Somalia: At least 230 dead in Mogadishu blast

Posted by Warren Fyfe on October 16, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site
Media captionThe death toll continues to rise after the deadly blast

A massive bomb attack in a busy area of the Somali capital Mogadishu on Saturday is now known to have killed at least 230 people, police say.

Hundreds more were wounded when a lorry packed with explosives detonated near the entrance of a hotel.

It is the deadliest terror attack in Somalia since the Islamist al-Shabab group launched its insurgency in 2007.

President Mohamed Abdullahi “Farmajo” Mohamed blamed the attack on them, calling it a “heinous act”.

No group has yet said it was behind the bombing.

“Brothers, this cruel act was targeted at civilians who were going about their business,” the president said.

Media captionThe aftermath of the explosion in Mogadishu

He has declared three days of mourning for the victims of the blast.

Local media reported families gathering in the area on Sunday morning, looking for missing loved ones amid the ruins of one of the largest bombs ever to strike the city.

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There are fears people are trapped under the rubble

Police official Ibrahim Mohamed told AFP news agency the death toll was likely to rise. “There are more than 300 wounded, some of them seriously,” he said.

Officials also confirmed that two people were killed in a second bomb attack in the Madina district of the city.

Mogadishu’s Mayor Thabit Abdi called for unity while addressing a crowd of people who had gathered to protest.

“Oh, people of Mogadishu, Mogadishu shouldn’t be a graveyard for burnt dead bodies,” he said.

“Mogadishu is a place of respect, and if we remain united like we are today, moving ahead, we will surely defeat the enemy, Allah willing.”

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A BBC Somali reporter at the scene of the main blast said the Safari Hotel had collapsed, with people trapped under the rubble.

An eyewitness, local resident Muhidin Ali, told AFP it was “the biggest blast I have ever witnessed, it destroyed the whole area”.

Meanwhile, the director of the Madina Hospital, Mohamed Yusuf Hassan, said he was shocked by the scale of the attack.

“Seventy-two wounded people were admitted to the hospital and 25 of them are in very serious condition. Others lost their hands and legs at the scene.

“What happened yesterday was incredible, I have never seen such a thing before, and countless people lost their lives. Corpses were burned beyond recognition.”

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Protesters gathered, wearing red headbands to show their anger at the blast

The international community has been quick to condemn the attack:

  • African Union Commission’s president Moussa Faki Mahamat said the body would continue supporting Somalia in efforts “to achieve sustainable peace and security”
  • Turkey said it would send planes with medical supplies, and fly wounded people to Turkey for treatment
  • In a statement, the US Mission to Somalia called it “cowardly” and said it reinvigorated US commitments to help African countries fight terrorism
  • UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said his thoughts were with victims’ families and the government and people of Somalia. “Those responsible have shown no regard for human life or the suffering of the Somali people,” he continued
  • UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres tweeted that he was “sickened” by the attacks and urged “unity in the face of terrorism and violent extremism”
  • French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted that France stands by Somalia’s side

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-41621660

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Hurricane Ophelia: Warnings as storm heads to UK

Posted by Warren Fyfe on October 16, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site
Media captionAmber wind warning issued for Northern Ireland

The Met Office has warned of “potential danger to life” as Hurricane Ophelia makes its way towards the British Isles.

It has issued an amber warning in Northern Ireland, where all schools are to be closed on Monday.

The Republic of Ireland’s counterpart office, Met Eireann, issued a red wind warning across the country.

The hurricane will have weakened into a storm when it hits the UK on Monday, 30 years after the Great Storm of 1987.

Ophelia, on its way from the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean, is blowing winds of 90mph (145km/h).

Northern Ireland’s Department of Education said the decision on school closures was “entirely precautionary”.

All schools and colleges in the Republic of Ireland, where “violent and destructive gusts” are forecast, will also be shut.

The Department of Education and Skills said the decision had been made “following discussions with members of the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning and in light of the advice from Met Eireann on this unprecedented storm.”

Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said defence forces were being sent to red weather alert areas – including Wexford, Galway, Mayo, Clare, Cork, Kerry, Limerick and Waterford.

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It has been downgraded to a category one hurricane by the US National Hurricane Center and is forecast to continue gradually weakening.

The Met Office said there was a “good chance” Northern Ireland could be hit on Monday afternoon by power cuts, flying debris, large waves in coastal areas and disruption to all travel services.

It also issued a yellow warning of “very windy weather”, which it updated later on Sunday morning to take in much of northern England and Wales, along with parts of southern and central Scotland.

Three battalions of soldiers are on permanent standby to deal with major incidents in the UK, but the Ministry of Defence said no specific requests had yet been made of them by local authorities.

The Republic of Ireland’s Met Office predicts coastal areas will be hit by winds in excess of 80mph (130km/h) from 09:00 BST on Monday until Tuesday and is warning against unnecessary travel.

Gerald Fleming, head of its general forecasting division, told Irish broadcaster RTE: “The track is very consistent [and] has been for days.

“The strongest winds [will be] along the south coast.

‘Huge contrasts’

“That’ll be tomorrow morning, and it’ll track up the centre again, going up along the western part of the country.”

BBC Weather said Monday would be a “day of huge contrasts” with the strong gusts of wind travelling over the Irish Sea and heading north to central and southern Scotland, sparing eastern parts of the UK.

Eastern England is instead expected to enjoy unseasonably warm weather, with temperatures of 22C or 23C on Monday – compared with an average for mid-October of 15C.

Highs of 24C were recorded in the region on Saturday as some parts of the country basked in a “mini heatwave” thanks to warm air brought by Hurricane Ophelia.

Ophelia set the record for the most easterly category three hurricane in the Atlantic.

Category three hurricanes are defined as having wind speeds of between 111mph (179km/h) and 129mph (208km/h) and can cause major damage to well-built homes.

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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-41627442

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NHS patients to be asked about sexuality

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

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NHS England advises sexuality is recorded during “face to face contact” with patients

Health professionals in England are to be told to ask patients aged 16 or over about their sexual orientation, under new NHS guidelines.

NHS England said no-one would be forced to answer the question but recording the data would ensure that “no patient is discriminated against”.

The guidance applies to doctors and nurses, as well as local councils responsible for adult social care.

A spokeswoman said: “It will have no impact on the care [people] receive.”

She added: “All health bodies and local authorities with responsibility for adult social care are required under the Equality Act to ensure that no patient is discriminated against.”

She said the information would help NHS bodies comply with equality legislation by “consistently collecting, only where relevant, personal details of patients such as race, sex and sexual orientation.”

‘Face to face’

NHS England recommends health professionals – such as GPs and nurses – ask about a person’s sexual orientation at “every face to face contact with the patient, where no record of this data already exists”.

It said the data was already being collected in many areas but that the new guidance makes it standard, and that it expects sexual orientation monitoring to be in place across England by April 2019.

Under the guidance, health professionals are to ask patients: “Which of the following options best describes how you think of yourself?”.

The options include heterosexual or straight, gay or lesbian, bisexual, other sexual orientation, not sure, not stated and not known.

NHS England said lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) people were “disproportionately affected” by health inequalities such as poor mental health and a higher risk of self-harm and suicide.

It said public bodies had a legal obligation to pay regard to the needs of LGB people under the Equality Act 2010.

“Collecting and analysing data on sexual orientation allows public sector bodies to better understand, respond to and improve LGB patients’ service access,” the guidance states.

If a patient does not want to disclose their sexuality, “not stated” would be recorded as their response.

The guidance also says patients who are not able to declare their sexual orientation, for example if they require specialist mental capacity care, would be recorded as “not known”.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-41625402

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Hurricane Ophelia strengthens before storm reaches UK

Posted by Warren Fyfe on October 15, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site
Media captionHurricane Ophelia upgrades to category 3

The UK is set to experience the tail end of a category three hurricane with high temperatures and wind forecast.

As a result of Hurricane Ophelia, parts of England could see temperatures reach 25C on Sunday beating the 15C average for mid-October.

On Monday some areas of the UK will be hit with winds of up to 80mph (128km/h).

The hurricane will be a storm when it hits the UK, exactly 30 years after the Great Storm of 1987 killed 18 people.

On its way from the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean, Hurricane Ophelia has set the record for the most eastern category three hurricane in the Atlantic.

Western England, Northern Ireland and parts of Scotland will be most affected by the storm winds.

The Republic of Ireland’s Met Office has issued a red warning for counties in Munster and Connacht, predicting that coastal areas will be hit by winds in excess of 80mph (130km/h) from 09:00 BST on Monday until Tuesday.

The ferocity of the hurricane will dissipate before it reaches the UK, but Ophelia’s remnants are forecast to bring high winds in coastal areas.

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Weather presenter Michael Fish is remembered for dismissing reports that a hurricane would hit the south of England in October 1987.

The storm is often remembered for BBC Weather presenter Michael Fish dismissing reports that “there was a hurricane on the way”.

Although he was right, storm winds of 100mph did batter the south of England, leaving a trail of destruction.

Eighteen people died and 15 million trees were destroyed as a result of the high winds.

It is thought that the storm caused £1bn in damage to property and infrastructure.

The Met Office has issued severe weather alerts ahead of Ophelia and has warned there could be potential power cuts, disruption to road and rail networks, and damage to buildings as a result of Monday’s stormy weather.

But parts of England will benefit from the warm temperatures brought by the storm, with areas as far up as Nottingham expected to hit highs of 21C on Monday.

Clouds in central and southern England are expected to break up to provide sunny spells over the course of the weekend.

Some parts of the country have been enjoying a “mini heatwave” already. Ian Senior tweeted a screenshot of the temperature in Cambourne, Cambridgeshire, which was 17C on Saturday morning.

Jennie, who lives in Leeds, also wrote on Twitter that she never thought she would be “walk[ing] around bare legged wearing a skirt and short sleeved T-shirt” in mid-October.

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But some parts of the country were still waiting for the temperatures to improve. Martin Cluderay, from Swaledale in the Yorkshire Dales, posted an overcast scene from the town titled: “Welcome to the heatwave.”

And Jo Field from Buckinghamshire wrote: “Where’s the mini heatwave then… I put my Ugg boots away and got my bikini out at the ready.”

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Harvey Weinstein: Oscars board expels producer over sexual assault allegations

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

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Weinstein has already been suspended by Bafta in the UK

The organisation behind the Oscars has voted to expel Harvey Weinstein following numerous allegations of sexual assault made against the film producer.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said its board “voted well in excess of the required two-thirds majority” to expel him.

Its members include Hollywood figures such as Tom Hanks and Whoopi Goldberg.

Weinstein’s films have received more than 300 Oscar nominations and won 81.

In a statement, the Academy said governors voted to expel Weinstein “not simply to separate ourselves from someone who does not merit the respect of his colleagues but also to send a message that the era of wilful ignorance and shameful complicity in sexually predatory behaviour and workplace harassment in our industry is over”.

They added: “What’s at issue here is a deeply troubling problem that has no place in our society.”

The emergency board meeting followed an avalanche of accusations against the producer by more than two dozen women, including actresses Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Rose McGowan, who alleges that he raped her in a hotel room.

Police forces in the US and the UK are investigating the allegations.

Weinstein, 65, has apologised for some aspects of his behaviour but insisted that any sexual contacts he had were consensual, and he denies accusations of criminal sexual harassment, rape and sexual assault.

Media captionOn some red carpets, Harvey Weinstein is not a welcome subject

The expulsion comes after Bob Weinstein told the Hollywood Reporter that his “sick and depraved” brother should be “kicked out” of the Academy.

Filmmaker Woody Allen told the BBC the scandal was “very sad for everybody involved”.

“Tragic for all women involved and sad for Harvey. The whole situation is very sad. There are no winners in that,” he said in New York.

Weinstein’s expulsion means he will no longer be able to vote for nominees or winners in the Oscars.

Hollywood figures were quick to praise the move but some have called for the Academy to take similar action against other members.

Where does the Academy go from here?

By the BBC’s Laura Bicker in Los Angeles

The Academy is trying to send a message that the casting couch culture that has been talked about in this industry for so long is over.

This is a key moment for an industry which stands accused of developing a culture that makes women feel that exploitation is a price to pay to get a job.

But in voting to expel Harvey Weinstein, the Academy has a problem.

If Weinstein is indeed the tip of the iceberg, as many industry insiders have said, what do they do about other members who have been accused of sexual assault, such as Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski? As many people who have spoken to me here have said, the Academy condemnation cannot stop here.

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Shakespeare in Love won Best Picture at the 1999 Oscars

It is only the second time a member has been expelled. Actor Carmine Caridi had his membership revoked in 2004 after he allegedly sent confidential film preview videos to a friend which ended up online.

As the co-founder of Miramax Pictures and the Weinstein Company, Harvey Weinstein produced some of cinema’s most celebrated films, including Pulp Fiction, The English Patient, and Shakespeare in Love.

He has been thanked dozens of times in Oscar acceptance speeches, and in 2012 the actress Meryl Streep jokingly referred to him as “God” onstage.

But as accusations against Weinstein began to mount in recent days, film industry heavyweights came out to publicly condemn him and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta) suspended his membership.

The French government is reportedly considering revoking his Legion of Honour, France’s highest civilian distinction, and there have been calls from some British politicians for his honorary CBE title to be revoked.

‘Sick and depraved’

Speaking to the Hollywood Reporter, Bob Weinstein called his brother “sick and depraved” and said he had no idea of “the type of predator that he was”.

He refused to comment on reports that he and the board of Weinstein Company were aware of Weinstein’s settlements with women during recent contract negotiations, saying only that the board “did not know the extent of my brother’s actions”.

He went on to call his brother’s apology statement “utter insanity” and a “lame excuse”.

“I’ll tell you what I did know,” he said. “Harvey was a bully, Harvey was arrogant…that I knew”.

Earlier, Bob Weinstein denied media reports that the Weinstein Company – which has placed Harvey Weinstein on indefinite leave – could now be closed or sold.

But several large film projects have been pulled from the company already, and reports in the Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal said that financers had begun to pressure the board to sell.

Media captionIt was “an open secret” a producer tells the BBC

Weinstein has denied allegations of rape detailed in The New Yorker magazine, saying that there were no acts of non-consensual sex.

His wife Georgina Chapman said on Tuesday that she was leaving him.

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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-41623637

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Harvey Weinstein: ‘Business as usual’ at Weinstein Co, brother insists

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

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Bob Weinstein co-founded the studio with his brother in 2005

Harvey Weinstein’s brother, Bob, has denied media reports that the film production company they co-founded could be closed or sold.

“Our banks, partners and shareholders are fully supportive of our company,” he said in a statement. “Business is continuing as usual.”

The company fired Harvey Weinstein on Sunday amid a slew of sexual harassment allegations.

The claims have prompted police investigations in both the US and UK.

On Friday, the scandal surrounding Weinstein – who produced films including Pulp Fiction, Shakespeare in Love and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – deepened when he was accused of rape by US actress Rose McGowan.

He was already facing claims of rape, sexual assault, groping and harassment.

Weinstein, who is believed to be in Europe seeking therapy, has insisted through a spokeswoman that any sexual contacts he had were consensual.

Since the avalanche of claims began, the company has been trying to disassociate itself from its co-founder and save the business, reports say, with efforts made to buy Harvey Weinstein out, rebrand and keep creative partners on board.

But reports in the Los Angeles Times said that financers had begun to pressure the company to sell and potential buyers were circling.

The Wall Street Journal also reported the company was “exploring a sale or shutdown” and was “unlikely to continue as an independent entity”.

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The Weinstein Company fired Harvey Weinstein last weekend, but there remains intense speculation about its future

The company is thought to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars but before the recent allegations had already faced questions about its future prospects amid increasing competition from media streaming services.

Investment bank Goldman Sachs said on Friday it was investigating options to sell the small stake it holds, citing the reported “inexcusable behaviour”.

On Saturday, the organisers of the Oscars film awards will hold emergency talks amid speculation it could suspending Harvey Weinstein’s membership. Bafta, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, has already done so.

The New York Times broke the story on 5 October when it detailed decades of allegations of sexual harassment against Weinstein.

Since then police forces in the US and UK have launched investigations into sexual assault allegations against Weinstein:

  • The New York Police Department is looking into an allegation dating from 2004 and reviewing whether there are any additional complaints
  • London’s Met Police has received an allegation of sexual assault in the London area in the 1980s
Media captionHillary Clinton speaks about the allegations

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-41617349

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Philip Hammond says his remarks were a poor choice of words

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

The chancellor has labelled the European Union’s Brexit negotiators as “the enemy” – a remark he subsequently described as a “poor choice of words”.

During a television interview, Philip Hammond also called the negotiators “the opponents” and said they should “behave like grown-ups”.

But he tweeted later: “I was making the point that we are united at home. I regret I used a poor choice of words.”

Mr Hammond is in Washington for an International Monetary Fund meeting.

He has been criticised for saying that the Brexit process has created uncertainty, and this week a former chancellor claimed he was trying to sabotage the talks.

During a series of media interviews in Washington, Mr Hammond told Sky News that “passions are high” in the party “but we are all going to the same place”.

But he added: “The enemy, the opponents, are out there on the other side of the table. Those are the people that we have to negotiate with to get the very best deal for Britain.”

Despite his regrets, Mr Hammond’s comments drew fire from political opponents. Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said it was an “inept approach from a failing government. Insulting the EU is not the way to protect our economic interests”.

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During his interviews, the chancellor also has described as “bizarre” and “absurd” accusations he is talking down the economy.

Mr Hammond said he was a realist and that he wanted to “protect and prepare” the economy for the challenges ahead.

The chancellor said: “It is absurd to pretend that the process we are engaged in hasn’t created some uncertainty. But the underlying economy remains robust.

“I am committed to delivering a Brexit deal that works for Britain,” he added.

He refused to answer how he would vote if another referendum was held now. “We’ve had the referendum,” he said. “You know how I voted in it.”


This week, former Conservative Chancellor Nigel Lawson called for Mr Hammond to be sacked, saying he was unhelpful to the Brexit process.

Lord Lawson said: “What he [Mr Hammond] is doing is very close to sabotage”.

Responding to these comments, Mr Hammond said: “Lord Lawson is entitled to his view on this and many other subjects and isn’t afraid to express it, but I think he’s wrong.”

The chancellor, who has been accused of being too pessimistic about Brexit, told the Treasury Committee of MPs this week that a “cloud of uncertainty” over the outcome of negotiations was “acting as a dampener” on the economy.

But speaking on Friday, Mr Hammond said he was optimistic about the UK’s economic future and was in Washington to promote it.

“What I’m doing here in Washington is talking Britain up, talking about Britain’s future as a champion of free trade in the global economy, seeking further moves on liberalisation on trade in services which will hugely benefit our economy.”

He added that Britain had “a very bright future ahead”, but added that it was “undoubtedly true” that the process of negotiations had created uncertainty for business.

“If you talk to businesses, they would like us to get it done quickly so that they know clearly what our future relationship with the European Union is going to look like.”

Brexit preparations

Mr Hammond said the Cabinet was united behind Prime Minister Theresa May’s recent speech in Florence setting out her Brexit plans.

“We know what our proposal is, we put it on the table effectively. Now we want the European Union to engage with it… challenge us… but let’s behave like grown-ups.” he said.

Mr Hammond said the government would not spend taxpayers’ money preparing for a “no-deal” Brexit until the “very last moment”.

He said he would not take money from budgets for other areas such as health or education just to “send a message” to the EU.

One former minister, David Jones, has said billions of pounds should be set aside in November’s Budget for a “no deal” scenario.

He argued that if this did not happen it would be seen as a “a sign of weakness” by EU leaders, who would think the UK was not serious about leaving the EU without a deal.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-41608243

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Trump aims blow at Iran and threatens landmark nuclear deal

Posted by Warren Fyfe on October 14, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site
Media captionTrump: ‘I can terminate US involvement in deal any time’

US President Donald Trump has condemned Iran as a “fanatical regime” and refused to continue signing off on a landmark international nuclear deal.

In a combative speech on Friday, Mr Trump accused Iran of sponsoring terrorism and proposed new sanctions.

He said Iran had already violated the 2015 deal, which imposed curbs on Iran’s nuclear capability in return for easing international embargoes.

International observers say Iran has been in full compliance with the deal.

Speaking at the White House, Mr Trump said he was acting in order to deny Iran “all paths to a nuclear weapon”.

“We will not continue down a path whose predictable conclusion is more violence, more terror, and the very real threat of Iran’s nuclear breakout,” he said.

  • Trump’s Iran deal speech: Full text
  • Iran nuclear deal: Key details
  • Europe ‘concerned’ by Trump Iran threat
  • What do Trump’s words on Iran mean for US/UK relations?

What does Trump’s refusal to sign mean?

Congress requires the US president to certify every 90 days that Iran is upholding its part of the agreement. Mr Trump had already recertified twice, but refused to sign a third time ahead of a Sunday deadline.

Media captionEU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Iran was implementing the deal

Congress now has 60 days to decide whether to pull out of the nuclear deal by re-imposing sanctions.

Some advocates of the deal, signed between Iran and six international powers – the UK, US, Russia, France, Germany, and China – had feared that Mr Trump would withdraw the US entirely.

Instead he essentially passed the ball to Congress, which will now decide whether to rewrite the framework in accordance with Trump’s wishes. The president made it clear that if it did not, he would cancel the deal.

“In the event we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated,” he said. “It is under continuous review and our participation can be cancelled by me, as president, at any time.”

What changes does he want?

Mr Trump is seeking is the end to the nuclear deal’s so-called “sunset clauses”, one of which allows for the lifting of restrictions on Iran’s nuclear enrichment programme after 2025.

He also called for new sanctions on Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, which he called the “corrupt personal terror force of Iran’s leader”, and restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missile programme, which is not covered by the deal.

Last month, Iran said it had successfully tested a new medium-range missile with a 2,000km (1,200-mile) range. The test was not internationally verified.

The president said that congressional leaders were already drafting amendments that would curb the ballistic missile development and eliminate expiry dates on restrictions to Iran’s nuclear development.

How did key players respond?

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the US was “more than ever isolated” and could not change the nuclear deal.

“As long as our rights are guaranteed, as long as our interests are served, as long as we benefit from the nuclear deal, we will respect and comply with the deal,” Mr Rouhani said.

Yukiya Amano, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said Iran was implementing the deal and was subject to “the world’s most robust nuclear verification regime”.

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Worshippers shouted anti-US slogans during Friday prayers in Tehran

European diplomats warned that any such unilateral changes to the agreement were likely to trigger the deal’s collapse and a return to a nuclear standoff in the Middle East.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini called the deal “robust” and said there had been “no violations” by Iran. She said it was not in the power of “any president in the world” to terminate the agreement.

In a joint statement, the UK, Germany and France said they were “concerned” by Mr Trump’s move but remained committed to the deal. They said they “shared concerns about Iran’s ballistic missile programme and regional activities”.

Russia said it remained committed to the deal and was opposed to the use of “aggressive and threatening rhetoric in international relations”.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated Mr Trump, who he said had “boldly confronted Iran’s terrorist regime”. Saudi Arabia also backed the US president’s “firm strategy”.

What has changed?

By Lyse Doucet, chief international correspondent

President Trump has recast the list of Middle East threats, with Iran replacing Islamic State as Enemy Number One.

That world view is shared by his strongest supporters in the region, including Israel and Gulf Arab leaders who have long seen Iran as their primary threat, and a rival with vast sway across the Middle East.

They resented Washington’s focus on the Iran deal during President’s Obama administration. Like President Trump, they want to undo his legacy. The new approach imposes new sanctions but stops short of designating Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist group – a step Iran says would be tantamount to a declaration of war.

The urgent question now is whether the new strategy will embolden Iran’s hardliners including the Revolutionary Guards. Like US forces, they’re involved in battles to defeat IS in Iraq and Syria, and may also see a new enemy.

Trump hands Congress a hot potato

By Anthony Zurcher, BBC News Washington

Donald Trump, trying to reconcile a bluntly delivered campaign promise with the tricky realities of governing, is taking a half-step – and handing the mess to Congress.

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After railing against it for years, President Trump announced he would refuse to recertify the Iran deal

Legislators do not make for great caretakers, however, and without firm White House guidance Iran may prove a daunting challenge. The president has decertified Iran’s compliance, but Congress will have to decide how to fix the deal to his liking.

The administration recommends establishing “triggers” that would automatically impose penalties on the Iran. That will take a lot of legislative manoeuvring, not Washington’s strong suit lately.

There are signs of progress in Congress, but with tax reform and budget negotiations continuing, the schedule is packed. At some point Mr Trump could again be on the spot. He says if there’s no further action, he will officially nix the deal.

The original Iran deal legislation was a way to allow congressional Republicans to object to the agreement without killing it. Now, it seems, Mr Trump wants new provisions that will allow him to kill it – or keep it – without getting his hands dirty.

What is the nuclear deal?

Formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, it is designed to prevent Iran developing a nuclear weapon.

It lifted some sanctions that stopped Iran from trading on international markets and selling oil.

The lifting of sanctions is dependent on Iran restricting its nuclear programme. It must curb its uranium stockpile, build no more heavy-water reactors for 15 years and allow inspectors into the country.

Media captionPresident Trump and Iran’s President Rouhani traded insults at the UN

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-41613314

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California wildfires: Death toll climbs to 29

Posted by Warren Fyfe on October 13, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site

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Fire crews battled to stop flames reaching this vineyard in Santa Rosa

The number of people confirmed dead in wildfires sweeping northern California has climbed to 29, as officials warned that conditions would worsen.

Hundreds of people remain missing as at least 22 fires rampaged across the state’s famous wine country.

More than 8,000 firefighters are now battling the flames.

The wildfires have destroyed more than 3,500 buildings and homes over 170,000 acres (68,800 hectares) and displaced about 25,000 people.

Fifteen people are now confirmed killed in Sonoma County, with another eight in Mendocino County, four in Yuba County and two in Napa County, officials said.

The updated casualty figures mean the wildfires are the deadliest in California since 1933, when 29 people died in fires at Griffith Park in Los Angeles.

Strong winds that have fanned the flames eased in recent days, but forecasters warned they were set to pick up again on Friday night.

Media captionCalifornia districts wiped out by wildfires

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Prison inmates have been called in to help fight the fires

“We are not even close to being out of this emergency,” Mark Ghilarducci, state director of emergency services, told reporters.

State fire chief Ken Pimlott warned of “erratic, shifting winds all weekend”.

Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano said recovery teams with cadaver dogs were searching the smouldering ruins of homes.

  • Wineries count cost of wildfires disaster
  • The prisoners fighting wildfires in California

“We have found bodies that were completely intact, and we have found bodies that were no more than ash and bone,” he said.

It is not yet clear what started the fires on Sunday night, but officials say power lines blown over by strong winds could be the cause.

One of the greatest threats to life is believed to be around the town of Calistoga, Napa County, where the entire population of 5,000 has been ordered to evacuate.

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Only chimneys remain standing in fire-ravaged districts of Santa Rosa

Geyserville, a town of around 800 people, and the community of Boyes Hot Springs, both in Sonoma, were also evacuated.

The huge fires have sent smoke and ash over San Francisco, about 50 miles away, and over some towns and cities even further south.


Slide the button to see how a Santa Rosa community was devastated



At least 13 Napa Valley wineries have been destroyed, a vintners’ trade group says.

Cannabis plantations in fire-scorched Mendocino County could lose millions as many are uninsured, according to Nikki Lastreto of the local industry association.

Marijuana farmers cannot insure their businesses since federal law bans the drug.

Though recreational cannabis was legalised in the state in 2016, California’s retail market does not open until next January.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-41604743

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Emma Thompson: Harvey Weinstein ‘top of harassment ladder’

Posted by Warren Fyfe on October 13, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site

Emma Thompson says Harvey Weinstein is representative of a system of “extreme masculinity” involving “many” more men in Hollywood.

The actress says she was previously unaware of allegations of sexual harassment which have since emerged against the film producer.

Weinstein has “unequivocally denied” any allegations of non-consensual sex.

She was speaking to Emily Maitlis for BBC Newsnight.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-41600181

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