Oregon women lived until 99 with organs in the wrong places

A US woman who died at 99 of natural causes unknowingly lived with her organs on the wrong side of her body due to a rare congenital condition.

Rose Marie Bentley, a pet feed store owner who passed away in October 2017, donated her body to research at a university in Portland, Oregon.

Students in an anatomy class were the first to notice many of her organs were not where they were supposed to be.

Despite multiple surgeries, her condition had not been identified.

Doctors are stunned that Mrs Bentley was able to live such a long and healthy life despite her condition.

She had situs inversus with levocardia, which means her liver, stomach and other abdominal organs were reversed right to left – the mirror image of a typical human anatomy. Her heart, however, remained in the normal position, on the left side of her body.

Medical illustration of situs inversus with levocardia
The medical illustration on the left shows Mrs Bentley’s condition, situs inversus with levocardia where a person’s abdominal organs are a mirror image of a typical human anatomy while the illustration on the right shows further abnormalities in Mrs Bentley’s cardiovascular cavity

The condition is “surpassingly unusual”, said Dr Cam Walker, an assistant professor of anatomy at Oregon Health and Science University, who helped students in his class unravel the mystery of Mrs Bentley’s body.

Dr Walker told the BBC the discovery began while his students were dissecting the cardiovascular cavity and were unable to locate a major vessel. The finding started a “cascade effect” as they realised that Mrs Bentley’s body was particularly unique.

Situs inversus with levocardia is rare, occurring about once in every 22,000 births. It is normally associated with life-threatening heart issues and other abnormalities, making Mrs Bentley’s long life even more exceptional.

Dr Walker estimates that only one in 50 million people born with this condition live into adulthood. He and his colleagues believe Mrs Bentley may be the oldest person known to live with this condition. Scientists are aware of only two other cases where patients reached the age of 70.

“None of my colleagues had ever seen a donor with situs inversus and some of them had been teaching for more than 30 years,” Dr Walker said. “I’ve never seen anything like that.”

“The students, I think, will never forget it,” he added.

Dr Cam Walker and Dr Mark Hankin at Oregon Health and Science University
Dr Cam Walker and Dr Mark Hankin who researched Mrs Bentley’s rare case

Mrs Bentley lived most of her adult life in Oregon, near the rural north-western town of Molalla. She owned and operated the Bentley Feed Store with her husband.

Louise Allee, one of Mr and Mrs Bentley’s five children, told the Oregon Health and Science University that her mother would love the attention her rare case is receiving.

“My mom would think this was so cool”, Ms Allee said.

Mrs Bentley’s children told the university that she lived a very healthy life, without any chronic conditions except for arthritis.

She had had three surgeries, but only the doctor who removed her appendix noted its atypical location in her body.

Both Mr and Mrs Bentley decided to donate their bodies to the Oregon Health and Science University body donation programme, after reading a poem by Robert Noel Test about remembering departed loved ones.

“She would probably get a big smile on her face”, said Ms Allee to the university. “Knowing that she was different, but made it through.”

Canada to reject refugees with claims in other countries

Canada intends to change the law to make it harder for asylum seekers rejected by countries like the US to file refugee claims at the border.

The move comes as thousands of asylum seekers have crossed the border after their claims were rejected in the US.

Amendments were introduced on Monday evening in the Liberal government’s 392-page omnibus budget bill.

An influx of asylum seekers crossing at the US-Canada border has become a hot button political issue.

The law would allow immigration officers at the border to reject refugee claims if the asylum seeker has already made a claim in another country that has an immigration information-sharing agreement with Canada.

These countries include the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand.

The asylum seeker would no longer be entitled to an oral hearing and the claim could not be appealed to an independent tribunal.

Instead, denied claimants would have the right to submit a written, pre-removal risk assessment, which lawyer Kevin Wiener says has about a 3% success rate.

“I expect this to be a major change for Canada’s refugee system and I’m surprised to see it buried in a budget bill,” he told the BBC in an email.

“If immigration officers are going to be the new front-line decision-makers for a large volume of refugee claims, then the government needs to make sure they do a better job at providing fair and reasonable decision-making.”

Some 20,000 asylum seekers crossed at the US border in 2018, many of whom had already made refugee claims in the US.

There are over 200,000 pending asylum claims, and the wait for hearings by Canada’s refugee board have edged up to an average of 20 months.

Municipalities near the border have repurposed old stadiums and community centres into housing facilities for refugees waiting to have their claims processed.

It has caused tensions between the federal government and municipal and provincial governments, who have complained about funding refugee services.

In this year’s budget, the government pledged to spend more than C$1bn ($750m; £580m) for border services over the next five years.

The Crown: Newcomer Emma Corrin cast as Princess Diana

Newcomer Emma Corrin has been cast as Princess Diana in the fourth season of The Crown.

Netflix confirmed the decision in a press release, adding filming will begin later this year.

In an accompanying quote, Corrin said she was “beyond excited” to be joining the show – a dramatised history of the British monarchy.

“Princess Diana was an icon, and her effect on the world remains profound and inspiring,” she said.

The Crown’s creator Peter Morgan described Corrin as a “brilliant talent” who “immediately captivated” casting directors.

The actress is set to make her film debut in Misbehavior, a historical drama following a group of of women from the Women’s Liberation Movement as they attempt to disrupt the 1970 Miss World beauty competition in London.

She becomes the latest actress to join the revolving cast of The Crown, as the show jumps forward in time with different stars playing the Royals every two seasons.

Olivia Colman and Tobias Menzies in The Crown
Oscar-winner Olivia Colman takes over as the Queen in the next series

Season three — set to debut in late 2019 — will see Olivia Colman take over Claire Foy’s role as Queen Elizabeth and focus on the Harold Wilson era between 1964-1970.

Corrin, meanwhile, will begin by dramatising Princess Diana’s failed marriage to Prince Charles during the years of Margaret Thatcher’s government.

BBC Rewind: Remembering Diana

Princess Diana died in a car accident in August 1997 and her death sparked an outpouring of public grief.

Netflix’s content chief Ted Sarandos has previously said the plan is for the show to run for six seasons, spanning the Queen’s entire life.

Israeli election: No clear winner, exit polls indicate

Exit polls in Israel suggest there will be no clear winner in the closely fought general election.

The centrist Blue and White alliance of former military chief Benny Gantz was projected to win 36 or 37 seats, with the Likud party of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on 33 to 36.

Both men have claimed victory.

Two exit polls predicted that right-wing parties allied to Mr Netanyahu were more likely to be able to form a governing coalition.

But a third exit poll predicted that the bloc would be tied with centre-left parties allied to Mr Gantz.

“We won! The Israeli public has had its say!” Blue and White said in a statement. “These elections have a clear winner and a clear loser.”

Mr Netanyahu tweeted: “The right-ring bloc led by Likud triumphed conclusively. I thank the citizens of Israel for the vote of confidence. I will begin the task of forming a right-wing government with our natural partners tonight.”

No party has ever won a majority in Israel’s 120-seat parliament, the Knesset, and the country has always had coalition governments.

What are the exit polls predicting?

Three Israeli television networks carried out separate exit polls:

  • Public broadcaster Kan projected that Blue and White would win 37 seats and Likud 36. It said the right-wing bloc was expected to control 64 seats in parliament and the centre-left bloc 56
  • Channel 13 predicted both parties with end up with 36 seats, but that right-wing parties would control 66 seats to the centre-left’s 54
  • Channel 12 News projected that Blue and White would win 37 seats and Likud 33 seats. But it had the centre-left and right-wing blocs both controlling 60 seats

The three predicted that the left-wing Labour party would win between six and eight seats, and the left-wing Meretz party between four and five seats.

It was not clear how many of the more than 40 smaller parties contesting the election would win at least 3.25% of the national vote – the threshold for entering parliament with four seats.

Two exit polls suggested outgoing Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s New Right party and Moshe Feiglin’s ultra-nationalist Zehut party had not passed the threshold.

Graphic showing Israeli election exit poll projections

At the election night event for Benny Gantz in Tel Aviv, a huge cheer went up as the first exit poll was released.

His supporters expressed confidence that Israel could be on the brink of a new centre-ground government.

“Change is on the way,” one activist told me above the roars of celebration.

But the outcome is far from clear. At the last election, the exit polls were dramatically wrong.

And the real politics start now if there is a close result – as both main parties canvas Israel’s president for the right to start talks to assemble a coalition.

#Brexit: What are #EU countries doing to prepare for no deal?

Theresa May is trying to persuade European Union (EU) leaders to extend the Brexit deadline, amid political deadlock at home. British MPs have rejected her divorce deal with the EU three times.

As things stand, the UK is scheduled to leave the EU on 12 April – without an agreement.

The UK government has stepped up its planningfor a no-deal Brexit, covering areas such as transport, healthcare, energy, food and water.

What is the EU doing to prepare for this scenario?

European Commission

The European Commission has set out its readiness for the “increasingly likely” chances of no deal. It covers basic arrangements for road hauliers, flights and financial services.

The Commission reiterated that these would not replicate the conditions of EU membership and said that it would be “required to immediately apply its rules and tariffs at its borders”.

The document, however, did not mention what would happen to the Irish border.

The Commission has a website which links to advice from all of the EU member countries. Here are summaries of the measures taken by some of them.

Irish landscape: view from the top of Slieve Gullion (County Armagh)
The 499km (310-mile) Northern Ireland border would be hard to police


The Republic of Ireland has been preparing for Brexit for a long time.

It’s clear that a no-deal Brexit would raise serious questions for the Irish economy.

Ireland passed no deal Brexit legislation, in February, which covers a number of important issues such as allowing for pension and other benefits to be paid, for cross-border rail and bus services to continue and for citizens to access services across the border as they do now.

But, the most important issue – the future of the land border with Northern Ireland – does not feature in the legislation.

Ireland, the UK and the EU all say they want to avoid any physical infrastructure at the border. But an EU official said checks on goods would need to be done and the EU and Ireland were working on carrying them out away from the border.

In the event of no deal, the EU would add new shipping links between Ireland and ports in France, Belgium and the Netherlands; the EU says funding for this would be a priority in its budget.

The Irish government has plans to expand port infrastructure in Dublin and Rosslare, to allow inspections of trucks arriving from the UK and of live animals, and to accommodate extra staff.

Cars queuing in Calais
France is creating extra facilities in Calais, a vital hub for trade with the UK


The French customs service has been preparing for Brexit for some time and is planning to recruit 700 extra staff by the end of 2020.

It has also produced detailed online information for businesses with advice on transporting live animals, fish, chemical products, medicines and waste.

France is spending €50m (£43m) on expanding port infrastructure to accommodate additional officials and customs checks. If there is no deal, new border inspection posts will be needed to check food, plants and live animals.

For veterinary checks, 117 new inspectors have already been trained after a fast-track programme and are ready to take up their posts. The majority will be based in Calais.

The French parliament passed a law in January to give the government (rather than parliament) the power to introduce new measures by emergency decree to cope with a no-deal Brexit. The law covers, among other things, the rights of UK nationals living and working in France.

Further advice for citizens and companies is available on the French government’s website.

German cars preparing for export
German VWs bound for export: they could face 10% tariffs in the UK under no-deal


Germany has produced less detailed public information than France, which has led to some frustration among business leaders and opposition parties.

The German government has a special Brexit cabinet, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel. It says it is well prepared for all eventualities.

Behind the scenes, Germany is making many of the same preparations as France, including the recruitment of 900 extra customs staff.

In areas of social security, tax issues and financial services, the German government has initiated new legislation with the aim of creating legal certainty if there is no deal.

But the government says its biggest priority is protecting the interests of citizens on both sides of the Channel.

In the event of no deal, the government would give British citizens living in Germany an initial period of three months during which their rights to live and work there would not change. However, they would have to apply for residence permits during that period.

Container ship in port of Rotterdam
Rotterdam handles a vast amount of cargo going to and from the UK

The Netherlands

The Dutch have been busy. Last year the government said more than 900 customs officials and an extra 145 vets would be needed for the Port of Rotterdam.

The foreign ministry has published a no-deal Brexit impact document which says that this outcome would be “accompanied by disruptions and problems”.

It says 321 customs officials are ready to be deployed as well as an extra 14 border guards to carry out checks on UK nationals entering the country.

The main international airport, Schiphol, will have more than 100 extra customs staff. UK passport holders will face stricter checks, the airport says. Some 10.5m people fly between Schiphol and the UK every year.

British nationals and their family members who were legally resident in the Netherlands before the UK’s departure would retain their right to live, study and work in the Netherlands for 15 months, through a temporary residence permit.

The government estimated that around 45,000 British nationals and their family members currently have residence rights, with around 20,000 of them working in the Netherlands.

British students already studying in the Netherlands will be able to continue on the same terms as before, but anyone planning to study there after a no-deal Brexit will have to pay much higher tuition fees.

Ostend fish stall, file pic
An Ostend fish stall: Brexit means extra food inspections in Belgium


An extra 141 customs officers are being deployed in the port cities of Ghent, Antwerp and Zeebrugge to cope with the impact of Brexit. Antwerp, Europe’s second-biggest port, currently has 3,400 customs staff.

The greatest impact is expected in Zeebrugge, as 45% of the port’s traffic is with the UK.

Belgium’s government says it will maintain current rights for UK nationals – residence and social security – until the end of 2020, and the same goes for their tax status.

Belgium’s national food safety authority AFSCA will recruit 300 extra staff in the event of no deal, to check food going to and from the UK.

Beach in Spain
Spain wants to minimise any Brexit harm to its vital tourist industry


Spain has announced it needs an additional 860 employees for airports and ports to carry out checks on people, goods and animals.

But, as in many other countries, the issue of citizens’ rights is the most pressing one. On 1 March, Spain’s cabinet approved temporary measures for Britons in Spain to continue living there as now, if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

Under the measures, which will become law if the UK leaves the EU with no deal, Britons living in Spain would have to apply for the “foreigner identity card” before 31 December 2020, to prove their legal residency status.

More than 300,000 UK nationals are officially resident in Spain – the highest number in Europe, outside the UK.

There are many pensioners among the UK nationals in Spain. The Spanish measures include healthcare provisions, stating that the current conditions will continue – provided the UK government reciprocates for Spaniards living in the UK.

Rock of Gibraltar
Gibraltar remains a thorny issue between Spain and the UK


The Spanish plans would also cover Gibraltar, although certain additional provisions may apply, including Spain’s power of veto over issues relating to the British Overseas Territory in any future agreement between the UK and the EU.

An estimated 9,000 Spanish citizens work in Gibraltar, and the Madrid government says the measures would be contingent on them receiving the same rights as British citizens.

The Government of Gibraltar’s no-deal planning has been focused on possible delays at the border with Spain, which is crossed by thousands of people every day. It has also issued a number of notices with advice to citizens on healthcare, driving, studying, financial services, mobile phone roaming and other issues.

Buhari Owes Nigerians Explanation For N24trillion Debt, Says PDP

The leading opposition party called on the National Assembly to limit the Buhari administration’s ability to take loans for the country if explanations are not given for how previously borrowed funds were handled.

he Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) says President Muhammadu Buhari has exhibited a culture of unexplained borrowings since he assumed power in 2015.

In a statement issued on Monday by Kola Ologbondiyan, National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, the party called on the National Assembly to probe the rise in debt of the current administration.

The PDP said the country’s debt profile which used to be at N12.12trillion in 2015 has grown to N24.38 trillion due to the President’s culture of heavy borrowings and the lack of initiative to think up ideas that would make the economy productive. 

The leading opposition party called on the National Assembly to limit the Buhari administration’s ability to take loans for the country if explanations are not given for how previously borrowed funds were handled. 

The party said: “Since President Buhari assumed office in 2015, there has been a culture of unexplained borrowings leading to a steep rise in the debt stock from N17.5trillion in 2016 to N21.72trillion in 2017 and a huge N24.387trillion in 2018.

“It is shocking and completely insupportable that our nation’s debt had risen from N21.72trillion in December 2017, to N24.387trillion in December 2018, showing an accumulation of a whopping N2.66trillion in the space of one year.

“The President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, therefore, has a huge explanation to make to Nigerians for its borrowing spree, especially as it cannot point to any meaningful development project into which the borrowed funds were invested.

“This is particularly against the backdrop of allegations in the public space that the borrowed funds, which were taken as development funds, were diverted to 2019 general election campaign activities of the APC, a huge part of which ended in private pockets of corrupt APC leaders.

“This is, in addition, to direct frittering of public funds through the alleged N1.4trillion sleazy oil subsidy regime, the looted N9trillion detailed in the leaked NNPC memo, the alleged N33billion fraud in the handling of funds meant for the welfare of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the North East, among other sleazes.

“Nigerians cannot afford to continue to bear the burden of an incompetent and insensitive administration and that is why they eagerly await the retrieval of our stolen mandate at the Presidential election petition tribunal.”

Belgian twins freed by court amid confusion over identity

Twin brothers from the Belgian city of Leuven have been acquitted of involvement in a snack-bar fight because they could not be told apart.

Ibrahim and Murat A were both put on trial for assault and causing injury to a man during a row in October 2015.

Police obtained CCTV footage of the attack, but the brothers looked so alike that neither police nor the victim could work out who was to blame.

The court said there was insufficient evidence to convict both twins.

The brothers, both 28, became caught up in an argument when one of them fell off his bike outside the Citysnack outlet in Leuven (Louvain in French), a university city to the east of Brussels.

The mishap prompted hoots of laughter from passersby which went down badly with the two men, reports said.

One of the brothers reacted angrily, launching a punch at one man, while the other tried to hold him back.

Although both brothers were called for questioning only one turned up, claiming that he had initially tried to stop his brother attacking the other man but had then thrown the punch himself, De Standaard reported.

While his evidence was not borne out by the CCTV images, police were unable to tell the two brothers apart from the footage and in the end the pictures were not used in court. Witnesses gave evidence in the case but failed to provide further clarity.

“It’s obvious that one of them actively tried to hold the other back. So he can’t be judged as either perpetrator or accomplice,” the judge was quoted as saying by Het Laatste Nieuws.

The police investigation had established that one of the brothers had carried out an assault, the judge ruled, but it was unclear which of the two it was.

According to HLN, the two brothers have appeared in court before. In 2011, one of them was given a suspended jail term for theft with violence while his brother was acquitted because of contradictory evidence.

Brexit: Donald Tusk suggests “flexible” delay of up to a year

European Council president Donald Tusk has suggested offering the UK a “flexible” extension to Brexit of up to a year, with the option of leaving earlier if a deal is ratified.

He said there was “little reason to believe” a Brexit deal would be approved by the extension deadline UK PM Theresa May has requested – 30 June.

Writing to EU leaders, he said any delay should have conditions attached.

EU states will vote on the extension proposals at a summit on Wednesday.

A draft EU document circulated to diplomats ahead of the emergency summit also proposes an extension but leaves the date of the proposed new deadline blank.

The BBC’s Brussels correspondent Emmanuel Justice, said the document referred to an extension lasting “only as long as is necessary and, in any event, no longer than XX.XX.XXXX and ending earlier if the withdrawal agreement is ratified”.

The UK is currently due to leave the EU at 23:00 BST on Friday.

Meanwhile, Mrs May has been meeting French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin for talks ahead of the summit.

Afterwards, she said a delay that ran until the end of this year or the start of 2020 was a possibility.

Mr Tusk said granting the 30 June extension that Mrs May is seeking “would increase the risk of a rolling series of short extensions and emergency summits, creating new cliff-edge dates”.

And if the European Council did not agree on an extension at all, “there would be a risk of an accidental no-deal Brexit”, he said.

“One possibility would be a flexible extension, which would last only as long as necessary and no longer than one year, as beyond that date we will need to decide unanimously on some key European projects.”

There was no-one to greet the PM as she arrived to meet the German chancellor for Brexit talks in Berlin

Mr Tusk said the EU would need to agree on a number of conditions to be attached to any proposed extension, including that there would be no re-opening of negotiations on the withdrawal agreement.

He said the UK should be treated “with the highest respect” and “neither side should be allowed to feel humiliated”.

Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris
Theresa May met French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris for last-minute talks ahead of Wednesday’s EU summit

Downing Street said Mrs May had discussed the UK’s request for an extension of Article 50 – the process by which the UK leaves the EU – until 30 June, with the option to make it shorter if a deal is ratified earlier, with both Ms Merkel and Mr Macron.

The prime minister and Chancellor Merkel agreed on the importance of ensuring Britain’s orderly withdrawal, a statement said.

Mrs May and Mr Macron also discussed next month’s European Parliamentary elections, with the prime minister saying the government was “working very hard” to avoid the need for the UK to take part as it is supposed to if it is still a member of the EU on 23 May.

Following a meeting of the EU’s General Affairs Council in Luxembourg, diplomats said “slightly more than a handful” of member states spoke in favour of delaying Article 50 until 30 June but the majority were in favour of a longer extension.

EU leaders are curious to hear the prime minister’s Plan B. They hope there is one, although they’re not convinced.

Analysts By Mr Ben Rory Europe editor

They want to know, if they say, “Yes,” to another Brexit extension, what it will be used for.

And they suspect Theresa May wants them to do her dirty work for her.

EU diplomatic sources I have spoken to suggest the prime minister may have officially asked the EU for a short new extension (until 30 June) as that was politically easier for her back home, whereas she believed and hoped (the theory goes) that EU leaders will insist instead on a flexible long extension that she actually needs.

The bottom line is: EU leaders are extremely unlikely to refuse to further extend the Brexit process.

So far, UK MPs have rejected the withdrawal agreement Mrs May reached with other European leaders last year.

One of most contentious parts of the plan is the Irish backstop – an insurance policy that aims to prevent the reinstatement of a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Andrea Leadsom: Merkel should reopen withdrawal deal

The EU has continually said it will not re-open the withdrawal agreement for negotiations, but Leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom has renewed her plea for it to look at it again.

Meanwhile, the latest round of talks between Labour and the Conservatives aimed at breaking the impasse in Parliament have finished for the day with both sides expressing hope there would be progress.

They are hoping to reach compromise changes to the Brexit deal agreed by Mrs May that could be accepted by the Commons, with Labour pushing for the inclusion of a customs union.

That would allow tariff-free trade in goods with the EU but limit the UK from striking its own deals. Leaving the arrangement was a Conservative manifesto commitment.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said the talks had been “open and constructive” but the sides differed on a “number of areas”.

Labour’s shadow business secretary Rebecca Long Bailey said they were “hopeful progress will be made”.

Further talks will be held on Thursday.

On Tuesday afternoon, MPs also approved a government motion for Mrs May to ask the EU to delay Brexit until June 30, required after, a bill from Labour’s Yvette Cooper became law.

How did your MP vote on Brexit motions on 9 April?

Enter a postcode, or the name or constituency of your MP

If Labour and the government cannot agree on a way forward, Mrs May has promised to put a series of Brexit options to the Commons to vote on – with the government to be bound by the result.

These options could include holding another referendum on any Brexit deal agreed by Parliament.

#Brexit: Theresa May meets Emmanuel Macron for delay request

Theresa May is holding last-minute Brexit talks with the French President Emmanuel Macron, with the UK due to leave the EU in three days’ time.

The UK PM will urge Mr Macron to back her request to delay Brexit again until 30 June, having earlier met German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.

After the talks, Ms Merkel said a delay that runs to the end of the year or the start of 2020 was a possibility.

There is a summit on Wednesday when all EU states will vote on an extension.

Cross-party talks in Westminster aimed at breaking the impasse in Parliament finished, with both sides expressing hope there would be progress.

A draft EU document circulated to diplomats ahead of the emergency meeting of EU leaders proposes an extension but leaves the date blank.

The BBC’s Brussels correspondent Mr Ben Rory, said the document refers to an extension lasting “only as long as is necessary and, in any event, no longer than XX.XX.XXXX and ending earlier if the Withdrawal Agreement is ratified”.

European Council president Donald Tusk said there was “little reason to believe” that the ratification process of the withdrawal agreement could be completed by the end of June.

In a letter to EU leaders, he said at Wednesday’s summit members should discuss “an alternative, longer extension” that will be flexible and “would last only as long as necessary and no longer than one year”.

The UK is currently due to leave the EU at 23:00 BST on Friday.

Downing Street said Mrs May and Ms Merkel discussed the UK’s request for an extension of Article 50 – the process by which the UK leaves the EU – to 30 June, with the option to bring this forward if a deal is ratified earlier.

The prime minister and Chancellor Merkel agreed “on the importance of ensuring Britain’s orderly withdrawal”, a statement said.

There was no-one to greet the PM as she arrived to meet the German chancellor for Brexit talks in Berlin

Ms Merkel said EU leaders would discuss a “flextension” – a one-year flexible extension – at Wednesday’s summit.

Following a meeting of the EU’s General Affairs Council in Luxembourg, diplomats said “slightly more than a handful” of member states spoke in favour of a delay to 30 June and a majority were in favour of a longer extension.

Adam Fleming said no maximum end extension date was agreed, although December 2019 and March 2020 were mentioned.

Conditions of a delay were discussed including UK participation in May’s European Parliament elections, no re-opening of the withdrawal agreement and how to guarantee the UK’s pledge of “sincere co-operation” in ongoing EU business.

So far, MPs have rejected the withdrawal agreement Mrs May reached with other European leaders last year.

One of most contentious parts of the plan is the Irish backstop – an insurance policy that aims to prevent a hard border returning to the island of Ireland.

Andrea Leadsom: Merkel should reopen withdrawal deal

The EU has continually said it will not re-open the withdrawal agreement for negotiations, but Leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom renewed her plea for them to look again.

Meanwhile, Environment Secretary Michael Gove said cross-party talks aimed at breaking the impasse in Parliament had been “open and constructive”, but the two sides differed on a “number of areas”.

Labour’s shadow business secretary Rebecca Long Bailey said they were “hopeful progress will be made” and discussions with the government will continue in the “coming days”.

Further talks are due to be held on Thursday.

In a leaked letter seen by the Telegraph, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox has warned that agreeing with Labour over its demand for a customs union is the “worst of both worlds” and will leave Britain unable to set its own trade policy.

On Tuesday afternoon, MPs approved a government motion asking MPs to approve the PM’s request to the EU to delay Brexit, required after a bill from Labour’s Yvette Cooper became law.

The final decision on an extension lies with the EU – and the leaders of all the 27 other EU countries have to decide whether to grant or reject an extension.

If the UK is still a member of the EU on 23 May, it will have to take part in European Parliamentary elections.

Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said the UK would “certainly not” leave without a deal on Friday.

But Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney said a no-deal Brexit was still possible – even though it would represent “an extraordinary failure of politics”.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said the EU has “hope and expectation” from the cross-party talks happening in Westminster and he would be willing to “improve” the political declaration “within hours”.

EU leaders are curious to hear the prime minister’s Plan B. They hope there is one, although they’re not convinced.

They want to know, if they say yes to another Brexit extension, what it will be used for.

And they suspect Theresa May wants them to do her dirty work for her.

EU diplomatic sources I have spoken to suggest the prime minister may have officially asked the EU for a short new extension (until 30 June) as that was politically easier for her back home, whereas she believed and hoped (the theory goes) that EU leaders will insist instead on a flexible long extension that she actually needs.

The bottom line is: EU leaders are extremely unlikely to refuse to further extend the Brexit process.

If no cross-party compromise can be reached, Mrs May has committed to putting a series of Brexit options to the Commons and being bound by the result.

This could include the option of holding a public vote on any deal agreed by Parliament.

Tory MP and government aide to the chancellor, Huw Merriman, said he backed a “People’s Vote” to secure the public’s support for the prime minister’s deal.

Speaking at a rally for the campaign, he said it was “seriously wrong” that he had been threatened with the sack, and said he wanted another vote in order to “get this country through the mess we are currently in”.

Key dates in the week ahead

  • Tuesday: Theresa May travels to Berlin, and Paris, for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron. Commons vote on motion to approve the PM’s request to the EU to delay Brexit
  • Wednesday: PMQs in the Commons. Emergency summit of EU leaders to consider UK request for further extension until 30 June, with the option of an earlier Brexit day if a deal can be agreed
  • Friday: Brexit day, if UK is not granted a further delay
Flowchart on next steps

Brexit: EU keen to quiz Theresa May ahead of summit

Europe’s leaders feel they have already lost far too much political time on Brexit.

Again today, Prime Minister Theresa May heads to Paris and Berlin for talks with Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel – this after a number of phone calls on Monday with other EU leaders – with little up her sleeve or in her pocket to share with them.

But far from showing impatience (OK, Berlin and Paris would have been happy with a call rather than a more time-consuming visit), EU leaders have welcomed being in contact with Mrs May ahead of Wednesday’s Brexit summit.

She doesn’t have a great track record for “getting the tone right on the night” at EU gatherings. And with a no-deal Brexit looming this Friday, the EU thinks this is no time for misunderstandings.

There is little European expectation that cross-party talks with opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn will come to fruition this week – if ever.

So, EU leaders are curious to hear the prime minister’s Plan B. They hope there is one, although they’re not convinced.

They want to know, if they say yes to another Brexit extension, what it will be used for.

And they suspect Theresa May wants them to do her dirty work for her. EU diplomatic sources I have spoken to suggest the prime minister may have officially asked the EU for a short new extension (until 30 June) as that was politically easier for her back home, whereas she believed and hoped (the theory goes) that EU leaders would insist instead on a flexible long extension that she actually needs.

The bottom line is: EU leaders are extremely unlikely to refuse to further extend the Brexit process.

Theresa May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn
Government ministers are continuing talks with Labour leaders to try to find a compromise deal

France’s Emmanuel Macron has been built up in the press (and he has done much to encourage this image) as the Brexit villain who could veto an extension and force no deal on Friday.

But, while possible, it is unlikely. There is no EU appetite for a chaotic Brexit. And while President Macron relishes playing bad cop, he alone will not want to be responsible for the effects of no deal in Calais and on the Irish border.

The first is bad for France, the other for Ireland (Mr Macron spoke of his solidarity with Ireland while in Dublin only last week) and for the EU as a whole – with a threat to the integrity of the single market along the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland after a no-deal Brexit.

Rather than vetoing an extension altogether, Mr Macron is more likely to push for tough conditions to any new Brexit delay, These are:

  1. That the UK prepares to take part in European parliamentary elections (all EU countries are agreed on this)
  2. That this new extension be the last one on offer to the UK
  3. That the UK makes political commitments to abstain from or at least not to obstruct key decisions on the EU’s future – such as the next EU budget – as long as the extension lasts

It’s hard to see how the two last conditions could be made legally enforceable. But demanding “tough conditions” has as much to do with Mr Macron putting on his Defender of Europe hat for a wide audience, as anything else.

Aside from extension conditions, EU leaders are still split over how long any new Brexit delay could or should be.

Some feel a short extension would keep up the pressure on MPs to finally come to a Brexit conclusion. Others favour a longer extension – nine months to a year but with the UK able to duck out early after parliament ratifies a Brexit deal (the so-called “flextension”).

Bear in mind, EU leaders are beginning to lose credibility at home for allowing the Brexit can to be constantly kicked down the road. Uncertainty is costly for European businesses too.

The Belgian prime minister has asked an inner core of countries most affected by Brexit – including Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and France – to meet a couple of hours before the summit on Wednesday starts to try to iron out some of their differences ahead of time.

Trump: Court defeat on asylum policy ‘unfair to US’

US President Donald Trump has lashed out at a judge for blocking his policy of sending asylum seekers to Mexico to await court hearings in their cases.

“A 9th Circuit judge just ruled that Mexico is too dangerous for migrants,” he tweeted. “So unfair to the US.”

His policy would have returned migrants back over the border while they sought a legal right to stay in the US.

The legal defeat comes as migrant numbers at the US-Mexico border surged to their highest since 2008.

Mr Trump was said to be livid after US immigration officials estimated border apprehensions in March had topped 100,000.

The San Francisco ninth district judge’s order on Monday against the migrant policy is not due to go into effect until this Friday, giving US officials a chance to appeal.

Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which implements Mr Trump’s immigration directives, is in turmoil following a major shake-up.

DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen quit on Sunday after being summoned to the White House by the president.

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley called on Mr Trump on Monday to halt the leadership purge at the agency.

The senior senator told the Washington Post he was “very, very concerned” about reports of possible further DHS dismissals.

“The president has to have some stability and particularly with the number one issue that he’s made for his campaign,” Mr Grassley said.

“He’s pulling the rug out from the very people that are trying to help him accomplish his goal.”

Last week Mr Trump rescinded his own nomination of Ronald Vitiello as director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Speaking to Fox News on Monday, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said: “It’s time to do things a little differently.

The boy who risked his life for an American dream

“The president’s looking around to reshape his team so he can have the people in place to carry out his agenda.”

There are also reports that the president is preparing to toughen his stance on immigration.

According to the New York Times, Mr Trump is considering implementing further limits on asylum seekers, ending birthright citizenship, and closing ports of entry at the Mexican border.

But Mr Trump denied on Tuesday reports that his administration was planning once again to separate families caught crossing the border.

“We are not looking to do it,” he said.

He added: “Once you don’t have it [child separation], that’s why you see many more people coming. They’re coming like it’s a picnic because let’s go to Disneyland.”

‘I thought we would be treated differently in US’

More than 2,700 immigrant children were separated from their parents last year under a so-called zero tolerance US policy to prosecute anyone caught crossing the border illegally.

According to US media, the White House has recently been considering a “binary choice” policy.

This would give migrant parents awaiting immigration hearings two options: agree for their child to be held separately, or be detained together, possibly indefinitely, until their court date.

A 1997 court decision known as the Flores agreement states that immigrant children are only allowed to be held for 20 days.

President Donald Trump speaks as Senior Advisor to the President Stephen Miller (C) listens during a round-table discussion on border security and safe communities with State, local, and community leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House on January 11, 2019
Stephen Miller (centre) listens as President Trump speaks at a border security round-table discussion

The Trump administration has reportedly drafted a regulation to change these rules, an official told the Axios news website, so that the government could detain children for longer periods of time.

Senior White House adviser Stephen Miller is said to be encouraging the president to adopt an increasingly hardline stance on immigration.

Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar on Monday called Mr Miller “a white nationalist” on Twitter.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks to young leaders from across Europe
Former President Barack Obama speaks to young leaders from across Europe

Meanwhile, amid an ongoing debate about immigration on both sides of the Atlantic, former President Barack Obama told young people at a town hall meeting in Berlin, Germany: “We can’t label everybody disturbed by immigration as racist.”

He also said immigrants should be encouraged to learn the language of their adopted country.

Antonio Candreva: Footballer helps tuna-and-crackers lunch girl

Inter Milan football star Antonio Candreva has stepped in to pay school meal fees for a girl from a poor immigrant family who was given tuna and crackers instead of the normal lunch.

Italian media say the girl burst into tears when she was given the reduced lunch, at a primary school near Verona.

“I’m ready to help the parents pay the canteen,” Candreva told the mayor of Minerbe, 35km (22 miles) from Verona.

A political row erupted, as the mayor is in the anti-immigration League.

The League’s most prominent politician is Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, in a populist coalition government with anti-establishment Five Star.

Minerbe’s Mayor Andrea Girardi said the girl’s reduced meal of tuna and crackers was simply a gesture of “correctness towards the families who pay the [canteen] fee regularly”.

The centre-left Democratic Party (PD) accused the authorities of “a discriminatory choice”.

Reports say other children ate pasta and a second dish, while the girl just had tinned tuna and crackers.

Tinned tuna and crackers, file pic

The story went viral on Italian social media and it emerged that other children from poor immigrant families faced a similar predicament at the school.

In some cases, according to the daily La Repubblica, teachers gave their lunches to children whose parents could not afford the canteen fee.

Mayor Girardi, quoted by Corriere della Sera (in Italian), said “we’re helping about 30 families who are in difficulties at that school”.

Explaining the school meals policy, he said: “We face dozens of insolvent parents and can’t cover the costs. So we decided on a line that could move things on.

“We didn’t want to get to this point, but we risked failing to provide meals for the families who did pay regularly.”

Minerbe’s PD councillors were quoted as saying: “How can you call it fair, when a primary school girl is humiliated because her parents are in arrears?”

Conditions for short Brexit delay have not been met, says Berlin

German EU affairs minister says failure to end Westminster impasse points to no-deal or long extension

Germany’s EU affairs minister has complained that “absolutely nothing has changed” in Westminster, 24 hours before the bloc’s leaders come together to decide on a possible BREXIT delay.

Michael Roth said cross-party talks had not offered any hope of an imminent Brexit breakthrough, leaving the UK facing a no-deal or a long extension to its EU membership.

Theresa May has written to Brussels asking for a limited extension until 30 June to allow her to get the withdrawal agreement approved in the Commons.

She has claimed that the talks with Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition, are evidence of a new direction being taken by the British government.

But, before May’s meetings on Tuesday with the French president, Emmanuel Macron, in Paris, and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, in Berlin, Roth offered a downbeat assessment of the state of play.

“It’s groundhog day again,” he said. “Unfortunately I have to say that the conditions the European council has decided on in its last meeting have not been met. This means time will run out on 12 April.”

Roth added: “Of course the EU continues to be willing to talk, there is also a letter by the prime minister, May.

“We will very carefully have to look at this letter. We are finally expecting substantial steps in the right direction. So far absolutely nothing has changed.

“Of course we are also thinking about such a deadline extension, including a long extension of the deadline, but this also has to come with very strict criteria.

“For example, it cannot be that there are speculations without an obligation of the British side to also partake in the European elections. Therefore we are in a very frustrating situation and the EU has to finally also take care of issues of the future.

“We might also have to give the British side time so they can finally be clear about what they actually want. Apparently the very late talks with the British opposition have not led to any progress whatsoever either.”

A lack of confidence in May’s ability to find a majority for her withdrawal agreement has made a long extension of up to a year attractive to some EU capitals who want to avoid being repeatedly dragged into the Brexit drama.

Meanwhile, France has in recent days warned that having not found a clear plan to get the Brexit deal passed in the Commons, the UK government will have chosen by default to crash out of the bloc.

The UK is due to leave by 12 April unless the British government is able to “indicate a way forward”, which it is yet to do.

“That’s why there is not exactly an unlimited willingness of the, European Union, to always talk about extensions as long as there is no substantial progress on the British side,” Roth told reporters in Luxembourg, where Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, is meeting EU affairs ministers.

France’s Europe minister, Amélie de Montchalin, said: “The UK has asked for an extension. The French position hasn’t changed.

“We consider this demand is neither agreed nor automatic. It’s very important this demand comes with a credible political plan which will pass during the extension.”

George Ciamba, Romania’s minister for European affairs, welcomed May’s commitment to hold European elections if the UK were still a member state beyond 22 May but said the bloc needed to have more confidence that the Brexit impasse could be broken in Westminster.

He said: “For tomorrow, we have to find out the message coming from London. There is not so much new, besides the letter and beside the commitment that has to have all the political will behind to organise European elections.

“We are still looking to see how these different votes in the House of Commons can result in something meaningful because for the time being, it’s a sort of labyrinth. We still need more clarity and something that would give us an idea of how we go ahead.”

Simon Coveney, Ireland’s deputy prime minister, said he believed that the cross-party talks in themselves were a sufficiently new development for the EU to extend the negotiating period beyond the current cliff-edge of 12 April.

But Coveney admitted there were differing opinions within the bloc. “I suspect there will be comments from various different leaders as to their country’s preference in terms of long or short extension,” he said. “But I think there will be a strong view that countries need to work together to avoid a no-deal Brexit.”

Coveney added: “The current process that is under way in London, where the Conservative party and the Labour party are talking seriously about trying to find a middle-ground position is something I think ministers will want to encourage.

“They will also want to see a clear plan of how an extension can deliver what we all want, which is a managed and sensible Brexit with the withdrawal agreement ratified and in place, so we can move on to the next stage of Brexit in a controlled transition period.”

#Dubai: Daughter of #Facebook ‘horse’ insult woman makes plea

The daughter of a British woman who is facing prison in Dubai for calling her ex-husband’s new wife a “horse” on Facebook has pleaded for her release.

Laleh Shahravesh, 55, was arrested at Dubai airport after flying to the city to attend her ex-husband’s funeral.

Her daughter, Paris, has written to Dubai’s ruler saying she has not seen her mother in more than three weeks.

“I ask kindly: please, please return my mother’s passport, and let her come home,” said the 14-year-old.

The Foreign Office said it was supporting mother-of-one Ms Shahravesh.

Ms Shahravesh, from Richmond in south-west London, was married to her Portuguese husband Pedro for 18 years, according to campaign group Detained in Dubai which is working to get her released.

The couple lived together in Dubai for eight months – where Pedro worked for HSBC – before Ms Shahravesh returned alone to the UK with the couple’s daughter.

Paris Shahravesh Correia Dos Santos, the daughter of Laleh Shahravesh, has written to the ruler
Paris says she and her mother were “intermittently yelled at” by police

In 2016, she received divorce papers and discovered on Facebook that Pedro was remarrying.

Writing in Farsi on Facebook, Ms Shahravesh said: “I hope you go under the ground you idiot. Damn you. You left me for this horse.” In another post, she wrote: “You married a horse you idiot.”

Ms Shahravesh was arrested in Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), on 10 March after travelling there for Pedro’s funeral following his death from a heart attack at the age of 51.

Under the UAE’s cyber-crime laws, a person can be jailed or fined for making defamatory statements on social media.

Detained in Dubai said Ms Shahravesh could be sentenced to up to two years in prison or fined £50,000, despite the fact she wrote the social media posts while in the UK. The organisation said Ms Shahravesh’s ex-husband’s new wife, who lives in Dubai, had reported the comments.

‘Sick in my stomach’

On Monday, an open letter was published online from the couple’s daughter, Paris Shahravesh Correia Dos Santos, to the prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is also the ruler of Dubai.

She claimed that police shouted at her crying mother, who she said was “given no choice” but to sign a document that she did not understand.

Paris Shahravesh Correia Dos Santos, the daughter of Laleh Shahravesh
Paris said she had to leave Dubai without her mother

Paris said: “I cannot emphasise enough how scared I felt, especially after losing my father just a week before, as I was having to worry about losing my mother as well.

“Yet even though I felt terrified on the day that we arrived, the sick feeling in my stomach only became worse.”

She added: “I have not seen my mother in 23 days, and with every passing day, I feel less hopeful of her return.”

‘Considering retracting statement’

The chief executive of Detained in Dubai, Radha Stirling, said the complainant has since written on Facebook that she is considering dropping the charges and retracting her statement out of respect for Paris.

Earlier, Ms Stirling told BBC Newslight that both her organisation and the Foreign Office (FCO) had asked the complainant to withdraw the allegation, but she had refused.

According to Ms Stirling, her client Ms Shahravesh had been bailed but her passport had been confiscated and she was currently living in a hotel.

Ms Stirling added that “no-one would really be aware” of the severity of cyber-crime laws in the UAE, and the FCO had failed to adequately warn tourists about them.

The FCO said in a statement: “Our staff are supporting a British woman and her family following her detention in the UAE.

“We are in contact with the UAE authorities regarding her case.”

Meanwhile during a trip to meet EU leaders in Luxembourg, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told reporters that the government was “concerned” by the situation.

“Our diplomats in the UAE have enormous experience in dealing with consular cases as we saw from the Matthew Hedges case and so she is getting the best possible service from the FCO,” he said.

Durham University PhD student Mr Hedges was pardoned last year after intense diplomatic pressure. He had previously been accused of spying for the UK and jailed for life in an Abu Dhabi court.

Ms Shahravesh faces further court proceedings on Thursday. She said: “I am terrified. I can’t sleep or eat. I have gone down two dress sizes because of the stress.

“And my daughter cries herself to sleep every night. We are so close, especially since her father left us and we only have each other. It breaks my heart to be kept apart from her.”

She has previously spoken about her Facebook comments, saying: “I reacted badly. I lashed out and wrote two unpleasant comments about his new wife on his Facebook page.”

Climate change: European team to drill for ‘oldest ice’ in Antarctica

An ambitious project to retrieve a continuous record of Earth’s atmosphere and climate stretching back 1.5 million years is officially “go”.

A European consortium will head to Antarctica in December to begin the process of drilling deep into the continent’s eastern ice sheet.

The group’s aim is to pull up a frozen core of material almost 3km long.

Scientists hope this can lead them to an explanation for why Earth’s ice ages flipped in frequency in the deep past.

Although it might seem at first glance to be a rather esoteric quest, researchers say it bears down directly on the question of how much the world is likely to warm in the centuries ahead.

“Something happened about 900,000 years ago. The ice age cycles changed from every 40,000 years or so, to every 100,000 years; and we don’t know why,” Dr Catherine Ritz from the Institute of Environmental Geosciences in Grenoble, France, told BBC News.

“And it’s rather important, because if we want to forecast what will happen to the climate in the future, with the increase in greenhouse gases, then we will have to use models, and these models will be calibrated on what happened in the past.”

Dr Ritz was speaking here at the European Geosciences Union General Assembly, where the site for the new drilling operation was formally announced.

It will be on a high ridge about 40km southwest from the Franco-Italian research station known as Dome Concordia. Already, the spot has been dubbed “Little Dome C”.


Fourteen institutions from 10 countries will participate in what’s referred to as the Beyond-EPICA project.

It will probably take about five years to fully extract the core with at least a further year to examine the ice.

The expected total €30m (£26m) cost will be met out of the European Union’s science budget, Horizon 2020.

Ice bubbles
Each bubble is a little time capsule recording the ancient atmosphere’s contents

How do ice cores record the climate of the past?

The ice in Antarctica is made up of snows that fell on the continent over millions of years.

As this ice was pressed down, it captured bubbles of air. These little gas pockets are a direct snapshot of the atmosphere.

Scientists can read off the levels of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping components such as methane, for example.

Analysing the atoms in the water-ice molecules encasing the gases also gives an indication of the temperatures that persisted at the time of precipitation.

Currently, the oldest, continuous ice core ever drilled comes from the previous effort at Dome C called the European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica (EPICA).

This ran from 1996 to 2004, and pulled up a 10cm-wide cylinder of ice that was 2,774m long.

Dr Rob Mulvaney: “We need to understand why we’re now living in a 100,000-year world”

What did this previous ice core reveal?

The old EPICA core contained an 800,000-year record of temperatures and atmospheric carbon dioxide.

These markers were seen to move in lock-step. Whenever the Earth went into an ice age and temperatures fell, the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere would also decline. And when the climate warmed back up again, the CO2 rose in parallel.

These cycles occurred roughly every 100,000 years in the EPICA core – a phasing that is most likely linked to slight shifts in the eccentricity of Earth’s orbit (a larger or smaller ellipse) around the Sun.

But it is recognised from an alternative record of past climate, which has been deciphered from ocean sediments, that deeper back in time the ice age cycle was much shorter – at about every 41,000 years.

That is a period probably dominated by the way the Earth tilts back and forth on its axis. But why the switch occurred, no-one is really sure.

Past record
The previous ice core showed temperature and carbon dioxide moving in lock-step

What could be the reason for the switch?

The orbital quirks described above change how much of the Sun’s energy reaches the Earth, and it accounts for variations in global temperatures in the order of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

But ice ages – from their minimum to their maximum states – involve variations of six degrees. This means there have to have been amplification processes in play.

Differences in the mix and level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will no doubt be a part of the story, and the Beyond-EPICA ice core, if it it can reach back to 1.5 million years ago, will expose this particular contribution. There are certain to be additional factors, however.

“In my personal opinion, the best candidate is an internal mechanism in the climate system which has to do with changes in the ice volume on Earth,” said Prof Olaf Eisen, the Beyond-EPICA project coordinator from Germany’s Alfred-Wegener-Institute.

“If you change ice volume, you also change sea-level and ocean circulation. But something happened in what we call the Middle Pleistocene Transition.

“The drivers behind the MPT are still under debate and touch on the basic understanding of the climate system.”

Survey work included building a radar map of the bedrock under Little Dome C

Has Europe chosen the right location?

Many nations have been searching for a place to drill the oldest ice core, including America, Russia, China, Japan and Australia. Europe’s is the first project to go into the implementation phase.

The site is helped enormously in terms of logistics by being close to an existing research base, but Little Dome C’s selection was only approved after three years of careful survey work.

Teams dragged radar instruments back and forth across the ice to map the layers below. They even sank test boreholes to work out how warm it was likely to be at the base of the ice sheet.

One of the complexities is that heat coming up from the bedrock will melt away the bottom-most and oldest layers of ice. This is a very real danger the deeper the drilling goes, as the coldest temperatures are always found closest to the surface of the ice sheet.

“The core will be in 4m lengths when it comes up,” explained Dr Rob Mulvaney from the British Antarctic Survey. “We’ll cut it into 1m sections at Little Dome C and then move them to Concordia station itself.

“At the station we’ll cut the sections in half, lengthways. One half we’ll leave in Antarctica as a long-term archive (we won’t have to pay freezer costs!), and the other half will come back to Europe for analysis.”

Climate change: European team to drill for 'oldest ice' in Antarctica
their radar survey at Little Dome C, the field team drove 2,500km

Australia ‘egg boy’ clash: Senator cleared as teenager handed caution

An Australian senator acted in self-defence when he physically retaliated against a boy who had smashed an egg on the lawmaker’s head, police have ruled.

Video of last month’s clash involving Senator Fraser Anning went viral and sparked debate in Australia over who – if anyone – should face police action.

Police cautioned the 17-year-old boy, but said neither would face charges.

The incident happened after Mr Anning caused fury by blaming the New Zealand mosque attacks on Muslim migration.

Last week, the Senate censured Mr Anning for his comments, which he made on the day that dozens of Muslims were killed by a gunman in Christchurch.

The egg incident happened in the wake of the controversy when the teenager, Will Connolly, walked up behind the senator during a televised press conference.

Mr Anning responded by hitting the teenager before the lawmaker’s supporters tackled the boy to the ground and put him in a chokehold.

Will Connolly pinned to the ground by five men following his egg-cracking protest
Will Connolly was tackled to the ground

On Tuesday, authorities they had made a decision “not to charge” the senator.

“On assessment of all the circumstances, the 69-year-old’s actions were treated as self-defence and there was no reasonable prospect of conviction,” Victoria Police said in a statement.

The teenager had also avoided prosecution but would receive an “official caution”, they added.

Police said they were still searching for one man who allegedly kicked the teenager repeatedly while he was pinned to the ground.

Support for ‘egg boy’

Though some criticised the teenager’s actions at the time, he was largely celebrated online as a hero and quickly earned the nickname “egg boy”.

Street art of the "Egg Boy" incident in Indonesia
Street art of the incident in Indonesia

An online campaign raised more than A$80,000 (£43,000; $57,000) for any future legal proceedings he may encounter. The teenager was also offered concert tickets, praised by celebrities and featured in street murals.

“I understand what I did was not the right thing to do,” he told the local Ten network last month.

“However, this egg has united people.”

Mr Anning has not apologised for his comments about the massacre, despite a public backlash which saw 1.4 million people sign a petition demanding his resignation.

He was officially condemned by the Senate for seeking to “attribute blame to victims of a horrific crime and to vilify people on the basis of religion”.

Huawei wi-fi modules were pulled from Pakistan CCTV system

Huawei removed wi-fi transmitting cards from a Pakistan-based surveillance system’s CCTV cabinets after they were discovered by the project’s staff.

Punjab Safe City Authority (PSCA) told BBC Panorama it had told the firm to remove the modules in 2017 “due to [a] potential of misuse”.

The authority said that the Chinese firm had previously made mention of the cards in its bidding documents.

But a source involved in the project suggested the reference was obscure.

A spokesman for Huawei said there had been a “misunderstanding”. He added that the cards had been installed to provide diagnostic information, but said he was unable to discuss the matter further.

The PSCA confirmed that the explanation it had been given was that wi-fi connectivity could have made it easier for engineers to troubleshoot problems when they stood close to the cabinets, without having to open them up.

Two people involved in Lahore’s project helped bring the matter to the BBC’s attention and have asked to remain anonymous. One said that Huawei had never provided an app to make use of the wi-fi link, and added that the cabinets could already be managed remotely via the surveillance system’s main network.

CCTV cabinet
It was suggested that a wi-fi link could have helped engineers troubleshoot problems without having to climb up and open the cabinets

A UK-based cyber-security expert said that it was not uncommon for equipment sellers to install extra gear to let them offer additional services at a later date.

But he added that the affair highlighted the benefit of oversight because if the authority had remained unaware of the cards’ existence, it could not have taken steps to manage any potential risk they posed.

“As soon as you give someone another method of remote connectivity you give them a method to attack it,” commented Alan Woodward.

“If you put a wi-fi card in then you’re potentially giving someone some other form of remote access to it. You might say it’s done for one purpose, but as soon as you do that it’s got the potential to be misused.”

There is no evidence that the cards created a vulnerability, and one of the sources involved confirmed that there had not been an opportunity to test if they could be exploited before the kit was removed.

‘Prompt response’

Lahore’s Safe City scheme was first announced in 2016 following a series of terrorist bombings.

It provides a vast surveillance network of cameras and other sensors, and a brand new communications system for the city’s emergency services.

As part of the system, Huawei installed 1,800 CCTV cabinets, within which it placed the wi-fi modules behind other equipment.

CCTV cabinet
The cards were placed among other equipment in the cabinets

The PSCA’s chief operating officer told the BBC that Huawei had been “prompt” in its response to a request to remove them and had fully “complied with our directions”.

“It is always [the] choice of the parties in a contract to finalise the technical details and modules as per their requirements and local conditions,” added Akbar Nasir Khan.

“PSCA denies that there are any threats to the security of the project [and the] system was continuously checked by our consultants, including reputed firms from [the] UK.”

Local concerns have been raised over the Safe City scheme after reports that images had been leaked and circulated via social media earlier this year showing couples travelling together in vehicles.

But there is no suggestion that this was related to Huawei’s involvement, and in any case the wi-fi modules would have been removed by this point. The PSCA has also denied anyone from its office had been involved.

#Libya crisis: Air strike at Tripoli airport as thousands flee clashes

The UN has condemned an air strike that closed the only functioning airport in Libya’s capital, Tripoli, on Monday.

Flights at Mitiga International Airport were suspended and passengers were evacuated. No casualties were reported.

The UN blamed the air strike on forces loyal to General Khalifa Haftar, a commander from the east who is trying to seize the capital.

A spokesman for Gen Haftar’s forces said civilian planes had not been targeted, Reuters news agency reports.

Gen Haftar, who leads the Libyan National Army (LNA), declared an offensive to take control of Tripoli from Libya’s UN-backed government last week.

Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj has accused him of attempting to carry out a coup.

At least 2,800 people have so far fled fighting around Tripoli, the UN says.

The UN also warns that those who remain risk being cut off from vital services because of the clashes.

A crew member stands outside the Mitiga International Airport
A crew member and passenger seen outside the international airport

Libya has been torn by violence, political instability and power struggles since long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi was deposed and killed in 2011.

International powers have started evacuating personnel from the country in recent days as the situation has deteriorated.

What is the latest on the clashes?

The UN’s Libya envoy, Ghassan Salame, said Monday’s air strike violated humanitarian law which prohibited attacks against civilian infrastructure.

Mr Salame said the bombing marked an “escalation of violence on the ground”.

LNA spokesman Ahmed Mismari was quoted by Reuters as saying “only a MiG [aircraft] parked at Mitiga airport” had been targeted.

The airport is also the base for a powerful militia, loosely under the control of the government’s ministry of interior, says the BBC’s North Africa correspondent, Rana Jawad.

An older, inactive airport, Tripoli International, has also been a focal point for clashes recent days.

Control map of Libya

The Libyan health ministry said at least 25 people had been killed and 80 wounded so far, including civilians and government fighters.

Gen Haftar’s forces said they had lost at least 19 fighters.

The UN appealed for a two-hour truce on Sunday to allow for the evacuations of casualties and civilians, but fighting continued.

Why is there fighting in Libya?

Libya has been a hotbed of unrest since Gaddafi was overthrown eight years ago.

The Government of National Accord (GNA) was created from peace talks in 2015, but has struggled to take control despite UN backing.

Gen Haftar is allied to a rival government in the eastern city of Tobruk which has refused to cede power to Tripoli.

Gen Haftar
Gen Haftar has ordered his forces to advance on Tripoli

The general helped Gaddafi seize power in 1969 before falling out with him and going into exile in the US.

He then returned when the uprising against Gaddafi began and became a rebel commander.

His LNA troops have continued to make advances, seizing the south of Libya and its oil fields earlier this year.

UN-backed talks between the rival governments had been scheduled for 14-16 April to discuss a roadmap for new elections, but it is now unclear if these will still take place.

Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj said he had offered concessions to Gen Haftar to avoid bloodshed, only to be “stabbed in the back”.

What has the reaction been?

Much of the international community, including the US, have called for a ceasefire to hostilities.

“This unilateral military campaign against Tripoli is endangering civilians and undermining prospects for a better future for all Libyans,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday.

The US military is among those to withdraw its supporting forces based in the country, blaming the “complex and unpredictable” situation and “increased unrest” on the ground.

The UN is also due to pull out non-essential staff.

A market in Tripoli.
A market in Tripoli. Residents are said to be stocking up on supplies

Residents of Tripoli have reportedly begun stocking up on food and fuel.

The BBC, Adekunle Best editor Sebastian Usher says some residents fear a long operation such as that which Gen Haftar mounted to take the eastern city of Benghazi from Islamist fighters in 2017.

The rogue general’s defiance suggests that, despite international condemnation of his recent moves, he believes he can only secure a place in Libya’s future political makeup through military means.

Diplomats are worried because the manner and timing of the attack mean he is unlikely to back down unless he is defeated.

Few thought he would go ahead and launch this operation – which he has long threatened to do – because they believed ongoing talks that saw him go from Paris to Palermo and the UAE for more than a year would buy time until a new political settlement was reached through negotiations and an eventual electoral process.

Today, Western nations have few cards to play to de-escalate the violence and once again find themselves in a position where they may need to start from scratch.


US proposes tariffs on $11bn of EU products

The US is considering imposing tariffs on about $11bn (£8.4bn) worth of goods from the European Union in response to subsidies that support Airbus.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has found that the subsidies have an adverse impact on the US.

Aircraft and cheese are among the products that could be hit by tariffs, the US Trade Representative (USTR) said.

The Trump administration has been fighting trade battles on many fronts.

The move would mark an escalation in trade tensions between the US and the EU.

The USTR said the value of goods that would be targeted with tariffs was subject to arbitration at the WTO, the result of which is expected in a few months.

“This case has been in litigation for 14 years, and the time has come for action. The administration is preparing to respond immediately when the WTO issues its finding on the value of US countermeasures,” said US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

“Our ultimate goal is to reach an agreement with the EU to end all WTO-inconsistent subsidies to large civil aircraft. When the EU ends these harmful subsidies, the additional US duties imposed in response can be lifted.”

A preliminary list of goods, covering a wide range of items, has been issued for public consultation. For example, the following are being considered for additional tariffs if they come from any of the 28 EU states.

  • Salmon fillets, fresh or chilled
  • Cheese, including Cheddar, Roquefort, Stilton, Gruyere and Pecorino
  • Lemons fresh or dried
  • Virgin olive oil
  • Marsala wine
  • Cashmere sweaters, pullovers and similar
  • Ceramic household steins with pewter lids
  • Motorcycles with an engine size of between 500cc and 700cc
  • Wall clocks, not electrically operated, designed to operate over 47 hours without rewinding

In addition, additional import duties are being considered on some goods if they are produced in France, Germany, Spain or the UK. They include:

  • Helicopters
  • Undercarriages for use in new civil aircraft
  • Fuselages for use in new civil airplanes

What has happened so far?

The proposed US tariffs would be imposed in addition to existing levies on European products.

Last year, the US started charging levies, on the imports of steel and aluminium from key allies including the EU.

The EU imposed retaliatory tariffs on €2.8bn (£2.4bn)worth of US goods in June on products such as bourbon whiskey, motorcycles and orange juice.

Last month, US President Donald Trump threatened to impose tariffs on cars imported from the EU, if both sides cannot reach a trade deal.

The US is currently negotiating a trade deal with China, but tit-for-tat tariffs imposed by the two countries have already weighed on the global economy this year.

Carlos Ghosn says ‘backstabbing’ behind his arrest

Nissan ex-boss Carlos Ghosn has accused former executives at the firm of “backstabbing” and said he is innocent of all charges against him.

In a pre-recorded video released at a news conference held by his legal team, he said he was victim of a “conspiracy” and wanted to have a fair trial.

Mr Ghosn was arrested for a fourth time last week while out on bail awaiting a trial.

He faces charges of financial misconduct and breach of trust.

In the video message, the 65-year-old, who was first arrested in November, maintained his denial of any wrongdoing or misconduct.

“This is about a plot, this is about conspiracy, this is about backstabbing – that’s what we are talking about,” Mr Ghosn said.

“There was a fear that the next step of the alliance… would in a certain way threaten some people or eventually threaten the autonomy of Nissan.”

Mr Ghosn was the architect of the alliance between Nissan and French carmaker Renault, and brought Mitsubishi on board in 2016.

The fall from grace for the industry titan has attracted global attention. It has also put a spotlight on fighting within the carmaker alliance and on Japan’s legal system.

His wife Carole Ghosn has flown to France to ask the government there to intervene on her husband’s behalf.

What has happened so far?

Prosecutors said Mr Ghosn’s latest arrest related to transfers of Nissan funds totalling $15m (£11.5m) between 2015 and 2018.

They allege that $5m of that amount was used by Mr Ghosn for personal expenditure.

Local media had previously said that authorities had been building a new case against him involving payments to a dealership in Oman.

He had been released on bail in March after being in prison for more than three months.

Mr Ghosn was first detained in November, charged with under-reporting his pay package for the five years to 2015.

In January, a fresh charge claimed he understated his compensation for another three years. He was also indicted on a new, more serious charge of breach of trust.

He is credited with turning around the fortunes of Nissan and Renault over several years.