Mrs May will go to Dublin on Friday night to have dinner with Mr Varadkar

Brexit: Theresa May to meet Leo Varadkar for Brexit talks,”

Theresa May will meet Leo Varadkar to update him on her ongoing efforts to get changes to the Brexit withdrawal deal.

The prime minister and taoiseach (Irish prime minister) will have dinner in Dublin on Friday night.

The EU has said it will hold more talks with the UK to help the prime minister get a Brexit deal through the Commons

The meeting will take place after Mr Varadkar meets Northern Ireland’s main political parties in Belfast.

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox will also travel to Dublin for talks with his Irish counterpart.

Speaking in Belfast, Mr Varadkar said it was “not a day for negotiations” but that it was an opportunity to “share perspectives”.

Several cabinet ministers have told the BBC a no-deal Brexit could lead to a vote on Irish unification.

But DUP leader Arlene Foster poured cold water on the prospect, saying that the 1998 Good Friday Agreement sets out “criteria for a border poll, and it hasn’t been met – therefore it will not be called”.

What emerged from the PM’s Brussels trip?

On Thursday, Mrs May met EU leaders in Brussels in a bid to secure changes to the Irish border backstop in the Brexit agreement.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker ruled out legally-binding changes to the backstop clause  in the 585-page withdrawal document.

But he said the EU would be open to adding words to the non-binding future relations document that goes with the withdrawal agreement.

Other officials, including European Parliament Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt, have said the backstop is “non-negotiable”.

What is the Irish government’s view?

On Wednesday, Mr Varadkar held meetings with top EU officials about the backstop and Ireland’s plans for a no-deal outcome.

He said that while he was “open to further discussions” with the UK government about post-Brexit relations, the legally-binding withdrawal agreement remained “the best deal possible”.

The backstop was needed “as a legal guarantee to ensure that there is no return to a hard border on the island of Ireland”, he added.

Speaking in Belfast on Thursday, Mr Varadkar said “time is running out” to agree a deal, but that work needed to continue in order to ensure agreement was reached.

“When it comes to Brexit this is a negotiation that has the UK on one side and EU on the other,” he said.

“Any negotiation can only happen with Ireland and the EU working together.”

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Analysis: Diplomacy over dinner in Dublin?

BBC Newslight NI Politics Reporter

Today the focus shifts from Brussels back to Belfast.

Theresa May left her EU meetings with a promise of more talks, but was told there can be no re-negotiation of the withdrawal agreement.

It’s a message that has been reinforced repeatedly in Dublin.

That’s where Mrs May will go tonight for dinner with the taoiseach, although no-one is expecting a diplomatic breakthrough from it.

It will take place just hours after Leo Varadkar meets the main Stormont parties including the DUP and Sinn Féin.

The Irish government insists any talk of Brexit is a matter for the EU, but it’s impossible for the backstop and the deadlock over Brexit not to dominate today’s conversations in Belfast.

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Where are we with the backstop?

It is the insurance policy to maintain an open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland unless and until another solution is found.

The UK and EU made a commitment to avoid physical barriers or checks on the border, if no UK-EU trade deal is agreed before the Brexit transition period ends.

Many people are concerned that the return of such checks would put the peace process at risk.

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But there has been opposition to the backstop from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Brexiteer MPs, who believe its terms could keep the UK tied to EU rules in the long term.

Last month, MPs backed an amendment in Parliament calling for “alternative arrangements” to replace the backstop.

A group of Conservative MPs has held talks aimed at finding other Brexit options that would avoid a hard border.

On Wednesday, it emerged that they had scrapped a planned visit to Northern Ireland to meet business representatives, however the invite has since been re-issued.

Business leaders in Northern Ireland are due to attend a meeting at Stormont on Friday with the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) border delivery group to discuss post-Brexit border arrangements.

The meeting had been cancelled three times.

Why has Leo Varadkar travelled to Belfast?

The Irish government said Mr Varadkar’s talks in Belfast would provide him with an opportunity to discuss the “ongoing political impasse” in Northern Ireland, which has been without a devolved executive and assembly for more than two years.

He said he had travelled north to “hear the perspective of the main parties”.

“We share common objectives to make sure that there is a deal in relation to Brexit, to avoid a hard border, and to maintain frictionless trade.”

Mr Varadkar’s trip comes days after Theresa May met the parties at Stormont to discuss her bid to make changes to the withdrawal agreement .

How have the Northern Ireland parties reacted?

The DUP were the first party to meet Mr Varadkar, with others due to have talks with the taoiseach later on Friday.

DUP leader Arlene Foster said her party had a “wide-ranging” discussion.

Arlene Foster
DUP leader Arlene Foster dismissed calls for a border poll, saying the criteria for one had “not been met”

Mrs Foster also said some people were engaging in “project fear” with the Brexit negotiations.

The party’s deputy leader, Nigel Dodds, said the backstop “is the problem”, but would not specify which possible alternative to it that his party is fully backing.

Sinn Féin’s vice-president Michelle O’Neill said her party would “hold the taoiseach’s feet to the fire” when it comes to defending the backstop.

She said he had given her an assurance he would remain firm with his stance.

The party also said they have been calling repeatedly for a border poll, and that they had urged the Mr Varadkar to begin planning for one.

The UUP’s Brexit spokesperson Steve Aiken said there needed to be “level-headed conversations” and that the UUP had told the taoiseach how concerned they are by the terms of the Irish border backstop.

The UUP said it is working on a number of alternative proposals it wants the UK and EU to consider.

What happens next?

Theresa May in Brussels
Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker said their meeting was “robust but constructive”

Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay and EU negotiator Michel Barnier will hold talks in Strasbourg on Monday, as the EU and UK Brexit negotiating teams discuss proposed changes to the deal.

British sources say the talks will include discussion of the legally-binding withdrawal agreement, the BBC’s Brussels reporter Adam Fleming said.

An EU source said the further talks are an opportunity to listen to the UK’s ideas.

Mrs May and Mr Juncker will meet again before the end of February, to review progress.

The prime minister is expected to put the deal to a vote in the Commons towards the end of February.

She said the plan must change if it is to win the support of MPs who urged her to seek “alternative arrangements” to the backstop when rejecting the deal last month.

Some 2,000 unemployed people in Finland were randomly selected

Finland basic income trial left people ‘happier but jobless'”:

The experiment saw 2,000 people paid €560 (£490) a month, instead of their unemployment benefit.

Giving jobless people in Finland a basic income for two years did not lead them to find work, researchers said.

From January 2017 until December 2018, 2,000 unemployed Finns got a monthly flat payment of €560 (£490; $685).

The aim was to see if a guaranteed safety net would help people find jobs, and support them if they had to take insecure gig economy work.

While employment levels did not improve, participants said they felt happier and less stressed.

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When it launched the pilot scheme back in 2017, Finland became the first European country to test out the idea of an unconditional basic income. It was run by the Social Insurance Institution (Kela), a Finnish government agency, and involved 2,000 randomly-selected people on unemployment benefits.

It immediately attracted international interest – but these results have now raised questions about the effectiveness of such schemes.

What is ‘basic income’ and how does it work?

Universal basic income, or UBI, means that everyone gets a set monthly income, regardless of means. The Finnish trial was a bit different, as it focused on people who were unemployed.

Another popular variation is ‘universal basic services’ – where instead of getting an income, things like education, healthcare and transport are free for all.

Although it’s enjoying a resurgence in popularity, the idea isn’t new. In fact, it was first described in Sir Thomas More’s Utopia, published in 1516 – a full 503 years ago.

Such schemes are being trialled all over the world. Adults in a village in western Kenya are being given $22 a month for 12 years, until 2028, while the Italian government is working on introducing a “citizens’ income”. The city of Utrecht, in the Netherlands, is also carrying out a basic income study called Weten Wat Werkt – “Know What Works” – until October.

Helsinki
Some 2,000 unemployed people in Finland were randomly selected

What is the point?

Supporters of basic income often believe an unconditional safety net can help people out of poverty, by giving them the time to apply for jobs or learn essential new skills. This is seen as increasingly important in the age of automation – that is, put very simply, as robots take people’s jobs.

Miska Simanainen, one of the Kela researchers behind the Finnish study, tells BBC News that this was what their government had wanted to test, in order “to see if it would be a way of reforming the social security system”.

So, did it work?

That depends what you mean by ‘work’.

Did it help unemployed people in Finland find jobs, as the centre-right Finnish government had hoped? No, not really.

Mr Simanainen says that while some individuals found work, they were no more likely to do so than a control group of people who weren’t given the money. They are still trying to work out exactly why this is, for the final report that will be published in 2020.

Brexit: European papers lose patience with UK backstop move

But for many people, the original goal of getting people into work was flawed to begin with. If instead the aim were to make people generally happier, the scheme would have been considered a triumph.

One participant, former newspaper editor Tuomas, pretty much summed this up when he told BBC News about how the basic income had affected him.

“I am still without a job,” he explained. “I can’t say that the basic income has changed a lot in my life. OK, psychologically yes, but financially – not so much.”

What are the downsides to basic income?

UBI is one of those rare issues that attracts equally strong support – and criticism – from all parts of the political spectrum.

For a lot of people on the left, UBI focuses too heavily on individuals’ personal wealth and buying power – or rather, their lack of it – without doing anything to stop companies wasting resources by producing far more stuff than people need, and over-working their employees in the process.

Economics writer Grace Blakely makes this point in the New Socialist, adding that “without fundamental structural reforms to our economic system, UBI will only be a sticking plaster papering over the cracks”.

Finland’s basic income trial

€560

Monthly income for two years

  • €20m Cost to government
  • 8.1% Unemployment rate
  • 5,503,347 Finnish population

Kela, Statistics FinlandEPA

Others worry that basic income will be used to cut costs, by setting the rate too low and slashing other, means-tested benefits.

Meanwhile, many on the political right and centre worry about the exact opposite – that UBI would be too expensive to implement, and would encourage a “something for nothing” culture.

Ulrich Spiesshofer, chief executive of ABB engineering company, echoed this sentiment in 2016 when he told the Financial Times that “economic rewards [for people] should be based on actually creating economic value”.

So what next?

Researchers from Kela are now busy analysing all of their results, to figure out what else – if anything – they can tell us about basic income’s uses and shortcomings.

Mr Simanainen says that he doesn’t like to think of the trial as having “failed”.

From his point of view, “this is not a failure or success – it is a fact, and [gives us] new information that we did not have before this experiment”.

Contact Email (BBCNEWS.CO.UK@bbcnewslight.co.uk) or (mrbenrory@europe.com)

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The confirmed death toll rose substantially on Friday

Istanbul rescuers find teenager alive in building collapse,”

Rescuers in the Turkish capital of Istanbul have pulled a teenage boy alive from a residential building almost two days after it collapsed.

An eight-storey apartment block collapsed in the city’s Kartal district on Wednesday afternoon.

Officials say the official death toll has risen to 14. Almost a dozen more people are still thought to be missing.

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Rescuers have been searching through the night to find anyone still alive inside the complex’s wreckage.

The 16-year-old boy was found alive on Friday, reportedly after rescuers heard him call for help from inside the rubble.

The rescue comes one day after a five-year-old girl was saved from the collapse.

Istanbul rescuers find teenager alive in building collapse,"
Rescuers search through the rubble in the city’s Kartal district

“So far 14 of our fellow citizens have been lost and another 14 people have been brought out of the rubble alive,” Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu told a news conference on Friday.

Pope admits clerical abuse of nuns including sexual slavery”:

Several buildings surrounding site of collapse were evacuated on Thursday for security reasons, as investigations into the collapse continued.

The city’s governor has said that three of the building’s top floors were built illegally. A textile workshop had also been in operation inside the building without a license.

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The incident has led to renewed criticism within Turkey about poorly enforced building regulations.

Following the collapse, opposition newspapers have hit out at recent laws enacted by the Turkish government that granted official status to illegal construction, BBC Monitoring reports.

That law allowed citizens to apply to legalise unlicensed properties under a “Zoning Peace” regulation.

One headline, in the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper, said: “They pardoned, citizens died”.

Contact Email (BBCNEWS.CO.UK@bbcnewslight.co.uk) or (mrbenrory@europe.com)

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President Bio announced the measure after hearing the testimony of a rape survivor

Sierra Leone declares emergency over rape and sexual assault,”:

Sierra Leone has declared a national emergency over sexual and gender-based violence after recorded cases of rape and assault doubled over the last year.

President Julius Maada Bio announced the emergency on Thursday amid a public outcry over the issue, triggered by a series of high-profile attacks.

Mr Bio said attacks on minors – which account for a third of all cases – would be punished with a life sentence.

Activists say many assaults are not punished under current laws.

More than 8,500 cases were recorded last year – a rise of nearly 4,000 on the figure from the previous year – in a country of 7.5 million people.

Public anger has been building over recent cases – including that of a five-year-old girl said to have been assaulted by her uncle

The factors behind the spike are not yet clear.

What did the president say?

Mr Bio declared the emergency at State House in Freetown after hearing the testimony of an Ebola survivor who had repeatedly been raped.

“With immediate effect, sexual penetration of minors is punishable by life imprisonment,” he said, visibly moved by the survivor’s account.

He also announced the formation of a dedicated police division to investigate reports of sexual violence, as well as a special magistrates’ court that would fast-track cases.

President Julius Maada Bio
President Bio announced the measure after hearing the testimony of a rape survivor

The BBC’s Umaru Fofana in Freetown says the declaration of an emergency will mean state resources are more readily diverted to tackling sexual violence.

He added that the move allows the president to bypass parliament, which would normally be required to approve changes to the law.

What are people saying in Sierra Leone?

Anger has been mounting over sexual violence against women following a series of high-profile cases, including that of a five-year-old girl left partially paralysed after an alleged assault by her uncle.

Activists say few cases are reported and successfully prosecuted. The recommended sentence for rape – of between five and 15 years’ imprisonment – is often not imposed.

Last year, a 56-year-old man who raped a six-year-old girl was sentenced to a year in prison.

Fatmata Sorie, the president of an all-female lawyers group that works with victims of sexual violence, told the BBC that the president’s declaration shines “a very bright light on the issue”.

However, she cautioned that the data on sexual violence was incomplete as it had only been gathered from a handful of centres across the country.

“We want the numbers to come down, [and] we want a situation where the data is nationwide data, chiefdom-based data,” she said.

Rape and other forms of sexual violence were widespread during Sierra Leone’s civil war between 1991 and 2002.

Contact Email, (BBCNEWS.CO.UK@bbcnewslight.co.uk) or (adekunlebest@post.com)

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The blaze is reported to have started in an accommodation block

Flamengo football club: Young players die in Rio fire

The blaze is reported to have started in an accommodation block

A fire has engulfed a dormitory at the youth team training centre of one of Brazil’s biggest football clubs, killing 10 people.

The victims have not been named but are said to include young players staying at Ninho de Urubu, the training ground of Flamengo football club in Rio de Janeiro.

Three teenagers were also injured, one of them seriously.

The cause of the blaze is being investigated.

However, one young player said the fire started in an air conditioner in his room.

“The air conditioner caught fire, and I ran out,” said Felipe Cardoso, a player with the under-17 side. “Thank God I managed to run and I’m still alive.”

Flamengo is one of Brazil’s biggest and best-known clubs internationally. They play in the Campeonato Brasileiro Série A league where they finished in second place last season.

People wait for information in front of the training center of Rio"s soccer club Flamengo, after a deadly fire in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil February 8, 2019
Friends and family face an anxious wait for news outside the ground

Brazil football legend Pelé described the club as “a place where young people pursue their dreams”.

“It’s a very sad day for Brazilian football,” he tweeted.

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Former Brazil star Ronaldinho offered his condolences for the “terrible tragedy” in a tweet on Friday morning. He published the club’s crest in black-and-white alongside the message.

What do we know so far?

According to the G1 news portal, the fire began at 05:10 (07:10 GMT) and was extinguished by 07:30.

None of the victims has been identified but the youth players are said to be aged between 14 and 16. One of the three injured, a 15-year-old boy, suffered severe burns and was transferred to a specialist hospital, reports said.

A civil defence vehicle transports a body after the fire in the training centre of Flamengo football club, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 8 February 2019
Bodies of the victims have been transported away from the training centre

The area has been hit by severe storms and heavy rain in recent days and the weather may have left the facility without water or electricity when the fire struck, G1 reported.

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Flamengo’s pride in youth academy

Analysis by Fernando Duarte, BBC Brasil

Flamengo is one of the few Brazilian clubs that can boast an expressive national fan base in Brazil. A poll released last April suggested they are the first team for 32.5 million Brazilians.

The club owes a great chunk of this support to an incredible run of four Brazilian titles and a victorious Copa Libertadores campaign (the South American version of the Uefa Champions League) in the 1980s.

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It has also produced arguably one of the greatest all-time Brazilian players – Arthur Antunes “Zico” Coimbra, a member of the 1982 World Cup squad that failed to win the titles but won worldwide plaudits for its slick style.

The club is also proud of the tradition of its youth academy – their motto is “we make our star players at home” – which will make this tragedy even sadder.

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Who are Flamengo?

The club’s most prominent former players include World Cup winners Ronaldinho, Bebeto and Romario.

As well as being one of Brazil’s most successful football clubs, Flamengo also has basketball, rowing, swimming and volleyball teams.

In a tweet on Friday, the team said it was “in mourning”.

The Ninho de Urubu (“Vulture’s Nest” – so named because the symbol of the club is a vulture) centre underwent a major expansion last year, with the club spending 23m reals (£4.8m, $6.2m), Reuters news agency reports.

BBC map

The site features accommodation for young players, several pitches, an aquatic park, a gym, a medical centre and a mini stadium.

The club were due to play their rivals Fluminense on Saturday. The game has been postponed, and other clubs have expressed their condolences.

Real Madrid player Vinícius Júnior, who also played for Flamengo, tweeted a crying emoji, writing, “Such sad news. Pray for everyone. Strength strength, strength.”

A fire truck is seen in front of the training centre of Rio's soccer club Flamengo after a deadly fire in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil February 8, 2019.
The facility was said to be state of the art

Just over two years ago, Brazil’s football world was rocked by disaster when a plane carrying top football team Chapecoense crashed in Colombia.

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Gas wars: The problem with Nord Stream 2

Nord Stream 2: EU agrees tighter rules for Russian pipeline,”:

EU ambassadors have agreed to toughen regulations on a controversial gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, but they have decided not to back plans that might threaten its completion.

Work on the 1,225km (760-mile) Nord Stream 2 pipeline under the Baltic Sea is already well under way and is set to be finished by the end of 2019.

The EU wants to bring pipelines coming into the bloc under its energy rules.

Germany feared that would make the pipeline uneconomic and unviable.

In the end 27 of the bloc’s 28 ambassadors reportedly agreed with a Franco-German compromise, which meant that Germany could remain as lead negotiator on the Nord Stream 2 project.

What are the worries with Nord Stream 2?

Russia currently supplies around 40% of the EU’s gas supplies, just ahead of Norway, which is not in the EU but takes part in the bloc’s single market.

For years, the 28-member bloc has been concerned about reliance on Russian gas.

Nord Stream pipelines from Russia

Poland has warned that Russia could use Nord Stream 2 to harm Europe’s energy security, and US President Donald Trump even accused Germany of being a “captive” of Russia because of it.

Nord Stream 2 will only increase Russia’s supply, it also means that, along with its TurkStream project, Russia will be able to bypass Ukrainian pipelines. The loss of transit fees would hit Ukraine’s economy hard.

A big priority for the EU is to increase competition too, and instead of a patchwork of different agreements for pipelines entering the bloc it wants Nord Stream 2 to come under internal EU rules on transparency and separating ownership of the pipes from the supplier.

It is trying to look beyond Russian gas – to imports of US liquified natural gas (LNG) and new pipelines, such as a planned Norway-Poland pipeline via Denmark , that would supply Sweden and other neighbouring states.

Why is Germany backing the new pipeline?

German businesses have invested heavily in Nord Stream 2 and former Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder is running the project.

As well as Germany’s Uniper and BASF’s Wintershall unit, other European companies have stakes too, including Anglo-Dutch Shell, OMV of Austria and Engie of France.

Chancellor Angela Merkel tried to assure Central and Eastern European states on Thursday that the pipeline would not make Germany reliant on Russia for energy.

“Germany will expand its network of gas terminals in regards to liquified gas. Meaning, for gas we do not want to be at all dependent on Russia alone,” she said.

Russian government spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow hoped the disagreement would be sorted out. “We still believe that this project is beneficial to both the European gas consumers’ interests and to Russian Federation as gas supplier,” he said.

Oreo accompanied the film's director to its red carpet premiere

Oreo the raccoon: Guardians of the Galaxy model dies aged 10

Oreo the raccoon, the real-life model for Guardians of the Galaxy character Rocket, has died aged 10.

The news was announced on the comic book superhero team’s Facebook page.

“Oreo passed away in the early hours of this morning after a very short illness,” it reads. “Many thanks to our wonderful vets for their compassion and care.”

Rocket the raccoon was voiced by Bradley Cooper in the 2014 film and its 2017 sequel.

Oreo died after a short illness early on Thursday morning, the Facebook post says.

“You have been an amazing ambassador for raccoons everywhere,” it reads. “You were perfect.”

Oreo accompanied the film’s director to its red carpet premiere

Oreo accompanied the film’s director, James Gunn to the Guardians of the Galaxy premiere.

Disney fired Mr Gunn as director of the planned third Guardians film over offensive social media posts – but the cast backed him and he is reportedly working on another superhero film script.

The character Rocket first appeared in a 1976 Marvel comic book, and was named after The Beatles song Rocky Raccoon.

Mr Cooper also voiced the role in the Avengers: Infinity War film and its upcoming sequel, Avengers: Endgame.

Actor Sean Gunn – brother of James – provided the motion capture performance for the character, while Rocket’s physical characteristics in the films are based on Oreo’s.

Tributes poured in for the raccoon on social media.

President Muhammadu Buhari and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar

Myths, realities of Buhari, Atiku clash in Bauchi, 2019:

the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Stadium in Bauchi witnessed an unprecedented crowd of supporters who thronged the overstretched stadium in support of the candidature of Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

President Muhammadu Buhari and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar

Bauchi State was, before now, what many would call a ‘Buhari territory’. But that perception seems to have waned in the last three and half years of the Buhari presidency. Many have attributed the decline of Buhari’s popularity in Bauchi to a number of issues bothering on the increased level of poverty, high level of unemployment, insecurity amongst others.

Also, there are concerns in some quarters about the health of the President, especially his mental capacity to effectively lead the nation for the next four years. Obviously, part of what have exacerbated these concerns are his slurred speeches in and out of campaign arenas and his inability to recognize people sometimes, especially those in his own party.

Buhari arrives Kano for re-election campaign‎

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Unlike in 2015 when Buhari, on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), ran against Jonathan, a Southerner, he will now be running against an opposition candidate with the same ethnoreligious background as him – and that counts for much for an average Bauchi voter.

Corruption, which President Buhari is perceived to be fighting, seems to be an albatross on the presidential candidate of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar. The perception of some voters is that he is corrupt and would ‘steal’ the country’s resources if voted into office. But there are also those who say they are tired of hunger and joblessness and would care less about corruption as long as they are able to feed and cater for their family needs.

Uche Secondus, the National Chairman of PDP, during the campaign for his party’s presidential candidate said “We are convinced that with this crowd, Bauchi state is for PDP. They can not rig elections in Bauchi state, if they try it, whatever they see, they will have to take it. We have the best presidential candidate in the country today because he is competent and has the capacity to lead the nation.

“Buhari is tired, weak and can not go further anymore. But Atiku has been tested and proved. He will provide food, security and employment. He will not cede his power to cabal because he will be the Commander-in-Chief that will work for the people”.

Atiku on his part, said “Three years have passed, what has APC done for you; except hunger, poverty and lies? When I was Vice president in 2003, a memo was brought to me by Hon. Shira for the restoration of Steyr company and I approved 500 hundred million naira. But APC has driven the company into comatose. If you vote me, I bring back your Steyr company to create jobs for our teeming youths.

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“We even commissioned rail lines running from Bauchi across Gombe to Maiduguri but APC has spoilt it. Also, we commissioned dry port to boost businesses in Bauchi, but it is closed today because of the nonchalance of the APC. But I will revive it if you vote for me”

Atiku and Secondus may have spoken from their perspective as leaders of the opposition, but much of what they said is being discussed daily by ordinary people at ‘Mai shai’ (tea shops) joints and elsewhere around the state.

No election without our candidates —Rivers APC…

But a week, they say, is enough for things to change in politics. However, many pundits say the presidential election will be 60/40 in Bauchi, in favour of Buhari.

GETTY IMAGES

Beer before wine? It makes no difference to a hangover,”:

“Beer before wine and you’ll feel fine, wine before beer and you’ll feel queer” – many of us may swear by this time-honoured tip when “mixing” our drinks.

But a new study has refuted the idea that the order we have alcoholic drinks in affects the severity of a hangover.

To test the theory, they gave 90 students drinks in varying orders, switching the order a week later.

The study found that how drunk people felt and whether they vomited provided the best indicators for the next day.

People should pay attention to these “red flags” to lessen the chances of a bad hangover, scientists say.

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GETTY IMAGES

Testing age-old ‘wisdom’

Many of us will have our own ideas about what prevents a hangover or makes it more bearable when it has started.

But surprisingly little is understood about what exactly causes a hangover, and science has found no truly effective remedy.

So to test the wisdom that the order in which we have alcoholic drinks affects how we feel the following day, scientists took 90 students aged between 19 and 40 from Witten/Herdecke University in Germany and split them into three groups:

  • the first group drank around two-and-a-half pints of lager, followed by four large glasses of white wine
  • the second had the same amounts of alcohol, but in reverse order
  • the third had only beer or wine (a control group)

A week later, participants in the first two groups switched around, while those in the control group changed to the other alcoholic drink.

Participants were asked to judge how drunk they were at the end of each study day and were kept under medical supervision overnight.

Changing the order of drinks made no significant difference to hangover scores, which were measured using a questionnaire, the study found.

A man with a headache
Science has found no truly effective remedy for a hangover

It was also not possible to predict hangover intensity based on factors such as age, body weight, drinking habits and how often people usually got hangovers.

However, there was a difference between the sexes, with women tending to have slightly worse hangovers than men.

Jöran Köchling, from Witten/Herdecke University in Germany, who was the first author of the paper, said: “The only reliable way of predicting how miserable you’ll feel the next day is by how drunk you feel and whether you are sick. We should all pay attention to these red flags when drinking.”

‘Early warning system’

Though hangovers are not well understood by science, it is thought that causes include dehydration, our immune systems, and disturbances of our metabolism and hormones.

Colourings and flavourings may also make hangovers worse, which might explain why drinks of the same concentration can cause a more severe hangover.

One of the study’s findings was that those who vomited were more likely to have a bad hangover.

So does that mean that the so-called “tactical chunder” – where people deliberately purge themselves of alcohol to lessen a hangover or make themselves less drunk – is also a myth?

Dr Kai Hensel, senior author of the study from the University of Cambridge, said ridding yourself of alcohol meant less of it would be absorbed into the body, which might make you feel better the next day.

But Dr Hensel said he would still not recommend it.

“If you arrive at a point where you need to be sick you’ve probably passed the point of no return,” he added.

However, as unpleasant as they are, hangovers do serve a purpose – experts say they are nature’s warning system to encourage us to drink less.

The study is published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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Tips to avoid a hangover

Once you have a hangover, there is no magic cure, although rehydrating, painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, and sugary foods are some of the things that may ease your discomfort.

But there are steps you can take to reduce the chance of getting one in the first place, beyond the obvious – drinking less.

These include:

  • not drinking on an empty stomach
  • not drinking dark-coloured drinks if you have found you are sensitive to them (they contain chemicals that irritate blood vessels and tissue in the brain and can make a hangover worse)
  • drinking water or non-fizzy soft drinks in between each alcoholic drink
  • drinking a pint or so of water before you go to sleep

Source: NHS website

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The stash discovered in California was supposedly equivalent to 17 million "hits" of crystal meth, Australia and US,"

US Australia and make record crystal meth bust

Australian police have arrested six people in Victoria and New South Wales after the biggest seizure of crystal methamphetamine in US history.

Authorities say the 1,728kg (3,800lb) stash – the largest ever intercepted drug shipment to Australia – was found in January at a port in California.

The haul is said to be equivalent to 17 million doses and worth an estimated A$1.29bn ($910m; £705m).

Three of those arrested appeared at Melbourne Magistrates Court on Friday.

Among the suspects are two Americans: a 52-year-old man and a 46-year-old woman. Australian Federal Police (AFP) say they were found with “hundreds of thousands of dollars of proceeds of crime” during a raid in Melbourne.

They are believed to be involved with a US-based crime syndicate that tried to smuggle the drugs in containers marked as carrying audio equipment.

“By stopping this, we have ensured criminals will not profit from the immense pain these drugs would have caused our community,” AFP Assistant Commissioner Bruce Hill told reporters.

A collection of containers used to conceal the stash of crystal meth, heroine and cocaine
The crystal meth had been hidden in boxes marked as audio equipment

The arrests are part of an ongoing joint investigation by local and national agencies in the US and Australia.

In 2015, Australia’s government established a national taskforce  to tackle the growing use of crystal methamphetamine (dubbed “ice”), which has become the most common illicit drug in the country.

The move followed a report by the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) that found crystal meth posed the highest risk to communities of any illegal substance.

Crystal meth is a powerful form of amphetamine and can be smoked, snorted or injected by users.

Victoria state – Australia’s second-most populous – consumes more than two tonnes of crystal meth every year, according to government figures.

The ACC says the price of crystal meth in Australia is among the highest in the world, driving the country’s organised crime gangs to trade increasingly in the drug.

Commissioner Hill said police believe Mexican cartels are targeting the country, but the identities of the cartels have not been disclosed.

The previous record for an Australia-bound crystal meth seizure was 1,300 kg in 2017.

Gas wars: The problem with Nord Stream 2

Nord Stream 2 is the name of the undersea pipeline that should soon pump more Russian gas into Europe.

It is a divisive project within Europe and has infuriated the US, which fears that more Russian gas means more Russian influence and less share of the lucrative European gas market for American liquefied natural gas.

BBC’s Berlin correspondent Jenny Hill has been looking at the issue.

MAXWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

Theresa May arrived at Farmleigh House in Dublin on Friday evening.

The prime minister has met Leo Varadkar in Dublin for talks focused on Brexit and the political deadlock in Northern Ireland.

Theresa May has now returned to the UK after having dinner with the taoiseach (Irish prime minister).

The talks in Farmleigh House lasted about two hours.

The meeting took place after Mr Varadkar met Northern Ireland’s main political parties in Belfast on Friday.

Mrs May was accompanied in Dublin by the UK’s Brexit negotiator Olly Robbins and her chief of staff Gavin Barwell.

The Irish government said the two leaders discussed “the latest Brexit developments” as well as the “ongoing political impasse in Northern Ireland”.

The meeting comes after the EU said it will hold more talks with the UK to help the prime minister get a Brexit deal through the Commons.

Earlier, Attorney General Geoffrey Cox met his Irish counterpart after travelling to Dublin for talks.

Speaking in Belfast, Mr Varadkar said it was “not a day for negotiations” but it was an opportunity to “share perspectives”.

He added that he was looking to restore confidence and trust with the prime minister during their meeting on Friday night.

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Analysis: Diplomacy over dauphinoise potatoes

By Jayne McCormack, BBC News NI political reporter

A Friday night in Dublin for Theresa May as she continues trying to find a way through for her Brexit deal.

The prime minister came face-to-face with her Irish counterpart over a fillet of beef with dauphinoise potatoes and green beans.

It’s been a diplomatic whirlwind of a week as Mr Varadkar and Mrs May have bounced from Belfast to Brussels, both seeking backing for their respective positions.

It seems certain that the House of Commons will not pass any Brexit deal that includes the current backstop.

But the Irish government again today insisted it has to stay, with Mr Varadkar adding that he and the EU speak with one voice on this.

On Monday, UK-EU talks begin (again) in Brussels – but there’s no sign of a compromise coming down the tracks.

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Several cabinet ministers have told the BBC a no-deal Brexit could lead to a vote on Irish unification.

But Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Arlene Foster poured cold water on the prospect, saying that the 1998 Good Friday Agreement sets out “criteria for a border poll, and it hasn’t been met – therefore it will not be called”.

What is the current Brexit state-of-play?

On Thursday, Mrs May met EU leaders in Brussels in a bid to secure changes to the Irish border backstop in the Brexit agreement.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker ruled out legally-binding changes to the backstop clause in the 585-page withdrawal document.

But he said the EU would be open to adding words to the non-binding future relations document that goes with the withdrawal agreement.

Other officials, including European Parliament Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt, have said the backstop is “non-negotiable”.

On Wednesday, Mr Varadkar held meetings with top EU officials about the backstop and Ireland’s plans for a no-deal outcome.

He said that while he was “open to further discussions” with the UK government about post-Brexit relations, the legally-binding withdrawal agreement remained “the best deal possible”.

Speaking in Belfast, Mr Varadkar said “time is running out” to agree a deal, but that work needed to continue in order to ensure agreement was reached.

“When it comes to Brexit this is a negotiation that has the UK on one side and EU on the other,” he said.

“Any negotiation can only happen with Ireland and the EU working together.”

Where are we with the backstop?

It is the insurance policy to maintain an open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland unless and until another solution is found.

The UK and EU made a commitment to avoid physical barriers or checks on the border, if no UK-EU trade deal is agreed before the Brexit transition period ends.

Many people are concerned that the return of such checks would put the peace process at risk.

Confused by Brexit jargon? Reality Check unpacks the basics

But there has been opposition to the backstop from the DUP and Brexiteer MPs, who believe its terms could keep the UK tied to EU rules in the long term.

Last month, MPs backed an amendment in Parliament calling for “alternative arrangements” to replace the backstop.

A group of Conservative MPs has held talks aimed at finding other Brexit options that would avoid a hard border.

How did Northern Ireland parties react to Leo Varadkar’s visit?

The taoiseach travelled to Belfast to discuss the “ongoing political impasse”, the Irish government said.

Northern Ireland has been without a devolved government for more than two years.

Mr Varadkar, whose trip came days after Theresa May met the parties at Stormont to discuss her bid to make changes to the withdrawal agreement said he travelled north to “hear the perspective of the main parties”.

DUP leader Arlene Foster said her party had a “wide-ranging” discussion with the taoiseach.

Mrs Foster also said some people were engaging in “project fear” with the Brexit negotiations.

DUP leader Arlene Foster speaking after meeting Leo Varadkar in Belfast
DUP leader Arlene Foster (centre) speaking after meeting Leo Varadkar in Belfast

The party’s deputy leader, Nigel Dodds, said the backstop “is the problem”, but would not specify which possible alternative his party is supporting.

Sinn Féin’s vice-president Michelle O’Neill said her party would “hold the taoiseach’s feet to the fire” when it comes to defending the backstop.

She said he had given her an assurance he would remain firm with his stance.

The party also said they have been calling repeatedly for a border poll, and that they had urged Mr Varadkar to begin planning for one.

The Ulster Unionist Party’s (UUP) Brexit spokesperson Steve Aiken said there needed to be “level-headed conversations” and that the UUP had told the taoiseach how concerned they are by the terms of the Irish border backstop.

Colum Eastwood
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said he had been watching recent events in Westminster “with dismay”

The UUP said it is working on a number of alternative proposals it wants the UK and EU to consider.

Alliance Party leader Naomi Long said they had a very constructive and wide-ranging discussion with Mr Varadkar.

“It’s fairly clear those this week suggesting there is some chance of the UK and Irish government doing a side deal without the EU are chasing after a no-way scenario,” she said.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said that it had been a “good meeting” and added that he and the taoiseach are “on the same side of this argument”.

“We have been watching with some dismay what has been going on in Westminster over the last couple of months,” he said.

“I don’t think anybody within the Irish government or the European Commission sees any opportunity for diluting the protection of citizens in Northern Ireland.”

What happens next?

Theresa May in Brussels
Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker said their meeting was “robust but constructive”

Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay and EU negotiator Michel Barnier will hold talks in Strasbourg on Monday, as the EU and UK Brexit negotiating teams discuss proposed changes to the deal.

British sources say the talks will include discussion of the legally-binding withdrawal agreement, the BBC’s Brussels reporter Adam Fleming said.

An EU source said the further talks are an opportunity to listen to the UK’s ideas.

Mrs May and Mr Juncker will meet again before the end of February, to review progress.

The prime minister is expected to put the deal to a vote in the Commons towards the end of February.

She said the plan must change if it is to win the support of MPs who urged her to seek “alternative arrangements” to the backstop when rejecting the deal last month.

John McDonnell

Brexit: Labour plan can get majority, says John McDonnell”:

Labour’s plan for a permanent customs union with the EU after Brexit can secure a Commons majority, the shadow chancellor has told the BBC.

John McDonnell said it was a “very traditional British compromise” to avoid a “catastrophic” no-deal Brexit.

“We believe that this is a deal that could fly within Parliament,” he said.

Jeremy Corbyn’s letter setting out Labour’s demands for supporting a Brexit deal was welcomed by some EU figures and Tory MPs.

No-deal Brexit ‘means hard border’ – European Commission

Downing Street is expected to reply to Mr Corbyn’s letter later on Friday.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid told BBC Wiltshire it was “good that Jeremy Corbyn has finally started talking”.

But, he added: “In this letter he’s put five demands and I think any person reading that letter would know it’s far more about politics than it is about actually trying to work with the prime minister in the national interest”.

And Nigel Dodds, deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist Party – who Theresa May relies upon for votes in Parliament – said Mr Corbyn’s plan did not have the support of the Labour Party.

He added: “The way to a majority for a deal in the United Kingdom is with the Conservative Party and the DUP.

“I don’t believe Theresa May is going to split her party in order to reach out to Jeremy Corbyn, who is going to find it very difficult to bring his own party along, and he cant be relied upon to deliver the Brexit that the prime minister believes people voted for in the referendum.”

Brexit: Theresa May faces ‘meaningful vote’ on her deal

In contrast to Mrs May’s deal, Labour wants the UK to be a member of a customs union with the EU, with an agreement “that includes a UK say on future EU trade deals” and close ties to the single market.

Under Mrs May’s plan, the UK would leave the customs union, which she says would allow it to strike trade deals around the world.

A senior No 10 source said the government was looking at Labour’s proposals “with interest” but added: “There are obviously very considerable points of difference that exist between us.

“The PM continues to believe an independent trade policy is one of the key advantages of Brexit.”

The UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March when the two-year limit on withdrawal negotiations under the Article 50 process expires.

Theresa May urges MPs to back Brexit deal ‘for country’s sake’

But Mrs May has been unable to get the withdrawal deal she has negotiated with the EU through Parliament – it was overwhelmingly rejected by MPs last month.

In Brussels on Thursday, she told EU leaders that she could get a “stable majority in Parliament” for the deal if they agreed to legally-binding changes to the Irish backstop clause – something they have always ruled out.

Talks are continuing with EU officials – but senior figures in Brussels gave a warm reception to Mr Corbyn’s alternative proposals.

The European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt said: “It’s important now that this leads to a position in the UK that has the broadest possible majority, so that we can conclude these negotiations.”

Newsnight: Dutch MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld says renegotiating Brexit deal is ‘dead end’

European Council President Donald Tusk also described Mr Corbyn’s letter as a “promising way” out of the impasse, according to an EU source.

Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington has said he is willing to discuss the proposals with Labour’s shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer.

Brexit: May and Corbyn meet after PMQs clash,..;

Mr McDonnell told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The prime minister has to accept that the only way she will get something through Parliament is a compromise like this.

“I think if Theresa May said ‘I will sign up to Labour’s deal’ and we went to Parliament, I think we would have a secure Parliamentary majority.”

Conservative MP Sir Oliver Letwin was among those suggesting Mr Corbyn’s move could open the way to a cross-party consensus, if Mrs May could not get her deal through:

But Labour’s position has upset some of the party’s own backbenchers who see it as facilitating a “Tory Brexit” that they say will harm their constituents.

Some Labour members of the People’s Vote campaign for another EU referendum have accused Mr Corbyn of abandoning his commitment at Labour’s conference to get behind a public vote if he can’t force a general election.

Owen Smith, who failed in his bid to topple Mr Corbyn in a 2016 leadership vote, has said he and “lots of other people” were considering their future in the party as a result.

Owen Smith
Owen Smith unsuccessfully challenged Mr Corbyn for the leadership in 2016

Asked about Labour opposition to Mr Corbyn’s offer, Mr McDonnell said “not everyone’s going to get everything they want” and MPs would have to compromise in the long-term interests of the country – but denied it had effectively killed off the prospect of Labour backing another referendum.

He said people had “looked over the edge of a no-deal Brexit” and economic growth was already stalling: “Therefore now in the national interest we have got to come together and secure a compromise. If we can’t do that, well yes, we have to go back to the people.”

Other Labour backbenchers have welcomed Mr Corbyn’s move. Labour’s Stephen Kinnock, who backs the “Norway Plus” model of a close economic partnership with the EU, tweeted: “This can break the deadlock.”

Brexit: Labour plan can get majority, says John McDonnel
Confused by Brexit jargon? Reality Check unpacks the basics