication with WikiLeaks through private Twitter messages during the campaign.

Special counsel Robert Mueller is also leading an independent investigation into whether there were any links between Russia and the Trump campaign. Both deny there was any collusion.

Last month, former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to having lied to the FBI about the timing of meetings with alleged go-betweens for Russia.

Mr Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and an associate were also placed under house arrest on charges of money laundering as a result of the Mueller inquiry, but the charges do not relate to the election.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-42019835

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Zimbabwe latest: Mugabe ‘resisting calls to resign’

Posted by Warren Fyfe on November 17, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site

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Mr Mugabe (second right) under house arrest, posing alongside Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander General Constantino Chiwenga (right)

Zimbabwe’s long-time President Robert Mugabe is reportedly refusing to step down immediately, despite growing calls for his resignation.

The 93-year-old was put under house arrest during a military takeover on Wednesday, amid a power struggle over who would succeed him.

The military said on Friday it was “engaging” with Mr Mugabe.

It also said it had been arresting “criminals” around the president, but gave no names.

Several senior officials are said to have been detained since Wednesday.

“Others are still at large,” the military said.

In a televised statement, the military said it would advise the nation on the outcome of talks with Mr Mugabe “as soon as possible”.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said it was “in the interests of the people” that Mr Mugabe “resign… immediately”.

The story in full

The army moved in after Mr Mugabe last week sacked Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, signalling that he favoured his wife Grace Mugabe to take over his Zanu-PF party and thus the presidency.

The BBC’s Andrew Harding, in Zimbabwe, says that if President Mugabe can be persuaded to step down officially it could help legitimise the military’s dramatic intervention.

On the streets, it is hard to find anyone who wants Mr Mugabe to stay on, our correspondent adds, but negotiating the manner of his departure and some sort of transitional agreement to follow could take some time.

So what’s going on in Harare now?

It is very unclear.

Photos in the Zimbabwe Herald earlier showed Mr Mugabe meeting army chief Gen Constantino Chiwenga and the two envoys from the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) at State House in Harare.

Alongside them was Father Fidelis Mukonori, a Roman Catholic priest known to Mr Mugabe for years, who has been brought in to mediate.

Media captionWho is Grace Mugabe?

Sources close to the talks say Mr Mugabe – who has been in control of Zimbabwe since it threw off white minority rule in 1980 – is refusing to stand down voluntarily before next year’s planned elections.

“I think he is trying to buy time,” one source close to the army leadership told the AFP news agency.

Some observers suggest that Mr Mugabe may be trying to seek guarantees of safety for himself and his family before stepping aside.

Zanu-PF officials had earlier suggested Mr Mugabe could remain nominally in power until the party congress in December, when Mr Mnangagwa would be formally installed as party and national leader.

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Zimbabwe Herald

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Mr Mugabe met officials at State House in Harare

What is the view among Zimbabweans?

By Anne Soy in Zimbabwe

Many Zimbabweans almost instantly warmed to the military’s move to take control of the country, and confine President Mugabe to his official residence.

“The military has done a good thing,” says one bookseller. “They will ensure we get a transitional government.”

He is firmly convinced that Mr Mugabe’s 37-year rule is coming to an end.

There has been a sudden change of tone in the country, and the sense is that many Zimbabweans have been yearning for change.

Any change, it seems, would do.

Read more on this

What do South Africa and the region want?

South Africa is hosting millions of Zimbabweans who fled after the country’s economy crashed in 2008. It has a special interest in seeing stability restored.

South African Defence Minister Nosiviwe Maphisa-Nqakula and State Security Minister Bongani Bongo are the envoys meeting Mr Mugabe on behalf of Sadc, which South Africa currently leads.

Media captionRobert Mugabe: From war hero to president of Zimbabwe

Sadc also held a meeting in neighbouring Botswana and called for a regional summit to discuss the crisis. They urged Zimbabwe to “settle the political challenges through peaceful means,” the AFP news agency reports.

The African Union said it would not accept a military seizure of power. AU head and Guinea President Alpha Condé said he was “inviting the army to return to its barracks and return to constitutional order”.

And Zimbabwe’s opposition?

Mr Tsvangirai, head of the Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai (MDC-T) party and the main opposition leader in Zimbabwe, said Mr Mugabe’s immediate resignation must be part of a “negotiated all-inclusive transitional mechanism”.

He said this should lead to “comprehensive reforms for free and fair elections to be held” – views echoed by another opposition leader Tendai Biti.

Media captionAndrew Harding: “There’s a feeling people want to celebrate”

What’s happened to Grace Mugabe?

Early reports suggested Mrs Mugabe had fled to Namibia, but sources now say she is in the family compound in Harare, along with some of the youth wing of Zanu-PF who had backed her.

On Wednesday, one of her key allies Kudzai Chipanga, made a televised apology for criticising the head of the army as a war of words raged prior to the military takeover.

Mr Chipanga is thought to be in army custody but insisted his statement was voluntary. Other senior members of the youth wing have also reportedly been detained.

You might also want to read:

How did the military takeover come about?

In the early hours of Wednesday, Zimbabwe’s military took over the headquarters of national broadcaster ZBC and issued a statement saying they were targeting “criminals” around President Mugabe.

Troops and armoured vehicles encircled parliament and other key buildings throughout the day.

On Monday, Gen Chiwenga had warned the army would intervene to end what he called the “purging” of Zanu-PF members “with a liberation background”, referring to the country’s struggle for independence.

Mr Mnangagwa is one such veteran of the 1970s war which led to independence.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-42020416

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‘Breakthrough’ breast cancer drugs get NHS approval

Posted by Warren Fyfe on November 16, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site

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Science Photo Library

Two new “breakthrough” drugs to treat breast cancer have been given the green light for use on the NHS.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) approved palbociclib and ribociclib after negotiating prices for the treatments.

Research shows the drugs slow down advanced cancer for at least 10 months and can delay the need for chemotherapy.

Around 8,000 people in England will now have access to the medications.

There are around 45,000 new diagnoses of breast cancer in the country each year.

Palbociclib had earlier been rejected by NICE because of its high cost.

One cycle of palbociclib – or 21 capsules – costs £2,950 for a pack of 21. For 63 tablets of ribociclib, the price is the same.

The latest draft guidance from NICE said that women with oestrogen receptor positive breast cancer that is diagnosed after it has begun to spread will be eligible for palbociclib – also known as Ibrance.

If they have gone through the menopause, they will be eligible for ribociclib – also known as Kisqali.

The two medications are the first of a new type of drug shown to slow down the progression of cancer by inhibiting two proteins – CDK 4 and 6.

They only need to be taken once a day, alongside an aromatase inhibitor – which blocks the production of the hormone oestrogen and can fuel some breast cancers.

Nicholas Turner, professor of molecular oncology at the Institute of Cancer Research in London, and consultant medical oncologist at the Royal Marsden, said the new drugs were “one of the most important breakthroughs for women with advanced breast cancer in the last two decades.”

Prof Turner, who led the clinical trials for the drugs, said: “Palbociclib and ribociclib have made a huge difference to women’s lives – slowing down tumour growth for nearly a year, and delaying the need for chemotherapy with all its potentially debilitating side-effects.

“These drugs have allowed women to live a normal life for longer.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-42006609

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‘Lost Leonardo’ sells for record $450m

Posted by Warren Fyfe on November 16, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site
Media captionThe record sale brought cheers and applause at the packed Christie’s auction room

A 500-year-old painting of Christ believed to have been painted by Leonardo da Vinci has been sold in New York for a record $450m (£341m).

The painting is known as Salvator Mundi (Saviour of the World).

It is the highest auction price for any work of art and brought cheers and applause at the packed Christie’s auction room.

Leonardo da Vinci died in 1519 and there are fewer than 20 of his paintings in existence.

Just one is thought to be in private hands – the Salvator Mundi, believed to have been painted sometime after 1505.

The final bid for the work was $400m, with fees bringing the full price up to $450.3m. The unidentified buyer was involved in a bidding contest, via telephone, that lasted nearly 20 minutes.

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Excitement in the auction room rose as the bids by telephone came in

The painting shows Christ with one hand raised, the other holding a glass sphere.

In 1958 it was sold at auction in London for $60. By then the painting was generally reckoned to be the work of a follower of Leonardo and not the work of Leonardo himself.

Media captionSalvator Mundi was discovered hidden under layers of paint

BBC arts correspondent Vincent Dowd says that even now, the attribution to Leonardo is not universally accepted.

One critic even described the surface of the painting to be “inert, varnished, lurid, scrubbed over and repainted so many times that it looks simultaneously new and old”.

“Any private collector who gets suckered into buying this picture and places it in their apartment or storage, it serves them right,” Jenny Saltz wrote on Vulture.com.

But Christie’s insist the painting is authentic and billed it as “the greatest artistic rediscovery of the 20th century”.

When in 2005 the Salvator Mundi re-emerged from obscurity, it created huge public interest as a “lost Leonardo”.

Four years ago it was bought by a Russian collector for $127.5m (£98m) – but that was a private sale, not at auction.

Christie’s in New York placed a starting bid of $100m at its auction of post-war and contemporary art.

Salvator Mundi – da Vinci’s ‘mysterious masterpiece’

  • The painting is being sold by the family trust of the Russian billionaire collector Dmitry E Rybolovlev, who is reported to have bought it in May 2013
  • It apparently once belonged to King Charles I of England in the 1500s and was “rediscovered” in 2005
  • Dr Tim Hunter, who is a specialist in Old Master and 19th Century paintings, says it is “the biggest discovery of the 21st Century”
  • The painting has had major cosmetic surgery – its walnut panel base has been described as “worm-tunnelled” and at some point it seems to have been split in half – and efforts to restore it resulted in abrasions
  • The previous top painting sale was Picasso’s Women of Algiers, which sold for $160m

Leonardo da Vinci (1452 -1519)

Follow us on Facebook, on Twitter @BBCNewsEnts, or on Instagram at bbcnewsents. If you have a story suggestion email entertainment.news@bbc.co.uk.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-42000696

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Zimbabwe awaits next steps after military takeover

Posted by Warren Fyfe on November 16, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site
Media captionRobert Mugabe: From war hero to president of Zimbabwe

Zimbabweans are waiting to see what steps the military will take next after seizing control of the country.

President Robert Mugabe is said to be confined to his home in Harare but unconfirmed reports says his wife Grace, who was bidding to succeed him as president, has fled to Namibia.

The military’s action followed the sacking of Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a fierce rival of Mrs Mugabe.

His whereabouts are also unclear.

President Mugabe, 93, has been in control of Zimbabwe since it gained independence from Britain in 1980.

But the power struggle over who might succeed him, between Mrs Mugabe and Mr Mnangagwa, has split the ruling Zanu-PF party in recent months.

Evidence that Mrs Mugabe’s circle was being pressured by the military came on Wednesday when one of her key allies made a public apology for criticising the head of the army a day earlier.

Regional bloc the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is due to hold emergency talks in Botswana on Thursday to discuss the crisis.

Zimbabwean opposition leader Tendai Biti told the BBC he wanted to see a transitional authority in place.

“It is urgent that we go back to democracy. It is urgent that we go back to legitimacy but we need a transitional period and I think, I hope, that dialogue can now be opened between the army and Zimbabweans, [that] dialogue can be opened between the army and regional bodies such as the SADC and, indeed, the African Union,” he said.

Will President Mugabe play along?

By Andrew Harding, BBC Southern Africa correspondent

No-one is exactly celebrating here – too much remains unknown. But shops and businesses are working and Zimbabwe is quietly adapting to the stunning fact that President Robert Mugabe is still under house arrest, and that no-one is coming to rescue him.

Instead, those now in control here – soldiers and civilians – are trying to convince the world that there wasn’t really a military coup at all. More of a forceful reshuffle.

But to win that argument, they need Mr Mugabe to play along.

So the key question now is whether the 93-year-old can be persuaded to make some sort of statement, legitimising the upheavals of the past two days, in return for, what? A peaceful retirement, the safety of his wife and family? Zimbabwe’s drama is still unfolding.

There have been no reports of unrest in Zimbabwe. Correspondents say many people have accepted that President Mugabe is being eased from office. Streets in Harare are said to be quieter than usual but people are going about their business.

On Wednesday, troops and armoured vehicles encircled parliament and other key buildings.

Hours earlier, soldiers took over the headquarters of national broadcaster ZBC and issued a statement saying that the military was targeting “criminals” around President Mugabe.

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The military insists it has not staged a coup

On national TV, Maj Gen Sibusiso Moyo denied there had been a coup, saying: “This is not a military takeover of government.”

He said Mr Mugabe and his family were “safe and sound and their security is guaranteed”.

“As soon as we have accomplished our mission we expect that the situation will return to normalcy,” he added.

But despite the reassurances, key regional bloc the African Union (AU) said the takeover of power and the detention of President Mugabe “seemed like a coup”.

Media captionWho is Grace Mugabe?

South African President Jacob Zuma has reportedly dispatched senior ministers to Zimbabwe to meet President Mugabe and military leaders.

On Wednesday Mr Zuma’s office said he had spoken by phone to Mr Mugabe who had indicated “he was confined to his home but said that he was fine”.

Media captionZimbabweans react to the news that troops have taken control

Mr Mnangagwa was removed from the vice presidency earlier this month following a call for his dismissal from Mrs Mugabe.

Tensions were raised further on Monday when army chief Gen Constantino Chiwenga said the army was prepared to act to end purges within Zanu-PF.

Gen Chiwenga is a close ally of Mr Mnangagwa and both are veterans of the 1970s war which ended white minority rule.

A strong supporter of Mrs Mugabe, Zanu-PF youth wing leader, Kudzai Chipanga, responded by saying the military should “stay in the barracks”.

But following the military intervention he issued an apology to Gen Chiwenga and other top military officials, reportedly saying “we are still young and make mistakes”.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-42006777

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Australians decisively support same-sex marriage

Posted by Warren Fyfe on November 15, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site
Media captionAustralia gay vote: The moment the country said yes

Australians have overwhelmingly voted in favour of legalising same-sex marriage in a historic poll.

The non-binding postal vote showed 61.6% of people favour allowing same-sex couples to wed, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said.

Jubilant supporters have been celebrating in public spaces, waving rainbow flags and singing and dancing.

The issue only went to a voluntary postal vote after a long and bitter debate about changing the law.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said his government would now aim to pass legislation in parliament by Christmas.

“[Australians] have spoken in their millions and they have voted overwhelmingly yes for marriage equality,” Mr Turnbull said after the result was announced.

“They voted yes for fairness, yes for commitment, yes for love.”

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The announcement prompted jubilant scenes across Australia

The result on Wednesday brings an end to what was at times a heated campaign. The vote itself had been criticised by same-sex marriage supporters, many of whom said it was unnecessary when parliament could debate the issue directly.

  • The Australian weddings in waiting
  • How the two-month debate became heated
  • ‘No’ advert draws criticism

How did the vote unfold?

The survey was voluntary, unlike Australia’s compulsory elections.

More than 12.7 million people – about 79.5% of eligible voters – took part in the eight-week poll, which asked one question: “Should the marriage law should be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?”

The Yes campaign argued that it was a debate about equality. The No campaign put the focus on the definition of family, raising concerns about how issues like gender will be taught in schools.

Media caption‘Trapped between my culture and sexuality’

What were the results?

Australia’s chief statistician David Kalisch said about 7.8 million people voted in support of same-sex marriage, with approximately 4.9 million against it.

He said participation was higher than 70% in 146 of Australia’s 150 electorates. All but 17 electorates supported changing the law.

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“This is outstanding for a voluntary survey and well above other voluntary surveys conducted around the world,” Mr Kalisch said.

“It shows how important this issue is to many Australians.”

New battle begins

Hywel Griffith, BBC News Sydney correspondent

After months of divisive debate, Australia now has a result to confirm what most people here already knew – that a majority of Australians support same-sex marriage.

The campaign turned ugly at times, with graffiti on walls and shouting matches at public meetings.

But now both sides have to move on. For the Yes campaign that means pressing the government to stick to its pledge of passing the law.

For the No campaign, it means lobbying over the wording of that legislation, and arguing for legal protection for those who continue to oppose gay marriage.

While today will see parties in the streets and rainbow flags flying high, both sides know their battle is far from over.

What happens next?

Mr Turnbull, a strong same-sex marriage supporter, is facing debate within his government over what the parliamentary bill should include.

Some conservative MPs want it to contain exemptions that would allow businesses opposed to same-sex marriage to refuse goods and services for weddings.

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Getty Images

But matters are complicated: two government politicians have proposed introducing separate bills to parliament to legislate same-sex marriage.

  • How the killing of a gay academic changed Australia
  • Laws target hate speech during debate
  • Macklemore causes stir at sporting final

One bill, by Senator Dean Smith, has broad support from opposition parties and many members of the government, including Mr Turnbull.

An alternative bill, suggested by Senator James Paterson, has drawn support from more conservative MPs who say it provides stronger religious protections.

What has been the reaction?

“This is an amazing outcome and we should all be very proud of this amazing country,” Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce, a prominent same-sex marriage supporter, told a jubilant crowd in Sydney.

Equality Campaign director Tiernan Brady told the BBC the result affirmed that Australia remained “the land of the fair go”.

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a high-profile same-sex marriage opponent, said the parliament should respect the result.

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Getty Images

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No campaigners have pledged to monitor the new parliamentary bill

He wrote on Facebook that he would support a bill that provided “freedom of conscience for all, not just the churches”.

Another prominent No campaigner, Lyle Shelton, said: “We will now do what we can to guard against restrictions on freedom of speech and freedom of religion, to defend parents’ rights, and to protect Australian kids from being exposed to radical LGBTIQ sex and gender education in the classrooms.”

Why was the vote controversial?

The postal survey followed two failed attempts by the government to hold a compulsory national vote that was twice voted down by the Senate.

Senators who opposed the compulsory vote did not necessarily oppose legalisation, but said the vote would be costly and fuel hate campaigns. They argued the matter should be put to a parliamentary vote.

Many same-sex marriage advocates levelled the same criticism at the voluntary vote, which did not require legislative approval.

During the campaign, each side has accused the other of bullying and misleading discussion, while the debate was even linked to violent incidents.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-australia-41992344

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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: Boris Johnson to meet husband

Posted by Warren Fyfe on November 15, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site

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AFP/Getty Images

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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been visiting Iran with her daughter Gabriella when she was arrested

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is to meet the husband of a British-Iranian woman jailed in Iran later.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been held by Tehran since April 2016 after being accused of spying – charges she denies.

The meeting comes after the foreign secretary said during a Commons committee hearing she was there to train journalists – which could lead to her five-year jail term being doubled.

Her family have always maintained she was on holiday with her daughter.

Mr Johnson has apologised for the “distress” and “suffering” he had caused with the comments he made at the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee on 1 November, and retracted “any suggestion she was there in a professional capacity”.

Some critics called for Mr Johnson to resign, but Richard Ratcliffe said it would not be in his wife’s interests.

  • Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: Caught in Iran power struggle
  • Johnson ‘sorry’ over jailed mother remarks
  • Medical concern for Briton held in Iran

A Foreign Office statement said the pair will meet to discuss Mr Ratcliffe’s request to give his wife “diplomatic protection” – which, under international law, allows a state to take diplomatic action on behalf of a national.

Earlier this week, Downing Street said it was “one of the options” being considered in the case.

They will also talk about a possible joint trip to Iran before the end of the year and the health of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is said to have found lumps in her breasts.

Consular officials will be at the meeting, along with Middle East minister Alistair Burt, who has already met Mr Ratcliffe and visited Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family in Tehran.

Media captionNazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband tells Today he doesn’t think Boris Johnson should resign

Mr Ratcliffe welcomed the opportunity to meet Mr Johnson in person, having only spoken to him over the phone.

In an interview with BBC Radio 4′s Today programme on Monday, he said: “I think the best chance Nazanin has of coming home this side of Christmas is all of the weight of the Foreign Office and the foreign secretary being focused on doing that.”

A statement from the Foreign Office said that Mr Johnson had “made it clear that no stone should be left unturned” in securing the release of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

“The Foreign Office remains very concerned about all our dual nationals detained in Iran and is doing everything it can in each of their cases, including trying to secure access to them and ensure their welfare,” it added.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-41992068

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Zimbabwe crisis: Army seizes broadcaster but denies coup

Posted by Warren Fyfe on November 15, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site
Media captionMaj Gen Sibusiso Moyo read out a statement on national TV early on Wednesday

Zimbabwe’s military has read out a statement after taking over the national broadcaster, ZBC, saying it has taken action to “target criminals”.

However, it said this was not “a military takeover of government” and President Robert Mugabe was safe.

Heavy gunfire and artillery were heard in northern suburbs of the capital, Harare, early on Wednesday.

Zimbabwe’s envoy to South Africa, Isaac Moyo, earlier dismissed talk of a coup, saying the government was “intact”.

The statement read out by Maj Gen Sibusiso Moyo came hours after soldiers overran the headquarters of ZBC. He said: “We wish to assure the nation that his excellency the president… and his family are safe and sound and their security is guaranteed.”

The statement added: “We are only targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes… that are causing social and economic suffering in the country. As soon as we have accomplished our mission, we expect that the situation will return to normalcy.”

The statement did not name those targeted but a government source quoted by Reuters said Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo was among those detained.

It is not clear who is leading the military action.

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Armoured vehicles were seen taking up positions on roads outside Harare on Tuesday

Other key points of the statement included:

  • Citizens should remain calm and limit unnecessary movement
  • The military assures the Zimbabwean judiciary that its independence is guaranteed
  • Security services should “co-operate for the good of our country” and any provocation would “be met with an appropriate response”
  • All leave for the defence forces is cancelled and personnel should return to barracks immediately

The UK Foreign Office advised Britons “currently in Harare to remain safely at home or in their accommodation until the situation becomes clearer”.

The US embassy in Harare tweeted that it would be closed on Wednesday “due to ongoing uncertainty”.

It also advised US citizens in Zimbabwe to “shelter in place” until further notice.

Alex Magaisa, former adviser to Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, told the BBC he believes the military’s claim that they haven’t carried out a coup is untrue.

“They have decided not to call it a coup because they know that a coup does not sell, it will be condemned,” he said.

“But as far as authority is concerned it seems very clear that President Mugabe is now just a president in name and authority is now residing in the military.”

The latest events came hours after Zimbabwe’s ruling party accused the country’s army chief of “treasonable conduct” after he warned of possible military intervention.

General Constantino Chiwenga had challenged 93-year-old President Mugabe after he sacked the vice-president.

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Gen Chiwenga said the army was prepared to act to end purges within Mr Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party.

Tensions were raised further on Tuesday when armoured vehicles were seen taking up positions on roads outside Harare, although their purpose was unclear.

Some staff at ZBC were manhandled when soldiers took over their offices in Harare late on Tuesday evening, sources told Reuters.

Workers were told that they “should not worry”, a source added, and that soldiers were only there to protect the site.

The BBC’s Shingai Nyoka, in Harare, said the sounds of heavy gunfire and artillery had been heard in northern suburbs where a number of government officials, including the president, live.

Gunfire was heard near Mr Mugabe’s residence in the suburb of Borrowdale early on Wednesday, a witness told AFP news agency.

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Zimbabwe Army General Constantino Chiwenga warned of a military takeover

Mr Mugabe sacked Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa last week, amid a row over succession.

Mr Mnangagwa had previously been seen as an heir to the president, but First Lady Grace Mugabe is now the clear front-runner.

The rivalry between Mrs Mugabe and Mr Mnangagwa has split Zanu-PF.

Last month, Mrs Mugabe warned of a possible coup plot, saying allies of Mr Mnangagwa were threatening the lives of those who didn’t support him.

The Zanu-PF party said Gen Chiwenga’s comments were “calculated to disturb national peace… [and] incite insurrection”.

The party said it would never succumb to military threats, and that it “reaffirms the primacy of politics over the gun”.

The leader of Zanu-PF’s youth wing, Kudzai Chipanga, said the general did not have the full support of the entire military.

“It is our country and future at stake and we will not let any individual military man interfere with the leader of the party and legitimately voted president of this country,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

The youth wing is a strong supporter of Grace Mugabe.

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Grace Mugabe is seen as a potential successor to her elderly husband

Gen Chiwenga’s warning of possible military intervention came on Monday at a news conference at army headquarters where he was surrounded by senior army officers.

He said the “purging” within Zanu-PF was “clearly targeting members of the party with a liberation background”, referring to the country’s struggle for freedom from white minority rule.

“We must remind those behind the current treacherous shenanigans that when it comes to matters of protecting our revolution, the military will not hesitate to step in,” he said.

Mr Mnangagwa is one such veteran of the 1970s war which ended white minority rule.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-41992351

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Rohingya villagers tell of rape and murder in military crackdown

Posted by Warren Fyfe on November 14, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site

Displaced Rohingya Muslims have told BBC that the Myanmar military raped and murdered villagers during a counter-insurgency crackdown in August.

Rashida Begum said soldiers tried to cut her throat when they swept into the village of Tula Toli in Rakhine State. She said her baby was snatched from her, thrown to the ground and killed.

Mohammed Suleiman said his wife and three of his daughters were among those killed. He said most of the men and boys in the village were also killed.

They gave their accounts to BBC Newsnight’s Gabriel Gatehouse.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-41977712

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