Sudan crisis: Military council arrests former government members

Sudan’s transitional military council has arrested members of the former government and promised not to disperse protesters.

A spokesman also urged the opposition to pick the next prime minister and vowed to implement their choice.

Months of protests in Sudan led to the ousting and arrest of long-time leader Omar al-Bashir on Thursday.

Demonstrators have vowed to stay on the streets until there is an immediate move to civilian rule.

A sit-in is continuing outside the defence ministry in the capital Khartoum.

What did the military council say?

In a press conference on Sunday, spokesman Maj Gen Shams Ad-din Shanto said the military council was “ready to implement” whatever civilian government the opposition parties agreed.

“We won’t appoint a PM. They’ll choose one,” he said, referring to opposition and protest groups.

He also said the army would not remove protesters from their sit-in by force, but called on protesters “to let normal life resume” and stop unauthorised roadblocks.

“Taking up arms will not be tolerated,” he added.

The military council also announced a raft of decisions, including:

  • New heads of the army and the police
  • A new head of the powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS)
  • Committees to fight corruption, and to investigate the former ruling party
  • The lifting of all media restrictions and censorship
  • The release of police and security officers detained for supporting protesters
  • A review of diplomatic missions, and the dismissal of Sudan’s ambassadors to the US and to the UN in Geneva
Demonstrators in Khartoum paint a mural reading "Freedom", 14 April 2019
After months of protests, long-serving leader Omar al-Bashir was ousted and detained by the military

What’s been happening in Sudan?

Protests against a rise in the cost of living began in December but soon developed into a wider call for the removal of Mr Bashir and his government.

On Thursday the military removed and detained the veteran leader, after nearly 30 years in power.

The coup leader, Defence Minister Awad Ibn Auf, announced the military would oversee a two-year transitional period followed by elections and imposed a three-month state of emergency.

But demonstrators vowed to stay in the streets regardless, demanding an immediate switch to civilian government.

Mr Ibn Auf himself stood down the next day, as did the feared security chief Gen Salah Gosh.

Lt Gen Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan was then named as head of the transitional military council, to become Sudan’s third leader in as many days.

Lt Gen Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan
Lt Gen Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan became head of the transitional military council after the coup leader stepped aside

In a televised address on Saturday, Gen Burhan vowed to “uproot the regime”, pledging to respect human rights, end a night curfew, release political prisoners immediately, dissolve all provincial governments, try those who had killed demonstrators and tackle corruption.

But the Sudan Professionals Association (SPA), which has been spearheading the demonstrations, said the council’s response “did not achieve any of the demands of the people” and urged protests to continue.

Among its demands are the restructuring of state security, the arrest of “corrupt leaders” and the dissolution of militias that operated under former President Bashir.

The whereabouts of Sudan’s former leader is currently unknown, but the coup leaders said he was in a secure place.

Mr Bashir has been indicted on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur by the International Criminal Court.

But the military council has said it will not extradite him, although he could well be put on trial in Sudan.

Mr Bashir’s National Congress Party on Saturday called his overthrow unconstitutional, and demanded that the military council release the party’s imprisoned members.

Maj-Gen Shanto said that the former ruling party would have no part in the civilian transitional government but could field candidates in the next elections.

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Nepal plane crash: Three die at world’s ‘most dangerous’ airport

Three people have died in a plane crash in Nepal, at what is regarded as one of the world’s most dangerous airports.

The plane veered off the runway and hit a stationary helicopter at Lukla Airport, the main gateway to the Everest region.

The runway is short and surrounded by mountains, making it extremely difficult for takeoff and landing.

The pilot of the plane and two police officers standing near the helicopter died. Three other people were injured.

Both aircraft belonged to companies involved in taking climbers, tourists and locals to the Everest region.

The reason for Saturday’s accident is not clear. Officials said the weather was good and flights later resumed their operations.

Eyewitness Bikram Raj Bhandari told the BBC: “I heard an explosion from some distance and ran towards the airport to see what had happened. There was smoke all around.”

The world’s most dangerous airport?

Lukla Airport is located at an altitude of 2,845m (9,333ft).

In 2008, 18 people, including 12 Germans, were killed when a plane tried to land there. Two pilots died in similar circumstances less than two years ago.

One runway rests on the edge of a cliff with a 700m drop and the airport is often closed because of strong winds or heavy clouds.

Only experienced pilots are allowed to land at Lukla. They must have made at least 100 landings and takeoffs on short runways and worked in such conditions for at least a year in Nepal.

Because of an influx of tourists in recent years, the number of flights to the Himalayas has significantly increased.

However, Nepal has a poor flight safely record. In February, seven people died in a helicopter crash, including the country’s Minister of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Rabindra Adhikari.

The European Union has banned the flights of all Nepalese airlines in its airspace.

Joan Collins flees ‘terrifying’ fire in Belgravia flat

Actress Joan Collins has praised the NHS and fire crews after a “terrifying” blaze at her flat in central London.

The London Fire Brigade said they were called to a seven-storey building on Eaton Place, Belgravia, at about 16:30 BST on Saturday.

About 10 firefighters tackled the blaze which was brought under control by about 17:35.

The actress needed treatment for smoke inhalation and praised her “hero” husband.

Posting on Instagram she said: The remains of the day…see my recent #tweet Thank you @londonfirebrigade #shafetsbury !! ❤️❤️

In a tweet, also posted on Sunday, Collins thanked the NHS and ambulance service, as well as the Metropolitan Police for blocking off the street and the fire brigade for putting out the fire.

She also thanked her husband Percy Gibson, who “doused the flames consuming the entire wall with handheld extinguisher.”

A spokeswoman for the fire brigade said: “Part of a flat on the first floor of the seven-storey building was damaged by the fire.

“Two people left the property before the brigade arrived.”

Joan Collins and Percy Gibson
Joan Collins has been married to Percy Gibson since 2002

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said two people were treated by the London Ambulance Service but did not require hospital treatment, adding that the fire was deemed non-suspicious.

Joan Collins

Joan Collins and John Forsythe
Joan Collins, pictured with her Dynasty co-star John Forsythe
  • Born in London in 1933.
  • Made her stage debut at the age of nine.
  • She appeared in a string of TV movies and shows including Space 1999, Starsky and Hutch and Tales of the Unexpected.
  • Renowned for her ageless glamour and dozens of roles including the Alexis Carrington in US soap Dynasty, which brought her international fame in the 1980s.
  • She was made an OBE in the 1997 honours list in recognition of her work in the arts and for charity.
  • She was made a dame in 2015, for her continued charity work, including with the NSPCC and breast cancer research.
Joan Collins in 1978
Joan Collins was born in London in 1933

Seychelles president delivers speech in Indian Ocean calling for better protection for world’s seas

The Seychelles president has gone below the surface of the Indian Ocean to call for better protection for the world’s seas.

Danny Faure said that a healthy ocean was “crucial for the survival of humanity” in a broadcast made 124m (406ft) below sea level.

He had joined a British-led expedition exploring the ocean’s depths.

Last year, the Seychelles created protected areas of the ocean that were “the size of Great Britain”.

During the live broadcast Mr Faure could be seen in the submersible wearing a Seychelles T-shirt.

He told viewers that the ocean was “the beating blue heart of our planet” and said that it was “under threat like never before.”

“We have managed to seriously impact this environment through climate change. I can see the incredible wildlife that needs protection. Over the years we have created these problems, we must solve them and we must solve them together.”

The broadcast was part of an expedition by Nekton Mission. The mission will explore deep sections of the waters surrounding the Seychelles.

The goal is to gain public support for the country to protect 30% of its national waters by 2020.

It will then explore other areas of the Indian Ocean ahead of a summit in Oxford in 2022.

In February 2018 the Seychelles protected 210,000 sq km (81,000 sq miles) of ocean in exchange for getting some of its national debt paid off.

Waves break on the beach of an island in the Seychelles
The island nation plans to protect 30% of its seas by 2020

The reserves limit tourism and fishing activities in the country to halt further damage to aquatic life. It was the first debt swap designed to protect ocean areas in the world.

According to the UN, only 16% of marine waters under national jurisdiction are covered by protected areas.

The Seychelles aims to protect 30% of its ocean space by next year.

Oceans are one of the seven main themes of this year’s UN climate summit in Chile in December.

Small island nations like the Seychelles are among the most vulnerable to the rise in sea levels caused by climate change.

Ukraine election: Poroshenko debates empty podium as Zelensky stays away

Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko has arrived to debate the man hoping to take his place, in front of thousands of people in the capital, Kiev.

There is only one problem: his rival Volodymyr Zelensky – a comedian with no political experience – hasn’t arrived.

The two men agreed to the televised debate last week, but failed to agree on the date it would take place.

Mr Zelensky favoured this coming Friday, two days before they go head to head in the election run-off.

Mr Poroshenko, who is trailing his rival after winning just 16% of the first round vote, appears to now be hoping to capitalise on Mr Zelensky’s failure to arrive at Kiev’s Olympiyskiy Stadium for the televised face-off.

According to the BBC’s correspondent Mr Ben, the former businessman had wanted the debate to expose the fact his opponent had never really articulated a political vision or had his ideas subject to scrutiny.

But instead the incumbent used his 45-minute wait at the podium to answer journalists’ questions, and attack his absent rival.

Ukraine election: Poroshenko debates empty podium as Zelensky stays away
Ukraine’s presidential candidates take a drugs test

Mr Poroshenko, who critics say has not done enough to fight issues like corruption in the Eastern European nation, dubbed the election campaign a “silent movie”, and accused Mr Zelensky of being afraid.

“If he hides from people again, if he is afraid, we will invite him again. We will invite him every day to every live show for the whole country to see who it is going to elect for the next five years,” he told the crowds and television cameras on his arrival.

In fact, this debate was Mr Zelenksy’s idea. However, it was a challenge he clearly thought Mr Poroshenko would turn down, according to our correspondent.

The comedian has so far ignored the usual rules around campaigning, staging no rallies and giving few interviews – preferring to communicate via social media.

It is also unclear what his political views are, apart from a wish to be new and different.

Despite this, he finished the first round comfortably in the lead, garnering more than 30% of the vote, and is still favourite to win next weekend’s ballot.

Presidential election results

Leading candidate in each region. Latest as of 17:00, 7 April, Kiev time (BST +2). 100% of votes counted
Volodymyr ZelenskyYuriy BoykoPetro PoroshenkoYulia Tymoshenko
Select a region from the dropdown or tap or click on the map belowWHOLE UKRAINECherkasyChernihivChernivtsiDnipropetrovskDonetskIvano-FrankivskKharkivKhersonKhmelnytskyKiev cityKiev regionKirovohradLuhanskLvivMykolayivOdesaPoltavaRivneSumyTernopilTranscarpathiaVinnytsiaVolynZaporizhzhyaZhytomyrRegions where no vote was taken
 Rebel-held areas of Donetsk and Luhansk
 Russia annexed Crimea and Sevastopol in 2014

WHOLE UKRAINE

Votes for each candidate (%)
Turnout: 63.53%

Volodymyr Zelensky30.24

Petro Poroshenko15.95

Yulia Tymoshenko13.40

Yuriy Boyko11.67

Anatoliy Hrytsenko6.91

Ihor Smeshko6.04

Oleh Lyashko5.48

Oleksandr Vilkul4.15
Voting results for all candidates on the Ukrainian Election Commission website

World War Two bomb detonated in Frankfurt’s river

A World War Two-era US bomb has been detonated in a river in Frankfurt, causing water to spurt high into the air, German media report.

Some 600 people were evacuated from parts of the city as bomb disposal experts got to work at about 08:00 local time (06:00 GMT) on Sunday.

Following the explosion, divers were sent to check that the device was safe.

The bomb was discovered on Tuesday in Frankfurt’s River Main, German news agency dpa reports.

Divers with the city’s fire service were participating in a routine training exercise when they found the 250kg (550lb) device.

An image posted on social media showed what appeared to be a large water fountain jetting into the air between two bridges.

It is not uncommon for bombs and other war munitions to turn up in Germany.

Last year, German police defused a World War Two bomb in central Berlin, after some 10,000 people were evacuated.

Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp suffer outages

Social networks Facebook and Instagram, as well as messaging service WhatsApp, were unavailable on Sunday for more than three hours, users said.

The website Down Detector reported that thousands of people globally had complained about the Facebook-owned trio being down from 11.30 BST onwards.

Facebook users were presented with the message: “Something went wrong.”

At 14:50, the site said it had resolved the issue after some users “experienced trouble connecting” to the apps.

A spokesman for the company added: “We’re sorry for any inconvenience.”

Facebook did not comment on the cause of the problem, or say how many users had been affected.

In March, Facebook experienced one of its longest ever outages, with some users around the globe unable to access its site, as well as Instagram and WhatsApp, for more than 24 hours.

Brexit: Cross-party talks ‘testing ideas’ says Lidington

The government and Labour are “testing out” each other’s ideas as they try to resolve the Brexit deadlock, cabinet minister David Lidington has said.

He told the BBC they had a “fair bit in common” over future customs objectives but further compromise was needed.

While there was no deadline, he said the sides would “take stock” in 10 days and the process could not drag out.

But former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith said the process was a “recipe for disaster” for his party.

He called for Prime Minister Theresa May to make way for a new Conservative leader next month – but Mr Lidington insisted changing PM would “not change the arithmetic in Parliament”.

Talks between the government and Labour are set to continue over the Easter parliamentary recess in the hope of finding a Brexit agreement that will be acceptable to MPs.

A series of working groups in key areas, such as environmental standards, security and workers’ rights, have been set up to try and find common ground.

The EU has insisted the terms of the UK’s withdrawal, rejected three times by MPs, cannot be renegotiated – but there is scope to strengthen the political declaration, a document setting out the parameters of the UK’s future relations with the EU, ahead of the new Brexit deadline of 31 October.

Mr Lidington, who is regarded as Mrs May’s de facto deputy, said he had not set a deadline for the talks to produce a result but the public wanted Parliament to resolve their differences quickly.

“I don’t think the question can be allowed to drag out for much longer,” he said.

Asked whether the government could drop its opposition to a customs union with the EU, as demanded by Labour, Mr Lidington said both sides had well-known “public positions”.

Customs ‘mechanism’

He suggested the two sides were considering whether there was a “mechanism” to deliver the benefits of a customs union, such as tariff and quota-free trade with the EU, while also enabling the UK to have an independent trade policy and input into EU agreements affecting the UK.

“What we have found in terms of objectives… there is fair bit that both parties would have in common,” he said. “If we are going to find an agreement there needs to be movement on both sides.

“I don’t want to compromise what is at the moment a space where we are testing with the opposition, and they are testing with us, particular ways in which we could move forward.”

But Mr Duncan Smith warned against his party embracing Labour’s Brexit policy, telling Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday that he had “real concerns with some of my colleagues going out lauding Jeremy Corbyn”.

“We need to be very clear in the course of this that we don’t end up letting Jeremy Corbyn dictate to us that we stay in a customs union, or we have some kind of second referendum, or stay aligned with the European single market – all of that given to us by Jeremy Corbyn is a recipe for disaster.”

He said there was real grassroots anger at the prospect of the Conservatives having to fight European elections at the end of May and the prime minister should leave Downing Street this summer irrespective of whether the withdrawal agreement had not been approved or not.

“She said she would go as and when the agreement was ratified, which was looking at around about May, June. I think those dates still stand,” he said.

But Labour’s shadow transport Secretary Andy McDonald said the talks would “count for nothing” if the Conservatives changed leader and a hard Brexiteer took over from Mrs May.

Referendum warning

Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn has been warned Labour will “haemorrhage” votes in the EU election unless the party explicitly backs a further referendum.

MEP Richard Corbett, leader of the party in the EU Parliament, told the Observer Labour risked losing out to parties committed to a public vote.

“If Labour does not re-confirm its support for a confirmatory public vote on any Brexit deal in its manifesto, then it will haemorrhage votes to parties who do have a clear message,” he said.

“If on the other hand we do offer clarity and a confirmatory ballot we could do very well.”

Labour’s current policy is to keep all options on the table – including pressing for a further EU referendum.

Labour MP David Lammy told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that the current “rows would continue” unless the public had the final say on the issue.

Several members of the shadow cabinet and many backbenchers, particularly in Leave-supporting areas, are opposed to the idea.

What happens next?

Flowchart on next steps after extension
Categories Uncategorized

Venezuela crisis: Maduro calls for million more militia members

Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro has said he wants a million more people to join his civilian militia by the end of the year.

The call to expand the militia – which answers directly to Mr Maduro – comes as opposition leader Juan Guaidó seeks to persuade the Venezuelan military to abandon the president.

So far the military has stayed loyal.

US-backed Mr Guaidó declared himself acting president on 23 January, saying Mr Maduro’s 2018 election was flawed.

According to the BBC’s Americas regional editor Candace Piette, Mr Maduro’s call to increase the militia numbers will be seen as an attempt to shield himself further both politically and physically.

The president praised the civilian militia for its readiness to “defend, with arms in hand, (the) peace, sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence and the life of our homeland”, during a rally in the capital, Caracas.

But he also called on the existing two million members to get involved in agriculture, as Venezuela continues to struggle with a spiralling economic crisis which has left people struggling to afford food.

“With your rifles on your shoulders, be ready to defend the fatherland and dig the furrow to plant the seeds to produce food for the community, for the people,” Mr Maduro told the crowd of militia members.

Mr Guaidó, meanwhile, called on people to take to the streets to “start the final phase of the end of the usurpation”.

He told an anti-government rally in the capital they needed to redouble efforts to oust Mr Maduro from office.

Mr Guaidó blames Mr Maduro for the skyrocketing hyperinflation, power cuts and shortages of food and medicine which have crippled the country in recent years.

Mr Maduro blames the US.

Why are Maduro and Guaidó in conflict?

They each claim to be the constitutional president of Venezuela.

Shortly after Mr Guaidó declared himself interim leader, his assets were frozen and the Supreme Court, dominated by government loyalists, placed a travel ban on him.

Venezuela crisis: Maduro calls for million more militia members
Juan Guaidó speaking to the BBC earlier this month: “We want genuinely free elections”

But the 35-year-old opposition leader defied that ban last month when he toured Latin American countries to garner support.

Mr Guaidó has continued to call for President Maduro to step aside and has urged the security forces, which have mainly been loyal to the government, to switch sides.

Dirtiest Tory leadership battle begins amid war over Brexit – with Conservative Party’s future at stake

While Westminster has been fixated on Theresa May’s battle with Brussels over her Brexit a deal, a battle already being billed as the dirtiest of a generation is playing out away from public view in Parliament.

At stake is the future of both Britain’s future outside of the European Union – and the Conservative Party as a major electoral force.

Up to a dozen senior Tory MPs are actively mulling whether to mount leadership campaigns, to replace Mrs May when she quits – as expected – later this year.

One MP says: “Everybody is trying to gauge what support they have got.” Another MP says: “It is early days – this is a slippery electorate… It is not as though there is a runaway favourite.”

And given the wide open nature of the field, it is hardly a surprise the teams are drawing up “war books” about one another according to one adviser, shining a light on controversial historic articles, details of alleged sexual peccadilloes and unsavoury claims about their partners.

One adviser said that “without a doubt” the campaigning in the upcoming Tory leadership campaign will be the dirtiest for decades. “The biggest feature in Westminster is people looking for dirt on other people

“They are all at it [war books]. Everyone is going on about the war books, who has got what. It is already quite a nasty campaign.

“The main focus at the minute is how you can take people down – it is not a battle of ideas yet. It is people trying to knee cap each other.”

The battle for votes in the tearooms and corridors is already fully underway. While none of the leadership teams will confirm numbers Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, is seen in the “unenviable position” of being the early front runner with one observer saying he has pledges of between 70 and 80 Tory MPs.

Both Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, and Dominic Raab, the former Brexit secretary, are said to have won the unofficial backing of 40 MPs.

Further behind is Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary, who is sitting on a “core support of 25 MPs without having to work” rising to – according to his cheerleaders – as many as 70 MPs, including Jacob Rees-Mogg, the ERG chairman.

Each is tailoring his or her offering to MPs who have to whittle the field down to just two candidates to go in front of the membership.

Mr Hunt – who is in Japan this weekend on official business when he will demonstrate his linguistic skills by teaching English to Japanese students – is emphasising a “compassionate Conservatism”, saying the Tories must show they are not just a “money, money, money party” but have a “social mission” as well.

But his rivals are already describing him as the “establishment candidate” who is likely to pick up the support of Number 10. Plenty of observers say this could damage his chances among MPs furious about the Brexit talks.

Mr Javid, an arch-Thatcherite, has been trying to convince MPs to back him by emphasising his social justice credentials, built around the importance of the family at a dinner held by the Social Justice Coalition in the Commons last Monday, coupled with his experience of four big Cabinet jobs.

Mr Hunt and Mr Johnson have both reportedly addressed the same dinner some weeks earlier. One friend of Mr Javid said the Home Secretary had “aced it and Jeremy Hunt was uninspiring”.

MPs who back Mr Raab, whose anti-EU credentials cannot be questioned, stress his support for the core Tory values of helping others to get on through determination and hard-work, while building a fairer society.

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson’s team are hanging his appeal on his popularity outside of the M25 – pointing out how former Labour leader Tony Blair said a fortnight ago that he was the Tory politician who could beat Jeremy Corbyn.

One supporting MP said: “He can deliver us Brexit and a victory. Boris is that person. He is the sort of person you can turn to in a crisis. When we get him to the members, he is going to win.”

Other outsiders in the leadership race are more forthcoming in their policy plans, perhaps in a bid to attract attention.

Last week Matt Hancock, the rising star Health Secretary, raised eyebrows by calling for a return to modern-day patriotism with an appeal to Tories “to sound like we actually like living in this country”.

That came after Liz Truss, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, last weekend called for party members to be given votes on policy motions at the annual party conference, while also questioning the spiralling costs of the HS2 scheme

The large number of possible candidates – Michael Gove, the Environment secretary, is considering running, while James Cleverly and former chief whip Mark Harper are mulling standing – means talk soon turns to a Tory version of the online dating app Tinder where MPs have to swipe Left or swipe Right to find their ideal running mate.

Mr Johnson is already understood to be eyeing up an alliance with Amber Rudd, the Work and Pensions secretary, who can bring with her other Remain-supporting MPs. Donors are said to be keen on the union of the two socially-liberal Conservatives.

However sources close to Ms Rudd made clear she has not decided who to back, but she will not back any candidate who has considered leaving the EU without a deal to be “a viable option” – and may conceivably run herself.

Ms Rudd has formed the “One Nation” group of MPs within the Tory party in part to ensure MPs could back a leader who will develop “a plan for domestic issues” to take the party beyond Brexit.

Mr Hunt is rumoured to have offered the position of foreign secretary to either Penny Mordaunt, the International Development secretary, or Tom Tugendhat, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs committee.

A source close to Mr Hunt denied he had offered jobs to leadership rivals.  The source said: “He hasn’t offered any jobs to anyone, and it’s not his style to stoop to this kind of briefing against colleagues.” He added that Mr Hunt had been well received at the social justice dinner.

All the frontrunners are lining up advisers. Mr Javid has signed up Matthew Elliott, the former chief executive of Vote Leave, while former Tory MP James Wharton is backing Mr Johnson.

Mr Raab is being supported by Paul Stephenson, another well-respected former Vote Leave executive, while Mr Gove, who has still not been forgiven by many Brexiteers for pulling out of Mr Johnson’s leadership campaign in 2016, is being advised by Henry Newman, a former aide who runs the Open Europe thinktank.

Mel Stride, a Treasury minister who is backing Mr Gove, has shown MPs pie charts purporting to show that he would have broad support across the country. One MP claimed Mr Stride had said the data showed that Mr Gove was the only candidate who could beat Mr Johnson.

Part of the problem is that Mrs May has only committed to leaving once the Withdrawal Agreement is passed – which could happen anytime between now and at least October – making it hard for MPs to know when to start campaigning formally.

One adviser says: “It is a phoney war at the moment – no one knows when it is going to start or how long it is going to be.

“So everyone is unsure about the pace of when to attack things. It is like being in a horse rate and not knowing where the finishing line is or when the start is.”

What is clear is that the Tory party cannot choose a leader who cannot win an election against an Opposition leader like Jeremy Corbyn.

One Brexit-supporting Conservative MP says: “This is existential. Getting this next choice right is absolutely fundamental to our chances of forming the next Government. More importantly it is very likely to be fundamental to our chances of delivering Brexit.”

Ivanka Trump in Ethiopia to ‘promote women’

President Donald Trump’s eldest daughter, Ivanka Trump, is in Ethiopia to promote a US government initiative aimed at advancing women’s participation in the workplace.

The initiative aims to benefit 50 million women in developing countries by 2025.

Ms Trump toured a female-run textile facility in the capital, Addis Ababa.

The US policy in Africa under President Trump has prioritised the war on terror and checking the influence of China.

When his administration’s long-delayed policy on Africa was finally unveiled at the close of 2018, many observers of the continent were quick to point out that it did not include the favoured American staples: promotion of democracy, free and fair elections, political and civil rights.

The Women’s Global Development and Prosperity (W-GDP), which was launched in February, coincides with President Trump’s proposed cuts to foreign aid, and a ban on US aid to health groups that promote or provide abortions.

The W-GDP initiative aims to train women worldwide to help them get well-paying jobs.

Ms Trump visited Muya Ethiopia, a clothes manufacturing company.

The 16-year-old company, which exports clothes to the local and international markets, was founded by Sara Abera, who gave Ms Trump a tour.

AMENSISA NEGERA

According to the W-GDP’s website, low participation of women in the formal labour markets impedes economic growth and poverty reduction in developing countries.

The project is financed by a $50m (£38m) fund within the US international development aid agency (USAid).

AMENSISA NEGERA

Fundamentally we believe that investing in women is a smart development policy and it’s smart business. It is also in our security interests because women when they are empowered they foster peace and stability and we have seen this play out time and time again,” Ms Trump said as she met women working in the coffee industry.

US EMBASSY IN ETHIOPIA

Ms Trump, who serves as an adviser to her father, will also attend a World Bank policy summit while in Ethiopia.

She will visit Ivory Coast later in the week and is set to visit a cocoa farm, as well as participate in a meeting on economic opportunities for women in West Africa.

She tweeted ahead of the trip that she was “excited”.

The Trump administration’s policy in Africa has focused on the war on terror and trying to manage the growing political and economic influence of China and Russia on the continent.

It has, however, backed democratic reforms in countries like Ethiopia where Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has implemented a series of progressive changes including the normalisation of relations with Eritrea after a bitter border standoff going back two decades.

The US also recently backed pro-democratic protests in Algeria and Sudan.

Mr Trump, however, upset many in the continent last year after, he reportedly used the word “shithole” to describe African nations

Clashes erupt in yellow vest protests as Macron prepares policy response

TOULOUSE (Reuters) – Yellow vest demonstrators clashed with riot police in the French city of Toulouse on Saturday, even as President Emmanuel Macron prepared a series of policy announcements aimed at quelling 22 consecutive weekends of anti-government protests.

Police in the southeastern city fired teargas and arrested 23 people after several hundred demonstrators threw objects and set fire to cars, motorbikes, a construction cabin and rubbish bins.

Protesters also tried to enter areas of the city from which they had been banned.

Altogether between 5,000 and 6,000 protesters had gathered on the Allee Jean Jaures, a wide avenue in the city center, and on nearby side streets.

Activist groups had said on social media networks that Toulouse would be the focus for the 22nd round of demonstrations, prompting city mayor Jean-Claude Moudenc to express concern ahead of Saturday’s protests.

Marches in Paris and elsewhere were largely peaceful by late afternoon, though police detained 27 in the French capital. Minor clashes broke out near the port in Marseille.

The interior minister estimated a total of 31,000 protesters demonstrated across France, 7,000 more than on the previous Saturday but fewer than the several hundred thousand who took to the street during the first weeks of demonstrations.

The protests continue to put pressure on Macron, who has vowed to announce a series of measures aimed at easing discontent.

The protests, named after the high-visibility safety jackets worn by demonstrators, began in November to oppose fuel tax increases.

The movement quickly morphed into a broader backlash against Macron’s government, despite a swift reversal of the tax hikes and the introduction of other measures worth more than 10 billion euros ($11.3 billion) to boost the purchasing power of lower-income voters.

In response to rioting that in December made parts of Paris resemble war zones, Macron launched a two-month consultation that included a series of town hall meetings across the country. He is due to introduce resulting policy measures early next week.

Ahead of next week’s announcements, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe this week presented the conclusions of the consultation, saying it had highlighted demands such as quicker tax cuts, action to address climate change, and more balanced relations between Paris and the provinces.

Yet given the array of sometimes contradictory yellow vest demands the government is unlikely to please all those who demonstrated on Saturday. Some are already preparing a 23rd round of protests next Saturday.

Mira Markovic, Slobodan Milosevic’s wife, dies at 76

Mira Markovic, the widow of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, has died in Russia at the age of 76.

BBC by a close family friend, Milutin Mrkonjic.

Known as the “Lady Macbeth of the Balkans”, Ms Markovic was a significant political figure during the collapse of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

She was one of her husband’s most trusted and influential advisers before he was arrested in 2001 but fled to Russia two years later.

Mr Milosevic died in 2006 while being held at the UN war crimes tribunal in the Netherlands. He had been charged with genocide and other war crimes for his key role in the 1990s wars that tore the Balkans apart.

They were married for four decades and were almost inseparable until Milosevic’s extradition.

While Ms Markovic owed her political influence to being his closest confidante, she also had her own political party, the neo-communist Yugoslav United Left (JUL).

Prior to meeting her husband, Ms Markovic had a tormented childhood. Her mother was a Partisan fighter who was captured by the Nazis in 1942.

Under torture, she apparently gave away secrets. One account suggests that after her release, her own father – Ms Markovic’s grandfather – ordered the execution of his daughter for treachery.

In 2003, Ms Markovic fled Serbia, where she was charged with abuse of power and was suspected of cigarette smuggling and political assassination.

Brought together by tragic family histories

Markovic and Milosevic met as childhood sweethearts in Milosevic’s hometown Pozarevac and married in 1965. Those who knew them often said the couple was brought together sharing tragic family histories – Milosevic’s parents both committed suicide, while Markovic’s mother was estranged from her husband due to political differences during the World War II.

They had two children – daughter Marija and son Marko, who has lived in Russia with Markovic. Daughter Marija Milosevic was estranged from the family after her father’s death in 2006 and has been living in neighbouring Montenegro.

Serbian opposition parties called her “Red Witch” due to her political stance. She fled for Russia after Serbian justice began investigating a corruption cases, as well as threats and murders to journalists and political opponents of the couple.

Milosevic’s brother Borislav, once ambassador to Moscow, reportedly organised the move, as well as asylum for her and her son Marko.

Why I have no house outside Nigeria – Dangote

Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, has declared that he has no personal house outside Nigeria.

The business mogul said this at the 2019 Mo Ibrahim Forum.

Dangote hinted that he avoids luxury things “because they distract and take time”.

Dangote said: “I don’t have any holiday home anywhere. I don’t have a house anywhere but I know people who are working for me…they have houses in London.”

“But you see, a lot of people, even the younger ones, we need to be very careful because one of biggest issues with us as Africans is that we spend our projected incomes.

“Once you start doing business [and] it starts doing well, but rather than for you to invest more in the business, you start spending thinking that profit will continue to come.

“There are ups and downs in business so you need to be very focused.”

Asked of his opinion on areas young entrepreneurs should invest in, Dangote replied: “The sectors to focus on now are ICT and agriculture. These are the 2 promising sectors.”

Melbourne nightclub shooting leaves one dead, three injured

One man has been killed and three others wounded in a shooting outside a popular nightclub in the Australian city of Melbourne.

Three security guards from the Love Machine venue and a man queuing outside were shot in the incident on Sunday.

“It would appear that shots have been discharged from a car in this area into a crowd standing outside,” inspector Andrew Stamper told the media.

Police say there is no evidence to suggest the shooting is terror-related.

Mass shootings in Australia are rare. The country overhauled its gun laws after 35 people were shot dead in Port Arthur, Tasmania in 1996.

The country saw its worst incident since then last year when seven members of the same family died in a murder-suicide.

The man who died in the nightclub shooting has not been named, but local media report he is a 37-year-old security guard.

Police say the other men who were shot are aged 28, 29 and 50. The youngest is in a critical condition.

Victoria Detective Inspector Andrew Stamper described the injuries they sustained as “horrific”.

“This is just a horrendous act. It’s a busy nightclub, one of the main nightclubs in Melbourne in one of the main entertainment precincts in Melbourne,” he told a news conference.

No arrests have yet been made, and police have appealed for witnesses to come forward.

Australian newspaper The Age said investigators are likely to examine links to a motorcycle gang.

Florida man killed by large flightless bird he owned

A 75-year-old man has been killed in Florida after he was attacked by a large flightless bird he owned.

Alachua County Sheriff Department told the BBC they were called to the man’s property on Friday and found the man badly wounded by a cassowary.

The man, named Marvin Hajos, was taken to hospital by paramedics where he died from his injuries.

Police are investigating but say initial information suggests this was a “tragic accident”.

It happened south of the city of Alachua in northern Florida.

My understanding is that the gentleman was in the vicinity of the bird and at some point fell. When he fell, he was attacked,” Deputy Chief Jeff Taylor told the Gainesville Sun newspaper.

A woman at the property, who identified herself as Mr Hajos’ partner, told the newspaper he had been “doing what he loved”.

Mr Hajos had kept exotic animals, including llamas, for decades, reports from local newspapers say.

Similar in appearance to emus, cassowary are among the largest and heaviest bird species in the world – and can weigh more than 100lb (45kg).

The birds can run up to 30 mph (50km/h) and have a five-inch claw on each foot.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission consider cassowary a Class II species, which require a permit for ownership.

Police say the bird involved in the incident remains at the property.

Map shows Alachua county and Orlando on a map of Florida

Finland election: Leftist party tipped to win vote

Finland is tipped to turn left in Sunday’s election, with the Social Democrats leading in polls.

But with several parties, including the right-wing Finns, jostling closely for second place, their ability to govern could be curtailed and coalition-building lies ahead.

How did we get here?

Last month, former Prime Minister Juha Sipila’s government resigned over its failure to achieve a key policy goal on social welfare and healthcare reform. His Centre Party had been in a centre-right coalition government since the last parliamentary elections in 2015.

Concerned about Finland’s expensive welfare system in the face of an ageing population, Mr Sipila made tackling the nation’s debt one of his government’s main aims, introducing planning reforms he hoped would save up to €3bn (£2.6bn) over a decade.


More about Finland’s welfare experiment:

Finland’s basic income trial

But while the introduction of austerity measures – such as benefits cuts and pension freezes – resulted in Finland reducing its government debt for the first time in a decade last year, the reforms proved politically controversial.

Meanwhile, the Social Democratic Party, a centre-left party with strong links to Finland’s trade unions, saw its popularity grow.

Why has this happened now?

Polls ahead of Sunday’s vote showed the Social Democrats, who campaigned on a pledge to strengthen Finland’s welfare system, leading by several percentage points. The party had been in front for almost a year.

The party’s leader, Antti Rinne, earlier described Mr Sipila’s policies as unfair, and said taxes needed to be raised to combat inequality.

“We need to spread our tax base and we need to strengthen it,” Mr Rinne recently told Reuters news agency, adding that the move would mark a “big policy change” for Finland.

One of Mr Rinne’s election pledges was to raise the state pension for those taking home €1,400 a month by €100, a move he said would help “more than 55,000 pensioners escape poverty”.

A nurse assists an elderly resident at the public care unit Heikanrinne in Forssa, Finland, 2 April 2019
Finland’s ageing population is putting pressure on its social welfare systems

Balancing taxes and spending is problematic for any government, and Finland’s personal income tax rate – at 51.6% – is among the highest in Europe.

Finland’s recorded “tax wedge” – the difference between a worker’s take home pay and what it costs the employer – has been larger than the average among top industrialised countries in recent years, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

However, a poll commissioned by the tax authority in 2017 found that 79% of Finns questioned were happy with their taxes.

Why is Finland’s welfare system an issue?

Like many developed nations, Finland has an ageing population that is putting financial pressure on its social welfare systems.

As an increasing number of people live longer in retirement, the cost of providing pension and healthcare benefits can rise. Those increased costs are paid for by taxes collected from of the working-age population – who make up a smaller percentage of the population than in decades past.

In 2018, those aged 65 or over made up 21.4% of Finland’s population, the joint fourth highest in Europe alongside Germany — with only Portugal, Greece, and Italy having a higher proportion, according to Eurostat.

Finland’s welfare system is also generous in its provisions, making it relatively expensive. Attempts at reform have plagued Finnish governments for years.

In February this year, caring for the nation’s elderly returned to the top of the political agenda amid reports that alleged neglect in care homes may have resulted in injury or death, according to Finnish state broadcaster YLE.

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

How is the vote likely to pan out?

Voting runs from 09:00 local time (06:00 GMT) until 20:00, with first results due shortly after.

The Social Democrats are widely tipped to become largest party, but under Finland’s proportional representation system, they may have to form a coalition with several other parties.

While the Finns Party has seen its support grow, many other parties do not want to work with them.

Brexit: Warning over Labour’s referendum stance

Jeremy Corbyn has been warned Labour will “haemorrhage” votes in the EU election unless the party explicitly backs a further referendum.

MEP Richard Corbett, leader of the party in the EU Parliament, told the Observer Labour risked losing out to parties committed to a public vote.

If Labour offered “clarity” on a public vote, it would do “very well”, he said.

Labour’s current policy is to keep all options on the table – including pressing for a further EU referendum.

It has said it would support a public vote to avoid a “hard Tory Brexit” but several senior figures have expressed concern that a referendum demand would be dropped if the party agreed a Brexit compromise with Tory ministers.

Yorkshire and the Humber MEP Mr Corbett told the paper: “If Labour does not re-confirm its support for a confirmatory public vote on any Brexit deal in its manifesto, then it will haemorrhage votes to parties who do have a clear message.

“If on the other hand we do offer clarity and a confirmatory ballot we could do very well.”

Mr Corbyn has also come under pressure from the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford, who accused him of “wasting time” and avoiding a commitment to a second vote.

And former Labour foreign secretary Margaret Beckett told the Observer Labour should give a “clear and simple” message on a confirmatory second referendum.

However, others in the shadow cabinet and many backbenchers, particularly in Leave-supporting areas, are opposed to the idea.

Meanwhile, talks between senior Labour figures and the government continue over reaching a Brexit deal acceptable to Parliament.

On Saturday, No 10 said ministers would meet Labour for “urgent work” to strike a deal in time to avoid EU elections.

A Downing Street source said: “If we can keep up the pace of negotiations, we can get a deal over the line and avoid participating in the European Parliamentary elections.”

Richard Corbett MEP
Richard Corbett said Labour could profit from holding a public vote on any Brexit deal

After talks on Friday the shadow chancellor John McDonnell said discussions with cabinet ministers David Lidington and Michael Gove had so far been “positive” and “constructive”.

Parties began gearing up to fight the European elections on 23 May after Theresa May and the EU agreed to postpone Brexit until 31 October.

However, the UK can leave earlier – and avoid the polls – if her withdrawal agreement is approved by Parliament in time.

Some senior figures within Labour – including shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer – are said to be pressing for a confirmatory ballot to be tied to any cross-party Brexit deal.

Mrs May has consistently ruled out the possibility of a further referendum and many Conservatives would strongly resist the prospect, described last week by Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom as “appalling”

Despite Mr Corbett’s warning, and more headlines on Sunday related to anti-Semitism within Labour, reports suggest Mr Corbyn could be in a position to form a government in the event of a snap general election.

And the Sunday Telegraph said analysis by polling organisation Electoral Calculus suggested the Tories could lose 59 seats at a general election, leaving Labour as the biggest party in the Commons.

What happens next?

Flowchart on next steps after extension

Anti-Semitism row: Jeremy Corbyn concerned evidence ‘ignored’

Jeremy Corbyn has privately expressed concern that evidence of anti-Semitism within Labour was “mislaid or ignored”, leaked recordings suggest.

The Sunday Times has released part of a conversation the party leader had with Dame Margaret Hodge, which she taped.

The Barking MP has been a fierce critic of Mr Corbyn’s stance on anti-Semitism.

A Labour spokesman said the tape showed Mr Corbyn’s desire for “robust and efficient” procedures and to “rebuild trust with the Jewish community”.

Throughout much of his leadership, Mr Corbyn has been dogged by criticism from within the party about his handling of anti-Semitism claims.

Last year he became embroiled in a row with Dame Margaret over the issue, which saw the party launch – and then drop – disciplinary action against the long-serving Jewish MP.

She secretly recorded a conversation between the pair in February, as Mr Corbyn talked over a plan to recruit former cabinet minister Lord Falconer to review the party’s complaints process.

“Just to reassure you, he’s not going to be running the system; he’s not entitled to do that,” the Labour leader says on the tape, which was given to the Sunday Times.

“He will look at the speed of dealing with cases, the administration of them and the collation of the evidence before it’s put before appropriate panels… because I was concerned that it was either being mislaid, ignored or not used, and there had to be some better system.”

Dame Margaret Hodge
Dame Margaret is among seven MPs to call for an independent body to deal with complaints

In March, Dame Margaret claimed Mr Corbyn had misled her  – or been misled by his staff – over assurances the leader’s office was not involved in disciplinary procedures.

Labour dismissed the suggestion as “categorically untrue”.

Last week, the Jewish Labour Movement voted to pass a motion of no confidence in the Labour leader.

Its national secretary Peter Mason said reports of delays, inaction and interference from the leader’s office showed the party’s processes were “incapable of dealing with anti-Jewish racism”.

‘Vile racism’

Dame Margaret is among seven Labour MPs to write to the Sunday Times this weekend, calling for a “fully independent body” to deal with complaints of racism, harassment and bullying.

They complain of “a growing backlog of unresolved cases of vile racism”.

“Despite telling us things are better, the party has clearly failed to get to grips with its anti-Semitism problem,” the letter says.

“The current complaints system is broken. There must be a real change at the top of the party.”

‘Fully investigated’

However, a Labour spokesman said: “The Labour Party takes all complaints of anti-Semitism extremely seriously and we are committed to challenging and campaigning against it in all its forms.

“All complaints about anti-Semitism are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures and any appropriate disciplinary action is taken.”

A party source told the BBC that before Jennie Formby became general secretary a year ago, there had been concerns that Jewish activists not in breach of rules were targeted, while efforts to tackle clear cut cases of anti-Semitism were obstructed.

Ilhan Omar: The 9/11 row embroiling the US congresswoman

A Democratic congresswoman says she will not be silenced after facing a barrage of criticism over comments she made about the 9/11 attacks – including from Donald Trump.

The US president tweeted “WE WILL NEVER FORGET” alongside a video showing footage of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks spliced with a speech by Representative Ilhan Omar.

“Some people did something,” she is seen saying, in between footage of planes hitting the Twin Towers and people fleeing the buildings.

Republicans have accused her of downplaying the attacks, but Democrats have largely rallied to her defence, saying she had been quoted out of context and some accusing Mr Trump of inciting violence against her and Muslims. Here is how the row developed.

Who is Congresswoman Omar?

Ms Omar won a Minnesota seat in the House of Representatives last November, becoming one of the first two Muslim women ever elected to the US Congress.

Her family originally came to the US as refugees from Somalia and she is the first congresswoman to wear the hijab.

The women who made history in the mid-terms

Despite being a newcomer to Washington, this is not the first time Ms Omar has made headlines.

She has been accused of anti-Semitism over comments she made about Israel and pro-Israel lobbyists. After being rebuked last month, including by Democrats, she apologised and said she was “listening and learning”.

The congresswoman has also raised the alarm about anti-Muslim rhetoric surrounding her, in response to a Republican poster that showed her alongside the Twin Towers.

Just last week, police arrested a 55-year-old man in New York state for allegedly calling her office with a graphic death threat in which he reportedly labelled her a “terrorist”.

What did she say?

The “some people did something” quote was from a speech Ms Omar gave to a civil rights group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (Cair), on 23 March.

In the 20-minute speech she discussed issues affecting the community like Islamophobia and the recent mosque attack in New Zealand.

The comments in Mr Trump’s video were taken from a point she made about the treatment of US Muslims in the aftermath of the 11 September attacks:

“Here’s the truth. For far too long we have lived with the discomfort of being a second-class citizen and, frankly, I’m tired of it, and every single Muslim in this country should be tired of it. Cair was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.”

After the Washington Post fact-checked the statement to clarify Cair was actually founded in 1994, a spokesman for Ms Omar told the paper that she misspoke and meant to say the organisation’s size had doubled after the attacks.

How did the row develop?

Her speech began getting attention on 9 April, when a clip was shared by Texas Republican Representative Dan Crenshaw, who described her phrasing as “unbelievable”.

Conservative media outlets, including Fox News, then started discussing it in-depth.

Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee, described the congresswoman as “anti-American”.

Ms Omar responded by calling some of the comments as “dangerous incitement, given the death threats I face” and comparing her remarks to ones made by former President George Bush.

On Thursday, the New York Post published a front-page spread of an image of the attack with the headline: “Here’s your something”

The cover proved divisive. Some on social media praised it, but others heavily criticised the use of 9/11 images.

Then, on Friday, President Trump posted the video of Ms Omar. It is currently pinned to the top of his account and has been shared tens of thousands of times.

What was the response?

Many social media users responded by using #IStandWithIlhan – which trended worldwide on Twitter on Friday.

CNN showed the clip in discussions, but then presenter Chris Cuomo apologised for airing it. MSNBC host Joy Reid also refused to show it.

A number of high-ranking Democrats, including many in the running for the 2020 presidential nomination, , have come out to criticise Mr Trump and defend Ms Omar.

Elizabeth Warren accused the president of “inciting violence against a sitting congresswoman”.

Bernie Sanders referred to “disgusting and dangerous attacks” against Ms Omar.

Senators Amy Klobuchar and Kamala Harris both accused the president of spreading hate.

Kirsten Gillibrand did not defend Ms Omar’s comments but she also called Mr Trump’s rhetoric “disgusting”.

Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, said Mr Trump was wrong to use the images but also suggested Ms Omar had been dismissive of the attacks.

One reply to Ms Pelosi, by film director and frequent Trump critic Ava DuVernay, which said Ms Pelosi’s comment was “not enough”, has been liked thousands of times.

Rashida Tlaib, the other Muslim serving in Congress, and another Democratic Congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have both called on senior Democrats to do more to support Ms Omar.

Responding directly in a series of tweets on Saturday, the congresswoman thanked people for their support and vowed that she “did not run for Congress to be silent”.